The Road to Mel is Paved with Games 05:02


This Week in Gaming!

So besides the ever-present Bejeweled 3, which is my go-to when I'm completely bored, I've had a short attention span for my games lately.  Over the last week I tried out a few different demos, and here were my impressions:

This was a lot more fun than I expected.  I thought it was along the same lines as Portal - a puzzle game that forces you to be creative to get past the task at hand.  I didn't complete the entire demo, but according to steam, I played it for almost three hours.  The little goo balls reminded me of the minions from Despicable Me.  I may go back and purchase this game.

Magicka (demo)

This game peaked my interest mostly because it's an RPG, but also because you play as a caster no matter what.  And I love my finger-wagglers.  Even more interesting was the idea of combining spells to create new ones.  So I tried it out.  Sure enough, the combining spells was pretty cool.  But for me, the interface of a game is very important too, and if I'm not feeling it within the first short while, that may well kill the game for me.  This was the case in Magicka.  Our normal WASD keys are actually spell keys, along with a few others.  You have to remember which one is which element so that you combine them properly, as some elements do not mix.  The other thing that kept tripping me up was having to pre-load every spell.  So it would be click a letter, or a few letters, then mouse click.  Melee is a different mouse click.  AOE is a different mouse click.  I just think that while the game itself was great, the implementation could have vbeen better.

Dungeons (demo)

So again, sorting through Steam demos, I came across Dungeons. Basically, it was described as a Diablo-type dungeon crawler, where you're actually the dungeon boss, and you get to kill heroes that come into the dungeons that you build.  I was intrigued, so I downloaded it.  This was definitely interesting.  I think I'd have to call it a strategy game, as there were various things to strategically deal with.  You had to build your dungeon, make sure heroes don't make off with your gold, and keep monsters away from the heart of your dungeon.  The heroes spawned about every minute.  The game had a bit of an Overlord feel to it, which was fine as I enjoyed that game too.  I think I'd like to play the demo more before I decide on a purchase or not.  So far I'd only spent a little over an hour on it.

Non-gaming stuff

What an awesome weekend!  Usually in the Puget Sound area, the nice days are during the week when everyone's working, and then we get the crap weather during the weekend.  But this past weekend was the opposite.  Yesterday we got up to at least 65 degrees, maybe higher.  I know it felt pretty damn warm while I was out there mowing the lawn and pulling weeds!  Here's to hoping we get more weekends like that.

The Law School Saga

So my financial aid packet came in.  After federal student loans, I still need to come up with $10,000 to cover tuition costs (not including all the nickel and dime costs like parking, books, etc).  It seems I didn't qualify for any grants, and am going in with no scholarship money.  My credit sucks thanks to being out of a job for two years and coming close to losing my home at one point.  Somehow, in the next month, I need to find money.  I'm stressed, but I know that it will work out somehow.  Most likely I'll have to get a cosigner for a private student loan.

On the bright side, I found out that I got in under regular admission, and not access admission.  The access admission program was a program that looked at things besides the student's GPA and LSAT scores, and is more for students who come from disadvantaged backgrounds.  I was told at one point I was being considered for access admission.  Why is this good?  Because I can now be proud that I got in under my own merits, and was not given special considerations.

The OBL Situation

I'm not going to go into all that crap.  Yay, we got him.  He had already gotten to a point of irrelevancy though.  And of course, Obama takes credit, like any politician in office would have done.  The only reason I bring up the OBL situation is this:  My 11 year old, 6th grade daughter had no idea who he was.  When I said he was responsible for the 9/11 attack, she still seemed confused.  A lightbulb finally went off when I said the Twin Towers.  WTF are they teaching these kids in school?  She doesn't know what 9/11 is, or why it's called the 9/11 attack?  She had no idea who OBL was?  I mean, he was big figure even before 9/11 thanks to previous acts and attempted acts of terror.  How disappointing.


I guess that's it for now.  Really should actually get some work done!
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A Victim of Identity Theft

With all the hubbub about the PSN hack, people aren't sure whether to be concerned or not.  I don't know either.  But what I do know is what it's like to be a victim different forms of identity theft, and how it can affect your life.


By the way, if you're a minor... this still applies, trust me.

Personal Information (Not Financial)

The day after high school graduation, I moved out of my family's house.  I had only just turned 17.  Legally, I couldn't really have bills in my name.  So imagine my surprise a month or two later when I got a late/collection notice from the local cable tv company.  Family of mine was using my info to garner services from the local cable tv company, along with some other stuff that I found out about later.  Here I was, not even 18, and I already had outstanding debt.  My credit score was fucked before I even turned 18.  And all it took was a name.  No social security number needed.  No driver's license number needed.  Obviously date of birth wouldn't have even been helpful.  Just a name and address.

If you're younger, you may not understand how important your credit is.  It affects SO many things, from whether you can get a Best Buy card or not, to whether you can finance a new vehicle.  In most places in the US it even affects things like the price of your car insurance.

Fast forward about a dozen years.  The financial system has changed a bit because of the ease of identity theft.  Plastic has become the main form of currency.  And yet identity theft still happens...

