Monday, December 27, 2010

There's Now a Second Blog

I love blogging. As I've said before, I don't plan on stopping anytime soon. As a matter of fact, with Xmas behind me and Wednesday through Friday off, I may finally have the time to sit down and start writing content again.

For now, I wanted to announce to everyone that I have started a second blog, titled Unending in Azeroth. This blog is a World of Warcraft blog.

I decided to make a second blog to talk about WoW to keep my audiences distinct. Most of you who have followed me for so long for my thoughts on achievements, the Xbox 360, or console gaming in general (plus my random ramblings) may not care one bit about WoW, so why push in front of you content you don't want? Likewise, are most WoW fans going to care about my thoughts on New Vegas's Hardcore mode? Unlikely.

Now, there's still a reason to follow my WoW blog, even if you don't play the game. That blog is not primarily intended to be a journal of my exploits in the game. While it will do that, I want to use it as a place to discuss social dynamics in-game and other social aspect that come with playing an MMO. So, if you're looking for some educated opinions (I got a degree in Sociology) about the largest Virtual Environment in human history, keep your eye on that blog.

I just threw it up tonight, so it doesn't have all the bells and whistles I want to add to it. That's a project for another night.

Wednesday, December 22, 2010

ThrawnOmega: Achievement Guide Ninja Assassin Editor

While my review writing pace has slowed down considerably over the last year, a new avenue to assist x360a has opened up for me. There's little glory to be had in the position (your average viewer will never see what I do), and it's not something I could easily toss on a resume when trying to get into the gaming industry, but I'm still happy to be doing it, and helping out the site.

I have been brought into the x360a Guide Team to assist, primarily as a guide editor. As I understand it, the job entails taking the best from any and all written guides for a game, tweaking or improving descriptions as needed, and preparing the guide to be posted to the main site. Unlike the guide authors, my name won't be splashed on top of the guide credits. The editing task is virtually invisible to the outside viewer.

Total disclosure: I JUST got access to the guide team yesterday, and haven't actually done anything for them yet. I'm just starting to learn the ropes and expectations. My actual contributions probably won't start until January, when my work schedule lets up a little. Not even sure if they really consider me "Guide Team" yet LOL. I probably have to actually do something to earn the title =)

The position is a good fit for me. I love working on guides, but have written relatively few for the site myself. I can only count The Maw and the Side Quest and Trading Card guides for Deadly Premonition to my credit (and the side quests was co-authored). I have the writing talent to do guides, but I don't like the competition that comes with being "first" and the attention they get during the writing process. Where a review is one-way (MY way), the guide writing process is collaborative, and trying to deal with 1,000 other people isn't my thing.

However, I love editing. Always have. I edited other people's papers in high school and college. I had to edit my own work constantly, considering how much writing goes into English and Sociology degrees. I've had to edit as a creative writer and a review writer. I have fun taking a set of works and making their message even better. Some of you may understand that, other probably won't. So I was excited to hear I could help on the guide team without actually having to write guides. This role suits my skill set just fine.

I'd like to thank the mods and admins of x360a for the opportunity to contribute, and I look forward to helping out... next year. I still have to survive the build up to Christmas, the day-after shenanigans, and then getting the store back in order. Fun!

Tuesday, December 14, 2010

Thrawn Got WoWed

If you've seen my automatic daily tweet from Raptr, the secret is already out. I've taken the plunge on an MMO again, giving the biggest of them all a shot.

I traded in a few crap old games and a 20GB hard drive in exchange for the World of Warcraft Battle Chest, which had the core game and first expansion. It was basically free, since I just got rid of stuff I didn't care for. This is almost like a glorified 30 day trial.

Fear not, blog readers. No matter how into the game I get, this blog will not become a WoW blog. If I choose to write about WoW, I will make a seperate blog for that, as the two audiences are likely very different. Mentions of WoW here going forward will mostly be in discussion of how the game fits into the larger world of games.

I have parental controls turned on myself, limiting my play to a max of 12 hours a week. I don't want to get too sucked in, or neglect all other gaming. (Yes, this could turn into a total joke, as I set my own limits and could easily change it any time. It's up to my self-discipline not to.)

Why get into an MMO again? I have several reasons:

1 - The appeal of a persistent character. The coolest thing about MMOs is having an alter-ego that you can spend hundreds of hours adventuring with and not get bored. There's tons of things to do, and always some way to improve. I enjoyed thins in EQ2 more than your regular RPGs, as the sensation of growth lasts longer than even the longest offline RPGs. I've always enjoyed the growth more than being Godlike at the endgame.

2 - The social aspects. With my work schedule, I have a lot of weekdays off, which aren't the best days for having a social life. Add to that that most of my friends are at least an hour away, and it's an infrequent treat that I get to spend time with my friends. While I try to establish some local relationships (bonus points if I don't work with these people), it's nice to have an online group of people to BS and have fun with when there's nobody else around to hang out with. I've been disappointed with the level of interactivity I've had with people over Live. Nobody talks in MP. I'm never in any party chats (I'm sure I'm partly to blame for that).

3- It's cheap entertainment. I can't get the complaining about subscription fees for MMOs. These games are ungodly expensive to maintain. I think I read somewhere (don't quote me), that it costs in excess of $15 million a month to keep WoW going. Yes, I know they make that back times a jillion, but still, there's upkeep involved. In my books, if you play the game just 30 minutes a day (15 hours a month), you're getting your money's worth, as that's just $1 per hour. Lool at the other games in your collections. How many of them cost $1 per hour or less for the entertainment they provided? Probably less than 25% of them, unless you're a true bargain bin raider. I'm starting to try to save money like a bastard (partly as proof to myself that I actually CAN), so dropping the more expensive Gamefly and trimming other game purchases to the true AAAs that I want is a way to start. I can always rent from Family Video if I want to check out a different game.

Or borrow it from Silva. That man buys EVERYTHING.

4- Curiosity: WoW has over 12 million players. It's been around the block for six years, and has a huge number of player blogs and sites surrounding it. It has its own norms and internet sub-culture. It has its own collective history. As someone fascinated by the sociological implications of things, I live for this shit. I spend an entire semester researching WoW from the outside (and I got paid for it, by the way), and now I'm curious to observe these types of social dynamics from within.

So yes, I'm dipping my feet into WoW. We'll see how that goes. You'll still see me on Live plenty. I'm not about to retreat into an MMO cave of obsession or anything. I promise. (Oh, and this way I'll probably be the only one who hangs out with Sabre LOL. I rolled my character on his server so we could chill. Helps to have one person you know in the game with you.)

Monday, December 13, 2010

The Math of Gamestop's PowerUp Rewards Program

Game retailer Gamestop has recently unrolled a new version of their Edge card program. The old version of the program came with a year subscription to Game Informer Magazine, plus 10% bonus credit on trade-ins, plus periodic special offers and coupons. These deals are still in place, but there's now an additional points that customers can earn, and redeem for the rewards of their choice.

Best Buy has a similar deal with their Reward Zone, where you earn points for dollars spent, then receive a gift certificate for a certain number of points (roughly $250 spent = $5 gift certificate). Unlike the Reward Zone program, Gamestop's PowerUp Rewards program offers much more than just gift certificates. Customers can redeem points for strategy guides, controllers, microsoft points, and more.

They're giving 10 points per dollar spent on New games on consoles, 20 points per dollar on used games or refurb systems. Obviously, the system is designed to reward players more for buying the products Gamestop has a much, much higher margin in. Customers also get 20 points per dollar for items they trade in, again this makes sense for Gamestop since they make the bulk of their profit in secondhand sales.

Basic enrollment is free, while for $15, you can get a year subscription to Game Informer, plus additional benefits. I know there will be those out there who disagree, but I think 12 issues of Game Informer is worth the $15. The ambiguous part is exactly how much I'd be rewarded for my frequent purchases at Gamestop.

A 1600 Microsoft Points card costs 20,000 Gamestop reward points. Let's assume you only accumulate points for preplayed games and trade-ins (20 points per dollar). Your $20 value reward costs $1,000 spent/traded to obtain.

Below are some more rewards and how much would need to be spent to obtain them, assuming always the higher 20 points per dollar:

360 Wireless controller: 35,000 points, $1750
Turtle Beach X11 Headset: 38,500 points, $1925
$5 off a Preplayed game: 4,000 points, $200
360 Afterglow Controller: 18,200 points, $910

Good news here is that as long as you retain your card (only need to make one purchase a year to retain your points in I remember right), so it's not like you're in a hurry to use those points. The bad news: To get anything decent, you have to spend quite a lot of money. Of course, there are bonus point offers from time to time, but you're still obligated to spend a lot for any rewards.

Would this program get me to shop there in place of my 10% associate discount from Walmart? God no. However, for customers without a store discount, Gamestop's rewards plan is equal, or sometimes a better dollar-for-dollar deal than Best Buy's Reward Zone. For Best Buy, $250 = $5 back, simple as. This dollar for reward ratio is about the same for costs in PowerUp, though slightly better if you go the preplayed game route (Note: It's only on-par if you go exclusively preplayed games).

Would this program make you more likely to purchase from Gamestop, or purchase there more often? Do you find this a good way to give a little something to repeat customers, or is it just a gimmic to try to drum up more sales?

Wednesday, December 8, 2010

Let's Crank This Blog to 11

I've been making a lot of personal changes in my life lately, all with the goal of rejecting old bad habits and aggressively striving to improve myself. (This tangent will lead to videogame related material, bare with me)

In November, I called myself out on my two-faced approach to writing. I say my dream is to write a novel, yet when push comes to shove, I've put no effort into actually writing one. So, I rose to the challenge and wrote over 50,000 words in one month (that story is available as-is to anyone who provides me an email address to send it to. I'm not posting it online). While it's not a complete story, and there's a ton of editing to do on what's already there, I proved to myself that I could write if I put the effort in, and learned that putting out a decent word count in not NEARLY as hard as I thought it was. Those 50,000 words were really written in only 15 days!

