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Sunday, July 31, 2011

L.G. Origins: First Fancy Television

The first high definition display I ever owned was a 32" Sony CRT and I got it about a year after I picked up the original X-Box console. That television however was not my first "fancy" TV. It was actually this one:

Isn't she a beauty?

The Toshiba 20AF41 is sitting in the bedroom at the moment and despite it being connected to a DVD player, it's hardly ever being used these days. This television was my first dedicated gaming display and I remember feeling extremely excited about it when I got it in 2001 because it has component and s-video inputs. When I connected my consoles via those inputs for the first time, I was thrilled to see how sharp they looked. Since I have been gaming on the Personal Computer for a while though, I have seen better in terms of graphics resolution of course but I never thought that non-Dreamcast console games could look so good! Sure, what I have now is infinitely superior but the 20AF41 will always occupy a special place in my heart for I have had many, many, many happy moments sitting in front of it. As a matter of fact, I think I may host a cuddle session with the spouse and watch a movie in the bedroom tonight to honor its presence.

Sequels and Sequences

Game sequels are generated way too frequently and they arrive way too fast these days...

Infamous 2 and LittleBigPlanet 2 for the PlayStation 3: sequels to two very popular games for the system... Games that I never really spent much time playing in the first place. So what are they doing here when I should be having fun with the originals? More importantly, what does it mean when sequels of games arrive into my possession before I am "ready" for them? It means that:

1) I am inducting way too many games into my Game Library. It's time to slow things down even further.

2) I am playing too much League of Legends.

3) I am easily enticed by the price slashes at my favorite electronics store.

4) I need to spend more time making love to my PS3.

5) I like to spoil myself rotten.

Friday, July 29, 2011

Heroes of Newerth: Now Free to Play!

It is not surprising to me that today, S2 Games has turned Heroes of Newerth into a free-to-play game because the only way that it could compete with the more popular League of Legends is to copy Riot Games' business model. It all started with the introduction of "Casual Mode" that mimics the battle rules of LoL and the in-game store that sells vanity items. Now, new players can create their HoN accounts for free but they will only have access to a limited number of heroes until they have unlocked the heroes permanently by earning coins via playing the game or buying the coins with real money. Yes, it all works just like LoL. What does this mean to those who have paid for the game like me? Well, our accounts has been turned into "Legacy" accounts and we are not limited in the game-types we can participate in and and we will always get the new heroes once they are no longer being featured as "early access" heroes.

HoN is a great game. I just don't like the community.

I think that this is a very smart move by S2 Games: I can't blame them for making the game "free-to-play" - since I am not going to create a new account, I cannot confirm that this game is TRULY free to play like LoL. This sudden change in business model will entice more people to try out the game and hopefully, we will see an influx of friendlier players to balance out the large amount of ragers found here. If I ever had the chance to choose paying a one-time fee of $29.99 to gain full access of the game or work myself through the free-to-play system, I would chose the latter of course but since I am playing LoL a lot more, it's great that I don't have to work hard unlocking champions in HoN. To ensure that they are going to get a lot of money from the transition, S2 Games is not selling "Legacy" accounts to new players so if they are impatient about getting their heroes, they will need to spend some money. Overall, I am okay with how this transition impacted my account but I can see why some people feel betrayed by S2 Games. But what does this whole thing mean? It means that Riot Games has truly made it with LoL. Click here to create your free account to play HoN or click here to do the same for LoL.

Thursday, July 28, 2011

Random Gaming Star: Hippo #3

This feature will appear whenever I encounter a startling, memorable character in the games that I play. The characters don't have to bear any significant impact on the games as long as they are able to make a positive and/or a negative impression on me. Also, bear in mind that I have never been a fan of spoilers so those things will be kept to a minimum. Enjoy!

Case File #2: Super Street Fighter IV - Arcade Edition (Personal Computer)

So, you are a hippo living in a vast African desert. There is not much to do out there except for taking a nice dip into any body of water that you can find. So you heard that there is going to be a solar eclipse so you invited a couple of buddies with you to a cool spot that you know would be the perfect place to experience the event - it's cool because you know there are no risk of crocodiles there. Then while you are enjoying your time in the pool waiting for the sky to darken, you notice something strange: a couple of humans beating the crap out of each other near the pool. Since the solar eclipse has passed, you decide to get out of the pool to take a closer look and your buddies soon follow along... and thus you become responsible for the creation of one of the craziest and most inventive stage backgrounds in the history of fighting games!

STAR POWER: 5 out of 5

Wednesday, July 27, 2011

SSFIV Finally Recovered

In early May of this year, I sold my X-Box 360 copy of Super Street Fighter IV in preparation of Arcade Edition's arrival on the Personal Computer. Today, that void has finally been filled - I have inducted the digital version of SSFIV:AE from Steam. I remember mentioning that the visual difference between the vanilla SFIV on the PC and the 360 SSFIV was minimal. Well, I must have had a concussion that day because this PC version of SSFIV:AE definitely looks a lot better than I remember the game looking on both the PlayStation 3 and the 360. It's really sharp and colorful and I believe that this is one of those games that will remain beautiful forever thanks to the silky smooth animations and the painted shading applications. I maxed out all the graphics options, including the anti-aliasing and I found it funny that the benchmark program only ran for a couple of seconds before it popped up with the result. It's time to dust off that special Street Fighter IV controller again.

But there are no higher settings!
Though not technically demanding, the game's art style remains highly impressive.

You must always destroy Yun and Yang or the world will end in 2012.

