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Ashur Blog

The Jaded Racer

I like racing games. I have Colin McRae Rally 3, Colin McRae Rally 04, Rallisport Challenge 2, Project Gotham Racing 2, every Gran Turismo game, Need For Speed: Underground and all the rest of the NFS games, and Burnout/Burnout 2: Point of Impact. However, I've noticed something that others probably have too. Racing is all about repetition. It isn't dynamic like a first person shooter, it isn't deep like a role-playing game, and it isn't tactical like a strategy game. Racing is all about doing the same thing over until one time everything clicks and you get first place, also known as "Gold". I don't know why anyone likes racing games, or why I do, or why we racing gamers put up with the lack of innovation in this genre.

The genre seems to move ahead in very small innovations. Such as Metropolis Street Racer's kudos system, and in Burnout 2: Point of Impact's crash mode. Nothing revolutionary has really come out of racing since the leap from two-dimensional to three-dimensional. Basically, the cars and textures have gotten more complex, our cars can now explode and crash in more spectacular ways, physics has improved, longevity has been increased; it is a genre centered around its nexus of refinement.

Today I purchased Burnout 3: Takedown from my EBGames at the mall that is closest to where I live. Burnout 3: Takedown is not the revolution I and many other jaded racing gamers have been looking for. It simply isn't. However, that doesn't mean that it isn't the closest thing we have. Even the most intense of racing simulation fans will be sitting on the edge of their seat, adreneline pumping, dodging oncoming traffic, accumulating near misses, boosting, drifting, taking down other cars, causing huge crashes in intersections, and letting their road rage out. It's simply a spectacular game that adds a phenomenal sense of depth to the arcade racer sub-genre of racing.

Before, racing was really all about special boosts and stuff. Some games featured a rather bland combat system. Get this power-up and then shoot it off and hope it hits the other racer, who can use a special shield power-up to block it! Boring. There is only very light strategy. Even in Burnout 3: Takedown, the strategy is not near as complex as found in games like Starcraft and Dune, it is more complex than found in sci-fi arcade racers like Quantum Redshift or lighter racing games like Mario Kart.

Burnout 3: Takedown is all about holding the other racers off with driving finesse, but about usurping their place to steal the gold. It's ruthless, it's tough, but the great thing about Criterion Games' modern masterpiece is that it is not, under any circumstances, frusturating. Project Gotham Racing 2 was frusturating. Gran Turismo 3: A-Spec was frusturating. Quantum Redshift was even frusturating. Burnout 3: Takedown is not. Why? The controls are super responsive, the sense of speed is unprecedented and the level of freedom you get is epic. Seriously. While playing Burnout 3: Takedown, all the times I am frusturated and question design and difficulty choices goes away. It's just fun in its purest form, but it still isn't the revolution in racing. What that revolution will be I cannot tell you. However, it sure does a lot to show other developers how to make their game. Don't make it a perfectionist bore-fest with insane difficulty levels and near-impossible goals, make it fun, exciting, and most of all, dynamic; make it like Burnout 3: Takedown.

Burnout 3: Takedown is MINE!

This game is so great. Go buy it. Beg for money. Check parking meters. Do anything possible - just get this game. If you abhor racing games to the maximum abhorrence possible, you will love this. If you love racing games, you will try to sleep with this game.

The Ten Things I Hate The Most, Vol. 1.

In no specific order.
  • Sleeping. Sleeping sucks, seriously. You aren't doing anything. You aren't having fun playing a game, laughing watching a comedy movie, hanging out with your friends, working out to improve your physique, eating to satisfy your hunger, drinking to quench your thirst, listening to music, or anything. You are simply existing, and existing sucks. I feel like every time I go to bed, I am missing out on something because life is so short and sleeping seems like a waist. I sleep for a long time, so I usually end up missing most of the day and staying up late. But beside that, sleeping still sucks.

