Hey duders, I thought about doing this as a list or a poll, but I haven't blogged since 2011. There are too many choices to make an effective poll, or clutter it up with pics too much as a list.
I make no apologies for my pile of shame. Life's like that. So I have some awfully old stuff I really want to finish up and be done with. All of these I either haven't started, or haven't reached the halfway point. Probably everything on the list is a minimum 10 hour commitment, for RPGs maybe up to 40.
Your top 3 votes will be weighted. No write-ins, please.
This list doesn't include recent games I'll play anyway. It's also not about achievements, just getting through to the credits at an enjoyable pace.
I'm no livestreamer, but I could indeed capture a highlight reel of almost anything for an Amateur Bombastica or blog about the game(s).
With the recent (and expected) announcement and detailsof Perfect World/Cryptic taking STO to the free to play business model, you might be pondering if it's a game worth getting in to, or getting back to. If you're, um, lucky enough to have a lifetime plan, you're all set. Now's a great time to jump back in and see where they're at, with another season update in sight at the end of September.
But if you're undecided, there's not very much info to go on. The STO beta/launch content on GB is naturally out of date at this point, so I thought it was worth a Quick Second Look. Here's ~25 minutes running through one of the Feature episode Devidian missions. Note: For spoilers' sake I do not show the first 5 minutes of the mission, which is pretty cool in itself. You'll know it when you play it.
The narration gets a little goofy. Sorry for the audio pops, had the mic too close for a few minutes.
A lot of players came back shortly after the Season 4 Crossfire update, and tend to agree that the game has evolved in a lot of ways since launch. But as this summer was the Atari to PW transition period, it wound up having quite a content-drought and a whole lot of "wait and see" promises to go with it. As a new player I don't really give a crapdamn about content pacing. I subscribed in July after installing my $5 Steam sale copy, and I like it. I tend to like Cryptic's games anyway. I haven't played Champions but it's a decent example of Cryptic doing well after making the F2P switch. So they've done this before, and they have a successful Chinese MMO company backing them up for improvements.
I'm not going to give you any hard sell or doom and gloom, there is clearly a lot of room for improvement, and a lot of life left in the property to see where they go with it. Try the game if you feel like it and make up your own damn mind. If you think it's very likely that you'll sign up after the F2P launch, you might want to consider getting a cheap copy off Steam now and use your 30 days to lock down your privileges, as new "Silvers" will have a certain amount of probation to contend with. Check the features matrix to see how all that evolves. At the end are some free guest pass codes if you want to have a pre-F2P-trial, and yes my account gets some perks, so it's up to you. :)
I will probably suspend my sub this month and decide when to come back based on the timeframes of F2P versus the launch of TOR. I bet Cryptic is thinking hard about that too.
I have one more Q2L Romulan mission already captured, and now that I'm up at Rear Admiral rank I will probably do something with the new Borg Red Alerts and the Undine story missions. Fluidic space is pretty rad. :)
Go to CAX they told me, it was unanimous. So I did, and this is my story. My summer Cali vacation actually starts in Nevada – as all good ones do – but I'll skip the road trip and dive in to the zero hour of the 15th annual California Extreme.
Initially upon entering the registration area was a sunny hallway full of pinball and a few overflow uprights. Getting on the high score tables of Joust (1st/6th 55150) and Robotron (2nd/11th 71525) was a good start! With approx. 500 games total, this was about an average size CAX, and playing that many cabinets is an impossible undertaking. I had a plan of attack in mind, I set out to scout the machines and find those I knew from those I didn’t.
By 11am the flow of attendees into the ballroom was constant, and the low lighting of CRT monitors mingled with the sharp clacking of flippers felt like coming home. To some extent I feel a bit sad that today’s kids simply don’t have the arcade experience. Back when it was you, the arcade staff that you probably knew, and the other jerks you probably didn’t, there wasn’t the notion of “system wars” or fanboyism. There weren’t really dudes who only played Konami games, or boycotted Taito, or never even tried Mortal Kombat or Pit Fighter because they were too busy killing at SF2. But if you grew up in an arcade you remember a time before online multiplayer, where the person joining your game as 2UP is right there. All games are pick-up games, and that is fun in a way that completely eludes Quick Matchmaking code. The social component of arcades is as tangible and visceral as the basketball court. Everyone there loves to play, but some are waiting for the next victim to crush. The attendee mix was quite good, regulars sporting over a decade of past CAX shirts, parents and kids, WM members (like myself) repping shirts giving each other nods and thumbs up, and no small amount of women and significant others. The stereotypes are gone, leave your jokes back in the 90s, and don't be shocked to see someone Farmvilling as they wait to play Addams Family pinball.
