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xboxrulze Blog

Bring on Version 2.0!

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I swear I'll go back to writing reviews, editorials, and other actually important stuff soon! For now though I'm still hard at work with the boys bringing D2DGamer.com to the masses and LAGTV to all the low level SC2 community!

We're actually growing very quickly, and have held two successful tournaments. We're around 1,750 subscribers and over 100,000 views now. That's not what I came crawling back here for though.

I would love it if any of you guys came and joined me on D2DGamer. We just did an entire website overhaul and it now has social features fairly similar to that here on Gamespot including blogs, groups, events etc.

We'll move into other stuff beyond SC2 eventually but for now that's our meat and potatoes. We have a clan as well that's active i the CEVO league in case you're interested.

I'm just really super proud of what 4 guys have accomplished in a little over 3 months and want to share it with all of you. I desperately miss writing here and will totally be back to do so once the dust settles and I'm into a routine with LAGTV and D2DGamer. For now though I hope you find some time to at least periodically come check us out and maybe sign up, even if you aren't crazy into Starcraft.

Again I promise I'm going to get back to writing as soon as possible, and I feel kind of bad for not being around much. I still read your blogs when I get spare time, though! Thanks to everyone who's still even following me here, I really appreciate it.

Hope to see you all soon!

XR

My New Website is Live!!!!

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Finally, after weeks of late nights and hours upon hours of work, my new website is up and running!

I shouldn't say my website, of course. For those who have been keeping tabs, a friend and I have a youtube channel Life's a Glitch TV. We were approached by a couple of gentlemen to start up a website together, and after a whole lot of work it's finally here!

The site is called D2DGamer. No, not direct to drive haha. D2D stands for Day to Day, or the average every day game player. Since we do SC2 commentaries for the average joe we wanted to created a website and forum dedicated to giving the every day gamer a place to hang out, talk strategies, news, whatever really, without worrying about being told they're a newb or something by some elitist dude.

So far things are going remarkably well. Everyone is really loving it so far, and I couldn't be more happy about it.

If you want to check us out I would really love it. We're still working our butts off getting the groundwork done for the channel and the website but everything is coming together. I can't believe we've accomplished what we have in only a month's time.

Link to the Website
Link to the Channel

That's it for now! Have a good one,

XR

Want to be in a Mid-Level Starcraft 2 Tournament?

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If you answered yes, then do I have good news for you!

If you saw a couple of my recent blogs, I talked about a youtube channel myself and a friend started up. Well, in a bit over a week we've grown considerably and are now hosting a SC2 tournament, complete with a grand prize!

If you're interested at all, check out our channel for a brief summary video, or check out our blog for all the information including how to enter.

That's all for now! Have a good one,

XR

My Pretty New Graphics Card

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I've been running my gaming rig now going on a bit more than 2 years, and the parts I used were fairly old when I put it together. Luckily, I invested in really awesome hardware and so I've been able to keep up this whole time without any real fuss on my 24 inch monitor.

Alas, it was not meant to last forever. My SLI 9800 GT SC cards finally reached their max. Starcraft 2 on ultra just wasn't going to happen above 30fps the moment zerg creep came on screen. They're amazing cards but they started to show their age. Luckily, my E8500 @ 3.8ghz is still more than enough to conquer almost any game except for a couple that stress for Quads.

As luck would have it, NCIX had one of their amazing sales on and on the list was the MSI GTX 460 1gb Cyclone OC. Normally a $250 card, it was on for $179.99. I couldn't not buy it at that price. I did some research for fear of my CPU bottlenecking the card but there were lots of people with my set up that had no issues to I pressed the buy button.

Isn't it Pretty?

Now, I would have loved to get the HAWK version of this card but it wasn't on sale :P Regardless, this thing is a beast! It idles at a mind blowing 30C and under maximum load in Kombuster it won't go beyond 60C after hours of torture.

Needless to say, Starcraft 2 now runs at ultra settings with forced AA at 1920x1200 locked in at 60fps. Huzzah! I figure that when I build my new computer next year I can buy a second one of these and sli them much like i did my 9800s.

I hold the 9800 and 8800 series of cards in the highest of regards. Those things are now ANCIENT in computer years and yet they still manage to pull it off somehow. If I ever need a PhysX card, I'll just throw one in and know I'm in good hands!

Anyway, that's my geek shpeel for now. Have a good one!

XR

Life's A Glitch TV Is Live!

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...Ok maybe not live live, but the channel is open!

For those of you who didn't catch my last blog post about it, LAGTV is a youtube channel ran by myself and a friend. We're doing SC2 commentary and strategies, game previews/trailer talks, reviews, and more if we can squeeze it all in.

