Cloudy With a Chance of Gaming -- 4/3/2011


I'm late, for a very important date!

Blah! Kind of a busy weekend, which explains the tardiness of this blog. I usually try to get them up late Saturday night, which is actually Sunday morning, so that usually works out perfectly. My uncle is in town form across the country though. Plans were made, things happened, and here I am. I was at one of Oregon’s many cold beaches earlier today. That was exciting if only because I ate a lot of great food. I had fish at a seafood place called Mo’s, and then had pizza just a few hours later after some shopping and art browsing had been done. Speaking of the art browsing, I was told that I could sit in these really nice looking rocking chairs. I almost did until the store owner told us that the chairs were like $5,000 a pop. IT’S A WOODEN CHAIR! Needless to say, I didn’t dare sit in it. I didn’t want to risk breaking it in any way and having to buy it. That price is just crazy for a single chair. So anyway, that all was fun. I took some pictures of the sad overcast weather with my relatively poor camera phone. I swear it wasn't as dark and dreary as the pictures make it seem. Take a gander if you’d like:


 I’m wise enough to know that most of you don’t care about anything you just read, so I’ll get on to the games. I’ve had a metric ton of games that need plowing through. From Jade Empire, to Back To The Future: The Game, to Brutal Legend, to Dragon Age: Origins. Oh yeah, and Beyond Good and Evil HD. All of them are calling to me; however, I never committed to one in particular. Instead, I played a bit of each and then sprinkled some Rock Band 3 and NBA 2K11 in there for good measure. RB3 and 2K11 are definitely my “go-to” games in almost any situation. Even when I have a stack of new stuff to play, I constantly find myself crawling back into a heated match of 2k11, or jumping on drums to jam a bit in Rock Band. I can’t help it; I just love those franchises too damn much. For that reason, instead of talking about the sprinkling of newer games that I’ve played recently, I’ll take some time to tell you about the ole faithfuls. Read on, reader, and experience my feelings on the games that I play perpetually.

The community is still a threat!

As you may or may not know, the Giant Bomb community has been trying to start up a Rock Band night. Fellow user (and gentlemen and scholar) swoxx got the ball rolling last Friday before the Happy Hour show. We still don’t have a final schedule or anything, but four of us were able to get together and play a few four song sets until the Happy Hour started. It was good stuff. We had swoxx and Lifes_Avenger on guitar and bass, sofacitysweetheart on vox, and myself on drums. Sorry to pepsimax who wasn’t able to join due to our party’s... fullness. When you put ellipses before a word like fullness, it almost makes it sound dirty. Sorry to Melcene as well. We’ll have to do this at a later time to fit schedules in better. I hope more people join in in the future. We’d of course need to split into two separate bands, but that seems fine. Too bad there isn’t some kind of head to head band mode that eight people could all participate in at once. I think one of the Guitar Hero games may have had something like that. Oh well. Rock Band’s a great game.

I’ve been playing Rock Band for a long time now. It’s been four years since this all started; longer if you want to go back to the old Guitar Hero days. Four years for Rock Band, though. It seems like just a year ago that I first laid eyes on that funky drum controller. Rhythm deficient and lacking any kind of limb independence, I stepped into a brave new world of video gaming. Of course we’ve all witnessed the boom and bust that is the rhythm game genre’s life trend over the past four years. If it’s still possible to get the community together to play together though, then I‘d say the genre is far from dead. From what I can tell, it’s simply dying off in the mainstream market. That’s natural. Sadly it also affects the revenue of good companies like Harmonix and forces them to maybe tone down their business model due to the decrease in overall popularity. But my point is that it’s not like people are strait-up done with Rock Band now. The only people that are, were never true fans of the genre in the first place. Yeah, that’s right, I said it. Maybe that’s not completely true; maybe some people were legit fans that just grew tired of it. Hard to say for sure, but all that really matters is that there are still plenty of fans like myself that want to continue playing these games despite the fact that it’s simply not as “hip” to do so anymore. I think that’s awesome. Keep on keepin’ on, fellow Rock Banders! 

Boom shakalaka!

Basketball games, man. I just keep playing ‘em. I suppose it’s somewhat similar to my love of Rock Band. I can’t put my finger on exactly why I love simulating basketball matches so much, but I do. It’s such a simple concept. Unlike something like Mario, a simulation basketball title requires very little gameplay creativity. The game is the game. There are no levels to design, there are no characters to create, and all rules are already established. Though, there is a lot of creativity on the technical end in order to get everything feeling right; I’m definitely not denying that. It’s just funny to me that year after year I can continue to do the exact same things and never get tired of it. Sports games are basically the most repetitive games in the world on the surface. It’s when you dig into the specifics that you start to uncover what makes these games so great. And really, the specifics are the foundations of basketball itself. Simply the rules of the game make the sport worth watching and the video games worth playing. The same could be said about simulation racing games, or any other simulation game. Of course this is all fairly obvious, but the concept of a simulation video game is just kind of strange to think about. In a medium that offers unlimited possibilities, some choose to strive to match reality. 2K does a great job putting the product of basketball into anyone’s hands to manipulate how they will.

I’ve played a lot of basketball games over the years, and nothing has been more right than the NBA 2K series. I was a die-hard fan of Live for the longest time. NBA Live 2005--featuring Carmelo Anthony on the cover--was the last iteration of Live that I put any amount of serious time into. That was the year that I converted to NBA 2K5 and never looked back. As some may remember, 2K5 sold for the bargain price of $20, brand new. Despite this, the developers brought players an experience that was deeper, and truer to the real NBA than Live ever was. While Live felt floaty, 2K5 felt heavier. While Live felt fast, 2K5 slowed it down to realistic levels. They just seemed to get everything exactly right and it made for a much better game of hoops. Fast forward to current day and not much has changed. Well, OK, Live actually doesn’t exist anymore, but of course that’s because EA decided to rebrand the game to NBA Elite. I think even non-basketball fans have heard about what a disaster that game turned out to be. It didn’t even ship, and on the year of their rebranding no less. Anyway, my point is that 2K has been the king of hoops for a good seven years at least.

What 2K does to make me want to play it is simple: They design the game in a way that allows me to easily execute what I want, and maybe equally importantly, they make it look as natural as any sports game on the market. I think the reason I love sim basketball games, and 2K in particular, is because these games allow me to feel like I’m doing things that can be done in real life. That shouldn’t come as much of a surprise; that’s the goal of sim games. 2K just pulls it off extrordinarily well using a shit load of unique player specific animations as well as a physics engine and atmosphere that all feel dynamic, exciting, and most importantly, realistic.

The whole point of this was to explain why I play simulation basketball games in the first place, and 2K specifically. My being extremely tired probably doesn’t help me to explain things very clearly, but I did my best. I think more people should give NBA 2K11 a shot. It’s been called the greatest sports game ever created for good reason; it’s a lot of fun. No matter what new game plops into my lap over a years time, I'll always return to good ole NBA 2K for a game of hoops. Next year I'll buy 2K12 and the process will begin all over again. I just can't help myself.

Forza 4 Trailer Leak [source]

I don’t know about you guys, but I freaking love the Forza series. I grew up on GT and a bit of GT2 as well, but I’ve shifted my focus over to Turn 10’s corner recently. I like their style, and I’m really liking what this rumored to be leaked trailer shows us. Microsoft’s official comment was that this trailer was not meant to be released. Despite it being leaked on April Fools Day, it seems legit. Click on that source link and go watch the trailer now. It's really good.

There are so many amazing things in that trailer. The most forgettable of features is the Kinect enabled steering. On the flip side of that though, the out-of-race car navigation using Kinect looks slick. Then there’s the “Hollywood style effects” that I think is a fantastic addition. If there was a problem with Forza it was just that the racing felt bland after doing it for long periods of time. I hope these effects will lead to an increased sense of speed and danger. There aren’t many games that I’m more excited for this year. Looking forward to some official confirmation and more announcements!
 

Metacritic Pulls A 180 [source]

As was featured on last week’s blog, Metacritic had planned to start rating individual developers based on their collective work’s scores. Well, they’ve come to their senses. The idea was scrapped after admitting that “the information is incomplete and can't be trusted.” This is good news. What would this industry be turning into if scores were placed on individuals? It’s bad enough that games get that treatment, although I can at least see the upside for doing it with games. I guess all I can really say is: Oh Metacritic, you so crazy.
 

Kinect’s Evolution [source]

As a Kinect owner myself, a sign of advancement in the technology this dramatic is exciting. Without modification to any of the Kinect’s current hardware, students have been able to reduce Kinect’s input lag to an amazing 2 milliseconds.

”The team's research does not build on Kinect's existing technology; rather, it strips it away at the base level and replaces it with a new way of "thinking". Rather than using a recognition system built on tracking limbs, the researchers built one that could identify body parts in an image, pixel-by-pixel.”

