Friday, November 28, 2008

I levels mah dudes

I've been doing a lot of leveling up lately. I took a character all the way through the Mages' guild quest line in Oblivion, getting him up to level 7 in the process. That doesn't sound like much, but I spent around 14 hours total with the guy working my way up to Arch-Mage of the guild. I don't know what it is about Oblivion, because the game is kind of badly put together and dumb in a lot of respects, but the world they've built there is pretty awesome.

It's cool to see how all the little stories you get from random quests and the main quest lines interweave. Take for example the Count of Skingraad, whom we know from another quest is a vampire. He plays some part in the Mages' guild quest line, too. Then there are the plans by the Necromancers (the antagonists of the Mages' guild quest line) to learn to summon Daedra from Oblivion, which you learn of by seeing books on Daedra and encountering stunted, weakling Daedra in one of your final raids on a Necromancer stronghold. That whole idea dovetails nicely with the plot of the main quest line in the game, about the cult Mythic Dawn which opens all of the Oblivion gates, letting Daedra into the world to herald the coming of Mehrunes Dagon, lord of that plane.

I've created another character to take through the Thieves' guild quest line, he's a Khajit Acrobat. I want to see how a stealth class plays in this game. I might then take him through the Dark Brotherhood line, or create an Assassin for that. That will leave the Arena line, which I'm not really interested in, and the Knights of the Nine and Shivering Isles quest lines, both of which require expansions. I think I'll hold off on those and get the PC version sometime for them.

The other night I felt like playing some more Diablo, so I jumped back into Lord of Desctruction, and fought through the middle third of that the fifth act of Diablo II. My Assassin is level 32 now, and I still don't have all of the skills unlocked. I think I've taken too scattershot of an approach with her. If I were to do it again, I'd focus more on one or two aspects of the skill tree rather than all three.

The last RPG I've been playing is WoW. I've got my Warrior up to level 10 now. I don't know what they consider zones in this game, but I'm at the third quest hub, which to me appears to be in the same big zone as the last two, which is called Durotar, and is where all Orcs start out. I've played solo the entire way so far, and only chatted with a couple of people, incidentally. At this point it might as well be an offline RPG, for how I've been playing it. I hear the game can be soloed all the way up to 80 now, but I wonder about the raids that start at around 60 or whatever. Do people still do them? I guess if I get that far I'll find out.

In comparison to FFXI, I'd say WoW is much more of a PC-centric game. Not a surprise since it was a) native to PC, and b) created in the West. The interface is well done, and of course the mouse and keyboard combination is integral to that. FFXI was much more built around a PS2 controller and keyboard combination. WoW is also much more user friendly, due to Blizzard apparently actually listening to their playerbase from time to time. There are handy keyboard shortcuts, lots of options to tweak, etcetera. And you can swim.

I played a little Halo online with some friends this week. We went 5-0 in a Social Slayer playlist, which was pretty remarkable. That's what good communication can do for a team. And finally, I downloaded SSFIITHDR, as I'm calling it. I suck at Street Fighter! I hop on to the online quick match matchmaker, and nine out of ten fights my opponent is Ken. No shit. the remaining 10% of the time is about half Ryu, and an equal distribution of the rest of the cast for the final 5%. I play Chun Li, having mastered Ryu and Ken many years ago, on the SNES. I've won maybe 2 matches online out of the 15 or 20 I've played. This game looks sweet in HD, though. It's too bad they couldn't add in more frames of animation, but that would have totally thrown off the gameplay, which at this point is more familiar to gamers than their mothers' faces.

Thursday, November 20, 2008

WoW, NXE, Oblivion, and Fusion

My brother-in-law is a huge WoW player with like 6 or 8 level 70 characters. He's to the point now where he pays Indonesian players around $100 (a small fortune to them) to get a character to 70 for him so that he can use it to raid with. It's a different world out there. So anyway, I got to catch up with him quite a bit during my trip to Japan, and he's long been trying to get me to play WoW. Now, I'm actually ready to. In fact, Jeff actually gave me a set of WoW discs, one of his own numerous sets, and he's going to be letting me use one of his multiple accounts to play with, as well. So I'll effectively be able to level to 60 without paying a dime. I may even be able to get Burning Crusade and level 70 from that account, too.

