Thursday, June 21, 2012

Game backlogs

This is going to be a pretty long post. It's a pretty serious problem (first world problem anyway). I can't think of a time in recent memory when I've had a backlog of games so huge that I didn't know how to deal with it. I saw it coming last fall when so many must have games were coming out within 6 weeks of each other. It started with the Ico/Shadow of the Colossus collection and ended with Zelda: Skyward Sword (with Dark Souls, Uncharted 3, and Skyrim in between). Then some other games were on sale for dirt cheap between Thanksgiving and Christmas. I was doomed.

I have so many half finished games, some of which I want to play, others that I just don't feel like playing but still want to finish, and others that I started but don't care if I finish or don't plan on finishing (that last ground doesn't really count in my backlog). The list below will be primarily focused on the ones I want to finish, with brief mentions to those I'm not really set on finishing anytime soon (if at all).

Red Dead Redemption: I don't know why I stopped playing this. But I won it on a website contest and started it Spring of 2011. I got to Mexico (in the game) and was quite a few hours into it. Another game probably came out and distracted me. I don't remember which one. But I really want to get back into it. It's a fantastic game. I haven't even touched Undead Nightmare, the big expansion.

Ico/Shadow of the Colossus: I never played Ico, and I only ever got to the 5th colossi when I played it on the PS2. I loved SotC. But it came out at a bad time since another big game was coming out a week or two later...

Dark Souls: I love this game. But it took me away from the Ico/SotC collection. So I guess it's fair that I've gotten sidetracked on it twice. I'm currently halfway through New Londo Ruins. Dark Souls was first sidetracked by Uncharted 3 (which I finished) and Skyrim (which broke in the main quest but I later finished, minus a ton of side content). But it's high on my list to finish.

Zelda: Skyward Sword: This was the last big game last fall that I knew would be hard to juggle with the other ones. I started it, and was loving it. But the controls kept getting in the way. I felt like I was constantly fighting them. I eventually got sidetracked by the other games (Skyrim most likely, and maybe Dark Souls), and in January...

Final Fantasy XIII-2: I was really enjoying how they structured this game. I loved FFXIII, but I enjoyed the freedom they gave you in XIII-2. I played a solid 25 hours before getting sidetracked...again...

Around the holidays I found a few great deals on some games I had missed that people said I should play. Enslaved and Vanquish. So I got those for dirt cheap, played them for an hour or two and they got put back on the shelf. They were a lot of fun (despite triggering some major motion sickness), so sadly they're very low on my "must finish" list. 

After FFXIII-2, I grabbed Castlevania: Lords of Shadow. I loved that game and got maybe 6 hours into it. Then I got distracted again. I started craving something different (which seems to be the problem). So I grabbed another game I had wanted to check out. Darksiders. I played that for a few hours, then got sidetracked by Batman: Arkham Asylum (another huge game I had missed). I enjoyed that for probably 5 or 6 hours but distraction fell upon me again. I really want to finish Castlevania and Batman. Darksiders, not so much.

I think it was at that point that I went back to Dark Souls. I dabbled into Skyward Sword again briefly, which had me revisit a dungeon I had cleared already, and I went back to Dark Souls and was on that for a good while. Confident that I would finally finish it.

Then Diablo 3 came out.

And I haven't even talked about the PS Vita games in my backlog with Gravity Rush and the MGS HD Collection (which I also have for the PS3).

So you see there's quite a lot in my catalog that needs finishing. I don't know if I'll put them in a specific order and then tackle them that way. The GoW games are really tempting. Oh I didn't mention them yet? Well the HD Collection (PS2 games) and GoW3 arrived today. But that's my problem. I get a craving for a type of game, buy them, and set everything else aside even if I'm enjoying the heck out of them. I need to stay more focused. 

Anyone else have a hard time staying focused like me?

Thursday, May 31, 2012

In Defense of Video Games

Video games are, once again, getting a bad rap. But this time it's from an unexpected front (although I'm not too surprised). A few Christian leasers have come out saying porn and video games are ruining young men. I agree with the porn assessment. But I disagree on the video game part (which will come as no surprise if you've read this blog at all). As a Christian it's frustrating to see such legalistic perspectives on a hobby I enjoy. You probably won't hear them talk the same way about something they do to relax and unwind.

But instead of giving my own opinions (which I might at a later time), here is a great article by Stephen Altrogge. I think he gets to the real root of the problem.

