Friday, October 30, 2009

Superboost Engaged

This weekend is a double XP weekend in Gears 2, and I'd originally meant to use the tedious horde grinding on Security, and as luck would have it, I got networked into a seriously hardcore group of guys who are boosting their way up to level 100 by using multiple accounts and boosting in public matches. Yes, I realize this technique is considered shady by many, but I'm not hacking, or doing anything on my end that violates the terms of use, so why not take the most effective route.

A couple of the guys are from my fair state of Minnesota, so the conversations have been pretty entertaining so far... which is what you need when you've agreed to boost together for six hours in one evening. I'll definitely pass rank 50, and I'm going to keep riding this pony for as long as I can. I'd never seriously considered shooting for level 100, but I might as well do everything I can for it while this opportunity presents itself. In our first 45 minutes or so, I gained 74,000 xp. In our second session, I picked up another 97,000 getting me to rank 46, and finally putting me over the XP total I had before I lost everything to the glitch. I might hit rank 50 tonight.

Thanks Lonnie for the hook up.

Thursday, October 29, 2009

Fun With Hecklers

I've been away for a few days, you know, working 12-hour shifts, having an actual job, making money, that sort of thing. What everyone who doesn't get paid to write game reviews does. So I wasn't around to see any recent blog comments until today, at which point I saw the following comment to my prior post:

No offence but what is even the point of writing a review if it is not out day in date or within a day or two of a games release. No one is interested in reading a review of a game that came out a week ago. Anyone who is interested or wanted to get Borderlands has already read reviews on other sites. Either that or they just went and picked up the game anyways. I just don't see a point in writing a review when it is a week late and people are already done Borderlands and looking to games coming out this week.

It's the classic "Why do you even bother" post. Well, many large internet and print outlets get review copies of games weeks before street date, giving them the benefit of having the time to play the game and review it. They often have more than one person playing the title at the same time. x360a rarely has that. We usually have to get our games on street date like everyone else. Then, like everyone else, we play through them and offer our thoughts on the game. So, considering we're not paid for our services, and we actually have lives (WOW!) expecting us to plow through a game and write a quality review for it in that time frame suggests to me you have no idea how the process works, or the amount of time inolved. If a game comes out on a Tuesday (as Borderlands did) and I'm working 12-hour shifts that Tuesday, Wednesday, and Thursday, am I really going to turn a review around it two days?

Then, of course, not everyone out there buys every game the day it comes out, plows through it in three days, and then goes on the the next game. By the way, I love how 9/10 bullshit comments like this are

A: Anonymous
B: Start with the phrase "No offense"

You'd be surprised the amount of hits my reivews get. That's a lot of "nobodys" out there. Of course, I'm fully capable of turning out a review within a few days of release, if that release happens to coincide with my off days, or I get a prerelease copy. I cite Dead Space
as evidence.

Okay, I've wasted enough time on a blog "nobody" reads so I'll get back to writing a review "nobody" is going to read.

Sunday, October 25, 2009

On the Fields of Pandora

My next review for x360a is going to be Gearbox's "RPS" (Roleplaying shooter) Borderlands, which I picked up on day 1 like many others. Due to some long hours and general tiredness, I fell behind schedule, so I've been working double time to get this game to the point where I can write the review in the near future. I'm taking time off to watch the Vikings game, but otherwise I'll be around Pandora all day.

I've done enough co-op to get an understanding of it, but at this point I'm too pressed for time to do much more coop until I get through the game. Unless, that is, players are willing to join into my session so I can keep making story progress, and are close to my level (or higher). I'm not trying to be a jerk, but this review has to get done, which means I need to keep making forward progress.

The reports of achievements glitching on people are unsettling, but I've been fortunate enough to be unlocking everything without a problem so far.

I don't want to throw out too many comments about this game with the review forthcoming, but I'll say really quick that this game has the best gunplay of any game that's tried to blend these two genres... and the weakest story. From a narriative standpoint, this game can't come close to the titans of Deus Ex or Mass Effect (which was 3rd person POV, but I'll count it). I'm waffling between whether I think the RPG aspect are a little shallow or if they're perfect the way they are. That's a topic I'm going to need to think about before I commit anything to the official review.

