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Chris Carter's blog
destructoid  Reviews Director

10:11 PM on 01.01.2013

My top games of 2012

Hamza did it. Kyle is doing it. Brett, Holmes and Allistair are doing it. Heck, your mom is doing it. Everyone's making a top game list!

So I'll make one.

Of course, the hardest part is narrowing down all of the amazing games. This was kind of hard guys, because I played over 126 games. Yep, at least 126 games that I can recall when chronicling the mega year I had in gaming, and distilling it down to a few scant choices.

As for the year itself, 2012 was a great time to be a gamer. A lot of retro-only fans like to note how each year is increasingly worse for the gaming industry due to the over-saturation of AAA games. I heavily disagree. There are so many portables, consoles, indies, and big budget games each year, there's literally something for everyone.

Whether you're a fan of AAA or niche games, there's probably something anyone can enjoy in my top list of 2012.

The Walking Dead

There's really not much I can say that hasn't been said already. The Walking Dead by Telltale is my personal Game of the Year choice.

Despite some issues with Telltale in the past (the Wallace and Gromit games were alright, and Jurassic Park was pretty horrid), I feel like they've trumped their better previous efforts by far (Sam and Max), and they incorporated elements of all of their past games, and then some into TWD.

Coupled with amazing performances all around, I can hardly believe this game was sold digitally by a non-blockbuster studio/publisher. I even cried a few times, which pretty much never happens to me in a video game.

Great show, Telltale.

XCOM: Enemy Unknown

I was a casual fan of X-COM as a young child. Despite its complexity, there was something that really called to me as a strategy game fan.

Thankfully, XCOM not only lives up to the legacy of the old series, but it also incorporates many streamlined elements that newcomers will find extremely welcome.

Who can forget building bases for hours on end, without ever entering a mission? Or the nerve wracking decisions like choosing which countries to save, and which to plunge into peril?

The crux of my enjoyment from XCOM comes from one simple principle: you can't save everything, and nothing is permanent. Strangely, it made for one fun game and one of the best experiences of 2012 by far.

Also, who could forget putting your loved one into the game, only to have them blasted into oblivion a few hours later?

Halo 4

I was hesitant to get Halo 4 at launch. Despite the fact that I had a strong history with Halo as a Halo 1 and 2 tourney goer, I had a really negative experience with 3, and ODST and Reach really didn't do it for me.

I'm glad I listened to my friends and picked up Halo 4 at launch, because it was worth it. Everything feels new, yet classic, and developer 343 Studios really took the series by the horns and improved it.

I really felt like Bungie was getting too content, and continually making the series stale with each entry: 343's hunger bled into my experience with the game, and I loved it.


My wife and I play a lot of games together. But sometimes, developers design games that are too frustrating, or time consuming for her to get involved.

Spelunky, despite being one of the most difficult games of 2012, enamored my wife. There's something about the idea of jumping into a giant, sprawling cave together and forging our own adventures together that completely made her forget about how controller-throwingly hard it was.

We would spend hours cave crawling, figuring out new tactics together, and how to tackle every situation in the game. Weeks later, we were masters. You know what? It was all thanks to the amazing design choices of the developers.

Like Demon's and Dark Souls, Spelunky makes you learn the game, and gives you the tools to do it. It doesn't hold your hand, and I loved it for it.

Gravity Rush

I really didn't know what to expect from Gravity Rush, but I was blown away. Kat, the game's heroine, was one of the most likable characters in all of gaming. Period.

People who want more positive female role models in gaming need to look no further than characters like Kat. I sincerely hope she becomes a staple mascot of the Sony brand going forward, because I loved sharing my adventure with her.

My love for Kat aside, the game was augmented with an amazing soundtrack, a beautiful open world setting, incredible art design, and fun gameplay.

Even if combat was lacking at times (it's like the developers felt like they needed to put in combat in some portions), this was one of my favorite games of 2012, and I still go back to it from time to time.

Xenoblade Chronicles

I used to play at least a few JRPGs a month back in my heyday -- I ate them up like candy. 20, 40, 60 hours? No problem -- bring 'em on.

But as a I grew up, I became disenfranchised with longer games -- especially if they were sloppily put together, and had bad, outdated mechanics.

Xenoblade changed all that. It was a JRPG for western RPG fans. Why no one had really done this as well as Xenoblade had done it before, I have no idea.

Somehow, it perfectly captured that whimsical feeling that I experienced so many times late at night staying up playing JRPGs, and then some. If you have a Wii, this is required reading.

Dust: An Elysian Tale

The often referred to genre of "Metroidvania" really isn't well represented these days. Outside of the occasional release like Shadow Complex, fans of the genre really don't get their fill.

Dust was basically a labor of love by one developer, and it scratches that itch entirely. I loved exploring random nooks and crannies, and engaging in the well made combat system, while challenging myself with the fairly amazing difficulty curve.

I just had to go play Super Metroid afterwards, and I owe it to Dust for letting me return to the golden age of 2D open world games.

Asura's Wrath

If you were ever disappointed by a Dragon Ball Z game and were left wanting more, you need to buy Asura's Wrath. Despite the fact that the game is mostly comprised of QTEs, Asura's Wrath presents an intriguing, and intoxicating narrative that you'll want to play out until the end.

It's like a giant anime episode that you get to play, and at times, if you jack up the difficulty, it can get really challenging (I LOVED the DLC Akuma boss fight on Hard).

Some people feel like Capcom's decision to sell the "real ending" as DLC is sleazy. If I had picked up the game at launch for full price, and had to wait for it, I would probably agree.

But getting the game months down the line for under $20 was a different experience entirely. I really, really liked Asura's Wrath, and it's a game that will stay in my memory for the rest of my life. If you like over the top anime, you need this game -- it'll put a smile on your face, guaranteed.

Sine Mora

What a surprise! Like our own Allistair P., I'm a huge fan of shoot 'em ups, and I can't get enough of them (specifically bullet hell).

Sine Mora delivered and more, as the developers were not only able to create a solid core shmup that plays great, but they also presented a well crafted, intriguing, and sometimes shocking narrative to boot.

Where else can you get a game where you're stopping time to dodge bullets, and dealing with substance and sexual abuse in the next moment?

Rock Band Blitz

What?! A rhythm game in my top ten? Yep, there were a ton of great rhythm games this year, but Rock Band Blitz takes the cake for me. The ability to incorporate your whole library of Rock Band songs is amazing, as is the fact that the game comes with songs that can be imported into Rock Band 3.

The scoring system is practically perfect, and the way Harmonix was able to incorporate social gaming into an asynchronous game was nothing short of brilliant.

I loved being able to compare and contrast my scores with fellow staff members, and Conrad's amazingness at the game left me with many long nights trying to play catch up.

Honorable mentions:

This is going to be lengthy, because I feel like there are a lot of phenomenal 2012 games that deserve credit.

Borderlands 2, Mass Effect 3, Need for Speed: Most Wanted, Darksiders II, Sleeping Dogs, Mark of the Ninja, Fez, Crashmo, Rhythm Thief, Kingdom Hearts 3D: Dream Drop Distance, Theatrhythm Final Fantasy, Rayman Jungle Run, Hotline Miami, Guild Wars 2, World of Warcraft: Mists of Pandaria, Call of Duty: Black Ops II, PlayStation All-Stars Battle Royale, Retro City Rampage, Rhythm Heaven Fever, New Super Mario Bros. 2, New Super Mario Bros. U, Nintendo Land.   read

10:14 AM on 12.11.2012

Carter's Quest 2013: Every main series Elder Scrolls game ever

[Read on for a description of every main series Elder Scrolls game ever released in the US, and my completion of them all in 2013.]

2013 is going to be an exciting year. Now that I know you guys enjoy reading my Quests, I'm going to make an effort to do even more of them from here on out.

I hope that you guys have learned a bit about the franchises I've covered so far, as my plan is to inspire others to share their thoughts and feelings with the series of their choice as well (which many of you have done!).

In addition to Metroid and Mega Man Classic, I also have another one ready to go for 2013: Elder Scrolls.

Why The Elder Scrolls?

Morrowind. Yep. Morrowind.

As I stated in my blog, the third entry in The Elder Scrolls saga is one of my favorite games of all time, and cemented my love for the series. No other open world game has replicated what Morrowind did for me.

In honor of that fantastic feeling, I'll be replaying every game in the franchise.