For the last two months, I've finally had enough of being the cliche overweight, out of shape gamer. I'm better than that. So, I've gotten smart about what I eat, renounced soda, and practically go Super-Saiyan on each of my days off with how hard I work out. I mean, my workouts are INTENSE. My motto is, if I can still stand at the end of the workout, I wasn't working hard enough (and that's almost how hard I push myself). The result? I've lost 8 pounds in 5 weeks, and workouts are getting noticably easier. I'm starting to see the payoff, which makes staying motivated to keep going easy.

As I continue to solidify my success with these two tasks, I am already turning my attention to new frontiers. One goal of mine is social in nature, which I'm not going to talk much about until some progress has been made. The other is professional.

Again, it's time I kick my own ass into gear (nobody else is going to) and actually chase what I want, instead of just talking about it. Throw myself out there, instead of waiting to be discovered. Find ways to make myself useful to x360a (I haven't written a review for them in months), or find someone else who wants what I have to offer. Or both. I need to work what few industry contacts I have, and keep myself in top form by continuously writing content.

So, new goal: If I have the day off, there shall be a blog post (there will, of course, be some exceptions to this. Life happens.). And not all of them will be "what I've played" posts, either. I need to get back into review form, so I will be writing a review of every game I finish, no matter how long ago it was released. (Even if you don't care what I have to say about Enslaved: Odyssey to the West, I'm going to write that review for my own benefit, at least) I also need to sharpen my editorial skills, and provide creative features, so look for that too. Special topics will be a part of this blog again if it kills me.

I'll be spending a couple hours each off day working this blog or putting myself out there, chasing my goal of getting into the industry on a paid basis.

You can help. I want to completely overhaul the design of this blog, including taking it off blogger and developing my own site if I have to. Unfortunately, I lack the skillset for this, and the effort required to make a nicer looking blog or website would probably be better spent actually making content. So, if there's anyone reading this who thinks they can help me launch an improved blog or my own small gaming website, I'm receptive to your ideas, and willing to work out a deal to compensate you for your efforts. I'm not expecting a freebie here.

To my kind believers out there, who have been supporting of my desire to get into the industry, you can help me out too. Be my viral marketing team. Talk me up. Retweet my tweets you think others would care about. Link to a blog post you like in the various forums you post to. Basically, if you like what you see (and what will be coming) spread the word. The more people who find out about this tiny little corner of the internet, the more likely it is someone with the power to hire me will take a gander.

I'm tired of being passive about my dreams. I've had enough of looking around myself and thinking "This is good, but I could do better." In my apartment, I have a motivational poster on one of my walls. It shows an eagle soaring over a mountain top, and reads "Achievement... only those who fly high can land on a mountain top." I'll keep pushing on with stubborn determination until my goal is met. No more half-efforts and crapping out.

It's time to crank this blog to 11.

Tuesday, December 7, 2010

Not a Multiplayer

If you were to study my gameplay history, the games I play, and how long I play them, there's an overwhelming trend pointing to my preference for single player experiences. Where I do engage in multiplyer, it's cooperative far more often than competetive.

The idea for this blog post popped into my head during a round of Call of Duty: Black Ops (a game I enjoy in moderation, though I can't get my K/D ratio to even to save my life).

A recent editorial on x360a (I believe Dan wrote it) talked about how more and more formerly single-player only franchises are branching off into multiplayer, as well. So long as the SP doesn't suffer, I don't really care. But I'd rather see more games go the cooperative Horde mode or L4D routes with coop than throw in competitive MP modes that will be popular for the first few months after release, then quickly fade to obscurity, with only small communities (if any survive). For example, will anyone be playing Dead Space 2 MP six months after that game's release? What's the shelf like of AC: Brotherhood? (Don't know, haven't played it, to be fair.)

I perfer single player for a variety of reasons:

1- It ends. Once I have completed a game and the end credits roll, I feel like I've accomplished something. Or finished something, at the very least. Multiplayer never 'ends.' Sure individual matches are won or lost, but there's no real end point, no final threshold to cross to say "I've done it." To go along with this, when I'm playing multiplayer, I'm often thinking about the other games I could be working on, unless I'm working toward an achievement or, heaven forbid, I actually like the MP.

2- No online douchebags, racists, kids rapping in the mic, etc. etc. etc.

3- I find no satisfaction in online play, win or lose. I won! So what? I'm not even going to remember that match tomorrow, unless it was something rare and epic indeed. Playing with a bunch of random people who don't talk against other random people holds no thrill factor for me. Playing with some friends who communicate is more entertaining. Playing with one group of friends against ANOTHER group of friends is when multiplayer kicks ass, because I know the players and there's a little actual rivalry. Sadly, that rarely happens, as most of my friends are fellow achievement junkies, who you have to prod into any non-scoring gaming session, or I don't have enough people around who have the same game. So, 95% of the time I'm with randoms, against randoms. YAWN.

Coop is a different beast. It's like single player in that there's an ending, but you can take a friend along for the ride. Halo, Gears of War, L4D, Rainbow Six Vegas, Borderlands - all are great games that I played in coop. But coop, like MP, is only fun if I know who my partner or partners are. Playing Borderlands with my brother - awesome. Joining a random session - not-fun-city.

I'm not opposed to joining groups for some MP shenanigans from time to time, so don't hesitate to send an invite if you're considering it, I'm just saying, 95% of my time I spend in single player, and that isn't likely to change.

Monday, December 6, 2010

Imperial Gaming Network (the OTHER IGN)

So, I'm dabbling with the concept of live streaming gameplay footage. I can do this to show people parts of games thet have seen little public hype, to offer game walkthroughs or achievement tips, broadcast some multiplayer shenanigans... you name it.

I've set up a show called the Imperial Gaming Network on UStream for my broadcasted content. I already have one video up, showing the end of Chapter 9 and all of Chapter 10 of Enslaved. It's a great game that hasn't seen mass sales, so it's the right type of game to use to start this project. I understand the video quality leaves a lot to be desired. I'm looking into ways to improve that with what I already have available to me, and may invest in tools to make this even better if the idea becomes popular.

Since videos are currently being filmed using my laptop's webcam, I cannot chat and stream at the same time. I will need to acquire a second camera to do that.

Future streaming sessions will be announced via this blog and twitter. All sessions will be recorded so you can catch the action later if you missed it.

What sort of things would you like to see me stream? How can this effort entertain and/or inform you? I'm open to any and all feedback.

On a seperate note, does anyone know how to make multiple pages for the top of the blog? I seem to be too dumb to make more beyond the "Home" tab, and I'd like to make more to reorganize the blog. Look at how Stallion's blog is set up. I'm aiming for something similar, though my categories would obviously be different.

Sunday, December 5, 2010

Questing and Boosting

I'm looking for a group of players to help me boost a few specific games, hopefully in the next three days (sun-tues) if possible. Rather than previous posts where I offer up a long list of titles I could use help on, I thought I'd drop the specific titles I'm ready to roll on RIGHT NOW.

First, Ghostbusters. The extremely-late but still appreciated patch has made the full 1000 possible, so I'm looking for 2-3 Ghostbusters to work with me to complete the multiplayer aspect of the game. I eventually want to go back and snag the full 1k, but at this point, I'm not bothering until the MP is complete. I own the game. If anyone else owns the game or decides to rent it, message me over LIVE. We'll be working on virtually every MP achievement.

Second - Bioshock 2 (360): I need to find a group of people who all own the Rapture Metro maps, so we can work on the virtually impossible (legit) achievements for public play and a public win on the new maps. (2K, you suck SO MUCH for not making a special playlist for these. Seriously, WTF!?) WOuld rather not run the session if I can help it (swear to god I have to run 95% of the boosting sessions I'm in... it gets old), but I'd be happy to help gather the troops.

Third- Bioshock 2 (PC): Want a group to boost the Little Sister capture achievement. The rest of the achievements are easy to obtain legit. Almost nobody plays CTS anymore on Bioshock 2 PC, thus the need for a boosting group.

When not boosting, I'll be continuing to work on the same assortment of Games I've been playing lately. Expect to see me online working New Vegas, Enslaved, and either version of Bioshock 2. I may also spend some time with games newly purchased via Steam during their week of deals, including Mount and Blade or King's Bounty.

I've also decided I'm changing (yet again) the rules for my annual completion challenge, starting 2011. The rules include an expansion of what games count, and a change to the "40 hour rule."

Starting 2011, ALL games count toward the completion challenge, not just 360 games for achievements. 360 games will be considered complete if all their acheivements are unlocked. Non-360, non-GFWL games are defined as complete once I have finished the game to the ending credits. I don't care about Steam achievements, so games with achievements on steam don't have to be maxed out to be considered done.

The 40-hour rule is changing to make for more completion points with the super-long titles out there. The old version is, once I've played a game for 40 or more hours hunting its achievements, it's automatically worth +1 completion point, and +1 more for every 40 hours after that. Next year, I still have to play a game for 40 hours before I see the first +1 for the time involved, but after that, it's +1 every 24 hours, not 40 (excluding the 48 hour mark). This way, I would be seeing bonus points at 72, 96, and 120 hours, not just at 80 or 120. There are a few games I'm looking to finish next year that are long enough to profit from this rule revision.

Tuesday, November 30, 2010

A Winner Is Me

It's over... it's finally over! After a month long, epic quest, I have crossed the finish line of National Novel Writing Month, having written over 50,000 words in one month. Considering that not a single word was written on a day when I worked, I truly wrote 50,000 words in just 15 days! This is a monumental personal achievement for me.

I've always wanted to write a book, but I've sat around an not actually done anything with that dream. This year I decided to give NaNoWriMo a solid effort to kick myself into cranking out some words, no matter how bad. At least I would have something to go back to and expand upon and edit later.

