Making Something out of Summoning

I like the co-op system in Dark Souls 2. Summoning phantoms and being summoned as a phantom is a huge part of every souls game with it's own set of risks and rewards. There are plenty of souls players out there who will tell you that soloing everything in the game is the best way to play, but I would argue that fighting everything alone and never using the summoning system, while challenging, is not the ideal way to play Dark Souls 2, nor is it an enjoyable experience for a first time player of the game.

Dark Souls 2 in it's current state makes the rewards from summoning better than ever. Bosses have higher HP when you bring in help, but phantoms who help their summoners win will walk away with full estus, full spell charges, 5-10 thousand souls depending on the boss, and the chance to regain their humanity.

I won't argue that summoning doesn't make the game easier, but now that each death can reduce my characters health pool as he becomes more hollow, it seems even more fruitless to learn a new boss fight by dying alone over and over in Dark Souls 2 than it was in Dark Souls. While I'm typing this, the game has only been out for about a week, and just due to how many people are playing the game, there are more people summoning and looking for summons right now than there probably ever will be. Instead of fighting alone and walking into a boss fight blind with half my potential spells and estus, I consider this the smarter way to play:

  • As soon as I find a new boss gate I drop my sign. There are so many people playing right now that I usually get summoned in under a minute.
  • As a phantom, I can learn the fight in someone else's world and if I die I lose nothing.
  • If I win the fight, I return to my world with thousands more souls, full estus, full spells and possibly humanity. (The general consensus is that it is completely random whether you can regain your humanity after being summoned as a phantom whether you win the fight or not.)

Regardless of whether I want to play Dark Souls 2 solo or co-op, I always consider dropping the summon sign when I find myself in front of a fog gate if for no other reason than to refill my estus and spells before going through the gate myself. Sometimes I'll still die as a summoner and I'll run back to the boss only to lose all my souls, sometimes I'll summon people in who don't know the fight, or sometimes there just won't be any summon signs in front of the boss I want to fight. The point is, I'm dying a LOT less as a result of using the co-op system to my own benefit, and I'm spending more time as a human without using up valuable Effigy items.


What music goes best with Battlefield?

I just started an account with Rdio today to assemble a playlist to go with Battlefield 3. I was using for this kind of stuff but Rdio seems far superior. Please don't misunderstand my taste in music, I don't usually jam Kanye and Linkin Park till my ears bleed, but back when Battlefield 2 came out I found that any kind of high energy music actually improved my play, so I pray the same will hold true when I fire this up in tandem with BF3 tonight.

Any suggestions? What music puts you in the zone?


Mastering the Gamefly Queue

The release of Gears of War 3 will kick off my third season of using Gamefly. I call it a season because I typically register with Gamefly before the big fall releases start hitting, I rent about 10 different games and I cancel my subscription before Christmas. I pay about 45 bucks for the subscription, play 10 new games, beat as many as I can, and keep 1 or 2 of my favorites. My first season was a success, but I had some experience of what not to do with Gamefly before I actually dropped my own money on game rentals through the mail.

My first experience with Gamefly was when my roommate in college subscribed one summer. I remember times when he wasn't getting the games he wanted because of "Low Availability." There were also times when he would get a game that was lower in his queue simply because the games at the top of the queue were low availability. There was only so much I could learn about his predicament as an outsider, without a subscription. Once I became a subscriber I quickly learned that both of these situations are the worst possible things that can happen because you're paying for rentals that aren't coming until weeks after you put them in queue. once I figured out how to avoid this, I have gone 2+ years without worrying about "Low Availability" and I always get the games I want.

My old roommate still grumbles at me over Xbox Live that "Gamefly still sucks donkey dicks, etc," and I'm a bit surprised whenever the guys on the Bombcast disparage Gamefly for their lack of availability. All of their bad experience has kept me on point with my 2 Step Gamefly strategy that I would like to share with anyone reading this.

Step 1: Build a queue of unreleased games

If you've never used Gamefly before, the service allows you to build a queue of games that you want to rent, and they are supposed to send them to you one at a time, or 5 at a time, whatever your plan entails. What's not often advertised about Gamefly is "Availability." On the release date for any game, you can watch the availability for that game go to "Low" at and then slowly climb back to "Available" as the rush subsides. Putting a game in your queue with any availability rating is kind of a waste because you never know when it will be sent to you.

