Video Games

Strange things are afoot at the CircleK… #FB

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Yesterday’s post made me realize I really need to update this much more often… but I also got an email from DC Entertainment today.

I have already 300+ hours in Borderlands 2… I really need to write something about that, and my Raspberry Pi experience (along with Xbian and OpenELEC), and my 2 Asus Tablets I have had since i wrote last about android tablets, and my opinions on Dredd, and how I don’t buy comics any longer, and my visit to “The Wizarding World of Harry Potter”, especially after I recently read my previous blog post about it.

I just need to write… and stuff.  I haven’t been complaining enough on the internet, though reading my older posts… I really am more 50/50 in my internet writing.  My negative writing is just much more ‘colorful’.

You know what doesn’t suck? Borderlands!

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Everyone that has read just a few entries here knows I play a lot of games (points over to his ‘gamercard’).  Most of the time you can find me logged into EVE Online or Champions Online. Those MMO’s have a tendency of sucking away most of my free time but I do spend quite a bit of time on my Xbox 360.  Recently I have played Batman: Arkham Asylum and Halo 3: ODST.  Both were interesting and well designed but have not held my interest very well.  Halo was great in Co-Op mode and Batman, even though it is very faithful to the Batman mythos and is one of the best DC superhero games ever (that isn’t saying much, though), just did not hold my interest.  Kicking the heads of bad guys in over and over just to get to the next boss battle has become blase.  The Bat-gadgets are neat but they just seem to be more of ‘this’ and extra hit points, nothing to really strive for.

Recently on my Raptr feed (www.raptr.com) I had seen a number of people playing a game called Borderlands.  The only real exposure I had in regards to this game was an e-mail sent from my buddy Damon.  Damon and I worked together years ago and one of the few joys we had at that job was designing items for the Elvis Presley license.  Much of what came from my office was the need for more of the iconic “Taking Care of Business” items ‘The King’ had and wore.  Damon designed a number of items that incorporated the logo, many of which I sill have in my possession.  One of the 4 main playable characters in Borderlands wears a “TCB” belt buckle, so Damon sent me the promotional graphics that showed it.  That piqued my interest because anything that referenced “TCB” was already cool in my book.
The TCB Logo for those that are not in the ‘know’:
Originally I placed the game in my Gamefly queue with the hopes of a speedy arrival (a hope that is hit ‘n miss at best).  During my wait I continued to see people playing it time and time again on my XBL feed and Raptr.  People that I knew I shared the same taste in video games with.  So when I dropped by the store to pick-up a copy of Windows 7 and pre-order Lego Rock Band, I grabbed a copy of Borderlands.
Borderlands has been called a First Person Shooter Role Playing Game and while it has a number of RPG elements (leveling, skill allotment, semi-persistent world, missions/quests, etc.) I prefer the description of “Shoot ‘n Loot”.  Because you are basically running around, shooting stuff and hoping they drop the good stuff.  Though with this description one would think that game play would become tired and bland quickly, but for some reason it becomes addictive and just plain fun.
Why is Borberlands ‘fun’?  I think I can boil it down to three things:
Setting – The planet Pandora is just the right mix of Mad MaxFallout and Firefly.  We have spots of civilization but it’s mostly shanty towns with moderately advanced tech in weapons and commerce.  When walking (and later driving) across vast areas of waste and sheet metal, you can tell that you and your weapon define the law in the area.  9 times out of 10, if it’s moving… you want to shoot it.
Character Class/Skill Tree – Much like another favorite game of mine Diablo (and Diablo II), as you advance in level you have a skill tree to allot points within.  So you may be playing a Hunter, Brick, Soldier or Assassin, but you can tailor that character to your specific play style.  As I continue to play I am noticing that my original class choice, Brick, does not match my play style, which is pointing to Soldier.  I guess a restart/re-roll is in the near future.
OHHH SHINY! – The game is chocked full of really neat stuff that either shoots things or blows them up!  Each time I see a weapon drop from a mob or creature (yeah, birds drop huge rifles and pistols a la The Bard’s Tale) I want to run up and see how and in what way this new toy kills stuff!  One time last Friday, I spent nearly 20 minutes just comparing the different sniper rifles I had and which one to use.  Between reload rate, DPS, magazine size and damage type (some weapons shoot lightening, fire and/or acid) there are over 10,000 weapon combinations!  When you add that to your possible advantages from the skill tree, you will have millions of ways to meet people and kill them.
I have not had this kind of enjoyment in an ‘RPG’ since Fallout 3 and not this much fun since playing Battlefield 2142.  This game is a complete hoot, and I haven’t even tried any of the Co-Op or PvP elements as of yet!  For an excellent mix of the RPG and FPS genres, I cannot recommend Borderlands nearly enough.
This game truly does not suck!
Now I’m just afraid I will not be done in time for Dragon Age: Origins. :)