The final leg of the journey was brutal. At 32,000 words, my writing sputtered, as I reached the limit of what I could write without any prior plotting or planning on where the story was going. I staggered on, writing segments of the story in a random order, just putting to the page any scene that popped into my mind. I padded my word count by writing some fake news stories that I hope to eventually use as chapter openers. I wrote one seen only in response to a dare from my friend Sandra, who also is doing NaNo this year.

Still, all my sputtering only got me to 42,000 words. 8,000 words short, I was dead in the water. At that point, I just let go. I stopped caring if what I wrote would be usable in the future or not. I even stopped caring about my plot. I forceably put the story in a setting I was comfortable with, and carried on writing by stream of consciousness (I turned a speculative fiction story into full-on alien abduction sci-fi with a snap of my imaginary fingers). I kept my main character, but just wrote the first thing that popped into my head, no matter how wierd or stupid it seemed. To my great surprise, those last 8,000 words were among the most fun to write, and actually aren't all that bad.

Once I passed 50,000, I submitted my manuscript to have the word count validated, and it said my story was actually almost 600 words shorter than it really was, so I had to go back and write some more. I took the easy way out, having my main character relay to a few newer characters everything that had happened in the novel so far. It was a cheap and easy way to boost my word count over the finish line I had honestly already passed.

While those last 8,000 words won't survive to the final novel, I'll be copy/pasting them into a different document and saving it, as there might be a story concept in there for the future. While my novel isn't actually complete, I'm going to take a break from it for a little bit, and focus my attention of fleshing out the rest of the story before coming back to it to complete it.

I couldn't have managed this accomplishment without the support of my friend Sandra. Thank you, thank you, thank you Sandra! Her encouragement, ideas, and inspiration kept me going every time I was about to crap out. I hope I've pulled my weight in returning the favor. I've just won. Sandra, you better be coming behind me =) Victory is sweet. Victory shared is even sweeter.

I plan to celebrate by cracking open a beer and spending the rest of tonight playing games, and I plan on having a massive game marathon tomorrow. New Vegas and Enslaved are begging me to play them. So far, Enslaved has been might impressive. I'm just two chapters in, so we'll see how the rest of the game goes.

Tuesday, November 23, 2010

Hit List 2011

I tried this last year, making a list of games I "would" complete the next year, and the goal fell to pieces quickly. However, since my annual completion challenge rose from its ashes, I'd say that worked out for the best. Next year the completion challenge continues, with the additional RPG rule:

All retail RPGs are worth a bonus 2 completion points just for being RPGs. They still get the 1 base point, plus they fall under the 40 hour rule (extra points awarded for how long the game takes). So, no retail RPG could be worth less than 3 completion points under this system.

Since I want 2011 to be the Year of the RPG, I've gathered my thoughts and decided which games I plan on trying to finish on my way to earning a medal better than Bronze (12 completion points).

The "I WILL complete these games" List
Note that I've listed games in the general order I intend to complete them.

Fallout: New Vegas
Fallout 3 GOTY (PC)
Divinity II: Ego Draconis
Final Fantasy XIII

Round 2
With those first four under my belt, I will be moving on to these games. I'd like to make a dent in this list too, though I'm not sure I'll get all of it.

Lost Odyssey
Sacred 2: Fallen Angel
Blue Dragon
The Last Remnant
Dragon Age: Origins
Eternal Sonata
Infinite Undiscovery

The "Go Forth and Buy" List
If I successfully complete my current collection of RPGs, it's time to go out and pick up some new ones. Here's my intended order:

Divinity II: The Dragon Knight Saga (should be out by then on 360 in USA)
Resonance of Fate
Fable II
Arcania: Gothic 4
Too Human
Fable III

Will I get to all that? Surely not, but it's nice to have plenty of targets. I'll probably be spending most of my gaming time through the rest of the year working on the two Fallout games, getting them ready to go. I will also be working on the PC version of Bioshock 2, and continuing to play Black Ops off and on.

Thursday, November 18, 2010

Completion Themes

Anyone else out there have goals for their achievements (or gaming in general) that don't necessarily relate to one genre, but still span across more than one game? I have several completion themes I'd like to go for on my gamertag. Today, I'll fill you in on what those are, and how badly I want them or are currently trying for them.

Oh, and check out yesterday's post too, if you haven't already. It's #300. Kind of excited about getting to that number.

Complete all Koei Warriors games on the 360

I want to do it because I like the Warriors games, and also as an F-U to Koei, whose achievement lists suck and are far too time intensive. I'm a long way from there, and I'm still burned out on them after Warriors Orochi 2. The best I can do is say I've completed every Warriors Orochi game.

Earn Every Fallout Achievement

I want every achievement that I can possibly add to my tag from a Fallout game. I already have 1550 in Fallout 3 for the 360. I'm working on Vegas, and I'm currently downloading the PC version of Fallout 3. For the record, I will actually be playing FO3 again for those achievements, NOT typing them in. So respect that completion when it arrives, bitches =) If Vegas was GFWL and stacked, I'd probably buy that game twice too, LOL. The Fallout games are that awesome.

Max out Every Halo

Unlike Call of Duty, I've purchased every Halo game, which is kind of funny, since I like COD's multiplayer better. Since I have them all, I'd like to max them all out. I have completed non of them and probably won't any time soon though.

Grow a Reputation for JRPG completion

If my brother is reading this post, and is drinking anything, he just did a spit take. My career with the JRPG branch of RPGs is filled with the corpses of unfinished games. While I've had success with Final Fantasies 4, 8, and 10, the other games I own in that series (1, 7, 9, X-2) never got finished. I completed Dragon Warrior Monster and Dragon Quest VIII, but failed Dragon Warrior III and Dragon Quest Monsters: Joker. I've failed Legend of Dragoon, Wild Arms 3, every JRPG I've played on the 360 except Enchanted Arms... I just struggle with this genre, yet keep trying anyway. I really want to use the completion challenge rule update in 2011 to hit this genre hard.

Max Out Bioware's Games

That would mean Mass Eddect (done), Mass Effect 2, Dragon Age, and Dragon Age 2 when it comes out. Got a lot of work to do yet with ME2 and Dragon Age.

Max Out Rare's Games

Similar to Bioware, but tougher, since there are more of them. It's something I'd like to eventually do, but haven't worked on at all lately. I'm sick with Fallout Fever.

Obscure Glory

I take pride in completing games relatively few people ever do. The rarer the completion is, the more I love having it. Two examples on my tag would be Warriors Orochi 2 and Deadly Premonition.

Those are some of the completion themes I'm working for. What are yours?

Monday, November 15, 2010


It's here! The mightly (long, epic, self-congratulating, fill in your own description here) 300th post has arrived. First and foremost, THANK YOU to all my readers. Thank you for the comments and feedback you've provided my since I began. The vast majority of my posts have at least one comment. It's great to know I have a readership and that you all are willing to share your opinions with me. I hope you've found some small bit of information, entertainment, or enlightenment from my rambles on gamerscore, gaming, and nerd life in general.

Reflections on the Blog

This blog is nearing its 2nd birthday, and that's quite the achievement. Constant readers know my track record for starting goals and quickly discarding them for something else, or just not even trying. But through it all, this blog has still survived.

Here's some interesting stats:

Since Blogger started stat tracking (May 2010) the most viewed post on my blog has been The Seven Deadly Sins of Achievement Fanatics. In fact, it's been viewed 40 times in the last 30 days.

ThrawnOmega's Blog on the Gaming Life has been viewed in the following countries: United States, United Kingdom, Switzerland,Netherlands, Canada,Germany, Finland, South Korea, Denmark, and Belgium. I'm actually surprised Japan isn't on the list.

This blog has been read on such "non-traditional" internet viewing devices as the iPhone, iPad, ipod, and Nintendo Wii. What the heck does this blog look like from a Wii?

Despite the talk I hear from time to time that my focus should remain on talking about the games I'm playing and my thoughts on them, the stats show a different story (don't worry though, that will remain a core part of this blog.) The stats show, beyond any doubt, that my special topics get more page views, and have a lot more staying power. Eight of the top ten posts viewed since May were special topics, rants, or opinion pieces that had nothing to do with what I was currently playing.

I think that NaNoWriMo will have a positive overall effect on this blog, as I'm realizing that, despite my work schedule, I can still crank out a pretty good amount of words in a month when I want to. The trouble is going to be thinking up interesting concepts for special topics, not the physical writing of those articles themselves.

On Grinding Gamerscore

As jackanape so well explained it, 100k is attainable to those who actually want it, and are willing to put the time in. As he explained in what I hope remains one of his more famous blog posts, you can have a 6-digit gamerscore and still have job, girlfriend, life, whatever.

I've always liked the achievements system because it let you permanently keep a piece of the game with you, even after you were done with it. The system is like a resume of your gaming career for all to see. Instant nerd cred. I won't be retiring from gamerscore, because it's never been my be-all-end-all for playing games, though I will admit that I rarely return to a 360 game I already have all the points for. I mostly play the games I want to play and try to get all the points from them, rather than play a game just for its points (though, of course, I HAVE done that from time to time).

The one gamerscore goal I have is to reach 200k by the "end of the world" on 12/21/12. Right now, I'm behind pace, so I may end up eventually busting out a few easy games to get pack on track.

On My Annual Completion Challenge

As I said in my last post, this year wasn't supremely impressive for completion points. I have come up with an answer for RPGs, which may get me to focus on them more. All retail RPGs will, beginning January 1, 2011, be worth 2 bonus completion points simply for being RPGs. This means no retail RPG could be worth less than 3 completion points. I really want to raise my standing in RPGs, and this would greatly help toward achieving ranks better than Bronze. We'll see how it goes. And yes, I'm holding off popping the last achievement in New Vegas until 2011 to take advantage of this.

New Vegas is Better than Fallout 3.

New Vegas is much, much better than Bethesda's own Fallout 3. While it was buggy at first, since the update, I haven't had any issues. Fallout 3 was a stellar game, with great post-launch support, but New Vegas has taken that foundation and greatly expanded on it.

