Thursday, April 30, 2009

Thrawnosaurus Rex Devours Locust

For those of you just tuning in, I hit the 100k milestone yesterday! You can read about it in the post below, if you haven't already.

Last night was another night in Gears with the gang, and it was both an awesome and shitty night at the same time. It's always fun playing with those guys, but we lost almost every single match. The beginning of the night was simply horrible! Maybe it was bad matchmaking, maybe we all just had an episode of collective suck. As the night went on, I got incredibly hot, but we STILL lost almost every match. Come on guys, I can only do so much =P

The following is a game-by-game breakdown of my kills and deaths for the night, taken from (all games are Guardian):

Game 1: 2-9
Game 2: 11-4
Game 3: 1-5
Game 4: 2-4
Game 5: 9-12
Game 6: 5-8
Game 7: 27-7 <----------- (Insert T-Rex roar here)
Game 8: 6-0
Game 9: 14-11
Game 10: 12-5

Total: 89-65

As you can see, it wasn't all good, but I became a beast down the stretch, and managed to make a dent in getting my kill/death ratio back to 1.0.

Bishop, Silva, Sabre, and Dark were all witnesses to it (Dark guarded my body for most of the 27-7 run, so he had the best seat in the house). For those of you who couldn't make it, my last several games looked a lot like this:

Overall, this night was mostly this:

(Why are the embeds not working... oh just clink the links... LAME!)

In other news, I've completed Silent Hill Homecoming and have that heading back to Gamefly, and treated myself to downloading Banjo-Tooie as a reward for finally hitting 100k (and cause I get another $150 grant payment tomorrow lol). I'll have comments on both of those games in upcoming posts, but I'm too crunched for time today to write much more today.

Wednesday, April 29, 2009


That day has come at last. Wednesday, April 29th, 2009. I hit the six-digit gamerscore. I had to hit it on the dot, because that's what all the cool kids do. Silva, Bishop, and Derek all did it, so it's tradition that I must as well. I wasn't too picky about HOW I got there, for the most part, though I did need to do some easy math in the final 100 to make sure I hit it right.

The Final Three achievements were:

Judgement (50 gs) Achieve Ending 3 in Silent Hill Homecoming
100 Minutes Survived (20 gs) in Perfect Dark Zero

and the championship achievement:

I thought it would be nice to hit 100k by re-completing The Maw, which is one of my favorite arcade games. It's a much better choice than Hannah Montana or something (though I know several of you wanted to see that LOL)

I believe my first achievement ever was:
In the original Gears of War, meaning I hit 100k in 2 years, 4 months, 3 days. However, I didn't become serious about achievement collecting until May of 2008, with almost 75k of my 100 coming in the last 11 months (2 GSLs back-to-back will do that to you).

Nobody gets this many points without the help of others, and thus there's several people I'd like to thank of helping my get this high.

Bionik Kommando: My bro gets serious props for being an awesome co-op partner, and general hell-raiser in the MP for damn near ANY shooter. Over 2k of my points can be traced directly to co-op with him, making him the largest contributor (in terms of playing/boosting) to my success.

The Silent Assassins (Ducky Dan, Buck Wyyld, Daywalker, HAK, Silva, Derek): We had some great times in GSL VI. We could laugh and score like demons while the teams around us fell apart at the seams. In a league riddled with drama, our win couldn't be contested. Oh, and we flipping boosted Party Animals at 2am on a Saturday night... can't forget that!

The Hand of Thrawn (Silva, Derek, Sabre, Dark, Bishop): Also a great group to work with. The "new" guys fit in well and gave it their everything. Once again, we scored better than most, avoided the drama, and had fun. That's a model GSL team right there. I'm enjoying the night chilling in Gears with you all.

BL4CK SiLv4: Thanks for being one of the funniest and most generally awesome people to chat and game with on Xbox Live. You truly are the life of the party. The deals you let us know about have saved me a good chunk of cash.

Ducky Dan, Bishop, and Sabre: You have sent stashes of games in my times of need during the GSLs, making the level of success I had in those leagues possible. I would not have done nearly as well w/o the assistance.

Ducky Dan: For being an awesome achievement rival, and keeping me motivated to keep going. You're one of the easiest people to boost with I've ever worked with, and make a fine mobile spawn point in Halo 3. We on for a race to 150k? You might actually win that one =P

The x360a Review Team: For all the feedback on my reviews, and being a great group of people to work with. Of course, the periodic free review game helped this gamerscore quest along too =)

Xbox 360 Achievements: For having a great forum community and dozens upon dozens of helpful guides that I've used over the last few years. If you see a game on my card that I completed, and you wrote the guide, I thank you.

Special Thanks to everyone else I've ever boosted with, or co-oped with. There's a lot of people I've worked with to get this far. Thanks for all the help.

The quest for 200k will not begin in earnest until 2010. Since I've already hit my goal for the year, I'm now shifting focus to playing what I want, and getting the points from that. Overall increase is on the backburner for a while. Also important will be trying to get my completion percentage to 75%. By 360voice's numbers, I need to get almost 24,000 points without ever playing a new game to get there. As you can see, a major part of the quest for 200k will be cleaning up the mess I made chasing my first 100k. I'd like to keep adding more completions to my card, where I can.

New goal: 200k by 12/12/2012!!! =P

EDIT: Ducky Dan was kind enough to start a congrats thread on x360a HERE

Tuesday, April 28, 2009

Soaking up the Sun

Yesterday was Student Research Day, where I presented my research on MMOs, and over 200 other students had their posters on display, as well. It was a pretty packed arena that afternoon as students and professors looked at everything other people had done. Some projects were pretty surprising. My friend Tracy did a geography poster on a military analysis of terrain, based on the data from a real-life paintball game she participated in. She's awesome like that. I was seriously impressed.

Nate presents his research at Student Research Day.

In case you missed it, the link to download my research and read it yourself can be found in THIS POST.

With that day now over, my research is 100% behind me. No longer do I need to spend hours camped in the windowless research lab. I finished the harder of two story revisions for my English capstone, so I no longer need to spend hours at a keyboard (for the next few days, at least).

After a long weekend of rain and thunderstorms, the sun has returned at last. Much of the work off my shoulders, no more girlfriend anxieties, and now beautiful weather, I'm feeling as good as I have in months! Life is awesome! (I'm one of those people whose mood is fairly strongly influenced by the weather.)

