Archives for April 2005

It could be nice to be aLIVE

Just a couple thoughts about playing games on Live.

First, there was the recent update/tweak to Halo 2’s gameplay. In a previous life, I was a Halo boxer. It was how I played – I’d rush with the Assault Rifle business end to take down the shields and then I’d use the other business end for a little smackdown action. It was pretty effective and served me well. Halo 2 1.0 nerfed my modus operandi. It took a while to divorce myself from it and I lived without it. Halo 2 1.1 has all changed that. It’s like an old friend has moved back into the neighborhood. I still take a beating going with the shoot-shoot-punch but now it’s much more effective. Instead winning three out of ten times, I’m putting the beatdown on the bad guys eight out of ten times. This simple tweak has increased my enjoyment tenfold. Just last night me and my clanmates went 8-2 in our matches. I am very eagerly anticipating the new playlists and playing on the new maps next week.

The other game I’ve given a try on Live is Burnout 3. Burnout 3 is such a great single player game (I unlock unlockables like a machine!) but most multiplayer racing games suck because it has to be split-screen. Well I gave B3 a ride (pun!) on Live and it is a great diversion. I immediately noticed the guys playing were actually cool to play with! No Halo 2 kiddies tell me what he did to my mom (or my dead corpse) and no kids screaming obscenities and farm animal noises. The guys were cool, we chatted about the next-gen Madden game, the next Burnout game, and just chilled. It was relaxing — just like a game should be. That said, I won’t be playing B3 anytime soon – I haven’t unlocked enough of the good cars. I was running around in the “Tuned Compact” when everyone else had the Dominator. I got smoked each and everytime. Once I unlock some of the better cars I’ll be jumping back on Live.

The ‘mystery’ of FIFA Street

The ‘mystery’ of FIFA Street : Guardian Unlimited Gamesblog

This is a great read about how EA is slowly taking over the world, one poor(?) video game at a time.

This is why FIFA Street is number one. It hits all the right buttons. It is mainstream, but yet has an ‘edge’. It has good graphics. It is fast enough to convince players that they are having a good time. And that empty feeling when all the bluster is over? When the lack of depth becomes apparent? It. Never. Comes. Because the mainstream consumer has rushed onwards. To another flashy, intensely marketed, brand-focused product.

Silly online poker player, Spam for kids!

I thought buttonMashing was immune to comment/trackback spam but I seem to have attracted the attention of some shady purveyors of online poker sites looking to boost their Google ranking. 285+ comments of spammy badness in less than a day. Crazy! Hopefully they weren’t able to boost the ranking of their internet site. While online poker may be fun, there’s no button mashing involved. Not my cup of tea.

Regarding the spam comments (and blocking thereof), I have installed Spam Karma 2, which has immediately gone into action and destroyed all remnants of the poker spam. I’ve only been using it for a couple hours but I recommend it, it seems to be doing its job swimmingly. Seems like things are back to normal.

But those spammers are a persistent bunch! In the time it took to download and install the SK2 plug-in (about 3 minutes) 3-4 more spam messages came in. Unbelievable.

(Update: I noticed that the sidebar is wonky in IE. I know most people visiting the site use Firefox (I use Opera myself) but I apologize to any IE users for whom the page looks funny. I imagine it’s a problem with the theme I’m using, I’m not sure if it’s been updated recently or not. It appears to be an issue with my Bloglines blogroll. I’ll mess with it later, I’m going to bed)

Next-Generation Madden

Lee HaneyI, for one, was not too impressed with the next generation of EA’s Madden Football. I watched the 60-second commercial that ran on ESPN during the NFL draft (which I’m sure by now is available online) and it didn’t do it for me.

First, the models look hyper-realistic. They look like a cross between NFL Blitz and Lee Haney. Everything glistened and shimmered unnaturally. The models were too muscular. Granted, the NFL is full of Adonises (Adonii?) but not everyone is stacked and ripped (yet). The little tête-à-tête between McNabb and Strahan looked pretty sweet but the pass to Owens and the lame, over-the-top, dive into the endzone was too cliche.

Not everything was bad. The little x-ray showing the injury to the player’s shoulder was a nice touch, as was the snow. Nevertheless, EA has some big obstacles to overcome. None have really been deal-breakers for me, but if they can’t get rid of the horrible clipping and collision detection issues that have plagued Madden (and NCAA 200x) for years, it will be pretty eye candy and not much more. Proving, once again, that pretty graphics and big, bulging muscles a good game do not make.

So it looks like the EA juggernaut will move forward into the next generation with hyper-realistic, not photo-realistic graphics. I guess this can be seen as a good thing, since the current trend of super-human physique as a model will not take us to the Uncanny Valley, which is a good thing.

Master Chief <3's Jesus

So I read about kids testifying of their Lord and Savior during Live Halo 2 games last month over at Popular Culture Gaming but really didn’t pay much attention to it. Until, that is, this evening. I played a head to head with a nice enough guy (a rarity on Live), he beat me 10-6 (woulda been 10-8 if I didn’t toast myself twice). In the exit screen, he asked if he could ask me a couple of questions. Sure, I said. First he asked if I knew where I’d go if I died (“heaven forbid, ” he tells me) tonight. His second question was what I would say to God at the Pearly Gate? I would, of course, ask if He could create a rock so heavy he couldn’t lift it. But that’s beside the point. I told him I feel like I’m living right and everything is cool with me and the Big Man upstairs. He then testified to me and told me to read my Bible. He then signed off and I sat there in a state of disbelief.

