Archive for the ‘Uncategorized’ Category

I don’t usually get to into the idea of New Year Resolutions. Any time I do make one, they last until about… my birthday (January 16th.) Hopefully this one will stick, however.

My resolution is to actually post weekly, and to put up a comic, at the very least, monthly. I’ll aim for more on that, but I don’t want to put up terrible comics just for the sake of putting them up.

Anyway, 2011 ended very busy and flooded with non-gaming activities. Part of this resolution is to fix that… which starts with fixing my xbox 360. I got the red ring of death Christmas morning when I wanted to play MW3 for the first time. I was almost as upset as a child who’s just lost a pet. I tried all the self-fixes, and now I’m left with the dreaded last resort of sending it in. I’m sure those of you who’ve gone through the experience have shared my worry/anxiety. I’ll give an update on the situation in my next post.

Hello, avid readers, (all two of you)

At last I have the free time, the internet, and the motivation to return to World of Warcraft…  And, well, as anyone who’s ever left a current game for a couple months knows… Things change.  Sometimes these are small (“Oh, look, a new Counterstrike Map.”) or cosmetic (“What?  TF2 has hats?!”) or really big (“4.2?  What happened to Patch 4.1?”).  So, anyway, I’ve been out of the WoW swing of things for… around 3 months.  Maybe a little longer.  In a MMO, a game that is by its nature continually changing, that’s a substantial period of time.  Getting back into the swing of things can be difficult, particularly if there is a lot of new content or content changes that occurred during your absence.  This week I’ll cover Three Easy Steps that can make all the difference in your experience returning to the game.

Step 1: Update Everything and Use that Time!

This is a pretty significant step and the one that will probably take the most amount of time (if you’ve missed a lot).  Updating the game client itself is required to play for almost every game, so you won’t be able to forget it.  Do not, however, forget to update all your addons!  This is one reason programs like Curse client are particularly great.  Instead of me having to check all of them to see if they were out-of-date, Curse told me there were and then allowed me to update them all within a matter of 10 minutes, instead of the far longer (I’d easily say an hour) it might have taken me to update all 20 of those addons manually.  (And, yes, I currently have 36 addons for World of Warcraft… And that’s a lot fewer than I used to have back in late Wrath, pre-4.0 days.)  This, as with my case of updating WoW to Patch 4.1 right now, can take a substantial portion of time.  This time is most usefully spent doing the second step.

Step 2: Patch Notes, Patch Notes, Patch Notes!

Well, not all of this is just patch notes.  If your game has a great community/media site, like WoW Insider, use that.  Instead of me having to hunt down patch notes on Blizzard’s site and parse through them, I am able to just go to WoW Insider, click on a link to see all things related to Patch 4.1, and then go down the list.  WoW Insider is particularly great since I can sort also by each class, allowing me to make sure I know what I need to know about… Death Knights, when I decide to play Namira.  I can find out that, Oh, look, Raise Ally is now a Battle Rez spell.  And, wait, Guild Finder?  That’s cool!  Dark Simulacrum works on even more NPC-cast spells!  I love you, Blizzard.  *cough*When I don’t hate you.*cough*

Step 3: Profit! … from the Suffering of Your Friends

This is by far the most important step.  Once you’re in the game (which I hope to be within the next couple hours), make sure to exploit the suffering of your friends, guildies, and family members.  For those who might like a rephrasing…  You learn from their mistakes.  When we get into Zul’Gurub or Zul’Aman, I’m not going to know a damned thing about what it really feels like to be there.  (Note: You should, if at all possible, learn as much about new challenges you know you’re going to face, be they Heroic Dungeons or outright Raiding, so as not to aggravate your friends too much.)  I will, however, have 4 friends who have all done it before and who, through respectful, polite, and fairly insistent questioning, will tell me everything they know.  After all, the best thing about coming late to the party is that you get all the benefits of their knowledgeable experience without having to bash your head quite as many times against the wall.  If you, like me, used to be a party/raid/guild leader, this can be a strange occurrence, being the ignorant newbie.  So, Be Nice to those who are helping you, Listen Carefully to what they say, and, for gods’ sake, Stay Out of the Fire, because some lessons are timeless.

