Wednesday, September 29, 2010

A Bunch of Nothing

Over the last couple of weeks, there have been several occasions where I had something interesting to write about here, and I just never got around to doing so.  It actually hasn't been a matter of being too busy, but rather that I've been occupied with other things.  Basically, I've been forgetting to blog. 

So here I am now, and as you could probably guess I've forgotten all the things I've wanted to say.  If you start making "Old Timer's" jokes here, I will beat you with my walker and throw my dentures at you.  Fucking whippersnappers.  Now go get me some jello.

Anyways, I guess I'll just provide an overview of what's been going on in my life recently, and perhaps that will enable me to remember some of the specifics that I wanted to write about. 

To start with, I've canceled my subscription to The Lord of the Rings Online.  I finally lost interest in the utterly boring quests, and bailed.  Let us all mourn the death of my aspiring elf hunter.  Cut down in the prime of his immortal life.  He was 30. 

Next, I've picked up Civilization V.  My relationship with strategy games is rocky.  Here's the problem:  I'm a nester.  I tend to enjoy staying put and making what I've got the best it can be.  This totally goes against the idea of a strategy game, where you basically *have to* expand, invade, and branch out.  That's the whole point of these games, of course.  I struggle with this, and thus I'm not very good at these types of games.  I drive people utterly insane when I play Bioshock 2 in multi-player.  I'll box myself into a room and leave traps of death everywhere.  That's just the kind of player I am. 

Regardless of this, I'm still enjoying Civ5.  I plan on making some videos of me playing the game, simply because I can.  I might even add some of my own commentary to them.  Again, just because I can.

And now, a list of things to do:

1. Make the above mentioned Civ5 videos.
2. Create that Christmas List so I'm not utterly lost when shopping season arrives.
3. Upgrade my EU WoW account that I keep forgetting to upgrade.
4. Learn how to not suck at both Civ5 and SC2.

That'll do.

Monday, September 27, 2010

Monday, September 20, 2010

A Question of Interest

Last night, I reached level 30 in Lord of the Rings Online.  I wanted to wait until I got to a respectable level before I actually made a commentary on the gameplay, as I felt that was the only way to be rather fair about it.  Level 30 seems like a good time.

Right.  First, the good.  Middle-Earth has never looked better.  The world looks utterly fantastic.  Each zone makes you feel like this is exactly what Tolkien had in mind when he thought up his world, and at the same time provides something new to look at that doesn't look quite like the place from which you'd just come.  I'm guessing that was pretty damn tricky to pull off, but they did it brilliantly.  The actions of the NPCs are right on the money.  Hobbits act like you would expect -- homely, excitable, and a bit naive.  The same goes for all the other races, and the voice acting is spot on.  The epic quest line is engaging, dripping with lore, tied directly and intricately into the main story-line of the books, and a whole lot of fun.  The combat is pretty standard, with a traits system taking the place of a normal talent tree. 

Now for the bad.  Unfortunately, this will be a bit longer. 

First of all, the quests are boring.  Aside from the epic quest line, they are generic, bland, and put you to sleep.  You'll be sent out to kill X number of wolves, boars, bears, cats, snakes, monsters, ghosts, whatever.  Or you'll be sent out to collect X number of plants, animal parts, treasures, whatever.  There are a few escort quests, some tracking quests, a lot of go-talk-to-this-person quests.  All of which we've seen before and none of which are inherently interesting. 

The character animations are stiff.  There are some aspects that aren't too bad, such as the fluidity of the cloak on your back when you're running.  But for the most part, your character moves like he's got a stick up his ass. 

The design of the gear is horrendous.  I seriously have not found a helmet yet that I want to display.  For about 10 levels, I avoided upgrading my cloak because it had a hood that covered my head.  That looked really cool in and of itself, but was even better because it covered up every God-awful-looking helmet that I've gotten.  (Read:  EVERY helmet I've gotten.) 

Some quests are horribly unbalanced.  Most quests that are one level above me I can complete with relative ease, as it should be.  But every once in a while, there will be mobs that just appear to be WAY more difficult than they should be.  For example, in the Lone-Lands I had to kill these level 29-30 gaunts.  The quest was marked "Level 28 SOLO".  At level 28 I tried to kill these gaunts.  I couldn't.  I tried again at level 29.  Still couldn't.  I tried again at level 30.  I *barely* was able to kill one.  So I was forced to farm the same mob 5 times to get my required number of kills.  The fact that I can't solo a level 28 mob at level 30 is a problem.