I recommend visiting the article and watching the trailer. If this is ever implemented into Kinect, it could be huge. It could make all the difference. Exciting! 

Later, gators

What else did I do this past week? Ah, I watched The Graduate on Netflix and wrote a blog about it on screened. It was a stream of consciousness type of blog that I wrote at like 3 AM though, so maybe lower any expectations. I loved that movie though. I’d been wanting to watch it for the longest time, and I’m glad that I did. Kinda makes me wonder what other great old films are out there waiting to be discovered. If you have any recommendations, I’m willing to listen. I’ll try to play more than sprinkles of my newer games before next Sunday. Come back then and see what’s up. You know, if you’re into that sort of thing. Final note: The Blazers just beat the Mavericks to move into the one game range of clinching a playoff spot. Either Houston loses one game, or we win one more, and the Blazers are officially into the Playoffs! That'll happen sooner or later, but now the big question is what the first round playoff match-up will be. It could very well end up being the Mavericks who we just beat, so that would be nice. Go Blazers!
 
(Blast! This is going up at 12:07! I really am late now!) 

Love from Rip City,
--JJWeatherman    
9 Comments

Cloudy With a Chance of Gaming -- 3/27/2011


Today is the day that comes afterwards

Hello again! The weekly blog is back yet again. It’s as unstoppable as Jeff’s NDX podcast. OK, maybe not quite that unstoppable. What have I done this week other than watch extremely exciting basketball games? Well, I’ve received a couple games in the mail. These games were none other than Jade Empire (Limited Edition!) and Brutal Legend. Brutal Legend was a prize from a contest run by Origina1Penguin. The other winners are posted here if you want to check that out. Beating Alan Wake happened too. Oh yeah, I also made my own ceiling cat (!). More on that later. Let’s do this thang! (Watch out! There may be spoilers!)

Alan, wake up!

I beat Alan Wake last week! Hooray! That game’s a trip. I’ve said in the past that it’s my front-runner for 2011’s 2010 GOTY, and I think that’s still the case. I loved the characters, I loved the crazy and mysterious story, and I thought the gameplay held up right to the end.

I thought there was enough variation in the combat to generally stay interesting. When possessed trains weren’t flying at my face, I was being stalked by shadowy nemeses. Sometimes I even got to run a few down in a car. Not to mention the giant storm of darkness that chases Alan at certain points. That’s some scary shit. There’s a few sections where debris is flying everywhere and nearly impaling Alan with every step. It reminded me of Final Destination... or Twister. Those moments--along with so many others--always made me stop for a second and realize how great this game is.

An good barometer for determining how good a game is, is simply counting the times that the game puts a big smile on your face. I don’t have an exact number, but it happened a lot in Alan Wake. So many great situations. The rock stage section for example. Also, pretty much anything with Barry. That guy cracks me up. Every time I looked at him all wrapped in Christmas lights... man, priceless. This game just does so much right, at least when it comes to what I want. It feels like Deadly Premonition if that game somehow got everything right. My only complaint is that I wish the game was longer.

Of course it didn’t help that it ended on the biggest cliff-hanger I think I’ve ever seen. It almost feels like a rip-off. With the way that it ended, Remedy obviously wants you to buy and play the DLC packs. From what I’ve read, the DLCs are direct continuations, as in, it picks right back up exactly where the main game leaves off. I feel a bit jipped, but at the same time I really want to play those DLC packs now. They’re $6 a pop though. Seems like a bit much. I was thinking of waiting for some kind of sale, but those do seem few and far between on XBL.

I want to know what happens with Thomas Zane though! I don’t think I’m going to even try going into my understanding of the story. It’s pretty freakin’ complicated. I was actually reading some site about the game though and it speculated that Thomas Zane actually created Alan Wake for the sole purpose of defeating the darkness so many years later. Alan only exists to fight the darkness. He’s like Neo. Anyway, this game’s crazy. I’ll probably understand everything a lot better after playing the two DLC packs. I’ll get on that. Amazing game.

Brutally awesome... or something

I guess I’m in no real position to judge as of now, but I like Brutal Legend; I like it a lot. I like the metal vibe despite me not being a “metalhead”. I like Jack Black’s representation of Eddie Riggs. I like the idea that you’re starting a revolution in order to combat the evil Doviculus and General Lionwhyte (great characters). I like the giant open world that you’re able to explore. This game has a lot going for it. It even has Ozzy for christ’s sake (All aboard!)! Of course I have heard some things about this game. I’ve heard that it basically turns into an RTS towards the end. Of course I’m not quite to that part yet, but my general thought has been: “How bad can it be?” I’m looking forward to getting my RTS on, if only to see what all the hate was about. I suppose I’ll talk more about that aspect another time though.

I think I remember the guys on the Bombcast saying that the back-half of Brutal Legend felt like a tutorial for the multiplayer mode. Well, if that’s the case I’m sad, because that multiplayer mode is empty. As empty as Rise of Nightmare’s wiki page (more on that game later). But man, I sat there searching for a match for probably 10 minutes. Nothing. Maybe it was a tad too late in the evening, but even if so. Those multiplayer achievements are just not destined to be tied to my gamertag it seems.

As I said, I’m not too far in, so I really can’t say a lot more here other than I’m excited to keep playing. Hopefully that excitement persists all of the way through to the end. 

This is the first time I’ve included a news section, so who knows how this will go; hopefully well. I have an app on my phone that gives me a list of the “top stories” in the video game world, so that’s my source for these pieces of news. I’ve found that most of the stories come from Kotaku, so I guess you should know that. The plan is to layout a few headlines and write just a bit about each. I don’t plan on going into too much detail on any one topic; however, I may get carried away from time to time. Onwards and upwards! 
 

The funniest delay in the history of gaming [source]

Everyone should know about this by now. Yes, the game that’s infamous for being delayed well over a decade has yet again been delayed, after seemingly finally having a set date for release. If you haven’t by chance seen the delay announcement video, do check that out.

So how do I feel about this? Well, I think it’s funny as hell. There are some rumors going around that this was all planned from the announcement of the previous release date. I don’t necessarily think that’s the case, but I guess it’s possible. Games get pushed back a month or two all of the time though. If this game didn’t have the history it does, nobody would think twice about this announcement, obviously. I think it’s great though. It preserves the legacy that we’ve all been witness to for so many goddamned years. The longest running joke in the industry is about to end. I’m glad we at least got this final “hurrah”, so to speak. I love Randy Pitchford.  =P 
 

Blood meets Kinect... meets ESRB [source]

Ever since the Kinect launch, there definitely seems to be a lull in releases. Not just exciting releases either, but releases of pretty much any kind. For this reason, I was happy to stumble across this story about a new Kinect horror game called Rise of Nightmares. It was apparently announced last TGS, but I’d never heard about it.

It’s a first-person game, seemingly in the vain of something like the Condemned series. You get to kill fools with brass knuckles, hatchets, chainsaws, etc. Sounds pretty alright to me! The best part about this article though is the ESRB description. Go ahead and read over this:

This is a horror-adventure game in which players assume the role of an American tourist who must rescue his wife from a deranged scientist. From a first-person perspective, players use brass knuckles, knives, hatchets, and chainsaws to kill zombie-like creatures and disfigured monsters inside a mansion environment. Combat is highlighted by exaggerated sprays of blood, and damage often results in dismemberment or decapitation-stray body parts sometimes litter the ground. Some sequences and cutscenes depict more intense acts of violence: a man screams loudly as spikes impale his body; a restrained character’s hand is chopped off before he is killed; a character (cut in half) crawls away in a pool of blood; a soldier is ripped apart by a monster, causing blood to stain the screen. During the course of the game, some female creatures are depicted in revealing outfits (e.g., ‘pasties’ that partially cover their breasts); in one sequence, a woman sits on the central character’s chest and engages in suggestive dialogue (e.g., ‘Oh, how I’ve thought of this-night after night. How I’ve missed these lips.’). Dialogue also includes phrases such as ‘Best sex of my life.’/'Worst sex of my life,’ ‘f**k,’ and ‘sh*t.’


If the prospects of copious blood and someone describing their sex-life to you don’t get your gamer-engine revving, then what will?! Seems like a neat game. I’ll be keeping tabs on it. 
 

Metacritic just got real [source]

Oh, hey! You guys will love this one (I feel like Conan O’Brien)! Anyway, this article--written by the infamous Leigh Alexander--is an interesting one. Metacritic is going to start scoring individual game developers based on the scores of their collective work. Was it not to be expected at some point?

I think that we as gamers can all agree that Metacritic scores are, overall, an evil part of the industry. Aggregate scores from places like Metacritic often directly influence the success of a studio. It’s kind of bananas, but that’s the way it is. Taking this system and scoring the people that make games instead of the games themselves is just crazy though. From what I can gather they’ve been keeping tabs on entire studios’ overall scores for a while now, but it’s going to branch out to individuals now as well.