FO3 had a huge world to go explore however you wanted, but the game's major flaw was that for those looking for structure, or an objective to lead them from point A to B, there wasn't much to do. Besides the main quest, there's an achievement for every one of that game's side quests. New Vegas easily has 5, maybe 6 times as many quests to complete, giving quest-aholics like myself plenty of missions to complete, lots of side-story content, and above all more of a purpose for exploring every nood and cranny in the wasteland. I have over 20 quests logged in my PIP-BOY right now. While some are mutually exclusive (like Kill Mr. House or work for him), there's still a whole lot I can do.

In New Vegas, skills matter a lot more. Disciplines like Science matter a lot more now, as they do more than 1 thing. Besides hacking computers, Science skill opens some special dialogue options, and is needed for creating items. Medicine allows you to heal yourself and others. Bartering effects more than just prices at vendors. Each skill now has more than a single use, making point allocation matter more.

The faction system in New Vegas trumps anything seen in FO3. Rather than good or evil, the game has you working with various factions, and there's a lot of them... NCR, Caesar's Legion, Mr. House, The Crimson Caravan, The Boomers, and more. The faction system does a fantastic job of making the world of New Vegas feel like a living, breathing place, and makes decisions matter more than a situation where someone must simply ask, "Should I be nice, or be a douche?"

And, as I've said before, Hardcore mode is a great addition to the game, adding a layer of 'realism' to the action, which forces player to think more critically about how they plan to survive in the wasteland.

I have fond memories of you, FO3. I may even purchase your GOTY edition for the PC and play you again for another 1550 achievement points. That said, your newer brother New Vegas has captured my attention and enjoyment in ways you never did.

My personal Game of The Year award is going to New Vegas. No other game I've played this year has been nearly so captivating. My runner up would be Starcraft 2 on PC, even though I have yet to get very good at the multiplayer.

Random Pro Tip for New Vegas players - When approaching Nellis Air Force base, you must evade artillery fire. First, if you have a follower, make them wait outside the range of fire, or THEY WILL DIE. Now, use a stealth boy, and the guns won't even fire on you as you approach, making a tough and/or annoying section of the game really easy. After you get through once, you and your followers will be fine after that.

Has anyone else played New Vegas? How far are you? What are your thoughts on the game>

Final Shoutout

Congrats Ducky x360a on finally hitting 100k. Sorry I didn't notice sooner.

Bishop and Silva - Slow the hell down on the gamerscore whoring of yours. I need to catch up and make that a 3-person race.

Xylo- Catch me if you can. My score > Your score. Oh, and I will 1k Your Shape. Just you watch.

Thanks yet again to all my readers. You make writing content for this blog such a fun experience.

Sunday, November 14, 2010

Two Hundred Ninety Nine

Yup, this is post number 299, and it's time for a ramble. JJB, I replied to your comment on my last post.

There will not be another post until my next stretch of days off, as I waste valuable novel-writing time working on an epic 300th post. It'll be a LONG one, covering a range of topics, so be prepared to settle in for a read, or down it all over a couple sittings.

We're now halfway through November, which means I have just a month and a half left in this year's self-directed completion challenge to see if I can go from Bronze to Silver. To fill in newer readers, I'm counting the number of games I complete over the course of a calander year. Every game completed, whether retail or arcade, is worth one completion point. If a game took 40 or more hours to complete, it's automatically worth 2 completion points, under the logic that I probably could have completed to regular games in the time it took for that one. This system keeps things fair, and provides the motivation to keep going on very long completions. Every additional 40 hours after the first 40 adds another completion point.

I'm grading my efforts on five tiers:
Bronze: 12 cp
Silver: 24
Gold: 32
Platinum: 40

So far this year, I've made 16 completion points. Frankly, if not for Gears 2, I wouldn't have even made Bronze yet. This year's effort has been pretty bad, so I really need to step it up this year. (FYI I will be keeping track of how I do on a year-to-year basis) Ben 10 could get me to 17 points, and Faery could get me to 18, but I don't see how I can get to 24 without practically going mini-GSL, and that isn't happening.

Since this is a challenge I'm only running for myself, there's no such thing as cheating, since I make all the rules and can change them on a whim. So, I'm thinking the better use of my time would be to get some of my games an achievement or two away from completion, so I can pop them January 1 and get a jump start on the year. Next year I also want to experiment with a new rule that makes RPGs worth more simply for being RPGs, without the 40 hour rule (though it would still effect them). I'm considering the rule because I'm still not digging into my RPGs or completing them as much as I want to.

Next year I go for Silver, but try for Gold. Who cares about this silly 'challenge?' Probably nobody but me LOL. Why do I do it? Because an interesting (to me) metagame helps me focus more on completing all the games I've paid for. Plus, it's like an achievement for getting achievements. That sounds like the kind of system I'd like.

Saturday, November 13, 2010

...And Then There Were Two...

As I loaded up my blogger today, I noticed something interesting. Virtually every post clogging the info feed for new posts came from two blogs: Stallion83's, and a general nerd-life blog called Cheap Geek Anonymous. You could practicaly see a virtual tumbleweed roll across the screen of every other blog I follow.

I know jackanape will keep at it as he has time, though he's been infrequent of late. And Bishop, who came roaring back with posts for a while, has likewise quieted down. I do expect to see things from both of them again.

But every other blog I follow? Dead. I'm considering going on an unfollow spree for blogs that haven't put up a post in more than a month. Why clog my list with the husks of discarded blogs? Which means, we're down to only a few achievement-whore centric blogs out there:

#1: 1 Million Gamerscore (no contest)
#2: My blog (as far as I know, feel free to advise me if you think there's another blog that should have this spot)
#3: jackanape's blog.

That's it. (Bishop was not included because, though he is an achievement whore like the rest of us, he's taken his blog in the direction of news and reviews, and as far as I've seen does not use the space to discuss achievements or what he's playing).

Anybody else out their writing on our hobby? Sounds like a research project for when NaNoWriMo is done and I'm not spending a couple hours a day writing...

Friday, November 12, 2010

ThrawnOmega: Weekend Warrior

Some day there will be a trivia question about how many times I refer to myself in the third person in a blog post title. That day is not today.

So far, Operation Overdrive has been a smashing success, even though I haven't been 100% faithful to the time requirements I stipulated. On Thursday, I wrote over 5,000 words. Today has been a slower day, but I still have added over 2,400 more. I got slowed down by a few other projects I have going on, but I aim to make tomorrow another big day. For now, I'll take the fact that I've nearly doubled my novel's length in two days as victory enough.

All the writing has not taken away from my other endeavors, as I've had time to go for a 3 mile run on Thursday and had a session of Your Shape today, continuing my goal to stop being a fatass. I have to say, unlocking achievements in Your Shape for working my ass off is extremely satisfying.

It's been tough to decide what else to play. My back catalogue is retardedly long, as always, plus I suppose I should actually be working through the crap I have Gamefly send me. I'm most of the way through Ben 10, but I can only stand that game for about a half hour to 40 minutes at a time. And it's hard to swallow how mediocre MorphX is when I have Fallout: New Vegas and Black Ops to occupy my time.

So far, I'm of two minds on Black Ops. The multiplayer is rock solid fun as always. The single player is, well, meh. The set pieces are nice, but the Call of Duty campaign formula feels SO stale by now. I'm tired of shooting scores of brainless enemies across super-linear levels. I like the framed narrative approach Treyarch has chosed to take, but the missions feel largely paint-by-numbers to me.

Someone at Activision or one of their development houses needs to grow a set of balls and mix things up in the single player. Make the AI smarter. Edge the game in a more tactical direction (a little closer to Rainbow Six). At the very least, open up the battlefield, and allow for multiple paths to the objective.

On a whim, I downloaded the trials of two arcade games: Super Meat Boy and Faery: Legends of Avalon. Go ahead and make your mandatory jokes about anything involving fairies (however you choose to spell it) being girly or gay. After playing the trial, I ponied up the 1200 points for the full retail version of the game. Faery is a light RPG with near-retail quality cell shaded graphics. Since you're a fairy, you can literally fly around the maps, which is neat. The game offers a rip off of the Mass Effect conversation wheel, and more than one way to respond to people, though that aspect of the game seems rather superficial right now. Simply choose the nice response and party members start giving you items, not too much to that. The combat is a small-scale version of the traditional JRPG battle system. So far, I'm enjoying the game well enough as one of the rare RPGs on XBLA.

The game I did not purchase, and am still debating, is Super Meat Boy. I love the art style and the platforming action, but shit that game is hard. I'm positive it's a game I would never, ever get all 200 achievement points in.

Somehow, I've even had the time to give my apartment the most intense cleaning it's had in months. I can now have people over without them immediately fleeing in horror. All in all, it's been a great couple days off. Tomorrow looks to be another productive day. More writing, some game time with Creech in Dawn of War II, another workout, and some quality game time.

Wednesday, November 10, 2010

Operation Overdrive

This weekend, I dance with the Devil. That devil is named Call of Duty: Black Ops. That Devil is named self-discipline. That devil is named NaNoWriMo.

I fell to the invisible hand of peer pressure and gave Bobby Kotick (and Treyarch... I guess) my money with the purchase of Black Ops. I really hope it lives up to the hype, and is a game I put a f**kton of hours into, because I really shouldn't be buying full retail games for quite a while.

And, of course, I purchase it while I'm 7,000 words behind the pace in National Novel Writing Month, and won't have added a word to the story in 2 days (I'm not writing tonight... I need to play Black mother-loving Ops.) These next three days are critical, as if I can't close or eliminate that gap, I'm going to be hurting very badly if I actually want to cross the 50,000 word count mark and win.

Thus, the next three days are Operation Overdrive. I'm going to blast off my word count or die trying. It's really quite simple. I wake up, sit at the computer, and don't leave or do anything else until I've written at least 1,600 words. At that point, I get a 2-hour break to do whatever I want, but after those 2 hours I have to stay chained to the laptop writing until another 1,600 words have materialized. This trend will continue until AT LEAST I catch up to pace, but may go on longer if I can stand to sustain it. I'm hoping this will generate at least 4,800 to 6,400 words per day, which would erase all the damage my days off have done (today is November 10th and I have actually only written on 5 days).