Review: The Tree of Life

The Tree of Life (2011)
Genre: Drama
Format: Theatrical Release
Director: Terrence Malick

Life is a mysterious place. We start to see and understand it only through the memories we collect over our lifetime, no matter how short or long our stay ends up being. The way we see this world and the way we react to it is defined by our own instinct, our nature, as well as the effects of the stimuli we faced, or the way that we have been nurtured. The Tree of Life is about all of these things. It's a languid, highly emotional representation of the very essence of the human experience even though the interpretation of that gets a bit too fantastical at times.

The film convey the universality of its meaning by focusing on a family of 5: A young couple and their 3 sons, though the focal point is mostly dominated by the eldest son. We get to spy on their most private activities, as individuals, or as a family. We get to learn the dynamics between the couple and the conflicting ways of their parenthood and how that impacts the growth of their children. There are many significant moments yet there are also many insignificant ones and both of those things can easily be interchangeable of course. The movie is mostly narrated via the voice-overs of the characters, which is of course Malick's favorite cinematic practice. These voice-overs are very revealing and it's easy to associate yourself with them because you do it all the time in your life. They are mostly random ramblings but that only makes the characters' thoughts feel more genuine.

Since the movie is mostly filled with voice-overs, the camera becomes free to move around to capture the scenes. The cinematography is gorgeous throughout and there are some truly remarkable nature footage to be found here. Sometimes, it feels like you are watching a National Geographic Specials because the movie likes to wander away from the family for lengthy periods of time. This is not a problem for the most part and it only becomes highly damaging when Malick attempted to capture imaginary moments that represent the world's scientific origins and its religious-based projection. These sections just feel out of place and since it is apparent that they bear a major significance to the movie by framing the collective experiences of the film's family unit, they make the movie inconsistent and staged when it should remain entirely organic in its flow.

The Tree of Life is Terrence Malick at his most obtuse. There are sparks of brilliance in the characters' nonchalant dialogues and their philosophical ramblings but in the end, the movie as a whole is a bit of a frustrating experience. It's hauntingly poetic and hypnotic when it works but it feels like you caught something in your eyes that you need to wash out when it stumbles. My spouse fell asleep for about 30% of the movie and the only other person watching it in the very empty theater walked out mid-way through so it also takes some degree of patience to endure this film. With that being said, The Tree of Life is still enjoyable but Malick needs to be more rooted to reality to give the movie the validity it craves for.

RATING: 3 out of 5

Tuesday, July 26, 2011

You Have Forsaken... My Eyes!

I knew that when I wrote the article about my return to Forsaken World this morning that I may have not been specific enough abut the reason why I did an instant-uninstall the last two times that I attempted to play the game. The auto-pathing issue is surely an annoyance but it is one that can easily be ignored. After playing the game again today, I encountered the one really horrible thing that apparently had disturbed me so much that I erased ever having the knowledge of it and that thing is... the quest dialogue box!

Designed by a blind person apparently...

It is very, very difficult to read the quest dialogue because of the lack of hard contrast between the text and the background. Sure, most people who play this game probably don't care about the story but when I play my massively multiplayer online role playing game, I read all of the quest details. Is this a way for the developer to discourage any close involvement between the player and the game world? Whether intentional or not, if I keep playing this game, my eyesight will deteriorate for sure... Oh I am so close of deleting this game off my hard drive again.

MMO Desperation

I have been playing Borderlands with a Steam friend a lot these days and that game's fusion of loot-fest role playing and shooter actually made me miss playing a massively multiplayer online role playing game. Since I am not ready to commit to a REAL MMO right now - it's a toss-up between  my old favorite World of Warcraft and the new Rift - I have decided to revisit the world of *gulp* supposedly-free-to-play MMO again. So, for the third time now, I have downloaded Forsaken Worlds on Steam again to see if I could just push through the tutorial area. The first two attempts resulted in instantaneous deletion of the game because I couldn't stand the game after playing it for 5 minutes. It's the quest auto-route thing that really bothered me where by the click of the quest text, your character will then run towards the quest destination automatically. It killed off any sense of exploration that is completely necessary for a MMO. Sure, there are other supposedly-free-to-play MMO out there - and yes, I will always call them "supposedly" because you know that the cash shop will be intrusive beyond belief (only Riot Games has made a REAL free-to-play game) - but the reason why I have chosen Forsaken World again is because of how easy it was to just download it using the Steam client. I am about to jump back into the game so wish me luck. If this doesn't work out, I may have to get back into Runes of Magic again...

Will I find heartbreak or will this third time charm?

Monday, July 25, 2011

More Nintendo Poster Deliciousness

I got an email from Nintendo this evening announcing several brand new rewards options for Club Nintendo and among them is the Club Nintendo Donkey Kong 3-Poster series. As you know, I already have the ones for Mario and The Legend of Zelda so I am extremely excited about the prospect of posting up 3 more beautiful Nintendo posters in my Game Room. I just completed the order for the posters which cost 400 coins. It is a bit challenging to find the space for these incoming posters however since I already have a lot of game posters up on these walls. I am sure I will be able to work something out by the time they get here.

Maybe a 3-Poster Series for Metroid next?

