Friday, January 29, 2010

34 Hours later, Mass Effect 2 Finished

These last three days I've done almost nothing but play Mass Effect 2, which is both awesome and rather sad at the same time. I've completed the main story and probably 80% or more of the side quests, so I think I have a representative sampling of the game at this point. Since I'm about to start writing the review draft, I don't want to talk about it too much, but I'm really of two minds on the game. In many respects it's a massive leap over the original. Yet at the same time, there are a couple areas of the game I consider major disappointments. The text for the review will convey my feelings well enough, but the tricky part is going to be how to quantify those feelings into the magic score, which is realistically the only thing 75% of people are going to look at anyway. How hard do I ride this game for its one great flaw, in the midst of so many positive attributes? I haven't decided yet, but considering this flaw was supposed to be one of the game's biggest strengths, I'm leaning on side of a heavier deduction.

Thursday, January 21, 2010

Sudden Points Explosion

I'm not in a GSL anymore (and the more I think of it, the more sure I am that I'm retiring from those), and I've been pursuing my Hit List of tougher completions, so scoring a decent amount of points in a single day simply hasn't happened for a while. Today though, my gamerscore saw a nice bump.

As I predicted a few posts back, I've reached the point in Magna Carta where the points are really starting to pile on. I earned all but two of the achievements for maxing out a character's combat style, for a total of 300 points. Learning a co-op technique provided another 20, for a grand total of 320 in Magna Carta today.

Continuing on, my brother and I got further into our Professional playthrough of Army of Two, and I picked up 30 points for 50 co-op riot shield kills. We then completed the achievements in borderlands for the 3 small tournaments, and the big one in The Gully (net 35 points). My brother was also kind enough to help me out with a couple achievements in Madagascar Kartz, which are easy to obtain with two people but impossible to do alone (net 50 points). Creech invited me to a quick match of Warhammer Battlemarch and 5 minutes later I have 15 points for winning a 2v2 game.

So, my various gaming adventures have led to 450 points today, and there's still a little life left in the evening yet. It feels kind of strange to put that many points down when I haven't even been thinking about numerical increase.

Tuesday, January 19, 2010

Mediacom FAIL

Oh, I do so love ISP failures when I come home to relax after a long day's work. For some reason, my Mediacom services have gone to hell this evening. My internet is incredibly slow. Youtube videos won't play. I could barely connect to Live, and after struggling to do so, no Netflix access. Dead internet means no gaming with my bro (unless we do a system link and we're not feeling like it tonight). Heck, I'm not even getting TV right now. Thinking I'd just watch some episodes of Stargate Atlantis to unwind, I discover Season 4 has gone AWOL and I can't find it. SO what do I do? Turn to my blog to complain about it, I guess.

In gaming news, I'm excited about how Bioware is handling their launch day DLC. Giving an accesss code with the purchase of the game NEW, and charging anyone who buys the game a one-time fee, is a brilliant move. This way, players who buy new are rewarded with more content, while those who buy used still have the complete core. Bioware has a means to make some money off the used game market without resorting to the horrible idea offered my EPIC's Mark Rein (I believe it was him) of locking away levels at the end of a game and making people pay for them. That method would leave people who buy used buying less than a whole game. Not a good move if you're trying to keep the people buying your games happy.

If the Cerberus Network for Mass Effect 2 provides steady content throughout the game's lifespan, and isn't just another selling point to drive up Day One sales, we could be witnessing the birth of a new means to handle the distribution of DLC, and one a lot of other companies will be jumping on. Like EA... oh wait, they already own Bioware. Activision? Well... they're the new EA, so I don't think we'll see much for free from them. I'll say UBISOFT will be the next big company to do something like this.

One more week to Mass Effect 2 folks, and it turns out I may be reviewing it. If I get the green light (Webb's a busy man, it's looking likely) I'll really be pouring my heart and soul into this one. No review since RE5 have I looked forward to with such anticipation. It'll be one for the resume, I promise.

Friday, January 15, 2010

Getting my GRAW on, Cheap

My brother is now officially over at my apartment for the next nine or so days, so the coop extravaganza will be starting in earnest soon. We spent most of the afternoon cleaning up around here and shopping for food, but we did stop my Gamestop to see if there was anything we could pick up on the cheap to add to The List (our list of all the games we've cooperatively completed).

At Gamestop, we found GRAW 2 for the low, low price of $5. Actually, it was supposed to be $15, but they put the wrong labels on the cases. Since we cought 'em on it, we each got the game for that $5 sticker price. We both downloaded all the free DLC, and will probably download both 400 MSP bundles too. After all, we can buy them both and that would just get us to the $15 dollars we were supposed to pay in the first place.

