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4:59 PM on 11.21.2008

Need Some XBL Friends

Dear Destructoid Community,

I know you are full of awesome people. Since most of my friends who have Xbox either

1. Do not play their Xbox.

2. Have RROD.

3. Run out of XBL subcription.

Would you be kind enough to provide me some XBL friends so I could use some of the cool features of the new Xbox experience and party? If you are on the fence about being my friend, just think about it. I'm good enough, I'm smart enough, and dog gone it, people like me! Feel free to leave a comment with your name or add me. My gamertag is Wise Walnut.

-Goodnight   read


6:04 PM on 11.04.2008

A Measure of Worth

There is hardly a greater fervor than the mad frothing at the mouth fanboys will have if their coveted games get lower than expected review scores. Message boards will be full gnashing teeth and long exposes about the great injustices society has thrown against their favorite games. Trolls ensure that their narrow views get heard during these times by fueling the fight. A Metal Gear Solid game with an 80! Zut alor! A Grand Theft Auto with less than a 10! Stop the presses!

Before the rise of the internet, it used to be the magazine scores that people would pay attention to. They were no less potent, but the lack of a common forum did not allow people to retort. Now, with aggregating sites such as Metacritic and Gamerankings, all hell breaks loose if the combined score of a highly anticipated game is less than predicted. Besides the obvious issues about how those sites calculate the overall scores, there are rumors and murmurs that Metacritic scores affect the job situation for some game developers. What has the world come to that so much rests on a silly number that an individual has assigned to represent his feelings about a particular game? I believe that the gaming community and industry has lost its way, and the current system of game reviews needs a revolution.



Let me say that I was a huge fan of CGW/GFW’s attempt to print game reviews without scores. I thought it was a bold and inventive move that could have changed the industry if other outlets had embraced the concept. I believe that the “no review score” policy should be revived and encouraged. This is not to say that review scores are worthless, because they are good at providing a quick look at which media outlets liked or disliked a game. Pay attention to my wording. Review scores do not represent what a game is worth, or its value to any particular consumer. Rather, the review scores provide us with insight into what a particular reviewer thought of the game.

Look at Spore as an example. The game’s reviews have been very good, with almost all above 80 according to Metacritic’s conversion system. Both negative and positive reviews state the lack of depth in the games earlier stages (Cell, Creature, Tribe, Civ) as the main detractor of the score. For a review, one must decide how to even assign a score to a game like Spore? Do you take each of the stages and asses how deep and fun each one is? Or do you look at the big picture and determine how much fun you had growing from Cell to Space phase? Or do you look at the accomplishment of having a massively single player universe where the game content is populated by millions of player created objects? Or do you see how much versatile and fun the editors are and factor that heavily into your review? Do you see the problem here? A spore review should go along like this “Spore is an ambitious game with great tools for displaying creativity, but some of the stages are not as deep as once advertised.” That’s that, plain and simple. Assigning a score will only allow gamers like us to shout atop our soapbox blogs.

Some read reviews to determine whether they should buy a game or not. Studying reviews for an economic decision is not a bad idea and often results with good games becoming popular. People read reviews, people buy the games that have the best reviews, and then those developers get to make more games. Now that we have sites like Metacritic and Gamerankings, customize their use to for your own good. Pretend like the review score is not there, and you will see each review in a new light. The review becomes something more personal and moves away from just being another number in the aggregate score. So, take my advice, ignore the numbers and concentrate on the experiences. Find some reviewers you particularly like or relate to and trust their judgment. If you want to play a game even though it has low scores, go right on ahead! Who can tell what a game will be worth to you.   read


7:44 PM on 11.03.2008

Confession: I Do Not Finish Many Games



If you take one look at my Xbox Live profile, you will notice one striking pattern. I do not finish many games. First, I must define what I mean by finish. Some hardcore gamers will say that you have not finished a game until you have achieved 100% status, whether it is 120 stars in Super Mario 64, or collecting every little orb in Crackdown. For me, finishing a game means beating its main featured game mode, whether that is “story” mode, or even just the series of core levels. My pile of shame is massive. I even call myself a fan of some series where I have not finished critical games. So here and now, I will confess to some big ones; are you ready?