Games Played 07/18/2011 - 07/24/2011

- 07/18/2011 -
Portal 2 - PC/PlayStation 3
Puzzle Quest 2 - PC

- 07/19/2011 -
Fable III - PC
Mortal Kombat - PlayStation 3
Toy Story 3 - PlayStation 3
Yakuza 3 - PlayStation 3

- 07/20/2011 -
League of Legends - PC
Runespell: Overture Demo - PC
Yakuza 3 - PlayStation 3

- 07/21/2011 -
Fable III - PC
League of Legends - PC
Yakuza 3 - PlayStation 3

- 07/22/2011 -
Fable III - PC
League of Legends - PC

- 07/23/2011 -
Borderlands - PC
League of Legends - PC
Puzzle Quest 2 - PC
Rise of Immortals - PC
Yakuza 3 - PlayStation 3

- 07/24/2011 -
Borderlands - PC
Clive Barker's Jericho - PC
League of Legends - PC
Rise of Immortals - PC

Saturday, July 23, 2011

Now Gaming on the iPad

My spouse has recently become a proud new owner of a 16GB iPad but you know what that means to me... I finally get to check out the video gaming scene for the device. The spouse is mostly using it to browse the Internet and use Skype while watching television shows in the living room: we would video Skype each other since I would be in the Game Room upstairs - we are a little too much eh? So whenever the iPad is not being used, I would take the opportunity to explore its gaming contents.

A new gaming destination?

The iPad comes with a "Game Center" application that serves as a hub for your gaming activities. Here, you can access your games, your friends list, and your achievements. Sad but true, the achievement system has made it into mobile gaming as well. I have downloaded the essential game of course: Angry Birds, the free regular and Rio releases. If you have never heard about the Angry Birds craze, it's a game where you slingshot different kind of birds into some structures, hopefully destroying the pigs hiding beneath them. It's cute and addicting and the sexy iPad screen makes everything look crisp and gorgeous. The "free game" models for the game apps here generally follow this rule: they all come with an advertisement banner that you can't turn off and they don't include the entire content of the full game. Still, it's fun to just mess around with whatever that are made available to you. The full games are cheap enough but will I ever buy any of them? I really don't think so... even though that Infinity Blade and Dungeon Hunter 2 both look mighty promising...

Wednesday, July 20, 2011

The Expiration Date... is a Lie?

Yakuza 3 is a game that I inducted into my Game Library on April 6th of this year, and yes, it took 3 months before I actually got myself playing the game. I was just in the mood of experiencing something with an open world element to it and Yakuza 3 seems to fit the bill just fine. When the game was installing the 5GB of data onto my PlayStation 3 yesterday, I took the time to look at the instruction manual and I was reminded of the fact that the game came with add-on voucher that expired on April 1, 2011. I remember feeling disappointed when I saw the voucher back in April because I missed it by 5 days but since I am now playing the game, I decided to just try out the access code and you know what? It worked!  Perhaps the whole "April 1" thing is an indication that the date was just a joke? Perhaps Sony just did not retire the game content by accident? Either way, if you plan on picking up a new copy of the game, please don't shred the voucher card just yet and enter the code ASAP!

Feel free to enter my used code. You never know, it may even work on multiple accounts!

Tuesday, July 19, 2011

Kool Kommunity Website!

Today, Rain, another downloadable character, has been released for NetherRealm's incredible Mortal Kombat for the PlayStation 3 and the X-Box 360. I downloaded it of course and thus far, I have not missed a single additional downloadable content for this game. I know that I haven't discussed much about the game here but I want to take this opportunity to say that this is definitely the best Mortal Kombat game thus far. I am not a fan of how the finishing moves are being presented - the camera keeps cutting to different angles and distances to showcase the gory deaths - but at least a majority of them are very entertaining to watch. To me, all fatalities should be presented in one continuous camera shot and only one character in the entire game has that kind of fatality - Kenshi. Whenever I boot up this game, I would normally head straight to the ladder match or the story mode but today, I decided to mess around with the options screen and it was there that I noticed a reference to a community website for the game: themortalkombat.com.

Kitana has always been my favorite MK character.

It was cool that NetherRealm actually created this website and though there's nothing too special about it - it just tracks your gameplay statistics in addition to being another place where the fans of the game can gather - the website does add another layer of polish to the game. The lesson for today: never forget to play around with the options screen on a game's main menu. You never know what krazy things you might miss out on.

Monday, July 18, 2011

Goodbye Maya, Hello... Gaga?

So I have been using Yourself!Fitness on the X-Box for about 3 months now and the results of my workouts have been steady even though they have been a little on the slow side. The one problem that I am having with Yourself!Fitness right now is that it is a bit too rigid and serious and since I have not been in the best of moods these days, I want to be tricked into doing some exercises while doing something more fun. I am not going to remove the conventional exercise part of my daily routine completely out however.

My "Temporary Placement Wall" is getting a little too crowded.

What I have decided to do is use Dance Central on the X-Box 360 on a daily basis to work out some sweat. I am setting up a daily one hour DC session with maybe an off day on Saturday. Sure, this will translate into an all  out cardio session but since I am really not looking to get buff, it fits my need. Despite it being merely a "dancing game" compared to Yourself!Fitness, a good session with DC can be physically draining and I actually sweat more doing the dance moves than a complete workout session with Maya. In addition to DC, I am also going to start using the old treadmill I have sitting in my bedroom. It's time to put that puppy to good use.  I am very curious to see if this change in daily physical activities will boost my weight loss and body toning compared to what I have been doing. If things don't work out, well, Maya will always be there waiting for my return with open arms and a little bit of scolding.

These bars haven't been touched in years...

