Return of the Rock Band Machine

My XBox 360 came back from Microsoft. Though, I guess what I was sent back counts as a “new” refurbished XBox 360. It plays Rock Band 2 well. So, I can’t really complain. They even threw in a free month of XBox Live.


My XBox 360 died today. A quiet, subtle, little death of three flashing LED’s. And only four days after the original warranty was up. And on the same day I spoke to my friend, Szmore, whose XBox had died that week.

Luckily, Microsoft has owned up to their poor manufacturing and design and for this particular issue, they will repair the XBox for free for up to three years from the purchase date. Here’s to those betrayed and angry people who complained loudly enough and long enough for Microsoft to take action. Thank you.


Game of the Year. No doubt.

This game from Valve was just a tiny blip on everyone’s radar screen and just a little side-serving next to the big release of Team Fortress 2. But, Portal is a real gem of a game. It’s fun, there’s no killing, and most importantly, it’s hilariously funny and seriously science fiction.

Despite the need for Steam to play the game, it’s well worth the $20 price tag.

My mother played a video game

I like computers and the games that are played on them. My father had a pong game, but the PC was the number one game playing avenue. Probably much to my mother’s concern that I was not out playing with my friends enough or wasting my time. My mom never touched the computer. I think she hated it. But recently, that has changed a lot. She sends e-mails and talks to me in instant messenger. She has learned a lot in the past few years and really has become a computer literate person. My dad, on the other hand, has played computer games and even written software so he can play puzzles he enjoys. He sits in front of his computer as much as I do, most likely. I would never imagine to see both of them playing a common video game and having lots of fun, ever.

Enter the Wii. Doubles tennis with my brother, my dad, my mom, and myself. It was fun. It was a little bit of a workout. I think everyone had a good time playing. When I think about it, it was weird. Playing tennis in my living room. I think the Wii really does this kind of thing well. It’s just fun to play. And I really like having something that anyone can play and have fun without having to be some kind of video game snob.

Unexpected Wiindfall

I have been known to only own “dead” console systems. I only have two, a PSP and a Sega Dreamcast, so it’s more of a general guideline than a rule. But then Guitar Hero was rumored to be coming to the Wii, plus my experiences playing Wii-Sports, I decided to pick one up. No small task.

I was not going to stalk stores or put down $600 for one (the retail being about $250). I would take my time and visit a Target store or Best Buy when I was nearby. Casually checking for one when I had some time, the lazy approach. And it actually worked out. A new Best Buy was opening near work and it was their opening day. They had been shipped 30 Wii’s that morning and there were plenty sitting on the shelves. So I picked one up. Since it was their grand opening, I also got a free $10 gift card.

Of course, no Wii is complete without a compliment of four controllers so my friends can play doubles tennis or four player bowling. The local Best Buy and Target stores were sold out. But Amazon had plenty and I could wait a week for them to be delivered, right? If only. Using the cheapest (free) shipping method promptly sent my shipment into a United States Postal Service limbo zone. Their technologically advanced system clearly states that the package was delivered, yet I have nothing to show for it. At least Amazon is going to refund my money. By the time all of this transpired, Best Buy had thirty or more controllers in stock and I was able to pick up three more easily.

Mission Accomplished.

EVE Online

I’m a little surprised I am still playing EVE Online. It’s a really good game and I am surprised at the size and available options it presents. If you like massivly multiplayer games, I think you should feel obligated to try EVE. Many aspects of the game remind me of my old days playing MUSHes and MUDs.

I think that moderate playing has contributed to my enjoyment. Taking it slow, in a decent corporation, with no pressure to race ahead. This type of playing is augmented by the method EVE uses to train skills. My character learns new things over time, even when I am offline. It means my time spent not playing is more valuable than most other games I am not playing.

The Min-Maxing of Society

Playing role playing games (or RPGs) is something that I did when I was younger and still do sometimes today. Though, when I was younger, Dungeons & Dragons was a sure fire sign you were a devil worshiper and today playing RPGs is just on the fringe of being cool. Here is a link to a definition of min-maxing in respect to playing RPGs for those who aren’t familiar with the term. When someone sits down to fabricate a character for a particular role playing game, a min-maxer will decide what they want their character to excel at. This goal will then determine what attributes or skills for that character are useful and which are useless. For the min-maxer, the entire potential list of attributes for their character is broken down quickly into useless and useful categories. Not only does this lead to insane characters who are one dimensional and not well rounded, it props up the attitude that anything less than optimal is worthless. If the attribute, skill, or character isn’t the best and most effecient at some goal, it’s useless and should never be considered for the task at hand.

It’s not hard to see how this attitude is starting to become more and more widespread in society. Everything is distilled to black and white, useful or useless, terms. In PC games that I play, certain attributes or abilities are either praised as the way to go, or denounced as worthless and it’s inferred that you are a moron for using them. Any options you are provided with on how to play the game is quickly nullified by the community who determines the most effective choices and that is not the defacto standard. All other options are inferior for one reason or another.

I see this same attitude outside of games. Issues that our society deals with are never grey anymore. They are reported and evangelized as black or white, good or evil. There’s no wiggle room, no room for discussion or compromise. All or nothing, and if you aren’t on their side, you are the enemy. It goes for advertising, as well. Polarization of products tells us that the latest item for sale is the best and anything else is worthless.

Why bother making peace when you can turn anything into a war?

Do I know you?

This is the idea I have about how naming should work in an online multiplayer game (such as World of Warcraft or Guild Wars). The current method is that a player picks a name and logs into the game (or world), and everyone else knows who they are by the name they have picked. This isn’t unlike being born into the real world with your name tattooed on your forehead. Everyone knows your name, even if they have never met you. This also means that no two people can have the same name. So if you want to be “Joe”, too bad. The only real advantage with this system is that everyone has a name that is unique and you can, therefore, single people you don’t know out from a crowd.

But, what I propose is that no one in the game has a name by default. When you see someone, you see them, without some magical name floating over their head. At this level, you are lost in a sea of nameless people, so I will discuss the two ways people get names. The first method is to meet and play with people in the game. You can assign any name you want to these people. It can be a friendly name that you know them by. You can also name them “Jerk” if you don’t like them. The other method is to apply a name to someone you know in real life. Each person’s characters in the game has a unique identifier (number or maybe an e-mail address) that you can add with a name to make sure you know your friends when you see them in game without having to arrange a meeting.

No more seeing “L33tDud3” wandering around your server. No more Legolass, Leggolas, Leegolas, and Gandalph wandering around … unless you want to see them. It means you are giving someone a name that means something to you. Of course, all this means that you will be known by your relationships to other people, as well.

Guild Wars and World of Warcraft

I was given Guild Wars for my birthday a few months ago. The lure of free monthly online play made it an ideal gift for me since I could play it at my leisure without worrying about wasting money. It turns out that some of my LAN party friends are also playing Guild Wars and I joined their in game guild for the times during the week I play. I’m also still playing World of Warcraft.

I think Guild Wars is the weaker of the two games when it comes to interface, design, and quality of code and content. But, it simply comes down to playing with a group. I’ll play either game based on who I can get a group with more than how much I enjoy the game.