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Palantas Blog

Currently Immortal, 22 Apr 14

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For the past month, I've been playing this wonderful game called World of Tanks: Xbox 360 Edition. You might be surprised to learn, I am playing this on my Xbox 360. The game pits teams of six to 15 tanks against each other, the tanks being based on real designs from the 1920s to 1950s. It's like a thinking man's shooter. There's almost no snap shooting required, and the gameplay is very slow and methodical. You have time to think about what you're going to do, and a maneuver can take a minute or two of the 15-minute time limit for most matches. It is incredibly satisfying when you and a couple teammates take a gamble, and end up flanking the enemy and winning the match.

Tanks is a free to play game, and in my experience (190 hours) so far, it is quite balanced in that regard. There are some tanks that can only be purchased with real money, but they are alternatives to the regular tanks, not superior to the regular tanks.

Anyway, I follow World of Tanks 360 on Facebook, and in the past couple days they've had a contest. If you kill a KV-5 tank, take a screenshot of it, send it to their Twitter, and you get put in a sweepstakes for 1,000 gold. Gold can generally only be acquired with real money, and 1,000 gold is worth about $8. That's all good.

Here's where it gets funny... The KV-5 is a brand new premium tank, only acquirable with gold. And everyone wants to kill it, to get in the sweepstakes. So...this really sucks for anyone driving a KV-5! Think about it: You just spent real money for this brand new tank, and now you are everyone's top priority to kill. Sucks for them!

In conclusion: Download the game and give it a try. Just don't buy a KV-5.

Currently Immortal, 14 Apr 14

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I log onto my computer yesterday, and the Catalyst Control Center notifies me that there is a new driver for my graphics card. I click on the link which takes me to AMD's website. There I download their autodetect utility, which is an actual download rather than a browser plugin. This supposedly identifies the driver I need, which it downloads, and I do the express install. I reboot my machine, and then get the exact same notification from Catalyst. Checking therein, I see I'm still running the 13.1 driver, and not the new 13.12 one.

The next time a member of the PC Gaming Master Race asks what a console can do that his PC can't, tell him that it lets you play games, instead of waste your time, dicking around with stupid shit like this. Once in a while, I start up my 360 and get a notification that there is a system update. This usually takes around 30 seconds, and boom, I'm up and gaming again.

Things I have never had to do on a console to get a game to work (some of these are old school):

  • Make a boot disk
  • Fiddle around with levels of system, XMS, and EMS memory
  • Memorize the IRQ, DMA, and port of my sound card
  • Hunt around the Internet for a driver
  • Hunt around the Internet for a patch
  • Have a game not work because my system has the wrong number of bits
  • Set the affinity of my processors because a game gets confused if there are too many cores

Spend an hour reading through forums to find some obscure trick that will make a game function, some nonsense like typing "/wf -p -f" after the shortcut.

And don't tell me it's because I just need to know computers better. Getting a game to work should not require any special expertise. Consoles have PC beat on convenience. The end.

Currently Immortal, 30 Mar 14

After updating my wireless drivers and being reminded why I do a lot of console gaming anymore, I went hunting around YouTube. This is a little old...

...but it well-expresses some things I've been saying about preorders for years. If you haven't been reading me for years, I'll reiterate: Preordering is one of the dumbest things you can do. In what other consumer product category does this phenomenon of mass pre-orders exist? Are people lining up in theaters to buy tickets for The Avengers 2 right now? Really, in what other area of your life do you go buy a product that hasn't been finished yet. No one except victims of confidence scams do this. In the sane world, you don't buy an unfinished product, you invest in the completion of a project.

So tell me, pre-ordering gamer, what privileges does pre-ordering get you? Answer me these:

  1. If the game misses its ship date, do you get to charge a late fee?

  2. If the game gets cancelled, do you get your money back with interest?

  3. If the game fails to hit a certain Metacritic rating, do you get a partial refund?

  4. If the game sucks, can you return it for full value?

  5. Will you receive any profit-sharing if the game is a great success?

  6. Are there any conditions at all you can place on the use of your money?

  7. If you do preorders, what is wrong with you?

I don't even want to hear about "pre-order bonuses." First, that we now have vendor-specific bonuses literally means it is no longer possible to get a complete game on release date, unless you buy a mess of copies for it. Secondly, because of this very fact, pre-order bonuses are always tat. They're either in-game items, modes, or perks that are nearly worthless, or they're real-world stuff that is absolutely worthless. That people cite a free Tshirt as a reason to buy a game speaks to the absence of critical thinking skills in the videogame public. When publishers start offering me stock options as pre-order bonuses, then I'll consider it.