Over the coming days, I'll be getting neck deep into GRAW 2, Halo Wars, L4D, Borderlands, Army of Two, and more, all through coop. Let the good times roll. GRAW 2 will be a bitch to 1250, but sometimes padding The List trumps completion percentage.

Curious about our list? Here's everything Bionik Kommando and I have cooped over the years. Some of these may be single player games where we shared a save file and took turns. You know, in the pre-internet gaming days.

The List
Bubble Bobble (NES)
Super Mario 3 (NES)
Mario 64
NBA Hangtime (N64)
Jet Force Gemini (N64)
Perfect Dark (N64)
Dragon Warrior Monsters (GBC)
Gauntlet: Dark Legacy (Gamecube)
Dynasty Warriors 4 (PS2)
Timesplitters 2 (PS2)
Half-Life (PS2)
Champions of Norrath (PS2)
C of N Return to Arms (PS2)
Star Wars Battlefront II (Xbox)
Halo 2
Halo 3
Gears of War
Gears of War 2
Rainbow Six Vegas
Rainbow Six Vegas 2
Unreal Tournament III
EDF 2017 (about 5 times)
Left 4 Dead
Duke Nuke 'Em 3D
Resident Evil 5
Army of Two
Magic: The Gathering
Sacred 2: Fallen Angel
Buku Sudoku (the way we did it... it counts)
Arkadian Warriors
Smash TV

Wednesday, January 13, 2010

Vader's Secret Apprentice is a Real Guy...

Call me slow, but I came upon this realization last night, in an unexpected way. I was watching "The Mist," the movie based on Stephen King's novella. In the movie, Sam Witwer stars as a private in the military. I took one look at him, and thought, "OMG!!! That dude looks exactly like Starkiller from The Force Unleashed!

To see if I was right or just going crazy, I checked out and did a search on The Mist, to see the cast. There I stumbled upon Sam Witwer, went to his bio, and officially saw the voice credit for The Force Unleashed. +500 points for a well-functioning gamer-radar, I suppose. I thought the characters were just CG, not done with actual motion capture. Nor did I realize that they really used the actors likenesses. Here I was thinking that there was a guy out there who just happened to look EXACTLY like a Star Wars character. Well, there's a reason for that LOL =P

Sam Witwer


Maybe everyone knew that already, and I'm just slow. Anyway, I though it was interesting. Anyone else ever have that "Oh Snap!" moment where something totally unexpected reminds you of a video game?

Today is night 2 away from games, as when my brother comes over, I'm likely to go into coop game overload.

In other news, Avatar grossed over 1 BILLION dollars. Wow!

Monday, January 11, 2010

Sniffing out Hit List 2010's First Completion

I've been playing a lot of MagnaCarta 2 lately, and I'm getting ever closer to completion. Despite having only 280 of 1240 after 25 hours of play, I'm closer than it seems due to how badly this game back-loads its achievement points. The biggest story-related achievements all come near the end of the game. I still haven't unlocked all the coop attacks yet. I need to do a few more quests to unlock everyone's hidden abilities, and then the skill tree mastery motherlode will fall (30 points per character, x2 branches per character, x6 characters = 360 points). I already have enough skill points to finish it, just not the quest-earned abilities. Of course, the 30 points per character for all weapons doesn't come til near the end of the game, nor does all quests. Honestly, once I get a little farther in, the achievements will fall down like a house of cards on a windy day.

It's a shame so few people have heard of or played MagnaCarta 2, as it's one of the better JRPGs on the 360. All the characters may be genre-standard archetypes, but the story definitely doesn't go where convention would lead you to expect. Each character has their own storyline that develops as the game goes on, and the combat system is simple yet provides good depth of customization. Lost Odyssey remains my favorite JRPG for story and characters, but MagnaCarta 2 is a solid second. I'm liking it better than Infinite Undiscovery, Blue Dragon, or Eternal Sonata by a good stretch. If you're into JRPGs at all, you owe it to yourself to check out MagnaCarta.

Last night I did a little boosting in Wolfenstein, which really benefitted me more than anyone else. I got my revives and veil strike kill achievements, and Derek got his revives, but that was all we did. Nobody else got anything, so I smell some IOUs on my end for everyone the next time we have a session. Something tells me few if anyone wants to go all the way to rank 50, which kind of sucks, as I would still like to 1k the game if at all possible. We'll see. Maybe I can work with whoever does have the interest.

