Downloadable

There’s a growing trend that is starting to get me a little worried: downloadable content. DLC is both a boon and a bane in my eyes for video games. On one hand DLC can extend the life of a game beyond it’s initial scope usually for a modest price, but it can also alienate a section of the player base if they don’t pick it up (ie. map packs for online games). This alienation isn’t what bugs me though, it’s the feeling that developers are holding back or omitting content that they know they can offer as DLC later down the road.

Don’t get me wrong, this isn’t a design choice running rampant with many developers; nor does it really pertain to every game genre. It just feels like single player narrative games are being stripped down so that content that fleshes out the world can be added later, artificially increasing the price of the game. Moreover we’re starting to see DLC available far closer to the launches of some games which begs the question, “Shouldn’t this content have been included in the price of the game?” Then again, you could make an argument that DLC that comes out months after a game launches runs into the issue of relevance, especially when competing against brand new titles.

So when should DLC be offered? What should the DLC contain to justify it’s existence? These are tough questions and will probably vary on a case by case basis, but how do you justify spending extra money for a game that you’ve already paid for? I can answer this for myself pretty easily: when the value of the DLC outweighs the cost … which is almost never for me.

Now that’s slightly hypocritical coming for me. I play WoW and have been an avid MMO fan since FFXI but the value I get out of WoW greatly outweighs the monthly subscription I pay. But then there is that time when I picked up all of the extra costumes for Street Fighter IV. Ooops! I mean really, I paid for extra costumes?! And they came in multiple packs where if you wanted them all, you had to buy them all.

Outside of the costume purchasing I haven’t purchased DLC for pretty much anything else. Now if I were an avid Halo/FPS fan I’d probably pick up map packs. Those I generally see as being worth their cost, but in Halo’s case, those map packs are made free later on. Spending extra money for an extra “mission” or side-quest isn’t valuable for me. Cosmetic DLC is even worse, but *cough*ahem*cough* sometimes might just a download on my end.

So How do you feel about DLC? What is your measuring stick for determining value vs cost? Have you purchased DLC and then regretted it later on? Or is there DLC on the horizon that you’re itching to buy and download?

Broadcasting

After watching numerous people stream their video games via justin.tv I decided that I wanted to do so as well. While I wish I had a beefier computer, and some more equipment (probably a mixer board) I slowly started getting the hang of it. First I needed to pick up a capture device and at the advice of fellow SFIV friend I picked up a Hava Platinum HD which is capable of accepting component input. It also handles most of the encoding from the input source, so that allows my CPU to focus on translating it to Justin.tv.

Which brings in the next piece of the puzzle, the software. Adobe Flash Media Encoder is unable to utilize the Hava Video Device (it’s ALWAYS in use by another program) so after a conversation with some other j.tv broadcasters I discovered the “trick.” You can use a program, Webcam Max, to define a “preview window” on your desktop that will stream as a virtual webcam to justin.tv.

Problem solved … mostly. I just needed to open the Hava PC player and set the preview window in Webcam Max to include it. Yet this still left the audio out of the loop and for a while I was at a loss on how to share the audio coming in through the Hava PC player. That is until I remembered I had a 2x male 2.5″ cable that I could run from the headphone jack on my speakers to the microphone jack at the front of my computer.

Now should I want to actually hook up a microphone and still get game audio, and/or mix in music with game audio I will need to buy a mixer board. But for now, I’m happy … very happy actually. If you’re interested in watching me game, you can now do so at justin.tv/ninvampire. Obviously I won’t be broadcasting all the time, but you can follow me on twitter to receive updates as to when I am broadcasting.

Rebirth

Oh LiveJournal how I’ve neglected you. I really didn’t mean to, it’s just you know … things come up and good intentions get sidetracked. Let’s put the past behind us and start again … I’m sure we can make things right.

