Just a little bit older

January 19, 2009

I’m 37 years old today. I was thinking that makes me a pretty old dude, especially by gaming standards. Then I saw the ESPN ticker noting that Kurt Warner is 37 and like 277 days and he’s playing in the Super Bowl, so it’s really just a number, isn’t it?

It felt pretty good until it got to the end of the blurb and it noted he’s the third oldest Super Bowl quarterback in history…

Ah well. I can’t exactly get younger, can I?

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I’m about to play Quake III in my web browser

January 18, 2009

Chew on that one for awhile. It’s 2009, and a game that we all thought was just flat out technically brilliant ten years ago when it shipped for the first time is now playable inside the very web browser I’m posting this blog update from.

There are times in this hobby when I think we all really take for granted just how far we’ve come from the days of two paddles batting a ball back and forth across a black and white TV screen. This is one of those times I had to stop for a second and smell the roses. Quake III Arena, for free, in my web browser.

Where will we be in another ten years? Amazing.

Colorbar


Top 10 of 2008

January 11, 2009

OK! Clearly I suck!

I fully intended to start the list on 1/1. I just failed miserably at finishing the first post. And once you get to day two, and then three, etc. Well, the will to get started just drains out day after day. I also recall being inordinately busy during that time, but that’s just me making excuses. If you’re one of the six people that visit this blog thinking I’ve got something interesting to say, you’re disappointed. Sorry for that.

I can’t really make it up to you… not with ten posts in ten days with a game a day. I failed at that once already so I’m not going to try again. Instead, here’s my top ten counted down, why I picked them in a brief capsule, and what didn’t make the cut and what I’m still trying to get around to playing…

Read the rest of this entry »


Really? A post?

December 31, 2008

Sure! Why not?!

It’s almost 2009 and I haven’t updated here in a long, long time. Things have been… a mess, for quite awhile now. Not just game things either… all things. I try to keep the blogging focused on gaming, but there’s been a lot going on away from my hobby that has pretty much precluded spending a few minutes here or there updating this page.

I’m not going to say that will change anytime soon. It probably won’t. But what I will try to do is run down my top ten games of 2008 over the first ten days of 2009 just as I did at the beginning of this past year. Most guys just give you a list, but not the why behind their picks. I like to do a little more than that. So starting on January 1, I’ll layout my ten favorites.

Games you won’t see there include Fallout 3, Persona 4, Far Cry 2, LittleBigPlanet, Gears of War 2, Metal Gear Solid 4 and probably ten or twelve more you might expect. The main reason is usually because I haven’t had a chance to play many of the chart topping games of 2008. I do have Persona 4 here next to me, but haven’t had a minute to try it out (and I really want to…).

All that said, I do think I’ve got ten pretty great titles in my top ten, and some you might not expect. Once I’m done, I’ll point out some other games you might want to try that probably would’ve been in a top 20 list.

I managed to make it eleven days straight with these updates in 2008, so cross your fingers I can do it again in 2009. Look for the first one on January first!

Colorbar


I’ve written fan fiction

November 23, 2008

Scary, isn’t it?

As part of the Death Knight primer I recently submitted to Crispy Gamer, I wrote about Braxorigan, my Death Knight character created on the night of release in World of Warcraft. I stayed up until nearly 6AM on the day of release after picking up the game at a midnight opening here in Reading. In that time, I was able to play through the entire starting area and get a pretty good feel for how the Death Knight works.

From the time of that playthrough until the article got finalized (the story of Brax was the entirety of the article at the start), I managed to get him up to Lv. 62. That allowed me to reach any skill in the Talent tree and get an even better idea of how each branch plays.  I think the final draft turned out pretty decent, and it’s certainly something a little out of the ordinary for me as a writer. I usually don’t get tapped for this sort of thing so it was cool to get the chance to write differently.

One of these days I’ll write a post on this blog that’s not centered around something else I wrote for Crispy Gamer, but for now have a look at Among the Living: A Death Knight Primer (of course I had to use an Anthrax reference… :)).


Reviews!

October 25, 2008

I’m back on the wagon, writing about some popular and not so popular titles. Two pieces of my recent work are available now at the evolving and improving Crispy Gamer.

The first is a review of Sonic Chronicles: The Dark Brotherhood. Going into it, I really wanted to like it more than I did. It’s decent fanservice, but maybe not all it could be. I think the lack of a proper traditional Sonic title in the last like ten years really hurts the novelty of a Sonic RPG. That it also hews pretty close to the design of previous Bioware RPGs mixed with some Mario & Luigi also makes it a little less than it should be. It’s not offensive, but it’s also not really notable.

The second and so far final thing I’ve done for the holiday season is a review of Sony’s SOCOM U. S. Navy SEALs: Confrontation. What a mess. If you’re the type that left PCs because consoles were easier to use and didn’t feature bugs, crashes, troubleshooting and beta-like releases, you’re in for a rude awakening with SOCOM. Clearly released to meet a deadlline and not because the game was actually complete, this one’s not worth the disc it’s printed on. The fanbase will tell you that “it’s great when it works!” but I’ve kinda heard that way too many times over the last ten or fifteen years to care anymore. With so many games being published in 2008 and most of them working 99% correctly out of the box, there’s just no room for  SOCOM’‘s brand of broken anymore. Sorry Sony, but as much as I really do like your system, the games you’re releasing right now are just a mess. Gran Turismo 5 Prologue didn’t thrill me either, and for some similar reasons.

