Wednesday, July 28, 2010

Everybody... Hand of Thrawn is Back, Alright!


It's been nearly two months, but at last Episode 7 of the Hand of Thrawn Podcast has arrived. We're a little out of practise, but this episode seeks to prove that Xylo and I can hold our own when we're shortstaffed. We talk a little about Kinect, Alan Wake, Crackdown 2, and more. Episode 7 also marks the debut of the post-show blooper reel.

The launch of Episode 7 marks the beginning of a process I'm working at to improve the podcast overall, and get us back to a more regular schedule (and keep us there). I will be stepping up and driving this ship as much as I have to to keep us going strong. I'm not going to tell all now, but Xylo and I have ideas. Keep tuning in folks.

Episode 7 is available now on, and will be there soon for Zune and iTunes.

Tuesday, July 27, 2010

Fallen to the Dark Side

I said I'd never do it... That I was above such things, but apparently not. I've caved in, and fallen to the dark side. Nate Gillick, Xbox Live's ThrawnOmega, has a Twitter account. I've written an editorial about how much I hate twitter, and the vast majority of what I said there I still believe, but I think a balance point has been reached where the pros somehow outweigh the cons. For every tweeted pic of Eliza Dushku's left eye (a real tweet people), there's informative posts from other people.

So, I'm jumping into the rancor pit, and we'll see how long I can stay alive. Twitter posts will not and can not replace blog content, of that I swear, but they may serve as filler between posts. I'm only going to tweet if I have something important to say, or have some gamerscore accomplishment I feel the need to tweet out for that vain and pointless instant self-gratification.

Want to follow me? My Twitter account is, conveniently enough, ThrawnOmega.

Thursday, July 22, 2010

Alan Wake Complete... 'Til Next Week

It's done! After spending too much of my last few days playing it, Alan Wake has been 1k-ed. I have to take back what I said earlier about it being more frustrating than fun on Nightmare; most of the game remains pretty good. It's just Episodes 1 and 2 that suck. Once Alan has the full arsenal of weapons, I found it a lot more fun, and I got much better at hoarding up ammo, to the point I never had the issues I did in the first two chapters. Tyger7's color-coded walkthrough on x360a is AMAZING. Great descriptions, and super-easy to follow, so I owe him a big THANK YOU.

So, despite the DLC coming next week, Alan Wake is now out of the Retail Four. It'll just be considered a side project for the amount of time "The Signal" takes to complete. I'm going to hold off adding Alan Wake to my completed games list on the right until it's at 1250.

So, it's time to update the Four, and I've decided to slot in Prince of Persia in its place. I got the game for $20 new a while back and haven't even played it yet (I did play it before as a rental, but the disc I paid for has yet to be used).

I've been eyeing up Darksiders on Gamestop, as they're selling it new for $20... I'll probably pull the trigger on that, though I'm trying hard to make my list of owned and unfinished games shorter, so adding to it does not help. Still, from what I've heard, I'm sure Darksiders is worth $20.

Wednesday, July 21, 2010

Scattered Progress

Thought I'd drop a post to update where I'm at with the game's I've been playing for both sets of Four, plus other gaming exploits I've been up to lately:

The Retail Four

Dragon Age- I have completed Liliana's Song, and in the main game I'm now working through the Urn of Sacred Ashes quest. I'm 40 hours into the game now, making it worth at least 2 completion points. I still have 39 achievements and almost 1000 gamerscore still to get from the title, so I'll be working on this one for a long time yet.

Crackdown 2- I've down the Party Bus and Squad City Glider achievements twice now, with different groups of people. Neither is particularly hard. At this point, I just need to finish orb hunting, get 25 ways to die, Car Jump, Mosh Pit, Co-op keepy up, wingsuit and vehicle rings, and collect audio logs... That actually sounds like a lot when I list it all out... Will probably be busy here for a while too.

Red Dead Redemption- Completed the coop missions with my brother, and gold medaled all of them, so it can be done with two people, in case anyone was wondering. We didn't make any progress in the advanced ones, as advanced targeting and faster deaths kicked our asses. Recommend 4 people for those for sure.

