Just, you know, games and stuff

Some thoughts on games and stuff I've been playing lately.

take a trip to sleepy town

Destiny: I got to max level in this without ever grouping, which is a nice feature for a pseudo-MMO. Not sure I have much more to do here, but maybe I’ll dig it out from time to time.

Generally speaking, I really enjoy the action here, but it is pretty baffling to encounter the story and variety issues that Bungie let slip through. When every mission seems to end with your Ghost scanning something as you defend it from waves of enemies, well...it feels like someone should've said something at some point during development. It's difficult to figure out a reason why that didn't happen except for myopia or perhaps a bit of intimidation on the part of people who would've had the power to give feedback on gameplay. Theoretically the role of external producers (i.e. people from Activision) would've included giving more harsh feedback than what might come from internal testing, but then I suspect that Bungie's contract might've made them somewhat immune from publisher feedback, given that they're one of the most popular developers in the world.

Tough to guess. Regardless, the game is fun. I like fun games. It could’ve been better.

Dead Rising 3: This game is surprisingly fun, but then that shouldn’t be too much of a surprise considering how much I enjoyed the first two games in the series. I was initially worried about the fact that the casual difficulty still had a timer ticking down, but thus far it hasn’t seemed like I’ve felt pressured by the clock, even when I’ve been spending plenty of time going after the side objectives and collectibles and such.

no cage can hold me

That said, I don’t think that the vehicle combinations really add much to the game, and it’s a bit annoying when the PC versions of a game come pre-loaded with a bunch of DLC weapons that make the early sections of a game trivially easy. That said, this doesn’t seem to be focused on being much of a challenge even without super weapons; the way you can just retrieve whatever you’ve built before from the locker as you jaunt off to a psychopath fight seems to make those kind of trivial, at least the few that I’ve done so far. At any rate I’d rate this as more intended to act as an entertaining diversion than some hardcore death simulator, which is fine by me.

Wasteland 2: It’s amazing how something as simple as the ability to create your whole party makes me like this more than Divinity: Original Sin, which I’ve been meaning to complete but simply can’t get enthusiastic for due to its somewhat hamstrung character creation. That’s unfortunate, as Divinity’s combat and general design is pretty clearly the better of the two games, but hey: the heart wants what the heart wants.

Even so, my time for gaming is so bursty these days that I’m far more likely to sit down for a half-hour of Spelunky than spend the same amount of time on Wasteland or Divinity. I used to love super-long games, but knowing that it’ll take me two months to get through a game with nightly hour-long sessions just makes me feel more blank than excited these days. It feels like I either need a game to be under ten hours long or open-ended like WoW to get me excited to sit down and give it a whirl, which is a shame, but seems somewhat common as people who play games often get older. Maybe if I take a vacation that doesn’t involve travel I’ll give Divinity another whirl sometime. Or try to breeze through it on the easiest difficulty and not worry about the party composition so much. I know they added a pair of new companions, though; maybe those will be a bit more up my alley.

More than anything I guess I’d really like someone to make a decent respec mod. It looks like there’s a custom henchmen guide, though; might have to give that a whirl sometime, even though it looks super-complicated.

you know, just thinking about stuff

I guess this was mostly about Divinity. I sincerely regret the error.

Men who don’t raise the toilet seat before they pee in a public bathroom: what the hell, people.

The New La Roux album: This isn’t very good! It’s repetitive musically and doesn’t have any songs with the kind of lyrical hooks that songs like In For The Kill and Fascination did on the the first album. There’s a strong theme of sexual anxiety in the album, and anxiety can lead to some amazing music (see: most of Fiona Apple’s best songs), but that only works if the songs are actually interesting to listen to. They were decent live when I saw them, but damn does Elly Jackson ever dance like...well, like me. I don’t dance well.

Spelunky: I’m up to 1,237 plays in this game, with five Olmec kills and five Yama kills. I don’t know why I keep playing it, but I easily clock half an hour a day with it on my Vita, without fail. At a rough guess of 7.5 minutes per run (probably high), that’s over 150 hours I’ve spent on this game. I almost gave up after the first 50 runs or so, but I’m glad I persisted.

