Saturday, January 31, 2009

NEWS FLASH: Orochi 2 1000/1000 at Last!!!

This is not the main post for today. Scroll down for the January review, which is the main post of the day. However, for me, this is big enough news to merit its own freaking post =)

After 4 full months of on-and-off effort, Warriors Orochi 2 has finally been completed. As you can see, I've been at this for a while (55 days says 360voice):

I've also had a lot to say about the game and the long trek to completion:

Warriors Orochi 2 Nearly Destroyed My Hobby: A Cautionary Tale

Major Warriors Orochi 2 Breakthrough

Orochi 2 Must Die

Those are just the posts explicitly about Orochi 2... It was probably mentioned in other posts, as well. I endured the grind, I replayed every level 4 times... This is one of the most impressive completions on my card, as so few people take the time to get through everything. I'm happy to have it finally finished.

I'd like to extend a HUGE thanks to my roommate Stefan, who helped me play through over a hundred levels in local co-op. Two people plowing through levels made the whole thing go much, much faster. I owe you big.

If you don't think 1k in Orochi 2 is impressive, I challenge you to try to get all the points yourself. That'll change your mind in a hurry.

Month in Review: January '09

January, the first full month of this blog, will also be the first month to have its own "Month in Review" post. These posts will be monthly posts on the last day of the month, detailing significant events, and my thoughts on how things went. The structure you see below is how things will run in these posts. All objects in the "Reviews Written" and "Blog Special Topics" categories are links, so simply clicking on them will bring you to that review or blog post, making it easy to go back and check out any content you may have missed.

Overall, January was a good month of gaming. I started out almost 2k behind my pace for 100k by the end of the year, but did a great job scoring points on games I already owned, making significant progress on Operation Jedi, and moving slightly ahead of pace. Quite a bit of progress was made on my grant research, while I wrote two reviews and 7 special topics. Near the end of the month, I slowed down to work on more challenging fare, and I don't want to go point-crazy when I need to get ready for a GSL (prep consists of getting the team ready, and doing non-gaming tasks like homework and getting ahead on research so I physically have the time to play).

Looking ahead: February will be an even busier month, with the GSL starting, increasing academic obligations, and a lot more reviews on my plate. It looks like I'll be reviewing at least 4 games in February, including:

Afro Samurai (confirmed)
Onechanbara: Bikini Samurai Squad (probable)
Sonic's Ultimate Genesis Collection (probable)
The Pitt [Fallout 3 DLC] (confirmed)

I'll do my best to have at least 1 special topic a week posted, despite my busy schedule. Writing those things is a fun break from the other writing I do (I write at least of 3-4 pages of material, single spaced, every single day. Blog posts are included in that total). The first special topic of February will be an editorial, discussing the concept of Gamerscore Inflation, which seems to me like a budding subject for debate. Stay tuned for that.

Reviews Written:
Rise of the Argonauts
Operation Anchorage (Fallout 3 DLC)

Blog Special Topics:
What co-op play means to me
Thrawn Predicts the Future: Episode II
The Thrawn Experiment (on purchasing games)
How I Write Reviews
Best 3 Albums Ever
My Perfect Xbox 360 Game
Three Sequels I Crave

Games Completed:
Condemned 2
Alone in the Dark
The Maw
Operation Anchorage
Warriors Orochi 2

Achievement Progress (These stats may be edited after posting to maintain maximum accuracy):

January start score: 68,395
End score: 72,930
Change: +4,535

Completion percentage change: +6.68% (from 54 to 60.68%)
Distance from Op. Jedi goal: 16,984 points

Lead over x Ducky Dan x to 100k: 6,906

Friday, January 30, 2009

Three Sequels I Crave

I'm back on track for daily updates, at least for the next few days. As Fridays are a busy social days, today's post is coming earlier than usual. If you missed yesterday's post on my Perfect Xbox 360 game, I suggest scrolling down an checking it out. Then kindly mail me millions of dollars so I can make it happen =P

Today, I want to talk about 3 games I want sequels to. I'm not going to be talking about inevitable sequels, like Dead Space 2 or Elder Scrolls 5, but good games that deserve sequels, but may never actually get them. To my knowledge, none of the games I'm talking about currently have sequels in development. Correct me if I'm wrong (I'm sure you will =P)

#3: Earth Defense Force 2017
The graphics are dated, the physics laughable, the gameplay shallow, the voice acting cheesy, the achievements are lame, and the character runs like he had a rebar rammed up his ass. Objectively, I should probably not like this game, and yet I can't get enough of it. I enjoy the game so much because the gameplay is shallow. Pick up the controller, blast giant alien bugs... repeat forever. This high-action blastathon never gets old for me, and is a great game to pick up and play when I'm looking for some fun, quick, and uncomplicated action. Playing local co-op with a friend makes the game even better. I wish more games were this simple to pick up and play, and have a great time with. If you've ever played an FPS in you're life, there will be no learning curve here. I got the game right when it came out, and it was about the best $40 I've spent on a game. I have close to 50 hours spent blasting aliens in that game, with no regrets whatsoever.

Unfortunately, I don't think the game sold very well in the US. While there will probably be a sequel in Japan eventually, I'm not holding my breath for a US release. Thankfully, this game requires almost no language skills to play, and a sequel probably wouldn't either, so if I ever fall to the dark side and by an NTSC-J console, and a sequel comes out, I'm totally importing it.

#2: Condemned 2
I believe a sequel to this one could happen, now that Monolith is done with FEAR 2. Condemned 2 was the scariest game I've ever played, standing absolutely head and shoulders above any other horror game. Nothing comes close to Condemned 2's superb use of lighting, sound, and screen effects to get in your head, while Ethan strolls through some twisted and bizarre environments. I had to stop playing for a while my first time through, because the Doll Factory freaked me out too much. I challenge the masochists out there to play this game on Hard late at night with the lights off... and preferably be home alone. You won't be getting much sleep that night. I can't praised Monolith highly enough for what they accomplished in that game, with a great melee system powering the action, an entertaining (though relatively short-lived) multiplayer experience, and the already mentioned atmosphere. I don't know how well Condemned 2 ultimately sold, so penny pinching may be the reason this horror classic never gets a follow up. It'll be a shame if things end up that was, as I'm itching to beat down some Oro.

#1: Prey

This game was supposed to have a sequel... I remember not that long after Prey's release hearing that it was in development. Fast forward a year or two, and a recall reading that a Prey sequel was being "considered." Right now, I have no clue if the sequel to this game is actually in development or not, or if we'll ever see it.
Prey make its unique mark on a system crowded with shooters by making maximum use of its strange gravity-defying level design, and a unique story emphasizing Cherokee mythology (how often do Native Americans appear in games as people, not stereotypes?), and distilling in players a sense of powerlessness in the face of a massively superior enemy. While the main character Tommy was rather 1-dimensional, the gameplay was great, and I felt drawn into a universe that was surprisingly well realized, though a few questions remained. [SPOILER] The ending, where Tommy steps through a blue portal to meet another super-being or group of them dripped potential for an equally epic follow up, with the final "To be continued..." failing to provide us any resolution. I want to know more!!! [END SPOILER]

With the advances in gaming since Prey's release, a sequel could easily take the gravity defying action to a whole new level, though I admit, with the crowded FPS market on the 360, Prey 2 might have an uphill battle to win over people who didn't play the original. Still, for the story alone, I highly desire a sequel to the game.

