Archive for the ‘ Videogames ’ Category

Top 10 list 2: Videogame characters

Number the two! Counting down my top 10 favorite videogame characters! Again, inspired by my friend Josh’s own list.

I know many of you will find flaws in this, and believe me, I’m sure there are a number of characters I’m missing, but this is based entirely on games that I’ve played, which I’m sure is in need of some serious expanding!

Anyway, read on and enjoy!




10. Gordon Freeman, Half-Life Series

I’m going to let you guys in on a little secret: I absolutely HATE Silent Protagonists. Oh wait, you probably already know that about me. I heavily dislike games that feature a character with an established name, look, and storyline, yet never have him say anything. I know it’s supposed to get the player immersed in the character, but come on! It’s not us in this world, it’s the character you’ve created! If he never speaks then he’s barely half a character in the first place!

So why is Gordon Freeman on here? Because despite succumbing to this trope I hate, Gordon is awesome. He’s a theoretical physicist who works in a high tech facility, and when it comes under attack from interdimensional beings, he picks up a crowbar and fights back. When the military comes to cover up the whole incident, he takes them out first. And when presented with the opportunity to enter this otherworldly realm and stop the invasion, he leaps into the fray. In his second title, another group of beings has taken over the entire planet. What does Gordon do? Gets back up and proves that an entire army can’t stop him. The Half-Life franchise might have serious story gaps, but it’s incredibly fun anyway. I hope we find out the next chapter soon.

solid snake

9. Solid Snake, Metal Gear Solid series

On the flipside, we have Solid Snake. The ultimate soldier. While he was a playable character in the earlier Metal Gear games, it was the Metal Gear Solid series that truly put the character in the mainstream and reinvented him into the true badass we all know him as today. As you play through the first Metal Gear Solid, you learn much about Snake’s history and legacy, and what all makes him the badass soldier he is. I love playing as Snake throughout the many incredible challenges he faces, ranging from going toe-to-toe with some of the best soldiers in the world (and sometimes ones with powers beyond the world), to taking on walking tanks equipped with advanced weaponry on foot, tied up in a sometimes-convoluted-but-ultimately-epic story on the nature of war, nuclear weapons, genetics, and free will.


8. Barret Wallace, Final Fantasy VII

“What?” you might say. “Not Cloud Strife?” HELL NO, SPIKEY! Cloud Strife is a whiny indecisive Mako-poisoned mess! Barret is the real hero of this game! Barret’s an everyman, a tough-as-nails coal miner who fights an evil megacorporation because they need to be stopped from killing the planet, and he’s got a daughter to fight for! They shot his arm off, so what does he do? Grafts a friggin’ GATLING GUN onto his arm! Sure, later on he realizes that he wasn’t really fighting to save the world, but for revenge for his murdered wife, but he moves past it, realizes that the world really is in danger from a much bigger threat, and he helps save the WORLD! SO SHU’UP JACKASS!!

Barret is awesome, and one of the best characters in any Final Fantasy game. He never ever left my party during my playthroughs except when I was actually trying to grind out levels for the other characters. During any part of the story though? Hell yes, he was right there fightin’ the good fight.

Kyle Katarn

7. Kyle Katarn, Star Wars: Dark Forces/Jedi Knight series

Kyle Katarn is the perfect example of a “faceless player character” coming into his own as a full-fledged Star Wars character complete with personality and character development. In Dark Forces, he was sort of a faceless agent for the New Republic, battling Imperial forces with only the many guns he carried on his body. In the next game? He’s a full on Jedi Knight in training. He’d battle more Dark Jedi and imperial Forces, having a crossover game with Mara Jade in the process, and ultimately relearn what it meant to be a Jedi in Jedi Outcast, and fall in love at the same time. In the more recent Star Wars books, he’s a Jedi Master, member of the Jedi Council, and considered one of the best lightsaber masters in the Order. Not bad at all. Jedi Outcast remains one of my favorite Star Wars games of all time, setting the standard for how lightsaber combat should ultimately feel.

James Raynor

6. James Raynor, Starcraft Series

“This is Jimmy?” “Sounds Fun”

Marshall James Raynor. Criminal. Lawman. Freedom Fighter. Fugitive. Revolutionary. Leader.

