Tuesday, December 22, 2009

Why Texas is better than California - Part 20x45b of XXXX

We have electricity, don't need to do rolling black outs, and are willing to use our deserts to generate power (massive ass wind farms).

http://gizmodo.com/5431887/mojave-desert-solar-farm-blocked-by-senator-dianne-feinstein

Mean while, California, who has to import power from Texas, has legislators who keep blocking them from power independence. Diane Feinstein, the Senior Senator from Cali, is a "Big Supporter" of green energy and environmental protection. Works to increase the cost of oil and electricity generated from fossil fuels, opposes building the solar farm. Which makes her a hypocrite as well as an idiot.

Monday, December 21, 2009

Microsoft Security Essentials - Epic Fail

I've been trying out Microsoft Security Essentials on one of my computers at home. Everything had been going fine. It took care of spyware/adware as well as any other free scanners out there and I noticed my computer operated faster with a single unified product as opposed to two separate products (I have found over the years that in a home situation, the slight increase in protection/performance over free products is not worth the expense of paying for AV/spyware protection).

Then, I get a virus. Security Essentials failed to notice a 5 year old Vundo variation one of my kids downloaded and caused an annoying infection that I ended up just backing up my files and wiping XP and starting over (after 3 days of doing it the right way and still coming across re-infections and rogue registry entries, it took me less time to just reinstall everything).

Of course, AVG free picked it up on my other computer and eliminated it with no issues.

So, the gist is, don't bother with Microsoft Security Essentials.

Saturday, December 19, 2009

Avatar: The Short Review

Took 20 Small to see Avatar in Real 3D last night.

I think something about Real 3D gives me a headache. I walked out of Monsters v Aliens with one, and again with Avatar.

Short form of the movie is that you have seen this before. It's Ferngully with a little bit of the ultraviolence and blue cat person sex dropped in. That said, it was gorgeous to look at. Like a live action Prog Rock cover. The bad side is that the plot was thin, obvious, and cliched. They also over relied on the 3D aspect with objects constantly floating in the foreground or coming towards the camera.

20 Smalls take, "Where's the Coke cup, I think I'm gonna puke."

Thursday, December 3, 2009

Rogue Warrior Rap

My friends know how much I liked to first 4 Rogue Warrior novels by Richard Marcinko. They also know I have an signed copy of his book on management in my collection, and how I took a day off of work to go to the signing (at I time I was broke). So of course I plan on picking up the Video Game, probably after Christmas. But I ran across this little gem.
http://kotaku.com/5416609/mickey-rourke-raps-over-games-closing-credits

Sound clips from the game arraigned as a rap over the closing credits, with Micky Rourke as the voice of Demo Dick, which honestly isn't that far from how the real Marcinko sounds.

The Rap is NSFW, but man I want a sound bite of Micky growling out "Cocksucker" for a ring tome for people I hate.

Wednesday, December 2, 2009

Hogswatch Season


As it is Hogswatch season again, I leave you with my favorite quote from the book/movie:
Death: Humans need fantasy to *be* human. To be the place where the falling angel meets the rising ape.
Susan: With tooth fairies? Hogfathers?
Death: Yes. As practice, you have to start out learning to believe the little lies.
Susan: So we can believe the big ones?
Death: Yes. Justice, mercy, duty. That sort of thing.
Susan: They're not the same at all.
Death: You think so? Then take the universe and grind it down to the finest powder, and sieve it through the finest sieve, and then show me one atom of justice, one molecule of mercy. And yet, you try to act as if there is some ideal order in the world. As if there is some, some rightness in the universe, by which it may be judged.

Image from www.paulkidby.com, Paul is a wonderful artist drawing one of my favorite subjects. I have multiple items with his art work on them. They are worth it.

Wednesday, November 18, 2009

Kludging for a Better Tomorrow

Few people believe that we are as tough on computer equipment as we are at work. When asked why I spend extra to buy Panasonic Toughbooks over standard Dell laptops, I told the gentleman that as it is we break about 6 Toughbooks a year and as long as it's under warranty, Panasonic asks me no questions about how it happened, which is good, when you consider that these damn things are literally bulletproof, trying to determine how one would rip the screen when it is mounted in the cab of a vehicle is something I care not to contemplate.

I have also found it to my benefit to be a horrible pack rat. Between budgetary concerns and the slowness of the purchasing process, it's often better for me to just kludge together a solution. Hence I have shelves and cabinets filled with parts and half working examples of the electronic history of mankind.

That leads me to today. Sitting behind me on the shelves above my servers are 9 Toughbooks in various states of destruction. Between them all, I was able to locate one working hard drive to repair a tenth Toughbook whose drive had crashed.

Monday, November 9, 2009

Dragon Age: Origins

I have now spent almost a week with Dragon Age Origins, and while I have not completed the game yet, I can say this is not the best Fantasy RPG ever made, it is just a tribute. Much like the Fallout series was the spiritual successor to Wasteland, technically superior, but not resonating with you in the way the original does (who doesn’t love Hobo Dogs and nuke worshipping cultists?). Dragon Age: Origins is the same to Baldur’s Gate. While the wise-ass remarks of Alister and Morrigan (voiced by Claudia Black) are entertaining, it just doesn’t hit home in the same way Minsc’s off the cuff insanity did.

That isn’t to say this is a bad game, it is good, remarkably good. Of course any game that starts out with Tim Curry killing your family and being a complete and total dick that you swear to hunt down and kill gets a thumbs up from me.

The graphics are excellent, and the voice acting is superb. Only Batman: Arkham Asylum has had better voice acting. Which is good, you spend a lot of time talking in this game. The only problem with the voice sound is that during cut scenes when there is a sudden shift in perspective, some times the voice cuts out or goes almost too quiet to hear.

Environmental sounds are excellent and put to good use. Even using the two speakers on my TV alone (through the HDMI hookup) I could tell where approaching individuals were by the sound they made.

The tactics system is also very good. You can micro-manage your characters actions, ala’ Baldur’s Gate, but it really draws out the battles. The better way is to set your parties tactics. It is basically an in-game tool for scripting AI. You set parameters, actions, and priorities for each character in combat, or use one of the default sets.

For example, I’m playing a heavily armored berserker I want Loriana, my main thief/bard, to attempt to flank and backstab whomever I attack, that can be set in tactics. I want to control a spellcaster’s spell choice, set through tactics, I only want certain characters to hand back and snipe, set through tactics. I want someone to charge at the most powerful enemy on the screen, hit with their most damaging special attack and then run away when they drop to 25% health and chug a potion, set through tactics. Other party based RPGs need to look at this tactics system and copy it, it is that good.

So go get Dragon Age: Origins, easily worth your video game money.

Wednesday, November 4, 2009

Just in time for Halloween


The Face of Evil, Christopher Lee, was knighted last week. So now we can have Sir Gandalf facing off with Sir Saruman. I love Christophe Lee and no man personifies bad assed evil like him, he's been Death, Dracula, Satan, Saruman, A James Bond Villain, and a Sith Lord, plus he has more on screen sword fights than any actor in history.

This comes from the Guardian Online

Tuesday, November 3, 2009

Today's Picture full of win


Again, snagging fromComic Book Resources, thebest comic site on the net bar none. I present today's image full of win from the Marvel Solicits for the Siege crossover (I know, one post after I lament all the damn crossovers, I'm a hypocrite and I suck).

Monday, November 2, 2009

What sold in comics in September?

The September sales numbers are out, http://www.comicbookresources.com/?page=article&id=23546.

Blackest Night sold over 140,000 units, beating the next biggest seller (Captain America: Reborn) by about 30,000 units. It's sad, I though Secret Invasion was pretty poorly done (it didn't really have an ending, there is still very little in the way of an explanation for the fall out, and when you realize it takes place over a matter of about 2 days you begin to realize all the problems with the thing).

Compared to Blackest Night, it's a master piece of narrative. Blackest Night is like that D&D game everyone has been in at least once where the DM has to drop in a character to explain the plot and shove the characters forward because they have spent the last 3 hour bickering over who gets the extra gold piece left over after a 4 way split.

I tried following it, as did my wife. She gave up after having to keep asking me who some of these characters were that had been dead for nearly 20 years, I gave up when the Indigo Tribe popped up and had to beat everyone over the head with the plot forwarding stick.

