Monday, May 30, 2011

Gamer Conversation for Non-Gaming Dummies

You are a non-gamer in a social environment and you wanted to initiate a conversation with a person who you know is a video game fanatic. Do you know that initiating the conversation by utilizing stereotypical as well as highly random "gaming" questions can be quite an annoying and an uncomfortable situation for us gamers? I was reminded of this fact today during the Memorial Day gathering that my significant other and I hosted - Hmmm BBQ. I don't have local gaming buddies as I have mentioned many times before but my close friends and families do know that I game a lot. Here are several examples of really horrible opening questions addressed to me that almost always make me go "Huh?" and I would roll my eyes while answering them in the most unenthusiastic tone I could possibly muster:

a) So, did you win your last game?

b) Hey, how's the leveling up going?

c) Have you reached the next level yet?

d) You got that high score yet?

e) Are you having fun with your new games?

The problem with these questions is that they are too specific yet highly random. Not only that, these questions make it sound like you really don't care about the answer because you are making an impression that video gaming is just a simple, one dimensional activity. Video games are not only about winning, level-up, and/or high scores. Here are the appropriate questions that you should be asking a gamer to start off a good conversation with him or her if you really have to go into it with a game-related inquiry. The key here is that you have to avoid making it sound like you know something about video gaming when it is obvious that you don't. Ask general gaming questions. You don't know what games the person has been playing and the kind of gameplay conditions in place so avoid speculating about those things:

a) So what are the hot new games available right now?

b) Have you been playing any good games recently?

c) I heard that you are really into video games.

d) So what's going on in the gaming world?

e) I heard that x is a good game. I'm no gamer so what do you think?

I am sure that I am not the only person who gets asked the silliest gaming questions by non-gamers at a get-together. I don't think there was any ill will involved when the awful gaming questions were asked and that the non-gamers were just trying to be engaging but there is some general rules that people should follow during a personal discourse: never assume and don't try to pretend that you know something when you really don't... Unless of course that you are just a natural born charmer.

Games Played 05/23/2011 - 05/29/2011

- 05/23/2011 -
Bangai-O Spirits - NDS
Mini Ninja Demo - PC

- 05/24/2011 -
Deathsmiles IIX - X-Box 360
Dirt 2 - PC
The Witcher 2: Assassins of Kings - PC

- 05/25/2011 -
Bangai-O Spirits - NDS
Mortal Kombat - PlayStation 3
The Witcher 2: Assassins of Kings - PC

- 05/26/2011 -
Dirt 2 - PC
Mortal Kombat - PlayStation 3

- 05/27/2011 -
The Witcher 2: Assassins of Kings - PC

- 05/28/2011 -
Need for Spped: Hot Pursuit - PC
Split/Second - PC

- 05/29/2011 -
Need for Speed: Hot Pursuit - PC
Total War: Shogun 2 Limited Edition - PC
The Witcher 2: Assassins of Kings - PC

Sunday, May 29, 2011

CD Projekt Destroyed DRM Yet Again

After the lengthy discussion this morning about the digital rights management challenges presented by Capcom and Ubisoft, I thought that my mileage on the topic was already exhausted. Enter CD Projekt RED and their recent release of Patch 1.1 for The Witcher 2: Assassins of Kings. I can't believe that I just found out about this really exciting news. With this patch, the game is now 100% DRM free. The game utilized SecuROM at first with a resettable install limit of 5 but after the developer discovered that the DRM has an actual impact on the smoothness of the game's graphics, they have decided to scrape the whole thing completely off! Now that is customer service. They have done this before with the original The Witcher as well and their stance is to provide legitimate customers with "full freedom of game usage". If you still have not picked up this action role playing game yet, please do so immediately and show your support for the developer - they deserve all the love and admiration from those who game on the personal computer. When I started the game after patching it, the improvements were immediately noticeable. Before, there was a long load time whenever the game is launched (SecuROM working in the background most probably) and now, it's not there anymore. The graphics also appear to be a lot smoother in game though it still chugs with "Uber Sampling" enabled of course because that option is really just there for future proofing.

Yet another reason why this game must occupy every PC gamer's library.

My First Tribunal IP Reward!

I was just wondering how Riot Games was going to notify those who participated in The Tribunal for League of Legends on the Personal Computer when they are rewarded with Influence Points until I saw a nice email from them today! Apparently, 5 of my votes so far were part of the majority ruling and I was rewarded with 25 IP for them! Better yet, I now have access to evaluate 10 cases a day! Passing judgment over these Summoner's Code abuse cases is nearly as much fun as playing the game itself - not to mention that it helps shape the game's community for the better. I hope to get a higher judgment cap if it that is available. Watch out players with rotten attitude and utter disregard for "The Code" - the community is fighting back!

25 IP may not be much but being able to change the community is rewarding enough.

Assassins vs. Fighters

This week has been Ubisoft Week on Steam and yesterday, they finally offered discounts for the Assassin's Creed games. The fist Assassin's Creed was such a yawn-fest thanks to its repetitive mission structure and even with its remarkable visual achievements, I was only able to get about halfway into the game on the X-Box 360. I have played the sequel a little bit using OnLive and I thought that it was definitely a lot more dynamic than the first. Of course the problem with the PC release of the sequel is Ubisoft's awful digital rights management scheme that forces players to stay connected to the game server to play the game's single player only content. I am all for DRM - you have to protect the developers investment so that we can get more games on the Personal Computer - but this method was just too intrusive. Ubisoft did finally abandon the constant connection method so even though you have to log on to the Ubisoft's Uplay client  - can't we all just use Steam? - to start the game: You no longer have to maintain an active internet connection to play the game. The bad thing here is that you still have to log on to start playing but it's an improvement. At $10 though, Assassin's Creed II is worth the slight hassle for me and hopefully this requirement will be patched out entirely since they are no longer using the constant-connection DRM on their newer releases.

