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Category Archives: Gaming

Yeah, you knew it was coming. If you despise World of Warcraft (or MMORPG’s in general), maybe you should stop reading here if you don’t want to throw up.

I started playing in September 2005, right when I started my job (where both my coblogger and I still work) because about half of the employees there played religiously, so I figured, why the hell not.

At that time I had been exploring multi-user dungeons, which are basically text-based MMORPG’s, but I guess WoW sounded more appealing when everyone got into talking about it. It was a nice sort of ice-breaker, too — I’m not a big initiator of smalltalk, so actually having something real (if you can call it that ) to talk about was a good way to pass the time.

You could probably view my track record with WoW as a tipsy relationship. You could say we went out for about six months, but then we got bored of each other and separated. You could then say we got back together a few months later with more passion than ever — I was always bad at sticking to one character, but during this passion period, I played only my mage for about three or four weeks, getting him from the mid-30’s to 54 — which was the largest spike in our relationship.

You could also say that once the effects of the spike dwindled away, our relationship again grew repetitive and boring, so we took another break — one that lasted about two months.

And now, after the serious lows and the serious highs, it’s almost like we’ve landed right in the middle — right at the sweet spot. I like to play it enough to maintain my characters, but not enough to cut myself off from all the other good games out there — it’s an open relationship.

I’ve given up on getting better gear for my 70 (the mage I leveled in such a hurry for Burning Crusade) because of the upcoming release of Wrath of the Lich King. Instead I’m just leveling a handful of alts, trying not to rush through them.

These include an 11 priest, a 32 druid, a 40 warlock (free mounts ftw) all on the same server.

I would review the game itself instead of my history with it, but reviewing MMORPG’s is a touchy subject — my opinions would probably be way more biased than usual, and (not even as an affect of that) people would probably exaggerate the review depending on their attitude towards MMO’s.

And apparently because it’s Christmas, my family and I are going to do family things like make waffles and play Monopoly. So I should wrap this up.

Blegh.

(not at the waffles — waffles are the pwnzage)

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Ok, so this past month has been crazy! So many games have released in such a short frame of time! Its insane! On top of all this, I have just received a new computer from my brother, (thank you Jimmy!) this has opened up a WHOLE new world of opportunities! Now I can actually play games that I was previously not able to on my old computer! (pictures of my rig soon to come!)
So first off, I made a “pact” with Skoh-Fley. If I got a new computer or if I reformatted- I would start playing WoW (World of Warcraft for the acronym inept) again. So I have new computer so I started playing WoW again- and man is it awesome! It runs way above 60 FPS virtually all the time now! When I first started playing WoW- I thought it was “ok” because not only did it look ugly on my old computer- but it just seemed like boring complex game. Second time around, my opinion has changed- the game is really fun and addicting! All my friends play it and it looks great!

Now, not only do I get to play WoW again, I can play HL2 (Half-Life 2 for the people who hate all things good) at a decent frame rate finally! No more blurry ass textures! No more slowdown! Yay! Skoh was nice enough to lend me the Orange Box, so I have been basically playing through HL2:Episode 1+2 and Portals. I still cant get over the initial fact that my computer can now run these games. Whenever I read about a new PC game coming out I was like- whatever, I won’t even be able to play it anyways- BUT now thats not the case! I can totally play virtually any game! HELL YEAH!

___________________________________

Title: “Headhumpers.”

So now with that update and excitement out of the way, I can fill you in on a story! If you clicked on this story and saw the title and expected to find porn, well, there is none. This story will only really interest the people who played HL2:E1 or likewise.