To see this sell this way leads me to believe that we will not see the end of these super-mega-ulta-event crossovers in my lifetime.

Also, DC, could I get some characters staying in one place for a bit? You realize that with Beast Boy and Raven now mentoring the Teen Titans and Cyborg, Starfire, and Dick Grayson Batman going to JLA, you really don't have much of a reason to have the Titans anymore?

Oh yeah, way to make my buy Teen Titans again too, I hadn't picked up an issue since around the time of the Judas Contract, and now I'm reading it again, you bastards.

And While I'm bitching, Marvel, fix your fucking release schedule. I'm tired of having weeks were you pop off three issues and then drop 20 on me the next, or going 8 weeks without an issue of a comic and then you pop it on me on back to back weeks.

Check it out:
Oct 21st: 16 releases
Oct 28: 37 releases
Nov 4: 20 releases

Nova comes out in back to back weeks (Oct 28th and Nov 4th), Captain America:Reborn #3 hit the streets on Sept 15th, #4 comes out Nov 4th.

They need to get their act together. If there is one thing DC consistently does better than Marvel it's spreading their releases around and having a fairly regular cycle.

Sunday, October 25, 2009

More Apple Blues

We got a brand new Mac with Snow Leopard at work. Can't make Safari/Firefox resolve names. Works just fine for internal resources through finder, but even going to my intranet site by its alias is no go. Can reach it by IP address though.

So far, Apple tech support is stumped by this (I am currently at 3rd level technical support).

As an added note if you ever wanted to hear Bob Dylan played through the worst speaker ever made, call Apple and have them put you on hold.

Tuesday, October 20, 2009

Of Iphones and computers, of cabbages and kings

Well, work replaced my Blackberry with an Iphone as part of a money saving project. With this now being the 4th Smartphone I've used, I can easily say it is the worst. Features I take for granted on a basic phone, like setting alerts individually for different message types, setting any mp3 as a ring tone, individual control of vibration,different profiles based on situation are all missing.

As a smart phone (or as an mp3 player) I am missing the function to just open up the device in windows and drag and drop files, something that has been present on every other smartphone and mp3 player I have owned (never had an Ipod before, and after this, I will never get one).

I also hate the fact that I have to use Itunes to sync the damn thing and that the sync isn't as granular as on my P910, Treo, or Curve. I can also only have it sync with 5 different computers (so far, I've had to use up 3 of those home, work, laptop).

It's also cheap and flimsy. Everyone in the city who had a smart phone got one, and we've had a number of them break already (we've had them for less than a week at this point) at work we went and got Otter Boxes for them, which helps in the cheap and weak feel but hurts with screen visibility.

I have many other gripes about this piece of trash. The on screen keyboard is too small, the magnification is pathetic, and a lack of body buttons means I have to flip through menus as opposed to one touching my way to frequently used functions.

All in all, if we could get Exchange to push to it, I'd rather go back to my 2g Sony P910.

Wednesday, October 14, 2009

New Fist of the Northstar game coming

http://kotaku.com/5381217/first-footage-of-tecmo-koeis-new-game
With footage!

Hells yeah! Fist of the Northstar is at the top of Japanimation Splatter porn. Even the live action movie, with the criminally underused in his time Gary Daniels and Chris Penn (I'm a connoisseur of cheap '80's-'90's martial arts flicks), is giddy, cheezy fun. Heck, the original 8-Bit Nintendo game was amusing with it's head inflating and popping animation.

Saturday, October 3, 2009

Zombieland

Yeah, oh, hell Yeah. This is good. Zombieland isn't the best movie this year, but it's to movies what those name radio stations (Bob, Jack, whatever) are to radio. It doesn't want to be your favorite, but it want to make it's mark by being everyones second choice.

It isn't the funniest movie this year, that's the Hnagover. It isn't the best action flick this year, that's GI Joe. It even mixes in some serious drama and discussion on the human condition.

This movie has it all and Bill Murray. Very funny, very good, and easily worth the $26 bucks it cost me and 20 Small to see it. Go see this one.

Thursday, October 1, 2009

Reasons why I love my wife...Part X of a Y Part series

She fully supports my decision to have coded a "Serve the Taters!" button on my employer's Overtime Signup interface.

Tuesday, September 29, 2009

Fun with Venn


To my dog,
Please refer to the diagram for future reference. Notice they don't quite touch.

Wednesday, September 23, 2009

Today's Article full of Win: I've read that edition

The wonderfully humorous, and disturbingly accurate Genre-Fiction Generating Flowchart. Good for books, comics, and movies:
http://wondermark.com/554/

Tuesday, September 22, 2009

As if I needed another reason

Local political moron, Kay Bailey Hutchison (R-I wish she wasn't from-Texas), is leading the charge against Net Neutrality (http://rawstory.com/blog/2009/09/gop-senators-net-neutrality/).

Hardly surprising, considering that her #1 contributor is Vinson & Elkins, the law firm of AT&T (the #1 Donor to Congress), who along with Comcast (who has Hillary Clinton in their pocket along with Time Warner) have been the main two opponents of Net Neutrality.

Of course if you really want to make your head spin, News Corp, the owners of Fox News, gave more money to Hillary Clinton than to John McCain or George W. Bush.

Friday, September 18, 2009

Arkham Asylum isn't the only mad house that needs a policy review

This one apparently let's mentally ill killers go on field trips:
http://www.baynews9.com/content/36/2009/9/18/522562.html

Why are you reading...Blackest Night?


Since comic book purchasing statistics came online, sometime around 1215 AD, Marvel has regularly bested DC in the top single issues and money made (DC does seem to do better in trades though, weird). This changed with the Blackest Night crossover, which has been the dominant comic book for the past couple of months. Black Hand, possessor of the Black Power Ring, is bringing the dead back to cause fear and take over the universe.

First, this series is continuity heavy. How many current comic readers know who Sue Dibny is and what her significance to the Justice League is (the entire Identity Crisis seems to conveniently be ignored on a regular basis in DC comics anyway)?

Then the main part of the series is giving Secret Invasion a run on it’s title of longest mini-series that took almost no time, 3 issues + 1 Green Lantern tie in to tell a story that takes about half an hour.

Third, they already brought in a new character to tell everyone what the hell is happening and how to stop it. Holy Dues Ex Machina! Of course, this involves getting the cooperation of at least one person who won’t want to cooperate. Don’t know how they plan on solving that one, but the easy answer is to have Sinestro go cave their skull in and take his ring.

They probably won’t do that, but I just solved the entire problem in what, take about 3 pages to draw?

Monday, September 14, 2009

World's Greatest Human Dies

That was the title Penn & Teller gave to Normal Bourlag, http://news.yahoo.com/s/ap/20090913/ap_on_re_us/us_obit_borlaug.

Estimates put the number of lives he saved from starvation somewhere between 245 million and 1 billion.

He's also the person Creationists and those who oppose Genetically Modified foods fear, since his research is based on genetics (and hence evolution) and proved that Genetically Modified food is not dangerous.

Sunday, September 6, 2009

Quick Reviews: Gamer & Batman: Arkham Asylum

Just a quick run down on these two:

Gamer is the new movie with Gerard Butler as a convict fighting in a real person FPS shooter for his freedom from death row. The movie is pretty good, but disappointing as there is a better movie hidden inside of it.

It wants to tell a story about our own desensitization to violence, but gets caught up in showing gratuitous tits.

It wants to illustrate how the internet age has isolated us from each other, but gets caught up in showing gratuitous tits.

It wants to show how people will act in completely anti-social manners because of the anonymity of computers, but gets caught up in showing gratuitous tits.

It wants to be a morality play about how the poor and desperate will be taken advantage of, but gets caught up in showing gratuitous tits.

It wants to be a Cyberpunk classic, nearly approaching being the best movie for it's genre, but gets caught up in showing gratuitous tits.

It is a pretty good movie, the action is appropriately violent and disturbing, the street scenes are gritty and ravaged, the acting is well done. Editing is kind of jarring, you could tell it was planned that way, but not well executed.

