Thursday, July 28, 2011

Something Positive

I've noticed an alarming and downright nasty trend forming in the gaming community.  It seems like you're only a respected member of the community if you pretty much hate everything.  To a greater degree, what I'm noticing is that for some reason it's now generally acceptable to be relatively negative and glass-half-empty about everything.

I wonder why?  Is it because the generation now entering the working, corporate world is too self-entitled to enjoy a game for what it is?  I'm not sure.  I remember when I was a teenager playing games, I would read reviews back then as well.  What I noticed was that I generally always enjoyed games that were reviewed 80% and higher.  Anything below that, I probably wouldn't like them.  These days, I'm enjoying games rated 70%.  Even 60%.

What happened?  Is it me?

Read the first sentence of every paragraph of PC Gamer's Fear 3 review.  It's all negative, even though they gave the game a respectable 74% rating.  Yahtzee from The Escapist has made it his calling to be negative about every single game he reviews.  (Though, I will admit that he does it mostly tongue-in-cheek and is rarely GENUINELY negative unless he really, really didn't like the game.)  And don't even get me started on TotalBiscuit.  The amount of bashing he's been doing lately is hardly above the level of a typical internet troll.  He actually started an argument on a Star Wars TOR thread the other day and called someone pathetic.

I suppose it just bewilders me when I see so much hate and negativity floating around a community that is based upon an activity that solely exists for one purpose:  to have fun.  Where'd the fun go?  Better yet:  Why so serious?

There are a few things that I think are to blame.  First and foremost is that I think this whole revolution of professional gaming is a double-edged sword.  It's great that there are professional gaming tournaments.  I love watching them, and I love seeing people that are really, really good at certain games.  But I think it's having an adverse effect on the community as a whole.  Suddenly, everyone thinks they're a pro.  And suddenly, they're bashing anyone who isn't.

I'm certainly not suggesting that every game that's released should be viewed with rose-tinted glasses and given glowing reviews.  Obviously a game critic is called a critic for a reason.  It just seems to me that these days, it's sort of obvious that people are really trying very, very hard to come up with SOMETHING to be negative about.

From the Fear 3 review:  "Wandering through darkened hallways with a buddy, with constant achievement popups high-fiving your eyeballs every time you pick up a dozen ammo packs, it's hard to get into the mood for horror."

Really?  You're complaining that the game's achievements are making the game not scary?  Not sure if serious.

TB recently bashed EA's pricing scheme for TOR.  I don't like EA either.  In fact, I'm pretty sure I need a word stronger than HATE to define my feelings for them.  But I didn't even blink when I bought the game.  It was priced the same as every other mainstream game on the market.  So in all honesty, all I see from TB is some angry person ranting about a game that isn't even released yet.

It's almost as if these people feel empowered when they fuel the internet flame wars.  And we all know what men with power desire.

To end this post with something positive, here are the games that have come out within the past couple of months that I would highly recommend to anyone:

Fear 3

Alice:  Madness Returns
Red Faction:  Armageddon

Friday, July 22, 2011

It's finally happened.

So I got a Sheetz card today.  For those unfamiliar, Sheetz is a chain of convenience stores -- they're a gas station, plus a store, and they have coffee, subs, and made to order food.  I like their little touch screens where you order your stuff.  They're neat and fun to use.  I typically stop there every morning to get some kind of breakfast, and I usually always get my gas there.

Well, they came out with this Sheetz card, and I signed up for one because you get a small ($0.03) discount on gas just for having it.

When I completed my registration on the website, I checked out the rewards page, and that's when I realized it's finally happened.  There's a tracking list there for subs, coffee, donuts, and drinks, each currently displaying 0/10.  Once you get 10, you get a free one.


Thursday, July 21, 2011

I sense something...a presence I have not felt since...

Today, Star Wars: The Old Republic went on sale for pre-order.  I'm using the word "sale" loosely, since it is usually used to describe a good price.  TOR is expensive.  The standard edition is the highest price a developer puts on a game at $60.  The digital deluxe edition is $80.  The collector's edition is $150.

I don't have a problem with any of that, but the Internet certainly does.  Oh my, the flame wars that have begun.  I feel like going home and putting on some Billy Joel after all the crap I've read today.

