Showing posts from May, 2010

What I Learned By Writing Every Day

Writing every day is hard work.  Seriously.  Today is the last day of the Wordcount 2010 Blogathon .  Participants were asked to write at least one post every day for the entire month of May.  I made the rash decision to sign up and somehow I've survived.  This is my last post in that series. I have learned that writing every day is difficult to accomplish on top of working 40 hour weeks and having a life.  Getting married during May certainly made it more interesting. Despite the difficulty - or maybe because of it - I feel a huge sense of accomplishment today.  It was a lot of work and some days I really didn't feel like writing but I did it anyway.  Don't get me wrong though, I'm still enjoying writing a lot.  If I could make a living as a full time writer I'd be extremely happy.  I wouldn't have a problem writing each day if it was my only job. My writing is flowing easier than it was when I started posting a few months ago.  I guarantee it's beca

Sunday Reading: Hasty Links Edition

Here's a quick version of Sunday reading without my standard commentary. Tobold: When is an add-on cheating ? Penny-Arcade: Everything you need to know about Blur . And the comic . Professor Beej: Are you buying in to The Old Republic ? Wolfshead Online: A real MMO Cataclysm . As usual I don't agree with everything that authors write but all of the articles have some interesting food for thought.  Expand your mind with some reading and enjoy your Sunday.

The State of Beta Testing

  Beta Testing Frustration Beta testing isn't what it used to be.  A beta test used to be the second formal round of testing (after the alpha) and it was used to test all the ins and outs of the game.  Players find thousands of ways to break a game that developers would never think of.  Bugs pop up when your testing base goes from a few hundred to thousands.  Betas were used to solve these problems. Some companies still use betas this way, but more often than not beta tests are glorified demos that are released to the public for a limited time.  Look at the giant media push for the Halo Reach beta.  They were trying to give everyone a small taste of the game in the hope of getting them to buy it in the fall.  They aren't the only culprit. MMOs are among the worst offenders.  "It's still in beta" isn't an excuse that MMO beta testers accept anymore.  They expect the game to be content complete with all the features in place.  Testers just want to try out

Bite Size Raiding

  Mmmmm... Bite Size This is what I envision: I boot up my computer, run my MMO of choice, and start the raid finder which pairs me automatically with a group of 9 other people.  This happens within five minutes of starting my computer. Then I am transported to a random dungeon with my group.  The dungeon has one to three bosses and the entire thing can be run in 30 minutes or less. The bosses would be randomized so that I never encounter the same boss twice.  With random bosses I would be able to create strategy instead of simply memorizing pre-set patterns.  Also, there would be no trash mobs to clear out since they only serve to lengthen the amount of time the raid takes but pose no real challenge. These bite size raids would have no lock outs of any kind.  There would be no need to wait out a timer when I want to participate in a raid.  Anytime I feel like raiding I would be able to start up the raid finder and be grouped up in a matter of minutes. As of right now this t

Creating New Genres

StarCraft 2 not only has single player and multiplayer games, it also allows custom games to be built. Blizzard gives everyone who owns StarCraft 2 access to a very powerful map editor which can be used to design many different styles of games.  Most tend to be RTS type games but I've even seen things like Tetris recreated using falling supply depots.  The map editor can be used to create a diversity of games. Sometimes these custom games become entirely new genres.  DoTA was created in the WarCraft 3 map editor and has since gone on to spawn League of Legends , Heroes of Newerth , and other games in the "battle arena" genre.  In battle arena games you use an RTS control scheme but only control one hero unit.  You are put on a team and face off against an opposing team of heroes.  Both sides get minor AI controlled allies to fight along side them.  If you liked DoTA I would highly recommend looking into League of Legends.  It is my favorite battle arena game.   Lea

What Are You Playing?

After a long two weeks of work I'm taking today to just play games.  I try to remember to play games and not just read and write about them. I'm spending most of my gaming time in Blur, Trine, and the StarCraft 2 Beta. So, dear reader, what games have you been playing lately?  Anything I should check out?

