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2:58 PM on 08.04.2009

Never Forget: Ascaron and Sacred 2



As originally posted on my personal Games and Geekery blog. :(

--------

It recently came to my attention via twitter that Ascaron, the guys behind Sacred 2: Fallen Angel had filed for bankruptcy and had actually closed its doors a few days ago.

When I originally heard the news about Ascaron's bankruptcy some time ago, it didn't seem like a big deal at the time, mostly because they were still chugging along as if everything was okay, and that things would right themselves in time.

Except, they weren't okay, and some recent posts on their forums reflected this.

A pair of threads on the Sacred 2 Forums, entitled The Current Situation About Sacred 2 and Ascaron R.I.P. had one of the community managers announcing what would be happening to the game: that a different company responsible for the customer support for the game would be taking over, and that those folks originally responsible for making the game awesome were more or less gone as of a few days ago.

It's a sad thing to see a game die a slow death, but there's still one more addon left for the game: one last, great adventure to be had. Hopefully, that also means that Sacred 2 will be remembered by many as an awesome game worthy of praise and admiration for breathing life into the souls of dungeon-crawling, loot-seeking, kobold-slaying adventurers like myself.   read


3:00 PM on 07.23.2009

The Unbearable Longing for LOTRO: Utter Desperation

[embed]141132:20872[/embed]

I think the music video above explains more or less what I feel in a couple of ways. Obviously, "I want Nobody
but you" refers to my need to acquire a copy of LOTRO at the moment or a game key at least.

Furthermore, the uncontrollable desire I have for the game is much like the guy with loose bowel movements in
the video.To be utterly crass about it, I can't control my desire much like his bowel movements, and the
universe keeps conspiring to take away the means by which I can make everything right in my little gaming
world (reference to Toilet Paper).

Anyway, what's happened since the last post?

I did some more digging and found some information on the Free Trial Assistance Forums. Basically, Turbine
seems to have been having issues with the Trial Account system for a little bit now, and it hasn't been
publicized yet. I think that my inability to purchase the game digitally through their online store is also due to this
issue they're having.

It's annoying to have such bad timing on my part, but there's not much I can do there. What I CAN do, however,
is become even more desperate.

Which is why I was lucky enough to stumble upon MMeOw.net. The site's author may actually be having a
contest for game keys soon, and therefore, it seems like my final option at the moment. While informing people
of this fact hurts my chances somewhat, it seems like common courtesy to note that he's awesome for putting
out contests at least.

I just hope I can win a key

UPDATE FROM ORIGINAL POST WRITING:

As of 4:00 am, Philippine time, I've managed to do the unlikely. I found their twitter account, and shot off two
nice messages about the issues with both the online store and the trial account (in 280 characters, no less).
Their response: "We're actively working on the issue right now, sorry for the inconvenience - we'll get you in
the game ASAP!"

Thank Goodness.

NOTE: Used Google Chrome to type this as my Firefox browser doesn't allow converting of videos into embed
tags due to an issue with the NoScript addon. My apologies.   read


12:18 PM on 07.22.2009

The Unbearable Longing for Gaming



I decided to write this simply because I'm very frustrated right now and I needed to vent out my frustration a little bit.

Have you ever gotten this urge to play a game so badly that there was this utter longing for that specific game. I've felt it many times over the years, whether it was Super Smash Bros. Brawl or Fallout 3, but this is the first time I've ever felt the longing for a game so badly that not being able to play is actually depressing me.

So, a night or two ago, I decided to visit random blogs online in the hopes of finding something new to occupy my mind and I eventually found myself inextricably drawn to a Massively Awesome MMO Newssite (or MAMMON, for short. I decided to check out MAMMON's coverage of Lord of the Rings Online and my interest grew in the game. So much so that two days later, which is today, I decided to go out and pick up a copy of the full game and its expansion just to try it out.

Now, in my country, there's only one store chain that sells original PC games en masse, and it's called Data Blitz. I went there at 10 am, sleepless and hungry for LOTRO action, only to find out that the game was out of stock in the branch I went to. They mentioned a rumor to me that basically states that someone bought ALL the remaining copies of the game from all the stores.

"That's obvioiusly preposterous," I thought. A phone call later to a nearby neighboring branch revealed that it also had no copies in stock. Upon going home, I called up three of their other branches, and each one had nothing to offer me.

Fast forward to earlier this evening. The game was in my head, taunting me to go and find a way.