That's it for this installment of games I want sequels to. Tomorrow, I'll be reviewing the month of January, highlighting key achievement successes, gaming notes, and mentioning a few good posts some of my newer readers may have missed =)


Thursday, January 29, 2009

My Perfect Xbox 360 Game

At long last, I've got enough time to sit down and write the special topic I've wanted to, about what I would consider to be the PERFECT xbox 360 game. Everyone, I'm sure, has some notion of what their perfect game would be, and I'm interested in hearing about what that game would be for others. So, if you decide to blog about your own Perfect game, let me know, and I'll check it out. I challenge you to be as detailed as you possible can =)

My Perfect Game

Genre: FPS and RPG hybrid
The FPS is listed first for a reason. Gunplay in my Perfect game has to be stellar, which means probably designing the game as a shooter first, and then integrating the RPG elements. The FPS/RPG combo has been done before in Deus Ex (which a key model for my Perfect game), and Mass Effect (that was 3rd-person, but whatever), to name a few.

Setting: Epic Sci-fi Universe
The setting for this game has to be a universe as richly detailed as the Star Wars or Mass Effect universes. I want aliens of a dozen different species, multiple planets, and a variety of weapons. Like Deus Ex or Mass Effect, the character should be an agent of an organization, tasked with hunting down and eliminating a massive evil. If players start out feeling as helpless against the odds as they do in Prey, that would be a huge plus. In addition to the main quest line, I want plenty of quality side-quests, each of which provides its own mini-story. Mass Effect's only major failure was its inability to provide interesting side-quests (only a few exceptions). Length similar to Deus Ex ideal (that was a loooooong game for an FPS) I would like some large and dynamic bosses that require more than pattern memorization to defeat. The ability to openly explore worlds, like the wastelands of DC in Fallout 3, is a must. Both Deus Ex and Mass Effect were too linear. Mass Effect's "exploration" consisted of traversing barren worlds, and just wasn't very interesting.

Level-Up Mechanics
Like Fallout 3 or Mass Effect, you gain XP for every enemy killed, with some enemies being worth more than others. Completing missions would also provide XP. When you level up, you would have options similar to Fallout 3, where different perks can be selected. I liked this system better than how Mass Effect or Deus Ex handled it.

Players should have the ability to customize how they look, on a level similar to Fallout 3.


Like in Mass Effect, holding down a bumper would freeze time, and allow you to choose a special ability to use. There's a lot of options for powers, depending on the sci-fi universe and how it's set up, but I would start by looking at Force powers from Star Wars, some of the psyonic abilities of Mass Effect, and even a few Dragonball-esque energy attacks.


I'd want a more stripped-down system what we've seen in other FPS/RPG hybrids. I don't want to have to dig through a lot of crap. Weapons would be classified into certain types, and players could purchase permanent ability mods that will factor into every weapon of that type (rifle, SMG, sniper, etc.). The player would make upgrades, while the roster of weapons would remain unchanged. No looking for a +5 blaster rifle, or anything like that. Health would auto-regenerate after a while, so there's no messing with medkits. Players would only be able to carry 2 guns and a sidearm on them at a time, but enemies would drop their weapons and ammo, making switching weapons easy. Since upgrades are applied to all weapons of a class, switching weapons wouldn't hurt you.

I want a Mass Effect style conversation wheel. That system was perfect and I don't want to change it.

The Role of Choice:

Deus Ex succeeded by letting players finish missions in multiple different ways. While players could change their skills in Fallout 3 or Mass Effect, the path was always the same. Deus Ex is thus the model of my ideal, as every mission should be able to be completed in at least 2, preferably 3, different ways, that are more involved than simply a matter of what weapons or perks you have.

Like Mass Effect, choices made in conversation would have a direct impact on the story, sending it off in multiple directions.

As you can see, my Perfect game is largely a fusion of aspects from Deus Ex, Mass Effect, and Fallout 3. I don't want to reinvent the wheel, and all three of these games were excellent experiences. For me, the perfect balance of ideas from each of these games exists, and is completely possible with current technology (though I admit the game I want would be very expensive to create), it simply hasn't happened yet. For now, my best bet is to hope Deus Ex 3 and Mass Effect 2 continue to inch in the right direction.


Wednesday, January 28, 2009

I'm a Filthy, Dirty Liar

No special topic today... I'm still getting used to the college schedule, doing homework, and getting used to advanced qualitative research programs. Working to put together another GSL team has also been more time consuming than I had anticipated, but that task is nearly over, so I won't have to check my PM box on x360a so much. My team is running under the awesome name of "The Hand of Thrawn," which is totally a Star Wars reference. Since I don't have class until 2pm tomorow, I'll try very hard to finally write the special topic I've been wanting to do for so long.

Instead, I offer you a few updates, and ask you to indulge me for being a bit boring lately...

FALLOUT 3: The Operation Anchorage review is now posted front-and-center of the x360a main page, and is linked in the right column of this blog, so go check it out. As usual, Bethesda kicks ass.

THE MAW: I recently read on IGN that Twisted Pixel is releasing three new levels as DLC. These levels are said to be "deleted scenes," will cost 100 msp each, and come with an achievement each. As a huge fan of the game, I will pick these up as soon as they come out, which should be in March. It's too bad they could not fit in the 150mb limit for the game, but I loved The Maw enough to shell out some more cash. The only better game on XBLA is Puzzle Quest, and I probably put in close to $30 on that one, for the game + the DLC expansion.

RESEARCH: I've got all 20 blogs for my project converted to Word documents at last. That phase of the research was extremely long and boring. I'm now reading through some and generating a list of codes for the data, while I learn the research program I'll be using. It's one sexy program, as it should be... since it took about $550 of grant money to purchase it.

ACHIEVEMENTS: Been rather slow lately. I'm working on Puzzle Quest and Orochi 2 now, since they're too time consuming for the GSL. I like the way the bench system works for this league though, so I can take weeks off this time, instead of having to play all the time. This means I'll be able to switch up point whoring with breaks for Blue Dragon or (in the future) Resident Evil 5.

that will do it for today. So help me God, there will be a special topic tomorrow (lol).

Tuesday, January 27, 2009

Anchorage Freed, Commies Slapped Down

Today, my Microsoft Point balance dropped by 800 points, as I downloaded the new Operation Anchorage mission for Fallout 3. I spend my morning playing it, and my afternoon (when not in class) writing the DLC review for it, which will be posted on x360a tomorrow. I've done enough writing on that for today, so I'm going to leave the review to explain my feelings for the new DLC. I pulled down all 100 points, so I once again have a perfect score in Fallout 3.

I've also started the process of putting together a team for x360a's 7th gamerscore league. Since this is my last semester of college, and I have to worry about finding a job (among other things), this team is meant to be a casual team of people who want to play together and have fun, and not worry about winning. I simply don't have the time to make a championship run, but I'd like to compete anyway. Hopefully I'll find a team of like-minded individuals, and have a blast.

That will cover me for today. I've done enough writing between writing a review and starting to organize a GSL team. Look for a special topic tomorrow.

Monday, January 26, 2009

Best 3 Albums Ever (To Me)

Well, classes are now in session, and I'm going to do my best to get back into the swing of regular blogging. I think afternoon posts are going to be the way to go from now on.

Kicking off my first special topic for a while is a breakdown of my favorite 3 albums ever. I literally mean the albums here, as it's not necessary for the album to contain all my favorite songs, or even for it to be by an artist I particularly like. To make this list, the album as a whole entity needs to be outstanding. It happens that I like all the artists featured on this list, but that's not a requirement. I highly recommend listening to each of the albums listed below. I've heard them dozens (in the case of #1, over a hundred) times, and they NEVER grow old.

#3: Octavarium (Dream Theater, 2005)
Dream Theater is an amazing band, and this stands out as my favorite album of theirs. I'm no music critic, but every single song on this CD is strong, compelling music. The back-to-back combo of "Panic Attack" and "Never Enough" never gets old. Was probably the #1 most listened-to CD I had during my Orochi 2 mega-grind.