Its late at night, on a Wednesday, I had just finished a episode of my podcast (PopCast- soda reviewing). We reviewed Redbull and we ended at like 10pm. Totally not a good idea to drink a full can of Redbull and have it already be 10pm because I felt like I should still stay up and do something. Naturally I booted up HL2: Episode 1 since my rig can tear it up. Bad idea. I’m not really a wimp, but when it comes to tense games like F.E.A.R and Doom III, I hate them. Being scared sucks and it makes the game not fun. So I’m playing HL2 in the dark, with headphones at what is now 1am. Worst thing ever! I was scared shitless! There is a part in HL2:E1 where you are in an underground parking garage and its pitch black except for what your flash light shows. The thing is that the flashlight dies out after like 25 seconds of being continuously on and you have to turn it off to recharge it! So I’m running around seeing tons of zombies, headcrabs and other shit coming at me- and then my flashlight dies and I can’t see anything but I can hear all of their fucking zombie moaning noises! So I’m freaking out trying to find a place I can at least run too but I can’t see anything so I end up running into either more zombies or a wall! Ah! I hate it so much! I had to use all of my determination to get through that level. And after I stopped playing I was paranoid that those goddamn head crabs would start pouring into my room or zombies would be hanging around my bathroom. Never again. Never again will I drink caffeinated drinks, stay up late and play scary games in the dark at 1am. Terrible idea. They don’t mix. Its like what police officers are always telling teenagers. Don’t drink and drive. Don’t drink and play survival horror games at night.

-Neverhitboxes

I still have nightmares about that cat……

This couldn’t have been more horribly timed.

As some of you may know, I’m in the middle of a slew of awesome games right now. There are just too many I need to play — it’s like when two of your favorite shows are on at the same time. And, uh, you are twenty years in the past. Where, y’know, you can’t download/stream/browse on demand for/digitally record them.

But watch your back — the gaming gods get mad at you when you play with fire — I’m proof of that.

Today, my DS broke. Broke is a rather vague word, so I’ll explain.

Only a couple days ago, I noticed my L button wasn’t functioning as smoothly as it’s supposed to — one of the games I’ve been playing lately is Megaman ZX (which I haven’t covered in my rounds yet), and one of the fastest ways to travel is by using Model Hx (the biometal of the wind) to dash-jump, air dash, and repeat. Both of those moves require the L button (dash), which is how I first noticed it (of course, that constant use probably didn’t help, but hey, I didn’t do anything wrong).

Instead of being able to press it from the edge, I had to hug my finger around the top of the DS and push it down, and pretty hard.

Yesterday, it stopped functioning altogether. I was playing Geometry Wars and kept wondering, Why are all these new levels not giving me any bombs? And of course, I still don’t know which symbol means bombs and which means lives.

So yeah, point made, my L button is broken. And I’m sad. Because there are five DS games in queue for me right now (yup, those are all upcoming game loads), and I have to send off my DS to get repaired.

At least it’s in the warranty. And Nintendo’s usually really cool about this kind of stuff, so I don’t expect any problems to come up.

Maybe the gaming gods are looking out for me after all.

A second game I’ve been trying to play lately is Overlord, which, despite its lack of hype (that I’ve heard of, anyway), is actually a pretty great game (then again, it came out almost six months ago). I’ve been told by my fellow blogger that it’s extremely similar to Pikmin, which I, of course, never bought.In short, you play as a dark overlord (who would guess?), and you do battle by sending in your minions, who are a little like demonic gremlins, to fight for you. You have a huge axe you can fight with too, but according to your advisor, you’re too good for that.

An appealing part of the game is the number of uses for the minions, and the awesome ways in which they’re applied. Aside from fighting (which can get pretty awesome, what with your minions jumping onto your enemies’ backs and pretty much riding them around), the minions can do things like move large obstacles out of the way (which will require x minions to do depending on the size of the object; this makes for the revelation of new areas pretty smooth as you can command more and more minions at once), turn big wheels to open doors or drop drawbridges, and fit through or across small areas like tunnels or coincidental bridges made of small tree branches.

Your minions also pick up random stuff that can help them along their way, ranging from makeshift weapons (like pieces of fences, if I remember correctly) to pumpkin helms. That’s right; if you tell your minions to attack random things (which they will sometimes do on their own if they’re in the area) — like pumpkins — they’ll do crazy stuff like put them on their heads, even if it doesn’t help them one bit. That’s one of the things that really brings them to life: they’re not just mindless creatures who obey your every word and only your every word (although they are quite loyal) — they like to have some fun, too.

You also have a huge castle that you can customize with enough money — a nice perk, but (so far for me) has served no super-meaningful purpose.

And the last thing I’ll mention is paths. Lots of games have been adding this lately to dynam-ify storylines — you can choose your character’s personal path through the the actions you perform. In most cases, your actions end up deciding whether you’re good or evil in the end (Dark Messiah is an excellent example of this), but since Overlord‘s whole concept is pretty much based around being evil, you get to choose between evil and really evil.