It will take a lot of self-control not to break down 800 words into a set and play some Black Ops, but I must keep my will strong. I will make my word war with my friend Sandra a battle that's actually interesting. Right now, she's DESTROYING me. I'll catch you yet, sly devil. I absolutely will =)

Saturday, November 6, 2010

Thrawn Gets Kinected

These last few weeks have been CRAZY. From Tuesday through Thursday this week, I worked 43 hours (15, 16, and 12 hour days). That seriously hampered my NaNoWriMo efforts, so I've been writing like a demon this weekend to get my word count on track. The silver lining of working from 8am to midnight on Wednesday was that I was already there to buy a Kinect, and did so. I also picked up Your Shape: Fitness Evolved, which is frankly the reason I wanted Kinect anyway.

To my surprise, Kinect really does work as advertised. The sensor has had no problem picking up where my hands are and recognizing gestures. It's kind of cool to navigate through Xbox menus using your hands, though this method is a lot slower than just using a controller. The Kinect sensor can be uses as a microphone for party chats, which can be both good and bad. I enjoyed being able to talk to my brother on live while cleaning around my apartment and testing Kinect's abilities, but the sensor will also transmit background noise, so it can't be used for party chat while playing games. I have yet to try Video Kinect.

Kinect Adventures is great as a basic pack-in game. I've been having fun with the various minigames, though I'm sure longevity will be the game's major issue. From what I've seen so far, the game looks like a pretty easy 1k, though the game is best enjoyed in short 20-30 minute bursts.

As for Your Shape, I've only realy used it once so far. I loaded the game up on thurdsay to get my basic information entered and knock out the starting fitness quiz and test, but felt far to tired and beat up from work to seriously work out. My first true work out with it happened Friday. While it's too early to tell how effective the program will be, it's definitely designed to kick your ass into shape, and thankfully offers lots of positive reinforcement along the way. I'll admit, I'm extremely out of shape, and the Cardio workouts beat me up so bad I needed to stop after about 20-25 minutes. I'm planning to alternate the high intensity workouts of Your Shape with lower intensity (but longer with higher total calorie burn) runs on the treadmill at my apartment complex's gym to meet my goals. My efforts are beginning to produce results - the number on the scale has finally begun its downward spiral. I'll have more to say about Your Shape after I've spent more time with it.

There's one thing about Kinect I didn't realize right away and want anyone considering purchasing one to be aware of: Kinect needs personal space. That is, you have to have 6-10 feet of open space in front of it for it to work. In my apartment, I BARELY have enough room in my default configuration, as I stand less than a foot in front of my futon when I play Kinect Adventures. To play Your Shape, I physically have to rotate my TV and Kinect Sensor about 45 degrees towards my open carpet and dining areas to have enough space to work out. Kinect will be virtually unplayable for any college students living in dorms, unless you somehow manage a miracle of furnature organization and space utilization. You'll have to cart your Xbox down to a TV lounge or something. Sorry folks. So, I recommend looking at your gaming space and seeing what would have to be moved or changed to make Kinect work before buying one.

Look for a new blog feature called "Retweet" to be coming in the next week. In this feature, I will be copy/pasting some of my most important tweets from the last week to the blog, for anyone who may have missed them, and then proving blogging is the superior writing form by expanding on those tweets in more detail.


jackanape - Loved your rant on how you can have a high GS and a live, even if it did make my score seem a lot less special =)

Xylofreak - Are you a Hater or just trying to keep me motivated?

Bionik Kommando - For calling Halo Reach "Gaylo Reacharound." That's f***ing hilarious coming from the God of Halo. Awesome.

Flufferwuffer - Good luck with NaNoWriMo! I think I'm beating you in word count at the moment. Come get me!

Tuesday, October 26, 2010

6 Days Til National Novel Writing Month

I've made mention of this before, but as of yesterday I'm officially signed up for National Novel Writing Month, which takes place in November. The goal is to write a single work of fiction running AT LEAST 50,000 words, and work cannot begin before November 1st.

Why am I doing this? It's one of my life's dreams to be a published novelist, but I've done a poor job over the last year of actually writing anything. Can't really achieve that dream if I don't have a finished project to try to get published, can I? So, by participating in National Novel Writing Month (NaNoWriMo) I'm forcing myself to crank out some words, and have a legitimate core for what I will later expand to a full novel (50,000 words in honestly only half the length of your average novel, but still a lot to write in 30 days).

Writing during NaNoWriMo is all about Quantity over Quality. Write, write, write, even if what you're writing is crap, keep going! It's about going with the flow and creating without letting your internal editor bog you down about making everything perfect. Once November is done, THEN I will go back and see how much of what I wrote can still be used in the real, full-length novel, and what will have to be cut.

For anyone interested in following my progress, I will have a word counter widget installed to this blog as soon as the event starts. Also, once it's all over, I'll be happy to email out the unedited original draft to anyone who provides me an email, so you can read what I worked so hard to create.

Here is me "official" short preview of what the story is about:

Nate Gillick's 2010 novel stars Calvin Johnson, a freelance writer who reluctantly picks up an iAssistant, the new wonder-gadget that has billions of potential uses, from phone to portable TV to translator to heart monitor. Surgically attached at the wrist to help monitor vital signs, the iAssistant even comes with adaptive AI, that learns from how it's used, to be the best possible servant and companion. But what happens when a modern marvel of all-in-one technology grows a mind of its own, and disagrees with its owner on how it should be used?

Monday, October 25, 2010

More Adventures in Vegas

It's time to return to that type of post I haven't been doing much of lately, one where I talk about the games I've been playing!

First off, for anyone who missed my Tweet from late last night, I was able to find and order a white admiral uniform costume, and a set of red contact lenses (they're even to my perscription!) so I will officially be dressing up as Grand Admiral Thrawn for Halloween. Yes, there will be pictures. You can look for them in the upcoming 300th post of this here blog.

Yesterday, I spend almost 5 hours of my morning playing Dawn of War II with Creech as we worked on the game's Last Stand mode achievements. This mode is similar to all the other "Horde" modes out there, where we had to fight off wave after wave of enemies. In five hours of trying, we only got to wave 20, the final wave, twice, and got raped both times. It seems a pretty damn hard mode to clear. After each game, you get experience to level up your character and earn new abilities. I was playing as the Hive Tyrant and went from level 1 to 11 in the process. There is an achievement for getting to level 20, so all the time spent was still in persuit of a goal, even if we couldn't clear the mode completely.

I must say I started to get really bored of the mode though. Perhaps because the Hive Tyrant is a surprisingly boring hero class. There's little to do beyond spawn some warriors, who then go out and do the fighting for you. Besides casting minions and picking my target to attack, there was little else to do. Yawn. Can't wait to get to level 20 and clear this mode so I don't have to play it anymore. I'm sure Creech wants that outcome just as much, as that will give him all 2000 of Dawn of War II's points. (The man is, after all, an RTS mastermind)

I also got online to play some games of Starcraft II with my brother and Sabre (who has sold his soul to World of Warcraft), and it was quite a lot of fun. I enjoy the game's campaign and a good coop bot-stomping, but how much I'll get into the competitive multiplayer remains to be seen. As usual, I was originally better at the game than my bro, but now he can completely kick my ass. He's the type of gamer who plays fewer games, but the ones he gets into he logs A LOT of hours in, and becomes exceptionally skilled at. Halo would be the trademark example, but I'm sure Monster Hunter could be on the list, and Starcraft II will be. I wish he had a Raptr account so I could see just how many hours he logs into some of those games LOL. I'm at the other end of the spectrum, I like to play casually through a lot of stuff, and then move on to a new experience, rarely digging in deep enough to become a true expert at a game. For me, the highest compliment I can give a game is that it stays fun from the time I put it in for the first time to the point that I have every achievement. As my completion percentage will attest, most games don't stay interesting to me that long.

Today (and again later tonight) I've been adventuring in New Vegas. Like Fallout 3, the game does a great job of creating a sense of exploration and the feelings of accomplishment that come with completing a quest or finding something interesting. My travels thus far today have been along the main questline, with some interesting diversions in the city of Novac. It seems one family in Novac finds one of their cattle killed every night, and can't figure out why. While it's not a formal quest, solving their problem has some very tangible rewards, like the approval of the people of Novac, which can be cashed in towards a free apartment. So, much to my delight, I now have an appartment to store some of my stuff, which will take some of the edge off of Hardcore mode's weight rules.

While exploring Novac, I encountered Boone, the man who snipes from the mouth of the town's dinosaur by night. His wife was sold off into slavery, and he wanted me to find out whodunnit. He handed me his beret, and asked that if I find out who did it, I wear the beret as a signal, and take that person in front of the dinosaur so he could snipe him or her to have his revenge. I sleuthed around town and learned who it was, and did as asked. Vengence was delivered by an almost hilariously gory headshot. After turning in the quest, I talked Boone into joining me, and now I have my first companion (and the achievement that goes with it).

Now, Boone and I are off to the nearby rocket factory on the "Come Fly With Me" quest, which tasks us with removing some ghouls from the place to the people of Novac can continue to pull junk and supplies from the place. Where will happen in my New Vegas adventure next? I don't know, but I've been loving every minute of it so far.

On a different topic, Raptr and its ability to track your play time has made me wonder just what games I've played the most. If I were to make a real all-time leaderboard of what games I've played the most, which games would make the list? Unfortunately, I'll never know for sure (other than EQ2 is absolutely #1 right now), but the the best extent I can, I'm going to try to find what contenders I have and construct a list that shows the top games. I'm also going to break it into two categories: Verified and Estimated. Verified are games where either from Raptr or the game's own timers, I can see exactly how much time I played. Estimated means there's no way to be sure, and I'm making the best guess I can. I'll share the results of this mission once I have the list built to my satisfaction.

