Haroldo's Gaming Report - 2

As intended, here I am posting another Gaming Report. January was a busy month gaming-wise, so much that I almost didn't post anything on Giant Bomb during this month but I'll give you the highlights now.
 

Os Pés Juntinhos

I've spent a lot of the last few years with very bad internet connection, both bandwidth and latency prevented to play most games online, with a little exception being Final Fantasy XI during late 2009 and early 2010. But since October of last year I moved into a new town and now I have access to broadband. It's only 1mb and latency could be better but it's enough for all games I've tried. A few friends that live on the Western Amazon region and I started playing Alien Swarm and Left 4 Dead 2 relatively frequent and then during the holiday season of the last year I started a group on steam, Os Pés Juntinhos
 
The name is pretty silly and kinda hard to translate (it's something like "close little feet"), the name being a suggestion of my friend Thiago Nosferatu that also bought the L4D2 4-Pack and gifted to other group members, including me. So far I consider the group a moderate success. We tried scheduling events but attendance was really low, but at least, we played together for at least 4 hours a week during the last month.
 

Left 4 Dead 2

If during November/December our main game was Alien Swarm, during January the group almost only played L4D2. I actually knew very little about the game until I got it. I'm kinda sick of zombies, but that game is cool in my book. I specially love how some of the special infected abilities force you to work as a team. You'd think that since I only play with friends that this wouldn't be a necessity, but while I love my gang, they can be assholes sometimes when they're gaming. 
 
Ok, I'm not perfect, I'm very anal and I might not be most skilled in the group, but I take teamwork very seriously. "Leave no man behind" is my motto, but I lost count of how many times I was, forgive the pun, left for dead. Still, it was fun. We finished all Campaigns on  normal mode and played a bit of Survival (which we can't really handle). I think we'll keep playing this occasionally during this month. 
 

In Search of the Golden Co-Op

While L4D2 has been fun, we're starting to consider a new co-op game for this or the next month. We're considering about a dozen games, but so far the most popular in discussions has been Borderlands, which fortunately I already own. My friends are new to Steam, so they don't have a lot of games. That means that they're kind of counting on me to recommend the next game, with is a rather cool responsibility. 
 
So far, besides Borderlands, I "nominated" the just released Magicka, the still unreleased Torchlight II, the original Left 4 Dead, the not so good or old Titan Quest, the probably not so good but cheap The Scourge Project, and finally the derivative but cool Monday Night Combat. The Scourge Project was more of a "I got this with a indie pack and IF you guys like this we can give it a change" and the others are genuine suggestions. But Borderlands is the most popular so far. I actually played about 5 hours with two different classes so I could give them a personal review. Hopefully we'll see the white smoke by the time I write the next Gaming Report. 
 

Dragon Age: Origins

Man, I love this game... but somehow, I didn't manage to play this enough during January. I played 20 hours at best during last month and my characters are all around level 11-12. My Warden is in a relationship with Alistair and so far I haven't even finished the Urn of Sacred Ashes questline. I'm currently at the Fade, doing the long Lost in Dreams quest. I intend to focus most of my gaming time advancing this story during this month.  
 

Magic: the Gathering - Duels of the Planeswalkers

I got hooked on unlocking cards ever since I finished all the Campaings. So far I'm only 20 cards away of completing the whole collection. Then I'm gonna focus on playing it only. And damn, the took time, I have almost 110 hours of gameplay registered according to my steam account. it's my favorite game to play while I listen to the Bombcast for the last 5 months, but as soon I have all the cards unlocked I'll need to choose another game to play.
 
By the way, I wrote my first guide, a step by step walkthrough to the Challenge Mode of the first expansion. I hope it proves useful to someone one day. It was quite fun to write it, and at least I did something at Giant Bomb during a otherwise slow month for me. 
 

Back to College

Yeah, January was fun while it lasted but it's time I got back to college and maybe, who know, finish it for a chance. That means a lot of less time for gaming, but I still can manage the squeeze a little time for my favorite hobby. But I'm very happy I'm finally going back. Last year was very, very messed up. But things are looking up already. The only problem is that now I live a lot far from campus, that means I'll have to wake up at 4:30 am to be in time for my first class. I'm gonna save a lot of old Bombcasts on my iPoor to listen on the buses and hopefully not get mugged in the way.
 
That's all folks. Tune back next month.
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Haroldo's Gaming Report - 1

So, lately I've been thinking of doing a little monthly wrap up of my gaming related activities for a while and I figured the beginning of a new year would be a good time to start. If anything, it can be a nice thing for me to look back and read in a couple of years. So, let's get things moving! 
   