As you might guess, killing innocent people leans you towards the really evil side. Every time you kill someone who would otherwise befriend you, you get their life force, and 1 life force = 1 more minion you have available to summon. You also get some decent cash from their pockets.

The disadvantage to doing this, as your advisor states, is that to rule an evil empire, you actually have to have people to rule over — so killing everyone isn’t too much of an option. I have yet to complete the game, so I’m not sure of the gameplay differences between the two paths yet, but I’m sure there will be some.

One last thing, because I know you’re waiting for it: graphics. They’re very decent. If you’re talking about sole graphics, they’re up there with Half-Life 2, but that doesn’t take into account physics, the actual use of the graphics, and the cooperation between the two. And some unrelated things could use some work.

For instance, you can set fields of dry grass on fire once you get the appropriate spell, and the trees in that field will switch to a dry and burnt model when the fire spreads to them (which all is very cool to see happen), but the trees just swap from one model to the other, and the instant change is very noticeable. At least cross-fade between the models or something.

Definitely not something to cry over, though — from the first time you set foot into non-evil lands, you can feel the happiness vibes emitting from everything from the sheep to the swaying grass — one of which you will slaughter and the other of which you will set fire to.

I’m one of those people who pretty much just has to play any game I’m excited for (a recent example of this is when I bought Halo 3 with no 360 to play it on and had to get a friend to lend me his, so long as I give him the game afterwards). And being a pretty heavy gamer, I get excited for quite a lot of games.

So often times I approach a sort of pickle in my gaming life, much like the one I’m in right now. I’m sure many others have encountered the situation: a slew of new games all come out within a few weeks of each other, and you simply don’t have enough time to play them all as much as you want. It’s a weird situation, having too much of a good thing.

This was originally going to be a post about all of those games, but let’s split it up into chunks:

One of the games I’ve been trying to work into my schedule is, of course, Crysis. I won’t waste keystrokes trying to explain the awesomeness of its graphics and physics (I’m no graphics whore, but hey — a good thing is a good thing), because I’m sure everyone who’s heard of Crysis has probably heard about it in some reference to graphical detail. Rather, I’d like to explain somewhat the opposite: the lack of possible graphics.

Before I start trippin’ up all in your grill, I’m talking about the DirectX9 version here. And I’m in no way trying to criticize its capabilities; in fact, I’m trying to bring them out. It’s been circulating around the ‘net that when Crysis runs on DX9, its graphical intensity is purposefully not as high as it can be, presumably to make people say “Oh man, DX9 sucks compared to DX10, now I’m going to go spend some money on Vista and a new graphics card so I can experience the awesomeness.”

A (somewhat) recent comparison of the DX9 and DX10 versions of Crysis somewhat reveals this — throughout the page, screenshots taken on DX9 Crysis are shown, and on rollover you can see the DX10 versions of the exact same screenshots. But at the bottom, some instructions are mentioned to allow DX9 to run on some high-end settings that supposedly only DX10 can handle — apparently Crytek has “chosen to artificially limit some of the game’s graphics effects to only the DX10 version in order to create a bigger perceived difference.”

Not cool, man.

DX10 is still (I hear) much better than 9, but why would Crytek choose to disallow DX9 to work up to its full potential? Are they trying to encourage people to get DX10 cards to prepare for the future, or did Microsoft have some say in this?

So here was my day:

12:00a – The Orange Box is released. I am asleep, but have already paid for and preloaded it.
4:00a – I wake up inadvertently from excitement! I shower and get all my get-readying for school over with.
4:25a – I start playing Portal.
5:30a – The four alarms I set in fifteen minute increments start. I had planned to wake now, but I’m already up (and thinking with portals). Alarms get turned off.
7:00a – I beat Portal! I check out some of the bonus levels I unlocked, as well as skim over the achievements section. Man, there’re still a lot of things I can do!
7:10a – I start playing Half-Life 2: Episode Two.
8:00a – School. I have fun watching my friends’ faces when I tell them that I woke up at 4am to play Portal — and that I beat it before school. I love emotion! I also casually inform anyone who would eventually play Portal that the cake is a lie — including my physics desk. I am also the least tired I remember being for quite a while throughout the day — an odd occurrence, considering my operating hours for this day.
3:30p – I nervously show some family members how Portal works. I want to play Episode Two! That’s what I get for showing them the trailer.
4:00p – Back to HL2:E2.
8:30p – Episode Two: beaten.