So, before I settle in to an evening of trying to advance my second playthrough of Silent Hill, or playing more Gears with the Justice League (my random nickname for my frequent Gears partners), I'm going outside to get some reading homework done.

It's time to soak up that sunshine.

Monday, April 27, 2009

Why I Decline Most Friend Requests

I tried to make this as clear as I could within the limited character constraints of my XBL bio, but recent events have led me to think I should try to explain why I decline most friends requests I receive. I'm NOT trying to be a giant asshole, and hopefully what I say here will make sense.

First, I get a LOT of friend requests, at least 3-5 a week (that feels like a lot to me, considering the pace is pretty constant, and I'm not exactly the type who likes a lot of friends... I prefer fewer friends, but deeper relationships). Most don't come with messages, so if I don't recognize the tag, they get instantly deleted. I have no idea who you are, so why should I accept?

Now, the people who send messages with their FRs always get my consideration, even though most also get declined. I truly thank you for reading my reviews, or this blog, and liking what you see. Words cannot express how grateful I am that the time I take to write is appreciated by others, as well. However, enjoying my work isn't a ticket to my friends list, for the following KEY reason:

Xbox Live is a recreational space for me, where I go to play games and have fun with friends. I consider it a PRIVATE space, where I reserve the right to limit my friends to those I know and play with or work with. Can I emphasize the word PRIVATE one more time? For me, being a fan and wanting to be on someone's friend list is similar to being a fan of a sports star or actress, and wanting their cell phone number (no, I know I'm not nearly as cool as a sports star or actress, nor as well paid). I like to maintain my privacy and a layer of seperation from everyone out there, and I think that's reasonable.

However, I wouldn't dream of being elitist and shutting people out. I consider the x360a forums and this blog PUBLIC SPACES. Anything I write here I'm okay with anyone seeing. This blog is an open forum of sorts, where anyone can leave comments, and I'm willing to discuss issues with readers here. Likewise, I don't get that many PMs on x360a, so I'm pretty good about returning messages. If you're looking to communicate with me, those are the bese spaces to do it, and I'm happy to correspond with you there.

I feel like a bit of a jerk to decline so many requests, but for reasons of privacy and wanting to know who my XBL friends are, and out of general concerns for keeping my account safe, a spot on my XBL friends list is tough to come by.

Two messages I recieved earlier today brought this issue to a head. Keeping true to my policy of trying never to make people look bad, this individual shall be refered to as "Gamertag X"

Gamertag X: been reading your blog, good stuff. keep up the good work, take it easy.

This message came with a friend request, which I declined for the reasons mentioned above. Before I post the second message, allow me to respond to the first in the spirit I believe it was intended. I'm glad you read my blog and enjoy it. I put a lot of time and effort into this, and it doesn't get old hearing people really read this stuff. Despite busy-ness on my part, I'll do my best to keep things interesting here.

Now the second message:

Gamertag X: thats what u get for being nice, fuck u too.

Gamertag X, if you're still reading this blog after I snubbed your request, I hope you now understand my reasons for doing so. It wasn't a personal snub. I'm not trying to be mean to you or anyone else by turning down the requests. If you're interested in reaching out to me, this blog or x360a PMs are currently the best way to do so. If our positions were reversed, I think you'd probably feel similar after receiving so many requests. That level of anger wasn't needed or merited, so I hope this makes things clearer.

This is all perfectly reasonable, right?

Sunday, April 26, 2009

The Rule of Four

SCAVENGER HUNT: You have hound the first post in which I reference my on-again, off again Rule of Four. The second prize number is 4.

CLUE #3: You can find the third number in a post I wrote without any prior plan as to what I'd be writing about before I started.

I consider myself a "casual" completionist. I want to get all the points in every game I play, but I won't cry myself to sleep or avoid a game if there's one of two achievements that just seem like too much trouble. DLC add-on points can sometimes annoy me, but right now I'm really not concerned about them and their effect on my completion percentage. I certainly don't care about ever hitting 100% (or even 90+%) completion. A global 75% or better is what I'm striving for.

My problem has been I can't keep my attention on a game long enough to get all the way through it, most of the time (I mean all points, not necessarily the whole campaign). Some people can pick up one game and see it through to the end without problems. Unfortunately, I just can't. Even with the best AAA games, my attention will eventually begin to flag before I get to 1k. I need to keep bouncing between several titles if I'm going to have any success getting through and completing all of them (and even getting to the ending of some longer games).

So, once again, I'm trying to think of a method that will give me the variety I need, yet keep me focused enough to actually complete things. I swear I've tried this so many times, and nothing has worked, but I think this idea will fare a little better. If this doesn't work though, I'm probably uncurable, and should just stop caring about completions =)

The Rule of Four ...(plus one)

My backlog is extensive enough that it's not hard to be simultaneously working through 4 games, or three plus one from gamefly. Whatever these 4 games are, once I've put a game in the list of four, it stays there until I complete it. Once I've completed a game, I'll decide at that point what game I want to put in its place, based on the other games/genres I'm working on, and my mood. For example, if Eternal Sonata is currently in the 4, I'm not going to pick another JRPG.

I don't want to plan ahead what will go into the rotation of 4, as I've found that never works. When I try to plan games ahead, it feels too much like work, and one's hobby shouldn't be work, right? Hopefully, having three options to choose from when I get bored of a game, and bouncing back and forth, will work wonders for me.

As I was coming up with this idea, I wondered how I should handle extremely time-intensive achievements, like lvl 100 in Gears 2, or Inferno in EDF 2017, for example. If I'm sinking a huge amount of time into those, it'll quickly feel like I only have three options, plus the time sink. So, I decided to have a (+1) game on the list. The +1 game is there because it's achievement(s) take forever, and will never get done unless I give myself a lot of time to do them. The +1 is meant to be a break if all 4 other games are somehow getting stale to me, or as something longer to work on as a break from quicker achievements.

The Current Four +1

erfect Dark Zero
Silent Hill Homecoming
Penny Arcade Episode 1
(#4 is TBD. Those 3 have kept me entertained enough that I won't pick a #4 until I need to)

+1 = Gears of War 2

Of course, this isn't ultra-rigid. If an opportunity comes along to boost something, or people are getting together to play something not in the 4 (R6V2, L4D, UT3, whatever), I'll be joining in. This is just the general rule for my solo play from here on. Hopefully it'll allow me to complete more games, and have more fun while doing it. We'll see.