Shadow of Mordor: This is good, and noticeably more difficult than most recent Assassin’s Creed games, which is a fine complication. I’m not very far into it, but it’s a solid PC port aside from some extreme framerate issues when you’re in tight spaces and have been playing for a while - this can extend back to the upgrades menu, at least in my case, which can cause problems. It feels like this is probably related to my five-year-old CPU (an i7 920) rather than my video card, so maybe I’ll try to just shut down all my other programs while it’s running and see if that helps. But somehow it feels like a memory leak. Who knows!

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Vacation! Vacation!

Hey, I'll be on vacation starting tonight and probably won't be very quick about getting back to PMs and the like for the next week or so, until after PAX. If you have moderation concerns, use the PM All Mods button on the right side of any forum page, or send an email to giantbombmods@gmail.com. If you have a site issue, post in the bug reporting forum or email support@giantbomb.com and someone will hopefully get to you soon. If something super urgent arises, send me a tweet, but I can't guarantee a timely response.

Au revoir or whatever!

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Warcraft Addons Setup

Hey, since we've been talking about WoW lately, and @danryckert seemed curious about WoW addons, here's a screenshot of my current addon setup:

That is, of course, a relatively placid screenshot. And note that this is not a particularly pretty or well-organized screen; it's very utilitarian and focused only on what I absolutely need, without much care for aesthetics. Here's one where I'm actually tanking a raid (albeit an LFR):

As you can probably tell, WoW is not just about gameplay and adapting to what's happening in the world: it's also about data. Shitloads of data. As a tank, there are a few different things I have to keep track of in a fight, in no particular order:

  • My health. If this goes away, I die. As a raid tank, I'll usually have a healer or two focusing on me, so this usually isn't an issue, but I have plenty of cooldowns to pop if things get hairy.
  • The other tank's health. I set a focus on the other tank in LFRs to ensure that they stay alive. Not all fights require two tanks (some require more than that on harder difficulties), but enough of them do that losing the second tank is usually a bad thing. I can throw them a quick Lay on Hands if I need to if I focus on them. In this case, the second tank's health is above and to the left of the boss' head.
  • My party's health. I like to save my Lay on Hands for myself, but I'll burn it on a party member if they get in trouble.
  • The boss' phase and debuff stacks. Most raid bosses have a set of phases that they go through during which they'll use different attacks or will force you to hand them off to another tank to survive the onslaught. Most of the time this is the result of a stacking debuff like the Flaming Spear above; the more stacks you get of something, the more damage you take, so the other tank will have to taunt the boss off of you (or you taunt it off of them) and disengage from the fight for a second to let the debuffs wear off.
  • Similarly, mods will let you easily see what the boss' cooldowns are for his or her abilities. That's the red meter counting down over the stack of damage/healing numbers in the picture above.
  • Cooldown timers. Most of my panic buttons (usually damage reduction for a short period of time) have three-minute timers, shown as a rotating circle of dark and light on the button itself. These aren't necessarily required to live through a fight, but they can make life easier on my healers for a bit.
  • Threat. Like most MMOs, fights in WoW use a threat system. Threat is basically how much of a badass a boss thinks you are, and thus how likely they are to keep attacking a character. Tanks usually do far less DPS than dedicated damage classes, but we dish out more threat to a boss due to built-in modifiers and stances. If you're a tank, your threat should almost always be first or second out of your 25-man raid; otherwise, the boss will probably be attacking a DPS or a healer, and most of them will die in one or two hits from a raid boss. My threat meter here is the parchment-style display below the minimap.
  • Chat. I don't do fancy raids with teamspeak and the like; LFRs use chat to communicate. Mostly it's dumb stuff like silly DPS being all GOGOGOGOGOGO when I'm talking to the other tank, but there can be good info here.