So for the bottom line, there are better MMO choices out there.  I feel that the only people who will get a lot of enjoyment out of this game are those who are huge fans of Tolkien's lore, or those who simply need a reason to hate WoW. 

Sunday, September 12, 2010

So laggy, I'm moving in reverse.

Yesterday, it became clear that Turbine was utterly unprepared for the ramifications of going free-to-play.  They've been caught with their pants down.  I don't like the idea that perhaps they were simply looking to make more money without preparing their hardware for the added stress on their servers, but sadly that seems to be pretty much the case.  They have a few days to fix their shit and change my mind, however, and hopefully they will do just that. 

So the actual problems:  First of all, there are way too many people playing the game right now.  Do I think this is going to continue?  No, I don't.  I honestly don't believe the game is good enough to sustain this surge of popularity.  I think things will return to normal once the free-to-play shininess is gone.  This added influx of players is also causing major server lag and server crashes.  I ended up getting WTFPWNT in the game twice in a row last night because I was frozen in place by lag while a mob three levels lower than me slowly beat me to death.  I could see the mob, and I could see it owning me, but I couldn't move or attack it.  Brilliant. 

It was frustrating enough that I just closed the game and did something else.  How many people did the same thing, and just won't ever go back?  There's a lot of lost profit right there. 

I did go back, however, and this morning the lag was much better.  That only lasted about 15 minutes though, as they took the server down for maintenance.  At least that's progress — it was an emergency maintenance on the server and not a crash, so that means they are at least trying to rectify these problems.  That's a step in the right direction, and enough to convince me to keep an eye on their progress.

Now playing: Snow Patrol - Run

Saturday, September 11, 2010


I don't have any screenshots of this game because anytime something screenshot-worthy happened, I was too busy screaming like a girl and thus couldn't press the screenshot button.  So you'll just have to use your imagination a bit.

This game is all about setting the proper atmosphere, and that atmosphere is utterly creepy and disturbing.  You start the game as a guy named Daniel who is lying on the floor of an old castle in 1839 England.  You don't remember much.  (Thus the title of the game.  Hint hint.) 

This game is unique at what it does.  You have no weapons, but you can pick up just about anything.  Mostly, you're searching for tinderboxes, and oil for your lantern.  These are needed to provide light, because without light you start to lose your sanity.  This causes you to start shaking, stumbling, and seeing things.  All of which are quite unpleasant. 

You progress through the game by solving puzzles, which so far have ranged from pulling secret books from shelves in a library in order to trigger a mechanism, to knocking apart a false wall, to finding a key in a wine cellar.  These puzzles give you back some of your sanity, which is quite useful. 

So far, all of the moments that have made me jump have been nothing more than strange sounds or odd occurrences.  Doors opening by themselves.  Scraping behind walls.  Loud crashes.  Pianos playing themselves.  Stuff like that. 

Finally, though, near the point where I stopped playing the game (mostly because I was getting too freaked out to continue), I saw some kind of…creature…in the wine cellar.  This is where I realized how the game was doing a very good job at combining all of their strengths to scare the living shit out of me.  For you see, that creature on its own, while creepy, would really not have scared me that much in any normal circumstances.  However, the combined effect of seeing it unexpectedly out of nowhere, at a distance, in a dark cellar, with creepy background music, and having NO WEAPONS with which to defend myself….yeah.  That's just utterly terrifying. 

All in all, if you like that kind of game, you'll enjoy this one. 

Now playing: Snow Patrol - Chasing Cars

Thursday, September 09, 2010

Lord of the Rings Online

Right.  So yeah.  As if I need another MMO in my life.  Not really.  But anyway!

I wouldn't call myself a Blizzard fanboy.  Yes, I play their games, and yes I enjoy their games.  I enjoy them immensely, and I think they make good ones.  But I'm not one of those individuals who gets all butthurt when someone bad mouths them, either.  I have my own beefs with some of the things they do.  (I can't have friends in Europe?  Really?  In this day and age when the world is smaller than ever because of the vastly advanced ways with which we can communicate with people all across the world, you can't make a system that allows me to chat and play with my friends in Europe?  You fail.)

ANYway.  The Lord of the Rings Online went Free-to-Play on Tuesday.  It was a pretty big event.  Servers went down all day long so they could implement the changes and also patch in the new content they've released for us.  And you could tell that people were interested in it.  When I went to log-in around midnight on Tuesday, my server, Brandywine, was full and I had to wait in a queue for about five minutes to get into the game.  That's *never* happened before (in the whole 6 days I've had the game!).  Naturally, part of this could be due to the new content they've released, and not simply because the game has changed their subscription methods.  I mean, the same thing happens to WoW.  Right now the population of WoW players is down pretty low.  When Cataclysm hits, it'll shoot back up again.  That's the natural progression of an MMO.  If you wait too long to give people new things to do, they're going to lose interest and leave. 