The main issue is that most developers’ overall body of work is not accurately represented on Metacritic. They are being asked to contact the proper sources in order to correct their resumes. Seems sloppy. I don’t like this; not one bit. I just hope that these numbers don’t become the basis for determining anything important. Like salary. Oh man, that’s totally gonna happen, isn’t it? *sigh* 

I hope you had fun, fun, fun!

If you’re still wondering about my ceiling cat, then no worries, I shall shed some light. So the rich and famous Gamer_152 tweeted about a ceiling cat papercraft project. Upon seeing it, I knew what I had to do. I printed the pattern out, gathered the materials, and eventually cut and pasted my way to a magical papercraft. Here’s how it turned out: 


I’m finding myself looking up every now and then thinking the dark region on the ceiling is a spider or something, but that’s clearly a small price to pay (Man, I’m so paranoid of spiders). I listened to The Beatles as I constructed the cat. I have no idea why I felt like you guys needed to know that.

Time to wrap up the blog for reals. Thanks for reading, or skimming as the case may be. I’ll be back next week with yet another of these cheesily-titled blogs. Pssst: I’ll probably get around to playing Jade Empire by then. I’m out.

Love from Rip City,
--JJWeatherman    
13 Comments

BATUUUUM! (Blazers beat the Spurs!)

Yesterday, I witnessed one of the best basketball games in recent memory. The Portland Trail Blazers took on the San Antonio Spurs (best record in the NBA) at home and pulled out the win in miraculous fashion. It was a battle throughout, but some key plays that all took place during the last 40 seconds of the game helped Portland take the win. I have to share this; It’s too good.

The first huge play came at the hands of Portland’s point guard, Andre Miller. After a missed three-pointer, he makes an incredible steal to keep the Blazers in the game. Had he not made this steal, San Antonio’s Tony Parker would have likely run the clock down to about 20 seconds and the game would have been all but out of reach. Here’s that steal:
  

  
Following the steal, the Spurs take a time-out and advance the ball to near half-court. They throw the ball in to their star, Manu Ginobili. He sets up to take a final shot to seal the game, but he overdribbles the ball and Portland’s guard, Wesley Matthews, comes up with a huuuge steal and takes off to tie the game. He ends up missing an attempt, but luckily for the Blazers, Nicolas Batum rebounds the ball and puts it back up to get fouled with 0.9 seconds on the clock. He makes the foul shots and the game is tied! I couldn’t believe this was happening at this point. Here’s all of that:
  
    
San Antonio now has the ball at half-court again after calling another time-out. This time though, they have just 0.9 seconds to get a game-winning shot up. That’s enough time to either catch and shoot from distance, or throw a lob to the rim and try to get a layup or dunk. They opt for the lob, but instead, they throw it out of bounds! Because neither team ever touched the ball before it sailing out of bounds, the clock remained at 0.9 seconds, Portland ball. Is this really happening? Portland has a chance to win it here in regulation after trailing by four, less than 40 seconds ago? Against the savvy veteran Spurs?! This is too much. The Blazers set to inbound themselves now. Will they go for a shot, or a lob like the Spurs? Well, here, just watch:
  
    
Blaaaaazers win! Nicolas Batuuuuuum! Frenchie wins the game!! Get those long arms up there over Tony Parker! Oh man, what a finish. Who would have known that the Blazers could thoroughly out-execute the best executing team in the league the last minute and pull out a win? What a crazy turn of events. This is the second time the Blazers have played the Spurs this season, and they’ve won both times despite the Spurs being, record-wise, the best team in the NBA. I’m excited if you can’t already tell. Looking forward to Sunday’s game against division rival Oklahoma City. I feel like we match up with them pretty well, so we’ll see what happens.

Rip City, baby!
15 Comments

Cloudy With a Chance of Gaming -- 3/20/2011


The New and the Improved

Welcome, one and all! As you may have already noticed, I’ve put a little more work into some banners and things than I have previously. Nothing is by any means set in stone; I’m kinda just messing around. The design is in flux, so this could look totally different next week. Maybe not though, as I kind of like it. We’ll see. As far as what’s on the docket for today, I’ll let you know what I think of Need For Speed: Hot Pursuit, and share some gaming site statistics!

Also, I want to mention right up front how awesome fellow GB user Origina1Penguin is. I was one of three winners in his most recent contest and will be receiving a copy of Brutal Legend for the 360! I’ve never played it and I’m super excited to do just that, despite the moderate amount of hate the game received after release. You’re seriously awesome, dude. How great is this community? There are so many people here that give, give and give some more. They’re giving their time and knowledge to the amazing wiki, they’re giving their always-interesting thoughts to the forums, and sometimes they give real-life stuff! I should probably mention Vito as he’s been running his own giveaway for quite some time now (just check his blogs). Of course there was a large surge of giveaways from all sorts of users a few months ago as well. Awesome work, gang. 

I Have the Need

Man, Shift 2: Unleashed is coming out soon, and I just got around to playing the well-reviewed, Need For Speed: Hot Pursuit. I was a fan of the original Hot Pursuit games back in the day. That fact coupled with Criterion’s development abilities has made for a truly fun NFS game. It’s been awhile since I could honestly make that claim. The choice to play police or racer missions is a pretty interesting alternative to a real story. It works pretty well.

I started off alternating back and forth between racer and cop. After about an hour though, I settled into doing police missions exclusively. I was just finding the chase dynamic to be a lot of fun. I kept chasing and chasing. Busting fools quickly became addicting and I didn’t like doing those time trial races anymore. I just wanted to bust dudes. If there’s one blatant fault to the game, it’s the time trial stuff where you can’t hit walls. Maybe I’m just terrible, but those are hard, and not in a fun way. It just annoys the crap outta me when I nick a wall and it costs me a couple of precious seconds. I rarely scored a gold on those; usually silver. But sure enough, a Hot Pursuit or an Interceptor mission would pop up eventually and give me that bustin’ fix. Some of the abilities such as spike strips and helicopters seem kind of weak at first, but they become a lot more useful and fun when they’re upgraded to level three. So I just kept bustin’ dudes and didn’t stop until I saw the credits roll. I was surprised that it came so quickly, but of course I hadn’t touched the majority of the racer challenges.

Jumping over to do some racer challenges hasn’t proved to be too rewarding, though. It can be fun when you’re in a chase, but again, when there’s no busting involved, it’s just not as fun. There are the standard races where no cops are involved. It’s just a standard racing game at that point, and kinda boring. You can’t even use any abilities against the other racers. You can imagine my disappointment after spending so much time chasing guys down and deploying roadblocks and spike strips. Not being able to do that now in certain cases just seems lame. I didn’t come to this game just to race. I’m still not very far into the racer side of things, so maybe the number of vanilla races diminishes as you advance. I’ll keep playing and see where it goes.

I have to mention the Autolog; brilliant idea. It really adds a nice layer of competition on top of what's always traditionally there. Sure, you can win a race by several seconds, but if you're not first place amongst your friends, then you ain't nothin'! I have a few Giant Bombers on my friend list, but nobody seemed to show up as much for my "time to beat" as BjornTheUnicorn and Nat3TheGreat13. We must have similar skill levels because their names were always popping up. Every time the end of a race came around and I didn't beat their scores, it just made me want to go back and try again. I only did that a few times before I ultimately stopped after realizing I would never beat this game if I played that way. I like this idea of constant competition amongst friends. I's been done before in games like Shadow Complex, or Trials HD, but it's implemented really well here in NFS. I hope this concept continues to live on and evolve. Great game. 

Giant Bomb vs. the World

I was just stumbling and bumbling around the internet a couple of days ago when I came across a page that lists the top 15 video game websites in terms of monthly visitors. As we all should be able to predict, Giant Bomb made the list! However, our favorite gaming site isn’t exactly gunning for the top spot just yet. Somehow a few old and crusty websites are beating out The Bomb. Surely it’ll just be a few more years before the Bomb Crew blows up so huge that they all decide to run for president. Of course in turn that would lead to backstabbing and betrayal as they each battle for majority approval, but we’ll cross that bridge when we come to it. Anyway, it’s an interesting list, so let’s take a look-see.  