The main thing that's missing from the second screen above is the full raid status bars. I don't particularly need to know or care what the 20 other raid members outside of my group are up to.

I'm sure there's other stuff I'm forgetting, but that's the bulk of it. Here are a few of the core addons that make the above look so stupid:

  • Omen Threat Meter: good way to track threat.
  • Quickmark: Lets you easily mark mobs with skulls, crosses, moons, etc., from a toolbar on your screen.
  • Sexymap: Allows for a variety of minimap shapes. Not critical but nice.
  • Tidy Plates/Threat Plates: Not easily seen here, but the green healthbar over the boss would turn red if I lose aggro/threat on him. Amazingly useful in more chaotic fights with multiple enemies.
  • DeadlyBossMods: Basically a required mod for raiding at this point. Lets you know when boss cooldowns are up and, thus, when to expect their next super-attack or phase shift.
  • Bartender4: There are plenty of bar-customization mods out there, but I like Bartender.
  • X-Perl Unitframes: Allows user customization of the appearance of user and target and party health/mana bars. Big, important tool that takes a lot of time to figure out, but pretty great once you get the hang of it.
  • Recount: Lots of damage and healing data. Always fun to see how much more damage you took than everyone else.

Of course, I'm playing without any of these at the moment since I'm in the addon-less Warlords of Draenor beta, but hey: that's my story, etc.

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The Expanse!

So I powered through the first four books of the Expanse series as quickly as I can recall book-reading in the past. I got through the first four books of the Harry Potter series in about two weeks back when I first started plowing through them; I think I might've gotten through all of the Expanse books even more quickly than that. My Kindle records show that I bought the first book on July 20th, the second on July 22nd (!), the third on July 27, and the fourth on July 30th. These aren't exactly short books (2300 pages between the four of them), and I'm a busy guy, so hopefully it says something to their readability that I managed to get through them all at such a pace.

warp speed mr sulu

It's interesting to read well-done hard sci-fi, especially in a relatively low-tech setting like the Expanse books. There aren't any warp drives or phasers or teleporters here; everything is pretty tightly constrained to the laws of relativistic or newtonian physics. Passengers on ships without thrust deal with the inconveniences of zero-gravity; radiation is still something that needs to be worried about; individuals brought up on Mars or in the asteroid belt are effectively prevented from ever visiting Earth due to the crush of its gravity well. Obviously there are narrative hiccups here and there (how many times can Amos appear to be dead at the end of a chapter, only to find himself miraculously fine when the action returns to him?), and the last couple of books indulge in the villain-of-the-week kind of Star Trekianisms that I was hoping the authors were better than. Still, the books managed to be compulsively readable.

Not to overstate the import of these books; they're mostly fluff, but sometimes a bit of fluff is all you really want out of a good three-hour reading session. These books aren't exactly Kim Stanley Robinson novels, but then, that's probably a good thing: KSR's where I turn for Serious Business, and sometimes I just want to read something that keeps me clicking the next page button. The Expanse books are definitely that. Sorry if I'm not being specific w/r/t plot or anything like that; if you think this sounds like something you'd be interested in, feel free to grab a Kindle sample and go to town.

Anyone read their Honor Among Thieves Star Wars book? It looks like it's around half the length of an Expanse novel, which doesn't strike me as an awesome deal.

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Kindle Owner's Lending Library is poop from my butt

I like reading, and I like reading books for free, although I rarely get to the library anymore. That's why the Kindle Owner's Lending Library is so poopy. In theory, it's a grand idea; as part of your Amazon Prime yearly membership, you get to check out a book a month for free, read it as much as you like, then return it and get another one after a few weeks. Great! But even though there's like 300,000 books in there, well, it doesn't take much browsing to see that most of them are of this level of quality:

Even disregarding the woeful amalgamation of science fiction and fantasy (I'm sure there are plenty of people who like to read both, but I'm not one of them), it's pretty clear from even a cursory examination of any of the categories that Amazon's been scraping from the bottom of the self-publishing barrel to populate their lending library. Even if you find a curated listing of the best books in the library (something Amazon should really be doing, considering the thousands of spam or crap titles in the library), they're usually dominated by the stuff that Amazon clearly laid down a little money to throw in there as a loss leader: the Hunger Games books, the Harry Potter books, an assortment of Kurt Vonnegut...and really not that much else. Take a look at what they've added in the last 30 days if you want to see a lot of books that describe themselves as the second installment in some vaguely-defined (and assuredly open-ended) saga or are some half-hearted 50 Shades of Grey knockoff.

