Be kind, enable rewind

For me, playing a game a second time is a huge indicator of success. When a game is so good that you want to go back and play s’more after you’ve already beat it clearly something has been done correctly. Yet replaying, or rewinding, games is not always handled well. The example that prompts me to write at this particular moment comes from Borderlands.

After completing Borderlands as a soldier class I decided I would like to try out the other classes. Creating a new character and figuring out what they’re all about was incredibly discouraging and in the end I was unable to replay the game. First, upon creating said new character, I was unable to skip the opening cut scene. Immediately after, I was again required to jump through the age-old hoops also know as the tutorial.

Listen, I have climbed to the peak of this mountain, explored the edge of the world, and come back from where no man has gone in 200 years, I am the Vault! Do not force me to suffer a mere claptrap teaching all the ins and outs of jumping, ducking, and yes, even unducking, like… to stand. Really you must teach me, the glorious Vault fornicating badass, how to exit from the crouched position?

It really was a let down to go from my turret dropping, one man army of a soldier to a berzerker that didn’t even have his berzerking yet. By the time I had acquired my class skill I realize I am level five. In order to truly see what this bad boy is all about I need a few more levels to flesh out an experience tree and grab the suitable weapons.

What I really wanted was to make a quick comparison between Brick and madam Siren, but alas, I succumbed to discouragement.

All that being said Borderlands is, by no means, the first nor the last to have stumbled in enabling me my quick fix for a remix. This article would not be worth writing if the subject were only an occasional occurrence.

Presumably, the authors of these games would like us to purchase the down-loadable content or the expansion or version 2.0, what better way to encourage that decision that to let us get attached to even more characters? After reaching a reasonable level, or even beating the game outright, let me start my new character at level 10 with the appropriate gear and accoutrements. This shortcut is a free investment for me which can payoff for Gearbox et al as a few more dollars in DLC swag.

Dead man walking dancing: the upcoming Michael Jackon videogame

The most disturbing news to come out of E3 this year was the announcement of a new video game by Ubisoft featuring Michael Jackson. Making money off of the celebrity of the dead is certainly not a new thing but this may be the first time our dead hero is in fact strutting about on screen as if reanimated by some cowled necromancer (Thriller references not intended).

For now it sounds like players will be able to sing and dance along with popular Jackson songs. Through the use of a mic you will be graded or scored on your proficiency, I’m not sure at this point how they intend to critique each player’s failed attempt at doing the moonwalk. Likely the logic will go something like: if dance move is moonwalk, player fails horribly. Because honestly how many times have we seen anyone do a proper moonwalk other than a proper Michael Jackson, perhaps being Michael Jackson is a requisite for pulling off the move.

As I write this I am reminded by a colleague that Kurt Cobain has in fact beaten Michael Jackson to the punch with his appearance in Rock Band 5. This only further proves my point that the macabre is no longer macabre and we will be seeing more and more of our dead pop culture artifacts in the coming years. Like so many things (World Champion Florida Baseball team) it seems that Back to the Future 2 is getting it right yet again.

Apps need vacations too

Recently I went on a trip to New York City, Washington DC, and Burlington VT. This in and of its self isn’t so interesting to our target audience but the way in which I managed my tourism was.

Upon arriving in both DC and NYC the first thing I did was to download an app for the local Metro system. In both cases there were a few paid versions and a few free versions (I went all free baby!). This app included basic city information and served as well as any paper subway map. The advantage being I forget paper maps, sit on them, and/or destroy them in other ways.

Another app that was immensely helpful was the Yelp app. Another free app this would help me find restaurants near me, display ratings and reviews, etc, the things you expect from Yelp married with your GPS location. More than once I found a Pizza joint in NYC I would have overlooked, in the case of Bella Vita Pizzeria on 158 West 58th Street the place was hidden behind some construction scaffolding (See Google street view)! And for Bella Vita in particular the pizza was out of this world.

One of the craziest and funniest stories of happy app interaction is as follows: I’m in central park sitting on a bench because my dogs are tired. At random, and for the first time in 5 days vacationing, I figure I’ll post to Facebook with my Facebook app (I post about as often when I’m at home anyway…). Within an hour or so a friend calls me, “Hey dude how’s New York?” I reply that it is “the bomb” to which he says “Well guess what, I’m here too lets get lunch.” Being from the west coast, and my friend being from Idaho, this goes beyond mere coincidence and perhaps enters the slightly uncomfortable bromance area. Thankfully we each had our significant others to help ease the mood.

Of course I also used standard apps like Google Maps (at least standard on my iPhone but any map app will do) but from calling to make restaurant reservations to giving cab drivers directions to places in cities I’d never been to I felt like tour guide supreme.

After giving it more thought I realized maybe I’m just tuned into a different way of interacting with the world around me. In truth the apps I used are as much a part of urban life these days as anything. Because apps are becoming so good at helping us in our day to day lives we’re becoming good at apping no matter where we go. Looking up an Italian restaurant near my current location is the same process here at home as it is abroad. Perhaps in truth this is the next step in the human evolution, taking our decision making, world exploration, and metropolis interaction and abstracting it out until the city you’re located in is only one part of the current location variable, and an insignificant part at that.

