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Samson089 Blog

Minimalist Gaming: Gaming on a Netbook.

So for the past few months, I've been loving my new, frighteningly fast, gaming PC. It has done everthing I could ever want from it and asks for more. Now, though, I am away from my onyxobelisk as I am on a little vacation. Me and my girlfriend went out of town for a week. No real reason really, just to go somewhere else. During the day it's great, we wander around Vancouver (BC, Canada), go to interesting places. Today we went to the aquarium and I got to see a bunch of different kinds of jelly fish (there were lots of other sea life there as well). They are odd creatures that are strangely hypnotic, I could honestly watch them all day. Once our day of adventure is over, we return to the hotel and my girlfriend tends to promptly fall asleep. This leaves me with very little to do, other than toy around on her netbook we brought. Almost every game that I have access to on Steam far and away exceeds this little things meager specs (1.6Ghz with 1GB ram with no vid card, running XP, though I've cut out all the bloat). This left me at a disadvantage as I was bored, wanting to game and have nothing but time. So, I've looked, and I've found some.

Flash Games

Yes, we all know them. Those horrible time wasters that your co-workers or your mom gets hooked on. They don't provide an immersive experience, they don't really have much of a story and they tend to be very, very ugly. They are great when you have 15 minutes to kill, or if you just don't want to work, but they don't really scratch the itch. There are some good ones that I've wasted some time on.

Fancy Pants Adventuresis a must. You can play the origial one on Armor Games. It's a great platformer that will soon be exported over to XBLA and PSN. Nothing more than you're a guy in bright orange pants, jumping on spiders and picking up spirals. The ones to come have some story about rescuing your sister, but it doesn't really matter.

flOwis antother good one. It's another one that has been recently exported into the main market. It's got a great aesthetic that works well and is very minimal, so it doesn't strain this little netbook much. Again, no story to speak of, just to eat and climb up the food chain.

PopCap Gamesis probably the largest of the flash game makers. Their dynasty is pretty much based off of Bejeweled, but there are some others that are better in my opinion. InsaneAquarium is my current fave. Probably because I was never very good at Bejeweled.

GamesMoreThan 10 Years Old

There have been a lot of great games that have come before this era of high rez. There are a lot of great games that are available for free if you know about them, or have stumbled across them in the past. There are also some that you can pay a few bucks for if it's an option. Personally I'm going to dig through my collection of old games at home and prevent this from happening in the future.

Command and Conqueris actually free?!? Yes a year or so ago, EA (who now holds the rights) decided that they would release the original as a free download in honnour of it's 15th anniversary. It isn't a big download (back then multiple CD's were almost unheard of, it came on 2) so if you want it, go and get it. Tiberian Sun (aka. C&C2) and Red Alert are also on there. Hope you have some bandwidth.

Elder Scrolls III can't take credit for. I read about it last night on someones blog (can't remember who). It's a palty 148 MB, so it's not going to hurt you to try and run it on anything that has a modern OS. I've heard it's difficult, but I'm cool with that. I have yet to even boot it up however.

GOG.comis great if you've ever purchased anything from them before. I have so I just redownloaded some stuff over the course of the day and blammo, I've got Fallout, Arcanum and Masters of Orion on this bad thing, Those three games have probably wasted a few solid months of my life, so a week is chump change.

That's about it for now. I don't really need to waste too much time talking about me finding ways to waste time. Here is something to enjoy though if you aren't currently downloading the free C&C games (which you should be), a tank of moon jellies. Moon jellies

Of Hipster, Spiders and the Arcade Fire.

So I went to a concert with my girlfriend last weekend. She had aquired tickets to an Arcade Fire concert. She's got all of thier albums, I've heard them all several times and figured it'd be a good time. Boy was I right. They put on a heck of a show. It was probably in the top 3 concerts I've ever been to. I knew that there were several people in the band but there were all 8 of them on the stage rocking out, dressed up in everything from overalls to sequinsed Tutus. Instruments varied from violins to a grind organ with one dude jumping around the stage wailing on a drum. The opening act was a band called Calexico, which was also pretty good. Any band that has two trumpets playing at the same time is alright in my books.

