Archive for the 'Gaming' Category

DC Universe Online – Beta Pre-Review

Tuesday, December 14th, 2010

DC Universe Online Screenshot - Hanging in Gotham City
I’m in. So far I’ve made my character and have climbed some walls and kicked some butt but I haven’t done much yet in terms of quests and leveling (been sick and away from the keyboard).

However here’s a few comments:

Flirty? There weren’t many choices of attitude for your character, I chose Flirty but wish that I could change it up during the game. You know, a woman’s prerogative, I get to change my mind? ;)

Climbing! Heck yeah, I’m going to climb! I like playing a rogue type character (and I rock climb in real life) so of course I chose this super power. Now I’m sort of like a Spider Woman rogue (Hmm do I get negative points for naming a hero from that Other Comic Universe?).

Kicking butt. In the tutorial part of the game I didn’t find it necessary to throw objects at any bad guys. This may be because I’m quick on the trigger button (mouse buttons trigger attacks) but since one of the big draws of this game is being able to throw things I’m going to assume I need to practice my throwing skills.

UI. Rather odd UI. I’m still getting used to it. It’s definitely not like the usual MMOs. I’d say it’s less intuitive but maybe that’s because I’ve had too many years of training with other games?

By the way, I’m playing on the PvP server if anyone else is in the Beta. Look for a flirty raven haired rogue like character hanging on a wall.

~ Fricka

SOE FanFaire Costume Contest – People’s Choice and a Surprise

Wednesday, August 11th, 2010

“Snickers” who is well known to regular SOE FanFaire goers for his hand made Froglok costume, got a special call out at the end of the People’s Choice portion of the costume contest.

Emceeing the show is Jace Hall (Producer of “V” and a gamer and game producer) and Brassee (the bearded dwarf alter ego of Linda Carlsson, SOE Senior Community Manager).

I captured it on this video which shows the end of the People’s Choice portion of the contest as well:

I have the entire introduction of the costume contest (where they first get introduced and go on the stage) on video too. I’ll post it in parts.

Lord of the Rings Online Going Free to Play

Monday, June 7th, 2010

Looks like Lord of the Rings Online is the latest MMO to offer a Free to Play option. They’re taking Beta signups now. I liked my run with their game, mainly because it was in the Lord of the Rings universe but also because it was just light fun. You can see my Lord of the Rings Online Launch Day Review here. While I didn’t keep up my play from launch (I never got a group of regulars going in it). I plan on starting it up again with the free play option with a small group to play very causally.

Here’s a chart explaining the planned differences between LotRO’s VIP, Premium and Free accounts: LOTRO Free to Play Plan Comparison Chart.

E3 2009 What I Liked

Thursday, June 4th, 2009

Firstly it’s the motion stuff that got my panties in a wad.

I’m most interested in Microsoft’s Project Natal for XBox. However, I’ll be really excited when we can see how close it gets to the well edited and created trailer. Even so, it’s one step closer to the holodeck! Microsoft isn’t telling anyone a release date though.

Secondly I liked Sony’s answer to motion control, particularly because of its precision controls, and since this is an actual demo I was quite excited to see the sword play. One step closer to a real virtual fencing game! OK I may not be in the majority for that wish but hey, I’m allowed to wish! Looks like Sony’s aiming for a launch in Spring 2010.

After the battle of the motion controllers, “The Beatles: Rock Band” got me so excited that I pre-ordered the game. I’m a Rockband fan more than a Beatles fan but I just love the idea of being able to play Beatles songs and I’m even looking forward to going through their career as a band.

For other goodies, I’m sort of interested in “Assassin’s Creed 2″ but after getting excited about the first one at E3s in the past & then seeing how it went from there, I feel a little burned by that title. We’ll see. Mario? I’ll wait on those. As far as the other titles, well I’d like to get a PS3 and an XBox but I don’t have them yet so I’ll have to wait to play friend’s games :P

Prince of Persia Animation Reference Video

Wednesday, October 29th, 2008

Old School, we’re talking 1989, 2D Prince of Persia. And yet, the animations looked so smooth. That was due to the use of rotoscoping by its creator and programmer, Jordan Mechner. Mechner has recently shared the videos he used for that process, showing his younger brother jumping and doing other movements gamers will recognize.