For Gnomeregan!

~ Mr. Pacman


Who said video games made you lazy and fat?

Posted: May 30, 2011 by Cynthia 心雅 in Uncategorized

I am very excited to write a review this week about Kinect for Xbox 360. I know that it’s been out for some time now, and there are already a world of reviews out there, but I’d like to give my two cents on it.

First of all, if you haven’t heard about the amazing uses people are thinking up for Kinect, then it’s high time you found out. At the top of the list of possibilities, is of course, giving sight to the blind. I mean seriously, video game nay-sayers need to shut their trap and listen. Video games are like… Toyota (in their new commercials). This technology is helping better our future.

Now, on to the game system itself.

I have to admit, I was a bit skeptical at first. I was skeptical of the promises Microsoft seemed to be filling our heads with. Face recognition? completely controller-less game play and menu navigation? I was worried this was all going to quickly disappoint me like my first generation android phone. If there’s one mistake that companies seem to make over and over, it’s releasing something before it’s good enough to meet or exceed expectations for the sake of releasing it as soon as possible. As soon as something works at least somewhat, it seems like it hits shelfs and disappoints millions, who then have to buy the second generation device that has fixed many of the bugs that you wonder how they missed in the first place (e.g. a touch screen that you practically have to break your finger to press hard enough for it to work.)

Luckily, Kinect was not a disappointment. It does what they say it does. I step in front of the TV and it logs me on to Xbox live. The voice commands work, and the wave-your-magic-hand menu navigation works. As for people saying you have to have a ton of space to play… not true. Given the still unpacked boxes cluttering my living room, I have very little space. The game has a setting that allows you to play with “good play space” or “best play space.” I ended up moving a recliner and going for “best” because it allows you to play with a second person.

I do have to say that the 2 player max is frustrating, but understandable. I do think that it should have addition players available if space provides, but oh well.

The only games I have at the moment are Kinect Adventures (which comes with) and Dance Central (which I played at PAX East and loved– even though I made a fool of myself.) Dance Central is incredibly similar to Just Dance and Just Dance 2 if you’ve played them on Wii. The great thing about Dance Central on Kinect, however, is that it’s using your whole body, not just one arm, so you can’t cheat the way you can in Just Dance. It’s definitely a work out, and I can’t handle anything above easy yet. The dances are pretty challenging if you’re not a dancer, and darn near impossible if you have a hard time keeping a beat.

Kinect Adventures is cute, and fun like wii sports is when you first purchase a wii. It gets you used to playing with no controller, but I can see it getting old within the next week or two. Another problem I have with Adventures is that it seems to be a split second behind ever move I make, so you have to react sooner than you think you would.

Overall, I think the Kinect is great. For $150, my mother and I decided to forgo a gym membership, and just workout at home, which will certainly save us money in just a few months time.

On a completely separate note, I will hopefully be setting up my PC sometime this week which will lead to many things: Return of the comic strip (Yay!), playing World of Warcraft (double yay!), playing minecraft (Triple Yay!), and many other new games. I do, unfortunately, have to admit that William and I will probably not return to Kiwike on Minecraft. For those of you from Kiwike, I’m really sorry, you’re all great people, but the amount of drama that occurs every day on that server is just more than we want to deal with. I think right now we’re going to be looking for a server with an average age closer to our own. I don’t mean that disrespectfully to anyone, but any place filled with mostly young teens is going to be dramatic, it’s a fact of life. I was very dramatic at 12-16, so I’m certainly not criticizing anyone else for being. We’re just passed that stage of life. We wish you all the best though! 😀

This week I’d like to talk about three Free-to-Play Massively Multiplayer Online games: Champions Online, Global Agenda, and Hellgate: London.  To start off with, let’s admit that “free-to-play” is sometimes a dirty word.  It’s something that “serious” gamers don’t do.  After all, you get what you pay for, right?  What sort of game could be for free?  Some casual-gamer crap, that’s what!  Well, I’ll freely admit that I’ve been in that group, looking down on Free-to-Play games and, yes, even throwing “casual” around like another dirty word.  It’s time to shape up our perspectives and face the facts: Free-to-Play games can be fun and, in general, just excellent games.  And, as something particularly relevant to the theme of this particular blog, Free-to-Play games have a major leg-up on paid-for-games, especially subscription-based games:  They are easy to try out and are free to play together!  No longer do couples, friends, family members have to worry about buying the same game.  (A $40-$60 game is a considerable purchase for most of us, especially if you have to buy TWO copies.)  The price combined with the fact that it’s  not always easy to find games that you and your gaming-fellow both enjoy gives Free-to-Play MMOs a doubly powerful head-start in the race to recruit players.

