Thursday, September 1, 2011

Monday, May 10, 2010

Abandon Hope All Ye Who Enter

I usually consider myself an optimistic individual, especially when it comes to video games. Reading forums almost seems like a masochistic thing to do to yourself these days. I’ve never seen such huge groups of cry babies and snobbery all in one place. Its unapproachable I always say. Why involve yourself in something as silly as console flame wars?

Console wars aside, I've actually think Microsoft needs to get their act together. Let’s rewind a bit and turn back Time to the beginning of this mess.

About a year ago I decided to jump onto a more presentable email for professional and business reasons. As I’ve made the transition from teenage gamer, to responsible dad with family, I’ve made some accommodations for them and myself. As I began to use my primary email, I eventually changed the email associations for everything from newsletters to twitter updates and video game account passwords. There was no reason to log in to my old email anymore. Unfortunately, Hotmail has some kind of login detail that isn’t obviously apparent. Emails tend to go dormant after a certain amount of time which isn’t such a big deal if you weren’t using it but this little important piece of damning information would prove to be more than a big deal.

Xbox Live gamertags require a Windows Live ID to be linked to them. In order to recover your gamertag anywhere, you log into your Windows Live ID. In order to change to a brand new hard drive, you need to recover your gamertag onto that hard drive. In order to bring your saved games with you, you need to log into your Windows Live ID. You can even change your Windows Live ID through the Xbox 360 Account Management page, but to do that, you need to log in to your Windows Live ID and there lies the source of my problem. My dormant Windows Live ID means my email doesn’t even exist anymore. One would think there has to be a simple fix to the solution but it goes deeper. Major Nelson released some information about this known issue which is explained here ------->

So it’s been over a year since they’ve “been looking into the problem.” A year too long I say. Here is why. I am currently on my 3rd Xbox and looking into a 4th. My first console crapped out and flashed the dreaded Red Rings of Death. They sent me my second console, a “refurbished” console which would, from time to time do little things like CORRUPT MY SAVE FILES. I’m talking about it even corrupted my gamertag somehow and had me recovering it every so often. I needed to make some changes fast. The 360 Pro version was only $300 at the time and the Elite at $400 or $450? I forget. So at the time 60 gigs was way better than 20 and way more affordable. I jumped over to the 60 gig, gave my 20 gig xbox to my nephew and recovered my gamertag.

At the time I wanted to transfer everything from my 20 gig hard drive and at the time there was only 2 ways of doing it. Buying the official $30 memory unit, or using the free transfer cable. I called customer service and went with a free transfer cable. The instructions warned me that anything I had on my current hard drive would be erased. I hadn’t started any major games so I decided to do it. The process was pretty simple, pop in a disc and connect the cable from the USB to the hard drive. About halfway, the process displayed an error. I tried it again 4 times and still nothing. Luckily, nothing was erased from my 20 gig or 60 gig. I called their customer service again and they explained the cable might have been malfunctioning. 5 weeks and 3 transfer cables later left me in the same position. I started to do some research on the internet. Why weren’t the cables working? It couldn’t have been coincidence that the 4 I got just happened to be broken. It turned out that the cables only worked from a 20 gig to a 120 gig hard drive. I sure as hell wasn’t going to drop another $400 for an Elite, or let alone a $100 for the single hard drive (although ironically I would totally pay that right now). So I decided to wait, and decided I would buy the $30 memory unit when I got a chance and transfer my saves over.

Months later my email becomes dormant, and I lose the ability to transfer anything onto a memory card because game saves are attached to your gamertag and to move your gamertag or any of those saves, you need to log into your Windows Live ID which is impossible for me because it went dormant! So I settle again and say ”oh well”, I just can’t recover my gamertag anywhere, big deal. Well little did I know I wouldn’t be able to do a lot of things. I can’t play Mass Effect 2 properly because the save is stuck on my 20 gig hard drive. I won’t be able to see the choices I made come to life in the sequel which is a big thing for me because no game has ever done that before. I wanted to participate in a memorable moment of video game history. I also can’t continue playing the 90+ hours I sunk into Oblivion or 40+ hours I sunk into playing GTA 4. I can’t activate any skulls on Halo ODST because I passed Halo 3 on my 20 gig hard drive. I would have to pass the game again just to unlock skulls to get achievements etc etc.

