My XBox Live Gamer Card
Wednesday, October 14. 2009
Once the doors opened Travis and I headed for the the Microsoft booth to get in the 40-minute line up to play ODST. There were three stations of four seats each and they were allowing each group to play ten minutes of the game's Firefight mode (Now that the game is released, my longest games of Firefight have all been over an hour and I can see them going much longer than that as I improve). However, ten minutes was enough to give us a great taste of a very very fun game mode. Of course Travis was the high-scorer on our team, and he continues to be the high-scorer in every game I have played with him since.
While in line waiting to get our hands on ODST we got to watch several people try their hand at Forza 3. I loved Forza 2 and have been very impressed with what I have seen of Forza 3 so far. The setup they were using to demo the game involved three 360s and three monitors and a cockpit with pedals and steering wheel. It was very very impressive. One of the most interesting things about the Forza community is that it is divided into those who race cars and those who paint cars. I'm good at neither of those things yet this is still on my list of "must-buy" games this fall.
While in line for ODST I started noticing my head hurting, I was pleased it wasn't a migraine, I didn't want a migraine wrecking our second day of PAX.
We wandered the aisles of the Expo. We saw the demo of Ubisoft's new Splinter Cell game which looks like it may be a lot of fun. I bought the Monster Manual 2 a second Players Guide and a set of three hero figures at the Wizards of the Coast booth. We saw some amazing gaming tables at the Geek Chic booth I really think the Emissary table would go very well in my dining room.
While watching people playing D&D on the very cool furniture I started to realize the headache was getting pretty bad. Migraines are not any fun, but I know how to deal with them and what to expect. I have no coping ability when I have a bad headache that is not a migraine. My life simply runs downhill. We had some food and I ingested some of my drug of choice, caffeine in an attempt to stave the headache off but that didn't work. After lunch we visited the Harmonix booth and took in The Beatles: Rockband. They were giving away t-shirts to people who were willing to play on stage but I couldn't convince Travis to participate so we missed out on those shirts! We did stay and watch a few groups play and it was a lot of fun. The Beatles music is amazingly timeless, and I am often in awe of the things they were able to accomplish musically. I'm looking forward to getting a copy of the game sometime soon.
By now I was completely miserable, but I still thought I had the energy to sit through the Brink show and tell at the Bethesda Softworks booth. The game looks stunning, some of the RPG aspects of it look like a lot of fun. I couldn't help but compare it a bit to what I had seen of Borderlands. I wish now that I had felt better at the time and could have more fully enjoyed the presentation. The game is definitely on my watchlist.
After seeing Brink we went in search of Advil. Thankfully I found some.
The headache on the mend, we headed to the Unicorn Theater to see Stepto's (Stephen Toulouse) talk about XBox Live policy enforcement. As XBox Live's top cop he's the man in charge of making sure Travis and I don't have to put up with two many jerks, and that my younger boys have a relatively safe environment when they are on Live. I first ran into him when I was concerned about some of the clan tags I was seeing in Call of Duty 4: Modern Warfare. He had a great presentation that was full of laughs and good information about the way live is run. You can find this video, a reading from the Book of Enforcement, at the presentation link but it is too good to pass up here:
Major Nelson was at Stepto's presentation and afterward I got to do something I've wanted to do for quite some time and that is thank him for the part that XBox Live played in allowing me to stay in touch with Travis during the time that Jennifer and I were separated. I got to talk to my son almost every night as we gamed together, and I firmly believe that to be a vitally important role in he and I having the quality relationship we currently have.
We stopped and checked out the new BioWare game Mass Effect 2. I honestly expected more from that demo. I loved the original Mass Effect, despite it's flaws it was a remarkable game. The problem with the demo was two-fold, the area was too loud to hear the sound of the game, and the demo looked like exactly what it was an unfinished game. This was jarring to me given how much I had been reading about improvements to the game. Neither Travis or I was able to see those improvements in the portion of the game they were showing off.
I'm not quite sure how we ended up there, but we found ourselves in the Main Theater for the Rooster Teeth Productions panel. I've always enjoyed Red vs. Blue but I have never been a big enough fan to take the time to watch it all. The Rooster Teeth panel changed that. It was a lot of fun, and I made the decision right then that I needed to support their endeavours. These men are truly funny and truly a lot of fun, and they love gaming.
By now I was feeling 95% better and we headed off to Subway for dinner. After grabbing our sandwiches we headed back to the Rock Band freeplay stage and watched several bands do a really good job on their songs before the technical difficulties forced an end to the proceedings. Once that occured we moved back to the queue room to line up for the Saturday nigh concerts. We were both pleasantly surprised when the line started moving far sooner than we expected it to and once again we ended up with reasonably good standing spots, this time just in front of the sound board. Soon the lights went down and the big screens lit up with Rock Band graphics, the curtain opened and out came Gabe and Tycho's band, The Sex Generals. The screen mentioned something about The Rock Band Network and the band launched into their song "Are you really a woman?" It was incredibly cool seeing The Rock Band Network put to use for the first time (the audio gets better a few seconds in so be patient).