Website In QuestionEstimated Unique Monthly Visitors
1.) Yahoo! Games22,000,000
2.) ign20,500,000
3.) GameSpot20,000,000
4.) GameFAQs12,500,000
5.) GameTrailers6,450,000
6.) Kotaku4,300,000
7.) CheatCC3,500,000
8.) GamesRadar3,000,000
9.) 1up2,900,000
10.) GameSpy2,850,000
11.) Joystiq2,600,000
12.) FileFront2,100,000
13.) Giant Bomb1,600,000
14.) UGO1,500,000
15.) Destructoid1,400,000
 [Edit: source]
 
As you can see, Giant Bomb is being beat out by such weak sites as CheatCC and GameSpy. When Cheat Code Central is more than doubling the monthly views of the best gaming site on the web, then there’s a problem. Did you guys even know that CheatCC still existed? I was a bit shocked to find that it not only still exists, but gets good traffic. Kind of unbelievable. I’m glad Destructoid’s traffic is lower. I have an admittedly unfair disliking of that site. It’s unfair because I’ve only been to it a couple of times and hardly read anything while on it. I just don’t get a good vibe from Destructoid though. Maybe it’s because they gave Deadly Premonition a perfect score. Don’t get me wrong, I love Deadly Premonition--I’ve beaten it multiple times--but come on. That game has glaring issues. But now I’m getting off topic.

As you can see, Yahoo! Games is tog dog. It’s lame, yet understandable. It’s a mainstream online video game site where you can jump on and play some dumb flash games (At least as I understand it). I’d maybe argue that the Yahoo! site doesn’t even really qualify as a gaming site, but it doesn’t really matter since Gamespot is the real top dog. Gamespot and GameFAQs are technically one and the same, and their views add up to 32.5 million; much higher than anyone else. I don’t necessarily have a beef with Gamespot, but they’re hardly deserving of that much traffic. I guess that’s what happens when you own and redirect from the address, “Videogames.com”.

Anyway, here’s to Giant Bomb’s continued growth. I’m sure this site will just get bigger and bigger. Hopefully it can do so without losing what makes it great. What makes Giant Bomb great is, of course, the fact that it’s filled with awesome users like yourself! That's the truth. 

Wrap-It-Up Box

Only a couple of topics this week, but I think they were long enough. I want to mention for a second the events taking place in Libya. I've been watching the news via BBC's live stream off and on since early yesterday, and this is just a mess. On the eve of the 8th anniversary of the Iraq war and here the U.S. is, getting involved in another conflict. It's hard to be too angry about it though after hearing some reactions from the Libyan people and learning more about what colonel Gaddafi has been doing. They interviewed a man yesterday that was in the thick of everything and yet he still was supportive of the missile strikes taking place. Uggh. I just hope this all ends soon. There was just the disaster in Japan and now we have to worry about Libya.
 
Anyway, I’ve been pondering the idea of adding a regular gaming news section to the ole blog. It would be three or four top headlines in gaming for the week. I could just talk a bit about a topic and move on to another. I’ve found that there’s often no need to have a separate section dedicated to each small piece of news, so maybe this would be a good solution. It was in the initial plan to talk about more news-y stuff, after all. I’ll give that a go next week. Until then, keep on keepin’ on ladies and gents.  
 
Oh, and, Can I Get A Headband?! 
  
 Love from Rip City,
--JJWeatherman    
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Cloudy With a Chance of Gaming -- 3/13/2011


All About Games Edition

Rare occurrence here on the weekly blog: I’m actually talking about games, and only games. Rare occurrence indeed, but it's been that kind of week. New video games abound and plenty to talk about. I finally caved in and bought Beyond Good and Evil HD on XBLA, Pokemon Black, and Alan Wake. I also bought the Limited Edition of Jade Empire off of eBay for the bargain price of $5, free shipping. That hasn't arrived yet, so I'll go into more detail on that another week. 
 

My front-runner for 2011's 2010 Game of the Year

Alan Wake has always been a game that's interested me, but apparently not quite enough to get me to pull the trigger on it upon release. Recently fellow GB user Origina1Penguin held a contest in which the winner received a download code for a digital version of Alan Wake. I tried and failed to win that contest, but at least it reminded me that Alan Wake still exists. I'm grateful for that because I decided if I couldn't get my hands on this mysterious title for free, then $7 isn't that bad of a plan B. eBay's been my friend recently. 
 
Instead of going about this in a boring and played out fashion, I decided to write some Haikus. Some are a tad more serious, while others just poke some fun. I hope you’re able to decipher some meaning out of them. I think they all fairly accurately represent how I’m feeling while playing the game thus far. (note: of course haikus are three-lined poems that are patterned using 5, 7, and 5 syllables. There are 10 individual poems below.)


I’m deep in this dream.
Never sure of what is real.
Deeper and deeper.
Welcome to Bright Falls.
Is that a giant deer float?
Where’s it’s lucha mask?
Old man sitting there.
The lime in the coconut.
Ha! I love this game.
The episode ends.
This is starting to get good.
Heh, late title card.  :)
Desperately searching.
Scrambling through the forest.
Gotcha! Damn thermos.
Hey, does this thing work?
Wait, what the hell’s happening?
This show fuckin’ rocks.
Wait, is this a dream?
I thought I was dreaming, but...
What’s going on here?!
Ford and Verizon.
Energizer batteries.
A tad too blatant.
Listen. What was that?
A dark figure just outside.
Lights go out once more.
Fog, whipping through trees.
The sky above darkens now.
No longer alone.
 
I like that last one about the fog, myself. I'm no poet, but I try.  :)
 
I last left off in the middle of Episode 3 if I remember right. I'm currently trying to track down the *spoilerz!* kidnapper that could maybe possibly have Alice (psst: I bet he doesn't). This game is shrouded in mystery and great atmosphere. I can’t remember any game doing it quite like this, at least not recently. Silent Hill: Shattered Memories comes to mind, and it was great, but Alan Wake has a different feel. It’s better. I'm constantly finding the game to be really amazing. One particularly great detail I noticed when I first arrived at the vacation cabin was that the calender on the wall said 1970 on it. Needless to say, I thought that was weird, but I moved on. Later in the story I find out that the island the cabin was on was destroyed in some kind of volcanic eruption in 1970. Ohhh shit. I’ll continue to play and I’ll probably be writing about this interesting writer and his mysterious circumstances some more next week. 

If you have an Alan Wake haiku, then let it fly! (Please use spoiler tags if it relates to any specific story elements!)  

Always remember your flashlight!

It's pronounced: Poke-uh-mon

There's been a couple interesting Pokemon blogs since the release of White and Black. You should definitely check these out if you haven't already: 
 
I still don't know your name 
Yes, new Pokemon games have been released to the land masses outside of Japan! I’ve been playing through the Black version. That decision was based purely on what the cover monster looks like, just like I’ve done with every other Pokemon release (Red version represent!). If I’m honest, I don’t even know what this pokemon’s name is. I just know it as “cool-looking white bird guy”, which is better than “fugly big black guy” (no racism!). I’m curious as to what the cover pokemon’s special moves will be, but I suppose I’ll find out in due time.

As for the game itself: It’s pleasant thus far. Anyone who’s played a Pokemon game before will find instant comfort in the arms of White/Black. I don’t want to blow anyone’s mind, but yo, you battle your pokemon against other pokemon in a turn-based fashion.  
  
Something I really appreciate is the graphical upgrade. There's some clever tricks going on with camera usage and angles that makes the game feel fresh. Things toward the bottom of the screen look larger than things towards the top of the screen. Seems like this game would look great in 3D *cough*. I just crossed a huge bridge in order to get into the newest town. As I ran across, the camera panned up and over the bridge while zooming out. It's a great effect. I thought the fancy camera tricks would end there, but once I got to the new town, I realized the bridge was just the beginning. This entire town is... crazy! It's hard to describe, so allow me to find a YouTube video of it. There's got to be one. Ah, here we go. Disregard that young-un's voice, or put it on mute if you'd like. Anyway, I really like this city. It's a bit confusing at first, but you get the hang of it soon enough. It adds some flavor and spice to the old town layout formula. I remember getting to Celadon city for the first time in Red and being underwhelmed with the sky-scrapers. Celadon is supposed to be a giant city! Well, that problem's finally solved. 
 
Referring back to dankempster's "Pokemon Isn't For You Anymore" blog, I don't necessarily agree. I see his point that they're making these games to hook new generations of kids each time, not satisfy us old-schoolers, but I'm plenty satisfied. Here's what I wrote in the comments section of that blog: 

Well written, but I don't agree.  :P 
 
You should definitely play White and Black; they're great games. 
 
I've been playing Pokemon as long as anyone else. I remember carrying my purple GB Color around the store and having other kids ask me, "which version is that?". Since then I've played each generation and never gotten tired of it. I often don't finish games, but I always found myself not only finishing Pokemon games, but going back for more. Yes, the original games will always be king for anyone that played them, but by no means are the new games "not for us". I'm not tired of the formula yet. 
 
Just my opinion.    


I'm not even entirely sure what it is about Pokemon that keeps dragging me back for more. Is it the catching and collecting of pokemon? Is it the simple yet deep RPG mechanics? Is it just Childhood nostalgia that I don't want to give up? I don't know; maybe it's all of those things. So far though I really like Pokemon Black/White. It's near exactly what I'd expect, and still exactly what I want. 
 