Batman: Arkham Asylum is the best Batman game ever made, and one of the best Stealth Action games. The graphics are across the board excellent. The voice work is done by some of the Animated Series voice actors (Kevin Conroy as Batman, Mark Hamill as Joker and others, Arleen Sorkin as Harley) and is as excellent as you would expect and the story (by Paul Dini) both set new standards for a video game.

You feel like Batman, you move like Batman, you sound like Batman. You are the Goddamn Batman, and you hate chocolate. It's an excellent game.

Friday, September 4, 2009

Secret Worlds MMO & New Dungeons & Dragons MMO


The website for Secret Worlds (a horror/conspiracy/dark world MMO from Funcom),
http://www.darkdaysarecoming.com/, has a quiz up to see which faction you should join. You get a little facebook icon and some graphical swag for taking the quiz, but it also enters you in the Beta test pool. So if you like Betaing game, you know what to do.

Going back a bit into history. Atari had partnered with Turbine to produce DDO. Then Atari bought Cryptic. Then Atari decided not to extend any more of the Dungeons and Dragons license to Turbine for them to produce more DDO games (which is good, Turbine did a huge disservice to the license and alienated a lot of players and fans and took a really good game and ran it into the ground in a matter of months). Now Atari has put the Dungeons and Dragons license in the hands of Cryptic.

Turbine sues Atari, Atari is sueing Turbine, and Cryptic is producing the Forgotten Realms based MMO, Neverwinter Nights.

Great, my currently two most hated MMO producers are fighting over who gets the chance to destroy my favorite game for the third time around. First Wizards of the Coast, then Hasbro, then Turbine, now Cryptic gets a shot at molesting my adolescence. Look guys, my childhood wasn't asking for it. It wasn't wearing that short skirt and pole dancing like Miley Cyrus. Please leave my childhood alone.

Tuesday, September 1, 2009

Fallen Earth Review


Fallen Earth is a new MMO from Fallen Earth, LLC and Icarus Entertainment. To date, it looks like this is the only thing the two of them have produced. Fallen Earth is billed as a MMOFPS (Massive Multiplayer Online First Person Shooter) and has been in development for 6 years.

It shows it. Had this game come out 6 years ago, it might have been worth something. As it is now, it's slow, looks bad, has crappy voice acting, and commits the only unforgivable sin in a game, it's boring.

Creativity: Serviceable
While this is the first Post Apocalyptic MMO I’ve played, it isn’t all that creative. They tried very hard to recreate the environment of the Fallout series, even using fonts that are near identical inside the game. While it is billed as a MMOFPS, the combat system plays much like Tabula Rasa. One nice touch was the fact that you can see all of your equipped weapons on our characters body, as opposed to just the currently active weapon like in most MMOs.

Character Models: Junky
The character models have some decent customization to them considering this is an MMO not made by Cryptic. There are a variety of faces, hair styles, tattoo and piercing options for both face and body, but almost all of them are ugly or laughably bad. Character animation is also poorly done, with everyone running and walking like an arthritic octogenarian. I did like the fact that I could put my character in some classic Run DMC Adidas.

Environment: Serviceable
The environments were there. They look appropriate for the game and matched the theme and setting. Nothing really bad here, but nothing outstanding either. One problem was the sound. There was no music when I played. The sound effects were almost non-existant, and the voice acting makes Age of Conan sound like it was done by the Royal Shakespeare Company.

Clarity & Playability: Workhorse
This is the game’s strong suit. All the pertinent systems, like combat, movement, crafting, environment interactions, were presented clearly and are easy to use. The tutorial is well done and presents things in a clear and straight forward manner. The UI is streamlined and clean. I never needed to ask for help in the game, as all the information I needed was presented to me and it was easy to refer back to.

The controls really stop this category form being Exemplary. You have two modes, for lack of a better way to describe them. MMO mode and FPS mode. Controls in MMO mode were wonky. Alternating between almost unresponsive and overly sensitive. When you entered FPS mode (active aiming, which plays more like a 3rd person shooter than an FPS) the controls tightened up and became usable. The problem is that there was no point in using FPS style shooting. Even when you were on target you would still miss based on stats, and lining up a head shot did not do any additional damage or increase the odds of a critical. There was no point in using this for combat in the game. I did stay in FPS mode most of the time, just for more precision on the controls.

Accessibility & Community: Serviceable
The game ran well on lower end hardware. The in game chat was friendly and positive and lively, including a Dev being on answering questions and chatting. I did not get involved in grouping or PvP while I played.

Replayability & Longevity: Junky
The game is class-less, you get action points to develop your character, so you can play how you want and mix and match things. There are a variety of starting locations based on how you want to specialize your character. So there is replay value. But I honestly don't see why you would want to play in the first place, let alone, play again. The main problem with playing is combat. Enemies were incredibly stupid. I would pick a guy off from 20 feet with an unsilenced rifle and his partner standing shoulder to shoulder with him failed to notice. The only tactical movement and enemy would do was either charge straight towards me, or strafe from side to side like an old time shooting gallery at a county fair. There was no variety in tactics, but they did manage to not give everything a ranged attack, so you know, there is that.

In conclusion, I recommend that you avoid this game. It might be worth it as a Free to Play game, but I wouldn’t spend any money on it.

MMO Review Format

As previously stated, I play, or at least try, many MMOs. Most don’t hold my interest for long, usually less than 2 months. So far the records are held by City of Heroes at 27 months and still going (not counting breaks for other MMOs), Guild Wars that was off and on for over a year, Dungeons and Dragons online at 8 months, and Age of Conan at 6 months. Everything else scores below those numbers.

One of the problems I’ve had is quantifying my feeling and experiences in the games into a system that is understandable to people besides me. Especially one that won’t get excessively long winded, as I often become extremely verbose when talking about a subject I am emotionally invested in (I once turned a 2 hour martial arts class into a 4 hour dissertation on the history of fighting arts because my audience was too polite to tell me to shut up).

The first thing was; what categories did I want to rate games on? I thought about the traditional, but then went a different direction. Every game website and magazine rates things like graphics and sound, usually a 1 to 10 rating or some variation of them. But those are meaningless and suffer from ratings creep. Of course Metal Gear Solid 2 looks better than Metal Gear Solid 1. So, if I gave MGS1 a 7, that means MGS2 needs at least an 8. Since MGS3 looked better than MGS2 it needs a 9, and that would leave me with only a 10 for MGS4. Is MGS4 a perfect game visually? Is it right to compare the appearance of MGS4 to MGS1 considering the different hardware capabilities and the visual precision of TVs between now and then?

So I went with the following categories:

Creativity: Is this something new and interesting, or is it a complete rehashing of previously seen elements? If it is a rehashing, are the elements used in a new and distinct way, or could the game best be described as some other game with new curtains?

Character Models: Do the character models fit the genre or theme of the game? Are they appropriately detailed when compared to the rest of the game? Do they animate smoothly and effectively? This also includes sounds, are the character sounds appropriate? Are the sound effects synced up properly with the character’s actions. This also has to do with how much customization I have on my character’s appearance.

Environment: Does the environment’s appearance add or detract from the game? Does it match thematically with the game? Are the environmental sound effects appropriate? Is the in game music appropriate and does it add to the feel of the game?

Clarity & Playability: Are the in game features, systems, and functions clearly understood and easy to use? Is the User Interface clear and easy to use? Are the menus clearly labeled? Are the help files actually helpful? If I need to refer to the manual, is it clear and concise? Also, can I just sit down and accomplish something in a short period of time, or does this require an investment of time more in line with a second job? Finally, does the fame smoothly transition you around the game world or is it herky jerky? Do you have to do a lot of back tracking and time sinking? Are you suddenly given quests well outside your level range or ability to complete.

Accessibility & Community: This has 2 parts to it. One is, does the game run well on my hardware or hardware you can purchase at major retailers, or do you need to make adjustments to your hardware? Do you need to update drivers or other pieces of software manually, something most users don’t know how or won’t do? Also, are the forums, game community, or people on the in-game chat system helpful, knowledgeable, and polite? Or are they elitist, rude, and dismissive of new players? (You may question that value of that, but that is the number 1 reason why my wife and I don’t play WoW, the community and social interactions of players). Finally, how easy is it to form a team in the game and is Player v Player accessible and balanced? This is a multiplayer game after all.

