Friday, May 30, 2008

Next-Gen Prince of Persia

Almost everything is always Next-Gen at some point in time; the one we're talking about now is the PS3 / XBox360 generation. And Prince of Persia is coming to that generation.

As I reported earlier, the new Prince of Persia will hopefully come out at the end of this year. The visual styles shown in the screenshots in Gamestop's report seem to indicate a new visual style, more gritty than the first Prince of Persia: Sands of Time's dream-like environs. Our new Prince isn't really even a prince either, or at least not at first. Returning is a mysterious female companion, and hopefully the humorous ever hot-and-cold relationship between prince and compatriot return.

I very much enjoyed the feel and story of Sands of Time, although the next two darker installments weren't much to my liking. I feel Prince of Persia, while an action game, should have a lighter, swashbuckling feel, more similar to the first Pirates of the Carribean movie. As long as they keep the emotion and visual design as light as the aerobatic combat, this should be a fun game.

The Conduit

Alerted by alert reader Alert Greg, The Conduit promises to be the blockbuster shooter title hardcore Wii owners have been looking for. Details at IGN, including screenshots, make the game look like an extremely promising title. The control scheme of the Wii seems like a perfect platform for an action shooter, but outside of Metroid Prime 3 -- really light on the shooter elements -- no one has done it.

I have my reservations, after noting the game is being developed by High Voltage Software, who seem to have worked mostly on lame TV show video games and ports. But I'd love to be proved wrong.

Edit: I watched the trailer. This game looks incredible. If they can really deliver this, I'm gonna be all over it.

Tecmo Bowl: Kickoff

Now I don't know about you, but I spent many a sunny day of my youth inside playing Tecmo Bowl. It was a fantastic action sports game, with no pretense of anything approching simulation. You ran a guy down the field and over your opponents, so much fun.

Tecmo will release a new version, labelled Tecmo Bowl: Kickoff later this year for the DS as well as a version in 2009 for the Wii. The DS version, while unlicensed by the NFL, will have 32 teams and campaign season in a fictional football league similar to that organization. Personally I find this a better fit. Additionally, it seems that editing tools allow you to hand-create teams if you'd really like the New York Giants or somesuch nonsense.

Gameplay seems very promising on the DS, where it may allow you to run the crazy downfield routes of your dream with stylus-driven "best control" style. You could also shake off would-be tacklers by going wild with the stylus on the screan. Meld all that with old-school Tecmo Bowl simplicty, and you've got yourself a winning combination!

Not only will the game support local wireless connections but multiplay will also be available online using Nintendo WiFi. Beat up strangers while you're at the Starbucks having a chai mocha double whipped half-soy caffe mocha!

Expect Tecmo Bowl: Kickoff this fall.

Wednesday, May 28, 2008

Jack Thompson Guilty of Misconduct

I don't elate in this unfortunate man's poor choices, but Jack Thompson has been found guilty of trial misconduct by the Florida Bar Association. Among other things, Thompson made false statements and engaged in activity solely to embarress or delay third parties during proceedings related to Rock Star games Grand Theft Auto and Bully. It is unclear what punishment Thompson faces, although becoming censured or disbarred by the Florida Bar are likely outcomes, probably marking the end of his career.

It was Thompson's life work to prevent violent games from ending up in the hands of children. Although he went about it entirely the wrong way, I have to support the ends if certainly not the means. Gamers have a vested interest to keep the adult portions of our entertainment out of the hands of kids, if not solely for the reason of being responsible parents and older siblings -- if we don't, these people will litigate us, gamers, developers, and publishers, out of existence.

Mass Effect for PC Released

The PC version of Mass Effect released today. From what I've read, the improvements to the PC conversion are subtle but impressive, and prove to be a superior version to the one available on the 360. I hope to get my hands on it soon, and will have some likely violent and adult screen shots to peruse.