Your Financial Info

In January of 2010, my bank (a local credit union) sent out a notice to many of its members.  Apparently some merchants had been hacked, and they were afraid that members' info might be at risk.  So they were just going to automatically replace everyone's cards.  A few months after we had gotten the new cards, we noticed some very odd charges on our bank account.  After a discussion with the bank, it turns out that the charges were made to online businesses with my husband's debit/credit card info.  We're pretty sure that a restaurant that we had visited somewhat recently was to blame.  We shut down my husband's card immediately, and none of the charges went through (they were still on hold for approval).

Now yes, we have fraud protection.  Yes, that means we can get our money back easily enough if someone does use our info to make purchases.  It means filing a police report, filling out paperwork, and of course, cancelling your card ASAP and waiting to get a new one in the mail.  Have you thought about what life is like to go 2 weeks without your debit card?  Try it.  Don't take out cash first.  Just take your card right now and put it somewhere for two weeks.  See how that works out.

Before people blow off a security breach of ANY major corporation that has their information, they should really take into consideration what is at risk.
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What the Mel?! 4:25


I guess I won't really use my other title for this one, because there won't be as much gaming stuff in it, but I like my banner too much not to use it.  :)  But here's the weekly blog:

Gaming!


Audiosurf is the only new game I tried this week.  (New for me anyway.)  I expected a music/rhythm type game, and was kinda surprised when it was across between your normal music/rhythm game and some sort of racing track type deal.  Anyway, the best part of the game, for me, was being able to use music from your own hard drive for the game.  It's a fun little game to mess with, and I can see playing it on nights I may be playing music anyway.  It may be something I turn to instead of Bejeweled.  Other than that, the hubby has started playing Legacy Mode of Fight Night Champion.  He likes it, and at the same time he's not terribly thrilled with it.  Mostly the latter is because he's been having trouble knocking guys out, but this seems to be because of the new control scheme, and how he plays.  Finally, he also started playing Sacred 2 again.  Unfortunately, because I'm the one that does most of the stuff around the house, I didn't have as much time for gaming as him.

What I Did While GiantBomb Was Down


That is, aside from checking every fricking few minutes the first day.  Then I ended up going to Twitter to keep up on what was going on with GB.  The crew seemed to do well at keeping people informed and keeping content rolling out.  Unfortunately, I'm not really into the video content or podcasts, so I didn't care much.  I'm all about articles/posts I can scan/skim as I please.  But yeah, so I updated my Twitter page a bit.  And actually hung out on twitter a bit.  Now, I follow less than 50 people.  I only personally know a handful of them.  Maybe that's why I don't like Twitter much.  Because it's a bunch of people following celebrities, hoping that the celeb will notice them and retweet them or reply to one of their tweets.  So needless to say I got sick of Twitter fairly quickly.  I don't care THAT much about what a celebrity has to say every five fucking minutes.  I mean, ok I follow some cool people.  Wil Wheaton tweeted about a blog he wrote today where he bought his first Pokemon game ever recently at age 38.  It was a good read.  But I can't believe all these self-righteous people who expound about Facebook while they hook up their Twitter IV's.
Edit:  Oh yeah, so I actually ended up getting work done at work.  Which I am not doing so well at today.

A New Car!


 (You can't say "A NEW CAR!" without putting Bob Barker's voice with it.)

    So my husband and I previously only had one car, which he usually had for work.  It's a 1999 Ford Explorer Sport (2 door).  I love my SUV's, and this one was cute, and the price was right when we bought it.  But it's an SUV, which inherently means it sucks for gas mileage.  And the hubby has it most of the time anyway.  Considering I'm starting school soon, and will be in Seattle till late in the evenings, we needed a second vehicle - something with good gas mileage.  We settled on trying to find a Ford Focus, since their gas mileage is great.  (And we try to stick with domestic vehicles.)  After some run-around, some stress, and some crappy financing, Friday night I drove off the lot of my local Ford dealership with a 2008 Ford Focus.  The MPG's on this manual bad boy are 24 City, 35 Highway.  Great stuff.  It also has SYNC (the hands free voice recognition which hooks up to your phone, USB media, etc), which was fun as hell to mess with.  This car is also peppy as hell.  It's like an econo-sport car.  And it purrs like a kitten.  I'm quite happy with my new car, even if I'm not thrilled about car payments.

 The new car... and a blurry husband

Another Convention


So there's this convention in the Seattle area every year called NorWesCon.  It's a sci-fi convention.  I have some friends who have been going for years, and some who've been on staff for years.  They've been trying to get me and the hubby to go forever.  So this year we finally went for a while on Saturday night.  I was disappoint.  

First of all, I guess this year was their biggest year yet with around 3,600 people.  Uh... yay?   Rink-a-dink.  But then, my first ever convention was the 10k plus of PAX. 

Second, I found out that the celebrities there will almost always be crap because the convention staff refuse to pay a celebrity to show up to their convention.  Their loss I guess.