  • Forgetting About People. I hate when you say "Let's hang out on X" and have your friend completely forget about it. The worst though, is when your friend has other friends over. Then you feel ditched and pissed off because you could be having a good time but instead won't. I am one who always remembers dates. If someone says "Come pick me up on Monday" I will be there on time and ready to hang out. Getting there is 75% of it. You disappoint everyone you were involved with when you ditch someone. Respect takes a lifetime to earn and a second to lose.

  • Weight. Personally, I am a pretty self-conscious guy. I don't let myself get fat or anything. I am very aware of my image and work pretty hard to keep myself looking good. Why? In this day and age, image is absolutely everything. You have to have a nice body with abs and good muscles to get attractive women, for the most part. Even if you are stupid, disrespectful, and scum, if you look good you can get a girl. That's pathetic really, but that is the times we live in. The reason we humans store calories is because it is a function of a body to protect us from times of famine and not eating. I must say, as an American who is always fed, I wish that wasn't a feature of an American body. It is though, but I hate spending hours at the gym because frankly, it is boring.

  • Hypocrisy. I really hate hypocritsy. Unfortunately, it is something inherent to our race. I have been a hypocrite but I also realize that and won't shy away when people point out my hypocrisy. However, I hate the true hypocrites, people who can't seem to grasp their opinions are fickle, quick changing, and usually absurd. The U.S. Congress is a good example of this. The whole "Janet Jackson Wardrobe Malfunction" came out and BOOM, we get hit with a sonic boom of restrictions and limitations. Freedoms enjoyed by people such as Howard Stern are now gone. Clear Channel drops him in like eight markets (now he is back though, Go Howard!). Then, Dick Cheney publically says the F word (F**k). H-Y-P-O-C-R-I-T-E. Go away. You are the President of the Senate for god sakes.

  • Lying. Unfortunately, we all lie. But again, I am talking about real liars. People you just can't trust. You need to take everything they say with a grain of salt. Hell, with a huge bag of salt. They blatantly lie and think they are so clever by "deceiving" everybody when everyone around the person or persons is like throwing up in disgust.

  • Idiocy. If you have an innate mental issue, I do not hate you. However, if your mind is perfectly capable of learning and comprehending and you still neglect knowledge, I hate the fact you do that. It's like when Jay Leno asks people who the President of the United States is and they are clueless. Listen, I am not a political science major from a prestigious political science university, but even if you abhor politics, how do you evade knowing that the current President of the United States is George W. Bush? Espicially under his administration that is under so much scrutiny. Everyone should know some basics, and people who are clueless about the world around them, in all honesty, are idiots.

  • Denial. It's like people who say Led Zeppelin sucks, and The Beatles suck, and Tupac Shakur was just a gangsta-bashing black man who had no intellect when in reality his poems and visions are more complex than the person bashing them can even begin to imagine. Listen, I don't like classical music very much but I can at least acknowledge that Beethoven and Mozart were musical geniuses and that they possessed great talent. People who hold that "rap" is not music: I hate the fact you do that. It is music. It is on the Billboard Music charts. It is on iTunes, Napster, MusicMatch Jukebox, AOL, etc. People in denial are people who are not mature enough to recognize and acknowledge, even if they don't necessarily agree or like something, that it is good. There are not a lot of people who can write what Beethoven composed, and thus he is great. Do I have him on my iTunes playlist? No. But at least I am not some snotty thirteen year old who thinks he knows everything there is to know.

  • Pessimism. Why do poeple have to be so down? I'm not saying we have to be bubbly tween-popping innocent thirteen year old female optimists, but we can at least have hope. People who sulk around are annoying. Personally, I am a generally upbeat, happy guy, as long as you don't piss me off by doing one of these things (and some other stuff). I like being eccentric, because it is truly a reflection of our true selves. O_o. o_O. Yes, I am a little weird, but I'd rather be weird than some "too cool" seventeen year old punk rocker. I take life as it comes, realize every day is a new oppurtunity and that everything we have experienced and are experiencing automatically becomes part of our character. That is the joy of life. Pessimists who sit at home all day cursing the world for being the way it is are stupid and should realize they are changing nothing by their "sacrifice".

