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Gaming has just always been something I've loved since I was a wee lad. Ever since I picked up that NES controller and played Super Mario Bros...much like any gamer, really!

Video games were actually the impetus for me going to college and earning a journalism degree. If not for EGM, Nintendo Power, OPM, Expert Gamer, GameNow and countless other magazines I don't know what I would have done after high school! I'd like to think professional footballer for Liverpool...well, a man can dream can't he?!?!

Right now I'm replaying Mass Effect and Mass Effect 2. I keep up with all the big-time releases, (Marios, Halos, etc.) but I'm also always trying to whither down my pile of shame.

I game on all systems. PC is my least played platform, but five years ago I've finally started to play classics after finally buying a home computer. I've now enjoyed games like Half-Life and others I had only read about before having a mouse and keyboard controlled gaming rig.

Some favorite games of mine: Metal Gear Solid series, almost anything Mario, Halo, Xenogears, Fallout series, Final Fantasy Tactics, Castlevania: Symphony of the Night, Suikoden 1 and 2...Well, pretty much any good game from any genre except for sports released from the NES era and on. Then it is only Mario sport titles and Winning Eleven and FIFA.

Sad fact about me: I'm desperately (perhaps hopelessly) waiting for a new Shadow Hearts game. :(

Update: It's September in Minnesota (getting chilly), and I'm enjoying Borderlands 2.
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Unlike the last three Front Mission releases, I didn't buy the newest title as soon as it hit store shelves.

As far as Iím concerned -- as well as my RPG obsessed friends -- the Front Mission series is dead.

The newest title, Front Mission Evolved, takes the strategic, turn-based mech-on-mech action into third-person shooter territory.

I never -- never -- thought I would type a sentence that had the words front, mission and shooter in it.



Front Mission Evolved looks snazzy, but it seems to be just another ho-hum shooter.


After much bickering about Square-Enix and how they have betrayed fans of politically charged, strategic mech action, I realized something.

We are to blame.

Now, I donít mean Front Mission fans who went out and bought each title and loved customizing their little gun-toting Wanzers (the games version of a giant mech), but the gaming community as a whole.

Most gamers I meet who werenít weaned on the RPG heavy Super Nintendo and PlayStation 1 are most likely first or third-person shooter fans.



Front Mission 3. Part of a very happy childhood.


Heck, sometimes we donít even have a choice. What are some of the most successful games recently in terms of sales and mass market appeal? Call of Duty and Halo.

Role playing games -- turn-based strategy ones specifically -- have taken a hit when it comes to appeal on our shiny red-ringers, fancy blu-ray do-it-alls and arm flailing gaming machines.

Dragon Age: Origins is one old-school RPG I have put over 400 hours into on current gen systems. I thank BioWare endlessly for the game every night before I go to bed. Critics thought it would be too old school, but it worked -- much like anything the developer touches.

Aside from that though, RPGs donít seem to perform so hot unless they have the appeal of Final Fantasy or put in shooter mechanics.



Any game featuring Yoshitaka Amano art is a winner.


According to BioWareís Big Brother-esque stat tracking, most Mass Effect 2 players chose the shooter heavy soldier class when picking apart Collectors in their ďRPGĒ quest. In fact, itís probably the only RPG in any of my shooter loving friendsí collections.

I donít mind that ME2 is like that; I love the game.

If I were Square-Enix, I too would have capitalized on the shooter craze that seems to have defined the current generation of gaming on the Xbox 360 in the West.

Itís economically dangerous to release old-school RPGs on home consoles nowadays -- just look at Valkryia Chronicles.

And honestly, Front Missionís problems began way before the shooter craze.

It should have been kind of obvious that the series was in trouble after the PlayStation 1ís Front Mission 3.

Back in 2004 I bought Front Mission 4 for PlayStation 2 on launch day and bulldozed through it and loved every minute of it.

In just four months -- yes, four months -- I could have bought 10 brand-new copies of the game for the same price of a copy on release day at Best Buy.

Ouch.

After that, gamers missed out on Front Mission 5: Scars of the War for PS2, Front Mission 2089 for DS in addition to a slew of others from earlier in the seriesí lifespan like the all important second game in the series.



If people would have bought Front Mission 4...


