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9:07 PM on 06.29.2011

Weekly Update and Move Announcement

For the next week or so, I'll be in the process of moving to a new place and spending some time temporarily out of commission as I catch up with work and the moving process. It's been extremely stressful and time-consuming. I've been trying to keep things sane, but, it's a crazy transitional time period right now.

So, I'm just going to give you the quick rundown of all the news I've skimmed over in the last few days of note to me.

The U.S. Supreme Court ruled that video games are protected under free-speech, knocks-out California law banning sale of violent video games to children: Read the ruling here (PDF).

Ben Kuchera of ArsTechnica writes about how the Supreme Court ruling Monday benefits Activision, even though they didn't contribute to it: Read his article on ArsTechnica.

CCP writes up an apology and summons the CSM to talk about the massive upheaval over the last week with Eve Online: Read about it on Evenews24.

Jim Sterling posts a new episode of Jimquisition on The Escapist and discusses why Metacritic isn't actually to blame for it's woes: Watch the video.

HiRez Studios releases gameplay footage for Tribes: Ascend, which it announced it was developing in March of this year: Watch the video on YouTube via Machinima.

LulzSec says it only intended 50 days of mayhem before, and now says it was because they're bored: Read about it via Huffington Post.

That's some of the more important news that caught my eye over the last several days. Some of these are big stories, especially the Supreme Court ruling. Some people are calling it validation of "games as art," but, I think we all already knew that. The medium has been maturing over the last 20 years, and it shows. I don't think we really need any additional validation on that specific topic. However, I am going to celebrate it myself with some violent video games of my own! Killing Floor comes to mind!

However, I do have some plans for write-up articles after the move. Particularly about a few game titles that we could see coming in the future and why now is a good time for those games to see daylight. Quite some time ago, PC Gamer wrote a short post on Relic making an announcement on a new RTS in August. I think we could see a Homeworld related release, but that's purely speculation and hope on my part more than anything.

Anyway, I have to wrap up, but hope to be back soon. Exercise your first amendment rights and play some games!   read

11:15 PM on 06.24.2011

CCP's "Stay the Course" - I think this might be a bad idea

So if anyone has been watching the PC gaming news for the last few days, you might have heard that CCP, developers of Eve Online and the upcoming Dust 514, has released it's newest Eve update, Incarna. This has created quite a bit of turmoil and a lot of angry players rage-quitting.

And for good reason, too! What is essentially a piece of $70 DLC for an MMO is a bit outrageous.

I like Eve. I've played it many times and quit many times. It's a hard game to get into if you haven't actually played it. The learning curve is a god damn brick wall and it's hard to establish yourself anywhere in the game. But I think that this is a really bad move for CCP.

Apparently, I'm not the only one, either. Thousands of Eve players have begun participating in protests (and anti-protest protests) to show their disdain for the developers have released. The trade center in Jita as well as other systems across Tranquility are being ravaged by players who are raging over this new system.

And CCP's response?

In a company email titled "ccp ceo global msg sent today" as currently being displayed on (at the time of this writing), this is "predictable behavior" and that the playerbase is simply risisting change.

Now, I'm all for a company trying to increase revenue and expand to better support their users... But they have to actually be trying to offer a better experience for their users in the process. CCP, however, looks more like they've looked at Activision and said "THAT'S A GREAT F*KING IDEA! LETS ACT LIKE THAT!" and have gone around and done the best they can to implement greed & grievance in as decisive a manner as possible.

They've also made the following statement out of the same email: "After 40 hours we have already sold 52 monocles, generating more revenue than any of the other items in the store." Now, I'm only speculating and adding my opinion here, but I'll go out on a limb and say that they've likely lost more subscriptions than they have sold monocles. Which makes you wonder just how profitable this whole clusterfuck is going to be in the long run.

CCP really seems to have underestimated it's customer base, here. It will be interesting to see how this develops over the next several months.   read

7:33 PM on 06.24.2011

Exploring Reverse Transitions: Video Games to Tabletop Gaming – Part 1

This going to be kind of a self-explorative series that I thought I would share. While I've done tabletop gaming in the past, this is going to be exploring the first real foray into tabletop gaming as a serious passtime.

Over the years, I have always been the weird kid when it came to social cliques. In the techie nerd group, I never delved into Linux/Unix or programming or any of those things significantly beyond knowing what they are and where they are useful. I never got in with the TCG guys and played Magic the Gathering or any of those card games. I also rarely spent any time with the D&D nerds or any of the other tabletop gamers. I spent most of my time with the PC growing up, with some random consoles thrown in for good measure.