Assassin's Creed II on sale? Time to read all the drama from the forums.

Since we are on the subject of DRMs, Capcom's recent announcement of their DRM fantasy for Super Street Fighter IV: Arcade Edition has now turned them into another disgusting Ubisoft-ish monster. Basically, Capcom plans on limiting the amount of characters you can use as well as taking away the ability for you to save the game when you are playing it offline. This means that you must be connected to Games for Windows LIVE, Capcom's preferred online platform, at all times to access the game's full features. The funny thing about this is that when I play GFWL games, I always log-on to the LIVE network - and I am sure that all legitimate customers do so as well - so in theory, this should not have that much impact until you sit down and think about it. Of course, the reason behind this action is to punish pirates who will not be logging in to a LIVE profile to play the game, but the possible ramification this has on us customers can be rather monumental if our Internet connections were to act up while playing the game. After the bad press however, Capcom is reaching out to the community to do some damage control by asking gamers to submit thoughts and solutions that could convince them to change the currently planned DRM scheme. Click here to participate in the discussion. I personally think that the GFWL setup is good enough without the need to lock offline contents where legitimate users can take their games online and gain access to the rich community features while the pirates will get stuck with playing locally or with each other at best. These pirates are shared enemies of both the developers and us gamers but the unfortunate thing here is that they are not going to just disappear.  They will always find a way to crack games but GFWL and Steamworks-based solutions are perfect for this situation because the pirates will only be able to access so much of the game content while no damage is done to those who actually purchased the games. Instead of trying to convince the pirates to buy SSFIV:AE - something that the pirates will never do in the first place - Capcom should just focus on convincing the legit customers to buy the game by ensuring that we will gain a quality, premium access to the game if we decide to spend our hard-earned cash on it.

Update Note: 06/04/2011 - Capcom will release a patch soon after the game is released to remove all of the offline restrictions for the game. This means that the game will be fully playable offline but to access the online features and the patch, one would of course need a GFWL account and be connected to the LIVE service. Also, the game doesn't have any install limits and it will just be tied to your GFWL account. Thank you Capcom!

Saturday, May 28, 2011

Memorial Day Weekend Game Hunt

It's the Memorial Day Weekend and after seeing the uninspiring online video game sales, I decided to check out what my favorite local gaming store had to offer and they definitely did a lot better since I walked out of there with 3 games in my hands. The first is Fallout: New Vegas for the Personal Computer, the shooter and role playing game hybrid by Obsidian Entertainment, yet again producing a follow up product to a Bethesda Softworks game, which in this case being Fallout 3. I never got to completing Fallout 3 and since I have it removed recently when I upgraded my operating system, I am going to just play New Vegas first before I play that game again. One interesting thing to note on this release is that the game carries the "Games for Windows" banner on the retail box but it is a Steam-enabled game. Well, we all already know just how much Microsoft cares about PC gaming...

3 games for our nice 3-day weekend!

The second game is Total War: Shogun 2 Limited Edition by The Creative Assembly, another PC title. When it comes to "medieval" warfare, you have to give it to the Japanese when it comes to visual impacts with their elaborately armored units and brutal sets of weaponry. This "Limited Edition" comes with several insignificant extras except for the "additional ninja clan" - that just sounds like all kind of awesome - and an additional "historical scenario". Last but not least, Toy Story 3 by Avalanche Software for the PlayStation 3. I am not big on movie license games because for the most part, they can get quite awful but I really like the game's open world mission-based gameplay of the "Toy Box Mode" where you unlock things to add to your environment the more you play it. I decided on the PS3 version because it allows you to play as Zurg! Who doesn't want to play as Zurg, right? There were so many other games on sale today but I know that I need to slow down the new game intake a little bit so these should be satisfying enough... For now.

Friday, May 27, 2011


Minecraft for the Personal Computer is an incredibly popular game made by the Swedish developer Mojang where you are transported into a randomized world made of blocks and from there, you are free to shape the world around you any way you wish. It is a sandbox game that is currently in its beta stage but those who purchase the game now will be able to get the game updates as well as the final release whenever that date may be. I have seen this game being played via live streams for a while now and my initial impression of the game was that of repulsion - the game's blocky look coupled by what seemed to be mindless mining were a bit too much for me. Then, when I saw the many creative ways that people have transformed the in-game landscape, I became more and more curious. It's been a while since that happened and I finally decided to jump into Minecraft and inducted it into my Game Library.

I call this my home... I just have to be careful not to make it my permanent home.