This doesn't feel like it's all that insoluble of a problem. Netflix faced and faces much the same dilemma: you can populate your library with nothing but crap, but people are going to notice and complain. People still complain about Netflix' selection, sure, but their ability to create some pretty great original shows and license a few popular mainstream movies every month (World War Z, uh, The Avengers, uhhhh, Cloudy with a Chance of Meatballs 2, uhhhh....well, whatever, as long as I can watch any 30 Rock episode at any time, they're all right by me) keeps me paying them the $whatever a month that they demand of me. Someday I'll catch up on Luther, I swear.

I suppose the issue with the Lending Library is that it's a very small part of the Amazon Prime program and everyone's focus over there is attempting to remain competitive with Netflix. Honestly, they're doing a good job of that; the libraries are fairly similar on a movie basis, and Amazon's willingness to shell out what was very likely hundreds of millions of dollars to get the HBO back library is a sign that they're pretty serious about staying in the streaming race. Still, I love my Kindle, and I love reading, and I'd love to having something decent and free to read from the Lending Library. Pay a little money to get some Stephen King books from the 80s; pay someone to make a really killer Kindle version of the collected Shakespeare; do a reader's version of an out-of-copyright translation of War and Peace and do a book club around it. Do something. Just don't keep making me scroll through endless pages of shit like My Cursed Lover's Skeletal Curse...In The Scottish Highlands or The Xeembots Attack: Part Five of the Quadronian Saga to get to something worth reading. I don't believe I would like to spend my time doing that.

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Scattered Thoughts: FFX HD Remaster

HA HA HA HA HA HA HA HA HA HA HA HA

I did a quick scan through my Steam and game collection just now, trying to find games that I thought were above average but which featured superbly annoying lead characters, and didn’t come up with much. I enjoyed Assassin’s Creed III more than most people, but even I found Connor Kenway to be channeling a bit too much of angry teen Anakin Skywalker for comfort. Dante in the Devil May Cry games can be somewhat egregiously overbearing, but for the most part his excessive YOLOSWAG fits into the universe of those games. I’m sure there are other examples that I’ll remember as soon as I post this, but for the most part, developers with enough talent to make exceptional games generally manage to create lead characters that are at least bearable if not downright likable.

Which is why it's weird how Tidus is a poorly-executed character in almost every way. His character design is ridiculous to look at, his voicework is annoying at best and grating at its worst, and his dialogue is often eye-rollingly boring. The modern iterations of the Final Fantasy series are, of course, no stranger to having bland lead characters surrounded by a vastly more colorful/interesting supporting cast. (At a glance, I’d place FF7, 8, and 12 in this category; I hated pretty much everyone in 9 and thought the cast of 13 were all pretty snoozy.) But Tidus is a particular sore point for me in that he’s both more annoying than Cloud/Squall/Vaan while appearing in the game that I enjoy more than probably any other game in the Final Fantasy series. And hey, I get it: he’s a cocky kid that’s grown up in the shadow of his father and is tremendously confused by his passage to another, unfamiliar world. You can make that character interesting and relatable, but I don’t think Square did a great job with that here.