James Raynor is the Captain Malcolm Reynolds of the Starcraft universe. If Malcolm Reynolds commanded a massive heavily armed stolen warship, regularly drove a grenade-launching hoverbike, wore powered armor and carried a massive Sniper Rifle on the battlefield, and was looked to as the leader and hero of a resistance movement against the corrupt Emperor of the Terran Dominion.  Of course, if you asked him that, he’d downplay it all, saying he’s just a man fighting a good fight, trying to make the galaxy a better place. The best heroes are usually humble ones, and James Raynor? He’s one of the best heroes out there.


5. Sam & Max, Sam & Max series

One parts Canine suit-wearing Sheamus. One parts hyperkinetic rabbity-thing. Shake well and serve. Sam & Max are the Freelance Police. They’ll solve cases too weird for the cops. Mostly because the two of them are pretty dang weird too. These guys are hilarious. Their games are filled with oddball moments, wacky humor, and some very well thought out puzzles to solve. I love quoting their games and cracking up every minute with these two, and I hope we see more from them for years to come.


4. Megaman, Megaman series

The Blue Bomber! Megaman has been fighting the evil Dr. Wily and his Robot Masters for years, back in the good ol-NES days and even a little into the Super NES days, and while we didn’t  see the original much for a long time (he was replaced by the darker-and-edgier X series, the slightly strange post-apocalyptic Legends Series, the program/internet focused Battle Network series, and the…Star Force? Whatever?) but with new games recently introduced via the Xbox Live Arcade, his popularity has enjoyed a recent resurgence. I’ve always dug Megaman for his never-give-up attitude and his adaptability. He can absorb the powers of his fallen foes, becoming a one-robot-arsenal, and prefers to assault the bad guys head-on, using superior firepower and agility to defeat foes. While he really hasn’t ever talked much, his games are just plain fun, and I’m always ready to hop back into the fray with him to take down Dr. Wily…again.

Lich King

3. The Lich King, Warcraft Series.

Sure, there are a lot of characters I could pick from in the Warcraft franchise, but for the past few years, the player designed characters have been the biggest focus of the story for World of Warcraft, while previous player heroes like Thrall have taken more of a secondary role or worse, become Mary Sue characters. But the Lich King? One the most feared villains in the entire story? Oh yeah, now we’re talking. He began as the good-intentioned paladin, Arthas Menethil. Son of King Terenas Menethil of Lordaeron, he could only watch as the undead plague ravaged his kingdom, turning it’s inhabitants to mindless zombies.  Desperate to save his people, he turned to the cursed runeblade Frostmourne to gain the power to save them…exactly as the undead’s master, the Lich King, had planned.  He would become a Death Knight in the Lich King’s service, destroying everything that he had previously loved, including his own father. Eventually, he would go to Northrend to free the Lich King from his prision, in the process, donning the fabled armor and merging with the evil being itself. A three way battle would rage inside the new being between Arthas the Death Knight, his former good self, and the original Lich King, a corrupted orc spirit named Ner’zhul. Ultimately Arthas would purge the latter two, becoming stronger than ever.

The Lich King would finally return in World of Warcraft, attacking the major cities to lure powerful adventurers to Northrend, pitting his deadly undead army and fearsome generals against them with the end goal of taking those who overcome every challenge he could throw at them and killing and raising them as the greatest undead fighting force the world had ever seen. But his plans failed, and the heroes, with the spirit of Arthas’ own father aiding them, would finally bring about the fall of the Lich King.

With his last breath, the Lich King would ask if it was finally over. We may never know what happened to Arthas. Was he truly the Lich King all along, or was he a prisioner of the true Lich King, but tragically, he died in darkness, remembered only for the thousands dead because of him.


2. Garrus Vakarian, Mass Effect Series

Sure, the Mass Effect trilogy is Commander Shepard’s story. But much of Commander Shepard’s story is up to the player and can go in any number of directions. The game has a ton of fully fleshed out secondary characters, each with an awesome story, but Garrus is definitely my favorite. He’s a deadly sniper, a loyal friend and ally, and one of my favorite romance pairings with Shepard in the game.

