Our Wii Lingers, Waiting for Retirement

Our Wii was unboxed six years ago this week.

Wii in the Box

Wii in the Box

It was at the height of the Wii’s popularity.  People were talking about it.  Wii remotes were breaking TV screens.  It was fair game for humor.  It spawned hilarious peripherals.  It was practically a meme on its own.

The previous Christmas season you could not find one for love or money… well, unless you wanted to spend a LOT of money on eBay… while competing consoles were sitting on the shelves, primarily due to their high price tags.  My wife was able to score one in the post-holiday season, but it had to stay under wraps for a couple months because we were moving.

But once it was out of the box, it was a hit in our house.  My daughter and I played a lot of Wii Sports and Mario Party 8 and LEGO Star Wars, various flavors of Mario Kart (though never Mario Kart Wii), and old classics from the Wii Virtual Console.  Miis were created in imitation of friends and family.

It was a time of excitement, as the Wii represented something new.

It was also perfect timing in our lives.  My daughter was just five years old when the Wii showed up, which was just about the perfect age for the games we were playing.

It became a Saturday morning tradition.  My daughter would wake me up early… before 7am early… and we would get up, jump in the giant Love Sac not-a-bean-bag-chair in the family room ( I really miss that thing… one of our cats was constantly peeing on it, so it had to go), and play games for hours.

Later, the Nintendo DS and Pokemon took over our Saturday morning focus, though the Wii still found ways to stay a part of the picture.  There was Pokemon Battle Revolution, which was deeply integrated with Pokemon Diamond and Pearl (but not any of the subsequent Pokemon titles) and Pokemon Ranch, which let you store and track your Pokemon collection.

Time went on.  Pokemon began to fade.  My daughter got a Nintendo DSi XL, which could download demo software on its own, without having to connect to the Wii, a restriction we faced with the DS Lite units.

But there were still things to do.  Rock Band was a big hit.  We actually had adults coming over to play.

But things were starting to sour a bit.  There was that horrible Wii Music, which actually prompted my wife to suggest Rock Band.  The unit itself started making noise.

And my daughter started playing Wii games that I did not like, such as Super Smash Bros. Brawl, or at which I simply sucked, like Super Mario Bros. Wii.  But her friends liked those games and played them with her instead.

At that point I was pretty much done with the Wii aside from Netflix streaming service, which at the time was free for any Netflix subscriber.

Time passed, the old TV died and we got a new, high def TV.  That, in turn, prompted me to get a PlayStation 3, as the Wii does not support anything beyond 480p.  We could now stream Netflix in HD and watch movies in Blu-Ray.  The Wii started to get used less and less.

Then Little Big Planet showed up on the PlayStation 3.  That became pretty much the only console game getting played.

My daughter’s interests are better served with by her iMac.  She has PhotoShop Elements and a Wacom tablet hooked up for art.  She has Minecraft.  WoW doesn’t thrill her any more, though maybe if Runic could get to work on Torchlight II for the Mac as they promised, that might be of some interest.  I already bought her a copy.

But my daughter, now very much a pre-teen, is not so interested in the Wii, or even the PlayStation 3.  It is all about her phone, her Nook Color, and her iMac.

And I am a PC gamer from way back, so console games, which always feel limited to me, have little pull.

I think the Wii went from Christmas to Easter without getting used once.  At Easter we had friends over, and their kids have a Wii, and Super Mario Bros. Wii is still on the list for them, so we broke that out.  Our Wii got played with a little bit.  But it will likely make it from Easter to Thanksgiving without much of a workout in between.

Its days are numbered.  Even Nintendo is beginning to shut down services on the Wii as they try to push people towards the Wii U.  We have no interest in the Wii U around our house, which seems to be a common theme.

Wii U in white

Wii U – Not for us

It is probably just the small size of the unit in the entertainment console that is keeping it around.  And the fact that the Wii Fit balance board fits under the whole setup.

At some point it, the controllers, and its games are going to get boxed up and stored away, waiting for somebody to get a pang of nostalgia.

The Wii was a fine console for our family, and showed up at just the right time.

Wii Sports was great, Mario Party 8 and its mini games were lots of fun, and all the LEGO games were great until they started doing split screen, which gave me a headache.

But that time seems to have mostly passed at this point.

I have said in the past that I get a game console every 15 years.  There was an Atari 2600 in 1977.  A Sega Genesis in 1992.  And then the Wii in 2007.  The PlayStation 3 doesn’t really count as it only gets used for Blu-Ray, streaming video, and, since I set up the NAS service with a hard drive on our router, a bit of music streaming now and again.

So I guess the next stop is in 2022.  What will we have then?

Side Notes About Used Games

There has been a bit of a controversial breeze blowing through the console news, with the rumor being that Microsoft will be putting an end to the used game market with their next generation console by simply not allowing it to play used games.

Used games and piracy are the two things that keep some big game publishing execs up at night building enormous castles in the sky with all the wealth that could be theirs if only they could be rid of these meddlesome practices.

Not that I am unsympathetic to people whose software is being pirated.  I work in software as well, and it irks.

But with the threat of a final solution to the used game problem potentially on the horizon, it was extremely refreshing to hear somebody from EA come out and say that the used games market is not 100% evil.