But, flame wars aside, this day is pretty damned important.  It's TOR, and you can BUY it.  For realz!  I've been waiting for this day for nearly five years now.  The release date is targeted for "Holiday 2011".  Still this year.  We could be playing TOR -THIS YEAR-.

At least if it sucks, I'll still have Tintin to look forward to this holiday season...

Wednesday, July 20, 2011

Wasn't Tintin a dog?

No.  That was Rin-Tin-Tin.

All right, so it's been a very, very long time since I've been truly excited about a movie.  They've...sort of lost their appeal to me over the last several years.  I think the last time I was truly excited about seeing a movie was when Star Wars Episode III came out.  That was 6 years ago.  (Holy shit.) 

Now, don't get me wrong -- it's not that I think that everything that's come out since then was crap.  Hardly.  I'm ecstatic that the Harry Potter films all did so well and were so well received.  I believe Avatar was a huge milestone in film making.  And I think the Sherlock Holmes film with Robert Downey Jr. was just a really good film.  There have been plenty of great movies.  It's just...none of them really got me really EXCITED. 

Well, let it be known that I am excited about "The Adventures of Tintin: The Secret of the Unicorn".  Which I will simply call Tintin.  (It figures that the first movie in nearly a decade that I get excited about has a title longer than a political speech.) 

Here's a foreign trailer.  Here's the teaser trailer

When I was a kid, I used to borrow Tintin books from the bookmobile that stops in my town.  I'm pretty sure I read each and every one of them, and I'm sitting here seriously questioning why I don't own them yet.  (To Amazon!)  I remember feeling very grown-up while reading them, because the stories seemed to adult to me as a kid.  Not in a sex/violence/controversy kind of way.  The stories are adventures.  I would compare them to Indiana Jones, to Brendan Fraser Mummy movies, stuff like that.  It's hard to describe why the stories appealed to me so much...but I'll try, and break it down into three points:

1. The time period.  I love early to mid 20th century stories.  There's something so appealing about the period of time before the technological revolution.  It's probably utterly bizarre for something like me who has computers so ingrained into his everyday life to say he prefers movies before they exist, but there you go.

2. The simplistic story.  Simple but not simple.  Mostly all of Tintin's adventures are a simple mystery that needs to be solved.  It's not over-complicated, transposed, analyzed, filled with hidden meanings or allegories, or anything like that.  It's an adventure.  It's fun. 

3.  The humor.  Herge had a knack for putting just the RIGHT amount of humor into Tintin's adventures.  It was enough so that you never took things too seriously, but it was never too much so that the entire thing seemed silly.  It's a fine line, and he walked it quite well.

In addition to reading the comic books, I also watched the animated television series on HBO.  I probably still have the episodes on VHS somewhere, and I'm quite certain I can find them online.  (A quick search on YouTube, and I found one full episode already.)  

I suppose that it just so happens that this movie is just exactly my kind of movie, and that's why I'm so excited about it.  I'm a fan of the type of movie it is -- a period adventure film.  I'm a fan of the source material -- Herge's comics.  I'm a fan of Steven Spielberg and Peter Jackson.  I was excited about this movie even before I saw any photographs or videos of it.  



Er, I mean.  Everyone is entitled to their own thought and opinions.


Saturday, July 16, 2011

Call of Juarez

I was intrigued by the trailer and news that I've read about the new game, Call of Juarez: The Cartel.  It was an Old West theme dropped into a modern setting and story.  I found that interesting, and it made me do a little bit of research on the game.  I figured it was some type of sequel, given the title, and sure enough it is.  The first game, Call of Juarez, is quite a bit different, in that it does actually take place in the Old West.  I've been wanting to play a game like that since Red Dead Redemption was new and exciting -- and of course, since I don't play games on consoles, I don't get to play that game.  

But instead, I get to play this less successful and probably quite a bit LESS GOOD Call of Juarez.  Fortunately, it's not all bad!  

First things first:  This game is gorgeous.  Just look at that sky.  Beautiful.  The clouds move realistically, too, and I found myself staring at the sky for a good few minutes.  Silly, I know, but I was really impressed by it.  The trees are also very well done too, which I have found in my experience is quite difficult for designers to get right.  These trees are great though.  So graphics-wise, this game gets kudos.  