Games Played 07/11/2011 - 07/17/2011

- 07/11/2011 -
Fable III - PC
Grand Theft Auto IV - PC
Lost Planet 2 - PC
Mortal Kombat - PlayStation 3

- 07/12/2011 -
League of Legends - PC
Mortal Kombat - PlayStation 3
Need for Speed: Hot Pursuit - PC
Shadows of the Damned - PlayStation 3
Yourself!Fitness - X-Box

- 07/13/2011 -
League of Legends - PC
Mortal Kombat - PlayStation 3
Toy Story 3 - PlayStation 3
Yourself!Fitness - X-Box

- 07/14/2011 -
League of Legends - PC
Puzzle Quest 2 - PC
Yourself!Fitness - X-Box

- 07/15/2011 -
League of Legends - PC
Puzzle Quest 2 - PC
Yourself!Fitness - X-Box

- 07/16/2011 -
Borderlands - PC
League of Legends - PC
Toy Story 3 - PlayStation 3
The Witcher 2: Assassins of Kings - PC

- 07/17/2011 -
Dance Central - X-Box 360
Who's That Flying? - PC
Portal 2 - PC/PlayStation 3
X3: Terran War - PC

Sunday, July 17, 2011

The Dark of Bay's Pimply Butt

I went out for a movie date with the spouse today. I really wanted to watch Terrence Malick's The Tree of Life but my spouse is into the Transformers movies so you know which movie we ended up watching. I have seen the first two movies and yes, they were beyond horrible. Unfortunately, Dark of the Moon - a title which refers to director Michael Bay practically  mooning us with this crappy piece of work - is not any better than the previous films. The special effects were great but everything else about the movie was just bad. When it was all over - I was surprised that I was still alive - I walked out of the theater with a painful headache because:

1) at 2 and a half hours, the movie was just way too long because the plot was so pedestrian.

2) a bunch of the Autobots have unnecessarily racial/international accents when they speak and these were complemented with the "proper" facial representations.

3) Sam Witwickey now has a British girlfriend... What? I heard about the whole Megan Fox situation - producer Steven Spielberg apparently has no sense of humor - but this coupling made absolutely no sense to me whatsoever.

4) the convenient robot deaths... So they can slash and shoot at each other for days on end without anybody dying until they input some secret fatality command to finish each other off.

As I was staring at Michael Bay's @$$, I realized that it wasn't pimply at all. No Sir... It was actually rather smooth and muscular. Very tight and defined. But then I noticed the curious dark-green ooze sloppily spreading out from between the cheeks. Yeah, that was Transformers: Dark of the Moon to me.

Friday, July 15, 2011

"Expensive Hobby" is an Understatement

The article I have written not too long ago called Harder Than the Years Past should be a clear indication that something has been stirring inside of me as of late. I have been searching deep within myself these past few weeks looking for an answer to why I have been feeling depressed about the state of video gaming in my life. The main problem is that I feel like I cannot keep up anymore with how fast this industry is progressing. It wants money continuously through a never ending list of new hardware and software as it tries to make itself as profitable as possible. Though the creativity that is generated by this should be celebrated, the problem here is that it is mostly a one-sided relationship in which we as gamers have to make the bigger sacrifices to keep the industry afloat. And how are we rewarded for this? Hardware makers keep trying to find the opportunity to jump ship to a "next generation" while game developers are giving us incomplete games in a variety of sneaky ways to make more money from us. The industry is changing and it is not changing for the better. Even though there are a handful of gaming companies out there that genuinely focused on their customers first and foremost, there are not enough of them to counter-balance the overall decay and the eventual collapse of my entire video gaming universe.

Once you have grabbed on to a controller, you are the one being controlled.

I fully understand now why a lot of people thought that I must be rich to have the amount of games that I have now. It's funny because I sure wish that I was rich. Though it doesn't take a rich gamer to own a large gaming library - it just takes time and I have been gaming for such a long time - it would take a rich gamer to grow his or her collection extremely quickly. There used to a time when I did spend a lot more on video games. I must have spent about 50% - 60% of my paycheck on them. Every other week, I would head out to my favorite electronics store and spend and spend and spend. Then, I would go online to Amazon.com and spend and spend and spend and spend some more. I was very young then. Young and immature. After a childhood of living with a low-income family, my no-holds-barred spending habit was expected however. I have never felt such freedom as I did back then but as we all  eventually find out, freedom always seem to come with a price. Things did change for me and I have tried my best to limit the spending while still attempting to get all the gaming items that I am interested in. This has been the case over the past two to three years and as a result, my Purchase List has truly grown in size.

The sky is not the limit. The ceiling is.

Oh yes, there was a time when that list was only occupied by 10 games or less. There were even several times when I remember having nothing on my list because I was able to get to them all. Then again, things were less complicated back then. I only had two consoles and the Personal Computer gaming scene was not all that attractive. Today, I have about 291 items in there. Let's just play around with a modest price of $19.99 for each of those items. So $19.99 times 291 equals $5,817.09. How crazy is that? So it would take close to 6 grand for me to keep up with my current gaming interests and let us not forget that the average price for these items are definitely higher than $19.99. Unless I won the lottery, I know for sure that I will never be able to get to all of those games any time soon and since the rate of inductions are slower, the list will only grow larger in size and the amount of money needed to sustain a wholesome gaming experience will become impossible to accumulate.

What I have should be more meaningful than what I don't have.

It's all about the want versus the need, I know that. Do I really need to get every single game that I am interested in? Of course not. But that fact doesn't make me happy because I want to get every single game that I am interested in. I am an atheist. I believe in making the most out of this life because I know that I will not be sitting down in heaven - nor hell - where I could play all the video games ever made for the rest of eternity. Heck, depending on the faith people "choose" to believe in, video games may not be a part of the supposed heaven. This life is my heaven but it is also my hell and it looks like I just cannot have one without the other. Because I believe in games instead of the platforms, I will never play exclusively on just one platform even though I know doing just that would probably enable me to gain more control in getting the games I wanted.

