Thursday, December 31, 2009

Happy New Year from PLAY READ WRITE

I started this blog a little over a year ago now and I've met every goal I set for myself as I wrote, and I've also achieved some secondary, but perhaps even more important milestones. I tried to write every day, or at times, more than once a day, but I thought that I was always honest with myself about the amount of work I was able to put in, and that honesty came with the recognition of what I was going to get out of it all.

What I did get out of writing this blog was my first trip to E3, my first paid writing gig, and an internship at an established games website, but I think I also got a better sense of what being a real games journalist was like. Sure, free games and an entrance to Mecca are great bonuses, but I don't think they're representative of the greater benefit my writing work has given me.

While my writing slowed down a lot over the past few weeks, mostly due to my finals schedule, my iternship, and my traveling holiday plans, I know I've done a lot of good work here and in my writing at large. Once, in a podcast, or some other piece of gaming media, someone said that in order to make it as a games journalist, one has to be a writer first and a gamer second. I think I can say that I understand what that means now. Gaming is a great hobby, one that more and more people are finding themselves accustom to, one that offers a great deal of value as an entertainment form, especially during times like these. Gaming serves as an amazing escape, but there is definitely something different between playing a game, maybe with friends, for pure enjoyment and playing a game for a review, or even a preview. Motivations aside, something just feels different. Maybe it's the knowledge that you're on a deadline, or the fact that you might not even want to play the game that makes reviewing different. Maybe the possibility of getting paid to write critically about a game you've never even heard of, trashing the terrible bits and praising parts that offer something, new, or fresh to gaming is what makes the whole experience different.

I look forward to what my further ventures in gaming journalism offer me. Of course, even as my workload is added to from as many different sources I can find, I'll keep PLAY READ WRITE in tow. I think it's time to set some more goals:
  • Write four reviews of recent and holiday releases (including, but not limited to, Episodes from Liberty City [TLAD and TBOGT as a pair], Assassin's Creed II, Modern Warfare 2, etc).
  • Write more original posts on topics of my own invention.
  • Another 300 posts by the end of 2010 written and published.
As usual I'm leaving this list open to addition, and I'd love to hear any feedback the odd reader/passerby. If you're reading PLAY READ WRITE today or any day, please drop me a line at, and let me know what you think!

App Reviews and Game Reviews Roundup

It's the end of the year and I can't help but look back at all of the writing I've done for outside sites. PLAY READ WRITE is and will continue to be my own blog, a corner of the internet I have direct control over, but as I move ahead with my writing, it continues to be published in other parts of the world. Here's a round up of all my reviews that weren't published to PLAY READ WRITE:


I'll definitely have more writing at outside games outlets in the new year. I hope 2010 is prosperous for myself and for everyone out there (especially if you're reading this, thank you and hope to see you in 2010)!

PLAY READ WRITE'S Game of the Year (REVIEW: Assassin's Creed II)

Assassin's Creed II is a remarkably bright turn in a franchise that could have repeated some mistakes the previous title managed to make itself infamous for. Maybe the problem with Assassin's Creed (the first) was that it simply plopped a bunch of tools in front of the player and said "have at it." Of course, the lather, rinse, repeat mentality of gathering information, seemingly arbitrarily (hey, they're on the list already, let's get it over with), and THEN making the kill, and THEN reporting back to the boss doesn't do anything for the player in the long run. "Repetition" is the short, buzz worthy review word that basically means the player did a lot of work they didn't feel entirely necessary.

Enter Assassin's Creed II's biggest advancement: a story or player-involvement, and by extension player-emotional-investment. People you/Ezio are supposed to care about hand out missions and give instructions. Sometimes they even do things for you. Skipping investigation altogether and being told that the guilty person is holed up in some tower already makes it all so exhilarating. Maybe assassins were really supposed to do all the foot work, sniffing out clues in an effort to uncover someone who deserves to bleed, but players don't really want to be involved in all the sniffing. They want direct control over all of the bleeding, and Assassin's Creed II projects the player right into that.

You can still find all of the pacing and exploration your heart can desire, simply by keeping an eye out for all of the collectible objects. Even the treasure chests, which are actually purely accessory, are given value when they're placed on the minimap by way of a purchased treasure map. You might or might not be motivated to do all of that slinking around, but either way it's there for you if you want it. That's really what the collectible should be, optional, and not the main attraction.

As you're racing from mission to mission, building an entire society of assassins around (a society the first game said was there but never ever illustrated to the player), there's some beautiful scenery to take in. I didn't think there could be a lot more squeezed into this engine, but some engineer at Ubisoft is wringing the towel dry, and it shows. Everything is beautiful, bright, vivid, and Florence and Venice especially are jewels of design and graphical craftsmanship. There's just so much to interact with, and those damn crazies are replaced with marginally less frustrating musicians. They're a bit more manageable in that you can actually pick them up and throw them off a bridge or whatever you'd delight more in.

Everything about Assassin's Creed II has been improved, and where the game is tethering itself to is obvious. It's channelling Legend of Zelda games in the way it has the player collect and complete challenges to upgrade weapons, but it's removed all of the obvious gating and filled it in with more and more story. The story is channeling Grand Theft Auto, not in the parodic lampooning sense GTA IV has made a mainstay of the series, but in the sense that the main character has some motivations and frustrations, successes and setbacks, not to mention that the primary goal is almost always to travel, gather, and kill.

And when the curtain is pulled back and even more is further revealed to the player, you just sit back and say "huh..." knowing full well that you're going to be kept wondering again, until the next installment comes. I haven't even said anything about how great the music is, how powerful of a relationship you build with Leonardo, how fun and varied the missions make themselves, how effectively the team learned from the efforts on Prince of Persia, or how Jenna watched the story are from start to finish and was entertained all the way through. If I mentioned all of that would it help to justify my opinion of the game? Whatever, chalk it up to how deeply I enjoyed Assassin's Creed II. I don't think I'm the only one either, and little touches do a great deal toward creating that deep sense of enjoyment.

A reference to Mario is a more out and out way of leading the player in, but a more subtle way is the progression of the plot through time, or the establishment of an enemy force through the boyhood conflict with a rival family's young man (channeling Pokemon's motivation in the direct linking of two people pitted at odds by "fate" or whatever you want to call it, devine, developer hand-holding maybe).

I could keep going, but there really is no need. I haven't played every game that came out this year (and there are some I know could at least contend ACII for this), but I am comfortable saying that Assassin's Creed II is PLAY READ WRITE's Game of the year.

Thoughts? Questions? Contentions? Let me and any of your fellow PRW readers know in the comments.