Yes, the first two series entries, Arena and Daggerfall, are fairly dated. But since I grew up on Wizardry, Kings Field, and many more classic dungeon crawlers, I think I'm up for the task. It also makes it easier knowing that the first two games are absolutely free on Bethesda's website.

For this Quest, I'll beat the main story of each game, and keep playing other content as I see fit. Since there are only five games in the core series, I'll be completing every bit of DLC to elongate the third, fourth, and fifth games.

I expect the first two to take quite a while, regardless of the lack of DLC. I'm also including The Elder Scrolls Online, which could also take up a lot of time to complete the main questline. I'll include extended thoughts on each game after I play them, since open world titles tend to provide you with different experiences every time.

If you haven't joined me on my Quests before, the way they work is pretty simple. It's kind of like a retrospective, but rather than just give you an overview of a franchise, I'll generally let you know what I thought of the game when it was released, and what I think of it now.

If I didn't provide a complete vision of what the game is like before I replay it, I'll provide an "extended thoughts" section below each applicable entry. I'll update my progress in real time through my blog, and after I finish the entire Quest, I'll share it with you guys on the front page.


The Elder Scrolls: Arena - PC [Owned]

DLC: None

Size of map: Undetermined, due to instanced design

Although it was far from the first RPG (that was about 20 years earlier), Arena came out the same year as the first King's Field game, cementing it into a gold age of PC RPGs.

Arena is unique in that you can explore all of Tamriel, and not just one or two areas -- Morrowind, Oblivion, and Skyrim are all at your fingertips, provided you can handle the dated visuals.

Speaking of the ability to explore everywhere, the way Arena handled the map is kind of odd. The map itself isn't a continuous, connected world -- it's actually instanced. You have to use fast travel to go between towns, so it's very hard to determine the exact size of the world map.

Like Daggerfall, the game is randomly generated. I hope it holds up somewhat!



The Elder Scrolls II: Daggerfall - PC [Owned]

DLC: None

Size of map: approximately 487,000 square kilometers

Daggerfall is a classic RPG game, through and through. It provides a number of graphical and engine enhancements over Arena, and starts to follow a more traditional Elder Scrolls formula that would help define the series in the years to come.

You could become a vampire, werewolf, and wereboar (the former two would be implemented in nearly every subsequent game), and the political system was incredibly well done, and pretty much unprecedented at the time.

The game was also controversial at the time as an M rated game, as it showed lots of blood, nudity, and had sexual dialogue (which could be removed through parental controls in the options -- remember those, PC gamers?).

Unlike Arena though, you weren't free to explore all of Tamriel. Instead, you were stuck with High Rock and Hammerfell, although the game is so large, that Morrowind is suggested to be 0.01% the size of Daggerfall's map.

Bethesda jumped through this hurdle by randomly generating most of the map, although that caveat makes it bigger than pretty much every game ever made outside of possibly EVE Online. The sheer scale of the game is so unimaginable that it basically isn't possible today.



The Elder Scrolls III: Morrowind - Xbox [Owned], Xbox (Game of the Year Edition) [Owned], PC [Owned]

DLC: Tribunal [Owned], Blood Moon [Owned]

Size of map: approximately 25.9 square kilometers

What couldn't I say about Morrowind that hasn't been said already? The vast plains, the amazing mushroom forests, the detailed ruins and keeps -- it pretty much trumped every single open world game ever released at that point, and the fact that they were able to cram it onto an Xbox disc is nothing short of amazing.

I spent well over 300 hours on one character just exploring, crafting items, and making up my own quests (this is with zero time spent on the main quest). Speaking of crafting, while some may say it breaks the game, the ability to create pretty much any item or spell increased the game's enjoyment tenfold.

I was able to spend hours creating spells like "Cure, Cura, and Curaga," as well as a "Mario Jump" spell that allowed me to leap hundreds of feet into the air. You could levitate, craft "The One Ring of Invisibility," -- anything. If you could imagine it, you could probably do it in Morrowind.

The one major detractor from the game is the fact that it hasn't aged well. Without a solid texture pack on the PC, you'll probably feel the burn of jagged, dated visuals.

While I don't think Tribunal was anything to write home about, Blood Moon rocked, and I'll be doing both for this Quest.



The Elder Scrolls IV: Oblivion - PC, PS3, PS3 (Game of the Year Edition), Xbox 360 [Owned], Xbox 360 (Game of the Year Edition)

DLC: Knights of the Nine [Owned], Shivering Isles [Owned], Mehrune's Razor [Owned]

Size of map: approximately 41.4 square kilometers

Oblivion, I felt, had a much less interesting world, and premise, than any other TES game before it. There's something about the plain feeling of Cyrodil that just didn't resonate with me.

While the trademark sidequests had some pretty great storylines, the main quest was probably the weakest and most repetitive yet. The gist is that you're constantly trying to seal "Oblivion Gates" to prevent evil forces from bursting through into Tamriel.

The problem is, the Oblivion realm is dreadfully boring, and Bethesda tends to re-use assets and even layouts so often, that it really takes away from the allure of the game.

That "samey" feel kind of projects itself onto the game in general, actually. Unlike the previous games (Morrowind especially), sometimes it's hard to discern where you are unless you look at your map. For me, that's not a hallmark of an Elder Scrolls game in the slightest. Contrary to popular belief, Oblivion's map is actually larger than Morrowind.

Still, while I think Oblivion isn't a great Elder Scrolls game, it's a pretty solid RPG that pretty much every fan should experience at least once.

I'll also be adding on the fairly short and lackluster Knights of the Nine and Mehrune's Razor questlines, as well as the incredibly detailed, and amazing Shivering Isles expansion.

To be frank actually, Shivering Isles comes close to Morrowind's greatness and originality, and judged seperately as its own game, is probably one of the strongest Elder Scrolls titles.



The Elder Scrolls V: Skyrim - PC, PS3, Xbox 360 [Owned]

DLC: Dawnguard [Owned], Hearthfire [Owned], Dragonborn [Owned]

Size of map: approximately 40.0 square kilometers

Skyrim immediately grabbed me more than Oblivion ever did, basically within the first hour. Although Bethesda just substituted green plains for snow (which also got old sometimes), the "dragon" hook gave the game markedly more character right off the bat.

The concept of a "dragonborn" hero that actually feels heroic, and the mere fact that dragons constantly patrol the skies made for a much more interesting, and fun game.

As always, the sidequests were much more fun than the particularly drab main questline, but I probably wouldn't have it any other way, as a few of the sidequests had better narratives than full retail titles.

Although I think Bethesda could have done better, Skyrim is still quite an amazing game, and a great gateway into the Elder Scrolls series. In addition to the rather short main quest, I'll be playing every expansion released for the game to date, and will update this Quest should any more DLC surface.



The Elder Scrolls Online - PC

Size of map: Unknown

I have no idea what to expect from The Elder Scrolls Online. In some ways, I can see it ending up like my Old Republic experience: getting to max level, enjoying the story, then promptly quitting. In another breath, I can see the vast lands of Tamriel in glorious HD, and not just restricted to Morrowind, Cyrodiil, or Skyrim.

Subscription based models are pretty tough to run these days in tandem with Blizzard, but given the prestige of the series, I can see them trying it initially. We'll see what 2013 brings, but honestly, I'm just excited at the idea of being able to see Summerset Isles close up.



Collection Photo:


Final thoughts:   read

9:42 AM on 10.15.2012

Shortblog: Check out this awesome retro Skyrim DIY project

It's not often that I'm impressed by do it yourself projects, but this gaming relating one caught my eye. The perfect marriage of retro and contemporary gaming is what made me so interested -- I love it anytime there's reverence for old school (which is probably why I get along so well with Destructoid's Chad Concelmo!).

One of my wife's co-workers had an awesome idea for his friend's birthday. His friend was a massive Skyrim fan, so he knew that he had to seize the opportunity, and make him something really special.

Initially, he considered ordering this custom Skyrim cartridge off of 72-Pins, but shortly afterwards he thought he would go the extra mile and make it a bit more personal.

After doing some internet matlockery, he came across a template, official Nintendo seals, a font that was as close as you could get to the NES cartridge style, and some laminate to protect the project's integrity. He ended up finding some awesome original retro-themed Skyrim artwork, and everything kind of just came together.

After doing some Photoshop wizardry he pared down the label for an NES cartridge, removed the old one and some yellow residue with Goo-b-gone, and BAM -- instant custom cartridge.

But he wasn't done there, because at this point, it was just pretty to look at -- and that wasn't enough. Using a guide from Instructables, he used a utility knife and a screwdriver to crack into the case and add some functionality to it.