Immediately after arriving at my randomized game world, the addiction started to set it. The most brilliant part to this game is the resource gathering and management where you have to "mine" or harvest materials from the elements and "craft" them into a variety of different items and weapons. To alter the landscape, you have to remove or add one block at a time. Then, there's even a survival piece to the gameplay where you have to defend yourself when night falls because nasty creatures roam about the land, ready to hurt you. If you die at their hands, you will lose all of the resources you have worked hard on collecting. The graphical technology behind the game may not be impressive but there is a definite charm to the blocky visuals and they do provide a grandiose sense of scale. The game also has a multiplayer online option but I am going to concentrate on the single player for now. If you play a lot of LEGO or if you are just looking for an open-ended game that encourages a lot of creativity, Minecraft will make you very, very happy.


Thursday, May 26, 2011

Exercising 7 Days a Week...

Is that even a healthy thing to do? As you may know, I have been using Yourself!Fitness on the X-Box as my workout regiment and I have committed to a daily workout with the exception of Saturdays. Maya, the game's sometimes motivating, sometimes murderous trainer had suggested to me today that perhaps I should add another day into my workout schedule when I told her that I just "feel okay" about the result of my workouts. I am not sure if Maya realized that I already have six days invested into the program - my guess is, she probably just didn't care: she can be such a witch when it comes to delivering desirable results - because if I decided to follow her advise, I won't have a day off anymore. I know it's for the best though, especially with "The Big Day" approaching very, very soon, thus I have adjusted the game setting to reflect my new commitment of 7 workout days a week. This is not going to be fun. I just hope that it is going to be worth it.

Maya is on a mission and she will do anything to succeed.

Wednesday, May 25, 2011

He's a Witcher, Not a Hag

I installed The Witcher 2: Assassins of Kings on my Personal Computer last night to finally take it on a test run and I am happy to report that I was able to get the game to run smoothly at 1920 x 1080 with all of the graphics settings maxed out but with the slightly unnecessary "Uber Sampling" disabled. CD Projekt Red's new RED Engine is truly a sight to behold. This is easily one the better looking games I have seen in a while with massive environments and highly detailed character models. I don't particularly fancy the game's art style but seeing the exquisite details on the armor and the clothing of the most insignificant non-player characters is just remarkable. The Witcher 2 is meant to be played using the X-Box 360 controller since the game is going to be ported to that console in the future but there is absolutely no way the 360 version will even come close to the graphical finesse found on this PC version so if you are actually thinking that you want to get the more expensive 360 iteration of this game, you are going to be missing out big time.

Update Note: 05/29/2011 - The depth of the stereoscopic 3D is great but enabling Nvidia 3D vision does take a toll on the game's frame rate even after Patch 1.1. If you like playing in 3D, you must accompany that mode with a much lower graphics settings to make everything run smoothly.

Geralt may not be the best looking hero but at least he is a hero of a good looking game.

The Tribunal is Here!

Tired of people with awful behaviors ruining what was supposed to be a fun League of Legends session? Well, you may notice a significant decrease in such encounters now that Riot Games has the game's Tribunal system up and running on a "limited release". Level 30 summoners may log on to the Tribunal webpage and start passing judgments on up to 3 cases per day. The level of detail you get on each case is expansive as you get to see the actual complaints and the entire chat logs spanning across all the games in which the player was reported on. I have passed judgments on 6 cases and the great news here is that it looks like the community is using the report function appropriately. It does hurt to read some of these chat logs because you just won't believe how inhumane some of these reported players really are. The judgments that you make - Punish/Pardon - do not have an immediate impact on the player. Riot Games will be looking at the cumulative result before they take action on them. There is also a skip option if you are not sure what to do with the case. The idea of having others looking at your in-game behavior like this should deter people from acting up but then again, these are the type of people who really don't care about anything in life. We will see if the benefits of this system will become prevalent in cleaning up the dirty section of this game's community. And oh, I forgot to mention that participating in the Tribunal may nab you precious Influence Points! I would have done it for free but Riot Games as always, is going above and beyond to ensure the success of this new feature.

It's getting harder and harder to ignore the Summoner's Code these days.

Tuesday, May 24, 2011

Things are Getting D-Desperate?

It seems like every time I log on to the X-Box LIVE via my X-Box 360, there's always some sort LIVE Gold promotion being offered to entice my return to the service. Tonight, as I was navigating the dashboard to get to Deathsmiles IIX for another fun-filled gameplay session, another one of these showed up and this time, Microsoft really caught my attention:

If I wait a little longer, can I subscribe to it for $0.25 a month?

$2 for 2 months sounds a little too good to be true but of course once the two month period is over, I would have to pay the usual rate of up to $59.99 a year. I could have just proceeded with this offer blindly but I took the time to evaluate my situation: if I do get back on LIVE Gold, will I be playing anything multiplayer on a daily basis? Probably not. The only game that I am heavily playing on the 360 at the moment is Deathsmiles IIX and I am enjoying the single player too much that I really don't care about the possibility of playing the co-op - it lags badly for shoot-'em-ups over LIVE anyway. If Microsoft were to offer me $12 for 12 months, well I would definitely consider that. Thus, I have decided not to jump onto this deal, unless of course something drastic happens where I have a sudden need and interest to play multiplayer games on the 360 - I am sure the chances of that happening is pretty slim however.

Monday, May 23, 2011

Bad Game Bundle: Dirt 3

Dirt 3 by Codemasters is being released tomorrow for the Personal Computer, PlayStation 3, and the X-Box 360 and I was looking around the Internet to see if there is a good deal for the PC version that is being released as digital download only. I still want to exhaust all the gameplay out of Dirt 2 since I started playing that again recently but checking out potential new games is just ingrained within my psyche I guess. I was really shocked that there is a special release of the game for the consoles that come bundled with a "Ken Block Gymkhana Remote Controlled Car":

People are so going to buy this bundle...

