Sep 222013

This post is pretty much a formality to say that I have moved over to Tumblr, where I have been making regular posts since December. You can catch my feed at this link. Although I will occasionally be adding game art prints and wallpapers to this blog for easy finding by the portion of the internet that doesn’t use Tumblr, I will not be making any more text posts here. The good news is that I have hundreds of posts there you can pore through at your leisure. The link above has some side categories to break it down more easily for you, but if you’re the kind of person who wants to see everything at a glance (with thumbnails and all), try browsing the archive instead.

Aug 312011

Yesterday was our (Nikki’s and my) 19th anniversary of being together as a couple. That’s all well and good, you say, but what does it have to do with gaming? Well, for one thing, we’re both gamers and have been for longer than since we’ve known each other. But the time we’ve been together, there’s been a lot of gaming too. Let’s take a quick trip down memory lane…

In 1993, Street Fighter II was still the rage. Many a battle was waged on our Super NES, often pitting my Chun Li against her Ken, with the outcome always in doubt. Indeed, the SNES cartridge for this game was our first joint purchase. Some of you may still in this day and age think it’s no fun to have a significant other that can hold their own against you in a game; you are wrong. Its calculated cat-and-mouse gameplay also suited both of us better than today’s more modern 67-hit power-bar-fueled ultra-combo finishes. We later revisited this kind of awesomeness with Soul Calibur when the Dreamcast launched but it never quite reached those previous heights.

While some of the irritating tactics used in SF2 led to occasional ill-will, no game ever came close to destroying our relationship–except for Magic: The Gathering. We hopped on board with the Revised Edition and Legends in mid-1994 and, like many others, became mildly addicted, buying packs and boxes to increase the variety and potency of decks. But Magic is a game where, with a careful deck and lucky draw, you can (or at least could at the time) end the game before your opponent plays a single card, and we tried to get as close to that ideal as possible, stacking multiple Black Vises, Ivory Towers, Channeled Fireballs and all sorts of other jackassery that led to games where we wouldn’t meaningfully speak to each other for an hour or more afterward. We stopped playing sometime around 1996 or 1997 and sold almost all of our cards to finance a cross-country move. While I still sometimes miss Magic, I don’t miss any of those cutthroat matches.

For several years, we played an online text-based MUD, Aardwolf. Countless hundreds (maybe thousands) of hours were gobbled up in this madness that reached far back into our psyche and harkened to a time that we can both remember, when people with computers used their phones to dial in to bulletin boards and interact socially from there. Yes, that’s right, if you’re young you might not have realized it, but Wargames really was how people used to connect to other computers. I know it’s mind-blowing in the days of your hula-hoops and dot-coms, but there we are.

The 2000s brought graphical MMOs into our world. We’ve shared Final Fantasy XI, City of Heroes and, more recently, Warcraft; there have also been occasional dalliances that never quite stuck, such as Anarchy Online and Rift. Our characters always have some sort of intricate backstory that inevitably brings them together for… Well, whatever the purpose of the MMO happens to be. The limiter to us playing these games usually turns out to be budgetary–both in terms of time and money–more than enjoyment-wise (however, even some free games, like Champions Online, just never clicked.)

Our lives, like many others, were changed in 2005 when Harmonix developed Guitar Hero. Since then, through Guitar Hero II (and, admittedly, GH3), and all the iterations of Rock Band, we’ve found yet another way to play together, living out private jam sessions in our own game room. Much like with MMOs, our bands have stories about getting together, becoming famous, breaking up and reuniting; we even have custom art of them (usually from the hand of our good friend Amy Mebberson.) Of all the game series we have played, Harmonix’s empire has lasted the longest–we still play to this day and watch for the announcement of new downloadable songs every Friday. Will Dance Central 2, which adds multiplayer, be the next straw in the cap that is Harmonix’s stranglehold on our entertainment? We shall see.

Though neither of us are true shooter afficionados, Borderlands sucked us in when it came out in 2009 due to RPG elements and the now-catchphrased “kill guys and take their stuff” motif. It allowed us to easily work together at our own pace, level up, acquire lots of goodies and otherwise succeed where Halo, Call of Duty and so many others would fail. Oh yes, we’re very much looking forward to the sequel.

Our most recent joint venture is Pathfinder, which brings me back into the fold of D&D style campaigning after more than 20 years and gives Nikki a chance to experience the joy of extended campaigning; so far we’re loving it (and our ever-expanding collection of dice) with me running her characters through the Kingmaker adventure path while she puts mine through a custom campaign made up of a bevy of individual, usually-unrelated adventures. Prior to this, we had enjoyed Neverwinter Nights when it came out many years earlier, but while the two are both built on the foundation of Dungeons and Dragons, they are incredibly different experiences and I can say that not once did we stay up until nearly four in the morning playing Neverwinter…

All in all, it’s been an excellent 19 years (for more than just the gaming, mind you.) If you’ve never been able to get someone else to enjoy gaming with you, then I feel for you. If you’ve never been interested in gaming (tabletop, card, video game or otherwise) with someone else, you should reconsider. Me, I’ve got both of those experiences with the best girl in the world and I wouldn’t trade it for anything. Here’s to another 19 years of gaming and then some.

Oct 232010

In the absence of an actual definition after what appears to be hundreds of years of use, I am now going to lay down here for record the definition of the term “vast majority.”

Henceforth, “vast majority” shall refer to at least the halfway point between the majority and the complete totality of any given population of people or items.

Since “majority” can be defined as anything more than half (including 50.000000001% or even tinier fractions exceeding 50%) for the sake of casual use, 75% shall be the acceptable minimum for a vast majority, even though technically it should be 75% plus some at least miniscule amount.

This is not a game-related post (look for one of those this weekend), but it’s important for the world and in years to come I may have to refer back to this when I assert my place as the Father of Vast Majoritism.

Jul 142010

When Castlevania: Harmony of Despair [CHoD–not to be confused with Ch’od of the Starjammers] was announced, I was totally psyched. A Symphony of the Night [SotN] styled game on the 360? Featuring multiplayer? And characters from past SotN-type games? Where do I sign up?

That was then. Thankfully, they didn’t release the game that day, or I would have been, as they say, all over that. Konami has since revealed more details of the game. Saddening details. First, and potentially worst, there will be no character leveling. Yes, that’s correct–you will be playing a game in the vein of SotN, but unlike that game and so many handheld successors, your character will not get stronger with continued play. There are items to find and equip but there’s no information on how much influence they will have

Second, areas of the castle are not contiguously linked; CHoD is a number of unrelated levels (six, it sounds like), and the goal of each appears to be madly dashing toward a boss located in a set spot and defeating it, all in the shortest time possible. Apart from potentially looking for enemies to kill for equipment, this removes the impetus for exploration, save perhaps for trying to chart a shorter path.

And even if you want to disregard that goal and delve into CHoD’s depths, it seems you’ll be severely curtailed by how long you can spend. Each level is timed. Videos have shown limits of 10, 20 and 30 minutes so far. I’ll grant that 30 minutes is pretty leisurely compared to what we would have seen back in the NES days, but still, I don’t think we’ve had a time limit in a new Castlevania game (discounting re-releases of older games like Dracula X Chronicles) in over 15 years.

I’m not bothered by the blatant reuse of sprites and art from half a dozen already-released Castlevania games, nor the lack of new characters — if Konami wants to put out a “best of” Castlevania megagame featuring elements from each, I’m all for that. Unfortunately, this looks to be more a collection of speed-run maps with a style more Capture the Flag than Castlevania. I wouldn’t mind being wrong, though.