We had floor seats, so we're in amongst a sea of hipsters. Now, don't get me wrong; I don't care about what you conisder yourself, be it hipster to metal head, but there were so many plaid shirts and thick rimmed glasses that I felt sorely out of place wearing baggy jeans and my Robots in Disguise t-shirt. I did however have a great oportunity to observe the hipster in their native environment. Here are my observations:

1. Hipsters don't show enthusiasm; I say this only because through out the couse of the concert there was only a small group of people that did anything other than the hipster dance. This dance is characterized by bobbing slightly up and down while swaying to the music. There was the one dude who almost got nailed in the head with a tambourine, he was very enthused when he caught it.

2. Hipsters want to be eclectic individuals while looking like everyone else: As I said, there were countless plaid shirts, thick rimmed glasses, canvas sneakers and tight jeans. It got to the point that they all just blended together. It was odd, but I guess it does kind of happen at any concert that draws a specific crowd.

3. Hipster Fashion = Unattractive clothing: I know that it really comes down to personal preference on what you wear but there are a few things that I don't get why anyone would wear them. Guys in skin tight jeans, guys in pastel colored V-necked t-shirts, girls who wear leggins as pants (I know it's a trend, but I've not seen a girl that it does something positive for. It leaves nothing to the imagination, seriously I don't need to see a chicks ass with that much precsion while she's dressed) Straw fedoras, golf hats worn at odd angles. Maybe I'm just getting old though.

4. Hairsty1es from the Post-Apocolyptic '80's: I only say this as I had watched Mad Max 2 the day before and I noticed a lot of simmilar hair sty1es from the movie. This was what hair should have been like if the world had ended, not what people should be currently doing. It is the future now, I guess. I was going to put some images of the hairsty1es up, but I can't find any. Instead, here is Lord Humungus from the same movie. Just walk away...

No one needs to die here, just walk away

As for the spiders, my brother has been practicing his photography as of late and he has started what he calls his "House Spider Project" taking pictures of spiders he catches in, or around, his house. Keep in mind that he lives in a hundred year old house, so it's got some spooky bits for spiders to hide in. If you dig spiders, check it out here. Here is a teaser for you. Pardosa Sp. Female. 5mm

My New Computer - 18897

So I finally did it. I bit the bullet, I took the plunge, I went for the big one. I've built myself a new computer.

First, The boxes.

Joke's on you, they're all empty

Joke's on you, they're all empty!

I've been saying that I've needed a new computer for some time. It's been almost a year my friends have had to put up with me talking about new hardware releases, comparisons, prices and just nattering about building a new computer. About a month ago I finally had the cash saved up for it. It's been all together for a couple of weeks now, running flawlessly. I've finally had some free time (and before I start a new game), so I'd figure I'd show it off a little.

the inside

The inside, yes that is a full sized ATX motherboard.

So here's a quick rundown of the hardware and why I picked it.

Case: Lian Li PC-A71F. I've ranted before on how beautiful a case this is. Pictures cannot do it justice. I've shown one of my friends what it looked like online once (in one of my many computer fantasizing moods) and he was still floored by how nice it is. Bottom mounted power supply, completely tooless design, black brushed aluminum finish and no friggin windows on the thing. It sits almost a 3 feet away from my head and with the case only having 2 120mm and 2 140mm fans, they don't have to spin fast to move a lot of air. In fact they're only running at about 1500rpm and it's almost whisper quiet. Internal temps have never exceeded 40C yet. With enough space to hold up to 10 hard drives and 6 5.25's, the thing has room to grow. It's also friggin huge. It feels like I have the monolith from 2001: A Space Odyssey sitting beside me. Damn, it's sexy though.