Basically, in their view, used games have helped prop up the traditional retail channel for the last few years, which is still an important source of game sales.

Oh, and the fact that people who buy new games can then turn around and trade them in for credit increases the likelihood that they will then buy another new game.  So the used games market might actually be boosting new game sales, at least in certain segments of the market.

Using Used to sell New

Using Used to sell New

But they still want to kill the used market because… despite the above… they still hate it and can’t stop telling themselves that every used game sale would have been a new game sale if not for that damn gray market.

At the other end of the equation there is GameStop, a company that pretty much depends on used games to stay open.  They are upset.

No surprise there.

And they have some numbers that say some gamers won’t buy Microsoft’s icky new console if it doesn’t support used games.  And while I cannot speak to the validity of their poll, they are probably right to be worried.  The end of the used game market probably means the end of GameStop in the medium-to-long term.

And GameFly too, while we’re at it.  All those game rentals would have been new game sales, right?

Microsoft dreams of having control over things in the way that Steam does.  And they have been headed that way with things like direct purchases through XBLA.  Of course, Steam itself is in a bit of a fix in Europe, where the European High Court ruled that digital content should be transferable.  The concept of used might not be going away… and Microsoft throwing in against used will probably just inflame the issue in Europe.  They like Microsoft even less than most people here do.

And I expect typical Microsoft avarice when it comes to pricing, at least initially, which will stoke people’s ire even more so.  Steam thrives in part because of their massive sales, which rope in the buyers who didn’t have to have a given game on day one for list price.  Will Microsoft relent on the $60 price tag for games when there is no used market?  I bet not.

My only solace in all of this is that it does not impact me for the most part.

While we have two consoles, a Wii and a PlayStation 3, but I doubt that we will be jumping on the next generation.  I have been a PC gamer since 1983… wow, 30 years… and will likely remain so.  Our PS3 is mostly used to play Blu-Ray movies and stream Netflix, and our Wii hasn’t been on in months.

And, even when we were playing consoles more, I was not a big spender in the used game market.

Once in a while I would buy a used game from GameStop.

But I do not buy used games to save money or to stick it to the publisher.  I buy them because a given game I want simple isn’t available new any more.

Quite a while back I wanted Tetris for the Nintendo DS.  However, it was no longer being published and so was simply not available new.  It was even hard to find used.  GameStop had a copy for me, for which I paid nearly list price.  And not a penny of that went to Nintendo.  But not because I wouldn’t have given them the money.  However, I am sure that would lump me in with those killing single player games in the eyes of some.

Likewise, I had to go looking for a copy of Civilization II in order to be able to play it on Windows 7 64-bit.  The used market was the only choice.  The same went for Mario Kart Double Dash, a Game Cube game my daughter and I wanted to play on the Wii.

Of course, with another aspect of the next console generation… doing away with backward compatibility… the out of print game issue won’t rear its head any time soon.  Still, at some point, unless we go completely to digital distribution, there will games that have had their production run and are no longer available.

So where do used games sit in your world view?

Random Items for a Friday – Wii U, Wallpapers, and Nostalgia Edition

Remember the Sleeper

Over at Giant Bomb there is a post up titled Tales from Norrath: Don’t Wake the Dragon.  It recounts the famous, one-time (per server) event, the waking of The Sleeper in EverQuest.  A unique event and a bit of MMO history.

I told you to just let him sleep…

What Ever Became of Wallpapers?

Walltreipers, the SoCo alliance that defiantly held onto the system T-IPZB in the 2012 Delve War after the region had been abandoned by its allies and Nulli Secunda had thrown in the towel (see Notes from the War in Delve), were hailed as champions on par with the 300 for a short bit.

Cornered in Gaul, but holding firm

There was all sorts of loose talk about bringing them ammo or coming to some sort of honorable accord with them, and then the Honey Badger Coalition finally brought their weight to bear and stomped them, thus completing the conquest of Delve.

What are they up to?  It looks like they are still together and active and gate camping TEST in Fountain these days.  I just wonder that nobody has found a system for them to hold.  This seems like the type of alliance you want guarding sovereignty in a corner of your region, not as renters but allies.

Launch of the Wii U

Consoles were never really my thing.  Yes, I had an Atari 2600 like… 35 years ago… but after obtaining a personal computer, console gaming fell by the wayside, as did arcades.  (My arcade memories are pretty old.)

That changed with the advent of the Wii.  The Wii became the favored past time for my daughter and I.  For a long stretch we would get up early on Saturday morning, jump into the big beanbag chair parked way too close to the TV, and play Mario Party 8 and LEGO Star Wars and other titles, including some classics from the Game Cube era.  It was a golden age.

The Wii has since fallen into disfavor at our house.  After a couple of years, the computer started to take over.  Like father, like daughter.

My daughter plays the Wii when she has friends over, but it ceased to be a daddy-daughter thing after she began to favor games at which I, frankly, suck to an embarrassing degree.  And her favorite games aren’t on the Wii any more.