I've cut Gamefly down to one game at a time , and I'm considering cancelling it completely next month. Money is tight, and I have a huge backlog to work through, so maybe I should shift my attention to focusing on games I've already paid for until I find that thing called a JOB.

Friday, April 24, 2009

Thrawn's Research Revealed!

Ok, my Powerpoint has now been uploaded thanks to the awesomeness of free file hosting, and is available for you to download and view, should you so choose (you need Powerpoint or the ability to view Powerpoint slides).

This research, looking at the transformation of relationships in MMOs (World of Warcraft specifically), is the fruit of hundreds of hours of work, over the span of about a year. I hope you all find it interesting, and feel free to ask me any questions. I'll answer to the best of my ability.

It's nice to be able to show off by Sociology skills (as opposed to the benefits of an English major, which you see all the time), and show off my academic side, as opposed to my gamer side, for once =P Enjoy!

Reading the poster constitutes more than enough reading from me for one day, so I'll leave this post at that...

Download the poster here:

Edit: MediaFire, the site I used for this, looks pretty awesome, and uploading the file was a breeze. This creates the possibility of using it to share other interesting content with my readership in the future. I have no ideas on how to best use it yet, but the future is always in motion, as Yoda would say.

Tuesday, April 21, 2009

The Tuesday (and Wednesday) Update

Real Life News: I continue to be busy as hell with work. My project for this week has been to edit one of my two stories for my Creative Writing capstone. Since the original draft had so many structuring issues, "editing" is really a euphamism for re-writing the whole damn thing. I think only 10% of the original story is still intact. Rewriting a story to be of almost publishable quality in 4 days is a LOT of work. It'll need a third pass before I try to get it published, since I've had to change so much, but it will be good enough for the needs of the class. I really need to get this crap done with... I'm SO behind on job hunting, and May 16th keeps drawing nearer...

One weight has been lifted from my shoulders though. My girlfriend troubles are over, and I'm now officially single again. That wasn't nearly as hard as I thought it would be... I think we both knew it had been dead for a while. We're still friends, as we both still like each other well enough as human beings, but that relationship did not work... AT ALL. When you've been in a relationship over two years and it's completely devoid of affection, something is seriously wrong, and I'd had enough of that. I'm going to hold by from expressing the full range of my frustrations, as that's not needed here, and I really do wish to remain friends with her. I'm not going to bother looking for someone again until I have this job/place to live thing figured out, but if something happens, I won't stop it.

Gaming News: I'm still playing a ton of Gears, and I'm at level 32 with 164,000 XP at the time I type this. I've crossed over from using the Lancer to the Hammerburst. It really is so much better. That chainsaw vacuum everyone complains about wasn't happening for me... I couldn't saw shit, even in situations where I clearly should have been able to. While using the Lancer, I could empty entire clips into enemies, without missing a shot, and not down them. I think the lancer has been nerfed to the point of uselessness, while the Hammerburst absolutely tools people. Good accuracy, stopping power, and range. The way things have been going lately, I don't miss the chainsaw at all...

I started Silent Hill a bit to break up the Gears. The inability to invert the camera is driving me insane, and the combat kinda sucks, but the atmosphere is awesome, and the game has drawn me in anyway. I'm looking forward to working through it, as I love survival horror, and would welcome nabbing the 3-star horror badge on 360voice.

That covers me for now. Just doing the best I can to survive. That transition from college to full independence is kind of a bitch. I just have to take things one step at a time, and everything should work out for the best.

Monday, April 20, 2009

House-Rules Horde Variants

First off, I have to give a shout out to my buddy Sabre, who became afflicted with the RROD last night, while playing with us in Gears. He'll be out for 3 weeks at most, hopefully. I've suggested to him on his blog that he check out some military sci-fi books by John Ringo to pass the time (as an English major, my natural response to situations like this is to tell people to go READ something LOL. Books are awesome, mmmkay?) Sabre is also the one who gave me the idea for this post, so it's kinda funny and sad that it's going up the day after his Xbox dies...

Note: Most of these variants have not yet been tried by yours truly, so I'm not certain how well the game's structure will allow them to work, particularly on the harder waves. However, on waves 1-20 on casual, at the very least, all of these should be playable. I'd love to try some of them out when I can get a group willing to mess around.

Pimp Hands: Players are only allowed to kill enemies with melee attacks (no chainsaws!). The competition is to see who can score the most kills before the party wipes. Recommended for waves 1-10 only, as the health bonus on Locust makes this too hard after that. Remarks about your pimp hand and its awesomeness are encouraged.

Lumberjacks: Similar to Pimp Hands, except enemies can only be killed by Lancer Chainsaw. Other weapons are allowed for Tickers and any enemy that cannot be chainsawed.

Simon Says Horde: One person is designated "Simon" (or whatever you want to call them). Simon is not allowed to kill anything. This person simply designates an enemy type (Ticker, Wretch, etc), and the other players can only kill enemies of that type. Simon must also make sure players are actually killing what they are supposed to. Simon can change enemy types whenever he/she wants. Simon can call out individual enemies (the wretch in the middle, for example) if the number of remaining enemies is 5 or less. The person with the highest score at the first party wipe is the winner.

Leapfrog Horde: Players take turns killing Locust in a repeating order. For example, Thrawn--> Dark --> Silva --> Bishop --> Derek. In this party, I would have to kill an enemy, then Dark, then Silva, and on down the line. Once Derek has killed one, the circle begins with me again. If someone dies, their spot in the circle is cut out. I expect taking turns like this would actually be a tricky challenge, especially in the higher waves of each cycle.

Head-to-Head Horde:
Pretty straightforward, since it's essentially in the game already. The person with the highest point score when the party wipes is the winner. Since you're competing for score, feel free to kill steal, and "opt-out" on reviving someone, if it seems advantageous to your score. It may be wise to require the party to clear the first 10 waves before a winner can be declared, so someone doesn't try to deliberately wipe the group and give themselves the win too early.

Hot-Seat Horde: The person on the "Hot Seat" is the ONLY one allowed to kill anything. After a set amount of time passes (be it 30 seconds, a minute, whatever), the hot seat is passed to the next person in line. If someone is downed, their turn is over, and the next person in line can revive them and start their turn, or start when the previous player dies. The player on the hot seat also changes after every wave. Highest score at party wipe is the winner.