January is pretty much in lockdown as far as reviews go. Jackanape and Webb are trying to go all Super Saiyan and conquer everything between the two of them, which leaves nothing for me to do on this end of the ocean LOL. I was considering doing Divinity II: Ego Draconis for a while, and still might, but with 3 days of work coming up, and then my brother spending the next 9 after that at my apartment, I don't see that happening anytime soon. It all depends on the timing and if I really want to review that game, I guess. February is an unknown month at this point, but I'm sure I'll find something to do.

I got a little backed up in my blogging goals these last few days (blame general laziness) and haven't yet done the research for the opinion piece I want to write, so that'll get pushed back a while (sense a theme?). My general announcement on the happenings of this blog should be coming sooner rather than later.

Well, I think it's time to spend a couple more hours with MagnaCarta, read for an hour, and go to bed. Gotta work tomorrow...

Friday, January 8, 2010

Three Five Minute Drills (+ Ramblings)

I haven't touched my Xbox these last few days, but that won't stop the writing. Today, I thought I'd give you three five minute drills I've done this week. Now, I will say that I do edit them after they're done, but ONLY to fix typos. No content changes ever get made. When I'm trying to write as fast and furious as I can, I make quite a few typos, so I've gone back and edited them so that what you see below is actually readable. Gaming will pick up on Sunday/Monday, and again near the end of the month, when I have my brother over for a week, and then Mass Effect 2 comes out.

Heck, let me give you an outline of the next few posts I have on tap:

Saturday - OFF. I'l be out of state all day having fun with friends.

Sunday - Don't know what it'll be yet, but it's going to be a more serious post. Perhaps my first editorial in a while. I need to do those more often. May not be gaming related, but I'd do my darndest to make it interesting, whatever it is.

Monday- TWO POSTS! One will be gaming related. The other will be about blogging, and some of the interesting things that have been happening around here of late.

Alright folks, I'm off to watch some Stargate Atlantis on DVD and continue reading Stephen King's "Under the Dome," both of which feel far more appealing tonight that gaming, or God forbid, chasing achievements.

Enjoy some five minute fiction!


Gordon had no idea what he was looking at. The substance was a purplish color, with the consistency of jelly, and pulsated faintly, as if it has a life of its own. It coated the walls of his lab, six inches thick in some places... and it hadn't been there the night before.

"Sarah?" Gordon called down the hall for his research partner. She'd probably done it. Always working late into the night to try to get in that one last experiment... it wasn't healthy, he thought. When in one of her manic late night binges, she's probably mixed a couple of the compounds and created the... stuff.

She came down the hall, the distinctive click of her heels marking her every step, and stopped at the entrance of the room. "Gordon, what did you do?"

"I was about to ask you the same thing." He took out a scalpel and poked it. The purple mass responded by swelling out from the wall where he had touched it and swallowed his scalpel. He could barely withdraw his hand from joining the feast. "We're going to need a quarantine team in here."

"I'm on it." Sarah said, and dashed as fast as a woman reasonably can be expected to on heels down the corridor toward their guards.

Gordon made his way carefully out of the lab and down the hall to he security room to check the video. Maybe viewing last night's tape would reveal what happened.


"I don't think you should eat that." Sharon said.

"Fuck off Sharon, I'll eat what I want."

"How do you expect to reach your weight loss goals by eating more ice cream?"

"Sharon, I order you to shut up for the next five minutes." Kevin said. Wonder of wonders, the device on his wrist obeyed. Thank god for small favors.

Everyone assured him the iAssistant was the sexy new gadget you just had to have. Had to. It was, like, impossible to get laid anymore without one. Truth was, it was having the thing that made it impossible to get laid. Wasn't the adaptive AI supposed to tailor itself to each person's personality to be their perfect assistant? The thing was just a naggy little bitch... Kevin didn't need a wife, thank you oh so very much.

He dug his spoon into the Mint Chocolate Chip ice cream and took a heaping mouthful. He knew Sharon would try to make him run his ass off for it tomorrow, but it would be in vain. Sure, the iAssistant could measure all his bodily readings and tell him just how much of a fat ass he was being, but it couldn't actually fire up the reflexes to make him jog, could it. No, Kevin thought with a grin as he went for another spoonful. No it most surely could not.


