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Palantas Blog

Thought of the Day: Gaming, 29 Nov 12

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I've been playing one of my Thanksgiving presents, Doom 3: BFG Edition. I'm enjoying it a lot, both as a gamer and as a shooter historian. Various thoughts follow, and I guess you could call this a mini review...

It's amazing how games have come along graphically. When Doom 3 was released in 2004, it was without question the most technologically advanced game in existence. Nothing looked better than Doom 3 on a good PC. Fast forward to today. The Doom 3: BFG Edition looks dated. Environments look good, but that's as much from artistry as technology. Monsters look unmemorable. Human characters in cutscenes look kinda bad. It's amazing how things have advanced.

Gameplay-wise...well, it's Doom 3. I have a great affection for all things Doom, so I'm enjoying it. Doom 3 is one of only two games ever to actually make me jump. It's also retro compared to shooters today. There is no recharging health. You have to hunt around for health packs. Ammo is limited. If you're patient enough to explore, then you'll be fine, but ammo is not unlimited like in Halo or Call of Duty. The gameplay just feels old, like Halo: Combat Evolved was never released. I like it. If that's not your thing, then you probably won't be able to say the same.

I'm also playing the game as I would an old-timey game: I'm not worrying about achievements on my first playthrough, at all. I didn't even look at them. It's kinda nice. I've been playing too many games accompanied by a laptop lately, looking at it every 15 seconds. (I blame this 50/50 on my own OCD and on developers' decisions to put obnoxious Easter egg hunts in their games).

I should mention that the disc also comes with Ultimate Doom and Doom 2. Good stuff. Not everything is good with this compilation however. There are some bizarre decisions. The controls cannot be customized, at all. That's not terribly unusual with console games, however both Rage and Quake IV (id Software's last couple games) had some customizability. You'd think this one would too. The options menus in general are sparse. There's a single volume control. That's a little cheap, seeing as games 20 years ago had separate sliders for music and sound effects.

These are minor issues, though, in my opinion. What separates BFG Edition from other recent remakes in my mind is the bargain price. This game was not released at $60, and I got my copy for $15 over the holiday. For the amount of Doom content on the disc, I think that's a good deal. If you're looking for a modern shooter, leave this one alone. However, if you are a fan of Doom and want a huge dose of nostalgia, pick this one up.

Thought of the Day: Gaming, 26 Nov 12

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It is nothing short of astounding to me that first-person games--generally shooters--still have jumping puzzles. Who thinks this is fun? Is there anyone who actually enjoys this? If you are reading this and think that first-person shooters need platforming in their gameplay, please raise your hand.

Wolfenstein is the culprit here.

I just died for the third time trying to make a jump. That's when I decided to write this blog. This jump is spaced so such that I must run, and then jump at the last possible millisecond in order to make it to the other side. That's obnoxious. This is compounded by annoying sprinting controls. There was already a jump like this in Wolfenstein, but that jump was to get a bonus item.* That was annoying enough. This jump you have to complete in order to progress in the game. Why is this necessary? Again, if you find this fun, chime in and tell me why. Maybe I'm missing something.

*Yes, this game has all sorts of extremely hidden stuff that I have to collect 100% for achievements. What a treat. That's a subject for another day, however.

Thought of the Day: Gaming, 25 Nov 12

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Another Black Friday has come and gone. As usual, I avoided the stores and kept to the bars. I did however hit up Amazon. I got myself Deus Ex: Human Revolution and Doom 3: BFG Edition, both for 360. The Doom 3 re-release is only about a month old, making it the newest game I have purchased since I bought Borderlands Game of the Year in 2010.

This is pretty significant for me: Not only did I buy a game that's practically new, I bought a re-made game. I have nothing but contempt for all these remakes that are coming out lately. I'll tell you all about that tomorrow.

Thought of the Day: Gaming, 15 Nov 12

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Xbox Live is ten years old, apparently. I've heard that some 10-year members are getting free anniversary consoles. Yes, free consoles. I've been on the service for something like five years, so I'll just have to enter a sweepstakes to get one. You might do the same:

http://www.xbox.com/en-US/live/anniversary

Although come to think of it, my chances of winning are better if I don't tell people about this. I get two entries for being and Xbox Rewards member, however. Xbox Rewards is one of two reasons (the other being Bing Rewards) that I haven't paid for Microsoft Points in years.

Thought of the Day: Gaming, 14 Nov 12

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This is pretty cool: I can use my Windows Phone as a remote control for my Xbox. I was an early adopter of Windows Phone, and I've been meaning to do a review of it here. Maybe I will someday.

In the mean time, I'll just tell you about one particular app for the phone: SmartGlass. (Yeah, that's what it's called; reminds me of VirtualGlass from Earth: Final Conflict, and I can't believe I'm making that reference.) I installed this app, and it took no setup whatsoever. I'm guessing it's linked via Microsoft Account, since I have the same one for my phone and my console. I just started it up, and I was using my phone to control my Xbox.