Obvoiusly, many of these games are better suited to maps where the majority of the players can bunker up and remove themselves from the most intense combat. River, Fuel Station (from Combustable maps), Day One, and Jacinto come to mide right away, but I'm sure there are others, as well. Enjoy!

Sunday, April 19, 2009

Operation Excellence Chugging Along

Lately, I've been doing my best to eliminate all the things that are stressing me out our depressing me in general. To that end, I'm happy to say that my massive research project on MMORPGs is complete at last. I'll post a link to the file once I can find some free file hosting;you can can download it, read it, and ask me questions, if you so choose. (That'll happen some time next week, I have other things I need to do today) All that remains now is to finish my English Capstone (this week's goal), finish a religions paper (next week), and shed some unwanted emotional baggage (ASAP!). I've hinted at the last one to Silva, though probably nobody else. My roommate has the patience of a saint. I've been one angry/bitter S.O.B. these last couple weeks.

On the gaming front, Operation Jedi remains sidelined, as I'm too burned out to care about completion ATM, so I've been working on Operation Excellence instead. If I hear people say "Those achievements take too long," or "I can't be bothered to..." and I think I could get them, those are many of the achievements that fall into this goal. I've spent most of my week playing online in Gears 2, where I've now reached level 30. I'm obviously a long way from lvl 100 yet. It would be nice if Epic did some double XP weekends, 'cause those achievements WILL take forever. I think I need to take my first of many breaks from the game for a while, as I can only play so much MP without changing gears.

I decided to pick up Perfect Dark Zero, as that's another of those games most people "can't be bothered with" anymore. As I proved from 1k-ing Orochi 2, I'm not afraid of grinds, and I actually enjoy bot matches, so I doubt the 1k in this is going to be as terrible as I've been led to believe. So far, I've barely touched the storyline, and just worked on getting some of the MP done, and have 130 points for my efforts. Silva has picked up a copy of the game, as well, so I shall be co-oping it with him.

I'd like to also get back into Eternal Sonata soon, though I dread the grinding that will be necessary to level up enough to beat the first Dolce fight. She's tough, and I have to fight her with most of the characters I never use... Awesome. I love that game, but I had having my progress so completely blocked as I work through the 2nd playthrough.

Silent Hill is coming in from Gamefly, so I'll use that as a break from the 3 games listed above, each of which involve a lot of grinding in some form or another. The points should get me close to 100k (at last!) and earn me the 3-star horror badge on 360 voice.

That's the achievement progress for today. Tomorrow I'll try to post up some house-rules game variants for Horde in Gears 2. They might be fun if you're looking to mess around. I haven't tried any of them yet, but I'd love to when I get the chance.

Wednesday, April 15, 2009

Good Times in Gears

Gears 2 is pretty much the only game I've felt like playing lately. I have this obsessive desire to max it out, even though I know that will take forever (hey, spending all that time on 1 game is good for the wallet, at least). I really enjoy the MP, despite its imperfections.

Last night was an amazing night of multiplayer, first in public matches, and then in Horde. After slaving for about 8 hours in the research lab finishing up my research (still not done...) I got back and played some Wingman with Marx0r for a while. I understand why he would want to do Wingman from an XP standpoint. If you're good, it's the fastest XP out there. Why he would want to Wingman with me is a different question. He's pretty good. I'm generally mediocre. I had fun, but we definitely didn't do as well as we could have in other modes. Bionik Kommando is the only person I can be successful in Wingman with, and that's because we have sibling telepathy.

Dark showed up after a few matches, and joined the action. He and Marx0r's connections didn't seem to like each other, and neither could join a match hosted by the other. When I acted as an intermediary, they could both join, but also both got punted just before matches started, which was annoying.

Later on the other members of Hand of Thrawn logged on, and we were able to get out post-GSL play session fully started. The core players were myself, Dark, Silva, and Sabre (Derek was on for a little bit, but then switched to a different party... loser ^-^). We could do MP or Horde. Either would have been fine with me, but we went Horde because everyone likes Horde... and, lets face it, Horde is always fun, where MP can be hit-and-miss.

So, we load up Day One on Hardcore and proceed to wipe on Wave 2. We've all been "boosting" Horde on Casual for too long, I think. Tired of getting our asses kicked, and just looking to have fun, we dropped the difficulty down to Normal, and the good times rolled. This play session was amazing. I've been super stressed this week from girlfiend issues, insane work loads, and more, so this came as much-needed relief. We learned Derek has never consumed alcohol (he can rance my bro for who lasts longer), and Silva proceeded to tell us some of his hilarious drinking stories (which will probably make sure Derek never drinks LOL). There was a lot of joking around and messing with each other as the corpses of Locust piled up.

Edit for Sabre, cause I forgot at first. I'm a bad man... One of the jokes we had over the night was meleeing enemies, and keeping our pimp hands strong. We thought it would be amusing to tool a wave using only melee attacks (no lancer chainsaws). We ended up doing this on wave 21, which probably wasn't a good idea, but that didn't stop us. Of course, we wiped, which is pretty hilarious in itself, but Sabre had the honor of having the best pimp hand... I think he got 7 before getting dropped. I believe Silva was in second... and let's just say I need to work on my bitch-slapping, as I wasn't even close to Sabre's total. Sabre suggested some time I write a blog post about ways to mess around with Horde, and I may do just that some time soon.

One of the running themes for the night seemed to be "Thrawn is a beast." I almost always had the highest kill counts for each wave, and across the game. Part of this is because I pick off the Tickers as soon as I see them (the little bastards annoy me) and inflate me score that way, but I was also much better with the Hammer of Dawn and Mortar than I usually am.

The finale of the night had to be the best example of the theme. It was nearing 1am, and I needed to get some sleep, so we agreed to wrap up after wave 30. Silva and Sabre got killed, leaving Dark and I camped out at the Regency sign (Mortar and Hammar spawn point). Dark valiantly defends the area with me, but gets downed by a Blood Mount or Mauler (can't remember) and I had to retreat and kill them before I could reach Dark to revive him. Unfortunately, he got killed, leaving me to solo about the last half of wave 30.

And solo it is exactly what I did. I called the wrath of God with the Hammer, I dropped mortar rounds. I had to duck and dodge Blood Mounts more than once. I had to take out a Grinder with a pistol (thank God there was a Boom Shield handy). It was high octane insanity, with the three of them watching. I thought I was going to wipe several times, but wanted to see how far I could go. Once I got the wave down to 3 enemies, it was easy pickings. I ended wave 30 with 22 kills from that wave alone (2nd place had 7, if I remember right). It was probably the most impressive Gears feat I've pulled off, or at least it felt like it. I'm glad I had three witnesses to it... that will probably never happen again LOL.