I doubt I'll have the time to 1k this game before the GSL starts, so once the dust settles on that baby, I'll be eager to coop my way to the finish line. That reminds me, the GSL starts a week from today... I've been pretty absent as a captain thus far... shame on me. Well, at least my team has experience. As always, the pre-show talk is all about another team winning it... I've heard that before. We'll see how things so down.

Tuesday, October 13, 2009

98 Seed Sorrow

I knew this was going to happen. Crap like this always happens to me in JRPGS. I need to collect a lot of something, and end up missing one despite my vigilence and have to run the list again to find what I missed. Such is the problem in Lost Odyssey, where I discovered to my infinite dismay yesterday that I have only 98 of thr 99 Seeds I need to redeem for an accessory, so I'm eventually going to have to run the list to find it. I have a short list of places to start, but if those don't pan out, I'm going to be a very unhappy camper. Without that last seed, I can't get the achievements for teaching the immortals every skill, and there's 80 points up in smoke.

The better news is I took out the Blue Dragon and Holy Beast side bosses yesterday. Both are total pushovers if you have everyone with nullify elements and All-Barricadus in effect. I also got Tolten's Ultimate Hit ability, and cleared the Middle class in the backyard, making for a total of 40 points in that game for the day.

In Gears 2, I suffered through flaming Bloodmounts solo for that 25 pointer, and played a little of the MP to help my bro make progress toward the Annex achievement. After that, I was gamed out for the day and watched the first disc of season 9 of Stargate SG-1.

Nothing special planned for today, but after my next three-day work stretch, I'm off to Tomah, WI (a five-hour drive away) to spend a few days with a couple good friends of mine. I'm looking forward to that.

Monday, October 12, 2009

110k Crossed and Gaming Ramblings

Yesterday was my first of 3 straight days off, and I enjoyed it by sacking out and playing a lot of video games. Since there's about two inches of fresh snow on the ground, and we're not even half way through October yet, I've lost all motivation to go out and will probably just be doing a lot more gaming today. I really hate winter. Isn't Fall supposed to come first? We skipped right passed that one. But I digress...

While I watched the Vikings cruise to 5-0 against the Rams, I was slowly picking up wins in Magic: The Gathering, so I need about 25 more to have every card for every deck. That's a nice improvement form the over-40 that it was a week ago. I also made some progress in Banjo-Tooie, though I did not gain any new achievements.

Later in the afternoon, with Silva and my bro online, we got together to do some Horde action in Gears 2. Silva pretty much has all the Dark Corners horde achievements already, but was kind enough to roll with us. We completed the horde objectives on 5 of 7 maps, with only the 40 and 50 wave tasks remaining. Say what you will about Gears, I still enjoy Horde, particularly with friends. When Sabre logged on for the first time in what seems a year, we brought him in and continued the good times. Silva rambled on how much he hates Facebook and Twitter, Bionik Kommando racked up half the kills between the 4 of us, and I struggled to hit anything while watching Secret Girlfriend on Comedy Central on the second screen. That show is just... I don't even know what to say.

The Horde achievements put me above 110k, marking my first 10k on the road to 200. Based on statements of many who've hit these marks before me, I expected it to not really seem like much, but I'm not to that point yet. True, 110k isn't a significant overall number in itself, but I still enjoy hitting 10,000 point marks, especially since this 10,000 was all done outside of a GSL and done without easy trash (except Darkest of Days, which was played to review, not explicitly for points).

When my bro and I have time, we're continuing to boost the RE5 multiplayer stuff that can be done with just 2 people. I really hate these MP achievements, as winning 30 games takes forever. Eventually we'll need two dedicated partners to go through the team stuff, but I'm not looking into that seriously yet.

If you're still with me, can I ask if I'm the only one not horribly excited for this holiday season's games? I've never seen a holiday season so stripped of things I actually want to play. I'm picking up Borderlands, and I'll eventually get Modern Warfare 2 and Dragon Age, but that's it. Assassins Creed 2 is a rental for some other time. Most of what is coming out over the next few months is liscenced or budget junk, and I'm sure I'll do my part for God and Country by reviewing the lion's share of it. So, if you see things like reviews for "Ben 10" going up alongside "Modern Warfare 2," you'll know which one I probably wrote lol. If it sounds like I'm complaining, I'm really not. The points will be rolling, and it's due Karma for snagging a pre-release Dead Space, and getting to review AAA games like Gears 2 and Fallout 3 last year.