I can use swipe motions on my phone's screen to move the Xbox UI. It's very fast and intuitive. Most of the phone screen real estate is swipeable, tapping anywhere in the swipeable area is the A button, and labeled corners are B, X, and Y. See graphic:

Xbox SmartGlass

More importantly, I can use my phone's keyboard (software in this case, though some Windows Phones do have physical keyboards) to enter text on the Xbox. This is about five million times faster than typing with Xbox's on-screen keyboard. It might even be faster than using the physical Xbox keyboard attachment, which this renders totally obsolete. Given that 360 now has straight up Internet Explorer (and numerous other apps), this fast method of text entry is sorely needed.

There are some other neat features with this app. The first app I started up was Xbox Music. I turned on Jagged Little Pill, and the screen changed from the dashboard UI above to a media companion. I've got pause/play/next/back buttons, artist information, and suggestions to similar music. I'm curious how the screen will change when I startup other apps or even a game. Seriously, if this thing would change to an information center for each game I'm playing, with FAQs and other supplementary information, I might pass out.

Thought of the Day: Gaming, 13 Nov 12

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All done. 1,000/1,000 in Assassin's Creed II. It took me 65 hours, according to my Raptr.

I'm only three years late, plus or minus a few days. By that, I mean the game was released on 360 in November of 2009. Did I miss out by not pre-ordering this game and buying it at release? Let's examine this.

How I have benefitted by waiting to buy it...

  • I got the game for $12, versus $60.
  • I got to play the DLC along with my original playthrough, instead of having to revisit the game for the DLC after I beat it.
  • Any bugs in the game were ironed out long ago.
  • Online resources were available and well-developed to assist me with the tougher parts of the game (e.g., the feathers).
  • There's no mutliplayer, so no issue there.

What I missed by not buying it on Day 1...

  • I didn't get an Enzio figurine with the pre-order deluxe edition.

Nuts.

Thought of the Day: Gaming, 10 Nov 12

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I'm between contracts, so I decided to spend some time on my Xbox. I popped in Assassin's Creed II, which I've owned for quite a while now, but hadn't played until August. Like any game I play, I determined to beat the hell out of this one. Earlier today, I found the last feather in the game. The feathers were not nearly as bad as the flags in the first game. Also, in this game you actually get something (besides the achievement) for finding all the feathers: A cape that is completely useless. I'll have this one done 100% probably tomorrow.

It's nice of Assassin's Creed games to give you a list of everything you have to do to get 100%. Right from the start, all the collectables and side missions are conveniently catalogued for you. More games should do this. In this day and age, a list of this stuff is only a few keystrokes away. Stop pretending games have secrets anymore and just spell it all out.

Thought of the Day: Gaming, 16 Oct 12

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I've been a Zune Pass holder for a while now. With it, I get to download all the DRM music I want, and I get ten non-DRM songs per month. Microsoft has finally canned Zune, and unveiled Xbox Music, as you may or may not have seen. Since I'm a legacy member, I received a gift of 1,000 Microsoft Points. Pretty cool, huh?

That's it. I just wanted to brag about my good fortune.

Thought of the Day: Gaming, 13 Jun 12

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There were four films I was anticipating in 2012: The Avengers, Prometheus, The Dark Knight Rises, and The Hobbit. I'm one for two so far on that list, as Prometheus was a big disappointment. Here are the major problems I had with the film:

  1. Lack of a main character. There are 17 people on this ship, and only five of them are identifiable in any way. Of those five, I'm not at all sure which ones I'm supposed to empathize with. When the extras start getting killed off, it's like "So what?", but then when the five identifiable characters start having conflicts, it's very difficult to determine who the "good guys" are.
  2. Plot holes/general silliness. Imagine in Alien if after the chestburster popped out of John Hurt, everyone just shrugged and went about their business. There are some truely inexplicable character actions in this film, which brings me to...
  3. Performances. The guy who played Magneto from X-Men First Class is the only person delivering a performance here. Everyone else could have been played by anybody.
  4. Lack of resolution. There are several subplots in this film that go absolutely nowhere. They don't tie into the main plot, because surprisingly, there isn't a main plot. I cannot identify a primary conflict that was resolved in the story. It's a collection of B-plots, most of which go nowhere, and are only ended by someone dying horribly.

The closest thing to can compared Prometheus to is one of those awful Saw movies: People you don't know or care about die in various elaborate ways. There's no resolution to the plot, nor could there be, as there is no overarching conflict in the film at all.

Thought of the Day: Gaming, 13 May 12

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Today I was reading trivia on the Internet, as I often do, and I came across an interesting bit of videogame history. In the early 80s, a group of programmers formed a company and began programming games for the Atari 2600. Atari sued them for doing this and lost. That company was called Activision. Isn't that amazing? Today console manufacturers will do anything to get third party developers on board. In 1982, they sued them for doing so. What a complete reversal.