We had to re-do all our videos from before which is why it took so long to get content up. That's also the reason why we only have about half of what we had planned on uploading at this point but we're in the process of getting more up asap. Currently we have our intro video, about us video, trailer talk for Black Ops, and a Six pool strategy for SC2so go check them out at our channel and subscribe if you dig it!

There will be at least one SC2 commentary posted today at some point, and later next week we should have some video of the midnight launch of Black Ops as well as a review for it whenever we manage to get some time.Our first podcast might not happen for a while due to time constraints forced on me by university (damn them all) but it will happen hopefully within a month.

If you went and checked us out thanks a million, and if you subscribed then I'll love you forever in the least most creepy way possible.

If you have any questions about the channel or what we're doing, or if you have any suggestions just PM me or let me know in the comments below.

ATTENTION! If you send us an SC2 saved replay of yours we'll more than likely do a commentary on it. If that sounds like a good time, send your replays to LifesAGlitchTV@gmail.com !

Have a good one!

XR

EDIT: Holy crap Gamespot's editor is so awful lol. I give up trying to format this properly...

Man, has it been a while or what!

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Wow! I can't believe it's been this long since I've posted anything here...I feel so dirty hahaha. I'm still totally alive, and playing games feverishly in between finishing my last year of University which may explain my absence from the community for so long. Things are going well, and I don't have too much to complain about. I have been still checking in on everyone, just not commenting for the most part. I hope I haven't lost too many readers! Haha

So as horrible as it sounds, my first post in a long while is going to contain a completely self-serving advertisement. I know, I'm bad, but I promise I'll do something more productive next time!

Here's the run down:

Remember when I did Life's A Glitch videos a million years ago? Well, a friend of mine and I are attempting to take that name and turn it into another project entirely. Basically we're starting up a Youtube channel and podcast under the name Life's a Glitch TV, or LAGTV. We aim to bring you the internet's finest cluster**** of gaming related goodness including late reviews, mediocre Starcraft 2 commentary, and nonsensical rants that may or may not lower your IQ. Specifically, in case you are wondering (which of course you are) the SC2 commentary will be all based on every-day SC2 players whether that's tinfoil league or mid level platinum, we want to give you the experience of having someone talk about your game and have a good time with it.As for the rest, well it's kind of selfexplanatorybut I'll elaborate if needed.


Isn't it pretty? Awesome Photoshop skills, no?

We need some help though! While we've been feverishly trying to come up with ideas for what our video and audio will be made up of, we figured we should ask people who might actually be interested in it to begin with. So, if you have any ideas as to what our video content or podcasts could include, let me know! No idea is a foolish one, so anything will help in the beginning stages. Once we have a solid idea of what we're going to do we'll pump out a bunch of base videos and an intro podcast to get started.

With that out of the way, I'd also love to know how all of you are doing as well! It's been so long I must have missed out on some major events in your lives somehow so let me know that as well, even if you don't give me some suggestions ( I guess that's ok :P ).

That's it for now all! Have a good one,

XR

Blog Review: Final Fantasy 13

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Few game franchises have been as successful over the years as Final Fantasy. It's impressive in its own right that we have now arrived at number 13, but does the now antiquated formula still hold up? Hold on to your hats, I'll be as fair and nice as I can be. I promise.

The premise of Final Fantasy 13 is exactly what you would expect it to be. A mixed bag of characters, mostly dangling around their late teen years and into their early adult lives, has stumbled upon an unfortunate fate that sees them bound to destroy the world. Seeing as how actually living out that fate would be FAR to interesting they instead decide to rebel against their situation and save the world instead. This oft-used shell for all JRPGs is backed by some interesting situations and circumstances that I won't outline save someone not having played it yet reading this. The premise of course still works because we all have an unending desire to save the world and be a hero of some kind. If you're into JRPGs (as I am) you won't be shocked or awed by it, but you'll also feel right at home.

The universe that all this happens within is actually surprisingly well crafted and thought out which instantly places it ahead of most current JRPGs and even some other Final Fantasy games of old. The characters are also decently crafted, although not incredibly fleshed out and little is done to make you feel like you know any of them over the course of the game. It's hard to feel emotionally attached to any of the characters for any length of time based on their behaviour alone. Lightning is perhaps the most unlikeable leading character in Final Fantasy history, and although she becomes somewhat relatable towards the very end of the game she still remains a misnomer. Then there are the ultra annoying Vanille and Hope that lay on extreme opposite ends of cheerful and angst-ridden. If Vanille's horrible, fake Australian accent doesn't make your ears bleed then Hope's consistent emo behaviour might tip you over the edge. It does not help in the slightest either that Vanille just so happens to be the game's narrator. Most likeable of all the cast is most likely going to be Sazh or Fang depending on who you talk to. Sazh is by far the most believable character due to his better-than-the-rest voice acting although that's not setting the bar very high. Snow...well, Snow is a hero – we'll leave it at that. Characters aside, the most striking of all of the story problems is the awful pacing and poor explanation.