The gaming industry is moving ahead in full speed and though it thinks that it is making progress, it is not making the right choices. Do we really need 3-4 gaming platforms moving into the future? Perhaps real progress should be measured in the actual games instead of the variety of platforms that support them. Ever notice that there is always just one platform that shows technological superiority in every single "new generation"? People tend to argue that having more than one platform creates good competition but is that really true? Sega has found success being a game developer exclusively while dropping off its console generator gene. How come games are still being released on multiple platforms - doesn't that seem to be a waste of time for developers when they could just focus on creating a game for just one system? The healthy competition should be between game developers so that we can benefit from playing better games because hardware competition in this day and age just resulted in redundancies and really nothing else. Why do we play video games? To experience the actual games and the platform variations should not become a distraction nor a necessity anymore. Still, that probably will not help me in my current struggles because new game titles are being generated by the day and I just cannot get to them fast enough anymore. I just wish things would slow down a bit. I have climbed up these mountains over and over again and I just don't have the strength nor the financial backings to keep up anymore.

Wednesday, July 13, 2011

Epic Gaming Moment: Fireworks Extravaganza

Today is the first day that I actually played Toy Story 3 for the PlayStation 3 that I inducted into my Game Library during the Memorial Day weekend back in May - yeah, that was quite a while back. I haven't watched the actual movie yet but I really am liking how this game doesn't feel like the formulaic movie license title because of its open-ended gameplay design. There is this virtual town that is filled with quests and things to unlock and it is here that an epic gaming moment occurred. Every time a quest is completed, the whole screen is filled with pretty fireworks and colorful confetti to celebrate your success. These frequent and truly momentous gameplay punctuations are absolutely nothing short of epic because they are extremely pretty and they make you feel super special. It is sort of like leveling up in a massively multiplayer online role playing game when your character just burst into some crazy explosion but only a million times more spectacular. If these fireworks shows were to accompany the unlocking of achievements on the X-Box 360 or the trophies on the PS3, I would have been a shameless and dirty chie/phie whore for sure.

Is that even necessary? It's like you've beaten the whole game.

Leona Darling!

After what seemed to be an eternity of wait, the delayed new champion Leona, the Radiant Dawn, has finally been released in League of Legends on the Personal Computer. I wasn't able to accumulate enough Influence Points to unlock her because I didn't spend that much time on LoL over the past few weeks - need about 1000 points left and that translates into roughly 10 more games. I absolutely love one of her alternate skins in which she wears a Valkyrie outfit and I already promised myself that I must buy that skin when it is on sale. I also love it so much that it has now become my wallpaper, not to replace the original Leona art but to complement it as a desktop slide show. She is just so very intriguing and I love her lore as well. This game is continuing to get better with every single new champion release. Thank you, Riot Games!

Sorry Lenneth, you have been thoroughly replaced.

Sony's "Convenient" Summer Sale

As soon as my free one-month PlayStation Plus subscription expired, Sony launched their Summer Sale Event. This is what Sony is saying: "Hope you enjoyed the worthless one month subscription. What's that? You lost your free games? Too bad, so sad. You pay us more money and you can rent them a little longer... Until you stop paying us that is. Well, what's this? Gasp... We have a summer sale! The discount is bigger for Plus members! Pay us some money so you can get bigger discounts on all of these items even though you probably will only buy one or two of the games listed (Sony Wins... Flawless Victory... Fatality!)." How was my experience with the free PlayStation Plus? I downloaded a couple of free games from the PlayStation Network Store but I didn't see anything worthwhile to buy on the discounted games list so the program was totally meaningless. It saddens me to know that people actually pay money for the Plus program.

Dude! Make more money by convincing those fools to subscribe to Plus!

Monday, July 11, 2011

Games Played 07/04/2011 - 07/10/2011

- 07/04/2011 -
Defense Grid: The Awakening - PC
Fable III - PC
Heroes of Newerth - PC
Mortal Kombat - PlayStation 3
Warhammer 40,000: Dawn of War II Retribution - PC
Yourself!Fitness - X-Box

- 07/05/2011 -
Magic the Gathering: Duels of the Planeswalkers 2012 Demo - PC
Portal 2 - PlayStation 3
Serious Sam HD: The First Encounter - PC

- 07/06/2011 -
Beat Hazard Ultra - PC
Borderlands - PC
Fable III - PC
Left 4 Dead 2 - PC
Portal 2 - PC
Yourself!Fitness - X-Box

- 07/07/2011 -
Beat Hazard Ultra - PC
Borderlands - PC
Guardians of Graxia - PC
Fable III - PC
League of Legends - PC
Monday Night Combat - PC
Serious Sam HD: The First Encounter - PC
Yourself!Fitness - X-Box

- 07/08/2011 -
League of Legends - PC
Magicka - PC
Team Fortress 2 - PC
Yourself!Fitness - X-Box

- 07/09/2011 -
Fable III - PC
League of Legends - PC
Mortal Kombat - PlayStation 3
Serious Sam HD: The Second Encounter - PC

- 07/10/2011 -
Borderlands - PC
Fable III - PC
League of Legends - PC
Yourself!Fitness - X-Box

Sunday, July 10, 2011

Temporarily Perfect

I can still remember that fateful afternoon when my launch PlayStation 3 died. It was extremely shocking because I thought that the hardware was going to last me a life time and what made it even more horrifying was that I had a PlayStation 2 disc trapped within it. Ever since then, I never leave game discs inside my consoles anymore. Heck, I don't even leave my UMD inside the PlayStation Portable for the fear that it may get stuck in there if I left it in for way too long. Being obsessive-compulsive, this new behavior is a bit stressful for me however because when I do put my game discs away, I like to place them back into their respective game cases. I leave these cases inside my gaming cabinets/organizers so it gets annoying sometimes to play a game consistently because that means that I would have to repeatedly take the disc in and out from where the case is located in. I have decided to create a new habit for myself - I am your number one control freak - where I would place the game cases along the wall when I know that I will be playing those games for a while. This way, I know that there's one general area where the game cases will be: I hate it when they are just scattered everywhere in the room. Maybe this will  help me focus a little bit more too when it comes to playing my console games. Hope I won't kick them by accident while exercising.