Alan Wake- Loved the game the first time, but its replay value isn't great, and I'm not particularly enjoying Nightmare difficulty. More bullets to kill enemies, and less ammo is a recipe for frustration, not fun. While I often enjoy replaying games on harder difficulties for those achievements, Alan Wake really isn't doing it for me. I'm running through with the collectables guide hoping to polish everything up before the new DLC arrives next week. Once I get to 1250 I can loan the game to my bro and put something else in my Four until the next DLC arrives.

The Arcade Four:

Limbo- About a third of the way through the game. It's a trippy experience and a heck of a lot of fun. Definitely do not try for the achievement for playing it in one sitting with 5 or less deaths your first playthrough. You'd only frustrate yourself and not enjot the full experience. That 10 point achievement is the only toughie here, as I think the others should come fairly enough.

Blacklight: Tango Down- I really like this game. Bishop has it, Molneze and my friend Anchor are planning on getting it, so hopefully soon I have a team to play with. Recently a title update reset my rank for no reason I know of, which caused me to lose about 40,000XP. I'm not happy about that, but I was a loooong way from the general achievements anyway, so I've just started over. So far I've got 10,000 of that XP back. I don't want to progress through this one too fast, as there is still confusion on what has to be done for the Gearhead achievement, and I don't want to miss out on that one.

Puzzle Quest 2- I keep playing it from time to time. Fun game, though I can't play it for more that 30-40 minutes at a time.

Doom II- Nothing new to report. Still need a boosting partner, though I have not made much of an effort to find one.


Halo Wars- DarkTharen and I have an arrangement where we shall be playing the game together every Tuesday night until we've completed the game (well, everything we can get with two people). That includes multiplayer for our General ranks. Hopefully I can get him to sign on for the DLC too, so we can both 1200 the game. We're starting by playing through the campaign on easy getting all the skulls, black boxes, and 5 point achievements we can, then we'll rock through Legendary with all beneficial skulls active. After that, I anticipate a bit of campaign mop up before we switch over to the multiplayer.

Saturday, July 17, 2010

Rule of Four Expanded for XBLA

The only thing you can count on with me is that I'll change my goals and how they are measured constantly, but at least the Rule of Four has kept me more honed in on a few specific games at a time than I used to be. I came to the realization the other day, however, that I was only putting retail games in my four, and wasn't giving my stack of arcade games their due. I have a lot of arcade games to finish, so I've decided to have a queue of 4 retail games, and another of 4 arcade games. I've also broken the retail Four into categories; there must always be one RPG, two action, and one "swing" game that can be of any genre. As always, I'm not a slave to this list, and will boost and work with people on other projects I need as opportunity knocks.

RPG: Dragon Age
Action: Crackdown 2
Action: Read Dead
Swing: Alan Wake

Puzzle Quest 2
Blacklight: Tango Down (very fun online FPS, you totally should download it and team up with me)
LIMBO (reserved spot for its release this week)
Doom II (online boosting pertner needed)

Thursday, July 15, 2010

Boosting S.O.S.

I've looked through my tag (again) for games where I'm missing some online achievements, and will need help to complete them. Take a look at this list and let me know if you're missing some of the same stuff, or would be willing to help even if you already have it. I've organized this list by the number of people needed to play. If a game is bold, that's a higher priority target to me. This list is not exhaustive, but having this list to work through is certainly enough for now.

2 People:
Stranglehold (MP Boost)
The Darkness
Doom II
SOF Payback
Warhammer Battlemarch
Halo Wars (coop)
Red Alert 3 (coop)
Crackdown 2 (online orbs)

4 People:
Read Dead (Advanced Coop Missions)
Crackdown 2 (4-player achievements)
Halo ODST (see my card for what I need)

Resident Evil 5 (team MP achievements)

6+ People:
Bioshock 2 (Map Packs)
Unreal Tournament 3 (a couple ranked achievements)
Hour of Victory

8 People:
Read Dead (Posse Up achievement)

??? People:
Turning Point
Army of Two
Section 8
Timeshift (only missing a few achievements)
Dark Sector
Lost Planet

Saturday, July 10, 2010

Addicted to Crackdown 1.5

I've been playing far too much Crackdown 2 these last few days. As a matter of fact, it's virtually the only thing I've done on my current 3-day off stretch, which is a rather bad thing as I have a lot of other projects that got put on hold (nothing life threatening... all the bills still got paid). As someone who purchased the original Crackdown on the cheap but didn't get super deep into it, Crackdown 2 is still fresh enough to be an incredible amount of fun, though mission objectives can get repetitive and there really isn't any story. The game is great, though it feels more like Crackdown 1.5 than a true sequel. HUD updates and achievement tracking improvements are welcome, but otherwise it's familiar ground here. Hopefully Crackdown 3, which I'm sure we'll eventually see, is set in an entirely new city.

