Green Gaming

I was just reading an article in the latest issue of Game Informer that was a bit interesting. The article is called Green Gaming, and it’s of course about the effects of gaming on the environment and how we can reduce the impact. The whole “Green” thing is admittedly an overused term at this point, and it’s often seen everywhere. You can always count on someone to write an article about “going green” in relation to almost any topic. My house is probably a bit more green-focused than most though. My dad works at the Oregon Zoo and a good portion of his job has been to run their “Green Team”, or something like that. So we recycle everything, compost, buy organic foods, whatever else. Anyway, I’m always hearing about making things more green and helping the environment, so this article caught my eye.


The article goes into how there are two main ways that video games affect the environment. The first is the power that’s drawn from the console itself when turned on and playing games as well as when in standby mode. That’s an issue, but the real problem is in the manufacturing process. “It has been found that between 60 and 80 percent of a desktop or laptop PC’s cumulative energy demand is associated with the manufacturing process.” It seems like common knowledge that manufacturing a PC would be similar to manufacturing a game console, especially in this day and age. Beyond the energy resources it takes to manufacture consoles, there are then chemicals inside the consoles that are potentially very harmful to the environment if the consoles aren’t properly disposed of. Casey Harrell of Greenpeace points out that while electronics waste isn’t the most immediately dangerous type of waste, it’s still “the largest amount of hazardous waste in the world.” The article then points out that things are made worse by the fact that a lot of communities don’t have proper means to dispose of these wastes, and a lot of electronics waste are sent to Africa, Asia, or South America, where it’s then burned. You don’t need to be a scientist to know that that’s probably a bad idea.

According to Casey Harrell though, there doesn’t seem to be a lot that we individuals can do. He thinks this needs to be addressed at the manufacturing level. The article then goes into how environmentally friendly each of the console manufacturers are. Sony ranks highest--in the four out of ten range--while Nintendo and Microsoft are both rated terribly. This is admittedly a flawed ranking system though, as Nintendo specifically refuses to disclose some of their specific manufacturing processes. Also, Sony’s rating is based on a larger division than just consoles. The article says that if just Sony’s console manufacturing was being measured, it would line up a lot closer with Microsoft and Nintendo. The manufacturing process simply needs to become more efficient and less damaging. I’m sure multi-billion dollar companies could make that happen if they really wanted to.

While the manufacturing process does account for most of the negative environmental impact, there are things that we can do to make a difference as well. According to Casey Harrell’s “super rough” estimate, if every game device purchased in 2009 was unplugged for 8 hours a day, it would eliminate “roughly the same amount of CO2 green-house gas emissions as taking 13,000 vehicles off the road for one year.” The biggest thing we can do according to Casey is letting the companies know that we care about more environmentally-friendly practices. To wrap up, it’s recommended to just be sensible and consume less. “Buy less, use less, waste less.” 

There’s then a side-bar that talks about a Green Gaming Hour that was started by some high school students. The idea behind it is to turn off all of the electronics in your house except for one room where you and your family would then gather to play some video games for an hour. It’s an interesting take on the “turn everything off” thing that’s become so popular in recent years, and I kind like the idea. I don’t know if my family would go for the idea, but maybe someone’s will.

I thought all of that was pretty interesting though. Especially the part about unplugging every console sold in 2009 for 8 hours a day and the impact that alone could have. That actually makes it seem like we could make a difference. My problem is that I always think that I’m only one person and I can’t make a difference. I know that that’s the wrong way to think, but I’m sure tons of people think the same way. It’s tough to be motivated to do anything small like unplugging a console when you’ll likely never see any benefit in it. All you’ll ever notice is your task of having to go out of your way to plug in and unplug the console all of the time. It’s a culture change thing though, and I think people will eventually start to come around and save energy; it’ll just take a while. I’m still working on it myself.

Anyway, it wasn’t really my plan to summarize the entire article, but, well, there it is. What do you guys think of the environmental impact of gaming? Do you feel bad about it? Do you ever do anything to green up your gaming? Are you going to write a letter to your console manufacturer of choice and explain why they should work on becoming more green?

What's the GB opinion on all of this?
41 Comments

Cloudy With No Chance of Gaming

Salutations, followers!

I guess this is for anyone who actually cares to read my usual Cloudy with A Chance of Gaming blog. There’s likely not many of you, but even so, I feel like I should write up this post if only for future reference as to why I missed blogs.

Last week’s blog was never written. That was mostly because I was lazy. Or maybe I wasn’t so lazy, because the main reason for that was that I didn’t play many video games at all that week. That doesn’t necessarily mean I was productive, but that’s what I’ll claim regardless. It’s not like missing a blog was a huge deal; I mostly do them for myself anyway. But I’m also going to be missing next Sunday’s as well. I have a super legitimate excuse for that one though: I’m going out of town to celebrate my birthday. That’s right, I’m driving from Oregon all of the way down to Los Angeles to be part of the live audience for an episode of Conan! That’s Conan O’Brien for all of you uncool people. I kid; you’re all cool. So I’m going to drive down Saturday and the show’s Monday, the 16th. That will obviously be right in my blog window. I suppose the upside to this is that I’ll have plenty to blog about the following week.

I’m super excited to go see Conan live, though. I’ve been a pretty big fan since his Late Night show. I think the first memory I have of the show, he was doing a fake interview with baseball player John Rocker. An LCD TV would drop down and there would be a static image of John Rocker, but of course then the mouth was cut out and an actor would talk as if he were John Rocker. I was fairly young at the time, but I found that to be HILARIOUS! He went on to do that with other celebrities like Arnold Schwarzenegger as well. As I’m sure everyone knows, he moved on from Late Night to the Tonight Show and was quickly forced back out when Jay Leno wanted his job back. Pretty shitty, Jay. But of course this has all lead to the new and improved “Conan” show on TBS. He’s able to do practically whatever he wants, which is great. I think this all worked out for the best for Conan. Anyway, if you’ve ever seen the show, you’d know how rabid Conan fans are. People are constantly doing things like knitting Conan beards to wear to the show, making crazy signs, and it wouldn’t be a proper Conan show if a fan didn’t let out a loud “Woo!” at the most inappropriate time. It seems like being in that audience would be a lot of fun, so I’m looking forward to that experience. You all can look for me on the May 16th show. I’ll be the guy that’s being escorted out after a relentless attempt to get Conan’s attention.