I got maybe 50 rounds for "1999" under my belt, and another couple hundred kills for Seriously, putting me in the massive 6,700 range. Not much progress, but that wasn't the point of the evening. The point was to just play and have fun, which we definitely did. Thanks for the great evening guys, I had a blast.

I personally believe Horde > L4D. More maps, more chaos, more variety, 1 more friend. L4D is still great, but Horde is legendary.

Tuesday, April 14, 2009

The Seven Deadly Sins of Achievement Fanatics

I’ve been an achievement fanatic and a member of a community of like-minded individuals for a long time. There’s nothing wrong with enjoying chasing every points you can get, even from bad games, if you have a reason to do so. As I’ve gone my merry way scoring points, I’ve come across seven behaviors/habits frequently displayed by achievement fanatics that truly irritate me. These “bad habits” of the community are listed and explained below.

I don’t intend for this post to come across as me standing on a pedestal telling everyone what they’re doing wrong, while pretending I’m innocent. This post is as much self-critique as it is social commentary, as I will be rating myself on how guilty I am of each habit listed below. A rating of 1 means I don’t have that problem at all. A 10 means I’m guilty as hell. If I can think of any notable achievement whores out there who are a paragon of innocence of these sins, they shall be praised for it (shaming isn’t my thing, so I’m omitting the names of the big offenders).

1. Impatience
Many achievement junkies seem to be extremely impatient people. They expect any game they play to bend over and give them their points at practically GSL speed, with no difficulty whatsoever. We’ve all heard people whining about having trouble beating a game on hard, having to play online for a while, and a million other statements to the effect that they wish the game was over with already. While there is a line between being impatient and complaining about achievements that seem genuinely unreasonable (Overlord in Far Cry 2, numerous 1000 online match achievements), I feel too often people are in a hurry to rush from one game to the next, without taking any time to enjoy what they’re currently playing.


His score is insane. If you look at it, you’ll also notice he has perfect scores in many RPGs, which are by nature time consuming affairs, and not games for the impatient. He’ll work with a game and see it to the end, and if he’s complained about wanting to move on, it has been a rare event.

HOW GUILTY AM I? It depends on the situation. During a GSL, I’m as impatient as one can possibly be, and get easily frustrated when things aren’t going my way. When not in the league, I’m more willing to work through games, and don’t need to rush from one to the next, though I do get irritated sometime with tough or time consuming achievements.
NON-GSL: 4 to 5

2. Boosting-Only If it’s possible to boost achievements, these people will boost them every single time. I’m not against boosting. I’ve done it numerous times if different games. However, I only boost achievements in games where the online play is dead and I could never get those points any other way, or the achievements involve too much luck or are almost impossible to get legit. (Or, I admit, if I've played the MP for a while but am too lazy to play all the way to the achievement criteria) If online achievements don’t meet those criteria, I actually earn them through play. It’s a crazy idea, I know. I earned most of the MP achievements in Condemned 2 and Vegas 2 legit, for example. The same can be said for everything I currently have in COD3. I'm not against boosting for the reasons listed above. However, developers put time and effort into those multiplayer modes, so while boosting isn't illegal, I think it's disrespectful to the game's creators to blow through the MP for the points without experiencing it at all, if it's actually possible to get a real game going. People who ONLY boost, and always take that easy way out, infuriate me. Boost selectively and responsible please, and not on everything.


3. Reducing Games to their Achievements

By this, I mean evaluating a game based on how easy the achievements are, how quickly they can be earned, and nothing else. You don't care if a game is actually fun, only the points matter. This is a matter of course and a basic gaming philosophy for some people which baffles me. I see points as an extension of my gaming hobby, not the be-all-end-all in themselves. The completionists in this group will never play some games with a few particularly tough/time consuming achievements, because they probably wouldn't complete them. If they don't like the achievements, these people won't play the game, even if it's a great game in every other way. Let's face it, almost all of us are guilty of this sin to some extent or another. I won't play Turok because it's list is too MP-centric, for example. I'm sure I could find other examples if I wanted to look around. I wish we could all focus on the games a little more than their achievement lists, but I guess it's par for the course with our hobby.

MY GUILT: 5 to 6

4. No Achievement Points = No Point in Playing
For those guilty of this sin, if DLC doesn't come with points, they won't buy it. If a game has MP but no MP achievements, they won't play it. After a game has been 1ked, it never gets played again. Depending on the game, I'm either OK with this or infuriated by it. Let's use Mass Effect as an example. To get all the points in that, you have to play it several times. I played it almost 5x to get my 1050. I think, after all that play, it's OK to not want to play the game anymore, since I've invested so much in it already, and have all the points. For single-player content, I have no problem with people not looking back once they've finished everything.

The annoyance for me comes in MP and co-op play. There are people who won't play L4D any more because they 1ked it, or Vegas 2, and any other game like that. Too many people move on the instant there's no more point gain to be had from these games. I can't tell you how often I've tried to get social games of Vegas 2 (MP or T-Hunt), L4D, or Gears 2 going, and recieved no response. Sometimes I get messages like, "Thanks, but I already have all the points." I wasn't asking you if you wanted to boost, I was asking if you wanted to play. Lately, getting into Gears hasn't been a problem, since working toward 100 takes so long, but the problem remains the same for other games. I'm grateful to have friends like Sabre, Silva, and my brother, to name a few, who are always down for social play. I've found, however, that the vast majority of the point scoring community isn't, and that I need to start diversifying my list beyond x360a members if I want to have more social games.

Single player: 10 (rarely ever replay SP only games)
MP and co-op: 4 to 5 (based on if I enjoy the MP or not)

5. Narcissim
The classic "It's all about ME." The size of a person's gamerscore is not a measure of how narcisstic they are. I've run across people in the 10-20k range who are far, far worse than anyone over 100k. These gamers are massively self-absorbed, assuming that everything they do is super-important and everyone should care. Don't even bother asking these people for help in a game. Unless they stand to gain as much or more than you do, they won't help. Their score, and what they want to play, are all that matter. They crave attention and will seek it any way they can, which in the case of achievement whores usually involves starting internet drama, going out of their way to refute/debunk someone, and e-shouting their latest achievement excapades. Yes, I'm aware everything I'm writing right now could be taken ironically. I'll get to me in a minute. Thankfully, this is not a pandemic among achievement whores, but more limited to a small percentage of the population.


