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Gaming: Child of Eden

Monday, June 27, 2011

We picked up Child of Eden yesterday, for the Xbox360, and It's definitely a great buy. If you liked the game Rez, this one is definitely for you, but I believe it's one everyone should try. We haven't played it on controller-mode yet, we've only played using kinect, and I have a feeling that this is how it needs to be played. It provides an immersive experience of an arcade-shooter like no other game out there.

The first thing I noticed when I heard about Child of Eden was the music and visuals. It was no less than beautiful, and one of the reasons we got it. This game shows why video games can be considered works of art. It plays to the beat of the music, and you will get a score multiplier for releasing a fully locked-on laser blast to the beat of the music. When you first start, you notice how fun it is to be directing all of the gameplay using your own two hands. Like a controlling the world kind of experience. I imagined I was a mage flinging fireballs instead of lasers. Seriously a blast of a game! On top of all this, Child of Eden is also challenging, and something that gets harder as the levels progress. I find this refreshing, as most games now have the problem of never getting harder as the levels play through, and it just gets boring. No sense of accomplishment is gained from beating a final boss that was as easy as the first.

As much as I like the game, though, it does have it's downsides, and I wouldn't feel right without telling you. It doesn't give much in the way of explanation. The first level, it tells you how to fire the two different weapons, and it tells you how to get and use the support items, and that's about it, aside from the backstory. If you read the manual, you'll figure out the rest, for the most part, any way. The next problem is more a problem with the kinect, than with the game, but on control scheme "A," where you just switch hands to fire the other weapon, it will sometimes act as if you switched hands, even if you haven't. This can be a problem, but if you go with the other control scheme, you just clap your hands at about chest level as if you were about to do some form of an oriental bow. This does make the problem occur less, but it's not as smooth of a transfer from one weapon to the other. The final gripe I have, and probably the one that matters the least, is that the opening scene is just way too long. I was asked if Child of Eden was "a game where you just stand around." But it's where all the backstory is, so I waited it out and got the information it provided, and played a game that is truly an amazing work of art; one for the gaming industry to hold as a flagship in the fight to let video games be recognized all around as a work of art.

Gaming: Beat Hazard

Thursday, June 23, 2011

Beat Hazard is an excellent reanimation of the standard "asteroids" style gameplay. It takes you in a ship blasting aliens and huge balls of junk with intense visuals and gameplay speeds that depend on your music. Want some slower-paced gaming? Pick a more mellow song. Want something that will keep you on edge, where you will forget to blink and barely remember to breathe? Throw some Dragonforce in the mix. It's got rankings, upgrades, single player and multiplayer (co-op or head to head!), great music for everyone (if you don't like the song you're listening to, why do you have it?), and multiple game modes. Their classic version is also included, however to get the online and boss rush modes, as well as a bunch of extra upgrades, you'll have to purchase the Beat Hazard Ultra addition. It's all fairly inexpensive, and as well available on the XBLA (save "Ultra"), and - get this - created by a one-man crew over at Cold Beam Games.

My opinion: Buy it. Buy it all. Have fun getting all the achievements!

Gaming and Nerdery: Rolling your first Dungeons and Dragons Character

There are a few different ways to make your first Dungeons and Dragons character that you have to choose from. The first, of course, would be with a pencil and paper. You could also use a character builder, like the one available from Wizards of the Coast or the freeware character builder "Redblade." The last option, is, of course, to have your DM roll you a character based on your loose specifications.

My favorite option for the first character would be with a pencil and paper, doing all the math and marking it down in appropriate places. This accomplishes multiple things here: you get to better learn the mechanics of the game, you get a better feel for who your character is, and you get a better feel of the game as a whole. However, this method does take more time, and if you don't have someone to explain the different elements of your character sheet, and your abilities, and what's the difference between a blast and a burst... Well, it can be confusing.

Using a character builder can be fun, and it can let you play around with different builds to see what happens. It's not as true to the game, I don't believe, but then, I am one of the types who believes in re-rolls only by DM rule. Using a character builder is quite fast when you put it side by side with rolling by hand, and you get a really nice character sheet with the abilities listed and everything, makes all of it so much easier to keep up with. If you've rolled one by hand and want to try it with a character builder, go for it. If you don't feel like writing everything down, use the builder but, and I can't stress this enough, pay attention to what numbers change what stats, what skills modify how many abilities you have, and the like.

If you're entirely helpless with rolling a character by hand, and just can't get the character builder to work for you, then you can go to your DM and ask for a hand. Everyone rolls a first character; S/He will be more than happy to help you, and explain everything along the way. If you want, and the DM agrees to, your Dungeon Master can make your character, then explain everything afterwards.