It was enough to drive me to do something drastic: I went online and applied for a free 10-day trial and the subsequent digital download.

Except, I couldn't.

When I tried to cre­ate the trial account through Fire­fox, it said that an error has occurred. When I tried to create the trial account through IE8, it redi­rected me back to Turbine’s Gen­eral Free Trial Area for LOTRO and DDO… it’s as if the sub­mit but­ton was the wrong link or some­thing.

Fazed, but undeterred, I resorted to the last possible option: buying a digital copy and enduring the horrendously slow download speeds of my connection.

Except, I couldn't, yet again.

I tried using Fire­fox and IE8 to buy the game from the link posted on the LOTRO ad page that comes up prior to load­ing the LOTRO site. Thing is, every time I tried, after submitting the payment infor­ma­tion, it said that it was unable to process the request, that I should ver­ify my infor­ma­tion, and then try again.

The proper term here now, is SIGH...

It's been six hours since I began my attempts to get an online version of the game to no avail. Perhaps the LOTRO site is borked, or maybe I'm just in the wrong region to download the game. I only wish I had an answer, not only to the question of why I can't get a digital copy of the game, but also to the strange, uncontrollable desire to play a game I barely know and whose source material I never fully read.   read


8:51 AM on 07.18.2009

The Adventures of LolaTechie (Semi-VGR)

[embed]140385:20731[/embed]

This isn't going to be a very long blog, mostly because I want to impress upon you folks the value of a really good idea executed with the utmost care.

The video above is a subtitled version of the second of a series of commercials starring LolaTechie, a Philippine grandmother who uses the internet to do things we young'uns normally do, such as SuperPoke people on Facebook or play videogames on the computer. In this case, she;'s playing a fictional videogame which has parallels to CounterStrike. :)

The ad agency behind this were subtle with the promotion for this one, as LolaTechie (or GrandmaTechie in English) has Facebook, Twitter, and YouTube accounts, including her own website.

While the concept isn't new per se, the idea that advertisers are slowly warming up to the idea of a world where the internet can connect everyoine, young and old, warms my heart. I just wish I could convince my grandmother to play Battlefield Heroes with me.   read


11:38 AM on 06.06.2009

Gaming on the Fringe: The Trouble with Downloadable Content

As a gamer from the Philippines, I have a different perspective than most people when it comes to gaming. I come from a country where people who love video games and do their best to purchase their games legitimately have to contend with a lack of official support from various sources and slow connection speeds.

Despite these setbacks, I try to do my very best to go through the hoops needed to get a game I want in the state that I want it in. Sometimes, to get to that particular state that I want a game to be in, I have to live with downloadable content and the troubles that come with trying to get it, from region specificity and support to plain old connection slowness.


Broken Hearted for Broken Steel



When the Broken Steel expansion for Fallout 3 came out on the PC, I was thoroughly excited for it. Here's an expansion I was willing to pay good money for, as it extended the life of a game I liked to play. First things first though: I needed a gamertag and the Games for Windows Live client.

I tried to create a gamertag for myself, only to realize that the Philippines wasn't a selectable country for the gamertag. I thought it was a minor thing at the time, and tried using the nearest country I could think of to my country to suffice for the creation of a gamertag.

After downloading the GFW Live client, I thought it would be easy, except a thought occurred to me: would the patch even work with the international version of the game that I picked up? Slowly, more questions popped into my head about Microsoft Points and if they were region-specific, and if I could use the ones sold here (which appear to be for the Asian region) to purchase a digital copy of Broken Steel from what I assumed to be America.

I made some inquiries on the net and did a bit of digging myself, and found disappointment via the Games for Windows Live forums. According to one of the forum posts there, “If you are from a country that is not on this list, you will not be able to connect to the LIVE services, and we will not be able to provide you with assistance or a workaround.” True enough, that little hint from the gamertag country selection came back to bite me.

It's a good thing Bethesda decided to come out with a boxed version of the expansion, or I'd be thoroughly miffed.


Patches are Sacred: Pray you get them



Regardless of the platform, content patches are nice additions to gameplay that bring extra value to existing games while removing bugs and other things left behind by tired coders at two in the morning.

If you can get them, that is.

Sacred 2: Fallen Angel, for example is a great game with extra content served up for the PC version in the form of content patches. I recently got back into the game and wanted to try my hand at updating my game and found that, while finding the right patch can be tough at times (multiple versions of release, and different patch versions), what's tougher is making sure the full patch actually gets downloaded.