"Crickey!"

The problem is that the story (or more specifically the parts of the story that are told) simply isn't long enough or engaging enough to last throughout the game's lengthy play time. The story is delivered in spurts where every few hours you get to put down your controller and watch a cut scene or five. They really did go all in with the idea of making this more of an interactive movie. This wouldn't be so horrible if the voice acting was at least batting five hundred, but for the majority of the time you'll find yourself cringing as you absorb cheesy moment after cheesy moment. The writing is sadly poor for spoken parts, although what's kept on record is nicely done. To be fair there are a small handful of scenes in the game that are well done and do a spectacular job but they are simply outweighed by too much of the bad to save anything. As a general warning, be prepared to hear the exact same thing come out of character's mouths over and over again – sometimes in the same scene. Also, towards the latter half of the game there was such a monstrous gap between any narratives that I had actually forgotten everything that had happened before and had to go back and read up on some things to jog my memory.

Yes, Final Fantasy 13 has gone the ways of other RPGs like Mass Effect where there is a codex of sorts that is automatically updated as the game progresses. It's full of back story and does a far better job than the actual in-game narrative at explaining things. You can check up on enemies you've fought as well which can help with some strategy during sticky situations although it won't ever be truly necessary. Nevertheless it remains a great little feature that you'll want to keep tabs on should you feel you'd like to actually know what's going on. The bottom line is that the story portrayed is fitting of a 20 or 30 hour game, not a 45-70+ hour game. If your loading screens are driving your plot – you're doing something wrong.

It's become obvious, and it has indeed been a stated fact, that Final Fantasy games are being dumbed down more and more and becoming more and more linear to make for a more interactive movie than a game. Final Fantasy 13 takes a giant leap toward that goal, and while some people will jump for joy, a lot more will probably cringe and be frustrated by the constraints that come with it.


"I LOVE what you did with the new maps, Bob!"

Draw a semi-straight line, remove all towns and over-world map exploration, secret bosses, mini-games, and anything else that fleshed out older Final Fantasy games and you have the core of Final Fantasy 13's game play. You will run along a super-defined path, fight some dudes, kill a super-bad dude, rinse and repeat. Granted, aside from removing random battles (monsters are seen and encountered on the field), that describes many of the most popular games in the series. However, as mentioned above there isn't a town to be explored, no people to interact with, and no side quests in the usual sense. It makes the world feel vacant and makes it nigh on impossible to feel like you're part of it. The absence of anything to allow you to take a break from the main story line doesn't help anything either as it can become a bit tiring constantly drudging forward in that straight line.

Nearly at the end of the game you will reach an area that allows you to finally spread your wings a bit and explore a little. It's a reasonably large area full of baddies that serves as a sort of grind-time deal before moving on toward the end of the game. This is where you'll make most of your money, gain most of your experience, and earn some of your most valuable items and weapons. It's so compact and deliberate however, that it sort of feels like they just threw it in there to quell possible rage that comes from the fact that towns and quests don't exist anywhere else. It's a bit ironic then that grinding for levels and health seems largely useless for all intents and purposes. A friend of mine beat the game in around 45 hours, and told me he struggled at the end. I took it upon myself to grind out some experience and gil to upgrade my weapons and accessories before moving on which set me back about 20 hours. As it turns out this was all in vain because I had equally as much trouble due to what I can only describe as seemingly proportional damage done by many bosses. Although increased stats may help you do some more damage, health might as well stay constant. People may argue my skill is just poor, but that's highly unlikely due to the game's horribly simplified battle system.

Final Fantasy 13's battle system drastically overhauls the formula native to the series. You get three people at a time which isn't anything new but you only control one of them in battle – the team leader. The skill unlocking operates much like that in Final Fantasy 10. Levels don't necessarily exist; you simply earn experience in the form of CP which you can use to unlock abilities, health, strength, magic, etc in the crystarium for each character. The battle system itself operates on paradigms. Paradigms are simply the combination of chosen c1ases that your battle team may jump between in a battle. Once in a given battle, you may at any time switch your paradigm that suits the situation you are in. The important thing to keep tabs on is your enemy's stagger gauge. If you successfully drive up the gauge to the breaking point your damage will be greatly increased. This is absolutely vital and how well you do in the game will be decided by how quickly and effectively you can drive an opponent's gauge up to break. It works very well, but there is a fatal flaw in the system – little to no involvement.