This was pretty much my favorite day in quite a while. The following are rants about the awesomeness about the games involved in it.

Portal is awesome. Let me say that I’m not totally new to this concept — I’ve very repeatedly played with similar systems in Prey (with the custom portal-creation mod) and Narbacular Drop (the game from which Portal evolved, created by a group of students from Digipen who now all happily work for Valve), but Portal combines the slickness and meaning of the former with the portal-focused gameplay from the latter to make an — I simply must repeat myself — awesome game.

I’ve said before that I’m a huge storyline guy, and although no trailers do this one justice, the intricacy of it is really something to take into consideration; it’s much deeper than you’d imagine, even after playing completely through it. At first you’re just like, “Oh, so I’m this test participant for this awesome portal stuff, that’s cool”, but it gets so much more intricate — to an amount that I actually do not know at this time, but is sure to be hinted at upon the arrival of Episode Three (yep, you guessed it — Portal takes place in the Half-Life universe, and this is actually apparent during play of Episode Two; a matter which surely will be delved into further along in the episodes).

As for Episode Two: JEEZ VALVE, FINALLY!

Now that that’s out of my system, I can say that it’s actually a pretty good game. You can really tell how much work they put into the engine — maybe not through huge, blatantly noticeable things, but small things, like how when you’re in a cave the light reflections look much, well, shinier, and how (I love this) when you spin to face another direction really fast, your screen actually blurs — it sounds trivial, but it’s a pretty awesome thing when you notice it for the first time (if you came into my room when I noticed it, you’d just watch me spinning around in circles really fast for about two minutes straight).

There isn’t a whole lot of new stuff in it (a new car and a new type of mine come to mind), but the storyline actually starts to connect more with that of Half-Life 1 (notice I only said starts to — there are just a few things mentioned about some memories from the original Half-Life that could have to do with your future success), as well as Portal, as I mentioned already.

I hate to leave Team Fortress 2 out of the party, but I’d already played it in beta, so I’m not as super-excited about it right now. Make no mistake, though: The Orange Box is a purchase well worth the money if you’re any sort of fan at all of Half-Life or its relatives. Come to think of it, I think most people would enjoy Portal despite their gaming background.

So we learned about a…disease, if you could call it that, in AP Psych today. It’s called Phantom Limb Syndrome, and imagine this: it occurs when you have a missing limb (which is enough for me) and you have an itch on it.

But you can’t scratch it. Because it’s not there.

TALK ABOUT ANNOYING!!!

You can also feel pain in it sometimes, usually something that feels like it’s being held in a flame. Ouch. This occurs because sensation is completely located in the brain; not the body part. So if something goes wrong in the transfer of information in your brain (or something like that), you feel stuff in a body part that doesn’t exist.

And speaking of ice cream, I’ve been playing The Legend of Zelda: Phantom Hourglass for DS recently, which came out the day before yesterday. It rocks! I never thought a game that uses virtually only the stylus could be comfortable, but it feels pretty natural (there’s always that position you have to find where you’re holding your DS with only your left hand and/or leaning it up against something so you can freely use your right hand for the stylus, though). The world and the exploration of it isn’t as needlessly huge as Wind Waker‘s was (not that I’m complaining), but still makes good use of the boat you have at your disposal (draw a route to take, let your captain/partner do the driving (boating?) and take care of baddies and obstacles by shooting and jumping (I’m still in a complete daze as to how boats can jump, but hey, if you’ve gotta jump something, you’ve gotta jump it)).

I actually just finished a multiplayer session with my fellow blogger (and got owned), which is also a lot better than I thought it’d be the first time I tried it. There’re no tools to use from single-player; it’s actually more of a game of cat-and-mouse. One player controls Link, and the other controls three Phantoms. Phantoms cannot be killed, and a single blow from them will kill Link, but they are somewhat slow and more sluggish to control — instead of a standard go-to-where-the-stylus-is-pointing movement system, they rely on the player to draw them paths on the map (which is on the lower screen for this player) to travel along. The player of Link must carry force gems (kinda like Triforce shards) to their designated zone to earn points. The bigger the force gem, the more points it’s worth, but the slower you walk while carrying it. Players switch off roles every round.