Friday, December 25, 2009

Merry Christmas from PLAY READ WRITE

Merry Christmas to all PRW readers. I can't help but ask how many of you are out there, but happy holidays to you nevertheless.

This time of year always brings out gamers young and old, gamers new to the scene with a Wii unwrapped and old hands opening up titles for consoles they already own. It's a great time for people to gather around and bring out games for family and friends. One year, slightly ahead of the holidays, an uncle said of Mario Kart 64, "it sounds like a slot machine."

Gaming might be many different things to many different people, but I hope it brings people, friends, family, maybe even complete strangers together in some form or other.

Last night, I opened up some Xbox 360 pajamas and a copy of Scribblenauts, which I had talked up to Jenna in the hopes that we would both get some entertainment out of the title. It turns out that she's played more than I have, and she's playing like a completionist too!

Last week I unwrapped a second copy of Assassin's Creed II from my brother which I returned in exchange for Episodes from Liberty City, Mass Effect (to prepare for Mass Effect 2), and 1600 Microsoft Points. I've since started Mass Effect, completed the story of The Lost and the Damned, and promised myself the DLC for AC2.

As the day comes to an end, I hope everyone has had a happy holiday season. Keep gaming, keep spending time with your family, and if you're reading this, let PLAY READ WRITE know how your holiday went in the comments.

Thursday, December 24, 2009

Mystery N64 Game stumps Ebayers

This is probably very late news for everyone involved (the auction is probably over and the cart in questions has probably been shipped), but I thought it was an interesting enough news item so I'm going to write about it anyways.

[CORRECTION: Actually, there's still a day left in the auction. At the time of this writing it's reached $132.00 with a 25% donation of the profits to Child's Play (isn't that nice!).]

The labeless Nintendo 64 cartridge certainly seems like a good ploy to dress up an older game and sell it for a decent sum. I couldn't imagine the crushng disappointment received from sliding the cart in and booting it up only to find John Madden staring back at you. Luckily, the seller has promised that the game is, in fact, "good." Many are speculating that the game is a copy of Super Smash Bros. which, of course is one of the best Nintendo 64 cartridges someone could mysteriously buy. The seller has also tossed in another two mystery carts, but I think at least one of those will be a joke copy of NBA Live 98, or possibly the Nintendo published Kobe Bryant's Courtside. Either way, when the auction goes through, will the internet know the identity of these carts? Or will the story fall by the way side?

I guess it says something about me during the holidays when my first assumption is that the cartridge would turn out to be a lame duck. A friend of mine placed a bid knowing that he wasn't going to win, but I don't think I could ever enter my cash in the ring without knowing what it was going towards. Either way, driving up the price would be a worthwile endeavor, especially with charity being involved at this point. Good for you Zach! I'd encourage you to bid again and further drive up final bell's price, but at this point there probably isn't as many people willing to outbid you.

Saturday, December 19, 2009

Soldier and Demoman get an update

The Soldier/Demoman War! Update has gone live, but I'm going to be a little late to the party.... With all of the holiday releases on the 360, I've neglected my computer and Team Fortress 2 in general. Something tells me my TF2 abilities are going to be sore when I do get on to play for more than an hour or so.

Until then, I'm going to have to ponder the new weapons that went live with the update, including a more accurate missile launcher for the soldier, and a sticky grenade launcher that lets you selectively destroy bombs. All of the weapons seem to change the game a bit for both classes while maintaining a fair bit of balance. I can't say that my usual load out will change all that much, but once I've played and practiced a bit more I might be able to switch things up.

One thing that's continuing to amaze me about TF2 is the way these small incremental updates really let the community go wild about the game. Small events and contests driven by the game's characters themselves really help to sell the game to a larger and larger audience. I don't know how anyone could be on Steam and not own a copy (or two) of Team Fortress 2 at this point. It helps that the game is so easy on the hardware and that the cast of characters put forward a lot of personality.

A good example of the way a community driven contest really builds upon the game world is the propaganda contest Valve ran over the course of the update wind up. I don't envy the person who had to narrow down all of the entries, but pictured to the right is the grand prize winner's propaganda poster. Contests like this probably generate a lot of positive buzz and help to get a lot of people in the door with the free trial weekend. I'd like to see the Steam sales for TF2 over the course of the update and the free weekend. From my experience, TF2 is a game that I couldn't really put down after I picked it up.

Only recently have I managed to stray away, with more and more of my focus on the constrained console space. If you're an old Steam friend, or just want to get me in game, drop me a line or comment on this post and encourage me back to the Payload, Control Point, or KOTH battlefield (sorry CTF, never been a fan).

Wednesday, December 16, 2009

Michael Gallagher dropped me a line...

For those of you who don't know, my good buddy Michael Gallagher (I call him Mike), is the president and CEO of the Electronic Software Association. They lobby on behalf of the video game industry and throw really big parties (like E3!).

Anyways, Mike sent me his usual Christmas card, but it sure was dry this year. Normally I get a few pictures of him and his family too, but I had to settle for the following:

Dear Friends,

Before 2010 begins, I thought it would be worthwhile to look back at the computer and video game industry's many accomplishments during the transformative year that is drawing to a close.

Similar to all sectors of our economy, 2009 was a year filled with challenge for our industry. We were not immune to the economic difficulties caused by the most severe economic downturn since the Great Depression. However, these difficult times did not prevent us from achieving a number of milestones that position the industry for continued success in the years ahead and further cement our place in our nation's cultural, social and economic life.

Our bright future could be seen in scores of new titles that attained significant sales and critical acclaim. The Beatles: Rock Band from Harmonix and MTV Games, for example, is having a unique impact on popular culture by providing players with a chance to experience the world of the Beatles. In addition, Take-Two Interactive's The Lost and Damned and The Ballad of Gay Tony helped make downloadable content a common term in even the most casual gamer's household.

The Federal Trade Commission commended the leadership of the Entertainment Software Rating Board (ESRB) as it once again set the bar high as the entertainment industry's gold standard for consumer ratings systems. The federal agency said that "of the three entertainment sectors, the electronic game industry continues to have the strongest self-regulatory code."

One of the year's highlights was the growing recognition that games are making important contributions to all levels of education. In June, The Joan Ganz Cooney Center at Sesame Workshop issued Game Changer: Investing in Digital Play to Advance Children's Learning and Health, a report analyzing how computer and video games can be used to aid children's health and educational development. Many schools are incorporating computer and video games into their curricula, a trend the Entertainment Software Association (ESA) supported when we participated in the National Middle School Association's 21st Century Classroom Exhibit. In addition, last month, President Obama announced our industry's involvement in a new educational initiative to motivate and inspire students across the country to excel in science, technology, engineering and mathematics. Finally, in a trend I am sure you all are following first-hand, an ESA survey found that a record number of colleges, universities and other institutions of higher learning – 254 in 37 states and the District of Columbia – now offer courses and degrees in computer and video game design, programming and art.