In Defense of Video Games

Sunday, May 27, 2012

30 Years of Gaming: My First RPG

I'm going to skip ahead a few years from my last "30 Years of Gaming" post and fast forward to 1994. I was almost 2 years out of high school and neck deep in my 2nd (and last) semester at college. My good friend Chris had tried to introduce me for years to RPGs and fantasy books, which were his favorite genre if memory serves me right. But I was never interested. I liked games, and had been gaming for many years at that point. But RPGs just never appealed to me.

I had played a little Final Fantasy IV on the SNES, which was stupidly numbered II In the US. It was a lot of fun. But not enough to hold my attention to the end (I think it would now though). Give me Super Metroid any day. But that's a completely separate blog post (it deserves one).

The game that did it for me and made me an RPG fan for life was Final Fantasy VI (also stupidly numbered in the US, as III). I know a lot of articles have been written on the subject. And a lot of people tout Final Fantasy VII as their first, and favorite, RPG on a console. Some even say it's the greatest RPG ever. I'm not here to argue that point (although I disagree). It was a great game and blew everyone out of the water. Even non-RPG folks loved it (my brothers included). And the Sony Playstation was all the rage. Cartridges were dying (don't tell Nintendo). But I vowed to never buy one. I was a Nintendo guy. Until I saw FFVII. Then I bought a Playstation. But the only reason I was even remotely interested in FFVII was because of FFVI.

Final Fantasy has always been (for a good part of it's life anyway) about the story. I don't think the early games really had much of a story. They certainly didn't have the graphics to pick up the slack like games this generation do. And some would argue that the more recent games sacrificed story for spectacle. And while though I enjoyed XIII and XIII-2 a lot, I would have to agree. But for me no game in the series comes close in story and incredible characters to FFVI. Terra. Edgar. Celes. Locke. Sabin. Cyan. Relm. The list of great characters seemed to go on forever. You get to know these characters and their history. You find out why they're here. Long after I finished the game and played other RPGs, if they let you name your characters, I often changed them to the FFVI characters. My monk was always Sabin. My knight was Cyan. If there was a female character, she was Terra or Celes.

Not only were the heroes great, the villain was probably the best the series has ever had (in my opinion anyway). Kefka was insane. He was a madman in a clown makeup (literally). And he had no problem tearing the world apart (also literally) to achieve his goals.

And you were in an opera.

At this point, I don't think anyone is going to be convinced what Final Fantasy is the best. Everyone has their favorite. Most will say VII. But this post isn't about that. For me FFVI introduced me to a genre I had pretty much ignored. Sadly because, in the minds of many people, if you liked RPGs you were probably weird. But if not for FFVI, I can almost safely say I wouldn't have played games like Skyrim or Dark Souls many years later (and loved every second of them). I'm glad I gave RPGs a chance 18 years ago. And I am grateful that FFVII brought them into the mainstream. Thanks to FFVI I'm an RPG fan for life. And probably a little weird.

Wednesday, May 23, 2012


A few months ago Everquest went free to play. It's 13 years old with 18 expansions. My guess is that they made it free to play to try and get more money out of it before shutting it down. Everyone's doing FTP so why not? I don't blame them. I logged on to see if my level 49 monk was still there (he was), and wandered around the once densely populated zones that are now eerily empty of any life except for NPCs and spiders. Maybe enough people do play it to warrant another expansion (which also came out a few months ago). If they do, there weren't where I was.

When I started writing this post, which has sat in my blog drafts for a few weeks, I thought I'd play more. I didn't. That was pretty much it. But I do have really fond memories of this behemoth of the MMO world (until World of Warcraft destroyed it). I played a lot of Everquest. A ton actually. I would spend entire weekends, when my life was devoid of...well, anything really...playing this game. I would wake up Saturdays at 10am, play until lunch, go to Wendy's to get some lunch, eat in front of the computer while camped in Befallen or some place, then stop again to get dinner, and play until 1am or 2am Sunday morning. Then rinse and repeat on Sunday (unless I went to church, then I didn't start until after 12pm).