The cost? $299.00. Yes, two hundred and ninety-nine dollars. Now who in the right mind would buy one game for $300? The people at Codemasters are brilliant when it comes to making racing games but apparently they are not very smart with their marketing strategies: First off, the Dirt series has never been a serious driving simulator and they have always been a bit more arcade in both structure and gameplay. Sure the vehicles models are very authentic and that the handling can be realistic and precise but the Dirt games are made to attract casual driving fans. Secondly, there are probably not a lot of RC fanatics who play video games because they take that passion out in the fields instead of sitting in front of the televisions. I am sure that the remote controlled car model bundled with this game is expensive to make and it is of top-notch quality but seriously... $299? Would you not rather spend that much money buying 5-6 individual games instead?

The Lamest Reason Not to Play PC Games II

The ignorance continues as I found out another sad excuse used by a colleague of mine to justify his preference to game on the consoles for playing cross-platform releases: Personal Computer games can only output stereo sound and he likes his surround sound setup. I almost peel off my skin Hellraiser-style when I heard this but instead of slapping him silly - I promised myself I would do that if people used the "small screen" excuse to not play games on the PC - I decided to educate him instead. His reasoning is of course not fact-based but it's easy to see why people believe this to be the case. There are several solutions to this sound misunderstanding for PC gaming and it can be tricky to pull off depending on where you would do your PC gaming. It's probably easy for me to insist that people should just hook up their PC to their big screen high definition television display alongside their consoles but when one is in the situation where the HDTV is being shared with the rest of the family, I suppose one may just have to play on a computer monitor so that the display can be freed up for others to use. But whatever the setup may be, the important thing to learn here is that you should never settle for stereo sound from your PC because enjoying an engrossing aural experience is very easy to accomplish:

1) All modern motherboards should already come equipped with discrete surround output jacks so there is not even a need to buy a fancy sound card to accomplish remarkable results. These can then be connected to the back of a receiver and you are ready to go. By the way, this is my exactly how I have set up my PC sound. If the computer doesn't have access to a receiver, you can always get one of those made for PC surround speaker system but that just seems to be wasteful when you already have your gaming consoles connected to the receiver. Also, most modern graphics card comes with HDMI output that can send out discrete surround sound.

Those color-coded holes are not just there to make your PC look pretty.

2) For those who have problems with space, there are always those surround gaming headsets ready to be used. Sure, you won't be able to hear your mother calling out to tell you that dinner is ready but who cares when you can hear the sound of those bullets flying all around you in glorious surround, right?

3) Of course not all PC games offer 5.1/above sound options but most modern games do. Still, your sound driver may offer different options to convert stereo signal into discrete surround sound. You can also opt to get sound cards that support Dolby Digital Live and DTS Connect - these will automatically translate all of your PC audio into the appropriate digital sound matrix.

PC gaming does offer high quality surround sound to enhance your gaming experience and if you are missing out big time if you don't enable this feature for your PC. Just because you normally see a Blu-ray player or the gaming consoles hooked up to those surround speaker displays at your local electronics dealer, it doesn't mean that PC gaming is only limited to small stereo desktop speakers or a surround headset at most. The audio elements of gaming on the PC should never be a concern at all because it can be easily manipulated and enjoyed to your liking.

Games Played 05/16/2011 - 05/22/2011

- 05/16/2011 -
Atelier Iris 3 - PlayStation 2

- 05/17/2011 -
Red Faction: Guerrilla - PC

- 05/18/2011 -

- 05/19/2011 -
Atelier Iris 3 - PlayStation 2

- 05/20/2011 -

- 05/21/2011 -

- 05/22/2011 -
Deathsmiles IIX - X-Box 360

Sunday, May 22, 2011

Deathsmiles IIX!

My abandonment of the X-Box 360 LIVE Gold service almost cost me to miss out on something truly special... Since I do not have that service anymore, I hardly ever check the LIVE game store but when I turned on the console today, an image flashed quickly on the dashboard that looked suspiciously familiar. I then went to the Games on Demand section and found that Cave has released Deathsmiles IIX there! I almost had a heart attack. I immediately - as in immediately - purchased the $29.99 side scrolling "gothic" shooter with "lolitas" fighting a Japanese twist on Santa Claus and right now, I am just waiting for the download to finish! I am so happy to see that Cave is releasing another one of their awesome 2D shooters on the X-Box 360 and going just the digital route seems to be a good idea - not to mention the fact that this release is way cheaper than actually getting the Japanese retail copy if one had an import 360. The game is certainly even cheaper than the original that was domestically released last yearDeathsmiles IIX also offers online co-op but I am not sure if this is enough to convince me to reactivate my LIVE Gold subscription. What a great way to end the weekend!

No way! I must be dreaming... But it's true! The sequel to Deathsmiles is here!

The Adorable Piggy

I have made myself a new friend: a small plastic piggy bank! Not only is he cute, he is also going to participate in a little experiment for me: I am going to stuff him up full of change from any denominations and see if a rotund piggy full of coins can afford me a game to add to my Game Library. This may take a while because I do not believe in carrying cash with me but it will be interesting to eventually see what kind of game(s) the piggy is going to be able to afford me. Money can be a bit tight these days so this is just a small bit of effort from me to save some cash on the side for gaming purposes. I should probably give him a name. "The Game Pig" maybe?