I'm no psychologist, and I've never had the opportunity to speak or game with the guy, but let me explain why I think the world's #1 achievement whore isn't a narcissit.

Having such an incridibly high score is just a desperate cry for attention, right? WRONG. At least we achievement junkies know that scoring points can be a fun hobby. He simply does it better than anyone else. There's very clearly no "If I get more points people will love me" theme in his writing. He does it cause he wants to, whether people paid attention or not. As the #1, he's going to get a lot of attention, whether he wants it or not, and I believe he stated somewhere that he made to blog so people can follow what he's doing, and so he can show he's a real gamer, not some hacking tool. Nowhere in his blog will you find anything along the lines of "I'm Stallion83. I'm the best EVAR! You all wish you were as awesome as me." Those would be classically narcissistic lines, but you won't find them. He seems remarkably level-headed, and not out to be better than anyone. One could expect someone with such a high gamerscore to be full of their own self-importance be self-congratulatory, but that not true here at all. He's also been kind enough to respond to a few messages I've sent him with help, and could laugh about an achievement whoring poem I wrote a while ago, which included a reference to him in it. So, for these reasons, I give Stallion the award for being a model gamer, and not a narcissist.

HOW GUILTY AM I? I started this blog because I'm a writer, and I love games, so blogging about gaming is fun for me. I've tried to use my Review Team status and other things to draw an audience, but my intentions have been noble enough. I would continue this blog even if nobody read it, but I'd be lying if I said I didn't enjoy knowing I have some small readership. This is a really hard category to honestly judge oneself on. How much of what I do is attention motivated? I can make fun of myself, I don't start drama to feed my ego (April Fools joke aside), and I'm usually decent about helping others out, so I don't think I'm too horrible. I'm more of a narcissist than Stallion though... Almost positive on that front.

SCORE: 5 to 6. If I'm horrible, I'm sure you'll let me hear it.

6. Elitism
This is similar enough to Narcissism, but with groups. These groups of people are exclusive cliques, often hanging out mostly with each other, often being very self-referential (though expecting others to know what they're talking about). The group as a whole displays the tendencies of a narcisstic individual, though the levels of narcissism from individual members may vary. There's nothing wrong with having a small group of friends you regularly play or boost with. But when this group begins to close the gates of admission, and the traits of narcissism show up, you've got an elitist clique. Again, I'm someone could read this ironically if they wanted to, though I think my fellow members of TSA and Hand of Thrawn would agree that we're not elitist at all.


7. Economic Excessiveness
The worst offenders have to buy new games all the time. They'll drop $59.99 like it's nothing for tons of new games, beat them, and sell them a week later. These people have to play everything as close to release date as they can, and seem to never have heard of bargin bins or waiting. Such a habit is not unique to achievement junkies, but with the quest for more points being essentially never-ending, I think we have a more acute form of it.

I know, I know... Who am I to tell people how to spend their money? If they worked for their cash, and they want to spend it in such a fashion, what's the big deal? Yes, it's their money, and I would never do anything to stop them from spending their money how they wish, but it's perfectly OK to disagree with their habits. Why pay so much for something you'll just get rid of in a week? Why not wait for a copy from Gamefly or Blockbuster? Perhaps wait until games have become cheaper and then purchase them.

I listed this one last, and it's really one of the smaller sins in my book. People who buy then sell games instantly, or have to buy up every game known to man, simply irritate me, and the level of my irritation can be correlated with the amount of money people say they spend. As a college student, I have to be thrifty, as I don't have a lot of cash. I generally only purchase the AAA games I know I want, and Gamefly or get from bargin bins everything else. I generally won't pay over $20 for a used game. I will wait for a game to drop below that price, then get it. Maybe I just have money envy I don't know. I won't make any strong condemnations on this one, but we all know some big offenders.

How I would rate the sins in terms of severity:
1. Elitism
2. Narcissism
3. No Achievements = No point in playing
4. Boosting-Only
5. Reduction of Game to Points
6. Economic Excessiveness
7. Impatience.


Monday, April 13, 2009

GSL 7 Final Thoughts

I'm back from a week-long vacation from blogging, made necessary by an insane work load. While I still have a 700 pound gorilla on my shoulders, it has shifted its weight enough to make blogging possible again. So, before I return to special topics tomorrow with the long-overdue posting of "The Seven Deadly Sins of Achievement Fanatics" (slight title change), I thought I would offer some thoughts on the recently concluded Gamerscore League.

Drama: The pre-season was full of petty whining. The first half of the league was full of nerd rage, finger pointing, and more heads rolled than during the French Revolution. The second half was so quiet it probably made certain people bored. I could have done without the BS, but the last half seemed positive enough that I think another GSL will happen in the future. I hope so, but I'm officially retiring from GSL play until season 9, at the earliest. I need to let the easy crap pile up for a while, while I clean up my mess of a card, and play good games. The Hand of Thrawn was never embroiled in any of the drama, which I'm greatful for. [Well, one person tried to get me involved, and spread my name around a bit, but I let it be known that I only listened to what went on, and wasn't going to do anything unless I was shown proof. Such proof never showed up, and I stopped getting bothered.]

The Hand of Thrawn: I'm proud of my team. We lived up to everything I had in mind when creating the team. I wanted a team that could score some serious points, but would focus more on having fun than winning the thing. I wanted a team that could stick together and laugh while drama and cheating caused other teams to implode. We outscored and outlasted almost every team out there, which is a credit to their personal integrity and level-headedness as much as their scoring skills. What a great group of guys to work with. They made my job as a captain so easy, and that's greatly appreciated.

Hand of Thrawn Accomplishments:
  • Silva crossed 100k
  • Derek crossed 100k
  • Bishop crossed 100k
  • Dark went from 6k to almost 27k (multiplied his score 4x is six weeks!)
  • Sabre nearly doubled his score in 5 weeks.
  • I came with in 2k of 100k, which was my goal for the whole year!