Super Mario Bros.

I never have played the original Super Mario Bros. for NES from beginning to end and beat the game. Perhaps it was because I was not playing many video games at the time it first came into our house, but I have had many chances over the years to play and finish it. I have taken it for a spin here or there for nostalgia, but never all the way through. One day, when I get some free time outside of the deluge of fall gaming goodness and school, I will sit down with my virtual console and finish this classic. I think my invincible star tattoo will burn a hole through my arm if I do not do this.

Bioshock

For the love of all that is good and holy, why did I not finish this game!? I was enraptured by the demo! I love the setting, the gameplay, and I was having a blast. After about 8 hours in, I stopped playing and never got back around to finish it. I traded in my 360 copy, but it is waiting for me on Steam for the day I head back to the depths.

Metroid Prime(s)

Metroid Prime suffered a similar fate to Bioshock, but I have a Wii and a gamecube controller if I ever want to go back. I played a third of Metroid Prime 2, but quickly grew tired of going back and forth between the two dimensions, especially when one of them sucks away at your health. I have not given enough attention to Metroid Prime 3 because I rented it and only played it a couple of hours. However, when I want a good game to play on the Wii, I’ll go back to it.

Final Fantasy IX, X, XII

In middle school and most of high school, I was a Squaresoft nut! After FF8, I played FFIX to the third disc and then lost my will to continue. However, Vivi and Freya are amongst my favorite FF characters and the music was outstanding. After that, I could not get into X and XII as much as the others. I believe this also has something to do with the fact that I gradually was introduced to Western RPGs which offered more freedom.

I love Freedom

The list above is only a sampling of the ones I regret not finishing the most. However, for as many games on my list that I did not beat, there are those that I do finish, or games whose nature does not allow for completion. I trade in a lot of my games; I find it a good way to recycle those I know I am not going to be able to play. However, there are titles that I will keep coming back to, and I will not trade these in.
Recently, I have noticed my tastes as a gamer lie with open world and open ended games. I am vastly attracted to games such as the Sims, Spore, Civilization, and long RPGs like Fallout 3. Sometimes I feel like I have a burden to beat a great game, just because it is great. However, I have found that I get much more satisfaction out of those games that have no end because I can not burden myself with it. What about you? Is there a masterpiece that tops your pile of shame?   read


4:05 PM on 11.01.2008

Gaming Guilty Pleasure – The Sims 2

I will be the first to admit that I have a gaming guilty pleasure and I would not be surprised if many others of you also share the same symptoms. I bet you there is some hardcore COD4 player who has unlocked all the perks and plays hours a day, but on the weekends, he or she is sending letters to a longtime panda friend about new furniture in a town they have been keeping up since Animal Crossing came out for Gamecube. A gaming guilty pleasure is some obsession you have with a particular game or series of games that others would find humorous or do not understand. Today, I will share my fixation with the Sims franchise and why I have a passion about it.

I am assuming that I am not alone in my guilty pleasure of loving the Sims, as it is the best selling PC game franchise of all time. The droves of casual and simulation lovers can not account for the staggering sales, so how is it that the Sims 2 expansion and stuff packs keep making it to the top of the NPDs? The franchise’s prestigious title is due to gamers like me, who collect and keep up with the various expansions that Maxis spits out every several months. I like to consider myself a non-discretionary gamer in that I play all types of games; simulation, RPG, side scrolling, shooter, FPS, RTS, sports. No gaming genre is safe from my hands and I love experiencing everything that the medium has to offer. It is no surprise that I own the Sims 2. However, many of my gaming friends just shake their head when they hear I have every single Sims 2 expansion.

I played the heck out of The Sims, but did not get any of the expansions because I was too young and did not have any money. However, when the Sims 2 came along, I decided that I would try and get every single expansion that came out. Little did I know how far that goal would take me. Unless you are fan, I doubt you keep up with the Sims 2 and its expansions. If you dislike the Sims, stop reading here. Don’t say I did not warn you.



