Category Archives: Games and Sports

Drive By Fleet/Guild Invites

I never really get the random fleet or guild invites I get in MMOs. I usually ignore those, not really offended, just puzzled why someone would invite a total stranger into their group.

At least in Final Fantasy XIV, if I get a Free Company invite, I can look up some info on the FC before I decide. But Star Trek Online has no apparent function for that, at least that I know of and could easily use. But following me around after I’ve rejected your fleet invite 3 times will definitely not win me over!

Collecting Steam

As the new year begins, I find myself contemplating the Steam Holiday Sale, which is ending soon on Jan 2nd. I’ve already picked up a few games I’ve had my eye on, like Skyrim, and Final Fantasy XIII. And I may pick up one or two more. But now I’ve resigned myself to the reality that I’ll probably never play through all of the Steam games now on my hard drive.

I guess I’m turning into more of a digital game collector rather than hardcore gamer. My days of playing Pac Man while receiving electric shocks, or staying up all night to finish Civilization, or that time I had to keep playing Shenmue because I literally forgot how to exit the game, are long past. LOL

hedonismBotOnSteam

Oh well, collecting is fun too, and the Steam sales make it cheap. So I regret nothing!

Dim Sum Gamer

The end of the holiday season will find my hard drive littered with a variety of new games, mostly bought via Steam. When I was younger, I could imagine spending hours, days, weeks, completing a new game. But those days are over. Now, I just don’t have the time with work and family. Of course that’s a good thing. After all  guys like me are usually expected to be living in their mom’s basement. I’ve been blessed with far more than I could have imagined when I left home all those years ago.

 

tasty_steam_ha_gow

So now, I am a dim sum gamer. As the cart of new, and often discounted older games, comes by my table, I am happy to just eat a small serving here and there. I know that most of my games are not going to be beaten. But I can still have fun with them nevertheless. That was the real epiphany for me. Getting older doesn’t mean I have to stop playing games. I just play and enjoy them differently than my kids do. In the end, it’s all good!

Oh You Diablo 3!

It’s been a long time since any PC game made me rage, but rage I did last night in Diablo 3. Though saying I was raging in the game might be an overstatement as much of my time was spent getting disconnected. Maybe the gods of the internet just hate me, but time after time I’d start playing the game only to have the latency jump up and bite me in the ass.

I checked the forums and did it all. Upgraded my router firmware, forwarded ports, and updated Windows. All to no avail. And of course I was getting disconnected during battles, so I died, a lot. Eventually I guess the game showed me some mercy by not letting me connect at all. Instead, I was treated to a dessert of Error 3007. Oh you!

Diablo III: Oh hai!

Hey look, the Diablo III installer downloaded overnight. Thanks Santa! LOL, can’t install it yet, but soon. I don’t usually get swept away with the hype, but I did play the open beta a bit and I think on this occasion I’ll make an exception. I think my work over the next few days is going to be waaaay distracted.

Final Fantasy XIV: SMH SMH…

A week ago I was feeling adventurous and decided to give Final Fantasy XIV a shot. It was only $19.99 and while I had heard that the launch was a total disaster, the game had undergone a lot of changes, fixes, and improvements since that time. I figured that the 30 day free period would be enough time to see if Eorzea was a place I’d be taking up residence.

One week later and I am totally frustrated and disgusted. I can’t even get into the game past the opening tutorial level because it keeps crashing with a Direct X error. I’ve tried running windowed, full screen, and turned off anti-aliasing to no avail. While I suppose there is some solution that might allow me to continue, this is just ridiculous. I can’t believe Square Enix started charging the monthly subscription again for a game this broken.

Regardless of their reasoning with the big 2.0 relaunch coming up, you can just let bugs like this stay in the code and charge money for it. At this point I’ve lost all hope and respect for Square Enix. I won’t likely be returning to this game, and I’ve also canceled my Final Fantasy XI account.

I really wanted to play and love this game, but it won’t even let me get started.

Constellation PC Project

The last PC I built, Defiant, is pretty long in the tooth these days. It’s a pretty much maxed out XP box that I have no further plans to upgrade. But it does play older games fairly well, so I still get on it from time to time. It’s also the box I use to read JManga books on my iPad.