On Captaining a Team: It was an interesting challenge. These guys made it easy for me, but I still wonder how I did, overall. It's tough to tow the line between being hands-off and letting everyone do their thing (our emphasis was on fun, remember) and making sure decent points were going up on the board. We made some mistakes with the hanlding of My Horse and Me 2, and there's a chance I could have done better in managing the schedule. Of course, when my leadership icon is Grand Admiral Thrawn, it's hard to measure up to that level of perfection, though I do try. Since nobody over the course of the season expressed any complaints (i'm always open to constructive criticism), and seem to still have a good opinion of me, I'm going to assume I did a pretty good job overall =) I was certain my obsessive reminders of Dash load times and such would piss a few of them off. They're patient with me LOL. Better to be a little annoying than have anyone forget, right?

Captaining a team is certainly something I'd be willing to do again. Maybe in a future GSL (I'm thinking 9, so save those easy games folks), I would love to get a team going with as many members of The Silent Assassins or Hand of Thrawn as possible. If I'm going to go through another 8-week session, I want to know the people I'm playing with are cool.

Post-GSL gaming: The pace is going to go way down now. I'm burned out on "whoring." I'm going to play whatever the heck I want for a while, and simply focus on leisurely getting points from those games. This week will be mostly an arcade week, as I want to focus on Feeding Frenzy, Penny Arcade Ep. 1, Boom Boom Rocket, and Puzzle Quest Gallactrix. There will certainly be some Gears 2 and maybe some RE5 in the mix, as well. I'm trying to ease off on RE5 so the game isn't totally stale by the time my brother gets back.

Operation Jedi is necessary now more than ever, but will be on the backburner mostly for the next couple months. I simply am not ready to return to crappy games yet. Most of any Op. Jedi work I do will be on games I don't mind playing.

Introducing Operation Excellence and J-Quest: Yes, my stupid habit of having to give my goals fancy names continues. These two goals are related, and have to do with completions. Operation Excellence is my goal to put harder and more impressive achievements on my card. Anyone can get 100k on all the easy games. I feel I'm behind on putting achievements on my card that are truly achievements, like the full 1000 in EDF 2017. J-Quest is all about playing and completing J-RPGS, which I love, but have a shitty track record with on the 360. I want to finish the ones I own, then move on to Tales, Star Ocean, Infinite Undiscovery, or Last Remnant. 1000 in a JRPG is always impressive. These two goals will receive a good amount of focus over the next several months, as they'll be the most fun, and easiest on my wallet.

Monday, April 6, 2009

Leave A Message At The Beep

...because Thrawn can't come to the blog right now. This is a post to let you know that this blog is taking a week off, and posts Will resume on Monday, April 13th. I enjoy blogging, but want my posts to be quality, and not rushed garbage. I'm going to be so busy this week, that I won't have time to bring quality to this blog, so I'd rather take the week off.

The Excuses:

Gaming relevant:

1. GSL Week 8: The hunt for 100k (maybe) concludes. As you'll see from the Real Life reasons, I may not have time for 3.25k points this week.

2. Monsters vs. Aliens review: I need to write the review, and that takes time.

Real Life reasons:

1. RESEARCH: My finished product is due 2 weeks from today, and, to be blunt, I have a f***ing ton of work to still do on it. I need to code just 1-2 more blogs to get by, but then I need to do all my data analysis, make my poster, and proof the whole thing.

2. ENGLISH CAPSTONE: I need to finish my second short story by FRIDAY of this week. Right now, I have half a freaking page. So, beside a review and research, I'm writing a while story in 5 days. That's not easy folks. I also have 3 weeks to edit both my stories to publishable quality.

3. HOLIDAY WEEKEND: I'm going back home for the Weekend, and family obligations will take up a chunk of my time (a very big one).

4. Life after May 16th: Eventually I need to figure out what the hell I'm going to do after college LOL. As soon as #1 and #2 on this list are finished, I'll be devoting a lot of attention to this issue. Anyone know some good employers in the Twin Cities area dying for competent writers or Sociology majors with research experience? =P

What got me in the predicament of being this work loaded? GSL 7. I can't do anything half-way, so I gave this my best, and probably have spent too much time on it. Well, it's over after this week, so that problem goes away. I did have a lot of fun with it though, except for a few parts where the bad games got to be too much. I can't wait to slow down!

My saving grace here is that I work extraordinarily well under pressure. I have been writing papers in the last minutes since 6th grade (that was eons ago), and you know what? I've gotten As on every single one of them. I have difficulty focusing on work unless there's a sense of urgency. It's probably not normal or healthy, but I can superhuman massive amounts of work in short time periods when I need to, and all of it will be high quality. This is one of those times. Over the next week, I'll be doing an enormous amount of writing, and all of it will be high quality (I hope). None of it will be here, however.

What do you have to look forward to after this week off?
  • Special topic: The 7 Deadly Sins of Achievement Whores
  • Special topic: MMO gamers vs. Console Gamers: A look at player perspectives
  • More regular gaming updates, as GSL will no longer be all-consuming
  • An effort to have more editorial content

That's all folks. I'll catch you in a week.

Friday, April 3, 2009

Month in Review: March

March was a hugely significant month, in both good ways and bad. The good news in my gamerscore shot up by leaps and bounds... the bad news is I did such a number on my completion percentage that I've set Operation Jedi back so much that it'll take months to undo the damage (no joke...). I participated in a 30-day 360voice challenge over March, where I finished 3rd in a field of 72 people (and I rode the bench one of those weeks). Not too shabby, I think.

There wasn't too much movement up or down for the Hand of Thawn, as we're holding steady in 5th. With 2 weeks left, the goal is to try to shoot up to third. We'll see if it can happen.

April will have a fast start like March did, as I'm playing in weeks 7 and 8 of the league. However, I'm slowing way down as soon as the GSL ends. I have research to finish, an English capstone to complete, jobs to hunt for, and a thousand other things that require my attention. I've been pretty good at getting my work done, but I'll need to go into an overdrive the last half of April. I'm going to go back to playing games for fun and casually trying to get the points for a while. I don't expect the serious work of Operation Jedi to begin until at least June or July.

Reviews Written:
Resident Evil 5
Fallout 3: The Pitt

Reviews in April:
Monsters vs. Aliens others known at this time.

Blog Special Topics in March:
Resident Evil 5 SUPERPOST (It was a slow month for special topics, as I was busy going point-crazy. April will see more of them.)

Games Completed:
Sonic's UGC
Rapala Fishing Frenzy
The Maw (230)

...not nearly as many as I'd hoped for. =(

Gamerscore Progression:
March Start score: 77, 870
March end score: 93,215
Change: 15,345 (Total S rank for that, at least)

Completion % change: + 0.06% (from 60.95 to 61.10). So, technically, I inched millimeters closer to the goal, but in reality, I'm much worse off now, as the next stat will show.