Now the Wii U is coming out.  It promises backward compatibility with the Wii, which is good, and a controller that looks like a PDA, which is… I don’t know.  Ars Technica has all the Wii U answers, at least around the technical side of things.  And the price isn’t that bad, relative to the the historical launch costs of consoles (thanks Tesh).  But do I really need this thing?

Wii U in white

Indications are that I do not.  Sure, Penny Arcade seems hot on the idea, or at least its potential, but they are hot on a lot of games for about two minutes before they are installing the next thing.  And then there are the forecasts by those who purport to know.

How about you?

Torchlight II Next Thursday

The next game on my “must have” list is less than a week away.  I did not pre-order it, as the incentive was a copy of Torchlight and, well, I already have that.

This means I probably need to get my mage a lot closer to level cap this weekend.

Then again, my daughter is insisting that I play Minecraft with her, which is all the rage with her and her friends these day.

As I always say, we shall see.

Little Big Planet Defeats the Wii

We have had a PlayStation 3 for well over a year now.

Just in case you wanted to see a box

It showed up in our household where the Wii had been our only video console for the previous four years.

The PlayStation 3 was planned to have three roles in our home.

The first was to play Blu-ray disks.  In this role it has performed admirably.  It has show itself to be completely compatible with all the disks I have fed into it and Blu-ray movies look fantastic on our TV.  The opening scenes of Star Wars Episode III from the Blu-ray set were of such high quality that I had to get up and stand closer to the TV and drool.  Still, the unit was a bit pricey for just a Blu-ray player.

The second role involved streaming video.  This has been primarily from NetFlix, though Amazon Prime has jumped into the market with a PS3 app.  This has also delivered high quality.  I have been quite surprised actually at how smoothly NetFlix streams given our relatively low bandwidth DSL and the fact that the PS3 hooks up to the router over WiFi from half way across the house.

And the third role, the one for which it was designed, was to play… you know… video games.  And this is where it fell down on the job, much to my surprise.  I figured it would be higher quality video and about the same when it came to controllers.  In one of my more ironic complaints, I had previously griped about the fact that most Wii games end up having use the Wii remote and nun-chuck as a two piece standard game controller.

So imagine my surprise when I started using the PS3 controller only to discover that having the game controller in two pieces is actually much easier the body when playing for more than 20 minutes at a stretch.  It turns out that the small PS3 controller forces you into that “gamer’s clutch” with the unit grasped in front of you… a position which makes your arms and shoulders ache after a while if you are not used to it.

That was part of the issue.  A small part of it in any case.

The bigger reason for the PS3 failing to take on a significant role as a game platform in our house was that my daughter and her friends just like Wii games.  They all have Wiis and like the same games and so the PS3 would sit quietly while the Wii got all the game time.  And my daughter has become the real driver for console gaming in our house.  Long gone are the days when she would come to me to help her out.  Now it is she who pities me when she wrangles me into playing Super Mario Bros. Wii or Super Smash Bros. Brawl, a platformer and a fighting game respectively, neither of which were my strong suit even when I was young.  Now suddenly I am my own father struggling to simply not fail utterly while playing a video game with my child.

But recently, one game from the PS3 has been taking hold of my daughter, Little Big Planet.

Not the box we have…

I picked this game up early on, along with a couple of others people recommended, like Mod Nation Racers.  And while it was clearly a deep and interesting game, it still got shoved aside for the most part.  My daughter had Super Mario to play with her friends and as much as I liked the game, it was still a platform jumper, which meant I was horrible at it.

Over the last couple of months though, LBP came into fashion for my daughter.  She is trending on the creative path right now.  She wanted PhotoShop Elements for her birthday and saved up money for a Wacom tablet.  So the ability to dress up your sack boy avatar struck the right chord with her.  Then she started playing people’s custom levels.  Then she started making her own custom levels.  And recently she has been after me about some downloadable content that will give her more tools and features with which to create levels. (She wanted the Pirates of the Caribbean pack, since it let you have water in your levels.)

And then one day I noticed that on Raptr I was ranked Elite for Little Big Planet, something measured not in hours but achievements.  There were 42 listed, which put me in the top 10% of Raptr users.

Steam sales explain those 20 “newbie” ranks

I got the ranking because I hooked Raptr up to my PlayStation account, but those achievements were all earned by my daughter.  Those include achievements for having a given number of people play levels you created.

This has become her game of choice for the moment.  The Wii still gets its time when her friends are over, but even they are being introduced to LBP.

So now my daughter asks me to come and play LBP with her… and I still suck, because it is a platform jumper.  Once in a while she’ll play Mod Nation Racers with me, where I can still hold my own.

And just the other day she heard there was a Little Big Planet 2.  This, of course, came up just after I let her buy some content for LBP.  Fortunately, all of the DLC for LBP appears to transfer over to LBP2, along with all the levels you have made and so forth.  It all just shows up in higher quality with better visual effects.

So we might look at the sequel at some point, though for my daughter we are now at the far end of the calendar for birthdays, Christmas, and such.  Our change jar collection might have to go towards that rather than a certain panda-themed expansion.

LEGO Lord of the Rings The Video Game Announced

Back in December, when LEGO announced that they would be doing Lord of the Rings based kits, my first thought was, “And a LEGO video game as well, right?”