What else to talk about? Oh yeah, I totally went to Gamestop a couple of days ago just to browse. That’s never a great idea, but whatever. I ended up coming away with The Beatles Rock Band, as well as Assassin’s Creed Brotherhood. Beatles RB was priced at just $8, so you know, couldn’t really pass that up considering I’m a huge RB fan and that’s the only core game I didn’t own yet. Assassin’s Creed was $35, which wasn’t bad I figured. Also, I was in love with ACII, so another no-brainer purchase for me. But the most exciting part of the story was my purchase of a banana Fanta flavored Slurpee from 7/11 on the way home. Mmm. I don’t drink nearly enough Slurpees. The cashier asked me as I was checking out why I was getting a Slurpee on such a cold day. I had no answer for him. Why should the weather come into play when deciding to buy a Slurpee? That’s madness!

I really didn’t think this blog would ramble on so much, but then again, it’s me we’re talking about. May as well keep it going.

So I’ve already beaten The Beatles Rock Band. Probably not a shocker; it’s not a long game. It really is a fantastic package though. It really is. I wish there were more videos, but it’s kinda understandable considering the time period. All of the unlockable photos are great though. There are just so many little touches that make all of the difference. For example, the stage noise that played before a song on the loading screens. That stuff was great. You can hear them each tuning up their instruments and getting ready to play the coming song. Of course all of the animated time-period transition videos are great. That opening cutscene is probably one of the best I’ve ever seen in any game. I love it. Sadly, the one part of the game I’m not absolutely loving is the act of playing some of the songs. Don’t get me wrong, there’s plenty of fun to be had, but there’s just too many tracks that--even on expert guitar--are just boring. I understand that The Beatles aren’t a heavy metal band, so maybe I can’t hold this against the game too much. It’s just a fact of their music though. Not the most exciting in the world. Of course just listening to the songs usually makes up for that though. I don’t mean to blow anyone’s mind here, but yo, the Beatles have some good songs. My favorite in the game is probably Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band/With A Little Help From My Friends. Maybe that’s unfair because it’s two awesome tracks made into one, but whatever. It’s a lot of fun to play. I’m gonna keep playing it for a few achievement here and there, but I’ve beaten the story and don’t have a ton of motivation to go back to it more than every now and then. Great game though. Great package. Can’t really beat it for just $8.

As for the second game, I started Assassin’s Creed Brotherhood just earlier today. That game starts off with a pretty serious bang. It gives a quick recap of the previous events, and then just throws you right back into the end of ACII. It’s kinda nuts. But the real bang comes about a half-hour in when your Villa gets bombed to hell. That sequence is super crazy. I haven’t gotten too far into things story-wise though. I’m Desmond and I’m back in the Villa in present time. I’ve just seen a shadow of Ezio, before I decided to take a break and try the multiplayer. Now I get what Ryan was talking about on the last bombcast with the shadows. Seems like it could be interesting. Really looking forward to playing through that story and maybe even S-ranking it like I did with ACII. Jeez, I played way too much ACII. Jumping into the multiplayer though was pretty fun. It started with me downloading a couple of free DLC packs, so I had to do some waiting. After that though, it was basically what I’ve seen via Giant Bomb coverage. I jumped into a free-for-all match first, and I actually did OK. Well, alright, I finished nearly last, but I got a lot of points. As has been discussed to death, it’s a super interesting take on multiplayer, and I’m looking forward to leveling up and unlocking some cool things. I don’t know how long it’ll hold my attention, but I guess we’ll see.

Oh, last thing, I’m a Whiskey subscriber now! I was one initially, but that was a monthly membership that expired all-too-quickly. Why it took so long to sign up again is unknown, but I’m happy to be a supporter of the best set of websites on the internet, yet again. I’ve already gone back to watch a few previous Happy Hours, and my eyes have appreciated the HD video. Can’t forget the mobile sites either. Those are still slick. I actually really like Tested’s color scheme on the mobile sites. It’s a clean white. Ah, and the Theater Mode thing for videos is interesting. That’s something I never got to mess around with. I don’t like that the Theater Mode UI pops up whenever I have a Tweetdeck notification though, so I’m not sure how often I’ll use that. But yeah, cool stuff. I’ll be getting my shirt at some point. I actually got an email about it earlier today. So excited about that. I just hope it doesn’t arrive while I’m away in California. It’s nice to have that gold medal around Rich Gallup’s two-dimensional neck.  :)

I really don’t want this to be any longer, so let’s wrap it up here, shall we? My next blog will be May the 22nd. That’s a Sunday, folks! I’ll tell you all about my trip to L.A. and what Conan looks like in real life. It’ll be grand. Until next time.

<3
--JJ    

16 Comments

Cloudy With a Chance of Gaming -- 5/01/2011



Greetings, compatriots. Maybe I should let it be known up front that that I‘m still feeling the effects of sickness and that I’m forcing myself to write this blog. I’m sorry if that actually becomes noticeable at any point. I feel like I’m on a good roll of consistently posted blogs though, and I’d rather not mess it up now. Besides, I’ve played some great games and also have some things that need mentioning. With that, I shall once again venture into my weekly ramblings.


First thing’s first. I need to give a giant shoutout to GB user Wunder_ for surprising me with the gift of Portal 2 over Steam several days ago. That was seriously awesome and super generous of you, duder. I’m not letting you get away with it though. I should be getting some cash in the coming weeks, and I’m totally going to gift you something back. Keep that Steam wishlist updated!

Before being so pleasantly surprised with this gift, I wasn’t even planning on buying the game until it was discounted. I figured that at the latest, I’d be waiting until this holiday season and the accompanying Steam sales. It’s not that I wasn’t excited for the game, but that it would cost me $50-60, and I just wasn’t sure about making that investment. Turns out any doubts I had about the game being worth it were misplaced. While it’s not a completely perfect game, it’s still very very good and extremely memorable. I’m glad I got to play through it.

**Portal 2 spoilers are officially in effect beyond this point**


Holy crap, what a story. What amazing characters and voice work. Of course, fantastic puzzles. All the way around this was a superb game. If one element really made the experience memorable though, it was most definitely the voice acting. It’s hard to describe how much I loved Wheatley. Right off the bat, he’s cracking jokes about your jumping ability and lack of speaking. He’s such a lovable doofus throughout the game, even when he's trying to kill you. I think I was only a couple hours into the game when I begin to think he may be my 2011 character of the year, come award time. We’ll see how well he holds up against the year's remaining game characters, but I think he has a pretty good shot at winning regardless of what else I see this year. As most probably already know, little Wheatley is excellently voiced by none other than the very funny Stephen Merchant. He couldn’t have done a better job delivering his lines. Almost everything coming out of Wheatley was constantly putting a big ole smile on my face, and that’s really all you can ask for. Of course GLaDOS delivered again. Cave Johnson was a nice surprise too. Some people were making a big deal over Cave’s dialog on Twitter and such, but I wasn’t as impressed. It was funny, and actually pretty interesting to learn more about the history of Aperture, but I just wasn’t having the same reaction that I had to Wheatley earlier in the game. Maybe I was just missing Wheatley, as that’s really the only part of the game that you’re really separated from him.