Distance from Op. Jedi goal: 21,299 points (the gap has grown 3,399 points in the last 30 days. THAT is the damage I've been talking about. It'll take time to clear that up. As you can see, a lot of the quest for 200k will be cleaning up the mess I made hunting the first 100k)

Lead over x Ducky Dan x in race to 100k: 14,786 points at time of posting. (I've outscored him by 6,895 since my last M.I.R. posting). There's no doubt I'll win this race. Ducky has already admitted defeat. All that's left to do is cross the finish line to make it official.

Thursday, April 2, 2009

April Fools Aftermath

Yesterday's post was indeed an April Fools joke, as thankfully I was not hacked. I figured everyone is always on their guard on April 1st, and suspicious of everything, so what I did had to be pretty good to work. Instead of trying to get people to believe anything about an external source, I thought the best route to go would be to make it look like I was the victim.

So, I connected my trash tag to XBL, which was something I'd been meaning to do anyway, and it gave credibility to my story. I then went and edited my profile with the stereotypical BS that internet assholes like to sling at people. That was actually the hardest part, as I had to buck my natural inclinations for decent grammar, punctuation, and spelling, and create a different voice, so people wouldn't instantly assume it was me. As you'll see later, I still nearly gave myself away twice.

The setup in place, I wrote a blog post about how I got hacked, and how pissed off I was about it, trying to be convincing and not over the top.

Did it fool anyone? Well, site traffic tripled over the daily average, so people at least looked at it, even if they were hesitant to say anything. But yes, it fooled at least 2 people. Let's start with some comments from the Hand of Thrawn members, who were aware I'd be pulling shenanigans

Bishop x360a says (XBL): By the way, great bio.
and later (team forum): Thrawn I just read your blog and now know why your bio was like it was. I thought you did that just trying to be funny, so I myself missed out on the joke.

BL4CK SiLv4 says: funny and actually believeable

Sabre x360a commented to me in a party chat that he read my blog and was nearly convinced I had been hacked, until he went to and saw I'd sent him a message that same morning I claimed I was hacked. It was the message telling my teammates not to trust my blog that day, as I didn't want the team potentially disrupted by wondering if their captain got hacked.

Now, on to the people I know I fooled, which also happened to be the only two to post comments.

Bond x360a comments: That sucks dude, I'll be on this upcoming week, so I guess we can play through resident evil again, lol. Send Bond x360a a friend request.

...and later in the same minute: wait its an april fools joke isnt it, god damn it.

Well, you caught on, though not till after your first comment LOL. Don't feel bad though, my own brother is the person I managed to fool the most, as he was in complete belief that I was telling the truth. What's even funnier is I sent him a message on XBL telling him I was considering a joke... He obviously saw my blog first.

After reading my blog, my brother emailed my info on what I should do if I ever get hacked. Joking aside, I appreciate the info, and will keep it around in the event that such a terrible thing ever actually happens. It wasn't until later in the day, when he checked out and read my message, that he realized he'd been duped, and sent me a second email, which I'm reposting unedited below for everyone's enjoyment. I hope he doesn't mind me sharing the laugh:


P.S. That's what to do if you actually ever do get hacked...

P.P.S. Actually Nate, I must admit, that was INCREDIBLY well executed. You had me completely fooled. Going to the lengths you did with the alternate account, changing the bio....that was fucking excellent!!! So, yes, please laugh, you fooled the shit out of me. Happy April Fools!

But do understand my speediness in sending you what I did was only because of my love for you Lololollololololol!!!!!! Actually, it's kind of a good thing I bought into it, now people who read the comment I left (since I'm your bro) might freak out too. It's just vague enough to inspire a sense of mystery. Anyways, wish I had read the xbox live message you sent me yesterday rofl. Wow, you really fucking got me good.

I love you, Man. But....fuck! :) :) :) I just about had a heart attack for you. I SHOULD have fucking known it was you from the use of "asshat" and "omgroflmao" the latter of which is more or less a tribute to I SUCK.

You fat girlfrindless fuck with no lyfe, get outta yo momy's bacemetn


I got pooped on by a bird yesterday (seriously) and now this....

Still love you, but fucking sadistic madman you. I'm so proud!

Let me know how many (myself included) you fool. If I'm the only one, I'll be pissed, especially since you "warned me" (next year an e-mail....LOL)

But anyways, now you know what to do if you really do get hacked........(by me! Muah ahahauauhauhauha....sigh)

I do appreciate the concern, and its nice to know I can count on you for help if something shitty happens. The fact that I managed to fool you of all people gave me some major laughs (thanks for those too). I thought fooling you was impossible. That made my week. You're the best in the business, bro.

I hope everyone enjoyed April Fools! I'll have the month in review done... eventually. I'm also working up a post on the "Seven Deadly Sins of Achievement Whores" which I'm aiming to release on Sunday or Monday. It's both social commentary and self-critique.

BTW: Claiming to be hacked is a joke that only works ONCE. If I ever again claim to be hacked, its absolutely the truth. Crying wolf more than once is a bad idea.

Wednesday, April 1, 2009

Thrawn Gets Hacked =(

God I love today. I wake up to find out its snowing... what a way to start April. After class this morning, I came back to my room to log into Dash of Destruction, as usual, to get ready for the GSL week. There's a problem though... I couldn't log in. I f***ing FREAKED. I tried to log into, and couldn't do it.

So, the first thing I did was bring my offline trash tag onto Xbox live (ThrawnEternal), so that I can still send messages with people and communicate with other people while I figure this out. Feel free to send me friend invites, as I'd appreciate help in knowing what my options are as I work this out. I have a class at NOON where I'll be taking an exam, and thus can't miss it, but I'll be contacting Microsoft as soon as I get back, to try to have the account temporarily locked at least.

With the new Thrawn on live, I took a look at my profile. Look what this douchbag did...
Feel free to spam him with messages letting him know HE's the asshat. Happy freaking April Fools. I've sent messages to Minty, Hayden, and Roxy hoping they'll let me make a last-minute lineup switch to take myself out of the lineup for the week, because I clearly won't be able to play. Goddamnit I'm so furious about this I can barely think straight. Having your whole gaming career hijacked isn't fun.

WIsh me luck in trying to resolve this...