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!