Prince of Persia Animation Reference 1985 from jordan mechner on Vimeo.

Check out his pants too! :)

Link to Mechner’s blog entry.

E for All 2008 Overview Report – Steve Wiebe, Fatal1ty, Gamer Aptitude Test

Monday, October 6th, 2008

Gamer Obstacle CourseIt was a grey, drizzly morning in Los Angeles on Saturday, October 4th, but aside from a few slow areas, it was a relatively smooth drive to the Convention center for the second day of E for All. It’s the second year in existence for the public video game convention, and I think it still has hopes of filling E3 of old’s shoes. The ease in which I found parking (even for a Saturday morning) was evidence that the new con still has plenty of toe room, if not the wrong shoes on entirely. Arriving in the West Hall lobby, I noticed a lack of lines at the badge counters. There was a fairly long one to the doors of West Hall itself though. A band was playing to entertain the crowd, they sounded pretty good and plugged their MySpace page — a Sign of the Times. The lead singer was also using an unusual guitar (it was a Guitar Hero guitar which he wasn’t actually playing).

The doors opened a little past 10:00am, the first thing one saw was the Into the Pixel art exhibit and Educational section. I listened briefly to a girl talking about video game websites and how to break into working for them.

My first appointment was supposed to be at 10:30AM with John Bates, Business Development from Entropia. He was running late but I was able to talk to some of the game’s “Ambassadors”, actual players of the game who Mind Ark had paid a stipend to travel to E for All and talk about Entropia. It was a good way to learn about the money driven MMORPG at the player level so I was glad the official guy hadn’t shown up yet.

While waiting I walked over to the 3D vest booth. If you haven’t heard about it, it’s supposed to translate things that happen to you in a game into real life sensations. An example I’d read on the web is that you would feel chest blows. As I neared the booth I saw a camo vest draped on a chair and a guy asked if I wanted to try it on. I asked if there was a girl version and the guy said they did have one, it was pink. I don’t think he really understood my concern. I had to elaborate by explaining that in fencing girls wear chest protectors. His eyes got a searching look and he just said that he didn’t know if the pink vests were made differently. I had another interview to go to and he said I should come back later. I don’t know, the whole idea is kind of funny, I don’t know if I’d really want to get all beaten up in real life. I mean even if you win in a game, you’re getting hit and throwing yourself around a lot in a FPS.

So on to my next appointment. This one was about a game called Beyond Protocol. It’s a MMORTS game set in space. It hadn’t been on my radar but I had been contacted by their PR guy who had said he’s tried to contact The Safehouse before because he thought we’d be interested in the Espionage aspect of the game. I have to say that games like these are what used to be in Kentia Hall during the old days of E3. I called Kentia “the Dungeon” because it was located on the lower level of the Convention building and because the Big Guys generally bought space in West or South Hall and the others were banished to “The Dungeon”. I liked going to Kentia Hall because you could find gems of games there, or, at the very least something unusual. Beyond Protocol has the potential to be one the gems for “hardcore” gamers, who they admit is their target. They have an open beta going on right now. I’ll include more about the game in an upcoming article.

Then it was time to roam the floor. I noticed a lonely booth which seemed to be selling Rockband drum covers (each cover matched the color of the drum rim). There was a large booth for mobile games which looked sterile and uninviting. A good portion of space was taken up by the World Cyber Games USA for the National Finals competition. Another large section was set aside for Intel Extreme Masters Global Challenge. WoW was one of the games in the Global Challenge but I didn’t see anyone playing it when I went by.