As much as I fell in love with the voice work, there were parts where I felt like the game dragged just a little bit. Mostly I had these feelings while in the old-time Aperture test chambers. That stuff was pretty cool and interesting for a little bit, but I just found myself wanting to get out of there and back to the slick future Aperture facility that I know and love. Although, the gels were first introduced in these sections, which helped. Those gels really kept the game from becoming truly tedious in spots by giving you entirely new sets of possibilities to grapple with.

The end of this game is something that I won’t forget for a long while. Valve is officially amazing, as if they weren’t before. When you’re laying on the ground with your portal gun in hand, about to die, I was just thinking “How am I gonna got outta this one?” Oh I don’t know, how about you shoot a portal onto the god damned moon! I was trying to aim my portal gun around the room and I noticed the movement was pretty limited. I pointed it up and noticed the gaping hole in the roof. I just thought “No way.” But then I shot the portal, and yes way! I’m sorry, I’m entirely too excited just reliving this, but it was such a great surprise. Anyway the end was complete magic. The companion cube bit was especially entertaining. I’ve seen some people taking the opinion that the GLaDOS song at the end is better than Still Alive. To that I say “You crazy, but I respect your opinion.” They’re both great, but I’m not sure Still Alive can ever be topped. Keep tryin’ though, Jonathan Coulton!

As a last bit, I finished the game with a Steam count of 8.9 hours. A bit of that was probably down-time, so probably closer to eight and a half hours. I haven't touched Co-Op yet, so that should be fun whenever I get around to it. I think I may need a Portal Buddy. Anyway, anyone who finished the single player in like five hours is just crazy. You must have been bookin’ though it. You’ve gotta stop and smell the roses. Or read the funny posters, as the case may be.


I think I’ve made it clear enough in the past that I’m a ginormous fan of Rock Band, and Harmonix in general. As seemingly one of the few to still carry the rhythm game torch, I’ve decided to finally pick up Green Day: Rock Band. This was yet another eBay purchase, and at $17 brand new, I feel like I got a fine deal. There’s 47 songs on disc, so that value alone is worth the cost to a fan of the genre. I can’t really say why it took me so long to commit to this game. I suppose it’s probably the same issue that always comes up in my life: not enough money!

After popping it in the ole 360 and playing for a bit, I realized how perfect this game is for me. Not only am I a Rock Band fan, but over the past few years, I’ve been slowly getting into Green Day as well. I remember revisiting their American Idiot album no so long ago and thinking it was way better than I remembered it when it was initially released. Jesus of Suburbia and Homecoming are two legitimately great songs, and the accompanying tracks are no slouches either. Then, if I recall, one Bradley Shoemaker mentioned listening to their Dookie album while he would play F-Zero back in the day. Naturally I started to check out Dookie, and discovered what I had no idea I’d been missing out on all this time. So with all of this information, it’s hard to see why I wasn’t more excited about this game from it’s release. No matter, I have it now, and it’s a ton of fun.
 
The character models are all fairly accurate. 
The character models are all fairly accurate. 
One of the best things this game has going for it are the challenges. In order to unlock these challenges, you need to play through the career mode setlists. Once you’ve beaten enough songs you can start to unlock challenges such as playing the entire Dookie album start to finish, or more commonly, they’ll just give you a three song setlist. What actually makes these challenges worthwhile, though, is that after completing one, it unlocks a video clip under the awards menu. I’ve found these video clips are a pretty good incentive to play through all of the challenges. They range anywhere from funny interviews with the band, to full songs being played live on various tours and such. Some of the interview clips are pretty great and give you a good look at the band’s personalities. I haven’t unlocked all of the videos yet, but I definitely plan to. I may even jump on that right after I post this blog.

Another little touch that I really enjoy is the way the band is animated during songs. You can tell that a good amount of work went into giving each member lots of song-specific animations as well as random funny faces when appropriate (always). I forget which song it is, but one starts without any drums for a little bit, and Tre Cool gets up and trots around the stage a bit. Lots of subtle, yet good, Billie Joe and Mike Dirnt animations as well. It’s the little things that can make a big difference. The venues are also modeled well and are interesting, despite there only being three.

As far as my opinion on the setlist, it’s pretty dang solid. Dookie and American Idiot are there in their entirety. Then there’s the majority of their latest album 21st Century Breakdown. Beyond that there are some select tracks from a few other albums, Nimrod, Warning, and Insomniac. I personally would have enjoyed more of Nimrod and Warning, though. Those are great albums and it’s disappointing that in a Green Day specific game, they somehow couldn’t get more songs together.

I guess my overall thought on the game is that it is extremely fun and definitely worth playing; however, keep in mind that this opinion is coming from someone seemingly in the absolute ideal demographic for this game.


 I don’t want to talk about any news this week. I’m too tired. Besides that, the big story is still the PSN outage, and god knows I’m not going to talk about that. I’m also still trying to come up with a new news banner that looks decent, so probably better to just move along.

What other random things can I talk about to wrap this up? For some inexplicable reason, I’ve been using Formspring again. If you ever have the urge to ask a dude anything, I’m here for ya.

Props to Adam Boyes and Johnny V for running some hilarious live streams earlier in the week. They’re off doing unimaginable things in Mexico right now for JV’s bachelor party. I hope everyone makes it home in one piece.

That’s all that’s coming to mind. My god, it’s May already. Have a good May, everyone.

<3
--JJ 
20 Comments

Cloudy With a Chance of Gaming -- 4/24/2011



Happy Easter Sunday, everyone! I always feel a bit weird celebrating these religious holidays like Christmas and Easter. It’s really more of an excuse for my family to get together and eat though, more than anything else. Later today I’ll be heading over to my grandma’s house for a meal that will no doubt be entirely too large. It’s kind of a shame that I’m not feeling so well today. I’ll probably not eat a whole lot, but there’s always leftovers.

As all my fellow dedicated Whiskey duders are already aware, the sites went down for a good two days or so. That was rough. It seems kind of sad when I’m sitting in the Steam chat for hours listening to Dave’s (amazing) radio show and waiting for a few web sites to go live again. That’s totally a testament to Whiskey’s sites, though. I’m obviously a huge fan of them, and I was out of sorts when I couldn’t get my fix. I’m glad everything’s back to normal, even though there was definitely some kind of sick joy in the way that everything played out. Huge props to the whole Whiskey team for doing a bunch of crazy shit to keep us loyal fans entertained. Dave, you seriously should consider doing a full-time radio show. Listening to that was such a great and unexpected joy as a result of the sites temporarily biting the dust. I’ve noticed that that’s a general trend in life. Something bad happens, then that leads to something good that you’d have never gotten to experience otherwise. Things are never as bad as they seem they may be, and there’s always an upside. So thanks again to Whiskey for making sure that trend rang true.