Replayability & Longevity:
Is this something that you do once and you’ve seen it all? Is there an incentive to make alternate characters? Are there multiple ways to solve quests or play the game? Are there enough quests that you couldn’t hit them all on your first character? Also, is there enough variety in the enemies that fights feel different, or is everyone just a palate swap?

Next was, what system would I use? Numbers without context are meaningless, which is why statistics tend to confuse people. Without knowing what the context of the number you are presented with, how do you really know what that means? If I tell you 9 out of 10 Dentists endorse my product, does that tell you anything? What if I only used retired dentists? What if I only interviewed Periodontists? Or Forensic Dentists? What if my sample set was abnormally small, like 20 dentists? What if I threw all dentists who voted Democrat in the last election out of my sample set? Without knowing about the context under which I derived my numbers, you have no clue if my numbers mean anything (always remember that when someone cites a statistic).

I settled on a 5 tier description system:
Worthless: It’s bad, really bad. “I can’t believe the publisher is putting it out there in this state, bad”. Any game that scores one of these is an instant “Do Not Buy”. It shows a complete lack of caring on the part of the developers and publishers and a disregard for the customers.

Junky: It’s not horrible, but it could be a lot better. It still comes in below being serviceable or adequate. It might get better with time or work, but it shows quality control was lacking.

Serviceable: It does its job, it isn’t terribly impressive, but it isn’t cringe worthy bad. It exists. It will get you from point A, but you park it at the rear of the parking lot so no one sees you arrive in it.

Workhorse: It more than does its job, it does it well. Still room for improvement, but it’s worth including on a resume. I few systems of this quality can pull an otherwise subpar game out of the mire into something enjoyable.

Exemplary: It is at the top, and there is little room for improvement on what it does. This is the way all other games should be doing it.


Finally, and this was the easiest part, what would be my ultimate conclusion. I’m basically going to say, “I recommend you play this” or “I recommend you avoid this”. If this is a game that I think the subscription price is worth, I’ll say so. If not, I’ll tell you to avoid.

I’ll start using this system with my next MMO review, which will be for Fallen Earth.

Monday, August 31, 2009

Morning News

This is what happens when I don't look at gaming and comic news on the weekends:

FYI: This story is pure bullshit.

http://kotaku.com/5348199/cryptic-microsofts-behavior-means-no-champions-this-year

Cryptic was telling us during the testing back in February/March that there wouldn't be a 360 version of the game this year. They knew for 6 months it wouldn't happen. They also used this as their excuse to not support the 360 controller on PC, saying they wouldn't support it until the 360 version was available.

Disney buys Marvel Comics

http://kotaku.com/5349341/disney-spending-4-billion-on-marvel-comics?skyline=true&s=x

Well, I wonder how Gemstone feels about this?

MMOs for the Common Man, Part 3

I close up with the final pieces of advice.

4) I’m not upgrading or buying a new computer for your game. The days of Killer Apps are gone. The only time a game drives hardware sales are on consoles when the consumer has already determined they will buy one, but not which one, or the fanatics who just have to have it (which seems to be almost exclusively Final Fantasy and Halo fans). I’m already paying $50 for the game, $15 a month for a subscription, don’t then demand that I fork out $150 for a new graphics card and $30 for another stick of RAM. Why don’t you try making your game run on more common hardware?

4a) If you plan on selling a game at a major retailer, like say Walmart, why don’t you also make sure that they sell hardware that will run your game, just in case someone gets the wild idea of buying a computer just to play your game.

4b) If given the choice between 2 new games I am interested in, but one won’t run smoothly on what I have and one will, I’m going to buy the one that runs smoothly. Be aware of the requirements of other software launching around the time you are.

5) I don’t want to buy a game on launch day, then wait until the next day to start playing because you had to rewrite the entire game between the time the discs were pressed and you actually opened the servers. In other words, have your testing done prior to shipping to manufacturers. It’s Ok to have a small patch at launch, but not anything that will take me more than say a half hour to download.

5a) Don’t use the launch period as a third stage of Beta testing. I Beta test games, I like doing it. I get to see things ahead of time, provide some input, and maybe make the game better. I don’t like paying for the privilege of Beta testing.

5b) There are certain things that are not only expected, but should be considered mandatory in an MMO, like working social interfaces and an accurate mapping system. They should be in the game at launch, and when your beta testers are telling you those don’t work, or need to be fixed, you may actually want to listen to them.

6) Don’t make a game based off an existing property if the property brings nothing to the table. There is a World of Darkness MMO coming out sometime around 2011/2012. The problem is, that is will be about a year after 2 similarly themed MMOs (Secret World and Dark World) about the hidden world of magic creatures in the modern age debuts. So what is the property bringing with it? And we aren’t exactly at the height of WoD’s popularity anymore.

6a) If you do base your game off of an existing property, you have to do it justice, not just use the name and abandon everything that attracted people to the property to start with. For an example of doing it right, see Lord of The Rings Online, for examples of doing it wrong, see Dungeons and Dragons Online and Champions Online.

6b) If you feel that doing justice to the property you are basing a game off of would stop you from making the game you want to make, you have 2 questions to ask yourself, Is the game you want to make really that good? Do you really want to use the property? Either way, it is time to rethink the direction you are going.

Friday, August 28, 2009

Bill will give the President the power to shut off the inetrnet

http://news.cnet.com/8301-13578_3-10320096-38.html?needawtftag

Wonder what would constitute a Cybersecurity Emergency? We already know President Bush used the Homeland Security Advisory System as a political tool, and Democrats are trying to shut down and avoid debate on health care.

This passes, it immediately becomes a tool to violate someone's 1st Amendment rights.

MMOs for the Common Man, Part 2

Continuing my advice for MMO makers if they want to start attracting more players.

2) If I can’t pick up your game and figure out how to play in 5 minutes. I’m not going to do that first bit. I read for 2 reasons, enjoyment and to learn something worthwhile. A 100+ page game manual is neither worthwhile nor enjoyable. So I’m not going to bother with it. Give me the low down in a tutorial, and make it quick and simple enough that I’m not having to constantly refer back to documentation of spam chat for help. I have a college degree, a tested IQ north of 130, an MSCE, scored in the top 5% in the nation on the SATs, and I am a trained and experienced systems analyst. If I can’t figure out your game quickly and easily, you have failed as designers.

2a) I have a full time job, a wife, 2 kids. I also have a nice hobby that occupies me 3 or 4 nights a week. I like to take my family to lunch on Sunday and let the kids spend their allowance, and maybe go to the YMCA a couple times a week. You know what that means? I don’t have time for 8 hour raids and marathon sessions for the off chance at the phat lootz. If I can’t pick up your game and be rewarded with some sense of accomplishment in less than an hour, I’m not going to pick up your game.

2b) Have a free trial or a majorly reduced cost trial, or an unrestricted Open Beta period. If I can’t try before I buy, I’m probably not going to buy. Just because I can afford too, doesn’t mean I am going to drop $50 to just try out your MMO.

3) Don’t do something just because WoW did it. I got news for you, WoW is not a game. WoW is a force of nature that exists outside of any logic or reason. You will not steal players from WoW by being like WoW. And those of us who don’t play WoW? Well, the reason we aren’t playing WoW is because we don’t like WoW, so being like WoW won’t attract us either.

3a) Just because WoW did something, don’t immediately discount it. Despite my personal feelings, WoW did do some interesting things and does have a lot going for it. I know it sounds like I am contradicting myself here. But if you look at WoW, it is easily playable and highly addictive. Two things an MMO wants. My problem with WoW don’t stem from the underlying systems of the game, but that’s a different set of posts.

3b) Don’t promise features you won’t/can’t deliver or won’t support. I don’t want to hear about your super new system that will revolutionize game play if it isn’t going to make it into the final game. Don’t demo the systems to the media and at conventions if it won’t be in the final game. That’s called bait and switch, and in any other industry, that could land you in jail.

Next time, I finish this up.

Wednesday, August 26, 2009

The Return of GI Joe?



I've been impressed with the return of GI Joe. The comics from IDW, along with the reprints of classic Marvel Joe in trade format, have been very good. The new toys have been almost good enough to force me to collect (since Heroclix has shut down and I am a serial collector), and then they knock me over with the figure pictured here.