So I have come to accept that I wasn’t able to do any of that until 3 weeks ago when my 60 gig hard drive started crapping out on me. In preparation for Halo Reach, I wanted to finish ODST and get ready for the Beta. I even jumped back into the multiplayer after spending a lot of quality time with Modern Warfare 2. So there I was, jumping back in when the game starts to lag BAD. It was unplayable. I restarted the console and the loading times for everything were annoyingly slow. The console takes forever to start, the games take forever to even get to the opening menus and Halo multiplayer was unplayable literally. I couldn’t join any games. I played Battlefield Bad Company 2 just fine online but the loading times literally take about 5 minutes, before, after and in-between games. I’m literally against the ropes here when I start pondering and decide to recover my wife’s gamertag on the old 20 gig hard drive. With the approval of my nephew I borrow his hard drive and start playing some Halo Reach. Switching hard drives should be the least of my problems because that’s why they made them detachable right? Wrong. Somehow, my wife’s Fable II save from the 60 gig hard drive was corrupted. We figured maybe it was causing the console to slow down so we deleted it. A few days later after reaching my 46th hour in Dragon Age, I save my game and went to bed. The next day, low and behold, my Dragon Age file is now corrupted. I was livid. From my presumptions the problem might also stem from switching hard drives since I would switch hard drives to play Dragon Age under my gamertag, and then switch back to the 20 gig to play the Reach beta. I connected the dots and figured out that the same thing was happening to my 20 gig the first time I was switching back and forth to my 60 gig when it was still new and that’s why I was quick to get rid of it for fear it would happen to my 60 gig hard drive. What a sucker I’ve been.

So now I’m determined to fix this Windows Live ID problem once and for all because I want to put my saves on the memory unit I have owned for a couple of months now and reformat the 60 gig hard drive. Oh yeah forgot to mention halfway through all this I eventually got the memory unit but it also didn’t work because, you guessed it, you need to log into a Windows Live ID. So I scour the internet again and decide that I need to have a talk with someone who might know something at Xbox Live customer service. After hours and hours of talks with different people, it turns out no one knows anything at xbox live customer service. The last guy actually helps me out a bit and suggests taking it up with hotmail because, after all, it’s their email that isn’t working. So I call them up and hit yet another brick wall. The “nice” lady tells me I need to start a post in some sort of self-help thread in their FAQ knowledge database. I fight to speak with a manager and after being on hold for 10 minutes she claims that her supervisor is too busy and said that he would just refer me to the same place.

Defeated and tired of waiting on hold and all day literally, I decide to post my problem in a nutshell. Currently, I am awaiting a response from them but have been waiting over a week for someone to reply to the thread, and I imagine that’s how it’s supposed to work? So I sit here waiting….waiting….waiting…..

And I begin to think to myself… I never had this problem with my PS3. I started to compare the two. I am still using the first PS3 I purchased on day one and I have never had any problems with it. I was also able to transfer over both my PS1 and PS2 game saves using a $20 adapter. Nothing would get deleted if I did. I even purchased digital PS1 games and used the saves that I transferred from my old memory cards to start where I left off. The way I see it, my appreciation for the PS3 has grown significantly. I already finished Uncharted 2; I recently purchased the God of War collection, God of War 3 collector’s edition, Heavy Rain, Killzone 2, Little Big Planet and just finished sinking 30 hours into Final Fantasy XIII. Hell the service is free to play online, and I use it as my primary hub to watch movies since it plays Blu Rays. The hell was I thinking worshipping the 360 as my primary means of multiplayer fun?

I’m forced to make changes that I have spent over a year denying to myself. And as pissed as I have been about this ridiculous jumbled mess that Microsoft and Xbox have created for me, I have been having a lot of fun making it up with my PS3. I plan to abandon most of my attachments to the 360 and will only use it for first party exclusives and arcade games. I might have to eventually do this on a new console with a brand new gamertag and abandon my 20k gamerscore. My only regret is that I purchased a total of 16 Xbox Live Arcade games that I won’t be entitled to anymore after this. This includes Braid, Castle Crashers, Shadow Complex, Battlefield 1942, Geometry wars 1 & 2 and other important titles that I am sad to even think about.
So what have I learned from this lesson? PS3 has got your back. Hell, it only does EVERYTHING. Thanks a lot Microsoft.

Thursday, January 28, 2010

The Noble Crusade

My people!! I have returned!! Three month absence you say? Nay, I was off on a noble crusade!! Ferelden is much safer place now.

My time away has been a bit selfish I will admit. Hours of gaming piled on school finals was a recipe for disaster. Not to mention I took advantage of the winter break. Unfortunately I still have a massive amount of unfinished games on my hands and theres nothing more that I loathe than unfinished games. Currently I still need to finish practically everything that released since October and that includes Uncharted 2, Batman Arkham Asylum, Borderlands, Torchlight, Dragon Age, Modern Warfare 2 and Halo ODST. It also doesn't help that I have been playing Heroes of Newerth for hours on end. My pile of shame has increased significantly so naturally I fear the Q1 list of games.

On my must-have list for the new year is Mass Effect 2, MAG, Dantes Inferno, Heavy Rain, Splinter Cell: Conviction, Battlefield: Bad Company 2, Bioshock 2, Final Fantasy XIII, God of War 3 and Warhammer 40K: Dawn of War 2 Chaos Rising. That pretty much translates into $650 for the next 3 months and my wallet is scared for its life.