I don't know why I am still holding on to that Rift discount card...

Last Day of Summer Camp

Today is the last day of Steam's Summer Camp Sale and though I didn't spend too much on the actual offerings, I had a blast earning tickets to enter the sweepstakes for the grand prize where 100 Steam users will get the top ten games on their wish lists. The coolest thing here is that one doesn't even have to pay a dime to enter the contest because you can earn 10 tickets by just doing some silly Steam-related activities. I tried to convince some of my console-obsessed friends to participate but apparently the thought of getting free games are just too much for them. I guess since Steam achievements - the best kind of achievement system ever - don't stack up to show some meaningless number or status like they do on the PlayStation 3 and X-Box 360, they are just not worth the time and effort. Hopefully they'll change their minds before time runs out. If I was a gamer who didn't have a gaming computer, I would still open a Steam account and stuff my wish list full of games and start earning the easy free tickets just for the opportunity to win some games that I may play in the future.There are also cute little prizes that you can get using your accumulated tickets as well - including one full game. I will miss the Steam Summer Camp because it was the only saving grace for this disastrously hot and sticky summer weather.

I am leaving camp with 21 tickets and 7 prizes!
I hope those will be enough tickets to win me the grand prize.

Friday, July 8, 2011

Top 10 Favorite Albums

I am taking a bit of a detour here from the usual gaming discussion to share with you another side of me with my top 10 favorite albums. Though not as prevalent as video games nor films, music does have a significance in my life. I do have a very rigid routine when listening to music: I would normally listen to an album as a whole (unless when I am playing Audiosurf or Beat Hazard) and I would only be listening to the music as I sit comfortably on my chair or lie down on the futon while doing nothing else. I would soak myself up in the aural atmosphere entirely, singing along to the lyrics most of the times being the amateur singer that I am. I don't use my music collection to replace the default background music while playing video games. Because of my focus in video gaming, I will admit that I do not induct albums all that frequently into my database of music and there has not been anything new that excite me too much in the music industry. This list will only include the albums that I actually own and to ensure variety, an artist can occupy only one slot out of the 10: If I don't do that, this list will only be filled with albums by Loreena McKennitt and Tori Amos. [Latest Update: 07-08-2011]


---10---
Bif Naked (1996)
Artist: Bif Naked


Bif Naked's self-titled debut album is better than all of her other albums combined. Though she currently has found herself lost in mainstream glamor and glitter, the original Bif was packed full of deep emotional angst and raw anger that translated beautifully through her no-nonsense delivery. The faster songs like "Everything" and "Succulent" are fun and catchy but it's in the slower songs that you can truly appreciate her. "Tell on Me" is a shockingly dirty account of a violent rape from a really vengeful but frustratingly helpless victim and "My Whole Life" is a sad look at life's regrets before its end. Add a pseudo-lesbian attitude to the mix through bits and pieces of sexually ambiguous lyrics and you get yourself one intriguing and memorable album.


---9---
Paint the Sky with Stars (1997)
Artist: Enya


I am sure that Enya fans would agree with me when I say this: We love Enya but there is always a huge risk when buying her albums because they are filled with a lot of fillers between the truly extraordinary pieces. This is the reason why Paint the Sky with Stars is so good because it only contains her best works. Since Enya's most profound works were composed pre-1997, this is the only place where you need to be if you are interested in her. Enya is all about grace and elegance and her "New Age" songs are mostly soothing but sometimes they can get a tiny bit adventurous. The two new songs added into the mix here, the spirited "Only If" as well as painstakingly controlled "Paint the Sky with Stars" are instant classic. I own all of Enya's albums all the way up to Amarantine and I always go back to this compilation because everything just flows so beautifully together here. Best track in the album? "Caribbean Blue" of course!

Thursday, July 7, 2011

Rift for $9.99?!

Today, Steam is offering the massively multiplayer online role playing game Rift for only $9.99! All I can say to this is no... No Loner... Don't do it... Think of your spouse... Think about your other games... Think about all the other delicious things you can do with that kind of cash... Don't do it!

Cheaper than the game's monthly subscription fee? Maybe it is about to go free to play?

Harder Than the Years Past

Video gaming is a fascinating hobby that seems to become more and more demanding as it progressively matures into the future. There used to be a golden age when there were only two platforms that you have to worry but these days, there are about six of them. Thanks to the ever increasing rate of improved gaming technology, it seems like there is always something new around the corner when it comes to the hardware and of course, the never-ending list of potentials they bring encourage much creativity which then resulted into new games that come in huge numbers every year.