Why EVE Online needs to get their butt in gear.

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Today’s blog post will probably only interest about 5% of the people that read my diatribes, if that many.  This subject has been eating at me since Dragon*Con.  I have been going to Dragon*Con for the last 4 years.  Between eating at Trader Vic’s, Chicken ‘n Waffles, paying big bucks for autographs and standing in lines, I do actually attend a few panels.  The one I have made sure to attend each year is the EVE Online panel.  For those of you ‘not in the know’, EVE Online (EVE) is a Massively Multi-player Online Role Playing Game (MMORPG or MMO) set within a space faring science fiction (SyFy many may say) backdrop.  EVE’s biggest difference is that all 30,000+ players participate on one server.  Everybody plays in the exact same sandbox.  EVE is run by CCP, which has its US offices in Stone Mountain, GA, a suburb of Atlanta, the same city in which Dragon*Con is held.  Even though they are just 30 minutes from the venue, CCP has had the inability to send anything more than a ‘talking head’ to the panel.  Last year, it was a single story guy that had little to no information.  This year, it was 2 marketing guys and a single story guy.  You would think with some marketing goobers there we would have some pretty pictures or new ‘smoke and mirrors’ promotional videos…. ANYTHING!  Even those losers over at Sony Online (creators of such stinkers as Matrix Online and Star Wars Galaxies) could muster up some videos and graphics, but the CCP locals could only offer talking heads… again.

For those that have not played EVE Online, its number one complaint is the extremely steep learning curve.  This graphic was making its way around the EVE forums about a year ago, but it is almost a perfect example of what people have to deal with when trying to play EVE.
This ‘advantage’ of EVE makes its players a very loyal lot, but it makes adding new players extremely hard.  You cannot just pick-up the game and go out and begin shooting ‘rats’ in an asteroid belt.  EVE itself has very poor documentation and trying to find out information about the game can be very difficult.  This question came up many times in this panel and each time the representatives of CCP sitting behind the table, wearing the CCP corporate shirts, pointed to PLAYER GENERATED CONTENT!  Yes, the company itself cannot support its own game and has now relied on its own customer base to provide support and documentation.  I will repeat, CCP depends solely on unpaid CUSTOMERS to provide the documentation and information to play its own game.  I was completely dumbfounded that corporate representatives would admit (though not directly) that they were so lacking in the most basic of customer support.  As the panel went on, the CCP Reps continued on about how they are the #3 MMO in the world.  I can only assume World of Warcraft is #1 but #2 eludes me.  CCP seems to be fine to rest on its laurels and continue on its road of mediocrity because as poor as they may be, EVE is the only viable space based MMO out there… currently.  CCP really needs to get its act together and quickly.  Their position as the only player in the SciFi genre MMO field is coming to an end with two HUGE powerhouse franchises looming on the horizon.
The first is Cryptic’s Star Trek Online which is expected to launch its closed beta testing (a ‘perk’ in the purchase of Lifetime or 6-month subscriptions to Champions Online) in the next 6 months.  With the recent blockbuster movie in theaters this summer, the re-release of the original series and movies on Blu-ray, the Star Trek franchise is at its greatest height in the last 20 years.  With Cryptic’s success with City of Heroes and Champions Online, coupled with the marketing power of Atari, Star Trek Online will be a force of contention right out of the gate.
The second is Star Wars: The Old Republic (SW:TOR) which according to rumor has already begun its closed beta sign-ups.  This game should not be confused with the epic failure Star Wars Galaxies that started well but entered a tail spin that caused it to crash into the ground nearly 6 years ago.  Where SW:TOR has a leg up is its proven development studio.  BioWare, the creators of Star Wars: Knights of the Old Republic I and II, Balder’s Gate, Jade Empire and Mass Effect, will be taking their RPG creation to the MMO arena.  With only a few story videos and other ‘smoke and mirror’ marketing items, SW:TOR has created such buzz in the MMO community, you would have thought it was the cure to cancer.
Unless EVE makes some MAJOR changes in the way it handles its business and customer support its grand ‘sandbox’ will only have a few trolling cats in the next year.  Its time to get a swift kick in the ass and projects like DUST 514 may help, but have just as much chance of pulling needed resources away from the important projects.  I fear that complacency has infected the CCP team and they will be the dying elephant for 2010.