Motherboard:MSI 790FX-GD70. I picked it for a couple of reason, a solid mix of affordability and upgradability. It supports 2 PCIe 2.0 cards at 16x and up to four at 8x. So yeah, I can have up to four video cards plugged into that bad mother. With the board able to handle 16 gigs of DDR3 ram and very easy overclocking, it seemed like an easy choice. Also having buttons on the board itself to do quick overclocking, resetting the CMOS and showing post errors on the board, it has a couple of nice touches. No fans on the northbridge and southbridge (passive cooling only) make it almost worry free (if you've ever had a northbridge fan fail on you, you know what I mean).

CPU: AMD Phenom II X4 965 BE. A tough choice between AMD's less expensive (and less powerful) Phenom line and Intel's powerhouse i7's. It really came down to 1 thing though; Price. I don't do any real productivity work (I don't do photoshop) so I didn't need any of the Hexacore offerings from AMD. With gaming, it comes down to clockspeed, since most games don't make great use of multithreading (using more than one core). I've seen this chip clocked up to 4.0Ghz with sufficient cooling with little worry. It's never going to get put up there by me, but a couple extra Mhz wouldn't hurt.

Ram: Corsair Dominator 4GB 1600Mhz. Really, this one was a toss up between either the ram I got or G-skill's simmilar offering. Both had great speeds, good timings (8-8-8-24, good for the size and speed) running at 1.65 V. G-skill has better overclocking but I've got some brand loyalty with Corsair. The only reason I took the Corsair was cause the G-skill was out of stock when I placed my order. So Newegg chose for me.

Power Supply: Corsair HX850 W power supply. I needed a solid modular power supply that could run 2 video cards and an infinite number of hard drives worry free. It's a good design, had good reviews and the price wasn't bad.

Video Card: XFX Radeon HD 5870. It sits in power between Nvidia's 480 and 470. The fact that it uses less power and doesn't sound like a vaccuum cleaner at full load is a plus.

Hard Drive and Optical Drive; HDD Samsung Spinpoint F3; DVD Combo drive. Why? Cause they were cheap. Currently the slowest parts of my computer though. Ran out of money, had to skimp somewhere.

Yes, it's on.

That's the case. It's HUGE and yes, it's on.

Well, there you have it, she's a beauty. I don't really have any new games to really make her sweat though. I have Fallout New Vegas pre-ordred and I intend on getting Crysis later this week. The number in the title? That's not my computers name, I call it Elizabeth (she's a c1assy lady). That's it 3D Mark 06 score.


Of Minions, Metroids and Infinite Space

So, I'm trying to get back into the swing of things, writing rants that is. With my girlfriend starting up c1ass soon, it's given me more time to game and write about games. It's not going tobe about any new games though, I'm still not buying Starcraft 2.

A couple of months ago, I decided to try something new. I signed up for Game Access, the Canadian equivalent of Game Fly, a by mail game rental company. I pay about $20 bucks a month (not too bad considering I'm not subscribed to anything else right now) for 2 games out at a time. I did it so I could play a bunch of games I'd be interested to try but not willing to buy. Because there are no time restrictions with the game before I need to send it back I just play it until I'm done. So far I've gone through two NFS games ( Undercover and Shift), Prototype and I'm currently working on Overlord. The first 3 I wouldn't recommend. NFS: Undercover wasn't as good as NFS: Most Wanted, Shift was caught between Sim and arcade racing and suffered because of it and Prototype wasn't as good as other "Super Hero" type games and insanely annoying in parts

Overlord on the other hand, it really quite amusing. It's writing is dark, as are most of the jokes and there are actually incentives to be really evil. The more evil you are, the more powerful you get. You don't have to be evil, but it is very fun to do so. The down side is that it tends to get very repetitive at times. You are forced to do the same sort of thing all the time, one I've noticed come up a lot are cranks that you need to find handles for, up to four of them, to continue. It still holds up really well considering this game was one of the earlier releases for the 360. I've also got Overlord 2 sitting on the table from Game Access once I've finished with the first.