All of which is an incredible shame, because FFX is a pretty fantastic game that could’ve been made immeasurably better with a somewhat less flippant lead character. It’s obvious that the nearly mute performances of Squall and Cloud didn’t particularly work very well in their respective games, but Tidus flips that switch in the opposite direction, and by the thousandth unskippable internal monologue that you sit through here (“Wow. This situation really made me think...a lot...about Zanarkand...and what we’ll find there. And my old man. My old man...thinking about him really makes you think, doesn’t it.” REPEAT TIMES A BILLION), it’s difficult to resist the urge to reach through your screen and throw a Silentstrike blitzball at him.

the baddest party members

Luckily, his supporting cast is unique and varied and almost universally likable. Yuna’s probably the weakest link among the rest of the crew, with her halting vocal delivery and unconvincing crush on Tidus (a shame this couldn’t have been made more believable in the 40 hours it takes to complete the main story, but then, he is Tidus), but she’s endearing in her own way. The rest of the crew is altogether more interesting than the leads (even if they did try to double up on the mysterious laconic warrior type with Khimari and Auron; Khimari probably could’ve been written out of the story without too much of an impact), but even they don’t get the kind of full unraveling of their personal stories that they seem to deserve.

But those stories, and the game’s plot, are at least moving and interesting. It’s an interesting approach to a narrative: the world of Spira is not in danger of ending, but is trapped in an epic cycle of destruction that leaves everyone in almost constant terror of an attack by Sin. (That name is a bit on the nose, but at least it’s accurate of what he represents to the Yevonites.) That broad stroke is married well to the fairly intimate stories of each of the characters, almost all of which rely on familial issues. Tidus’ and Yuna’s fathers are both a large part of the reason that they’re fighting Sin, Seymour’s parents were both part of the reason that he became a villain, Wakka mourns his dead sibling, Rikku fights with Cid and Brother, etc. It’s all nicely subdued compared to the Extreme Yelling Olympics that JRPGs sometimes indulge in, and to date it’s still one of the only game endings that has actually managed to make my room suddenly get a little dusty.

Beyond the story, though, the sheer amount of content in the game is kind of astonishing, especially in the realm of optional content. I managed to beat Yunalesca in around 40 hours of playtime, skipping all but the mandatory blitzball matches, but there’s still dozens of hours of other content to explore, whether it’s the monster hunting, optional bosses, the Omega Ruins, hunting down the Celestial Weapons, etc. Right now I’ve been working on that stuff for around 15 hours or so, and it’s a testament to the core fighting mechanics that I’m not bored of running around the Omega Ruins to level up my characters, even after I’m well past the point of being able to kill everything in there in one hit.

but...but i thought i got that destruction sphere

Those fighting mechanics are a bit of an oddity in FF terms, in that FFX has a purely turn-based combat system, which isn’t exactly a common choice for RPGs nowadays or Final Fantasy games historically (most of them had ATB systems after the SNES generation, if I recall correctly); even FFX-2 quickly switched back to an active combat system. It’s curious to see the ways the designers had to fiddle around as the game progresses to make the difficulty still relevant as your characters become overweeningly powerful; anyone who’s lost a group to a Great Malboro’s ambush-breath knows that the difficulty spikes aren’t always necessarily. Pure turn-based systems that don’t involve any scaling of enemies seem like they need to incorporate a fair amount of randomness to ensure that challenges are still challenging after your characters are super-powered, but randomness itself can be immensely frustrating.

At any rate, I managed to beat the storyline’s end boss in just a couple of hits, so it’ll be interesting to go back through the monster arena to see how to deal with some of the super-challenges that are tucked away there; I never bothered much with it on the PS2. I have a feeling that getting all of the necessary gear to seriously compete in there will require a bunch of item farming, but c’est la vie. I don’t know if I’ll necessarily have the stamina to sit through all the way to Penance or Nemesis, but it’s fun to finally have the option to go after the dark Aeons and the rest of the superbosses that weren’t in the original American release of the game.

(Unfortunately I made a major mistake early on in not getting the destruction sphere from Besaid Temple before making it to the end game; learn from my mistake if you haven’t played this yet. There’s now a Dark Valefor in front of the temple that’s greatly frustrating my ability to get in there, which I need to do to unlock Anima, which in turn I need to get the Magus Sisters, which in turn I need to get to unlock Yuna’s Nirvana weapon, which would otherwise be one of the easiest weapons to obtain. Tidus and Rikku are both hitting for around 70k damage a pop, though, and Auron’s got his weapon too, so hopefully I’ll be able to bring him down sometime soon.)

