Monday, December 31, 2007

Happy New Year

Well I can’t let 2007 end without getting one more meaningless post in for December, which turned out to be my heaviest posting month since I started this little shindig.

I got sick over the weekend, really hit me on Sunday so I won’t be doing anything tonight. I haven’t been playing too many games but it looks like the wife and I are ONCE AGAIN shifting back to WoW full time. Something unclicked in Tabula Rasa and she lost interest in logging in. I on the other hand tend to go where she is willing to play along with me so I will probably be leveling that tauren shaman. God help me. Why why why! Her new mage is already 23 and blowing me away and her Blood Elf priest hit 43 last night. She is a machine. I’ll catch up sometime, but I am just not as into as she is. I think I am starting to get tired of games for some odd reason. I watched the Final Cut of Blade Runner last night and the ending was totally different from what I remember. The scene with Deckard and Rachael driving out to the country was wacked. At least from what I remember.

So everyone have a good new year party and I will be back once I feel better and can talk about gaming with a clear head once more. See you in 2008!

Monday, December 17, 2007

Matrix Online and now offline

I downloaded and installed the 14 day trial of the Matrix Online and I have to say it is a unique game, if that is the nicest way to put it. To me it seems that it is almost a direct copy of City of Heroes. The missions, the way the contacts are called up and the way the powers are activated remind me of City of Heroes. Beyond that the similarities end. I have to say that I am completely lost in this game. It is very confusing and the tutorial is absolutely god awful. The best way to learn the game is the in game help index. Character skills, abilities and stats are largely unexplained to the noobie, and I had an easier time understanding EVE Online than I did getting into this game.

By far the worst (or best according to some players) feature is the odd combat system. This system is not explained at all, in fact half the interface that is used in combat goes largely unexplained in the tutorial so that the new player is forced to resort to just clicking interface buttons and watching the pretty graphics. Basically combat goes in “rounds” where you will make a move, and the opponent will make a move. After the animations are done, the results pop up in the combat window. So it is very important to remember that what you are watching has already been determined, you are just seeing a graphical result of the combat. The real kicker comes in having to pay attention to the combat log to know what the hell is going on. I will admit though the combat looks cool, so at least that is entertaining. Each round is 4 seconds and there are two types of combat: interlock and free fire. Free fire lets you shoot guns and move around freely. Interlocked means you are in some martial arts combat and hand to hand. I guess this allows multiple people to engage in mass combat, but I haven't seen this in action yet.

I won’t go into a full review of the game because I just started in it, but so far I don’t really feel like I’m in the Matrix, I feel like I’m in a cyberpunk City of Heroes. I talk to a contact, I get a mission, I run to a door and I fight. Yup, that is City of Heroes. I don’t understand the combat at all. The interface is very odd. Pretty much the move you pick has bonuses and negatives, but I am not sure how to tell what my opponent is doing or how to tell what to counter with. One thing I do like is the ranged weapons. Having uzi’s and shotguns is pretty cool, but again I can do that in Tabula Rasa. The game was also relatively dead and quiet. I saw maybe 7 people the whole time I was in, but that is typical of most noobie zones for 2 plus year old games. I will keep giving it a shot, but so far it is nothing spectacular. I think I would have more fun just playing Enter the Matrix. There is some blatant in game advertising as well, such as Intel posters and things like that, but oh well we have seen this before.

Tuesday, December 4, 2007

Hi Def update

One thing about entering a world of new technology is you have to study up on the things you are getting. So we got our HD TV and it is all in place and hooked up, but then I found out that I had a basic XBOX 360 and only the elite has a HDMI port on it. Ok no biggie, but the cable to enable my XBOX 360 to look snazzy is like 40 bucks. On the other side of things, a standard HDMI cable is 40 bucks or more. I went on Amazon and found these cables for $2.35 a PIECE. I ordered 5 of them, 3 for me and 2 for a friend. I did get one cable with a higher transfer rate for my new upconverting DVD player this weekend, just to be sure I had a top line cable for watching movies. That puppy set me back 30 bucks and the DVD player was only 79! The TV I got has really good reviews and so far everything works fine. There are some strange settings to check into if you want what is considered the best look for the TV in a dark room watching a movie. I found this link here to give a step by step menu list of what one user set his to. Almost like adjusting the sliders in MLB 2K7. I guess my point in all this is: it is never just a simple plug in and play the TV type of thing, no matter what people say. Of course I am also over picky about how my movies look. The Matrix for example (the first movie) looks no where near as good as it should because they have not upgraded that DVD since 1999. Well, they have in a way, but you have to buy the Matrix Complete Collection which is a 10 disc set. The original movie has been digitally remastered in that collection but not on its own.