This little piggy stayed in the Game Room.

Saturday, May 21, 2011

A Rift in the Rift

When I started playing the trial period of the massively multiplayer online role playing game Rift for the Personal Computer last week, my initial impression of the game was so positive that I almost thought of actually investing in the game. Direct2Drive had a one day special for the game where the price was cut in half if I remember correctly but that occurred way too early into the trial period that I decided to just wait it out and play more of the game. With the installation of Windows 7 that occurred on Tuesday of this week, I haven't even reinstalled the game into my computer and being so active on lately streaming League of Legends gameplay took me away from going back into the game. I regret wasting the free time that has been granted to me like this and I pretty much have only one day left of the game so at this point, it would be a waste of time to download it again. The good news here is that it is apparent that I do not need to invest in a MMO right now because I probably will not commit to it since I did not even bother getting the game reinstalled immediately after I switched my operating system. The bad news however is that I still feel a bit of longing for some MMO gameplay so I should find some means to satisfy that. Maybe Guild Wars again but I tried so hard to get things going with that game and every time it just wouldn't go anywhere. Perhaps I should head back to those so-called "free to play" MMOs again...

Even Steam has the game on sale right now but I'm afraid it's all too late...

Wednesday, May 18, 2011

Free Old Games? Thanks a Lot Sony!

Well, it looks like one of my suggestions to make the return to the PlayStation Network a welcoming experience will indeed be implemented by Sony... but not to the degree that would make a great impact upon the situation. Sony will be offering two PlayStation 3 games and two PlayStation Portable games that PSN users can download once the service is completely up and running and the list of these games are sad... These games are old and what is worse is that the selections are extremely limited. I have listed the games below and I have marked (*) the games that I already own:

Dead Nation
Super Stardust HD*
WipEout HD + Fury*
ModNation Racers
Pursuit Force*
Killzone Liberation*

So it looks like I am at the losing end of this half-hearted deal. LittleBigPlanet? Really, Sony? Why not the sequel? And why would I want to download LittleBigPlanet and ModNation Racers for the PSP when I already have the PS3 versions of those? In addition to these disappointing offerings and that self-serving PlayStation Plus scheme, there will also be other small things that we will be receiving. You can read up on the details of Sony's "Customer Appreciation Program" by clicking here. Utter failure.

-1 Armor

I had to go get my blood drawn today and no matter how many times I have done this before, the unsettling feeling leading up to the, uh, penetration was as prevailent as ever. The needles they use these days are smaller then they used to be but the sensation of something sharp breaking through your skin and then sliding into your body - before the quick wiggling to make sure the instrument is lodged correctly inside your vein - makes me weak at the knees. I would always try to look away but again, I ended up staring at the long tube connecting the needle to the vial to see the flow of blood moving away from my body in this twisted, sickening twirl. Unfortunately, the misery doesn't stop when the procedure is over: the pain on and around the area where you are stabbed can persist for days and I really, really hate that... as if the needle went to places where it shouldn't have been poking around in and that the body had to work extra hard to heal the damages done. And of course, this does have an impact on my gaming too because all that nasty feeling from my arm would translate into slower reaction time of my fingers. Can someone please kiss my boo-boo to make me feel better?

Yes, I normally leave that on all day long.

Tuesday, May 17, 2011

Of Windows and Witchers

I have finally arrived.

My Windows 7 installation was filled with some moments of terror - I had to restart the process 3 times because the disc was unreadable - but once that obstacle was cleared, everything else that came after was a breeze. So I am now all set and ready to game on my new operating system. The first order of business of course is to reinstall League of Legends. To celebrate the occasion however, I inducted The Witcher 2: Assassins of Kings that just happened to be released today into my Game Library. Made by CD Projekt RED, this is the direct sequel of the cult hit action role playing game The Witcher and here, you continue to play as the rugged monster-hunter Geralt. The most prominent thing about this release is that all the initial prints are packaged as "Premium" editions and they are presented with a host of extras like a making-of DVD, a soundtrack CD, a world map, as well as an interesting "papercraft". Unfortunately, the game also comes with a rather thick Game Guide - a useless item and a horrible idea to include with any game: what's the use of playing a game if you are just blindly following a detailed instruction on how to beat it? If this Premium edition doesn't sound like your cup of tea, there is an extremely expensive "Collector's" edition of the game being sold as well and it comes with a large sculpture of Geralt's head. I really don't know why people would pay $129.99 for that but then again, I never understood why people pay for a PlayStation Plus subscription either.

The game is Nvidia 3D Vision Ready. Hope the 3D looks great.

7 Seventeen

So what do you know... I just had my Personal Computer all hooked up with Windows Vista less than a week ago and now, all of a sudden I got the Windows 7 Professional disc in my hands today. The galaxy has a weird sense of humor, does it not? My significant other thought the whole situation is really funny (ha ha honey). So I will be making the jump to 7 this evening and this time, I am going to do a clean install and start fresh because of the boot/system partition issue I am having with my current installation - it's not really a big problem but a bit of an annoyance actually. With the short amount of time I have spent with Vista Business, I must say that the operating system is solid. I am assuming that a majority of the problems that plagued the OS when it was initially released were mostly fixed by the time Service Pack 2 arrived so I didn't encounter any glaring issues with Vista. So if you are still gaming on Vista, I don't see a reason to hurry up and upgrade to 7 (I wouldn't have if I didn't get 7 from work) because the games that I played on it - League of Legends, Dirt 2Red Faction: Guerrilla, Rift, Two Worlds II, Rocket Knight, Dead Rising 2 - ran perfectly if not better than how they performed on Windows XP. I look forward to posting my next article using Windows 7! Until then.