Any of these three methods will work, though I definitely suggest the first one, if it's not too overwhelming. Happy roleplaying!

Nerdery: Blogger Stats 2!

Tuesday, June 21, 2011

So a week has passed, and I've got a lot more views to work with. I had 52 last week, and today I have a total of 371 views. Out of these, there are 117 that aren't appearing in the stats under "Operating Systems" but are appearing both in the "Countries" and "Browsers" section. Maybe those are our Mac people? That's about 32% of my readership that's on an uncounted operating system.

Somehow I have more viewers from Argentina than from anywhere else in the world. Those of you from Argentina, feel free to leave a comment. I'd like to hear how you found me!

The USA is second with 155 views, and then a drastic drop from there to the UK, with 15 views.

The most popular browser is Firefox, for my readers, with the Apple feed reader in second and Chrome down from first to third in this, then we have Mobile Safari, then Safari, then Ubuntu (They have a browser called Ubuntu? I thought it was just the OS with that name) and in last place, and I'm slightly surprised it's being used, Internet Explorer with 2 views.

Those with IE, go download a better browser. Try Firefox or Chrome.

Gaming AND Nerdery: On Getting a Good Dungeons and Dragons Group.

I couldn't decide whether Dungeons and Dragons should go under Gaming or Nerdery... so it gets both.

I've moved quite a bit for someone who isn't from an active-military family. This makes things quite hard when trying to find a steady D&D group. There are websites like Meetup that can help with this, and it's a great help, especially when trying to find a group in an area you're brand new to. I moved out of North Carolina a couple years ago and my friends up here were my brother's friends; Not at all the type to enjoy the classic tabletop RPG. So I've been looking, and had something going for awhile, but due to life happening, had to back out of that group. In all the time spent looking for new groups, I have found a few things that help wonderfully. First, if you're new in an area, go to your local gaming supply store, or comic shop. Let the person behind the counter (or at a table, if they have gaming tables) know that you're new to the area, and ask if he knew anyone looking for players. This almost always helps, and is a good way to make friends in a new area. Another option is, as I said a moment ago, Meetup. Just search for a group for your area.

Something else I've found from playing D&D is that when you're starting a new campaign, create your characters all at once, together. This can solve many a problem. You wont end up with a group full of Strikers with nobody to heal or defend them (unless, of course, that's the point of what you're doing). You will then not be surprised when some characters make a move like trying to defenestrate the shopkeep for no reason than to do so. It will also develop a sense of having known each character for sometime and gives a richer D&D experience.

One last note: if there's a known "last session" that you're having, where it's the end of the group, or whatever: dress as your characters for that session. Speak and act in character as well. Especially if you don't normally do that. It'll create a great memory for everyone and is one hell of a lot of fun!

Gaming: Creator Commentary

Friday, June 17, 2011

For anyone who doesn't know, my dream is to create video games for a living. In this, I love hearing the ins and outs of game creation. After beating portal 2, I went back and replayed the first one, and then again with commentary on. Doing this, I learned a TON of things about game design, and the way you need to think as a game designer. It even shows how little you need in a game to manipulate someone in to doing what you want. Shape something a tad bit differently to draw attention to it. Put moving objects somewhere that you need a player to look. If they're associating something incorrectly, force them to use it in a different manner. I only wish we could get more developer commentary in games.

Nerdery: Evo 3D

Thursday, June 16, 2011

Is anyone else as excited about this phone as I am? I mean, yes, the 3d gimmick is going everywhere, but with this and Youtube3D, I cannot wait to see what some of these people come up with! You can shoot footage in 3D yourself, easily! The only downside is that I'm pretty sure the battery wont last too long in 3D mode. I'm not positive on this, as I haven't gotten my hands on one yet, but when I do, it will run it's share of my gauntlet. 3D games, 3D movies, 3D user created content, 3D Android interface, 3D apps... Remember looking at computers in some movies and going "Woah... I can't wait until we have that!"

It's here.

Gaming: Portal 2 Completed!

Wednesday, June 15, 2011

Portal 2 has been completed, with only two deaths! I loved the ending, and another great Jonothan Coulton song to accompany the credits. Almost made me tear up a bit.
Still to finish:
  • Fable 3
  • Borderlands (I know, I know, I'm slacking! I just never got around to finishing it.)
  • Infinite Undiscovery
  • Darksiders
  • Darkspore (Is there even an end?!)
  • Too Human
So what's next? I also have Alice: Return to Madness on reserve, waiting for me at my local Gamestop, and I'm considering Duke Nukem, but I've heard terrible, terrible things.
Any suggestions?