Speaking of the XBOX 360, the console got a major update this week. You can read about at this link here.

So my weekend consisted of sleeping, sleeping, watching movies and sleeping. I took Monday off to mess around with the new TV and fell asleep. TWICE. I don’t know if I was crashing because of the lack of caffeine in my system or what, but I slept a lot. Normally that is not like me.

I added a few entries into my TR blog about expanding the scope of the stories to include my Specialist as well as my Soldier character. I think it will be interesting to see the battles from a doctor’s point of view and a frontline trooper’s point of view. Now if I could only stay awake long enough on a weeknight to write more.

Tuesday, November 27, 2007

Liberal use of the F-Word: Gordon Ramsay

I will admit I am fascinated by Gordon Ramsay’s show on the BBC called "The F Word”. I am pretty into a lot of British shows from Dr. Who and Robin Hood to Torchwood. I think the thing that makes the F Word work so much better than Kitchen Nightmares and Hell’s Kitchen is that is shows a rawer version of Gordon and what he does behind the scenes. Also, it is not bastardized by the American TV networks so the show flows well and doesn’t edit every little damn word he says. The F Word pretty much throws in segments, but does it so well you don’t even know an hour has gone by. Before you know it his kitchen brigade has served a 3 course meal to 50 people, he has had a cooking challenge with a British celebrity, and his on the spot reporter (Janet Porter) has covered a story. Gordon likes to call Janet Porter his “Culinary Cruise Missile” and she really makes him eat some wacky things. In the episode that was on last night he was forced to consume Camel milk.

The show centers on getting amateur cooks in the kitchen, usually a team of 4, and they must cook a 3 course meal themselves and get a majority of the patrons (50 in total) to say they would pay for each course. The results are tallied at the end of the show and tracked on a white board. At the end of the season, a winning brigade will be crowned. Along the way during the show we get cut ins of other things that are going on. Rather than watch 4 people cook, we are taken to Gordon’s house in some segments where it shows him with his kids and the ordeal he is going through actually raising pigs he plans to cook. The cameras then will track back to the kitchen and we get caught up on how the 4 cooking people are doing. During the show another segment that is worked in is a cooking challenge where a celebrity will bring their recipe and challenge Gordon to make it. Once the two dishes are done, a taste challenge is issued to some restaurant patrons and the results are told to Gordon and the celebrity. Here is where Gordon’s true personality comes through on the show as it is evident he cannot stand to lose or be told that someone can cook a dish better than he can. In a recent episode he actually lost a “taste off” challenge when his Irish stew was not picked by the people comparing the two dishes. I believe at that point a smattering of F word bleeps and shits flew out of his mouth and he got pretty angry. BBC bleeps the F word, but not “shit” which I find pretty interesting.

The show features pretty slick camera work and is not as in your face as the over explosive Fox TV shows that he has brought to America. F Word also skips the dumb reality TV show moments and simply presents the cooks and the chefs in a normal environment doing what they do and that is getting bitched out by Gordon when they aren’t producing to his standards. Some of the best moments of the show are the raw footage moments supplied when Gordon confronts some of the restaurant patrons that would NOT pay for the dishes that were sent out by the crew of 4. A great moment on one episode was the woman that returned the dish with the rabbit liver on because it was served too pink. Turns out that is indeed the perfect style to serve that and it was obvious she didn’t know what she was talking about. Gordon busted her chewing gum and eating his food at the same time, and that is a bad no no when it comes to testing his dishes. He definitely does not hold back any punches when he figures out why some people would return the food that was made to what he thought was a decent standard.

Other classic segments involve him visiting a random house and helping the resident learn to cook and get away from pre processed meals and skipping meals altogether. Examples of this include the British expatriate living in France that could not get her neighbors back over to dinner after one failed meal she served them. Being French, they insulted her cooking and English food in general. Gordon came in and set them straight by serving a full course meal and teaching the British woman how to properly cook it. If there is one thing Gordon can’t stand it is people with ignorant palates and the French. This sort of stuff happens all the time on the show and it is presented quickly and cleanly so that by the time the hour is up you don’t even realize you were watching a cooking contest show. Much better than the lame Top Chef on Bravo or Hell’s Kitchen itself I think. Also on the BBC Gordon has Ramsay’s Kitchen Nightmares which is of course the original version of Kitchen Nightmares currently in your face on Fox TV. The production qualities on all the British versions of Gordon’s shows are so far and above the crap that the Fox Network spits out I have to cringe when I watch those episodes.

