Saturday, August 31, 2013

Old School Gaming

When I lived in Denver I was struggling to get by, and as a result, I had to sell my Super Nintendo, Sega Genesis, Playstation 2, and my huge collection of games. It was not a happy moment, and I wish I had been able to hold on to them. I enjoy older games immensely. On my Xbox 360, I've been able to round up a few titles that I lost: all my Sonic games, Turtles in Time, Phantasy Star II, and Ms. Pac Man, but that's not even a 16th of my collection.

In the past month or so, I nabbed Final Fantasy VII off Steam, and I received a Playstation 2 from one of my friends. Since receiving the Playstation, I have started to collect a lot of the games I'd lost, and I've almost completely forgotten about my Xbox 360. I plan to buy back all the games I parted with, for I have too much fun on older games not to.

Between nabbing Rogue Galaxy and Gauntlet: Dark Legacy this week, I purchased Warcraft III on my PC (I have my fingers crossed Blizzard might rerelease Warcraft II one day, as it's my favorite RTS game). I've been flooded with memories, but nostalgia isn't the only reason to enjoy an older game. While the graphics aren't going to blow anyone away, I find the stories to be richer than current games. I find the older games have unique, interesting characters. I also find a lot of the older games to be longer than their current releases in the franchise, especially with the open world style of previous Final Fantasies, and they have highly addictive though simplistic gameplay.

If I owned a Wii, my first purchase wouldn't have been a game loaded with eye candy. I would have bought Kid Icarus, maybe my favorite old school game of all-time, and I would have played that game hundreds of times over. Every time my sister and brother-in-law tell me they barely use their Wii, I try to convince them to give it to me or sell me it just for Kid Icarus. As I've said before, Wii has the greatest collection of old games, everything from Super Mario to Chrono Trigger to Mario RPG. With so many classic titles at my disposal, I probably would never have bought a single new release on the Wii, and it really does frustrate me when friends say they use their Wii for just Netflix or videos. I always respond, "You bought a gaming console to do everything but play games?" If only Wii had new, more adult releases on par with Xbox or Playstation, I'd purchase it in a heartbeat.

I would be in gamer heaven if companies found a quick and easy way to rerelease older titles across platforms, whether they updated the graphics or not, so long as the charm and gameplay of the original was not altered at all. Currently, I don't think it's feasible. It might not even be profitable, which is why I think companies stray from this and usually only release classic games that were extremely popular.

A lot of people talk about how they'd travel around the world or buy huge mansions if they won the lottery. Not me. I might buy a house, but within that house I'd build the largest, greatest collection of games money can buy; there would be shelves lined with games, a TV for each system, and classic arcade games. And, of course, if someone did get lucky and beat my high score at Ms. Pac Man, it'd have to be unplugged and reset...

Friday, August 23, 2013

Ben Affleck Named as Batman

When I first heard about the sequel to Man of Steel including Batman, I was excited. I thought DC was making the right move rebooting the Dark Knight in what sounded like a storyline that would be loosely based around Frank Miller's work, where I'd see the Bat and Superman go toe to toe, possibly witness kryptonite gloves, and an epic showdown; it initially appeared a Justice League movie was not only a possibility but a foregone conclusion.

Then I began speculating who would be Batman. Would Snyder bring in new blood? Would he find a lesser known actor similar to the way he did with Cavill, who I really had no clue about until I saw Man of Steel. Would he use Joseph Gordon-Levitt, which a lot of fans of Nolan's Batman were rooting for?

Well, I received my answer this morning as I woke with a hangover from a birthday celebration. Part of me wanted to believe that I was still drunk from the night before and imagining Ben Affleck was named Batman. The disaster that was Daredevil is still fresh on my mind, and I have to wonder about this project, because Affleck has portrayed a masked superhero before and I was not impressed.

Keep in mind, I do not blame Affleck for the Daredevil movie. That blame rests upon an awful script and an equally awful director, both the work of Mark Steven Johnson. There wasn't a single actor in Daredevil that gave a compelling performance, and Colin Farrell's Bullseye was the worst of the film, including Garner as Elektra and Michael Duncan Clarke as the Kingpin. The sets and even the soundtrack were bad, so, unjustly, Affleck, who starred as The Man With No Fear and was essentially the face of the film, takes the blame from all the rabid fans.