So where do I begin? This blog has mainly served as a means of recording my activities with time-sucking MMOs and I seem to be at a stage at my life that MMOs are not the center of my gaming habits anymroe. I am (and have been since early Feb) once again on hiatus from Warcrack. This time feels a little different however; I am no longer daily keeping up on WoW news and even when I do, I feel like an outsider. Meaning I’m not feeling those same yearnings to come back.

It’s taken 4 years but I think I’m finally sick of WoW; don’t get me wrong … I loved WoW, but its just no longer for me … I think. I’ve never really been able to get the “most” out of WoW in terms of raiding; my life just isn’t set up to. There’d be some sense of envy when I’d sit on the sidelines while my guild would raid, but I always felt like a hinderance when I would get a chance to join a raid.

Needless to say now that I’m nearing 3 months of removal from WoW, I’ve been able to catch up on some of my backlog of console games gathering dust. Sadly though my habit of picking something up, getting deep into the game and then sitting it down continues. I’m near the end of Half-Life 2 and Fable 2 but I’ve been playing Street Fighter IV and just started Persona 3 (finally).

There’s still more to my backlog however; Drakengard 2, Dragon Quest VIII, Grandia 3, Grandia X-Treme, Magna Carta, MGS3 (sigh, yes), Radiata Stories, Rogue Galaxy, Last Remnant, FFTA2, and maybe I’ll try FFX-2 again. >.<! Yes, there’s enough to keep me busy for a very, very long time; not to mention upcoming titles that I’ll probably want to get as well. I know that once Diablo III drops, my intentions to get to those backlogged titles will get sidetracked ^^;

So what else have I been up to? Well my wife and I have really adopted Facebook into our lives and recently started twittering. With the recent acquisition of two Blackberry Curves our semi-obsession with social-networking has been strengthened. Poor Myspace has become a thing of our past it seems. I still check it from time to time, but Facebook has definitely become my favorite. (Hit me up via PM if you want to add me as a friend on Facebook)

Well I think that I’ve sufficiently given LJ some love for now. Next update I’ll try to focus in on Persona 3 and Street Fighter IV. Until then, adieu …

Difficulty

Who loves laspes in updates more than I do? Anyone? Anyhoo I figured it has been long enough since my last update and to check in. I recently celebrated a birthday and picked up Final Fantasy Tactics A2 with a gift card. Being the Tactics veteran that I am, I figured I’d begin a campaign on hard difficulty. FFTA was absurdly cake, and I was itching for a challenge that would tax my tactical skills. Everything was going fine until I started hitting the brick wall of job progression; not having equippable items to learn abilities from specifically.

Maybe I didn’t pay enough attention, but I must have missed the explanation that anytime a yellow dot filled a bazaar slot, you could unlock an item. Rather I thought I had to fill all available dots for a particular row before you could craft items. When I discovered that this was not the case, that brick wall crumbled … a little.

Now I’m running into the problem of being underleveled for most quests without a surefire way to level my team up. Seems that random clan battles have been mostly nixed, and the “world map” is sometimes annoying to navigate. The one clan battle I did get to jump into featured a level 9 mage with firaga and a golden hairpin. >.< Are you serious? (BTW, I did win that battle, but it was a tad hairy)

While I appreciate that FFTA2 has enough old stuff tweaked and new systems to feel fresh, I am not quite on board with the bazaar system and the lack of direction with the plot 10 hours in. Another quibble I have is with how excrutiating long every turn, action, etc takes. I *LOVE* the battle system, I just wish I could breeze through battles faster.

Other than FFTA2, I played the Too Human demo for a bit and, well … I’m disappointed. Everything was pointing to cool with Too Human, but when they chopped the multiplayer down to 2 players from 4, I knew something was wrong. Quite simply, the combat blows. Using the r-analog stick to execute melee attacks is already questionable, but can be acceptable should the attacks flow naturally. That is not the case with Too Human.

Combos suck because they don’t flow and require you to continuall tap the stick in the same direction. A misplaced flick and you’ll find your character careening off screen to attack some enemy that you can’t see. And that brings up another problem: the camera. LB + R-Analog for free look is counter-intuitive when you have melee attacks mapped to the analog stick. Didn’t anyone over at Silicon Knights bring this up?