Yes, now you can ride your Summons.

I started to get concerned about my controller's A button about half way through the game. Because of how they crafted the system, they have you rely largely on an auto-battle button. Yes! You too can perform the most effective combination of attacks by simply clicking auto-battle over and over again! Gone are the days of quick thinking and strategy, just keep clicking A! Low on health? Just switch to a healing paradigm and keep smashing that A button! In all seriousness, while the system makes for a flashy one that can be more exciting to watch, it doesn't exactly make you feel like you're mastering anything but the ability to press a button really fast. For a system so simple, you'd think that you would have full access to everything from the start. Apparently we are far too stupid for such a task.

Just like the pacing of the story, the pacing of unlocking battle abilities and commands is at a snail's pace. You will quite literally be a few short hours from beating the game when your finally ability becomes available to you. Every few hours you'll be able to do some extra little thing in battle. To be honest it's a bit frustrating and insulting.

Backing up the core battle system is the accessory and weapon upgrading system. There's no real crafting involved, instead you can upgrade weapons and the like by using materials found in the field or bought in a store. There's a semi-neat multiplier system that makes it more of a game to figure out the right combination of materials to gain the most experience, but it's easily figured out and exploited which ruins much of what it could have been. This is how you'll eventually obtain the best items and even the final weapons in the game albeit with an insane amount of grinding for cash.

Maybe it'll be Final Fantasy 21 before it happens, but damnit I refuse to die before I see a game in the series make summons useful. They make an effort here, and although I'm sure I could have made some of my situations easier by whipping one out, I never used one the entire game save when I was forced to. My characters simply did as much damage or more and so although it's nice to have a meat shield and your health restored it's not so great to waste your time and TP on not staggering your opponent. As a super subjective side note: when it comes to summons -- more monster, less transformer. Years of development and nobody could figure out how to make summons useful.

That seems to be what plagues Final Fantasy 13 throughout. Although the game has had years and years of development time and an insane budget, everything feels not properly thought out. In their hell-bent quest to make Final Fantasy an interactive movie experience, they've stripped out much of what makes Final Fantasy what it is. While the graphical prowess is no doubt impressive, it feels like they've stripped too much away from the core experience. For a series that relies on the deliverance of a story and character progression in a world you can imagine yourself in, Final Fantasy 13 takes a massive step backwards in staying true to form and in turn being a game worth experiencing.

Final Fantasy 13 is by no means a bad game. It's a competent JRPG that will satisfy many people for what it provides. Many hardcore fans may find themselves frustrated throughout the game, however. If you want a crazy show of cut scenes and simplified game play then this is your Final Fantasy. If you want something more true to the series' roots then you may want to look elsewhere for your fix.

Link to thumbs up/down

Overall: 7.0

A bet amongst friends

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A good friend of mine was kind enough to wake me up before noon the other day just because he "was in the neighborhood." I sluggishly pulled myself out of bed and let him in.

After playing some games, we got to talking about Halo Reach. He says he's gotten over Halo, which I don't believe (for Halo 2 he blasted the Halo theme song all the way to EB). I explain how Reach is sparking my interest in the series again, and he tries to convince me that it's going to tank.

He of course quickly retracted that statement because even he knows if Halo is on the cover it's going to sell well. I continue hyping it, and he's convinced it's not going to sell very well. In fact, he figures it will sell less than Halo 3 did. I of course told him he was mad, and he responded with "well it sure as hell won't beat MW2's sales."

Now I thought about that for about two seconds before agreeing, because how can it compete with a multiplatform game? He took it a step further then, and said, "well it won't even do better than it on the 360 alone."

He had me there. I quickly ran some numbers in my head, and logic told me that it was possible. He laid down a bet saying that if Reach beats MW2's first week numbers on the 360 he'll buy my copy. If it doesn't then I have to buy his. I shook on it immediately.

Without taking into account any forces of nature, the odds are in my favor. Halo 3 had a ridiculous attach rate, somewhere around 30% if I remember correctly, in its first week. At that time there were only about 12 million 360s on the market. Right now (so not including sales up to the release of Reach) 360 sales sit at damn near close to 40 million. That means that in order to beat MW2's first week sales (about 4.9m) I only need Reach to have a 12.5% attach rate on week one. I then thought that the xbox live user attach rate might be more important. The latest numbers I could get were from 2008, where unique users sat around 20 million. Even just using that number, I'd only need a 25% attach rate, which is still lower than that of Halo 3. I'm sure they will sell another few hundred thousand 360s by Reach's release date. I'm also sure that Microsoft will release a special limited super ultimate edition Reach 360 with a 250 gig hard drive to push even more 360s out the door than the game will alone.