He couldn't see it, but he knew the thing was stalking him. Assessing him. Waiting for the opportunity. Truly, it probably had five or six chances by now, and hadn't taken them. It was mocking him. Staying close enough to make sure he knew it was around, but never revealing its position. Darren sprinted through the forest, knowing it was futile the whole time but refusing to give the fucking thing the satisfaction of just laying down and dying easy.

As he jumped over a log in the pale moonlight, he checked his ammo loadout. Two clips left. He could have two hundred, it wouldn't really matter. He didn't have any mags capable of piercing reaper armor. Intel said the last of the reapers had been wiped out. Intel, as usual, was shit.

A low rumble came from his left. Derren shifted his aim and fired two three shot burst into the dense forest. From his rear came a shrill screech. Darren gave that sound a grenade to ponder. From above, a hoot, as if from an owl, but it was no owl... and all that noise was from one goddamned reaper. The alien killing machines had the be the best ventriloquists the universe had ever seen. The thing probably wasn't even in ANY of those directions.

Thursday, January 7, 2010

Bringing Back Epistolary Form

And now for a somewhat educational post entirely unrelated to gaming.

Originally, I was going to write a post about how to generate tons of ideas for your writing (of any kind), but realized I'd do a crap job of it at 10pm after a work day and have saved that post to be completed at a later date. Instead, I thought I'd trot out one tiny nugget of my English degree for you, since the idea fell into my head earlier this afternoon.

Your word for the day is epistolary. If any of you had ever heard of this word before reading this blog post, give yourself 20 points. If you've correctly used it in a sentence, give yourself another 50.

e⋅pis⋅to⋅lar⋅y  –adjective
1. contained in or carried on by letters: an epistolary friendship.
2. of, pertaining to, or consisting of letters.

Bram Stoker's Dracula is the most famous example of an epistolary novel. The whole thing is written in the form of letters back and forth between the main characters. What makes things even more interesting (and more than a little meta) is that the characters go back and refer to their own letters, and read them, as events progress in the story. I think you have to read the book to get just how cool/freaky the effect of that is. Or you need to be an English geek. Not sure which.

So, the crazy idea that fell into my head this afternoon was that I want to write an entire novel in epistolary form. I'm not sure how publishable such a work would with today's publishers, but damn the technique provides some interesting opportunities. One, it would allow me to experiment with more first person voice, which I need, since virtually 100% of my fiction is written in 3rd person point of view. It would really allow the difference in thought process and voice between characters to shine out. The challenge, of course, is keeping the plot flowing along and not boring readers.

From a writing standpoint, this would be an incredibly easy experiment to integrate into the rest of the writing I'm doing. Since the novel would be told in the form of emails, blog posts, mock news articles, IM conversations, (gag) Twitter posts, etc. that stuff isn't terribly time consuming to write. Perhaps write one item a day and then move on to the core project I'm working on. Hell, these are even the sort of thing I can write after a work day (though I'd surely have to edit them again later).

So I know HOW I want to tell a story, but I'm still now 100% on what the story is I want to tell. My mind keeps drifting to the movie District 9 and how they used the clips of mock sociologists, scientists, news anchors, etc. to set the movie's universe. I'm actually planning on doing some research to fuel the angle I want to take with it. I'm thinking of an alien takeover of Earth as the starting point, and from that framework see how badly I can twist up and subvert social conventions. My other degree, after all, is Sociology... and we secretly love messing with people... sometimes =P

Perhaps as I go I'll post example sections of the project so you can see what it looks like. SInce it's so very experimental, it won't take priority over projects I'm been brainstorming for so long, but it will make an interesting diversion.

And there you are. If nothing else, you learned a new word today. =P

Monday, January 4, 2010

ThrawnOmega's Luck Runs Out

SCAVENGER HUNT: I'm not immune to the ailment that has afflicted so many. I got the RROD too. Your fourth prize number is 4.

CLUE #5: Your next number resides in the first post that was written by a guest blogger.

Well, it was a good run (three years), but all good things must come to an end. It turns out I'm not invulnerable to the fatality that claims so many Xbox gamers. I present you video proof:

I was playing Magna Carta when all of a sudden pink lines ran vertically across the screen. It was horribly distracting, and appeared in the middle of a tough boss fight, no less. I managed to finish off the boss despite the horrible visibility, and get through the following story segments so I could save. After that, I rebooted the system, and got my lovely E74 error.