The Sims 2 is a game about controlling the lives of “sims”, or the digital people that populate various neighborhoods in the game. You can control all of their actions from basic bodily functions like sleeping, eating, and waste management, to complex social behaviors like proposing marriage and advancing in careers. This sort of omniscient control is what leads people to call the Sims a “god” game. You also get to decide where Sims live and what they live with, building complex houses and filling the interior with designs of your choice.

Upon creation of a sim, one will choose its appearance, clothing, personality, and family relations. Then you send it off to one of several lots in the neighborhood where you then buy stuff (with in-game money, simoleans) to put in their pre-made house, or you can build a house from scratch. Once you have the essentials; a place to eat, sleep, and use the rest room, you start directing their lives. If you are feeling particularly devious, you can drop them on a lot without life's essentails just to see what happens. In fact, there are many people who set up elaborate torture situations just to watch sims die. I do not often delve into the darker side of things, and I like to see my sims thrive and live in style. What they do is up to you; do you make your sims become workoholics, slobs, swingers, clean freaks? If you choose, sims eventually get married and have children. Your original sims could die and possibly become ghosts, and you will continue the game with their children if there are any. You can follow the lives of any household in the neighborhood and engineer crazy outrageous stories.

One of my favorite experiences in the Sims 2 is the first time I got the game, I booted up the neighborhood set in the desert. There is a pre-made family here of three male room mates. One of them is obsessed with looking out into the stars. Since I wanted that sim to fill his desire of stargazing, every free chance he got, I sent him up to the telescope on the roof. After a few times, a UFO appeared and abducted the Sim which happened to be one of this Sim's aspirations. He eventually was returned, but with a remarkable difference; he was pregnant. I could only assume the aliens where the cause of this suprise, and I led the pregnant man through his terms. Eventually, he gave birth and my gameplay experience turned into three men and a little alien baby.

Though the above situation was with a premade Sim family, I did not have to direct him to stargaze and he may have never been abducted. Even more outrageous situations can happen to your custom sims. The base Sims 2 is so full of possibilities that the options added in the expansion packs make it absurd. Make your sims learn to teleport like a ninja, own a business selling computers, become a vampire, werewolf, zombie, become obsessed with grilled cheese (Sims 2 fans, you know what I am talking about). The endless possibilities are where my obsession stems from. Even if I do not get to experience all of the options that owning all the Sims expansions provides me. Its like an entire living community is waiting for me inside my computer where almost anything can happen. Feel free to divulge your gaming guilty pleasure in the comments; after all, it can not be as bad as owning all the Sims 2 expansions.   read


6:41 PM on 10.30.2008

Pirana Plant Pumpkin and Invicible Tattoo



This year, my wife and I carved a wicked Pirana Plant Pumpkin. I did the designs and she carved because she is much better at that than I. Also wanted to show off my Mario fanboyism by displaying a tatoo my brother (old Destructoid editor Tristero) and I got. Invincible Stars from Mario, pixelated style! I have the yellow one. All will bow to my hairy arm!

  read


1:47 PM on 04.30.2008

You must be born on 4/29 or Earlier to Buy GTA IV!



This picture from my local Gamestop where I picked up GTA IV speaks for itself.   read


5:19 PM on 11.26.2007

Xbox owner does a 360, gets a PS3



**Due to several of the Comments, I should note this is a LONG POST**

When in the Course of gaming life it becomes necessary for one gamer to dissolve the loyal bands which have connected them with a certain console and to assume among the powers of the earth, a separate and equal Playstation to which the Laws of Nature and of Nature's God entitle them, a decent respect to the opinions of mankind requires that they should declare the causes which impel them to the separation.

I hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty, and the pursuit of Happy Gaming. — That to secure these rights, consoles are instituted among Men, deriving their powers from the consent of the gamer, — That whenever any console becomes destructive of these ends, it is the Right of the People to alter or to abolish it, and to buy a new console, laying its foundation on such principles and organizing its powers in such form, as to them shall seem most likely to effect their Fun and Happy Gaming. Prudence, indeed, will dictate that consoles long established should not be changed for light and transient causes; and accordingly all experience hath shewn that gamers are more disposed to suffer, while evils are sufferable than to right themselves by abolishing the forms to which they are accustomed. But when a long train of abuses and usurpations, pursuing invariably the same Object evinces a design to reduce them under absolute Despotism, it is their right, it is their duty, to throw off such Gaming Companies, and to provide new Guards for their future security. — Such has been the patient sufferance of this Gamer; and such is now the necessity which constrains them to alter their former Systems of Gaming. The history of the present Microsoft is a history of repeated injuries and usurpations, all having in direct object the establishment of an absolute Tyranny over this gamer. To prove this, let Facts be submitted to a candid world.

His consoles have scratched several important Discs of mine and then denied that his consoles scratches Discs.

He has refused to assist with the scratched Discs as they are not published by his own hand.

He has made his customer service agent hang up on me in the middle of a support call.

He has held his wrath over my head in the form of an angry Red Eye, wreathed in flame, threatening to strike at a whim and take away hopes of Happy Gaming. The citizens of the gaming nation all hold this fear in their hearts.

Okay, enough with the analogy. On with the real story.

While the declaration of independence analogies may be extreme, they are strikingly parallel to my situation. A few days ago, I returned my Xbox 360 and bought a PS3. I hope that readers do not get the wrong impression from the following exposition. I am not a Sony fanboy, and you may email Tristero of this great website if you have any doubts of my validity. In fact, for many months my gamertag motto proudly displayed “Wii60”, and I was a firm believer that if you own a Wii and an Xbox 360, you were as fit as a gaming fiddle could be for the current generation. However, there was one side effect I did not like that came with owning Microsoft’s power box.

There was no Peace of Mind. Below is an account of my trials and tribulations associated with the Xbox 360 and my reasons to switch to a PS3. I am sure my case is mild compared to other stories I have read.

My first Xbox 360 died from the red ring after 6 months of fairly regular use. I had bought the premium console, craving a more fundamental gaming experience than the Wii could offer in its post-release dry period. I found a plethora of deep, “hard-core” as they say, gaming goodness, and was enjoying the many benefits of Xbox Live.

The red lights first visited me and filled me with a sense of dread. My box did not stop working at the first sign of them; however, the blinking scarlet ring of doom would come from time to time over the course of a week. Eventually, the system became unusable at a critical moment. My wife and I used the 360 as our DVD player, my in-laws were over, and we were putting in a DVD that we had gotten my father-in-law for his birthday as the red ring delivered its final death sentence.

Luckily, I had bought the 360 from Costco, and they have a wonderful return policy. Even though I had purchased it months ago, I returned the dead box for store credit and got another Premium 360. I was hoping that Microsoft might have started to integrate components to reduce their heating issues, and that I might have one of their improved premium versions. I played in fear that perhaps the next time I picked up the controller, the red rings would appear once again. My new 360 worked fine for another three months until another, more sinister problem arose.

In the early morning hours of Halo 3’s release, I was playing online co-op. When the second level, Tsavo Highway, was loading the 360 made a funny noise and a disc read error popped up. I thought it was very strange to get a disc read error when I had only handled the Halo 3 disc from its case to the 360 tray. There were reports of the legendary and collectors edition having scratches from poor packaging; however, I had bought the normal edition. I opened the tray to inspect the disc and to my surprise, there were many short circular scratches on many parts of the DVD. These scratches were too perfectly curved to be the random damage caused by human error. No, the wounds were precise, and caused by a machine.

When I owned a 360, I took every precaution to prevent its technical problems. I did not keep the system enclosed, but rather on top of my entertainment unit with plenty of heat ventilation room around the side. I also kept my 360 in a horizontal position and was obsessive about the consoles movement while a disc was inside. However, the particular DVD drive was one of the few that did scratch discs while merely running and its first victim was none other than the hailed Halo 3.