While the game makers themselves seemed to be sparse there were a number of stations set up at various booths where gamers could play the games themselves. Target’s area seemed to have the biggest variety and number of play stands. Star Wars: the Force Unleashed seemed popular, but unfortunately they only seemed to have it for the Xbox360 and not for the Wii. I had hoped to be able to try it out on the Wii.

At another booth old school arcade games like Donkey Kong and Berserk were set up for public play, they were near stations set up for attendees to take the Gamer Aptitude test, dubbed H2i which tests hand to eye coordination and was once only used on pro gamers. One person was just wrapping up their test when one of the girls near the box asked if I wanted to try it. I don’t like playing new games in front of people but there wasn’t a crowd so I said, “Sure, why not.”

My first test instructed me to just click a target on the screen with a mouse click. Another was to hit the A or D key (or the left arrow and right arrow) according to which of these symbols (< >) appeared on the screen. As I was taking the test I became aware of more people crowding around. Then the guide person told me, “Not to make you nervous or anything but there’s a whole bunch of people watching you now.” Well I was aware of it, one of those folks was Jonathon “Fatal1ty” Wendell, who was apparently showing the test to someone else I couldn’t quite see (another top gamer I guessed). I got embarrassed because I missed a target and then of course missed another. Then on the next test I didn’t read the instructions correctly and let seconds go by before realizing I just needed to click a target shape even though it hadn’t turned red.

In the end my score was 54.77. I declared, “I suck!” To which Jonathon said, “You ranked 5XX out of 5XX, you’re not last!” Note here that I don’t know the exact numbers he used because I was slinking off in shame, but he was correct, I wasn’t last, but I was definitely in the bottom half, if not the last quarter of scores tabulated thus far. I think the last thing I heard was the guide girl telling Fatal1ty that I was going to be interviewing him at 2pm. Guess I’ll be memorable at least. I think there were prizes for top scores, I of course didn’t qualify but the guide girl wrote my score on a sticker and stuck it on my badge. I didn’t take it off, I wore it as a badge of shame.

After that ordeal I had to take a bit of a break and went back to my role of photographer rather than participant. The gamer known as Mama McCann in Vanguard circles had spotted me earlier and she was now taking her test. I took a few shots and also talked to her husband. I then left them so she could better concentrate on the test (and because I had to take another kind of break if you know what I mean).

Back roaming the floor, I passed by the NoS energy drink booth. They had free samples out on their table. I asked if I could read the ingredients. High Fructose corn syrup, Taurine, Caffeine. A girl told me it tasted like grape soda. I decided I could use some energy and took a sample. She was right, it tasted like lightly carbonated grape soda. Not bad. In fact maybe too good. I don’t really want to like stuff that is ultimately bad for me. I saw a dad with two young boys each take samples. Watch that group in a few minutes.

Passing by the Target area again I noticed a guy just finishing trying the Shaun White Snowboarding game using the Wii Fit board. I hopped on and hit Restart to do the same run. The guy and his friend came back to watch. I somehow did a trick on the board and ended up with my person facing the opposite way that I was standing in real life, it didn’t seem to matter much though, it was all about the leaning and maybe the jumping (it was kinda hard to tell if I made my guy jump on a rail or if he just did it automatically). Forward lean, unlike in Wii Fit Slalom, didn’t seem to affect speed at all. The guy asked if I snowboarded, I said, “I fall,” and added that I’ve gone once. He then said to his friend, “I was overdoing it,” in regards to the leaning. As I finished my run the guy admitted I’d done better than him. Hey, after my performance on the H2i test, I’d take the ego boost.

I wandered over to Fatal1ty’s booth. They had a series of things going on, one was an obstacle course where the top three times would get a $300 gift certificate to Best Buy. It involved diving through a pool of play balls, doing one Wii Fit ski jump, running tires, doing one Wii Fit marble screen, walking across some beams, doing 20 hulu hoop rotations on Wii Fit again and then riding an adult sized tricycle to the finish line. I watched some guys have a go and they did it in around 53 seconds. The guys talking said you could have unlimited go’s at it. If I had more time I’d do practice runs.