Prince of Persia: The Forgotten Sands

This makes the game look way more exciting than it actually is. The Forgotten Sands is a lesson in being underwhelmed.  I wanted to love it, I really truly did.  I loved The Sands of Time, The Two Thrones, and the re-imagined "Prince of Persia" but I just couldn't make myself enjoy Prince of Persia: The Forgotten Sands. It's all been done before by other games in the Prince of Persia series.  The Forgotten Sands has the same old platforming without any new or interesting mechanics.  I got the same feeling I did when comparing Bayonetta to the Devil May Cry series.  It's the same gameplay mechanics with a new coat of paint. The combat feels extremely out of place.  It amounts to a generic hack and slash.  Most of the time the combat flow goes like this: hold x for 2 seconds, release, hold x for 2 seconds, release.  It got in the way of the platforming and probably should have been left out altogether. The platforming isn't anything new.  At least the l

Modern Technology and Staying In Touch

  Today I was going to write about some of the new games I've been playing, but then my cell phone broke.  It doesn't work.  It's caught in an endless loop of rebooting.  This brought up a thought beyond the pain of having to find a new phone, sign a new 2 year contract, and figure out all of my contacts' phone numbers again. We are all very connected.  Through texting, calling, facebook, twitter, email, snail mail, skype, ventrilo, instant messaging, blogs, comments, and overall being spoiled by having access to each other.  Think about all the means you use to communicate in just one day.  Really, just take a moment to think about every piece of technology you have touched today that can be used to communicate with another human being. I don't know how people got along before all of this technology.  Intellectually I understand, but I'm only 23 and I've never had to live an unplugged life.  My generation is the first one where everyone has had cell ph

Sunday Reading: MMO Addiction

Tobold discusses the new quest system for Guild Wars 2.  The quest system has me more excited than anything else I've heard about the game. Tobold started an interesting series this week about his perfect MMO.  The post on raiding is particularly interesting. Beej has an frustrated post about the effect of gearscore on grouping in WoW.  The post has an ongoing discussion in the comment section, feel free to join the fray. Sunday Viewing this week is a MMO in its purest form:

Free Indie Games

I love to support indie games.  Indie developers aren't afraid to take a new idea and run with it.  Most of the time I find cheap indie games on steam or my ipod touch to try out.  There are all sorts of free demos on both services and a full copy of an indie game is almost always under twenty dollars.  Many are priced around a buck. If you aren't afraid of wading through some bad games the other option is to play flash games online.  The amount of free games online is amazing but finding high quality games can be a challenge. This is where Kongregate comes into play.  It's the best  flash game site that I've ever found. Kongregate has a rating system to help filter through all the junk games.  The community rates games and the site lets me sort by top rated and most played.  Every gaming distributor needs to be able to sort by rating and being able to sort by number of plays is like icing on the cake.  This is one area in which the apple app store is severely

My Top 6 Posts

I've written 100 posts after about 4 months of blogging and I'm fairly proud of myself.  I thought I would take this milestone and look back at what I've written so far.  So, here are my favorite posts out of my first 100. StarCraft 2 Newbie Guide - I love this series of posts and hope to continue them in the future.  I actually get some traffic from Google for this set of posts.  I have a ton of fun analyzing the ins and outs of StarCraft 2. Innovation Trumps Graphics - I truly believe that innovation is more important than graphics.  I hope to see new concepts breaking ground in the world of gaming more often.  It's time to shake things up because so many genre conventions have grown stale.  Indie games do new concepts very well. Expansion Packs: Leveling the Playing Field - I've used this post as a basis for many conversations with friends.  I hate the way the gear treadmill is designed for the endgame of most MMOs today.  All of an individual's hard

100th post

Wooohoooo! I never thought I would make it this far.  I started this blog as a writing exercise for myself.  I hoped the habit of writing would stick, but I didn't have a lot of faith.  I honestly can't believe that I made it 100 posts. So, what now? Well, I think I'll keep writing.  I'm having a great time and I feel like my writing is improving with practice.  I would really like to try writing fiction some day and I think this is a good way to refine my skills. I may also branch out into some other topics.  I love writing about games, but there are some days that I just want to write about something else.  This post is a good example.  I have a passion for all things media and I want to explore that further with my writing.  I'd also like to discuss things happening in the real world if I feel that I can make a quality post about them. I expect most of my content to still be game-centric but it's my blog and I'm leaving my options open. I wan

