VGT – I Finally Get It: Online Play

Friday night I went over to a friend’s house.  He has been telling me about how much fun he has playing online.  I told him I was interested  in playing online but the idea of it made me kind of nervous.  So he invited me over to his house so I could try playing online with someone to be a guide.  I brought my Playstation 3 and a small 22 inch TV.

Another Tastebuds Popcorn fan

First, let me say that my friend treated me like a king.   When I got there he had pizza, wings, chips, and even my favorite Tastebuds Popcorn.  He even bought me my own 2 liter bottle of Coke!  He was in the middle of some online game called Battlefield 3 on his XBox 360.  It looked chaotic and I remember asking myself, “How can anyone know what’s going on?”  He was apparently on a team that won.  I have to say that the graphics looked really good but this game is not really my style.  My friend said that we should be able to find something that I would like.

Killing a sniper seemed to give him joy

What did we decide on?  After a couple slices of pizza we decided to try DC Universe Online with the PS3.  This was a game that I had played one other time.  I had a character created and had only done a single mission that was barely an online experience.  Although my friend had a level 30 character, he also had one that was at a similar level.  After about 45 minutes of updates we were finally both ready to play.  My character’s name is Tingle Tuner and his is called Captain Pooflinger.  What an awesome crime-fighting team!

Meet Tingle Tuner. Captain Pooflinger not available for picture

Let me just tell you that having a friend online made the difference for me.  He somehow found where I was located in Gotham City.  Then we became a team so we could share missions and the button mashing fun began.  We battled villains in buildings and on the streets.  We even flew up to the top of skyscrapers and fought bad guys there too.  We must have played for 2 hours but it only felt like 10 minutes.

Now I feel that I have the confidence to connect in my living room and find Captain Pooflinger online.  I hope we can continue to level up and fight bad guys together!  It was so much fun flying around the city.  It was also really interesting to see so many other people online playing similar missions – each one having a unique experience.  We could choose to interact with them or not.  I chose not to.  Especially the level 30 people going around and challenging a level 4 person to a duel.  C’mon man!

DC Universe Online is a fun game!

But I do finally have a better understanding of why people play games online.  It adds a whole new dimension to game play.

VGT – Prudence or Common Sense in Game Design

I recently read that Ancient Greek philosophy considered prudence to be one of four virtues that included prudence, temperance, justice, and fortitude.  Many hundreds of years later the Catholic church added three more making a total of seven.  So you have the seven virtues to counterbalance the “seven deadly sins”.  But PRUDENCE is another word for COMMON SENSE – something that is supposed to be within all of us – although further developed more in some rather than others.  Prudence keeps you from sticking your hand in the fire or walking off a cliff.  I’ve watched a show called 1000 Ways to Die on Netflix streaming so I know that prudence is lacking in our world.  There are also the Darwin Awards.  Look that up on Google and you will realize how senseless people can be.

How about a kiss Zelda?

What does this have to do with video games?  I have been playing my “new” CDi game Link: The Faces of Evil and I have truly been suffering.  The reason I’m suffering is because there is no COMMON SENSE in the controller design of this game!

The CDi “Spoon” Controller

Actually I’m going to go back a step further and talk about the controller I have for my Phillip’s Magnavox CDi.  It is horrible to use.  I’ve heard it called “the spoon” because of it’s unique shape.  It is straight at the bottom and has a rounded top.  There is a direction pad and two buttons.  I find myself holding it in my right hand and trying to control direction with my right thumb, which is awkward for me.  Then I use my left thumb to push the left button.  I use my right thumb to push the right button, button in order to do so I have to stop using the direction pad.

It’s not a bad looking game

There are simply not enough buttons for this game.  The Button 1 activates the sword and button 2 activates a secondary item.  with no buttons left that means to jump you push up on the direction pad.  What I wouldn’t give for a jump button!  If you push down, link squats and walks like a duck.  Just moving around, I go from jumping to squatting because of the imprecise direction pad.  To pause the game, I have to make Link squat and then press button 2.  Sometimes I want to pause but forget to squat then I accidentally waste an item like a bomb or firestone.