Jeff had just gotten Wrath of the Lich King when I was at his place, and I got to play for about an hour. I created a Tauren death knight and dove right into main attraction, working directly for the Lich King to spread his evil influence across the land. I rolled through about 5 quests, and it seemed pretty cool. Previously I have played a Human warrior and Night Elf hunter each for a few hours. I think once I get my account info from Jeff, I'm going to go Horde and create an Orc warrior for my first real WoW character.

Yesterday was the rollout of the "New Xbox Experience," otherwise known as a firmware refresh for the 360. The biggest update yet, almost a complete overhaul, but still just a firmware revision. The big things here are Netflix streaming, which is crazy awesome amazing (for those of us in the U.S.), the party system (not sure if this is relevant to me at all yet), HDD game installation, and most importantly, the ability to delete game trials from your played game history. I played around with the new dashboard some last night. I created an avatar, an Xbox Mii, essentially, and installed Oblivion to my hard disk. I also played the Tomb Raider Underworld demo. It sucks.

Oblivion plays pretty well from the hard drive, with a good bit less time spent at loading screens (though still more than you'd like), and less pauses for loading while walking around the overworld. I finished up the Fighter's guild quest line last night. To this point, through the main quest and Fighter's guild, I've only been using my one character, who is now a level 27 Redguard Warrior. I think I'm going to roll new characters for the Mage's guild, Thieves' Guild, and Dark Brotherhood quest lines. If I'm not entirely burnt out with the game after those and want to do the Arena stuff, I might go back to my Warrior for that. This is all just the base game stuff, I haven't even bought Knights of the Nine or Shivering Isles. Maybe I'll play that stuff on PC someday, although I've still got Morrowind for PC I bought years ago and which never really ran well on the computer I had at the time. I want to play that, too.

On the flight back from Japan, I restarted my Metroid Fusion game. I had gotten stuck somewhere and decided just to toss out that entire save, which was only about 2 hours into the game. I've already gotten back up to speed and past the spot where I had been stuck, in the 3rd or 4th sector of the game. Not a whole lot to say about this now, but it plays pretty well. I just wish it was a DS game instead of a GBA game. Using L and R for functions that ought to be on face buttons sucks.

Monday, November 17, 2008

Mutants & Masterminds round-up; FFT:TWOTL

As promised, I will write about a few things I've been playing. The first is that last night we wrapped up our Mutants & Masterminds 2 week game in which we played supervillians out to get the infinity gems from the Justice League of America. I played the "Totem" archetype, pissed-off-with-the-man assassin Venoma, part human, part snake. I could spit and bite with paralysing venom, and I have super assassin skills (very good sneaking and notice checks). With our party accepting a contract from a known Columbian arms dealer (who could duplicate himself) to obtain the infinity gems, we set off to infiltrate the JLA HQ and steal the gems. With us was a sentient Simian and a fire elemental, and along the way we caused riots through New York, killed Batman, freed inmates from Arkham Asylum (though the Joker & Mr Freeze were killed in the process), then after successfully stealing the gems we took on the Fantastic Four and some other superheroes who came to try to take them from us. I had the Mind gem, which let me read minds and mind blast people, which was pretty cool. Defeating these so-called "heroes" and then escaping with the gems, we found that Thanos (sp? I'm totally not a comic book person) who had previously wielded the gems in the infinity gauntlet, had the other two gems and was out to complete the collection, and was busy trying to destroy the earth with a bunch of aliens in order to find the gems. Fortunately we found him first, and beat him, but the soul gem decided it didn't want any part of some of my comrades so disintegrated them. Faced with a sentient gem, I spoke to it with mine, and we came to an accord, but when I took it for myself it took over my soul. Then the fire elemental killed me and became a god-like being who ruled the world for a few seconds before the gods decided that wasn't to be and rended her soul and destroyed the gems.