*Sigh* Well at least I can scratch Too Human off my list of games to buy. I’ll assuredly pick up Force Unleashed and Fable 2 now.

Rockin’

Leave it to Blizzard to come up with an April Fool’s joke that just about breaks your heart. It would totally rock to play as a bard in WoW, although I doubt the Guitar Hero mechanics would actually work. ^^. At least not with as much valuable screen real-estate the fret-bar takes up. Nevertheless, it was an awesome joke.



The BElf swooning in the background is a great touch.

On a related note, I am really looking forward to Double Fine’s next project Brütal Legend. Between Jack Black and Tim Schaffer’s humor, it’s going to be a blast to play. Psychonauts won me over, and I’ll happily fork over my hard-earned dollars to support Schaffer’s dev-team.

Viking

Recently Sega produced/made games haven’t been all that and it appeared that Sega was a mere shadow of its former self. With Viking Sega appears to be back on the right track, even with some minor faults. Viking is a mix of Mark of Kri, and Kingdom Under Fire, that is to say that the majority of the game is spent “solo” as Skarin with main objectives having the forces you free join you in a huge epic battle.

Control is extremely important when it comes to games like this and Viking does it mighty well. There are a few hiccups mainly due to camera issues, but once you get the hang of it and don’t try to treat the game like Dynasty Warriors you should do fine. Just know that turning your back to a group of enemies and trying to book it when outnumbered usually ends up with your “death” and your soul being ressurected at the main leystone (portal system).

Combat is fun and pretty rewarding if you approach it intelligently, but sometimes you’ll find Skarin lunging after the enemy that doesn’t haven’t the “X” context kill notifier over their heads. After some training Skarin will be able to preform “stealth” kills if you can sneak up on enemies without being noticed and pressing “X” when the button symbol appears over the enemy. Bosses toss in a little bit of God of War in that kill sequences are handled by on-screen button prompts.

In large battles you can find yourself frustrated quickly if you go “dynasty warriors” while lunging through the enemy masses. This usually ends up with you being consistantly attacked from behind and a quick recipe for a respawn. These battles can be a joke, however, if you’ve stored up your power to unleash your magical enhancement and then hold X+A for an area-damaging attack that will quickly eliminate most, if not all, enemies.

As for the story … it’s fairly run-of-the-mill, but if you’re into Norse mythology you’ll probably enjoy it. (When I saw Mjolnir mentioned I couldn’t help but smile and think of Master Chief.) Cut-scenes are handled fairly well, but could have used better lighting, (there are too many shadows cast on the models). Progression through the game is handled through fetch quests for the most part. Either you free an encampment and they join you, or their leader has you bring them an item, kill a particular enemy, or clear some other objective. Pretty standard stuff.

First few hours were lots of fun, but the “quests” are starting to get a little obnoxious and not really optional since most of the main objectives require these quests to be completed before you can launch the major assault.

If you’re looking for some mindless fun, I’d definitely recommend Viking, but probably just as a rental. You may tire of the mechanics after awhile.

Minish-Finish

You know when you put a game down and then forget about it for, oh, I dunno … 2 years? Well I found my copy of Legend of Zelda: Minish Cap the other day and remembered how I still hadn’t finished the game even though my save was at the final boss. Well today I finally finished what I had minished long ago.

As far as boss battles go, there were parts of the battle that were annoying. First form: Easy. Second form: Easy. Third form: Annoying. It was this third form that had caused me to put the game down in the first place. Unless you finally accidentally happen upon using the cane on the arms that come up through the floor you’re pretty much SOL. Even then, the dark arm where you need the latern was obnoxious. It seemed nearly impossible to kill whatever those things were in the short amount of time you had to kill one.