As I commented on in a Previous Post, EverQuest 2 is the runaway winner for most time I've ever sunk into one game. I would need to log over 820 Hours into a different game to take the title! Now that Raptr is tracking my Magic: The Gathering Online playtime, that game has the chance to take the title over the long term, though it will still count idle time as played time, and there is often more idle time than actual playing when competing in a tournament, so the numbers for that game will have to be taken with a grain of salt.

Wednesday, October 20, 2010

Thrawn Goes to Vegas - Defends Hardcore Mode

I wish I could tell you I went the REAL Vegas. I wish I would make some quip about "what happens in Vegas stays in Vegas," and then procees to drop a vague but carefully calculated hint about something that happened to set your imaginations running. I can't do that today. However, I CAN talk about my first 7 hours in the newest Fallout game, which is almost as good. (By the way, WTF is up with my penchant for referring to myself in the 3rd person in blog post titles?)

As I so often do, I broke one of my vows (the one about being done buying new games) and drove down to Walmart at midnight to pick up the game on release (and do a little grocery shopping. Everyone knows midnight is the ultimate time to shop. No lines at the registers, no crying babies, it's easy to park near the front...).

To get the obvious out of the way first, New Vegas is EXTREMELY similar to Fallout 3, but why reinvent the wheel when the core gameplay was so good to begin with? If you spent any time in the last Fallout, you'll know what you're doing here, but Obsidian has made some nice changes to the formula. The weapon mods make for more customization possibilities, there are a TON more perks to choose from when customizing a character, and there appear to be more structured quests (Will have to wait and see if the trend continues as the game unfolds).

I'm taking a slightly different approach to New Vegas than I did Fallout 3 in terms of character development. In the last game, I focused heavily on guns, heavy weapons, and heavy armor early on, but grew to learn later just how much I wanted lockpicking and speech, so those skills saw a rapid push in skill points during the midlevels. This time, I'm still strong on Guns from the start, but have forgone putting many skill points into other offensive disciplines, instead focusing on pumping my repair ability (which seems far more important now than in Fallout 3), medicine, speech, and lockpicking abilities. I'm going for a character who knows how to get through doors, talk people into doing what I want, and dish out some bullets, with the ability to more effectively heal up afterwords.

My playthrough is on Hardcore mode, and not just for the 100 point achievement. I WANT to be playing on Hardcore. I've read the esteemed jackanape's x360a review, and Hardcore mode is the only difference of opinion I have so far, though I understand where he's coming from. Hardcore mode seems to me to be about removing all the things that made Fallout 3 too easy, and making some forgotten elements of that game actually matter. In F3, there were food items and water bottles around, but they weren't worth picking up, and they didn't really do anything. Now, with hydration and food to think about, suddenly those junk items have relevance. Now, as I explore the Mojavie wasteland, I'm keeping an eye out for consumables, and making sure I have an ample stash. Yes, the physical act of maintaining healthy H20 and Food levels in boring - just go into the pip-boy and pick an item to consume to make the meter go down - but I enjoy that it's making me explore more carefully as I play the game.

Inventory management is an aspect of Hardcore mode that will make it more fun for some, less for others. Hardcore mode asserts more firmly the reality that there's only so much one person can carry, and ammo isn't exactly weightless. This forces players to think critically about the relative worth of each item they're taking along. It also means the days of carrying around 1,000,000 rounds for each of your weapons can't happen, either. I LIKE this, as it means I have to fight smarter, and don't have the luxury of unrealistic supplies of ammo. To quote Lee, "Couple in the fact that ammo now weighs you down, meaning you can carry much less death dealing equipment, and the whole thing makes it seem like a constant battle." Survival in the wasteland is hard baby, that's the whole point. I greatly prefer this feeling to the feeling of being D.C.'s Ultimate Killing Machine, which I felt like before level 10 in F3, and the Grim Reaper Spirit perk destroyed any remaining challenge at level 20.

"Other more noticeable issues in Hardcore mode are the fact that crippled limbs can only be healed by a doctor or with a certain piece of kit, and that healing items now work gradually rather than in one fell swoop." Again, I like the realism here. If I get f***ed up in a fight, falling asleep doesn't make it all better, nor would a night of sleep or an injection magically cure a broken arm. So, I got wounded in battle, and I need to pay the fee to fix that. I'm OK with that. I also like the fact that health is Heal Over Time. That has been a strong check on my Rambo tendencies, and makes combat tougher. I mean, would any shot INSTANTLY heal all the hurt of a gunfight? Come on? Insta-heals like that are another thing that made F3 too easy, and I appreciate Hardcore mode for doing away with.

While the idea behind Hardcore mode is a good one, it just serves to make things a lot less fun rather than a lot more interesting. I respect Lee's opinion (he is, after all, right more often than not) but disagree here. Hardcore mode won't be everyone's cup of tea, and is makes inventory management much more important, and makes life a lot harder for injured players. However, all that has made New Vegas a lot MORE fun for me, not less. Hardcore mode is probably the most devicive addition to Fallout, and I expect some people with think I'm nuts for loving it as much as I do, others will be with me 100%.

There is a caveat with Hardcore though - it is best enjoyed as a "plus" to whatever difficulty you would default to. I statred on Hard with Hardcore, then dropped to Normal with Hardcore, because I wasn't having fun on Hard. I was getting raped by enemies and depleting supplies way too quickly. I spent more time paying the price for failure than exploring and having fun. Once I dropped it back to normal, I've been pleased with the level of challenge. I don't feel like an ultimate killing machine, but at the same time I'm not running to the doctor and payin 50 caps to get my limbs fixed, either. So, my advice to anyone considering Hardcore mode would be to use it on your standard difficulty to intensify the challenge, but don't couple it with a step up in difficulty. Since I prefer my challenge to come from smart inventory management and battle planning rather than having to soak up more damage (as one would on Hard), the trade-ff has been all Win for me.

Has anyone else tried Hardcore mode in New Vegas yet? If so, what are your thoughts?

Tuesday, October 12, 2010

Silva-itis and Random Topics

Silva-itis is a condition afflicting thousands, perhaps millions, of gamers worldwide. The condition's title is derived from the gamertag BL4CK SiLva, who is widely regarded by those in the field to be Patient Zero for the growing epidemic.

Those afflicted with Silva-itis experience a compulsion to purchase large quantities of gaming content - and then never actually play it. In Patient Zero's case, the symptoms are two-fold, from a deep roster of unplayed XBLA titles, to a shelf full of full retail games that have seen little to absolutely no play.

I realized today that I suffer from the DLC strain of Silva-itis, as my purchase of "The Writer" for Alan Wake made me think of all the other DLC I own and have hardly touched:

Red Dead - Legends & Killers
Magic: The Gathering - Expansions 1 and 2
Blue Dragon - Shuffle Dungeon
Lost Odyssey - Seeker of the Deep
Dragon Age - Awakening
Bioshock 2 - Rapture Metro, Protector Trials, Minerva's Den
Mass Effect 2- Kasumi
Prince of Persia - Epilogue

At least I've become a little smarter lately and not purchased any DLC unless I'm actually ready to play it.

I'm going to try to set aside enough time tomorrow to start working on reviews for Comic Jumper and Alan Wake's "The Writer," though I'm not sure how far I'll get. My main project is continuing the cleaning and organizing work I've been doing on my apartment. I'd allowed it to languish into a disorganized clutter of crap so bad even I was embarrassed by it, so I'be been organizing and cleaning everything. Considering how unbelievably time consuming this process has been, I think I'd much rather take the time to maintain the cleanliness than have to repeat this nightmare ever again.

Next month is National Novel Writing Month, where aspiting authors try to write an entire novel in one month. The emphasis is more on QUANTITY than actual quality. With the short time frame and the lofty word count goals, all that really matters in the physical act of cranking words out. What you write doesn't even really need to be coherent to be a valid submission to the event. I'm going to be writing a novel based off one of the short stories I wrote in college, and letting the story develop on its own without any prior plotting or plans on my part. Once the dust settles at the end of November, I'll take a step back and look at what I did, and we'll see if what can be salvaged from it would be enough to be the core of a novel I'd want to polish up and try to get published.

Because I'll need to average 2,000 words per day (approx. 4 single-spaced pages) to meet my personal goal of 60,000 or more words, I don't think you'll be seeing a lot of blog posts in November. This is your advance warning so nobody things I just vanished. Considering that November is also Retail Hell Month, I could very well be completely insane or on some serious anti-depressants by the end of the month LOL. =)

After I'm done with the month of writing, I will be mailing out the unedited version of what I wrote, so I'll be asking for emails at that time if you want to read my story (in its super-quickly concieved form).

It was nice to get outside and go for a run today in the nice fall weather (or, in my case, 30% jog, 70% walk). I'm so fucking out of shape it's pathetic, but I've got to start from somewhere if I'm ever going to get better and approach a respectable physical condition. At least I've started getting out.

Friday, October 8, 2010

Thrawn Sucks (Episode 1)

I'm in a bad mood this evening, so I thought I'd hash out the things that have been irritating me lately in blog form, for your amusement. As self-bashing as this post is, believe it or not it's entertaining for me too (and theraputic). It's also going to be a random segment I sometime do when I feel inclined to laugh at myself, and let others laugh at me too... =)

All the reasons Thrawn sucks (but let's limit it to just the last two weeks, I have to go to bed in an hour):

1. If you're paying attention, I've already referred to myself in the 3rd person Twice in this post. Even better, I've referred to myself in the 3rd person using an internet identity for myself, and not even my actual name.

2. Remember that "Next Week is Top 5 Week" thing? Yeah... the way to re-energize oneself about their blog is NOT to make extravagent promises and bite off WAY more than one can chew. To my own credit, I have started writing those features, but rather then put them out at the criminally over-ambitious pace of oh, you know, DAILY, they'll be going up when they are done. Eliminating promises of a due date will let me spend more time with them and make them better. But still, promising a week of special topics and delivering exactly NONE of them is pretty FAIL. Oh, and there will now officially be a "Day off Post" for you smarty pants out there =)

3. I have lost the last 6 matches of Magic: The Gathering I've played. In fact, I've only won 1 of my last 12 games (matches are best 2 out of 3). I think the game and I need a few days off. It's retarded how bad I've played recently.