Pre-order bonuses are bullshit. They exist not to provide value, but to sucker games into giving interest-free loans to huge companies. As the video points out, not only is this stupid, but it encourages phenomena like Day 1 DLC. This is bad for the industry, and it's bad for gamers. Stop pre-ordering.

Untitled, 16 Mar 14

I've been too busy playing games to write about them. Around 324 hours, I finished by second playthrough of Dark Souls. I need only three more achievements to get The Dark Soul, 100% completion. In another month or two, I might actually be ready to play Dark Souls II, by which time all the thickskulls who pre-ordered it will have worked the bugs out for me.

If you have The Dark Soul achievement, by the way, hats off to you.

I need a new title for this blog. I've had a lot of free time lately, and I've been thinking about writing again. I've taken so much time off, that I feel it might be appropriate to return with a new and less awkward name for this publication. Ideas?

Thought of the Day: Gaming, 12 Dec 13

Alert alert!!

On 29 December 2013, will be giving away Fallout, Fallout 2, and Fallout Tactics. Fallout is one of the greatest RPGs ever made. Anyone who is into Western RPGs should play Fallout, period.

Now, for those of you who want the modern gamer experience of spending money that you don't need to spend, I will be accepting preorders for these games. Just PM me for my PayPal address, send me $10, and I will pinky swear that you will then be able to download these games from GOG on the 29th. That way you can play some great games, but still pay out the ass for no reason.

Thought of the Day: Gaming, 5 Dec 13

Hey. I haven't been writing much lately. I'll give you a rare update on my personal life: I got fed up with my job, so I quit. I got fed up with my girlfriend, so I broke up with her. Basically, I'm like the beginning of Office Space. I'm taking some time off to relax and figure out what I want to do next.

I had typed out quite a bit more, but then I found out that GameSpot isn't letting me insert any pictures. How ridiculous. I was going to actually talk about some games. I will mention the new consoles: I don't care. I recently told a friend that at my current rate, I'll have beat my Xbox 360 game library to my satisfaction in about two years. There are so many great games I have yet to play on the 360. That I need to go out and spend $600 on a new console to play games is patently ridiculous.

Maybe I'll write a little more in my time off. There are a whole mess of writing projects I'd wanted to finish and post. I have a problem in that if I'm actually putting effort into an article (versus a little update like this), I won't post it unless I think it's just right. I have more unfinished or finished-yet-unpublished articles than I do published ones; probably several hundred pages of material. I would be a terrible professional writer.

Thought of the Day: Gaming, 13 Sep 13

My gaming experience is quite schizophrenic these days. Either I'm playing Deus Ex 3 and Dark Souls, which I think pretty much anyone would argue are a hardcore games, or I'm playing casual games on my phone and tablet. There's nothing in the middle, really. So here's my Friday the 13th post: I'm getting quite good at casual games.

Fruit Ninja

Apparently, Fruit Ninja is free on Windows 8. I just played it on my tablet for the very first time. I played a single game. I got the following achievements:

Ultimate Fruit Ninja

Ultimate Fruit Ninja: Get a score of 200 in Classic Mode

Plus two separate achievements for 50 and 100 fruit.

Fruit Fright

Fruit Fright: Kill 150 Fruit Total

Go Banana

Go Banana: Kill 10 Bananas in one round of Classic Mode

I'm 30/200 after a single sessions and perhaps three minutes of gameplay. Ahh...achievements. I'm not sure I'd ever have started playing casual games if it weren't for achievements.

Thought of the Day: Gaming, 7 Aug 13

Dark Souls

I just killed an invader in Dark Souls, for the first time ever. The invader was a gentleman about it too. There was an NPC enemy in the way, and he hung back while I quickly killed it. Then we bowed and dueled. It's nice when someone acts like a human being online. I was so excited about this, that I hopped on here just to write a blog and tell somebody.