One thing CAX has done to expand their offerings is have speakers, panels and bands. The first speaker I attended was a professor from UC Santa Cruz, Jim Whitehead, who (wait for it) researches shmups. He had a good overview of everything from Space Invaders to Parodius to Ikaruga, and even touched briefly on Touhou and the latest 360 imports. The fact that Japan has 360 games (on disc) that we don't says something about the success of hardcore shmups. From an academic POV he hit all the thematic notes: choices of cardinality, themes of xenophobia, the sexual subtext of Gradius cutscenes, and the influence of Star Wars on the genre. He described the forms of narrative that shmups have, calling Zaxxon the first landscape narrative. I tweeted this to Greg Kasavin and how this made me think of Bastion, and Greg appreciated the very notion of an academic shmup talk. Demos and videos included Gradius, Ikaruga, Radiant Silvergun, and others on a variety of platforms. The prof was likely in his 40s and did about as well as I might have on a projector screen in front of a crowd. Clearly he plays everything.
The session immediately following was about restoration and emulation of laserdisc games, but as it was mainly a technical session I decided to grab lunch and go play some of them instead. It was around this time I saw Ed Boon walk out of the ballroom. Didn't bug him for an autograph, but he's a fine looking man in person. I had also seen Patrick Klepek around, mainly by the Bust-A-Move or playing House of the Dead next to it. Dan Amrich (of GamePro, OXM and Activision fame) was busy working one of the registration tables, as he was hosting a contest for playing an insane 1997 Namco game called Panic Park later in the day. A very nice fellow to talk with, and good friends with Andy Eddy, whom I had been tweeting with about getting some things autographed.
Later in the day I came to watch the Panic Park madness, which was more than a spectator sport as props like coin boxes, giant foam mallets, and uncomfortable touching added to the realism for the poor, poor contestants. I got to chat with Dan and Andy afterward, and of all the industry people I saw there, meeting Andy Eddy was the only moment I risked geeking out! I had my 1988 premiere issue of Video Games & Computer Entertainment, and a well worn copy of Game Over, which Andy contributed to. He's a delightfully affable gentleman, and as far as I'm concerned the pioneer of video game journalism. I practically ate and drank magazines between ages 10-18, and my game mag collection essentially starts with VG&CE and ends with Next Generation.
After a couple more hours going around, including a couple heated rounds of cocktail Warlords with GB's own "Big Ben" GlenTennis, the final "seminar" I attended at 10pm was Rick Stetta teaching a small standing room only crowd how to play pinball. Using a Medieval Madness machine with the glass off, he demonstrated control of the pinball via post-transfers, tilt and multiball techniques, observing the playfield, triggering the ball release cycle and more, down to basic maintenance (regular waxing is important). Even though my feet were killing me, I stuck it out in a nearby chair and left educated. Ever since I was a young boy I played the silver ball, but for a long time I have felt like the Pinball Gods abandoned me, with only an uncanny ability to set up perfect drains... I really need to get a pin to practice on! Deciding on which one is even harder than finding the space for it....
After a lazy Sunday morning I started fresh with my WM members shirt in tow, determined to collect autographs. By mid-afternoon I had chatted with and collected from Patrick, Jeff and Dave, witnessing a bonus hit and run fistbump from Justin Calvert. As you might expect these are regular softspoken dudes that have been around games their whole lives, so just having a chat surrounded by arcade cabinets is the most casual thing in the world. Very glad to have had a humorous minute with all of them. I very nearly caught up with Ryan by challenging him to a game of cocktail Centipede, but his attention was on his phone before he walked off and I didn't care to interrupt. CANADIAN.
The first day of any convention is the worst time to buy from vendors, by now I had a shopping list in mind. I'm restoring a BurgerTime cabinet, including replacing the entire control board, so new joysticks, new buttons, the works. Unfortunately there weren't perfect matches in colour and style or the right bezel, so I'm rebuilding it better than before, because we have the technology. There were boxes and boxes of arcade service manuals, but nothing Data East or BT, so I found a nice Dig Dug manual with a comprehensive cross section of every cabinet part you can imagine. (Also there's an adorable Fygar getting popped right on the cover.) As a random treat I bought a Battlezone bezel in great condition... fitting it in my suitcase was troublesome.