As soon as EB Games opened in the morning, I tried to return my scratched disc. By then, they had received a letter from Microsoft dictating not to accept returned Halo 3 discs because of the legendary and collector’s edition packaging. I would have to go through Microsoft. The employees at EB Games did not understand that I had the regular edition and that the 360 had scratched my disc, not the packaging. When I got home and checked Microsoft’s policy concerning replacement of scratched Halo 3 discs; only the legendary and collectors edition was eligible and I was SOL.

I bought another copy of Halo 3 from Wal-mart because they were one of the only places with stock left on the day of release. At Wal-mart, you can return opened games for only another copy of the same game. My wife and I figured we would return the scratched copy to Wal-mart since we now had a receipt, then take the new copy to EB Games and return it since the new copy would be unopened. Everything was going as planned until the Wal-mart customer service employee opened up our game to check for scratches. My plan was foiled and I was out $60 from my faulty 360. I did have two copies of Halo 3 on my hands and I gave the extra copy to my brother, Tristero. From that moment on, I was always paranoid when my 360 made any type of strange noise, especially when it was loading content. For a few months, nothing happened, until the disc scratcher struck again; this time attacking another amazing game.

My wife, who is the best in the world, gave me my Christmas present early, and we went to Target to get Rockband the day it was released. While being disappointed with the wired controllers, we played it constantly for two days and even set it up at my parent’s house for Thanksgiving. When we brought Rock Band back to our place, I was playing through the solo drum campaign when a disc read error popped up in the song select screen when selecting Detroit Rock City. My heart sunk with déjà vu. Sadly, I opened the tray to find the same precise circular scratches that had ruined my Halo 3. If for some reason I could not return Rock Band to target I would be out $169 dollars.

As this was the second disc that was scratched by my Xbox, I tried calling Microsoft customer support to see if this was a common problem and if they would replace my disc. I really did not want to wait 6 weeks for a new console during the holiday season. It would be torture. The first time I called customer support and explained my problem, the agent did not understand and thought my 360 would not read any discs at all. I kept on trying to explain that it was the 360 that was scratching the discs and the DVD drive was not be able to access certain content in the scratched game. While discussing this with the agent, he hung up on me. I was not yelling or being rude. I checked my cell phone signal and it even said I was still connected.

I called back and told them about the disconnection. They assured me that it was probably a disconnection and he did not hang up on me. However, the agent had put in a repair order for my 360, and we had not discussed anything of the sort. I just wanted to know if Microsoft would replace my game. The second agent I spoke to understood my situation, thought it would be pointless to get my Xbox fixed because all other discs worked, and assured me of my fears; Microsoft will only replaced scratched discs that have been published by Microsoft. He also told me my only hope to get a new copy of the game was to go through the retailer, or through the game publisher.

I am a very easy going guy as my friends and family will attest to. I was not even truly angry at Microsoft for what happened during my service call or that they will not replace my disc. I was disappointed in their faulty product and tired of not gaming in peace. The looming threat of the red ring of death, which is not a question of “if it will come”, but “when will it come?”, and the possibility of the 360 scratching games led me to a realization. Too often we gamers tie ourselves to certain consoles or combinations of consoles. When the Wii was announced, the pure Nintendo fanboy inside came out. During the Wii dry spell, and after I had purchased the 360, I scorned the Playstation 3 and their insane price tags, preaching the Wii60 philosophy. To be fair, at the PS3 launch, you could buy a Wii and a Core 360 for the price of the lower end PS3.

I decided after the events lifted that I will no longer tolerate using a defective product which makes me uncertain about the safety of my games or movies and my ability to enjoy them without conflict. I was extremely lucky to be able to return my opened Rock Band to Target for a full refund on my credit card. I also returned my 360 to Costco (if you have a membership, buy your consoles there!!) Using the Costco store credit, and the return money from Rock Band, I bought a 40GB PS3 bundle that came with Ratchet and Clank Future, an extra controller, and a DVD remote. In the end I was not out any money.