Elected officials throughout the nation are recognizing our industry's economic benefits. Texas Governor Rick Perry proclaimed February 3, 2009, "Entertainment Software Day" in Texas and, in April, signed into law a significant improvement in the state's economic incentive program for digital interactive media production. The Louisiana legislature and Governor Bobby Jindal adopted a 25 percent tax credit for investment in game production projects and a 35 percent payroll tax credit for such projects. In total, 18 states actively considered legislation this year to create or significantly expand existing incentive programs for digital interactive media development and production.

With the help of industry advocates, we fended off two major legislative threats seeking to unfairly regulate the distribution of computer and video games in Utah and Louisiana. And as always, we remained vigilant in defending the interests of our industry and gamers. In 2009, we expanded the membership of the Video Game Voters Network (VGVN), which plays an increasingly important role in cultivating advocates and standing up for our Constitutional rights. This year, VGVN members sent thousands of letters to legislators across the country that directly impacted the debates on dozen of bills.

Reflecting our overall health, the ESA's membership roll also grew during this year with eight publishers joining the association. These companies are helping to set the industry's agenda and policies while, at the same time, receiving the unique benefits that come with joining the ESA. Their involvement makes our association an even stronger advocate for the computer and video game community.

Finally, I am pleased to highlight 2009's rebirth and revitalization of the Electronic Entertainment Expo (E3 Expo). The improvements made this year once again make the E3 Expo our industry's preeminent event for announcing and previewing trends and cutting-edge and innovative products. The event now once again reflects the energy, innovation and excitement that are so much a part of the computer and video game industry. The support from all industry sectors and corresponding stakeholders position the 2010 E3 Expo for growth at a time when other trade shows are shrinking or fading.

So, as 2009 draws to a close, I look back with great pride at all we have accomplished together. I know that our strength, creativity and innovation will continue to grow in 2010 and beyond.

I wish you and your families a joyous and healthy holiday season.

Michael Gallagher
Michael D. Gallagher
President and CEO
Entertainment Software Association
What happened to you Mike? OK, I guess I should be straight with anyone still reading along.... I just got a little lazy and thought I'd throw the text from Gallagher's year-end letter out to any gamer not listed on the ESA mailing list. Hope you found something interesting in the wall of text I just published.

Tuesday, December 15, 2009

A nice surprise in my e-mail...

Today was semi-officially the last day of my finals! Do you know what that means? More time for games and blogging! Oh how I've missed you so PLAY READ WRITE.... Did you miss me too?

Anyways, I finally checked my e-mail at 9 o'clock at night and found this little invitation to OnLive in my inbox. While my computer might not exactly qualify for the beta test, what with them wanting to check my hardware and connection, but still it's exciting to be wanted for something.

I'll be sure to let you guys know if I get in, but until then, I hope you'll (all) welcome me back to publishing on a regular basis. The suspense is killing me.... Will I reach 300 posts by the end of the year now after my long hiatus? Who knows!

Friday, December 11, 2009

Today was a long day at the office. I guess I'd like to update any regular readers of PLAY READ WRITE and let them know tag I'm not dead and that I've just been really busy with finals, or in today's case, work at my internship with Game Revolution. Of course I did get to play Bioshock 2 for about two hours today, I had to do some work to go along with it. Hopefully posting to PRW will get a little easier over the next couple of days.

Friday, December 4, 2009

MW2 Javelin Glitch earns a ban

I've run into several opponents exploiting the "Javelin Glitch" in MW2. At first I was confused and frustrated by the large explosion that would consume myself and my team mates. Now I'm merely perplexed by it.

As XBL maestros begin to issue bans for players exploiting the glitch, I think I'll simply step over the offenders and try to have a good time anyways. I don't know why gamers find the need to ruin a good time, but it isn't the first time a glitch has plagued a popular game for a while. One good thing we can attribute to the always-online console is the ability for developers to update titles that encounter problems like this.

Had Infinity Ward held a public multiplayer-beta, would this glitch have been present in the final retail copy?

Gamestop brings back the N64 Kid

That Nintendo 64 kid just never dies does he? Whether hucking BMWs (or whatever) or becoming a soulless face-shifting shill for Gamestop, he'll find his way back into the public interest every holiday season until Armageddon.
So, face-shifting shill for Gamestop is quite the business card title, but I can't help but feel a little touched by the tactic. You see, I was a Nintendo 64 kid myself. When I unwrapped the last console to use cartridges, I freaked out too. My little brother and I probably did our share of jumping around and shouting, so I can't fault the little guy for his excitement.

But damn you Gamestop! You've only opened the door for the dastardly deeds the internet will surely find itself capable of again. Kotaku's Owen Good has already tried The Joker, and I've seen Pyro-disguise-mask and a Crecente kid, but I don't think I can watch anymore.

Instead, I'll just think back to a time when being excited was as natural tearing at the seams of any big box Christmas present. With Jenna's amazing ability to get the right gift, I'm going to have to keep guessing in anticipation before Christmas comes. Last year I was Mini-fridge and Gears of War 2 - Kid, but we'll wait and see what comes next.

A look at the controlled review environment

Kotaku's Michael McWhertor addresses the always pertinent issue of invite-only review events. Of course, as the budgets for games get bigger and bigger, so do the promotions and events in the lead up to released dates. But this poses an important quandary for professional games-journos who get put up in posh hotels and fed to review the latest and greatest game.

This quote from Dan Hsu really sums it all up though:
"As long as the game reviewers can treat the product fairly and objectively, the same as if he were playing at home or in his own office, I don't see a big problem with this," Hsu says of the conditions. "It's either that, or if you want a truly untainted review, stop listening to the professionals and get your feedback from the community instead."
While working at Game Revolution, I heard about the Italian getaway review even Ubisoft held for journalists there to review Assassin's Creed 2. Sometimes I can't believe publishers don't believe in the merit of their own product to ensure a good review. Assassin's Creed 2 can certainly hold it's own, and I couldn't imagine how beat down I would be if I were forced to play through the game in a 2-day period of time. Here's hoping this trend finds its way out.

Thursday, November 26, 2009

Hello to everyone who might be reading PLAY READ WRITE this thanksgiving! I'm guessing that if you're a regular reader you've already figured out that I'm on break for Thanksgiving. I'll be back to regular working hours on Saturday, so until then I hope you're having a Happy Thanksgiving where ever you may be. Try to sneak some gaming in with your family or whoever you might be spending the day with!