#2 Dark Passion Play (Nightwish, 2007)
The album begins with the song, "The Poet and the Pendulum" which is simply 14 minutes of EPIC in music form. They make great use of the orchestra they play with. I can't even describe it. You just have to listen to believe the awesomeness. "The Last of the Wilds" is the most beautiful/awesome instrumental I've ever heard, with a great mix of Rock with Celtic influences. The album concludes with "Meadows of Heaven," a beautiful track where the female vocalist makes full use of her fantastic voice. The whole album gels together well, and is so awesome, it's the only album to ever come close to dethroning #1.

Here are some interesting facts about the album:

As of February 22 the album has sold 120,000 copies in Finland alone, granting it a four times platinum certification. It is close to selling 1,800,000 copies globally. It was certified platinum in Switzerland, and gold in Germany, Austria, and Poland[12]. As of January 2008, the album has topped the album charts in six countries. The singles, "Amaranth" and "Erämaan viimeinen" have both reached number one on Finnish charts. According to, it is their most played album, and its successful single "Amaranth" is their most played song for the last six months, as of June 2008.

The album was also critically acclaimed in most reviews.

For the whole article about this amazing album, visit:

#1: Truthless Heroes (Project 86, 2002)
It was #1 from the first time I heard it, and not even Dark Passion Play can pass it (though it comes damn close). While there are several Project 86 songs I like more than anything on this disc, and none of the songs here would make my "Top 10 best songs " list, this album as a whole is rock-solid. Truthless Heroes is a concept album that frontman Andrew Schwab states "the album takes you through the protagonist's attempts to gratify himself and fill his deepest needs as a person through fame, fortune, lust, whatever." (from Wikipedia) The songs follow a theme of an individual's rise and fall, with complicated (in a good way) lyrics and superb rock. Three times during the album, there are shorter tracks that take a step back and kind of get in your head (you'll have to listen to the whole album to get what I mean), and the song after them comes as a heavy blast. I recommend Project 86 as an awesome band, with this album standing above all others.


Sunday, January 25, 2009

Orochi 2 Must Die

I'm now moved back into Eau Claire, and classes begin tomorrow. My class load is super easy this semester, as I'm only taking 13 credits (only 3 actual classes), so I can work on my grant research and try to find myself that important thing called a JOB. The quality of blog posts should be on the increase again over the next couple days.

If you've seen me online lately, you'll notice I've been playing Warriors Orochi 2 almost exclusively the last few days. I really, REALLY want that game done and over with. Thankfully, my roommate is as into the Dynasty Warriors games as I am, and has been helping me out. Having two players co-op the levels makes things go considerably faster. Right now, we've finished off 4/5 factions stories, and are half through the last remaining campaign.

With the Dream levels, we've completely finished off 5, which leaves 23. There's still about 80 total levels left, but progress is coming much faster now, and I no longer have to manufacture Almighties. There's a small chance we'll have this game done by the end of January, but if not, it'll be done in February.

Tomorrow I'll have a special topic up.

Friday, January 23, 2009

Today's Post Has Been Hijacked

I wanted to write this big long post about what for me would be the PERFECT xbox 360 game, but seeing as how it's already 10:30pm, and I still have a ton of packing to do for my return to Eau Claire tomorrow, I simply don't have the time.

The backup plan was to write about my achievement progress, but all I did was continue Blue Dragon and make some progress on 40 Uno wins, so there isn't much of a story to tell.

With plans A and B out the window, it's on to plan C... hijack the post with a few things that should make you LOL (3, to be exact). Once I move back to Eau Claire and get settled in, a normal pattern of events shall return to this blog.

Your first amusement comes courtesy of an email I received from my dad. I have no idea who wrote this, but it's hilarious.

Husband Store

A store that sells new husbands has opened in New York City , where a
woman may go to choose a husband. Among the instructions at the entrance
is a description of how the store operates:

You may visit this store ONLY ONCE! There are six floors and the value
of the products increase as the shopper ascends the flights. The
shopper may choose any item from a particular floor, or may choose to
go up to the next floor, but you cannot go back down except to exit the

So, a woman goes to the Husband Store to find a husband. On the first
floor the sign on the door reads:

Floor 1 - These men Have Jobs

She is intrigued, but continues to the second floor, where the sign

Floor 2 - These men Have Jobs and Love Kids.

'That's nice,' she thinks, 'but I want more.'

So she continues upward.. The third floor sign reads:

Floor 3 - These men Have Jobs, Love Kids, and are Extremely Good

'Wow,' she thinks, but feels compelled to keep going.

She goes to the fourth floor and the sign reads:

Floor 4 - These men Have Jobs, Love Kids, are Drop-dead Good Looking
and Help With Housework.

'Oh, mercy me!' she exclaims, 'I can hardly stand it!'

Still, she goes to the fifth floor and the sign reads:

Floor 5 - These men Have Jobs, Love Kids, are Drop-dead Gorgeous, Help
with Housework, and Have a Strong Romantic Streak.

She is so tempted to stay, but she goes to the sixth floor, where the
sign reads:

Floor 6 - You are visitor 31,456,012 to this floor. There are no men on
this floor. This floor exists solely as proof that women are impossible
to please. Thank you for shopping at the Husband Store.


To avoid gender bias charges, the store's owner opened a New Wives
store just across the street.

The first floor has wives that love sex.

The second floor has wives that love sex and have money and like

The third, fourth, fifth and sixth floors have never been visited.

Your 2nd lol comes from my brother. I hope he does not mind me sharing this story, since it's one of my favorite study abroad stories ever. He writes:

"I was buying a Therion, Kamelot, and a Slayer cd from El Corte Ingles, and the guy checking me out whispers to the other cashier that I'm "a little satanic." So I called him out on it, and was rewarded with the kodak memory of a mid-thirties man squirming in some of the most intense discomfort I have ever born witness to. He probably didn't think I knew spanish, and he was probably even more caught off-gaurd that I ballsed up and said something."

I love that story. Thanks for unknowingly helping me fill a post, bro. You're awesome like that =) Keep having a blast over there, and letting me know what you're up to.

And lastly, since I played the saxophone for 8 years...

Thursday, January 22, 2009

Return of the Dragon

Part 1 deals with my attitude toward my goal to raise my completion percentage to 75%, and changes I'm making to how I pursue that goal. If you're only interested in what I played today, skip to Part 2.

Part 1: Changes to the Operation Jedi Rules

I've been working on my goal to improve my completion percentage for a little over a month now, and progress so far has been excellent. I'm up over 4000 points, about 3,200 of that was pure completion percentage improvement (Maw was added for fun, and Argonauts as a review). I'm quite pleased with everything so far. However, my desire to improve my percentage by playing older games won't work forever. Bouncing around between the numerous games I own and haven't completed yet has sustained me so far, but every so often, I'm going to need to inject some new life into my xbox. I've come up with a system to keep me on track for my goal while giving me motivation to earn some new games. (I'll still be throwing review copies on my card no matter what)

My new system is simple. For every 3 completed games, or 3,000 points of pure Op. Jedi progress, I can try out a new game. I can also rent/buy something for 5 arcade completions (I put that in there because my arcade percentage is horrible... not even 40%). With Dark Sector, Deadliest Catch, The Incredible Hulk, and Lego Star Wars: TCS on my shelf, as well as Onechanbara coming next month, this will help me cycle those games in. (Really, I just want to feel like I've earned the right to play Onechanbara: Bikini Samurai Squad lol)

The current lists are as seen below:


1. Condemned 2
2. Alone in the Dark

1. The Maw

I could say my 3,200 points progress is enough to earn one, but I'm going to try for one more completion anyway.