I played some games this week. Weird, right? I finally received my wired 360 controller in the mail from Amazon a few days ago, so I started playing Max Payne on PC; Steam sales strike again. I also played a crap-ton of Borderlands, which I’ll talk about a bit later. As far as things outside of gaming, I’ve been watching a lot of basketball.
 

I made a promise that I’d let you guys know exactly what’s happened in the NBA Playoffs regarding the Portland Trail Blazers in this week’s blog. The time is now! I’m sure some of you will read this section. Of course the majority of you are likely going to move on to the next section because this is a video game website, and what am I doing writing about basketball? Completely understandable, but if you go that route, you’ll never know what you’ve missed. This Blazers/Mavericks first round Playoff series has been as exciting as a fan could ask. Venture into the realm of basketball with me.

No Caption Provided
Where will amazing happen, you ask? None other than the Rose Garden Arena in Portland. The game that wrapped up last night (game 4) was undoubtedly the greatest Playoff comeback victory in Portland franchise history, and one of the best comebacks in Playoff history. Period.

The game started as awful as could be. The Mavs played tough defense and held the Blazers to just 11 points in the first quarter. The Blazers got back on track a bit in the second quarter scoring a better 24 points. Things started to slip again in the third quarter when the Blazers came out of halftime missing their first 15 (!) shots from the field. That’s not gonna win games. They rallied and brought their third quarter score up to 14, only due to a desperation three at the buzzer. At this point the Mavs had taken their opportunity to get on track and pull away with the lead as Portland continued to struggle. The Mavs lead was at 24 just before the fourth quarter. Things looked insurmountable as the Portland offense could just never get going. Barely managing 45 points before the start of the fourth quarter should lead to a loss. Something happened on this magical afternoon, though. Brandon Roy showed up.

Dawww! Brandon Roy with little Brandon Jr. 
Dawww! Brandon Roy with little Brandon Jr. 
As most of you probably aren’t aware of who Brandon Roy is, he’s Portland’s former All-Star. Three-time All-Star in fact, and don’t forget rookie of the year in 2007. He was working his way into the conversation of being the best shooting guard in the Western Conference along with Kobe Bryant. This was all before some extremely unfortunate injuries to Brandon’s knees over the past couple of years. Little injury after little injury eventually took their toll and Brandon ended up having most of the meniscus taken out of his knees. That means no cushion in his knees. Bones now rub against other bones, and its just bad news. Long story short, lots of people in this city, as well as around the nation, were saying that Brandon was essentially done. That he’d never reach his former level of play again. It seemed like a sad reality at times when he’d come off the bench for 15 or so minutes a game, and score just two points. To sprinkle a bit of drama on all of this, Brandon made national news for sating frustrations after being the last player off the Portland bench in game two against the Mavs, and ultimately being very ineffective. Brandon also stated in an interview that during that ineffective game two, he was sitting on the bench telling himself that he couldn’t start crying. That may sound like he’s just throwing a fit, but in his situation, it’s understandable. Going from the face of the franchise, do-no-wrong Brandon Roy, to an ineffective benchwarmer in a very short amount of time would be hard for anyone. Especially someone like Brandon who is such a competitor. I can’t even imagine how helpless he felt as Dallas won games one and two.

With that bit of history, game four became so much more than it would have regularly been. If you remember, Portland was struggling mightily shooting the ball. Scoring wasn’t coming easy, and they went into the fourth quarter down something like 19 points. When a team’s down by that much going into the fourth quarter, they obviously have a hard time winning. Portland needed something to click. They needed a miracle. Well, Brandon carried the momentum of his third quarter buzzer-beating three into the fourth. He hit an elbow jumper here, a drive down the lane for a layup there. He even got the ball to scorers in spots for them to score a bit as well. By about the three minute mark, the game had been brought back to a single-digit lead. Brandon Roy was hitting threes all over the floor. He even was fouled on a three, made the shot, and got himself a four point play. He was just hitting shot after shot. It was as if he was his old self again, doing everything. Brandon’s final bit of magic came when he gave the blazers a two point lead after banking in a go-ahead floater with about 30 seconds left. A couple more shots were taken after that, but none were made, and the Blazers pulled out the game in miraculous fashion on the shoulders of Brandon Roy. Roy scored 18 points in the fourth quarter, which is insane. That’s a decent total for an entire game. As one ESPN reporter aptly described the performance:

“ Brandon Roy, who has no knees but apparently unlimited heart, outscored the Mavs by himself in the fourth quarter to carry the Blazers to the biggest comeback in Portland playoff history. “

Edit: Just stumbled across this fan-made video that tells the story of game 4 nicely. Check it out:
  

What looked like a sure loss ended in the delight of Portland fans everywhere. The series now stands at 2-2. Each team is in need of two more wins in this best-of-seven series. Each has won both of their home games thus far, but Dallas has the higher seed and homecourt advantage. That means Portland’s going to have to take one in Dallas in order to win this series. Considering the Blazers never won there in the regular season either, it could be tough. I have supreme confidence in them after this last game though. Any team that can show enough poise to come back in that kind of fashion is capable of winning on any given night. Even in Dallas.
  
 If you want to watch the rest of this series play out, you may be able to catch the remaining games on TNT. If not there, then most likely on NBA TV. I can’t promise crazy-ass historic comebacks every game (nor would I want them), but these two teams have been brawling so far. I wouldn’t be surprised in the least to see a lot more exciting basketball played before the series is over. Let’s get out of this damn first round, Portland!

  
Reusing banners makes me happy, so there it is. No point in making a new one, really. So yeah, I continue to truck in Borderlands. Last week I’d only gotten my Siren through level ten if I recall, and really hadn’t gotten into the meat of the game. I’d say I’ve definitely gotten into the meat now though, as I’ve beaten the main storyline. I’ve come to a realization during all of this: Shooting dudes in the face is super fun. It’s slightly baffling that Borderlands manages to make shooting alone so fun. The sheer variety of weaponry that finds its way into your possession over the entirety of the game provides seemingly eternal satisfaction. Tired of shooting dudes completely in-half with your badass revolver? Switch to that new crazy alien gun that you picked up and use that for a while. Now switch to an SMG or combat rifle with incendiary damage and you can have yourself another new experience. I like that aspect a lot. The ability to find a super crazy gun at any given time keeps the game exciting. Loot--there’s nothing quite like it.