Tuesday, May 27, 2008

Returning Armada

The Vasari faction in Sins of a Solar Empire can research an ability called Returning Armada. This grants a new ability to the Phase Stabilizier tactical structure -- a sort of artificial phase lane jump gate that can link your systems. The new ability is also called Returning Armada, and it will summon five to eight frigates of various types every five minutes.

It doesn't seem like a lot, and it's a serious chore to research. The Phase Stabilizer isn't cheap, either. But the ships quickly gets ridiculous. If you have five planets each summoning the Returning Armada, you get new ships every minute. Double that, it's every thirty seconds, without cost to you.

I'm currently running a game as the Vasari. I'm playing against three random mediums, in 2v2 mode. I rushed straight for Returning Armada, and didn't do a thing to help my teammate, who actually turned on me! I wiped him off the map for his insolence. I then easily defeated one other opponent with my free ships, and now I'm simultaneously destroying a pirate base and the remaining opponent as well.

The bad thing about the Returning Armada is that you only get certain kinds of ships. There are no planetary bombadiers, so you're forced to scuttle some of the endless waves of light carriers or heavy cruisers that come your way. It's also a way to jump-start your economy, since by scuttling you gain additional resources that are reclaimed.

Returning Armada is a powerful ability but one difficult to pull off, especially in a free-for-all game -- or where your backstabbing teammate turns on you.

Thursday, May 22, 2008

150cc's of Frustration

I've tried the 150cc Grand Prix on Mario Kart several times now, and it always ends in me throwing my Classic Controller, more often than not rebounding on the cable attached to the Wii Remote that I'm sitting on, returning careening into my balls. Ouch.

Seriously, 150cc is hard and not fun. The CPUs always gun for you, and the number of items flying is silly. I was hit, not a dozen yards from the finish line on the new Mario Circuit, by a red shell, blue shell, POW block, and lightning bolt. Luckily I was so far ahead I finished first, but that's not always the case.

On the other hand, playing online is still a lot of fun. I played maybe a half-dozen matches and never finished lower than 4th place. I even got second on Rainbow Road! Human players can make the same mistakes I do, and aren't all gunning for me. Unfortunately the only way I know how to unlock all the characters is to do the Grand Prix competitions. Maybe I can get Greg to do them for me.

Wednesday, May 21, 2008

It's Like Half of Crysis

I was looking forward to Haze. It promised to be a thoughtful shooter with great set piece battles and an interesting story. Well, it has half of that.

The recent review from Gamespot indicates Haze has great action, but intensely painful story-telling and poor AI. The great thing about Crysis was a passable story, characters that didn't get in the way of action, and superbly intelligent enemies. So, Haze got it half right.

Online Multiplay System for Stardock Games

This may be old news to some, but coinciding with the information regarding Demigod, there was what appears to be a developer announcement regarding the possibility of a ladder/account system for online multiplay with various Stardock titles, including Sins of a Solar Empire and Demigod. I envision this to be a lot like the Company of Heroes system, that tracks your stats, wins and losses, etc. If so, this will be a welcome improvement on the game. I'd love to do some matches online.

Ganondorf Beatdown Away From Home

Last night the wife, son, and I went to see Greg and fiance to hang out and play a little Wii. We ended up playing some Super Smash Brothers Brawl, as my son just thinks Greg is probably the coolest guy ever and forever wants to play games with him, specifically Brawl.

We played a few matches, and just had everything go on random, courses and characters. I end up with Snake, the kid gets Ganondorf, and for the life of me I can't remember what Greg got. It doesn't matter. Alex just wipes the floor with us.

Now, I am not one who subscribes to the button mashing theory of Brawl. The theory states -- and I'm paraphrasing -- STUPID GAME how-can-you-just-mash-buttons-to-win BULL****!! I think a skilled player can always work around someone just mashing buttons without rhyme or reason, and exploit weaknesses and poor timing.

I don't think this rule applies to my son, or somehow he shows moments of brilliance in this game.