LEGO Kits Coming Summer 2012

Well, now I have my wish.  Traveller’s Tales, LEGO, Warner, and a series of other companies involved in the whole thing have announced LEGO Lord of the Rings The Video Game!

A LEGO Fantasy!

There is also a video… ahead of which YouTube has placed a 30 second ad.  They know what people want I suppose.

Direct link to the video here.

Now all that is missing is a date.  I did not see one anywhere.  Maybe it will be something for the Christmas wish list.

LEGO Star Wars III – The Clone Wars

It is no secret that we are quite enamored with most of the LEGO games that Traveller’s Tales has put out.

We own almost the whole set, and have played them all.  Our current household ranking of the games, from most to least favorite, is:

  1. LEGO Star Wars II: The Original Trilogy – Maybe our most-played game on the Wii, this was TT’s second LEGO game, and they nailed what makes the games fun.  Lots of puzzles, hidden surprises that make you want to replay levels, and breaking things… lots of smashing things into their little LEGO parts.
  2. LEGO Harry Potter: Years 1-4 – We call this one LEGO Harry Potter: Movies 1-4, since the game follows the movies and not the books.  But it does follow the movies very closely.  We found that we could watch the movie for a given year, then could play through that year in the game without ever needing a hint.  The spell system was fun.  My daughter could not wait and played through the game without me, which was a first.
  3. LEGO Star Wars: The Complete Saga – Combines the Original Trilogy with a reworked and more fun version of the original game.  We played it through, though replay value was tainted a bit by the fact that we had already played episodes IV through VI to death.
  4. LEGO Indiana Jones: The Original Adventures – Lots of fun, though light on content.  Made us go watch the movies again.  The Temple of Doom segment, like its movie counterpart, was our least favorite.
  5. LEGO Batman: The Video Game – Fun, though we are not as into super heroes around here as we might be.  Introduced the split screen concept, so my daughter and I would stop playing tug of war, but the flicker and playing on a partial section of screen was more annoying that the tug of war.  Also, the controls on the driving levels needed some improvement.
  6. LEGO Indiana Jones 2: The Adventure Continues – Like The Kingdom of the Crystal Skulls, proof that more is not always better.  Split screen flicker got worse, the cut scenes were too frequent, and they tried to make the lobby area part of the game with its own requirements, which turned it into a confusing mess.  My daughter played with the level creator more than we played the game, but the level creator didn’t seem to have a lot of real purpose in life.
  7. LEGO Star Wars: The Video Game – The first game in the series, and TT was still figuring out what was going to be fun.  This game is hard… that lava jumping level was a royal pain and there were a few levels we could barely start, much less finish.  All the levels were reworked in the spirit of “puzzles and breaking stuff” in The Complete Saga. Fortunately, TT quickly figured out what made the games fun and hit the mark squarely with LEGO Star Wars II.

So we had to get LEGO Star Wars II: The Clone Wars.

We received it in the mail about two weeks ago and it is currently vying for the second or third spot on our list above.

It follows the story, or at least the first two seasons, of the Star Wars: The Clone Wars animated series which we have been watching every Friday night at our house.  And while I have not been paying the closest attention to the series, I recognize situations that have come up over the course of the series.

The game introducing a new engine for the LEGO series which seems to help the Wii along as it tries to render things on screen.  The downside of the last few games, including Harry Potter, is that the Wii seemed to be quite taxed to keep up with what it was being asked to do.  That goes away, to a certain degree, with LEGO Star Wars III.

The flicker that bothered me seems to have been reduced.  Of course, those of you who grew up in the age of LCD monitors might not know to what I am referring, but flicker used to be a serious annoyance on CRT based monitors and tube TVs used as monitors.  The reduction in flicker might, of course, be attributed to the fact that we no longer have a tube TV, but a nice big LCD screen.

This bigger screen, since the game expands out to play on the full 16:9 screen, and the reduction in flicker makes split screen play more bearable.  I still am not fond of it, and neither is my daughter, and I wish it was an option that you could turn off, but it is not.  In fact, there are sections of play where two players work on separate parts of a level on a divided screen.

So my daughter and I make do by using the “drop out” option that lets one player leave the game so the other player can have the full screen to perform some task that really needs the whole screen to accomplish.  This is something of a weakness of the game, in my opinion.  Any number of times you have to take over some huge laser cannon and blow up an objective in the distance, only to have your screen cut diagonally across your view by you partner who is trying to knock off some droid troopers who have just shown up.

The game itself has all the things we have become used to in TT’s LEGO games, unlocks, hidden items, fun puzzles, and lots and lots of LEGO objects waiting to be smashed to pieces, an aspect of the game that is more satisfying in some visceral than it probably should be.  And it never gets old!  Never!

There are some new features.  You can now command a platoon sized group of clones, using them to target specific structures that need rapid fire to destroy.  There are a number of battlefield scenarios where you have to destroy separatist structures and capture their power sources to build Republic structure.  This includes a mini-map at the top of the screen which the Wii, its output limited to 480p, is unable to display clearly.  I would like to see the whole thing on 1080p output.

And then there is that clone troop with the Gatling blaster in the Ryloth missions.  I could just run around shooting that thing all day long.