As for the Metroid part, I went out of town this weekend for a day and decided to take a look at a little privately owned game store, just to see what they had. Low and behold, they had 2 sealed copies of the Collectors Edition of the Metroid Prime Trilogy for sale at $70 each. I've been keeping my eye out for one for all year and since they were out of print, I didn't expect to find one. Needless to say, I bought it. I could have bought both and sold the second on Ebay, but that is just a totally dickish thing to do. The store owner acutally suggested I do that, or at least don't open the one I bought as it would be worth more that way. "Sorry" I told him, "I want to play this". It's already opened and slotted in my Wii, replacing Monster Hunter Tri which has had sole occupation of the Wii since release.

Infinite Space is a DS game I decided to pick up a while back. It's "real time space combat" and "in depth story" kind of drew me in. It's combat isn't that hot, really, boarding is just rock, paper, scissors and my version of space combat just involves dancing in and out of my max range vs the enemies and unleashing the biggest attacks possible. What did surprise me was the in depth story. It has a surprisingly engaging "Save the Universe" story, dispite it not starting out that way and taking a couple of unexpected plot twist. It also throws in some really neat characters and a few choices that may (or may not, I haven't played through it twice) affect the story. Clocking in at around 40 hours, it's the most I've used my DS in years. The non-story based game mode that gets unlocked afterwards does add some replay ability, if you feel so inclined. All in all, I'd recommend it if the game has piqued your curiosity before. One note of warning, the random encounters are annoyingly random, always there when you don't want them, never there when you do.

Why I'm NOT Buying Starcraft 2 (Seriously)

It's the day of one of the biggest game releases of the year (biggest of the decade depending on who you talk to). The world and the Web are both abuzz with the talk, reviews and dissection of the game. I've been asked by several of my friends when I'm going to be picking up SC2. When I reply, I'm probably not going to at all, they look at me as if I just peeled off my face to reveal a giant cockroach head. I then go on to explain as to my reasons, while they stare astonished at my clicking mandibles.

No Set Price Point.

We're all aware that today's release of SC2 isn't the entire game. It's the Terran campaign plus the full multiplayer experience. The other remaining races are going to be given their own campaign at an undisclosed time. The first portion has a full game price point. You're looking at $60 for essentially the first third of the game. We do not know however what the rest of the game will cost us. If they charge a full cost for the remainder, congratz, you just shelled out $180 for Starcraft. If they stick with how Blizzard has been treating the expansions of World of Warcraft, you're looking at around $40-$50 for each of the remaining 2/3rds. Even at a very reasonable price of $15 per expansion, I don't know if I'm ok with paying $90 for Starcraft. Regardless of the price they choose, you know people will pay it, c'mon, it's Starcraft.

I Don't Like Other People.

This might make me sound like some sort of anti-social shut in, but the original Starcraft made multiplayer a staple for games since. When you play a game online all you want to do is be better than your opponent. Give it a day and someone will figure out (if they haven't already) the perfect setup for a Battlecruiser rush. People are fanatical about Starcraft, if you have any doubt, look up The Starcraft World Championship. Never play against a Korean, also never play against someone who competes in "Ladder Matches". It's a trial in frustration, you'll want to break your keyboard inside 5 minutes. Let the pwnage ensue.

There are Better RTS' Out There

I know I'm toeing the line of heresy, but there have been far better RTS' within the past decade than Starcraft. Other than a couple of new units and a revamp of the visuals, they aren't really bringing anything to the table. If you want an epic RTS? Try Supreme Commander. Want it intense? Try Dawn of War 2. Want it pretty looking, Play Command and Conquer 4. If there has been a decade wait between 1 and 2, I want something better than just an update of the first.

Starcraft has lost it's hold over me since it's release. It still holds fond memories from my high school years and is probably one of the greatest games of all time, but I don't need to buy it. I don't even really want to buy it. Give it a couple of years for people to release modded maps and then I might consider, or when it's all released in a single box for $60, then we can talk.

I do still want to buy Diablo 3 though.