Part 2: Return of the Dragon

Since I've done a great job to already get on pace for the year, I felt no desire today to really wotk after points. I was flipping through my collection, deciding what to play, when I came to my RPGs. I'm pretty good about finishing Western RPGs, and cite my 1000 in Fallout, 1050 in Mass Effect, 1220 in Oblivion, and 900+ in Marvel as evidence of that. My track record with JRPGs is, to be blunt, crap. I have 1000 in Enchanted Arms, but that's as far as the JRPG success pony rides. I've completed the story for Eternal Sonata at least, by am well short of 1k there. Before I allow myself to pick up Tales of Vesperia, Infinite Undiscovery, or Last Remnant, I feel I have to finish (the story at least, if not all the points) all the JRPGs I still have, which means Blue Dragon and Lost Odyssey.

Looking at Mistwalker's two RPGs, I was torn between which one to pick. Lost Odyssey is certainly the better of the two, but they're both great games. Since I want to finish both anyway, I decided to start with Blue Dragon, since it's been sitting on my card as an absolutely abysmal 20 of 1000 for over a year. It's one of the worst games on my card in terms of points scored, and that had to change. It's also even more traditional an RPG than Lost Odyssey, so even after the long time away from the game, I knew I'd have no trouble getting into Blue Dragon again.
I decided upon starting it up to go back to a few old saves to try again for a few of the missable achievements. Every time I got to a sequence where achievements could be earned, I made a separate save. If I failed to get the points, I could reload it and try again. If I kept failing, I could just keep playing the game and come back to that save to try again later. There were two different saves where I was camped before an achievement-related task that I had not earned yet. I started with the first Mechat shooting challenge, which is at the end of Disc 1. I kept failing it, but once I realized I could go into the options and invert the shooting controls (I'm a little slow sometimes) I got it on my 2nd attempt.

After scoring those 30 extremely satisfying points (trust me, every point earned in a JRPG feels amazing), I loaded up another save from even earlier in the game, where you have to escort wagons without them taking any damage from enemies. Quickly killing enemies so they don't damage wagons isn't easy, and the fact that my guide's directions for the 2nd-to-last encounter weren't right didn't help matters either. After about 45 minutes of trying, I finally scored those 30 points as well. Therefore, I've taken a game that stewed on my card for over a year at 20/1000 to 80/1000 in one afternoon.
I know I also have all the DLC for Blue Dragon sitting on my hard drive, and I haven't even come close to the point where I can use it yet, so I really did need to get back into this one. I had no idea how badly I'd missed JRPGs until I loaded this game up (Eternal Sonata isn't a traditional JRPG, and therefore isn't the type of game I'd been missing). I'm going to try to keep working on this between breaks for more action-intense fare, and we'll have to see how far I can get.

I think the below image speaks volumes about how long Blue Dragon sat in my collection before getting to see the light of day again:


Note the huge gap between "Pulled in the Flying Fortress" and the other two... rofl.


Wednesday, January 21, 2009

MAWsome Game and Rando Attacks

Today, I picked up and completed all 200 points on a real gem of an arcade game: The Maw. In this game, players control the adorable alien Frank, and use his buddy, the Maw, to get through 8 level of platforming bliss. The game isn't long; all 8 levels and 200 points can be earned in one afternoon. However, this is truly some of the most fun I've had with an XBLA title in a LONG time. The graphics and sound track are incredible, and the gameplay on the whole is really top notch. You can also earn gamerpics and a premium theme for playing through the game. As an easy 200 with truly fun gameplay, I highly recommend The Maw.
I wrote the achievement guide and roadmap for x360a while I played through the game, and you will now find the on site by following this link:

With the new Gears of War 2 achievements now obtainable, I spent some time gaming with a couple of my GSL teammates (Derek and Silva) working on the Horde achievement for the Flashback maps (that's 50 rounds of Horde action). I love the Horde mode, and these points were a perfect excuse to dive back into it. I'm also happy to see that achievement progress updates appear far more often than before, and waves of Horde finally count for the Party Like it's 1999 achievement (as they really should have from day 1).
With today's points, I'm over 72,500, which is my milestone goal for January. Maybe I can get a little bit ahead, since I'll probably fall behind in March through May as I look for jobs. To even have reached the January milestone is good, since it assumed I started the year at 70k, while I was actually 2k short. So, I had to pull nearly 4,000 points this month to get on track, but I really haven't had anything else to do yet. Just a few more days til I get to go back to UWEC....

Today was also an attack of the randos (or randoms, people I've never heard of). I received 3 friend requests from randos, and none were followed by messages. As it says in my bio, I will not accept FRs that don't come with messages explaining who you are, how you've heard of me, and why we should be friends. I don't mean to be an ass, but I'm selective about who gets on my list, and want to make sure those people are reputable. If you're one of those randos, and you read this, please send a message next time so I have some idea who you are.

Some ass also took time out of his no doubt busy day to send me the following message:

Hells Reign 999 writes: "that has to be the gayest joker ive ever seen"

My response: My avatar is not meant to look exactly like the Joker. It's meant to look like me if I was dressed up as the Joker. There's a big difference there. And the Joker and I both have our Harley Quinns, so I have nothing to complain about.

I should also say I block communication for idiots, so if you send me one bad message, I'm not going to bother waiting for any more.


Tuesday, January 20, 2009

I Miss School...

After my big breakthrough in Warriors Orochi 2 (read the post below), I have hardly been able to stop playing the game. Where before it was a total slog to get anything done, I suddenly find myself motivated to ruthlessly hunt down and finish that final achievement. I'm pretty sure this sudden surge of enthusiasm won't last me all the way to completion, so I'm going to ride it as hard as I can now and try to get as close as I can to wrapping things up before I start totally hating the game again. I now have 2 of the 5 factions completely done (all 8 levels on all 4 difficulties), and have just started on my third. I have 7 Almighty abilities saved up for when the Dream Mode insanity starts again.

In other achievement news, I've been feeling rather burned out on scoring points lately... mostly because, aside form working on the really boring segments of my grant research, it's the only thing I've been doing for the last month. I picked up The Orange Box again last night, and had some fun in Portal, picking up the Fruitcake achievement for 4/6 advanced maps completed. I'm now at 5, but I didn't want to start on that last one at midnight last night. I don't work well with puzzles at night. I've resumed a pit of work on Marvel again, banging out a few arcade wins... I am so bored with Marvel. I've really played it to death, but my desire to totally complete it keeps me coming back for more. Once February rolls around, it'll probably fall back in the stack for a while as I switch to other projects.

Rant incoming....

I really, really miss school. Spending nearly every day at home, alternating between internet research and achievement scoring, gets boring very fast. Every day is the same, and the lack of variety and no social life (all my friends in town left for school/work two weeks ago) has been driving me slowly insane. My parents are fantastic, but I can't stand them as the ONLY people I really interact with for two weeks. I also tire of political commentary from my dad, who is most certainly NOT a fan of Obama. I'm not going to get into a political argument here, but it amazes me that two people with such similar values and belief systems can differ so much on how those values should be applied to society.

It'll be good to move back to UWEC, with my roommate, who is pretty much my best friend on Earth. I miss the stupid jokes, local co-op in any hack-'n-slash game, and a million other things. It'll be nice to have fun classes, a social life, and more variety in my days. I'm going crazy right now. Thankfully, I'm moving back on Saturday, so I only have to endure the January monotony for 3 more days (not counting today).

/end rant.

If I'm looking through my blogs correctly, it looks like it's been over a week since I dropped official Operation Jedi statistics, so I shall do so now:

Completion Percentage: 60.57% (I crossed 60%! That's about 6% improvement in the last month)

Distance from goal: 17,233 points (more than a 1k pickup from my last report)

Lead over x Ducky Dan x in race to 100k: 6,471 (record high)

Points needed for 1% badge on 360voice: 4,880 (590 points closer than last time)

Gotta love the progress. That will do it for now. See y'all later.