Osmos is a Game Full of Orbs

Osmos is a fun indie game that I found the other day.  It has an easy-going atmosphere that makes it an extremely chill game.  If you are looking for something relaxing to play, Osmos is your game. In Osmos you control an orb.  Your orb can absorb other orbs that are smaller than you, but will be absorbed - and you will lose - by touching orbs larger than you. The interesting gameplay mechanic is movement.  To move your orb you have to send out matter in the opposite direction.  This causes your orb to shrink.  The game becomes an exercise in judging how much matter to expend in order to reach another orb to absorb.  All of the matter you expend is left behind in the playing field and can be picked up again later. I really enjoyed the gameplay mechanic because I hadn't seen it before.  I love that indie games bring something new to gaming . And that is before all the levels open up.  Then orbs take on new properties.  Some becomes repulsors or attractors.  In another level

Current Games: Overwhelmed Edition

I've had a busy week.  Between getting married and starting my summer hours at work I haven't had much gaming time.  That's ok.  Real life always needs to take precedence over hobbies like videogames. I thought I'd throw out an update on what I'm playing and what I intend to play since I'm feeling overwhelmed by my backlog of games at the moment. StarCraft 2 Beta - Still loving it and working on Newbie Guide posts. Bayonetta - Working my way through the crazy story.  I may not finish this game, but it is highly entertaining because of the ridiculousness of it all. Halo 3 Reach Beta - Only a few days left.  I really like the arena and invasion playlists. Trine - Indie game I own but haven't gotten around to trying out. Osmos - Indie game that inspired me to buy an indie game pack on steam the other day.  I really like the gameplay. Guild Wars - Giving it another chance.  It has interesting dynamics because characters can only have 8 skills eq

Innovation Trumps Graphics

Most of the games that hit the market today are not new.  They may look new or sell themselves as new, but the majority of the time they use old gameplay mechanics.  Developers constantly take each other's ideas and recreate the same type of game. Think of all the shovelware out there.  So many games aren't even worth five minutes of your time.  It is really sad. Playing Bayonetta is like playing Devil May Cry 3, which is like playing Devil May Cry 2, which is like playing Devil May Cry.  That's really the spark that got me thinking about rehashing gameplay mechanics.  Bayonetta has a crazy story and different visuals, but it is essentially an old game with a new layer of paint. When developers have really high production values they can get away with remaking the same game.  The Halo series comes to mind.  Between Halo, Halo 2, Halo 3, and Halo: ODST not a lot has changed.  All the games basically play the same.  If you didn't like one of those four games it is sa

Sunday Reading: Long Week Edition

This was an overwhelming week.  I got married and started my crazy summer work schedule.  I'm providing you with Sunday links anyway. I'm trying to stay in the Wordcount Blogathon 2010 by posting every day in May.  Half way done.  I hope I hang in there.  I'm extremely tired and worn out right now. Tobold has an epic EVE Online review made up entirely of comments people have posted on his blog.  A lot of EVE players got extremely worked up about Tobold's impressions, so he used what they had to say to prove his point.  It is remarkably well executed. Syp posted on earning your wings instead of being handed everything on a silver platter.  It is one of those stale MMO conventions that needs to be spiced up. Enjoy your Sunday and this Star Trek clip from jandrewedits.

StarCraft 2 Newbie Guide: Leagues and Divisions

Now you've learned your units , you're being aggressive , you've learned to scout , and you're watching replays to get better.  But how do you stack up against everyone else? This is where leagues and divisions come into play. Leagues There are currently 5 ranked leagues in StarCraft 2.  From least skilled to most skilled they are Bronze, Silver, Gold, Platinum, and Diamond.  There is also a practice league for - you guessed it - practice.  Last time I checked, the practice league has the game speed set slower than the ranked leagues.  This means you have more time to think through your actions and react to events that happen throughout each game.  It is meant as an on-ramp to the ranked leagues. There's speculation - based on posts by Blizzard - that StarCraft 2 will also have a Pro league. Original Organization of  the Leagues Pro league would be invite only and reserved for the best of the best.  It hasn't been implemented yet, but don't be s