The inner cynic in me (Okay, it’s not a very “inner”ly contained cynic.) requires that I point out all of these started as a Pay-to-Play game, before eventually moving to Free-to-Play.  Is this the recipe for the best games?  I couldn’t say.  I’ve yet to have substantial experience with MMOs that start as Free-to-Play.

Champions Online – Super Powers Hooooooo! –

I played this shortly after it came out, with a friend who I do believe still plays it (with his significant other, no less!).  It was tons of fun.  I mean, really, who doesn’t have that nostalgic pull towards comic-booky things?  Be a super hero!  A super villain!  The raw customizability of the, well, costumes is amazing.  The powers are increasingly diverse, extremely visually impressive, and just are great at having that quintessential Super feel.  When I played (though it was before the modern Free-to-Play “silver accounts”), I created a master of sorcery named The Quaesitor (Yes, it’s a reference both to the DC hero “The Question” and to the Order of Hermes “House Quaesitor”) that teleported around and threw bolts of raw arcane energy.  I also made a heroine in power armor named Palatine, whose outfit looked nigh-indistinguishable from Warhammer 40,000’s Sisters of Battle.  The “Power Armor” powers (as Champions Online calls them) included a wrist-mounted gun (bolter?), flame throwers (flamers!), and even a slashing sword of energy (power weapons, oh yes!).

In gameplay, it’s much like your familiar MMOs (World of Warcraft, Guild Wars, RIFT, etc.) with an action bar of abilities, targeting, etc.  The fact that it’s free now?  Oh, you can bet I’ll be getting Cynthetic to try this one out.

Global Agenda – Futuristic Team-Based Action!  BAM! –

This is a First-Person Shooter game in a futuristic, largely post-apocalyptic setting.  You pick one of four classes: Recon (scout/spy), Medic, Assault (heavy weapons soldier), and Robotics (engineer).  You level up throughout the world, both in single-player and group-oriented missions/explorations.  Eventually, you can take over whole sections of the world as part of your guild and engage in large PvP and PvE battles (many even what are effectively FPS “raids”).  If you love a team/class-based shooter game, you’ll probably love playing it like this as you can level up and grow your skills and equipment with your friends.

Hellgate: London – Fighting the Forces of Hell on Earth… Again! –

This is a personal favorite of mine.  It is perhaps one of the best and most original game ideas in the last… 10 years.  Instead of the tried-and-true lone soldier fighting waves of hellish (figuratively or literally) enemies invading and threatening Earth…  Well, sorry, kiddo, but we lost that war over 20 years ago.  Humanity has been hiding underground, an endangered species of refugees, as the Forces of Hell control the Earth, even changing it to their needs (in a pyro-forming effort called “the Burn”).  There are only a few factions that have been able to fight back at all, trying to keep humanity and hope alive.  You fight back against the armies of hell, in strategic strikes doing the most you can with your ever-decreasing resources.

There are six classes (the three factions: Templars, Cabalists, and Hunters all have 2 classes with similar but slightly-different playstyles) that gain skills in a way veeery reminiscent to the Diablo and Diablo II games that Hellgate’s makers made as well.  You can play in a first-person perspective or with a third-person over-the-shoulder camera.  Templars are [almost] all about melee, Hunters rely on guns of all sorts (though their Engineer uses drones, too), and Cabalists use sorcery and summoned pets to fight back against the Demons with their own power.  Templars and even Cabalists feel much like a traditional hack-slash RPG, but Hunters have a quite distinct FPS feel to them.  And, I must be honest, Hellgate: London has a superb visual style and some of the best armor/weapons I’ve seen that combine science and sorcery.  If you’ve seen the trailer for Diablo III’s Demon Hunter… Well, let’s just say that anyone who’s seen Hellgate: London notices a huuuuuge amount of similarity between the two’s feel.