A brief taste of good... and evil!

 I like Jade
Beyond Good and Evil HD: What a headache! Nobody freak out; I mean that literally. I wasn't able to play a whole lot of this after finally giving in to its siren call and buying it. Turns out I just happened to get a good-sized headache and that feeling of being terribly motion sick just after I started. I think I am mildly sick though, so I hope this isn't a recurring event once I get better. I barely got to the part where I'm about to take the hovercraft for a spin and I couldn't handle the headache any longer. One time when I was a kid, I ate a grip of Nutter Butters in the car and got terribly car sick while doing so. That was the last time I ever ate Nutter Butters. Now, every time I think about them I nearly gag. Anyway, my point is that I was trying to avoid this happening with this game, so I decided a nice long break was in order. As you can tell, I've got tons of other games to play, so not too big of an issue. Hope to get back to it soon. 
 
There was something I noticed during that short stint, however. That is that when you press a button and trigger an action--I think B--it makes a sound that seems exactly like the Tweetdeck notification noise to me. The first handful of times that noise went off I was checking my phone and finding nothing. I'm such an idiot sometimes. 
 
What I did get to play of the game, I liked. Seems right up my alley and I can't believe I never got around to it in the time frame of its initial release. I've watched the entire Quick Look, and that just got me more excited. I'll probably jump back in this week and write about it next. Bring on those stealth sections! I look forward to seeing what all the fuss is/was about.

I'm starving

I promised myself that I'd finish this before I ate, but man I'm STARVED. Time to wrap it up. Just wanted to mention the horrible destruction in Japan. I don't know a lot about earthquakes, but apparently an 8.9 is fucking huuge! My thoughts are with everyone there, and I hope they're able to recover quickly. What an awful event. Also, quickly, Lupe Fiasco's new album "Lasers" has been released. I made a sick playlist of the entire album that I'll post below for your listening pleasure. "I Don't Wanna Care Right Now" and "State Run Radio" are probably my favorite tracks right now. He's one of the few good rappers out there imo, so take that for what you will. Lastly, I'm thinking about evolving my blog layout and style in some mysterious ways. It could include custom graphics, ala Aurahack's blogs. Anything to make my blogs look less cluttered and more like his would be cool beans. So look forward to that! ...Maybe! Oh yeah, and I'm totally going out with a stolen sign-off.  

     
Love from Rip City, 
--JJWeatherman
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Cloudy With a Chance of Gaming -- 3/6/2011


99.9% of this blog has nothing to do with Lost

Since last week's blog was a day late, my plan was for this one to be a day early. It's not going to technically make it until the early hours of Sunday, but that's good enough. Here I sit, softly sipping my scrumptious orange cream Sobe, ready to tell all of you about the things that interest me. Against all odds, I made it to yet another Blazer game this week. I also decided to brainstorm some songs that remind me of video games. Oh and hey, GDC stuff! Off we go. 
 

Joel Przy-bill-a! *clap, clap, clapclapclap*

I just got home from my second Blazer game of the season. That’s the Portland Trail Blazers, the NBA team, for all of you busters. Just kidding; I love you all.

This time was much different than any other time I’ve been to a game though. My grandma knows some people that know some people that rob some people, so we got to sit in an executive suite that we were told belongs to the owner of the team, Paul Allen. Yes, Paul Allen of Microsoft fame owns the Blazers. Anyway, we were served hotdogs, two different types of pizza, cookies, drinks, all kinds of things. The seats were made of squishy leather and the view of the court was a great one. Despite the view, every seat had binoculars underneath for a better view when needed. The suite was complete with a kitchen, lots of walking-around space, and even its own bathroom. It was great experiencing that since it may never happen again.

As for the game itself, well, it was alright. We won, so there’s that. It just seemed incredibly slow throughout. Struggling to score 15 points in the first quarter doesn’t exactly make for the most entertaining basketball. By the final horn though, the Blazers scored 93, which is almost enough to net everyone a coupon for free chalupas at Taco Bell. Almost. If you'd like to witness my lackluster phone camera for yourself, then here's the starting lineups in a fraction of their glory:
       

 Joel, the Thrilla, the Vanilla Gorilla, says: Get off me, Shaq!
I’m really glad I was able to be in the arena for this game in particular, though. It was the return of beloved former Blazer, Joel Przybilla. He was traded away just a week or so ago and he was, at the time, the longest-tenured Blazer on the team. We all love him, and we showed it tonight. Despite Joel sporting a Bobcats uniform this night, the entire Rose Garden arena gave him a standing ovation as he stepped onto the court for the first time mid-game. I don’t think I’ve ever seen a standing ovation for an opposing player before; I’ll probably never see it again. As Joel made freethrows everyone cheered as well. Not only all of that, a large amount of people actually started chanting “Joel Pryz-bill-a! *clap, clap, clapclapclap*” It was pretty great to see that in person. We all miss you, Joel!

Oh and I forgot to mention last week, during the last game I went to, some dude won a truck. It was one of those “hit a shot from half-court” things, and he totally hit the shot and won a truck. It was crazy too; he just threw it up left-handed, overhand, one try. It swooshed right through and everyone went CRAZY. That guy’s one lucky fool. I’d bet Nissan is hesitant to run that promotion again. They lost $30,000 in about 4 seconds. Nothing of note during the Bobcat’s game’s halftime. Some dudes just jumped off of trampolines and dunked. Pretty standard.

GDC 2011 happened

 Easily the funniest picture of the GDC logo that I could find on Google
You know what's been annoying me recently? When people say "that was a thing", or "so that happened". Naturally, Navarro is annoying me. No, that's not true; it's just everyone else that says it. Probably because it reminds me of Navarro and then I just freak out. I think I do it sometimes too, though. That makes me a hypocrite. Not that any of this matters, because GDC happened! It's a thing... that happened! I have to be honest, I'm not exactly sure what that means. I think GDC is just when a bunch of developers give talks and meet up with each other. Apparently they give interviews to press as well, as there have been a couple here on GB. I often don't go anywhere else for my gaming news, so all I have to talk about here is whatever has shown up on The Bomb. 
 
First order of business being Swery. That guy is fantastic. The bombcrew got to talk to him, and if you haven't seen that conversation yet, do check it out. That's probably the single best interview on this site, and they've done a lot of 'em. Remember that one with the guy in his bath robe? Yeah, this is somehow better. I love Swery's visibly crazy personality. He's just as nuts as you'd expect the creator of Deadly Premonition to be. 
 
The Scribblenauts guys are making a 3rd person cover-based shooter? You don't say. You can see the video here. The game's called "Hybrid" and it looks funky. No direct control over characters just seems like a baaaad idea to me. You target cover and select to move or retreat back, but that allows no precise movement. It's going to frustrate a lot of players and ultimately end up a failure. Mark my words right here and now. It's a neat concept, but I just can't imagine it working well enough to be successful. I think they should stick to puzzle games, personally. 
 
Then there was the Socom 4 interview that Jeff did. He mentions in the video how the PS2 Socom games were some of the first console games to do online multiplayer right. I totally agree. I have some great memories of hooking up that giant network adapter to the back of my PS2 and jumping online. It was Socom and some old NBA game that I would play non-stop in online multiplayer matches. That stuff was great. Anyway, I think Socom 4 has A LOT of potential. Seriously, it could be freakin' incredible. I still don't own a PS3 though, so there's that. If anyone wants to donate to my "I need a PS3" fund, then by all means.  =P 
 
Last thing I'll mention is a talk that Cliff Bleszinski gave. He talks about a bunch of interesting things, and even name-drops Jeff about 19 minutes in. Props go to peligroy2k for posting the video to the forums. I recommend watching it.
 

Do certain songs remind you of specific video games?

For me, the answer is a definite yes. there are certain songs that just flash me back to the good ole days of *insert game here*. I think most of these mental ties came about due to the custom soundtrack feature in the original Xbox. A truly great and innovative feature back in the day. 
 
I was much more into hip-hop when I was a young-un, so I have a lot of ties between video games and random hip-hop tracks. The first I remembered being "My Place" by Nelly, from his Sweatsuit album. I was listening to that song the other day and was instantly reminded of playing the NBA 2K games in the old 24/7 mode. This was a mode that basically acted as a story mode. You created a baller and took him around the country and played with and against NBA players in pickup games. It was a pretty dumb mode in retrospect, but it was the only story-type game mode in the 2K series at the time. It was easy to just put songs on in this mode and play some ball. I also have memories of a couple Lloyd Banks songs while playing 24/7 mode. That's Lloyd Banks of 50 Cent: Blood On the Sand, folks. Gangsta. 
 