If you have read this far, you may be wondering why I made this switch and why I did not merely get my 360 repaired. I am missing out on a few great things by giving up my 360. Most of my friends have 360s and I will not be able to play online with them through Xbox Live. PSN is decent, but not nearly as robust as Xbox Live. I also did not have a chance to play through Mass Effect and I am a huge Bioware fan. A combination of different reasons led me to my decision.

One reason for my switch was if I wanted a high definition movie player with my console, I could either buy the HD-DVD add-on for the 360 at around $170, making the total cost of the Premium 360 comparable to the PS3, or I can merely get the PS3, which is a blu-ray player itself. I also did not want my third Xbox 360 to scratch my discs, and I did not want to go to a fourth 360 because of the red rings. It is absurd that consumers must even go past their second console to have one that works properly. While Xbox Live is great, I am enjoying the free online play and looking forward to the future of PSN. Home is very intriguing and I am very excited about Little Big Planet. Besides Halo, Mass Effect, and Too Human right now there are not many games exclusive the 360 that I cannot play on either PC or the PS3.

My purpose here was not say that Microsoft sucks, and I hope it did not read entirely like a flame post. I love the 360 when it worked and I am one of the few I know who use and like Vista over XP. However, I hope I have painted an accurate picture of the average consumer’s frustrations with Microsoft’s Xbox 360 console. I was lucky that I bought my console at Costco and very lucky that Target took back Rock Band. If not, I would be stuck in a cycle of sending my broken 360s back to Microsoft, waiting six weeks, and racking up a collection of scratched games for which I cannot get refunds.

I also would like to encourage gamers to have an open mind. If you are frustrated with a certain console, whatever it may be, and you want something different; take the plunge and try another. You will see that each has its strengths and weaknesses. This gamer just decided to take the route in which he would have the most peace of mind. I have found many little things to like about the PS3, including much less noise, the included Spider Man Blu-Ray, and PSN titles like Everyday Shooter. Without an Xbox to play them on, I traded in my Xbox library and bought four more games for my PS3. I wanted to make sure that I got mostly exclusive and high rated games. My library includes: Assassin’s Creed, Rachet and Clank Future, Uncharted: Drakes Fortune, Resistance: Fall of Man, and Warhawk.

So far, I have tried all of them except for Resistance and they are very fun. Another interesting side note is that a week before my purchase of a PS3, I traded in some games to get the Daxter PSP pack. Perhaps it is some strange twist of fate that I now own two more Sony gaming devices and the only Microsoft things in the house are Vista and Office 2004 for the Mac. No longer do I live in a Wii60 household, but a PSWii World.   read


9:35 AM on 10.28.2007

Nintendo Halloween Goodness



The time has come for another Halloween, and in only a few short weeks we will all be blessed with a new Mario Game! In honor of the mustachioed italian plumber, my wife and I carved the above Toad pumpkin. Also, I was so invigorated with the mushroom kingdom spirit that I decided to dress up as the big man himself. Enjoy my silliness.



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12:01 PM on 08.21.2007

Gaming Moments #1: How a God Steals a Book

From time to time, I will post some of my favorite gaming moments. The first details one of my favorite missions from the Elder Scrolls IV: Oblivion in which you are tasked with stealing a powerful book in the middle of a Mythic Dawn cult worship meeting.
*** If you wish to avoid Oblivion spoilers, especially about the Shivering Isles, do not read on and turn your eyes away! I mean it!***

After you have found the mysterious location of the Mythic Dawn’s shrine to the where they perform all sorts of dark evil rituals, you are tasked with stealing a powerful daedric book “Mysterium Xarxes” in whatever way you can. I believe that this mission showcases everything that is great about oblivion. You could choose to be sneaky; pretending you are member of the Mythic Dawn and participating in the cult meeting to the point where you are asked to perform the sacrifice. You could also choose to go in berserker style and take out every Mythic Dawn member you see, finally battling your way into the chamber where the book is held. I have tried each approach, however with the release of the Shivering Isles, a unique opportunity presented itself and I found another way to tackle this mission.