The story is intriguing enough to make me want to figure out exactly what's going on.  You start out playing as this young guy called Billy, and he was off hunting treasure.  The Gold of Juarez.  But he didn't find it, and he's now broke.  So, he's heading back home to try and figure out what he's going to do with his life.  But it seems that anyone who looks for the treasure becomes cursed, and he comes home to find his family slaughtered and the words "Call of Juarez" written in their blood on the barn door.  Worst of all, his uncle arrives to find him next to the dead bodies, and now he's the prime suspect for their murders.  Ouch.  

This is where things got sort of interesting in regards to the gameplay.  You actually start playing as the uncle, and Billy becomes an NPC character that you have to chase down.  I really liked that -- it was interesting to suddenly shift the game to a different POV like that.  

The one complaint I have about the game is that even on the easy difficulty settings, you're about a fragile as an eighty year old with osteoporosis.  Falling down a simple hill takes off most of your heath.  Falling into water seems to be instant death.  And the game ends for you for the most BIZARRE reasons.  Objective:  Steal ammo.  So I go and take the ammo.  Game ends.  Apparently I have to steal the ammo WITHOUT BEING SEEN.  It didn't tell me that.  It would be nice to know.  I can understand leaving a lot of things for you to figure out on your own, but that's just a little extreme.  How am I supposed to know my objective is a steath mission, a run-and-gun mission, or what?  Trial and error with a lot of RELOAD CHECKPOINT clicking, I guess.  

Other than that, I really don't have many other complaints just yet.  The game seems pretty solid, and I'm enjoying myself.  That's the most important thing.  

Hopefully, the story will start to open up a bit more soon, and I'll learn more about this strange cursed treasure, and perhaps even start on the path to finding it!  

Friday, July 15, 2011

Where are my black-rimmed spectacles?

Sometimes I feel like a gaming hipster.  All I need is a weird hat and some worn out sneakers.

When I use the term hipster, I'm of course referring to what the word has come to mean today in 2011 -- Someone who doesn't like something simply because someone else has heard of it.  The easiest example I can provide you is the music hipster.  A teenager walks into a music store and starts flicking through CDs, calling each one of them crap.  When the clerk asks him how he knows they are all crap, he replies, "Because I've heard of them."  Another aspect of "hipster-ism" is they like to say, "Oh, I knew about that before it became popular."

I sometimes feel that way about PC Gaming.  I remember when I was a teenager, I would ask my parents for certain PC games for Christmas.  I would get bizarre looks and often they would ask, "Well, where would I get it?"  At that time, most people just didn't play PC Games.  They were too busy with their Sega Genesis or Super Nintendo gaming consoles.  "You want Doom for Christmas?  What the hell is that?"  Exactly.

I remember being in awe when I first started playing the original Half-Life, and it wasn't solely because the game was so brilliant (though that had a lot to do with it, of course.)  No, it was because NO ONE knew about it, and I felt like I had discovered the equivalent of the Lost City of Atlantis.  I would sit there thinking to myself, "Why the hell aren't any other people playing this game?!"

Sometimes, I wish it was still like that, as bad as that would be for PC Gaming sales.  To be more realistic though, it wasn't the fact that "no one" played PC Games in the late 90's.  That was only my perception, because the world was a lot bigger then.  The social media facet of the Internet hadn't yet blown up in our faces.  With the invention of things like Twitter, Facebook, YouTube, and online blogging, now EVERYONE knows EVERYTHING about EVERYTHING.  (Yet human beings are still stupid.  Go figure.)

Sometimes, you can't even get past the BETA phase of a game before the entire thing is reviewed, recorded, and played through for you.  John often says he regrets the Beta of Cataclysm, because it altered his exposure to the game since he knew everything that was going to happen before he played through the content for real.  That is exactly what I'm referring to here.

I think it's great that there is a community out there that is so dedicated to PC Gaming.  But there are times when I wish they would all just go away so that I can once again be surprised, and once again feel that I stumbled upon some lost treasure of a game.  Luckily, the solution for myself is quite simple, because I can just put on a pair of digital blinders.  But I also like to talk about games with other people -- gamers I know at work, ones that I know through WoW, FB friends, and of course John.  And it gets really annoying when I start a sentence with, "I just got *insert name of game here* and it's a lot of fun.", and they answer with, "Oh I saw *insert name of website here* do a video about it, it's not that great."