Other vendors were selling collectible console games (feh!), Hot Topic-esque t-shirts and more random toys than I expected to see. The most prominently placed vendor was Marco Specialties because they were the ones who brought fucking Stern TRON LEGACY complete with a stack of speakers and a video camera displaying the playfield live on a spectator screen. That's a nice pin, and for ~$4500 it better be! They also sell a Stern Rolling Stones pin, which only makes me surprised there wasn't already one. I mean Journey got a game...! Very interesting to watch over both days was another pinball vendor with guys actually repairing machines and upgrading the lights to LEDs right on the floor next to their booth. They mainly worked on a Twilight Zone.
(more Mega to come)
What? You didn't that was it, did you?
On Monday I had the entire day to kill before my flight home, so I spent most of the afternoon shifting my luggage around the arcade at Sunnyvale Golf Land. Jared Rea has talked extensively about it, but I had no sense of what to expect. Fortunately it was a classic in the best sense, reminding me of pay-per-hour arcades of my youth. They have a swipe-card system, with a very reasonable $8/hour fee most days. The mini-golf course itself was certainly elaborate, but I easily killed 2+ hours circling the cabinets around the walls while most of the kids stuck with the carnival-skill ticket games in the middle.
Naturally these are the lowest prices that I have seen these titles for, but the copy of Just Cause 2 has an interesting twist to it. When a game dips to an absurdly low price on Amazon.ca, I often find it’s from a Marketplace seller that is either on another continent, or otherwise lacking legitimacy somehow. Sometimes it’s an item listed as cart or disc only, which is fine when playing it is more important than collecting it. But in this case, the listing clearly stated it was a backup disc. Well crap. I reported this to Amazon a couple of different ways, and whether they eventually took it down or somebody bought it I can’t say, but it’s safe to admit that Amazon doesn’t try very hard to police their marketplace sellers.
So how did I get a legitimate copy of JC2 for the same price? It’s easy to explain if you’ve ever tried selling on Amazon. Your inventory page simply tells you whether you have the lowest price for a product, and nothing about who the other sellers are. My legitimate supplier saw that 9.99 was the price to beat, and listed at 9.90, even though he was undercutting a pirate. If anything I think it’s a bum rap that Amazon allowed such a clearly illegitimate listing to stay for so long, but I’m glad I caught the bargain.
Meanwhile XBLM continues to astound by discounting titles released mere months before. I actually received my “cash back” bonus from the October promotion right when they said I should, so that was 800 extra points to drop without much inner debate on Shanking dudes. Apparently there are silent sales going on more frequently as well! I read the Fable II DLC was reduced without any announcement, so I’m stuck waiting for a while longer before I nab Knothole Island.
Of course for the USA, Black Friday was the big push for bargains. Every day I saw one or two titles that I would really enjoy for the prices they were asking, but Amazon.ca almost never reflects the same prices on the same titles. Different market, right? Yeah. I dunno, I guess we get free healthcare, so that’s probably the bigger savings? ;) They did have “Black Friday Deals”, but the only title that I even thought twice about was Borderlands GOTY for $40. I think finishing the PC version I already have should be the plan before I decide to replay it for points.
December is already off to a CheapAss<tm> start! Can't wait for the Boxing day sales! >B
I've received games as presents before. I've never needed to provide my own truck, until last June... A buddy of mine wrangled an arcade cabinet for his band's practice spot. I hadn't seen it, he said it was a dumb shooter. I gave him some reading materials of what to do to fix up old cabinets, but he's a mech engineer so he was on familiar turf. Then about a year later he needs to vacate the spot, my birthday rolled around and I got a message saying would I like to have the cabinet by the end of the month?
"That's pretty cool man! What's the cabinet design anyway?" "It's BurgerTime." <record scratch> "I'm gonna have to throw some junk out" was my first thought.
Now.. I'm a retro fiend. I grew up in arcades, and I bitch about Game Room, and the sore lack of paddle controls in modern times. The story of getting that thing down an old staircase and into my backyard isn't worth sharing. This is the story of what happens next. We're going to find out the ending together.