All of this DIY madness makes me want to work on a project of my own -- I think Dark or Demon's Souls would be PERFECT for this.   read

12:39 PM on 09.18.2012

Impressions: Kirby's Dream Collection

Haven't you heard? Kirby's Dream Collection is out this week. Last Sunday, to be exact! Good old Nintendo Sunday releases. Jim will be covering it proper on the front page, but I figured I'd share my thoughts with you guys here.

Kirby's Dream Collection is very similar to the Wii's Super Mario All-Stars Limited Edition collection, but it has a little more "juice" to it, and it isn't hard to see why.

Not only does KDC contain Kirby's Dream Land, Kirby's Adventure, Kirby's Dream Land 2, Kirby Super Star, Kirby's Dream Land 3, and Kirby 64: The Crystal Shards, but it also has new challenge stages, a charming mini-booklet on Kirby's history, an in-game museum, and a soundtrack CD.

So how does it stack up?

If you're a hardcore Kirby fan, you probably need this collection. Although the included soundtrack and booklet don't go the extra mile to make this a "must have at all costs" type of deal, they are charming enough to add to the allure of the package.

The rather small booklet mostly contains factoids that us Kirby fanatics already knew, but seeing the original design proposal for the series, and a number of original designs all in one place makes for a great read anytime you want your Kirby fix.

The soundtrack is just one CD (which hilariously states that "you cannot play on your Wii"), and contains a mix of tracks from sixteen Kirby games, as well as three tracks that were recorded for the anniversary celebration. It would have been a bit nicer to get a more fleshed out multi-disc collection, but ultimately it is pretty enjoyable mix for when you just want to drop everything and get your Kirby-dance on.

The in-game Kirby museum is also cool, as it goes through every game throughout the years from 1992-2012 with random world factoids, but it's something you can do in fifteen minutes and never do again. That little adorable puffball has had quite a few games since his birth, but sadly, you can only play six of them on this collection: and the museum constantly reminds you of that.

So what if you're not a fan? Well, if you don't care about anything ancillary, and just wanted updated versions of the six classic games, you are going to be disappointed as hell. To be clear, these are direct ROM dumps and not remade ports on offer.

For instance, in the first Kirby's Dream Land, after clearing the game, you had to reset (turn off/on) your Game Boy unit to play again. Same deal here. If you're the type of person who can't stand lazy designs like this in updated packages, you'll most likely be fairly frustrated here. At the very least, there is GameCube, Classic Controller, and Wii-mote support.

Additionally, a number of these games can be found fairly cheap on the 3DS and WiiWare Virtual Consoles already, which means you wouldn't have to drop $40 on the package of six games to actually own all six. In fact, the only game not available right now is Kirby's Dream Land 2 (which is actually available everywhere but the US on the 3DS VC, and is coming to the US at some point).

The rest you can pick up for $3-10 each digitally, or perhaps even less online. If you're looking to get this for multiplayer, note that only three of the games support 2 or more players -- Kirby Super Star, Kirby's Dream Land 3, and Kirby 64 (and for the uninitiated, Kirby 64's multiplayer is for mini-games only).

Thankfully, unlike the Mario All-Stars Wii release, there is actual new content involved in the form of challenge rooms. These challenge rooms use the same engine as Kirby's Return to Dreamland, but involve all-new experiences. As you race through levels to get the best time and kill as many enemies as possible, you'll unlock more challenges, and even have the opportunity to race Magolor from RTD.

Races are a lot like the King Dedede gourmet races from Kirby Super Star, but a tad more enjoyable, as Magolor is a much more interesting opponent than Dedede ever was given his propensity to zap you while competing. The challenges don't offer a full game, but it's not a mini-game either: it's something more in-between.

All in all, I'm satisfied with the collection, but I wouldn't recommend it to anyone who wasn't a franchise fan. If you're a savvy enough consumer who just wants to casually play the series, you can easily just find these piecemeal for cheaper than the asking price. If you're a true fan however, you might want to pick this one up before it's gone forever.   read

8:33 AM on 08.30.2012

For the Community: My Story

I've already written two "10 things about Magnalon" articles, in addition to participating in a c-blog interview regarding myself. But in light of recent blogs, I feel like it's necessary to detail how I came here, what I've done with the many years I've been here, and what my plans are for the future.

When I was a community member, I always thought it was really important to get to know who the people on the front page are -- that was a key factor in drawing me to Destructoid, and as a result, I try to respond to as many people as I can, whether it's in the comments on the front page, via a PM, or in the c-blogs.

This is my extended response to all of those people who are looking to either break into the community, feel a lack of community, or want to know how to get involved in writing. Hopefully when you combine the above articles with this one, you'll get a clear Voltron-esque complete picture of who I am.

All of this is written fairly off-the-cuff with no preparation outside of the images -- but then again, that's my style baby!

Chapter 1: Jumping into the unknown

After lurking Destructoid since late 2008, I finally decided to join the community and write a blog under the username "Magnalon," which is a combination of Magna Centipede from Mega Man X2, and Shenlong, which is either a dragon or a Gundam depending on how you look at it. It was about Lord of the Rings Conquest: a game most people hated, or couldn't give a damn about.

It was literally the first gaming blog I ever wrote. Anywhere. Because of Jim Sterling and Jonathan Holmes, two staff members that are widely loved and still here, I was emblazoned to write that one seemingly insignificant blog. I felt like their editorial voices were extremely unique, and gave gaming websites a fresh coat of paint.

My original avatar was Wesker, from Resident Evil. I attempted to engage the community, and talk about the things I liked, and didn't like. I commented quite a bit, for better or for worse, and eventually, I started to learn what types of games nearly every community member enjoyed.

After a few months, I changed my avatar to Legato Bluesummers from the anime Trigun, which you'll see in my profile bar to the right to this day. My blog header has also stayed the same from day one (The Stampede is a Trigun reference, but it's also my old Mech Assault clan's name, which was #1 in the US).

Before I knew it, I was getting emails and comments asking me to grab a beer, or hang out and talk about all of the obscure games that I had talked about in my blog. It was an awesome feeling to say the least, as many other gaming sites' comment sections are just barren wastelands of discussion.

What would come next would lead to two E3s, publisher-paid preview flights, a truck load of review copies, many friendships, and of course, a full-circle employment with Destructoid.

Chapter 2: Magnalon

After writing a few c-blogs, I got a small handful of PMs asking if I wrote for any gaming websites. The answer at the time was "no," but I ended up looking for one as a result, and found Gamer At the time, Gamer Limit was a very small site ran by one of the nicest Aussies you'll ever meet.

Within weeks, I started reviewing games, and became the Editor-In-Chief and Co-Owner. After adding another incredible writer named James, who became a Co-Owner with myself and the Founder months down the line, things started rolling.

We were accredited by Metacritic and Gamerankings, with help from James, and the 100+ reviews I had written alongside of other staff. We started getting thousands of daily hits and got an ad deal. We attended two E3s, which I couldn't have done without the help of my fellow staff mates, and James, who heavily helped plan it and set up our business documents.

When I was at E3, I had the opportunity to give Jim, Chad, and Niero a hug, and meet Jonathan Holmes and Anthony Burch, among many others. In terms of coverage, I got extremely sick both years because I over-exerted myself and wrote around twenty previews each year. Despite my illnesses however, my passion for gaming still ran strong. If I went back, I wouldn't have done less: I would have done even more.

But running a website is really hard work. Eventually, we had a few writers who moved on to other publications -- AusGamers and Game Informer to name a few. With increasing responsibilities at home, there was no way I could continue to keep the site as flowing as it once was, and it became extremely stressful. Right now, the site is mainly a more relaxed venue, but I still really enjoy reviewing games on it while I'm not writing here. To date, I have reviewed around 165 games that are viewable on Metacritic and Gamerankings.

While this was all happening, I was still very active on Destructoid. I had my first c-blog promotion, and it felt great. While I was doing well at Gamer Limit, my community presence at Destructoid was steadily growing.

People started to identify me, and a lot of the staff would respond to my comments. I had a "Question of the week" on RetroForce Go!, I was referenced on Podtoid a few times (My obsession with Demon's Souls paid off!), I managed to actually get on the botched Podtoid 100, and I won a "Comment of the Week" contest when that was a thing on the front page.

Even though I'm staff, I still link my old avatar in my profile, which has lead to many people exclaiming "OMG you're Magnalon!?" after they click my profile link on the front page. It's a great feeling, as I've made many friends by clicking on their profile links and seeing that they have similar interests.