Hellgate: London’s Free-to-Play resurrection is going to an open English beta in early June and we will hopefully see it full revealed not to many months after!

Oh, hell, I’ll have to get Cynthia to try all of these.  Luckily, they’re within our budget.  If you plan on trying out any of them or already play them…  Send me a line and we’ll try to wind up with a possibility of playing together.  The more the merrier, especially when it’s free.

Supers, Agents, and Demons, oh my!

~ Mr. Pacman


Long Distance Gaming

Posted: May 25, 2011 by Cynthia 心雅 in Uncategorized

Most everyone has dealt with some form of long distance relationship at some point in their life. William and I are currently going through such. He’s in Albany with his family, while I am in St. Louis with mine. Something that helps pass the time in these sort of situation, and makes you feel like the distance isn’t quite as far, is gaming together. Here are my favorite games to play with William when he’s so far away, and explanations as to why they make such good “wish you were here” games.

Portal 2
Honestly, Portal 2 seems almost better when you can’t just turn to the person and point on their screen, “Open a portal there.” You get the opportunity to use the character interactions much more, and it makes the game just a bit more enjoyable. The little robots have all kinds of different gestures they can use to interact, as well as to indicate what they feel is a good solution to the current puzzle. Solving puzzles together is always a good chemistry building activity for couples and Portal provides that in a very awesome setting.

World of Warcraft
Ok, so I have to admit, we haven’t been playing recently. Despite that, we have played while away from each other in the past and I still feel like it is a fun way to spend time apart together. WoW is a world full of an endless list of things to do together. One of my favorite things to do together, while away from each other, is explore and low-level questing. It’s relatively stress free, easy, and also helps add to the lore of the game. Neither of us has to feel like the other is dragging us along, plus it doesn’t require us to specifically work together, but rather (most often) has us working separately side-by-side toward a common goal.

Draw My Thing
omgpop‘s most popular game, Draw My Thing, is addictive to say the least. It’s essentially pictionary online, but drawing with a mouse or track pad can make the best of artists look like children. It’s hysterical at times, trying to decipher what the other person is drawing, and best of all, it’s free to play, and you can play it right in your browser. No downloading.

Next time I’ll be writing about the Kinect, and how it’s awesome (and cheaper than a gym membership). Comics will return eventually. I currently do not have my tablet hooked up. I’m lazy, you hate me, I get it.


Ms. Pacman

The long awaited return…

Posted: May 16, 2011 by Cynthia 心雅 in Uncategorized

Unfortunately, you’re going to have to wait just a bit longer, and I’m very very sorry. In case you feel like hunting me down and harming me, allow me to attempt to disuade you with sympathy. The last couple of weeks have been jam packed with happenings. My fourth and final year at college wrapped up with a melodramatic bang. I moved an entire apartment full of crap over 400 miles. My aunt Elizabeth passed away (we all miss her greatly). I’m planning a wedding for the end of the summer. I’m trying very hard to find a job that doesn’t involve a deep fryer. I don’t have either of my consoles set up to the internet yet, and my PC is still in a box. So… I haven’t been gaming, and let me just tell you; as much as you might be missing my posts, I’m equally missing writing them.

I can tell you that my next post will be about long distance gaming, and quite possibly about Section 8, since I’ve been requested to “get it and write about it.”

Happy Gaming,

Ms. Pacman (I forgot that I was going to sign off my posts this way…)

Importing Intellectual Property: The Great

Posted: May 11, 2011 by Raparth in Uncategorized

This week I’d like to talk about the practice of Importing Intellectual Property into gaming. My use of “intellectual property” within this post will be the vague notion of a setting or universe, rather than the more legalistic notions I’ve seen elsewhere. The intellectual property I will specifically be discussing here is the Warhammer 40,000 IP. This will be my example of a “Great” use of an IP and I hope to have a good example of a “Terrible” use of an IP for next week (and comments on your thoughts on particularly great or terribly IPs is both appreciated and encouraged for discussion)

Warhammer 40,000 is a wargame from Games Workshop. A wargame, for those of you who don’t know, is a game played with miniatures representing opposing armies. It is turn based and has many rules about how far a given unit can move, shoot, etc. It is, to put it lightly, an immense, comprehensive, and overall amazing piece of Intellectual Property. The number of things it has influenced are difficult to explain.