2010 

Last year was probably the busiest gaming year in my entire life. A strange mix of circumstances allowed me to focus a enormous amount of time into my favorite hobby. I played a both impressive and embarrassing number of 80 different games during the last year. Given that I'm counting every episode of a Telltale game as a single game and also anything I've spent more than half an hour on you could certainly reduce that number, but it's the way I chose to keep track on that stuff.  
 
Also, never before I've bought so many games. Truth be told, it was more of the collector than the gamer in me and bought most of those games, but during a long period in my life I've neglected video games and I feel I have a lot of catching up to do. I haven't still tried to count everything I bought but I think the figure easily surpasses a hundred. Granted, most of those were in sale, used or had already been release for some time and had their prices greatly reduced. 
 

Giant Bomb

 I've been thinking a lot of being more active here. Specially the wiki. The reason I've been sending so few submissions lately is most because I'm not a native English speaker so I'm a little self-conscious of my writing. I mean, I think it's good enough for the forums but I definitely don't express myself as good in English as I do in Portuguese. But I might give it a shot more often. Hell, if I write something odd and least someone will only have to fix that instead of writing the whole entry. I've been planing on writing little reviews for some of the most obscure or old games I play but my priority now is the wiki and the blog.  
 

I, Gamer 

I've began writing this series of blog posts some time ago but haven't posted one in a while. It's kind of the same problem I have with the wiki: I know It would be at least twice as good if I was writing that in my language. But still, I think that was a nice idea and I'm thinking of completing that during the year.  
 

PC Gaming

 I've played games occasionally on the PC since 1995 or 1996. But i wasn't until last year that I became my main platform. I think it's culminating now with my recent slightly conditional acceptance of DRM and Digital Distribution that I began choosing to buy and play games on the PC instead of a console ot portable when I had the chance. A few weeks ago I bought Dragon Age: Origins - Ultimate Edition and it has blown my mind. I'm still at the beginning but I feel It will join Silent Hill and The Longest Journey as my favorite games of all time. And damn, I now feel so comfortable playing that and so many games on the PC that I wouldn't want to play DA:O on a console, even if it had the top-down perspective. I'm already considering doing a minor upgrade one of my computers and buying a gaming laptop later this year. 
 

Tl;DR 

That's it. Hopefully I'l post of those in the first Sunday of every month. But better, if I'm able.
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My Steam Sale Guide for Beginners

This is for all of you who are just starting to use steam and are completely overwhelmed by their magnificent holiday sale. If you either short on money or just want to buy for lowest price possible I guess I can help you a little. Take a deep breath and read these few advices: 
 
Daily Deals 
That's the filet mignon of any steam sale. This is how it works: most titles will have a discount for the whole sale (let's say 50%) but in a couple of days it might show up as a daily deal much cheaper (let's say 80%). So, check steam everyday during the holiday sale. If you missed out on a daily deal don't lose heart because it's possible they show up again later, specially the last day of the sale. They did this before, they might just do it again. 
 
There's no Hurry 
Resist the temptation of buying everything as soon as you see. Even if it looks terribly cheap now, It might be cheaper or part of a bundle later on a daily deal. There is always the last day of the sale, save it for everything it wasn't a daily deal.  
 
Keep a Wishlist 
It will help you keep control of all those deals you've saved for the last day. Also, a friend might just gift you something. 
 
Browse THE WHOLE STORE 
Some of the best deals will be on the main page but if you really want to go through this with no regrets: browse the entire store. Save 30 minutes and just do it. Open the steam store on your favorite browser (don't use the client browser for that) and hit the magnifying glass icon on the search field and then choose the filters you like. The way I do this is listing them by lower to higher price. right click on the games and open them on separate tabs. If you have any interest in it, then add it to your wishlist. Avoid the genre filter, some games will be listed under multiple genres and is gonna take more time to check them all. 
 
I hope those tips help some of you.

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Not really an update...

Just letting whoever might be interested that I'm still alive and I plan on being more active on the site in the near future. But right now things are too hectic and I'm just updating my lists of games so I don't lose track. So, like the terminator: I'll be back.

