Sunday, October 10, 2010

Sonic the Hedgehog

He's back :o

Despite being in the minority, I stay true to my roots. No, this isn't referring to my home town, my morals, my parents or my ethnicity. I'm talking about staying true to my roots in gaming. It's sometimes hard to find someone like me in this sense. Everyone always talks about these classic NES games, and sure I know about them, but certainly not as deeply as others do. That's because I am one with Team Sonic.

Playing games since before I was 3,  my first game wasn't a Sonic or Mario title. I played Sega Master System games and the like- but when games really came into my life is with the release of the Sega Genesis. This was the first system I got that came out after my birth. Back then it didn't really mean anything special, but I didn't need any significance to fall in love with the system. That bit can be attributed directly to Sega's blue spiked mascot Sonic.

The game that started my journey

I can remember playing Sonic the Hedgehog for the first time at my very young age. I didn't quite understand how the game worked. Act 2 of the Green Hill Zone had me stumped. I would run forward across the bridge only to die. I'm pretty sure it took me a day to realize that Sonic needed to have a ring in hand in order for him to survive a hit while not in a ball. Dumb sure, but I was 3 at the time. I doubt I beat the game back then, but I loved to play it. And when Sonic 2, 3, and Knuckles came out, it was the most amazing experience.

Cooperative games have recently come back into play, but I have in possession three or four cooperative games on the Sega Master System in my home right now. I had always said that a coop game would make a killing in today's market. It seems someone has finally heard my voice looking at some of the biggest hits from this generation of consoles. Anyways, not to get off course- I played these games all the time with my sister; so when Sonic 2 came out and you could control tails with the second controller, this was a blessing. Tails always fell behind only to have to re-spawn from above. Maybe I abused the little guy too much. Regardless, being able to have my sister jump in and participate (though minimally) was great fun. If something was too hard for me back then, she could get all the hits needed as I paced around safely avoiding the obstacles. It was even more useful beyond Sonic 3. Who needed to be able to play perfectly to get to the higher, more rewarding paths? "Sis, can you fly me up to that golden ring?" Don't get me wrong- I loved the challenge of the game and I was more then good enough to do it myself, but as I mentioned before, having the extra interaction of a friend elevated the joy as I could share it with someone.

Fast forward through the years that later followed. The dreaded "Sonic Cycle" brought us game after game of Sonic that just didn't quite meet the standards it deserved. I've played just about every single one of them and I have enjoyed them too (with the exception maybe of Sonic 2006). I'm starting to feel that it is safe to say that the cycle has been broken. Sonic 4 comes out on the 12th of October, and based on the first impressions of the media, it will not disappoint. The Sonic Cycle as we know it may be over, but considering this first episode in the Sonic 4 series is more of a remake of the original classic levels, we may be in a new cycle. Regardless, I am extremely excited to run through this game several times. It looks just as fun as the originals have been. As a side note, I make it a habit to play through Sonic 1, 2, and 3&K at least once a year. A couple years ago, I played through all of them emulated on my PSP. This year I played them at work emulated on the computers there. There have been many cases where I played them on my old Genesis too (with my sister no less!).

Sonic is wonderfully emulated on the PSP

I enjoy Mario games too, and I must admit- Sonic games are somewhat "HOLD RIGHT TO WIN." But I love the character, I love the game, it's fast pace, it's platforming challenge, and it's visual splendors of Sonic racing through some of the most bizarre environments. I am a Sonic fan to the core, and the good news surrounding this new classic inspired installment has once again brought the nostalgia goggles over my eyes.

Tuesday, October 5, 2010

Getting the Run of Things

Video games take a backseat to what is needed to continue playing
When I was in lower level education, I would go to school, do all the work that needed to be done while at the same time pondering the latest games I would play. Of course I was younger, and as such simply thinking about the game (imagining what I could do, what I need to do, where I can improve) was enough to make my saliva flow. As soon as school was over, I didn't wait around packing up or go talk to friends- no, I grabbed my prepacked bag and ran right out the front to my awaiting mother who would then take me home. From that point on, I would get as much game time as I could squeeze out of the time before school the next day and what my parents would allow. When I wasn't playing games or doing my homework, I would be reading the latest issues of Gamepro, EGM, and PSM. I wanted to know everything there was to know about the games I was playing and the games to come. I knew every game that was on the horizon and I knew which ones I absolutely needed to have. Doing well in school allowed me to focus on my games too, though it might not make the most sense. Through my years in school, I was driven to get good grades (mostly A's, a couple rare B's). I knew I had to do well for other reasons, but one of my biggest concerns was getting everything out of the way so I would have more time to play, so that's precisely what I did.

Get school taken care of, play games freely

When I moved on to a higher level of education (university), gone were the days of fantasizing about games all day. Instead, I spent most of my classes looking online at game sites. No, this did not help me to do well- in fact, it caused me to struggle a bit more than I would have liked at times. However, boy did I plan my classes well, because I had more time than I ever had before to play video games. I frequently had classes only a couple times a week, and even those days weren't so long before I could race drive carefully home to play even more. By this stage I had turned much more heavily to computer games. With my transition into the world of online gaming, socialization in larger groups became the common. Where as before I would have a couple of friends over to play N64 and Playstation 2 games with me after school, now I was playing Counter Strike: Source and Battlefield 2 with some of my closest friends through the early hours of the morning. Yeah I had homework to do when I wasn't in class, but I got away with what I could in that regard.