Monday, January 19, 2009

MAJOR Warriors Orochi 2 Breakthrough

I did it... I really did it... the Nightmare grind in Warriors Orochi 2 is over! I was grinding through levels earlier today, as a boring activity to keep part of my mind focused away from my OTHER boring activity (copy/pasting WoW blogs), and to my enormous surprise, I unlocked the last Dream Mode level. I had known I was getting close, but I thought I still had 4-5 characters to go. I guess not.
With every level finally unlocked, I went on a total tare, going through every Dream level I hadn't already completed, and unlocked a couple of the Big Daddy achievements of the game, including All Dream Mode levels cleared (80g) and All Characters unlocked (80g), add another 30g to that for the last Dream Mode level achievement short of completing them all, and I rocketed up 190 points in one of the most painfully un-generous point games out there. I'm super excited about the progress.

At 900/1000, I'm farther along than I thought I would be for a while, and all that remains is to get the legendary All Difficulties Clear achievement for 100g. To do this, I will be taking my superpowered Orochi as two other characters and blasting through every main story level on every difficulty. Along the way, I'll be taking the weapons they pick up and trying to mass manufacture as many Almighty abilities for weapons as I can. That ability makes Chaos exponentially easier. I aim for at least 28 (1 per character per Dream Mode level). When I get all that accomplished, then it'll be time to tackle Dream Mode, one level at a time. There may be additional grinding to improve weapons, or farm more abilities, based on what seems necessary as I work through the levels. I aim to do the bare minimum needed to get through them all... I've spent more than enough time in this game already.
While I'm pleased to be in the final phase of the campaign to complete Orochi 2, the war is far from over. 28 Dream levels x 3 remaining difficulties = 84 levels, plus I-don't-know-how-many still in the main stories. Add in the weapon grinding and spot-grinding to buff up characters for a few problematic levels, and I'd say I still have a good 20+ hours left before I've completed this bastard. I love KOEI games, but I will be looking very carefully at their achievement lists from now on. I doubt I'll ever purchase a game from them again that requires this much grinding to 1k. There's dedication.... and then there's just insanity.

Assuming I actually finish this game in 2009, what's my next grinding side-project? Most likely EDF2017. Love the game, but I need to double my armor to have a chance on Inferno. My roommate and I could be busy on that one in the months ahead.

Sunday, January 18, 2009

The Jekyll and Hyde Game Completed

I forgot to post last night, as my gaming session went on until 12:30am, and I didn't feel like staying up any longer to write a post. So, today's post will cover two days. I haven't received Skate yet, and probably won't until Tuesday at the earliest, from the sound of things.

I completed Condemned 2, as well as the main subject of this post, bringing my total up to 31.

Operation Jedi Success Story #4: Alone in the Dark
I'll admit, I picked up the game for $6 two months ago because I heard it was easy gamerscore. After a few days of play, I was at about 460 points, but when games like Fallout 3 and Gears 2 began to dominate my attention, I put the game down and never looked back. The new Horror badge motivated me to go back and finish it.

Truly, this game is a case of Jekyll and Hyde. There are some great ideas in here, link the inventory system, combining items, the DVD-style game progression, with TV episode recaps... there's a lot here to like, but it's buried under clunky controls and was frustrating sequences (particularly in vehicles). I haven't sworn at a game as much as Alone in the Dark in a long time... There were simple checkpoints that took me over a half hour to get right. Yet, once I got into chapter 7, where I had free reign to go around the park and burn down roots, I started having fun. The music is extremely creepy, and the atmosphere of Central Park is well realized. I just wish the controls weren't so rough.

With this completion down, I'm extremely close to the 3-star horror badge. I'll just have to hunt down a copy of Silent Hill from somewhere, and that badge is mine!

I believe I'll be returning to Lego Star Wars II next. I'm only at 330 there, so there's still a lot of room for improvement.

Friday, January 16, 2009

So Close I Can Taste It

For the next several days, blog updates are going to take the form of achievement progress or research updates. Or, if Skate 2 shows up, there will be no posts at all until that review is done. Don't be surprised if I vanish from posting for several days, as I'll understandably be extremely busy on that review.

I'm also saving special topics for next week. I've been dropping a bunch of them lately, and want a little time to think up some more topics, as well as consider those topics, so when I do post special topics, what I'm saying is quality and not junk from off the top of my head.

On to some actual content...

Final victory in Condemned 2 is so close I can taste it. I finally got that last gold ranking and Perfect detective ranking. I turns out I kept missing the SKX writings in the boathouse on mission 7. The advisory for it was one tiny line in the guide I was following, which I simply skipped over. The SKX writings only came to my attention when looking at drno's gold guide in the x360a forums. As I'd hoped, I got together with 4 people and boosted the remaining multiplayer achievements, so now I'm sitting at 950/1000. I only need to finish 2 more missions on hard and this baby is complete!

Condemned 2 will be the 30th retail game I've completed. That's not a lot to some of you 100k+ readers out there, but I'm quite happy with that total. Condemned 2 isn't an "Easy 1000" either, so having it on my card is one more respectable 1k to add legitimacy to a score that has so many super-easy completions from GSL VI. I feel the need to balance easy completions with more moderate or challenging fare, and this is a step in that direction. I'll also be 1970/1970 for the Condemned franchise (I enjoy having perfect sets when and where I can).

Considering I purchased the game for $10.86 a while ago, and have received 20-25 hours of quality entertainment from it, I'd say I got my money's worth and then some. A 910 point pickup for Op. Jedi is nothing to sneer at either. Once I get these last two missions completed, my attention will turn to improving Alone in the Dark. I will eventually have to rent Silent Hill to get the 3-star horror badge, but with a maxed-out Condemned 2 and Alone, I wouldn't need many of Silent Hill's points to get it.

I also wasted a few hours on yet another Orochi grind. I inch ever so much closer to that unbearably long 1k.

So you all tomorrow... or not, if Skate shows up...

Thursday, January 15, 2009

Condemned 2 Nearing Completion

The points are continuing to come steadily, and I've been relatively good about sticking to just 1-2 games at a time. However, with the Argonauts review done, and the amount of time I've spent in Condemned lately, I'm feeling my attention beginning to drift off. To remedy this problem, I've mixed it up a bit. I spent a good amount of time today in another insane Orochi 2 grind, then played some Nuts and Bolts, as well as Soulcalibur 4, when I felt the need to actually have some fun with my gaming.

I managed to pull down 60 points in Banjo-Kazooie, which were mostly easy ones I could have gotten sooner. Speedy of the Colossus was unlocked using a blueprint my bro sent me a while ago... thanks man, it made those 25 points a snap. I'm now above the 750 mark in Nuts and Bolts, so the game is no longer an Operation Jedi liability. Since I love the Banjo franchise, I do hope to eventually finish it, but I'm at the part of the game where it's getting pretty challenging, and I've had little patience for frustration lately. I'll just try to chip away at it in bits and pieces.

In Soulcalibur 4, I picked up 80 points while working through the last of the stories. I've now completed story mode with every character except The Apprentice, whom I finally unlocked tonight. I followed the achievement guide to get "Equal Skill and Power" then earned Water Moon, Reversal Wizard, and Gathering of the Best on my own.

Tomorrow night I should have a boosting group going for the ranked MP achievements in Condemned 2, and should be able to easily finish off the remaining MP achievements. I want to go on record as saying I earned the vast majority of them legit, including over 950 of the 1000 kills, and all of SKX.