Agent Helix, featured in a recent comic one shot about an agent sent under cover to investigate Cobra. The comic was Meh. The actual character of Helix was so under developed I failed to care. I know they were going with a Snake Eyes mystery feel with her, but her depiction just came off as a Final Fantasy reject.

But the fact that they went out of their way to make a toy in the style of the movie toys, that impresses me. That level of commitment to the property makes me feel good about GI Joe and the direction it's going.

I hope my eventual son will have the warm place in his heart for it that I have.
Image from Toys R Us's website.

MMOs for the Common Man, Part 1

“I got this great idea. I’m going to make an MMO based off of Iain Banks’s Culture series.”
“What?”
“Yeah, we can have Idirans, Changers, Culture Humans, and other aliens.”
“What?”
“Players can work with space pirates, deal with Eaters, and explore Schar’s World.”
“Ok, almost all those words were in English, but to you, they obviously don’t mean what I think they mean, so let’s start again.”

So you think you have this wonderful idea for an MMO, some exciting idea or unused property that will draw an audience. You have a vision of what the game should be like and play like. You have secured rights, opened a web site and hired developers. Things are running smoothly, but there is one thing you forgot to think about. Customers.

Customers seem the be the most over looked part of MMO development, which is odd considering they are the most crucial part of the MMO cycle, you build, they play, you build more, they play more. With out the “They” portion, you have a few million in development gone to waste.

And considering that I am exactly the demographic that video games and pop culture in general seem to target (adult male between 18 to 34, with multiple computers and game consoles, a household income well over the national average, and plenty of disposable income and credit), it is amazing how often my opinion appears to be discounted in MMOs. They do a good job on targeting press releases, banner ads, and box art to me (Ozzy Osborne, boobs, Mr. T, boobs), but actual game play seems to be targeting the unemployed hermit with no social skills, love of repetitiously engaging in the same series of button clicks, and who happen to have multi thousand dollar computers that they meticulously update with the latest hardware and software on a monthly basis.

Granted, I’ve been on enough MMO message boards to know that those people do exist. But how many of WoW’s 11 million plus accounts belong to those people? Is it really enough that companies can afford to alienate other players by catering to them?

Apparently, there are, based on the MMOs I’ve tried recently. I’ve been playing MMOs since Everquest in 2001, kind of a late adopter, I know. But I’ve been through a lot of them, EQ, Sims Online, WoW, City of Heroes, Guild Wars, Dungeons and Dragons Online, Age of Conan, Runescape, Matrix Online, Star Wars Galaxies, and a nameless mass of free to play or microtransaction based MMOs. I’ve also beta tested Tabula Rasa, Lord of the Rings Online and Champions Online.

I’ve tried so many at this point, I know who copied what off who. I can play a few minutes and tell you which other games the designers had a hand in. And I know within 1 hour of play whether I’m going to like a game or not. As such, I’ve got a set of guidelines for future (and current) MMO developers who want to target me, a guy with cash, but who also has the stuff that makes cash possible, like a job, bills, a family, and a hobby or two that doesn’t involve the phrases LFG and WTS.

This looks to run a might long, so I’m going to break it up into parts.

1) I don’t care about your “Vision”. Yeah, this one is pointed directly at Cryptic and Jack, I couldn’t care less about what your inner artist believe is compelling and speaks to the inner nature of man. I have a very nice art museum a few blocks from my house for that, thanks. Anything you add or remove from the game that does not go directly to “Fun” or “Playability” (which seem to have become alien concepts to developers recently) just to fit your Vision, you need to reconsider. And if after reconsidering, you want to keep it, go back and reconsider again, and keep reconsidering until you realize we only care about having fun with the game and dump things that are not either “Necessary” or “Fun”.

1a) The following do not fall under the category of “Necessary”:
Time Sinks
Fighting any member of the rodentia family or the equivalent there of
Time Sinks
Death Penalties
Time Sinks

More coming soon

Friday, August 21, 2009

Why aren't you reading...Power Girl?

While I am a bigger fan of Marvel comics, DC has done a much better job of putting out comics that are just plain fun: Suicide Squad, Secret Six, the relaunched Doom Patrol/Metal Men combo, Green Arrow & Black Canary, and this book. One that doesn't get as much recognition as it deserves.

Power Girl exists within the greater DC Universe, but avoids the over seriousness that plagues Batman and the Green Lantern series right now. The stories are a throwback to the kind of plots you would see in silver and bronze age comics. The first arc featured the Ultra-Humanite deciding he wanted to be a hot woman and attempted to blackmail Power Girl into giving up her body by levitating Manhattan a few miles up and threatening to drop it.

Unlike other comics which feature exaggerated and impossible physiques, Power Girl is very self aware, without breaking the 4th wall like you would find in She-Hulk. She know what she looks like and it is played for humor.

Artist Amanda Conner is doing a great job here. The art work is clean and detailed, but without being distracting. It's not photo referenced or photoshopped, which adds to the charm of it's bronze age feel. It looks like and feels like classic George Perez work. I'm not normally a follower of a particular artist, I usually follow writers, but her work is such a relief after the heavy, overly stylized or realistic look that most main stream comics have these days, I'm going to keep an eye out for other comics with her name on them. I also have to say that the coloring job is fantastic as well. It looks digital, but feel hand colored, again, adding to the lighter, fun feel of the comic.

Finally, the comic is accessible. It starts with Power Girl trying to build up her secret identity and with issue #4 it adds a POV character in the new Terra, who's learning the ropes of being a super hero from Power Girl.

Check this comic out, it's worth it.

Wednesday, August 19, 2009

New Zombie Nations

Foreignpolicy.com has an article on the theoretical rise of zombie states (interesting because 20 Small and I both read World War Z recently and kind of discussed this).

Here is the article:http://drezner.foreignpolicy.com/posts/2009/08/18/theory_of_international_politics_and_zombies

I say screw the politics, Re-kill the bastards and let your deity of choice deal with the logistics of classification and placement.

Tuesday, August 18, 2009

Champions Online Review Part 3: What You Need to Know if you actually play

First, ignore the name Champions Online:

It maybe called Champions, some Champions characters appear (no Seeker though), you may see some familiar looking words like STR, DEX, ED, PD. But they don't mean squat. They don't work like in PnP. It's worse than DDO, which at least used the 3rd Edition system as a base and the deviated. They didn't even try here.

You build Mana up:


Mana, Endurance, Stamina, whatever you want to call it, don't think of it like a traditional MMO. Think of it like a Rage or Aggression bar from a fighting game. Every character starts with an Endurance (End) Building power, and End Building can be added to other powers (this is called Accelerated Metabolism). You build End up, and then expend it using other powers.

Also, End isn't always End. You will see End and Energy used interchangeably in the game, both referring to the same thing.

You can only have 1 passive power and 1 block power active at a time:


You can take multiples and as you level you can create multiple “Builds” based on the role you will play in a fight, but only 1 passive can be active at a time. This maybe the feature I hate the most, as it really stops you from building a quality tank. It also makes you waste powers. By level 20 you will have your character built, 1 End builder, 1 powerful melee attack, 1 powerful ranged attack, 1 AoE attack/Nuke, 1 travel power, 1 primary defense, 1 block power, and 1 click buff. You may sub out some Crowd Control or Healing or extra buffs and debuffs. So, you now have 20 levels worth of additional powers to take, maybe you would want to fill those out with say some Regen or Damage Mitigation or additional block abilities. You can get them, but you can only use one at a time. So if you have a block that works well against Energy and one against Physical, you better know which will be better before the fight starts, because you can only use 1 and you can't switch on the fly thanks to the build systems cool down timer. Got both Invulnerability and Regeneration, only get to pick one at a time.

Memorize where the “Z” key is:

You will use it a lot. Pressing the “Z” key while an enemy attempts some kind of CC on you will help minimize it's effectiveness. Also, the “Z” key is the default interaction key for world object and NPCs. Don't hit it too much though, you can skip things you need by doing that.

Problem is, if there are multiple things around you that can be interacted with, the Z gets confuzzled. Was that bad guy hitting you with a hold and you were pressing Z to resist it, but a park bench was nearby? Too bad, you are now held holding a park bench over your head.