Third, the convention seems like nothing more than an excuse for people to dress up weird, and hang out and get drunk.  Now while the free booze was nice, if we were doing this convention right, we would have needed to get a hotel room.  I'm not paying for a hotel room just to get drunk when I can do that in the comfort of my own home.  I'm not really a big crowd person, and people-watching can only keep me entertained for so long, no matter how cool or weird they all look.  And I understand that lots of the guys go there to watch the chicks, but honestly, only like 10% of the chicks there are even worth checking out.  Trust me, I check out chicks too.  But here are a few pictures that I lifted from someone's Flickr of the weirdness that is NorWesCon.  I will never go again, I don't think.  But I will now drag my friends to PAX so they can see a REAL convention.


 Woah... These are not the droids I was looking for.
   Ok, this guy actually did look pretty neat.  Hell, the suit would have been cool even without all the glowy.
   Don't ask... I dunno.
   One of the decent ones.
     Sorry if I've scarred you.

Easter


I realized I almost forgot about Easter.  So we didn't do much.  I got everyone some candy and a chocolate bunny.  Got an Easter present for the kid.  Did a nice stuffed salmon dinner.  But it turns out that my ungrateful child believes that 11 is definitely NOT too old to still have her Easter morning egg hunt around the house.  She was also quite pissed that the mall and Gamestop don't seem to realize that Easter should only be celebrated first thing in the morning when kids get their baskets and such, and that the mall and Gamestop should be open after that.  I didn't take any pictures, but here's an old one for the holiday spirit:


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The Road to Mel is Paved with Games 4:18


Not a whole lot of gaming this week, I must admit.  The week has been a mashup of lots of things.  But I'll start with the Gaming first!

Guitar Hero Franchise


Over the weekend, Game Informer reported that the Guitar Hero franchise announced that after the April DLC tracks, the franchise will be going on a hiatus "until further notice."  This didn't bode too well for the franchise, which we already knew was dying.  But I thought they would at least keep up DLC longer.  However, after looking into things a bit, I found that last week Activision also made an announcement to assure people that although the franchise is going on hiatus, that doesn't mean they're done.  They're simply "not making a new one for the next year, that's all."  So... interesting news.  Unfortunately, the damage has already been done and I'm not sure that giving people a year's break will make them crave Guitar Hero any more than they do now.


Fight Night Champion (spoilers ahead)


So I didn't play this, but I actually watched my husband play it quite a bit over the weekend.  If I remember correctly, this is EA's first sports game to be rated M, and it was done so with good reason.  Overall the themes and language are definitely adult.  

Champion Mode, which is the story mode, was actually quite amazing.  While the Fight Night games were often simply a story of your fighter's rise to championship, this story was more than that.  Your fighter, Andre Bishop, is training with and being managed by your dad's old trainer, Gus.  Gus is doing well with Bishop, and Bishop has started his pro career after winning a gold-medal as an amateur Olympic boxer.  Promoter Diaw McQueen has taken notice of Bishop's talent, and wants it.  Bishop is happy with Gus though, and basically tells McQueen to jump off a cliff.  McQueen doesn't like that too much, and not too long later, Bishop finds himself in prison (where the game's story actually starts before the flashback).  Bishop makes a name for himself as a fighter in prison, and eventually gets back into the ring after his time served.  The rest I shall leave to the player to learn.

The control scheme for this Fight Night is different than it has been in the past, which may throw some people off.  The right control stick will throw punches now, and moving around the ring is part of your combos now.  Also, during story mode, there is very little actual training, and basically no stat training.   You're thrown directly into the fights and expected to learn along the way.  Some of the story mode fights also must be completed in a particular manner.  For example, in one fight, you may have to fight with one hand only.  It should be no surprise to learn that the graphics in this game are also spectacular.  The Fight Night games simply look better and better with each iteration, and each iteration still looks good.  I haven't gotten to check out the other modes yet, but so far, the game is a must-have for Fight Night fans.

Penny Arcade Expo

Just realized I need to add this in here because it's totally video-game related!  PAX is the only convention I truly give a shit about.  And although PAX Prime 2011 is still over four months away, I'm already feeling the excitement.  Last week I booked a room for the Saturday night of the convention at the Seattle Sheraton, and bought 3-day passes for me and the hubby and a couple Friday passes for our kid and housemate.  I realize E3 is still the big one for gamers, but PAX is one that us regular gamers actually get to go to!  Also, it's local (only one block away from where I work)!

Other Entertainment

The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo is a very good book, part of quite an interesting series.  I'm on the 2nd book of the series right now.  My daughter had originally got The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo  for herself, but it was too slow of a starter for her.  I'm kind of glad she decided not to read it, as some of the sex crimes that are discussed are something she can live without reading.  I've yet to see the movie for the first book

HBO's Game of Thrones premiered last night.  It should be no surprise, given that it's an HBO series, that there were lots of boobs in the episode, and some straight-up, no-doubt-about-it fucking.  But for anyone who's read the books, the show follows them quite well so far.  I'm still not terribly keen on Lena Headey as a blonde, but at least she's a good actress.
   
FOX's Fringe kicked off it's season finale countdown on Friday night with an episode that can simply be described as trippy.  From Fringe to the Matrix to a comic to zombies, with entering someone's mind and LSD and trying to download a consciousness to a computer.  Leave it to Fringe.
 