Bayonetta is Crazy

Bayonetta is not a great game, but I can't seem to stop playing it.  It isn't a bad game by any stretch.  It's almost a re-imagining of Devil May Cry with a female protagonist.  The gameplay feels like Devil May Cry; slash and hack with some dodging thrown in. The story is where Bayonetta goes absolutely nuts.  One cutscene had gratuitous ass/crotch close ups, headstones falling like dominoes, a random black guy with one-liners, losing all of the main chick's clothes, making new clothes out of hair, and a dragon.  It's like a train crash.  It's so bad that I just can't look away. One gameplay sequence had me fight on top of a falling clock tower which proceeded to explode three separate times while being attacked by a giant dragon. By the way, Bayonetta has guns in her hands and on her feet.   If you thought duel wielding was intense just wait until you see quad wielding. She also has the habit of using all of her hair to finish her attack combos. 

Gamefly Turn Around Time

The one thing I hate about Gamefly is the amount of time it takes to send a game back and receive another.  I know the reason it bugs me so much is that I'm spoiled by Netflix, but if they can do it Gamefly should be able to accomplish the same thing. When I send back a Netflix DVD it takes one day for Netflix to receive and scan in the DVD.  One day to process a new movie and send it out.  One day for the postal service to transport and deliver the DVD to me.  3 days total.  Sometimes it takes slightly longer if I drop off a DVD during a holiday or on a Sunday, but it is almost always 3 days. When I send back a Gamefly game it takes about 3-4 days for them to even receive my return and acknowledge it.  My Netflix go there and back again in the time it takes my Gamefly to go one way.  The total turn around time on my Gamefly games is usually a week or more. I know part of it is that Netflix has distribution centers all over the country and Gamefly only has 4.  I know part of

Top 5 Blogs

As a group activity for the 2010 Wordcount Blogathon bloggers were encouraged to write about blogs they can't live without.  I missed the May 10th date when we were supposed to write on the subject because I was out of town.  I think it's a great idea so I'm going to do it anyway. Here we go, my top 5 blogs: Professor Beej - Extremely intelligent writing about all things media.  He covers a wide breadth of knowledge about books, movies, television, technology, gaming, and the internet.  Variety is the spice of life when it comes to the topics Beej covers. Bio Break - Syp is a MMO gamer who likes to share his thoughts.  Half of his posts are random thoughts throughout his day, but they are always interesting and worth reading. Tobold - One of the most well known MMO bloggers currently.  He always gets a ton of comments and is great at generating discussion.  Read the posts and the comments when you visit Tobold's site. Copyblogger - As I try to improve my wr

Air Traffic is Fun With Flight Control

Flight control is a great game for the ipod touch and iphone.  It is one of the best that I have played on the system and could not be done as well without the touch screen interface.  Flight Control has really found a home on the ipod touch. In Flight Control you are put in the role of an air traffic controller.  Planes and helicopters fly onto the screen and you need to give them a path to their correct runway or helipad.  It is done by simply touching the plane and drawing a flight path - with your finger - to the runway entrance. There are different maps to play on with varying numbers of runways and different types of aircraft.  High scores are tracked for each map. That's really all there is to it, but the game quickly ramps up the speed and number of aircraft on the screen as time goes on.  It gets frantic but it's extremely fun. This is an easy to understand game that can be digested in small sessions - you know how I love 60 second games - with lots of repla

Splinter Cell Conviction Single Player Review

I already posted my co-op review for Splinter Cell Conviction, but I sat down the other day and played through the single player game as well.  Overall, I liked it and I would recommend it to stealth fans.  It is a good game and consistently fun, but I still prefer the co-op campaign. If someone were to ask me to recommend the best stealth game I had ever played I would tell them to check out Batman Arkham Asylum but Splinter Cell Conviction is a close second.  If they asked me to recommend the best stealth co-op game I would most definitely tell them to play Splinter Cell Conviction. But, today I'm talking about the single player campaign. The first thing I noticed - and loved - was the persistent experience across game modes.  All of my experience, weapons, gadgets, and completed challenges from the co-op campaign carried over into my single player campaign automatically.  It was seamless and awesome.  All games with co-op and single player campaigns should do this.  I wa