Of course, I may have kinda, sorta cheated a bit in my loot gathering. I’ve been jumping into co-op with Borderlands Professional and Whiskey User Extraordinaire, Sparklykiss. The first time we played, within probably a minute there was an enormous pile of very expensive guns, class mods, artifacts, etc. on the ground. I was overwhelmed, but ended up doing as instructed and selling the majority of it for mad cash. I was level ten, and had over a million Borderlands dollars. I think that I kept a gun or two as well for some reason. I’m still not to the point that I could use the majority of that stuff. So anyway, that was very kind. I got a jump start, and then lots of power levels. So many levels! We completed some missions co-op and of course ended up achievement hunting throughout. I already have 43 achievements and 835 points, all thanks to Sparklykiss. Thanks so much for the help; you’re awesome! We still have to do that Mad Moxxi stuff at some point. I’m not sure why exactly, but your two missing achievements get my OCD juices flowing. When you’re that close to an S-rank, you’ve gotta snag it. I may have an achievement addiction...

Anyway, as amazing as Borderlands is, there’s definitely some technical issues I had with it. The framerate--while usually not an issue--becomes a problem when looking through a scope and shooting a dude’s head off. I’m not sure if the scope part has anything to do with anything, but the spurting blood probably doesn’t help the frames’ cause. It gets real choppy; shockingly choppy even, in spots. It’s not at all game-breaking since it’s just every now and then, but it’s something that probably wouldn’t be an issue on the PC version. there are some pretty harsh texture pops as well, but that’s almost completely a non-issue. It would be nice if it didn’t happen, but I’m not that much of a whiner to complain about little things like that. I don’t know if anyone else had this problem, but I had a few instances where I fell into spots of the map that were almost impossible to escape from. I believe I did end up escaping each time, but I didn’t think I would be able to a few times. It almost seems like there should be a reset position function or something, similar to racing games. Or maybe just block off the useless cracks and crevices a bit better.

Even after completing the main storyline, I still have quite a bit to do. As mentioned last week, I picked up the GOTY version with each DLC pack. I haven’t touched those yet, so I’m really looking forward to doing that. I totally want to go back through the main game as another class now as well. I’m just going to say it again: hell of a lot of game for just $19.99.


Claptrap Proposes [source]

Fellow user Vortexus1981 actually posted this on the forums earlier, but I want to keep the Borderlands theme rolling for a bit here. The jist of it is that a couple, a guy named Ben and a gal named Tora, love playing Borderlands together, so Ben asked Gearbox for some help with a marriage proposal. The result is this amazingly awesome video of Claptrap being Claptrap. It’s a must-see: 
  
  
I’m super impressed that Gearbox would go out of their way to create something like this. According to Kotaku’s article, it took a week to make. As I mentioned in Vortexus1981’s thread, I’m really starting to love Gearbox. Randy Pitchford is awesome of course, but between the quality games that Gearbox has always released, the fact that they’re releasing the unreleasable DNF, and then things like this, they just seem like some great people. Everyone seems to be turning on BioWare after DAII, but they’re probably still my favorite dev. Gearbox has been clawing its way up my personal list though. Maybe I should make a list of favorite devs with the GB list feature!

More Poke-uh-mans are comin’ [source]

According to a Destructoid article, a new Pokemon game may be announced next month. No details have been announced, or even rumored it appears. Of course it could be Pokemon Gray, which seems likely considering that they’re made those follow-up games to every previous generation. The Destructoid editor seems to think it’ll be a spin-off game though; something like Pokemon Snap. I have to admit, Pokemon Snap on a 3DS, with the 3D cameras, could be kind of amazing. If it’s nothing more than Pokemon Gray, then color me uninterested. I still have Black to beat, and generally those follow-up games don’t add a lot of new content. 

For some reason Pokemon game speculation always interests me. I blame growing up with the Red Version. *shrugs*


OK, deep breath. Let’s finish this extra-long blog extravaganza. I’ll lay the blame on Easter for this one. No idea why, however. Holidays inspire writing I suppose.

Well, really no good reason to talk about my birthday right now as it’s not until May 12th, but I will anyway. I’ll be 21 soon and that’s kinda cool I guess. I’m far from being “that guy” that goes out and gets super drunk on their 21st birthday. I can almost drink legally now, but I’m not exactly dying to. I don’t understand the need some people have to drink until they can’t feel feelings anymore (Family Guy reference :D) and then vomit into the toilet all night. I’d like to avoid that, thanks. I may take a shot or something, but that’ll probably be the end of it. I love my liver, and I wouldn’t want it to suffer any more than necessary. The biggest upside that I can see of turning 21 would be the ability to work at places that serve booze. There’s this awesome pizza place that I’ve always wanted to work for, but you have to be 21. Anyway, any of you duders feel the same way? It may make me boring, but whatever.  :/

I hope everyone enjoys their holiday.

<3 
--JJ
26 Comments

Cloudy With a Chance of Gaming -- 4/17/2011


Blog facelift, go! I’ve put some work into creating some new banners, as you can see. I think this is already the third “style” I’ve gone with in this blog’s short history, but that’s OK. I’ll keep reinventing the look until I get to a point where I don’t find it ugly after a couple of weeks. Maybe I’ll stick with this for a while. You’ll have to come back in the following weeks to see if it changes! Wow, that’s not at all a compelling reason to come back. What would be a compelling reason to read my blogs? I suppose what I like in blogs are for them to be about things that interest me, and at the same time be entertaining to read. I can’t, to a great degree, control the former, but I’ll give the latter my best shot! Or maybe I should just check out FunExplosions’ blog.

As a quick aside, I should mention that I finally got my NBA 2K11 S-rank! Totally psyched about that. I detailed my struggles in acquiring this one on last week’s blog. No need to read that frustration-filled rant though. The important thing is that I finally have it. It’s all mine. My own. My precious! OK, I definitely need to take a break from obsessively S-ranking for a while. Onwards and upwards!


For reasons that most can probably guess, I’m finally playing Reach. Despite being a Halo fan since Combat Evolved, I’d never gotten around to buying, or even playing, Reach. Until now, of course. I was shipped a shady package which contained a shady disc and a shady set of instructions. Microsoft can be as shady as they’d like so long as I get some “Loot Or Other Things” out of it. That’s probably enough sidestepping around beta testing details. Wouldn’t want to get in trouble now. On to the game at hand.

It’s a lot better than I’d expected. That’s saying quite a bit too as I expected a pretty good game. I’m not too far into the campaign, so I can’t say a lot there, but the multiplayer seems fantastic. Ya know, the fact that I haven’t played a competitive multiplayer FPS in such a long time probably changes my viewpoint here, but so be it. I found Reach’s multiplayer to be downright fantastic. It’s a Halo game in all of it’s glory. Playing it brings back the good memories of killin’ dudes back when that was in style.