On the main stage I watched Fatal1ty take on a few competitors in Quake 4. It was two against one and Fatal1ty was handicapped according to a spin on a handicap wheel. I saw the tail end of one set he wasted handily and before the next set the emcee asked him which handicap he thought was worst, he replied “Melee only” and decided to use that handicap on the next set of contestants even though it hadn’t come up on the wheel. So two guys had guns, Fatal1ty had none. He still wasted them, moving into the corners of the map to anticipate their jumps so they would get a nasty landing. I was impressed.
Walter Day and Steve Wiebe being interviewed by G4
I walked by the booth where the game tests and old arcade games were again and recognized Steve Wiebe and Walter Day, a small crowd was around them asking for pictures and they were obliging. I took a turn too. Walter grabbed my badge, saw it said “Media” on it and told me, “Stay right there, don’t move!” He then grabbed gamer, Triforce, and a poster, he told me hold this, and then more pictures were taken with the group of us. The poster was for a Feed the Homeless drive that a bunch of gamers were supporting. TriForce was its Director. You were to bring a can of food, unfortunately, it was held only during E for All so I’m afraid this report is a little late to help much except perhaps urge you to watch for it for next year. I spoke to Steve a little apart from the picture taking. I asked if, “All this,” indicating the noise and crowd, “hurt his chances for breaking the record.” He said, “Well last night I got one million, so it hasn’t hurt. I think if it’s just at a constant level I can tune it out.” “What if folks were to cheer for you?” “Well if it’s between screens, that’s ok”. When I first met him, after Walter had noticed my Media pass, I had said, “I’m here as Press but I’m a fan too” He answered, “that’s great, I need fans!”. Naw, I think everyone who’s seen the movie is a fan of his. Nice guy, humble and with a lot of patience for picture taking.

About this time I had my appointment with Fatal1ty set up. He was a little late, “probably geeking out on the floor” as his PR person told me. I had a chair and peanut M&Ms so I was happy to wait. When he showed we shook hands and as I said, “I was the girl taking the test earlier…” He said, “Yeah I remember 5XX out of 5XX”. I swear I’m not blanking that out because of pride, I really can’t remember what the numbers were. Some kind of psychological block I’m sure. I knew our time was a bit limited so I cut to the chase to questions about being a professional gamer and his business.

He was a nice guy, I can see why he is still liked. He had an easy going manner about him though he got intense talking about this business and about competing. I mentioned fencing when we talked about competing and he excitedly told me that he won a gold medal in fencing in 5th grade, apparently he had gone to a Magnet school and they had all sorts of sports available and he apparently excelled at most of them. This guy is a competitor all right. I got a few momento shots of us together at the end but the girl taking them wasn’t used to my camera so they didn’t turn out that great.

The day was feeling pretty long for me at this point but the Entropia folks had tried to reschedule my appointment and left voicemail messages for me so I dropped by one more time. John was there this time, wearing a very bright blue suit. I asked him higher end questions about real money in a MMORPG environment, the answers of which I’ll include in another article.

One of the last booths I went to was the Mana Energy Potion booth, they make a caffeine / taurine energy drink that is meant to be taken as a “shot” and is packaged in a cute potion bottle. They gave me a sample and though I was tempted to try it out right then, I remembered that I’d had the NoS drink earlier and figured I had better not OD on caffeine.

With that, I was out of there. My over all impression was that it had been worth attending, especially if you are a Southern California resident since you could save on travel expenses. Last year I wondered if they would even have another one. This year I find myself hoping that they do. It’s still not E3 of old and I predict never will fill those shoes, but I do think it’s a fun event.

Trial Spore Creature Creator is So So

Tuesday, June 17th, 2008

Like many gamers out there, I’ve been following Spore news for quite some time. I was one of those who practically salivated at the tidbits they threw at us during E3s. Well, that behavior stopped pretty quickly when it was apparent the game wasn’t going to be coming out “soon”. I still followed the news but I had other games to review.