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I, Gamer pt 4: (Console) War is Hell

1993. Dad and I just came back from the video rental place, but unfortunately we came back empty-handed. They were all sold out, and we had to wait a few weeks until the new shipment came. We ordered a SNES with no game and a extra third party controller with auto-fire. In the mean time I told Eric and a couple of neighborhood kids about it and their reactions ranged from "Oh my god, you got a Super Nintendo?!" excitement to "Lame. Everyone knows the Mega Drive is better!" fanboyish dismissals. Eric was the president of the Sega Fanboy Party and wouldn't leave me alone with his speeches of "How stupid are you to buy Nintendo?" or "We could trade games and stuff if you had bought a Mega Drive".

 The first game I've ever finished!
He had a point with the last one, though. The thing is that I no longer trusted the guy after all that happened during the last year, and the SNES felt like a better console to me.
 
So, a Friday night a couple of weeks later, dad took me to the rental store to pick up the console and rent a game for me to spend the week. He said that this time he wouldn't buy that bunch of games and peripherals that ended up forgotten a few weeks latter, like he did with the master system. So instead, we would rent games this time around. He let me choose one game to spend the weekend. I wanted Street Fighter II but all copies were already rented, just like every high profile game on the place. So I chose this cavemen thingy, Joe & Mac instead. Like I said earlier, I had never finished a game so far. And Joe & Mac was the game that broke that shameful record. I played that game nonstop since I was supposed to return it Monday at noon. I recon I clocked over 30 hour between friday night and monday morning when I finally killed my White Whale. It felt exhilarating. From now on I was playing to win.
 
It was around this time that I started to buy  video games magazines for reviews, guides and cheats.
 "All multiplat games are better on Sega. FACT!"
The most popular at the time was called Ação Games. About 80% of their coverage focused on Mega Drive and Super Nintendo games, with the rest being a misc of PC (which were still fairly uncommon in the country), Arcade and other consoles. The magazine was ok, but had a tendency to be biased towards the Sega systems. I mean, 70% of the ads in the magazine were Tec Toy's, the company that managed and distributed Sega consoles and games here. And that fucking fueled the console war in my neighborhood at least. I hated the whole thing at first, I never liked giving people a hard time it. But fuck that, assholes were badmouthing my console! FINAL FIGHT WAS BETTER THAN STREETS OF RAAAAAGE!!!11! ARRRGH, SO ANGRY!!1!
 
By the time it was 94 the SNES had been officially released on the country and the thing started selling like hot cakes. I think Nintendo won the Console War here on that generation. I won't kid you, it felt great to be on the winning side.
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I, Gamer pt 3: How spite got me a SNES

So, 1992. I was perfectly happy with my Master System and life was beautiful. Well, life was horrible, I was constantly bullied at school and the neighborhood. But at home? Everything was awesome. I even had a best friend, Eric. The guy was alright. He was kind of the Bart Simpson to my Milhouse.

 I love this episode by the way.
We were always playing together over at each other's house. He still had an Atari 2600 he never used, so anytime we felt like playing video games, we always did it in my place. That is, until he went on a trip to Rio to spend some time with his dad who worked there and came back with a Sega Mega Drive, a.k.a. Genesis, a buttload of games. Sonic the Hedgehog, Golden Axe, Decap Attack, Altered Beast, ToeJam & Earl, Quackshot, Castle of Illusion and a handful of  forgettable games. He came to my place and talked for hours about those games but at first he didn't ask me over to actually play them. Motherfucker. Anyway, he left and for weeks we barely met. When we did met, he would talk on and on about what he had been playing how his games were so much better than mine. His Quackshot made my Lucky Dime Casper feel completely obsolete. I was a big Donald Duck fan at the time so that bummed me. Motherfucker. Not only that but I felt like I was losing a friend as he started to spend time with the "cooler kids" and ditched his geekier pal, me. And [insert favorite deity name here] knew I couldn't spare one at this time. I think his mother felt bad for me or my parents called her, anyway, they arranged for us to spend an afternoon together and that day I finally got a glimpse of the Mega Drive.
 
OMG! That shit was amazing! I mean, look that controller. I looked like something Batman carried on his utility belt and would use to beat a felon senseless. The D-pad looked and felt better than the one on the MS Controller. And forget about the d-pad. The thing had 3 buttons. THREE BUTTONS!! And START was a separate button. Think of the POSSIBILITIES! And then he took the controller from my hand. "Where's the other?", I asked. "There's only one.", he replied.
 I mean, look at this thing!
"What kind of JACKASS buys a console, more than 10 games and no extra controller?", I thought. I swallowed the frustration and then he proceeded me to show some of his games. Boy, Quackshot was awesome. Donald Duck was so Indiana Jones and we had a plunger shooting gun. And so were most of his games, but what I really loved was Sonic: the Hedgehog. I'll be honest, until Donkey Kong Country was released, Sonic: the Hedgehog and its sequels were the most beautiful games I've seen. It was his favorite too, and I think he was so glad that I agreed, he even let me play a bit. We kind of became close again after that day. He was a nice friend most of the time, though some times he would revert to his new douche persona. 
 