I'd be lying if I said I wasn't apprehensive of Affleck as Batman due to what I saw in Daredevil. I'm not sure he can pull off Bruce Wayne, but I was also one of the people left scratching my head when I heard Heath Ledger would be the Joker. The big difference between the two is that I had not seen Ledger in a movie as either a superhero or villain, so I had nothing to base an opinion on, and until I started seeing stills from the set, I was uneasy. Nolan and Ledger, of course, proved all the naysayers wrong. Ledger had the best performance of his life, in my opinion.

Can lightning strike twice? Did Nolan, who is producing the Man of Steel sequel, and Snyder see something in Affleck the rest of us aren't capable of? Will our outrage be thrown back in our faces, when stills and clips and trailers start to release? I will say this much, Affleck at least has the rugged qualities similar to how Batman is depicted in the comics, especially the jaw.

The concern rests in his ability to portray Bruce Wayne for me. As I saw another fan write, "I always thought it best if they casted for Bruce Wayne, not Batman." Affleck has been in movies I enjoyed, such as Good Will Hunting, Phantoms, and The Town, so I can only hope he surprises us all. Otherwise, if Batman/Bruce Wayne is not portrayed to the level of Bale or Keaton and is more like Clooney's version, this film is already dead in the water.

Thursday, August 15, 2013

Mists of Pandaria: Patch 5.4: Siege of Orgimmar Trailer

It's about that time for the final patch of Mists of Pandaria, and with it comes the release of this epic trailer. Truthfully, I haven't been playing much; my realm is in shambles and barren since the transfer sale, and I can't bring myself to grind LFR or level my last two characters to 90, which are the only things really left to me at this point, but, "Every time I think I'm out...they bring me back in."

As soon as I saw Taran Zhu appear on the bridge, I was ready to start raiding, because I had a feeling he was going to die or at least suffer a major wound. Garrosh has got to go, and seeing all the ships with both crimson and blue sails approaching Ogrimmar, I got excited. I really think this is the best patch trailer--not to be confused with the cinematics--for the game thus far. It did its job getting me interested in the game again and amped for the final confrontation of the expansion.

I don't even know as much as I should about what's coming in 5.4--that's how little I've played and kept up on the PTR. Most of my time has been spent either at work, with friends and family, or enjoying a mix of other games, but I think it's good and healthy to take breaks from WoW, and it brings me back feeling fresh and ready to take down a tyrant.

I've been patiently waiting to kill Garrosh for a long, long time. I have even more of a reason now: avenging Taran Zhu. He was my favorite Pandaren.

Wednesday, August 7, 2013

New Ender's Game and Thor: Dark World Trailers

Here's the latest trailer for Ender's Game, and it offers a peek at a zero-gravity battle as well as some of the space fights. So far, I think it's shaping up to be faithful to the book; the question remains whether or not the director and writers will explore the characters and develop them, instead of overloading the viewer with CGI and explosions.

One thing that bugs me about the trailer is the huge spoiler. The biggest reveal in the book is that the final "test" for Ender turns out to be a real battle, not a simulation. Not only does the trailer say it plain, they show parts of that particular space fight. I have to wonder if this was done because they're trying to appeal to readers that already know the ending. If so, I'd say it worked. If not, it's just dumb; why show the biggest surprise before anyone even sits down in a theater? As is always the case, not everyone interested in the film will have read the book.

Well, there were some things added to the new trailer that weren't in the first one, and I have to admit I'm very disappointed they decided to show me a shortened version of the entire movie. Just based on this, I'm going to guess the order of the movie goes: Dark Elves invade London, Thor saves the day, Thor enlists the aid of Loki to hunt the Elves and take out Malekith the Accursed, then Loki betrays Thor and joins Malekith to take on Odin and his family--ultimately, Thor saves Asgard and probably Jane Foster (I doubt Hollywood has the guts to kill her off and give Thor a monumental dilemma, in that he failed as a superhero). That's my guess, based only on the trailer. In a few months, I'll check back to see if I'm right, because, regardless of how much I think I know, I'll still go to this movie.

Saturday, August 3, 2013

Marve Heroes: Patch 1.11 Review

After three days of struggling to implement the latest patch for Marvel Heroes (the servers were down were a bulk of that time), it has finally released. During that three days, I downloaded roughly 15GB: the initial patch that failed, the revert to the old patch, then the new patch again, so it was lucky for me I had recently picked up Kingdom of Amalur and had something else to play on my days off, instead of hounding Gazillion on the forums.

Human Torch, a.k.a. Johnny Storm, arrived with the patch, the first of many heroes to be released post-launch. From what I've been hearing and reading he seems to be a success, outside of a few bugs that have lingered from the test servers. He looks fun to play with a self heal, damage reduction, mobility, medium to high dps, and loads of sarcasm; he might even have funnier lines than Deadpool. Many players are hesitant to purchase him right away, and I don't blame them. The main concern is he'll be nerfed or altered after the devs see how he plays on live servers.