One of my best memories (and why it stands out I have no idea) I was nearing the end of a play session. I was easily after midnight. I was in Freeport, and having never been across the Ocean of Tears I decided to check it out. So I waited for the boat that would take me there (this was long before they introduced all the teleport/warp stones). I took the "long" 10 minute trip to the Butcherblock Mountains on Faydwer. Since it was uncharted territory for me, I stuck mainly to the path (which was usually safe). I wandered around until I eventually reached Greater Faydark. This had the home of the Wood Elves (Kelethin), and led to the Orc fortress of Crushbone.

Now for some stupid reason I forgot to bind myself somewhere when I arrived on Faydwer. For those who don't remember, when you died in Everquest, you went back to the city you were bound to. But you could change that by casting a simple spell. But I didn't bind myself to the new continent I was on. I'm not sure why. I could have bound myself to the dwarf city of Kaladim (I'm looking all these names up online btw. I'm not THAT big of a dork.). But I didn't. But for some other, more stupid reason, once I reached the elf town (which was up in the trees) I left the main path which had kept me mostly safe up to this point. It wasn't long before I came face to face with an orc from Crushbone (it was closer than I realized). I really didn't stand a chance.

The next thing I knew I was back in Freeport, with all my gear gone. You see back in those days the Everquest folks thought it would be awesome to make it so when you died all your stuff stayed with your corpse. And you had 7 days to get it before POOF. It would just disappear. So I had 7 days. And it was 1am. But I couldn't leave my stuff out there. So I went back to the Freeport dock, waited 15 minutes for the next boat, took the 10 minute boat ride, then walked 20-30 more minutes back to where I died (hoping the orc wasn't still there). It wasn't. I got my stuff, and high tailed it outta there. I finally got to bed after 2am.

That was Everquest. And it was a blast.

Tuesday, May 22, 2012

Currently playing: Diablo III

I'm currently playing Diablo III. I don't have much to say about it right now except that it's awesome and you should play it. I've heard people who weren't particularly taken with Diablo I and II are loving this game. So take that into consideration if you're doubting a purchase. It's great fun.

I started with a barbarian and it's been a total blast. There's just something satisfying about getting surrounded by 20+ monsters, slamming the ground and stunning all of them, then sending out a shock wave across half the screen that obliterates nearly all of them into a cloud of monster parts. I don't like gore, but it's pretty satisfying.

Oh, and the game is gorgeous. I started Act II over the weekend, which is in a desert. You can't really tell from this screenshot but there is a constant flow of sand moving around on screen here. And it looks amazing, even with my 6 year old Dell (but I did put a decent video card in it a few years ago). My barbarian is below (as of 5/21).

Monday, May 21, 2012

30 Years of Gaming: The Beginning

It's been more than 4 months since my last post, so I figured I should probably write something. I started a post on Everquest a few weeks ago (that will be coming soon), but today it randomly crossed my mind how long I've been playing video games. And if my math is correct (which is should be even though I was never very good at it), then I've been playing video games for 30 years. 30. Years. Wow. 

For those who don't know, I'll be 38 this year. I have two younger brothers (35 and 31, I think). I'm married with a kid. So technically, I'm a grown up. Hence the name of this blog. The thought that came to me today might become a series of posts on various games I played in my youth. Games that made an impact and turned me into a lifetime gamer. I'll probably alternate a few of these posts with posts of games I'm currently playing (Diablo III!!). We'll see.

So the game that came to mind today was for the Atari 2600. It's the first system we got when I was a kid (maybe 8 or 9). I honestly don't remember the game that came with it (if it even came with one), or what the first game we got was, but the first game I remember was Demon Attack. There's really not much to it. The cover art on the box (see below) had robot looking space ships. Apparently they were actual demons or something. But it didn't matter. I spent hours and hours shooting these things from my mostly stationary ship. I remember getting to the last level, beating it, and the game starting over. The good old endless loop of old school games.

There's not really much to tell about it. It was a simple game, as most were in those days. We had more games, but I really don't remember what they were. I'm not sure why Demon Attack stands out in my mind. Some of my friends might have their theories.

In the years that followed a coworker of my Dad's gave us a Commodore 64. The only game I remember playing on that was called Black Magic. Which was okay because Harry Potter hadn't made Christian parents everywhere scared to death of fictional magic. But the best days in gaming for me were yet to come in the form of a little white box. The Nintendo Entertainment System.

Monday, January 9, 2012

Happy New Year (Best of 2011)

I figured I'd kick off 2012 with a brief summary of the games I loved in 2011 and end it with my game of the year, which means this will be a pretty long post.