But the difference between non-digital gaming and other forms of entertainment for me, is that I occasionally would sit-in or spontaneously join my friends when they would have D&D night or some other table-top game. Some of the best times I've had gaming with others are the stories we can tell with tabletop gaming. I've just never really wanted to dive into it.

Until now.

I've always been a fan of the Mechwarrior PC games and the couple of SNES Battletech games that came out. I also played both MechAssault games for the Xbox and enjoyed them immensely. I'll admit I've dabbled in the nerdiness of the Battletech universe numerous times throughout my childhood and adult life. There's just something about the idea of piloting giant walking war machines that has always kind of made me happy, like a kid walking into a candy store. I've read a bunch of the Battletech and Mechwarrior series books, beaten all of the PC games at least once and the console games. In addition, Battletech is on an upward trend again in popularity, giving rise to a new wave of official content and source material.

Recently, Catalyst Game Labs released a new introductory box set for the Classic Battletech tabletop game. This thing comes pretty well loaded with everything you could need to get started and keep playing for quite some time, too. That's pretty damned awesome if you ask me.

I started reading about the resurgence of Classic BattleTech's popularity amongst the tabletop community back in December. This got me interested and reminded me of all the times I spent gaming with friends around the table, rolling dice and acting out the role of some other character. Remembering the times that I'd spent drinking and talking about punching dwarves, then rolling a d20 to see if I hit, got me excited to pick this up. It's quite an investment though, with the cheapest one I could find being $80 USD with shipping from Amazon.

I put it on order and then talked my wife into joining me in learning to play the tabletop version of the game. For her, tabletop gaming is a whole new experience, which should make this a great time, in my opinion. In fact, she's agreed to play tonight, with the two of us planning to go through the "Green Training Scenario." Nothing too harsh or exciting, but a solid introduction to the game, if the starter guide is any indication.

This is really kind of a "backwards transition" for me. The evolution of gaming lead from the D&D games of old (think AD&D at release) and trading cards and board games into digital gaming. So with that perspective, this is a growth away from that evolutionary medium and direction. It's interesting because many of the older gamers in the community likely started with these mediums before moving over to the consoles and PC, but, I'm going the opposite direction. Maybe I'm just still being that weird kid, but, it is kind of weird to me. Not in bad way or anything, just kind of odd.

But, I want to explore this and see where it goes. How far will this take me into the world of "traditional" gaming and tabletop adventures? Will I meet some kind of super-nerds that I didn't know existed and become part of their quiet, hidden culture? Or will become a more like the guys from Big Bang Theory? Well, I'll keep you posted.

So tonight, I'll be exploring the world of Classic Battletech tabletop gaming. I'll compare it to my experiences with previous tabletop gaming, previous digital versions of the game and where it's going to lead in the future. All of which will contribute to the next part of this article.

Has anyone else here ever played the tabletop Classic BattleTech games? I'm curious to know and hear about your experiences. Tell me about it in the comments!   read

1:02 AM on 06.22.2011

Why I'm a Gamer and What Does That Mean Anyway?

So, as I promised before, I have content in the works. This is one piece of that content, and I'll try and keep it short, but not short enough to not cover at least some small, vague portion of the topic. Hold on, I'm going to grab a Coke Zero and some popcorn while I explore just why, exactly, I'm a gamer. Wait a minute, that's you're job! I have to do the typing... *grunble grumble*

I would say that gaming started early for me, like most of us here. However, I was always a little farther behind everyone else I knew when it came to gaming. I ended up skipping around a bit because my parents didn't quite understand what I was talking about when I asked for something specific. For me, the first thing I had was an ATARI 2600.

The 2600 was the most awesome thing on the planet when I was 5. I don't remember all of the games I had for it, but the one that sticks out the most was Pitfall. If you've ever played Pitfall for the 2600, you'll know it's a rather simplistic game, to be kind. But, at 5, it was pretty damned awesome.

Fast-forwarding a bit, at 6 my next console was a SNES. Yea, one year apart. I was that kid that skipped the NES and the Sega Master System and Sega Genesis all together. I love the SNES, but as a kid, I really wanted the Genesis. I was more of a Sonic kid and the last Sonic game I've enjoyed was Sonic and Knuckles, but my favorite was Sonic 3. We'll get more into that when I get around to writing an article on retro-gaming.

So as a kid, my gaming grew into the SNES world. Super Mario; all the Star Wars games (ever), several of the horrible Star Trek games, SimCity2000 and an ungodly huge array of other games. There was a lot of money spent at the local rental shop. I'd say that most of the games I ever played on the SNES were probably rented and beaten in a single weekend.

