Saturday, April 30, 2011

Sunday Viewing (On Saturday): Video Backlog Edition

I'm finally getting some time to write this weekend.  I'm working on a couple posts that I'm really excited about.  While I refine them, I present to you my backlog of gaming related videos I've been meaning to share.  Enjoy.


Saturday, April 23, 2011

Current Games: Scatterbrained Edition

 Image unrelated yet awesome

After another long week I feel like I can barely string a few thoughts together, so I'm just going to ramble for a bit about my impressions of the games I'm currently playing.

I beat Portal 2 today and loved it.  The humor was even better than the first game and the last boss fight left me amazed.  I'm now working through co-op with my brother.  Co-op is a fun change of pace, but for me the meat of the game seems to have been in the single player campaign.  I might play through it again for the developer commentary.  All this being said, if you don't feel a huge itch to play it right now, Portal 2 will still be a great game when Steam decides to do a giant discount on it.  You know it will happen, it's simply a matter of time.

I'm once again really into StarCraft 2.  It's my main fallback game, but lately it has just been my game of choice.  I've been watching streams and tournaments on top of actually playing.  I play it almost every day during lunch at work (with an awesome co-worker team) and try to ladder a bit each night at home.  My wife even noticed how long I've been enjoying StarCraft 2.  Since it isn't a passing game that I play for 2-3 weeks and then never touch again, she asked me to teach her how to play.  I love my wife so much.  You have no idea how amazing it is to watch her smash an opponent.

Final Fantasy I is progressing slowly but surely.  I kicked ass and cruised through a lot of it one week and then hit a stand-still after that.  I'll circle back around to it soon.

Dragon Age II lost a lot of momentum in the second act.  I can't seem to find the urge to play it.

I've been finding time to squeeze in some ipod touch gaming.  Tiny Wings is usually the app I boot up but Battleheart is getting some decent play time too.  I love these games because I can jump in, have fun, and be done in less than five minutes.

What's everyone else currently playing?

Saturday, April 16, 2011

Moral Shades of Gray

A lot has been written about Dragon Age II.  There are good blog posts and reviews that discuss the overall game, but I haven't seen much said about my favorite design choice.

In past Bioware games there has always been a good/evil scale that your character gets placed on.  The more you say and do good things the more you slide towards the good side of the scale.  Do dastardly deeds and verbally eviscerate others and you'll slide towards the evil end.

Dragon Age II does away with this moral scale.  It's unbelievably liberating.  I can choose whichever dialog option I think fits the situation instead of feeling like I have to make my character play a part.  I love the smart-ass answers, but it's something I wouldn't have explored in the Mass Effect series because my Shepard is a good guy.  He doesn't give flippant answers.  That wouldn't be nice.

My Hawke, on the other hand, is a smart-ass with a tough exterior but a heart of gold.  He's forceful and threatening when necessary, but inside he wants the best outcome for everyone.  Also, he doesn't like to get fucked with and his temper will flare if someone is trying to lie to him.  He is a fully realized character with a diversity of emotions and reactions.  He has depth that I've rarely seen in other Bioware offerings.

In comparison, my Shepard from Mass Effect is fairly one dimensional.  He's a good guy who does the right thing.  That's about it.  I guess he also has sex with other characters from time to time, but that doesn't really add depth, it just adds sex.  As a side note, some day Bioware is going to have to add meaningful relationships to their games and not just sex.

With the ever present moral scale being thrown out the window I feel completely free to shape my Hawke in interesting ways.  I want Bioware to recognize how awesome this is and implement it in all of their games moving forward.

Wednesday, April 13, 2011

Are You Thinking With Portals?

I am!  I can't wait for the release of Portal 2 next Tuesday.  Portal is one of the best games I've played and I can't even imagine the mind bending that will happen in the sequel.

I like the idea of thinking with portals, but here's the sad news.  If I had a portal gun in real life I would probably just use it to get rid of my commute to work.  Lame, I know, but if I tried to do much more with it I would definitely have a portal related accident.

Anyway, if you loved portal there's no reason to skip Portal 2.  A whole new single player campaign.  New twists in the gameplay.  And best of all, Co-op!  Seriously, who doesn't want to be part of a portal slinging robot duo?  My brother and I are going to dominate that mode.

I also stumbled across this awesome Portal comic from valve.  It's worth checking out for the art style alone, but the story helps bridge the gap between Portal and Portal 2 too.

If you don't already have Portals on the mind I'm sure you will next week when the game launches and the gaming community goes into a frenzy.  Fair warning.

Friday, April 8, 2011

Losing, Music, and Attitude

 Tiny Tiny Chameleon has a good attitude.  Do you?

I've been doing a lot of laddering in StarCraft 2 lately and one of the problems on the ladder is the frustration of losing.  It sucks because I know that losing to a random stranger I'll never see again shouldn't be a big deal.  I don't get pissed off, but I do end up frustrated because I want to do better.  I want to learn more about the game and improve my skills but losing always feels like proof that I'm not skilled at all.

I try not to let losing streaks ruin my day, but I know that not all of my friends can say the same thing.  A lot of people let losing get under their skin.

There's a trick I learned to keep me in a good mood.  I've done it before with other games, but for some reason I always have to re-discover it when I'm playing something new.  The trick is high energy music.  I keep the bpm up, the music loud, and my mood soars.

With the beat bumping I can have a horrible loss, rock out to my music for 15 seconds, and move on to the next game.  I can shrug off the normal anxiety and anger that comes from a loss.  The mood of the music keeps me positive and allows me to ladder for a long time in one sitting.

This works for any competitive game.  I recommend it for any PVP that's causing you frustration.  Try it out and see if it helps.

Saturday, April 2, 2011

Workplace Team Building Exercise

At my new job, which I love, we're encouraged to do whatever we want with our lunch hour.  We also happen to have awesome computers because we do video editing and compositing which is CPU, RAM, and video card intensive.  My first day on the job a couple of guys in the office came up and asked, "Do you game?" Obviously I do.  Thanks to daily virtual warfare sessions over lunch we quickly became friends.

Some days it's an inner-office match of Modern Warfare but most days it's all about team games in StarCraft 2.  It's never happened before but I now have regular 2v2 and 3v3 partners.  Talking strategy and executing fun builds with my co-workers never gets old.  Not to mention that winning as a team feels great.

Our boss, who also heads the company, knows all about our lunch time gaming and encourages it even while poking fun at us.  The other day he walked by as we were in the middle of an intense SC2 battle and asked me, "So, Void, working hard?" to which I replied, "Oh, you know, just enjoying a team building exercise."  It was an offhand joke but it got me thinking.

Playing SC2 at work every day actually is a team building exercise.  In only a few weeks I was totally comfortable with all of my fellow gamers at work.  They came to see me as part of the team and I felt included.  Usually it takes much longer than a couple weeks for that feeling of belonging to settle in.

Games give us a chance to bond.  They give us common ground on which to start a conversation.  They make us think and plan and learn to work together.  They give us a chance to vent our frustrations and talk smack.  They give us reason to revel in our victories together.  Games bring us closer to one another.  Isn't that amazing?