Garrus is a Turian from the world of Palaven. Turians are very society-oriented, believing that the needs of their people should come above their own desires. Military service is mandatory, and their government is a well laid out heirarchy based on merit. Those who perform their duties with excellence rise up the ranks, those who do not stay where they are.  Garrus, like his father, was a C-Sec agent, a cop on the station known as the Citadel, the center of galactic politics and society. In the first game, regulations and rules prevent him from taking down the main villain, so he quits to join Shepard. In the second game, he follows Shepards example and recruits his own team to enforce justice and protect the helpless on the lawless space station Omega. The mercenary and gang leaders there manage to take out his whole team via betrayal, and when Shepard recruits him again, he’s being targeted by their entire merc army. The mercs deploy a gunship after them, and while they succeed in taking it down, Garrus takes a friggin’ rocket to the face. He’s up only a few hours after surgery, heavily scarred, but still wanting to be useful. In the third game, Garrus, the former failed C-sec officer and vigilante, is now one of the highest ranking Turians in the heirarchy, finally recognized for his work battling the Reapers. He’s instrumental in getting the Turian’s help on your side.

Garrus’ romance scenario, if you choose to pursue him as a female Shepard is one of the more adorable ones in the game, and he develops from a nervous wreck trying not to screw it up to a confident, charming partner that’s always there when you need him. Easily my favorite character in the franchise.


1.  Master Chief Petty Officer John-117, Halo Series

The Master Chief. The last Spartan. To the Covenant, he’s known as the “demon”. Among the Forerunner Constructs that monitor the series’ eponymous Halos, he is called “Reclaimer”. But to most of humanity, he’s the biggest hero they’ve ever known, and yet at the same time, he’s a tragic character, a boy forced to grow up to become something almost unthinkable so that humanity can survive.

Master Chief initially might seem like he fits into the hated “Silent protagonist” trope, speaking only in cutscenes in the first Halo title, but as the series progressed, and was augmented by tie-in novels, his personality and history are expanded considerably, to the point where in the current Halo 4, he is much more vocal than ever before. His story is tragic, like all of his fellow Spartans, he was taken as a child and trained to become the ultimate soldier in the SPARTAN program. He was given experimental surgery and gene therapy to make him stronger, faster, and tougher than an ordinary human, as well as the finest, most advanced armor they could design. Why do all this? Because the Covenant, an alien armada with technology beyond human design at this point, threatened them with extermination. Humanity was desperate, and the SPARTAN program was a terrible price to pay, but it worked, especially with John.

The Master Chief saw humanity through the darkest days of the war, ultimately splintering the Covenant in half, and seemingly sacrificed himself to defeat their prophets and secure peace with the rebel half.  Unfortunately a new threat emerged in Halo 4, and the Chief is fighting once again. Where this story will take the Chief is not yet known, but we can be sure it’ll be a thrilling experience.

Like many characters on this list, SPARTAN-117 is an everyman. He’s humble, but when it’s time to take care of business, he gets in and delivers a whole lot of boom against a whole lot of foes. He’s saved humanity from extinction on several occasions against several threats, and it looks like he isn’t done yet. His chance at a normal life was long taken away from him, yet he never complains. He knows that he must fight so others can truly live, and accepts it. He’s a consummate hero, and that, more than any reason, marks him as my favorite character of all.


SWTOR – Patch 1.2 thoughs

Patch 1.2, aka “Legacy” recently deployed to live servers. It’s SWTOR’s first big patch, and aside from the usual big assortment of class changes we as MMO players are trained to expect from “X.Y” numbered patches, it added a few new features to the game, including guild banks and the promised improvements to the Legacy system.

With the Mists of Pandaria beta also opened, I had decided to stop playing SWTOR until this patch deployed, deciding to focus on a few random goals I had set for myself in WoW. And I guess the best thing I can say about this patch is that since it deployed, I have definitely spent more time in SWTOR than in WoW.

The Legacy improvements are definitely a neat feature. They allow you to create a “family tree” of all of your characters on a given server, showing how your characters are either related or associated with the other. Unfortunately, this tree does have limitations, such as the ability to only set up a single relationship at once, and a maximum of two relations for a given character.

Let me give an example. I have one character that I want to set up as  the father of two others.  I make Kid 1 the child of the father. Now what do I do with Kid 2? Do I make him the child of the father? Well if I do that, I can’t ALSO make him the brother of Kid 1. I have to pick.