I'm the proud owner of a thoroughly neglected, original Bally Midway BurgerTime cabinet, circa 1982, and 200 pounds of solid plywood. It's been through at least one sad hack job of a conversion; inside is a freely dangling JAMMA 1 board of Dangerous Seed, a thoroughly unimpressive Namco shooter. I'm one of 3 people on KLOV that admit to owning it. Anything that I do to this beast will be an improvement. So I figure there are 2 options, and weighed the pros and cons:
+ Someone will buy it for a high price, pay for my costs + Interesting way to learn about cabinet wiring - Need to buy a BT game board - Innards are a bloody mess - Probably hard to find a local buyer to haul it away - I have almost no storage space, and not much time to tinker - Selling is sticky because it was a gift
2. Convert the innards to a MAME cabinet
+ Always wanted one, can justify the space and time to keep it + Purging the crummy Namco game + Multigame cabinets have been around for a long time + Can sell monitor and board to pay for materials + Will be lighter and stronger, better, harder, faster, etc. + Not an especially rare cabinet, can put my personal stamp on it without being lynched + Already have a bunch of spare computer equipment to use + Eventually when I do have to get rid of it, someone else can easily convert back to JAMMA
- Don't want it to look like a modded BurgerTime cabinet
- It would look ridonkulous with two sticks and fourteen buttons
So I think in my situation the MAME job wins out, while restoring the cabinet to something resembling its original glory. The only games that would be suitable to play are those that use a maximum of one stick and two buttons. I can still look myself in the mirror with that. (And maybe I can sneak in an USBportforafightstickmaybekinda?)
I don't visit Sumthing Digital all that often, but today I see that they have a great promotion: 20% off! That's a good $2 - $4 savings per album compared to the Canadian iTunes store, which has also dropped some popular titles out of their catalog like BCR. I've attached this post to some of my favourite titles and composers available. They serve up DRM free (and ID3 free :p ) MP3s, but they do use a Java download manager so be ready for that.
To access the discount, use the code right in their Promotion dropdown. It will show up when a disc is added to your cart. Obviously this kind of thing is normal for them if they have that dropdown, but I remember the last time I used the site there wasn't a special running.
Game soundtracks and remixes make up more than half of my iTunes library, and proud to say I've purchased dozens of them. Most when visiting Japan, or having my brother forward from Amazon.jp. Though I suppose paying for the music is a karma balance between the money I saved buying many of the same games used...? Let's go with that. My very first purchase was Kefka's Domain, the 3-disc 1994 FFIII OST Squaresoft brought to english market, and you could order it through Nintendo. I got the soundtrack and my buddy bought the game cartridge. They both cost about the same ($50-60), but a couple years later he lent the game and his SNES to a girl that never returned it... and I still listen to the music, so yeah. ;)
10 and 15 years ago getting game and anime soundtracks often involved shady importers or trekking to conventions, where you could be just as likely to get a Chinese knock-off pressing, so the studio wouldn't get the money anyway! Now it's a whole lot easier to find them thanks to SD and iTunes, though Apple still hasn't figured out a browsable category just for VG music. But it's improving, and I've read the studios and composers are happy with the sales numbers. Anything to keep Jesper and Simon rolling in the money is aces with me.
This blog post is brought to you by, the Giant Bombcast 8-19-2008, which reminded me that I never printed off my Bionic Commando CD cases, and the Unity forums which reminded me that Sumthing is still a great distributor.
A little while ago, a fellow made an interesting video, and declared the new PoP the most innovative game of 2008. Slashdot then ran it under a story regarding the new PoP and Avoiding Wasted Time. The whole thing smacks of a ludology seminar, which makes it exactly the kind of thing I like to wax philosophical about.
The articles centre around the concept of Penalty Free Learning; something the PoP franchise isn't a market leader in. Travellers Tales has had no-lose gameplay in the entire Lego series; Braid too. Mr Young's point however is that PoP isn't cutesy. It's both approachable and respectable as a game that non-gaming grownups can play. It doesn't have a checkpoint system, so you never have to retrace your steps to progress. (Okay, let's ignore the game's whole mechanic of collecting orbs for this argument, eh? I can't wade through that kind of irony... ;-)
My concern with this philosophy of game design, is that PC games have long had a god-mode as well, but I'd say that's universally regarded as cheating.
Back in 1990 I wrote a letter to Nintendo Power, saying it would be great if all games had invincibility on the Easy difficulty, because a superhero like Batman never dies in the movies. I'm so glad somebody finally listened! ;-) Now I can trade-in my Game Genie.