Really, 2009 is mostly the buffer year between the excellence of 2008 and the Mind-Shattering Awesomeness that will be 2010. I'll be playing Alpha Protocol, Aliens vs. Predator, Bioshock 2, Lost Planet 2, FRONT MISSION EVOLVED (OMG Yes!!!), Mass Effect 2, and possibly Final Fantasy XIII next year. That lineup beats the stuffing out of everything this year's produced. RE5 and Batman are ths highlights of what has come out thus far in 2009. I really haven't purchased many new games this year, but I can tell you I'm budgeting like mad for next year, because all the games I listed are shaping up to be Day 1 purchases.

But until that mass of great games arrives, I have a GSL to pass the time...

Wednesday, October 7, 2009

Banner Entries / Month in Review

After losing the original post showing the entries, I've been very lazy about remaking it, but here we are. The banner contest pitted Silva against a friend of mine, Tim Keller. Silva is your winner of the contest; his banner is currently up at the top. Now Tim's efforts will at last receive their fair recongition.


This first one here is my favorite of Tim's banners, with a beautiful simplicity to it. I love the star destroyer blueprint background, and the color transition in the letters around Thrawn. This one will certainly see some use.

I'm a poor art critic, but I like to see a different Thrawn pic is in use here, and the shadow effect on the text.

I like the scrolled-back look to the text, like the opening scrolls of Star Wars movies. I'm not so much a fan of the way Thrawn was integrated into this pic though.
The fade effect against the black background doesn't look too good.

I'd like to thank Tim for his hard work. These will find their way into the rotation of blog banners as well. Of course, their can only be one winner, and Silva's a wizard at this stuff. Great looking text, flawlessly integrated Thrawn, and the colors just pop out. Well done sir.

Month in Review: September

I finally hopped on my 3 on, 3 off work schedule, which has been nice so far. Since my store had to wrap up our remodel, I ended up putting in some long hours, including a 70 hour work week. I squeezed in gaming as much as I could, getting a lot done in ODST, and worked some reviews. The rule of four made a comeback, and will remain in effect until the GSL starts.

Reviews Written:
Section 8
Darkest of Days

Special Topics:
None for the second month in a row... I need to get back on those.

Completed Games:
Darkest of Days

Gamerscore Progression:
Sept. Start: 106,094
Sept. End: 109,649
Change: 3,555... not too shabby.

Tuesday, October 6, 2009

Grinding In Style

My God, I should have done this months ago. Earlier today, I purchased a second TV for my apartment. It's nothing elaborate, just a 19'' LCD 720p HDTV that was under $200. Amazingly, this little TV has much better built-in speakers than my bigger TV. Since this TV sits on the coffee table right in front of me, the small size of the screen really doesn't matter.

I'd been debating this purchase for a while because, and decided to go for it since I end up spending a lot of time grinding achievements, or boosting. During GSLs, I play a lot of crap that is so easy it doesn't require my full attention. Now, I can grind away on the small TV while leaving the larger screen for TV or DVDs. Multitasking for the win. (My god, I wish I had a setup like this for ALL of the Warriors Orochi 2 days, not just the last quarter of it...)

This evening I got to break in the "Grinding TV" by armor grinding in EDF 2017 while watching the epic 1-game Twins/Tigers playoff game, which my Twins took in 12 innings. If you know the proper way to armor grind in EDF 2017, you barely even need to look at your screen, so I was able to rack up over 1,500 armor points before getting sick of that and working on Magic: The Gathering wins. I'm now at nearly 10,000 armor in EDF 2017. My brother and I are aiming to get together to complete the game in January, but since I'm in a GSL for Nov. and Dec, I need to get my armor grinding done this month. I think I'll load up EDF again tomorrow to grind more armor while I watch the Twins take on the Yankees.

Tomorrow I'm totally downloading South Park Lets Go Tower Defense Play, and continuing to keep an eye on Bishop as he works through Saw. He'll let me know if it's GSL material. I've watched all 5 Saw movies in the last week, so I'm ready to play the game, and go see Saw VI.

On the blog front, I need to finally show all the Banner contest entries... You've seen the winner for a few days now, but my friend Tim needs props for his hard work too. I'm also overdue for a review of September, so look for a combo post tomorrow.