To make a really long story short, after you complete The Shivering Isles expansion, you are essentially a mortal god. The king of the Shivering Isles was Sheogorath; however you complete tasks throughout the main quest to prepare you to take on his mantle of the Madgod. After you are bestowed his throne, the title of Madgod comes with all sorts of nifty benefits, including a huge palace in the Shivering Isles realm, some great equipment, and excellent spells reserved only for those who have completed the expansion’s main quest. When the expansion was released, I decided to play all the way through it with the character I was currently on. Becoming the new Sheogorath was great, and I had just the right things I needed to tackle the Mythic Dawn shrine quest with ultimate style.

By far, my favorite item in Oblivion is Sheogorath’s Staff, which you construct during the main quest of the expansion. When you use this sucker, everything with about a certain distance of you freezes for about 30 seconds. The Staff only has a limited number of charges, but it is enough to last you a while, and it can be recharged back at your temple in the Shivering Isles. After seeing its effects, I realized this powerful weapon would be perfect for my mission to steal the book.

I make my way to the cave where the cult is having their Argonian sacrifice party. Once inside, I sneak my way to the main chamber, taking out guards along the path. Now the fun begins. I remember the layout of the large chamber and run along side to position myself in place. I listen to their leader spout our craziness about paradise to let the moment build suspense. Just when he leaves through a magical portal, I jump down onto the lighted platform where the leader stood in front of a podium. The book I am after sits on the podium. I am in my black ninja-like Dark Brotherhood armor. All the cult members gathered before me voice their surprise and start to summon weapons and armor to themselves. With a smirk in my head, I grab the book and jump into the now armed crowd of Mythic Dawn crazies. As they rush towards me, I pull out my staff and let it rip. Everything around me freezes in time; swords are stopped in swing and I am safe for the moment. I easily slip through and opening and run out of the chamber. On the way out of the caves, I encounter many other cult members wanting to halt my progress. I simply freeze them all in place and keep on running, knowing that they will reanimate in 30 seconds.

So how does a god steal a book? In Oblivion, they do it with style.   read


6:46 PM on 08.20.2007

Part III: Digital Consciousness



I get in a car accident on a busy highway. My car catches on fire and slowly I burn. The trauma is too much. My lungs cease their slow rhythmic pace and I fade into black. I will have no chance to insert more coins. There is no restart button, no save or check point where I can resume my progress. If I have no soul, then I blink out of existence and my body decays in a box of wood in the ground. If I have a soul, then only the dead know where I will go. There is one fact of life us gamers take for granted; in our favorite hobby, we are the masters over death. We have been crushed, burned, eaten, and killed in countless ways. Does the thought of not being able to restart scare you?

Usually when someone dies, people will say kind words at their funeral and an obituary will be written of them in the paper. Perhaps if they are famous they will live on in pop culture or exist in dusty history books. In the past there was little chance that you would be remembered outside of your loved ones when you die. However, with the advent of the Internet, most of us will leave a digital footprint when we leave this world. Your blog posts, your forums have most likely been imprinted on server tape somewhere. If not deleted from servers, these digital memories of your physical self will be preserved in perfect condition. To get a sense of this phenomenon check out MyDeathSpace.com, a site dedicated to highlighting and remembering MySpace users who have passed away.

What if instead of leaving digital memories after you died, you existed digitally? This mode of thought has been the subject of science fiction, but there are some humans who want to be more than human, and are commonly referred to transhumanists. Common transhuman passions range from cryogenics, to genetic modifications of intelligence, to the creation of sentient AI. However, one idea intrigues me the most because it relates to my passions as a gamer.

There is a theory that if one had a computer powerful enough to scan and record the mapping of a person brain, one could capture all the synapses and various connections that allow our brain to function. The map of the person's brain could then be reconstructed on the computer, emulating the all the functions of that brain. No one really knows what would happen if a successful copy of the brain was made. Would it begin to function? If it was conscious, then who would be the real you; the in the physical world, or the one on the computer? If it was conscious, would you exist in a digital world, able to transfer across networks, able to improve your brain's code?