But, the same year that I got the SNES, my parents bought their first computer: a Hewlet-Packard (not HP at the time) 486 machine, complete with turbo button. Man, that was the start of me becoming a serious gamer. We started off with the typical family-friendly educational games, but eventually those wore off for games like Doom and Warcraft: Orcs and Humans. Yep, I got my hands on my two favorite genres by age 8.

These types of games are, more or less, what I've spent a majority of my time with since. My latest favorites being Portal 2 and Starcraft 2, both of which have fantastic narrative stories and über-solid gameplay. But, of the two genres, I mostly prefer RTS games and have enjoyed some of the greatest of them from early on.

RTS games are a bit of a bland genre now-days, with very few big titles coming down the pipes anymore. In the genre, my personal favorites are Homeworld (1 and 2 for different reasons), Age of Empires 2 & expansion and Supreme Commander with Forged Alliance expansion and Starcraft 2. Homeworld has one of the greatest narrated RTS stories of all time, in my opinion, which makes it my favorite. I could write a whole article on Homeworld and why there needs to be another one, which will probably happen.

To me, my past experiences with interactive entertainment growing up makes me a gamer. I derive a vast majority of my entertainment from gaming and even use gaming to relax or vent frustration. I'll play through a game every few years like I was reading a good book. I've lost count of the number of times that I've played all the way through Homeworld and Half-Life and Diablo 1 & 2 just to relive those stories. The opening sequence of Homeworld still gives me goosebumps almost 12 years later.

I've spent so much time playing games rather than watching movies or TV shows, that I honestly don't know much about either. I see some of the better movies when they come into the theatre and at home. Right now, the wife and I are enjoying Game of Thrones. However, there's not a whole lot else! I spend most of my time dicking around in games and reading/studying IT related topics from my computer.

But when it comes down to what my favorite is, I still think it's PC gaming. I have an XB360, but I spend considerably less time on it than I do my PC. I enjoy the things that PC games try to do and a lot of times it ties in with one of my other favorite things in life: technology. PC games will tend to take advantage of some really great things, like Eyefinity/Multi-monitor and incredible new graphics capabilities. To me, the PC is the experimental platform and that's why I enjoy it most.

But, I think really we have to break it down a little. What is a gamer? Is it anyone who has ever played a game? Is it someone who simply derives enjoyment from playing video games? Is it someone who spends a majority of their time gaming? These are all hard questions. They are questions without any one good answer. I think "gamer" is actually a really vague term that we give ourselves to associate with one another.

From my perspective, I don't see too many other forms of entertainment assigning broad labels to those who enjoy them. There's no Bookers or Filmers that broadly describe people who read books and watch movies. Sure, there are bookworms and movie buffs, but those define a very niche group from those mediums. So why do gamers call themselves, gamers? It's kind of a unique thing once you start to really look at it.

It's a great thing, really. We've created a sub-culture completely based off of references we've created and contextual humor from those references. We truly enjoy ourselves when we've got a bunch of us together to frag the hell out of each other and completely obliterate each other in a whirl of pixels and yelling "PWNED, BITCH!" across the room or over the internet to our buddies.

I wouldn't give it up for the world.

God damn it, get back here squirrel! Stop throwing popcorn at me! *chases after the pants squirrel.*   read

7:16 PM on 06.20.2011

Introductions and Shenanigans

I guess it's time to get my writing hobby off the ground. I'm surprisingly well versed in writing, but I don't often spend time actually doing it. So I guess that means I need to introduce myself and what I'll be doing here.

My name is J.B. I work as a full-time IT contractor in the state of Oregon and in my off-time, play lots of PC games. Actually, that isn't completely accurate. In my off-time, I spend a considerably large amount of time playing, analyzing and forming opinions about just about everything I read and/or touch.

Sounds dirty with all of this touching and staring! But, I promise it's (mostly) clean. I'll be spending a decent amount of free time writing about games and various technologies and how they relate to gaming. I've spent many years of my life playing video games (a rather vague word on it's own, more on that later) and feel that now is the time to finally start DOING something with that passion. I've dabbled in modding and game design, but nothing serious and nothing with a team of others. I have some side projects I would like to get started on, but time usually constrains them. Writing, on the other hand, is something I can actually pick up on just hit "save" when I need to do something else.

Outside of gaming and technology, I do enjoy a wide variety of other things including; driving, muscle cars, gadgets and technology, astronomy and NASA, music, and just a whole slew of topics. If it's complex and interesting, I've probably done at least some reading about it and have an extremely vague understanding about it.

So let me get started by saying thank you for stopping by for a visit. There will be plenty of changes coming to this blog in the near future and plenty of content in the pipes already.

So hello and thanks, Destructoid and denizens, for being awesome!   read

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