So, I suppose that I'm a bit of a gaming hipster at heart.  I haven't touched Dungeon Siege III yet, simply because every time I checked my e-mail or looked at my updates on FB or YouTube, I had a message/review/video about it.  That's a stupid reason to not play a game, I'll admit.  But all that over-saturation killed my desire to play it.

On the bright side, at least with all this over-saturation, I never miss any obscure indie releases.  

Wednesday, July 13, 2011

Not Quite Speechless

In the words of QC...What the hell ass balls?

I would say that it's not often that I talk about politics, religion, or anything that I read in mainstream media.  Honestly, I avoid doing that, because I never see the point.  Politicians are corrupt, religion causes violence and hatred, and the media is biased.  Period.  So what is there really to discuss?

I need to make an exception today, though.

I was sick to my stomach after I had finished reading this article.  I don't even know where to begin.

First of all, I guess I should point out why this is significant aside from its absurdity.  This woman is running for PRESIDENT.  If she makes it past the primaries...well I really don't know what I would do.  There's no way I want to live in a country where the people living in it support a person who thinks being gay is a psychological disorder capable of being cured by a miracle of their god.  It doesn't matter if it's mostly her husband running the place or not.  She's still part of it.

I suppose it just boggles my mind how these people can be so narrow minded. I get tired of people justifying their hate by hiding behind their god, whether he be real or imagined.  (Though if I had to take a guess, if there was some omnipotent being out there capable of casting judgement upon any living creature in existence, I seriously doubt he would give two shits if a guy liked another guy.)

The other main problem I have after reading this article is the quote of this nutcase's husband:

In an interview last year with the "Point of View" talk radio program, Bachmann was asked how parents should deal with a teenager who thinks he or she is gay."I think you clearly say 'what is the understanding of God's word on homosexuality,'" Bachmann said. "We have to understand barbarians need to be educated. They need to be disciplined and just because someone feels it or thinks it doesn't mean we're supposed to go down that road," he continued.

Er.  All right, look.  If you don't like someone's lifestyle, that's your prerogative.  But you have NO RIGHT to call someone a barbarian, or other such term, just because they don't share the same ideals as you.  News Flash, you slim-minded asshat:  The middle ages ended around 1500 A.D.  Perhaps I could buy you a calendar?

I was chuckling to myself a little bit ago, because I thought about how funny it would be if every gay and lesbian in America sued him for defamation.  That would be so brilliant.

And don't even get me started on the line about discipline.  One of the definitions of discipline:  To punish or penalize in order to train and control.

I don't even need to explain how laughable that is.

Sigh.  I suppose, at the end of all of this, I'm angry that there are so many people out there who are willing to discriminate against total strangers, people they don't even know, simply because they THINK a book written thousands of years ago tells them so.  

If these people are so righteous, so pious, and doing only what their god wants them to do so that they will enter heaven...well, then I want no part of heaven.

Fortunately, I'm also intelligent enough to realize that these radical conservative nitwits make up only a small percentage of the population.  That's really the only thing that prevents me from outright despising all forms of religion.  Sometimes, though, especially when reading something like this, it's pretty damned hard to look at the human race with any kind of positive feelings.

Tuesday, July 12, 2011

My mission, should I choose to accept it...

I've had it with this stupid graphics driver crashing bullshit.  Tonight I'm going to do some research and see what I can do to fix it.  I've done a little bit of reading already, and I think I have it pinpointed to the Windows TDR shutting down my driver.  I just have to figure out WHY it's doing that.

So that's going to be on my agenda later this evening after John goes to bed.  That, and cleaning up Skynet2.  

Sunday, July 10, 2011

Minerva's Den

I've never had a problem with DLC packs.  If there was a game I really didn't like all that much, chances are any DLC that would be released for it wouldn't change my mind of that face.  Therefore, I just wouldn't buy the said DLC.  And, if it was a game I really enjoyed, I'd have no problem spending a couple of bucks to have that experience extended.  

PC Gamer reminded me the other day that there was a DLC for Bioshock 2 called Minerva's Den.  I skipped the first DLC for this game because it just didn't seem like it was all that worth it to me.  All you got was some new items for the multi-player aspect of the game.  Granted, I played more Bioshock 2 multi-player than I have for just about any other shooter except for Counter-Strike and perhaps Aliens vs. Predator, but still, I didn't see it as being worth it. 