Not only would this present complex ethical situations, but there would be the possibility of your existence extending to the end of the universe as long as you were not deleted. I do not think the type of technology to even try such an experiment will exist in my lifetime, but I would like to know what it would feel like to exist digitally. Would we be free of death? Maybe that is what heaven is....

For now, we can rely on video games to let us escape death, but who knows, maybe our kids will be literally hanging out across the interwebs. If you want to know more about transhumanism...Google it; there are ton of resources available. I would like to thank my brother, Tristero for introducing me to the topic of the singularity and eventually transhumanism.   read


10:45 AM on 08.19.2007

Mass Effect: Revelations Review



Every advanced society in the galaxy relies on the technology of the Protheans, an ancient species that vanished fifty thousand years ago. After discovering a cache of Prothean technology on Mars in 2148, humanity is spreading to the stars, the newest interstellar species struggling to carve out its place in the greater galactic community.

Around these parts, you have probably sucked in enough news about Mass Effect and other popular upcoming titles to make your eyes bleed. You most likely have heard that the lead writer for Mass Effect and Knights of the Old Republic wrote a prequel novel to much anticipated sci-fi action RPG. With a new intellectual property, especially coming from Bioware, I knew that there will be a huge mass (pun-intended) of content about the universe to learn. Mass Effect: Revelations provides us nerds who are desperately waiting for November a small glimpse at Bioware’s version of the future.

The novel revolves around David Anderson, an Alliance war hero and stereotypical tough guy. If Jack Bauer was black and lived 150 years in the future, he would be David Anderson. Readers start off with an exposition about the current state of humans in the galaxy; describing the discovery of ancient Prothean technology on Mars that allow humans to utilize faster than light travel. Prothean records also show that one of Pluto’s moons is not really a moon, but actually holds a Mass Relay underneath a large layer of ice. Mass Relays allow almost instantaneous travel across thousands of light years to other Mass Relays across the galaxy. After these discoveries, humans begin to explore the parts of the galaxy they are able to reach through the Mass Relays. Eventually, they come in hostile contact with an alien species called the Turians. The conflict with the Turians is known as the First Contact War and is very important in setting up the grudges held by Turian characters against humans. To end this war between humans and Turians, the galactic organization called the Citadel steps in, demands peace, and offers humans a place in the larger galactic community. Humans are the fresh meat of the galaxy and the other species of the Citadel seem wary at the aggressive and expansive nature of their friends. It turns out most of the other species of the Citadel were able to achieve faster than light travel by using Prothean technology as well, creating a small strand of comradery throughout the various species.

The main conflict the story centers on the mysterious destruction of an Alliance research base. I will not spoil the story for anyone, but it almost feels like a formulaic Bioware RPG. Some event happens, the character goes to a certain location to meet a contact, talks to that contact, and then receives another location; and so on. Action pieces are set in between, and readers get the smallest glimpse of biotic abilities used by the bounty hunter Skarr. Most of the explanation behind technologies and the mass effect forces are left behind for character disposition and action. Though it was a quick and fun read, I do not think I would recommend it to anyone not interested in playing the game.

If you have seen the trailer, and are intrigued by the game’s antagonist Saren, I would highly recommend checking out the novel. The ending gives a hint at why Saren is the main baddy in the game, and also gives the reader a good explanation of the duties of a Spectre. For those of you who do not know, in the game you play the role of the first human Spectre, super agents for the Citadel who are free to protect the safety of the Galaxy at any cost. In essence, Spectres exist outside the law and often do what they feel is necessary to protect the galaxy. I would not say that the book has made me more excited about the game, but it open the door into the expansive universe that Bioware has constructed and I will take what I can get.   read


8:32 AM on 08.19.2007

Battle Royale! - Kratos VS Big Daddy Blog Header

Check out the new header for the BETRAYAL contest. My obsession with Bioshock is rearing its ugly head everywhere. Big Daddy VS Kratos. Did Kratos try and go after the little sisters?

They should have Big Daddie's on waiting for the sickos on "To Catch a Predator" instead of the police. It would be much more fun to watch, and their whale moans would strike fear into the heart of internet predators everywhere.   read


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