In a perfect world, Square-Enix would continue to release "true" titles on the DS or even consider the PSP or digital downloads for new releases. I would even take an iteration of the series on iPhone.

However, when I was in Japan in 2008 for college and saw a cardboard cutout advertisement for 2089, and realized It wasnít even reported on in the U.S., I wondered if America would never see another proper Front Mission game.



C'mon Square! I'll buy 10 copies if this comes to America!


Front Mission Evolved could be another spin-off, and maybe the next real title is on its way. Over the years the series has produced a side scroller, RTS and multiplayer online game. So, all of my tears shed over the thought of an over-the-shoulder shooter ruining Front Mission could be for naught.

If Front Mission Evolved is a good game I might buy it. Iím not holding my breath, though.

Thereís really only two paths this series seems destined for. On the one hand Front Mission Evolved is a success and Square-Enix focuses on the more action-heavy gameplay in future installments and thatís that.

Or, the game tanks and we lose everything Front MissionÖforever.

I guess Iím a bit of a pessimist and resistant when it comes to change, but I want my little mechs on a square grid; there are already enough ho-hum shooters on the Xbox 360.

At least these guys have given gamers like me the happiness Square has denied.
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As someone who grew up with technology and always had the latest gaming systems (Iíve waited in line during system launches in good olí Wisconsin winter weather) one would think Iíd be a little more accepting of it.

However, Iím more akin to my grandfather when it comes to new technology; Iím very slow to adopt it and try to put it off for as long as possible.

The new tech gadget that I have finally adopted is the iPhone 3GS.



My attitude toward the phone had always been similar to the rise of online gaming for consoles with games such as SOCOM for PlayStation 2--I just donít care for these new things changing my established order in life.

I eventually accepted online gaming with the release of Xbox Live for Xbox 360, and am constantly on there gaming with friends and downloading new games on the Arcade service. Itís a blast and a part of my gaming lifestyle.

Oddly, the iPhone has become a staple in it as well.

Iíve never used a phone for much more than anything besides, well, sending and recieving calls.

Aside from that, my phone seconded as an alarm clock and calculator and I only played one game on a phone before.

The iPhone has changed everything.

I canít stop gaming on it. When Iím done playing big releases such as Dragon Age: Origins or Halo with friends, I like to crawl into bed and take a few moments to engage in a short session of iPhone gaming.

The fact that the platform is a phone is deceiving. I try to make myself believe that games on a phone can only be casual at best and Iíll be bored or done within minutes at most.

Now I get done with these gaming sessions to find my clock to display times well past my bedtime.



Games on the iPhone are cheap, and many of them are well done. One of my favorite games so far is Beneath a Steel SkyĖRemastered. Itís a remake of an adventure PC game from 1994 with art drawn by Watchmen co-creator Dave Gibbons.

The remastered version with touch controls and the added bonus of portability make the $3 purchase an easy one.

Iíve spent massive amounts of time sifting through iPhone games to find other remastered games, ports or brand new titles to play. Like all systems some are winners and some are stinkers.

Downloads can be free or up to $10. Itís an easy choice to plop down a few bucks for a game I can take anywhere.

And thatís another huge plus about this new gaming platform Iíve embraced.

As a big fan of portable gaming Iíve experienced and owned just about every handheld known to man.

Most of the time I donít even use my handhelds as portable devices on bus rides, plane rides or in during lunch breaks at work like it is intended for.

I usually sit at home and game on my handhelds because I like the games enough to keep my eyes fixated on their tiny screens, but also because I donít think they are that portable.

The Nintendo DS can take a beating, but Iíd still rather not carry it around all the time, case or no case.

The PlayStation Portable is out of the question for brining anywhere for fear of damaging its screen.

The iPhone to me is truly a portable system.

It is a bit larger than some phones, but it is way smaller then Sonyís and Nintendoís handhelds.

I can actually slide the thing into my pant pocket or coat pocket.

The much more sophisticated iPhone cases put my mind at ease if I accidentally drop or bump it into something while occupied with whatever game Iím playing.

Now Iím not saying the iPhone is better than what Sony or Nintendo offer--far from it in fact.