When I launched Operation Jedi, Condemned 2 sat on my card with a pathetic 90 points. The desire to up my percentage, as well as it counting for the new Horror badge on 360voice, provided me the motivation I needed to put the Scariest Game Ever back into my disc tray. Seriously, one of the reasons I stopped playing was that this is the only game to ever truly scare the shit out of my. Well, I finally grew a pair and made my way thought the whole game, and had my sweet revenge on the bums during my FPS mode playthrough. The MP has been a good amount of fun, so I earned most of the MP achievements legit.
Condemned 2 now sits at exactly the 750 needed to be an Op. Jedi success, but it'll be improving in the near future. Tomorrow's boosting should add 120 to the total, and I'm one gold-rank away from another 80 points, which would bring me to 950. For some reason, I can only get a "good" detective rating on mission 7 (the lodge) even though I've been following the MyCheats guide and scored Perfect on every forensics scene. Is that guide missing something? I'll have to try it again, I just hate running that mission over and over, since it's one of the longest missions in the game (or at least feels that way).
The MyCheats guide in question.

With all that done, the only thing left to do is survive 10 of the 11 chapters on Hard (1 is already done). That will indeed be a challenge, as I'm still not very good at blocking, and you die pretty fast on hard. If I can pull that off, I'll have really earned my completion for that, and can say I have 100% for the whole Condemned franchise thus far.

I'll be continuing to dance around various games. With Skate 2 coming in the very near future, I don't really want to get too into anything, since I'll just have to put it down and focus on the review anyway. Tomorrow will probably be a big research day, because I'm really starting to fall behind. It's simply too hard to focus at home. I need to do enough in the next week and a half to cover my ass, then I can have some long nights in the library during the opening weeks of the Spring semester, while my homework load will still be very light.


Wednesday, January 14, 2009

An Awesome Day of Writing

I was originally going to write about 3 games I want sequels to, but I'm going to hold that topic for another day, because I'm getting tired of writing today. Instead, I want to talk about all that writing I did today.

First off, I put in the work on coding and adding images to the ROTA review, which has now been published on x360a, and is linked on the right side of my blog, so go read it, if you haven't already =) That was about an hour to 90 minutes of work.

I'm going to quote from an earlier post for a sec (in reference to DLC):
"The crystal ball also predicts that x360a will be making one slight new advancement to embrace this change in the industry. What could that advancement be? The crystal ball says you should be able to see for yourself within the next month."

I'll admit I cheated and added one thing in the predictions I already knew would happen. With all the DLC coming out, and it's expanding role in the future, I suggested we do reviews for DLC, and outlined a format on how we do it. With some added input from Pants and Webb, we had a format ready to go for DLC reviews, with Webb's review of the Knothole Island DLC for Fable 2 being the very first one written and released. Thanks are probably in order for the Graphics Team as well, as I'm assuming they made the snazzy new headers and footers for them. Great work everybody! I'll be reviewing Operation Anchorage from Fallout 3 as my first DLC review at the end of this month.

I also got this baby for the effort:
Award Name: Bright Idea
Award Description: User has submitted an idea that has been implemented
Issue reason: DLC Reviews

Issue time: 01-14-2009 04:31 PM

I'm barely beyond the Rise of the Argonauts review, and already I have my next review lined up. Within the next few days, I'll be receiving a pre-release copy of Skate 2, which I'm expected to tear through as fast as I can so we have the review up on the 19th. Yeah, I'll be buying some energy drinks and putting looooong hours into getting that one done fast. It'll be like a review-writing marathon. This will be the second time I've received a game pre-release (Dead Space being the first), but the first time I'll actually have the time to get the review done and posted pre-release. Pre-release reviews are a big deal, so I'm looking forward to the opportunity to write another high-profile (and thus high-stress) review. I thrive under pressure =) I did Dead Space in about 3 days, so I know I can do Skate in 2 if I have to.

I also wrote a Road Map to 1000 for Warriors Orochi 2, which will hopefully be posted to the site. I know more about that game than I ever wanted to... and I LOVE Koei games...

During a stretch of the mid-afternoon, I was really bored (and needed a break between projects) so I got the random idea to see how many reviews people have written for the site. I've read a fair number of them during my time as a member of the site, and was curious about who was the most prolific review writer. So, I went down the line for every single review and wrote down the names of reviewers, and a tally of how many they wrote. Yes, I was that bored. Anyway, you might find this interesting.

Authors listed by gamertag, only top 11 contributors appearing:

1: jacakanpe- 38
2: The Pants Party- 29
3: Webb x360a- 26 + 1 DLC
4. graf1k and Bax x360a (tie) - 14
6. dz Bluntman- 9
7. ThrawnOmega- 8
8. EOU Findub, Otisfamily, rocket x360a, Creech - 6 each

The number 6 spot should be mine outright soon enough LOL, and I'm chasing number 4. I've read many of jackanape's reviews, but I couldn't believe he had a whopping 38 posted. That's some impressive stuff, my friend =) I'm not sure any of them can top the hilarity of My Horse and Me 2... OMG that review was funny.

So, I've done more than enough writing for today, and will call it quits here. Today's scheduled content will be moved back a few days, as I have achievement progress lined up for tomorrow.

Tuesday, January 13, 2009

How I Write Reviews

After spending most of my afternoon writing the Rise of the Argonauts review, I suppose it's fitting that today's post is about how I write reviews. Everyone writes and approaches reviews differently. For example, I know my method is quite different than jackanape's. Here's how I do it:


Naturally, I have to play a game before I can review it. I try not to read other reviews before doing my own, as those could bias my thinking. I play the games on their default settings, like most people would. When working on a game that I'm reviewing, I don't treat the game like something I'm simply trying to get all of the points out of until the draft is done. It's important to check out every feature and option in the game, even if I personally won't use them down the line.

As I play, I keep a pad of paper next to me, where I jot down extremely brief notes on my opinions as I play. These notes are rarely more than 3 words each, but serve as reminders of topics I want to cover in the review. For example, while playing Warhammer: Battle March, I had a list of notes that included entries like this:

-No resource management
-Bad controls
-Voice acting
-Fugly graphics
-Load times

They don't have to be polite, or even make sense to anyone but me, since nobody else sees them. I'll play a game long enough to feel I have an understanding of everything the game has to offer, then start writing the review. This does not mean I complete games in their entirety before writing the review. For Warhammer, I didn't even finish a campaign before writing that review, but trust me, I'd seen enough. I also didn't finish Fallout 3, but I had 30+ hours invested by the time I started typing. All the other games I've completed first.


After playing a game enough, I take my random jumble of notes and beat them into an outline. I have a pretty set structure. If you haven't noticed by now, I write reviews in this pattern:

  1. Introduction
  2. Story
  3. Significant game mechanics
  4. Single Player
  5. Multiplayer
  6. Complaining about what stinks
  7. Graphics
  8. Audio
  9. Achievements
  10. Conclusion

That's the general format for my reviews, and it's also the order I write the review in. I'm a very sequential person with writing; I have to start at the beginning and end at the end. Jackanape can write his reviews in any order he wants, and then just slap the paragraphs in the order he wants them, but I can't do that. I find my reviews flow better and my transitions come more naturally when I write from beginning to end.

I'd like to go on the record as saying I HATE INTRODUCTORY PARAGRAPHS. Why? I find them incredibly hard to write, especially for games I don't know so much about. Is my intro too explanatory? Too boring? Too much about something other than the game I'm reviewing? Intro paragraphs are the only place where I deviate from my pattern of starting at the beginning. If an intro does not come to me naturally, I'll start a review with the story, write everything, then go back and hammer out an introduction at the very end. Intro paragraphs are the last things I wrote for Dead Space, Gears 2, Fallout 3, Argonauts... okay, more often than not, the intro comes last, but I would write it first if I could. I wrote two different intros for Gears, Fallout, and Dead Space, before settling on ones I liked. Trust me, the original introduction to Dead Space was BAD, and that baby had already been coded and was ready for publication. I pretty much had divine inspiration at the last minute and completely rewrote the intro for that one not long before Webb posted it... that one was too close, but it remains my favorite intro from any of my reviews.