Nerdery: Blogger Stats

What kind of a geek would I be if statistics didn't interest me? Not a good one, I'm sure. So using blogger, I have a stats tool that tells me where my readers are from, and what browsers they are using. As it's still early on in my blog's oh-so-new introduction to the glorious internet, I don't have much yet, but I'll be logging my blog stats as we go. Once a week, maybe, sounds good.

54% of my readers in the USA. It's interesting to me, because I would think it would be a higher percentage.
19% in Denmark. Another odd one, it's not a place I think about often, but it seems that it's the next highest percentage of my readers. I would think that the UK would be higher, but it's only at 6 percent of my readership.

Another thing that gets me here, 100% of my readers use Windows, so far anyway. I always though the blogging crowd would have been you mac people out there.

Let's see what we get next week!

Gaming: Rift - Invasions

If you haven't heard about, seen, played, or signed up for rift, you should definitely give it a chance. I have been playing for a bit over two months, and it is definitely a noteworthy game. Today, though, I'm going to specifically talk about one aspect of rift: the invasions. Invasions are a zone-wide and sometimes world-wide event where the other planes of existence are colliding with Telara, and you get tons of rifts to destroy, bosses to kill, and smaller groups of sometimes-elite creatures trying to invade and take over strategic points, or points of interest. This accomplishes a couple things, first:

Players actually feel like they are saving the world. There are people all over Telara who need your help, and will send you on quests for said help, but the non-player characters are fighting back the invasions as well. This means that your questing is at a standstill until you can beat back the evil that lurks withing the zone. It changes the landscape, as well. The sky gets darker, the ground changes to burning molten rock, or huge plant growths, or whatever the rift may consist of. These are changes that are very noticeable, and there's a sense of satisfaction when you finally stomped out that water rift, and the foot of water you were standing in evaporates.

The second thing these accomplish, is the "MM" part of "MMO." The largest invasions can take over a hundred players to take it on, and you get the feeling that you're just a part of something big. Taking out the invasion with so many people that you can't count them, I tell you it is an experience I enjoy. For many players, joining an MMO can be daunting; It is similar to going to a new school. You don't know anyone, and you don't know how to make friends. If only there were alien invasions during school to help us meet other people, right?

Now there is a downside to this. If you're on a break at work, or between classes in college, and you want to get a few minutes of game in, well, usually you're good, but sometimes there's that invasion, and you just can't complete that quest you were itching to finish. To me, however, that's something that I can live with, because it provides players with a base to get together and do something for the good of the world they find themselves in.

Gaming: Afterglow Controllers

Tuesday, June 14, 2011

I recently got one of PDP's Afterglow controllers for my Xbox 360. I love it. It has it's drawbacks though, and I think I should mention these first.

For the 360, all of their controllers are wired. It's not something I currently miss; I sit pretty close to the television and console anyway, but it's something many, many people would miss. Also, the bottom of the controller only has the pin connection, not the two long connections on either side. This means my headset doesn't work on it. The problem here is that now, when playing Fable 3 with my girlfriend over live, if we are to chat, then we need to call each other. As you can imagine, craning your neck to hold the phone while playing is not comfortable, at all. And my last gripe is that the lights on it have three settings: full blast, off, or flashing on vibrate off to full blast. I wish there were a dimmer option, or that the flashing was dim to full flashing.

Now on to the better side of things! It is precise. I cannot stress this enough, it its sensitive and precise like no stock controller ever will be. In that, it is perfection, and this should be what a controller is about. My other love for this controller is the feel. The buttons press better. Think about the first Guitar Hero controller you used. Now think about when you switched to the Rock Band guitar. Yeah, the clicking is better, isn't it? These buttons offer a great resistance that actually feels like pressing a button, performing an action. Much more satisfying than the stock controllers, who's buttons go "smoosh" in comparison.

I really, really wish it worked with my headset, though.

Nerdery: Autofill

This may be an odd subject, but I have often wondered; Autofill will complete titles of some things for you, but where one title might give you suggestion list "x," another will give you suggestion list "y." Now here's my question: What determines which list it pulls up? The world may never know. As an example, for this post, the title section gave some options from the Meetup site that I use, however, when I would create a topic for, say, a Tumblr post, I would get suggestions for, not just previous Tumblr posts, but also from posts on one of the forums that I frequent. Anyone who has met me knows I'm a bit of a lazy ass, and can't be bothered to look anything up unless I'm really bored, or trying to win an argument, so I'm just gonna guess that its because some websites use the same cookie-cutter posting tools as other sites. Maybe I should ask a web designer.