Friday, November 30, 2007

Short Note: It can be vacation time now pls?

Alright, school sort of kicked into overdrive all of a sudden, so I feel like I have a lot on my plate at the moment. I'd like to think that I'm doing relatively well, compared to my previous study habits. At the moment I am taking a break from writing one of the papers that I have due in the next two weeks (this one is actually due this Saturday, but hey, its technically not last minute), leaving tomorrow to finish the online assignments for the same class. After that I have to write my reflection of the classroom observation hours, due the 11th of December, along with having to compile my notes for the same class into some sort of journal that the instructor can make some sense of, also due on the 11th. Also for that class I have to make a Powerpoint presentation about some court case involving the Mexican chilluns. Luckily I'm not alone on that assigment, its a group project. I volunteered to do the Powerpoint, so I'm hoping they produce the content. I'm not going to think about the education assigments until I knock out the stuff for this Saturday class.

I guess it's a good thing that I am not beholden to any games at the moment. Its nice to have my distractions be limited to movies that I could watch, which are much easier to avoid than life sucking MMORPGs.

Oh, I also registered for next semester, and have deduced that after this semester, I'll need about fifteen credit hours to go after this Spring. That's full time semester. I have my doubts that I will finish in time; class availabilty will probably force me to take a part time semester or two, but that is some home stretch right there. I can't wait.

N E WAYZ, wish me luck, two more weeks to go till I'm granted a temporary respite.

Monday, November 26, 2007

Short Note: Thanksgiving Weekend

I think I'll start doing a 'feature' I will call "Short Note" as a sort of filler when I don't have time to do a full-on article as I have been recently. My intent is to populate this thing enough to give what few returning readers I have something to read more often. That said, here is the first.

This string of Thanksgiving days off was pleasant, despite the lack of a lazy day amongst them. During these days I spent some much needed time with Little Bitty. We've been having some issues that seem to be exacerbated by time spent apart, so we got through this weekend in good spirits.

Mike got the ROCK BANDS, which indeed does rock. I had a good time during its inaugural run with him and Carlette. It has a vocal component, akin to karaoke that, suprisingly, I've enjoyed quite a bit. Getting to pretend to be M1K0P4TN was very fun, especially when you add some Monopoly Vodka into the mix. Drumming is hard, makes my leg hurt, and its pretty fun. Rock Band is supposed to hit the Wii at some point, and I hope to pick it up to get my drum on in private. Perhaps I can get enough practice in to be able to coordinate my legs and arms to the point of doing some real drumming. You may laugh at the notion of a video game's ability to do such thing, but I challenge you to try drumming on Rock Band without using some inherent drumming skills. You would fail, I assure you.

I picked up a Wii Zapper and Resident Evil: Umbrella Chronicles this week with my Toys R Us gift card, with the hopes of getting Little Bitty to play through it with me. We didn't get a chance this weekend to get into it, but I did manage to pop a few caps in some zombie asses, to my delight. I so do love the facilitation of zombie perforation. In the face. Facially.

Looking at the week's game release schedule, it looks like the game industry has 'blown it's load' in terms of releases, so to speak. Which is a good thing, because the wallets of gamers accross the country were wrecked for a good while there while the gaming industry worked at padding their fiscal year reports by releasing their cream of the crop in the span of a month or so this fall. I have one more release that is a must have (Call of Duty 4) and then I'm calling it quits for the year. My bank account will thank me.

N E WAYZ, that was my Thanksgiving. Lots of Little Bitty and some Rock Band. I cant think of a better way to spend a holiday weekend (except having Little Bitty heal a 40-man raid group (kidding).

Until next time, bbl ttyl kthxbi.

Wednesday, November 21, 2007

Rant: Games for Windows: Live

I am going to indulge myself and rant about some more nerd things. You will read it and begin a revolution on my behalf. Thanks.

I recently purchased Kane & Lynch: Dead Men for the PC on account of its very intriguing plot and characters. The game was panned for being rather generic as far as how it plays, but I am very pleased to say that it has delivered in spades on mood, story, and the characters are indeed very cool and well written. Kotaku summed it up by describing it as "like a buddy movie with killing." I wouldn't call them buddies exactly, as they trust each other about as far as they can throw them, but therein is part of the appeal of the story. It's one of those games that I can see myself watching someone play.

Back to the actual subject of the post, the game was released under the Games for Windows brand, which is all well and good. Bioshock was released under the same brand, and aside from some lame copy-protection DRM BS, it delivered the goods as any triple A PC title would. Where the shit hits the fan is when you add multiplayer into the mix.

Console players have been recently availed the goodness of online gaming in the recent years, for Xbox 360 via the Xbox Live service. It's a pay service essentially, they have to fork over more cash for full functionality in addition to what they are paying for their internet connection. Yes you can play for free using a Silver membership, but it's hardly worth it.

In PC land, we've been burning up bandwith for years now, killing each other over the internets at no cost beyond the price of the game and your internet connection. Full online functionality comes out of the box, requiring no third party beyond voice programs, and even that is becoming increasingly unnecessary due to developers adding voice function in-game. So everything is happy land, until Microsoft comes along and gets greedy.

As soon as you start the game, K&L requires you to sign into or create an account with the Games for Windows: Live service. Since its all tied to the MSN network, I went ahead and set one up fairly easily. I have to wonder, what would happen if I tried playing the game without an internet connection? Would the game not work at all? Worrisome. If you thought having to sign up for some unwarranted third party service just to get to the game menu was bad, it gets worse. Much worse. Worser, worsest even.