In Sacred 2's case, the issue here isn't that the patch won't download. Instead, it's making sure that your connection doesn't force the download to time out or prematurely cut off. With a 1 Gigabyte file being downloaded at 340kb/sec, usually less, this also means that you have to watch the computer constantly making a token click to a new page every couple of minutes just to make sure the connection keeps going.

This would be nice if there was a torrent, but sadly, such isn't the case. And download managers? I tried those to no effect, as they botch the file after downloading, making it unusable.

What does it boil down to then? LUCK. Lots of luck.

Apparently, one afternoon I was extremely lucky, as I managed to grab the patch after my 14th failed attempt, with a couple of botched complete downloads. Total time wasted for the bugfixes and extra characters: approximately 10 hours. Still, the game was worth it, and my Temple Guardian is doing fine.

Of course, there are no tried and tested universal solutions for these two problems, other than a one-world region for media and the use of torrents or resumable downloads for patches. Which would be nice, but hard to come by in this day and age.

Till then, I suppose I should either move to a different country and get a faster connection, or just grin and bear it.

My take: a whole lot of grinning, and some bearing as well.   read


6:51 PM on 05.30.2009

Other Worlds Than These: A Man That Cole Created



In my heart, I do not know whether to respect him or hate him.

It's been 22 days since the explosion, and I don't know what to make of the man who destroyed Empire City. He's killed thousands, left people without homes and families, and yet he's doing what he can to make a difference.

I don't understand it. Is he trying to atone for his acts? Was he really the man who set off the bomb? So many questions race through my head, and the only thing I can do is watch him reap the praise and adoration of my fellow man. Do I forgive him for that, or hate him more?

Empire City is a shell of its former self because of Cole MacGrath, and yet, because of that very same man, it feels like a better place than when the bomb stripped us of our dignity. People are helping each other out, and the police and doctors are doing everything they can to keep the city together. Food may be scarce, but people are sharing rather than killing each other for it. Strangest of all, the villain we want to hate is the same man others have grown to love.



I remember when the first airdrops of food came to the Neon District, how he fended off the Reapers and, instead of hoarding the food for himself, kept watch as people scrambled to take what they could. He's restored power to the city after the Reapers destroyed the main substation. He's escorted prisoners for interrogation by the police. He's even rescued hostages from Reapers who had taken over the El train.

His exploits, it seems, have always been fraught with choice. I wonder if he stops every time a man is dying on the street, or if he climbs onto rooftops and rides power lines to avoid seeing our faces. Maybe he wasn't given a choice when he started, I don't know, but the more I think about it, the more I believe that he chooses to be the man he is now.



Does that exonerate him from genocide? I wonder... Did he lose anyone in the blast, or in the ensuing chaos that came from it? Maybe he did, maybe he didn't. I may not be able to look him in the eye without shooting him first.

Perhaps I've been rambling like a man waiting for justice to come. It's been a long three weeks, and while the worst seems to be over, the world has still all but abandoned us. I wonder, will Cole MacGrath abandon us too?

I hate him, I respect him... it's all a blur to me now. If I can forgive him now, maybe I can live with myself for not dying as well. Till the day my end comes, I'll watch him, and pray for him, and maybe, just maybe, I'll offer him my peace while I still can.   read


5:03 PM on 01.17.2009

I can has PS3 nao! Also, is there a primer on Friday Night Fights?



After all the helpful advice I got from the community members here, I finally took the big step forward and bought myself a PS3, along with three games: Valkyria Chronicles, Burnout Paradise, and Enchanted Arms.

One of the nice things about Philippine gaming is that some stores sell the PS3 with packages; that is to say a set of predetermined free games you can choose from. INstead of paying 7100 pesos for three games, picking up two good games from the older set of releases plus buying Valkyria only sets me back 6,300 pesos instead, which amounts to some savings, since I mostly play games by myself.

I'm interested in trying out the online functions though for games, so I wanted to see if I could participate in the Destructoid community's Friday Night Fights. To that end, I have a couple of questions:

Is there a primer for the FNF that I should read prior to trying to join?
Do the games used in FNF change on a monthly basis?
What are some recommended games that use the online functions to play with other people?
Lastly, and perhaps least importantly, is Home worth installing and trying out? I'd rather not install unnecessary or relatively boring stuff just yet, so I can save the hard drive for future game installs. :)   read


4:49 PM on 01.11.2009

Life after the gaming website job is still hell (plus, I could use information on the PS3).