Oh how I miss my late night CS:S scrims

Graduation was a bittersweet moment as I now look back upon it. I didn't even attend my graduation ceremony. My thinking was that I would rather be playing games instead of wasting my time hearing names (eventually mine) getting called. Okay so that's not entirely true. I had expected the ceremony to suck (and I'm pretty certain it did) so I didn't bother attending. But I probably did end up playing games in that time come to think of it. With 16+ years of schooling behind me, I felt it was time for a break.... aaaannnddd that's what I did. For a year of my life, I sat around all day (what I considered the day at least) playing video games, watching an occasional movie or TV show, and socializing). I would go to bed between 3 and 6am, and wake up later that day between 1 and 3pm. For that year, I almost never ate breakfast- instead I ate lunch when I woke up, dinner a couple hours later, and I had another (crappy) late meal around 1am. This consisted of Top Ramen, Cup Noodle, bowls of chili, microwavable chicken sandwiches, and chips. Man on man was my salt intake high that year (but no msg!). This year was amazing- I did practically nothing productive, I destroyed my eyes staring at a monitor and my ears having headphones on all day, I lost touch with all of my friends "irl," and I hardly ate, but when I did ohhh how amazing the most simple of foods tasted.

Fast and filling - 2 of the clauses for late night snacks

Buuuuuut it was time to become a "responsible adult." Unfortunately for me this happened rather recently. I was always working the weekend at the same part time job I had during my stay in college. Now though, a 9-6 job has been tacked on Monday to Friday. My routine has become quite mundane. Wake up earlier than I have in ages, go to work forever, come home, and sit at my computer doing nothing or in front of the television. Gone are my long hours of gaming (and I fear a lot of my talent as well). I'm not sure what it is, but I just don't have the drive to play games anymore. I'm constantly looking at the clock as it gets closer to my new bed time between midnight and 1. I'll occasionally figure out that I should be doing something instead of sitting around- and when that happens I watch one of the weekly shows I've downloaded and need to keep up with.
More like 9 - 6 with a 1hr lunch break :|

My honest to goodness hope is that I can fix this with time. From doing absolutely nothing to working 7 days a week is quite a turn around. My body isn't so tired, but I believe my mind is. I never have a break anymore, and to be honest with myself- it will be quite a while before I do. So it's time for me to buckle down and get used to what I've been dealt; learn to play this new hand. In the coming weeks, work needs to take a backseat in my life. Though it will still happen daily, going to work will become commonplace routine such that I can focus on what's important in life- video games.

Saturday, October 2, 2010

GW2 Updates

The progression of Guild Wars 2 is quite astounding. Going from nothing more than rumors that it was happening to a still image stylized story synopsis; then nothing for a while but some class information, and suddenly in Germany- a huge game play reveal!

When the game was shown, people were blown away. Arenanet kept their lips tight about almost every aspect of the game, and here they were showing the actual game, barely filtered and ready for analysis. People began to notice things that were never said or seen before. No auto attacking was present in the game like in the first- every attack corresponded to a skill on the player's skill bar. This means the removal of the standard, weak auto attack- which for most came in the form of a colored ball flying towards the enemy. Instead, players will be able to right click a skill to set it to auto attack instead. Although it may seem similar, such a feature is a bit of an advancement from the previous title. It was also revealed just how much more player interaction will affect the combat this time around. Spells were shown being cast while the player runs around. In the original Guild Wars, players had to stand still to cast most spells. Should they move while the progress bar was charging, the skill would be canceled. Changed for good reason, this new facet goes hand in with a player's ability to jump, roll out of the way, and in general move around more while in battle. No longer are players limited to standing around spamming attack/buff skills to defeat an enemy. What this gives is more chance for a player to interact with the game. Finally, Guild Wars will allow players to distinguish themselves through their skill as a video game player.

The scale of battles in GW2 has gone epic

Not much has flowed out since that live demo until now. Katy Kristen Perry recently wrote up a post chronicling and explaining the new system for dying armor in GW2. No longer will there be dye mixing :'( which players have mostly enjoyed. Instead of having the base colors as drops that are available for mixing, colors will now be premixed for unlocking. Turquoise will be a new color rather than having to mix a blue and a green dye. There were 254 colors available at the last game play demo, but Kristen hopes to expand that number some more before release. So how am I supposed to carry 254 colors around with me for future armor sets? I'm not- as I mentioned before, colors will now be unlocked instead of found. What this means for players is that they now have an extra 10 slots available in their item storage. Color unlocks will most likely be a reward for different parts of the game and could also be randomly discovered. A set of colors will be unlocked for players at the start of the game determined by what town the player comes from and what race they are. Colors can now be applied to 3-4 sections of the armor giving each piece a unique quality to that player. Finally, armors will no longer start out a dreary gray; instead, they will be the color the materials would naturally be providing an acceptable look right off the armor smith (or drop).

