Tag Archives: Traveller’s Tales

LEGO Star Wars – The Force Awakens Sounds Pretty Cool

Okay, the trailer for LEGO Star Wars: The Force Awakens has me a bit excited.  I have gotten a bit jaded on the whole Traveller’s Tales LEGO games in the last couple of years.  While they add in new mechanics with each generation, the new stuff hasn’t always sat well with me while the old stuff hasn’t changed much.  But then I watched this.

That was pretty cool, very much in the sort of humor that Traveller’s Tales like to inject into their games.

And the whole thing got a bit better when I noticed at the end of the video, the supported platforms include the PlayStation 3.

Look at all the platforms on which it will be released...

Look at all the platforms on which it will be released…

That is pretty much the only platform I have that could run the game, since their LEGO games are really unsatisfying for me on the PC.  I suppose I could get it on the 3DS.  That probably wouldn’t be so bad.  But it likely wouldn’t be as satisfying as having it on our TV.

And, finally, there was this bit of news that the game would bridge some of the gaps between Return of the Jedi and The Force Awakens.

That is not as crazy as it might sound.  Playing the original LEGO Star Wars games was not only fun, but it was a really good way to bone up on locations, characters, and events.  Playing through the now incorrectly named LEGO Star Wars: The Complete Saga was almost like taking an undergraduate course in Star Wars.

Anyway, it is coming our way on June 28th.  We might have to get this at our house.

Return to a LEGO Galaxy Far, Far Away

The age of the gaming console has pretty much faded in our house.  We have had a Wii for more than eight years now, but it has been mostly collecting dust for the last few years.  The last thing I did with it was bring up Pokemon Ranch to get back all the Pokemon I had stored in it last summer during my Pokemon binge.  I am pretty sure I could pack the unit, the controllers, and all the games up in a box and store them away without anybody in the house protesting.

Our PlayStation 3, now four years in the house, gets more attention.  Hooked up to our TV, it gets used to play BluRay movies or stream content from Netflix and Amazon Prime.

Video games though?  Not so much.  Little Big Planet, once my daughter’s favorite thing ever, the game that got her to leave the Wii behind, hasn’t been played in ages.  The last games that got played on the unit were the short bout with the poor PS3 port of Dragon Age: Inquisition and a bit of Diablo III, picked up with a GameStop gift card my daughter got for Christmas.  Those were both very brief encounters.

The mojo had clearly gone from our console gaming.

As I waxed nostalgic around Christmas about the days back when my daughter would wake me up early on Saturday mornings so we could jump in the Love Sac and play Mario Party 8 or Mario Kart Double Dash or LEGO Star Wars on the Wii, my wife decided that we might be due for a replacement.  Our late cat Trixie kept peeing on the Love Sac, so we had to get rid of it, and with it went what seemed to be an essential part of our console gaming mix; the ability to lounge comfortably on something close to the TV.

My wife decided to fix this, so got me a six foot Cozy Sack for my birthday back in March.  A discount competitor to Love Sac, it cost about a third as much as a Love Sac of comparable size and delivers about 80-90% of the experience.

With that, I decided to see if I could tempt my daughter back into playing video games with me on Saturday morning.  Not early Saturday morning… neither of us are keen to get up early these days… but at the more reasonable, post-breakfast hour.  But what game to choose?

Looking through our small-ish collection of PlayStation 3 titles… at least relative to our Wii collection… I decided to go with a classic.  Back when we bought the PS3, I decided to get a couple titles that we already had on the Wii so I could compare the game play.  One of those was LEGO Star Wars: The Complete Saga.

PlayStation version

PlayStation version

While we had to played the first LEGO Star Wars and LEGO Star Wars: The Original Trilogy, (Game Cube versions for both) when the LEGO Star Wars: The Complete Saga came out we had to have it on launch day and we played the hell out of it.

So I loaded it up, jumped into the Cozy Sack and called my daughter to come play with me.

It didn’t really work.  She came over and watched me play for a bit, but then went back to whatever she was doing.  My wife watched for much longer, but was not inclined to pick up a controller and join me.  But I was comfy and enjoying myself, so I persisted.  I have done a few levels every weekend and have been enjoying myself quite a bit.

The game has held up for me very well.  Part of that is its simplicity.