Hand drawn backgrounds make platforming difficult

Now, I’m not saying this game would be a good game if the controls were better.  The platforming is still defective and sometimes an enemy comes along that is impossible to deal with.  But it could be a better game if I had better control of my jumps.

Get used to this creepy shopkeeper!

There is a lot of grinding to this game because you need items such as lamp oil, ropes, and bombs – they all run out quickly.  Plus, I have to go kill one kind of enemy to get snowballs that they leave behind.  (Yes Snowballs!), then I use the snowballs to kill a certain enemy and they leave behind firestones (Not the tires).  Finally I can use the firestones to kill the deadly snow monkeys.

My save/load is not working for the game so I’m keeping my CDi turned on until I beat this thing.  I’ll keep you posted.

VGT – Sega Master System Plus a Bonus!

I’m writing today on a computer with Windows 8 Preview.  I installed it Friday night.  It has been a little difficult to get used to.  I’m really missing that start button!  I had no idea how to get to the control panel so I could prevent the computer from going to sleep after 30 minutes.  (I finally figured out that I could just start to type “Power” from the Metro interface and the power options came up).  I consider myself a pretty strong Windows user and I’ve had some trouble getting around.  That means the average user is either going to really hate it or love it.  Microsoft is definitely making changes.  I have a Mac as well, both Apple and Microsoft are really trying to merge their “app” environment with their standard software environment.

Windows 8 has also been a little buggy for me when using Internet Explorer, On Sunday, it kept locking up on the NFL website where I keep track of scores.  This is also my second time around with writing this blog entry because it shut down on me.  (I was installing something at the same time so I’m partially to blame).

Sega Master System

I recently picked up the hard to find Sega Master System with about 10 games.  This system was a competitor of the Nintendo Entertainment System back in the 8 bit era.  I had never played one before so I was eager to plug it in and try it out.  The system itself has a sleek modular look and I like the style.  I thought it was pretty cool that the game Hang On was built into the system.  Plus, the controllers were almost exactly like the NES which is a good thing.

The games that came with it

I tried some games.  They were HARD!  One game was called Fantasy Zone, a side scrolling shooter that is almost migraine inducing with its color palate of greens and pinks.  It was still kind of fun though.  Then I tried a helicopter themed shoot-em-up called Thunder Blade.  I didn’t last too long with that one.

The Faces of Evil for the Phillips Magnavox CDi

Now for the bonus, when I bought the Sega Master System, I added an additional game to the deal – a Phillips CDi disk of the game Legend of Zelda – The Faces of Evil.  I couldn’t believe it when I saw it and I was trying to act very cool around the seller.  As I mentioned in another post, there are three Zelda games that were made for the CDi and all of them are terrible.  The uniqueness of these games makes them valuable – Nintendo gave permission for their franchise to be on another system.  Unfortunately there was no case for the game – disk only.  If the case had been included the value would have been well over $100.

I also recently bought a video switch box at a Goodwill store.  Now I can change retro systems much easier on my TV.  It will hopefully neaten up all those wire everywhere.  I’m trying to get rid of the “techno spaghetti”.   Have a great week!  Spend some time outside.  Never forget that video games are just trying to copy the adventures that exist in the real world.

VGT – Grand Theft Auto or Amnesia?

You should start hearing more from me.  My life just passed through a “perfect storm” of three major events.

My son in his dorm room

First, I took my son to college last weekend.  He is a freshman at Savannah College of Art and Design.  I was very impressed by the school.  It is expensive but it is apparent that they invest a great deal of that money back into the students.  I’ve never seen so many computers in the dorm’s media room.  The cafeteria was amazing with food stations set up for every kind of culinary tastes.

Second, my work finally went live with new client management/billing software.  It was a busy week but it was relatively stress free.  Our technology team did our best to prepare the staff for the changes.  I spent most of my time adding clients that somehow did not carry over from the old system to the new – or adding important data to the clients who did manage to carry over.

Third, I had a paper for seminary that I foolishly put off until the last minute.  I ended up sending it in late today.  It will not be a good grade just because of the lateness.  If all goes well, I hope to make a C in the class.  I finished it last night and it is a tremendous relief to have it finished.