It was also incredibly cool seeing the Pip Boy puppets that had been part of the genesis for this entire father-son adventure into geekdom making a reappearance at the concerts this year. The owners of the puppets put on quite a show throughout all the events of the evening. They were quite fun to watch.
After the song Gabe and Tycho stayed on stage to introduce the final eight of the Omeganauts came out on stage, having been divided into two teams of four. The winners of this round would become the final-four contestants in the Omegathon. The competition for this round was going to be Beatles Rock Band. The song Twist and Shout. The first band out did wonderfully well. The second band, well not so well at all. It was a lot of fun watching The Beatles in animated form up on the big screen, and a lot of fun watching the two bands working for their place in the final four of the Omegathon.
When the curtains closed, Travis and I sat on the floor and waited for the opening act for the evening, Freezepop. My only familiarity with Freezepop was their music in Rock Band, but I thoroughly enjoyed their upbeat quirky music. Liz Enthusiasm, the front-woman for the band, is attractive, and knows she's attractive, and she played that up a whole lot with her mostly male audience, including getting down off the stage during one song to dance with the guys in the front row. Partway through their set, there was a pause and a couple who had won a raffle to appear on stage with the band were brought out. Only they weren't there because they had won a raffle, they were there so the guy could propose to his girl. She said "yes," which was a good thing because if she had said "no," it would have been awkward for everyone and severely diminished the good vibe the band had been generating up to that point.
Following Freezepop's very upbeat and fun set, we were told that we were fortunate enough to have an appearance by the Secretary of Geek Affairs, Wil Wheaton. Who appeared on stage to read the following proclamation:
I didn't know a thing about Paul and Storm prior to them coming on stage to receive the Secretary of Geek Affairs D20 award, but from the moment they launched into Opening Band I knew I was going to thoroughly enjoy the show. Their humour, their hawking their wares from the platform (Travis has a Dejected Arrr t-shirt and Jennifer has a lovely Minion t-shirt), and their talent as musicians made for a wonderfully enjoyable set that kept us both laughing throughout.
The last act of the night was Jonathon Coulton. My familiarity with him was limited to the fact that he wrote Still Alive, the song sung by GLaDOS at the end of the brilliant video game Portal. I knew he was something of a geek icon so I was very much looking forward to hearing the other things he has written. With Paul and Storm providing backing vocals for much of the set it was a lot of fun. Not as funny as the preceding set had been but still a lot of fun. In addition I got to hear the original songwriter singing Still Alive.
Once again it was a full day and once again, two very tired guys dragged into their hotel room just before 3:00am. Even though we were exhausted we were still looking forward to what the final day of PAX would hold for us.
Wednesday, September 23. 2009
He did an excellent job of getting us exactly where we needed to go. We found parking in a parking garage that had far too low a clearance for my head, and made our way to the Queue Room at the convention center. The Queue Room is exactly what it sounds like a room set up with serpentine dividers to allow thousands of people to queue up in an orderly fashion. We hadn't been in this room for too long before we realized that not everyone had showered, was in clean clothes, or understood the concept of deodorant. It wasn't horrible but it was clear evidence that geeks and nerds still have some stereotypical traits to overcome.
Travis and I were obviously in the first four-thousand in the queue as we scored our wristbands for the concerts that night. Those wristbands were our first good score of the day. Usually queuing is a chore, a frustrating experience, but playing on the big screen in the queue room was some brilliant (at least if you're a geek or student of pop-culture) entertainment. Somewhat War Gamesish the computer kept "talking" to us and playing all sorts of entertaining interactive games. The games were made interactive via an SMS short-number and some entertaining uses of SMS messages. Voting for your favourite YouTube video. Solving puzzles via SMS. Creating a census of those in the queue. It was all handled really well and in a very fun and entertaining manner. In addition people played their hand held video games, read books or sat on the floor and played board games to pass the time. It was during queue time that the beach balls appeared. I can't tell you who sponsored the beach balls but I can tell you that the logo lent itself to "enhancement." and the Sharpies came out and most of the balls were "enhanced" by people who have spent far too much time watching the movie Superbad.
Once the doors opened we had a brief few minutes to wander the Expo floor before running upstairs to the first panel of the day for us, Game Development 101. It was a fascinating panel with some interesting people and there was some good insight into the insides of the development process. I was particularly interested in listening to the writer, and the producer. The writer because I love to write and believe that video game writing is just starting to come into its own, and the producer, well the producer because he has my dream job.
After the Game Design panel it was time to head back down to the Queue Room to Queue up for the Keynote speech. Travis held our place in line and I went in search of some food which we proceeded to eat sitting on the floor. We had great seats for the keynote, but there really weren't any bad seats in the room given the six large screens that gave everyone a great view. The keynote speaker was a gentleman who spent his formative years in La Grande, Oregon. He went on to fame designing games for LucasArts. You may have heard of Guybrush Threepwood and The Secret of Monkey Island. You may also know of Ron Gilbert the creator of The Secret of Monkey Island. Mr. Gilbert spoke of his history in game design and along the way helped show us the importance of games in our culture and games as art. It was a brilliant speech, quite moving, quite insightful, and definitely inspiring.