It's been a while since I posted, and since I did say back in another cblog post that I would go and write more, I decided to go and put up a blog post here about the gaming revolution that's currently on my mind, which is the PS3.

First off though, a short update about my current work status (which is apparently, gaming related). After my two years for the gaming website I used to work for, I thought to try something else related to gaming but wasn't exactly a writing job. That said, I went into a call center... dealing with technical support for one of the big consoles out there. Boy, was that a big mistake.

I did well enough on my tests to secure a spot on the floor, but now, on my fourth month, I realize it wasn't for me. Too much stress, too many variables to handle, and not enough mental and physical fortitude on my end to cope with it, so much so that just a few days ago, I got hypertension from working at the place. I'm currently looking for another job, preferably in teaching or writing (and hopefully, with less uncertainty to consider), though I'm hoping a communications coach position opens up so I don't have to take calls anymore, lessening my stress considerably.

What does that have to do with wanting a PS3? Well, if you take enough calls regarding a console, you eventually wander off during the free time wondering about what it'd be like to have a new console (not necessarily the one you take calls for) under your belt.

That's my dilemma now. As I live in the Philippines, circumstances surrounding the consoles are a bit different. Modded Wiis and 360s abound, and I have an original Wii and a modded 360 (sorry... no one sells unmodded 360s here to my knowledge) for gaming purposes. The thing is, I constantly worry about the day when my Xbox 360 will die, so I thought to think of the long-term and try to sell off the 360 or earn enough money for a PS3, even if the games cost well... a lot, considering how much I pay for 360 games.

That said, I'd like to make an informed decision though, and who better to provide information than the people who own the thing. I know the PS3 is a quality console, with some great games, but I have to be very picky with what games I buy for the console, as well as which version I should look for.

NOTES:
1. Not very tech-savvy here, so I can't replace the hard drive... should I look for the 20 GB one if it still exists, or go for the (supposedly) more common 60 GB one?

2. I'm an RPG gamer at heart, so I'm excited for White Knight Chronicles. What other high-level RPG titles are out there for the PS3?

3. What games are awesome enough to play through more than once? MGS4 seems like a good buy, but replayability is a factor for me if I'm trading in the Xbox 360.

4. While google is my friend, sites you trust to give yourself information on the console of your choice seems to be a better friend than google. Can you recommend some sites that offer information on the PS3?

Anyway, I apologize if long post is long. I do hope you can help me out here, as I'd like to make a decision based on the information you've offered up. :) Many thanks!   read


4:00 PM on 09.03.2008

Feel the Hatred: I Hate the Game World (in song form)

I got inspired by Yojimbo-sama's post... so I decided to make this to the tune of the Discovery World theme, "I Love the World."

Blogger 1: It never gets old, huh?
Blogger 2: Nope.
Blogger 1: It kinda makes you want to...
Blogger 2: Break into song?
Blogger 1: Yep.

I hate fake mountains
I hate the clear blue skies
I hate those mazes
I hate how ragdolls fly
I hate the game world
And all its sights and sounds

Boom-de-Yadda (x4)

I hate the lens flares
I hate the browns and greys
I hate the framerate
I hate all of EA
I hate the game world
For all its craziness.

Boom-de-Yadda (x4)

I hate the fanboys
I hate the pay-to-play
I hate WoW botters
I hate communit-ay!
I hate the game world
It's such a sucky place

Boom-de-Yadda till the song ends.


[embed]102302:14222[/embed]   read


12:56 PM on 09.03.2008

Feel the Hatred: Disorientation in Gaming



There are many strange gameplay mechanics I can understand and accept when it comes to a videogame, but the one thing I absolutely hate in any videogame is a gameplay mechanic I'm calling disorientation.

What is disorientation in this sense? Well, to put it very simply, it's a gameplay mechanic where the developer tries to effectively force you into a situation where you're piloting your character blind.

This comes in many forms, the most notable of which happen to come in early RPGs. Allow me to offer this scenario.

You are in an adventuring party which is tasked with reaching point B from point A. Between the two points is a cursed forest. shrouded in fog, where you can only enter or exit from the north, south, east, and west directions. You are given the vaguest of hints as to how to traverse the forest without getting lost... and so begins your trek through the forest.