A lot of people don't figure out that availability means nothing when you effectively manage a queue of unreleased titles and stay on top of their release dates. Where my roommate fucked up is that he used the queue like a favorites list, mixing some old games in with new releases. This is not the optimal way to use the queue and sometimes it ends up with you receiving an old game when you really wanted the one at the top of your queue, especially when the games at the top have low availability.

The secret to building a Gamefly queue (especially during the fall months) is to only add games to your queue that are not yet released. Each month, go in and see whats coming soon and keep your queue in order by release date to stay a step ahead of new releases. The image up at the top of this post is my current queue, and I've spent the last few months paring it down so that I have at least a week with a new game before I need to send it back or keep it before another release date hits. I will receive every game on that list on the Wednesdays after they release. Approaching the queue this way also means that I will receive pristine game discs that have never been sent to anyone else, which gives a good incentive to pay "Used" game prices for the games I keep. When 2 games come out on the same date I usually pick only 1, but that's because I use a 2 game plan and I want to keep an opening for the next week.

Step 2: Make an opening in your queue the week before release

The key to getting the games you want is to remember that there is no "Availability" when you have an opening in your queue on the week of a new release. And by "week of a new release" I mean Monday, or if you really want to be safe, make sure your queue is open on Saturday or Sunday before a new game releases. THIS IS KEY: If your queue is open and the game at the top of your queue releases, Gamefly will send it to you. Every time, without fail.

I have the 2 game plan at Gamefly, so I always send 1 game back the week before the next release date hits to make an opening in my queue. Using Gears 3 as an example, I sent back one of my games last Wednesday Sept. 14th specifically to open my queue before the weekend. Gears 3 came in the mail this Wednesday Sept. 21st after shipping from Gamefly on Monday. To be clear, your queue will not open on the day you send the game in, but when Gamefly receives it.

My theory about Gamefly users who are unhappy with availability is that they are hitting up Gamefly after release, trying to add a game that just came out and they never receive it due to low availability. Basically, if you're trying to rent a game with low availability you missed your window on renting that game. You're better off looking to the future releases to see whats up next, or an older game that's available. If you're upset that this window even exists, then I think you're totally justified in kicking Gamefly to the curb. Some people want a rental service to work on their schedule, when Gamefly, in my experience, revolves around the video game release schedule and their supply is always dictated by who they need to mail to on the week of each release. If you're not sending in your games before the next release date, you are wasting your money on waiting around for availability to rise.

I realize that YMMV with Gamefly, especially with shipping times, but I hope this might help someone get more out of the service.


"1080p" Episode #1

1080p is the shorthand identification for a set of high-definition television (HDTV) video modes that are characterised by 1080 horizontal lines of vertical resolution and progressive scan, meaning unlike the 1080i display standard, the image is not interlaced.

The term usually assumes a widescreen aspect ratio of 16:9, implying a horizontal resolution of 1920 pixels. This resolution is similar to that of 2K digital cinema technology. The frame rate can be either implied by the context or specified after the letter 'p', such as 1080p30, meaning 30 progressive frames per second.

1080p, sometimes referred to in marketing materials as Full HD, typically refers to the capability to accept 1080p signal and display it with native resolution of at least 1080 lines, as well as the capability to upscale lower-resolution material to 1080p.
I'm a relatively new member to and I was surprised this info doesn't have it's own page on the site (please link it to me if I'm mistaken) because I find it relevant to the video games that I enjoy the most. I've played video games on a range of televisions throughout my life, from the old CRT TVs of my youth to the 37" Sharp AQUOS that now sits in front of me. Learning about higher resolution displays and how much they can enhance the definition and clarity of the games I play and the movies I watch has been one of the most eye-opening experiences for me during this latest generation of video games. I hope to share the experience of owning a higher resolution display with anyone who might read this blog, especially anyone who might read this blog on a display that can't quite make it to 1920x1080.  

 Since I only have the equipment to capture from my PC in 1080p, each week I will try to share with you a few captures from PC games and blu-rays that I can display at native 1080p. Maybe you'll discover some games you didn't know about, or maybe you'll just come away with some better desktop images :)

Just Cause 2

 Best skydiving game ever?

 Best skydiving game ever.

Mass Effect 2

 This image could be my permanent desktop.