Before the "Wii U" was announced at E3 a month ago, when rumors of its pending arrival permeated the gaming universe, I remember a feeling of dread in my heart. As someone who is so keen about the hobby, that reaction was certainly unexpected and unhealthy. I remember telling a friend that I really don't feel like I want to chase any more new gaming platforms because I am happy with what I have right now. But such a point of view is certainly regressive and it is so against my own take on life. We shouldn't stop things from evolving because it is natural for them to keep changing for the better. I know the real reason why I just want things to slow down a bit when it comes to the constant jump from one platform generation to the next and it all has something to do with money - you know, it is that insignificant thing that makes the world round and gives it its glow.

I have made a lot of sacrifices in my life to accommodate my gaming hobby. I don't make much but I have spent a majority of what I have on it. Then a new game or machine is announced, and like a mass-produced industrial robot specifically created to do menial tasks, I would add them neatly into my Purchase List with that anticipation that I would still be alive when they finally become available so that I could happily pick them up to call them my own. Every so often, I would look at that long list and realize that for whatever good that the list was accomplishing, I was actually feeling defeated. The list is mocking me because in truth, it will never get shorter. At the end of the day, the list becomes a reminder of things that I potentially cannot have instead of the things that I potentially can touch. But I understand. I am greedy. Too greedy for the pleasures of this world, this life. I like this one exquisite flavor in particular and ever since I tasted it, I have been unwilling to let go. I have so much yet I have so little. So many others would love to be in my shoes but I know that they wouldn't wear my cap. I have created a meaning in my life through a collage of cartridges, circular discs, plastic cases, and saved data and they occupy the most significant portions of my memory. I throw away everything else... Almost everything else because they hold little value to me. I do feel that I am already there sometimes at that place where all is right with this existence that I have created for myself. I look at the walls around me and I do see the cracks and crevasses. Yes, there are days when I just feel tired and lost. It's time to hit that reset button.

Tuesday, July 5, 2011

Fireworks After the 4th of July

Yes, things got a bit crazy with the game inductions today as I added four new games into my Game Library - alongside a bunch of downloadable add-ons for pre-existing games that I got from Steam, which will not be mentioned here. The first two are PlayStation 3 games: Portal 2 - the sequel to the ever popular game that involves manipulating 2 inter-connected portals to solve mind-bending situations - and Shadows of the Damned - a so-called "Suda51 Trip" where you take the role of Garcia Hotspur who is trying to save his girlfriend who is kidnapped by some hellish demon. The reason why I got the PS3 version of Portal 2 is simple: it includes the Personal Computer version of the game and players between the two platforms can play with each other! I did link up my Steam account with my PlayStation Network ID but let's be honest here, I will not be playing this game on the PS3 at all and play the PC version instead. The X-Box 360 owners of the game were completely shafted by Valve for sure. Accessing the Steam overlay on the PS3 was a strange experience by the way because of the limited amount of things you can do with it compared to the actual Steam client on the PC. Still, it is great to be able to see your Steam friends while you are in this game on the PS3 - I am still in the process of downloading the game from the client at the moment so I am not sure how the PSN information will show up in the PC version.

Update Note: 07/06/2011 - I forgot that everything is tied to the Steam account so no PSN-exclusive information will show up on the PC version. This will not deter me from playing it exclusively on the PC of course.

More Steam-PS3 integration please!

The other two games are PC Steam titles: S.T.A.L.K.E.R.: Clear Sky - this Chernobyl-inspired alternate universe first person shooter is a part of the S.T.A.L.K.E.R. trilogy in which I already got the other two games in the series - and Wings of Prey - an aerial shooter set in World War II. Well, the good thing about the Steam Summer Sale is that there are a lot of good deals on games and the bad news here is that I am having a difficult time getting to these games to test them out because the download server is a bit slow right now. And there are 5 more days to this sale event... It's a bit overwhelming.

June 2011 Gaming Analysis

The results shown below are of course based on the combined data from the Daily Game Log which should provide a clear indication of a game's usage frequency. Bear in mind that even if a game is played twice or more during a particular day, it would still register as 1 in the Day Count column below. In a sense, "merits" are given based on how often a particular game can make me play it again throughout the entire period of the month on a daily basis. A game that makes a gamer play it over and over again or at least spend a lot of time with it... Isn't that what we mostly want from a great game? I don't think it's really fair to count all the way down to the number of hours played since some games only require a short amount of time to properly serve their purposes.

OVERALL BREAKDOWN:


Total Games Played: 31

It is the same story again for last month with League of Legends for the Personal Computer and Yourself!Fitness dominating the top of the chart. It is hard to stop playing LoL, even with the occasional encounters of people with unsavory attitude - at this point I am really used to them now. I am however still looking for a solid group of 4 regular teammates to play with and that is the only thing missing from my LoL experience. As for Yourself!Fitness, I have been using the program for 70+ days this time around and now my appetite is also changing alongside my physical appearance: I get hungry faster but I get full by eating very little food. I remember looking at a very recent picture that was taken of me and I was really surprised to see just how fit I look now. I do look at myself in the mirror everyday but seeing myself from top to toe actually made the difference there. I must say though, the belly bulge is one tough son of a fat to get rid of but it has taken quite a beating.

A surprise performer last month was Titan Quest for the PC, which nabbed the third place of most played game. For the first time in my Titan Quest life, I have finally reached the Immortal Thrones expansion content - fighting that last boss from the first game alone took forever however. I was really horny for some massively multiplayer online role playing game last month and though Titan Quest isn't one, the loot frenzy and level-up goodness did manage to steer me away from actually buying Rift when it was offered for some ridiculously low price. Well, the discovery of the fact that the epic armor sets for Rift look horrible probably helped me out somewhat as well...