Revisit of an Old MMO

So, in early January I was itching for a new MMO to play. "Great" I thought, "the new Star Trek MMO is out soon". So I looked at the requirements and my poor old computer can't run it. So I thought maybe I should go back and see how one of the old MMO's I used to play are fairing. Most were still runing. So I downloaded an installer, put down my $15.00 and went to play an old online game.

Star Wars Galaxies

SWG was originally released back in 2003 by the previous giant of online gaming, Sony Online Entertainment. At its peak it had over two hundred thousand subscribers. While that doesn't sound like a lot compared to World of Warcraft, it was at the time. It was originally release with an interesting combat system, that I had always known as the H.A.M. (health, action, mind) system. You had nine attributes, with 3 heath bars that could be damaged independantly. If one became empty, you died. C1asses were also interesting, with 24 c1assess, some independent some interdependent. They ran the gambit from crafting such as architect, weapon smith and ship engineer; to supports like medic, doctor and entertainer; and your standard fare of combat like bounty hunter, commando or rifleman. Because you were allowed a set number of points you could set towards any c1ass it allowed the creation of hybrid c1asses like Doctor/short swordsman, Ranger/Architect or even Commando/Terikasi master (close combat). Throw in vehicles, space combat, a solid crafting mechanic, player created cities and it was an MMO paradise. There was indeed something for everyone.

The Times They are a Changin'

It's been a while from when I actually played. Last time I would have logged in was in 2004, before I started playing WoW. I was a doctor and working my way through the bounty hunter skills. I was part of a guild who fought on the side of justice and the Empire who had a city in the middle of nowhere on one of the most deadly planets in the game. Things were good.

Well, it sure isn't what it used to be. Shortly after I left, there was a "combat upgrade" which trimmed down the 24 professions down to 9. Gone was the ability to create your own hybrid c1ass to fit what you wanted; you now have a similar setup to WoW, where you have points to improve the c1asses in the way you chose via a skill tree, dubbed "Expertise". They also trimmed down the 3 bars to 2, one heath and one action. Action only restricts your special abilities. Gone is any sort of death penalty, your armor or weapons do not degrade, essentially stalling the economy and inflating prices. Gone are the vast market cities of old, now all that remains is random buildings that are still maintained as the owners had enough money to keep them standing for years. My guild list has an average "last log in date" between 1100-1300 days. I don't have a house (I didn't have that much money), only the random items that were on my character when a last logged out oh so many years ago. Ground combat is a boring button pressing fiasco. Some people enjoy it but I just can't get into it though.

If it ain't broke...

It's not all doom, gloom and reminiscing of the good old days. Some things are just as fun, heck, even more fun than I remembered. Crafting is still as in-depth as it ever was. Every item is unique as the quality of the item depends on the skill of the crafter, quality of the materials and the quality of the tools used. I've heard of some crafters using spreadsheets to keep track of their inventory and the associated stats. I use a piece of paper and a pencil. I'm not really working for money at this point, I'm building myself things to replace what I've lost and enjoying it greatly.

Jump to Lightspeed was the first expansion for the game, it added space combat about 6 months after the initial release of the game. Your level in space is independent from your level on the ground, so you don't need to be an ace on the ground to be an ace in the skies. The first few levels and missions of your desired pilot profession (Imperial, Rebel or neutral) are easy and slow. Once you get about half-way through the pilot missions, things really pick up. Your enemies become tougher, faster and smarter. Well, not much smarter, just a little less predictable. The missions become more challenging and sometimes feel unfair, but doable. Most of all, its fun and it's the only thing I've used my joystick for in ages.

So, was it worth the $15.00? Yes, without question. The space combat alone makes it worthwhile. If there was a good space combat mmo (not EVE, been there done that) I'd buy it. I'm now rolling into my second month of my resub and not worried if there is going to be a third.

Musings from ME2

I've been playing Mass Effect 2 and enjoying it to no end. I figured I'd just post some random thoughts I've had while playing. They are mostly spoiler free.