Know what BAM, BOOM, FOOM, KABOOM mean:


You will see these word appear over enemies' heads as they charge up major attack powers. Actively Blocking (hold SHIFT) when these attacks go off significantly reduces the damage you take.

BANG: Single Target Attack
BOOM: PBAoE Attack
FOOM: Cone AoE Attack
KABOOM: Targeted AoE Attack
FREEM: Single Target or Cone attack that invokes a status effect as well as damage

Look at you mission status area, you may just have stumbled into a mission:


The game has “Open Missions” missions that are occurring over and over in a given geographic area. Once you enter that area, you get the mission and your share of the experience and rewards is based upon how much you contribute to the mission.

Monday, August 17, 2009

Champions Online Review Part 2: Breaking it down

Graphics:

The graphics in this game are good, but inconsistent. This really detracts from immersion and is a distraction. The actual character models are well detailed, animate smoothly, and look good. But they look plastic. It's like someone took an Alex Ross cover and ran it through the Plastic Wrap filter on Photoshop.

Some enemy models are highly detailed like the character models, the Foxbot enemies and the Super Villains. Others are barely detailed to the point that they should just be faceless, formless blobs. Background run from the extremely detailed desert landscapes to minimalist art deco style buildings you would see in Batman the Animated Series. Both are fine on their own, but again a lack of consistent art style detracts from the game.

This is also true with the environmental objects. Things like billboards are super detailed high tech, slick and bright, but cars are little more than noir shaped outlines.

Gameplay:

If you've played WoW or EQ, you've played Champions. The only difference is the End builder mechanic, and it isn't different enough to distinguish game play in anyway.

Sound:

Through most of the Beta, sound didn't work at all on my primary computer due to a bug where the game would crash if you had a 64-Bit processor and ran Realtek sound drivers. When sound did work, it was generic and often didn't match up with the action on screen, being delayed like a bad kung-fu film dubbing.

When it did work, it was servicable.

Fun:

Taken by its parts, CO is kind of fun. But it's pretty mundane. There is nothing here you haven't seen already. Playing for more than an hour at a time, the contact grind and time sinks begins to wear on you. The problem is that to have any sense of accomplishment you really need to be playing for 2 or 3 hours at a sitting. This means it gets old pretty quickly.

In Game Systems:

Crafting: Almost useless. You will have better items from missions and random drops than you can craft at all points. You also have to harvest resources, and what you harvest is random. You also do a lot of “research” on items you find, which allows you to reclaim resources from them as well as increasing your crafting skill. The only time I really used crafting was to build consumable health packs.

Social: Didn't work. Teaming didn't, Auction House didn't, Ignore didn't, Search didn't. Multiple testers advised them that these features needed to be top of the list. Instead we got Winamp and I-Tunes integration.

PvP: You want to PvP? Do you want to PvP to win? Get a flight, get invulnerability, get a charge up ranged attack power. Make sure you have more of those than the other guy. You've just won. Every, and I mean Every, PvP match I participated in was won by the side with the most ranged attackers.

Combat: A lot of promises were made about combat, almost none were kept. Environment affecting combat was promised, didn't happen, enemies can shoot through cover, can super jump to the top of buildings, and almost every enemy above the basic “henchman” level has a ranged attack power that shuts off your travel power. Dynamic combat was promised, didn't happen. Target mob, press 1 for auto-attack, when End is high enough, hit your stronger attack. That's it. There is active blocking, but almost all MMOs have that now, so it is hardly awe inspiring.

Controls: Standard MMO.

Sunday, August 16, 2009

Champions Online Review Part 1: Background on Champions Online

One of the many graphical glitches in the game that the Devs ignored
As Champions Online (CO) turns the corner into Open Beta and the NDA is lifted it's time to talk about the game. I joined Closed Beta back in December and the game was literally an unplayable mess until about April. And since then, it has come a long way. The first thing I had to to when I wrote this was vent about the Beta itself. This is the 3rd closed Beta I have been part of, and it was the worst. It was the worst when it came to the actual quality of the game they presented to us, worst when it came to the beta staffs responses and responsiveness to the testers, worst communication between the staff and testers. Which is made even more annoying because it had the best Beta testing community when it came to knowledge, providing feed back, and helpfulness. So, I vented, I won't bore you with my venting, so that's been edited out.

CO is creatively Bankrupt:

Sorry to say it, but it's true. It's one giant pop-culture riff, mocking, and rip-off, and not a funny one like you would get from a classic MST3k or Airplane!. It's like watching Scary Movie or Meet the Spartans over and over. A good chunk of contact and story line is ripped off from some other movie, game, or book. Despite how much I love the movie, did we really need 2 contacts based off of “Big Trouble in Little China” and multiple story lines taken from it? Did there need to be two mission arcs based off of “Apocalypse Now”? Was it necessary to have a reference to obscure SCTV characters that most players won't recognize in Canada? And I can go on: Kill Bill, Anchorman, Blazing Saddles, They Live, Braveheart, Hellboy, and Pokemon all get used in the game. The entire Canada Crisis zone is a riff on Lost, a good chunk of the Desert is Westworld. For the love of Jack Kirby, there is a mission named after a Judy Blume book.

Even the systems are a rip off. If you do a pallet swap from WoW grey to blue, you have CO. The UI, the mission system, the dialog boxes, mission reward selection. All of it is straight WoW with little to no modifications.

And it's very easy to see that Jack “Statesman” Emmert had a hand in this. Signature costume pieces from CoH are blatantly copied here (I have seen some awfully familiar crab like back pieces in this game). What makes that even sadder is that despite the huge advancements in character scaling and coloring CO has over CoH, you actually have less costume options when it comes to the actual clothing your character wears. I will give them that they have a greatly expanded selection of mecha and angel/demon costume pieces. Of course this leads to a different kind of creative bankruptcy. If you stand at the entrance to the tutorial on a night when a batch of new beta players are allowed in, you invariable see a parade of Led Zepplin and Meatloaf album covers interspersed with a little Manzinger and Robotech. Hell, if you stand in Renaissance Plaza you'll see more winged characters than a demo of Aion. It's not just costumes, it's enemies as well. They even included Chinese Ninja Sorcerers that teleport.

Finally, if you played CoH you should remember a few years back there was an April Fools press release about adding visual sound effects like “Bang” and “Freem” to the game. Jack liked the idea so much it is actually an integral part of the game mechanics. Yes, you will see “Freem” popping up over enemies heads. Frequently.

Don't Listen to Jack Emmert:

Jack is either completely ignorant of the development of the game, or has been purposefully leading a media misdirection campaign this entire year. Either way, you can pretty much ignore everything he has said about the game this year. I won't go start pulling quotes, but it's a pretty good rule of thumb. If you look at his recent interviews with Kotaku.com, his comments on what the testing community was saying are the opposite of what we were saying.

One of the most important and talked about features of the game is not officially supported:

That would be playing with an Xbox 360 Controller. Every video you see of public play tests, every appearance on G4 TV revolves around the use of a 360 controller. The initial control design of the game didn't even have keyboard turning built in because it was expected that you would play FPS style with a 360 controller. The G4 MMO report even once mentioned that “If you aren't playing with a 360 controller, you aren't playing it right.” Well, the controller isn't officially supported and the developers refused to respond to issues with the controllers.

Another important feature just didn't make it:

Remember when they talked during the early development of the game about not having cool down? Once the animation was over, you could hit the power again. That's not right. Some powers have cool down and some might as well since they made the animations excessively long.

The Game is Cheap:

Remember playing old Nintendo Games and it would seem like the game “cheated” to make it harder on you? Well, welcome back to that old feeling, CO does that a lot. Enemies will suddenly develop travel power like abilities to chase you down, they will move into areas you can't follow or hit them in, but they can hit you. They will chain juggle you like a Killer Instinct combo. They have no limit on their use of powers that normally cost Endurance to use. Their sight and attack ranges are huge, much bigger than yours. And powers that require charging, well, they can be charging the second one up while the first one's animation is still finishing.

And PvP is cheap. Ranged attacks, flight powers, invulnerability and healing are all over powered for PvP, and playing on a game pad or 360 controller presents you with a major advantage over keyboard play in PvP. PvP matches boil down to this: The team with the healer wins, and the most flying ranged attackers is the tie breaker.