*Update: I realized this morning I had enough Gs saved on my account from when they compensated players to pick up Human Torch. Wow, he's insanely fun to play. I haven't found a bad attack on him yet, as most of them are fiery, aoe explosions (that includes an aoe attack that leaves the Fantastic Four symbol on the ground), so it appears he's going to have a lot of different builds. Plus, his movement animation is flying, something I wish Iron Man had. To top that off, he has a still-glitchy ability called Flame On that leaves a devastating trail of fire in his wake and also increases his speed. Safe to say, Iron Man and the rest of my heroes are being shelved. Human Torch is now my main.

Luckily, unless you're in a hurry, there's no reason to purchase a hero with real-world money. Ever. The biggest change in this patch is how players obtain new heroes. The random drop system, which was a nightmare (I ended up with only Cyclops as an original drop after 170 hours worth of play and 48% special find), has been thrown away. Instead, eternity splinters were introduced. They are a form of currency that drops at a steady click, and 200 - 600 splinters allow you to purchase the hero of your choosing. While it sounds like a high number, a dedicated, hardcore player could probably snag at least one hero a week. For me, who plays roughly eight to ten hours a week, I'll probably have a new hero in a month. Yesterday, I earned 25 splinters in a couple of hours while switching between leveling Cyclops and doing endgame on Iron Man.

There were a few additions to Story Mode in the patch but not enough to get me crazed about the game the way I was when it first released. I'm still a little bored with leveling new heroes, even after completing a new quest that involved fighting Venom's symbiotes in a NYC building. Gazillion would do well to add interesting quests and small villain stories such as this to liven up the low level experience, and I'm sure they plan to, yet that was not their main concern this time around.

Patch 1.11 was focused on a platform overhaul, and the improvements were noticeable the moment I joined a brand new endless dungeon called Midtown Patrol. As of this moment, I'm actually capable of group content without excessive lag, and Midtown Patrol, which replaced Limbo, might be my favorite piece of endgame. In it, players wander around Manhatten while swarms of mobs with accompanying mini-bosses appear. Eventually, supervillains appear, and they tend to arrive in supervillain groups. It gets a little crazy with nine or so players taking down Rhino, Wizard, and Bullseye or Magneto, the Blob, and Lady Deathstrike all at the same time. The best part of the new group terminal is players can come and go as they please. There's no timer or threat meter. You join, fight, and when you decide to do something else, you leave without punishment or feeling as if you're missing something.

Also, Gazillion tossed Bitraider for a new launcher. I was fed up with Bitraider before I fully downloaded the game before launch, switching to Steam, and from the countless complaints on Facebook and the forums, I'm not surprised they found something else. From what I've seen, there have been a few kinks but players seem to enjoy the new launcher more.

Possibly my favorite part of the patch is materials for crafting finally stack. I have three times the room in my storage than I did a few days ago due to this much needed change, and I'm no longer stressed or suspicious that Gazillion is trying to herd me into purchasing more space. They added more artifacts and cosmic gear that drop in the game, as well as items, such as potions, pets, and costumes, to the store, but I believe I'm beyond purchasing anything else...unless they release Silver Surfer.

Heroes were either revamped or completely ignored this time around, depending on which hero you play. I'm sure the developers will continue to balance them, but part of what frustrates me about this game is playing as Iron Man and feeling useless. By the time I clear a couple henchmen, heroes like Cyclops and Storm have cleared out an entire room with one attack. For one of the upper tiers of heroes, meaning one of the most expensive to obtain, it's confusing that Iron Man is so weak. On the forums, the compliments about his talent trees and abilities are few and far between, if present at all. As an example, he has an entire tree dedicated to shields, which after the shield bug fix, makes a lot of them worthless; Iron Man needs to be reworked, as do some other heroes.

All in all, Patch 1.11 is a major step in the right direction. Gameplay performance improved, as well as the UI. Heroes are chattier and faster in the hubs. Chat functions improved. Even small things like damage numbers appearing (if you toggle it) add much needed customization--for some reason, seeing my damage on the screen keeps me entertained, helps me adjust tactics and abilities. When scrolling over a terminal daily, there's a pop-up added that informs you whether or not you can earn a cube shard for the day; patch by patch, Marvel Heroes continues to improve.

I hope they can keep the current pace and start concentrating on adding new content, especially in Story Mode.