In top-down RPGs, this would be represented as a forest area with four openings, with you in the middle of the screen. To exit the forest at Point B, you'd have to direct your character in one of the cardinal directions multiple times, until you "unlock" the exit screen for the forest. Unless you grabbed a clue about escaping the forest beforehand, you could expect to see the same damned forest screen an almost infinite number of times.

Of course, that is only one example. This also happens with enchanted labyrinths where traversing a screen always changes your facing, or where you're in a single, humongous area that's covered in snow (this is FFVII, to be sure). You could even count top-down roguelikes that don't let you zoom out into this mix, especially if the camera turns around a lot.

While the desired effect is perhaps to cause the player a sense of unease, it also adds a layer of frustration into a game. It also pads the game with a one-time gimmicky device that usually isn't even part of the main plot.

Of course, so long as there are video games, there will also be frustrating game mechanics, but I'd like to think that, as the technology in video game creation develops, we'd see less of this disorientation mechanic happening. While this might be replaced with other frustrating game mechanics, I'd still put this single gameplay mechanic somewhere near the top of the list of annoying things to avoid in a new-generation videogame.

Picture taken from Wikimedia Commons. Author: Mila Zinkova   read


4:47 PM on 08.10.2008

I've been given a 30-day notice at my job (Still video-game related, kinda long)

It's been a while since I posted here, mostly because I've been busy with work for the place I work at, which is also a video game blog. It seems, however, that I'll be able to write here more often because I got a 30-day notice at the website I work for.

What follows is copied from the blog post I wrote a few days back on my personal journal:


Let's begin with what happened. This is updated with the events that happened earlier at work (I just got home) so this is going to be longer than I expected.

At 5:20 a.m. of Thursday morning, Philippine time, I was taken aside by my boss. He explained that, because the website/blog/company I work for was losing money, they had to let four more people go. I was one of the folks they were retrenching/downsizing/whatever it's called.

It was a bit of a shock because I always thought I'd be a bit safer from the firing squad. Due to earlier retrenchment and resignations from other members of the staff, I was essentially the guy who had been there the longest. By my count, I had worked there for 522 days as of earlier this morning. I started work there on July 31, 2006, so I felt like I had just hit a milestone by hitting two years in my first job.

Now, when I went in to work earlier, apparently more drama happened. The head boss came down from his perch in the high heavens and ranted to the shift on duty at the time about how we supposedly weren't working, and how we were losing him money. Furthermore, a directive was passed to us via email that changed our duties radically.

Our website is comprised of the main webpage and the various sub-blogs. Then there's an extra portion that hosts downloads for various files. Unfortunately, the download page makes the company more money than the website, so we were essentially told to stop writing, hunt down anything of value online that isn't nailed down (metaphorically speaking) and then upload it to the downloads website. Each member of the shift assigned to uploading duties has a quota of 100 downloadables to put up in approximately eight hours.

Connected to this is the fact that according to the new directive, only one person per shift can write articles. The problem is, that person has to write the equivalent of 17 articles in eight hours. This is lessened somewhat through cross-posting to multiple blogs so that it counts toward the quota multiple times, but it's still a lot of articles.

My shift was the first shift to follow the directive earlier, and I got the writing duties. While I like writing, note that the maximum quota that we've ever had to do previously was eight or nine articles. I managed to write eight articles, with some of them being cross-posts, and I failed to write for three of the blogs. My officemates who had been assigned to uploading duties were also able to find 100 files to upload per person. Needless to say, the new directive seemed entirely unrealistic, and it's tempting to resign right now, were it not for the severance pay I would be receiving for lasting 30 days.


------------------

Well, now I'm searching for a new job while working for the website. It's hard, seeing as it seems they're trying to make everyone die from exhaustion or resign (so they have to pay us less).

Anyway, I wonder if Destructoid is hiring... Hello? Anyone? Bueller?

PS: The contract I signed said I can't name the website I work for... maybe they don't want people knowing that people from the Philippines are capable bloggers as well... sigh...   read


10:57 AM on 06.27.2008

After a Hiatus... a quick Diablo 3 post.

I want the Blizzard Announcement to be Diablo 3 so bad...

I latched onto this news article when i first saw it.

Battle.net Forum Section confirms Diablo 3 is coming

Edited to add the following below.


Valenzetti Number Conspiracy and the possibility of Diablo 3

PLUS!!!

The Original Diablo 2 Trailer:

[embed]92589:12624[/embed]

Please don't shoot.   read


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