- Don't forget to feed the fish between missions. If you do forget to feed them, don't worry, you only have to clean the dead ones out of your tank before you get more. There's an App for that.

-Space Hamsters: Not as cool as they sound.

-If you have to chose between a princess, a psychopath and a woman who could die from a single kiss, you know which one you won't have to talk to afterwards.

- Is there such thing as an unattractive Yeoman?

- Don't talk to a geth about "personal space".

-There isn't really any point hitting on a thousand year old woman, though she may be flattered.

-They are highly detailed replicas, until I start running around the command deck with one going "Fwoosh", then it's a toy.

-Just because the engineer is Scottish doesn't mean he's a miracle worker.

-If your cook is the same guy who cleans the bathroom, always ask why his food tastes like toilet cleaner.

-Don't ask a Krogan why he thinks I have a set of "Quads".

-Head butting is always an appropriate response.

-A magazine called "Fornax" is not appropriate coffee table material.

-Next time ask for a room that isn't directly under the pressure hull.

-It's hard to ask questions later when you shoot first. More so when you shot them in the head.

-I wonder if Quarians ever bathe?

-Defenestrate should always be a conversation option.

-Never ask a Drell about his "first time".

-Salarians have a surprisingly good singing voice.

Why *YOU* Should Have a Game Night.

For Christmas I bought my brother a copy of Left 4 Dead 2 for the PC. He had never played it and didn't really understand how me an a couple of friends would get so into playing the same 5 missions over and over again. A few days after, I asked how he was liking it. "I still don't get why you like it, the bots are idiots", "Have you tried online?" I respond. "No, I don't really like playing FPS' with random people". So I called two of my friends who both have the game on PC, told them what was up and got them both to join my brother and I online for a couple of hours of zombie killin action. And it was good. So good in fact that we all agree we should do it more often and repeat the joy. So for the past 4 weeks, the four of us log onto Steam at 8:00 pm on Thursday and play L4D2.

And Zombursday was born.

You might think it isn't a big deal because you play with friends all the time. Well that's where you are wrong. Playing with friends on a whim and playing because IT IS TIME TO PLAY are two entirely different things. Scheduling time to play provides you some serious advantages.

Here are the upsides:

Something to look forward to: Just like a working man looks forward to the weekend, when you plan your game time, you know it's going to be there and that it will be fun. The when of it is all up to you, but a weeknight (that everyone has no solid plans for) is ideal. Gaming on the weekend is difficult to plan because there are a lot of things people (myself included) put off till the weekend. It's not that you don't have the time, you just won't have an exact time.

It's OK, because it was planned: Something I didn't believe would actually work, but my girlfriend is ok with me playing video games all Thursday night because she knew about it in advance. She plans something for herself, she goes out with the girls. So I have a chance to play for hours undisturbed. It's great.

It doesn't have to be just one game: If everyone owns a lot of the same games you can switch when you get bored of one. So we might start with L4D2, but we sometimes move onto some BF2, then maybe Company of Heroes and end it off with a quick round of CS source.

So I suggest you talk to your buddies, set a weekly game night. It doesn't have to be a PC game, it could be a console or a board game, even just a weekly movie night. Try it. You might really enjoy it.

Another '09 List - 10 Best Downloadable Games of 2009

Wow. It's been over a month since my last writing. I have still tried to pop on occasionally and read (most) everyone else's blogs during that time and still commenting on a few. I'm alive, but lets just say I'm glad that 2009 is done.

With the end of the year comes the inevitable slurry of lists of best game and I figure I might as well add to the pile. Instead of just making a list of my favorite games ('09 was a good gaming year overall, 2010 should be more impressive) of the year, I'll restrict it slightly. We are very much living in a digital age, and digital distribution is now more common. Almost every game can be obtained digitally, but there are a few where that is your only option. A lot of these are gems that should not be overlooked. I now proudly present my top 10 list of download only games for 2009.