And I was really beginning to enjoy Vista too...

Monday, May 16, 2011

Games Played 05/09/2011 - 05/15/2011

- 05/09/2011 -
Dirt 2 - PC

- 05/10/2011 -
Mortal Kombat - PlayStation 3

- 05/11/2011 -
Dirt 2 - PC

- 05/12/2011 -
Dirt 2 - PC

- 05/13/2011 -
Dirt 2 - PC
Mortal Kombat - PlayStation 3

- 05/14/2011 -
Dirt 2 - PC

- 05/15/2011 -
Arc the Lad: Twilight of the Spirits - PlayStation 2
Klonoa 2: Lunateia's Veil - PlayStation 2

Experiencing the Rift

An easy decision if you have played this genre many a times before.

I started playing the 7-day free trial for the massively multiplayer online role playing game Rift on the Personal Computer yesterday and I must say that I am  hooked. The game is basically a combination of World of Warcraft  (but all modern MMOs are WoW clones, except Final Fantasy XIV and notice how quickly that game is dying off) with its addictive user-friendly quest design  and Warhammer Online: Age of Reckoning with its introduction of large-scale public quests in the form of rift invasions. But let's talk about the one thing that really caught my attention when I first started playing this game: the graphics. Oh the sweet graphics. This is now the most beautiful MMO that I have played to date - probably will be dethroned by Star Wars: The Old Republic when it comes out though - and it is amazing that they are able to pull off this kind of quality visuals in a MMO because of the constant activities and people running around the place. The worlds, the characters, and the spell effects have an incredible level of details to them and I was able to maximize all the graphics settings without a hitch in performance. The art style resembles closely to WAR however with its darker undertone so the gameplay element wasn't the only thing that Trion Worlds copied from that game.

The whole screen deliciously explodes when you level up, making you want to do it more.

Even though the public quest - where you can join random people in massive, staged battles - is not an original idea, the twist presented here makes it feel very fresh. Rifts from another dimension open up randomly within the game world, pouring out a variety of nasty creatures in their wake, and you can join others in a fight to close up the rifts. I have only participated in two of these but heck, they are so much fun. And those evil tentacles coming out of the rifts I have seen thus far - they are mesmerizing. These rifts encounters are memorable but I wonder how fast I will bore of them. Besides these rift events, everything else is your standard WoW where you are propelled from one quest to another, keeping you engaged with the game's lore and stories, as you level up to make your character stronger.

It's all about the rifts.

Speaking of leveling up, the game offers multiple branches within the main 4 classes - your typical Warrior, Mage, Cleric, Rogue - offered at the offset of the game. You can then mix and match up to 3 at a time the "souls" or subclasses that you want to equip your character. It may sound like the game is offering you with a lot of subclasses but the fact of the matter is that a lot of them are too similar to each other. It is not really triple-classing, it's more like you are just switching around between the many talents you gain from the main class that you have chosen. It is important to note as well that there are no unique classes between the game's two rival factions and six races, which is somewhat of a disappointment. Still, the soul system ensures a variety of different talent combinations between the players.

The battle system is fast and fun.

As you may know, I still love WoW. I just don't like what it does to my free time to play video game: that is, to be played properly, it will dominate  the whole allotment. Rift has invigorated the passion that I have for the genre and for a moment, I was utterly convinced that I should get the game. But then why would I invest in Rift instead of WoW if I want to get back into the business of playing MMOs knowing that the latter is far superior. Well, Rift just looks too pretty and it is a WoW clone. The fact of the matter is that Rift is an incredibly polished product from what I have experienced so far but I am going to continue utilizing all of my free trial time to the fullest to accomplish one of two things: a) to fully satiate my MMO desires until I have had enough so that I don't have to reconsider coming back to a MMO, or b) be convinced that I should MMO again and the decide between Rift and WoW.


Sunday, May 15, 2011

PSN Returns with a Small Patch?

A friend of mind informed me last night that the PlayStation Network was supposed to be back up so I turned on my PlayStation 3 and I was able to download the latest firmware - a very small update that should last you only a couple of minutes to complete - as well as sign in to my PSN account afterwards, a process that included a mandatory password change. I was hoping that the Xross Media Bar would be visually altered, complete with a happy "Welcome Back" message from Sony but that was not the case. Instead, I was greeted by a cold sense of emptiness, especially after noticing that the PSN Store was (and still is) down so no goodies for us yet. It is great to see that the PSN is recovering, which means that I can finally check out the online features of Mortal Kombat but it would have been nice to see immediate enhancement to the service after the long period of downtime. I guess things are going to get back to normal now and Sony is primed and ready to rake in the dollars very soon. Don't believe me? Just look at Kazuo Hirai's sinister smirk in Sony's official service restoration video.

Almost fully functional.