In other news, I got the following achievement yesterday on my Windows Phone:

Angry Birds Addict

Angry Birds Addict: Angry Birds played for 30 hours

How embarrassing. I shared it on my Facebook so the whole world could see my shame.

Thought of the Day: Gaming, 20 Jul 13

Yesterday, I defined a casual game as one designed to appeal to a wide audience, including non-gamers. Clearly this includes Angry Birds.

Except, I just got the following achievement:

True Angry Birds Fan

True Angry Birds Fan: Angry Birds played for 15 hours

What's more, I got that achievement while playing the same level for over an hour (on company time, fortunately). No joke. Level 6-6 from Danger Above is a pain in the ass:

Screw this level

You have a single green bird with which you must hit the back of that top cannon-looking structure, causing enough debris to fall and detonate the lower cannon.

Here it is done right:

The problem with this is that getting this to happen is pure luck.

The green bird is a pain to use, but with practice, I can properly hit the top cannon 80% of the time. However, the debris falling properly is entirely up to chance. I just had to keep making the same shot, over and over again, until the planets lined up and I got my three stars.

Besides venting about this awful level, the point is that spending an hour straight to beat a difficult spot in a game is not in line with casual gameplay. Looking up strategies online is not casual. These behaviors are more what you associate with Call of Duty or Dark Souls. So what's the deal?

I think that there are casual games and hardcore games. However, I think gameplay is what you make of it. Someone can take a simple game, and dedicate enough time and energy to create a hardcore experience. Angry Birds is a casual game. Getting three stars in every level of every episode is hardcore.

Thought of the Day: Gaming, 19 Jul 13

Angry Birds Windows Phone

As I told you yesterday, I have a lot of spare time at work. I recently picked up Angry Birds for Windows Phone 8 (for free, via Bing Rewards), which I've been playing on my Nokia Lumia 920. I've played the game quite a bit in the past, on Windows Phone 7 and on Facebook, and consider myself an Angry Birds veteran (a slightly embarrassing title). However, I mean this to be my definitive playthrough. There are achievements for getting three stars in every level for each episode. I'm going to get three stars in every level of the entire game, have the achievements to prove it, and be done with it forever (then to move on to Rio, Seasons, and so on).

With the possible exception of Farmville and all its clones, Angry Birds is about as casual a game as you can get. It's the first thing that comes to my mind when talking about casual games. Let me share an exchange I had recently. We were talking about Kinect, and why Microsoft includes it with Xbox One:



I could give a rat's ass about Kinect games, so I'm a little out of my element here. I would suggest that Microsoft is trying to appeal to casual gamers, as that demographic is presently making a great deal of money for companies catering to them. By integrating Kinect, they are insuring developers will make games for it. I haven't researched this really at all, as I don't particularly care, but there's my two cents.


The causal demographic is presently making a great deal of money for companies catering to it... like who? Blizzard? Nintendo? It's a false demographic that does nothing but piss off the people that were already customers.

Blizzard makes casual games? According to whom? I was thinking of Rovio.

Yeah, Blizzard makes casual games. :roll: Do gamers think at all before they start typing? (Vidpci up there never answered me.)

Anyway, I think Rovio (Angry Birds developer) makes casual games. But what is a casual game? Lets discuss. For a horde of loudmouthed gamers, a casual game is "Any genre, system, or type of game I don't particularly enjoy." However, I think we can come up with a better definition, by identifying the characteristics of a casual game. Here's my list:

  • Has simple, obvious gameplay, such that a non-gamer can quickly begin playing.
  • Has short sessions. A game that requires significant blocks of time between checkpoints is not casual.
  • Is generally non-violent or contains cartooney violence. Casual games should appeal to a wide audience.
  • Is a fairly light program. A game that requires a high-end PC is not casual.

Now that I'm looking at my list, I think I've got my definition: A casual game is one designed to appeal to a wide audience, including non-gamers. Angry Birds fits this bill very well. However, does a casual game always produce a casual experience? I'll give you my thoughts on that tomorrow.