Friday, November 20, 2009

Gamestop Hosts a massive MW2 Tournament

Much like SFIV, Gamestop has seen fit to organize a giant Modern Warfare 2 tournament. Let's hope this one doesn't gobble up the Earth.

The tournament is separated into 1 on 1 and 4 on 4. The 4 on 4 tournament is run through MLG and you have to organize a team to participate, but there's good prize money to split up if your team wins. The 1 on 1 battles are apparently taking place in stores tonight starting at 9 p.m. Being one of the 16 finalists in that tournament nets you prize money and a trip somewhere to take on international opponents.

Is it possible for MW2 players to make names for themselves the way SF players did? When PRW covered the SFIV tournament finale in San Francisco, it was interesting to see the fan recognition some fighters had, including Daigo Umehara and Justin Wong. Is there a Daigo for the MW2 scene?

Interruption of Service

Sorry to everyone for the lull in posting. It's been a busy week and it's sure to continue with a packed schedule up until the end of the semester. I hope readers of PLAY READ WRITE won't mind some silence here as I work at my internship, more iPhone app reviews and actually playing games.

Here's what I've been playing lately:
  • IL-2 Sturmovik: This was my second review for Game Revolution. I played through the game on Arcade, but messed around a bunch with the Realistic and Simulator modes as well. I am so terrible at flight-sims and IL-2 only reminded me of that. I tried to play around with the harder controls more for the achievement points, but I just couldn't struggle through it. I think my total gamerscore ended up at around 250 points.
  • Heroes Over Europe: While I'm refraining from playing through the campaign all over again on Ace difficulty, I did clean up some of the odd achievements that don't involve playing the multiplayer (multiplayer achievements suck!). All together, I'm over 500 points.
  • Modern Warfare 2: I'm still playing plenty of multiplayer, especially thanks to a free 12-month Live card from Game Revolution.
I'll try to keep posting throughout the next week, but expect updates to be slow what with the triptophan and holiday celebrating.

Monday, November 16, 2009

8-Bit L4D reignites the need for Zombie Killing

Something about this 8-bit Left 4 Dead has reignited my failing interest in Left 4 Dead 2. The other day, my girlfriend Jenna and I were in Gamestop. I was looking around at the GCN games and checking out box covers for several titles when she asked me about Left 4 Dead 2. I hadn't really been thinking about the title at all. With my Macbook Pro incapable of running very many PC games anymore, I had sort of written off L4D2 as a game I would just miss out on in the holiday season.

Of course, I could pick it up for the 360, but I can't stand the thought of getting a Valve game on a console. My fear is an irrational one, a fear that dictates that a crack in the world would open up and swallow all PCs at once and it would cease to exist as a viable gaming platform. Of course, this could never happen, and there's a large community for L4D on the 360, but I think I'll continue to hold out.

Instead, I'll have to take on hordes of 8-Bit zombies when NES Left 4 Dead drops in January. That is, unless I get a free copy of L4D2 somewhere....

Saturday, November 14, 2009

Wii vs. PS3, cover your eyes children

Someone at Digital Foundry thought that a Wii v. PS3 graphics comparison of Call of Duty 4: Modern Warfare (Reflex on the Wii). At first I thought it was a good idea, but this is pretty much only for kicks, what with the huge disparity between the two systems.

All said, Reflex on the Wii does fairly well for itself. What do you expect from the Wii version of a game that wow'd gamers as much as CoD4 did? The textures, characters, guns, and overall aesthetic shows the downgrade Treyarch had to make. What does Infinity Ward think about this port? Something tells me they're going to keep their lips very sealed, what with the port being outsourced to the CoD B-Team, or whatever you want to call it. I'm sure Activision has IW on some sort of NDA as far as their opinions and keeping the same face across the entire company.

That being said, I think it's great that Wii gamers will get a chance to check out the original MW, especially in lieu of them missing out on Modern Warfare 2.

As a side-note, I'm sorry for the deluge of MW2/MW posts PLAY READ WRITE has seen. You'll have to excuse it, especially because MW2 is easily the biggest news item gaming has seen this entire holiday season.

Friday, November 13, 2009

Modern Warfare 2 Boycotters give up the ghost

Modern Warfare 2 boycotters on Steam certainly don't know who's watching. Maybe Infinity Ward would take them a little bit more seriously if they didn't buy the game despite their boycotting.

All snarkiness aside, Steam's community features certainly lend themselves to the general social networking attitude. How many online petitions have people signed half-heartedly? How many groups are you a part of on Facebook that you haven't visited since accepting the invitation?

I can't blame the Steam users. I signed the petition asking Infinity Ward to rethink the dedicated servers debacle, but I knew I was getting the game on Xbox 360 anyways.

Thursday, November 12, 2009

Modern Game Marketing - RE: Darkside Chronicles trailer really makes an impression

Don't take my word for it, head on over to the page and check it out. Right now! Here's a link: click it! I like it a lot when game companies do this sort of thing. Does anyone else remember the Wario Land: Shake It trailer they had on Youtube?

Anyways, if you still don't know what I'm talking about, the ads around the video aren't the only thing that's breaking boundaries for Resident Evil. I really like when game companies market this way. It certainly takes modern video game marketing in to the Web 2.0 space. I don't understand why more of these haven't been made, especially because they make such an impact on the viewer.

Maybe if the technique was used more often, it wouldn't make the same impression, or maybe it just costs a lot of advertising dollars that would be better spent in another area (like outdoor ads, or on public transportation [I actually saw some Darkside Chronicles ads on the Bay Area Rapid Transit last week]).

Modern Game Marketing is a series on how new games, and the corporations behind them, get you to want them.

Tuesday, November 10, 2009

Yup, I've been playing

Modern Warfare 2, with pretty much every extra second. I also didn't have any classes today. That was very easily counter-balanced by the fact that I had to work tonight. Bleh. So bored, with nothing to think about except not getting to play Modern Warfare 2.

Anyways, after initial difficulties, Zach, Nick and I managed to get into a couple of games together after the midnight launch. A few hours later, I was back online and played a handful of games with Zach. I was the top scorer for a number of rounds. Is there anyway I can keep myself on Xbox Live to keep building my skills?

Anyways, long story short, I'm heading back in the game. Turns out, it's pretty good. Truth be told, Infinity Ward knows that "if it ain't broke, don't fix it." I hope to see you online. You can add my gamertag on Xbox Live: coolyfooly88.

Assassin's Creed II Lineage kicks off

The Assassin's Creed short films have kicked off with the first film showcasing Ezio's father in action. I don't know if I was the only one with high expectations for this, but I think they've been met with the speed and efficiency of a hidden blade.