We stayed in our seats after the keynote for a Q&A session with Gabe and Tycho. Given that they are the reason for PAX the crowd was huge, and the Q&A quite fun. Gabe told the story that provided the impetus for the titles of these blog entries.
As the planning for PAX was underway contracts were entered into with many of the hotels near the conference center. As the time drew closer the PAX planners discovered that 37 rooms had gone missing at one of the hotels. When the PAX people called about the missing rooms they were told "Oh the Oakland Raiders are in town. We needed the rooms." They were told very politely that no one at PAX cared that the Oakland Raiders were in town and their attention was re-directed to the signed contract. The hotel told the Raiders that they would have to find lodging elsewhere. It was truly the reversal of roles for the geeks and the jocks.
There was one quite touching scene where the person at the microphone told his story about how Penny Arcade had helped keep his spirits up during some very dark and difficult times in his life. He was hoping he could shake Gabe and Tycho's hand, however, Tycho pre-empted that wish, hopped down off the stage and then gave the guy a huge hug.
From the Q&A with Gabe and Tycho we headed back upstairs to the Bungie panel, Prepare to Drop! They were in the biggest theater in the building and the line was quite long, I was worried we were not going to get seats. However, the Enforcers (PAX's volunteer security force) assured us that there would be room and there was. The panel was not what Travis or I were expecting, however, it proved to be an incredibly gratifying look behind the scenes at the creation of Halo: ODST. We heard from the Creative Director, the composer, the lead graphic designer, the producer, and several others. We saw some of the concept art. We heard how the game had taken shape, moving from something that should have been DLC to a full game. We heard some of the score (a complete departure from the typical Halo score but really impressive). We heard about weapon re-designs and why the Battle Rifle has no part in the game (something I'm still not sure I'm happy about). It was a great panel and lots of fun. Now that I've played the game I can say all their hard work was not in vain and that while it is completely different from its predecessors it is also a very good game in it's own right.
From the ODST panel we headed back downstairs to the expo for a while. A trip that proved to be far shorter than we expected it to be as we discovered that Gearbox Software was going to do a panel on their upcoming title Borderlands. Borderlands is one of the games Travis and I are most looking forward to this fall, so we knew we had to see that. We quickly dashed to the Subway in the Convention Center to get some dinner and then headed for presentation. It turns out we hadn't needed to get dinner as the Gearbox gang had ordered pizza for everyone who came to their panel, something I thought was quite cool of them. Right from the beginning this panel felt completely different from the Bungie panel. Where Bungie were professional and polished the Gearbox guys were rough and tumble. I quite enjoyed it. They started their presentation with this hilarious video of Claptrap the Robot. Then discussed the evolution of their game prior to letting one of the audience members up on stage to play co-op against the other panel members while their exploits were narrated. My interest in the game was heightened by the panel so I'm quite sure they did what they set out to do.
We left the Borderlands presentation expecting to go down to the Expo again, but when we got there we discovered the Expo was closed. Hearing music we followed the sound until we discovered the source. The Rock Band freeplay stage. We sat and watched and listened as group after group tried their hand at Rock Band. Many of them were no better than I am which gave me some hope. Of course I will never be up to Travis's standard of being able to play anything and everything on expert guitar.
Finally it was time to line up for the Friday night concerts. As you know from my PAX Day 0 post it was events from the concerts a year earlier that triggered my desire to go this year. After waiting in line and watching the sometimes quite funny SMS Message Board on the big screen (People could text their messages to the system and have them displayed on the big screen). We got to head into the Main Theater for the concerts. Most of the seats had been removed and we got extraordinarily good standing spots quite close to the front. Unfortunately, the concerts started quite late so that was a bit of a drag.
First up was Anamanaguchi a chiptune band that composes on a hacked NES. Their music was upbeat and and a lot of fun and they had lots of energy. The visuals provided by Paris Treantafeles and outpt were eye-catching, entertaining, and very well done. It was fascinating seeing the two visual artists working on stage as the music was played.
The second band of the evening was Metroid Metal. Having not played the Metroid games, I was doubly at a loss when I didn't enjoy their metal interpretations of music I was unfamiliar with. The band was very good, very loud and fun to watch, but the music simply left me cold.
The headliner for the evening was MC Frontalot I'm not a huge rap or hip-hop fan, but I certainly enjoy quite a bit of it so I was really looking forward to seeing the man who made "nerdcore" a household word. The set got off to a great start when Wil Wheaton came out on stage with a Guitar Hero guitar and started playing, because Frontalot was going to be unavoidably delayed. It wasn't long until the MC came out and ripped into his set. Musically and visually it was a great set. The man is fabulous entertainer with a great shtick. The biggest downfall (and I'm going to sound like my parents here) was that I couldn't understand a word the man was rapping. Travis felt the same way, and that took us way out of the set. For those who actually knew what he was rapping about it had to be a great and very enjoyable set.
Once the concert was over two very tired guys headed to the car and the trip back to the hotel. It had been a great first day at our first ever PAX. We fell into our beds just before 3am both dreading and looking forward to the alarms the next morning.
Saturday, September 19. 2009
Just about a year ago while reading the gaming news I saw the video linked to in this blog post.. As I bemoaned in that post, I knew Travis and I should have been there. I vowed then and there to remedy that.