However, having some truly unique games like Trees of Doom coupled with ports of Phoenix Wright: Ace Attorney, Final Fantasy Tactics and Shining Force is quickly making my iPhone eat up gaming hours usually set aside for the more mainstream systems.

With that in mind, gaming on Appleís device can only get better. Keeping up with the new iterations of the phone, however, is something my checkbook canít embrace just yet!
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David Gaider did a little Q&A today at PAX--streamed via Ustream Live on BioWare's website--and showed viewers his eyebrow waggle while answering some burning questions about the sequel to Dragon Age: Origins.



After starting out with an explanation of his Inception like dreams featuring his Dungeons and Dragons characters, Gaider--lead writer for the Dragon Age series--got down to business.

Poster Question/Comment: I'm deadly scared of the new dialogue system.

David Gaider: I can see how thatís a concern. The point is the interface doesnít really change. In Origins there were six entries in any given dialogue. With the new interface itís pretty much the same, just laid out differently. [Writer's note: The new system is similar to the Mass Effect series' dialogue wheel.]

Player VO [voice over] makes it different. Player VO has benefits. If weíre going to do a cinematic game itís best to go all the way and let the person be a personality in the gameÖotherwise you end up as a silent participant.

Weíre allowing you to craft a place in the story like your followers.

P: Will you write any DA2 books?
DG: I sure hope so; I hope I get the chance to write something new.

P: Is this Mass Effect 2 with melee weapons?
DG: Dragon Age: Origins wasnít very responsive.

Weíre not trying to make the action frenetic, but we want the ability for when you press something, it happens. People get nervous by the phrase action RPGÖthey go right to Diablo. There are many variations to that. We still have the same concept that still makes Dragon Age, Dragon Age. Itís about hard choices and characters playing important roles. Itís a dark heroic fantasy; weíre not changing that.

P: Will we get a tool set?
DG: If we do it, and we're not making promises, it's going to be a little bit after release. If it comes it will probably come as an update to the Dragon Age: Origins toolset.

P: What was the deal with the glowing red eyes in the [DA 2] trailer?
DG: Itís blood magic.

P: Is the nudity level bigger or smaller?
DG: I hope you mean more or less. I think itís about the same. But obviously, weíll see. There are some things we are doing that might be considered more risquť.

P: Whatís the deal with Flemeth?
DG: Youíll see Flemeth in DA2 more than once. As to the part that she plays, Iím not going to tell you. If I did that be a spoiler, and I donít spoil my own writing.

P: How long did it take to grow your sweet goatee?
DG: It took a week and a half to grow.

P: How long is DA2?
DG: Longer than Awakening, shorter than DA:O.

P: Will we ever see the Old God baby?
DG: Like I would answer that.

P: Do you have an overall story arc for the DA series?
DG: Yes.

P: Is the empress of Orlais hot?
DG: According to our concept art she is!

P: If Ferelden is medieval Europe, what are the Free Marches [Writer's note: This is where DA2 takes place]?
DG: You could maybe say that they are the Holy Roman Empire--only in the way that it was made up of a lot of states.

P: How significant is Morrigan to the DA universe?
DG: Very significant. So is Flemeth. So is Hawke.

P: Does EA influence the writing in DA?
DG: They say what their goals are, and we implement those goals. In terms of do they come down and say donít use that word or these phrases? No, no.

P: Do you have to use a four-member party?
DG: You can use the naked crazy guy option [Writers note: Gaider said to check the DA forums for what that entails].

P: Will Justice return?
DG: Thatís an excellent question. Maybe.

P: Will we ever find out what happens with Fiona or Maric?
DG: Yes.

P: Will we see our played [Grey] Warden in the future?
DG: [Immediately met with a "canít answer that" from the marketing team ;)] Heíll be involved in the future.

P: Will there be more spells?
DG: Weíre focusing on spells that are upgradeable. Going for a smaller number with greater breadth.

Random Asides

Inon Zur will return to compose Dragon Age 2. As for characters making reappearances, so far Flemeth has been confirmed. Gaider couldn't name anybody else, but he did say Origins, Awakening, and DLC characters would make an appearance.

Your main Grey Warden won't make an appearance in the sequel; however, decisions that affected the world and characters in Origins and Awakening can be imported.

"The effects go from small to large," Gaider said.