4. I've spent over 12 hours over my last three days off cleaning and reorganizing my apartment. Despite all that work, at this point in the process, it still looks virtually as bad as when I started. Nobody but me would even be able to tell anything actually got done! It will take at least 12 more hours of work to get the apartment to the level where guests can visit without immediately turning around and running away screaming in horror. Since I don't feel like being a single bachelor forever, the cleanliness and organization would definitely be good things.

5. I got pulled over by the cops tonight for speeding. I got clocked coming up on a squad car at 66 in a 55. (I was wearing my seatbelt and I have a SPOTLESS record, so I got off with a warning, praise the Higher Power). That was the first time I've ever been pulled over.

6. I'm still holding on to a set of items I was supposed to have mailed off to a certain someone about a month ago. By the end of my cleaning process, I WILL be mailing those items off. Hopefully late is better than never, especially since it's all free for this person, right?

7. The Hand of Thrawn Podcast... Do I really need to say more than that? Episodes 6, 7, AND "8" have all been done, but never posted up in their entirety. (I blame youtube errors for most of "8," I HAVE been trying). Still, I think it's safe to call the HoT Podcast deader than the Three Little Pigs (or the first two, at the very least). Only good news: This blog keeps rolling along.

8. In my first month of renewed Gamefly, the only thing I've used it for was to play Bayonetta for 15 minutes. Yep, that 15 minutes was totally worth $22.95 or whatever the 2 game plan is. That amount of cash for time counds more like phone sex or talking to Miss Cleo than an unlimited gaming rental service. (Yes, I just teed up the joke for you, but for the record I've never done either)

Let's balance out the fail with at least this one win:

WIN: While cleaning through some boxes of unsorted stuff that have been sitting in my apartment literally ever since I moved in, I found one of my favorite pictures that's ever been taken of me. The photo shows me surrounded by SEVEN Japanese school girls, from the first time I studied abroad, and spent six weeks at a Japanese high school. The picture is now framed and hanging on the wall. WIN.

Monday, September 27, 2010

Hydrophobia Review

Despite all the advances in gaming technology, from advanced graphics to ever-improving physics and game engines, videogames have continually struggled to realistically represent water. Too often in games, water seems to have no mass, and walking through it produces no slowing effect on the character. Even while under water and swimming, most characters don’t seem to find the experience too difficult. Dark Energy Digital aims to bring water effects to unseen levels of realism through their HydroEngine, and in the regard, Hydrophobia succeeded beyond all my expectations. Unfortunately, the rest of the game’s design dulled the euphoria of the HydroEngine’s spectacular capabilities.

Hydrophobia takes place during the mid 21st century aboard a city-sized luxury vessel known as the Queen of the World. Earth’s population has exploded to the point that the demand for food outpaces agricultural production, and thus competition is fierce for what food remains. While the corporate entities who built the Queen of the World live like kings, the desperate global conditions have given rise to a terrorist organization known as the Malthusians, who intend to right the global balance by killing most of the world’s human population. The tension is set early on, as protagonist Kate Wilson finds herself escaping from an elevator after an explosion within the first few minutes of the game. Soon after, she comes across electronic signs flashing the slogan, “Save the World, Kill Yourself.”

Most of Hydrophobia’s storytelling is handled through collecting documents scattered throughout the game, meaning how much players glean of the story and background depends entirely on how much effort they’re willing to put in searching for it. Without collecting documents, Hydrophobia’s plot follows a depressingly “go here, do that” formula, with Kate going from one place to the next, crippling systems to disrupt the terrorists, and interesting plot developments are few and far between. Then there’s Scoot, the only character in recent memory to give Jar Jar Binks a run for his money in a “Most Annoying Character Ever” competition. Scoot is a treasure trove of terrible jokes and bad one-liners wrapped in a grating accent, that come across as both shockingly immature and impossible to believe in the context. The ship has been attacked by terrorists, people have been killed, and Scoot’s going on and on about how he hopes Kate makes the chief look bad... what? Are you five?

Little hope can be found in Hydrophobia’s ending either, which severely disappoints. I get that Hydrophobia is part one of an episodic game, but this is the wrong way to deliver episodic content. Instead of releasing a game with it’s own episode story arc tying into a larger whole, or at least some sense of conclusion, Hydrophobia’s ending comes completely by surprise, slapping a “To Be Continued...” across the screen when I thought I was in the middle of a mission! That’s an extremely unsatisfying way to leave fans waiting for what’s going to come next, which will likely make gamers feel like they bought one-third of a game, and not a complete stand-alone experience.

Exciting combat could have saved Hydrophobia, but that can’t deliver to its potential either. Use of the environment to kill enemies through fire, water, electricity, or gas had potential, but combat often boils down to waiting for an enemy to wander too close to that cliche red barrel and then pulling the trigger. Players will find multiple different types of ammo throughout the game, including some regular ammunition that turns Hydrophobia (briefly) into an ordinary third-person shooter. For every sublime moment like attaching a sticky gel round to an enemy’s back and detonating it when he gets too close to another enemy, there’s a dozen moments of waiting for an enemy to obligingly wander near a trap. Rather than making players feel like they’re being inventive with their use of the environment, combat quickly becomes a slog, which the level design does not alleviate, as each corridor looks a little too much like the last, with not enough differentiation to make different parts of the ship distinct from each other.

Hydrophobia’s water effects are outstanding, with waves rolling across the ship like an ocean in a bottle, and Kate gets tossed around by them realistically. Unfortunately, the game’s fascinating core concept gets wasted in poor storytelling through bland (and in Scoot’s case, obnoxious) characters, and gets married to a combat system that feels dated rather than innovating. Episode 2 has a lot of work to do to atone for the opening act’s failings and unsatisfactory conclusion.

Overall: 6 (out of 10)

Saturday, September 25, 2010

A Nice Return to Magic: The Gathering

Note: The following post is all about the card game Magic: The Gathering. If you don't play it, you probably won't card about this post.

So, one of my coworkers has been successfully working on getting me back into MTG again, and I agreed to drive over to Glencoe and participate in a prerelease tournament for the new Scars of Mirrodin expansion. If you want to see the cards, you can find the full spoiler here.

The format was Sealed, with everyone getting 6 boosters for their $25 admission fee. Everyone opens their packs at the same time, and whatever you got is what you have to build a deck from. It's probably the "fairest" format out there, as everyone has the same chance as everyone else to get great cards and build a deck, so your deckbuilding smarts trump the $$$ factor of people spending a lot of money in the singles market for killer decks. Sealed is my favorite format for competitive play, as really anything can happen.

Like the original Mirrodin block, this set is mostly artifacts. I read all the cards as I opened each pack, then sorted them by color and a pile for the artifacts. Everything Black looked horrible, so I rejected that color out of hand. Red and Blue offered some interesting cards, but I didn't have much of either color, so I was forced to build around White and Green, which consitituted almost 2/3 of my colored cards. Thankfully, I was able to use 4 of my 6 rares in the deck.

At its evil heart, I based everything on those 4 cards. Tempered Steel costs 1WW and gives all my artifact creatures +2/+2. Steel Hellkite is a 5/5 Flying Artifact Dragon, with one bitch of an ability. If it deals combat damage, you can pay X to destroy each nonland permanent with converted mana cost X to the player who got hurt. Chimeric Mass has power and toughness equal to the X cost you pay to send it out. Lastly, Argentum Armor gives a creature +6/+6 and every time the creature with it attacks, you get to destroy a target permanent.

I included every single white and green creature I got, some of the artifact creatures, then added in a selection of equipments and white and green control. Arrest and Revoke Existence saved my ass in half the games I played.

The first match I played was horrible. Despite never having more than 4 lands, I got the gal I played down to 4 life before she finally overwhelmed me with more creatures than I could counter. The second match was even worse, as I was so land-jacked, I never had more than 3 mana to use... and I mullied twice before that game started.

I didn't freak out, since I knew my deck was decent, I just had to hope I didn't get land-jacked again. My second match was annoying as hell, as I got paired up against this 10 year old who I swear to god played every third card wrong. Thank god the judge was nearby the whole time, because the kid kept thinking I was wrong whenever I corrected him. I won game 1 easily. Since the kid took forever to make his incorrect plays, the match ended before I could kill him again (I was on the warpath but couldn't do it in 5 turns), so that match ended for me 1 win, 0 losses, 1 tie. LAME, but better than it was still a match won.

Round 3 was almost as aggrivating. This time I'm playing a 7 year old kid whose dad was also in the tournament. At least this kid as a much better grasp of the rules than the one I just beat. Problem is he's easily distracted by the Furutama episodes playing on the TV behind us. He had a pretty decent deck too (my evil side really thinks his dad built it), but little grasp of strategy despite his knowledge of the rules, which saved my life a couple times when I honestly should have lost. He kept attacking with weak stuff I could easily kill, and eat minimal damage each turn, so I quickly picked off his army then turned to the offensive. My Steel Hellkite saved me the first game, as he hit me with 9 poison counters (10 poison counters kills you, regardless of your life), but I was able to use the Hellkite's ability to kill his poison creature and from there it became a stealroll. I won 2-0.

I went into the last round against another person with a 2-1 match record. The first game was a war, as most of the game was a Mexican Standoff of creatures until come of my endgame cards hit the table, I was able to exile or destroy a few of his key artifacts, and then it turned into a whipping. He ended up land-jacked the second game, while I was a flush with mana as I'd been the whole tournament, so I steamrolled him easily for another 2-0 match win, for a final record of 3-1.