But, yeah, I like FFX a lot, and this new HD Remaster has been a great way to re-experience the game. No one’s going to confuse this for Uncharted or anything, but the graphical upgrade is pretty nice (especially if you go back and compare it to YouTube videos of the PS2 version). And having it on my Vita has been wonderful; it’s fun to have nearly instant access to the game to run a few fights or a blitzball match without having to worry about booting up a system. There are some framerate issues here and there, but nothing significant or pervasive. I don’t know if I’ll dive into FFX-2 after I get done here, but FFX is worth the price of admission all on its own.

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Hey, we'll be doing a charity stream this Saturday!

This Saturday and Sunday Giant Bomb and GameSpot will be taking part in an (almost) 24-hour marathon to benefit Operation Supply Drop. You can find more information on the charity here and our team page is here if you want to donate early. Big thanks to Kurt Meyers, Matt Pascual, and Nathan Hawkins for giving so far, and a big big thanks for the $200 coming from an anonymous donor!

lazy saturday well join me and play some games

We’ll be streaming starting Saturday morning at 9 AM PST and continuing through Sunday morning at 9 AM. I’ll be anchoring the morning shift from 9 AM to 8 PM Saturday, so come by and sit a spell; we’ll be broadcasting through my personal twitch channel into giantbomb.com/chat. I’m still trying to work though what we’ll be doing, but I’ve been installing some games on the streaming machine here at the office. One of my bright ideas is to try and do a bit of a choose-our-own-adventure in NWN2: Mask Of The Betrayer and let people in chat vote on major plot moments. Team up with everyone we meet, or eat their souls? I have a feeling we all know what the answer will be.

Other options include lookin’ at some pup videos, scouring my Steam library for games I’m close to the end of, hopping into some free-to-play randomness, buying a bunch of Hearthstone card packs and seeing what we get before playing some games, and anything else we feel like doing for 11 straight hours. It’ll be a glorifying hour of witness.

Also, I’ll be giving some stuff away! Some of it will be pretty random: old games that I no longer want or know that I’ll never finish, premium membership extensions, and so on. But one thing to note is that I’m pretty sure we have some of those signed Nighthawks posters around, so I’ll definitely try to give away a few of those during the stream. And maybe if I feel stupid I’ll give away my old HDTV! It’s been sitting in the corner of my room for like a year now without any clear purpose to it.

i approve of this stream from my prison of wood

I’ll sign off around 8 PM, but Danny O’Dwyer will start everything back up at 9 PM. I hear that he’ll have a few friends joining him (Alexis for sure and I forget who else!), and they’ll keep the insanity going all night long in the chatroom. So tune in for him and give him a bunch of your money! Or give it to me! Or give it to our charity page! I mean heck, these guys even give stuff to pups!

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Box Office Winner's League: Amazing Spider-Man 2

It's that time again!

an epic romance

If any of you were around for the old days at Screened, you'll recall that we used to run a contest called Box Office Winners League when we got the feeling to do so. It's a simple premise: guess how much money a movie is going to make in a given weekend, and if you're the closest guess, you win! There's a bit of skill in it, since box office is roughly predictable, and there are tracking companies that are paid quite a bit to do so, but there's also a lot of luck, since almost no one is able to consistently guess a box office weekend with any degree of accuracy or precision.

The rules are pretty simple.

1. Guess how much money Amazing Spider-Man 2 will make in its opening weekend in the U.S. We'll count all the money it makes between Thursday night and Sunday night. Just throw it in as a reply to this post, e.g.: $56.79 million (be as specific as you like.).

For reference's sake, you can check the grosses for previous Spider-Man movies right over here.