Other News

In other news... I found out on Friday that I've been accepted into Seattle University's School of Law.  There are two main reasons this is a big deal.  First, it was the only school I applied to.  I don't believe in putting all my eggs in one basket, but it's the only school that offers night classes so I can continue to work.  Second, I knew that my GPA and LSAT scores were good, but not spectacular, and the more that time passed without hearing anything, the more concerned I was that I would have to reapply next year.  But I'm in, and if all goes according to plan, I'll start classes this June and graduate in 2015.  Exciting!  And stressful!
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The Road to Mel is Paved With Games 4:11


Is the banner perhaps a bit much?  Maybe.  But all I had access to was an old sig and online banner creators.  Well, you know what they say.  Sex sells.  And it seems that having a banner for your blog is THE way to go around here.  So there.


Portal

Last week or so,   wasteguru was giving away a copy of Portal on Steam.  I guess most people already have it, because no one had asked for it yet in the thread.  And I'm slow to the party and hadn't messed with the game at all myself either.  So   wasteguru gifted me that copy of Portal and I proceeded to start playing that night when I got home.  The game was quite a trip, I thought!  Although I was under the impression, because of GLaDOS talking about it being a test facility, that levels 1-19 were merely training levels for the real game.  So I was disappointed to find out that wasn't the case.  However, I was pleased that I got through the first 17 levels without any assistance, or looking up how to do anything.  Unfortunately that changed when I got to level 18.  And admittedly, I didn't finish level 19.  I died at the incinerator part (I didn't go into the incinerator, but I missed my jump and landed in the water), and when I saw the rest of the level on Youtube, I just said forget it.  But I did have fun with the game.  I'm actually somewhat excited for the Portal 2 commercials I've seen.

Two Worlds 2


I have the first Two Worlds somewhere at home.  I didn't play it very long.  It looked exactly like Oblivion, but with crappier graphics.  Two Worlds 2 was slightly better, but not by much.  One of the biggest problems I had is that I will have to fix something on my TV or 360 because the sides of the game are cut off, and I can't see what I should be pressing to do what half the time.  Made the game a bit more difficult and frustrating.  But the game also just didn't catch me.  Maybe I missed something big from the story line from the original game.  Orc genocide seems like something big, after all.  And what is with their orcs anyway?  They look like the Darkspawn from Dragon Age.   

Torchlight

Ah, finally we get to the winning game of the last week for me.  Having just recently become a Steam member, I was looking for something to play, and I hit my usual section - the RPG section.  One of the games listed there was Torchlight, and there was a demo.  Now I had heard people talk about the game here on GB, and had heard how great it was.  The hubby and I had looked at a retail box in Best Buy, but the game just looked really cartoony and kid-ish.  Really seemed like something we would buy for our daughter and not ourselves.  Well, I decided to try the demo out this weekend, cause why not?!  I had no idea I was in such a mood for a dungeon crawler.  Torchlight was so very Diablo-ish, (but different enough not to be a complete clone) which was perfectly okay with me.  Before I had even gotten to the "Thank you for playing the demo!" I had decided that I wanted the full version.  The hubby was also already hooked by this time.  So we played some Torchlight over the weekend.

I'm always big into my casters, so I started playing an alchemist.  Because of course I hadn't found out about the couple dozen custom classes available until my alchemist was level 20-something.  But when I found out about mods for the game.... Sweet!!!  So I found a site that has all sorts of mods for the game and started looking through them.  After some experimenting, and downloading and throwing away several mods, I finally narrowed it down to a few necessary mods.
  • Jarcho's Class Compilation v1.3 - Compiled 22 other class mods into one big mod that makes them all available.  Also includes about the same amount of pets (instead of just cat/dog)
  • Merchant Pack - This mod adds Map, Fish, Gem, Spell & Scroll, Potion, and Ranged weapon sellers to the town.  It also modifies the Blacksmith, General Merchant and Gem/Trinket sellers to remove overlapping inventories.
  • Better Balanced Sale Prices - Item sale prices now scale appropriately with item rarity and level.
  • Enchanter -  E nchanter capped at 2% wipe rate. You have an 80% chance for an enchantment and a 20% chance to socket an item.  Shrines capped at 1% wipe rate. You have an 80% chance for an enchantment and a 20% chance to socket an item.  A friend said to me, "what's the point, but I've still had items wiped even at these rates :(
  • Nowhere -   A cool platform with a bunch of stashes, a shared stash, a couple merchants, and a transmuter standing 



So I was close to level 30 when I left off playing last night, still working on my alchemist although there are now all those other classes available.  Although at times the game seems totally easy, at other times I find myself easily dying too.  So I guess the game has the right amount of challenge to it.  And as I said, I'm really enjoying it.  Too bad I keep getting into these games so close to the release of their sequels.

Nongaming Stuff


So some quick nongaming updates....

Had that talk with the housemate the other day.  I knew that if I got to chatting with him after I'd been drinking I'd let it all out, and I did.  Amazingly, he has offered to simply put down the pipe, and realizes that if he can't turn his life around, he won't have a place to live long.  Glad we got that out of the way.

