Friday, November 2, 2012

Now Playing: November 2nd

"Now Playing" is a post scheduled for the first and third Friday of every month. Here I'll give an update on what I'm currently playing. Just because I'm playing it now doesn't necessarily mean that it has been recently released.

'Cause this is Thriller!
November is the month that I'm dedicating to getting back into the swing of things, which just happens to coincide with a bunch of new video games getting released.  

Currently in Team Fortress 2 land it's the annual "Scream Fortress" Halloween events.  I had a hard time this year trying to find server that matched the way I wanted to play.  My ideal server was this: kill the other team, but call a truce whenever the boss appears and work together to defeat him.  What I kept getting matched to: some Quarter Pounder with Douche (usually a back-stabbing Spy or fire-happy Pyro) would proceed to kill your team while trying to kill the boss or the people on the server would insist on standing still and wait for the boss to appear before shooting anything.  The first example is annoyance, the second was just plain boring.  Still, I managed to find server that did cooperate on defeating the boss.  Now I just need to play some more before the Halloween events expire so that I can get more zombified outfits for the classes.

Due to my recent Team Fortress 2 obsession, both Torchlight II and Pokemon Black 2 got on the back burner.  Pokemon due to me getting to a sewer area in the game and I just despise sewer levels, and Torchlight II due mostly to that when I open up Steam I wind up launching Team Fortress 2 instead.  Assassin's Creed III arrived in the mail this week as well, I just need to find the time play it because I know that once I start it I'll be there for several hours at a time.

And yet again I'm overwhelmed with the number of games I recently purchased.  So much time and so little to play.  Strike that; reverse it. 

Sunday, October 21, 2012

I'm back... again!

My current Torchlight II character Ardea and her pet hawk Archimedes.
It looks like I decided to take a few months off from the blog again.  Will I be getting back to a regular posting schedule anytime soon?  Time will tell as I try to get back into the swing of things.  I'm still recovering from my four-day trip to New York Comic Con a week ago.  I didn't get a chance to put a lot of time into Torchlight II yet (even though I really want to) and I was only able to play Pokemon Black 2 during the time I was waiting in long lines at NYCC.  I also sewed a pretty awesome looking Assassin's Creed III hood complete with an embroidered eagle.  Now I'm attempting a hooded fleece scarf version.  (Speaking of which, that game's releasing soon!)  That's what I've been doing lately on the gaming front and not much else.  Here's looking to a new post soon that actually has some content!

Sunday, July 29, 2012

Change in Posting Schedule

There's not going to be a post today... because there'll be one tomorrow! My posting schedule will now be Mondays, Wednesdays, and the first and third Friday. See you tomorrow!

Wednesday, July 25, 2012

Wednesday Special: College Saga

"Wednesday Special" is always something sort, possibly sweet, and usually accompanied by images or videos.

Several years ago in my freshman year of college, a dear friend of mine showed me "College Saga," a video parody of RPGs (namely Final Fantasy) in a college setting.  The mastermind behind this project was Mark Leung, who later made a parody RPG game titled Mark Leung: Revenge of the BitchThe video above is part one of "College Saga."

Sunday, July 22, 2012

Damage Report

The Steam summer sale is coming to a close, and once again Valve has stolen graciously accepted my money.  While I didn't spend as much as last year, I was still addicted to checking the store everyday for the new deals.  The addition of flash sales and community votes just made my addiction worse.  Here's my final* damage report:
  • Assassin's Creed Revelations - The Lost Archive DLC - $3.39
  • Batman Arkham City - $10.19
  • Bioshock - $4.99
  • Star Wars: Knights of the Old Republic - $2.49
  • Tales of Monkey Island Complete - $8.74
  • Trine 2 - $3.74
*final, as long as I don't decide to pull the trigger on some flash sale
This year I found a was able to restrain myself a little bit more.  I figure that's due to a number of factors, namely that last year I bought a new computer right before the sale and this was my first time owning a PC capable of playing newly released games.  Another factor would be that my library of Steam games is starting to get ridiculous in that I'm not sure if I'll ever get through all of them (especially the various indie bundles, and even with those I've been more selective as of late).