This guy stole my car!

With with all that stress, I have a silly little story to tell called Grand Theft Auto or Amnesia?  The title includes two video games but there are no games in this story.  It was Tuesday afternoon and I signed out at work and headed to the parking lot to get in my car and go home.  I always park in the same place and was surprised to discover that my car was completely missing.  I searched all over the parking lot wondering if I had parked in another spot and forgotten but there was no sign.  I even went to get a co-worker to walk the lot with me who verified with me that my car was gone, missing, disappeared.  There was no sign of break in, just an empty spot where my car used to be.

I called my wife and told her the news.  She left the house to come pick me up – a forty minute drive.  Then I called the police and filed a report.  They dispatched a police officer who arrived about thirty minutes later.  She asked me all kinds of embarrassing questions such as, “Are you behind on any payments?” (it’s paid for) and “Are you sure you didn’t park it somewhere else?”  She even called a car theft expert who confirmed her belief that a 2009 Honda Civic is virtually impossible to steal.

My wife arrived and we spent about twenty minutes chatting it up with the officer, who seemed relieved to take a call that was stress free – especially after working so many hours during the Democratic National Convention.  Then it struck me.  I remembered that in the morning I had driven across the street to one of our remote offices and parked my car there.  I had assisted a co-worker with a computer issue and then walked back to the main building.  My car was parked across the street.  I felt like an idiot.

I am so blessed to have a wife who is so level headed and cheerful.  She laughed it off and then we planned to meet at a restaurant.  After she left, the police officer commented on how impressed she was with my wife’s good nature.  I guess she has seen enough angry people for a lifetime.  We talked for another twenty minutes before parting and I feel that I made a new friend.  I will probably see her again because she works in that area.  Hopefully it won’t be because I have forgotten where I parked my car.

My dark descent into “Amnesia”

I guess the stress from the college weekend, the work project implementation, and my own studies had just taken up all of my brain’s capacity!

VGT – My Console Collection Part 5

Today is my final entry for my current console collection.  We have been slowly working our way across the photo at the header of my blog.  It is a picture of my consoles arranged like books on a bookshelf.  There are only two consoles left in the photo but I have a third one that was on loan the day I took the picture.  So for the last time, let’s take a look at the shelf – completing our journey from right to left.

Just looking at this picture makes me want to connect it to my TV and play

Atari 2600 Video Computer System – I can’t say enough what this system means to me.  It was the start, the beginning of a love for video games in my life.  I’ve mentioned that I first encountered this game system at my friend Robbie Foster’s house.  At first, he only had Combat but we spent hours playing it.  Whether it was tanks, or tanks in which you could guide your shot, biplanes, jets, or even a unique bomber against three fighters mode – we played for hours.  The great thing about those games was that we played them together.  As time went on, we played games like Adventure, Asteriods, Yar’s Revenge, Demon Attack, and so many more.  I was actually given the system on my shelf by a friend of mine named Carl.  He had it in a box and he must have been watching me drool over it.  So he simply gave it to me along with all his cartridges.  Thanks Carl!  You need to come over soon so we can play some Bill Elliott NASCAR Racing on the Nintendo.  I can’t figure out how to do pit stops.

Over 96 Million Served

Nintendo Wii – People can say what they want about the Wii, but I have enjoyed many hours of gaming with this system.  I still use it as my primary device for watching Netflix.  My best memory of the wii is actually the experience of purchasing it in 2006.  My son, Nate, and I were pretty excited about this new system with it’s unique controls.  With Legend of Zelda – Twilight Princess as a launch title, we knew it was going to be great.  So we camped out at the entrance to a Target, wanting to make sure that we were going to be first in line.  We even made a poster.  As the evening wore on, we continued to be alone except for the occasional drive-by asking us what we were doing.  One person said, “Waiting in line for a Wii?  No one is going to buy it!”  At about 2 am, someone drove by and told us that Walmart was actually opening an hour earlier so we packed up and headed over there.  THIS is where the line (and the party) was.  There must have been 30 people talking and laughing.  We were racing each other in Mario Cart on the DS.  That was the most fun I ever had playing that DS.  Finally, the opening hour came and we were let in out of the cold into the store.  We bought our system, an extra controller, the Zelda game, and headed home.  We set it up immediately but were so exhausted that we went to bed soon after.  It turned out that the Wii sold out everywhere and was incredibly hard to find for a long time.  I’m glad for that time with my son.