 My female dog, who has always been the one to have health issues, threw up blood again this weekend, after me taking her to the vet recently for the same issue.  When I took her to the vet, they decided that it's most likely that she has an ulcer.  The other big possibility is that she has something lodged in her stomach lining.  We just hope it doesn't turn out to be something more serious.

     

And yeah, I guess that's it for now.  Better get back to work considering I got here nearly an hour late today thanks to the busses being on a Saturday schedule from now till July when they get cut back even further.  Stupid transit.

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What the Mel?! 4:4 Gaming and Life

School 

I'm still waiting to hear on my acceptance or rejection to Seattle U's law school.  Each week that passes gets me more apprehensive that it will be a rejection.  Last month, I did get an update:  I am being reviewed for their "Alternative Admission Program."   

Individuals considered for the Alternative Admission Program are members of historically disadvantaged, underrepresented, or physically challenged groups, and/or students whose capabilities may not be accurately reflected in GPAs and LSAT scores.  


So... I'm guessing my GPA and Scores, which were above average, but not outstanding, weren't quite good enough so they're looking into the other factors.  We'll see what happens with that.  Only about 10% of the people reviewed for this program actually get in.   When I received the notice that I was being reviewed for this program, I was told that decisions would be made by mid-April.  So either way, I'll know soon. 
 

In-Laws 

Everyone's got in-law horror stories.  This actually isn't an in-law horror story.  However, it may be a pre- ....something.  My mother in law may end up moving in with us.  We've had to lend money the last couple months in a row, and we would rather give her our extra room than expect that we are just gonna float money every month.  But there's where I'm worried.  I get along well with my mother in law.  I'm not sure we've ever had any big disagreements.  She thinks I'm one of the best things to have ever happened to her son.  But I'm concerned that her moving in with us is going to cause friction that wasn't previously there.  The hubby and I have already discussed this in detail and he completely understands.  As it is, she may not have to move in with us, but we'll see.  Honestly, I'm tired of people moving in with us.  I would love to just have some time where there's NO ONE but us.  And our kid, until she moves out. 
 

Sex 

Ok well not completely.  Just something that really stuck out from last week.  We currently have a housemate.  He has the guest room upstairs, right above the master bedroom.  We're fairly quiet people in what we do.  We've always had someone living with us (whether our own kid, or a family member or friend, etc), and we're pretty private, don't believe people need to know what we do.  So we keep it on the DL.  Of course there are nights where it seems like, in our ears, that everyone in the house must hear what's going on.  I guess that isn't the case.  My husband had recently confided to our housemate that he had "knocked the back out of it" the previous night.  Our housemate told my husband he wasn't even sure that we still have sex because he never hears anything.  That was... kind of embarrassing.  I mean, okay I understand that because we've been together for about 12 years, people might assume that there's less of a spark there than there was earlier on.  But jeez, it's not like we're OLD.  It's not like we hate each other.  
 

Youtube  

I was going to separate out the couple youtube videos, but I decided not to.  Both of these are from last year, but I've only recently been really getting into them.  First up, Miley Cyrus in Can't Be Tamed.  I know, it's Miley Cyrus, but this is NOT the Hannah Montana we groaned through whenever our kids watched it.  This is 18 year old Miley Cyrus, who is definitely showing the world in this video that she's not a little girl with Disney's backing anymore. 
  
  The other video is the Bed Intruder song.  Now I've though that Autotune the News is pretty frickin funny, but I have finally subscribed to their channel.  This was just too funny, and I look forward to when it hits the Rock Band Network.  My husband and I finally watched it the other night, and just couldn't stop laughing at it. 
  
  

Gaming!! 

I can't let a week go by without saying something about recent gaming, so here we go.  I had hit lvl 20 on my EQ Extended account, and moved out of the lowbie areas and immediately lost interest in my character.  I purchased the Guild Wars trilogy and after a big headache, I finally got one of my toon names from a GM so I could actually log into my account (I had played a trial of the game 2 years ago).  Would have helped (and saved me that headache) to know that the game requires first and last names for toons.  But once I got it all set up, I couldn't figure out what I wanted to play!  Ugh.  I'll get back to it. 
 
My husband and I played Rock Band the other night.  We're going back to trying to make that our Saturday thing, whether or not we have company.  Considering that we'd been drinking and we had the fog machine going (which always seems to mess with my throat), we kicked some serious ass!  We gold-starred several songs as our little two-person band, had several actual number ranks (not just a percentage), and solo I did even better!  This was just an example, but definitely one I'm proud of! 
 
#3 Worldwide on Vocals!


#3 Worldwide on Vocals!

 And I suppose that's about it.  I really should get back to doing some work... at least something to show for the day!   
 
Until next time children!
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The Road to Mel is Paved with Games - 3:28 The Itch

What is The Itch?