Someday I noticed that the controller ports on the Mega Driver and Master System were identical and convinced him to let me try to plug in my controller on his console (no double entendre intended). He was afraid it could damage the port but when ended up doing it anyway AND IT WORKED! Woot! Even he was happy that we could finally play co-op Golden Axe or Sonic 2. Off course I couldn't use magic in Golden Axe, because my controller didn't have a third button, but still, I could beat the crap out of the animated skeletons and evil amazons. 
 
Things were good, but not as good as before. My console now sucked, that bunch of peripherals now seemed (even more) pointless, and it was hard to appreciate my old games now that I got a taste of something much better.
 Gray and purple box of awesomeness.
When I saw Sonic: the Hedgehog for the Master System on a store I felt the last moment of excitement with my old console, but soon I noticed it wasn't a port, but it was rather a new and boring game and suddenly that feeling was gone. Eric and I were back to playing together but he no longer treated me as an (almost) equal like before, rather like that 2 year younger small town cousin. "You suck, you can't make this jump. give me the controller." To be fair, Eric probably perceived the whole situation differently from me, and I don't know who is right (if anyone was), but this is the story as I remember. Anyway, fuck reason, THIS IS INTERNETS! 
 
One day while we were having lunch my parents noticed I was upset and they asked what was going on. I told them all about it, how thing were going with Eric and everything. Dad asked if there was a console newer/better than the Mega Driver. I said "Well, there's this Super Nintendo or something like that, but I hear it's very expensive and there's pretty much one place in the city that has it". He response was something along the lines of  "Get me the car keys, I'm gonna buy something you can shove it up the little prick's ass". Oh my father, always the classy dude. But hey, he bought me stuff. I'm not 100% sure of this, but I guess the reason the SNES was more expensive than the Mega Drive is that he wasn't officially released here yet, so all he had were imports. 
 
I only knew about the SNES a few weeks before that. A video rental store, called by the ridiculously explicit name "Games & Videos" made a Saturday morning infomercial on the local channel about they not only had VHS videos but also the best video games library and town. I don't know if that was common on the developed world, but here on the third video game rental places doubled as arcades where you had several consoles and people paid for the hours spent.
 Now jump, son of a bitch! How do I even jump on this game?! So many button. Oooh, I have to press Up.
They were very popular in the last two decades but started to decline since the rise of LAN Houses and Cyber Cafes. So, on this infomercial they a lot of people playing on the SNES and Street Fighter II was the biggest hit there. I told Dad about this place and we went there. He got one of the clerks to hand me the most popular games and said that If I liked it he would buy a brand new from them. The guy was probably more excited than me, and soon came with a pile of games which gave me a little idea of how expensive that console was. Man, was I spoiled? *rhetorical
 
Anyway. Remember how I felt when I hold the Mega Driver controller. Yeah, fuck that, this shit had 6 buttons! SIX BUTTONS! And separate START and SELECT buttons. Also, it felt incredible on my little girlie hands. I tried only three games, SF II, Super Mario World and F-Zero and finally reached a verdict: the SNES ruled, my existence would only feel validated when I was pressing those purple buttons.
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I, Gamer pt 2: Master System and a bunch of Peripherals

So, picking up where I left off: Early 90's. My golden decade. Anyway, some beautiful day my parents came back from the electronics store and brought me something new. A brand new Sega Master System II. The Brazilian Master System II was pretty much the same as the original version, but it came with a new embedded game: Alex Kidd in the Miracle World. I remember opening the box and feeling astonished with the cool futuristic design. Compared to the vintage looking Atari 2600, the Master System angular shape and black and red coloring looked like something out of sci-fi film. Hey, I was 7 and easily impressed! But what really blew my mind was the D-pad. I've never seen one before and the how concept of using my left thumb to move instead of the whole right hand was really interesting. Suddenly I didn't suck (so much) at games. I've got mad skillz with the left thumb.
 