Instanced missions were added as an after thought and it shows:

They are very short and under developed, and most appeared during the last month of testing. A lot of missions that should be instanced aren't. There is one mission where some bad guys have taken a lab and infected the staff with an experimental mutagen. You have to get there, get the stuff to make the antidote, and save the scientists. Would make sense to have this happen in the lab, nope, you do this all from the parking lot.

Some incredibly odd choices were made during development:


Twitter integration, control of I-Tunes and Winamp from within the game, useless Chibi-Style vanity pets were all added to the game, to be fair we have been told that a programmer did the Twitter thing in his off time, but it's there. They did this instead of fixing: bugged mission, invalid costume pieces (for that, they just don't let you create the character if the pieces make an invalid costume), broken features, bad text, fixing the Respec system, and other issues that got reported to them. You can also tell that they spent a large amount of time on the Foxbat enemies, giving them very detailed appearances and special animations and effects that no one else had, but ignored most other enemies.

Basic features for a social game were also ignored. The Grouping UI didn't function. The Ignore feature didn't function. The week before Open Beta started, a tester asked about setting it so you would not accept dual, team, or trade invites. A developer told him the chat slash command for doing some of this, as they didn't plan of putting it into the UI.

The game is not Alt friendly and there is very little in the way of repeatability:

Everyone gets the same contacts and the same missions, and you will do them the same way and in the same general order. Most enemies are a palate swap of other enemies, and those that aren't are horribly over powered (Atomic Reanimators and Foxbat robots, I'm looking at you). The game requires little to no strategy, and there is only one way to accomplish each mission. There is no stealth in the game. You can't Crowd Control your way to victory. It's just straight in your face combat.

Here is how you will play the game: Make a character, do the tutorial, this will take you to lvl 5 or 6 depending on if you do all the side missions in the tutorial. Choose a Crisis Zone (Desert or Canada), this zone will take you to lvl 9 or 10. Do the regular version of your zone, this will take you to 13 or 14, then go do the lvl 11-14 content of the other zone, then go to Millennium City (MC), and then the game is straight line play from there with little to no deviation, with occasionally hops to other zones. It'll be that way for all characters, you pretty much have to do every mission to level, so there isn't a lot of options, and there is only one solution for each mission. Play through twice and you have seen it all.

They also expect you to pay via Microtransactions for extra character slots. 1 Server, 8 characters. Want anymore? You gotta either delete one or buy another slot for “Cryptic Bucks”.

The game is what was left over from Cryptic's attempt at a Marvel game and was cast aside for Star Trek Online:

Despite Cryptic assertions to the opposite, you can still look around and catch glimpses of what was almost Marvel Online. The travel powers of Swinging and Rocket Boots copy the poses of Spiderman and Ironman (I'm not talking similar, I'm talking dead on like they studied the movies). MC's design looks more like New York than a rebuilt Detroit. Open up the big map of MC in CO and look at a road map of New York and Detroit, and see which one this looks like. The city may have been rebuilt, but large bodies of water don't move.

Also, Cryptic claimed that resources were not diverted from CO to ST:O. We know that is bull because one of the diverted community liaisons posted a good bye to us on the test forums when they got sent to ST:O.


Everything you hated about Everquest is back again:

95+% of the content is open world, by the time I had completed 100 missions, I had only been through 3 instanced missions. Most of the missions involved killing a certain number of spawns, killing a named spawn, or interacting with a clickable or multiple clickables. Almost all of them involved waiting for a respawn or refresh of something. And this was during Closed Beta with a very small amount of players.

Oh, and welcome back spawn camping, we missed you too. With the limited number of spawns for some missions that require you to interact with multiples of the spawn, it's easier to spawn camp than to actually search for what you are looking for.

And while you can't Ninja Loot, you can Ninja mission spawns. This happens a lot, even in the Beta. You can also do the good old dick move of waiting for some one to aggro a mob you need for a mission, ping it a time or two, and then walk away and let that guy do the work for you. You've now gotten mission credit with no risk.

Crisscrossing zones, only I trainer access per-zone, having to zone in/out to get to the trainer. Crafting stations placed in inconvenient and sometimes remote locations. Missions scattered across a zone, far from the mission giver. Ahhhh...Time Sinks.

You will have trouble finding your friends:

There is only 1 “Server”, on the server are the zones. As a zone fills, new instances of the zone are automatically created. Depending on the zone, you can have between 50 and 200 players in it before a new instance will be created.

Just a little math, Cryptic is shooting for 100,000 customers. Let's say 10% play at any given time. A single zone, MC, allows for players from level 13 – 40. So, a conservative estimate says half the people online will be in that zone. That's 5,000 people in MC. At 200 a pop, that's 25 instances of a single zone. And there is no “Global” chat channel at this time, only Zone wide, and that does not cross instances. There is a little section of the zone list that tells you how many team mates and friends are in each instance, but it wasn't much use in Beta.

And the zones are huge. Massively huge. Bigger than any zones I have seen in other games.

You will have trouble finding your Enemies:


Missions and objectives are not always marked, some are mis-marked. They are often also not near each other or near the contact that gives the missions. Also, the markings that do appear on the map don't exactly tell you much and multiple marking can be used for the same mission types.

A new feature that they implemented are missions where a citizen will run up to you and report a crime in progress. Cool right? Well, these missions are pretty good, but where the citizen finds you and where the mission is are usually on opposite sides of the zone, and the mission is timed, so good luck if you are involved in something else or on a team. Then the fact that the citizens usually interrupt you during a fight, popping up a huge blue dialog box in the middle of the action does lead to problems as well, usually death.

Of course, they planned on you dieing so much that there is no death penalty, instead you get a bonus for living. And no, that is not a joke. It's the Hero Point system, and the more missions you complete, the more combat bonuses you get. When you die, you lose some of these points, but you never go negative.

Despite this, Cryptic managed to pull together something kind of fun at the last minute:


July 24th, 2009. That's the day they released the update that made the game fun. The problem is, it isn't that fun. Had this been an entirely Microtransaction based game, it would be the best game of that type I have seen. As a game that is based on a monthly subscription fee plus Microtransactions, it's decidedly about 5 years too late on content. Of course, the next updates made it worse and stability and load times took a nose dive, but it was fun for a bit.

Saturday, August 15, 2009

Champions Online Review Prelude:

Cryptic could have taken the easy way out. Updated CoH with this gen graphics, tweaked game play, added a new feature or 2 and bam, off and running. But they did something bold and daring. Something I don't think anyone suspected. They took an award winning, super solid, popular concept and idea and totally abandoned it. Cryptic was truly unafraid to suck.

There is one caveat as we enter this: I was unable to test the last 2 sessions of Closed Beta. Cryptic, in their infinite wisdom, decided to REDUCE the times the server was open. Which is Ok, really, as their patching system was malfunctioning, and entire zone needed to be shut down for an entire play session, and the forums indicated there was serious stability issues those two days.

I had planned on showing you some screen shots from the game, but the only ones I have are old or showing graphical glitches. I had planned on logging in the last day of Closed Beta and grabbing screen shots, but, well, you saw that up above.

Friday, August 14, 2009

Champions Online Review - The Preview

When I started writing this review, it was a multi-part epic review. Was it too much? Could I express myself more succinctly? After 5 pages of typing, I decided to sum the game up in just 50 words:
Kind of fun, nothing new here, good for a couple months play.

District 9 Review

This is complex. It's two different movies posing as a single entity. It starts as a study in prejudice and man's inhumanity. It's classic science fiction, presenting social issues in a manner that is more accessible and palatable to the audience. It will make you think and it will make you feel bad.

About an hour in, it shifts gears into an action film. The action is very realistically depicted and very visceral, not over the top, not cartoony.

In the end it briefly shifts to a love story.

Overall, it is very well done. It has heavy CGI usage, but it is never distracting, George Lucas needs to watch this before he makes his next film. It's occupied by all unknown actors from an unknown director, but everyone does a very good job.

I recommend that you see it.