During my time away I also purchased an iPhone and have been buying up a storm of apps so a new feature I want to introduce is a monthly or weekly spotlight on the ones worth checking out. More things planned if time allows me!

My free time has been limited due to school and work so the amount of games is just exhausting to look at. I am currently compiling a GOTY list which is late as always but I like to rent or play every game in every category to give all of them a shot. My next post will be lengthy so I'll see how soon I can hammer it down before I get swallowed up with my hectic schedule.

So bask in our bloody glory comrades, for your leader has returned!!

Monday, October 5, 2009

Valve aquires Icefrog

A huge unseen announcement was made today regarding the popular Warcraft 3 mod Dota (Defense of the Ancients). According to his blog (, Icefrog will be leading his very own team at Valve. Not many details are given but hints at future projects that still involve Dota.

"My goal and top priority in the future is to solve the surrounding issues that affect the DotA experience in order to allow it to reach new heights. Addressing these issues will enable us to further enjoy aspects of DotA such as the gameplay, mechanics, and in-game feel that currently work well and ought to be maintained. As I've said many times in the past and especially after today's developments, I am very excited about DotA's future!"

Im excited to see what they do with the formula. Whether this means a brand new creation of heroes similar to Heroes of Newerth, or some kind of expanded mod out of WC3 remains to be seen. Valve is known for their strong mod support and digital downloads. Im hoping for a standalone digital release but I can dream. Here's to Icefrog!

Tuesday, September 8, 2009

Heroes of Newerth: Beta Impressions

I consider myself to be a hardcore Dota fan. When we have Dota gatherings in my garage every week, it may seem like we gather for cult followings quite often. My dedicated group of friends are quite picky when it comes to playing anything else actually. When I recently introduced them to Heroes of Newerth, their Dota foundation was shaken to its very core.

Heroes of Newerth is an updated remake of the popular Warcraft 3 mod, Dota. Currently being developed by S2 games, Heroes of Newerth is almost an exact take on the game. This was of course taken into account since the development team has received permission to actually do so from Icefrog, Dota's one-man development team. Since Demigod released, it seems the gates have been sprung open for many other developers looking to capitalize on the underground following. HoN seems to be taking the lead when it comes to the 1 to 1 iteration, but does it still innovate? My time with the beta so far has me thinking "yes".

Dota games are notorious for their leavers. It is a tiresome habit and it ruins most games because the game heavily depends on teamwork. The odds quickly shift with the loss of a teammate. There are times when players simply disconnect unintentionally for one reason or another but the team still suffers. Players have taken it upon themselves to use third party programs to ban these leavers and give them an exact date and time of said loss. HoN has built-in a great leaver protection system that allows players to reconnect and jump back into the game(even after a computer restart). I myself found this to be an issue when I accidentally unplugged my ethernet cable, and I reconnected with no problems. This kept me in the same game with my friends and I wasn't banned for being a leaver. For the people that do purposely disconnect there is an experience penalty and an average that keeps track of your leaver percentage. It is tacked onto your profile stats and helps to point out who is really there to stay, and who will quit after being "first blood".

HoN will have 60 heroes on launch day and thats far more than League of Legends' 30 and Demigod's 8. Most heroes are familiar such as the devourer which is very remeniscent of Pudge, but you will also play as cosmetically different heroes like the Poliwog Priest who plays exactly like Rhasta but looks extremely different. For the most part, the heroes will also have the same skills. I ran into the Tidehunter who is now called the Kraken and had his regular Dota skills with a different ultimate. The item creation also feels intact but I found myself a little lost since this was my first time going through all the shops. S2 games has helped to alleviate this by allowing you to click on an item and immediately see the items needed for the recipe, as opposed to looking through all the shops to find the correct items. This was a very noob-friendly transition as I knew what I was supposed to be doing but didn't know where the items were. The game's performance is spot on and overall I am content with the pacing of the game. The 30 to 40 minute games are still there.

HoN also offers many other unique features that Dota cannot due to its mod nature. Sever side hosting provides some very much needed lag-free gameplay. Lag has been a heavy issue as well since every attack, spell or click matters in the game. HoN also includes new maps so that the original Dota map isn't the only field that players can take part in. There is even an anti map-hacking system which will detect any third part programs that allows players to see the other teams through the fog of war. This was another big issue with games as it ruined the fairness for the other players. Throw in some familiar Dota features like denials, last hits, assists, different modes (Single Draft, Random Draft, All Random, Easy Modes), stat tracking, new auto-balance features and you have yourself a game worth staying for. The best part about all of it? The game is only 30 bucks with preorders giving you some added goodies.