On top of that, I'm confident in a couple more things. Come November, I'm sure MW2 will release a new map pack in and around that time to try and retain as many players as they can. This will be necessary because players will probably start to burn out a bit on MW2. Luckily for Bungie, the audience is all but identical for Reach and MW2.

Lastly, Microsoft plans on spending even more money on marketing for Reach than they spent on Halo 3. I don't know if you remember how ridiculous the advertising campaign was for Halo 3, but needless to say Reach's campaign will have to be insane.

So what do you think? Will Reach hit the magic 5 million unit mark in week one? Personally, I think if the marketing is done well, and the Beta is very well received (which I'm sure it will -- aside from maybe those jetpacks...blah), Reach could push 6 million units in the first week -- maybe more.

That's all for now! Back to studying....last final on thursday.

Have a good one!

XR

The Gaming Community Celebrity

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As I sit here listening to my favourite gaming podcast, dreading the coming days before final exams tackle and pound me into submission, I think about something that perhaps many gamers haven't before. Maybe I shouldn't say that, I can't just assume I'm the only one thinking about the oddities of the gaming community. Perhaps many of you who read this will have already thought about it at length. For conversation sake, I hope you have. If you haven't, then hopefully this will make you take a step back and look at things a little differently. Am I getting too deep already? Humor me a little more than usual if you can, it's getting late.

I've been thinking about the celebrity that game reviewers have built up around themselves, as well as blog writers and those who defy classification. Specifically, I've been thinking about how many of them are now getting older, and how the cycle of the next generation of celebrities will come to be.

It probably won't surprise many of you if I bring up Jeff Gerstmann. I've followed him since nearly the dawn of his career here on Gamespot. He has perhaps unintentionally become one of the most famous game reviewers on the internet (yes, even before Gerstmann-gate). His popularity allowed him so much that upon starting up his own website it exploded and has quickly become a hub for a huge community that grows continuously. Of course Ryan Davis, and Brad Shoemaker carry their own celebrity as well, albeit perhaps not on the grandiose scale of Mr. Gerstmann. What gets me thinking is that these guys (and others, don't think I'm forgetting about anyone) are getting older. They've grown up (as much as a gamer can). They aren't grandparents or anything, but they're not youngsters anymore either. I wonder how long they will continue their careers as reviewers. Can we expect to see a Siskel and Ebert-esque band of hyper-popular reviewers 15 years from now? 25 years from now? How will the generation who grew up and followed these guys closely for their whole careers react to a new generation of reviewers coming up? Will those reviewers even be able to reach the celebrity that we see in many today? I've pondered these questions for a long time, and to be honest I'm not sure if there is a real answer to any of them as of yet.

But we're seeing other things crop up in the community now. People who have been part of the out-group are creating their own celebrity. The name that instantly comes to mind is Michael Pachter. If you don't know who he is, he's an analyst for Wedbush Morgan that has been a regular guest on Gametrailer's Bonus Round for a long time now. He's slowly become popular, and now has his own show on Gametrailer's that's become wildly popular. It almost pulls in as many views as Bonus Round itself, which he still appears on regularly. It's great to see things like this happening within the community. We're not exactly known for accepting great change, which is part of why I'm so interested in this topic to begin with.

As much of a jumbled mess this all might seem, it has interested me a great deal for some time. Watching people rise in popularity to almost legend status (Greg Kasavin, anyone?) has been fun to watch. It makes me think about what the hardcore gaming community will sit 10 or 20 years from now. Will the older generation of gamers tell their kids stories about favourite videos, reviewers and podcasts? Will we compare future reviewers and gaming celebrities to the new groups that will inevitably rise in the ranks as the older group moves on or out? It excites me and scares me at the same time. It's hard to imagine not having the mainstays around down the road. I'm not ashamed to admit that I'm not a fan of change myself. I'll suck it up, but I'll be damned if someone ever replaces Jeff as my most respected reviewer.

What do you think about all of this? Has this stuff ever crossed your mind on a boring, rainy day?

Have a good one,

XR

Garrus has what!?

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Probably one of the funniest lines I've ever heard in a video game. Virtual high five for those who heard the conversation that inspired this macro...



God this game is good!

Have a good one,

XR