Well, now that the sale is over, I'll post an actual article next week instead of "Hey, look what I spent my money on!" like I did these last two weeks.

Friday, July 20, 2012

Now Playing: July 20th

"Now Playing" is a post scheduled for the first and third Friday of every month. Here I'll give an update on what I'm currently playing. Just because I'm playing it now doesn't necessarily mean that it has been recently released.

This weekend brings the release of The Dark Knight Rises in theaters, so I'm celebrating it by playing through some of Batman: Arkham City.  (The fact that the game was on sale on Steam helped a wee bit!)  I'll also continue on with Torchlight and consider playing through with another character class once I finish my playthrough using the Vanquisher.  Switching between the games will be a nice change of pace.  Punch-punch-punch, click-click-click!

Wednesday, July 18, 2012

Wednesday Special: Little Inferno

"Wednesday Special" is always something sort, possibly sweet, and usually accompanied by images or videos.

Days after watching the teaser for Little Inferno, I find myself singing the trailer's infectious tune to the annoyance and befuddlement of everyone around me.  If the cute yet macabre art style looks familiar, one of the creators is half of the duo that made World of Goo.  While I don't know what the actual gameplay is like, this teaser has made me excited for the game.

"A Little Inferno just for me!"

Sunday, July 15, 2012

Christmas in July

It's the most wonderful time of the year... if you're a PC gamer.  That's right, Steam's summer sale is underway again, which means it's the time where I see deep discounts on games, spend more than I want to, and games inevitably go unplayed until it's time for next year's sale!

So far my wallet damage is thus:
  • Trine 2 - $3.74
  • Assassin's Creed Revelations: The Lost Archive DLC - $3.39
  • Star Wars: Knights of the Old Republic - $2.49
  • Toki Tori (gift) - $1.24
  • Batman: Arkham City - $10.19
So as of day four of this 12-day sale, I'm at about half of what I spent for the duration of last year's sale.  I enjoyed Trine, so I thought I'd give the sequel a try.  I'm mostly interested in the Vlad the Impaler mission in the ACR DLC, even though it isn't the focus of this pack. KOTOR is another one of those games where I heard lots of praise for it, so when it hit a cheap price I figured I'll give it a go.  And perhaps I'll start Arkham City this week to mentally prepare myself for this weekend's release of The Dark Knight Rises in theaters.

I also want to draw attention to a nice little website called Steam Gifts. Here gamers run giveaways for games.  As long as your Steam account has $100 worth of games in it, you can sign up and start entering the giveaways.  While most giveaways are open to everyone, some are restricted to contributors (of which I am one now thanks to my Toki Tori giveaway) and to certain groups.  So if you want a chance at free games, sign up!  If you have an extra copy of a game in your inventory that you don't know what to do with, give it to someone who will appreciate it!

Game on!

Wednesday, July 11, 2012

Wednesday Special: The Many Faces of Cloud

"Wednesday Special" is always something sort, possibly sweet, and usually accompanied by images or videos.

When I was writing Sunday's post that showed how much (or rather how little) I remember of the various plots in the Final Fantasy games, there was one aspect of Final Fantasy VII that I did recall clearly: the inconsistency of each main character's appearance throughout the game.  This would be forgivable if it was simply the in-game model and the FMV model.  But it isn't.  Here's the different ways Cloud looked like throughout the game (excluding costume changes).

Left: Render, Center: Field Model, Right: Menu Portrait
Left: FMVs with the low-res model, Right: FMVs with the high-res model
Left: Battle Model, Right: Model used only in the final battle
 Images courtesy of the Final Fantasy Wiki

Sunday, July 8, 2012

"Stay Where You Belong... in My Memories" - Total (Horrible) Recall of Final Fantasy Plots Part II

Here's where I play catch-up on the posts from 2011 that never received their proper second part during my hiatus.  I didn't forget about them, I just don't want to flood the blog with these all at once.

Sephiroth's mother? Kinda sorta.
Part One of this post is from alllll the way back in August.

I really don't want to think about all of the hours I put into the Final Fantasy series throughout the years.  As technology grew more advanced, so did the storylines.  The Playstation era saw less of the "collect the four crystals" quests and more "our hero/villain doesn't remember his/her past!"  The same thing happened to me: despite the days of my life that were lost to these games, the storylines are but a memory.  I can recall a few basic details, albeit fuzzy around the edges.