Saturday, May 14, 2011

A Rift in the MMO-Verse

So I have discovered today that the popular new massively multiplayer role playing game, Rift by Trion Worlds for the Personal Computer, now offers a 7-day free trial. From what I have heard and seen of the game, it is not a replacement for World of Warcraft - in this genre, WoW will forever be king - so it is a bit weird that I am actually taking the time to download the game when I could not even convince myself to get into WoW again. The thing about MMOs is that they tend to take a lot of your time away from other games but I always like to give games a chance so I suppose it is just in my nature to proceed with this venture. The patch for the game is close to 9GB so if you are interested, perhaps it is best to start downloading before you go to sleep. To sign up for the free trial, click here - and I wish you good luck!

When you realize that you can't compete with WoW, it's time to open up the free trials!

Friday, May 13, 2011

Meet Squad 1

As you could probably gather from my impression of the beta, I really like Darkspore. The way that it tweaks the dungeon crawling formula by providing you with seemingly never ending ways to change your heroes' looks is unlike anything that I have encountered in the genre before. Imagine if you could play around with the size of the cool looking shoulder pads for your wizard or that shiny chest armor of your warrior - wouldn't that make the dungeon crawler a lot more fun? Well that is exactly what developer Maxis has accomplished here. Even with the game's strong hero customization options though, I have not seen a lot of people getting creative with the tools provided with the game. It's probably because I am still playing through the first of the game's three tiered difficulty levels and if that was the case, I really should play this game a lot more so that I can finally get to see some crazy hero edits. Of course, I for one just cannot wait to eventually unlock all the customization options myself so that I can expand my own brand of creativity upon my heroes. Speaking of that, I want to introduced you to some of my heroes who are teamed up to form Squad 1. This should give you a good idea of the level of flexibility you are given by the edit tools and it will further exemplify my love for creating ugly looking things. Note that some of the alterations here are not even accomplished via full equipment of items and accessories but merely by moving and changing parts that are already on the heroes' bodies.

Blitz: Before

Blitz: After

Viper: Before

Viper: After

Maldri: Before

Maldri: After

Wednesday, May 11, 2011

Review: The Last Pod Fighter

The Indie Games section of the X-Box 360 LIVE service is a very crowded marketplace filled with many bizarre creations that could be good, bad, or just plain rotten. When this section was first introduced to LIVE, I was mildly intrigued because of its potential to be a portal to unending creativity. Unfortunately, after the never ending number of "vibration massage" games, my interest in the 360's indie scene waned down and I haven't even bothered with them for the longest time until my friend, who is a member of developer Fighter9, provided me with an opportunity to play The Last Pod Fighter, their new game that just hit the Indie Game Marketplace just two days ago.

The Last Pod Fighter is your typical variant of a 3D space shooter where you control a ship in a full 3D environment. You basically have to fight waves after waves of enemy ships and these are punctuated by boss battles where you have to destroy a large capital ship. It is all very elementary and the auto lock-on system makes things very accessible. There are many power up pods that attach themselves to your ship - these are dropped off by destroyed enemy ships - and some of them are actually pretty cool to use, like the "Gravity Pod" that sucks up enemies that are close to it. The game comes with two gameplay modes: Arcade and Survival. The former is divided into rounds and the latter is about how long you can last the non-stop viscous waves of enemies trying to destroy you. Both of them are fun to play with the time and score counters being great reasons to replay the game as you try to beat your own records on your next play session. Graphically, the game looks decent but sometimes, all the flying lasers, swirling power-ups, and large explosions almost made the game kind of pretty. The real problem with the game's visual presentation is that you are stuck playing the game in only one environment: you end up seeing the same planet and asteroid formations. There is also this illusion that you are hardly moving forward because there are not enough particles moving into the screen, which can be a bit distracting.

I always appreciate big bosses!

Despite those small complaints, The Last Pod Fighter is a fun and engaging game. I haven't mentioned that it has a really strong soundtrack - worth the price of admission in itself - and the sound effects sound expensive . It was shared with me that the game may receive an online multiplayer expansion - which would make the game a lot better - but whether or not that will come into fruition, the game is a dollar (80 Microsoft Points) worth spent if you are looking for a little arcade shooter action.

RATING: 4 out of 5

7... in Inches

Yesterday, I made what could be a questionable transition to Windows Vista. I decided to be a bit adventurous since I know that my free upgrade to 7 may not arrive anytime soon just so that I can reap some of the benefits of DirectX 10/11 and Nvidia's 3D Vision technology that my last two graphics cards are capable of supporting. I have access to installing Vista for quite some time now but I originally just wanted to wait for the big jump to 7. I was too cautious in my transition to Vista however and that had caused me a lot more headaches than necessary. I decided to dual-boot Windows XP and Vista because I wanted to be certain before I commit to the new operating system since it got some really bad press - though not as bad as Windows XP 64-bit however and that OS turned out to be alright in my book. Creating the dual-boot was easy enough but the partition management that came after during the finalization of my Vista setup makes me want to bash Kratos in the head with a big slab of rock.

A risky move or a well-calculated one?