PAX is a three-day long convention for gamers that has been held in Seattle for the last six years. It is put on by the guys who created one of the most successful web-comics on the the net, Penny Arcade. While mostly thought of in the context of video games, it also is all about RPGs (e.g., Dungeons & Dragons) and board games. This year they had the entire convention center space, and sold close to 60,000 tickets.
The week passes for PAX 2009 went on sale I bought two, one for me and one for Travis. I then started to plot the most epic weekend for a father and son ever. Sometime in the early summer I was speaking with my boss and told him I was a bit worried, I built up this amazing picture in my head of just what kind of event it would be and I was becoming terrified that it couldn't possibly live up to my expectations. He told me not to look for trouble where there wasn't any. That was good advice.
Two weeks before the event I went online to look at the "deals" that were available for hotel rooms close to the convention center. I was appalled at how expensive they were and came to the conclusion that staying farther away and paying for the exorbitant parking at the convention center ($25/day) would be much cheaper than staying within walking distance. In addition I'd be able to afford a room with two beds, a definite plus. So I booked us into the Days Inn in Midtown Seattle, a location that was five miles north of the Washington State Convention and Trade Center.
As far as I was concerned, the evening of Thursday, September 3rd, when Travanoid and rhacer would toss their gear into the back of the GTI and head north to Seattle could not come quickly enough.
We got off to a slightly later start than I had hoped, but the GTI did very well on it's first trip of any real length, with a quick stop at our new favourite fast food joint, Jack in the Box, and four CDs full of MP3s in the CD changer, we made excellent time and were in our motel room before 10:00pm.
The room was much bigger than we would have expected, and included a small sitting area. The queen beds were comfortable, and while the TV was crappy, it was good enough to keep us entertained with some silliness on MTV before we turned the lights out at an early for us 11:00pm.
Neither Travis nor I are what could be called "morning people" but we knew we needed to be early enough the next day to be amongst the first 4,000 in line as those were the people who would be given wristbands that guaranteed them a spot at the Friday night concerts. The doors would open at 8:00am and the expo proper would open at 10:00am. We wanted to be their closer to the 8:00am mark, hence the early bedtime.
Wednesday, August 19. 2009
Back at the end of June, Travis rented [Prototype] from our friendly neighbourhood Blockbuster. He liked it well enough that he kept it beyond the week, and Jennifer returned it a week or so late.
Yesterday while I was reviewing bank statements I discovered a charge for $59.99 on my credit card on July 1st. Having no idea what it was I called Blockbuster and asked. They were more than happy to tell me it was for the unreturned copy of [Prototype]. Knowing very well that Jennifer had returned the game I asked what could be done and was told I would need to call back when the manager was on duty. This morning I called back and talked to the manager. I told him the story, he asked me a few questions, and while not happy about doing so, he credited my account for the $59.99.
I had no proof that Jennifer had returned the game. I know she did but could not prove that. In addition it had been a long time since the charge was placed on my credit card. Note to self: pay closer attention to your credit card statements. Despite those things the manager chose to do the right thing. In a world where the customer is very rarely looked out for, I appreciate it very much when people do look out for their customers and do the right thing.
Tuesday, May 5. 2009
Last night I finally finished Fallout 3. I had enjoyed many many hours of playing this excellent game. A world full of interesting characters, interesting questions, and interesting places. Sure I was disappointed at the level cap (one of the reasons the game fell to the wayside of my gaming), but I understand that it was part of the price we paid for not having auto-leveling bad-guys in the game (like we did in Oblivion). On the whole my experience as I wandered through the Capital Wasteland was one of awe and deep enjoyment. There were so many little touches that made it possible to completely lose yourself in the world these incredibly talented developers had created.
And then we got to the finale, and instead of putting the capstone on this incredible piece of work, the game came to an Epic Failure. Not just a small gaffe, not a tiny distraction, but an Epic Failure. I won't go into to details as I hate spoilers as much as the next person, but the ending tossed out everything we might have expected for this game based on how things were handled at the end of Oblivion, based on what we had learned about our avatar as we wandered through the beautiful Capital Wasteland, based on the skills and items I had picked up in my wandering. It all came crashing down in a nonsensical jumble that left me incredibly disheartened and wondering whether I will be investing in the DLC Bethesda have made available for the game.
I don't understand how something so beautiful could end up so disappointing.
Tuesday, November 18. 2008
Wednesday, November 12. 2008
Travis and I finished the Gears of War 2 campaign on Hardcore difficulty last night. We will tackle it again on Insane and see how we do. While Epic and Dude Huge didn't re-invent the game, they did do a very nice job of making it an exceptionally satisfying experience. The campaign, in general, is much more solid and much more satisfying, answering a few questions, but leaving many more unanswered. As this is the middle chapter of a trilogy I don't find that to be much of a problem. The ending, while somewhat abrupt (I didn't expect to be there when I got there) is not as bad as much of what I have read about it in the press. I found it to be very similar to the novel where the climax happens three-quarters of the way through and the rest of the story is winding down.