So, I've already got the repair claim out already, and it shouldn't cost me anything since my box is in the E74 warranty range. Now would be the time to get a second Xbox. Of course, I could wait for the repair to come through, and use this opportunity to pick up a PAL or NTSC-J console, but then I'm still waiting weeks for shipping anyway... I'll be picking up another Xbox today, as I nearly went crazy the last time I went a full month without Xbox. I'm no game addict, I have other things I can do, but to not be able to play at all for a full month is misery, so I'll be getting that second system now I suppose.

EDIT: I actually picked up an arcade when I learned the new arcade models support HDMI. You learn something new every day! So, about $200 later, I'm back in the game and now gaming through HDMI, with a MUCH quieter Xbox, and a smaller power brick to boot. When I get the old Xbox back, that one will be relegated to back up, and only trotted out in the rare instance where I decide to boost with myself.

Sunday, January 3, 2010

Five Minute Drills

I'd like to take the time to introduce you to what will be a regular addition to this blog going forth. It could be something some of you will enjoy and others will routinely skip, which I'm alright with. As part of my committment to putting more work into my writing, I will regularly be doing five minute drills, and publishing the creations here for your amusement.

The five minute drill is my favorite writing excercise, which I first learned about years ago. The premise is extremely simple. You have five minutes to write as much as you possibly can. DO NOT, I repeat, DO NOT stop to think. Simply let the words flow out of you as freely as you can for a full five minutes. Quality is utterly unimportant (of course, you're expected to make intelligible sentences). Quanitity is the name of the game here. When your five minutes are up, you are allowed to reach the end of your sentence, but that's it. However, if I find myself on a full-blown creative tear I keep going to get out as much as I can, since it could turn itself into a full story later.

This writing excercise is a great way to warm up the writing parts of your brain, and actually enhance your creativity by putting the emphasis on getting out as MUCH as you can and not being so damn concerned about if it's any GOOD. Editing and quality control can come later. Focus purely on the act of creation for starters.

Some of my five minute drills could be quite good, some may be complete crap. I'll be posting them here with the post title "Five Minute Drill" and the date. Don't worry, I don't consider these a substitute for regular blog content, so they will be seperate from normal posts so those who have no interest in reading them can skip them, and so it's clearer when I'm making "normal posts." They obviously won't be super long, since they contain only what I can type in five minutes, but hopefully they'll entertain and spark someone's interest in writing just a tiny bit.

Without further fanfare, I present my first five minute drill of 2010. I haven't done these in a while, so the results should be... interesting LOL. Remember, they may not be completely coherent, they won't tell a whole story... It's all about what can be written in five minutes. I'm going to get better at these as I get back into the habit of doing them.

Note: I may save up several and combine them into one longer post to prevent spamming my own blog with too many "side-posts."

Five minute drill 01/03/2010

The girl smiled as she leveled her pistol at the creature, a slightly evil grin spreading across her face, one Kaiden has seen just a few times too many in recent months. She'd worn it when the entered the hive. When they killed the queen. When they drive the Killiks to the deepest corners of their own world. And she wore it again at the warrior who was chained down to the cold stone floor.

"Melissa, are you okay?" Kaiden asked.

"Better than okay." She said, her eyes never leaving the insect-like creature struggling against its chains before her. If Kaiden could read Killik body language, he would have thought it was asking for mercy. "This is one of the last of the warrior class. If we can extract from it the location of their last hive, they're as good as extinct."

At her words, the creature threw fresh vigor into unloosing its chains. To both sides, marines drew swords and neatly severed two of the insects six legs, then switched to cauterizing sticks to seal the wounds before the creature could bleed out. It let out a screech that sent waves of pain through Kaiden, but its struggles ceased.

First Blood of 2010

Yesterday, with the help of the Hand of Thrawn Boosting Alliance, I unlocked my first achievement of the new decade. Worth 30 points, I earned the Boot Camp achievement in Wolfenstein for getting a kill with each soldier weapon, the satchel charge, and veil strike in MP. I went on after that to gain another 140 points, for a total of 170 on the night. We'll be continuing our boosting adventures on Wednesday.

Since I have a few friends I rarely get to see coming over the next few days, my for-achievements gaming will be little to none the next few days, but hey, seeing friends is obviously a higher priority.

WHen I was bored the other day, I did the math on my Hit List 2010 project, and came to the result that, based on their approximate length (or estimated for as yet unreleased games) and the amount of time I spend gaming daily, getting a 15/15 on that list is mathmatically impossible, even if I didn't play any other games. So, in the face of that, I'm changing the number of completions needed for each "rank" be bring everything into the realm of obtainability.

3: Bronze
6: Silver
9: Gold
12: Platimun

Now I have some hope at hitting Gold or better.