The first example is the least “true” to the source material, but is probably the best known (especially among those who don’t know anything about WH40k). It is…. Starcraft. Starcraft is certainly not advertized as a piece of the WH40k IP, but once you consider it’s psychically-powerful space “elves” (Just read the way Protoss developed without true industrialization.), utilitarian human space marines, and a giant dinosaur/insectasoid swarm of DNA-assimilators controlled by a Hive Mind… Well, you’ve just described WH40k (if only a small part of it).

The second example of imported IP is the always-increasing number of video and computer games released directly under the Warhammer 40,000 title.
Fire Warrior was, I’ve heard, a very fun FPS.
Dawn of War and its expansions were great RTSes set in the WH40k universe, while
Dawn of War II and its expansions are a great import of specifically-WH40k-wargame mechanics and general feel into an RTS context.
What I mean by this distinction between Dawn of War and Dawn of War II is that:
– Dawn of War is a game where you establish a base, accumulate resources, build units, and use them to destroy the enemy base. This is what RTSes are for the most part.
– Dawn of War II is a game where you have up to 4 squads of units, each capping out at 1-4 members (depending on the squad). You can replace members of the squads, but you never have more than 4 squads. There are no resources; you are merely trying to use these few units to achieve a goal on the map. This is just like WH40k the wargame, except for… it’s an RTS!
– Special note: I love both of these games and both play-styles.
– Holy shit, there’s a Warhammer 40,000 movie? I’m going to have to watch it!
Dark Millennium is the most exciting… It’s the attempt at a WH40k MMORPG, to come out in 2012. This will be extremely difficult to pull off, let alone pull of well enough to be liked by both WH40k fans and by MMORPG fans, but… if they do it, it will be amazing.
– There are quite a few others, really, but these are the ones I can offer genuine comment on.

There are also quite a few board games and card games that are associated with WH40k.

Another way to show how great the WH40k IP has spread its wings is that Dark Heresy line of roleplaying games. Well, I should caveat that there are two other game lines (Rogue Trader and Deathwatch) that use the same system, but have different core rule books, but I’m really talking about all of these games together. They, from what I can tell (yes, I’m still trying to get myself into a game), excellent at both deeply and faithfully portraying the setting AND making the gameplay interesting and fun. The recent release of the Blood of the Martyrs supplement, which includes Ordo Hereticus Inquisitors and the Sisters of Battle, has only increased my desire to get in a RP setting like this. Since I’ve read the fluff (“fluff” is the term for the “roleplaying” and “descriptive” and “setting” and “talky” bits between purely-numerical mechanics in the wargame… Yes, I love fluff.) and especially since I’ve read associated novels (looking at you, Eisenhorn and Ravenor), I’ve been utterly convinced this setting demands to be roleplayed in.

That was talking about how well a setting can be translated into all aspects of gaming (and beyond!). Next week I hope to talk about an IP that is a great example of how this same attempt can go terribly, terribly wrong.

Suffer not the witch to live,
– Inquisitor Lord Yuriel Indoril of the Ordo Hereticus
~ Mr. Pacman

P.S. I apologize for no post last week, but I shamelessly confess it was the last finals week of my last semester of undergraduate education and, frankly, 35 pages in 3 days was impressive even for me.

Games Games Games

Posted: May 1, 2011 by Cynthia 心雅 in Uncategorized

Out of no other inspiration, here is a lot of my opinion about… what else? Games!

Very First Video Games

My first game was on the Atari system. I don’t recall the name but it was essentially Frogger with a chicken. The first game I was old enough to really remember with detail was the Mario Bros/Duck Hunt duo game. I LOVED duck hunt. I think it was probably the dog, and the fact that I got to aim and shoot a shotgun at my television set. I learned the trick to Duck Hunt really quickly; put the gun against the screen. I was, however, really bad at Mario for many years. Who am I kidding? I’m still pretty bad at it. I think it’s the limited tries aspect of it. Back then, there were no save points. If you couldn’t master an entire level in as many tries as you had lives, you had to start the whole game over. The whole game. I think that was my problem. It’s too easy to angrily give up when you’ve almost beaten the game and get Game Over for the hundredth time.