This is irritating, but to my knowledge it has no effect on actual game mechanics. You’ll get all the tangible bonuses of the Legacy System regardless of how your tree looks, it’s mostly just an RP thing. I can live with that.

One feature I definitely like is that by reaching level 50 and completing Act 3 of your class quest, you unlock the ability to create any class with that character’s race. So if you finished leveling a Chiss Imperial Agent, you can now create a Chiss Jedi or Sith, or a Chiss Smuggler. It makes for some truly strange and fun characters. And if you don’t want to level an existing character to get that perk, you can also just buy it with in-game credits. It’s a pretty neat little feature, and has me wanting to scrape the credits together to make a Chiss Sith Warrior. (I like the Chiss a lot, can you tell?)

Incidentally, if you want to know, here’s how I set up my “family tree”.

I have three characters (Bounty Hunter, Jedi Knight, and Sith Inquisitor) that are essentially identical in appearance, save for haircuts.  Essentially, I made them look as much like my actual appearance as the game’s character creator would let me.

What? I’ve wanted to be in the Star Wars universe since I was a kid. This game lets me!

So I created a story where the three of them are triplets to my Jedi Consular and a Jedi mother who has since died.  The Consular’s always been something of a renegade. While he stays ultimately true to the light, he’s extremely snarky and borderline disrespectful to his fellow Jedi, and considers the Jedi rules on relationships to be foolhardy and (quietly) ignored them. Incidentally, that attitude makes him a hell of a lot of fun to play.

So whoever this mystery woman was (I haven’t exactly come up with a lot about her, since she’s only peripherally related to their story), she gave birth to three triplets, two of them strong in the Force, the other not. The pair decided to bring them to Coruscant through “intermediaries” to avoid suspicion of their Jedi peers, who would probably not particularly approve of the children’s origin. So they contracted the help of a smuggler ally to present them to the Jedi order as rescued slaves. The Jedi would take care of them, discover their Force sensitivity, and take them in to be trained as Jedi. The third would be given to a trusted foster home, where he would be given a good life his true parents could never provide, but they could at least keep an eye on him.

Unfortunately, while en route to Coruscant, the smuggler’s ship was attacked by ACTUAL slavers, and two of the children taken. Only one would make it to the temple, but he would become one of the greatest Jedi Knights of his generation. The other two would become slaves of the Sith Empire. The non-Force sensitive would grow up never realizing he had brothers and eventually escape using his wits. He would become one of the greatest Bounty Hunters in the known galaxy. The other would eventually be discovered as being strong in the Force by the Sith, and sent to their academy on Korriban, eventually becoming a Dark Lord of the Sith. All three, ironically, would share their father’s feelings on love.

So that’s the basics of the story that my Legacy tree is built on. The other characters are essentially allies or rivals of those detailed above. I think it’s a pretty good setup.

I do have one negative thing about patch 1.2 that I want to talk about, and it relates to the aformentioned Bounty Hunter. I picked the Mercenary Advanced class for him because I liked the whole twin blasters-and-rocketry motif the class had, plus he had a healing tree, which I could use in groups if I so wanted. And it was fun! I enjoyed the story a lot, it takes a lot of elements of the story of Boba Fett, and by the end you really do feel like a badass warrior that everyone in the galaxy should be afraid of.

However, they beat the heck out of the Mercenary in 1.2. They lowered the damage of his main abilities and increased the Heat cost of them as well. Heat is the resource  the Bounty Hunter uses. Each ability costs so much heat, and if your heat levels get too high, you can’t use any abilities that cost heat. Your heat dissipates over time, but the higher your heat levels get, the slower it dissipates. So basically, if you aren’t careful, you can overheat yourself pretty quick.

This was something you had to watch prior to this patch, but in 1.2, they doubled heat costs for several Mercenary abilities, including some of his healing ones, as well as reducing their damage/healing effectiveness. I have tried playing my Hunter a few times since the patch, and while it isn’t so awful that he feels unplayable, he does feel gutted. The damage reduction I can live with, that’s all an issue of trying to balance the classes, but the increased heat costs were done to “encourage more active rotations”. Basically they felt like everyone was using one ability over and over, and they wanted players to use the other ones too.