So far, I really do like Vista. It is quite fast and my games, the two that I have tested on so far (guess one of the games), ran smoothly without a hitch. I played a bit of Two Worlds II to check out the DirectX 10 benefits and though they are noticeable - the armor details really popped out and there are now more geometries to them - they don't make the DirectX 9 version look ugly. Instead, the DirectX 9 version just looks slightly edited down. As far as Nvidia 3D Vision goes, I don't have those expensive shutter glasses and 3D-compatible displays of course so I have it set to the red/blue anaglyph mode. It looked really horrible on Two Worlds II but League of Legends fared pretty well on it actually (yes, you guessed the game right) but both of these are not officially supported by the program to begin with. Some of the 3D game screenshots provided by the program look amazing so I am looking forward to test out the 3D action of games that are optimized for the technology. I have used the shutter glasses for 3D Vision before at a store display and the 3D definitely looked awesome but you know what? They still can't compare to the marvelous depth and ease of the Nintendo 3DS brand of 3D... Anyway, so everything is going well with the Vista "upgrade" so far - I am going to leave that word in quotation marks for now - and hopefully my Personal Computer gaming experience will be further enhanced by it.

Anaglyph glasses are so... stylish. No wonder Nintendo stayed away from them.

Monday, May 9, 2011

Is My 360 Dead Without LIVE Gold?

My recent one game deduction in the form of Super Street Fighter IV for the X-Box 360 has made me wonder how far-fetch the impact of my decision to leave X-Box LIVE Gold truly is. The main reason why I sold my copy of SSFIV was because I don't have access to the online multiplayer feature and upgrading it to the upcoming Arcade Edition is still not going to remedy the situation. Thus, I should just pick up the Personal Computer version so I can get back to playing it online. Things would have been different if I actually have real people to play it with in my Game Room, in which I don't. As we all know, online multiplayer can be an overwhelmingly large part of a game so I have decided to do a complete analysis of my 360 Game Library to have a clear understanding of the situation.

Is the Deathsmiles faceplate an omen of the console's dark fate?

To accomplish that goal, I went through every single one of my 196 games on the 360, including the digital downloads and categorize them into 2 groups: a) games that have online multiplayer functionalities and b) games that have strong single player elements that overshadow the online features or they don't have online functionalities whatsoever. The verdict: only 32 games have overwhelmingly dominant multiplayer elements and that is just roughly 16% of the total. These games include Gears of War I & II, the Halo series, and Resident Evil 5. This doesn't mean that the other 164 games have no online features - Mushihimesama Futari Ver 1.5 for example has a great online leaderboard but it is a vital core of the game? No, because I don't have to look at other people's high score to encourage me to perform better in the game. It is still a fact however than I am missing out on some of the online-related contents found in these 164 games - at least these omissions are not critical to the overall gaming experience.

In conclusion, the loss is not as devastating as I expected it to be but without LIVE Gold, I can only expect a significant decline in the number of games I will get for the system in the future. There are a couple of worries I do have in regards to keeping myself away from LIVE Gold. The first being a small number of good friends I have who only play on the 360: These individuals still have that power to persuade me to come back so that I could play online games with them again. The second being Gears of War III: The first two games have some of the best co-op I have ever played and I would hate to miss out on the co-op action of GoWIII. All of a sudden, the prospect of staying away from LIVE Gold is not as easy as it originally seemed to be but the fact of the matter is, only time will tell.

PlayStation Rewards T-Shirt

When the ill-fated PlayStation Rewards beta ended, participants were promised a t-shirt if they made it to at least the "Select" tier and mine finally came today. It is obvious that this 100% cotton black t-shirt is cheaply made and even though the thank you note that came with it ordered me to "Wear It Proud", there is really nothing about the t-shirt that screams out loud that you have participated in something particularly special. The front feature the word "PlayStation" in Japanese and the left sleeve has the PlayStation logo. That's it. Will I be wearing it to go out to the clubs? No, but I will definitely be rocking it when I go to my favorite electronics store I suppose. To showcase the t-shirt for your pleasure, I have hired the very current and hot male supermodel El-Gee to set your eyes on fire! Yes, you will definitely be wanting this t-shirt now.

The PS Reward t-shirt is perfect for strenuous action...

...or a gentle walk in the park!

Preparing for the PC SSFIV:AE

I have decided to sell my copy of Super Street Fighter IV for the X-Box 360 because I am going to just pick up the Personal Computer version of the Arcade Edition of the game when it is finally released in a couple of months. I have decided against just upgrading the game on the 360 via the downloadable content because I no longer have LIVE Gold and at this point, I really don't think that I will ever reactivate it. SSFIV on the 360 does look mighty impressive but it still doesn't hold a candle compared to the clarity and detail of the original SFIV that I do still have for my PC but that is just a secondary factor for me in this case. I still wish that Capcom would just allow PC owners to upgrade the original SFIV to the Arcade Edition - Since the PC version of this upcoming revision hasn't been given a specific release date yet, who knows, maybe Capcom may change their mind and just allow the upgrade in that fashion. By the way, SSFIV is still incredibly popular because I was able to find a local buyer for it rather quickly.

Do I expect more SFIV updates in the future? Yes, this series is going to be milked to death but
I don't think Capcom can get away with not allowing people to just get them via DLCs from now on.

Games Played 05/02/2011 - 05/08/2011

- 05/02/2011 -

- 05/03/2011 -
Mount & Blade: Warband - PC

- 05/04/2011 -
Magicka - PC
Need for Speed: Shift - PC

- 05/05/2011 -
Mortal Kombat - PlayStation 3

- 05/06/2011 -
Mortal Kombat - PlayStation 3
Ultimate Ghosts 'N Goblins - PSP

- 05/07/2011 -
Dirt 2 - PC

- 05/08//2011 -
Dirt 2 - PC