If you want a major tip when it comes to community integration -- fill out that profile page with as much information as you're comfortable with!

Chapter 3: Friendship and familiarity

But as I started to rise in both communities, more battles were ahead. As I started to spend more time on Destructoid, I eventually became known as the "c-blog sheriff," or the "c-blog police." This was a term coined by the community, because I would pretty much try and comment on every blog I could get my hands on.

If someone was new, and broke some of the unwritten rules, I'd try to steer them in the right direction. If someone was copying blogs from another site and stealing content, I'd try to investigate so the c-blogs could have as much original content as possible.

Funnily enough I had many arguments this way with various community members. I got into a few heated debates with EternalDeathslayer and SilverDragon in particular. Shortly after contacting them and hashing it out, we got along extremely well. Heck, SilverDragon and his girlfriend (now wife) even came and visited my wife and I down at Disney World!

After some time, I hung up the spurs and retired as sheriff. I felt like many others were rising up in my place, and I had to focus on other projects. But that doesn't mean I stopped interacting! I ran many contests as a community member, and interacted with my friends on a near daily basis. This became extremely hard after seeing some of my favorite people pack up and leave, or quit video games altogether.

So, I started a Twitter account specifically to keep in touch with some of the members who left the community. Over the course of a few years, I started to accumulate a ton of fellow Dtoiders on my account, as well as making connections with people outside of Destructoid, on just about every other gaming outlet on the web.

Chapter 4: Staff

Throughout all my years at Destructoid, I had developed a strong editorial voice, augmented by my knowledge and experience with pretty much every genre and era of gaming: from retro to Modern Warfare.

Dale North and Hamza noticed this, and brought me on as a contributor to Destructoid early in 2012. Due to my reduced role at Gamer Limit, I was able to easily start pumping out content for Destructoid, and it couldn't make me happier.

I don't really have a niche per se, as I pretty much enjoy everything, but I do try to make a point to highlight Nintendo content, as I feel like it was a bit underrepresented before I came in. To hone my skills, I started to freelance (literally for free, and for fun) for a few sites like the retro-centric

I feel like things have come full circle. Just a few years ago I was looking outside at the house Destructoid built, and now I'm in it. Yet, I feel like a lot of things have stayed the same: and that's a good thing. I'm still free to write things like this and slum it in the comments. I'm still free to PM people, hang out with some of you, and tweet back and forth with some amazing dudes and dudettes.

Initially, Jim and Jonathan were my inspiration, but eventually, all of Destructoid inspired me. You can easily see why I still love writing here. People have come and gone, but that happens literally everywhere: it's a fact of life.

No matter what happens, for those people I make the effort to keep in contact with: it's like they never left. In fact, some people who don't read the site anymore still contact me about my articles, just because they want to support me -- if that isn't an amazing feeling, I don't know what is!

In light of that, I want to formally say "thank you" to everyone here.

Chapter 5: ???

What does the future bring? I have no idea. What I do know is that I'm mostly in charge of my destiny. If something happened and I couldn't write anymore for the rest of my life, I would regret next to nothing, given how much this community has helped me grow as a person, and given all of the friendships I would still have.

I've gotten a few offers from some smaller websites, but I choose to write here given my history with Destructoid. While I can "never say never" when it comes to my future employment in the writing arena, I do know that I would never accept a job that didn't allow me to continue writing c-blogs, and comment on Destructoid. It's too important to me!

<3   read

1:11 PM on 05.21.2012

Some Diablo III Thoughts – Stay awhile and listen

I’ll give it to you straight: if you've played the Diablo III beta, you’ll notice that the game seems fairly limited and droll. Thankfully, the beta itself was probably one of the worst snapshots of the full game.

One of the most deceiving things about the beta is how limited the rune system was at the time, which lead to player outrage for limiting certain skills to certain quick-slots. Essentially, this required a rigid construction of your character, to the point where people called Diablo III “dumbed down”, and vowed to ignore the retail release. This assessment couldn't be farther from the reality.

Most people probably aren’t aware of the game’s “Elective Mode”, hidden tactfully underneath the veneer of the gameplay options menu. This allows you to put any skill in any slot you want, and completely customize your build the way you want it. Hilariously enough I was included in that naive group, as I didn't even discover the option until after I beat the game for the first time.

In addition to the robust skill system (which gives you more abilities as you level up), you’ll immediately notice that the “Rune” system and passive ability system allow you more customization than any dungeon crawler to date. This mechanic would be tiresome if it weren’t for the fact that Runes utterly change how each skill plays out.

For instance, a skill that replenishes your mana may be further augmented to replenish your health as well, changing when the skill is best used in the middle of a hectic boss fight. Alternatively, it could be modified to give you a mana increase over time after activation, which can be helpful in more attrition-oriented fights.

Another Rune may make a non-damaging skill like a trap or an evasive move inflict damage, or root enemies instead of just slowing them; and so on. You can respec instantly at any time (respeccing changes your abilities – this usually costs in-game currency and the use of an NPC in most RPGs, but it is free and clear in D3).

Respeccing mid-fight can be extremely exhilarating, but Blizzard cleverly rewards players at higher levels of difficulty by giving them a stacking “magic find” (a statistic for finding better loot) buff for NOT respeccing during a certain amount of time – genius.

So what good are fancy skills if there are no interesting boss fights to be had? Thankfully, D3 delivers on that front. Bosses are no longer kite, kite, kite, kite, kite, kite; don’t get hit. They’re basically full-on raid encounters, a la your standard MMO – but in a good way.

Unlike most MMOs that require you to have a guild or assemble a swarthy crew, pretty much every boss in the game outside of maybe Inferno Mode can be soloed, provided you have the skill-set.

Typical MMO boss tropes like “stay out of the fire” apply here, but there’s also a number of different circumstances that will require quick thinking, split-second reflexes, and most of all – the drive to keep moving, to avoid various traps. Unlike Diablo 2 (or most dungeon crawlers in general), pretty much every fight is environmental, which means that some sort of other-worldly hazard is out to get you while you’re locked in combat with your foe.

It makes for a pretty interesting gameplay experience, and honestly, the higher levels of difficulty really change the way developers should look at dungeon crawlers as a whole.

To clarify, there is a Normal, Nightmare, Hell, and Inferno Mode, with a maximum player level of 60. At the end of Normal, you should be around Level 30. At the end of Nightmare, you could be anywhere from 45-50 or higher. At the end of Hell, you should be 60, ready to tackle the 60-only Inferno Mode. Right away in Nightmare, I noticed a stark contrast in terms of difficulty – I can’t wait to see what Hell and Inferno are like.

My main character right now is a Demon Hunter. I’m nearly finished with Nightmare Mode right now at level 48, and I’m feeling really good about my first character choice. The Demon Hunter is essentially a ranged rogue of sorts, and is the very definition of a glass cannon. He can get in (and out) of danger at a moment’s notice, but if he’s overrun, that’s pretty much it.

Thankfully he has a ton of traps, slows, escapes, and various other tricks at his disposal to be a more effective force on the battlefield. You don’t have to go the traps/trickery route though, as you can go full DPS by changing up your passive skills to accommodate.

Although the Demon Hunter is the only character I have above level 30, I do have one of every class above level 10. So far what I’m noticing is that the Barbarian just utterly dominates. He has a ton of abilities to hit groups and single targets, and the fact that him and the Monk take 20% less inherent damage than all other classes is pretty insane. I can't complain of course because he can't do *everything*, as every class has their unique signature on group combat. I especially can't complain because I plan on having a level 60 Barbarian myself on day!

The Monk is more of a group-centric character (he has mantras and the like that can heal, and buff the group), but he’s still viable on his own depending on your build. The Witch Doctor is similar to the Demon Hunter in that he’s a major glass cannon, and has a bunch of tricks up his sleeve.

Tactically, the Wizard is just about what you’d expect out of a typical Diablo spell caster, but he has a few really cool abilities (like a time slow dome) that sets him apart from the rest. Surprisingly, although there seems to be a bit of a slant towards the Barbarian (based on my higher level play with my friends), every class is fairly balanced, and I’ve seen success with every type of player.

I also had an opportunity to do Diablo III’s “Cow Level” (I don’t want to ruin it here): suffice to say, given that I spent three hours of preparation grinding for the materials and the 150,000 gold to do it, it was fairly disappointing. Despite the let-down, however, it’s nice to know that you can enter it an unlimited amount of times; unlike Diablo II, where you had to sleaze the system by refraining from killing the Cow King, and could easily do it accidentally with an errant Frost Orb.