It was around then when I began to love video games. Soon I had a of dozen of games, including some really memorable like California Games, Michael Jackson's Moonwalker and that horrible Ghostbusters game. Horrible but I loved it when I was little. Every time I went the electronics store with dad, I came back with one or two games or a new peripheral. Dad always love those gimmicks and kept buying them. I had the Light Phaser (which I only used to play Rambo III), the 3D Scope (which only used with 2 or 3 games, the only which I recall was Maze Hunter 3D). I even had the arcade controller, which was pretty stupid for me to have, as I never used and the d-pad is just what made me love the Master System in the first place. 

 Oooh, Louie Louie's riff
  You may find strange to read this but, during this time I've never heard of Nintendo. All my friends had Master Systems or Atari. A local company, Tec Toy, managed the Sega systems in the country, and they did a good job promoting them. So sorry, no fond memories of Super Mario Bros or Mega Man. I played a lot of Alex Kidd, 
The Lucky Dime Caper starring Donald Duck and California Games. And a bunch of sports games but I don't remember their names. It's noteworthy that even though I liked the MS controller a lot, I still SUCKED DICKS at video games. I never, ever finished a Master System game until I was older and played at a cousin's old system. I played them for the journey, not the destination. I remember reaching finishing that blue castle level but never got further than that. In my defense, my time with the Master System was relatively short. I don't know exactly how many months, something between 10 and 17. And then I got a new console but again, I continue the story on another post.
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I, Gamer pt 1: My first gaming system

The year was 1987... no no, it was 1989. Wait, It was definitely 88! I mean forget it. I don't quite recall how old was I, except that was about 5 and counting the passage of time did not matter so much then. At least not as much as expanding my Lego city. But I digress.
 
When I was five-ish year old, some time in the late eighties, my family when out on a trip to Manaus, which is the biggest city in the Western Amazon region. Oh yeah, I neglected to mention I live in northern Brazil. Anyway, during this trip we did a lot of shopping and my favorite among  what we got was my first video game system: the Atari 2600.

 Oh, good times. Kinda.
I think it was an Atari 2600 at least, I don't remember exactly which model was it. We just called it Atari. It's not like my parents were geeks or something and I was barely old enough to realize Santa wasn't real (though I never bought the whole Easter Bunny thing). I mean, 2600, 5400, etc. Those sound like something you add to the name of a crappy product you're planning to sell on a infomercial. "Buy now your AB-surd 7200 exercise station and get in shape TODAY!"  
 
So as I was saying, my parents got me an Atari 2600(?) and a few games. I remember Enduro, Pac-Man and Space Invaders among them. Enduro was definitely my favorite as it was probably the most simple to handle with the crappy controller and my yet underdeveloped hand-eye coordination. Turn left, turn right, try not to crash into one of the other cars for Pete's sake. I could do that. Pac-man was my second best game. I suck at it, but who cared. I was so young at the time that dying after 10 seconds of gameplay still seemed fun. I mean, "wow, did you see that? 8 full seconds. I could win a rodeo with these skillz."
 
I don't know much about the other games I had because at the time my parents were always arranging play dates for me, and we always borrowed and lent games from other kids. And we were always playing together anyway. Which were mine, which where theirs, I don't know. I remember those two brothers I used to play with that had Frogger and Pitfall!, among a hundred other games.  But I only cared about those two. I never finished a level of frogger but I still liked a lot.
  "The victory cry of the bull ape!"
Pitfall! was even greater, the first platformer I remember playing it. I actually called it "Tarzan", because of the vines and alligators. We rarely referred to games by their proper name at the time. Foreign language, little illiterate kids... do the math. I wish I could say we made some cool names for all those games, but even if those translated well to English (and they don't), most of them were silly like "Airshippy", "Balls", "Race".
 
The best part of playing over my friend's houses was that games ran in color. I think my console was a PAL European import because my games were always in black in white in my TV. I did not matter for most games, but as far as graphics went back then the number of colors was the impressive figure, as frame-rate and resolution are today. To this day whenever someone mentions a Atari 2600 game, I always picture a monochromatic screen. I only learned in high school that the motion pattern of the ghosts in Pac-Man was dictated by the ghost's color. Well, I guess I would never noticed that playing the flickering Atari port, but still.
 
I don't remember exactly how many years I spent with that Atari console. I guess two or three. At the time I had a console but didn't really care so much about games. They were cool but I had a bunch of cool toys and I loved TV. So my gaming memories from that time aren't very clear and well... memorable. I only know that some time between 1990 and 1991, my parents got me another console. But that's the subject of my next blog post.
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