When possible, I like to write the review drafts completely in one sitting. I've found that drafts can take anywhere from three to six hours for me to write (and make sure they meet my expectations), which makes for long afternoons, but it's nice to then be done with them. Generally I take the rest of the day off, and work on part 3 the following day.


Once the review is done, I go through it very carefully to make sure I have no spelling errors or grammar mistakes in my draft. Only after I've check it 2-3 times will I post it in the review team board for peer review (just ask my fellow members of the review team, they rarely find mistakes because I obsessively weed them out first =P). While the review is posted for peer review, I add the HTML coding that the review needs, as well as choose the images I want in the review, resize and attach them, and write captions for them. If anyone sees something confusing or incorrect in my review, I make the necessary changes, and then it's up on the main page for your reading enjoyment!

Rise of the Argonauts is currently on Part 3 of this process, and I'll be done working it up tomorrow, so you should be reading it within the next couple days.

I hope you've enjoyed this look at my review process, and a bit on how the x360a review process in general works. When you read anything I've written for x360a, you'll now have a better understanding of how that review came to be.

Happy gaming all =)

Monday, January 12, 2009

My Weekend Away

It felt great to go back to Eau Claire for a weekend and hang out with my girlfriend and my roommate (both are at UWEC for winterim classes). It had been a long time since I'd seen Stefan, who spent the prior semester studying abroad in Spain, and I hadn't talked to my girlfriend since the end of finals week. We went and saw The Spirit, and in the evening ordered Toppers and watched Resident Evil: Degeneration on the big TV in our dorm.
I must say, Degeneration is much better than I expected it to be. It's got the same insanely high-quality animation Final Fantasy: Spirits Within had, as well as Advent Children, but is about 100x better than either of those. While Advent Children was a steaming piece of poo that gorgeous animation couldn't save (due to horrible writing, and anything involving Sephiroth in that movie is a load of BS), Degeneration has a PLOT. It's a novel concept for a movie based on a video game, I know, but I was glad to see it. My only issue with the movie is that plot relies a little too heavily on closing the threads and making sense of everything at the end, instead of spreading revelations throughout. Besides intense action with Leon S. Kennedy and Claire Redfield, the DVD packs some hilarious voice bloopers and a long and satisfyingly detailed making-of featurette on the movie. It ain't a fluff "making of," they really show a lot of what went on to make it. I'd highly recommend renting it at least, if not buying it. Great movie.

Stefan and I spent some time playing Warriors Orochi 2, since he's been eager to play that game like a junkie looking for their next fix (I kid you not). On Sunday, we spent a lot of time playing Dynasty Warriors 6 when we weren't watching football, and I came out about 100 points ahead for our efforts. He's made me promise not to play DW6 before I move back in, so we can keep working on it. Since I still have a ton of other games on my "to-improve" list, it should be an easy enough promise to keep.

To change the subject for a minute, I must say I kinda feel a little bad for my girlfriend's Xmas haul. She really wanted Dead Space and Left 4 Dead for Christmas (you know you have the right girl if those are the top two items on her list). Instead, she got Jumper: Griffin's Story and Final Fantasy XI. Yup, the Worst Game Ever and a shotty MMO port, which requires subscription fees... I'm not sure she'll even play it. At least they gave her 3 months of Xbox Live, so I should be able to shoot zombies with her online soon (she went and got L4D with her own cash). I'm sure her parents tried, and $60 a game is expensive, but perhaps asking store employees what is good would have turned out better suggestions than Jumper... I don't mean to sound materialistic here and suggest that it should be expected that people get awesome games for Christmas... but Jumper is just wrong... I was able to score Devil May Cry 4 and Beautiful Katamari for under $30 total, and I know she loves them both, so she does have a few games she likes.
Returning to my achievement progress, after returning home from that relaxing weekend, I spent some time with Argonauts. I was hoping to finish the game, so I could start the review first thing tomorrow, but the game locked up on me after a good stretch without saving (not sure if that's the game's fault or my Xbox) and that killed my desire to play it anymore today. I should finish it and get cranking on the review tomorrow. With Condemned, I was able to make it to the end, picking up several achievements for completing all objectives, and I rushed through the first 5 missions of the game in FPS mode. With guns and unlimited ammo, the game is really, really easy. Since I took the time to read the reports earned for collecting all the metal pieces in the first Condemned, I knew what was going on going into the second, and didn't find the story confusing at all, unlike what several reviews claim. It's a great game, and you can probably get it for under $20 now, so it's worth checking out.

STATS TIME (it's been 5 days since the last update):

Lead over x Ducky Dan x in race to 100k: 5,146 (largest ever... want to make it big enough that he would NEED's first league to catch me =P)

Completion percentage: 59.31%

Distance to goal: 18,732 points

Points needed for 1% badge on 360voice: 5,470 more points...


Friday, January 9, 2009

A Quick and Dirty Post

This is a courtesy reminder that there will be NO POSTS on Saturday or Sunday. I'm going back to Eau Claire to visit my girlfriend, as well as my best friend/roommate, who just got back from studying abroad in Spain (at the same university my girlfriend went to, and my brother is at now). I haven't seen either of them in a while, so it will be a fun time. I'm planning on trying to rent that new CG Resident Evil movie and bring that up. I'm sure Amy would love it.

On the gaming front, more progress was made in Condemned 2 and ROTA. I'd say I'm now 3-4 hours from done (it's a little hard to guess but having the strategy guide helps). Look for the review to be up between Wednesday and Friday of next week. The final boss of Kythra is EPIC... but that's the only little tidbit I'll let sneak out. There's a reason they put a pic of it on the back of the package.

I don't know why, but I've been obsessed with Condemned 2's multiplayer these last few days. While I agree its lasting appeal is pretty limited, it's a LOT more fun than I was led to believe. I was talking with a guy earlier today who had both GoW2 and COD: W@W, and STILL would rather play Condemned online. While the traditional death match modes suck, Crime Scene and Bum Rush are amazing. I've played enough that I have 7/9 kills for SKX, and need only about 120 more kills for the serial killer achievement. I should have that in just a few more bum rush games. At this point, I've probably spent more time in the MP than the SP, and that feels really strange for a game like Condemned.

Well, if I get any gaming in over the weekend, it's probably going to be by Dynasty Warriors 6 with my roommate, who is really into those hack-'n-slash games, even more than I am.

Blog writing will resume as usual on Monday. That's a day where I'll be spending a considerable amount of time working on my research (I've been slacking off and it'll bite me in the ass if I don't step it up soon). I'll probably be trolling the web to do a quick study-up on Greek mythology, as I want to spice up my review with as many appropriate mythological allusions as I can (without being annoying, of course =p). That's right folks, I do work beyond playing the game and writing to make my reviews great =)

Thursday, January 8, 2009

The Thrawn Experiment

I'll get to the title content in a minute, but I have some thoughts first... I read Hammer's blog and saw the news of 1up/EGMs demise... I guess they won't be getting back to me on an informational interview, as they understandably have other things to think about. I'm sad to see one of the big gaming sites/mags go. There's one less place where I could work, and one less source of information and entertainment for all of us. Hopefully everyone who lost their job from this buy-out is able to find work in the industry elsewhere. You can find the article here:

On the gaming front, I continue to work on ROTA and Condemned 2. I've found there are actually just enough people playing it online to get into real matches, and I've been able to earn several of the MP achievements legit. I'm even half of the way to Serial Killer. There are still several I'm going to need to boost, including MP overachiever, anything that has to be done in ranked, and most of the Crime Scene achievements. I don't really want to talk about gaming progress today, however, so on to the title content!