Anyway, it was a hella fun game, and completely different from anything I'd ever played before (though it is most similar to D&D 3.5 ed, being based on the d20 system). It probably helped that the DM was a huge comic book fan because there's no way I'd be able to run a game like that since I am completely comic book ignorant. It is best played as a fast & fun game (often Matt would be like "what are you doing? 5-4-3-2-1") and 2 weeks of it was a great break from our epic campaign of original box set D&D, which will start again next week!

Mutants and Masterminds: 8/10
It loses 2 because I think I should have picked a slightly more skilled character: we hardly did anything much that required assassin-style skills, which is, in retrospect, common for party-based campaigns. Sometimes I felt like there wasn't much I could do, but my bite was surprisingly useful. I was also pretty good at grappling. But you know, you don't really want to grapple Human Torch and things like that.


I'm also powering through FFT:TWOTL. I decided that now my BLM had Thundaja opened he should go improve his time mage skills, and that my WHM should go improve her mystic skills, so we're playing switcheroo with jobs a bit! I'm also highly dissatisfied with my Knight, because he's slow as hell. I'm not sure what to do with him :(

My usual party up til now has been: (4) monk, knight, black mage, white mage, and for (5) a thief or a chocobo depending on the situation. My thief seems to be resistant to my white mage which is really annoying, but she's really high level and I don't want to bother to level a different character up :( I'm thinking maybe I'll switch her back to archer instead because they're less likely to get hit.

Sunday, November 16, 2008


Hi, I'm one of the "new faces" The Count mentioned below (hope you don't mind if I call you "The Count", right? One gamey-game, two gamey-game, ah hah hah!).

Anyway a little about me: when I was young I wasn't allowed to have a Nintendo because my parents thought it would corrupt my delicate sensibilities. Of course, like all girls, I should be more interested in Barbie dolls and playing house than shooting ducks and working on my plumber skills. This didn't last long, since my school friend had one and I would go over to his place and play Duck Hunt and Mario Bros with him almost obsessively. I particularly liked Duck Hunt. Also around that time, my dad got an IBM compatible PC! It was a 286 and cost him about $8000 and came with a VCR. I think it was around 1985. Anyway, we were allowed to play "educational" games on that (I was particularly good at "Where in the World is Carmen Sandiego" & "Gumboots around Australia" & "Alpine Tram Ride") but we managed to get some games like "Castle" and "Gorillas" and "Nibbles" and "Capture the Flag" on there. Anyway, a little while after that, when I was around 8 or 9, (1989!) my sister got a Gameboy and there was an even better Mario and... Tetris! And Burger Time and Pokemon and a bunch of other games I would fight over the Gameboy with her for.

In 1998 I got my first own computer, a hand-me-down P90 from my dad, and throughout my HSC (leaving certificate) I became addicted to Warcraft 2 and online MOOs (which I'd actually been playing since about 1996).

Suffice to say, apart from a slight flirtation with Sony's PS2 and PSP, I've been a Nintendo/PC girl all my life, with a 64, GC, GBC, GBA, DS in my history. I also have a Dreamcast which I get out when I feel like some space dancing! My favourite games are the following (in no particular order):
* Knights of the Old Republic
* Baldur's Gate 2
* Final Fantasy XI (which I am on hiatus from while doing my PhD), XII, I, II, IV, VII Crisis Core, Tactics TWOTL (PSP), Crystal Chronicles (best music in a game ever) (GC), the DS CC game too (the rest I haven't really played except X which I hated with a passion)
* Phantasy Star Online (GC ed) (which got me into MMOs)
* Space Channel 5 (Dreamcast)
* Planescape Torment
* Loco Roco
* Patapon
* Starcraft
* Warcraft II & III
* Mario Galaxy, even though I suck at it
* Guitar Heroes & knockoffs
* Portal
* Prince of Persia, SOT
* World of Goo
* Desktop Tower Defense
* probably a bunch I've forgotten ^^;

I'm currently not playing much on the PC because my PC really sucks (was a cutting edge expensive Athlon 1.2GHz when I bought it like 7 years ago but no longer does it) -- I log onto FFXI occasionally but that's it. I was particularly annoyed that when I bought Portal it didn't run very well at all on my computer, understandable UNTIL YOU FIND OUT that the pirated version that cut out all the Valve Steam dumb stuff that I was playing until it was released here ran PERFECTLY FINE! RAR.