Reviews of the game have come up in the “mediocre” range of 6.0-7.5 on a lot of sites.  The DS and 3DS versions, which lack a number of the new features, score at the low end, while the home console versions rank a little higher.  The main complaints, paraphrased by me, seem to be “not much new, and what is new gets over used.”

I cannot really argue with that.

We are only 30% into the game, but it still seems like a lot of fun us.  If you wanted more LEGO Star Wars, you’ll probably like it.  That is where we stand.  We wanted more and we got it.

If you did not like the past versions, you probably won’t like this any better.

And I am looking forward to the next installment from TT, LEGO Pirates of the Caribbean.

I might have to make another pass at my old post about Five LEGO Video Games I Want.  If they can do Pirates of the Caribbean, the door is open to other ideas.

[Keen and Graev have a nice review of LEGO Star Wars III posted.]

Looking Back at 2010 – Highs and Lows

Yesterday I looked forward to figure out where I might be headed in the new year, at least for MMOs. (There are some single and multi-player games on my list, but that is another post.)

Today, it is time to look back at what came to pass in 2010, or at least what came to pass in my little corner of the gaming world.

Lord of the Rings Online

Highs:

  • The instance group had a great summer diversion from WoW into Middle-earth.  LOTRO gets better every time I go back to it.
  • I had more fun than I probably should have playing with the music system in LOTRO.
  • The transition to Free to Play seemed to be mostly a good thing for the game.  There were a lot more people playing.  And Turbine has been adjusting what is free and what you need to purchase from the LOTRO Store based on feedback.
  • I feel quite satisfied, as a Lifetime Subscriber, as to how I was treated as part of the transition to F2P.

Lows:

  • Only four of us hit Middle-earth, and since there is no mentoring or “buy a level” method in LOTRO, there seems little likelihood that we will be able to carry on past where we stand with the whole group involved.
  • Still haven’t seen Moria yet. (Only 8 levels away though!)  And Mirkwood?

EverQuest

Highs:

  • It still lives!  And look at how many servers it still has!  Not bad considering its age.
  • Now has housing in what looks to be an interesting mix of the EQII and LOTRO approaches.  It is really well done, given the architecture and interface that EQ has been carrying along with it for nearly 12 years.
  • Server merges, once I could find my characters, beefed up the visible population somewhat.

Lows:

  • Only focused sustaining the current population, though that is probably both the right and practical choice.  It just makes me a little sad to have to admit that there just isn’t going to be any significant new player base.
  • Server populations feel pretty small even post-merger.  I suspect we’ll see another round soon.
  • The game is really feeling its age.  Every time I go back the interface feels older and more cobbled together.

EverQuest II

Highs:

  • EverQuest II Extended is bringing in enough people to its single server to make the game feel more alive than it has in a long, long time.
  • New Halas is a good starting area and if you follow the quest line all the way through, you get a mount as a quest reward.  One more for the “why didn’t you do that sooner?” list.
  • The integrated quest guide functionality really helps out in New Halas.
  • The basic New Halas housing makes the old single room cells we got as housing in the racial ghettos at launch seem like… well… single room cells. (Though they are now two-room cells these days.)
  • The Revelry and Honor guild hall (on Guk) is still awe inspiring, and in a much less game-lagging sort of way.

Lows:

  • EverQuest II Extended has effectively ended any possible influx of new players for the old EverQuest II servers.  How soon until EverQuest II live is just the Antonia Bayle server?
  • On the server with my main characters (Crushbone), nobody on my friends list or in either of my guilds is still playing.
  • The integrated quest guide appears to be a work in progress, at least in some of the older zones.
  • The rest of the New Halas housing looks just like the basic from what I have seen, with a room added here or there.  I’ll just stick with the basic.
  • Eyesore marketing.  EQII deserves better.
  • The Freeblood Station Cash Grab.  $65 for the race and all the accessories.
  • The loss of Stargrace as a subscriber.

TorilMUD

Highs:

  • TorilMUD is still up and running.  I’ve only been logging into it since the Fall of 1993.
  • ZMud still works for me on Windows 7!  More than a decade of triggers, scripts, and macros preserved a while longer!

Lows:

  • Oy, you think EverQuest or EverQuest II Live have population problems?

Star Trek Online

Highs-

  • It shipped!  A Star Trek MMO at last!
  • My classic NCC-1701 ship model looks great!  I love it!  I make original series sound effects whey I fly it!
  • Seems to be getting all sorts of of new episodic updates.

Lows -

  • Apparently it wasn’t the game I wanted.  If you ask me, I’ll tell you I like the game, and I’ll mean it when I say it, but I obviously can’t be trusted to speak the truth.  It is installed.  I keep it patched.  I never play. Damn.
  • Then there is the whole C-Store thing…

Civilization V

Highs-

  • Gets back to the series roots and what made my most favorite Civ game, Civ II, great.
  • Actually runs well on my new machine.

Lows-

  • Gets just as laborious to manage as you get closer to the end game (unless you’re losing badly) as Civ II
  • Ghandi the Terrible! (Supposed to be fixed with the latest patch)
  • Didn’t run at all on my old machine for no reason I could divine.
  • Individual Civs and tiny scenarios as for-pay downloadable content?  I’ll wait for a big Steam sale.  And then I’ll wait some more.