My first computer games were much more compelling. Wolfenstein 3D, Duke Nukem 3D, and Doom were the bees knees. 3D definitely used to mean something a little different then. I also enjoyed playing text based adventures in DOS, as well as Dragon’s Lair (oh Daphne…) and occasionally hacking my way passed the 21+ test of Leisure Suit Larry. I think that test prevented my parents from playing far more often than my sister and I.

Guilty Pleasure Games

It’s funny that my biggest guilty pleasure game isn’t so much embarrassing in normal society as it is in gamer culture. I really enjoy The Sims. I know, I’m insane. How could anyone want to play a game that’s purpose is to be as much like boring normal life as possible? I think the draw in for me is both the opportunity to do crazy things without consequences in real life (much like people’s draw to GTA) and the opportunity to creatively kill my characters in seemingly hundreds of ways.

Another guilty pleasure of mine is flash games. I love bejeweled and those sort of mind numbing puzzlers, as well as flash RPGs, particularly those with a well developed plot. I often search through google for new games to try.

Most Annoying Characters

Well, there are certainly a lot of these, but I think of all the games I’ve ever played (and I mean ever) no one will ever come close to the level of annoying that Donald reached in Kingdom Hearts. I’ve never yelled “Shut up!” at a character so much in my entire life. I loved the cross media aspect of both KH and KH2, and all of the movie themed levels were a lot of fun (ok, all except KH2’s version of The Little Mermaid. Do not waste my time in an RPG with a level that makes me feel like I’m playing a Learning Leapfrog game) but the Disney sidekick characters were not only unnecessary; they were out right unwelcome.

Favorite Game Couple

I certainly think this is appropriate to our site. After careful consideration, I believe my favorite in game couple (as much as I wanted to make it Ariman and Namira :P) is Princess Zelda and Link. I say this because not only does Link never give up rescuing Zelda, no matter how many times she’s in peril, but Zelda herself proved she can truly hold her own against the evils in her Kingdom through the disguise of Sheik.

Saddest Game Scene

I’m going to make a joke of this, so don’t comment back about all the scenes that clearly beat this one. The Companion Cube level of Portal is the hardest most heartbreaking thing I’ve ever had to put an imaginary character through.

Best Gameplay

This is something I can never keep a consistent opinion on. Currently, I would say Portal/Portal2 because the concept is so simple and yet so ingenious and very fun to play. The concept of having a gun that can shoot portals from A to B could easily be drawn out, and eventually boring, but Valve is constently keeping us on our toes (and in our leg bracers) by adding more complexities to the game every level. On top of that, the AI systems they created to navigat you through the games are some of the most interesting and colorful robotic characters of any game I’ve played.

Gaming System of Choice.

I prefer to play things on console (particularly Xbox 360) but the games available for PC verses those available for consoles make it my number one choice. I can always just plug an Xbox 360 controller into my computer’s USB port (Thank you Microsoft!)

A Game Everyone Should Play

The Dig. If you have not played this PC game from 1995, you need to do so now. Back when story lines in video games weren’t as important as movie plots, LucasArts decided that they needed to break this bad habit. With a plot written by Steven Spielberg himself, many cleverly hidden (though arguably intentional) Star Wars references, and Myst-like game play, The Dig is, in my honest opinion, one of the 90’s best games. Steam recently re-released it, and you can download and play it for just $5.

Disappointing Sequels

Well, the biggest disappointment in sequel history (in my opinion) was the complete failure to ever release Kingdom Hearts 3. The second game in the series even has a trailer for the non-existent game when you beat it. I feel like I wasted a lifetime waiting on that game, and all we got was a crappy DS game. Overall though, video games don’t seem to have the same problem of sequel-flops that movies do.If I like a game, I typically enjoy the sequel.