99% of my gaming was on the PS3, so unfortunately while I played a little of some great PC games (Bastion, Terraria, etc.), I didn't play them enough for them to rank on this list. I really hope to get into them in 2012 though cause they're pretty amazing.

So without further ado, my favorite games of 2011, listed in the order of their release:

Ico/Shadow of the Colossus Collection (PS3) - Sadly I didn't get into game as much as I wanted. It was followed with some pretty huge games. But I loved it on the PS2, and once I get a spare moment I will definitely get back to finishing at least Shadow of the Colossus (which I never finished on the PS2 either).

Dark Souls (PS3) - I didn't finish Shadow of the Colossus because of this game. The spiritual successor to Demon's Souls is without a doubt one of the best games I've ever played. But it was also one of the darkest, most depressing games I've ever played. Peter Tell on the Fall Damage podcast put it well in their year end Fallies Award show that the oppressive nature of the game increases the further you get. Unfortunately I haven't gotten around to finishing this either, but Blighttown has to be (lag aside) one of the darkest, most depressing areas of a game I've ever played (outside of pretty much any area in any Silent Hill game). I'm not claustrophobic, but I was while playing this game. Even so, I haven't had that much fun dying in a game as I did in Dark Souls.

Uncharted 3 (PS3) - Want to know why I didn't finish Dark Souls? Look no further than Uncharted 3. Do you see a pattern? October through November was a crazy time for games. I love the Uncharted series. It's probably the best series of games of this generation. Uncharted 2 is still regarded as one of the best games on the PS3. I absolutely loved Uncharted 3. So much that I started it again on crushing difficulty immediately after finishing it. Some of the set pieces were absolutely incredible (although nothing tops the train sequence from Uncharted 2 for me). Still, it was an amazing game. One I look forward to playing through again and again, as I have with Uncharted 1 and 2. It's like watching a great action movie.

The Elder Scrolls V: Skyrim (PS3) - What else can I say about Skyrim? The last time I posted about this game my main quest was broken (it still is), and I was frustrated and unmotivated because of it. But then I, reluctantly, started over. Thankfully it was almost more fun the 2nd time. I flew through the main quest, making sure not to trigger the same bug as before, and finished the main story in about 12 hours. While I still have my old save in the hopes of a fix for that bug, I plan on going through all the side quests now with my restarted character. The main quest is done and I still have a ton of content left. Some will be replays of quests I did the first time around, but with as much fun as I had redoing 95% of the main quest again (I was shocked how close to the end I was), I have no doubt I'll love replaying some quests (most of the Mage College), and loving the ones I didn't get to (Companions, Dark Brotherhood, Thieves Guild, etc.). A lot of websites gave this the Game of the Year. There's a reason for that.

The Legend of Zelda: Skyward Sword (Wii)- I've had a hard time with some recent Zelda games. Twilight Princess was really good, but it felt stale, and it took far too long to really get going. Zelda has a certain formula that hasn't changed much in years. That's good I suppose but I needed and hoped for Skyward Sword to change it up enough to get me excited about a Zelda game again. Thankfully it did. The only problem it I was neck deep in Skyrim when it came out. I'm not good at multitasking games, especially with so many great ones. So while I tried to juggle Skyward Sword with Skyrim, Skyrim ultimately won that battle. But I did get to the first Silent Realm, and I really want to get back to it and go through the entire game. The changes they made to the traditional Zelda formula made it feel fresh and exciting to play. Unfortunately it still has all the annoying things about Zelda games, presumably from Nintendo thinking all of it's fans are perpetually 12 years old. But still, it's easy to look past being reminded nearly every time how many rupees you get with a red one (20) when the rest of the game is so great.

Game of the Year - The Elder Scrolls V: Skyrim (PS3)
This was actually kind of tough. With so many amazing games out within weeks of each other I feel like I didn't really get adequate time with each one (even though I played Uncharted 3 almost 2 full times). But the fact is I keep coming back to Skyrim. And even though a main quest bug nearly did me in, when I restarted I was rejuvenated and excited about it all over again. The main quest, while pretty good, isn't even the best part of the game. There's just so much to do and you feel like your shaping the world you're in. All of the side quests, from the Companions to the Mage College, the Dark Brotherhood and the Thieves Guild are so deep, they could make entire games of their own.

So while 2011 had a lot of great games, I'be got to give the edge to Skyrim.