Total Annihilation

Highs-

Lows-

  • I still don’t have anybody to play against. (Same for Age of Kings, and I am so out of practice with StarCraft I get slaughtered by the sharks on BNet so fast it is scary.)

Pokemon

Highs:

Lows:

  • I still need 325,217 steps to max out the Pokewalker.  I wear the damn thing everywhere.  Obviously I need to walk more or rebuild the Pokewalker LEGO machine… and then hide it from the cats.
  • We didn’t get all of the download events they got in Japan. (Where is my special Celebi?)
  • WiFi co-op play in HeartGold and SoulSilver limited to battles.   I miss the underground from Diamond and Pearl.
  • Pokemon Ranch was no help at all.

Wii

Highs:

Lows:

  • The Wii, on the other hand, seems extremely taxed playing LEGO Harry Potter.  At first I thought there was something wrong with the game, but it is the Wii huffing and puffing trying to keep up. The LEGO games look much better on the XBox 360 or PS3.  It is time for some better hardware from Nintendo.
  • Netflix Streaming selection is still too small… and too random.  How do you make season 2 of a series available on streaming, but season 1 not?  I know, it is all in the licensing details, but they need to get those details worked out.
  • I totally suck at Super Mario Bros. Wii.  My daughter and her little pals play, and I am the one always in the bubble.

World of Warcraft

Highs-

  • The instance group is back together in Azeroth
  • I can fly in old Azeroth! OMFG that is so worth it!  Especially with my druid.
  • An all new race to play, redone level 1-60 content to go through, including updated instances, plus guilds have levels and achievements that give access to interesting things.
  • With only five levels to cap out, I am taking it easy and enjoying the new content.
  • The game is still smooth and polished and a lot of fun to play with my friends and family.

Lows-

  • Once the instance group hits 60, there are 20 levels of unchanged content between us and the next new thing.
  • Level 85 seems to come awfully quick for most.  Nobody else seems to be taking it easy.
  • Can’t fly in some parts of meso and neo Azeroth.
  • Guild levels come very slowly for small guilds.  I think we’re 25% of the way to level 2.  Achievements are also easier for bigger guilds.
  • More reputation grinds… including one with your own damn guild!  I helped found the guild five years ago, and now I’m neutral with it?
  • Gear inflation – my best welfare epics: Gearscore 245.  My first green drop at Mt. Hyjal: Gearscore 272.  My hunter gained a base 100 DPS rating by trading in his blue gun for the first green quest reward gun.
  • Wintergrasp is dead… and when it isn’t, I end up getting owned by level 85s with gearscores that seem to be an order of magnitude above my own.

Blizzard in General

Highs:

  • Still the brightest star in the PC games sales chart, with booming sales of StarCraft II and Cataclysm.
  • Hasn’t been completely destroyed by Bobby Kotick yet.
  • Tenacious D – Completely uncensored at BlizzCon.  Told my daughter she could watch until the first swear word.  She barely got to watch a minute.
  • Gave Red Shirt guy his due.

Lows:

  • Didn’t ship Diablo III… or give us a release date.
  • Didn’t tell us a damn thing at BlizzCon.  We had to find stuff out this way.
  • Forcing RealID on users who want to post to the forums?  That didn’t piss anybody off
  • RealID and Facebook integration plans in general.
  • I still hate the new BNet Parental Controls window.  Firefox doesn’t seem to like it either.  There may be a correlation.
  • It is starting to get easier to count the people I know who play WoW and who HAVEN’T had their accounts hacked.
  • Still no cast list for the Warcraft movie.

Facebook

Highs:

  • Family Feud – Comes in great, bite-sized doses and you can help your friends score more… or embarrass yourself in front of them.  The answers piss you off, but in a good way.  You feel smarter than your fellow man and woman.
  • Warzone Tower Defense – In the MindJolt section, it isn’t really a Facebook game, you can play it other places, but I first found it on Facebook.  It is fun.

Lows:

Other Semi-Related Items

Highs:

  • Scott Hartsman’s back and looking like all win with Rift
  • Duke Nukem (and 2K Games) might have the last laugh after all.  Hail to the chief, baby!
  • The MMO market in general looks like it is in for an uptick in the coming year.
  • EALouse get’s it all off his chest.  I’m not sure any of it was a surprise though.

Lows:

  • APB… I blinked and missed it.
  • MassiveBlips, gone… and probably forgotten.  Who will continue to decide who runs the #1 WoW blog?
  • For what seemed like forever this past Spring and Summer, Derek Smart and David Allen just could not shut up.  Well, at least until somebody got paid off and went away quietly.  (Okay, it was like Jerry Springer, we decried it, but we couldn’t look away.)
  • The EALouse comment thread makes Derek and David look like the pinnacle politeness and restraint.

The Blog

Highs:

  • Lots of great comments from the regular readership.  Tobold has a point, being less popular generally begets better quality.  There is probably a lesson in that which applies outside of blogging.
  • Very little trollish behavior aside from SynCaine… and he can’t help it, he just foams at the mouth when somebody says “World of Warcraft.”
  • Still writing regularly after more than four years.
  • Writing and recording stuff that I enjoy going back and looking at years later, which was my main goal for the site.  This is my gaming memory.
  • A very high complement and honor paid to me in the form of a mention from Massively.  Thank you so very much.