Minerva's Den is different.  It's a stand-alone single-player add-on for Bioshock 2, and it has a completely self-contained story.  And it's five hours long.  Hm.  Yes please! 

For the story, you are once again in control of a Big Daddy, and your task is to infiltrate Minerva's Den and find this computer.  This computer is special, because it has a really advanced AI, punctuated by its clever name:  The Thinker. 

Meanwhile, there are two guys fighting over the whole place.  Apparently, they used to be partners.  But, the one guy wanted to use the machine for evil, while the other wanted to turn it into his dead wife.  I'm still trying to decide which of these is worse. 

In any case, so far I have been really pleased with the game play.  It's good to be back in Rapture, and I'd say it more resembles the Rapture we had in Bioshock 1 than in Bioshock 2.  The thing that has appealed to me most of all about this little stand-alone slice of Rapture is that it seems to be encouraging exploration.  I'm finding all kinds of secret nooks and crannies containing boxes, items, corpses holding loot, etc. 

The combat is what we remember from a Bioshock game — advanced weapons, plasmids, and lots of insane Splicers to kill. 

All in all, it's great to be playing more Bioshock, and I'm looking forward to seeing how this little story is going to play out.  I'm sure I'll more to share about it as I progress! 

In the meantime, here are a couple of screenshots I've taken thus far.  Enjoy!

Friday, July 01, 2011


The other day while I was driving home, traffic came to an utter and irrevocable stop.  Big surprise.  This time, it was because they were painting the road lines. The wind was blowing just in the right direction, and as I drove by I got a very strong scent of the paint.  It smelled not like a normal house paint, mind you, but more like the stuff you get out of the aerosol cans.  I'm sure a lot of you know the difference I speak of.  It smells more like paint THINNER than actual paint, when you get right down to it.

Catching a whiff of this made me remember some things that I haven't thought about for quite some time.  When I was a kid, around 11 or 12 years old, my brother asked my Mom to start working at his shop as the secretary.  These days, most parents would probably be quite comfortable leaving their children at home by themselves at that age.  My mother wasn't.  Therefore, every day after school, my grandfather would pick me up and take me to his place.

I remember not liking this quite a bit.  I enjoyed being home (which remains true to this day), and also this was change and to a kid my age, change was bad, etc.  Eventually I got over it, of course, as any kid would.  I loved my grandparents, and being at their house just became part of my daily routine.

Back to the aroma of canned paint, the memories that this invoked involve my grandfather's garage.  He worked in a steel mill for 39 years, and was naturally retired by the time I started staying at his house.  He dabbled with carpentry in his spare time, and was considered to be my town's handy-man of sorts.  Neighbors would call him up with a facet that was leaking, or a door that wouldn't close correctly, and he would go and fix it.  For a fee, of course.  He also built things, such as bookcases, shelves, spice racks, and other such wood-crafts.  Therefore, any time I would walk into his garage, there would always be the smell of something -- paint, wood stain, turpentine, something like that.

After a while, probably when I became a teenager, I was still spending my time there and eventually he let me help him out with certain things.  Not only that, but he encouraged me to do things on my own, as well.  So there I was, 13 years old, and using power saws, band saws, table saws, drills, staple guns, nail guns, power sanders, and many different kind of hand tools, some of which I'd never knew existed.  (For example, I had this little tool that was used to place really small nails so that they could be hammered into place.)

My Mom still has some of the things I made her around the house.  A few of the things I remember making were wooden decorative signs.  I remember cutting out the letters using a stencil on the band saw.  Being at that age, I'm amazed I didn't lose any fingers, really.  I suppose, if my grandfather didn't think I was mature enough to use that equipment, he wouldn't have let me do so.  But I was so amazed at the freedom he gave me, and I had such a feeling of independence.

There's a part of me that wishes I could have had the chance to talk to him at least once as I am now.  While I've always been and acted older than my age, I was still a kid at 13.  I'm sure the two of us would have had some amazing conversations if we were able to speak today.  I'm a lot better at the whole talking thing now.

And I should probably end this post on that note.  Thinking about this has brought back so many other memories of my summers there, and I could probably go on all day long about it.  


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...