Sunday Reading: Blogathon

Blogathon 2010 is going on.  I learned this from Professor Beej 's post on the subject .  I love reading his blog because he covers the intersection of all things media.  It isn't always gaming, but if you have an interest in TV, movies, books, games, and emerging media you couldn't find a better site to read. Wordcount Blogathon 2010 is about writing a post for your blog every day of the month.  So far I tend to write about 5 times each week, but I'll try to make it 7 times per week this month.  Let's see if I can make it.  I think pre-scheduling posts is about to become my new best friend. Last week I forgot to direct your attention to a great post by Spinks on the slow but inevitable death of 25 man raiding .  She has some really good points about the way World of Warcraft raiding is heading in Cataclysm.  Her point about it being less friendly for casual players really hit home with me because I am never a hardcore raider. With so much coverag

ipod Touch Kindle App

I have the Kindle app for reading on my ipod touch and I absolutely love it.  I hate the default settings, but I love the app.  It's the app that I use the most on my ipod touch, which is saying something.  I have all sorts of games and entertainment on my ipod touch and yet most of my time is spent reading on it. The Kindle app links to your account which allows for easy purchasing of digital books.  Most of the books are cheaper in digital form than they are in paperback.  I found one of my favorite trilogies for $9.99 which is the cost of one of them in paperback.  Not only that, but I've found that a lot of authors have free digital copies of the first book in a series in an attempt to get new readers. Any book available in the Amazon Kindle store can be tried for free.  There is a buy button and a sample button.  The sample will download the first portion of the book to the application for free.  It's like browsing new books in the bookstore. The Kin

StarCraft 2 Newbie Guide: Compendium is Live

I've started collecting my StarCraft 2 Newbie Guide posts in one spot for your convenience.  I'll update the list as I write more posts, so for all your StarCraft 2 Newbie Guide needs make sure to bookmark this page. The Compendium

StarCraft 2 Newbie Guide: Scouting

Scouting is an essential part of playing StarCraft 2 effectively.  Last time in the Newbie Guide we discussed the need to learn about your units .  You need to know how to make them and how to use them correctly. Armed with this knowledge, scouting becomes a powerful tool.  If you can discover what units your opponent is making and you know all the unit counters in your head, then you have the ability to win the game.  This is the basic idea behind scouting the enemy. Keep in mind that your opponent will constantly be scouting you as well.  For example, if you discover he is making Siege Tanks you start building Immortals to counter.  Your opponent may see your Immortals and counter them by making air units.  Scouting is a constant game of back and forth.  Once you understand your units, scouting is the number one thing that will help you win games. So, how should you scout?  Well, I'm glad you asked.  Do it early, do it often. Scout Early Your first scouting unit will b

Pocket Legends is a MMO on the Go

The thing that makes Pocket Legends impressive is the fact that it's a 3D MMO on the iphone and ipod touch.  It is literally a MMO that will fit in your pocket.  The game design may be simplistic, but it is still a first of its kind. Pocket Legends has all the trappings of a normal MMO.  There is grouping, character progression, leveling, gearing up, and killing monsters. For being a MMO that can fit in your pocket it is pretty impressive.  I don't know how much time I could kill playing this game and it's definitely not something you need to run out and buy, but I would recommend taking a look if you are a fan of the genre.  Spend a few minutes and see the precursor to many pocket MMOs of the future.

PSA: StarCraft 2 Release Date

StarCraft 2: Wings of Liberty now has an official release date from Blizzard!  They never release a game "until it's ready" so StarCraft 2 must be close to done since its scheduled to release on July 27th. If you haven't pre-ordered yet, now is a great time to do it.  I would recommend reserving at Gamestop because they give out a free beta key with each pre-order.  It is how I got my own key and stopped mooching off a friend. I am loving the StarCraft 2 beta and can't wait for the release!  July can't come soon enough!