While the storyline is much better, it is hampered by incredibly hammy voice-acting. There is one scene that is really quite poignant, and if done correctly I would have probably been in tears, but the voice-acting is so over-the-top that I never got past it and fully, emotionally into the moment. The story is also hampered by a couple of levels that seem to have been created for no other reason than to show off some of the cool features of the Unreal Engine.
In general, the levels are a lot of fun, one of them included some of my most satisfying moments ever in a video game. The mechanics are pretty much identical to the mechanics in the first game, however, there are a couple of really nice features that were added. One is the ability to attempt to crawl to safety when you are downed by the enemy. The other is that it is quite possible for you and your buddy to split up and carry on down two separate paths of the level for a brief while. This was forced several times in the first game, and sometimes still is in this one, but sometimes it's an optional path which is quite nice.
The new weapons and finishing moves are lots of fun. The mulcher, mortar, and flame thrower all add new and interesting strategies both in single-player and in multi-player. One of the fun things Epic has done is they have added distinct finishing moves for each weapon. Other new additions are the ability to use any of the grenade types as a proximity mine (you melee the wall) and that the concussion from grenades other than the frag grenades will knock you down.
Gears of War featured and achievement called "Seriously" and you achieved it with something like ten-thousand kills in public, ranked matches. The new game ups the ante on that significantly. Seriously 2.0 requires one hundred-thousand kills. Fortunately you get credit for every kill, not just kills in ranked matches.
Multi-player has changed too. The basics are still the same but there are several new game modes, and one additional player per team. The greatest improvements in multi-player have to do with the game lobby though. No longer is it an exercise in frustration to try and put a group together and take that group in search of battle.
My favourite addition to the PvP game modes is "Submission" (formerly known as Meatflag). The meatflag is a Stranded, lost in the middle of the map. Your job is to down the meatflag grab him as a meat-shield and carry him to the capture point. It's basically capture the flag with one caveat, the flag shoots back. I have seen several of those matches where the meatflag had more kills than anyone on either team.
I think my favourite multi-player mode overall is the new Horde mode. In Horde, you and up to four of your friends are dumped into a map where you will face wave after increasingly difficult wave of Locust enemies, fifty of them to be exact. The sheer fun of tackling that many enemies with your friends, and fighting cooperatively to defeat them is incredibly addictive and lots and lots of fun.
Epic has done a fabulous job on the sequel to one of the best games available on the XBox 360. I highly recommend it.
Monday, November 3. 2008
Yesterday I finished Fable II. I was somewhat melancholy when the credits rolled and that is the sign of a good game. If I am sad when it is over, I know I have experienced something that is not typical, something that is a cut-above. Fortunately, while the main quest is over, I can still experience more of the game as there are some side-quests yet to complete.
Fable II is one of the best RPGs I have played on the 360. The story follows the protagonist, Sparrow, from young child, to adult-hood. From the back-alleys of Old Bowerstone, to the regal halls of the Fairfax Castle, from the beautiful fields of Oakfield to dank dungeons beneath the world of Albion. The world is beautifully realized, all of regions have a look and feel and sound to them that is quite immersive. These regions bring up one of the shortcomings of the game however.
There is no sense of continuity to the world of Albion. After spending many hours in the game I can barely tell you where each of the regions is in relation to any of the other regions. Is Oakfield north of Bowerstone? The region system, and lack of adequate mapping completely yank you out of the world of Albion and put you squarely back in your game room every time you load a new region. For a game that is so well done, this was a horrible oversight. Compare it to the world in Oblivion, or Fallout 3 where you can run, walk or ride anywhere on the map, and know where all the cities and villages are in relation to each other, and you will see just how badly Lionhead failed in this regard.
Character customization is incredibly broad, and not entirely within your direct control. While you can find or purchase and vast quantity of clothing items and mix-and-match-and-dye them to your heart's content, while you can change your hairstyle and beard, you can't directly change your musculature, your height, or your weight. Musculature changes as you become stronger. Height changes as you become more skilled weight changes based on what you eat--eat fatty foods get fat, eat celery get thin. The weight issue is one of the games other minor shortcomings, while there are many foods and beverages that will make you fatter, there is only one that will make you thinner. Given the variety of the diet available to you, this seems to be another oversight on Lionhead's part.
Character leveling is unique and enjoyable. Every battle and many of the foods, drinks and potions provide attribute mana. Attributes are divided up into Strength (blue), Skill (yellow), Will (red), and General (green). When you fight with a melee weapon you gain strength, when you fight with a ranged weapon you gain skill, when you fight using magic you gain will. Regardless of how you fight you gain general mana. If you mix up your combat, you will gain mixed attribute mana. You can purchase new abilities with the correct color of mana (plus the green mana which is a sort of wildcard mana). Each Ability has four or five levels you can aspire to as you play the game.
In addition to questing and getting money and fame, you can work and gamble to get money. You can use that money to buy businesses and residences, and then live off the income and rent. Setting prices can be a noble, neutral or nefarious act, and you are rewarded or penalized accordingly. You are paid every five minutes regardless of whether you are playing the game or not, so you can leave the game for several hours and return to it and find a nice sum of money waiting for you. There are three jobs you can hold in the world of Albion, each of them provide increasing levels of reward as your skill increases, and the mini-games involved in the jobs are fun and addicting. You can do blacksmith work, you can chop wood, and you can tend bar. The pub games, Spinner Box, Fortune's Tower (my favourite), and Keystone also provide fun diversions, and if you're lucky some extra cash.