Now the Creature Creator has been released and the game itself is on the horizon.

I loaded up the Creature Creator and went about making my first creature. Frankly I felt like I was doing the demo I’ve seen before. You start with a “blob”, well, a blob with a spine. I guess that makes it bolder than some humans we know?

I went to my choice of mouths since the Spore Guide told me that picking a mouth was one of the most important things to choose from when making a creature since it determined whether or not your creature was a carnivore, omnivore or herbivore. Unfortunately in this limited set, only carnivore mouths were available. I chose one with +5 bite strength and +2 sing. I figured it couldn’t hurt. Well at least not me anyway.

I went through the rest of the process and ended up with a purple tinted creature I named a Rufusaur and added two baby Rufusaurs and put them through the limited actions they could do while in the trial Creature Creator.

That’s about all I did.

It was… disappointing. Now, hold on folks, let’s look at some facts. 1. Creature Creator is just that, a tool to create a creature, not actually play the game with it. 2. I’m a graphic designer who has used a few 3D apps before. Bells and whistles and even moveable vertebrae models are not new to me. 3. I’m a veteran MMORPG player and as such am used to customizable character creation screens. Add that all up and I’m just not blown away with this tool, even when I end up with a fully animated and properly rendered creature which can flip and laugh and roar at my command.

I’m still cautiously excited about Spore. I do like the fact that I can create creatures in advance and use them in the game, but until I get into the actual game I’m just not that excited about creating creatures I can’t test out in the true Spore environment.

Your enjoyment may vary and The Spore Creature Creator is publically available for download here starting June 17th.

You can also buy the full version of the Creature Creator as a direct download. PC version available now, Mac version coming “soon”.

EDIT: I revisited the Creature Creator today and made a second creature. Here’s a video of my “Grass Golem”:

Wii Fit Review (Preliminary)

Sunday, June 1st, 2008

My brother got me Wii Fit as my latest combo-Christmas-birthday-anything else I missed present. I’ve had it for a few days now and so far it gets two thumbs up.

My brother found it because I had placed it on my Amazon Wish list account. I originally added it there with the intention of buying it myself for the following reasons: 1. I liked the concept of getting a little bit of exercise through a game interface and 2. I wanted to learn more yoga poses yet I wasn’t keen on my current choices of watching a DVD I’ve had for a long time on it, or
going to classes again. I figured my gaming brain would find an interactive (and “score” keeping) medium much more interesting than a dvd and obviously would be something I could do at my own time, pace and place when compared to going to live classes.

I was right about the above but I underestimated the fun of the Balance Games also included in Wii Fit. Now, before I get ahead of myself, I’ve had Wii Fit for all of 4 days. Which means I’ve done 3 “Wii Fit Tests”, 6 yoga poses, 1 strength training exercise, and 3 of the balance games. I’m still giving Wii Fit two thumbs up. There are obviously a lot more “exercises” and games for me to try but I’d buy a Wii Fit just based on what I’ve done so far (and extrapolating out that I’ll continue to like learning more yoga poses and combos).

When I first got the game I went through it following all directions (yes, even wearing the strap for the Wiimote). I took the first Wii Fit test and got a Wii Fit Age of 6 years over my actual age. I had a huge laugh about that because I’m an unusually active geek. I rockclimb regularly, backpack, go to a gym and do other physical activities. But even so, I did not do well at the Wii Fit test where you had to shift your weight between your two feet (both feet still kept on the board) and hit a certain target for at least 3 seconds (you have a visual guide which shows that you need to keep the pressure on the board so your indicators are between an ever narrowing blue rectangular area).

The next day I tried Wii Fit I tried to retake the test but it gave me a different set of tests to do (I hadn’t realized that’s the usual MO — you do a test each day which they pick for you). On that test I scored 5 years YOUNGER than my age. This soothed my bruised ego. It involved balance again but this time you had to move your center of balance to “hit” blue targets which increased in number and you had less time to hit them all. The secondary test involved just trying to stay as still as possible (not giving detail on this one or it’d be a spoiler).