Except, this wasn’t true to begin with. Good players who paid attention were already using “active” rotations to maximize their damage. These changes don’t make any differences to our rotation, they just make it more unforgiving if we mess it up or get unlucky. It just makes the character less fun, which is the worst kind of change.  Fire mages had this same problem at the start of the Cataclysm expansion. Their spells cost so much mana, they had to gimp themselves into casting weaker spells just to conserve it. It was an extremely unfun mechanic that eventually was patched out.  Hopefully BioWare will do the same. Making classes less fun to play are terrible design decisions. Change the numbers if you must, heck change up rotations if you need to. Just make sure they’re still fun to execute.

Aighty, so there’s my random Patch 1.2 thoughts. I’ve been playing more SWTOR than ever lately, which is awesome, except I can’t stay focused on one class! I have too many things I want to accomplish! And ultimately, i guess that’s a good thing!

In the Doghouse? Me? Yus!

If you know me at all, you’re probably familiar with a company called Doghouse Systems. I bought a gaming laptop from them some time ago, but I’d been talking with the owner for a while before that.  We met when his company did a big advertising push with Scott Johnson’s “The Instance” podcast, which at the time I was an active contributor to. We’d talked about what his company was going, and I gave him some ideas he might consider looking into, like having an actual laptop line.

I’ve met up with John and some of his other employees before. We’ve gotten together for lunch on a few occasions, talked on the phone several times, and the one thing I feel about these guys is that they’re real. They love gaming, and they love putting together systems that make PC games look incredible. And they go above and beyond to help people, not just their own customers. If you have a hardware question on a PC that isn’t a Doghouse, they will do their best to help if they can (and usually they can!). Personal example, John told me about a couple of tools to determine what kind of RAM I needed to buy for my desktop. That wasn’t a DHS machine, either. So, yeah, I really believe in this company. They’re real people, folks who’re legit about their gaming love and PC hardware. They want to be a part of that kind of community. People like that, I can respect.

So in order to connect with the established gamer community and to start building their own part of it, they started a podcast. Not about just their products, about hardware in general. What’s good, what works well together, sharing benchmarks, how to do upgrades and test your improvements, that sort of thing. Over time it’s evolved into covering new PC releases in depth, discussing overclocking, answering listener submissions, and the like.

The problem they have is consistency. The podcast could go anywhere between two weeks and four months between updates. Twitter updates became fewer and further between. Facebook page updates suffered similarly.

This is completely understandable. They’re a small but growing company. The word’s getting out and more folks are getting impressed by what they have to offer. So needless to say, they’re busy as heck!

But they really wanted to stay with this, to be more consistent in their offerings, and to continue being a part of the wider gaming community in the web.

And that’d be where I come in. Myself and a gent named Jeff Baender.

Jeff, like me, digs what DHS is trying to build. He’s been contributing his insane amount of knowledge concerning overlocking, benchmarking, and hardware knowledge in general to their forums and the podcast.

So John and the DHS guys have asked us for help. We’re now both fulltime cohosts of the Doghouse podcast. Jeff will bring his knowledge, and I’ll bring my organizational skills and gaming enthusiasm! I’ll be preparing shownotes and researching possible topics for the show. Jeff and I will also be collaborating on a new gaming review segment called Left and Right Brain that will be featured every other podcast episode, as well as having a place for it on the web. And there’s lots more ideas we have for how we can help that aren’t ironed out yet, but we’re working on them!

I’ll also have access to their Twitter and Facebook accounts as well, to get more postings out there to the fans and greater community.

So yeah, I’m incredibly stoked about this. I can’t wait to see where it goes, and to have some of my own content out there for you guys to check out. So keep an eye on Doghouse Systems on Facebook and Twitter, and if you’re into PC gaming and hardware, give the podcast a listen over. I think you’ll dig it, I really do.

It’s Orange, it’s Boxy.

I now am in possession of The Orange Box. For those not inclined towards videogaming, The Orange Box is a compilation of 5 games: Half-Life 2, Half-Life 2: Episode 1, Half-Life 2: Episode 2, Team Fortress 2, and Portal. And all five of them are absolutely spectacular works.

Half-Life 2 is what it says, the second chapter in the Half-Life story. It also uses a revolutionary graphics and in-game physics engine that has set the standard for every First-person shooter to follow it. All of these games use that engine to some extent.