  • Partisanship. This includes, but is not limited to, partisanship of political policies, feminism, sexism, racism, and such other things as I have described. Racists suck because they are so superificial they can't get past the look of someone. It is the soul of someone that matters; their personality, their character, not the color of their skin or the way they style their hair, or lack thereof. I hate feminism because inherent to feminism is hypocrisy. I've tried to sympathize with the cause, deciding to read Kate Chopin's "The Awakening" and Maxine Hong Kingston's "The Woman Warrior" but reading these books makes me realize why I abhor it even more. We should be equal, and that is it. Feminism is stupid. Sexism is stupid too. Men are not better than woman and woman are not better than men. Equality. Finally, partisans of political parties are annoying, and their partisanship I loathe. Why not realize both Democrats and Republicans have valid points? Why outright deny this? Remember, denial is something I hate too. Many bad things are inherent to partisanship.

  • Hate. I hate hating itself. I am a hypocrite for saying this, because this is all about things I hate, and I am using words like loathe, abhor, and hate itself. However, I'd be in denial if I say I didn't hate. This brings me into a rather interesting position. Readers who get this far will hopefully realize the overlapping moral of this journal entry. No, I'm not being pretentious or trying to be profound. I simply listed things I hate, and because I wanted this to have another layer of depth, I conclude with this. Hopefully you will figure out what I am saying, and agree with me about the things I hate.

This is Ashur, signing off, going to sleep. :(

The Last Two Days

It's 3:59 P.M. E.S.T. right now. Wow, that is a lot of acronyms. Anyway, this is like the transitional period. I just got back from my friend Scott's house following a memorable night of Watermelon (no, not the food), the lucid comprehension that The Lord of the Rings: Return of the King has about nine endings, the knowledge that Sunny D and Pop Tarts are indeed an excellent combination, and how to steal lots of gold bars from Venice, get screwed, and then get them back. Now, it's 4:01 P.M. E.S.T. Cool, isn't it?

Anyway, at 5:30 my friend Bill is coming over and we should be chilling until tomorrow. I forsee Tribes: Vengeance, frisbee, Battlefield 1942 & Battlefield: Vietnam, pizza, and Civilization III: Conquests in the near future. Who knows, we may even get Armies of Exigo working. Anyway, enough about the future, and more about the past!

So yesterday, Friday, September 10, 2004 C.E. (Common Era! It's politically correct you A.D. fanatics! Just kidding, I think the whole B.C.E/C.E. thing is stupid too) I called up Scott and was like "Buyakasha, respek" and he was like "yo respek, west side." If you don't watch Da Ali G Show 1) you are missing out and 2) you have no idea what that means. Anyway, we decided to go see Resident Evil: Apocalypse, but Scott was lazy, so I was like "so just come over my house" and he did. I showed him Tribes: Vengeance and I showed him the power of the skis, and of the grappler. So we spent like an hour laughing, skiing down slopes, grappling onto the ground, dying, and generally having a great time. We switched off randomly but basically every two deaths. Oh yeah, this keyboard sucks, seriously. It double spaces like almost every (just did it there, had to fix it) time and I have to fix it. So, I'm going to buy a new one after this.

Anyway, next we played ESPN NFL 2K5. I was owning him good, and he switched on my team, and we owned the computer. His running was awesome. Like, he owns you at running the ball. I was very impressed. NFL Quarterback Club 97 teaches something I guess. So then our friend Brian calls and is like "yo are you guys coming back to Scott's for a game of watermelon" and I'm like "hell yeah" so we drive over to Scott's and we play a little one on one watermelon and he owned me. If you don't know what watermelon is, basically you have a wall and a volleyball. You bounce the volleyball off of it to the next guy and you go in a line. But there are a few catches. It has to bounce once on the ground, then hit the wall, then bounce once again before you hit it. If it bounces twice you are out, if it goes out of the set boundaries you are out. You can also do watermelon, where if it bounces once you can dive under it and it is automatically the next person's turn.