Anyway, I’ve had the itch to build a new gaming PC for a while and started to spec and price parts today. I’ve decided to call the new PC, Constellation, and build it around the Intel i5 2500K. Why the i5 rather than an i7? Well, Constellation isn’t meant to be a cutting edge gaming PC, just something with decent performance. Though I am choosing a motherboard that will support an i7 once its cost comes down.

Right now, Constellation is weighing in at about $800 which I’m not ready to spend just yet. So I’ll be doing some bargain hunting on the components I’ve listed in my spreadsheet so far. Not sure when I’ll finish this, but it feels good to have started the project!

Return to Vana’diel! Again I think…

With the holiday and the promise of some good bargains this weekend, I’d been revisiting my plan to build a new gaming PC. The guys I work with are big gamers, so I’ve been looking to up my playing time.

I had initially thought about building a new rig last year in order to play Final Fantasy XIV, but by now, anyone who follows gaming knows how big of a disaster FFXIV proved to be. Square Enix is still hammering out the bugs, but it still isn’t ready for me to take that plunge.

Since that time, I’ve been playing Star Trek Online, which has been fun, but just not the same experience that I had with FFXI. I really missed Laureta, my main character there and the world itself. So while cleaning up my old PC and optimizing it for the games it can play, I decided to see if I could get my old characters back. I also wanted to see if SE had a payment system compatible with the way I wanted to pay.

Long story short, I’m back! It took nearly 4 hours of updates, but I have returned to Vana’diel! Swinging a sword with Laureta has never felt so good!

BOOO!!! Goodbye NASCAR

It was never easy being black and being a NASCAR fan, but I loved fast cars and the colorful personalities of the racers. Many a fan will tell you that the quality of the competition has suffered for a variety of reasons, and viewership is in decline. I started getting bored with it once Jimmie Johnson started walking away with one championship after another.

But in the end, the thing that ultimately made me turn off the TV were the racist fans. During the 2008 U.S. Presidential election campaigns, the hostility towards Barack Obama, solely because of the color of his skin, the same as my own, from NASCAR fans and the right wing leaning teams, drivers, and the organization itself was just too much. I just couldn’t bear to watch anymore on TV. And my dream of attending a race in person was abandoned. Why go somewhere where people will hate you?

Still, I’d keep an eye on the races, albeit only through Monday morning news articles on the web. But booing the First Lady, Michelle Obama, is the last straw. I’m done with you NASCAR and your pig-headed, racist fan base.

Kings, Queens, and Children of a Virtual God

Awhile back, I read  on Gamasutra that Apple’s Game Center was now revealing players’ real names during the initial friend request. After that initial request, only gamer nicknames would be visible. The new policy is supposed to stop players from impersonating other people, but isn’t that the whole point of playing a game in the first place? Who plays a game to just be their real world selves?

This and the whole push to real names online, such as in Google Plus to give one example, feels like the old guard, the kings and queens of “Real Life” (RL) trying to extend their dominion into the online world. I suppose that’s okay if you’re one of them, but the geeks and nerdy folks who built the net and make up much of its most active population are decidedly not.

These children of a virtual god tend to get the short end of the stick in RL. There we are often bullied, mocked, and despised. This despite the fact that much of the science and technology upon which modern life depends was discovered, designed, and built by us! On the net, we are the kings and queens (sometimes both at the same time), and the oppressive rules of the real world are not applied. The net has become a space of the mind, where the human spirit is laid bare. It’s not always pretty, but I think that’s where real human progress comes from, which ultimately leads to greater beauty.

Unfortunately, the freedom and wildness of the net is seem as a threat by those who don’t understand. And in the name of “protecting the children” they push to impose the same broken structures on the virtual world as we do such a great job of imposing on the real one. But it may be too late for that. From Arab Spring, Lulzsec, and the London Riots to the BART protest, the virtual world is pushing back on the real one. The unfettered meeting of the minds online is having real world consequences that cannot be easily suppressed without a coordinated, global trampling of the human freedoms that many of us profess to believe in. That could still happen, but now I’m sure it won’t come without a fight.

PlayStation Network Disappoints

Not to touch off any raving fanboy battles, but honestly, I’ve never been a big fan of Sony’s PlayStation Network. I remember when PSN started, a lot of the online debate focused on how it was free versus the  annual fee (currently $50) of Microsoft’s XBox Live network. Not any surprise really, internet denizens have been the cheapest bastards on the planet from the very beginning. To many netizens, free always equates to better.