Activities in the game are good or evil, pure or corrupt, and they shape the world in which you live, and the way the characters in the game respond to you. The entire look of an area can change based on the choices that you make. I had heard much about morality in this game and was hoping for some tougher choices, some epic moral decisions, unfortunately those types of choices did not crop up. Yes there are some that might be slightly difficult but none made me really stop and pause and think. Your goodness or badness or pureness or corruptness can have an effect on both the look of your character, and the look of your dog.
Your dog (which you can name) is one of the highlights of the game, never getting in the way, but ever present. He is a wonderful companion, a treasure hunter and fighter. In addition to your dog, you may marry, and have children. While I quite liked my wife, and really enjoyed watching and listening to my son, whenever I returned home from adventuring, neither of them found their way into my affections the way my dog did.
The main storyline is quite formulaic, and likely forgettable, all except for one place where I shouted "you fucker!" at my television. However, there is so much to do in the world that it is quite possible to view the main quest as a secondary quest and just wile away endless hours in the world of Albion.
Peter Molyneaux has a history of over-promising and under-delivering, however, he managed to keep the promises moderated, and Lionhead has certainly delivered a fun and memorable experience.
Thursday, September 25. 2008
Today it became official, Jack Thompson, the ranting madman and anti-game crusader was disbarred by the Florida Supreme Court...forever.
The Court approves the corrected referee's report and John Bruce Thompson is permanently disbarred, effective thirty days from the date of this order so that respondent can close out his practice and protect the interests of existing clients. If respondent notifies the Court in writing that he is no longer practicing and does not need the thirty days to protect existing clients, this Court will enter an order making the permanent disbarment effective immediately. Respondent shall accept no new business from the date this order is filed.
Judging from court records and his own press, the man was a horrible example of being an attorney, and also a horrible example of what it means to be a Christian.
If you don't like video games, that's cool. If you want to work to change the system, I suppose you're welcome to do that too, though I believe our Constitution may have something to say about your efforts. However, don't be a total and complete git about it. Thompson was an expert at being a git. He deserves his derision, he deserves his disbarment, he should be ashamed that he has caused other's to look with contempt upon his faith, and thereby the faith of others who ostensibly share it.
Friday, September 19. 2008
Major Nelson just released a video about avatar creation on the New XBox Experience.
I'm really looking forward to the complete redesign of the 360's interface, and as cutesy as avatars are, I'm really looking forward to getting to spend some time creating one. I'm sure I will be spending some MS Points to buy kit for my avatar at some point also.
One of the things I noticed in the video was just how smooth the interface appears to be when navigating between sections. I hope that it's as smooth for us as it is for the Major in this demo.
Via: Xbox Live's Major Nelson
Wednesday, September 3. 2008
Thanks very much to Kotaku's Luke Plunkett for making me laughs out loud with this...
The Behemothís last game - Alien Hominid - wasnít fun. Looked good, but wasnít fun. It was the gaming equivalent of taking your balls, resting them on a table, picking up a hammer then smashing them over and over and over until you sobbed yourself unconscious...
You may read the rest of his review of Castle Crashers here
Tuesday, September 2. 2008
[Updated: September, 3nd]
Went to my mailbox today and inside it was a package from Microsoft a copy of Project Gotham Racing 3. Thank you Microsoft and Jerry for coming through on your promises! That's impressive.
Now I only need the phone call from Gerald's Manager and this saga will be complete.
[Updated: September, 2nd]
I got a second call from Microsoft this morning at 6:00am. They were kindly letting me know that my unit had been shipped back to me. 6:00am is a bit early for me, but they get huge points for trying to keep me informed, so I have no complaint.
The box with my 360 in it walked through my door just about noon. The actual repair process went quite smoothly. Actually it's not the 360, it's a replacement unit, new cables, new power-supply new everything. I guess I'll get to try-out the new DLC license shuffler.
Supervisor Jerry did come through on one of his promises, I did get the one-month free of Live. There was no mention of a free game, nor have I heard from Supervisor Gerald's manager to file a complaint about his hanging up on me. So Jerry is batting 33% (though I think the one-month Live card gets sent by default so while I give him credit for that, I don't think he actually did anything.
I still give the credit for this to Major Nelson. I'm quite convinced that if I hadn't emailed him [thanks for the suggestion Seven] I would still be waiting on a shipping label. Thank you again Major.
[Updated: August, 29th]
I'm posting at the top here since Microsoft is doing the right things and deserves credit for that. I got a call from the service center at 6:52am today letting me know my 360 had been repaired and was waiting for shipment. That's incredibly fast turn-around on their end. I'm guessing I will see box on Tuesday, due to the holiday, though I will try and get FedEx to change delivery to my apartment once it has been shipped, just in case they can deliver on Saturday.