At any rate, consider this my cooking “Thanksgiving” blog entry and do yourself a favor and check out this show. While you are at it, give the excellent Torchwood a shot as well (a good Dr. Who spin off show). No entry from me tomorrow so have a good holiday all.

Tuesday, August 21, 2007

GenCon 2007: Friday - Sunday recap

Friday was an interesting day. I was supposed to have been at Arkham Horror at 8am but I just couldn’t make and slept in and blew it off. The previous days driving and excitement caught up to me and I ended up sleeping until about 9:30 in the morning. We learned a lesson that next year I won’t be scheduling events for that early in the morning, especially when the night before I stay up until 3am to watch a zombie horror flick. The best event I did during the whole Con was Friday at 4pm which was the WoW Trading Card game beginners tournament. Entering this event was 15 dollars, but I got a WoW TCG starter set plus two free boosters as I played (the starter set also had 2 boosters). This was my first tournament type event, and it was for starters. I knew that I could never build a deck or be competitive any other way because I am just not that good at card games. Anyway I went 2-1 and had a good time, until I got crushed by an overpowered Warlock deck. Much like the real game, Warlocks need to be nerfed.

Saturday morning I was up and hitting the Tannhauser gaming event that I signed up for. The FFG guys were once again NOT ready for the demo, and along with me were 3 other guys that were confused about where the event was to be held and where our demo event leader was. Once he finally showed up we got our spots and settled in for some Tannhauser.

Tannhauser turned out to be a very cool game, even if slightly unbalanced. Basically, it is a miniatures game on a board but geared toward personal combat, sort of a Confrontation meets Descent board game. You can move about and take cover using the board which has a special segmented movement system printed on it. The range and LOS are already marked on the playing field making your position and tactics very crucial. There are smoke grenades, knives, pistols, whips, large machine guns…the works. It is a very cool game with a a lot of expandability because you could technically add more map add ons and characters very easily. Also each character can have a different load out before the game begins and can drop and pick up gear left by dead comrades. The demo leader was way more competent than our Marvel demonstrator the day before, and I left wanting to buy the game but I knew my lack of opponents would make it a waste of money.

I met the designer of Dungeon Twister, a great board game with tons of variety and we picked that up and got him to autograph our box. The designers name is Christophe Boelinger and he has been at every GenCon each year I have gone, and I have always been intrigued by the game so this year I finally picked it up. I talked with him about 2 hours and played a small game before it was time to head out since the hall was closing. It is always great to meet a designer as passionate about games as Christopher is. During our time in the hall I also played an AT 43 demo and that is a great game, but very expensive to get into. Rackham is really coming out with some great stuff lately.

Later that night I had a Munchkin card game event at 9pm and ended up playing with 4 other people for a total of 6. That game is a blast with a lot of people, and I did my best to be the evil backstabbing jerk at the table and I did so effectively. I am sure I ruined the night of many Munchkin players at the table, but that is what the game is all about! I did not win but it was fun.

Sunday was my typical wrap up day where I just took it easy and scouted the exhibition hall for any deals we may have missed. Being a super hero nerd, this year I finally decided to get into Hero Clix and found starter sets and boosters being reduced for clearance on the last day of the con. I got a starter set for 5 bucks, and many boosters for $1.50. I walked out of there with about 5 bags full of Hero Clix stuff and can’t wait to start playing. I left a bit early to beat the traffic and finally got home around 6pm, another GenCon finished and another year ahead to wait. One thing I do want to do is make the Wizard World Con in Chicago next year. This is usually a week before GenCon and kinda a prelim. That is about it for my recap, over time this week I will get some pictures up as a separate post but for now I just wanted to get my thoughts out before I forgot. I had been planning to do a day by day synopsis but forgot my laptop power cord and ran out of juice Saturday morning.