Rest of post hidden behind the jump due to spoilers (maybe).

Friday, July 6, 2012

Now Playing: July 6th

"Now Playing" is a new post scheduled for the first and third Friday of every month.  Here I'll give an update on what I'm currently playing.  Just because I'm playing it now doesn't necessarily mean that it has been recently released.

Perhaps you already noticed, but there are a lot more posts here than normal!  (Where "normal" meant not updated in months.)  Here's the current posting schedule:
  • Sundays - a post with some substance!
  • Wednesdays - the "Wednesday Special" - short, possibly sweet, and likely to have images and videos
  • First and Third Fridays - "Now Playing" - a quick update to what I'm playing now, or what other games I recently added to my backlog
The main game I'm playing right now is Torchlight.  I purchased it last year during Steam's Summer Sale and for whatever reason I didn't download and start playing it until now.  It was an impulse buy at the time as people of the internet agreed that it was a great deal for $3, and the fact that it was designed by some of the guys who made Diablo was also a selling point.  It was the release of Diablo III that reminded me that I owned Torchlight, and with its sequel set for release some time this summer, now was the perfect time for me to start playing.  As of right now, I'm planning on pre-ordering the sequel; I'm enjoying it that much.

I was also intrigued by Sony's revamped Playstation Plus subscription service when it offered games like Little Big Planet 2 and Infamous 2 as free* games. (*as long as you are currently subscribed) I'm going to try it our for a few months as it would be an opportunity to try out a few games I may not have otherwise purchased.  I say it's not a bad deal, as there are a lot of games I would only play through once and never touch again, so it wouldn't bother me too much if I lost the games when I let my subscription run out.  (The only exception I can see to this being Little Big Planet 2, so I'll have to see.)  If Sony keeps it up with the variety of content, I could stay subscribed for a while.  Time will tell.

(And I'm still tinkering away on both Tiny Tower and Pocket Planes as I can't seem to pull myself away from them.)

Wednesday, July 4, 2012

Wednesday Special: Fireworks

Wednesday Special is a weekly post with no set topic.  It will always be under 500 characters in length and will likely be accompanied by pictures or a video.  It doesn't even have to have a point!

The Fourth of July is a day of celebration in the United States, which means one thing to me: FIREWORKS!  If it wasn't for the fact that I thought of this post topic the night before, this would have been a nice video montage with some traditional patriotic music in the background.  Instead, all you're going to get is a series of images of fireworks in videogames.
Animal Crossing

Boom Boom Rocket


Roller Coaster Tycoon 3


Left 4 Dead 2

Super Mario Bros.

Super Mario RPG

Splinter Cell: Double Agent

The Secret of Monkey Island

Sunday, July 1, 2012

How I Learned to Stop Complaining and Love the Achievement

No, seriously, you can earn an achievement for anything.
When I was first introduced to the Xbox 360, one of the first things I noticed (aside from the jump in graphics quality and the sheer size of the console) was the weird pop-up that would blare across the screen telling me that I completed some menial task:

"Okay, let me start this game.  Where's the start button? Oh, here it is..."
*DING* "Achievement unlocked! You pressed start to play!
"What was that? Ok, I guess I'll watch this intro video here..."
*DING* "Achievement unlocked! You watched the intro movie!"
"Really? Ok, now let me figure out these controls on this massive controller.  Oh, cool, pop-ups with instructions.  Press A to..."
*DING* "Achievement unlocked! You jumped!"
"What the hell!?" *throws controller against wall*
*DING* "Achievement unlocked! You broke a..."
*smashes the Xbox 360*

Perhaps it didn't quite go like that, but that's how it felt.  I didn't see a necessity for these achievements, and I failed to understand why people would try to earn as many of these as possible.  I recall message board threads listing games with easily unlockable achievements and the amount of Gamerscore points up for grabs.  Why anyone would buy or rent a terrible game just to get 1,000G in two minutes was beyond my understanding of the current state of the video game industry.

That was, until I became one of those people.