Oh, Boarding Action. You wuz so crazy. 
Oh, Boarding Action. You wuz so crazy. 
The maps that I’ve come across thus far has been pretty great. There’s new ones that are fresh and really super exciting, but then there’s also a great mix of oldies thrown in there too. Of course the old maps received facelifts, but they aptly carry the spirit of their ancestors. There’s almost direct remakes, such as the Ivory Tower clone. But then there’s more spiritual successors such as Sword Base. That map gives off all kinds of Boarding Action vibes. for some reason, the same maps seem to pop up a lot, but that could be an effect of my playing only Team Slayer, as well as not owning any DLC. It’s weird to me, but I’ve actually been considering buying the map packs for Reach. God, I haven’t bought map packs since probably the early Halo 2 days. Actually I’m not even sure I ever bought those. I think I waited it out and picked ‘em up for free eventually. Either way though, Reach is making me consider buying maps, which is something I almost never even consider.

I haven’t even touched the Forge stuff. That’s an aspect that I found super interesting pre-release, so I’ll definitely give that a look-see. I also haven’t bought anything from the Armory since I first created my profile. I probably have a mountain of credits to spend. I don’t know why I keep forgetting to do that. I guess I just don’t care that much about the visual stuff. Gimmie more to shoot! I’m falling deep into this Halo multiplayer hole. I’m not sure how deep I’ll go, but I’m going to let it happen. See you on the other side.


Hey, y’all, I finally picked up Borderlands. How late am I to the party? Oh shit, really? THAT late? Alright enough of that. Yes, I’m very late on this one, but I’m kinda glad I waited. I got a killer deal at Gamestop in return for my patience. $20 for a brand new Game of the Year version. For the uninitiated, that includes all four DLC expansions along with the core game of course. That’s one of the best deals I’ve seen, so I decided to finally pick it up. Simply buying each DLC pack would cost me $40, not even including the full game. Hell of a deal. Alright, yes, we all understand how great of a deal it was now. I’m sure you’re all very proud of my thriftiness. How’s the actual game, though?

Well, I popped it in last night and played a bit. Yo, it’s really good. I should probably mention that I have indeed played Borderlands before, but it was at a friends house on a PS3. We kind of just blasted through everything and I didn’t get to explore much of anything. Jumping into a fresh game, achievements popping, dudes screaming as they’re lit on fire. It’s good times. I’d say in the short time that I’ve played so far, I’ve been enjoying it more than I did when I played a bit the first time via PS3. I’m not sure how long I played, but I’m already at level 10. It felt like I got there pretty fast, but I was probably playing for a bit longer than it seemed.

I was playing solo, which is all well and good, but I have a feeling that this game is only truly great in co-op multiplayer. Maybe I’m wrong, but getting four duders together to blow the heads off of Skags and generally cause havoc sounds like a good time. I’m glad this game’s audience has been sustained, because I’ve already been making some plans to jump into co-op. A simple twitter message about me picking up the game and I’ve had several people wanting to co-op it up. Shoutout to fellow GB users Choffy, Sparklykiss, and Novyx! We gotta get that co-op on! If Sparklykiss’ achievements are to be believed, she aint messin’ around when it comes to Borderlands. So anyway, lookin’ forward to some co-op.

I almost forgot to mention, I started a Siren character. I named her JJ. Yeah, I’m a chick named JJ. Wanna fight about it? More to the point, I have basically no idea of how the classes are differentiated. I think I mainly just chose the Siren because the Soldier seems super played-out. Seriously, it seems like any time I hear about people playing Borderlands, they’re playing as the Soldier. That of course includes the rich and famous Jeff Gerstmann. I just wanted to go with something a little different I suppose. It’s not like with four choices that one’s actually rarely used, but whatever. Of course I’m also completely lost when it comes to the skill tree. I’ve dumped a few points into extra shields, and then a few others have a single point in them. I’m basically just winging it, but I have confidence that I’ll figure it all out eventually. I always do when it comes to such things.

A few things about the game seem to have been poorly explained--such as the fact that I apparently can’t carry health vials--but I’m figuring it all out. All that content for just $20. What a deal. I’ll definitely be sinking my teeth into this for quite some time.


Guitar Hero’s Comeback Tour [source]

This shouldn’t be any secret. Activision has recently spoken out stating that the Guitar Hero franchise is not dead. As we heard news of the series being canned, I can remember the wording leaving the door open for future iterations sometime post-2011. Of course they’d say that. It makes perfect sense to keep the brand on the back-burner in case Activision ever deems the franchise profitable again. There'd be little point in completely killing it off. The interesting question is when and under what circumstances would Activision choose to revive the franchise?

Would they wait until Rock Band fades away completely? It would makes sense to me that selling a product unopposed would lead to some inevitable sales. If they did choose to wait until Rock Band loses its relevance, then who knows how long that could be. Of course Rock Band’s popularity is in decline along with every other rhythm game out there, but Harmonix has made it sound like they’re still going to continue the Rock Band platform. I think waiting out Harmonix would probably be the best option for Activison, but it’s hard to say if even die-hard fans will be interested in the games by the time Harmonix bows out.

The second option would be to obviously skip 2011, and maybe put out a new Guitar Hero in 2012. That would seems a bit soon to revive the once-declared-dead series, but maybe they only need a year to regroup. That’s actually what Activision makes it sound like in this quote:

"Actually, just to clarify, we're just putting Guitar Hero on hiatus, we're not ending it," Winters explained. "We're releasing products out of the vault - we'll continue to sustain the channel, the brand won't go away. We're just not making a new one for next year, that's all."


So what if Activision revived the series in 2012? As a rabid Harmonix fan, I’d be pretty disappointed. As far as I’m concerned, Activision has contributed all they can to the rhythm game genre--which wasn’t much. I honestly can’t see any return of the GH series being anything but a giant sigh-inducer. I see it as kind of a sad thing, too. I think the game designers for Guitar Hero (whoever they may be) were probably just as talented as the Harmonix designers. I think what really holds this series back is Activision. I’m not claiming to be a game designer that knows how the industry works or anything like that, but it seems to me that the owners of the Guitar Hero IP (Activision) would exert a good amount of pressure onto the developers of the games to make them a certain way. This of course would be to preserve the game that so many people enjoyed years ago, but I think they just need some freedom to branch out a bit now. Maybe Activision will grant that freedom should they release a new game in 2012, or even 2013. I think Guitar Hero can be interesting again, but the developers need freedom. We saw a bit of this branching out in Warriors of Rock, but I think the changes need to be more meaningful. Whatever the situation, most of the old Guitar Hero devs have been canned. Any new game will be made by a fresh set of duders. That alone could do wonders.