Low:

  • I have a backlog of things I want to write about, much of which I fear I will never get to or, worse, that I’ll simply forget.
  • I never got to a bunch of things that were somewhat topical and have since lost some meaning, but which I should have recorded at the time, if only for context.
  • My most popular posts this year involved a World Cup predicting octopus, Talking Cats Playing Patty Cake, and Blood Elf Porn.  Now you know the secret to popularity.
  • I still cannot find another WordPress.com theme that I like better than Regulus.  Not that I need to change, but something in my keeps looking. (Something in that probably explains men.)
  • I looked at my site the other day without being logged in and saw the ads that WordPress.com slips in for the readers.  Gold seller ads.  I swear, I didn’t know.

And that was about it for 2010, wasn’t it?  Thank you all for being involved!

Now what highs or lows did I miss in my myopia?

August in Review

The Site

This month saw another big spike in traffic due to something pretty much unrelated to the site.

Cracked.com linked to a rant I wrote quite a while back about the mis-use of the term “microtransactions.”  They did a humor piece about FarmVille, and somehow my post seemed relevant.

Obligatory Traffic Graph

Also driving traffic this month were the search terms “Blood Elf Porn,” “Elf Porn,” and “Ancient Porn.”  All this for a post titled Fighting Blood Elf Porn.  Do you suppose it was nerd rage that brought them here?

Along with the big PLEX loss story, those were the big three traffic driving posts of the month.

Aside from that, I took yet another baby step into the 21st century.  I now have a Twitter account.  All it does is tweet when I put up a post… WordPress.com does that for me automatically… and it works most of the time.  It will list posts for both this site and EVE Online Pictures, my other site.

Otherwise, I have little to say in SMS sized bits.

So far I have two followers.  You know who you are.

One Year Ago

The Matrix Online (MxO for those in the know) was shut down by SOE last August.  Planetside is still around though!  For now.

Bruce Everiss was getting sued for libel by the makers of Envoy.  That was eventually worked though this past March.  Enovy, LLC dropped their suit, but not before causing Mr. Everiss much pain and hamstringing his desire to be as forthright in the future.

Somebody was granted a patent for something that sounded a lot like podcasting.  How did that ever turn out?

That Wii Bowling Ball made another appearance.  Still no know deaths attributed to it.

I was wondering what genre our post apocalyptic future really was.  People assume it is Science Fiction.  Is it?

On the Blizzard front, we learned that we were not going to get StarCraft II for Christmas.  I still don’t own a copy yet.

There was a lot of speculation before BlizzCon about the next WoW expansion.  I tried to draw parallels between 2004 and 2009.

I subscribed to the BlizzCon Pay-per-view event via DirecTV.  That was a lot of gaming coverage to watch.

Meanwhile in the instance group, we were finally almost all level 80.  It was time to screw around in some old raid instances.

I actually posted the results of that cheating poll I had set up.  I generally mean to post the results of these sorts of things, but somehow I usually don’t get around to it.

And, finally, I was on a re-reading binge last August while making Code Red floats.

New Linking Sites

I would like to thank the following site for linking here.

Please take a moment to visit them in return.

Most Viewed Posts in August

  1. RMT and Microtransactions Rant
  2. Fighting Blood Elf Porn
  3. The PLEX Story We’ve All Been Waiting For
  4. Pokemon Enigma Stone Download Event
  5. How To Find An Agent in EVE Online
  6. WoW Account Hacked… Officially No Longer News
  7. Play On: Guild Name Generator
  8. WoW Account Hacked – This Just Keeps Happening
  9. EverQuest Next and Lessons Learned
  10. The Factions of WoW Account Hacking
  11. Torchlight II – Look Out Diablo III
  12. EQII Extended – The Trial of Inconvenience
  13. I Do Not Like Raspberries

Search Terms of the Month

blood elf porn, elf porn, ancient porn
[These seem to spike late on Friday night.]

bloggoleechification
[Thanks Tobold]

blizzard account hacked and i dont play
[I have no account, and I must be hacked]

hack beter wow very good
[Very good indeed]

Spam Comments of the Month

Now let’s create, continuous innovation with Fashion game network:
[Because that is the innovation that will revive the economy!]

May i sex dating with you?
[Me sex date you long time]

EVE Online

I am in total slumber mode in EVE Online.  I have converted some of my ISK into PLEX and am just sitting in the station training long skills.  Still, I will have over 60 million skill points soon.

EverQuest II Extended

I said I was going to play this when it launched, but I forgot that in the post-Google world, the word “Beta” means you’ve shipped.  So I was waiting for it to go live, but SOE has been letting all and sundry in to play.  I hear the load on the Freeport server is pretty heavy, apparently with EQ2 vets.

Lord of the Rings Online

Turbine is a company that knows what Beta means.

The instance group… well, four of the group… have been seen regularly in Middle-earth.  The game has become my only MMO for the moment.  While the instance group is in the 20s, I have been pressing on ahead in hopes of catching a glimpse of Moria.