Once I finally bought a PC powerful enough to play newly released games, one of the first things I did was install Steam.  I wasn't long until I went crazy during their summer sale (which should be coming up again very soon) and bought some cheap games.  Alongside both the summer and winter sales, Steam also ran a contest where you could gain additional entries by earning certain achievements in games.  While I never bought a game outright just to earn an achievement, I found myself finally installing some of the games from the various indie bundles so I could get the associated achievement.  Most of those games I haven't played since, but at least it game me a reason to try them out.  (And depending on the difficulty/length of time required to get the achievement, I didn't bother to get some of them if I didn't particularly like the game so far.)

I'm in favor of achievements in games where completing a certain task can earn you bragging rights.  Sure, back when the original Final Fantasy was released on the NES you could easily tell your friends that you defeated Warmech, but aside from your friends witnessing it firsthand or you recording it, you had no proof of your achievement.  Later games in the series had the superbosses drop an exclusive item as a trophy, so the achievement can be seen as a successor to that system.

Another area where I see the benefit of achievements is in open-ended games like Skyrim.  In looking at a player's profile, you can see a summary of that person's play style and their journey through the game.  Here's what my list of Skyrim achievements say about how I played the game:
  • I decided to join the Companions, College of Winterhold, and Thieves Guild, but thought I was too good for the Dark Brotherhood.
  • I took a side in the Civil War instead of remaining neutral.
  • I never completed the main quest line and instead opted for side quests and miscellaneous objectives.
  • I bought a house and eloped with an NPC.
  • I ransacked 50 dungeons and filled in 100 locations on my map.
  • I read 50 skill books and got at least one of my skills up to level 100.
  • I fell under the influence of the Daedric Princes and acquired some of their artifacts.
  • I Fus Ro Dah'ed at least 20 dragons and absorbed their souls.
  • I put enough hours into the game where I reached level 50.
  • I never had to escape from jail and I don't hoard all of my gold.
While I started out as an opponent to the idea of earning achievements, in the past year I've grown to embrace it.  From showing that I finally completed "Odyssey" in BIT.TRIP RUNNER to successfully getting that basketball in the hoop for a secret achievement in Deus Ex: Human Revolution, achievements offer that little extra goal to reach in a game beyond simply defeating the final boss, regardless of the points it adds to your Gamerscore.

Image template credit to Timon1771 at Deviant Art.

Wednesday, June 27, 2012

Wednesday Special: Vib-Ribbon

Wednesday Special is a new, weekly post about any random thought I may have about gaming.  The only rule for this column is that it will always be 500 characters or less.

Last year when I played BIT.TRIP RUNNER for the very first time, I couldn't help but have the nagging feeling that I saw something like it before.  Then it hit me: Vib-RibbonIf you never heard of it, blame it on the fact that it was a Playstation One game with simplistic black-and-white graphics and never was released in the United States.  Here's hoping for an eventual Playstation Network release.

Sunday, June 24, 2012

The Ballad of Ricky Collins

This Ricky Collins fellow is a popular dude
For the past two weeks, the iOS games from the guys at Nimblebit have me hooked.  All it took was a friend showing me her Tiny Tower and seeing the little "bitizens" dressed in various costumes.  Somehow I avoided the game up until this point.  Prior to this, my only familiarity with the game was when Zynga made its own version of the game, just with Farmville characters

The game started out simple enough: build a floor to your tower, either apartments or shops, move in more bitizens, assign them jobs in the shops, and keep the stores stocked.  Then you get more money so you can build more floors, upgrade the shops to hold more stock, try to assign people their dream jobs, evict bitizens who aren't skilled at their jobs, save up so you can get a faster elevator, keep checking to see if you have the appropriate stores to complete missions, curse when you just paid six tower bux to speed up the completion of your new floor and two construction worker VIPs show up in a row, agonize over what an appropriate costume would be for a bitizen working at a Frozen Yogurt shop, think for hours about a creative name for the Soda Brewery...

It just goes on and on and on.  If you want to take a look at my current tower, here it is.