Giving thanks

Today at work I was asked to participate in a program for http://www.aroseofthanks.org/. This organization asks people to create a card for active military service members, a sort of well wishing. I’m always in awe of young kids running off to the four corners of the world to suffer and inflict suffering so that I can play video games and catch a nap on the weekends so I jumped at the chance. Here’s an image of the card I colored and narrated. For any active military or retired servicemen that see this; I am just as grateful so you can accept it as your own as well. Cheers.

My card

Aviary – amazing online image tools you can use for free

Some of you may already know Gimp, a great approximation of Photoshop you can download, install, and use for free. But Aviary has raised the bar and now offers several online tools free. Online as in loads in a browser, used from anywhere, files saved to the server, online.

I highly recommend you go create a free account and play with this tool. There are also examples up on the site created by people with far more artistic talent than I but I will go ahead and provide an offering:

If only the away team brought picnic baskets

Magic: Rise of the Eldrazi Prerelease Recap

This last weekend I attended a prerelease tournament event for the new Magic set:  Rise of the Eldrazi.  This tournament took place at All About Games in Boise, Idaho.  I did not attend the main event on Saturday, but rather the smaller Sunday event (I had other commitments on Saturday).  Since it was the Sunday event, there was a small attendance, so the tourney itself only went to four rounds.

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Expecting more for my lore

Some time ago I mentioned the game League of Legends and just how legendary it really was. I’m still enjoying the game, even my wife is prodding me to play at times, but one thing has irked me about it. When I started looking into the lore of LoL I was at first disappointed, there isn’t much, many of the characters’ have a history shrouded in mystery (and not much rhyming either).

But it wasn’t long before I began to realize that the irksome qualities went even deeper. Many of the items in LoL lore just don’t make sense. From characters who have no reason to care to participate in the battles to cities that complacently go along with the rules despite it being against their nature I just have a hard time with much of the LoL universe.

But there was also a freeing aspect to this realization. A parallel realization that made me rather excited. With so little lore and with the lore at odds with its self in so many places there was a ton of room for creative license. Though I’ve never delved into the land of fanfic before the idea became suddenly intriguing to me.

As misguided as my efforts may or may not be I will be premiering the first chapter in my telling of how Mordekaiser came to be here on this site. With some effort and maybe a little luck it will be worth reading. :)

Magic Rise of the Eldrazi Prerelease Tourneys this Weekend!

Just another friendly heads up that Magic’s latest and greatest set, Rise of the Eldrazi, is being “pre-released” this weekend.  In other words, go to a Prerelease tournament and play with the cards before they get released for sale to the general public.

Go here for more information… and to find a prerelease in your neck of the woods:

Rise of the Eldrazi Prerelease info

Have fun and good luck!

The Latest Gamer Rite of Passage

There are many memorable video gaming moments in my life:

  • Finding the secret room in the Atari 2600 game Adventure.  This was my first Easter Egg.
  • Begging coins from my mother to play Donkey Kong at the arcade.
  • Playing Forbidden Forest on a cassette tape drive.  It took about 25 minutes to load.
  • Typing in huge lists of machine language code from PC Magazine to make some homemade games for my brother’s Commodore 64.
  • Coding a game in Junior High on an Apple II which featured moving sprites and some limited interactivity.
  • Executing the turtle jump in level 1-1 of Super Mario Bros. and getting 99 lives.
  • Staying after school in our High School science lab to play Might and Magic II on a PC with an orange monochrome monitor.  I can still smell the formaldyhyde.
  • Playing my first muliplayer game (Doom!) when my college roommate and I hooked up our computers via parallel ports.
  • Falling back in love with consoles with my Sega Dreamcast.
  • Hosting huge Halo parties with system-linked XBoxes.
  • Realizing I’ve played almost 3/4 of Game Informer’s “Top 200 Games of All Time.”

My life as a gamer started, as far as I can tell, somewhere around 1982.  I was about six years old.  I remember playing cartridge games on my grandpa’s TRS-80.  I loved my Atari 2600.  I loved arcades.  What I didn’t  realize then was that I was slowly building the background of a gamer.  I didn’t realize that almost 28 years later I would consider all of this experience a badge of honor.  A seemingly intangible claim to the title “hardcore gamer.”

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Final Fantasy Ex Eye Eye Eye (XIII)

What can I say other than to whoop and holler at my great fortune. Two plus years ago I place a cool 20 on the table at my local Gamestop to preorder this badboy, I’m sure the interest gained from such long term investments is what made Gamestop the conglomerate that it is today. But now a real live game has hit store shelves and after several hours invested I can assure you that it is not vapor ware in any sense of the word.

As one might expect from this franchise a significant portion of my time in playing last night was spent watching, immersing myself, with the controller set to one side, and it was good. Of course the cinematic displays are articles of great wonder. As the Final Fantasy franchise tends to do the graphics exceed what I have seen in any other game cinematic. Sometimes seeing the individual hairs on Snow’s chiny-chin-chin is a bit awkward but for the most part the experience is great.

Also ranked as good, or perhaps refreshingly excellent, was the new style of combat: sort of a hybrid between the classic turn based and a real time system. The details for this system, though, are necessarily unlocked in chunks as it is a bit much to assimilate. But assimilate we must as there are bad guys to slash, shoot, grenade, and… boomerang? Yes even that.

Overall I’ve probably only scratched the layer of paint on the surface of the story-line, its hard to tell, but I’m hooked! As the chapters unfold I will try to leave some helpful and spoiler free updates.