Eventually Sony will find their way out of this malaise they’re in, but I have a feeling that’s going to be much later rather than sooner. I’ve enjoyed the little bit I’ve played of Resistance 2 so far, but I don’t think it’s going to set the world on fire any more than the first one did. And while the hardcore are obviously excited about LittleBigPlanet, I’ve said my piece on that here before and I just don’t see it really igniting many people’s fire. Xbox 360 is clearly the hardcore “winner” right now and the Wii just keeps on appealing to everyone.

All that said, the games I’m looking forward to most this holiday season are on PS3 and PC respectively. The first is Valkyria Chronicles, a strategy RPG from some of the folks who made Skies of Arcadia, which is frankly one of the best Japanese style RPGs of all-time. Even if Valkyria is only 2/3 the game of that one, it’s going to be brilliant. Japanese reception for it was good, but we tend to love our strategy even more over here in the western world, so I expect big things from it. The artistic style alone is enough to make me do backflips. Can’t wait.

The PC game is Valve’s Left 4 Dead. Those who’ve known me for a long time know I was never a big fan of Steam early on. I’ve since come around and do very much appreciate the power of Valve’s delivery system. I’ll be buying L4D that way and playing as much as time allows. I’m ready for something cool and a little different in the first person shooting genre, and lots of wacky co-op zombie action should satisfy. If you’re going to Steam it like me, it’s currently $5 off if you pre-order. I’ll be doing that this week.

Other than those two, I’m not sure what else I’m looking for this holiday season. I have reviews coming up for games that aren’t very high profile except among their specific audience, and those will probably keep me away from the likes of Gears of War 2 and Fallout 3 and the stuff people seem to be playing now that includes Far Cry 2, the new Midnight Club game and Dead Space. Really though, none of this stuff is all that exciting to me right now. I’m tired of the all the numbers behind most of the current hot games. Sequels can be great, and it sounds like Far Cry 2 is far more than just a “2” type of game, but then maybe they should’ve called it something else? I really want more stuff like Left 4 Dead. Games that surprise and challenge you with all new settings and gameplay concepts are what makes this industry so cool. Innovation can always be right around the corner, but slapping a number behind an old name actually makes me less excited about what’s coming next. Also, less brown and grey please.

Hopefully I can update again sooner than this. Enjoy the reviews.


Embarrassing GamesMags Monthly

September 30, 2008

That’s pretty much how I feel about all the current US videogame print publications. They’re being consistently embarrassed by the two major mags issued out of the UK every month.

You can read some of Edge’s content on the web at http://www.edge-online.com. It’s nice to have it available there, but frankly it’s just not the same as it is on the printed page. When you take their text and remove it from the brilliant layout of their magazine, it loses some of its magical appeal. It doesn’t have the little insets and the pictures don’t pop the way they do in the mag.

Every issue of Edge as well as games™ magazine is an event for me each month. I cannot wait for that day I walk into Barnes & Noble each month and find the new issue on the rack. I rarely crack the cover while I’m there. No point. I’m going to read each of them nearly cover to cover, and often articles will get pored over multiple times. The information is relevant, smartly written and obviously crafted with precision and care. I so rarely feel this way when I open the pages of US magazines. US mags talk a good game every month, about how awesome they are at providing us with scoops and tough reviews, but I find that to be all lip service. I guess if you say it enough times, most people will think it’s true? I’m in the minority that’s not buying it.

US mags are also overflowing with sarcasm, grumpiness and a general snottiness that immediately turns me off. No one’s ever excited to play the games. Rather, they can’t seem to wait to tear them down. The one shining exception is Play. But Play sometimes flips entirely in the other direction, giving way too much credit to some developers and games where it’s pretty much unanimously undeserved. What Play does get right much of the time is the interviews. They’ve nailed those more times than I can count and that keeps me reading. As another example of how sarcasm and snottiness has invaded, pick up any recent issue of Nintendo Power, a mag that used to be overwhelmingly positive is now just as grumpy as all the others. The only place it also stands above is in the ready access to Japanese developers and the internals of Nintendo itself where they succeed in spite of themselves.

I know I’ve brought this up in the blog before, but it bears repeating multiple times. You need to find time to read Edge and games™ each month. If you have to pick just one (at $8.99 and $9.99 an issue respectively), then I’d actually recommend games™ as the sole choice because it’s even better at what Edge does than Edge itself is lately, and the Retro section is wonderfully crafted. This month’s has a feature on Segata Sanshiro. Segata Sanshiro! How many of you even know who that is? Yet it’s an awesome story of a marketing campaign Sega ran in the Saturn era that you’re just not going to find anywhere else, and I guarantee you’ll be entertained while reading it. Here’s the man himself to pique your interest…

A lot of what these UK mags are doing is similar to some of the articles that ran in the pages of Computer Games Magazine some years ago though even CGM was often prone to being a little too cynical and sarcastic like much of the US games press. Computer Gaming World aka Games for Windows The Official Magazine also had some nice features that fit the bill. Those two mags are now history though, so maybe that about says it all for the US game magazine industry? It’s only in foreign countries that people are willing to pay for the kind of content Edge and games™ are producing each month. Fortunately, Barnes & Noble keeps on importing them so I can partake, and you should too.