So what about the DRM issues you've no doubt been hearing about? Well, as I've stated above, in less than a week I've nearly beaten the game approximately 6 times. I honestly haven't had major issues with the "always-on" requirement, as I've only been dropped from games a few times -- thankfully, my checkpoints were always extremely close by and I only lost 5 minutes of time at maximum (although my XP and gear were completely fine; it was just my short amount of progress that was lost).

I'm not one of those people who generally believes that "even the most minor inconvenience is unacceptable", but I completely agree that always-on DRM is pretty absurd for the single player portion of the game. At the same time, I haven't seen any evidence of duping or account training, so I'm willing to put up with this inconvenience in exchange for the ability to play one of the best dungeon crawlers to date.

Additionally, Blizzard has a good habit of supporting their games, and if Warcraft III and Starcraft I are still being supported, I'd say Diablo III's future is set in stone. If you're taking a stance against the game on principle, I have no issue with that, but at least try the soon-to-be-available free trial if you aren't keen on giving Blizzard any money at this point in the game.

All in all, I’m extremely happy with Diablo III. I plan on playing with all five classes to supplement my Demon Hunter, and I have a swarthy group of friends who plan on doing the same. I’m very excited for Torchlight II, but at the same time, I’m thrilled to see that D3 clearly has legs past the first month of play. If you like dungeon crawlers, you may not be blown away by Diablo III, but you will probably enjoy it.   read

9:27 AM on 03.15.2012

Will our posterity mock our Gamerscore?

After nearly getting 1000/1000 Achievement Points for Mass Effect 3 last night, I was lying in bed holding my wife, and thought of something: what will my future kid think of my Gamerscore?

I’m in my mid-20s, and my wife and I are both thinking of having our first kid soon. Now I know gaming sounds like an absurd thing to think about in the grand scheme of raising a child, but it can’t be all business time all the time, right – I am going to play games with my kid!

Some time ago thanks to the recommendation of a Dtoider, I watched a technological symposium regarding this surprisingly frightful “score” oriented future, in which every product possible (tangible or not) is tied to a “score”: similar to Coke Points, but regulated through an electronic device, applications, and technology like NFC. Essentially, marketing will infiltrate our lives.

The plus side to this digital future is that your posterity gets to look at your Gamescore, Trophies, or “Kindle Reading Score” (if such a thing is ever created), and see what you did: in other words, your legacy. As I was lying there last night, thoughts popped in my head like “Dad, you never beat Ninja Gaiden III on Master Ninja? That game is babysauce compared to Samurai Gaiden!”. Or, “Grandpa what in the heck is Devil May Cry, and what the heck is HD?!

People often will knock on Achievements and Trophies but I think it’s a fairly neat idea, both in the short and long term. For basically pennies on the dollar, Microsoft was the first gaming company to build brand loyalty simply for rewarding gamers with nothing but textual and numerical bragging rights.

In the long term, it allows our friends and family to see what we’ve accomplished, or what games we’ve played. In fact, I’ve started a few conversations at gaming events by using the Xbox Live App, adding someone to my friends list, and checking their gaming history.

This may seem trite to a lot of you, but hopefully I’m not alone in thinking of the potential for the future of gaming legacy.   read

12:17 PM on 10.08.2011

VERY quick tips for Dark Souls owners

[I've gotten a few requests to share my Dark Souls post with the community - so here goes! I completed the game at Soul Level 77, after 37 hours and 10 minutes of play - for reference, I beat Demon's Souls at Level 76, at 22 hours and 30 minutes of play. Dark Souls is a considerably longer, and harder game. If you have any questions, feel free to ask below and I'll do my best to answer them! <3 you guys]

That’s right, the supposed “too hard for school” action-RPG Dark Souls has officially hit retailers, and I have no doubt that many people will play it for a few hours, and promptly give up.

But that’s a shame. Despite how hard the game may seem, there’s always (repeat: always) a solution to your problem. Dark Souls was masterfully crafted to the point where once you figure it out: you become God, and engage in one of the most rewarding gaming experiences of all time. I’m going to provide some very brief tips for you, in hopes that you’ll have that eureka moment just like myself.

Here is a typical Dark Souls first session:

0:05 – Oh wow! Easy training monsters! Have at you, fiends!
0:15 – FFFFUUUUUUUU I died in a hit?!
0:20 – Ok…no town…where do I buy anything…
0:35 – FFFFUUUUUUUU this game is impossible I quit.

Tame non-story spoilers incoming. I’d recommend saving this article if you get stuck, and need a quick reference:

Basic Tips:

*Your starting class doesn’t necessarily matter, unless you want the Thief’s Master Key without having to waste a gift, or you want to start as a Pyromancer to allocate as many stats as possible at an early level. After the first 6-8 hours all classes start to blend, and everyone can use anything they have the stats for. Every gift outside of the master key can be obtained in the game.

*I’ve heard a lot of things about the master key – about how it’s not good, because it will only confuse you after you unlock secret pathways to very late-game areas. This is partially true, but I still urge you to take it if you trust your instincts. You can get some pretty amazing suicide loot by way of the master key shorcuts (suicide loot, like Demon’s Souls, is obtained when you run, usually naked, through a really hard area in search of drops and items).

*If you beat the first tutorial boss without running through the door to the left, you’ll earn a special weapon (it takes a TON of strength to use however) – if you take the black firebombs gift, you can take him down pretty easily.

*The first merchant is right near the start of the Undead Burg – go up two flights of stairs – then look right – see the two lance skeletons? Break those boxes and head through the outside door there. You can most notably buy firebombs and arrows, which will help with the next two boss encounters.

*If you want to cheap-out the Tauros boss [the first real boss], grab around 10 Firebombs and just chuck them at him at a safe range – he’ll go down easy. You can also get him to jump off the area, or you can climb the ladder and do a falling strike.

*You will need to grind in Dark Souls. The first grind spot is above the Undead Burg bonfire, right where the dragon appears. Simply go up the ladder you kicked down after the Tauros boss, walk up the stairs, then quickly walk back down – repeat for an easy 300 souls per run.

*Once you make it to the Red Dragon, grab a bow and ~100 arrows – head to the bridge below him and aim for his tail – keep shooting – after some time, you’ll earn the Drake Sword – one of the best starting weapons in the entire game. Note that it doesn’t scale with your strength/dexterity statistics, so you will want a plan B.

*Your first order of business is to ring the two bells of awakening. One is in the Undead Parish, in the church past the iron boar mini-boss. The other is in Blighttown – a really hard area that you should tackle second – you can get into Blighttown from the Sewers, or the cave in the Valley of Drakes.
If you get cursed, head to the top of the belltower at the Undead Parish – the NPC there will sell a cure for 3,000 souls each (post day one curse patch).

*Personally, I like to save my humanity pickups for special occasions. What I do is accumulate them, and when I’m at a bonfire with a boss fight I know I can beat, but need more Estus Flasks for, I use two humanity at the fire to kindle it and get that little extra boost.

*Press Circle (PS3) or B (360) to slide down ladders (shoutout to GameFAQs for that one).

The easiest way to blow through the first few hours (new character guide):

*Start a Pyromancer – pick the master key.

*Use fireball repeatedly on the Asylum boss after completing the tutorial to easily take him down.
Start heading for Undead Burg – level up vitality twice to help against the Tauros boss just in case you get hit.

*Buy 5-6 Firebombs from the merchant to use on Tauros.

*Run from the first Undead Burg bonfire all the way to the Tauros spirit door – you can make it without getting hit. Clear the two archers on top of the tower.

*Use the firebombs and your fireball spell (you should have full charges) on the Tauros demon – run away, throw/cast, run away, throw/cast, repeat. Kindle the fire using two humanity if you need 10 flasks to beat the Tauros demon.

*Run over the Dragon’s bridge, found after the Tauros demon- go down the first flight of stairs you see to the right – kick down the ladder and use the dragon grinding method above to level up to 12 dexterity, buy the 1,000 soul bow from the merchant, and buy around 75 arrows (you can also buy these earlier if you’re worried about losing your souls due to death).

*Go up the ladder near the bonfire, and go under the dragon – clear the two skeletons out just in case. Aim at the Dragon’s tail – wait for him to stop throwing a tantrum, and repeat – eventually you will get the Drake sword (it will pop into your inventory automatically).