But, the old adage that you get what you pay for was quite apt in the case of PSN vs XBL. From this consumer’s standpoint, PSN simply did not work as well as XBL. The games were not as well integrated, and doing simple things like downloading updates took significantly longer than the same activities on XBL. Bandwidth, servers, and development personnel cost money, lots of it. A free model was simply not going to deliver a competitive online service. So it was no surprise when Sony announced the premium PlayStation Plus service with, guess what? A $50 annual fee.

By now, the massive security breach on PSN and other Sony web sites is common knowledge even outside of the gaming community. As a developer, I was a bit shocked at just how fragile Sony’s infrastructure appeared to be in the wake of these attacks. To be fair, it is not a small task to secure your network against determined intruders. I suspect that Microsoft may possess greater expertise in this area simply because they have been such a big hacking target for such a long time relative to Sony.

As a consumer though, I just want things to work! So far, I’m not impressed. The simple tasks of claiming the Welcome Back goodies has been fraught with server errors and disconnections. Part of this is the heavy traffic of legitimate customers which should have been anticipated and prepared for. The other part is the continuing network attack on Sony’s online infrastructure, which sadly also needs to be accounted for going forward.

I’m very frustrated by all of this. I just want to play some games on the net! Maybe it’s time for Sony to call up Microsoft for some advice.

Puzzle Nation

I don’t think anyone starts a family with a mind to create specific traditions. Those just arise on their own as time passes. It looks like family puzzle building has become one of our family traditions. My wife has always liked putting puzzles together, but at our old home, it just never caught on with anyone else.

Maybe it was the ages of the kids, or perhaps the layout of the space. In our new place, the dining room lies between the living room and the kitchen. A couple of months ago, my wife brought back a puzzle from a Scrabble party and started building it on the dining room table. We just left the pieces there and with nary a word, people would occasionally stop to put some of the pieces together.

Everyone took part in the puzzle building activity. From the 10 year old who loves rules, up to the 17 year old who is generally too cool to spend much time with the rest of us! The puzzle became a place of pause and fun, a new family hub. Through interruptions for hot pot dinners and school projects, eventually the puzzle was completed.

Without even thinking about it, I brought out a new puzzle. I wanted to see if what I had witnessed was just a fluke, or if this was some fun we could continue to enjoy. I had received a Star Trek themed puzzle as a gift years ago, and had never really gotten started on it. Now seemed like a good time to tackle it and test if the puzzle bug had really taken hold.

After a slow start, the magic struck again! Once more everyone engaged in the puzzle building! From youngest to oldest once more joined forces to vanquish yet another foe! And as I write this, puzzle number 3 is already underway. So I think it is safe to say that puzzle building is well on its way to establishing itself as one of our family traditions!

 

Star Trek TOS Puzzle
Star Trek Puzzle Vanquished!

Geekboy for Life!

To celebrate my new job, I finally bit the bullet and signed up for a lifetime membership to Cryptic’s Star Trek Online MMO. And an unexpected bonus was that this weekend it was 20% off the regular price. Now the game needs to last at least 15 more months for me to cover my costs.

Star Trek OnlineI had thought about the lifetime deal when the game launched over a year ago, but the cost and the very real possibility that it would fail and shutdown before a year was up, kept me from doing it. Not only has the game survived, but it’s actually pretty good too. So I’m guessing it will be around for a while.

There’s been some talk of the game going free to play like Cryptic’s Champions Online, but that is probably over a year away and wouldn’t affect me much anyway. I’d still prefer the paid premium access over the free to play options anyway. I guess then I’m betting that Star Trek Online will live long and prosper!

Siren’s Call: World of Warcraft

I think that I’ve started and quit World of Warcraft (WoW) three times now. But once again, I’m going to give it another shot. I got a one of those return to WoW 7 days for free promos in my email and thought it might be fun to try out the Mac client for a week.

The last time I played WoW, I was still playing Final Fantasy XI. Since that time I’ve quit FFXI and while I’ve been having sporadic bits of fun in Star Trek Online, it’s just not the same feel. I guess I like a little more fantasy in my MMORPGs than SciFi! I’d hoped that Final Fantasy XIV would be coming out for PS3 soon, but after one of the most spectacularly unsuccessful MMORPG launches in history, that has been delayed indefinitely.

So why not take advantage of a little free play to bump around Azeroth a bit?