He just wrecked us. I mean there were times when he did Ganondorf specials or smashes and actually had all three other players -- two humans and one CPU -- flying through the air as a result. It was a massacre. In the end I think I had one KO, and he had four. It wasn't pretty.

I really need to ge tthat replay.

Tuesday, May 20, 2008

Sins of a Solar Empire Achievements

I've been playing some more Solar Empire and just plain loving it. I've been checking out the Vasari, they're a ton of fun. Although everything is pretty advanced, their units just feel high tech and alien, as they should. The research trees are very different. It's a different style than TEC.

I built my own little map. I much prefer hand-built maps to the ones in the game. I always feel like the phase lanes are way to long, and I spend too much time jumping ships around. I love to have things up close and personal. The stock maps also have way too much empty space. I don't think there's much compelling about space jump, gas giants, or asteroid belts you can't colonize. So I typically configure my space to contain solely colonizable worlds.

The most fun I've had with Solar Empire relates to achievements. Within the game, there are all sorts of little mini-quests it seems, by trying to do some basic or outlandish tasks. One achievement is to simply build a custom map and preview it. Another goes so far as to require the player to win the game without building any capital ships. Or vice-versa, only build capital ships! The achievements make you think about different ways of playing the game, and how taking one element out, such as never building planetary defenses, changes the game in a big way.

Monday, May 19, 2008

Red Alert 3 Gameplay Preview

Gamespot released an article detailing the upcoming Red Alert 3, built on the impressive C&C engine. I'm very much looking forward to the wild and out there units, the outrageous accents, and a "secret" new faction that can only be Japan, and that is going to be even more insane. Rumored to release later this year -- and in beta this summer, to which I have a ticket -- Red Alert 3 promises to be a fan favorite and a blast at LAN parties.

Tearing Up All-Star Mode With Peach

Been playing through some more Super Smash Brothers Brawl. I finally completed each of the Target Smash timed challenges. My replay of Sonic beating Level 3 Target Smash in 17.8 seconds is stellar.

But the real fun has been All-Star Mode. I just love all the fights that make up this mode. It plays so differently with each character you take through there. I had a lot of fun with Peach, she's a great fighter.

Peach taking on Mario and crew in Luigi's Mansion.
She ain't afraid of no ghosts!
A funny pose after cracking some Legend of Zelda character heads on the Pirate Ship.
I'm princess of the world!
Apparently it's Movie Reference Monday or something...

Penny Arcade Adventures

The initial Penny Arcade game launches tomorrow, entitled On The Rainslick Precipice of Darkness. An action-adventure game with turn-based combat and RPG elements, the film-noir setting and trademark PA humor give the game a unique feel. Some reviews have presented the game poorly, although a recent PC Gamer review gives the game an 80/100. The game is available on PC through the new Greenhouse digital distribution site and through XBox Live Arcade. I may have to check it out, if only to laugh out loud at the undoubtedly obscene dialog.

Friday, May 16, 2008

Mass Effect for PC -- Improvements

Gamespot reports the upcoming PC version of Mass Effect will come with many control-related improvements, as I predicted. The inventory system is revamped to allow for sorts and groupings, the Mako scout craft will have tightened control, and the tested mouse-and-keyboard setup allows for greater flexibility when controlling your characters.

Additional PC goodness includes the initial downloadable content free with the PC Mass Effect that XBox users had to pay for. Additionally, improved hardware on the PC means faster load times and likely better graphics for those with modern graphics cards.

I'm very much looking forward to the PC release of Mass Effect, available May 27th.

Thursday, May 15, 2008

Target Smash Events Cleared

I cleared out each Target Smash event on each level of difficulty from 1 through 5. I only have each of the timed challenges from level 1 and 2, but I'm attempting on those. The level 5 might be pretty tough, need to have it completed in under 30 seconds. Whew!

Good Old Tower Defense

I don't know what's happening here, but I know love it.

The map is Elemental Tower Defense, based on Warcraft III. Tower Defense is, of course, a great game type, fun at LAN parties and solo alike. I had to boot up a little bit this evening for some mindless fun. The classics never stop being fun.