Half-Life 2: Episodes 1 and 2 should really be numbered as Half-Life 3. They’re direct sequels that continue Half-Life 2’s story. Valve releases them in short episodes to shorten development time (of which they are notorious for having extremely long of).

Team Fortress 2 is a class-based multiplayer FPS. By “class-based” I mean that when you jump into a game, you pick from one of 9 classes, such as Soldier, Scout, Spy, Medic, etc, and you have different weapons and abilities based on that choice. And you can change whenever you feel like. It’s basically a big chaotic game with everyone trying to survive and accomplish the mission (which usually involves capturing control points) but it’s still a lot of fun. So far, my class of choice seems to be the engineer. I love building sentry guns.

Portal…Portal is very very different. It’s not even really a shooter. It’s a first person puzzle game. Your only weapon is a gun that, when you fire it, places a blue portal opening on a flat surface. Use the alt fire, and it places a yellow one. Now by walking through either of these portals, you instantly come out the other end. Same goes for any objects. Sounds easy right? Well, now try to imagine what happens if you put one portal on the floor and the other on the wall, and fall through it. You’ll come out of the wall with the same momentum you got from falling through the first portal. Basically the game consists of you using this gun to get around obstacles, move items where they need to go, avoid hazards, and the like. But there’s a very very startling and compelling storyline around it all that can leave you uneasy and on your toes. It’s a great great game, albeit a little short. There’s plenty of timed challenges outside of the main story for you to play with after, though.

So basically, you get all 5 of those games for dirt cheap, like a total of $50. That’s an insanely good deal.

I also got a new long sleeve shirt and a sample set of colognes.

Well, as you can probably guess, with Call of Duty 4, The Orange Box, and my warlock in World of Warcraft going so well, I’ve been gaming a lot this holiday. And I haven’t been disappointed by one of them! This is going to make it hard to finish BioShock before the end of next month though, but I’ve just got to knuckle down and do it!

But not this weekend. In a few short hours I’ll be heading down to Waco to celebrate the new year with Chris and Kelley plus whoever else is down there (and who that might be, I don’t know!)

See ya’ll in 2008!

The Stones…or perhaps Stoneage….Stone Age?

Christopher and Kelley Stone.


So we got the guy all good and married. It was a fun weekend.

I show up on Friday night, we’re all gonna go out and have some wings, then go do something else fun. Well, we end up deciding we’ll go do Capture the Flag on campus, but we don’t have enough people to make it good, so we decide to play Sardines in Draper instead.

As most of you have probably heard by now, that didn’t exactly end well for us. Somebody, and I suspect it was the cleaning crew, called DPS on us.

Let me backtrack. I found Chris (our initial hider) before the last few people did, and somebody decided they didn’t all want to hide, we should all move around as a group. Which, I should point out, is against the rules of Sardines, last I checked. But, everyone ran off, and Josh and I got seperated from the group because we ran into the guys who hadn’t found Chris yet. So we walk around with them for a while, both Josh and I are mad because neither of us like this idea, and at some point I slipped away, and ran off to look for the group. All of the sudden a DPS officer comes around the corner and orders me to sit down. Tony’s there, he’s already been caught. She starts questioning us about what we’re doing there, and all this mess. Some more DPS officers come out of the elevator, apparently they haven’t found them either. Finally, she asks me to call the others on my phone and get em over here, which I did, though I honestly should have told them to just leave.

Basically they run our names and all to make sure none of us are wanted or anything, then they proceed to tell us that we could be charged with criminal trespassing for being inside a building that is supposed to be closed. But they’re not, they’re just going to let us go. So all’s well, right?

Uh, no. Not at all. For one thing, the doors were not locked. You can’t charge us for trespassing on a college campus when the doors aren’t locked. Secondly, there are no posted hours anywhere on that building, last I checked. I’ve been in that building late on a Friday night before, and no one had a problem with it then. Thirdly, there were OTHER STUDENTS in that building and none of them were asked to leave.

So basically, they blew a lot of smoke at us, but no fire. We didn’t break in, we didn’t damage anything in the building, and you got nothing. Quit wasting your time and go actually catch some bike thieves for once.