So when I was coming up with more, the next thing I thought of was listening to Fabolous' "Street Dreams" album while playing GTA 3 and Vice City. Darn those custom soundtracks, they deprived me of listening to Vice City's soundtrack more. I'm pretty sure I listened to Street Dreams more in GTA 3, though. I remember it was my friend's album that I copied onto my Xbox HDD, and I just listened to that while running dudes over in the Red Light District.
 
 This right here kids. This is what winning looks like. Charlie Sheen knows what I'm talkin' about.
There's one--and only one--song that will forever be tied to competitive online in NBA 2K games. I think it was NBA 2K6 specifically that my friend would sleep over at my house and play. He'd play online in ranked matches, and honestly he'd beat almost everyone. The one common denominator between the wins was that he always listened to "Roll Call" by Lil' Jon while he played. He'd just have that on loop the entire game. For those that don't know, it's an extremely explicit song (seriously NSFW), so maybe that was the trick. It's just funny to me that a song like that can just instantly remind me of a perfectly innocent sports video game. 
 
The last one I came up with was "Green Grass and High Tides" by The Outlaws. I think that song will probably always remind me of the original Rock Band. It was the only song that took me many many attempts to beat, and it's ingrained in my mind as the Rock Band song at this point. Not that it's even my favorite song of the setlist--I think Cherub Rock may get that honor--but it was just so... epic? Pardon me for that. On the topic of rhythm games, Through the Fire and Flames probably will always remind me of Guitar Hero 3 as well. Although I'd say the chances of me ever hearing TtFaF again in my life is much lower than GGaHT. At least I'd hope so. 
 
I'd like to know about any songs that you guys have mentally tied to a video game. I have quite a few, so I assume other people have some as well. Oh and of course it probably should be a song that's not an original composition. Everyone knows that the Bolero of Fire reminds you of Ocarina of Time.  =P

I'll see you in another life, brotha

That was it. That was all that my first section title was referring to. Aren't you disappointed now? I hope you're not too disappointed to come back and read this next Sunday. Before I go though, someone on YouTube totally wrote a song about me: 
  
 
I was legitimately really freaked out when I saw that video pop up in the related videos panel. I really thought some creeper made a video about me for a second. =P 
 
<3 
--JJWeatherman
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Cloudy With a Chance of Gaming -- 2/27/2011



I'm In 

I'm a day late. I hope--nay, I know--that nobody minds. Anyway, I'm not going to post these to the forums every week due to them not being very video game-centric from time to time. This is one of those times. 
 

P-Town 

 said three goggles
I went to my first Portland Trail Blazers game of this season last Friday. It was amazing. One of the best games of the season, probably behind only the San Antonio win. The Blazers beat the Nuggets in overtime after hitting a desperation three to send it there. Brandon Roy--our former all-star, now dealing with injury--was back in full force for the first time this season. In his second game back, he scored 18 and hit several key shots that gave the team the opportunity to win. Glad to have him back. I also bought some three goggles at the game. I'm convinced that my wearing them absolutely made the difference that night.  :P 
 
All of those fuzzy good feelings were quickly wiped away at the hands of the Atlanta Hawks on Sunday night. Damn you, Atlanta Hawks. As I said a couple of times during the game "Either we have the worst offense in the league, or Atlanta has the best defense." To be honest, it was a bit of both that night. Cold streaks were abound for the Trail Blazers, and the Hawks locking down the paint didn't help anything. This game had a ton of hype on account of it being the debut of the newest Blazer, Gerald Wallace. He was acquired in a trade not too long ago and the crowd was amped to see what he had. Wallace finished with a somewhat lousy 9 points if I remember right. Beyond Wallace's debut, our injured starting center, as well as B-Roy, were coming back as well. All was set for the team to have a big game, but they let down. We'll get 'em next time. 
 
Speaking of next time: Blazers play the Houston Rockets tomorrow. That should be a win. As far as I know, Houston's defense isn't on the same level as Atlantas. Plus, any additional practice time the team has with Gerald Wallace will definitely be beneficial. He looked a bit lost out there in the offense. 
 

O-Town

Is O-Town the name of a boy-band? If so, I'm extremely disturbed that I know that. The Oscars were on last night at roughly the same time as the Blazer game. I was flipping back and forth while recording them both. Gotta love DVRs. I'm not one of those die-hard oscar fans that breaks down every moment and compares it to previous years shows, but I thought this years was pretty OK. I'm a big fan of James Franco, and a bit of a Hathaway fan as well, so the hosts worked for me. They weren't as funny as some other people may have been, but they did alright. Of course the big winner was The King's speech, and I'm kinda glad it was. I've never seen the movie, and I feel really bad about that, but it looked really good. I remember hearing Rorie talk about it on the Screened-cast and he said that he thought anyone could relate to it because it's about overcoming obstacles. At the time I just wrote it off and thought "Yeah, whatever. Sounds boring." But now that I've seen a lot more of it, it really does seem like a genuinely amazing movie that I'd love to see. I'll probably be watching it as soon as possible. Is it even out on DVD/Blu-Ray? I'll check it out. 
 
Inception won some sound mixing and design, as well as special effects oscars. Well deserved. I still haven't sat down to watch Inception a second time, but man that was an amazing movie the first time. I'm glad it was recognized. 
 
Natalie Portman and Colin Firth took home the best leading actress/actor awards. I haven't seen Black Swan either (wow, I'm so lame), but she probably deserved it. I've always loved Natalie Portman though, so I would say that. I love you Natalie... awkward. 
 

D-Bag 

These section titles are officially meaningless at this point. Dragon Age II. It's a game. Some people enjoyed it's recently released demo. Others did not. Me? I'm one of the correct people that did enjoy it. Just so y'all know, I'm still working my way through Dragon Age, ze original. I know, I'm a slow gamer. I just like to take my time and feel like the game is really lasting me. It definitely is. I've put around 40 hours into it so far and I still have a ways to go. I'm down in the Dwarfs domain currently. I'm in the middle of fighting on behalf of one of the potential new kings... or whatever exactly's happening. Anyway, I still have a ways to go, yet I'm really anticipating the release of number two. 
 
I was trying to think of things to talk about here, and I came up with a list of things I liked and didn't so much like about the demo. Lets mix this up and post an unordered list. Why let these fancy HTML tools go to waste? 
  
Dragon Age 2 demo thoughts
    • Combat is fucking fast and awesome -- I love how fluid the combat is now. No longer do you feel like a robot while trying to move into position and initiate combat. Just hit that A button and wail on dudes. The special moves and spells are a lot more seemless as well. I was using them expecting them to feel slow like in DA:O, but they just happen so quickly and efficiently. It's so nice. This is how combat should have been in Origins.
    • Love the dialog wheel -- I've talked about this a bit in a thread dedicated to this topic. Basically, I really like the dialog wheel. To me, the fun of dialog options comes when you're trying to judge another character's personality and act according to your current whim. This system allows you to act how you'd like to without the ambiguity of confusing dialog options. 
    • Graphics look good, not amazing --There is a style difference from Origins to II that is pretty obvious. It's a lot less gritty, and instead more stylized and clean. I'm a guy that likes his UI clean, so I think I may like the changes. Haven't spent enough time to really say for sure, but it's appealing. The real problem is that the graphics style and UI don't really match the Dragon Age theme that I've grown to know and love. Seems a bit out of place. Kind of like Assassin's Creed's UI, except in Assassin's Creed it's totally justified. Not so much in DA II. Whatever.
    • Framerate’s a lil hitchy -- It's the console version, so I really shouldn't be surprised. I should be used to this by now, but it does still bug me when I notice a poor framerate. Hopefully it'll be ironed out a bit before launch. Not really a huge issue.
    • Standard running animation is odd -- Seriously. When you draw your weapon, the running animation is fine. When it's holstered, the animation is downright awkward. I really hope that's not final, but I doubt BioWare would release a demo without a finalized run animation. It's just so weird.
    • ISABELLA! -- As I mentioned, I haven't beaten DA:O yet, but I was excited to see Isabella in this demo. I've only run into her once so far in Origins, but maybe she'll play a larger role then she already has. She must, right? Why would they bring her back if she just plays that small role inside of a whore-house?  =P
  

I'm Out

Imma wrap this up, cause yoooo, I've got stuff to do. That's not entirely true, but I do need to eat. I'll be back next Sunday (hopefully) with more thoughts on video games, as well as the random happenings that surround my life. Until next time, here's a song that I like:  

     
<3 
--JJWeatherman
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Molly

The cat that I've known my entire life is being put to sleep as I type this. Her name was Molly. We took her in when I was probably one year old, and she was already fully-grown at that point. I'm now almost 21. She's been having a hard time seeing, hearing, and smelling for a little while now. It was hard making this decision. 