Normally, I hate collectables. This fact is well documented across this blog and numerous reviews I've written for x360a. Yes Crackdown 2 is able to join the short list of other games (Banjo-Kazooie franchise, the 3D Mario games, Pokemon) where I find collecting things to be an enjoyable diversion. Hell, with over 900 orbs in crackdown 2, one could argue orb collection is the whole point of the game!

I've been tearing through the game, and currently have the following stats:

Game Completion: 87%
All Absorption Units, Beacons, Tactical Locations, and Freak Breaches have been dealt with.
Audio Pickups: 36/52

Road Races: 10/15
Roof Races: 10/15
Agility Orbs: 462/500 (Green Bay area is 100% complete)
Hidden Orbs: 193/300
Agility Renegade Orbs: 24/30
Driving Renegade Orbs: 1/15
Online Orbs: 50/80
Vehicle Stunt Rings: 2/40
NO Wingsuit Rings

Playtime: 22 Hours
Achievements: 32/50

Progress is good. You can count on me continuing this tonight, though I'm planning on going to see Predators at my local movie theater tonight to get out of the apartment LOL.

Monday, July 5, 2010

The 40 Hour Rule

I had a revelation a few nights ago. I've been spending a lot of my gaming time working on the long completions sitting in my back catalogue, and therefore been falling quite far behind in my medaling goals for the year. So, if I'm running a self challenge about completing games, why would I want to chase the tough completions instead of simply going after the easy crap?

So, to balance things out somewhat, I added a time component that makes some games count as worth more than one in the challenge. All games start as worth one. If a game takes 40 or more hours to complete, it is worth two, and gains an additional completion credit for every additional 40 hours after that. If something takes the equivalent of a full working week to finish, it should be worth a little extra, right?

How the scoring for this would work is that each game worth more than one is still counted as one completion, with the extra "credit" going to reduce the number of completions needed to hit each medaling goal.

The first multicredit game I'll be finishing is likely to be Gears 2. My most realistic estimation of the amount of time it's taken me is the 120 hour range, making it worth FOUR completions for my self-challenge. Later tonight, I'll be looking at me current list of completions for 2010 to see if any of them qualify for double credit.

Tonight, I'm listening to another episode of Major Nelson Radio while kill grinding in Gears.

Ending kill total: 39,050

Sunday, July 4, 2010

Project $720

I'm making a challenge for myself that is related to gaming, but does not involve the playing of games directly. From July 1, 2010 to July 1, 2011, I'm aiming to see if I can go a full year spending $720 or less on video games. The 720 number comes from the $60 price of a new retail game (before tax) multiplied by 12, or one retail game a month for a year. The challenge is to see how much gaming I can get in with my gaming dollars (not just to be a tight wad, cheap ass, miser, you pick).

Nothing wrong with people spending their hard earned cash on their favorite hobby, but I sometimes think we're not aware of how much it all adds up to. The point of this challenge isn't to not spend money, but see just how much gaming I can get for the price of 12 retail titles.

So, what are the rules? It's simple enough: every game purchase counts towards the dollar total. The cost of renting games, or services like Gamefly would count. Buying more Microsoft Points counts. However, any money made from selling games from my collection can be spent on more games without going against the 720 total. Recycling is good for both the environment and my gaming budget.

How can I get a lot of gaming in? Raid bargain bins, scour ebay, and trading games with others comes to mind. If I borrow a game from someone, the only cost I'd incur is the postage to/from the sender. So, I may be looking for volunteers to participate in my game loaning / trading operation. I can be counted on to return what I borrow, and send out games as well. Ask Bishop, Dark Tharen, or Sabre, who have all done business with me in the past.

Now, in the interest of honesty and total disclosure, I have Halo Reach paid in full already, so that's one $60 game that won't show up in the costs of this challenge. Also, I have 12,000 Microsoft points purchased from a deal a while back, so I can buy $150 worth of DLC or arcade games before Microsoft point purchases would become a part of this challenge. So, I admit I have an advantage here. Though, to be fair, those games will not appear in the "What I did with $720 list I will be making."