 I think most gamers, who are true gamers at heart, have the itch.  Each gamer may have a different itch, but we all get them.  The Itch is that craving you get to play something.  You may not even know what in particular, but there are probably certain aspects you're looking for.  Maybe your itch is an RTS.  Maybe your itch is shooting some people in the face.  My particular itch is the MMO itch.  The biggest reason is probably because I want to see pretty armor upgrades, awesome spell particles, classic class mechanics.  There are few RPGs that offer this, but MMOs usually fit the bill (at least the ones I play). 
  
Hawke - DA2

Why The Itch? What happened to DA2?

This weekend I started to get the itch again.  Which is kind of funny - I had just cancelled my WoW account a week ago or so because I haven't touched my toons since January.  But I guess Dragon Age 2 just wasn't hitting the spot the way the first one was.  Honestly, I blame the lack of interaction with the other toons.  In DA:O, one of the things that really kept me going was the character interaction.  I'd blogged about that before.  Sometimes I wanted to go back to camp just to chat it up with my team.  Also, it probably doesn't help any that two-thirds of the gear I pick up, I have no use for, since it's meant for other classes and I can't equip my team's armor anymore.  I've only gotten part of the way through Act II and just kinda lost interest in the game. 
 

How to Satisfy the Itch? 

I'm not normally into free-to-play MMOs.  Mostly because the graphics and/or gameplay either suck terribly, or are very JRPG-based, which doesn't attract me at all.  However, more and more big title games are offering some free-to-play version of their game while keeping the "premium" content for subscribers.  And for an itch that may only last me a couple weeks, this suits me fine.  So I began looking at some bigger-name MMOs that have gone free-to-play.  I knew that I was definitely in the mood for a modern, 3D, fantasy-genre MMO.  So this did cut out some options such as Anarchy Online, which I did enjoy for a time back in the day.
 

LOTRO

Several weeks back, I had started the download for the Lord of the Rings Online's free-to-play version.  But it was taking forever and I wanted to play something else, so I killed the download and never returned to it.  Over the weekend I spent some time over at Turbine's site, and figured out why I still have yet to really try out LOTRO.  It just doesn't fit enough into the standard fantasy MMORPG.  I want my normal classes and races.  I want to be able to make a female dwarf damnit.  But really, 4 races?  And the classes are limited with a free-to-play account too.  But really, it's their website that really killed it for me.  The website is NOT laid out in a way that makes it easy to find basic game information, nor is it simple to just get the free download.  So I gave up on LOTRO without even downloading it. 
  

DDO Unlimited

Since I was visiting Turbine, I checked out one of their other freebies:  Dungeons & Dragons Online.  I couldn't remember anything I'd heard about this game, so I figured what the heck, I'll give it a shot.  Only six races in this game, two of which you're locked out of in the free-to-play version.  But I went ahead and made myself an elf.  Now, this being D&D, I half expected the class system to be limited.  To my delight, I was mistaken.  There are 11 total classes, only one of those being unavailable in free-to-play.  Within each class, you can specialize, and you can also multi-class.  This sounded great!  The graphics so far weren't so hot, but I was willing to deal with it if the game was going to be good enough.  So I played for a couple hours or so.  It was very much like the MUDs and RPGs of old with the die rolls and saves, etc.  I was really thrown off by the fact that there was a Dungeon Master/narrator.  Wasn't used to that in my MMOs at all.  It took a while to get key bindings set up to the way I'm used to from almost every other MMO that I've played.  While I don't necessarily want cookie cutter MMOs, I don't want key bindings changed from game to game either.  Once I got that all figured out I realized combat still sucked.  I had to click for every swing.  Targeting was a pain in the ass.  Otherwise, it was typical MMO.  But the graphics and interface/key bindings are what did it for me in the end.  I decided I wasn't too keen on DDO. 
  

EQ2 - Extended

Finally I turned to one that I've had fun with in the past, and though the free version is very limited, I knew I'd enjoy myself again.  I downloaded and installed Everquest II Extended.  The free to play version of the game only allows you to play one of four available races (out of a total of 19 for subscribers), and one of eight available classes (out of a total of 24 for subscribers).   There are plenty of other limits too, such as limits on trading, mail, bag and bank space, etc.  But I knew that even this pared down verison of EQ2 would satisfy the itch I had.  And sure enough it did.  After letting it download overnight on Saturday, and installing on Sunday, I played for a while on Sunday between errands and got to level 10 before I had to quit for the eve.  I made an Erudite Wizard because in my old subscription account, I hadn't really messed with Erudites. 
 

 Other Ways to Satisfy the Itch

 I've really been considering just going to the store and buying a bunch of 30 day game cards to various MMOs that I've enjoyed playing over the years.  That way when the itch arises, I can just choose a game card and play a game without worrying about getting sucked into the subscription again if I won't be playing that long.  I'm not sure how well this will work, or if I'll do it, but I'm really considering it.  I may even stop by Gamestop on my lunch break today to take a look at 30 day cards.  I'm definitely up for other suggestions too.  If there's a good MMO out there that's free, can stand up against other current-gen MMOs, and is Western-based, tell me about it!  I am aware of Guild Wars, I've just never gotten around to buying a copy of the game.  But it's one I've definitely considered many times just for The Itch purpose. 
 