I knew I'd be sad, but these feelings are fucking unbelievable. I was not prepared for this. I guess I just had to get this out. Here's a picture of her when she was healthier: 

She used to hate me so much when I was a baby. She'd run up and bite me when I would scream too loud... heh. I'm not going to lie, I've been crying.
 
She's lived so long that we would joke that she just outlives family after family and moves onto the next. I guess we were her last family. 

I'll miss you, Molly.
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Cloudy With a Chance of Gaming -- 2/20/2011


Welcome Home

Greetings, all! This is the second blog in my new weekly series, featuring whatever steamy thought vapors are floating around in that cloudy head of mine. This week I’ll be celebrating my S-rank of Forza 3, Introducing you to a great podcast, going back in time, proclaiming my love of Timothy Olyphant, and more! So watch, that, show! Wait, I’m not Conan; sorry about that. 
 

Solid Gold

At last! My long-running mission to achieve gold in every single race in Forza 3 has come to a successful close. I didn’t check my total playtime, but it has to be up towards 120 hours of racing now. I feel relieved to finally have my S-rank, but at the same time, I almost feel sad that there are no more races to compete in. I guess that’s where multiplayer will come in. I've sent a friend request to the GB Forza XBL account, so we'll see if I ever remember to hop into that.

The home stretch of this goal was a lot of fun. I decided to save the endurance races for last; I guess I just thought they would make for a nice finale. Endurance races are the ones that have you race a single track for around an hour each, so they’re pretty daunting. The way it’s set up though, there’s an endurance race for each class of car. Seeing that, I just decided that I’d buy a brand new car for each race. I ended up buying everything from a Saleen truck, to a Mercedes SLR, and even a Ferrari F50 GT. It always feels great spending a million credits on a single car. The final race was 9 laps around Nurburgring Nordschleife. That doesn’t sound like much, but it adds up to over 116 miles of racing. It was a great race to finish up with.

I never thought I'd see all of those boxes checked. 
Forza 3’s a great game. Turn 10 did a fantastic job with nearly every aspect. It’s not perfect though, and I mentioned some improvements that I’d like to see in last week’s blog. I want to add to that. As you can see in the photo to the right, the game is simple. Race each of the events represented by boxes on this screen, and you’re done. To be fair, there is a season mode type deal in there that will select events for you and kind of walk you through a career. That’s really not much of an improvement though. I want to see Forza 4 feature some kind of in-depth career mode that requires a bit more managing than just “select that box, now race”. It’s just gotten a bit stale at this point. Maybe this is a bad idea, and not what these games are really about, but I think a real story could be interesting. Just a little something to give me some more motivation to beat these A.I. drivers. Speaking of those guys, they’re already pretty well established through their driving alone. M. Rossi for example. Damn you, M. Rossi! Maybe just a bit of clever backstory to these other racers would make things more interesting. Or maybe racing games should just be racing games. No need for drama.

All that said, if Forza 4 is released with just more cars, tracks, slightly better graphics, etc. then I could definitely live with that. As I typed Forza 4 in that last sentence, I initially typed “Forz4” on accident. I know that the folks at Turn 10 are better than to seriously consider something so easy. 
 

WTF

It was all of the long race hours of Forza 3 that eventually led me down the path of finding new and interesting podcasts. I’d already blazed through all of my favorites: Best of Hotspot (thanks again to ZanzibarBreeze), Bombcast, This Is Only A Test, Behind The Screened Door, NDX, and even a Portland Trail Blazers podcast. I was thirsting for more sweet podcasting goodness when I remembered a guest that was on Conan a little while back. I remembered his name was Marc Maron, and that he’s a comedian that now runs a podcast. I searched a bit and found his podcast, titled “WTF with Marc Maron” (Site potentially NSFW. Then again, anything this man does is potentially NSFW).

 Dubbya tee eff
After listening to a few select episodes of this podcast, I’m finding myself compelled in a way that I hadn't anticipated. In the show, Marc conducts interviews with various famous people that are often--but not always--comedians themselves. What makes WTF such a great show is the laid-back style that Maron brings to the interviews. He successfully cuts out all of the bullshit and gets into real and interesting topics with his guests. They just talk, and it’s refreshing.

The first episode I decided to listen to was one featuring Sarah Silverman. This was a great one to start on since apparently Marc has known Sarah since she was like 17 years old and just starting in comedy. They dive into all kinds of topics involving their past history as well as Sarah’s parents, past boyfriends, The cancelling of The Sarah Silverman Show, and a bit about what’s in her new book. Also, Sarah apparently has a friend that’s 6’10” who joins in toward the end. Yo, that guy could have been an NBA player if he worked at it. Anyway, really good episode. It hooked me when I wasn’t necessarily expecting to be hooked.

From there I picked out another episode that I thought may be interesting. I chose one featuring the one and only Ira Glass of This American Life fame. This is probably my favorite episode that I’ve heard thus far (although it’s close with the next one that I’ll tell you about). I’d highly recommend listening to this one if you want to give this podcast a try. Marc and Ira get into some really deep and interesting topics mostly about what it’s like being a radio personality, and how the two of them have very different styles. Ira talks about his early career and how he never expected or planned to be on radio. The highlight was probably Marc’s pitch for a This American Life story. A whole crazy situation went down between Marc and his ex-wife that I won’t ruin by trying to paraphrase. After telling the story, Ira breaks down what it would take to turn that into an episode of This American Life. Great episode; go listen to this one.

That last episode was so good that I, again, decided to listen to another one. I noticed a two-part Louis C.K. episode that I couldn’t pass up. I wasn’t at all aware going in, but Marc and Louis have a very long history. They were actually best friends for a long while, but have had issues maintaining the friendship due mostly to Marc’s jealousy over Louis’ success. It sounds like the plot to a poor day-time drama, but this two hour episode was pretty amazing. The two talk about going from best friends, to not answering each others emails or phone calls. Going into the interview, they still hadn’t even worked everything out. By the end though, you see them start to rekindle their lost friendship. It’s really kind of heartwarming. Listening to them reminisce about wads of cash, motorcycle crashes, divorces, and children, is all super interesting. It’s a bit more personal of an episode, but Marc admits to that up front.

I think what I like most about Marc Maron is his ability to put himself out there, flaws and all. He seems to bring real honesty and enthusiasm to the table in every interview, and that makes this podcast a great one, at least from what I’ve heard thus far. Go check it out if it sounds interesting. 
 

Timothy Olyphant-itis

   All credit goes to Navarro for this term
I think everyone knows the feeling of wanting to be someone else. You’ve felt it at some point after seeing someone, on T.V. or in a movie, that’s just too awesome. If you're a guy, this feeling is commonly referred to as a “Man Crush”. Timothy Olyphant-itis is a very specific sub-class of this so-called man crush, in which Timothy Olyphant is the subject.

Timothy Olyphant’s a badass dude. He’s been in only a few films worth mentioning thus far, but he’s done a lot in recent television roles. He starred in the critically acclaimed “Deadwood” from 2004 through 2006. He also played a policeman in “Gone In 60 Seconds”. His latest role is the lead on the show “Justified”.

 I love this picture
I’m not going to spoil any major plot points here because I think that all of you should watch Justified, and enjoy all of it’s surprises. The jist of the plot is that a U.S. Marshall named Raylan Givens (Timothy Olyphant) is relocated from Miami back to his hometown in Kentucky after shooting a gun thug. Raylan's often in trouble for having a shoot-first approach to his work. After showing up in Kentucky, the chief asks what happened, “Tell me about the shooting.” Raylan’s constantly having to explain how the thug pulled his weapon first, and that “It was justified.”

The show has a present-day wild west dynamic, which works well. I think the first 5 episodes of season one all featured at least one person getting shot. I thought the streak would last all season, but, no luck. It’s still an amazing show though. Each of the actors do a great job delivering the excellent dialog. So far the supporting characters around Raylan are all interesting. The only exceptions being his fellow U.S. Marshalls. They get the job done, but can be a bit bland. Anyway, it’s a great show with a great theme song to match. Check it out below:  

  
You can also check out Navarro’s season one catch-up video if you feel like jumping strait into season 2, which is airing now.

I’ve just started watching Deadwood since I’m now waiting a week between Justified episodes. I’ve only seen one episode of Deadwood so far, but Olyphant seems to fit just as well into that old west setting, which isn’t surprising after seeing him in Justified. If you guys didn’t know, Timothy Olyphant also played Agent 47 in the Hitman movie. I’ve heard poor things, but I kinda want to see it now. Damn you, Olyphant! You’re just too cool of a dude. 
 

Tannen was git-gotten

 Lookin' good, Kid! >_>
I won’t go into a lot of detail here in order to preserve the story, but I finished episode two of the Back to the Future game titled "Get Tannen!". According to Steam, it took me just 2 hours to complete. That’s about what I was expecting, but I can’t help but wish there were more to each episode. Episode one did actually take me four hours somehow, so that was nice. I think I payed $22 for what will eventually be 10+ hours of game, though; I’m happy with that ratio.