Monday, October 5, 2009

The Month Before A GSL...

... is a pain in the ass. Mostly because I know that, unless I'm tasked to review a game that's actually good, most of what I'll be seeing the next two months will be trash. I have one month to enjoy good games and try to pick up a completion or two before the GSL starts. On the reviews side, I plan on writing a review for every game I play during the GSL, if that game needs one and we're relatively near its release date. It would be nice to do a few AAA game reviews this holiday season, but I'm felxible. Before the month is out, I'll have the review up for Borderlands, but I'm not sure what else is in store for October.

Right now, I'm working on enjoying Batman as much as I can, and hopefully I'll complete my first playthrough of the game. I still need a few more achievements in ODST, and I'm working Banjo-Tooie with the help of the old N64 strategy guide. I also picked up the achievement for 10 ranked wins (all 100% legit, non-boosted) in Magic: The Gathering. If you discount the games where players quit to deny me a win, I earned that achievement in 12 matches. Thank you very much.

When I'm not enjoying the good stuff, I'm preparing for the GSL. The Hand of Thrawn social group will be reactivated tomorrow (meaning I'll be using it again) for preseason planning, and invites will be extended to Patches and Sprinkles. To my former teammates, if you're looking to offer support and advice, you're always welcome to pop in. It's your group too. I need to check out my local Gamestop to see what their inventory looks like, and find out the same about my Family Video.

Since I know what the end of the year is going to look like for gaming, I'm already thinking ahead to 2010. I've passed my goal for the year of 100,000 by a good sum, and will blast it away before the GSL ends. So, where do I go next year? I'm making no numerical goals for 2010. That will be the year of Operation Jedi, where success is measured by completions and completion percentage. It will be difficult with reviews, but that's where I want to spend the most effort, considering I'm over 25,000 points short of that goal.

The other thing I can say is I'm taking GSL 9 (if it happens) off. After 3 in a row, it'll be time. I can work on completions and let the easy junk stack up for a future day.

Enough thinking on Gamerscore for the day... That Vikings / Packers game wore me out. Hurray for 4-0 Minnesota!

Sunday, October 4, 2009

The Storm Approaches

The Hand of Thrawn is back for another GSL, and we're looking to win. While we won't sacrifice our lives, we're going to score extremely well. We do have a reputation to uphold afterall =P

Brtas Zowes (Sprinkles x360a)

I'm not going to make any Wreckon~esque proclamations of inevitable victory, but I will say we're clearly the team to be gunning for here. There are 1-2 teams so far that could be competetion, so I'm excited to see how things shake out. Let's take a look at why the Hand of Thrawn is in a position to dominate:

1. GSL Experience: We certainly have more GSL expereince than any other team, with a total of 9 GSLs between us (Thrawn 2, Bishop 2, Sprinkles 2, Patches 3). We know better than any other team what it's like to compete, how to pace ourselves, and how to plan and execute the plan to score serious points.

2. Scoring Experience: Sure, we may not have the easiest of the easy at our disposal, but we know how to score points. 3 of us have scores over 100k. In this instance, I see it as an advantage. We've all been at this a long, long time.

3. Access: Sprinkles works for Gamestop, and can borrow games whenever. Patches has no issues acquiring games. Bishop and I have rental plans (kind of a necessity for these, but still...). I have a 10% Walmart discount, and the Mount Tantiss stash at my disposal. I have no worries about this team's ability to keep our Xboxes fed.

4. Communication: This can't be underrated. Communication is EVERYTHING for success, along with proper planning. I'm not revealing techniques here, but we know what's going down, and what to expect from ourselves, so we can adapt as needed.

5. BL4CK SiLv4: Yes, I'm serious. Whether he's scoring or not, SIlva is a competative advantage. He's ours, and you can't have him. The "X" factor, Silva is the life of the party chat, providing a motivational force to keep us going as the weeks drag on.

It's going to be a good season. I've got 3 goal ranges for the team:

64,000 Mission Accomplished
80,000 Exceptional
100,000 Gods of Gamerscore

I'm not expecting the top marks... that's more than Hand of Thrawn could pull in GSL VII, though we came damn close. Who knows... with no breaks in the action, perhaps it's possible. An average of 25,000 points a person is quite the ambitious goal.