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3:50 PM on 09.24.2009

Classic Console & Arcade Gaming Show

Passing along something I found today while I was planning an unrelated trip to Cleveland.

Might be worth a look if you're a retro fan and looking to play or buy and in the Cleveland area on Saturday, October 24th. Sounds like there is a chance to walk away with some rare stuff, including an undisclosed unreleased NES game.   read

2:01 PM on 08.31.2009

Fable 2 : Gateway drug for the non-gamer?

So last night, my soon to be wife actually expressed an interest in playing a game I had picked back up again recently, Fable 2. She doesn't get these impulses often, so I do my best to indulge them.

As far as a gamer with a significant other who does not, I came out pretty lucky. She doesn't see them as an enemy, or competition for time, as she does possess a shred of self esteem and her own interests. Nor does she show a complete ignorance, as recognized I was playing Fable again by just hearing the a few seconds on the game's start screen song from down the hall. At the worst, tolerates them. At best, accepts them. Some games, with characters and narrative she seems to follow along with, such as Lost Odyssy, or Uncharted:Drake's Fortune. Those that lack them are generally given as much regard as a unwelcome stray dog, such as Ace Combat 6, or World of Warcraft.

We set up a profile for her, and she starts the game. Obviously, she picks female character, and despite her prior experiences with the 360's control pad, handles herself pretty well against the early swarms of beetles and handful of bandits. I thank Lionhead Studios for dispensing with Fable 1's magic meter and allowing for a free form, simple combat experience that easily allows even a novice to feel like a bad ass early on. She kills Thag, makes it to Bowerstone, and we call it a night, as its late. But unlike her last 360 experience, she's done it all on her own, and seems to have enjoyed it, even having collected a few early achievements. She was just able to appreciate the game for what it was, as she hadn't heard a single bombastic statement ever uttered by Peter Molyneux, or been exposed to any of its early trailers, which aspects of, appear no where in the final product.

All in all, a great excursion back into games for her. She even jokes about getting her own 360, a jest, but I smile. So much better than the last one. Which brings us to, Mass Effect.

She hadn't express an interest in going near the 360 for other than Netflix, since she tried this game. She created a character, made it through the first planet, and was inducted into the Spectres, before putting down the controller in frustration and wanting nothing more to do with it.

You see, she made it through the first planet, but only by the good graces of her squad mates, who carried most of the load. 3rd person shooters are probably just not for her, as "run and gun" style game play doesn't mesh well with her at all. She liked the interactivity of the dialogue, and I suspect she found the Mass Effect universe interesting, but the extent that she wants to experience it is seeing me play it. Which isn't unusual. Even gamers have that with certain games. My friends in high school would rather watch me play Resident Evil 4 on Game Cube than take a turn at the controller themselves.

She didn't like the controls, she didn't like the primitive shooter mechanics present in Mass Effect, and good luck explaining a cover system to a non-gamer for the first time. She reverted back to her comfort zone, i.e, occasional, simple, casual games like Wii Sports. Since Wii Sports pretty much only gets fired up when we have visitors, we don't see much Wii Sports in our apartment anymore. Significant other interest or no, if I throw another virtual bowling ball in the next year, that disc may end up in the microwave.

You see, I had some hope for Mass Effect. It somewhat fit the profile of games she played from beginning to end when we were in college. Those, were Bioware's fantastic KOTOR, and Obsidian's tragically uncomplete flawed sequel, KOTOR II.

She wanted to try them herself after seeing me play through them. She enjoyed them quite a bit, and she seemed to really enjoy how the games let the player determine what happened as you progressed through the game, as well as the story itself. The fights looked cool, despite requiring minimal of input from the player, allowing her to just que up several actions at once and just play the role of the spectator. If only she could have just told Shepard what to do instead of being tasked to do it herself.

So here's where I come to you, the readers(if any of you are still left at this point).

If she finishes Fable 2, and enjoys it, what to I try to get her on next? She seems to enjoy hands off titles, like the KOTORs, and some hands on titles if the interface isn't too complicated and the camera system isn't prone to seizures. She digs science fiction and fantasy. I'm holding out hopes that Dragon Age:Origins isn't too tricky, as that may be up her alley as well.