Originally Posted: August 24th, 2008
My 360 RRoD'd on Tuesday night August 12th. I was bummed. I watch all my DVDs on it and play my video games on it, being separated from my wife I have lots of time to play video games and watch DVDs. It's also a fabulous way to stay in touch with my oldest son Travanoid who I game with quite regularly. I'd heard pretty decent things about Xbox customer support and had been impressed that MS did the correct thing when it took that huge charge to extend the warranty on all 360s, so I sucked it up and called that evening.
The support person I spoke with promised me a shipping label in 72 hours. That meant I should have had a label by Friday evening. I didn't get it, but stuff happens so I didn't fret too much. Monday night the repair site on xbox.com lost track of my repair order. I was disconcerted by that so called support and the very nice man I spoke with told me that the systems were under maintenance and that was why I couldn't see the support request. I was cool with that, and asked him if it was weird that I hadn't got my mailing label yet. He said yes, and I likely would need to open a new repair order, but he couldn't do that as the systems were down, would I please call back in the morning. He was polite and helpful, so I had no problem doing as he asked.
The next morning, August, 19th, I called back and they said "Ohh that shouldn't have happened, we'll open a new ticket, you'll have your label in 24 hours."
On the morning of August 20th I called back and told them I didn't have my label yet and I was told "no one should have told you 24 hours. We can't make that kind of promise." I was a bit perturbed but waited the additional 24 hours before calling back to ask where my label was.
The person I spoke with on the morning of August 21st told me that there was something wrong with my email address, an address that they had double checked on every previous call, an address at which I get many hundred of emails a day. Since there was obviously a problem with my email address could I please give them a different email address. Once again I was disconcerted, but I gave them my work address, and then waited another 48 hours for my shipping label.
On the morning of the 23rd, eleven days after my first phone call and three service request numbers later, I checked my email, hoping that I had finally received the shipping label. There was no joy in Muddville. I checked the xbox.com website, the first item was still the one hi-lighted. The one that makes it clear that they had NOT sent an email yet and that the ball was still in their court.
I called back, the very nice girl who answered the phone told me there must be a problem with my email address, could I please provide another. I told her that was unacceptable and that I needed to speak to a supervisor. Eventually Gerald came on the line ready to help. He told me that instead of emailing me a shipping label they were going to ship me a return box. He told me that that would take three to five days. I told him that if they had done that on August 12th that would have been acceptable, but at eleven days past that time it was not acceptable. I told him I wanted my mailing label NOW.
He said he couldn't do that. I asked to speak with someone who could. I asked to speak to his supervisor. He said I couldn't. I told him we had a problem then. I told him about my son's experience with the iPod I bought him for his birthday on July, 27th that broke on August, 13th, which I returned to the Apple Store on August 22nd and had a new one in five minutes. He made a dreadful mistake. He sighed.
I don't care who you are, I don't care what your position is, you do not sigh at your customers. I would lose my job in an instant if I sighed at a customer. I told him that that was a problem, I told him that he and I would be on the phone together until I received the new email. I was quite serious about that. I work a gig where I'm on call 24/7/365. I work a gig where I have gone a couple of days without sleep. I've been there. I've done that, I know I can do it and there was no way I was getting off the phone until Gerald came through on his promise of a shipping label.
I put him on speaker, asked him what kind of music he liked (Metallica), turned on iTunes put on Metallica, and began the waiting process. He hung up on me one hour, eleven minutes and fifty-eight seconds into our call.
If sighing at your customer is bad, hanging up on your customer is far far worse. I called back, got another first level technician. She asked me for my serial number. I told her she had four service requests with my serial number on it, I wasn't going to give it to her again. I told her I wanted to speak with Supervisor Gerald. She said she couldn't make that happen. I told her that of course she could make it happen. She said she could get the supervisors on the line, but she could not ensure that I spoke with Gerald. I told her that she needed to explain to the supervisor on the line that I needed to speak with Gerald. She put me on hold for a long time (I honestly didn't think they were going to pick back up if *I* had to deal with me at that time I wouldn't have wanted to pick back up!)
I didn't get to speak with Gerald.
But I did get to speak with a very nice man named Jerry. I told Jerry that I either wanted an apology from Gerald, or I wanted to speak to Gerald's manager to file a complaint. He told me I couldn't speak to management, they weren't allowed to give out contact information. I told him he could pass on my phone number and they could call me. I was happy to wait for the phone call. He was disinclined to acquiesce to that request. We talked some more. He tried to blame my email address. He said that they had tried to deliver a couple of times but couldn't.
I asked him for the bounces or the logs, because if both my personal email server and our corporate email server are that messed up that we can't get emails, we need to fix things, I needed logs and bounces to pass on to our system administrators at work. He told me he couldn't do that. I told him that I was not going to believe his claims.
It was then that the story began to change (amazing what happens when you take someone off script). He promised me an email within 24 hours. I asked him if his recorders were running. He told me yes. I asked him if he guaranteed me an email by 8/24 at 12:30 PST. He said yes he did. I asked why he could promise that when I'd been told that no one could make that promise. He said it was because they'd been having system issues that were now fixed.
I asked him how they were going to recompense me for my Live subscription. He told me that they would take care of me. I really want to believe him. He also told me that I would get a call from management to talk about my problem with Gerald, but that would take 48 to 72 hours.
We'll see if he can keep his promises.