Best New Game of the Month:
Child of Eden - X-Box 360

Unexpectedly Forgotten New Game of the Month:
None!

I Missed You, I Want You game of the Month:
Dynasty Warriors: Gundam 3 - PlayStation 3

Monday, July 4, 2011

Games Played 06/27/2011 - 07/03/2011

- 06/27/2011 -

- 06/28/2011 -
League of Legends - PC
Yourself!Fitness - X-Box

- 06/29/2011 -
League of Legends - PC
Yourself!Fitness - X-Box

- 06/30/2011 -
League of Legends - PC
Yourself!Fitness - X-Box

- 07/01/2011 -
League of Legends - PC
Yourself!Fitness - X-Box

- 07/02/2011 -
Borderlands - PC
League of Legends - PC
Magicka - PC
Super Meat Boy - PC
Team Fotress 2 - PC

- 07/03/2011 -
Borderlands - PC
Fable III - PC
Yourself!Fitness - X-Box

Sunday, July 3, 2011

Third Time the Molyneux's Foible

Steam was able to claim a sale from me via yesterday's offerings in the form of Fable III. I always like the Fable series, I just never liked Peter Molyneux because the senile bastard always tend to over-hype his games. The Fable titles have never been the hardcore role playing games with super deep storyline and infinite character customizations like he deliriously fantasized them to be  and he should never ever say that those are the things that he is trying to accomplish. I like the first game better than the second because the latter has too simplified of a combat system and the loading time on the X-Box 360 reached a truly nightmarish level of nastiness. I am glad Lionhead Studios decided to release Fable III on the Personal Computer because I would hate to play another 360 Fable with disgustingly long loading screens. I also decided to get the "Traitor's Keep Quest Pack" downloadable content with this induction since it also got a good 50%  off its original price of $7.00.

The "Video Documentary" feature explained the enhancements done on the PC version.

By the way, I am really loving Steam's "Pictures from Camp" that accompanies each day's list of discounted games and I adore the cute story behind them. Just look at the one below from Day 3... It is freaking hilarious! Valve deserves a lot of cash just for these really clever artwork that truly showcase their potent sense of humor. Just make sure to invest some of that money on the download servers because it is a bit slow to download games at the moment because everyone is downloading something off them:

Super Meat Boy literally serving himself on the platter! That is just insane!

Another Year, Another Sale Fail

It looks like Direct2Drive has done it again! This time, they are offering Torchlight via their "31 Days of Deals" today for $5.95 when the game is also featured in today's "Summer Sale" on Steam for only $2.99! Apparently the sales people responsible for last year's mishap were able to keep their job, thus the repeat performance. Sure, you can always ask Direct2Drive to price match it but that is a rather long process compared to just getting the game on Steam. Is it so hard to just take a peek at your competitor's website to gain an advantage? It sure is for Direct2Drive.

Decision made easier.

Saturday, July 2, 2011

Borderlands Upgraded

On Thursday, Steam was selling Borderlands: Game of the Year Edition for just $7.50. As you may already know, I originally picked up Borderlands when it first came out and it became the 2000th game in my Game Library. I only have 2 out of the 4 downlodable contents for the game: The Zombie Island of Dr. Ned and The Secret Armory of General Knoxx. The DLCs cost $9.99 each so I thought it would just be wise for me to take on Steam's offer and obtain the other 2 DLCs - Mad Moxxi's Underground Riot and Claptrap's Robot Revolution - for a fraction of the price. These two DLCs were also on sale for $2.50 each on Steam but they are not compatible with the retail edition - I would have been able to save $2.50. It took me a while to make the decision but in the end I think it was worth it. Besides, I just love managing my games on Steam. If I ever find some local gaming buddies, I would probably give one of them my retail copy of this game plus the two DLC codes. When I finally made up my mind that Thursday night, I thought that perhaps I should not induct any more games unless they are less than $10. I sure wish that accruing video games is that simple...

The Siren is back to finish the job! Playing in third person view is the way to go for me.

Friday, July 1, 2011

What's on the Wallpaper?

Poor Alice... She was only able to stay on my desktop for merely 7 days. She has now been replaced by Leona, the scorching hot new champion who will be arriving to League of Legends for the Personal Computer very soon. The art department for Riot Games have truly outdone themselves with Leona. She is drop deap gorgeous while being able to maintain an intimidating presence thanks to her stoic looks. Click here to watch her art spotlight. Now I have to play even more LoL so that I can acrue enough Influence Points to unlock her when she finally arrives, presumably on Tuesday next week with the weekly scheduled patch. Also note that Leona is a very special new addition to the roster because she is the first "naturally tanky" female character in the game! That fact surely makes her even more irresistably desirable! Still not playing LoL? Stop denying yourself of what is certainly one of the best games ever made - it's getting very close to joining my list of Top 10 Greatest Games of All Time! Don't miss out any longer! Click here to get your free summoner account: the game is REALLY FREE, there is absolutely no catch - I promise!

I can just stare at her all day long...

Club Nintendo Elite Gifts Revealed!

Nintendo has finally revealed the elite rewards for Platinum and Gold Club Nintendo members today. I was able to yet again climbed up to the Platinum level for this fiscal year and I cannot wait to receive this:

Nintendo, I give you 10 for creativity. That manipulation of the boxes is just so clever!

This is definitely as cool as the figurine from last year and you know that badges are just so radically retro: it all makes sense! Gold members will get their usual Nintendo calendar. I still wish though that the Platinum members would get both the calendar plus the super special prize. I look forward to getting these badges, which should arrive "before the end of December 2011".