While she accepts that games are part of my life, there's quite a distance between accepting and embracing them herself. I just think it would be fun to have another activity we share. I've picked up cooking with her, though no, I will no under any circumstance pick up her main hobby, knitting. Not going to do it. I'm more likely to put an eye out with those damn needles than I am to finish a row.

Does any one have a similar experience where a significant other was on the cusp of gaming? What pushed them one way or the other?   read

5:15 PM on 08.06.2009

Fear and Loathing in the Racing Genre

So last night I was playing Motorstorm again. No reason in particular. I find that lately I have a hard time focusing on any one game lately, which can be annoying as it may lead you to purchase several that may go sitting unplayed on shelf. I believe I still have an unopened copy of Metroid Prime 3 on the shelf I bought the last time I was in one of these fugues.

Any way, I was playing Motorstorm last night. If you haven't played it, on the off chance someone is actually reading this, its not a game for the easily frustrated. The game divides up up sets of races into "tickets" which you clear in order to gain points and advance as well as unlock new vehicles. The problem is that the races generally involve multiple types of vehicles on the track at once, and god fucking help you if your forced to pick from mud oriented vehicle besides "big rigs" and you have to take something like the "mud pluggers", this hybrid class that seem to be a mix of "race trucks" and "buggies".

In short, your handling characteristics make it necessary for you to race in the same areas as the "big rigs" in specific races with much smaller vehicles. The larger vehicles can easily crush you, forcing you into an annoying, slow restart that really seems to penalize you more than it should. If you crash in the middle or end of the final lap, you might as well restart, as its not likely you'll place.

But despite that, I still find that I like this game. Its probably because I don't think any other game has taken the desert setting and turned it into an interesting racing experience, going back to Top Gear Rally on the N64, and even that was just one track. The good sense of speed, and the fact that the vehicles handle roughly how they should on the various surfaces in real life are also strong pluses.

Just be prepared to have to restart. Constantly.

Forza 2 has this issue as well. I enjoy the early and mid level challenges of Forza but the later ones force a level of skill and technical awareness of cars that I will not soon care to obtain in order to win. It basically became a game of seeing if can I cause the lead car to crash in such a way that disables their car but leaves mine relatively unscathed, and able to continue to the race before I am overtaken by the pack. The game expects near perfection in order to win, and if you've gone to the store lately, I'm sure you've noticed that they are all out of Perfection. They had plenty of Pretty Good and Half-Assed, though.

Its almost as though the racing genre is striving to become what Mega Man was to the NES. A brutal test of nerves, memorization, timing, and how many times you can die/restart before you put down controller and not play it again for months.

Not all seem to strive for this, but are still not what they could be. The frustration I experienced in Burnout:Paradise was the obnoxiously high take down requirements set on challenges, especially the last few road rages. What does wrecking 40+ cars prove that I didn't just prove by wreaking 33?

The frustration I experienced in Mario Kart Wii is Nintendo's use of weapons to constantly level the playing field and rubber band the pack together. Being hit with multiple blue shells during a single race, over and over again taught me to just stay in second place and make a move at the end. Much safer. Thank you Nintendo, the most socialist game company. You have shown me I should strive for mediocrity because striving for excellence an entire race just isn't worth the frustration.

Anyway, these seem like common problems in Racing the racing genre today. I can sympathize with the developers, being forced to walk the thin line of making a game too easy or too hard, too flaky or too repetitive, but it seems like some are getting perhaps too wrapped up in one thing or another and forgetting the fun by either making the game too complex, or punishing those who do actually have skill to spare those who don't.

I almost wish Valve would release a kart racer based on its collective properties to show use how it could be done. I know I'd pay to see Gordon Freeman, Bill, Chell(Portal), the Heavy, and various others in go karts, racing through tracks inspired from their portfolio such as Left 4 Dead, Portal, Half Life 2, and Team Fortress 2. That's obviously crazy talk, but a bored fool can dream, can't he?   read

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