November has been a slow gaming month for me. Right after I hit 80 in World of Warcraft and really got in to a raiding groove my monitor decided that I was having too much fun and one day just wouldn’t power up (the death was much more slow and painful than that but there you go). As a result I’ve been spending near 0 time on the PC and as my xfire stats over the last few weeks will attest absolutely ZERO PC gaming.
To get my gaming fix I’ve been relying on NHL 2010, BF1943 and FIFA 09 on the xbox 360 (I’m actually down an HDMI cable at the moment so on top of no PC I’m PS3-less as well!).
NHL2010 feels a little flat. NHL 2009 last year was without question the best sports game of the year (and they have the awards to prove it) but this year’s installment feels a little “un-fun”. They added pretty sophisticated methods of controlling the gameplay and difficulty this year, which is great BUT they didn’t spend nearly enough time and energy fine tuning the default settings so your only hope of getting the game right-for-you is browsing around the internet and that is if you even really know what you want the game play to be relative to the available options.
The good news is today I picked myself up a Samsung 2333 monitor (23 inches) and I’m ready to get back in to the PC gaming groove. Getting back in to that groove has been made much more difficult thanks to the Steam’s Early Holiday sale. How does that make it difficult you ask? I have lots of new shiney to play with!
My Steam loot list so far (we still have tomorrow to go!):
- Left 4 Dead 2 (Thanks to Jim – he bought this for the guys!)
- Battlefield 2 Complete Edition (figured seeing the expansions for 14.99 would be worth it!)
- Champions Online (again – for 20 bucks I couldn’t pass up the chance to play this – the game is quite fun – but super heroes really aren’t my bag… we shall see!)
- Star Wars: Knights of the Old Republic (I might the only person who has never played this game)
- World of Goo (Indie devs need love too)
Some of my best gaming memories revolve around playing adventure games back in the early 90s. Every day after school I would go upstairs at my grandparents place and fire up the Amiga 500 to get some gaming in. For hours I would play Police Quest, Quest for Glory or any number of other titles.
So when in the spring it was announced that Monkey Island would be rereleased with upgraded graphics, voice overs and a new musical score for the PC and XBOX360 I was ecstatic that I would be able to return to one of those childhood fantasy worlds I had loved so much.
I won’t review the Monkey Island re-release much beyond these short words – IT ROCKS. An old school gamer or not – you should get this game and enjoy an awesome piece of gaming history and one of the most humorous stories ever told in any medium.
I went with the XBOX 360 version (my Sumosac was calling me – its getting harder and harder to feel inspired to sit at my computer and play with that thing looming behind me ) and the controls and whole experience on the console was just awesome!
My hope is that this re-release will do well and will encourage other studios who own the rights to these old games to get them re-released. Early evidence suggests that Monkey Island: Special Edition has been a success – on Steam the game has been a bestseller since its release several weeks ago.
During this economy where budgets are shrinking and projects are harder to get green lit this seems like a no brainer strategy to me. The teams required are small to update graphics and build the fairly simple engines that these adventure games run on. There is no story work required and even sound is fairly simple if at all required.
You are guaranteed a built in audience as these games come with a low price point and a strong nostalgic pull.
When I first started this blog post I was going to end with a call to Activision-Blizzard to get to work on getting the Sierra catalogue online in this manner but they’ve already put out their answer to Monkey Island’s success and I couldn’t be more disappointed.
Their answer was to put their existing compilation packs up on Steam. These compilation packs are the old games in their original forms that hardly run (if at all) on modern hardware. No imagination and no real desire to unleash the full potential that sits with these classic titles.
Sierra (now owned by Activision-Blizzard) was once king of the hill and their fall from grace was well documented. With just a little investment and a willingness to take a chance the Sierra brand could once again be reignited with these remakes. The Sierra back catalogue is so deep they could be remaking these games for years to come, and making out like bandits with minimal investment.
For me, as a fan of a genre and a brand now long since dead this is just another in a long series of heartbreaks. The management behind Sierra hasn’t had a good idea since the mid 90s and I guess I was just setting myself up to be let down.
Kudos to LucasArts for doing right by the Monkey Island IP and you can be sure that if you continue to remaster your back catalogue I will be first in line to buy your products – I just wish some of the former giants of gaming would have the foresight you guys did.
I miss you adventure gaming, but I’m glad at least in some small way you are back.
So my gaming world has been a little (read – a lot) stale lately. The lack of gaming in my life has led to an even greater lack of posting on this blog (as evidenced by the fact it’s been almost two months since my last post?).
So with no MMO consuming me that has left me with a lot of time. Now to be fair I started a new job back in April and that has been consuming an extra 10 or so hours a week BUT STILL there is quite a bit of time I’d usually be sinking in to MMOs that is just left wide open.
So what have I been doing with that time? Mostly Team Fortress 2 but I’ve also started putting more time in to console games; mostly of the sports variety.