The sum of my match points earned me 4th place in a field of 18 players, which meant I won an additional 3 booster packs. One of the booster packs contained a Mox Opal, which is one of the top 3 or 4 most expensive singles of the upcoming set, with online sites trending it in the $30 to $40 range. That card alone just paid for my whole tournament, if I sold it! The real question I face is, do I want to become a tournament player in constructed Standard? If so, the card is insanely useful to have. (0 cost artifact, if you have 3 or more artifacts, you can tap it for one mana of any color) It's quick mana generation, and opens the door to sneak in an off-color card or two into a deck, if you plan it right.

Of course, I have a tentative trade with my coworker where I'd trade him the Mox Opal, and he buys me the card's value worth of new, sealed Scars of Mirrodin product. One very rare Mox Opal, or something like 8-12 booster packs? That's a trade I may very well make.

While I didn't enjoy playing against the young kids so much, it was still a very fun afternoon and a good introduction back into the world of current MTG. As I said, it's been 4 years since I participated in a tournament of any kind.

Friday, September 24, 2010

Fatal Gaming Overload

I don't think I've ever thrown so many games on my plate to try to play through at once. It's to the point where when I have some free time, if I ask myself the question, "What do you want to play today?" I nearly curl into the fetal position and rock back and forth in a catatonic state from considering all the choices. I'm trying to play through a lot of games, all of which I simultaneously feel like I want to play right the heck now. Don't believe me? Here's the list of games I'd honestly say are ones I'm currently playing:

1. Starcraft II
2. Final Fantasy XIV (I got the collector's edition, thus early access)
3. Hydrophobia (Yes, it's not released until the 29th. I'm working on a prerelease review)
4. Halo Reach
5. Deus Ex
6. Vampire: The Mascarade: Bloodlines
7. Quantum of Solace

Then there's the additional "background" games:

1. Dawn of War II
2. Bayonetta (from Gamefly)
3. Magic: The Gathering
4. Red Dead Redemption

Final Fantasy XIV is an MMO. The playtime potential there is near limitless. Starcraft II has hundreds, if not thousands of hours worth of replayability, as does Halo Reach. I guess this is a good place to be in my official "now that I have FFXIV, I'm not buying any more retail games for the forseeable future" mode. I don't need more games when I have so much I'm working on, and Gamefly to sprinkle in some new content if things ever grow stale.

If you're planning to get Final Fantasy XIV (or even just considering it right now) write this down: My character is named Winter Nightblade, and I'm on the Saronia server. Also, I started in Gridania, which probably won't matter to you later in the game, but is important to know if you're looking for me early in your adventures. Look me up if you want to play together.

After installing FFXIV, I immediately had to lower the settings, as the game can do far more than my new laptop can handle. That's what I get for being economical and not spending for a high range gaming rig. Once I found the acceptable sweet-spot between graphics and performance, I've spent most of my day playing the game, if I'm not playing Hydrophobia. I'd love to talk about that XBLA title, but don't want to do anything to violate the embargo on it. So for now, all I can say is I'm playing it. See the achievements on my tag.

Final Fantasy XIV has been great thus far. I feel completely, utterly lost, but I love it. The feeling of being dropped into a massive world and having to learn the ropes is fantastic. Thankfully, I've found tutorial missions pretty well paced, and there's plenty of help here, without the game totally holding your hand. I like that this game has an actual storyline that's front-and-center (unlike Everquest 2, which had no central narriative and was only so-so at best with storytelling). I'm a huge fan of the fact that the guildleve quests scale based on how many people are in you party, meaning you can treat any quest like a solo challenge or a full-blown raid if you have enough people. I LOVE that versatility.

What I'm not so much a fan of is the fact that there doesn't seem to be a guild system, making maintaining longer-term gaming relationships with some of the same players tougher. It's also harder to see what other people have equipped, or could trade (opposed to EQ2), and the stat-tracking in this game isn't nearly as extensive as my former MMO. Despite those drawbacks, the fights are more engaging and I love that the game is more balanced for solo and group content.

On the Halo front, I'm pretty close to the end of the game, so the next time I sit down to spend some time with it, I should be able to reach the end credits. I've liked this campaign more than Halo 3's, and a lot more than ODST's. Well done Bungie. Now, if you could just learn what the worlds character development mean (something they've had 5 Halo games to imrpove on and have sucked at every single time), the Halo campaigns would be near-perfection. Oh well, maybe Halo's next developer can figure that out, since Bungie already did the matchmaking, stat tracking, and whole gameplay formula thing...

I will be taking a break from gaming long enough to participate in a pre-release tournament for the newest expansion to the Magic: The Gathering card game. It's been eons since I purchased new cards for the game or was involved in that scene, but since it's a sealed deck format, I'm in. The sealed format means everyone gets the same amount of package cards, you open what you got, and have to make a deck out of it for play. It's as "fair" a format as there can be, since everyone has the same number of cards, and everyone has to figure out what the cards do at the same time everyone else does, taking $$$ (some people spend an insane amount to get good decks) and prior knowledge of the whole set out of the equation. I'll post up how I do for my only reader who knows Magic: The Gathering and might remotely care (my brother) =)

That's enough from me for now. Time to get back to FFXIV!

Wednesday, September 22, 2010

Next Week is "Top 5" Week

So, if you haven't seen my last post, I am looking for feedback on what you'd like to see more of in this blog. So far DarkTharen is the only one to offer an answer, and that aspect of the blog definitely isn't going anywhere. EDIT: Just saw JJB's xbox live messages with similar sentiments. I will keep those comments in mind as I write more of my general gaming posts. Still, I want to go back to doing more with this blog than recounting what I'm playing and my thoughts, so next week is going to be "Top 5 Week," where, like it or not, I get my listmaking on.

Before you start groaning, I assure you these will not be yet another person's "5 best 360 FPS games" types list. No sir, I intent to get quite creative and random with these =) See the subjects listed below. I've tried to come up with lists I haven't seen in other places before. I shall be busily writing my next rotation off so I can get these posted daily.

Monday: Obsurd Game Mash-ups (proposed, not actual)

Tuesday: IPs that need to become games, or game IPs that need to branch to other media.

Wednesday: Awesome sequels that will never happen.

Thursday: Day OFF

Friday: Worst game ideas I could actually see someone making.

Saturday: REAL places that would make GREAT game levels

Sunday: Top 5 Dumbest gaming decisions I've ever made. Yes, I'll be giving you the chance to laugh with me... or at me. Your choice.

How does this list look? Who is excited for next week?

Tuesday, September 21, 2010

Callout to the Audience

All of us find ourselves in a rut sometimes. I can be from exhaustion, disinterest, indecision, and number of things. I feel like I'm in a bit of a rut with this blog, and and calling out to you, oh faithful readers, for some advice. Or just a strong kick in the ass, your pick =)

This blog isn't going away. It'd keep going even if nobody read it, which is a statement I've made multiple times and stand behind, so don't think for a second I'm considering hanging up the blog. Won't happen.

When this blog started, it was just a personal outlet to discuss what gaming shenanigams I've been up to, and who I'm playing with. While I have no problem with people in the industry gazing upon this blog (with the understanding that it's an "off-the-clock" personal blog and I represent only myself here), I've never aggressively used it as an outlet to "advertise" myself to those people. I've written special topics, some fun things like my dream videogame, or various predictions of the future (which I intend to eventually revisit and see how they turned out). I've made some great posts and built a fair following, and I'm happy about that.

But let's not kid ourselves, little of any real importance has been said on this blog in the last three months. I know, I checked. I could have looked farther back, but I honestly cringe to do so. I'll be completely honest so you all don't have to say it: For the vast part of 2010, ThrawnOmega's Blog on the Gaming Life has been... mediocre.

So, oh faithful readers, my question for you is, as I look to invest more energy into this blog and reestablish it as a proud example of my writing, what would you like me to focus on the most? I offer here some suggestions and thoughs, but you may offer any advice or ideas you thing of.

Note that I have no interest in becoming your personal source of news on all things in the gaming industry. There's a thousand sites offering info on every new release, every trailer that's posted, every preview snippet, every list of what X games are being released released in Y month... I won't waste your time copy/pasting info you already saw elsewhere, unless I have some substantial commentary to add to it, where the news is really just there to provide context to what I want to say.

I have a decent catalogue of game reviews. Do you want to see me focus more strongly on game reviews?

Do I devote more time into interesting and/or random special topics? If you've followed most of this blog's history, you'll know this means general randomness and expanded opinions on a topic, not to be confused with serious editorials. Special features are meant to entertain, not really inform.

Do I become more serious and offer you my serious thoughts through insightful editorials on the gaming industry? These would be researched, thoughtful articles, but you're going to see less posts due to the time involved in making them.

Do I pursue relationships with other bloggers towards possible guest posting arrangements, where I post for their blog and/or someone else drops into mine?

SHould I stick my heels in deep and write this blog as if I was someone working professionally in the industry, and move this blog much more in the direction of a marketing tool for careers in the industry?

Some combination of all of the above?

I'd love to hear your thoughts. I've never been to proud to solicit outside feedback and use it to improve my work. For now, I'm keeping my own leaning of each of the offered ideas to myself for the most part, as I don't want to bias your thinking... except for that first item. I will not to "hard news." I won't churn out what other people are posting everywhere else around the internet, so if I can't make something uniquely mine, I'm not writing it. (No smart-a**es looking through the archives for any contradictions to this LOL)

Be vocal! Let your thoughts be heard!

Monday, September 20, 2010

Blacklight: Tango Down for $3.75

Blacklight: Tango Down is the PC deal of the week, so if you're looking to pick up a decent FPS for the PC, and you want to have 200 potential achievements to add to your gamercard, now is the time to do it. This DOTW expires pretty soon here. I've taken the plunge, and now own both the PC and 360 versions, for a possible 400 points (the games stack). Xylofreak also has the game, so I'm sure we'll be looking for people to play and boost with. Despite some issues I've had with the game in the past, it's still worth $4 to get for the PC. I just hope enough people have the game to make it possible to get into matches regularly.

If you decide to get the game, send me a message to let me know!