Games with Great Art Style

Most of today’s games have incredible graphics, but for me, Irrational Games and Quantic Dream really stand out in the crowd. Irrational’s Bioshock games have well developed and intricate/detailed worlds that really give character and atmosphere to the games. Quantic Dream released Heavy Rain, which had gamers everywhere drooling the moment it was even announced.

There have also been games in the past, though, that (although they look ridiculous by today’s standard) were really unique and innovative in their time. The game that most comes to mind when thinking about that is Dragon’s Lair, a game released for laser disc of all things, in the 90’s. The art work for the game scenes were drawn by a Disney animator, and while most games were using sprites and really limited in any sort of artistic detail they could use, the guys at Cinematronix decided to lose a bit of character control in order to create a very movie-like game. A couple interesting trivia points about the game: The budget was so low that the “voice actors” were just the animators, and since they couldn’t hire models, Princess Daphne was drawn from inspiration gathered from Playboy magazines. Though, that probably helped sell the game, really, as she was the most scandalous and arguably “hot” female lead in any game at the time. Her center-fold-like poses in the ending scene are really hilarious when you know where they came from.

A Game I Thought I Wouldn’t Like, but Ended Up Loving

World of Warcraft gets a really bad rep, even in certain circles of gamer culture. As such, I vowed for a long time, to never start playing it, lest I become a mindless zombie of gold farming nerd rage. When William started playing, I have to admit, I was truly worried about our relationship. Really, I closed myself off from the game so much with out giving it a chance, that I barely knew anything about it. William let me play a bit on his account (because I decided that either I had to become a mindless zombie with him, or surrender him to the dark side and move on. It was all a really melodramatic episode in my mind) and I slowly let myself admit that I was enjoying it, and eventually, loving it. Am I a mindless zombie? no. Am I addicted? I could quit anytime 😉

This has all been really random, I know. Hopefully next week I’ll have something truly interesting to talk about.

Reflections on Portal 2

Posted: April 29, 2011 by Raparth in Uncategorized

Well, here we are again…
It’s always such a pleasure…

I must initially apologize for this being a a couple days late.  I got 4.5 hours of sleep and seemingly 30 hours of studying/writing done in the 36 hours from Wednesday to Thursday.  It was exhausting, to say the least, but I can now discuss at a fair length exactly how fun the philosophy of William of Ockham is.  But more on that… maybe never.  Then I also had the final submission of my Senior Thesis due today, so that certainly took up a lot of time the last few days.  Anyway, getting to the reason you’re here…

This is neither going to be a numerical review attempting to gauge some objective standard of excellence nor a particularly systematic examination of the game, either of the plot or the technical aspects.  Instead, I will focus on some key aspects of Portal 2 that make it both fun, engaging, and distinctly different from its predecessor. [b]Very light spoilers, alluding to but not detailing aspects of the game, may well follow. You have been warned.[/b]

There are certain that the puzzles present themselves. Portal 2 is more a game of observation and planning, where you spend a lot of time looking around at the level and visualizing certain strategies. This is a much different mood than Portal 1’s spirit of free experimentation. Much of the facility is in ruins, removing most of the portal-friendly surfaces from the areas. The player must, thus, be very careful to notice where there [i]are[/i] portal-friendly surfaces, and then see how they interrelate. This makes the game much more mental, rather than “physical” (i.e. trying things out), which while somewhat inherently limiting, also keeps you from trying out 20 things that will never, ever work. I obviously can’t say how many puzzles have alternative solutions, but having played the coop campaign through 1.5 times and seen the single player done the same number (I watched a good chunk of Cynthia’s trials from across the room, while I obviously did them all myself), I found only one puzzle that had two very different solutions (it was in the coop campaign).

The most interesting thing about Portal 2 is how much better the storytelling is that the first game. Don’t get me wrong, it’s a very different story, requiring very different modes of transmission, but, overall, it was much more engaging that Portal 1. Wheatley, that little blue eyeball, was, from the very first scene, a great way to learn about the change in time from Portal 1 to Portal 2 and was a nice little reminder of the eccentric science done by Aperture Science Laboratories. He serves as a great source of that information, while (unintentionally from his perspective) being a very good filter for what exactly we might learn. He thinks some things are less important and others super important, utterly regardless to what a sensible human being would decide. (After all, he [i]might die[/i] if he tries this new thing.)