I'll even consider single player RPGs that might satisfy The Itch, though usually this particular itch makes me go for something like Oblivion or Sacred 2
 
And that's where my gaming currently sits.
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What the Mel?! - Of Ignorants and Bullies

Ignorants 

Well.  I finally did something that is going to help save some of my sanity, I think.  I clicked "Hide all posts from this person" on their Facebook news feeds.  Here was the final post that broke the camel's back:

 
Shout Out !!! I Dedicate This Whole Day To You My My:-)

To Day Is A Very Special Birthday For You :-) Gordita This Year Is The Year To Celebrate:-) Everything Wonderful God Has Done With You And You With Him It's Amazing. You Keep Celebrating Gordita:-) Know That Your Father Has Your Day Plan For Ur Birthday So Ma Let Him Have His Way For You!!! Lol :-) Happy Birthday Gordita Love Ya Muahhhhhhhhhhh!!!!!!!!


My aunt, the one I lived with from 13-17, the one who tries to take credit for the person I am today, posted that this morning.  It was meant for her son's girlfriend.  By the way, if you don't speak Spanish, Gordita means fat girl (at least in non-Mexican Spanish).  Yes, she calls basically calls her my fat girl.  Well, the girl IS Samoan.  But I digress.  There are three things that bothered the hell out of me with this.  The religious crap I could get past, perhaps, if this had been written in some fucking form of English.  But this woman, who is 50 years old, fucking refuses to put a goddamn sentence together correctly.  To make matter worse, the girl she is "shouting out" to is one that allegedly has stolen from her and did all this crap, ended up in jail, and when my aunt found out that her son and this girl were back together, she was NOT happy.  Now she loves this girl again.  I realize with the religious stuff it may seem like maybe she just went all religious and forgiving with this girl.  Nope, my aunt is totally two-faced.  Always has been.  So all these things wrapped up together, I just couldn't take it anymore.  I'm not going to unfriend my family members because that would just be asking to start trouble, but my aunt, and several other family members like her just had all their Facebook posts hidden from showing up in my newsfeed anymore.  I'd rather retain my sanity and reduce the chances of letting sharp words get away from me. 
 

Bullies 

So there was a big thread in the forums about some video (and this is what I gather happened, I didn't watch) where a bully kid was picking on a smaller kid, and picking on him, and picking on him, until the smaller kid got fed up, and apparently did some pretty violent crap to the bully.  It sounds like this was on school grounds, with people watching, though no one interfered, and ultimately, both kids got in trouble, I think?  But the whole thread really went on about bullying. 
 
I will say ahead of time, I don't think I've ever been truly bullied.  I've been picked on, sure.  But I never experienced the everyday, fear to go to school, emotionally depressing bullying.  Then again, I attribute that in large part simply to the kind of person I've been throughout my life. 
 
My own memories are faded and possibily inaccurate, so I'll give an example from my own daughter, since she is a lot like her mom. 
 
One of her first years of school, my husband got called into the principal's office.  Our daughter was in trouble for fighting.  When he asked what happened, he was told that our daughter hit someone.  When he pressed for more information he found out that the actual story went like this:  The kids were standing in line for whatever reason.  The boy behind our daughter kept pulling her hair.  She told him to knock it off.  He instead continued to pull her hair.  She turned around and kicked him in the shin.  And got sent to the principal's office. 
 
That was me as a kid too.  During elementary school I probably played with the boys more than the girls.  And I got plenty of shit for being short (even today, I'm only 5'3"), for having glasses, for having crooked teeth, for being poor, etc.  But my response was often to give them shit right back.  I guess I've always had a strong personality.  I've had guys try to intimidate me as though they were going to beat me up, and it never worked, because I'd be willing to scrap with them. 
 
So anyway, this is just my own background and why I feel the way I do about the bully situation. 
 
Of course there are bullies out there, and sure, it's not right.  But I think we are doing a disservice by coddling children who are bullied, or even teased.  I'm sorry, if you're a six year old kid and you're 200 lbs, the other kids ARE going to make fun of you, no way around it.  Parent's certainly shouldn't be trying to coddle the kid by saying it's not his fault he's fat (especially since if it's not his fault, then it's theirs).  Getting picked on is a part of growing up.  Learning how to deal with it is also a big part of that.  Children who never learn how to deal with it will have problems later in life when there is a different type of bullying going on in the workplace and they don't know how to address it.  And honestly, sometimes it's the only way to get through to kids about their problems.  Your kid doesn't like brushing their teeth?  They'll learn to brush when they start getting teased at school about stinky breath.  Your kid likes wearing crappy old clothes to school?  They may change their mind when they're made fun of over it. 
 
Now, this is certainly not excusing bullies at all.  This is just an example of how I think society is fucking this up.  The other example is punishing kids for sticking up for themselves.  I realize that perhaps the kid in the video that was posted in that thread went too far.  But should kids who stick up for themselves with bullies always get in trouble?  My kid didn't need to be sent to the principal's office for what she did when she was being messed with.  I have no problem admitting I have little doubt my kid has done other things she probably deserves to go to the principal's office for, but for defending herself?  
 
Society is simply helping the vicious cycle along.  We will demonize the children who defend themselves, but we will continue to coddle children into believing that no one should ever get picked on, ever. 
 