So our friends Brian, Noah, Scott, Andrew, Alex, myself, and Scott play watermelon and it was a lot of fun. They eventually left and me and Scott chilled and watched Howard Stern. Then we watched LOTR: ROTK from like 12:30-4:00 and then went to bed. When we woke up we had a hearty breakfast of White Castle hamburgers and bagles, and then watched The Italian Job until I left around 3.

Anyway, now I must go buy a new keyboard and be back at 5:00 to hang out with Bill. Peace out, west side, respek, buyakasha.

POLL: The Coolest Title, Ever?

What do you think the coolest title to have would be? Like John the Great or something. "The Great" being the title. Anyway, I think "the Insuperable Soldier of Mystified Goat Lordship" is the coolest. How about you?

Transfer Accepted. $190 to Month of September Corporation, Inc.

So, in regards to gaming, I have responsibilities now, being that I work for Inside Gamer Online. I'd like to just sit around and write up previews, add media like screenshots and videos, post cheats, and do all that good stuff, but I have to step up to the plate and become part of the active reviewing cycle that makes the IGO world go round. This usually means putting responsibility before preference. But in September there is some things I just must have that will add an extra $100 to my $90 expenditures already.
  • Burnout 3: Takedown. I am not reviewing this, but I simply must have it. Criterion has apparently crafted a masterpiece of metal and steel, and hey, who doesn't like masterpieces? $49.99.
  • Fable. I've been waiting for this since it was just a little baby named Project Ego. Well, the only thing that has really happened to Peter Molyneux's ego is that it has been humbled, but it is apparently a great game anyway. $49.99.
As far as responsibilities go, I have:
  • Kingdom Under Fire: The Crusaders. I've been following this for two years, so it should be interesting to finally get to play it. From the looks of things it will offer a blend that should make for some great game play and epic moments. Let's hope it lives up to its potential. $39.99.
  • Evil Genius. This game has gotten a lot of pre-release critical acclaim, and I can't wait to play it. I sincerely hope this title lives up to its potential as well, but we'll see, right? $49.99.
Anyway, such is my plight. And not only that, Rome: Total War, Warhammer 40,000: Dawn of War, and Kohan II: Kings of War comes out this month, ON THE EXACT SAME DAY! I didn't even realize that until I read GregK's journal. Speaking of GregK, he has mysteriously forsaken me and I am no longer a member of the elite "Friends of Greg" club.

The Backlog Diet is back and wants to let you know!

Deep inside of me, something was brewing, and all it took to explode was FinalMusou's request for the resurrection of Ashur's Backlog Diet! I decided to add split-screen multiplayer, a whole new quest, and espicially some new spiffy visors. The new BLD is called Ashur's Backlog Diet 2: Echoes and can be found here. It's back! Come, slim your game fat by participating in this new program sponsored by Backlog Anonymous, Bailey's Total Fitness, and GregK's World Dominance Non-Profit Organization. So, go join now, or else I will have to unleash Street Fighter II characters into the world to come beat you up! Or maybe I will make that Ubi Soft guy come back and beat Jeff in SFII. :P

List what you are currently playing!

  • Battlefield 1942
  • Battlefield: Vietnam WWII Modification
  • Doom 3
  • ESPN NFL 2K5
  • Warcraft III: The Frozen Throne
  • Tribes: Vengeance Multiplayer Beta
  • Counter-Strike: Source Beta
  • Neocron 2: Beyond the Dome of York Beta
  • Armies of Exigo Beta
  • Mourning Beta
  • Medal of Honor: Pacific Assault Demo

Adieu, World of Warcraft. Welcome, Tribes: Vengeance

The World of Warcraft stress test ends tomorrow, and frankly, I am glad. Not because I didn't enjoy it, or because I didn't have fun. No, I had plenty of fun, and enjoyed it immensely. I enjoyed leveling up my Dwarven warrior who reached the eleventh level, I enjoyed hunting fauna in Shadowglen with my Night Elf Hunter, but mostly, I enjoyed the things I accomplished in Durotar with my Orc Warlock. So now I bid farewell to Dun Morough, to discoveries in Loch Modan, to the Dwarves, to the Orcs, to the Night Elves, to the Trolls, to the Undead, to the Tauren, and to the Humans; I bid farewell to Morgus, and to Ashure, and to Numenok; I bid farewell to Zeppelin rides across Kalimdor, to the raid on the Human lands that ended almost as quickly as it began (the server crashed), to eccentric late night conversations about politics, the presidential election 2004, and religion; I bid farewell to leveling up, to completing quests, to the genuine sense of achievement and gratification I felt; finally, I bid farewell to Malygos, the accursed server I joined with Gambone that was the most populated and crashed six times a day.