10 - Osmos (PC - Aug 18 )
Every screenshot you see for this game does not really tell you how neat it truly is. At its core the game requires you to absorb other spheres smaller than you to grow in size to become the biggest. The way you move is by expelling mass in the opposite direction you want to travel and it is done quite nicely thanks to a compact physics engine. The downside about shooting bits of yourself to move is that you get smaller. So what you may have been big enough before moving to absorb one sphere might now be just big enough to absorb you. You need to think ahead, pick your targets and, in some cases, your orbital path.

Pick and Choose wisely

9 - Battlefield 1943 (XBL - July 8, PSN - July 9)
The Battlefield series has had a multiple great showings on the PC and the occasional good game (BF:BC most notably) for consoles. A console only Battlefield game might seem like madness and may be better done by other retail games, but the fact that it is the best console only arcade sized multiplayer first person shooter to come out in 2009, and that's saying a lot. While only providing a few maps, they are undoubtedly the pick of the litter from BF1942. There needs to be more maps available and the airplanes handle worse than the tanks, but its still a blast to play.

Damn Navy, always with the air raids

8. 'Splosion Man (XBL - July 22)
It's a game about a naked psychopath who can make himself explode running around an underground base. It's an action platformer where you need to blow yourself, other objects and people up to solve puzzles and progress. The game is very much about timing and getting your "booms" right. It's carefree humor is also quite dark at times making you almost feel bad for the mayhem you are causing. With fifty single player and fifty multi-player levels there is a lot of "bang" for your buck. Ok that was a bad pun.

C'mon, he's all fire, he can't be wearing pants

7. Plants vs. Zombies (PC, MAC, iPhone - May 5)
I know, it's a PopCap tower defense game. Nothing can be so derivative and "white bread". In part it's true. Trying to keep with the Popcap mentality, ease of play and addictive clicking are both part of the equation. What sets it apart from other tower defense games is sty1e. It's cartoony, cutesy art plays well with the subject matter and with different plants during both day and night mixes things up well. You know what you are getting into: addictive, simple gameplay. With Zombies.

My two favorite things, horticulture and the undead

6. Eufloria (PC - Oct 20)
Very few games have made me want to play it from the first screenshot. It is a strategy game at its core, with the simple goal of capturing every "asteroid" in the scenario. The stats of your seedlings are solely based off of the attributes from the asteroid it is grown on, with speed, strength and energy as the only attributes. It is not an overly difficult game, as superior numbers tend to always win, but its almost water color visuals make up for its lack in depth. Gameplay is smooth but I still can't get over its visual cues. My favorite game to just look at.

So pretty.

5. Flower (PSN - Feb 12)
Arguably not much more than a tech demo, showing how nice things can look on the PS3, but I'm a sucker for pretty pictures. With the vague narrative following "the dreams of a flower", you control petals on the wind. Again, gameplay is nothing to write home about, simply you fly around and gather more petals as you work your way towards the goal. The game is neither fast paced or difficult. It's just wants you to sit back, relax, and enjoy.

Such a nice looking game

4. Shadow Complex (XBL - Aug 19)

Probably one of the best side scrolling games since SOTN, this 2.5D platformer makes you fight your way through a sprawling underground complex run by high-tech terrorist. With an interesting leveling system and a large number of hidden areas in a huge map, there is a lot of playtime that can be put into the game. A somewhat weak story is more than made up by its numerous intense firefights and almost hectic battles. Only some slightly annoying aiming issues mar an otherwise excellent game.

Hourray Foam!

3. Bit.Trip Beat/Core/Void (Wii – Mar 16/July 6/Nov 23)

"Commander Video" the rainbow powered (not actually rainbow powered) hero of the Bit.Trip games takes you through an interesting series of rhythm based games. Each one is slightly different with Beat being similar to Pong, Core has an almost Galaga feel and Void is like Pac-Man without the maze and with an eating disorder. All three feature annoyingly catchy chip-tune soundtrack that if it was around in the 80's would have outsold "Pac-Man Fever".