For the price of 12 new retail games, let's see just how much gaming I can actually do. There will be an ongoing list further down on the right side of this blog. Who wants to help me make this list as long as possible? =)

Oh, and 4 posts in 3 days... definitely back from the dead.

Saturday, July 3, 2010

Thank God for Podcasts

Three posts in two days... check the others, if you haven't already =)

Veteran Gear is on the books, leaving Seriously 2.0 the only achievement I need for the 1750. Slogging through the Brumak seen over and over again is a looong and boring process. How does one stay sane during this process? Make it something to do while actually listening to podcasts.

For this session, it's the Major Nelson podcast, followed by the Cheap Ass Gamer show. Last night I listened through the OXM podcast while grinding kills. This sort of thing will likely be a weekly deal until the achievement pops.

What ever happened to the Hand of Thrawn Podcast? I don't know. My co-host and our sound editor, Bishop, has had a lot going on lately of the not-fun variety, and therefore hasn't had time to edit the show. It's largely up to him when we get back into our regular taping and posting schedule... which has fallen way behind. RL comes first, of course. Rest assured, at least, the we plan on keeping that show rolling as soon as possible.

Grinding update: Taking a break after Major Nelson's show to eat lunch and watch a few episodes of Archer through Netflix watch instant. The show is great, especially if you liked Frisky Dingo, which I most certainly did. Major Nelson seems to have a pretty awesome show. There was a lot of great info and interesting stories, and they carry on the show with a conversational style that I wish we at the Hand of Thrawn Podcast could mirror, though they have an advantage on that as they're all in the same room -- where it's easier to trip over each other and not know if someone is going to talk when everyone is just running Skype.

Kills when I started: 17,200
End Kills: 31,850

Friday, July 2, 2010

Veteran Gear

Hurray for a second post in one day! The video really says it all:


Cracking Down

For the forseeable future (the next 3 months at the minimum), I'll be changing my gaming philosophy considerably in terms of what I play. Without over-sharing in a public venue, let's just say I'm in a mood to pinch pennies across the board, and my gaming hobby isn't safe from the intense crackdown. Here's my new limits:

If a HOTBA member picks a game to boost that I don't own, and it's under $20, I'll pick it up. I'm still planning on getting Crackdown 2, and Halo Reach has already been paid in full. My stash of Microsoft points I can still spend as I see fit, as I've already paid for all that.

Other than that, I'm not getting anything unless I can trade in games or find a deal where a game costs me next to nothing. I'll be raiding bargin bins for gems I missed before shelling out the cost of the new retail title everyone else will be playing. Oh, I'll still be gaming as much as I always have, though the focus will be on the abundance of games I already own. I'm not going to pull a jackanape and list every game I need to work on yet (the list is far longer than I care to type), but I will not be running out of things to play for months. Without naming everything, here's just the games I own and have NEVER even played yet or have 0 gamerscore in:

Puzzle Quest 2
Need for Speed Undercover
The Last Remnant
The Incredible Hulk
Deadliest Catch
Ninety-Nine Nights
Lego Batman
Spectral Force 3
Sonic Unleashed

I really need to do a better job of putting the time into games I have already paid for. Who knows? Maybe my completion percentage will actually increase due to this effort.

With the 8x XP event going on in Gears 2, I'm once again wasting time in the persuit of the rank 100 achievement. I've made it all the way to rank 91, with 5.25 million XP, so I'm getting close. If I should somehow fail to get there by the end of this event, the next one will surely put me over the top. Last night I boosted for about 5 hours with the Rogues (1 and 5), Rand al Thor, Mr Blackmagic, and a few others. They're definitely not a bad group to boost with. All were very efficient, and the conversation was better than most of the boosting sessions I've been in lately.

Today, I'm trying my luck in public searches, trying to luck into boosting games in progress where I would join as the 10th person. I've been successful twice at this point, with the first lasting only one match until it devolved into a free-for-all. We'll see how this second group fares.

Depending on the level of success I have with this crackdown, I may just turn myself into a true cheap ass gamer, and make it a matter of pride to see how little I can pay for games (while still keeping my disc tray fed and happy, of course)