Games, movies, and online fun

Sony Playstation 3 – This console didn’t make the photo because I had loaned it to a friend.  It is the newer, slimmer version.  No exciting story about the purchase; I just went to Best Buy and bought the thing.  The PS3 suffered from slow sales at the beginning but more and more have been sold over time.  From what I understand, even though it is a more powerful system than the XBox 360 it is harder to program it in such a way that it takes advantage of it’s power.  That’s why some of the first party titles look so amazing.  I purchased it for a few reasons.  One, I wanted to play the Nathan Drake games and they were exclusive to the system.  Two, it came with Blu-Ray for watching movies.  And three, I thought at the time I might get into playing online and it had wireless networking built in.  I’ve never really got into the online part of it, but I have really enjoyed watching the Lord of the Rings on Blu-Ray!  This is still the system I buy games for if I want to see the best graphics possible.

So, it seems that it’s time for me to make a new photograph and use it as a header!  First, I want to re-take the original photo layout but with a higher quality camera.  Then I want to create a new picture of my handheld collection.  Stay tuned….

VGT – I’ve Lost My Gaming Skills

I can’t get past her!

I have lost my gaming skills.  I’m playing the first Mass Effect and I have encountered the matriarch Benezia.  She does something to paralyze me, then she sends her bodyguards and I’m dead within seconds.  It happens so fast I’m not sure I can do anything to overcome it.  I’ve tried two times now and it makes me want to stop playing the game.  Real life can be frustrating enough, do I really want to experience frustration virtually as well?

Remember the new item you just found? Don’t use it to defeat me or anything

But perhaps I never had the gaming skills in the first place.  I remember calling the Nintendo Hotline one time in the early nineties when I got stuck on The Legend of Zelda: Link to the Past.  I was stuck on a boss monster called a Helmasaur.  It was basically a scorpion with a helmet.  The “Game Counselor” told me to try using bombs to shatter the helmet.  It worked.  That was kind of awesome now that I think about it.  However, In this more advanced electronic age, I wonder if there could ever be a service in which a person gets stuck on a game and calls for help.  Then the helpline person connects remotely and does the difficult part for you.  Now I’m REALLY getting lazy.  I won’t need a remote connection this weekend – I’m probably going to have my son get me past that difficult section of Mass Effect.

Now even a little kid can beat this game

I also noticed that as I was playing Super Mario 3D Land recently that I died a few times on my way to Bowser in World 6.  Then a magical block appeared at my starting point and I hit it.  Out popped a white tanooki suit that basically made me invincible to all enemies.  I discovered that even armed with this helpful super setting that I was still able to perish by falling in the lava.  Everyone knows that even a white raccoon suit can’t withstand the high temperatures of molten rock.  I finally beat the level with the help of this suit but I felt like I was cheating.  I was glad to be able to move forward though.

I read discussions about whether current games are too easy now.  Some people don’t like all of the extra help, but I kind of appreciate it.  I only have so much time that I can spend playing a game.  I don’t want to spend it feeling frustrated.  Besides, there are still plenty of extremely challenging games out there.  I’ve heard people on podcasts talking about a game called Dark Souls that is just brutally difficult – but they love it.  Hard games will never go out of style but  I like games that are a little easier.

What do you do when you get frustrated in real life?   What do you do when you fail?  It would be nice if we could just put on a magic suit and make everything right again.  Real life simply doesn’t work that way – although it would be pretty cool if it did!  We do have “game counselors” that we can go to.  A wise person isn’t above seeking counsel when help is needed.  Of course, even when one feels completely alone, a video game theologian can always trust in God.  Even when you’ve lost your gaming skills.

“My flesh and my heart may fail, but God is the strength of my heart and my portion forever.”
Psalms 73:26 (ESV)