Luck was on my side today though, especially since I discovered you could grab 2 fairies before the third form battle. After the arms were down and I discovered that arrows don’t work on the 4 little eyeballs I remembered a tried-and-true LoZ mechanic. The good ‘ol energy ball deflection with the Master Sword. Of course in the Minish Cap you have the Four Sword and need to split yourself into 3 clones to reflect all four energy balls back.

Then it was just a matter of timing for the second and third deflections and I was golden. It feels good to put this game behind me. Now whenever I get the chance I need to dig into the Twilight Princess.

Micro-transaction

So it appears that the grand-daddy of money-sinks is coming to XBLA. That’s right, my once beloved Magic: The Gathering Online is coming to rob us of our moniez. Well, actually I probably won’t be participating in MTGO on XBLA for the same reason I stopped playing MTGO once it stopped beta testing. I’m not going to spend a ton of cash to have a decent and fun deck to play with only to have it phased out with new expansions and tournament rules.

While it makes far more sense for WotC to continue the fleecing of MTG players by forcing them to pay for virtual cards, I think they could possibly reach a far larger audience if they adopted a monthly-subscription model. In this model, every single card would always be available to you and you could create whatever deck you desire without the need to spend hundreds of dollars to put it together. Having unlimited access to every card allowed me to put together some incredibly fun decks to play with AND it eliminates the problem with the “rich kid” syndrome plaguing the game.

Now I know some of you out there wouldn’t want everyone to have equal access to the most powerful cards, and understandibly fear facing cookie-cutter decks every match. Yet there still lies the ability to control card allocation within this subscription model. Virtual points earned from wins could be used to buy packs, and allowances could be made that players would receive a free pack a week or something. While I would like this model less, it still would eliminate the huge money-sink from the game.

I hope MTGO on XBLA won’t be a direct port of the PC version with the same micro-transaction model in place, but alas I know it will be. *sigh*

Cake

This has been an interesting week. Tuesday being a “holiday” caused work to be ridiculously boring. I did however make the best of it and tracked down a copy of Persona 3 “used.” A collector had traded in all of his PS2 games and the staff at this particular Gamestop didn’t see the need to open up the shrinkwrap to ensure that a fast one wasn’t being pulled on them. When I worked as a Gamestop manager I always checked, even if I didn’t get a suspicious feeling. I’m not complaining though, I picked up a “brand new” copy of Persona 3 for the used price. Which means I picked Persona 3 up for half of its market value on eBay ^^.

After finishing my last project for my computer systems course I got a chance to pop in The Orange Box for 360. I had picked up The Orange Box on Monday after my sister gave me a gift card to Gamestop. I was never able to finish Half-Life 2 on PC due to my old graphic card overheating and rebooting my computer at a particular portion of the game. The added value of Episode 1 & 2, Portal, and TF2 made The Orange Box a no brainer for me. So first up was checking out Portal.

I managed to get through 18 of the 19 experiments Tuesday night and then finished up the game Wednesday night. What an incredible game, albeit short, but so very sweet. “Still Alive” has to be the greatest ending credit song I’ve ever heard. I’m compelled to attempt the challenge modes to earn all golds (for XBL achievements =) to get some more mileage out of Portal.

Yesterday I managed some incredible luck. On the last day of Gamestop’s 25% off used Xbox 360 with coupon special I happened to find a copy of Lost Odyssey used. I had been checking various stores around in the Sacramento area for Devil May Cry 4 considering the likelihood of finding Lost Odyssey used would be astronomically small.

The last Gamestop I decided to check happened to be the lucky store I was hoping for. Shortly before my arrival, a copy had been traded in after the buyer discovered that it was an RPG. He even preordered it! So not only did I pick up a virtually brand new copy of Lost Odyssey used for $39, but I even scored the pre-order bonus. (The coupon stacks with the EDGE card)

So now I have a huge backlog of games: Lost Odyssey, Persona 3, Magna Carta, Mass Effect, Legend of Zelda: Twilight Princess, Forza 2, Grandia 3, and Rogue Galaxy. At least after finishing this current term of classes, I’ll have a 2 week break. Now I just need to decide which game to give priority to.