World of Warcraft was one of the most excellent, polished massively multiplayer online role-playing games I have ever played. That's not to say it is without a few caveats, like when I crashed in Ironforge four consecutive times, or when a quest I was doing got bugged and I couldn't complete it, or the fact that Warlocks need to be enhanced because they are not very effective. The game seems to have come a long way, and it seems more of "EverQuest" than "EverQuest" does itself. In EverQuest, most of your time was spent mindlessly hacking and slashing your way to the next level. In World of Warcraft, the majority, well, all, the time is taken up by quests which as a side-effect provide immense experience that levels you up. The way they designed it works great and constantly keeps you motivated.

I am glad the World of Warcraft stress test is over because now we are one week closer to its release, and now Blizzard Entertainment has a more acute comprehension of server management and server upkeep, and now they can properly tweak everything before the flood of probaly hundreds of thousands of players in the coming months. I'm also glad because tomorrow the nineteen hours I put into the stress test will be erased and so will my connection I have with them. Playing the stress test was bittersweet, because on one hand you are experiencing the game before many, but on the other hand you will lose all of your hard work. It's funny because while I tried to admire the level twenty five druids and even the level thirties (yes, people got that high. There was even a few over forty five) I knew that their work would be gone tomorrow as well. I was happy with my level eight Warlock. I thought I played him well, accomplished a bevy of quests, and equipped him properly. I was also happy with my Dwarf Warrior Ashure, but I can safely say that I will not be playing a Dwarf nor a Warrior.

Today I decided to get a raid going. We got about four groups of loyal Horde members together and boarded a Zeppelin for the lands of the Humans. We went to the Undead lands and gained new recruits there, and then went off to make our attack. However, during the load screen (when you go cross-continent there is a load screen) the server crashed, and I knew that that would be the end of my time in the World of Warcraft.

I went out and did some things in real life, and then returned and decided I would go play Battlefield 1942. By chance, I accidently clicked on Tribes: Vengeance multiplayer beta, so I decided I'd play that, and boy what a blast it was. Starsiege: Tribes released in 1998 and Tribes 2 in 2001, and now Tribes: Vengeance is slated for release later this year, three years after Tribes 2. It is made by Irrational Games, the makers of System Shock 2 and Freedom Force, so there is some definite talent behind this crew, and boy does it show. The game features a bunch of great dynamics, including rewards for offensive techniques, defending, and playing with style. Truly, any way you wish to play you will be rewarded with. You can use your jetpack to fly over hills and then ski down them if you wish. Tools of killing abound, I doubt anyone will be disappointed by Tribes: Vengeance.

My favorite map so far is Isles and my favorite mode Capture the Flag. Each team has approximately two bases and can use a myriad of different methods to capture the flag. The best dynamic comes from the three types of clases you can be: Light Armor, Medium Armor, and Heavy Armor. Light Armor is obviously quicker than Heavy Armor but lacks the firepower, Heavy Armor is stronger but is slow, and Medium Armor is not as strong or as weak as the Heavy Armor and Light Armor, nor is the Medium Armor as slow as the Heavy Armor or as fast as the Light Armor, respectively. There are also vehicles, like miniature fighter mobiles, large assault craft, land rovers, and then deplorable items such as repair stations, inventory stations, turrets, and mines.

The game also features tons of unique and interesting weapons, so many that I can't even list them all. It is something you definetly want to try out, and a game that looks very promising. It's just good old fashioned fun, and that is the best line that could describe Tribes: Vengeance.
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