Sorry, I can't see a line of distinction between the developer or the player "switching off" death. I'm not convinced that it's "innovative" for the new PoP to become an extremely patient hand-eye-coordination trainer. I'm pretty sure I'd learn faster playing Gradius. Sands of Time and GRID have excellent limited-rewind features. Part of your skill set becomes forecasting your severe mistakes to get the maximum chance for correction. In Braid your mistakes become irrelevant, all results come from your success, and that made it the most satisfying puzzle game I played all year.
The notion of people wanting to "save time" in modern games is utterly foolish, as the current zeitgeist encourages completionist players. Cases in point: WoW grinding; achievements; item collection metagames; multiple difficulties; time trials... how many DAYS does it take to master completing an average 5-minute stage in less than 90 seconds?
Sure, sure, it's nice to hand the controller to my mother-in-law or grandfather or neice and watch them enjoy playing. Yes, Rock Band 2 has a no-fail mode for a good reason. But do you, a serious gamer, really want to keep paying $60 for a game that takes you 5 hours to finish in one sitting? Wasn't Heavenly Sword ridiculed for that? I'd say it was 5 hours of entertainment well spent, but it cost me $6 to rent. I am very happy to value my entertainment time at $2 per hour.
With many console game developers trying to draw more casual players, and present a short cinematic experience, rather than a long narrative... I wonder is it possible that they're deliberately attempting to shift the industry to pay-per-play or digital rentals? I don't want to play Boom Blox by myself, but I would absolutely pay $4 to activate it every time I set up the Wii with some friends. The rumblings about disc-less consoles coming into the future generation would support this theory. If casual gamers are where new profits are being found, that will inescapably result in making "hardcore" game properties more accessible to more players.
Grab a towel to wrap your console in, things are about to get watered down.
I've been listening to and collecting video game music seriously for about 15 years now, and have travelled to Japan twice to find some of it (...and do other stuff too...) So this is a topic I feel pretty comfortable blogging about, and thought a good start would be plugging a new iTunes iMix I made, Where are all the Video Games?
In case you didn't realize, there is a ton of video game music available on iTunes, and I'm just looking at the Canadian store. It's bloody hard to find it all, because most everything is classified as a Soundtrack, even though Game is a perfectly common MP3 genre.
Currently the iMix has 69 tracks, which is populated at 1 key track per album. So yes you could go nuts and drop $700 on the iTunes store right now by grabbing each full album. I really don't recommend that, because all the Medal of Honor and Harry Potter stuff would get a bit repetitive. Yep, EA is doing a pretty good job cranking it out, but it's definitely high quality scores. Can't fault the production values.
Here's my posted description:
What you will find here are OSTs by publishers, tracks by original composers, and skilled re-mixes both electronic and orchestral. What you won't find here are alternative "tribute" songs.
An iMix of tribute songs would be almost as much again, but I wanted to highlight the composers foremost. And really you can find Beck anywhere. If you find more or new tracks, please post it in the comments and I'll update the mix!
Future blogging will give me the opportunity to revisit my amassed collection for colourful and winsome reviews, and to trawl the soundscape for things neither of us has run across before. With a little grass-roots momentum, we might even get ourselves a Game genre search on iTunes. How beautiful is that? >B
P.S. Yes my username is also game music related. First guesser of the gameandlocationandcomposer wins a totally rad prize (srsly!)
Like many folks here I'm a GS reader expatriot, and have been watching the Bomb tick (Arrow Pointing) down since the first days the blog arrived. Not being a forum thread guy, I'm thoroughly drawn to user-generated content, and when the writer or editor bug kicks in, I'm finding this to be a helluvalot more fun than futzing on Wikipedia. Moderation in all things.
I like the idea of alignment in a site membership. When I signed up to Comic Vine it was a simple choice of good or evil. Cliche but OK. Meanwhile the game industry is more like nationalism; it's not taking sides, it's taking prides. With so many stalwarts and noobwarts making their allegiances known, why not just colour code our name to let the venom be visible in every written word! :) Awesome. The only way I could think to improve it is to have one letter coloured for every platform I own.
For the record, my first console was an Atari 600XL, and my current collection has nearly every platform released in the timespan between the SNES and the Wii, and then some. Feels like I'll be forever waiting for "another PS3 price drop". But in my heart of hearts Nintendo has treated me, personally, very well as a customer and Nintendo Power subscriber back in the good ol' days. Their customer service and community outreach has always always been exceptional, and loyalty naturally follows from that. Much more grounded I think than simply defending my purchase, Nintendo has actively tried to keep and reward me as a customer, since childhood.
So take it easy out there and remember "the game's the thing" no matter where the disc goes.