Anyways, it’s a pretty sweet setup, and if you’ve got a DS, you need this game — Zelda fan or not (although the former would probably appreciate it more). But beware, ornamentalists — this game sports the cel-shaded goodness of Wind Waker (my favorite kind).

I should probably start collecting the condensation from my soda…it’s starting to pool.

Oh, and one more thing — Valve just triggered preloads for Portal and Half-Life 2: Episode Two, so I’m pumped to start playing them come release. Nothing’s better — and nothing’s worse — than being as close as possible to your goal (having the games on my computer!) and not being able to reach it.

OMGSOEXCITED

So I played through Halo 3 today with a friend, start to finish, and I have to say, I kinda don’t like it at all. I loved Halo; Halo 2 was great; but Halo 3…meh.

I’m a big storyline person. I love getting involved in the events of a game. A big reason I bought the game (I don’t even have a 360 and had to get a friend to lend his to me under the sole condition that I give him the game when I’m done) was to get some closure for the Halo storyline, and frankly, there is none. There are so many questions left unanswered at the end of the game; too many even if there were to be a Halo 4. I don’t want to get too into specifics for those who haven’t yet played through it and still plan to, but were it not for a few small things, the game would have almost no attracting storyline elements whatsoever.

I admit that some parts of the game were fun, namely the last level, which was reminiscent of the first game’s last level The Maw, but overall the game failed to impress. The graphics were not at all bad, but weren’t something to drool over (then again, we were playing split-screen on a 19-inch TV). I’d much prefer not necessarily the graphics, but maybe the graphical feel of Wii’s Metroid Prime 3, my last favorite console game.

On a separate but related note, playing console FPS’s constantly makes me realize how much I love PC games. It seems trivial, but when you’re in an intense situation, and you need to turn 180 degrees around, and with a console you can only push the control stick so far in one direction and actually have to wait for your character to turn all the way around, it gets pretty annoying and sets some serious pace limits. On a PC, you’re in full control — your character’s movements actually correspond to your mouse; there’s no center that you need to reset to when you’re done turning.

If this is hard to understand, just think about what I said — imagine you’re playing Halo right now (or just go play it), and you want to spin around to face the other way. You hold the control stick down one direction until you’re there, right? It might take a second or less (depending on your sensitivity). Now imagine the same situation on a PC. You just go VRRP! and you’re there (yes, that’s my sound effect for a mouse).

So anyways, some PC games I’m excited for now are Portal and Half-Life 2: Episode 2. I’ve already been playing the Team Fortress 2 beta and it’s pretty freaking sweet (they’ve even implemented rankings, just like BF2/2142!).

And this time going completely off-topic: did you know fell is a word!? I don’t mean the past tense of fall; I mean you can actually go fell something (i.e. I felled that tree yesterday!). Woo, good times.

Ugh, I could totally follow that up with an ATLA quote…

Not to say that I endorse war, or believe it to be fun. But I’ve been playing Battlefield 2142 lately and it’s pretty freaking sweet. I don’t care what the ratings said when it came out; I have lots of fun playing it, just like I did with BF1942 and 2.

I think the thing that’s so hooking (I say hooking and not addicting because whenever a game is “addicting”, people freak out and send you to rehabilitation) about games like 2142 is the ranking system. Needn’t I say, it’s the same deal with MMORPG’s — it’s the feel of being rewarded. It’s what helps you get through the not-so-fun but still not-so-horrible parts of the game like grinding — the thought that it’s all worth it because next level you get so-and-so new spell, or next promotion you get to choose a new weapon.

I admit that it’s a shortcut to hooking people in (a game that’s good at heart should be fun all the time no matter what), but I don’t disrespect any companies for taking it, because hey — it’s a tough crowd, and if you can make a game that people will play, that’s what you do. Plus, it’s not so different than real life — work hard and you will be rewarded. Not that I’m saying games should be like life, because that’s the opposite of why we play them — but it’s just not as crazy a concept as we might think.

Speaking of, to reward you for reading this far into the post (or maybe for just scrolling past this cah-RAHZY blob of text you saw), here’s an xkcd comic. I love these comics’ relations to math and intellect without losing ties to pure humor (assuming you can get the comic).