Also, it sounded as though Alistair will make an appearance. Spoiler: Gaider mentions he may be a king or he may be a drunk depending on player actions in Origins. Keep in mind however, that was given as an example of what could happen in the sequel from past decisions.

Gaider also did the writing for the next--and final--batch of Origins DLC: Witch Hunt.

He used his poker face to shoot down some girl on girl Hawke romance options.

The new art style aims to give the races a unique look.

"We want races to have a more distinctive look," Gaider said. "Sten for instance, looked human to some. While we are changing the look, we're not throwing away what we have.Ē

There will be blood...err; there will be Dalish. Dalish apparently feature prominently in DA2.

Awakening had a word budget. That is why fans didn't get as much party member dialogue as they would have liked, and also why random objects initiated it.

Anyone with questions for Gaider can follow the biofeed twitter tomorrow for details on how to participate in Saturday's Q&A.
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Since there is a meth forum this week to help curtail and hopefully eradicate the use of the drug in my small Alaskan community, I thought Iíd write about something that may be beneficial to parents.

My topic is video game violence. Actually, itís not so much about the violence itself, but how parents can keep their children away from it.

Video games of today are different than they used to be. Little pixels that may or may not look like human beings used to die when falling into pits full of crocodiles or when bumped into by a turtle in a bright red shell.

Most of the time a quirky animation would follow an even quirkier sound signifying a character had fallen and the player must restart a level.

Games today are much more graphic.

An increase in technology along with the average age of gamers has prompted the gaming industry to evolve.

The game Brothers in Arms: Hellís Highway, is about as graphic as Saving Private Ryan. And while it falls short of duplicating the grotesque images in the movie, it does show realistic images of war, features blood and mutilated bodies.

I wouldnít want my child to see Saving Private Ryan at a young age, or play a game with similar images either. However, I constantly sold Mature rated video games to parents of young children during my college years working at Target.

Oftentimes there was a young child and confused mother or father making the purchase. I would explain what the ratings meant, and what would be in the game to the customers, but the child would just roll his eyes and parents out of frustration would buy the game to be done with the whole ordeal.

Parents can avoid this.

I donít have kids, so I donít know what itís like to raise them. I did grow up in some of the best years of gaming however, and I have worked retail enough to see this common mistake parents make.

A lot of parents work from 9 to 5, cook, clean, run errands and who knows what else. Iím sure some of them donít want to be burdened with an unhappy child at the checkout counter in a store while purchasing a game.

Just say no if the gameís intended for a Mature, 17 and older audience if you donít believe your 13-year-old is mature enough to blast aliens apart. But that again is only half the battle.

What do all of those crazy ratings mean?

If your children are gaming on the Xbox 360, Nintendo Wii or PlayStation 3, the rating that needs to be seriously considered for bad content is the M rating.

The M, means Mature, and is intended for gamers 17 and older. These titles can contain intense violence, blood, gore, sexual content and/or strong language.

Those descriptions are quite vague. For instance, intense violence can mean realistic depictions of physical conflict, blood, gore, weapons and death. Games such as Grand Theft Auto or Call of Duty may carry this tag.

Understanding the ratings is the best way to be an informed shopper and avoid a grumpy kid in the check out lane.

Take some time on the Entertainment Software Ratings Board (ESRB) Web site. The ESRB is a non-profit, self-regulatory body established in 1994 by the Entertainment Software Association.

The body assigns computer and video game content ratings. Parents can go to http://www.esrb.org/ratings/ratings_guide.jsp for a nifty printer-friendly guide to bring along with them while making purchases.

Having this list will make understanding game ratings much easier.

The ESRB also implemented rating summaries for games in July 2008.

Titles released after this date can be searched for on the Web site for more detailed content information.

For example, Halo 3: ODST is accompanied by a couple paragraphs describing the specific types of swear words and gun battles that take place. It also describes how the blood within the game is from both humans and aliens, and is often splattered on walls.

The summaries usually include the most important descriptions of content that the ESRB used to decide a gameís rating.

As a side note, itís not a good idea to rely on a storeís staff when buying games unless it is a specialty store like GameStop. (Even then, I have heard from a friend who works at GameStop that workers will do anything to make a sale...including lying).