Leather now looks like leather, metal like metal, and cloth like cloth! Goodbye gray.

Even more recently, another post has gone out outlining the loot of Guild Wars 2. If you know what it was like in the first game, you won't be lost in the second. The monster drops are assigned to players who participated in the battle, and at the end of dungeons each player gets an item (or several even) from the chest. Something interesting and new, however, is the fact that each dungeon will have a unique set of armor that players can earn. Unless this game is tiny compared to the first, that means quite a lot of variations on armor.  The article's author, John Hargrove, makes note that the armor will reflect what the player experienced in that particular dungeon. To allow players to stay truly unique, a transmutation system has been implemented so that players can take their favorite looking armor along with the armor that has the best stats and combine them into their most astonishing piece.

The demo and these updates really convey to a Guild Wars player that the team at Arenanet have been listening to players and, as with the first game, are continuing to try to keep this MMORPG different (and better) than others. I was never much for mixing. If I wanted a dark blue, it always was painful to mix a blue dye with a black one (last worth 8k). And yes, it was quite a burden on my storage chest to collect colors.

Thursday, September 30, 2010

Figures the Update Would Come Now (TF2)

So I write about how much the team at Valve is lagging on the promised update for TF2. They must read my blog because they finally released it- and it's huge. The trading system is in, the Polycount items are added and there's even more. A bunch of new items have been added allowing for weapon and item customization. One item allows weapons to be renamed, paint can be found to recolor some hats, and there are random gift boxes you can open to share the wealth with people on your server. If you submit a hat and Valve accepts it, it will be added to the game- but now, if someone purchases the hat you made (yes, you can now pay for items with your hard earned real people money), you get that money right on your Steam wallet.

I find the update quite impressive with all that they have done. With all the new items and abilities that go along with them, the team may have their hands full balancing the game play yet again. It's starting to become like an MMORPG when it comes to tweaking skills and nerfing others. Lest we forget about one class yet untouched.

One thing that has got me bugged about the update is the item set combination. If you get and equip all the new items for one class, a bonus stat is given. For the sniper, all the items makes it so that you cannot die by a headshot... This means that I can no longer use my ability to aim (isn't that the point of the game?) to my advantage taking out snipers who are nubs that rely on a charged body shot. oh well, I've got other things to do anyways ;(

Tuesday, September 28, 2010

F1 2010

From the people who brought us GRID comes the next use of the Formula 1 license, and it appears that Codemasters will be making strides with the license this time around. F1 2010 certainly follows the Formula 1 season well. When you start the game, you choose some difficulty settings based on simple questions and then you're offered a list of teams that will sign you for the season. The easier the difficulty, the larger the selection of teams. Red Bull, McLaren, and Ferrari are not selectable from the get go regardless though. Once you hop on a team, choose the race length and difficulty, you're pretty much thrown into the game. In a short weekend race, there's practice, qualifying, and the actual race.

And that's pretty much it. This is no Gran Turismo with painful license tests. Race strategy and driving skills are not taught.  This makes for a steep learning curve that many will not take kindly to. Give the game some time though and you'll be racing around corners at the limit having a blast.

The game is not without flaws however.

I just crashed perpendicular into a wall at 150MPH. My front wing broke a little. I reversed and was on my way =\

Why couldn't crashes be more like this?

Sunday, September 26, 2010

TF2 Polycount Pack

TF2 players have been on a dry spell since the release of the engineer update. With a slew of promises including a claim to new maps, modes, and items, it's becoming tiresome waiting and hoping. For the past month, a dozen updates have hit players, but not the type many would be interested in. These most recent updates have been engine based, and many seem to have been sparked by the recent transition of Counter Strike: Source to the Orange Box engine.

The anniversary of the game has recently come to pass with no real celebration. Players are beginning to wonder if they'll ever get that new spy knife, sniper's dart gun, or a fish to slap enemies with. The update count may be going up, but the spirits of players is going down.

More importantly, despite the fixes, the ever-present cry of "NERF HEAVY!" exists on almost every server. The game still needs tweaking, let alone expanding. Currently, when spectating a player using a weapon capable of zoom, the spectator sees an unobstructed view from the player's perspective without the amount of zoom the actual player has. Not exclusive to Team Fortress 2, the same problem is present in CS:S. Although the problem is minor (or some may say it's not an issue at all), I find it annoying to watch my friend shooting at what I perceive to be a little dot in the distance. How can I be critical of their aim if I don't even know what they're aiming at? ;P


Today is the first day of my video game related blog posting. With this blog I hope to keep you informed and interested (as I am) in the latest video game related news, trends, and my opinion on these matters. I have been involved in several other websites, personal and public blogs, and a prominent member of various game related forums through the web.

From my many years of experience writing for the web as well as my extensive history playing video games, you will find an interesting and thought out perspective on video games that you may not find anywhere else. You may find me using this space to chronicle personal events or thoughts as well; but remember, my life is one with video games- anything I think or do will undoubtedly be influenced by something game related. I would love to see your comments on how you think this may be.

Thank you and enjoy!