The Humongous "Wii 2" Rumors [source]

I was visiting family up in Washington State earlier this week, so I was late to the party hearing about all of these Nintendo console rumors. From what I can gather, nothing has been confirmed. Everything is strictly rumor. But man, I’d be lying if I told you that these rumors don’t excite me. Some are very strange, but after the Wii, I wouldn’t put much past Nintendo. Anyway, I thought it would be fun to go through each rumor and either accept it, or call BS.

Game Informer kicks the rumor mill into gear with its initial report, claiming the "Nintendo HD" will be unveiled at E3 in June. The system "is capable of running games at HD resolutions," Game Informer writes, and will see a "late 2012 launch." It reportedly won't bear the Wii name.


OK, sure. Seems perfectly plausible to me. I mean, HD seems like an absolute must at this point. The PS3 and Xbox have been running HD games since 2005. That has to happen. If it doesn’t, I will personally film one of those videos where I stand in line for days to get the first console, and then proceed to smash it on the ground in front of everyone. OK, I’d never do that, but those videos are always fun in a painful kind of way. Anyway, HD; It’s happening. As far as the name change, it seems a bit less likely. Wii is an incredibly enormous name at this point. I’d think Nintendo would take some kind of advantage of that.

IGN adds its own report, saying that Nintendo's Wii successor is "significantly more powerful" than Sony and Microsoft's current consoles. IGN news director Jim Reilly adds "that the console will be backwards compatible with current Wii software" and that an official "pre-announcement" is due sometime in April.


Also plausible for the same reasons as before. If it’s not a more powerful console than the Xbox 360 and PS3, then what are they doing over there in Nintendo land? Microsoft and Sony are obviously going to be stepping up their games, so Nintendo needs to make the biggest tech leap of the three. This needs to be comparable with the next gen Xboxes and the PS4. As far as running old software, I can see that. Nintendo was great about that with the Gamecube after the Wii was released. The only question mark is that most Wii games use funky motion controls that this new console may or may not be able to support. It seems that it would depend on however the controller turns out.

Well, then there’s the controller rumors.

CVG weighs in with its own unconfirmed reports, this time about the system's controller. They say the Wii 2's gamepad will "feature a built-in HD screen." CVG backs up earlier reports about the system's horsepower and Nintendo's launch plans.


French site 01net chimes in, saying the Wii 2 is codenamed "Project Cafe" and that its controller will include a touch sensitive screen measuring 6 inches, features a front-facing camera and can double as a Wii Remote sensor bar.


IGN later adds that "Players will actually be able to stream game content to the controller screen from the console. It's unclear at this time what type of content it will be, whether it's full games you can take with you on the go, mini-games or applications." IGN later posts a mock-up of the system's controller.


 I'm calling BS
 I'm calling BS
OK, this is where it gets a little too crazy. As I said before, I wouldn’t put much past Nintendo, but a controller with a touch screen on it seems like too much. I’ll say right now that I doubt this one is true, but what if it were? What kind of touch screen would it be? Capacitive would surely be too expensive to put in every controller. If I had to guess, It’ll probably be a crappy resistive touch screen like what’s in the DS. That’s fine I suppose, but in my experience, capacitive works a whole lot better when using your hands as opposed to a stylus. Also, I’d think the controller weight or general size may be an issue with a screen built in. I simply can’t imagine a controller with a screen built in being comfortable to hold and be functional at the same time. If there’s a company that can pull off a controller like this though, it’s probably Nintendo. Really interested in seeing some facts regarding this, but for now I’m a doubter in the controller screen.

I’ll stop before this is entirely too long (too late?). Besides, this has probably been discussed to death on the forums already while I was away. Rightfully so though. New console launches are almost always incredibly exciting. I hope we all get some harder facts sometime soon.


Time to close this sucker down. If you liked the new blog style, then lemme know! Or if you hate it, then lemme know that as well! I’ve done some unorthodox things in terms or using HTML to insert the images. I really have no idea if it’ll completely eff up on someone’s monitor. I’m really hoping that doesn’t happen, but please tell me if it does because I'll definitely make some adjustments. I’m still trying to figure this all out.

This wouldn’t be one of my blogs if it didn’t mention the Portland Trail Blazers! There. They’ve been mentioned. Do I really need to describe in detail how they lost in game one of the NBA Playoffs against the Mavericks?  *sigh*  They’ll bounce back and all will be well. I’m unsure of the exact schedule, but maybe they’ll bounce back with a vengeance and take the next four in a row, winning the series. In that case the series could be over by next Sunday. Hey, I can dream. Whatever happens, you’d better believe I’m going to let you know about it. Have a good one, everyone.

<3
--JJ
44 Comments

Cloudy With a Chance of Gaming -- 4/10/2011


No Caption Provided
I don't like my banners anymore. I'll make new (hopefully better) ones when I have the time.

I don’t know what it is, but I’ve been super tired of the internet recently. Not exactly the internet itself, but more the people that populate it. Even while visiting Giant Bomb as of late I’ve found myself reading specific forum posts and then thinking to myself, “Wow. Shut up. *sigh*” Something along those lines anyway. Not that that’s never happened before, but it just seems like I can’t even spend five minutes browsing the forums anymore before it inevitably happens. And before I’d usually just move on to another thread, but recently I’ve felt the need to close the browser after reading such posts. It’s not all bad since it’s given me more time to actually play video games or do other things. I think it’s just internet fatigue of some sort. It’ll probably pass at some point. I’d be interested in hearing if other people have ever felt the same way.

No Caption Provided
Anyway with all that extra time, you’d think I’d get around to playing all of those games that I may have said I’d play on last week’s blog. Well, things never go according to plan. Instead of playing anything new and interesting, I played none other than NBA 2K11. Yep, all week long. I can at least claim that the time spent went towards something semi-meaningful though. I’ve been working on an S-rank. We all love S-ranks here, so my motivations should be clear. I think the last time I S-ranked a basketball game may have been like four or five years ago. I always get right up to the last few achievements and then quit when I’d only have to win a handful of ranked matches in a row, or start an online crew and win a game there. It’s achievements like those that usually hold me down. This time though, I brought some determination to the table. Instead of laying down and accepting that I’d never S-rank this game, I headed over to xbox360achievements.org and got my guide on.