Halo Reach Beta Initial Impressions

Sadly, I am underwhelmed.  I was expecting an entire new experience with all the changes Bungie has been touting, but it is not so.  This is still the same old Halo you either love or hate.  As for me, I'm pretty apathetic towards it. Players now select loadouts at the beginning of each game.  This is fairly standard now in most FPS games, so it isn't surprising to see it in Halo.  Each loadout contains different armor abilities to help change up the way your character plays.  Sprint, Jetpack, Stealth, and Guard all lead to some new gameplay options but the game still plays like Halo. There are new weapons and game types which are always welcome.  The weapons are interesting and I think they all have a place in the game.  I really like headhunter and stockpile - two of the new game types. In headhunter you don't get points for your kills until you deposit the skulls of your victims in a designated spot.  Opponents drop all collected skulls when they die, so areas can

PSA: Halo Reach Beta is Live Today

Halo Reach beta goes live within the next few hours.  If you have a beta key or own Halo ODST I fully expect to see you online tonight.  Get prepared with this Halo Reach beta primer via Joystiq .

StarCraft 2 Newbie Guide: Learn Your Units

I have already mentioned that you should pick one race and stick with it.  In StarCraft 2 you need to learn the units under your command, and that's difficult when trying to learn all three races at once.  Once you decide on your racial preference it's time to start learning about your units. Their are two key things to learn about each unit: how to make that unit and what that unit is used for. Helpful Hint   All of the tech trees and unit match-ups can be found from within a game by pressing the F12 button.  All of my screenshots from this post came from the F12 menu.  Use it to learn about your buildings and units. How to Produce Each Unit In StarCraft 2 it's fairly easy to figure out where to start producing the lowest level units.  They're built from a basic structure that is needed to move up the technology tree - commonly called the tech tree.  Protoss use Gateways, Zerg have Spawning Pools, and Terran build Barracks. After the initial building

Sunday Viewing: Halo Reach on the Horizon

I'm getting pumped for the Halo Reach beta next week.  Anyone who has Halo ODST gets access and I fall into that category.  The live action trailer released this week just helps top off the buzz surrounding Reach. I stumbled upon an internet gem last week involving Dwarf Fortress.  In Dwarf Fortress players start and maintain a fortress over the course of its lifetime.  It is an overwhelmingly complex game.  A group of players got together and each played for one year.  Then they would save the game and send the save file to the next player.  They wrote about the progress of their fortress as it came along. With that lead-in out of the way I want to point you to the year run by StarkRavingMad .  He is about 5 years into the play session and the fortress has had plenty of time to get messed up by multiple overseers.  His description is simply epic.  I don't want to ruin it, just read it . Once again I'm going to mention the StarCraft 2 replay post series at Lost In

Current Games: StarCraft 2 Edition

A quick update on what I'm playing and what I intend to play. I'm investing a lot of time in StarCraft 2 and in writing posts for my StarCraft 2 Newbie Guide .  I hope they are clear and helpful.  They are all things that I didn't know 2 weeks ago when I started playing StarCraft 2. I beat the Splinter Cell Conviction single player campaign.  I liked it, but not as much as the co-op .  I'm doing a second playthrough on the hardest difficulty and playing around with some of the extra modes in the game.  Going for the P.E.C. challenges keeps me busy too.  I hope to do a second playthrough of the co-op campaign on a harder difficulty as well.  I'm really enjoying my time with Splinter Cell, but the co-op is much more impressive than the single player. I have Darksiders from Gamefly on the floor next to my Xbox 360.  I haven't put in the disc yet, but it is next on my list. I'm still dabbling in the Blur beta .  I can't believe how much fun I'

PSA: Guild Wars Trilogy

The Guild Wars Trilogy is on sale via steam at the moment.  Its $19.99 for all three Guild Wars games.  I decided to drop the twenty bucks for it after reading the Guild Wars 2 Manifesto the other day. I want to understand the pedigree Guild Wars 2 will have, so I need to check out the first Guild Wars games.  I played the very first one way back when it was initially released but I never got around to checking out the expansion packs.  I know each is a stand alone game, so I will probably dive into one of the expansions instead of touching to original again.  With the sale going on, now is the perfect time to revisit the series.