World of Warcraft

My daughter is in the Cataclysm beta and has been taking screen shots now and again… when I ask repeatedly.  My own WoW account… lapsed.  While I may leave it like that until Cataclysm ships, that will mean missing out on the last bottle, and the achievement, for Brew of the Month club.  Decisions, decisions.

Coming Up

LOTRO will be going Free to Play soon, and no doubt that will change the feel of the game some.  We’ll see if it is for the better or not.

Aside from LOTRO, I expect this coming month to be pretty light when it comes to posts.  Summer is over.  My daughter went back to school last week and, this week, I went back to work.  My wife now has the house to herself again during the day, much to her relief.

I Like Lists… Yahoo Has Lists…

So let’s visit Yahoo.

Or Yahoo!, as it is correctly written I suppose.  I always leave out the exclamation point.

Yahoo seems to have some sort of list in its top stories on the main page.  Things like Signs You’re a Green Hypocrite and such.  But once in a while something related to video games makes an appearance.

There were two such lists in the last week that I thought were interesting.

The first was the Most Overhyped Video Games of All Time.

You’ll have to go read their criteria and such, but the list was:

  • Pac-Man for the Atari 2600 (1982)
  • Diakatana (2000)
  • Enter the Matrix (2003)
  • Star Wars: Galaxies (2003)
  • Killzone (2004)
  • Wii Music (2008)
  • Too Human (2008)
  • Spore (2008)

I like this list for a few of reasons.

First, I bought that horrible, horrible version of Pac-Man on the Atari 2600.  I saved my money and spent it on the game.  $30 was some serious money back then.

It was so bad.

It was so very bad that we cannot let go of the disappointment almost 30 years later.

So bad that it is blamed for hurting the video game market.

So bad that it even has it’s own sizable entry on Wikipedia.

I think that game broke my relationship with the 2600 for good.

Then there is Star Wars: Galaxies there in the middle.  An MMO that isn’t Warhammer Online being tarred with the hype brush.  Well, that is refreshing!  And SWG being called out for something besides the NGE!  It is a two-fer!

And Wii Music.  I’ve already been down on Wii Music.  Not sure how the hype really was, but the game itself… rubbish.

Finally, Spore.  So much hype.  So much copy protection.  Such a “meh” game.  Even the Zero Punctionation review of the game was probably the most mild review Yahtzee has ever done.

Still, is that really the definitive list of most overhyped games?  I mean sure, Duke Nukem Forever didn’t make the list, having never actually shipped, but I’m sure there must be some other worthy titles out there.

The other list that caught my eye was the Top Selling Video Games of 2010 so far.

I immediately took to this list because its focus was only titles that were released in 2009 and 2010, so the whole thing wasn’t weighed down by the various boxed versions and expansions for World of Warcraft and The Sims.  Or maybe it was just a consoles only list.  They didn’t say that anywhere… in fact they were pretty sparse on the parameters… but these titles don’t totally go against what you see elsewhere.  Have Sims sales dried up?

Anyway, the list for this year, so far:

  1. New Super Mario Bros. Wii (Wii)
  2. Pokemon SoulSilver (DS)
  3. Red Dead Redemption (Xbox 360)
  4. God of War III (PlayStation 3)
  5. Wii Fit Plus (Wii)
  6. Wii Sports Resort (Wii)
  7. Pokemon HeartGold (DS)
  8. Call of Duty: Modern Warfare 2 (Xbox 360)
  9. Just Dance (Wii)
  10. Super Mario Galaxy 2 (Wii)

My first reaction was, “Wow, that is a lot of Nintendo focused titles.”

Club Nintendo Indeed!

Nintendo seems to own us with 7 of the 10 titles on that list.  At least only two of them are Mario.

That was quickly followed by “Wow, that is a lot of Pokemon!”  If they hadn’t split them out, combined HeartGold and SoulSilver would have been on top.

And then, I started to wonder how soon StarCraft II would break into that list.  According to that other source I linked, it is closing in on the Top 20 world wide, is already in the Top 20 in the Americas, and has the usual Blizzard momentum behind it.

Turbine and Warner Brothers

And while eyeballing the Massively post about the new EQII subscription plan offering, I also saw the headline about Turbine being purchased by Warner Brothers Home Entertainment.

Thus the “largest privately-held online gaming studio in North America” joins a conglomerate.

As noted elsewhere, the number of independent MMO studios just went down by one.

And while I have no idea what impact this will have on their games, Asheron’s Call, Dungeons & Dragons Online, and Lord of the Rings Online, it did put one thing in mind.

Warner also happens to own TT Games, the parent company of Traveler’s Tales, the studio which makes all of the LEGO games, like LEGO Star Wars and LEGO Indiana Jones.

So now we have a parent company that owns rights to make a Lord of the Rings game and the very popular LEGO game franchise.

Over two years ago I thought up five LEGO games I would like to see.  One of them was LEGO Harry Potter, and we’re getting that one pretty soon.

Another was LEGO Lord of the Rings.

Now, I know that we’re talking about two different studios and that the licensing as it stands won’t allow such a game.

But I’m just thinking that this moved the ball ever so slightly in the right direction.

I can dream, right?