If a parent wanders in for some shopping with questions, the clerk may not even understand what content exists in the game Mass Effect 2 as much as the confused, non-gaming parent.

I remember when a Target coworker sold a PlayStation 3 pack-aged with Metal Gear Solid 4 to a kid that looked about 10.

The mother asked if it was a violent or bad game. His response? ďOf course not, itís just a silly game about being a spy.Ē

ÖRight.

I also recommend doing a quick search on YouTube to see gameplay videos. It takes all but five minutes to load up a video and see what content awaits your children.

After being a gamer for years and knowing gamers, I am pretty confident saying violence in games doesnít turn someone into a hate-filled person ready to hurt others.

If that were the case Iíd be a professional soccer player and princess rescuer from all the FIFA and Super Mario I play.

Some children, however, are more impressionable or less mature than others. Itís important to recognize what a child can and cannot play, and understanding what content is in the games you buy.

Dtoid probably isn't the right crowd for this, but maybe this post will help a parent out.
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This is more of a just letting you guys know type of deal instead of writing it out nicely for you to read. I'm sneaking onto Dtoid at work, and to be honest, if it ain't the Old Republic, I could care less. But maybe some interested folks will want to sign up for this!




Taken from the press release:

WHAT:
Sony Online Entertainment and LucasArts are looking for video game enthusiasts of all ages and fans of the Star Warsģ: The Clone Warsô animated television series on Cartoon Network, to be the first to get hands-on in the open BETA testing for Star Warsģ: Clone Wars Adventuresô. Get a sneak peak of the highly anticipated free-to-play online virtual world and provide feedback to help put the finishing touches on the final game scheduled to be released later this year on September 15.

The ultimate virtual destination for a new generation of Star Wars fans, Clone Wars Adventures is an action-packed virtual world where players can go online to experience fun minigames, daily activities, events, rewards, lively social environments and competition. Clone Wars Adventures lets players duel iconic adversaries with their own custom Lightsaber, speed through the galaxy in a custom Starfighter, defeat enemies and take down starships.

Clone Wars Adventures is a free-to-play game, but players who want to take the galactic action to the next level can purchase a monthly Membership subscription for $5.99, while a variety of epic items can also be purchased through Station Cashģ micro-transactions. The Clone Wars Adventures Galactic Passport is scheduled to be available at thousands of retail locations in North America later this fall and will include a 90-day membership, 500 Station Cash, the ability to unlock the Togruta playable character, a Yoda monitor topper, and more.

WHEN:
Clone Wars Adventures BETA registration is open now. Prospective Jedi masters and Clone Troopers can register for BETA and test their Lightsaber skills, helping to fine-tune the game for launch this September!

WHERE:
For the opportunity to participate in the program visit the game website www.clonewarsadventures.com and click on the BETA registration link.
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First off, I fricking love Monday Night Combat. I didn't think I would when I first saw it, but after downloading it the day it hit Xbox Live Arcade and playing until 4 a.m. when I had to be into work at 8 a.m., it's safe to say I'm hooked.

If you haven't picked it up yet, head on over to the reviews section of Dtoid and read Mr. Sterling's review. It is pretty spot on in terms of what the game offers.

However, a lot of reviewers have pointed out the annoying announcer as being a drag. And you know what, he really is.

After visiting the official site for the game I've been thinking about something. The game obviously wants to throw in some humor and premise. Unfortunately, it comes off as cheesy and bare. The announcer is annoying and the mentioning of players being clones in the future is only briefly visited. And don't even get me started on Pitgirl and her blatant "use for sex appeal" marketing bullshit.

But all of that would have been excusable had I not read the great, creative back story and bios on the Uber Entertainment site.

Here's just a sampling to whet your appetite:

MNCís Head of Biomedicine, Dr. Karl Pickering, puts it this way: ďWe at Monday Night Combat believe strongly in the three Cís: character, commitment and cloning. We also believe in the three Bís: breeding, bionics and bioengineering. Possibly the Bís should come first. Whatever, Iím not a goddamn dictionary.Ē

Anywho, I would have loved more of the humor from the site stuck into the game. Sure, it may have bogged down a game that is meant for someone to jump on quickly, blow some shit up and then go to bed, but I think it would have been a great addition.
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