I was thinking one afternoon, and came up with this social experiment/challenge for gamers. The challenge is to see if a person can make it through an entire year without spending ANY MONEY from their own pockets on games, and yet be happy with their gaming activities. Here are the rules of the challenge:
  1. Not a single penny of a person's own money may be used to buy video games, game guides, Microsoft points, or accessories for 365 days. No Gamefly or Blockbuster rentals, or renewing magazine subscriptions... unless someone else pays for them (and no "I'll pay you back next year" deals, that's CHEATING)
  2. The person MAY trade games, using services like Goozex, social networking, or Gamestop, as long as they don't pay for anything. They would need to find someone else to pay the Goozex $1 per trade fee, as that counts as spending your own money.
  3. A person MAY sell their games on ebay, and use that money to purchase other games, as long as the amount of the purchase is less than or equal to what they earned. Even going 1 cent over (including tax) disqualifies you. Anyone going for a truly hardcore challenge should not allow themselves any use of ebay.
  4. Microsoft points already in a person's account at the time of the challenge starting may be spent. Any additional points must be donated by someone else, or purchased from cash earned by selling games.
  5. Gift cards received for birthdays, x-mas, etc. can be used on games, as long as you're not spending any of your own cash. That's someone else's money being used for games, not your own.
  6. ADDED RULE: You can debate the legality of spending your own money to get SOMEONE ELSE a game, like as a birthday present. This is not to be used as a loophole where you "give someone" a game, and they conveniently "loan" it to you two days later. Respect the spirit of the challenge.
As you can see, in this version, people are allowed to spend money, as long as they're not dipping into their pockets from it, but instead recycling from their collection. A stricter version of this would allow for trades only, with absolutely NO cash transactions of any kind.
There are several interesting things I would expect to see in this:

  1. It tests a person's resourcefulness: How good are they at getting the maximum return from their games?
  2. It tests social networking: Can this person utilize their existing collection through trades for new games with others? How will they secure games they have not played before? What methods are used?
  3. It questions gamer generosity: Will anyone loan or give away games they no longer want? Or Microsoft points?
  4. It tests what type of gamer you are: Could you play Gears 2, CoD, or some other game online forever and not feel the need to get a new game? Would you get itchy for that newest AAA title, or need to play something you don't already have all the points in?
  5. It would work as a study of sorts of the used-games market.

I know anyone in the industry would hate me for thinking this one up, since it means that person isn't spending on their products. With the economic challenges people face now, I expect a lot more people to become ever more thrifty, even if they don't go to the extent of not spending a penny on games.

As a Sociology major, I would find any reports or results of this fascinating. It's certainly food for thought. How would you handle the Thrawn Experiment? What would you do?

So far, I actually haven't spent any money yet in 2009 on games, and could therefore subject myself to my own experiment, if I really wanted. With RE5 coming out this year, I'm not sure I would last very long. I don't think I could wait several weeks, let alone months, without playing that game, once it's out. I also have no idea how I'd get to 100k this year doing this challenge. I'd have to hit Operation Jedi REALLY hard, and have a fair amount of help from others.

I'll leave you to ponder that challenge while I go try to get some more grant work done, and try to get deeper into Condemned and ROTA. I originally wanted to have the ROTA review done before I head off for the weekend, but I don't think that will happen now. I have a few questions left on ROTA, which I'm waiting until the end to see how they are resolved. Since writing one of my reviews takes the better part of a day, the only way I'd be done by Friday night is if I plow through the rest of ROTA tonight, and I can't do that... There's probably 5-6 hours left at least, and I can't hold my attention to ANY game that long without doing something else (possible exception being Fallout 3). New goal is to be done by Tuesday night.


Wednesday, January 7, 2009

Inching Forward...

First, I have to start off with the big and easy-to-see news. Earlier today I hit the 70,000 milestone dead-on while playing Condemned 2. I had to pause the melee action long enough to save this image for posterity. Also on display below is the achievement that got me to that 70k. I currently have a lead of 4,346 points over my GSL captain Ducky Dan in our race to 100k. I believe it's the largest lead I've had on him since we started our friendly rivalry. Now, I just need to average 2,500 points a month to hit my goal of 100k by the end of the year.
Flambe (25g)
Splash, Shock and Fry

Yesterday my review copy of Rise of the Argonauts arrived, and became the first game I've added to my card since Operation Jedi launched. While I hate to know my percentage is going to go down for a while, I DID just score a free game, so I can't complain. While I could have played it on a different account, and thus not set back Operation Jedi, if I'm going to take the time to play and review a game, I'd like my points for that effort =) True to the policy I set forth in my very first post, I'm not going to offer any opinions on the game here until my review is done. I've already seen the wisdom in this, as my first impressions of ROTA definitely changed as time goes on. I don't want to mislead anyone before I've thought everything out. I take reviews very seriously.

Operation Jedi Success Story #2: Gears of War
Before the DLC achievements game out for the original Gears, I had 780 points, which makes it no problem for my completion goal, but the DLC turned that 78% into a 62%. so things had to be done. While I had already traded away my copy of Gears, my brother had not, so I borrowed his copy and self-boosted every DLC achievement except This! Is! Annex! which looks like it would take a year. I got my score up to 990 in the game, which is about 79%. True, this is hardly as dramatic an improvement as the 55 to 1000 change in Prey, but restoring my completion percent in this game to what it was before, and coming out ahead 210 points, sounds like a win to me. Holy cow was that boosting session boring though... I'm glad to be done with it.

Other Operation Jedi News:

Ducky and I also met up to boost the 125 points that come with the first Timeshift map pack. That pack is free, and we'd already boosted the other MP points during the GSL, so we thought it wise to go for the free points that were there for the taking. Turns out they were the easiest achievements I've boosted in a long time... even easier than Prey. It's too bad Timeshift failed to sell well, because it has the makings of a great online MP game. The maps are nice, I like the weapons, the action is fast, the time powers are cool, and there's a TON of customization options. I would happily play that game online if I could find enough other interested people to have an actual game.

360voice recently released the survival/horror badge, which has to be my favorite of the genre badges. It turns out I've already played 6 of the 7 games currently in the genre, and I had the 2-star version of the badge from day one. It turns out I also have an excellent shot at getting the almighty 3-star version of it too. Alone in the Dark and Condemned 2 both count for the horror genre, and both are on the list of games I really need to work on for Operation Jedi anyway. So, by trying to finish those two games, I can chase 2 badges at once... I love that. The only game I'll have to rent and play after that would be Silent Hill: Homecoming. I'm starting with Condemned 2 because I only had a lousy 90/1000 to start, and because it's by far the better of those two games. I love Condemned 2, it's easily the scariest game I've ever played, but I don't like the achievement list. There are far too many MP achievements, and I can't get to 750 in this game without unlocking a fair share of them, which brings me to this announcement:

I need a Condemned 2 boosting partner! I'm looking for someone reputable, but I'll post in the x360a forums and hope for the best if I can't find anyone. If you need to finish Condemned 2 as well, or know someone who does, please let me know!
I'm going to keep alternating between ROTA and Condemned until I can't stand one or both of them anymore, then something else will get cycled in. I'm horrible at staying with one game until I'm done with it, which is how I got myself in the completion percentage situation to begin with...

OPERATION JEDI TOTALS: I'm currently at 58.62%, which is (to my great surprise) actually slightly higher than the last time I reported totals (last Friday). I'm 19,557 points short of the goal, which means, despite adding ROTA to my card, and it's current point status, my efforts since Friday have still brought me 95 points closer to my goal. That doesn't sound like much, I know, but I did add another 1000 to tackle, of which I don't even have 300 yet. I'll definitely take the forward progress.