Thursday, July 30, 2009

Achievements: A Double-Edge Sword

When Microsoft announced back in 2005 that the Xbox 360 was going to include achievements, the press were skeptical about such a feature (and quite possibly still are). Boasting big features like the 360's player-created content and Xbox Live Arcade, achievements seemed like more of an afterthought, than the focus. Fast foward to today where achievements have changed how we play our videogames in the new millennium. For as long as I can remember, games have always been about fun and storytelling. The incentive to go out and grab the next big title was because you wanted to play it, not get the achievements for it. In the grand scheme of things, these achievement points might inflict more bad habits than fun features.

Sure they provide a great social aspect to games. I will not argue with this, in fact I think its one of the 360's greatest ideas. You can compare yourself to others and help reach the in-game goals together or even talk about how you got them together. We are social creatures, us millennials. We like having all of our information and personal business right out there for everyone to see. Facebook, Myspace, Twitter, you name it gamers are associated with it too. It is a great form of interaction and I think these social aspects have created rich new social environments for our benefit. MMOs are thriving with it and websites are dedicated to it.

Gamers are aggressive by nature. The games we play are cutthroat and promote competition, whether its First-Person Shooters or Real-Time Strategy games. I can recall many nights of Halo smack talk between my brothers and I and sometimes one of us ended up with a busted lip (me). The battle of wits and skill is a constant selling point for games. The industry has become so aware of this that games don't even need a singleplayer story mode even. Xbox achievements have created monsters out of some of us by accident and it is with this in mind that I am not attacking achievements, just questioning the outcome that they bring out. Gamerscores have become the videogame world's pissing contest. The more Gamerscore, the more hardcore you are.

This is also another negative stigma with videogames nowadays. Marketing has split the industry apart and tried to categorize just what gamers are; Casual, Core/Hardcore or whatever label they want to put on us, it all seems so dense. Just how hardcore do you have to be, to be considered "hardcore"? Not every Call of Duty player is out there playing Gears or Halo because they are hardcore. They're out there paying Civilization, or trying out the latest puzzle game on the DS too. I'm getting ahead of myself here, lets back it up.

As I turned on my PS3 the other day I felt uneasy about sinking in more of my time into an RPG that is going to take forever like Persona 4 because I wouldn't get any recognition for it. And it is in that thinking that I immediately stopped that train of thought to pursue it further. For years, I had boasted myself as an RPG player, but was at a crossroads where I felt like I should have been playing for achievements and trophies instead of enjoying a game as wonderful as Persona 4. I've been arguing with myself about where is my time going, and do I really want to play a game for hours and hours without being credited for it? It's a shame that it has come down to that question, for me even. I usually don't let trends and social communities taint my way of thinking but for once, I was upset about having to make that choice. For some, this isn't a problem but for most adults with families, wives, jobs, it in fact is and I'm sure game developers would agree since they are working in their respected careers just like any other person out there.

I also took a look at my collection. My PS3 games were nothing but Playstation exclusives and my 360 was the dominant force with exclusives and multi-platform titles, all for the sake of achievements. This is also what could be hurting the Playstation 3's sales since I feel like I had already invested my time into getting so many achievements. Now Sony is telling me I can get trophies this late in the game? Not to mention, they weren't retroactive so I lost out on Uncharted, Heavenly Sword and Metal Gear Solid 4 trophies.

I even examined my habits and what I have been playing lately. RPGs take forever to finish and I think with the idea of achievements taking longer to obtain, it becomes difficult to complete them and even finishing the games themselves. We've seen the effects of marriage and kids on the gaming hobby, but achievements also come into play if you're thinking about playing a quick game of Call of Duty instead of finishing Valkyria Chronicles.

In my struggle to finding a balance between my hobby and the needless social interaction of it, I realized that I am my own worst enemy. I shouldn't care about people seeing my achievements or trophies, but rather, enjoy the game I purchased and forget about sharing it with online strangers. The incentive to playing games shouldn't be more incentives, but rather the enjoyment they bring us.

Saturday, July 11, 2009

C&C 4 Incoming

I recently took a survey for the Command & Conquer team that literally took up atleast 30 minutes to complete. About halfway through the survey, I bumped into 2 questions in particular that revealed just what exactly C&C4 is going to be all about.

First up is the description to the epic 15-year dramatic conclusion to the Tiberium series, which I wasn't too crazy about in the first place. The features don't sound too bad though.

Does this mean no more Kane? :(

Getting into the specifics a bit, they displayed what C&C4 could be. I like many of these could-bes but I'm hoping they really change up the gameplay a bit since C&C 3 and RA3 didn't really do it for me. I blame Dawn of War II and Company of Heroes for being so awesome. Anyway, heres the screen.

Class-based teams sounds interesting, DD LFG.

What I would really like to see from the Command and Conquer series is another C&C: Generals! I want to rape and pillage with my overlord tanks! "Overlord Ready"