Kane & Lynch comes with a pretty interesting online component. It's a hybrid of a co-op and a deathmatch game, where you work together with your "buddies" to pull off heists and split the earnings, with the option of betraying them to keep the loot that you've picked up in a given round. An fairly original and interesting dynamic, and one that I WAS looking forward to trying out.

Alas, with my lowly, free Silver Live membership, I do not have access to the K&L ranking system. I am limited to "List Play", which are stripped down unranked, player hosted games. PC multiplayer games usually run on dedicated servers, which are servers that anyone can run or rent, whose job is specifically to run games that people can jump in and out of. From what I can tell, the Live service does not allow for that. So not only do you not have dedicated servers, you have limited game availability. And it's not just K&L that suffers from such ailments. The much awaited PC port of Gears of War doesn't even let you ping servers unless you have a Gold Membership, meaning you have to join a game and hope that you get a good connection. Unfun. Dissapointing. Worrisome.

I hope this mess doesn't take off. It seems to me that Games for Windows is a step towards the need to obtain a certification to make a PC game, which is something that goes against the grain of the PC's open format. I can't imagine what would happen to the indie games scene (yes there is such a thing) if they were required to check with Microsoft for permission to make their game. And making me pay for my killing simulators? No way. Here's hoping for the failure of this mess. I don't care if it offers PC gamers the ability to headshot console gamers all day. I'm not buying Gears of War for that reason, and it is unfortunate that I they packed into Kane and Lynch, a game that I was very much looking forward to. (Thankfully, the single player game is rocking my ass and is very much worth the price of admission to me.)

Let this be a warning then. If you see Games for Windows Live anywhere on the box, do yourself a favor and do your research. If you are planning to buy it for the multiplayer, you might just be better off getting your kicks elsewhere.

Sunday, November 4, 2007

Why I Don't Like Halo

Anyone who has ever talked video games with me at any length has probably picked up my PC vs. Console snobbery fairly easily. As petty and unhelpful as it is to gamingkind as a whole, I still can be a real dick about my gaming preference. I will elaborate more on that subject on a later date, but for now I'm going to touch on a facet of video game land that is affected by my views about your nubass, dumbed down POS console (I am a very nice person).

Alrighty, the topic of the day is Halo. Word is that the kids think its "all the way live, B". The game isn't popular with just the kids though. Seems every beer swillin frat guy with an Xbox thinks it is a game of epic proportions, a triumph in story telling and in game design. Apparently Halo has become the percieved standard in what it does, a new Doom if you will. The term "Halo clone" makes me just shake my head, as if its some new epic standard to strive for.

Well, if Halo and it's fans have a couch, I'm sure you can guess what malady I wish for to befall it. Here are my beefs, which I may have spent all of two minutes of consideration on.

OMG THE STORY IS EPIC: Halo has a story? Alright, so the amount of hype the game has gotten would hint at some truly epic Lord of the Rings proportioned plot, but, having attempted to play through some of the games, I found myself reaching for the skip button to get through the cutscenes. For lack of a better term, the story is generic sci-fi. That isn't to say that generic sci-fi is necessarily a bad thing. Proper execution can compensate in almost any medium. This is another spot where I fall out of step with the masses.

OMG HALO IS THE BEST: Is it now? That's great. I should preface this by pointing out that this particular point is heavily influenced by my PC gaming preferences. Allow me to elaborate. Halo is a first-person shooter (FPS). The FPS genre was one that was born and for the most part perfected on the PC (with the exception of Goldeneye on N64). Most of the praises that were sung about the first Halo had already been in place by the time the first of the series came along and PA called it like they saw it. OMG VEHICULAR COMBAT you say? Tribes had been doing it for a few years already, and while Halo might have improved on it, Battlefield 1942 followed it and blew it out of the water.

MULTPLAYER RULZ!: This is the one area where I will make a concession. Multiplayer Co-op is like the woah-money-bling-bling-word-pimps-up-hoes-down type of gaming on the planet, so any game that brings it deserves some praise. Regarding the other multiplayer modes, I can be a crusty old bastard again. Been there, done it better. Sure, Halo benefits from a conviniently packaged Xbox Live service, but a PC gamer has all those tools available FOR FREE and can be easily set up provided you aren't a complete idiot, which I would hope a gamer wouldn't be. Judging from what I've heard of the Halo community, however, I think my hope is in vain.

Srsly now, I'm sure Halo is fun, if anything a shooter you can turn off your brain for a while to play. There certainly is a value in those types of titles, and I'm willing to bet that I've played and enjoyed worse games. My last beef is truly the reason that I can't stand the game, and it is possibly twofold. I've already aluded to the'Halo Community' and sung their praises. The same praises that extends to the console community, totally rub my PC gaming sensibilities the wrong way. I've read and heard about the idiots who roam the Xbox Live landscapes, and they are precisely the type of people who give gamers this image of being immature dickheads. And perish the thought, if Halo's sales are any indication, what if gamers actually ARE immature dickheads. It's sales have garnered the attention of mass media, and it disturbs me that the Halo community is what has ended up representing gaming kind as of late. Rest assured non-gamers, on an intellectual level, there is a world of games out there that are beyond trite sci-fi space alien shooting, and it's a shame that they do not get that same level of attention.

As a side note, speaking of mass media attention, the aformentioned beer swilling frat guys also tend to be happy with their cash, resulting in the ridiculous Halo 3 mania that produced many a rolled eyes amongst the cleverer gamer nerds. Read this article to see the sort of garbage journalism that the game series has invoked, as well as product tie-ins that made as much sense as the Hello Kitty Massager.

So there you have it. I am a shallow jerk who puts a value to what kind of box you play your video games on. That and I'm smarter than you. Feel free to call me out in the comments.