Tuesday, May 13, 2008

Canthan Elite Skill Hunter

Finished the Canthan set of elites this evening.

Only Elona to go, but it's going to be the greatest hunt yet. Nearly 90 elites to capture! But I'm moving along on Kind of a Big Deal.

Elite Skill Captures

Well it wasn't very long before I started down the road of additional max titles in Guild Wars. Since I got Kind of A Big Deal I wanted to try to advance some more, and so I've continued with the Skill Hunter titles. Capturing elite skills is really a reward in and of itself, allowing greater capability through a wide choice of abilities. It's a little bit expensive at 1 plat per Signet of Capture, but I think it's worth it.

EA On and Off Strict DRM

Reports came in last week that EA planned to include strong Digital Rights Management controls within the upcoming PC releases Spore and Mass Effect. The controls required the game to contact a central service for validation every ten days, making it impossible to play the games on systems without reliable Internet connections.

Following public outcry, EA has since retracted their statements, saying that a one-time authentication would be sufficient. Of course, you still have to use the CD to play the game, bringing to bear the specter of copy protection. I suppose it's better than behind-the-scenes spying.

Games publishers just can't seem to get it right. Statements made by Crytek, makers of beloved Crysis, say they will likely abandon PC exclusivity to develop future games on consoles as well, because of piracy concerns. I don't buy that excuse. More likely they understand that by putting games out on more platforms equals more sales which equals more dollars.

Two great examples of reasonable copy protections are present in two of my favorite PC games: Sins of a Solar Empire and Company of Heroes. Solar Empire simply doesn't have any copy protections. You just put your serial in when the software installs. You don't need the CD to play. You do, however, have to register your serial number if you wish to have support, including game updates.

Similarly for Company of Heroes, you must register your key, but you do so online. Whenever you launch the game, similar to a MMO like Guild Wars or WoW, you just auth to the service with account credentials and then you're free to play your game, also without CD. When you auth, you're also "online" and available for messages from your friends. Because you the communications to home base are understood as the multi-player component of the game, the publisher is very upfront about what central authentication is. Of course, you can skip all that and just play off the CD, and the CD is available as a secondary authentication method when you cannot connect to the Internet.

EA would do well to take a page out of Stardock or THQ's book in understanding how to treat customers. I understand piracy is a real concern, and all the people who work hard on these games deserve our support and our money for making great games, but punishing legitimate customers because of the bad behavior of pirates is a poor business decision.

Monday, May 12, 2008

WiiWare Available in North America

The WiiWare component of Nintendo's network services launched today in the Americas. Six games launched at the outset, including the very exciting Defend Your Castle. I'm looking forward to Strong Bad's Cool Game For Attractive People, as well as the Doctor Mario online game. Check WiiWare out on your Wii today.

Battle Rage

An interesting if slightly derivative game, Battle Rage is at its heart a shooter, just with giant configurable robots. Anyone who knows me knows I love giant robot games, having had a great deal of fun with the Mechwarrior series through the years. Battle Rage is coming for PC, and it will also release on Wii as announced recently, which happen to be my two favorite platforms. I will probably check this one out as it nears release.

Sunday, May 11, 2008

Greg's Bachelor Party Gaming Fun

We played a crazy gaming session yesterday. It was the day of Greg's bachelor party, and we spent much of the day at Splatterpark doing paintball. It was an experience, and a lot of fun. My first paintball shot ever tagged Greg right in the shoulder. He maintains it was the hardest hit of all day, and I believe it. He's quick and hard to hit when you aren't lining up Civil War style.

We played several game types, including Capture the Flag, Downed Pilot, and more. Mike's moment of glory came on the Alamo where after patiently sneaking down one side made a dash to the flag and captured victory for his team. I had several great shots, including the killing blow to the pilot's (Kyle) lens on Downed Pilot and another lens shot to Victor's face in our final Ironman bash. Had a great time and we definitely plan to go back.