Oh, it's a trip alright

2. Trials HD (XBL – Aug 12)

Another 2.5D platformer, you take your dirt bike across levels of jumps, ramps platforms and exploding things. There are 35 levels as well as 5 tournaments and a about a dozen specialized tracks you can run. Add in a level creation tool with the ability to share your creations with friends, leaderboards and the ability to compare your performance to your friends and you can get a lot of life out of the game. The downside is some of its maddeningly difficult levels but some might see it as a challenge.

I hate that guy.

1. Torchlight (PC – Oct 26)

A dungeon crawler RPG, this one follows the same feel, and some cases sound effects, as Diablo. Granted some of the development team worked on Diablo, so some similarities is understandable. With three c1asses to chose from (lets just call them, warrior, rogue and sorcerer) the game feels very reminiscent of its predecessor. You also get a pet (cat or dog) to carry extra loot, aid you in combat and for making quick runs to a merchant to unload all the junk you don't need. It is probably the best dungeon crawler since Diablo 2 and will tide you over nicely till Diablo 3 It was just recently (jan 5th, so I still count it as a DL only for '09) released retail for those who didn't want to download it. Over the holidays it was on sale on Steam for $5 and at that price, it's my game of the year.

Always with the giant spiders

*Edit* All of these games have demos available for them if you are curious to try them. Except Flower, I think.

The Two Lives of a Video Game

As simple as it sounds, there is only one reason we buy video games. Not because it has cutting edge graphics, an in depth story or a new play mode, its because we want to enjoy ourselves. To have fun. Some enjoy playing with others, some do not.

Some games amaze us with is first trip through the world it creates. So many games are deemed great due to the first play through. There are games that provide you dozens of hours of material for you to experience for the first time (Oblivion, Fallout 3, GTA). They impress you with the span and breadth of what they provide. They rely on you, the player, to move along the story and you directly control your enjoyment of the game. Single player games set a stage and you are the star.

Other games rely on other people to make the game enjoyable and you directly influence the enjoyment for others. Skill, of both your opponents and yourself, has the greatest influence on your enjoyment of the game (World of Warcraft, Battlefield, MW2). When such games are developed, you are provided location, not circumstances, to have fun. Be it an MMO or a first person shooter, when a game is considered online, you play but a piece of a greater whole.

Very few games can have both a compelling online and offline experience. Most sacrifice one for the other. Call of Duty: Modern Warfare 2, deemed by most as one of the greatest games if the year, has both an online and offline component. The online component boast an array of maps and play modes, unlockable abilities and weapons. The game provides you the circumstances to enjoy yourself for hours online. Its single player portion, however, is short. Most players of skill will be able to go through the game by themselves in a little under ten hours. It is provided to give you a taste of what can be available online. Single player is training for multiplayer.

Uncharted 2, also deemed by most as one of the greatest games of the year, has a very strong single player story. It's cinematic appearance and scripted events make you feel as if nothing can best you. You are the star and it's world, the stage. It's online half is less compelling. While it does not feel tacked on,it is still unnecessary to the game. Multiplayer is the after dinner mint for single player.

Games that completely exclude one or the other shows you the hight of video game greatness. World of Warcraft, easily the most profitable game in existence, is online only yet millions of people still play. Shadow of the Colossus, single player only, is always used in the continuing argument that games are art. Team Fortress 2 is still insanely popular despite its simple premise. Mass Effect (or Dragon Age: Origins if you prefer) shows compelling stories and worlds. There are exceptions of course, and mostly RTS'.

The point of all this is that game do not have to master, or even contain, both aspects of gaming to be great. I would even go so far as to say that some of the greatest games from previous years do not. Developers need to decide on what they want the game to be, what they wish to include or exclude, may make a good game greater. Imagine Uncharted 2 with a longer story without multiplayer, or MW2 with more maps or abilities with no single player, would either be any worse for it?

P.S. Vote for me as Gamespotter of the year

P.P.S. Or vote for PixelHunter , Safad0 , masterpinky2000 , david_lck or Brianfox1 as they are all awesome.

P.P.P.S. Seriously though, vote for me