But it will be interesting to keep an eye on LOTRO and see just how much of an effect, if any, this new subscription format will make on their subscriber base.  I know that for me, the only reason I finally decided to try out the game was because of this change.  Then again, that simply means that I didn't think the game was good enough to look at before this, so already in my mind it's an inferior game.  

I'll probably save my thoughts about the actual game for a later post when I can also provide a few screenshots.  But the one thing I will mention right now is my love/hate relationship with the graphics engine.  Simply put, the world looks BEAUTIFUL.  There are places in this Middle-Earth that are simply breath-taking.  And these gorgeous landscapes are UTTERLY RUINED by the abhorrent animation renderings on the player characters.  My toon looks like he's walking with a stick shoved so far up his ass that he's poking his tonsils. 

Wednesday, September 08, 2010

Long live the king!  That is, until he becomes an undead tyrant bent on the destruction of the world.  Then he must die.  Again.  With fire. 

Anyway, yeah, so I finally got Kingslayer last night.  Kind of ironic, since I've been doing heroic-modes in Icecrown Citadel for a few weeks now.  (7/12 at the moment.)  But anyway, it was good to get that done.  I now feel that I've finished the expansion in full.  Closure is a good thing. 

Monday, September 06, 2010

Mafia 2

This game instills in you a certain feeling, and that feeling is one of not quite being in control of any given situation.  For a game of this nature, that's a double-edged sword.  For the most part, it works out just fine.  Sometimes, though, you're left wishing you had a bit more control over what happens to your character.  In this day and age when sandbox-style, open-ended games are all the craze, it's kind of surprising. 

So in Mafia 2 you play as a Wiseguy in 1945 Empire Bay (which is basically a fancy fake name for New York City).  The thing that appealed to me right away was the painful attention to detail the developers put into ensuring you really felt as though you'd just been dropped into the year 1945, but at the same time made the city feel alive

Mafia2 2010-08-25 23-02-08-80

The thing that stuck with me the most was the radio stations.  All the music matched the period.  And, in the pre-prison 1945 gameplay, the music was often interrupted with news about how the Allies were faring in World War II in Europe. 

They just added so much to this game to add a bit of flavor and life to it.  For all you self-respecting straight males out there, there are Playboy magazines randomly strewn about the city for you to find and collect.  Just like the one Steve here is reading. 

Mafia2 2010-08-25 23-09-00-54

So right.  On to the story.  First things first:  It's too damned short.  For a game that has drawn SO many comparison to the Grand Theft Auto series, this game is about 1/4 the length of a typical GTA game, and a lot less open-ended.  I can understand the limited open-endedness.  If that's how you want to make your game, then fine.  You'll find no side missions here, nor any real reason to go randomly exploring.  You can steal any car and rob any shop, but none of these activities provides a unique feeling, nor gives you anything terribly worthwhile. 

Mafia2 2010-08-25 23-28-16-55

The missions, however, are exuberantly entertaining.  If you go into this game with the knowledge that you'll basically be playing a linear, gangster-based third-person shooter, you will be quite pleased.  This is where the game shines. 

Mafia2 2010-08-25 23-44-23-15

This game borrows every cool thing it can from just about every mobster movie ever made, including but not limited to the Godfather films and Goodfellas. 

Mafia2 2010-08-27 23-37-48-53

There will be an incredible amount of killing and stealing.  Lots.  Lots and lots. 

Mafia2 2010-08-29 11-20-04-12

And, sometimes, your friends are the ones who are killed.

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I would have liked a bit more character development, but there was a enough to get me engaged in the main story and actually want to know what happens. 

Bottom line though — if you're looking to do a hell of a lot of shooting, a hell of a lot of stealing, and a hell of a lot of car stealing…and look great while doing it (see below), then this is the game for you.

Mafia2 2010-08-29 16-32-11-78

Now playing: The Temper Trap - Fader

Wednesday, September 01, 2010

Ah, September

Today is the first day of September, which reminds us that soon (very soon), Fall will be upon us.  I don't mind Fall, other than the fact that it serves as that unpleasant reminder about Winter not far away.  Screw Winter. 


Holy smokes.  The last post I wrote for this blog was on October 18, 2017.  Through the little more than  two years since, this blog has be...