Yoga. The first thing I tried out after the test was the yoga program. You pick a trainer, she or he shows you how to do a pose and then you do it. The nice part is that you have a visual indicator showing your center of balance so you get feedback on how you are doing. You also have a visual cue for your breathing and of course it tells you how long to hold each pose after which you get a star rating and points. The trainer talks you through it and gives you tips, not unlike how I’d expect a DVD to do it.

Strength training. I’ve only done one of these so far. I noticed lunges were included and of course push ups. The one I actually did (due to space limitations and out of consideration for my downstairs neighbor) was one where I just did some arm/body twisting. I don’t expect to gain much “strength” out of this particular exercise but I suppose it’s good in a “calisthenics” kind of way. As I mentioned before, I’m an active girl so I’ve already got a certain amount of strength going for me that twisting probably won’t improve. I’m sure the push ups and harder exercises will benefit me though.

Aerobics. The 3rd major set of exercises on Wii Fit are aerobic. I haven’t tried any of these yet, I still tend to get my aerobic exercise outside of the house. However I love Wii boxing in Wii Sports so I’m looking forward to trying out the Wii Fit boxing training exercise since it will also involve the lower half of your body.

Balance Games. I’ve tried three of these so far. I’ve tried the tight rope game (it’s a game you unlock once you get enough Wii Fit time accumulated). It’s OK. I suspect if you had people watching you do it, it would be more fun in a “party game” sort of way. I also tried the ski jump game. I like this one. With your knees bent, you lean forward at a certain angle to get your speed up but still stay centered. To jump you straighten your knees, but, even when airborne you need to keep your center of balance stable.

My favorite Balance Game (and my favorite thing on Wii Fit so far) is the slalom ski game. You use the board to control moving left and right and also to control your speed. My boyfriend and I have been battling it out for the number one spot, we seesawed back and forth but I’m currently in the top 3 positions with my best score at about 52 seconds (with a Professional rating). I announced, “I r the winnar!” in true geek fashion at the end of that run.

For the record, I’ve only been on two ski trips before in my life (got up to the intermediate slopes but that’s it) and I’ve been snowboarding a total of two days so I’m not the best judge of how good the game translates slalom skiing. But heck, it’s fun! I noticed that there’s a snowboard game to unlock so I’m looking forward to that too.

Preliminary Conclusion
. I’ve already said it. Two thumbs up from a reasonably physically active geek girl. Wii Fit doesn’t replace a hard core fitness routine but it can be a fun way for a usually inactive gamer to get more physical. Or for the usually physical person to have fun indoors with games. Hardcore folks of either type can look down their noses at Wii Fit but they’re just missing out on the fun.
Wii Fit. Picture of one of the Test Miis

Rock Band for Wii Coming in June But No Online Option

Monday, March 24th, 2008

Harmonix says the release is: June 22 in North America

A Special Edition bundle–containing a wireless guitar, drum kit, and microphone–will sell for $169.99.

Song total: 63 songs, five of which are bonus songs. A full list of the 63 tracks was not provided, though the initial 58 are expected to mirror the 45 main songs and 13 bonus tracks of the previously-released PlayStation 2, PlayStation 3, and Xbox 360 editions.

And to my great disappointment…

The Wii edition of Rock Band will not include online multiplayer or support for downloadable content

More details from the Shacknews article.

Gary Gygax D&D Co-Creator 1938 – 2008

Tuesday, March 4th, 2008

The news was broken over at Troll Lord Games.

If you’ve ever played an RPG, you’ve been influenced by this guy in some way or another. I remember being impressed by my friend who had a dice bag Gary (and the rest of the D&D team) had signed.

Rest in Peace Mr. Gygax.

Photo by Alan De Smet