Afterwards we indulged in pizza and beer and played some Mario Kart and Super Smash Brothers Brawl. Both games are just made for big groups in mind, and it was a lot of fun to play with everyone, even on my stupid small TV. I guess to me it's a lot more important to have a group of friends to play with on a tiny TV than play all alone on a huge TV. Pretty easy choice there.

But it was a great day of gaming, got to meet lots of new people, and it was a proper celebration of Greg's last few days of bachelorhood. Let's hope the gaming experiences don't change too much when he's a married man!

Friday, May 9, 2008

Classic Mode Challenges Complete

Last night I managed to finish Classic mode on Super Smash Brother Brawl with all characters. The challenges are tricky, because you don't just have to finish the mode with each character displayed on the character screen; you also have to complete it with their alter egos. This is the case for Samus with and without suit, Zelda and Shiek, and each of the Pokemon Trainer's trio. But I finished them all off, with a couple challenge unlocks as a result.

I have very few challenges left to obtain, maybe 10 remaining. There are still some that may be above me; I hope I have sufficient Golden Hammers!

Wednesday, May 7, 2008

Half-Life 2 Episode 2 Over and Done

I finished HL2 Ep2. Wow it was good. Right up to the end it was a blowout romp of a game. The final battle was one unlike I'd ever seen in a game, and the plot ending was a final, real payoff. I'm looking forward to the next installment, although who knows when that will be?

Tuesday, May 6, 2008

Looking Haze-y

Haze has been a long time in coming. Originally slated to release for each PC, 360, and PS3, the game will now only be releasing on the latter system.

The game, although at its core a conventional shooter, has some really interesting gameplay elements. Although not nearly as compelling as a soldier in a super-suit as in Crysis, a drug called Nectar -- which provides the game its name as in a drug-induced Haze -- powers up mercenary troops into fighting machines. Some additional refinements to the FPS genre appear, as creative uses of thrown knives, the ability to melee and steal enemy weapons, as well as a very novel feign death ability, all seem to provide neat twists on a solid formula.

The team behind Haze, Free Radical, have done some great games in the past such as Perfect Dark and Timesplitters. So Haze seems to have a good pedigree. Too bad that Haze won't come to PC, but the PC isn't hurting for good shooters. Haze releases May 20th.

Continuation of HL2 Episode 2

Since picking up Episode 2 again, I just get a better and better feeling about this installment. Returned are the amazing set-piece physics puzzles, the massive battles, and the exciting vehicle sequences. There have been just some crazy events with DOG and mean Combine baddies, too. Episode 2 has been much more fun than the first expansion, and too bad that I'm coming near the end!

Sunday, May 4, 2008

I Don't Know How to Put This...

But I'm Kind of A Big Deal.

Also, my Hall of Monuments changed, as I'd read from some other sources. The before shot:

And after.

The shadowy figure emerges! Who knows if I'll care to follow up with People Know Me, or some others. That's a long way to go! But if so, I may snag Mike that Phoenix...

Sweet sweet success

After an hour long battle through Hell's Precipice, our party that used one monk and one healer (both heroes) was rewarded with talismans tradeable for Deldrimor items. I, planning ahead, also had materials to make an extra item. I snagged the Deldrimor Javelin with the talisman and crafted a Deldrimor Shield. Now for a sword.

Thursday, May 1, 2008

Your Mii in Mario Kart

With only limited time to play the game, I've finally managed to unlock the ability to play as your Mii within Mario Kart. My son just absolutely loved it, and I get a big kick out of it as well. It essentially gives you the ability to play with an unlimited amount of characters within the game. It's especially fun online where you have people that may pick several characters at the same time, so you can avoid having four Yoshis or something on the same map.

Mario Kart continues to be a lot of fun, and should be even more fun as my friend list grows. Just got codes from Mike and Laura, as well as Greg, so we should get some games with friends going soon!