When I read that Hybride Technologies (300, Sin City) was behind the production, I figured that at least the action would be good, even if the words and overall plot sucked. In reality, there isn't a whole lot of plot to be seen, but the action is about good as expected. I was a little disappointed that the pacing wasn't as fast as the game. When playing even AC I I thought jumping and landing on an enemy was exhilarating, as was climbing up to the highest point in the city. Sadly, none of that was present in Lineage's first outing, but hopefully more of what I loved about AC gameplay will come down the pipe in the next editions.

Monday, November 9, 2009

WRITE UP / 11.09.09

This week is a busy one. Here's a hit list of what I've been playing and what I will be playing:
  • Modern Warfare 2: Easily the biggest game of the season is upon us. Tonight's midnight launch will hopefully go smoothly, but I think it's safe to assume there will be a few hiccups on Xbox Live over the next two or three days. If that's the case, gamers should find solace in organizing Spec Ops mode outings, or even the campaign. That being said, I know there's going to be a lot of multiplayer activity and I hope I can hop on early enough and often enough to stick with the pack as massive amounts of XP are attained. I'll see if it's worthwhile to write up a review, but for some reason I think I might skip scribing any impressions until the storm has blown over a bit.
  • Heroes Over Europe: I'll be finishing up my first review copy of a (legitimate) game and submitting the review over the next 48 hours. It's been fun, but ultimately I think the disc is going to be tucked away in my Mirror's Edge messenger bag. No offense to Transmission Games, but Heroes Over Europe was pretty bland. I will say this: getting 4 Ace Kills in a row by sniping the pilots is about as satisfying as getting 4 backstabs in a row as a Spy in Team Fortress 2. The gameplay has that much going for it, and any title that manages to give me that feeling of being a completely sadistic bastard is OK by me.
  • APB Beta: I've missed a couple of days out of the Beta, but I'm hoping to get back to San Paro as quickly as possible to see what I'm missing. I do wish I could get a better frame rate out of the game, but my computer continues to age and games continue to grow. Maybe it's time for an upgrade.
  • Team Fortress 2: The Halloween KOTH_Harvest_Event map still lives on player-run dedicated servers. I can't imagine playing TF2 in a matchmaking service, but thankfully, I won't have to. I've been playing my usual rotation of Payload and CP maps. The other night I was leading the team several rounds in a row as my old favorite, the medic.
  • Transoid: Transoid is an iPhone app/game that uses elements of light and tower defense. It seems fun, but I haven't spent too much time with it. Honestly, I've only played it in the bathroom. That being said I'm sure I'll have some time later tonight while waiting in line to fiddle around with it and come up with some impressions. After that, I'll be able to write up a formal review.
Phew! That's a lot of games, more than I'm used to! Let's see if I can make it through the rest of this week....

Halo Reach screenshots leak

The Halo Reach screen shots that linked are probably old news for anyone who's stumbled across my blog today, but I thought I'd post something up anyways.

I don't pretend to be the biggest Halo fan in the world, but I've played the games plenty, so I think that leaves a little room for interest. Besides, Halo is huge. It's huge everywhere, in dorms, high school students, douche bags... A LOT of people play Halo.

That being said, I think Halo 3: ODST went out the door to much fanfare that has quickly died down into a hushed environment of waiting for Modern Warfare 2. Luckily enough, Halo: Reach gets brought back to the average gamers attention with these leaked screenshots.

What can you really tell from them? There'll be new weapons, new campaign, new enemies. I'm sure we could have guessed these things. I want something that tells me how Reach will be different from every other Halo game I've played.

Announcement: Sorry Everyone

Sorry to all for the day of silence on Saturday. This past week was a busy one (and next week is going to be EVEN BUSIER). My schedule has been packed to the brim, but a busy writer is a happy one. Being a busy writer also means I get to eat.

I've abandoned FURTHER READING in favor of actually just posting something about what I read and like on a day to day basis. It certainly leads me to do a lot more writing. Of course, if you're a regular reader, you've heard about my gig over at and while that's been going swimmingly, I've also been spending time working over Heroes Over Europe, an Xbox 360 game from Ubisoft that was quietly released back in September. I got a review copy of the game from Game Revolution as an acid test to see whether or not they want me doing some review work for them.

I ran up to Berkeley the other day to meet with them, get a quick interview in, and then leave with my assignment. It's due shortly, but I'm trying to wrap my head around it and generate a great review, nevermind if the game was good or not!

I've reached my 15th iPhone App Review and will post a round up of those once I've completed my 20th. Until then, I'll keep working hard at posting here on a very regular basis, I'll keep working hard at my review of Heroes Over Europe, and I'll keep churning out app reviews. Promise.

Sunday, November 8, 2009

DJ Hero Impressions

I finally got my hands on DJ Hero at Best Buy the other day. Of course with the constraints of a demo, I might not have been all that impressed upon, but as far the gameplay goes, I was surprised, to be succinct.

In many more words, I have to say that playing DJ Hero is like relearning everything you've already figured out about music games, which is both a good thing and a bad thing. You have to relearn how to handle rhythms, you have to relearn where you hands go, you have to relearn what you can get away with. God I wish Harmonix were handling this new foray into the music genre (but they're more interested in teaching people how to play real instruments... [is a turntable an instrument?]).

DJ Hero certainly has loads of personality to spare and the visuals certainly do impress (if you even look at them, who looks at what's going on in the background during music games?). The demo let Jenna and I play through three songs, including mash ups of Gorrilaz, Marvin Gaye, and Gwen Stefani. Really, walking into the experience, I thought DJ Hero was going to be really stupid, and so did Jenna too. Still, I wanted to at least try the new rhythm game and get my hands on the turntable, especially after I had heard some good things from Zach.

What finally got Jenna in, I think, was her curiosity and the music. Something about mixing two bad songs together ends up turning them into one passable song. It helps that DJ Hero's mash-ups combine new and old songs. I noticed that a relatively new Black Eye Peas song was mixed with a much older and very recognizable electronic song. I think it turns out a nice balance.

Anyways, my stance currently is that I have quite a bit of plastic crap in our small apartment and a Rock Band set would come back inside before a turntable, but maybe some day I'll pick up DJ Hero.

All this Dedicated Server talk...

... has really gotten me thinking about trying Call of Duty 4: Modern Warfare on the PC. I have a handful of friends who play(ed) the game on a regular basis, but I personally, have never tried playing a Call of Duty game on the PC.

I know that many purists will argue that CoD was born on the PC. Certainly, there's no arguing that fact, but I think that the general focus of the game has turned to the consoles and has certainly made a much larger name for itself there.