And this is one of those where I've lost my train of thought.... so on to other things...
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The Road to Mel is Paved with Games - DA2 Part 1

Overview

 So I've been playing with DA2 for the last five days.  A few hours during the week, most of the days during the weekend.  I'd say I've probably got 30ish hours in, maybe more.  I feel like I've barely scratched Act 2. 
  

Things Not Yet Mentioned Elsewhere

There are a TON of Dragon Age II threads.  I'm not going to clog up the forums by making new ones for each observation. 
 
Did you know you could have Anders' glowing eyes?  If you have The Black Emporium, there's a potion there called Elixir of Purity that gives you a 30 minute buff of +10% damage to darkspawn.  And also gives you glowy eyes! 
 
Hawke - DA2

I don't really give a shit that some people find this game atrocious.  Many people also find World of Warcraft atrocious, and I enjoy that on occasion too.
 

Merrill 

I don't understand what people think is so great about her.  Her head is way too big for her body.  She's naive far beyond the point of being cute.  Between her physical features and her naivety she is like a child, and as such might as well be jailbait.  Personally I prefer a real woman, like Isabella (though granted, you have to wonder what you might catch with her). 
 

Aveline 

Why does she remind me so much of the barbarian females from EQ?   Ok so the below isn't a great comparison, but I swear, all Aveline needs is a woad and she'd fit right in.
 
     

My Game (Spoilers, Ahoy!)

I'm a femHawke mage.  This means that Bethany died in the prologue, and I was stuck with the stick-up-his-ass brother Carver.  Thanks to my trusty strat guide (that I actually didn't want my husband to get for me, but he thought he was doing something really nice), Carver is now off galavanting around as a Grey Warden. 
 
Mostly, my group consists of Fenris, Isabella, and Anders.  They're all also potential romance options for me.  Though I've been having second thoughts about Anders.  Isabella and I have already had a romp.   Sebastian would be a decent love interest if he weren't such a prude.  I find something about Fenris' voice sexy.  Anders' voice was better in Awakening.  Isabella could flirt with me all day long.
 
I made Varric kill his brother.  The few times I have Merrill with me, she doesn't use blood magic.  I can't wait to get into why Isabella bolts from the group every time I enter the Qunari area in the city.  I've been walking an interesting path with not truly committing to mages or templars in this game.
 
I'm playing on Normal.  I don't really have an epeen to stroke by playing on a harder difficulty and then telling everyone about it.  
 
I guess that's it for the moment.  I'm kind of Dragon Age'd out on the forums and blogs today.  But part 2 will come after I finish the game, probably, so that I can actually review it and stuff.

 
Below is a list of all the content for my game. 
   
Evra's Trophy BeltDragon Age II PC/MacMore Info
Evra's MightDragon Age II PC/MacMore Info
Signature Edition RewardsDragon Age II PC/MacMore Info - PC 
More Info - Mac
The Black EmporiumDragon Age II PC/MacMore Info - PC 
More Info - Mac
The Exiled PrinceDragon Age II PC/MacMore Info - PC 
More Info - Mac
Dragon Age II Soundtrack - Signature EditionDragon Age II PC/MacMore Info
Boots of the Frozen WastesDragon Age II PC/MacMore Info
The Far Cliffs of KirkwallDragon Age II PC/MacMore Info
Blood Dragon ArmorDragon Age II PC/MacMore Info
Lothering's LamentDragon Age II PC/MacMore Info
Hayder's RazorDragon Age II PC/MacMore Info
Of Things Not LostDragon Age II PC/MacMore Info
Ser Isaac's ArmorDragon Age II PC/MacMore Info
Staff of ParthalanDragon Age II PC/MacMore Info
HindsightDragon Age II PC/MacMore Info
FadeshearDragon Age II PC/MacMore Info
The Lion of OrlaisDragon Age II PC/MacMore Info
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The Road to Mel is Paved With Games - 03/07/11

I realize that I'm posting this on 3/9, with a date of 3/7 in the blog, but I didn't want people to confuse this for having anything to do with Dragon Age II. 
 
I finished Fable 3 this past weekend.  I haven't S-Ranked it because I haven't gotten DLC, and there are still some things in the game I haven't done.  Mostly the multiplayer stuff.  Overall, I enjoyed Fable 3.  However, the ending was pretty lack-luster.  First, I will say I was very grateful that the game let me go back to playing the game after I completed the main story.  In fact, there were a few new quests available, which was great.  But... the end of the main story was what fell a bit flat.  I guess I expected this huge final fight, either with an army against a ton of mobs, or an epic final boss fight by myself.  The boss fight really wasn't too epic at all. 
 
One thing I will say about the game is some of the "decisions" really ticked me off.  For example, the one that asked if I wanted to "bail out the economy."  I'd be a bad guy if I didn't, apparently.  Of course, I took all the good guy choices, and I managed to make enough money so that no one died.  But overall, it was still a bunch of crap in that regard.  I don't think I'll bother with the DLC.  The game was okay, but not that great that I haven't gotten my fill after beating it.

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