Weird side-note: I stumbled across the voice actor that plays Biff/Kid on Wikipedia. Apparently the guy’s name is Kid Beyond (stage name). According to the interwebz, he’s a singer, beat boxer, and live looper out of San Francisco. Kid Tannen is voiced by Kid Beyond. Just thought that was interesting. Apparently he does voices for other Telltale games too.

I eagerly anticipate March’s episode. From the looks of the sizzle reel, we’re about to see some serious shit.
 

Good afternoon, good evening, and good night!

The NBA All-Star weekend wraps up tonight, so stop reading this blog and go check out the main event: East vs. West. It should be exciting, despite none of the Trail Blazers making the cut. We wuz robbed! I think it starts at 8:15 PM Eastern. 5:15 PM for all us cool kids.

Justin Bieber haters rejoice. There’s a new video for you to keep on loop for the next week or so.

That’s that for this week. Thank you for taking the time to read any amount of this. I know that it went a bit long. Come back next Sunday for continued Tactical-Blogging-Action®.

<3
--JJWeatherman
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Cloudy With a Chance of Gaming -- 2/13/2011


Off He Goes
As a few of you already know, I’ve decided to start up my own weekly blog. Don't worry though Video_Game_King, you're still the king of blogs. Sunday seemed like a good day to post these, so here it is! It will be about not only the games I’m playing, but noteworthy things happening in the game industry, as well as my occasional personal thoughts regarding a variety of things. I like to write, but I almost never find time to actually do it. It’s my hope that this weekly blog will interest and entertain both myself, as well as some of you guys.

Last thing: There’s a secret relationship between my section titles. I’m challenging you, dear readers, to figure out what that relationship is. First one to figure it out earns an always-elusive internet cookie.
 

Severed Hand

After seeing Bionic Commando Rearmed 2 on the latest free Happy Hour, I recalled that I still hadn’t beaten the original Rearmed. I’ve decided to get back into that the last few days. I’m sure my relationship with the series isn’t too uncommon. I never played the original. In fact, I’d never even heard of it until Rearmed was released. Don’t blame me, I was born three years after it initially launched. After some excitement built around Rearmed, I decided to just buy it. I took a leap of faith, and it paid off. My initial thought was that it was a damn hard game. I really liked the swinging mechanic though; it feels so right as I'm grappling my way through levels. I eventually got stuck on a tough level and gave up after playing a few challenge rooms. Well, I’m back, baby. I couldn't tell you how, but after all of this time away, I’m way better at the game now. I've been blowing through both story levels and challenge rooms. As I scrolled through the intimidating list of challenge rooms, I was noting the amount of deaths stat for each challenge in the right corner. There was one challenge that I’d apparently tried like 150 times, and passed 0. The second I booted that challenge up, I just thought “Oh yeah! Oh fuck.” To be honest, it’s not even close to the hardest challenge, but something about it was extremely difficult for me. Anyway, I jumped back into this, my nemesis challenge. What took me over 150 tries just to give up previously, I was able to beat in about ten minutes and a handful of attempts. OK Bionic Commando, you’re awesome again. I’ve been playing through some more story levels, and I expect to beat it sometime soon. I have just a few areas left unvisited. Maybe after beating this one, I could justify the purchase of numero two. I think I'd still enjoy it despite Jeff's relatively harsh words regarding certain aspects.
 

Rearviewmirror

I received Forza Motorsport 3 on December 25th, 2009, and dammit I’m still playing it. I actually just checked my play times a couple of days ago, and I’ve put over 100 hours into driving alone. That’s not counting the hours I’ve spent doing things like paint, browse the storefront, test drive, etc. All this game time put in over all of this real time, and somehow I’m still only sitting at around 90% completion. If you haven’t played it, you probably are unaware that there’s one achievement that requires you to win every race in the game, thus earning gold in all events. This is a hefty task that I am yet to complete. So here I am, 2011, and I’m still plugging away and winning race after race. I must have this godforsaken achievement! Podcasts are my only solace as I win, win, and win some more. By the way, my thanks go out to ZanzibarBreeze for creating those awesome Hotspot compilations. I’ve been listening to those as I race recently, and enjoying them.

Whatever it takes to win 
Anyway, the worst part of all of this is that it’s depriving me of multiplayer racing. Sure I suck when racing other people, but I still find it enjoyable. The thing is though, I made this deal with myself when I first got the game that I’d beat every single player race before venturing into multiplayer. I have no idea why I decided on that; maybe I thought it would be easy. I've actually tried the multiplayer out a couple of times. It seems cool. It’s a racing game with freakin’ playlists. I just keep telling myself though, “Go back and get that achievement first!” And so I do. Don’t get me wrong, I do find the single player to be fun. It’s just when you’re racing so many events back to back, it tends to feel awfully grindy. Forza 4 could definitely benefit from an even greater selection of tracks, a day/night option, and maybe even some light weather variations. Besides, what wouldn’t benefit from more weather? That was pretty lame.

This achievement is now officially holding me up from playing other games. I’m going after this thing in high gear. I should have it by next week assuming I remain in high gear, but I wouldn’t be surprised if my metaphorical transmission gives out a bit. 
 

Parting Ways

It’s never a good thing when lots of people lose their jobs, especially in an industry that I love. Both Harmonix and Neversoft have taken hits recently. Due to dwindling popularity of the rhythm game genre, Activision strait-up canned their whole Guitar Hero lineup (among other franchises). As mean as this may sound: Thank god Guitar Hero is over! I feel bad about all the cool people at Neversoft, but man this was a long time coming. I’m sure most of you already know that Harmonix was responsible for the Guitar Hero series through number two, but the IP was sold to Activision who developed number three all of the way through Warriors of Rock. This allowed Harmonix to move on and chase bigger and better ideas. Harmonix then created Rock Band, and my life has been complete ever since. People have been saying the rhythm game genre is dying for years, but the Harmonix and Activision restructurings make it seem all-too-real.

Pro Keys may be this genre's final innovation 
It’s sad seeing these games further slip away year after year. Heck, I can still recall when Guitar Hero 3 was so popular, my entire family decided that we would have a Guitar Hero tournament after Thanksgiving dinner. We went out and bought the game and an extra guitar controller. I was tasked with unlocking every song in the game as quickly as possible so that we could have the largest selection. Of course I could have just entered a cheat, but my parents didn’t know that. I sat there on the couch and played Guitar Hero 3 all god damn day--just doing my part. Fast-forward a bit to Rock Band’s release. This time, the family brought the game over; probably for some other holiday, but I don’t remember. Drunken people singing Bon Jovi became the entertainment of the evening, and my love of playing fake drums had been born. Jump to current day though, and it’s mostly me playing Rock Band 3 alone. Sometimes a friend will play, or I’ll jump online, but for the most part I play alone. This doesn’t really bother me. What bothers me is knowing that the dwindling popularity will eventually lead to the death of the genre, and the inability to play, even alone. The previously mentioned restructuring is a step in that direction, and it’s hard to accept.

Why do I even like these games so much? I really don’t know why they click with me. I guess it’s like any other game, really; I simply enjoy the thrill of doing well. I like that the reward is immediate too. Nailing a long and complicated HOPO section and hearing the music play out as intended without those awful missed note sounds, is all the reward I need. This is probably the reason I enjoy the drums the most. It’s the most physically taxing instrument of the bunch, and that makes that feeling of success extra rewarding after nailing a long drum roll spanning the entire kit. At times, you’re hitting those pads and cymbals so hard, but at the same time, you’re doing it with an elegance and a strict sense of timing and rhythm. It’s just an incredible feeling when you know you’re not only doing all of that, but doing it extremely well.

This went in a direction that I hadn’t necessarily anticipated, but it’s all good. Best of luck to everyone affected by the layoffs and restructuring happening at Activision and Harmonix. You guys were at the forefront of an awesome era in video games. Hopefully it’s not over quite yet. 
  

The End

I don’t want this to sound like some lame award acceptance speech or anything, but I just want to thank the people that encouraged me to stop being lazy and write more. Those kind people being: Gamer_152, CrazyManAndy, Abyssfull, Jambones, Dalai, RecSpec, dankempster, eroticfishcake, EuanDewar, Pyromaster222, PixelPrinny, Underachiever007, and thedj93. Thanks to Hockeymask27 as well, for the incredibly corny title. I kid, it’s the perfect amount of corn. It’s actually clever on several levels that I won’t get into.

That’s all for this week, folks. I hope you enjoyed my rambling, because I enjoyed putting it all together. Hopefully this blog can live a long and prosperous life. Come back next Sunday for another weather report!

<3
--JJWeatherman
26 Comments