*Grind strength using the dragon grinding method until you can wield the Drake sword at 16 strength. You should be able to breeze through the next few areas with it. In fact, after upgrading it, I beat the final boss of the game while two handing it.

Massive Spoilers incoming – only read if you need help completing the game

Advanced Tips:

*Need to grind even further than 300 souls per run? How about 7000? First you need to purchase the forest key from the blacksmith below the Undead Parish for 20,000 souls (it’s a good idea to buy this after a boss fight). Then, head to the forest using the entrance next to him; keep going straight until you pass 4 tree monsters, and get to the magically sealed door. Open it, and note the very small pathway near the cliff. Run over to the left and gather the four enemies (the sorceror, the templar, the clear thief, and the warrior) – corral those enemies back to the entrance, and head to the utmost point of that path near the cliff – all the enemies will run up the ledge, and dive over you to their doom. You may need to bait them a bit, but it works.

*After you ring the two bells, if you’re lost, keep reading: head over to Sen’s Fortress – it’s the place where the Onion Knight was sitting at, near the Undead Parish blacksmith. Complete the fortress and kill the Iron Golem. That will lead you to Anor Londo – the next area.

*Once you’re in Anor Londo, head to the middle area, and take the first beam on the bottom floor into the cracked window. Make your way around the building catwalks to the main castle, and enter in from the right side. Once you’re there, you can open up a few shorcuts, grab some amazing loot, then head in for one of the most challenging boss fights in the game.

*After completing Anor Londo’s main castle, you will obtain the Soul Vessel – this is a story item that will allow you to complete the game by stealing four Lord souls, which unlocks the final boss fight (for the standard ending). The location of the four Lords (un-named, to prevent spoilers) are as follows:
One is on the side path of Anor Londo – go straight as soon as you head into the area by way of the gargoyles, and head all the way down that path.

*One is in the Tomb of Giants – past the Catacombs, after Pinwheel.

*One is in the Old Londo Ruins, after you drain the water (you need the abyss ring from the Wolf Sif to fight this boss).

*One is past the Demon Ruins, after Queelag in Blighttown – beat the Ceasless Discharge and two more bosses, then fight it.

*Another special enemy is in the painting, in the Anor Londo building with the white ninjas – to enter the painting you need the peculiar doll – obtain the doll by re-visiting the tutorial area using the crow’s nest in Firelink Shrine.

If you own Dark Souls and have any tips for newcomers, feel free to leave them below.


1:57 PM on 01.28.2011

How to Make a Japanese PSN account (IE: You need to play Catherine right now)

Since the Catherine demo is finally out, I know a lot of you will probably be scratching your heads in regards to how to make a Japanese PSN account. Well, scratch no more!

Note: each break is used for a new menu, so the guide is easy to follow.

Step 1 - Create a gmail account in anticipation of the PSN account

You should have a valid email to register for the PSN Store, because it makes things a lot easier. Make something related to Japanese culture (for easy reference) on Gmail.

Step 2 - Create a username

This is your PS3's unofficial username. Go to the far left side of the XMB, and hit "create new user". My suggestion is to name it something simple, like "Japanese PSN". You can always change this later, if you aren't happy with your name. Additionally, I suggest slapping a Japanese themed wallpaper on the account so you don't get confused, if you decide to make an EU/Taiwan account down the road.

Step 3- Get onto the JP PSN

Once you're ready to start accessing the Japanese storefront, simply go to the Playstation Network part of the XMB, and hit "Playstation Store". You'll immediately be required to register.

Set your Country/Region of Residence to "Japan", and put your real birthday, as it may help recovering your account if you forget your information. The language has to be Japanese. Hit ok.

Now you're able to "look, but not touch" the PSN. Browse around and feel free to find some interesting icons. When you're ready to download anything (which is done the same way as the US store, by clicking an item, and selecting the second option), click the shopping cart on the top of the screen (or download a demo), and you'll be required to register.

Step 4 - Officially sign up for the PSN

You'll see some advertisements for Playstation Home and the like. Ignore these and hit "Create New Account (New Users)". Hit ok.

The next screen is the same Birthday and language screen as before, except it's in Japanese. Do not change the first two boxes. Keep your birthday the same, and click the bottom right menu option (OK).

Next, you'll have to agree to the Terms of Service. Scroll all the way to the bottom and hit the bottom right menu option (OK).

After that, you have to plug in your gmail account first. Then, you have to plug in a password, and CONFIRM your password again (like most internet forms) - note that the password has to be at least eight characters, and you should probably put a few numbers in there to make sure you aren't denied. The last two boxes are your secret question and the answer. Put gibberish, as you have to use kanji. Click OK on the bottom right.

Now you have to make a username. I tend to make my JP accounts have something to do with Japan - for instance - "shibuyadrifter82". It's easy to remember, and it associates myself with that particular national account. For EU, "teabeatscrumpets82" would be spot on. If you get a friendly message, and the OK bottom on the bottom lights up, you're good to go. If not, the name is taken or blocked, and you need to try again.

This next part can be tricky. As the Home symbol denotes, this is your address. For the first part, fill in random numbers all the way up until you've exhausted them, and hit X. Select anything from the next drop down menu. Then, fill in random letters for the next box, and the "address 1" box. You can skip "address 2", and make sure you fill in the bottom. It may take you a few tries to do it, but I used "7809652144", and it worked, for the top entry, and the second drop down choice for the next box.

After this, you'll recieve a confirmation page. Make sure you check the box, and then select OK at the bottom right.

This next page is a summary of everything. Make sure you write down your username (ie shibuyadrifter82) AND your email associated with this account. If your account is lost, it's the only way to get it back. Go to the bottom right and hit ok. Congratulations! You've just made an account.

Step 5 - Peruse

Feel free to peruse the store. Your information is saved. Make sure save password is on so you can always easily connect.

When you're in the store, these are what the tabs are, on the left.

Tab 1 - Popular Categories.

Tab 2 - New Releases.

Tab 3 - Alphabetical list of games.

Tab 4 - Developer catalogs (really useful, as most of these are in English, and allow you to find some unexpected releases from your favorite team).

Tab 5 - Categories. Here you'll find new full PSN games, addons (controller with a plus), demos (this is the meat of your experience - it doesn't require any payment - it's denoted by the controller icon that's fourth from the left) and more.

Tab 6 - As advertised, the PSP has it's own section of the PSN. Pretty sweet!

Tab 7 - PSN Classics

Tab 8 - PS Plus

Don't worry - you can switch back to your regular US account and still download your files in the background. Enjoy your new account!

Click Tab 2, and find the Catherine demo as one of the first choices. Or, if you're checking this out late, go to Tab 4 and click Atlus. You'll find it.   read

6:32 PM on 05.17.2010

PSA: How To Save Money On Your Games

Saving money is one of the hardest things to do – period. It requires tons of time, effort, and sometimes painstaking research to skim a few bucks off of your daily expenses.

But it certainly isn’t impossible, especially in the gaming realm, where technology and sales go hand in hand. Feel free to jump into my (hopefully) helpful guide below, and save a few bucks in the process. Warning: it’s pretty lengthy, so grab a discount Sam’s Club soda and relax.

Comparison Shop, Comparison Shop, Comparison Shop

Even though shopping at a retail location that doesn’t have some sort of store credit requires you to use real money, make sure you comparison shop on every outlet you can – Amazon, Gamestop, Goozex, Best Buy, Walmart, Target, iTunes, Steam – anything. In fact, if I had one rule of thumb for all consumers in any potential market, it would be “research before you buy – then research some more”.

How many times have you heard “I JUST bought this, and ‘X’ store has it for $20 cheaper!” I think at any given point in time, Amazon has offered free same day shipping on a particular game, or any number of those other retailers have given a unique $5 gift certificate with a purchase. Read your Sunday ads before you head out on Tuesday to buy your game of choice.

Unfortunately for you, IP owners are now making it harder and harder to get your money back, in the form of digital distribution, and those two cringe inducing words printed on every Steam and iTunes EULA/TOS you've ever signed – “no refunds”.

If you can, try and stick with physical media to prevent this from happening – but don’t forget to attempt to embrace the digital age, because it is coming, and you can find superior deals – especially on Steam.