The portion of the game I am most impressed by is the point at which you start at the bottom of the facility, working your way up and (via the ruins) through time. Hearing the voice recordings progress from (I believe it was) the 50s all the way to the 80s is a lesson in visual and aural storytelling. We find out how Aperture began, seemingly so fitting for the reckless spirit of its time (if more reckless than the rest), progressing through the years less than gracefully (I particularly loved all the 2nd place trophies, no doubt losing to Black Mesa.) and seemingly becoming more and more sinister. No, that’s not right: more and more desperate, desperate to do that limitless science that Aperture loves. (As a brief aside, referencing White Wolf’s [i]Mage: the Ascension[/i], I hope I was not the only one to see Aperture Science as the reckless and spirited Sons of Ether, while Black Mesa is conversely portrayed as more dour Technocrats.) Still, there always seems to be the sliver of hope, still grasping onto this love of Science. Needless to say, the potato serves as a wonderful plot device that really turns around our expectations.

The story works so well, right to the end, but has me wondering where we are in relation to Half-Life 2: Episode 3… Where is that damned game, anyway? It was great until the end, and then we got another great song. I can’t help, though, loving coop more than single player, just because Portal works so [i]damned[/i] well in a group. How did we used to get by with only 2 portals? 4 works so much better. Plus, shooting your friends around the map, their little mechanical lives in your hands… Well, Science Collaboration Points are so funny. GLaDOS’s ability to try to turn two robots against each other sent me into laughter nearly every time.

But, my friends,
Now I Only Want You Gone…
~Mr. Pacman

P.S. Back to WoW more dedicatedly, soon. I can’t want to fight the Zandalari. Warcraft Trolls just work so well, for me. Lately, between papers and finals, I’ve been trying out Supreme Commander 2 and Dawn of War 2, both are a couple years old but very fun.

Playing a game that’s only new for one person

Posted: April 25, 2011 by Cynthia 心雅 in Uncategorized

As you are probably aware, Protal 2 came out last week, and William got it immediately, and played through it both in single player and co-op. I played through the single player on his account, but didn’t have anyone to play co-op with (his account can only run one game at a time, so it doesn’t support playing co-op within it, and he played with his father) unless I got my own copy.

So, yesterday I got the game and we started playing together, and it inspired me to write this blog.

Sometimes you play a game for the first time with someone who’s played before, and sometimes you play a familiar game with someone who hasn’t played before. For some games, this is a non-issue because the game doesn’t have much of a story-line (e.g. RockBand and similar games.) Other times, it’s a big issue of making sure both players are enjoying the game.

Portal 2 is of the second batch of games. We’ve just started playing through it, and already we’ve been faced with three obvious issues.

The New Player Feels Like the Veteran Player is Giving too much Away.
-When you know the end of a story, and you’re playing through it for the second time, it’s hard to not openly notices points of foreshadowing, and “you wouldn’t get this if you didn’t already know,” references. What’s worse, though, is that it’s hard as a new player to not worry that ~everything~ the other person is saying is potentially a “spoiler.”

The New Player Feels Like the Veteran Player is “Helping” too much, or Rushing through Things.
-In a game like Portal 2, which is at it’s core a puzzle-solving game, once you’ve completed the game, you’ve solved all of the puzzles. They don’t change from one play to the next. Level 2 room 4 is the same no matter how many times you play. As such, the new player is fully aware that the veteran player knows the solution, so collaboration on solving it is sort of out of the question, because anything the veteran player says or does, is said or done with knowledge of the eventual solution. It certainly puts a strain on the “team-work” aspect of the game.

The Veteran Player Feels Limited on What They Can Do and Say.
-The previous two issues lead to a final issue on the veteran player. How do you play a game with someone, with the above problems without just mindlessly doing what they say, and letting them decide everything, regardless of whether you know that the decision is wrong and will only waste time, when you could just tell them the consequence of said decision, because you have previously made the same mistake. It’s hard to enjoy a game in which you feel very limited by what you can do without upsetting the other person.

We have yet to find a real solution to these issues, so I can so far offer you none. However, if we figure it out, I’ll certainly update here 😀