Still, I can't help but wonder what the hardcore community for CoD4 is like right now. Are people even still playing the game? What is the community like compared to the hardcore communities in Counter-Strike Source and Team Fortress 2?

For the amount of uproar being made about the exclusion of dedicated servers for Modern Warfare 2, there must have been something good going on in CoD4.

As a side note, there are a lot of competitive scene videos to see over at Youtube, and while this playlist is from the Xbox 360 community, it's still quite good (excellent production), I've been watching them in waiting for Modern Warfare 2.

Friday, November 6, 2009

Yesterday, in TAY

Here's an exchange between myself and several other commenters over at Kotaku on the subject of Fallout 3. I'll write more about Fallout 3 at a later time (suffice it to say, the game wrapped up amazingly [head asplode pic related], but for now, here's what I've already said (and a bit of the feedback):

Daniel : So, I know I'm super late to the party, but I just finished Fallout 3. Suffice to say the ending was awesome. I've had trouble sitting down and playing a dedicated amount of time to it, but last night I probably played for 4 or 5 hours and just finished the main quest right up.

Daniel : @pekosROB: How much did I truly like Fallout 3? Honestly, the beginning was slow, I got frustrated before figuring out the navigation system exactly, and a lot of characters did a little too much talking (plus there's all the nitpicking one could do about the character models and some general engine issues).

Despite all of that though, it wrapped up quickly, I got a lot more into the game once there was a bit more interaction. I never once had my dog companion (nice of the ending to show me with him anyways though), but when I was traveling with my dad, or with one of the brotherhood people who wanted to tag along to Murder Pass, or eventually with Fawkes, I felt like everything was a bit more meaningful. Why would I want to save this wasteland when there's no personal connection to it? That sort of question would come up a lot when I was playing early on. Later though, when I was playing with weapons that were a bit more powerful and the environments didn't simply repeat the underground stations over and over again (I'm talking about Vault 87, Murder Pass, Little Lamplight, Ravenrock, etc) I was getting more and more into the experience. I'd play with the stats a bit more, I'd scavenge for ammo etc. Maybe I was just a bit more fearless and I got to enjoy the game a lot more.

Fallout 3 was definitely a slow burn, but it went out with a bang and I'm probably going to go back and do more of the secondary quests.

tl;dr (for those of you): I really enjoyed Fallout 3 once I could get into it.

pekosROB : @Daniel : I totally understand what you mean by started off slow. A friend of mine and I started playing. We're the type that one will play, hand off the controller so the other can take a break or look up stuff online if we're having problems.

We didn't get the quest in Megaton to go to the Super Duper Mart from Moira until much later - the problem was we wandered into there VERY EARLY in the game. You can imagine what happened - this is before we realized you could fast travel and before we even had a gun - just a knife. I mean we literally found Megaton, walked around, then went out and found the Mart.

I can't even tell you how many times we had to save and reload that game, or die and let it load to the last save. This was also before we had any money or a bed to sleep in to get health back. Yeah it was a pain, kinda creepy at first (at night at least), didn't go to the right places for weapons, but once we figured it out - it was one of the greatest single player games I've ever played in history.

Thursday, November 5, 2009

Timelapse urges me to lapse back to GTA IV

This timelapse video has given me a strong desire to hop back in to Liberty City, to explore, to observe. Would it be possible to see everything there is to see? Or is there still some crazed citizen to see? Lunatic on his cell phone to listen too? Bad guys to arrest?

I've explored the Capital Wasteland in Fallout 3, I've run amuck in San Paro (a world that isn't even officially released yet) in APB, but I'm still drawn to Liberty City and it's inhabitants. Something about them, or the time I've spent there, that keeps drawing me back to the land of droll consumerism.

DICE gets $60 from a fan of Dedicated Servers

I think we can be sure that PC gamers are an opinionated bunch who have been playing their games in a very specific way for a very long time.

That being said, we can still take this note from a fan of dedicated servers as a very direct message about his feelings on what we can only assume is IWNET.

The note basically surmises the reasoning behind a $60 check made out to DICE (PROTIP: IWNET is a matchmaking solution for PC gamers playing Modern Warfare 2. Instead of the older dedicate-server solution to multiplayer, PC gamers will be buying a service similar to Xbox Live with the extra $10 they're being charged).

While there are a lot of different angles to this issue (on the corporate and the consumer sides), I have to land squarely on the side of PC gamers. I know the benefit of mods, the benefit of a regular community on servers, and the more technical benefits (in the area around lag and latency) of playing on a dedicated server. As a serious Counter Strike Source player, I don't know if I could ever play the game on a matchmaking service. Sure, over Xbox Live, people play with hosts and connection lag all the time, but there are plenty of distractions on that service anyways, I don't the competitive players on Xbox match up with the competitive players on PC.

Wednesday, November 4, 2009

Valve's writing team on the process, development etc

I ran across this a couple of days ago and didn't read the whole thing until now when I had time to, but I'm very happy I saved this. For someone writing a blog entitled "PLAY READ WRITE" it sure does speak to where I am now and where I want to be in the future.

Gamasutra interviewed Valve's Marc Laidlaw and Eric Wolpaw on the writing process that goes on in house at the developer of Portal, Half-Life, Left 4 Dead and Team Fortress 2. Snippets about all of these games abound, but more interesting even is the rare insight the interview offers into the creative process behind some of the most beloved games of our age.

I won't spoil anything with a quote here, but know that you should read through the whole thing. If you're interested in writing, games, or the process and marriage between the two, you'll love the read.

Infinity Ward offered a "rediculous" budget for MW2

Develop posted an interview with Infinity Ward "front man" Robert Bowling Monday on their website. The interview covers a lot of the cheesecake questions we've heard answered before, but doesn't even go Half-Keighley with the guy and ask about anything that hasn't already been covered before. Before you go crazy and wish cancer on the interviewer or interviewee, know that the question and answer was held before the advent of news like IWNET and the great dedicated server debate.

Anyways, one interesting bit does come out of it all:

I guess Hans Zimmer doesn’t come cheap and I imagine the development budget for a game of this magnitude is pretty high. How has the budget helped development?
We are pretty tight on our budgets. Early on – when we decided to make a sequel – Activision estimated out a ridiculous budget. And we were like: ‘No, we don’t need that.’
Much like we don’t let ourselves get distracted by hype, if you have excess you feel like you should use excess. So we said ‘let us design a game the way we’d always design a game. And let us focus on that.’ So we didn’t let the budget affect our mentality. We would only put stuff in the game that is right for the game, and not because we can.
Of course though, it does afford us certain luxuries. With Hans though, it wasn’t so much about the money. He has the same mentality as us, in that he does projects because he is passionate about them. It is something he has never done before and it was a challenge. You have to score a game in a totally different way to a film. So he took it on because he was intrigued by it and he liked the story. Not because we had a cheque book.
Isn't it nice to hear that the CoD boys have kept their hard hats on? Personally, I'm very happy for the success Infinity Ward has found in their franchise. There's no questions that they do an amazing job when they set themselves on a project.