Use all the tools you can

Cheap Ass Gamer’s Trade in Value aggregator is pretty much the best thing ever. If you’re shopping around the trade-in market, you can easily pop all your games in, and get a running total of what your collection is worth. But the vast utility of the internet doesn’t stop there. You can also employ:

Good old fashioned Gamestop price check cold calling

Said CAG Trade In Value Tracker

Gamestop’s Trade-In deal listing

Online Coupon Code Services (think Amazon and Goozex)

Best Buy Price Matching

Forum Threads like this Steam Deal post

Dale [Deal] North of Destructoid Fame is one of the biggest Deal Hounds on the planet – follow him

Microsoft’s conveniently labeled Xbox Live Deal of the Week

An attempt to wade through the PSN Blog’s heap of posts to find a deal in there somewhere at some point when they feel like posting it

Amazon’s Deal of the Day, which is frequently a video game, which on occasion can suit your gaming needs

Think about registering for Goozex

No, it’s not a scam; it actually works! Goozex is a mediated game trading hub, that gives you “points” for your games. With the company guarantee (provided you use delivery confirmation), you will get your money back if someone tries to scam you – Goozex can check and see if the item was delivered, and, if need be, the game must be shipped to them for testing if the buyer is claiming the disc is scratched beyond repair.

It’s completely free to register, and sometimes the deals you find can’t be beat anywhere else. I would advise you to sign up, and trade the first new release you get bored of on Goozex. You’ll receive 1000 points (don’t try to equate them to other forms of currency, but if you have to, 1000 points is around a $60 game) for potential trades. Just by doing a quick comparison shop, I see:

Metal Gear Solid: Portable Ops on Amazon for $18 used


Metal Gear Solid: Portable Ops on Goozex for 100 points, used

When you think about the fact that you could get 10 copies of Portable Ops through Goozex for a $60 game trade (which is essentially worth $200 in total): that’s a pretty sweet deal. While you might have to wait a few months to creep up on the top spot, as long as you’re willing to play the waiting game, you can save hundreds of dollars a year through this method.

Another Goozex strategy is “flipping” – that is, buying a game during Amazon’s insane half off a brand new game sales, and trading it on Goozex for 1000 points. Community members are usually really open about posting these deals, and if you become a swarthy enough bargain hunter, you can do the posting.

Here’s another huge tip – say you really want Red Dead Redemption, but don’t want to pay $60, or anywhere close to that. Just log onto, and immediately place the game on your “hold queue”. It will save your place in the waiting list, and three to four months down the line, when the Goozex point value drops to $30 or so, you can just make your choice active, and reap the benefits. A lot of Goozex members actually have all 100 hold spots filled, so make use of it!

As you can see I could talk about Goozex all day, so if you have any questions, post them below.

Your love/hate relationship with iTunes? Get over it

I’ll be the first to admit: I hated iTunes with a passion. While I was still going out to my local record store and buying the latest power metal CDs, teeny boppers were bragging about how cool it was to buy DRM-infused albums over the internet.

Well, now iTunes is much bigger than that. It has a vast library of $0.99 games that push 10-20 hour playthroughs. It has at least 10-20 daily free game sales. But most importantly: you can easily take advantage of all this.

Are you a He-Man Apple product hater? Well, you might cave in the future, so why not use and abuse Apple’s open marketplace while you can? Download iTunes, make an account, and just pick up these free games now. Maybe you’ll get an iPod Touch for Christmas: well, now you’ll have a myriad of free games to try out on it! Beat that Xbox Live, PSN, and WiiWare!

Pro-tip #1 – GET BARGAIN BIN – it’s a free version of AppSniper, with Push Notifications – in a nutshell, it updates you with every free/reduced price App daily

Scour FreeAppADay for the latest big promotion

Follow AppToday on Twitter and scour their free app list updated daily

Check out gaming blogs for updates on major free games (see what I did there?)

Consider Gamestop an option

I’ve seen Gamestop demonized way too many times in both the media and consumer realms – sometimes for good reason, but mostly because they had one bad experience with a snooty manager, which could happen anywhere.

Did you know that during their “extra 50% trade in value” promotion, Gamestop actually gave you $55 store credit for Mass Effect 2? Keep in mind this promotion lasted at least three weeks after the release of ME: 2, which was plenty of time to beat it twice as both Renegade and Paragon, claim your Cerberus Network Code, and return it for pretty much what you paid for it.

Make sure you take notes where I said "redeem your Cerberus Network Code". A handful of publishers (and recently, EA) have rolled out an initiative called “Project Ten Dollar”: an idea that essentially withholds $10 worth of content from you unless you buy the game new. A good way to get around this would be to buy the game, redeem the code for future use, trade it in (make sure you get a good deal – ie the $55 from Gamestop), then pick it back up at a later date, “Ten Dollar” code intact.

On occasion, like in the case of Dragon Age, new copies will actually provide you with $15 worth of content, netting you an even bigger savings. In fact, the new Madden is actually going to require you to have an “Online Play” license that is only free with new copies of the game.

But no matter how much Gamestop can pull through, sometimes, you’re going to get chumped. You’ll get a game for a Birthday gift, hate it, then go to Gamestop and want to slap the manager across the face for offering you $20 for your brand new unplayed copy of something that just came out that day. But that’s just business, and you don’t have to hate Gamestop for it – just leave, Goozex it, sell it on or Ebay, look for a trading forum – anything. Just don’t count out Gamestop forever – you may have already missed out on a few good deals because of it.

You never want to completely axe out a potential buyer just because you had a few bad experiences. As long as Gamestop isn’t holding a gun to your head and forcing you to accept pennies for your game, everything will be ok.

GameFly isn’t just a rental outlet

This guide is mainly meant for purchasing games, but even with the rental service GameFly, there is a viable ownership option. While it may not be quite as exciting as the guy in the picture would make it seem, GameFly is extremely tempting if you want to “own” a game (also known as never returning it) for $16 or $23 a month (for one or two games, respectively).

Once you get your grubby mitts on the two game plan, you can either keep one of them indefinitely (which works wonders with long legged multiplayer shooters), or purchase them at a discounted price, at which point GameFly will ship you the manual and case free of charge.

Well, that’s it for now folks – if I had any last words for you, it would be “always call your local 7-11, because they have no conception of what a street date is, and some of them do sell games”. Do you have any money saving tips to share below? Feel free to type away.

[I normally hate reposting things from my blog, but this was requested from a few community members - and tweaked accordingly - so I hope it helps out!]   read

6:42 PM on 09.27.2009

The New Kid in Town: An Aion FAQ

Every so often, an addictive game comes along and swallows us whole. For some, it's Call of Duty: World at War's zombie mode. For others, it's Wii Sports Resort, and for the few, the proud, and the nerdy, its a little ol' genre known as MMOs.

These games come and go by the droves. They range from sci-fi to fantasy; from free to play to $15 a month; from casual to hardcore; and from a full $50 entry cost to browser based affairs. But all of them have one thing in common: they're timesinks. For the socially sane, MMOs are squeezed in after work, and before dinner with the kids, or after the wife goes to sleep (cough, cough). Should you choose to take the road less traveled and let an MMO dominate your life, say goodbye to your significant other, your social life, and your job.

So who is the new kid in town? What devilish fiend is attempting to lure you into his van with candy, and take you on a vacation that never ends? This month, its NCSoft's Aion.

What is Aion?

Aion: The Tower of Eternity is a new fantasy based massively multiplayer online role-playing game (MMO), made with the CryEngine (Far Cry), and published by NCSoft, who has managed a myriad of hit or miss games, ranging from the heralded City of Heroes to the dead and buried Tabula Rasa.

NCSoft is currently charging $50 for the game, and $14.99 per month to play, with discounts offered if you commit to three, six, or twelve months.

What are your choices for your personal avatar?

Well, unlike typical role playing games, you're not going to get a whole lot of choices when it comes to your race. You can either be the angelic Elyos, or the demonic Asmodians. So basically, you can pick the flamboyant pansies (win), or the complete and total badass death bringing devils. Whenever you meet an opposing faction member, you will always be able to kill them, and every enemy level shows up as a "??" on your HUD.

Where Aion fails in racial diversity, it succeeds in customization. Want to make Barack Obama? You can! Want to make yourself? Provided you have the self confidence, you can do that too! If you happen to be me, you can live out your fantasy of looking like a J-Rocker.

Just like Bethesda's Elder Scrolls IV: Oblivion, every cosmetic facet is fully customizable, from your chin size, to whether or not your ears are elf-worthy. For once, I actually think I succeeded in making four completely different looking characters.

Class-wise, Aion has just about everything you could want, sans hybrids. You can play your typical damage soaking tank, damage dealing warrior, arrow shooting ranger, elusive assassin, nuke heavy sorceror, pet-based spiritmaster, the always popular healer, or the black sheep of the pack: the Chanter (the supportive bard).