Tuesday, August 11, 2009

Health Care Reform Bill and You

The Health Care reform bill has tucked deep in its recesses a variety of projects only tangentally related to health care. Let's take a look at one:


SEC. 1904. GRANTS TO STATES FOR QUALITY HOME VISITATION PROGRAMS FOR FAMILIES WITH YOUNG CHILDREN AND FAMILIES EXPECTING CHILDREN.

It starts on page 838 of the bill.

If you just skim the bill, you will see this is called a “Voluntary Program” and you think, oh, that’s ok, I just won’t volunteer for it. You’d be wrong. It’s voluntary on the part of the States to join the program, not the citizens.

If your state joins the program they can make home visits to:

-Tell parents what is appropriate in the education of their child (page 844 line 22)

-Tell you how you should be parenting your child (page 845 line 9)

So a representative from your state can come to your house and tell you what and how to teach your children and how you can raise them.

And, they will generate statistical profiles based on race, gender, religion, and age on parents (page 848 line 10, and 849 line 14) to determine who is and is not following the programs.

The program also makes the assumption that if you are being visited you are mistreating your children (page 849 line 9)

Annually, Congress will be briefed on this program so that they can focus on communities that are not responding to the program (page 850 line 11)

That happens to be a violation of the Constitution (the First, Fourth, Fifth, maybe the Ninth and Tenth amendments).

Don’t take my word for it though, or anyone else’s. Read the bill yourself:

http://big.assets.huffingtonpost.com/AAHCA-BillText-071409_2.pdf

Both sides are lying to you about what this bill contains. This is not just about health care and insurance, and it isn’t a eugenics project. But there is some fairly outrageous material in this bill, attacks on civil liberties and the rights of citizens in here.

Friday, August 7, 2009

GI Joe the Movie

Ok, the movie isn't winning any awards. The plot, while decent, is very superficially developed, but has an interesting, if obvious twist. There are some continuity issues (Which ear does Heavy Duty have pierced exactly? Snake Eyes is cool with his girl flirting with someone else?).

But forget that.

In the name of Larry Hama, this is good. It's mindless, goofy fun. Great action sequences with a plot that is just enough to movie you along from action scene to action scene. It's what Michael Bay forgot when he made Transformers. We just wanted to see transforming robots kick each other's asses. Steven Sommers gets it. We want to see kick ass fights with cool costumes and gear, and he gives it to us. Straight through the eyehole and into the primal part of the mammal brain responsible for recognizing awesome when you see it.

Everyone does a good job here, even the cat fight sequence is done better than most cat fights. Go see the movie.

Thursday, August 6, 2009

Green Lantern...Playa?


The image over there -> is from DC Comics Justice League Cry For Justice 2. Now, I got issue 1, and then stopped, because it sucked. But this panel has caused an uproar. Apparently, good cop Hal had a drunken threesome with two members of the Birds of Prey, maybe. And that upsets a lot of people. How dare DC has such a cavalier attitude towards sex? How could they have a hero use alcohol to obtain sex? It goes against the characterization of both Hal Jordan and Huntress.

20 Small thinks you could look at this multiple ways, since sex is not directly implicated. She also doesn't think it's a big deal even if they did, because they were all consenting and single adults.

I think "Way to go Hal."

Analyzing...Flo


The picture to my left is of our subject "Flo" (pic courtesy of Wikipedia). She is an employee of Progressive Insurance. Based on Flo's awkward mannerisms, hyper-fixation on a single subject, lack of understanding of basic social rules, and odd mannerisms, it is probable that she falls somewhere on the Autism-Asperger's Spectrum.

Flo is capable of holding down employement, but it appears that it must be done in a very sterile and non-stimulating environment, indicating that she also probably suffers from ADD-HDD, which is not uncommon in Asperger's cases.

I am concerned about the amount of supervision she receives. There does not appear to be any management or supervisors in Flo's workplace to guide her interactions with customers and the other staff members. She displays inappropriate behavior at work (openly flirting with customer's who want to purchase motorcycle insurance and engaging in conversations about paranormal abilities with other customers). She is also oddly fixated on both her name tag and the rate display in her workplace. Without supervision and guidance, these fixations could be detrimental to Flo.

I believe that Flo may also be under some peer pressure at home. She does not seem to show the kind of interests or aptitude to fashion her hair and make-up in the style that she wears, indicating that there is another party, probably a close friend or family member who has studied Cosmetology, doing this to her. They should be informed that Flo does not work on a street corner and they should stop doing her make-up like a whore.

Tuesday, August 4, 2009

Champions Online Open Beta

Still now word on if we are getting extra keys for OB.

Fileplant premium members are getting an Open Beta key, they can download the client starting tomorrow and enter on Aug 17th.

Monday, August 3, 2009

You don't plan to fail...

Unless you're Cryptic. Cryptic is using Beta Access and bonus items for Star Trek: Online as a selling point for Champions Online.

http://www.champions-online.com/exclusive_specials

Much like Microsoft did with Crackdown and Halo 3, using beta access to sell a game they know will fail.

Sigh.

Thursday, July 30, 2009

Wednesday, July 29, 2009

20 Small Reviews ... Michael Vick

20 Small is my wife and capable of putting things much more succinctly than I can.

I give you 20 Small's review of Michael Vick being re-instated:

"I hope he got anally raped in prison."

This has been 20 Small's review of Michael Vick being re-instated.

Tuesday, July 28, 2009

Champions Online Open Beta Starts Aug 17th

G4 listed it as confirmed last night that the Champions Online Open Beat would start on Monday, August 17th.

That is when Kotaku said it would start. Kotaku also lists the street date for the game as Sept. 1.

Also, if you start visiting gamestop, walmart, amazon, and best buys websites you can start to see the pre-order offers.

Monday, July 27, 2009

Things I love about AD&D


Things I love about 1st Edition AD&D:

Gygax was so anal retentive about fairness that he made a chart for everything.

This is one of my favorites, for I am a benevolent and merciful DM and will dish out divine, physical altering, life imperiling diseases both randomly and capriciously.

The disease table is second only to the psychosis's table in my heart for things to level on annoying players, or gnomes, you know, whichever.

Friday, July 24, 2009

The Rules: Being a Pro-Wrestler part 1 of X

8 years as a wrestler. 2 and counting as a ref. I've given a few guys their last match, even more their first match. Bad matches and good matches, big crowds and 3 drunks, some on TV, most not.

At almost every show there has been a couple of guys who are trying to break into the business. Trainees they are usually called, friends of some other work who want to try their hand. Some actually make it to their first match, most of them have no clue how to act. So hear it is, part 1 of the rules to living the life and not getting the crap stomped out of you in the ring:

1) Look like you belong there. You don't have to be ripped or huge or look like a movie star, but you need to look like you belong. Get some ring gear, stuff you only wear in the ring and keep it in good repair. No holes, and clean it regularly (or at least use febreeze).

The imitable Dusty Wolf once said, and I paraphrase, no one is paying to watch two guys who look like they just walked in off the street roll around for ten minutes. And it's true. Even the guys who successfully pull off gimmicks like being a biker or a thug or whatever have some gear, boots, pads, whatever.

Gear is pretty cheap too. You can find a simple singlet for $25 on the internet, a set of mat shoes and kickpads will set you back another $50 or so. So for $75-100 you look like a pro.

Take care of it. That's your livelihood right there. Treat it like that. Treat it good and it will last. Sew up tears, clean it. And get Febreeze. Before and after you wear it, spray your gear down. If I step into the ring and I get a face full of rancid smelling tights, I'm going to make sure your neck feels it the next morning.

Saturday, July 18, 2009

20 Small Reviews... Harry Potter and the Half Blood Prince

20 Small is my wife and capable of putting things much more succinctly than I can.

I give you 20 Small's review of Harry Potter and the Half Blood Prince:

"WTF? Dumbledor kept coming on the Harry, they totally messed up the ending, the director kept asking you to make illogical jumps."

This has been 20 Small's review of Harry Potter and the Half Blood Prince.

Friday, July 17, 2009

Today's Article full of Win

http://carscoop.blogspot.com/2009/06/wacky-race-cartoon-cars-come-to-life-in.html

Looks more like Yogi Bear than Muttley in the Mean Machine, but the cars look awesome. Unlike Michael Bay's repurposing of a beloved cartoon , this didn't rape my childhood.