For a title as big as Modern Warfare 2, it's certainly hard to believe the team hasn't grown into the triple figures, but that speaks even further volumes to their work ethic. I can't help but think that IW is making this all look a little too easy.

I'm more excited than ever for MW2, and I can't wait to see what's in store. It's even captured the attention of my "bromance" (as Jenna would put it) and gotten me talking about what me and my buddies will be playing together first. Tonight, I'll probably wind up watching The Dark Knight in anticipation of Zimmer's soundtrack support for MW2.

Tuesday, November 3, 2009

Multiplayer forced upon Stranglehold

If we could only line up all of the developers who have been forced to add multiplayer modes to their games! Then we could count them and see how business affects creative work in this industry!

I've written about the business side of the games industry a lot, and it always saddens me to think that the creative work of so many people could be wasted on mundane modes like Deathmatch and Capture the Flag, in games that needed much more work on their single player campaign components.

Let me admit first: I am soooooo late to the party, but so is Kotaku's Stephen Totilo who writes about the Giant Bombcast featuring ex-Midway producer John Vignocchi who states that the multiplayer mode of Stranglehold was a must-have according to the executives. Another game suffers the bullet points it has to have on the back cover!

Maybe if the developers had given more time to the single player mode, it would have sold enough on that merit alone and garnered a sequel. Then the budget could have been bigger and the multiplayer mode could have been worth it. Instead, Stranglehold is relegated to the bottom of Xbox Live's top-played list (there's no such list, but I'm sure Stranglehold is sucking at the bottom with many other titles no one remembers).

Thoughts on Britain's first computer rehab clinic

So The Telegraph is reporting on Great Britain's first computer rehab clinic. While I think the idea of helping people fight their addictions is great, I can't help but question some of the news reporting being done in this story, and I also can't help but question the validity of a 12-step program for people addicted to video games.

I know, I know... I must be one of those white knights for the video game industry, writing letters to my congressman and generally swooping in to defend video games at every chance. Honestly, I don't question the fact that people can get a little too into their games, especially having known some of the people I've met over the years and their habits involving World of Warcraft and the like.
Suffers spend days at a time glued to their computer screens - going without food, sleep, or any social interaction.
The wave of addiction is apparently triggered by more sophisticated online games where players have to invest significant amounts of time to progress.
Broadway Lodge, a residential rehabilitation unit in Weston-super-Mare, treats around 400 addicts a year for a range of issues including, drink, drugs and gambling.
Now it has adapted its traditional Minnesota Method Twelve-Step programme, which slowly weans addicts off a particular vice, for gamers.
Patients undertake group therapy, tapes, videos, therapeutic tasks including vacuuming and washing up, and recreational activities.
The emphasis is on communication with peers and a greater understanding of themselves through shared experiences.
Games certainly have the ability to drag me away from some things, including food. For some reason, when I'm playing a video game, I'll tend to forget about eating regular meals. It won't last long, but after eating I'll want to get back to the game. I think that therapy and talking things out is certainly the best way to go about helping gamers understand what's healthy about gaming and what isn't.

While a gaming addiction center is a long ways off for plenty of gamers, it might be the healthiest thing for others, but I'm talking around what I'm really thinking about: shouldn't parents do something about their children a little earlier on? Parents should take the responsibility on themselves to keep their children well rounded and understand just when enough is enough. Maybe I'm wrong, but I felt like after so long, as a child, I was always instructed to put the game down, go outside, and just do something else altogether.

These days, I have a very tempered amount of time with video games. Other responsibilities will arise, other things will take my attention away. Of course, when I have a new video game I'm eager to play for a longer period of time, but on a day to day basis, I think my gaming "hunger" is usually worn out around the third hour or so. Maybe a game has a particularly engrossing story line and I'll be motivated to play longer, but these days my attention goes back to other things in life.

Like many addictions, I think gaming addiction can be helped more as a child is young than when someone has reached a point in their lives where they're being called an "addict."

Brutal Legend Multiplayer Walkthrough

This Brutal Legend Multiplayer walkthrough has me enticed. Of course, with a Schafer game, people are going to overlook anything and everything that isn't in the solo game. I wonder how many people are out there playing this on Xbox Live?

I must say, there seems to be a very steep learning curve associated with the multiplayer. It might not be a full real time strategy game, but there's enough there that you're going to learn build orders, what counters what, etc etc. The list goes on with RTS games, newcomers be damned, you need to know a little in advance before you jump right in.

Seeing as how all of the combat is probably introduced ahead of time and in pieces during the single player campaign, there probably is a whole lot of hurdle-jumping to be done. I'll have to see Brutal Legend multiplayer in action for myself, but I doubt I'd get to the level of play these two developers are fighting it out at. They made the game! How can I beat them at their own game?!

Monday, November 2, 2009

Team Fortress 2 celebrated Halloween, did you?

TF2's Halloween celebration is a prime example of why I love the game so damn much!
I can't believe how much goofy cartoon characteristics are packed in with each update. What first person shooter with even a semblance of a competitive scene has players "stunned" by a haunting ghost that appears around a map? Sure, KOTH_Harvest_Event probably won't find itself in any competitive rotations, but that's not really my point anyways.

What is my point? TF2 is a great game because it has the ability to laugh at itself, and it gets players to laugh at themselves. I feel as if I am part of a community, though I may not interact with every single TF2 player, we all share a common experience, and grow attached to our classes, maps, play styles, and the general chaos a 32 player server can provide.

While the Halloween Event ends today, I managed to rack up all of the achievements and the two hats that came with the holiday update. Is anyone else hoping to play KOTH_Harvest_Event a little more after November 2nd?

Sunday, November 1, 2009

Pumpkins and gaming, apparently a match made in heaven

Kotaku has a pretty massive round up of pumpkins that readers submitted to the site. It even comes in four parts:

I was surprised by the ingenuity and creativity these pumpkins showcase. Who knew there were so many ways to carve a big orange thing? Click through some of the galleries and find some inspiration for next year.

While I didn't carve any video game related pumpkins yesterday, I was pleasantly surprised to hear Jenna's niece say that she wanted to be Mario for next year's Halloween.

Saturday, October 31, 2009

Happy Halloween everyone!