For additional community pics head over to the site here:

Thursday, August 16, 2007

GenCon 2007: Day One

So I arrived at Gencon 07 with some different expectations this year since I actually had events and things to do, expecting to keep busy instead of having a 4 day shopping spree. During the past few weeks my fears started to grow that I was part of the group of people that had not gotten their badges even though I signed up and registered in February. Sure enough the day was here today and nothing in the mail, which would mean I had to leave around 5am from the Chicago area to make sure I got to Gencon in time to get in the customer service line and have my badge printed. I had an event at noon and didn't want to be late. Turns out by how crappy the event was it really would not have mattered but more on that later. In fact I got in so early that the area in front of the exhibit hall was dead when the doors had opened. I noticed that this year the badges were being taken in the hallways instead of at the exhibit hall door, leaving you free to enter and roam once you passed the security. This has so far kept the doors clear but the real rush will start tomorrow.

Ok so I get in and get my badge, the guy behind the customer service desk was actually helpful and got me out of there fast. I headed over to Grand Ballroom 500 and found my Fantasy Flight games table where the Marvel Super Heroes board game event leader was waiting. Now me being a nerd I really get into my gaming at Gencon, I usually don't hold back too much when it comes to meeting other nerds since we are all here with the same interests and to game and have fun. I knew immediately though as soon as I sat down that I was in trouble and had gotten one of those guys that just didn't know the game that well. He was a volunteer and he did his best, but he messed up on a lot of rules and eventually a kabitzer (or a game observer that butts in and tells people how to play) had to correct the demo guy on things he was teaching us wrong. This makes the game demo agonizing to sit through and very hard to understand. The couple we were playing with were losing interest fast, so fast that I had to crack really bad jokes like "I'm playing Colin Farrell" when I played Bullseye or "I wonder if he was drunk" when Iron Man was defeated in combat. Of course only true comic book or movie fans will catch that stuff, but I had to try. Despite all my efforts I never managed to make the very bland couple across from us crack a smile.

This happens year after year to me and I know that the people that demo games are volunteers, but damn FFG needs to make an effort to match these volunteers up with people that actually KNOW the game and can teach it well. In the end my wife destroyed all 3 of us with her Spider Man team and the game ended two hours early. While it was ok, it left us with a negative attitude for the days event. I could have taught it better and ended up having to clarify a lot of rules that I had skimmed over in the book. I never cut off or corrected our demo runner though, unlike the rude fella that was supposed to be watching and couldn't keep his mouth shut.

Well after that I decided to go to the exhibit hall to catch what vendors and booths were setup for this years spending spree. I managed to run into Steve Kramer, a game designer with Sony Online and he gave us a great demo of the Rise of Kunark expansion. Turns out Steve did most of the work for Darklight Woods and the Sarnak starting area so he had a great wealth of stories to tell. Also I got a confirmation that Karnors Castle will be built exaclty off an old map of the zone, so old school EQ1 players will not be let down. In fact that zone is Steve's zone and he is really quite proud that he gets to bring it alive. I told Steve that every Sarnak should start with a Sarnak Courier note in their backpack as a little practical joke on EQ1 players that may be famaliar with that annoying loot drop. He wrote it down, I hope he uses it but Steve that will be $10,000 for rights to my practical joke :)

Elsewhere we ran into the NC Soft booth where they were displaying Tabula Rasa, Guild Wars and its new expansion as well as some City of Villains games. Another hugely crowded display was the Warhammer Online booth, which around 3:30 pm did a beta giveaway raffle. About 15 names were called and no I did not win, but tomorrow more will be given out. I managed to get a glimpse of Warhammer Online in action and holy cow the interface looked exactly like WoW, it was almost scary, right down to the radar and health bars. The graphics were pretty sharp but without playing it I cannot really say how the game played and felt. Of course the HUGE draw was the new World of Warcraft expansion Wrath of the Lich King. Blizzard has about 12 kiosks here, loaded with Starcraft 2 films and the oppurtunity to play a few zones of the new WoW expansion. It looks fantastic, the graphics have had a slight overhaul and the buildings and new mobs look gorgeous. I was not able to get in and play but watched for several minutes various games of people at different areas in the new zones. Blizzard was allowing people to create level 70 characters, spend talent points and go exploring.

Well that is about it for my day one report, I will see plenty more tomorrow and I have to give a huge thumbs up to the Gencon 07 schwag bag this year. It came with a brand spanking new WoW Trading Card game starter set (Burning Crusade expansion) and a free booster box of Axis and Allies miniatures. NOW that is schwag that a geek can learn to love. Until later, this is the Private signing off and going to get some sleep!