Over 24 hours have gone by since I first wrote the above and posted it to the xbox.com hardware forum.
Today I called and spoke with Kim. While Gerald was nice, but made a mistake, and Jerry was very nice, and made me promises he couldn't keep, Kim was rude. She asked for my serial number. I told her it was on four prior support requests and that I wasn't going to provide it again. I told her that Jerry had promised me a label in 24 hours. She said no one in the organization would do that it wasn't allowed. I said Jerry had told me he was recording the call she was welcome to check exactly what he had said. She said they didn't record calls. I asked her if she were in the habit of arguing with her customers. She hung up on me.
I tried to email Major Nelson, I thoroughly enjoy reading him, I follow him on Twitter. He seems like a reasonable and nice man. The first email bounced back immediately telling me it looked like spam. I adjusted it a bit, changed the url for the xbox forums post to a tinyurl and resent. This time I got to messages back from his auto-responder. One of them said "If you sent a URL I haven't seen your email." At the moment I'm too despondent to care. Maybe I'll cut this out and paste it into an email to him.
If, perchance, anyone from Microsoft reads this and would like the four service request numbers I currently have in my possession I would be happy to provide them.
I just emailed the Major. It would be lovely if he really could help.
[Update: August 25th]
I just got a phone call from Microsoft. Unfortunately I was in a meeting and couldn't take the call. I called back and they said they were going to send me a box. The difference is, this time they're sending the box expedited. I can live with that, at least they're trying. If Gerald had volunteered to next-day me a box I would have been happy with that. I certainly hope that this time they will do as they say.
I would like to think this is Major Nelson's doing. If so thank you Major!
[Update: August 26th]
Microsoft's service website finally says "We're waiting on you" instead of it saying "You're waiting on us." I brought the 360 to work today just incase the shipping carton arrives today.
[Update: August 27th]
I have the coffin. It's packed, I'll be stopping at the FedEx drop off on the way home from work. The service depot should have my 360 sometime tomorrow.
[Update: August 28th]
My box arrived in McAllen, Texas today according to FedEx's website, but apparently the MS site is down (well not really down but the CSS appears to be broken) so I can't see if they updated their records to reflect that they now have my 360.
Monday, September 1. 2008
Penny Arcade Expo finished up last night. If I had half a brain I would have gotten passes for Travis and I and gone up to Seattle for the weekend. Unfortunately I didn't do so, and I apparently missed out on an incredibly good time. I've already committed Travis and myself to going next year.
I would likely have been twice as old as most of the people there, but I don't really care. When I see stuff like this...
I can't help but smile at just how far geeks have come in the world since I first started learning I was a geek back in high school. In those days "Geek" was decidedly uncool. Now it's really true, The geek shall inherit the earth.
The April Wine song that starts that video clip is one of my favourite songs ever, and definitely my favourite song of April Wine's.
As an aside, I can hardly wait for Fallout 3, Oblivion was an amazing experience, I can't imagine what Bethesda's next outing will be like.
Sunday, August 31. 2008
I have a "thing" for eye-wear but have exceptionally good eyesight (other than being colour-blind) that hasn't prevented me from considering getting a pair or two of plain glass lenses in frames just so I would have some glasses to wear from time to time. The pragmatic side of me, however, would not allow that level of affectation.
I now may now have an excuse. Gunnar Optiks have created a line of eye-glasses for computer users and gamers. Their FAQ has this to say about their digital eyewear:
Q: What results can I expect from using GUNNARís digital eyewear?
A: Customers can expect the following when wearing GUNNAR digital eyewear while looking at digital devices:
* Sharper, clearer vision which is immediate and profound
* Improved performance throughout the day because the eyes are relaxed
* Increased productivity because users can spend more time working or playing at the computer without feeling the adverse effects often associated with doing so
Now if they came in a size that would fit my fat head...
Saturday, August 30. 2008
One of the most difficult things about XBox Live is finding people you actually like to game with regularly. Shortly after I got my 360 I was perusing the forums on xbox.com when I came upon this thread about 30yo+ gamers. As I read through it I came upon this post...
I'm 36 and LOVE to play GRAW. I play almost every day from 9-10PM (EST) for 2-3 hours.
I have several friends (just a few because it is HARD to find friends online as it is in real life) and we usually have GRAW NIGHT - each Friday when we play from 10PM until 2-3AM next day.
HollowPoint11 - I've sent you a request but could not add a message since the xbox.com does not allow you to add the message to the request.
Everybody - you are welcome to send me requests - we will play and have fun...and you can always remove people from your friend list if you dont like them, right? :)
I'm level 4 if that matters.
By a guy named AlexOdin
I responded to his desperate plea for friends, and very soon thereafter was playing GRAW every Friday night with an absolutely super group of people, people who I actually looked forward to playing with, people who I came to think of as friends.
Several games have made our primary Friday night rotation. After GRAW it was Gears of War, and then Call of Duty 4. With occasional diversions in Halo 3 or Team Fortress 2.
Not too far into our gaming a website was put up and My XBox Friends was born.
So, if you're an older gamer (the rule of thumb is 30+) and you'd like to find a group of people who enjoy gaming, and enjoy each other, come check out the website, say hi, and get to playing.
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