Popular?!

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Well I am not sure if this is good or bad… but the Champions Online website is down. Even here in backwater Georgia, there were 10 guys ahead of me picking up their copy…

What am I playing? oh and DragonKHAAAAAAAN!!!

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As I prepare myself for my major convention trek of the year, Dragon*Con and the launch of Champions Online… I have been evaluating my ‘gaming’, particularly MMOs. Currently I pay for:

- EVE Online (2 accounts)
- Warhammer Online
- City of Heroes (KMcA plays this more than I do)
- and now Champions Online (I have a lifetime sub)

No, I don’t play WoW… haven’t for nearly 3 years. I have an unused copies of both Burning Crusade CE and Wrath of the Lich King CE. They both given to me by Eric “The Finger” Wampner as hopes that I would return to that grind-fest.

I loved City of Heroes, the problem was, it pigeonholed a player into a specific power set. I had a Martial Artist (Joey Snackpants), but that is all he could do… punch and kick. In Champions Online, I can mix and match power sets, which makes Joey Snackpants (“Joey Snackpants@Snackpants” if you are looking for me in game) gun and kicking his way to beating the “Bad Guys”. I am very impressed… oh and my Lifetime Membership in Champions Online gets me access to the Mirror Universe uniform set in Star Trek Online. Though I am not sure if I will be playing that one. If it is part of the Hackbrams Universe, then count me out!

For those of you going to Dragon*Con, I hope to see you there! We will be partaking of Gladys and Ron’s Chicken and Waffles, Trade Vic’s, Lavapalooza, and a whole mess of other craziness! Zaniness will ensue! Keep up with my twitter (@Joey Snackpants) to see where me and the rest of the Green Mustard goobers will be!

Is it any better now that its a PC Game with ‘good’ graphics?

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Many many many moons ago, when I had a lot more time, and a lot less money… I used to play a table top game. I know that is a complete shock to many of you! This game was Blood Bowl from the minds of Games Workshop. Blood Bowl was basically really really violent (American) Football. I loved playing it over and over again, and in the 90′s there was a PC version ‘released’, and that is about all I would say about it. I think I played it once… maybe twice, and back then it was a chunk of change to drop for a PC Game.

Well this month we will see the return of Blood Bowl to the PC (and to the Xbox and DS later in the fall). Yes, I have pre-ordered the digital download… and all projections look good. But so did all the previews for Episode I and we know how THAT turned out!

Oh, for those that care… I will be playing Chaos. :)

MMO Gaming and me…

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Many of you don’t know this… but I play ALOT of EVE Online… actually not as much as I used to, but with a certain convention over, I should be able to dedicate more time with it. They like to joke that an Eve player as the game open in one screen and a spreadsheet open in another… ACTUALLY… I have the game in one screen, a spreadsheet in another, a Ventrilio Client open in another, and web searches running on another computer connected through Synergy. I am pretty bad about it… but again, I have 3 Carriers and a Jump Freighter… I need to be.

I saw this on my old LiveJournal, and about died… If you get the reference, let me know. :)

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