Now I am not alone here – I suspect MMO players around the world are currently in a bit of a slump (it happens every summer, just part of the cycle). I can however say for sure that my usual gaming group (Chris, Evan, Jim (who doesn’t actually play games despite being a games developer)) is right there in the slump with me.
So when Jim approached us and said “hey, you guys should play Dungeons and Dragons with me” instead of doing the sensible thing and running for our lives we grudginly agreed. Now I’m not talking Dungeons and Dragons Online, or an online game involving both dungeons and dragons… No. I am talking, travel to nerdsville, do not pass go, die a virgin, Pen and Paper Dungeons and Dragons.
Yes MMO industry – this is what you have driven us to.
But here is my confession: It is probably the most fun I’ve had in A Really Long Time(TM).
Our setup is pretty simple: Everyone gets on Skype for voice chat, a few of us get on TinyCHAT for web cams (which has resulted in some hilarity) and we use RP Tool’s MapTool to play the actual game. Jim is our Dungeon Master, Evan is playing a Warlock, Chris a Warlord, Steph a Cleric ERR THAT CHARACTER HAS SOMEHOW ALREADY DIED err Steph is playing some crazy thing involving swords and I am playing a Paladin.
We’ve done 3 sessions so far and we’ve been having a real fun time of it. More than anything I think it is a social experience for us. D&D seems to force you in to putting a bit of yourself in to it and it makes it a much more connected experience when compared to your typical MMO session. Really in the end it’s given a group of friends an excuse to hang out and talk.
Jim has lots of crazy ideas – this one has really paid off And that my friends, is in the lore.
Last night was the first airing of the XBox Live Primetime version of 1 vs 100. For those not informed 1 vs 100 is a new game show coming in the next few weeks to XBox Live. The online game show is intended to use the success of Microsoft’s online gaming platform to build a whole new genre and I have to say – this could seriously represent the future of game shows or at the very leas a new social gaming genre that is going be very successful.
The premise of 1 vs 100 is pretty simple. One person (“The One”) takes on “The Mob” of 100 people answering trivia questions. “The One” continues to play until he/she gets a question wrong or withdraws from the game at predesignated points (the first time they can walk away is after three questions and I believe after every question following). If The One walks away they win prizes based off of how many members of The Mob they’ve eliminated (a member of the mob is eliminated if they get a question wrong). If The One gets eliminated due to getting a question wrong the remaining members of The Mob who got the last question right split the prizes.
So that’s the basic gist of the game as it exists on TV and on Xbox Live Primetime – so what makes it work online?
The first thing worth noting is EVERYONE gets to play online. Last night’s beta had around 4000 participants at start time and in any given round obviously 101 people could only play the core game. The rest of us however were part of “the crowd” and we’d play along answering the questions. Anyone familiar with the recent reality-gameshows like Millionaire or Deal or No Deal there are “saves” that contestants can use. Two of the saves utilize the crowd – one taking their most popular answer for a given question and the other taking the answer of the person with the current highest score. So in a very real way the crowd gets to contribute to the game as well.
The game is broken in to rounds. Each time The One gets eliminated or walks away a new Mob and One are chosen from everyone currently logged in. All of this is voiced over by a host who broadcasts live from a studio. There were issues with the live broadcasting last night (plenty of time before launch) but when the host, Chris Cashman, was able to get a word in it really felt as if you were live in studio at a gameshow.
Tammy and I played the game together for the full two hours and we both found ourselves having more fun than we thought we would. The trivia questions they used were mostly pretty easy (I imagine it was beta set of questions) but that didn’t detract at all from the fun.
In terms of prizes, MS is giving away MS Points, Arcade titles and much more in a per-season sweepstakes that everyone plays is eligible for (the beta sweepstakes they are giving away an Xbox Elite, Laptops, Camcorders and more). It is genius really – Microsoft’s payout is virtually nothing as they are giving away virtual currency and a few arcade titles on a nightly basis. The one downside I guess for the players is that an Xbox Live Gold account is required so even there Microsoft is covering their bases.
I cannot wait for the first season and I hope to win some prizes at some point!
Looking beyond 1 vs 100 – this is the first game of many to come in Microsoft’s “Xbox Live Primetime” service – there are a lot more of this type of product to come and I think this is going to change the game and really extend Microsoft’s reach in to living rooms. I think given enough time and iterations in the tech (video cameras and audio microphones) that allow the participants and audience to interact more this will make the traditional game show obsolete.
If the Web 2.0 revolution taught us anything it is that people want a more personal experience and this is exactly what 1 vs 100 and XBOX Live Primetime deliver. Everyone has watched Wheel of Fortune or Jeopardy and has screamed a seemingly obvious answer at the TV – now you CAN get that answer right and you can get points for it. The experience for the user at home is much more rewarding. Never mind that participants are picked randomly from the audience pool. The chances of you being selected as a participant on Jeopardy when you are sitting at home are 0, while with this new digital experience at any given time you could be given the nod. For gameshow addicts that is going to be something very enticing!