2. Make your guesses as a reply to this thread, and make sure that they're in by Thursday 5/1 at 3 PM PST/6 PM EST/whatever crazy clock time you have in your crazy timezone. I won't count anything after that. I'm going to take screenshots of the replies at that point, so don't bother editing your post or deleting a post and trying again later.

but is there another man in her life

3. The winners will be determined next Monday or Tuesday, when actual box office figures are released at boxofficemojo.com. Weekend estimates are often released on Sunday afternoon, but we'll wait for the real numbers to determine a winner. I'll compare that number to see who's closest; over or under doesn't matter. In case of any ties, I'll decide between the entries with either a coin flip or some other randomized method.

4. There'll be two winners. The closest Premium member will win a copy of Dark Souls II for the PS3. The closest non-Premium member will get a year of Premium access. This is a gently used copy of Dark Souls II, so it's not brand new!

That's pretty much it! Go forth and prosper, or something. I'll reserve the right to change any of these rules as I see fit before the deadline, but I doubt that'll be necessary. (Don't be a dick and make it necessary, in other words.)

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Winners! Of my contests!

HARUMPH CONTESTS ARE FOR THE POORS

Hey, I finally had a chance to figure out the winners of the last couple of blogs. By random choice, @counterclockwork87 gets a free copy of Ni No Kuni! And with the BOWL, @meaninoflife42 gets a free year of Premium Access thanks to a guess of $93.7 million when the actual opening weekend was $95,023,721. And the premium winner of that contest is @dukest3, who was awfully close at a guess of an even $95 million.

Congrats to the winners! Counterclockwork and DukesT3, please PM your addresses. I'll hook up meaninoflife when I get a chance to do so.

Hopefully I'll have more time to do some more stupid contests this summer. I'll try to have another B.O.W.L. for when X-Men comes about. And yes, we've been meaning to do another movie podcast; hopefully we'll get time to do one this weekend.

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BOWL: Captain America: The Winter Soldier

Wow, it's been a long time since we did one of these!

"Oh..you know...just hanging out in a dark room and stuff."

If any of you were around for the old days at Screened, you'll recall that we used to run a contest called Box Office Winners League when we got the feeling to do so. It's a simple premise: guess how much money a movie is going to make in a given weekend, and if you're the closest guess, you win! There's a bit of skill in it, since box office is roughly predictable, and there are tracking companies that are paid quite a bit to do so, but there's also a lot of luck, since almost no one is able to consistently guess a box office weekend with any degree of accuracy or precision.

Let's get it started again in 2014! The rules this week are pretty simple.

1. Guess how much money Captain America: The Winter Soldier will make in its opening weekend in the U.S. We'll count all the money it makes between Thursday night and Sunday night. Just throw it in as a reply to this post, e.g.: $55.5 million (we'll count tens of a million, but be as specific as you like.)

2. Make your guesses as a reply to this thread, and make sure that they're in by Thursday 4/2 at 3 PM PST/6 PM EST/whatever crazy clock time you have in your crazy timezone. I won't count anything after that. I'm going to take screenshots of the replies at that point, so don't bother editing your post or deleting a post and trying again later.

The Winter Soldier is Loki! You heard it here first!

3. The winners will be determined next Monday or Tuesday, when actual box office figures are released at boxofficemojo.com. Weekend estimates are often released on Sunday afternoon, but we'll wait for the real numbers to determine a winner. I'll compare that number to see who's closest; over or under doesn't matter. In case of any ties, I'll decide between the entries with either a coin flip or some other randomized method.

4. There'll be two winners. The closest Premium member will win a copy of Ni No Kuni: Wrath of the White Witch for the PS3. The closest non-Premium member will get a year of Premium access. This is a brand-new copy of Ni No Kuni, mind you: it hasn't even been opened!

That's pretty much it! Go forth and prosper, or something. I'll reserve the right to change any of these rules as I see fit before the deadline, but I doubt that'll be necessary. (Don't be a dick and make it necessary, in other words.)

Actual number: $95,023,721

290 Comments