Now, I’m a pretty religious guy, but I keep that kind of stuff pretty close to the vest. It’s the last thing I’d talk about at the end of a game of Halo 2. But I’ll give the guy credit. If nothing else, he gave me pause to think. My wife was watching me play but was only picking up half the conversation since voice is piped through the headset. She thought it was pretty funny that I was talking to someone across the country about Jesus. It was pretty out of place and kind of wierd.

But hey, the game is called Halo and it does have religious overtones, so who am I to say it’s out of place?

Statistics, statistics everywhere

… and not a drop to drink.

I am a confessed stat junkie. I noticed a few weeks ago that bapenguin (an editor at Evil Avatar) was linking to something called a “TPS report”. I followed the link and wanted my own Halo 2 TPS report, immediately. So I downloaded Query Spree, downloaded all my games and created my own TPS report. It’s important to note that Bungie purges their data at a regular pace, so I had to purge the database that Query Spree creates of incomplete games, so I’ve played more games than show up in my TPS Report, but all my recent games are all there. I’m not a spectacular player, but I hold my own.

I also took the liberty of downloading the stats of my clanmates. I also started a simple page for my humble Halo 2 Clan. Enjoy!

Goodness Gracious, Great Blogs of Fire!

I’ve been reading Dubious Quality for a while (and enjoyed it immensely) but I haven’t really mentioned much here. An oversight that I intend to correct. I wanted to point out two great reads from Bill over at DQ. First, there’s this post about his experience with the new RTS/I-dunno-what game, Darwinia. The game is getting a lot of critical acclaim and this is a great read. Second, here’s another great post about the new Xbox RPG, Jade Empire. Again, excellent reading. This is why I love video game blogs. I can go to twenty different sites online where I can read a review of Jade Empire but I don’t find experiences like this very often. A score of 9.9 might convince me that the game is good and worth a look, but reading something like this has a more meaningful effect:

… the world is beautifully dynamic and immersive, defining itself beyond the written world, which I see as a remarkable accomplishment. I experience the Jade Empire most fully not by reading, but by being.

Following the vein of gaming experiences, Adam posted this about Ico, a game I’ve never had the chance to play. Judging by Adam’s feelings, I’m missing out.

It’s incredibly engaging, refreshing, and liberating to experience gaming/interactive storytelling absent all the clutter that continually screams, “I’m a video game.” Ico instead whispers, “I am another world for you to explore,” gives you a simple, intuitive control scheme, and then allows you to completely forget there’s a controller in your hand.

It’s been a long time since I’ve played a game like that.

To round out the games I haven’t played yet, this review of God of War is the best one I’ve read to date. On a blog. Goodness gracious this looks like a trend to me.

Game Cheats as Political Speech : Kotaku

This is one of the best posts I’ve seen at Kotaku. Ever. Pure awesomeness.

My buddy over at Rightank would get a big kick out of this one.

Update (4/20/05 12:53pm): As pointed out to me by Ed (in the comments), the original source to the list of “cheat codes” is the Riding Sun blog.

Bungie.net : Top Story

Bungie has dropped their latest update regarding Halo 2 and Xbox Live and it is a doosie. If you haven’t read it already, you can read it here: Bungie.net : Top Story

I’ve got mixed feelings about this “patch” business. Up until now, console games have been “what you see is what you get,” and if some glitch happened to make it through QA then thousands of purchasers were stuck with it. Now, with the Xbox Live connected console, games can be patched to fix, among other things, “weapon balance issues.” To me, the troubling quote is

Grenade attacks will be one of the most significant changes for the 1.1 version of Halo 2. In many ways, the new grenade balance is a reflection of the way we really wanted them to be.

If that’s the way they really wanted them then why aren’t they that way? Even though all the gameplay tweaks ands changes seem like steps in the right direction, I’m still troubled by this trend.

Next generation of consoles will surely all be connected to the net and this trend will continue. The question is whether or not gamers will embrace it or reject. The blurring of the line between PC games and console games continues.

That being said, I’m excited about the changes. The enhanced melee attack and improved grenades are welcome additions to my style of play. And the mid-jump melee attack? That’s my specialty, just ask my clan mate, Ted. I caught him with a mid-air, rocket launcher melee attack and BEAT HIM DOWN. Making this common place is okay with me. It is interesting to see the nerf-bat, normally reserved for MMOGs, has been found in Bungie’s offices. Once people start learning how to exploit this round of changes, Halo 2 ver. 1.2 won’t be far behind. This is what troubles me most about these updates. The vicious circle of “re-balancing”.

Video Games and History

Earlier this month, Alice mentioned history revisionism in this post. Like she duly noted, I didn’t know what a trebuchet was until I played Age of Empires II. Heck, when we would LAN party AoE II, we would all pronounce it differently — treh-beh-ket, treckle-buck (not me, a buddy!), others. It wasn’t until I played the campaigns that I learned it’s proper pronunciation. But Age did “educate” me in the finer points of siege weaponry. What? I learned about something in a game? Of course I didn’t do any research on my own, I took Ensemble on their word.

Foton also mentioned this here, with his 14-year old nephew receiving history lessons from Battlefield: Vietnam. In typical Foton fashion, we get this great quote:

I swear, a well-designed shooter could completely revise world history and I’d run around telling people that Marxism could work if only we’d come together, right now, over me.

So in other words, games that have a foundation in history demand extra attention by the developer, and in particular, the history buffs (PhDs, if you will) they hire as experts. (They do it!) It’s important that they realize their interpretation of history will be taken at face value by thousand of gamers who are blissfully unaware that they are actually “learning” something.