I'm playing lots of PSP recently, because it's my recent acquisition baby. Loco Roco stays in my UMD drive and I have a memory stick loaded with awesome. Something I'd like any games people who read this stuff understand is that Australia seriously sucks for release schedules. For some reason we're classified "Europe" so we get everything a year later and 3x the US price. So it really puts the crunch on poor students like myself. And they wonder why piracy is so prevalent in Australia?! Seriously, I'm happy to buy games that are released on time and for a reasonable price (say, the equivalent of the US price, perhaps?) but no way am I going to fork out 1/10 of my fortnight's salary for a new game.

I'm also an avid boardgamer, playing with a group of friends Tuesday nights & play D&D Monday nights with an awesome crew. I can write about my boardgame acquisitions too if people are interested :)

I'm also doing a PhD so I don't have a lot of game time and casual games are really where it's at for me right now.

So that's me. Oh yeah, and I forgot to mention -- knitting is also kind of like a game for me, except I get something nice at the end of it to wear or give away :D But I won't update you on my progress there because that's not really what you're here for ;)

System wish list: new computer, PS3
Game wish list: Rock Band, GHWT, Mirror's Edge, Fallout 3, NWN 2 (yeah I'm behind on that one)
Looking forward to: Starcraft 2, Sims 3 (haha)
Finished recently: My Life as a King (Wiiware)
Currently playing: FFVII:CC (PSP), LocoRoco (PSP), FFT:TWOTL(PSP), Planescape Torment (again!) (Mac through VMWare), World of Goo, Wii Fit (ongoing!), PhD (not a game, but it takes up a lot of game time)

PS Nas can you add me to the "email when comments are posted" list please? :D liedra at liedra dot net

Saturday, November 15, 2008

New Faces

I've been in Japan lately meeting with friends, a couple of which I've invited to co-author this blog with me, should they have anything they wish to contribute.  I'll leave it to them to introduce themselves, and if they want to contribute gamer cards and backlog info and such, I'll add that to the layout, as well.

Oh, and if anyone else out there is interested in contributing something here and there,  just let me know.  There's no money involved, or anything like that (I think the readership here is like 5 people, lol), but there is stimulating discussion to be had!

Wednesday, November 5, 2008

Oblivion is so broken.

So I'm getting near the end of the main quest line, and I have to escort the new emperor across the city (fuck escort missions). Oblivion likes to autosave every time you rest or go through a door. So I'm going through a door with the emperor in tow, I get through, and get a message that the emperor has died and now all hope is lost... AUTOSAVING. Way to fucking go!

There's no resurrecting the emperor, either. The only choice is to go back to my closest manual save, about an hour back. EXCELLENT DESIGN CHOICE. Why don't we lull the player into a false sense of security by saving every 5 minutes and then fuck them right over with dead end scenarios like your escortee not going through the door at the same time as you (wtf?) and being able to straight up die, forever, when the other dumbass npc with us just keeps getting "knocked unconscious" time and time again, only to rise 3 seconds later?

This is, of course, not to mention the game's larger issues, such as game-breaking monster leveling issues necessitating cranking the difficulty down all the way to play a character that focuses on anything other than brute strength and combat, a wholly worthless third person perspective, clunky combat, and the longest load times since, well, ever. Really, this game is good despite its myriad of attempts at self-sabotage. I hope Fallout 3 was left in the oven a little longer, figuratively speaking.

Edit: Went back and finished the main questline. All it took was getting through the door without a glitch! I'm counting this as beating the game. I want to go and finish all of the guild quest lines as well, though.

Saturday, November 1, 2008

October Pick-ups

These are the few things I got this month. Street Fighter and Crackdown both were $12.99, great deals. Rock Band 2 was full price, but 100% store credit on trades that I'd had built up. Bonus points for using a mirror to read this post.

This week I've been pretty busy, but when I have been playing, it's been Crackdown exclusively.