The alternate title of this post was "Is That a Plane in Your Pocket, or Are You Just Happy to See Me?"
Then Nimblebit went ahead and released Pocket Planes.  At first, I didn't think I liked it.  I thought it didn't have the same addictive charm of Tiny Tower.  "Who cares about running an airline?"  Then the game grew on me.  My small network of airports located in Central America started to expand to the rest of the Americas.  My fleet grew in number.  As I received more revenue I could open higher class airports that could support larger airplanes, as more jobs completed equals more money.  And more money lets you buy more airplanes and more airports, which gets you more money, which... hey, this sounds a lot like Tiny Tower!

What's next, Outer Space?  (Oh, wait, Angry Birds already did that...)

Sunday, June 17, 2012

Giving Intellectual Property a Chance

The cast of Humble Indie Bundle V
Last week, EA's Senior Vice President of Global Ecommerce David DeMartini attacked rival Valve's Steam digital distribution service for its frequent sales and deep discounts on games, saying that it "cheapens intellectual property."

Yes, it is disappointing to developers when a game they spent years working on sits on store shelves at full price and fails to sell enough to fund a sequel or even another game. Given that many consumers can only afford or even justify a few game purchases a year at $60 a pop, people will tend to stick with franchises that they recognize instead of plunking down three Andrew Jacksons on something unknown to them.

But does that mean the value of a popular franchise, such as Call of Duty, is much greater than a game that didn't find a wide audience, like Beyond Good & Evil?  My answer: it depends on the person.

Many gamers fall into the category of only playing (and paying for) games that they know are popular, are already familiar with, or received a personal recommendation.  For the most part, they will not be willing to take a chance on a random game on the store shelf at full price.

The keyword here is "full price."  Now, if that same random game had a very steep discount and that same gamer looked at the back of the box, read the description and looked at the screenshots, there's a possibility that they would end up buying the game.  "Hey, it's only $7.49, I'll give it a shot.  It's not like I paid $60 and traded it in to Gamestop two weeks later for five bucks."

Looking back to last year's Steam Summer Sale, I purchased 16 games for about $50 total.  The most I paid for any of those was Dragon Age: Origins - Ultimate Edition at $10.  (Though I didn't play it yet... someday!)  Now I'm going to quote my article from last year regarding those purchases:

So checking my playtime so far of these titles, I've installed and played five of them and put in about 15 hours, which I imagine there were some $50 games that I didn't put that much time into.  So at least when you purchase a game on the cheap, if it turns out to be a dud, at least it wasn't a $50 dud.  Though now I am less likely to buy any game at full price, the pricing of games during this sale made me more willing to take a chance on a game.
Which I suppose is the point I'm trying to make with this article.  Prior to the sale, I was not interested in those games at full price, or even at all.  But if the game is presented at a fine price, I am more willing to take a chance on it.  And for every Indie Bundle I buy, there is usually at least one surprise in the pack that I never would have had the pleasure to enjoy were it not for buying it in the bundle.

Sunday, June 10, 2012

There and Back Again

I used to write a videogame blog, but then I took an arrow... Hey, wait a minute!  I said the exact same thing all the way back in December in my last post.  And that wasn't even a proper post.  For the last post where I dedicated longer than two minutes to write, you'd have to go back to October for the lonely first part of my post-New York Comic Con experience (which still needs its second part).

So... what happened?  Last time I blamed Skyrim as being the only game I played for an extended period of time and various other obligations.  So what's my excuse now?  Well, I continued to play Skyrim and according to Steam I logged almost 150 hours into that game and I never finished the main quest line (which I still intend to do, someday).  I've played things other than Skyrim, though not nearly to that extent.  I starting working on a project in January that has nothing to do with video games, so that takes up some more free time.  I've also began some sewing projects, one of which is an attempt to make a Max plush (of Sam and Max fame).  So far I'm perfecting the head and I'm altering the pattern until it looks just right.

When I put more time into other projects, this blog was pushed to the back of my mind.  What honestly felt like weeks since my last update quickly turned into months.  Now is the time to change that.  I'm going to try to set myself into a regular posting schedule instead of "whenever I feel like it," as that strategy obviously didn't work. 

My current plan is to start slowly with one post per week on Sundays.  If I can stick to that schedule, hopefully I can get up to two posts per week.  I have to start somewhere (again).