I found some boosting partners for one particular achievement that requires assembling a rag-tag crew of a basketball team and taking them online to nab a win. What a horrible achievement this is. Seriously, there are so many levels of awful; it’s almost unbelievable. In order to complete this achievement, you’re forced to get together with at least one other person and form a crew. This isn’t that big of an issue, but a pain for me none-the-less due to me having to jump onto some message boards just to find a teammate. I found one and we hooked up the following day. At that point this other guy had already grabbed a couple more people to form their own crew so that we could play against them. This just makes for easy boosting since the two teams can let each other win. Well, it would be easy if it was fucking possible to ever find your boosting partners! We tried all of the tricks: changing the clocks time zone, changing location, and of course searching at exactly the same time. How do two teams in the London timezone not find each other under these circumstances? Considering it was like 3AM in London at the time, I say it’s bullshit. We searched forever to no avail. But it’s not over. Finally me and another guy decide to just play whoever we can find and try to win. Well, we play a team and win! Fuck yes! But wait, the achievement didn’t unlock? Crap! OK, damn, lets just try again. The internet says the achievement’s a bit buggy. After waiting forever to be connected yet again with anyone we can find, we totally won again! But what will happen? That’s right, the bitch nugget of an achievement still refuses to pop. God dammit 2K. At this point we combine forces of the two crews in order to form a four man team and try to find another random crew. We got that all set up, find some other crew, and when the game was said and done, we came out on the losing end. Oh this is the best part though: The two previous wins didn’t count on the leaderboard (therefore no achievement), but upon entering the lobby after the loss, it did register the god-damned loss. *SIGH* At that point we called it quits for the night. 

I’ll just cut to the chase and say that we got back together a couple of nights after and finally got the achievement. We were forced to beat another random crew to get it since we again tried and failed to find each other, but dammit we finally got it. I was so incredibly happy when that achievement popped. It was like I was stranded on a desert island for a week with very little water, and all of a sudden a coconut full of magical delicious coconut milk cracked open over me and poured out for me to gulp down. It was exactly like that. I took a moment to enjoy the achievement, but then it was back to work. I’m currently still making progress on the last two achievements in the game. The S-rank is close. I can almost taste it. All I have left to do is get my “My Player” mode character into the All-Star game. That requires lots of playtime and I’m not gonna lie, it’s feeling a bit tedious. I must persevere! Oh and if you’re wondering, the final achievement is one that unlocks after you unlock all of the other ones. So really, I just have the one to go. How many people would I punch in the face if that final achievement glitches out on me and there’s no way to try unlocking it again? Let’s just not think that way, shall we? (A lot. The answer is a lot of people. Right in the face.)

Since I really don't have any other video game-related ventures to speak of this week, I'll just move on to news.

No Caption Provided

Asshole Goes To Jail [source]

Best headline ever? Why thank you. I came up with it myself. Anyway, I'd never heard about this, but apparently some dude grave-robbed a kid and stole his Gameboy and games. What the hell?! Why would he do that?! That was back in December, but he got off with probation for it. Now he's getting what he's due and going to jail after driving drunk. What a moron.

Of course this whole situation begs the question: Why exactly did the kid have a Gameboy and games inside his casket? I'm not trying to talk bad about the dead, but that seems at least a bit odd to me. I guess having it is not as odd as stealing it from the casket though. Just another exhibit to display when proving that humanity is doomed.

Dude Makes Music With a Gameboy [source]

I wasn't exactly sure what to expect of this story when first stumbling upon it. Turns out that some truly amazing things are recorded and put on YouTube. Who knew?
  

There's a free MP3 download in the description of the YouTube video if you should need a Gameboy music fix on the go.

A New Commodore 64 [source]

Whaaat? The Commodore 64 is being revived? Apparently so. As someone that was born too late to experience the Commodore in all of it's glory, this is actually pretty awesome. If you want to check out all of this thing's modern additions, check this official page out. This thing is retro meets modern, and seems absolutely brilliant. I'd love to get my hands on one of these, but sadly, if you want the ultimate version that comes with a 1 TB HDD, Blu-Ray drive, etc. it'll cost a heaping $900 USD. That's a bit much if you ask me. Even the absolute barebones version is a heafty heafty heafty $250. I'm looking for a price that's a bit more wimpy. I love the sheer fact that this exists though.

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I feel like getting rid of the silver bars on the sides would be a good thing to do to change up the banners. It would be a nice start anyway. Just a random thought.

Second random thought: I got a wedding invitation from my friend today. I've known him since the fifth grade, but we don't keep in touch nearly as much anymore despite him still living close by. So that was surprising. I feel so incredibly old now that my friends are getting married. Man, that's sooo weird to think about. I'm not even 21 quite yet. I'm kind of excited to go to the wedding though. Should be fun.

Sorry I didn't have more games to write about, but the fact that I played one game all week shows a lot of dedication. I'm so dedicated. Dedication emanates from me as clearly as body odor emanates from Shaq after a game. But enough of the disgusting figurative language. Some day I may get around to playing the rest of the third episode of the Back To The Future game. That'll be fun! Jade Empire awaits, as does Brutal Legend. Not to mention the Undead Nightmare pack that I only played about an hour of. Oh and crap, I still meant to play some more NFS Hot Pursuit. Of course the never-ending (in the best possible way) Dragon Age Origins is still waiting for me as well. Jeez, I'd better get outta here and go play something for christ's sake!

But before I go, I want to reiterate what was already stated in a blog I posted yeaterday. The Blazers beat the Lakers! I'm sure most people know, but the Lakers are the defending champs and that was a pretty huge game to get considering the fighting for playoff seeding that's going on. Go Blazers? Rip City? Boom Shakalacka? All of those things. Each and every one of them.

Love from Rip City,
--JJWeatherman
17 Comments

Bring on the Lakers in the Playoffs

Hey yo, the Blazers beat the Lakers last night. That's right Kobe, your ridiculous barrage of threes couldn't save your team this time. The Blazers threw lobs for days and came out on top. Just wanted this to be known. It's important!!  =P



Gerald Wallace was a huge contributor on both ends of the floor as well as being a great source of toughness against guys like Ron Artest. Gerald doesn't back down, even from this:

We'll take the Lakers on in the Playoffs if it comes to it! Bring it on! Come at me bro!

 Sorry, kind of an inside joke
 Sorry, kind of an inside joke

4 Comments

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


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I'm late, for a very important date!

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


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

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The community is still a threat!

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

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

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Boom shakalaka!

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

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

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

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

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Forza 4 Trailer Leak [source]

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

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

Metacritic Pulls A 180 [source]

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

Kinect’s Evolution [source]

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

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

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

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Later, gators

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

Love from Rip City,
--JJWeatherman    
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Cloudy With a Chance of Gaming -- 3/27/2011


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Today is the day that comes afterwards

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

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Alan, wake up!

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

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

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

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

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

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Brutally awesome... or something

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

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

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

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

The funniest delay in the history of gaming [source]

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

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

Blood meets Kinect... meets ESRB [source]

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

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

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


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

Metacritic just got real [source]

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

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

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

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I hope you had fun, fun, fun!

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


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

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

Love from Rip City,
--JJWeatherman    
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BATUUUUM! (Blazers beat the Spurs!)

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

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

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

Rip City, baby!
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