How does the game look, and how impressive is the overall design?

Without reservation, I consider Aion to be the best looking MMO I've ever seen. The set pieces are absolutely gorgeous, and every area has a unique feel to it.

The CryEngine really does wonders for the MMO genre. Rather than talk about how amazing it looks, I'd rather just serve you up some screenshots, fresh off the burner.

Get to the point, man! What's the gimmick?

Sadly, all MMOs released in the shadow of World of Warcraft need some sort of marketing gimmick: something unique to differentiate themselves from the pack. Well, Aion has flight, and ladies and gentlemen, Howard Hughes would be proud.

I've heard complaints from outside audiences that the flight system doesn't look authentic. Here's a video that I believe will speak for itself.


To be frank, I've never had as much fun in an MMO as Aion, and a large part of that is due to the flight system. Sometimes I'll find myself on a gigantic hill, with my objective some five hundred feet below. In a standard MMO, I'd have to hoof it, but in Aion its no problem, as you can glide indefinitely! Instead of lazily taking the elevator, I always opt to take flight (it's there, why not use it!).

Small note: the initial starting areas are light on areas where you can engage in full flight, and right when you earn your wings, you can fly for a limited time of sixty seconds, which is off putting. Through upgrades, which are essentially "mount" purchases, you can upgrade your flight time, and later areas offer more flight opportunities, but Abyss pvp always offers full flight.

Is it fun: or better yet, is the combat system involved?

Simply put, combat in Aion is much more involved than your standard MMO. To use World of Warcraft as an example, I would use two, maybe three abilities to level from 1-70 (forgive me, I quit before Wrath of the Lich King's 80 cap). Aion is a bit more robust, as I already had eight viable abilities very early on in the game playing a spiritmaster, partially because the game requires you to to make pet commands manually rather than put them on an auto-cast system. Plus, every character gets a limit break ability that can be used every so often, just to mix things up a bit.

Aion also benefits from a "combo system", that encourages you to use lower abilities to "activate" stronger, more useful abilities. For instance, if I were to use the first ability-based sword attack as a warrior, I'd have the option to use a more ferocious strike for a few seconds, while the opponent is reeling.

Combat can take place either in flight or on the ground, but either way, its a blast. At its heart, its still an MMO, which means you're going to be standing in place a lot, but if you have simplicity reservations, expect to push a lot of different buttons.

Is it grindy? Also known as "is it fun to level?"

Is it fun to actually level up? Well, yes, but I say this hesitantly, because at times, it can get monotonous. I was extremely pleased to find out that Aion was very much grind-free until level 22 or so, but I'll get to that in a second.

From level 1-10, all of your time will be spent becoming accustomed to the fantastic world of Atreia, and earning your wings. There are an abundance of quests, and not just "kill 10 boars" (Southpark anyone?) and other such derivatives. In fact, you may find that when it comes time to ascend (earn your wings, and subsequently become a true citizen of Aion) that you have a ton of extra quests left over.

Aion also benefits from the "story quest system": a trait that it shares with fellow competitor Lord of the Rings Online. Unique to very few MMOs, Aion actually makes an attempt to weave a cohesive story, and it simply works. You'll learn the inner workings of rebellious organizations, and become connected to the plot at large. As time goes on, harder quests that require balanced groups will arise, and you'll need to (gasp!) cooperate with other human players to move on.

So what's the problem with later levels? Once you hit level 22, the game stops holding your hand. Quest hubs become more obscure, and only a few story quests are available until level 25. Once you hit the glorious two-five, however, Abyss-Arena PVP, dungeon instances, and a whole heap of other options open up to you. To make up for it, you get experience for gathering materials, and for PVP, which is always a plus.

Bottom line: you have been warned! While I was able to get my third character from 1-10 in two hours, level 22-23 stole 8 hours of my life that I cannot take back!

Is there end-game content?

Here's the meat and potatoes question! Frankly, this is all I look for in a serious MMO. I didn't really start playing World of Warcraft until The Burning Crusade was out, and end-game raid content was a top priority. Just like Vanilla World of Warcraft, Aion is a bit light on the end-game content side, with only a few raid-size dungeons to offer, which may turn off some.

Max level in Aion is 50, and early reports are coming in that it would take around 10 days of straight play to reach this milestone. To give you something to compare it to, in World of Warcraft: The Burning Crusade (which has a maximum level of 70), I reached 70 on my third character in 6 days knowing what I was doing, and with little dilly dallying.

On the pvp side of things, rifts are a really unique addition to Aion that really help spice up gameplay. Upon receiving a message that a gateway has opened up, the entire area will go into a sudden state of panic, as your opposing faction now has access to your land.

"Rift parties", consisting of any number of members will start forming, and all hell breaks loose. The biggest reason why I enjoy rifts is because it forces world pvp, and considering you get experience and gear points for it, its definitely worthwhile. But, if you're the type who finds world pvp too taxing, and enjoy some good old fashioned arena based action, Aion also allows you to enter the Abyss: a giant battleground used entirely for player versus player combat.

The question you don't want to ask after buying it: will it end up in the MMO graveyard?

From the looks of it, no. NCSoft has recently said that every year they will come out with a major update for Aion, not including forthcoming patches that add extra content and items.

NCSoft has had its ups and downs, but if reports of 3.5 million Asian subscribers are anything to go by with the earlier released Asian client, Aion is an early success.

I hope to see you in Atreia!

All of the preceding pictures have been personal in-game screenshots

Also, Cloud Strife   read

4:34 PM on 08.30.2009

I suck at games: D/o/t/A: Die/odible/tabanid/Asshole

[All of the above quotes were actually said to me at one point in time whilst attempting to learn DotA]

Defense of the Ancients has become a national pastime for gamers: and all of it spawned out of a simple modification for Warcraft III. Taking the focus off waging war as the commander of an army, you are placed within the role of a single entity: a summoner. The common misconception is that since you only have to control one unit, it would be much easier than micromanaging platoons. This fallacy nearly cost me my self esteem, folks.

Since it's initial explosion, "DotA" has evolved into an incredibly popular niche game, and garnered a community of thousands: from strategy enthusiasts to general gamers. However, after just two days of experience with DotA, I concluded that it did not actually stand for "Defense of the Ancients", but instead:

DotA: Die, odible, tabanid asshole!

Def: odible
"worthy of hatred" [due to the player's ineptitude]

"blood-sucking insect" [the player is sucking his team dry of resources]

In DotA, a new player can effectively change the tide of an entire match. By "feeding" the other team with the glorious rewards of free experience points and riches upon death: all it takes is one "noob" to bring an hour long standstill of a game to a screeching halt. Then, the insults fly...hard. But before any of this happens, many gamers have engaged in a predictable step by step pattern after becoming intrigued by the notion of a "simpler" strategy game.

From cordial prospect to prospective cord hanging:

1) Hearing about DotA everyday all day, they inquire as to what it is, and instantly are engaged by the prospect of team play.

2) They log in to their first DotA game, aptly labeled "noobs only" [sounds inviting, yes?], and assume that it actually is a "new players only" game.

3) The player is shunned and ridiculed after his first death: his sexuality brought into question, and the moral dilemma of whether or not his parents should have had an abortion is put on the table. The player is a jaded shell of his former self, and vows never to play DotA ever again.

At least, these are my experiences. But, with a little help from my friends, I found out there is still hope for the soon-to-be suicide watch gamer.


Find other people to enjoy the game with, and play private matches, until they inevitably rise above your skill level


Stop playing DotA, and go back to Warcraft III (noob)

Ok, so those really aren't options. As you can clearly see, the situation looked pretty bleak, until only recently. The newly developed League of Legends has attempted to break down the barriers of entry with a simplistic "tips" system for individual characters, and custom tailored items for each player to choose from.

However, underneath it's welcoming exterior is a massive superhighway of rune combinations, skill trees, and advanced tactics that will absolutely fly right over the head of casual gamers.

While I am improving, unless I dedicate three lifetimes to the genre, I have no hope of actually becoming a deciding factor in any battle, and will be forced to play with more forgiving close friends for the rest of my dying days. Considering I'm adept in just about every other genre, my inability to actually become a better player is a perplexing dilemma.

So, fellow DotA bloodsuckers everywhere: unite! Someday, we will be a forced to be reckoned with after our years of hiding beneath the Earth's crust in our private games, and then: "they" will feed us.   read

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