I'm not one for being scared. My nerves are already wound tight enough and though, being scared can sometimes be a fun experience, I have to whole-heartedly disagree. Halloween can be a good time to play some scary video games but here a handful of games that might have found their way into my hands, but I haven't been able to bring myself to finish.

Eternal Darkness. Developer Silicon Knights really broke the mold when they made this one. Eternal Darkness doesn't play like any game before, breaking the "fourth-wall" of video games to scare you to your gamer core. While I've managed to play with the lights off through about the fourth chapter, I recently tried to play again, starting from the beginning. I think I made it into a handful of rooms in the mansion before I had to put it away. Eternal Darkness even starts off with a bang, thrusting you into a dream before pulling the veil back on the lead character and introducing some of the more psychological, mysterious, and unnerving elements in the game. Eternal Darkness is easily my favorite "scary" game.

Super Mario 64. You may laugh, but goddam was I terrified of Bowser. I would relegate myself to the bomb-omb battlefield for hours at a time before I faced him in the castle's main chamber. And why do the Boos scare me so badly? Even to this day, I'll avoid the haunted mansion world for as long as I possibly can. Part of my fear surrounding Super Mario 64 was how hard it was for me to wrap my hands around some of the challenges. I couldn't stand to see Mario drowning in the quicksand around the pyramid, or rolling over in the murky water.

Killer 7. Killer 7 might not be considered a scary game by some, but for me, it was the atmosphere, the visuals, the overall creepiness that had me weirded out. How is it possible to play through two discs of this stuff? Some day, I'll grow a pair and manage to get through a large chunk of it and then force myself to finish. Until then, Killer 7 will sit around in my game bag for a while.

Resident Evil 4. Luckily for me, I actually managed to get through a lot of Resident Evil 4, despite the fact that it was mostly a panicked run, my sweaty palms barely able to contain the controller in my fists. It's not scary so much as it is tense, atmospheric, and diabolically difficult. Goddam that boulder crushing me because I couldn't tap A or jam L+R fast enough.

See, I told you I don't play scary games. If I did, the list would be longer.

Halo Waypoint makes itself worth it with Avatar RewardsWhile I ma

While I may be out of "the office" this weekend for Halloween, it doens't mean I can't keep up on the news, despite the news being available right on my Xbox! Yesterday, Kotaku posted video tour of the newest addition to your 360's dashboard and apparently there are Avatar Rewards to be had from the free content.

Halo Waypoint is your destination for everything Halo on the Xbox 360, kind of like, but not on your computer and accessible before you head in to any given Halo game. While at first I questioned the worth of Halo Waypoint, I'll question no more. Anything that gives players free content (even in the form of Avatar stuff) is alright with me. Here's a picture of a guilty spark avatar reward. How much space is any given avatar going to be allowed on screen? Seems like all of this extra stuff would take up a long of screen real estate.

That feeling spreads across a lot of things that the 360 dashboard has found itself privy to, starting with 1 vs 100 and moving on to Halo Waypoint and the Football toss minigame. I hope the free content will continue to come in order to make up for the fact that Live users have to pay for their online service. Being a silver user at the moment, I can say that I definitely feel like I'm missing out.

Modern Game Marketing - Epic Mickey's epic atmosphere spreads to comics etc

As more and more Epic Mickey details pour out, so does word of the Epic Marketing Campaign that'll go with it.

Kotaku reported Thursday that designer and cool-last-name-having-guy Warren Spector is going to continue "beating on that drum." What drum is he talking about? The drum of marketing (of course!) and taking a product and selling it across as many different products as can carry that product. In this case, you'll see Mickey tear across a dark landscape of T-shirts, coffee mugs, beanie babies and of course, big-screen adaptations. Who wouldn't want to see a good thing run into the ground?

It might be too soon to talk about good things though, especially because Epic Mickey is still a long way out. The Game Informer cover has come and gone (but we know how "cheaply" those things are considered), but a lot of the things you see about Epic Mickey remain in the conceptual stages.

Let us not forget that this is a third-party Wii game we're talking about. I don't mean to be such a detractor and suggest that Epic Mickey won't sell through mini-game compilation numbers, but I think the gaming public and the general public who will certainly have Epic Mickey forced down their throats in numerous ads, sponsorships, and general news media coverage should consider Epic Mickey with a grain of salt. It takes a lot more than a great idea to get the game out the door and it takes even more for the masses to latch onto that game and make it a seller into the sixth figure.

With Disney's burgeoning game's division, it's looking-good purchase of Marvel, and the usual marketing machine behind it, I'm sure we'll see Epic Mickey in at least two mediums come release.

Modern Game Marketing is a series on how new games, and the corporations behind them, get you to want them.

Friday, October 30, 2009

An assignment I couldn't complete...

In class the other day, a classmate was relating to another that they had to "level up to 10" for homework that night. They were lamenting the fact that they were being required to invest time in World of Warcraft for their digital arts class.

Apparently, in an attempt to justify the digital world (in this case, the "world" of Warcraft) as an art form, the professor charged each student with creating an in-game character and completing the tasks required to get that character to level 10.

Sure, this sounded interesting enough, especially when I thought back to the "A Life Well Wasted" where a Stanford program was in the business of recording the ends of digital worlds. Despite all that interest though, I could never bring myself to World of Warcraft, and if a professor were up front about such an assignment, I probably would have dropped the class at the beginning of the semester. I don't think grinding should EVER be part of any curriculum. I don't want to do it in my games and I don't want to do it in my academic career.

While I wish my fellow student luck in his grinding and grading, I don't envy that assignment at all.

DSi LL is Living Large

Are you glad you didn't rush out to buy that DSi just yet? Did you stick with your DS Lite, thinking that there'd be another iteration of the popular handheld out eventually?

Turns out you were right! Yesterday, Nintendo announced another cosmetic upgrade to the dual-screened mobile platform, this time calling it the Nintendo DSi LL. Announced at a Press Event in Japan today, the DSi LL sports a 4.2 inch screen and comes with two styli, including a larger pen-sized stylus.

The new unit will come in three new colors, including Wine Red (ooh fancy!) and be preloaded with two Brain Training DSiware games and a the DS Easy Dictionary.

Reportedly, the pixels are the same in the screens, but due to the larger size, everything will be much easier to read. It seems to me like this edition of the DSi will sit alongside it, not replace it. The DSi LL could be pointed at the older market, or even more so as a personal device for more professional environments, like school or work. While this makes a lot of sense, I don't know how much of a market there is to be had, what with cell phones taking the place of so many personal organizers and the like.

The DSi LL could also be seen as a means by which Nintendo will be able to sell a DS to EVERYONE (something they have been striving for since the inception of the DS Lite).