Traveller’s Tales has put out quite a list of LEGO games at this point.  We have LEGO Batman, both LEGO Indiana Jones titles, both LEGO Harry Potter titles, LEGO Pirates of the Caribbean, LEGO Star Wars IIILEGO Lord of the Rings, and The LEGO Movie game.

As the years have gone by and new titles have been released, Traveller’s Tales has worked to keep the series fresh by adding in new features and new mechanics.  Viewed from that angle, LEGO Star Wars: The Complete Saga feels more than a bit clunky.  Everything is jump or shoot or light sabre or use the force with a special mode events appearing very infrequently.

On the flip side though, this is still the culmination of Traveller’s Tales “getting” what makes their LEGO game series great.  After two tries, where the original LEGO Star Wars was too much of a hard core video game and The Original Trilogy still showed some tuning was needed, it felt like they finally got the basic model for their LEGO games down with this one.

So, going back to that early model of the LEGO game idea was refreshing.  A lot of what I said about the game in the past still holds true, including it being perfectly fine on a PS3 controller versus using the Wii Remote.  And, while only running at 720p, it looks much better than the 480p Wii version, not to mention not being rendered in a way that makes the universe far, far away look like it was just buffed to a high gloss finish.

I am at the 40% mark according to the game, with only two episodes left undone.  When I wrap those up I’ll have to decide if I want to go back and find all the mini kits and get the True Jedi achievement on each level, not to mention unlocking all the characters that you have to buy.

 

LEGO Legend of Chima Online – A Second Try at a LEGO MMO

LEGO Universe is just a memory, some random screen shots, and a painful timeline at this point.  But that doesn’t mean LEGO is out of the MMO business or that a LEGO MMO isn’t a good idea.  LEGO has a new MMO going, LEGO Legends of Chima Online.

LEGOChimaOnline450LEGO has teamed up with Warner Games for to take another run at the whole MMO idea.

I am not sure why they haven’t gone with Traveller’s Tales on this plan, as they are the people who have made pretty much ALL the good LEGO games, from LEGO Star Wars forward.  Then again, TT does seem to have a pretty set formula, one that might be getting old by this point.

Anyway, with lessons learned from LEGO Universe, things have a new flavor.  The game will be web based, using the Unity Plug-in as a platform.  It will be free to play, with premium options.  And it will be focused on a single, LEGO owned property, the Legends of Chima, which LEGO is starting to roll out as building sets, games on the DS and Vita platform, and a television show on Cartoon Network.  So a big cross channel cash-in is being attempted here, and it looks even more ambitious than the Ninjago campaign.

The site for Legends of Chima is up and running and the game is in open beta and seems to include all of the standard MMO features from levels to combat to inventory management.  The critical game features that LEGO is calling out are:

Free to Play – LEGO Legends of Chima Online is a free-to-play online game! Membership and Premium currency are available to further enhance the experience but are never required!

Build – As the new commander of your Outpost, it is up to you to decide what you want to build and where you want to build it. Every building provides benefits from generating and collecting studs, creating weapons and armor, or providing your hero with special skills and abilities! You can also build and destroy LEGO creations within the game world.

Create & Customize – Be the hero you want to be. Your skills depend on what kind of Outpost you choose to build! There are no classes, no restrictions – you can play the way you want to play! Customize items by picking which color brick you want to build them with!

I suppose we will see how a new LEGO MMO stands up in world that already has Minecraft and EverQuest Next Landmark on the way.  But this time around, the goals seem to be more modest and the focus a lot more concentrated for LEGO.

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 Lord of the Rings: The Video Game – It Could Happen

This is the reason I keep Kotaku in my RSS read… for every hundred Japanese trends or cos-play articles, there is a gem I never see elsewhere… like this one.

Coming Summer 2012

As foretold by prophecy… or at least by my nearly four year old blog post… there could be a LEGO Lord of the Rings Video Game.  There will at least be LEGO Lord of Rings sets, but how can they do that and not a video game?

Actually, I would bet there are going to be three games, if any video games come to pass.

Anyway, I asked for and got LEGO Harry Potter… what else from that post might happen?

Probably none… I was being kind of silly.  But of the most serious two I asked for, one came to pass and the other looks like a solid “maybe.”

So I’ll be spending the rest of the day muttering, “That’s so cool!  Oh my God really?  Could it happen? That’s so cool!”

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?