Anyway, now that I have that rant out of my system…the wedding was beautiful. Earle-Harrison House in Waco is truely a lovely spot. The gazebo where they had the ceremony was swarming with ladybugs, hilariously enough. They were crawling all over the groomsmen and bridesmaids, but it still went great. And Kelley, I take back every bad thing I said about those brown tuxes. Those were pretty pimp, I gotta admit.

Wishing them both the best, as always.

I would like to say thanks to Rudyard’s parents who hosted a bonfire/cookout for us on Saturday night. Had an absolute ball hanging out there with everyone, ridin’ through a dark field in Rudyard’s truck, sittin around a giant fire, watching a magnesium battery burn in said fire, and eatin’ chicken. What else could ya need?

In more nerdy news, it seems Justin is wanting to organize a D&D game that meets something like once a month, and we’ve gotten several people interested in playing, among them Lee, Josh, and Jule Bradford. Plus me, of course. This is looking like a fun opportunity to get back in to the game. I’m pretty sure I’m going to be the one doing the DM-ing. I’m excited about that, I’ve never done it regularly before, and I think it’ll be fun putting together little mini-adventures for everyone to go on. I’ve even got some ideas brewin’ in the ol’ noggin.

I did not realize this, but Josh has an incredible collection of classic point-and-click adventure games from Sierra and Lucasarts. I found this out for the first time this weekend. He even gave me all the files I’d need to run some of them, including Maniac Mansion and Sam and Max Hit The Road. I have an old CD-ROM copy of Sam and Max, but I could never get it to run on XP. That is, until I discovered a nifty app called ScummVM. SCUMM is the old utility that Lucasarts made Maniac Mansion with (it actually stands for Script Creation Utility for Maniac Mansion) and further versions of it were used to make sucessive point and click games, like Monkey Island, Loom, or the aformentioned Sam and Max. ScummVM basically creates an environment within XP in which these games can be run perfectly (VM = Virtual Machine). I played through Sam and Max again for the past couple of days, and man it’s so much fun, and still hilarious. If you have any of these old games, or were a fan and might like to play them again, go download ScummVM and see what it’s compatible with. You can probably find a lot of the old games online as freeware, or talk to Josh about getting some of them.

Well I think that’s it for me. Talk to ya’ll later, and Merry Christmas!

funny pictures

Rants aplenty.

Don’t you just love media bias? No? That’s okay, I was being sarcastic. I hate it. It’s completely idiotic, and what’s worse, there are a lot of people who believe it with no real thought to challenge it.

Take the so called assumption that video games are inherently linked to violence. You’ve all heard that one, no doubt. There’s been plenty of studies that supposedly link the two, and others that say there is no connection. So why the significant difference?

Dr. Christopher Ferguson has a theory, one he published in Psychiatric Quarterly (which I found out via Ars Technica here), that suggests a combination of nonstandard experimentation, and, yes you guessed it, publication bias is responsible.

Publication bias, for the record, is the tendency of researchers and journals to only publish positive results in experimentation.

Take a look at the article for yourself to see his meta-analysis of the research on the topic. He basically eliminated all studies that did not show or measure actual aggressive behavior (leaving only 17 published studies) and of all of those, not ONE did not show a severe publication bias.

So basically, there does not exist a single study linking violent games and actual violent behavior that is scientifically sound. I love it.

I’ll say it again people. Games only trigger violent behavior in people who were ALREADY PREDISPOSED TO IT anyway. Know your children. Know what they’re playing (and play with them). Teach them the difference between gaming and reality. Take some responsibility. STOP SHIFTING BLAME.

In other news, the RIAA and MPAA have successfully lobbied House Democrats to incorporate a provision into the College Opportunity and Affordability Act that FORCES colleges to provide legal paying alternatives to P2P filesharing, or else they would lose ALL FEDERAL FUNDING. No grants or financial aid if you don’t give your students Napster or some equivalent (source).

First of all, since when is it the responsibility of the Federal Government to protect an industry’s failing business model? Secondly, is anyone else worried that universities are going to turn around and apply this cost to the student’s already way-to-freaking-high college costs? “Opportunity and Affordability” indeed. The House Education and Labor Committee aides SAY that these penalties are myths, but the Bill’s language proper indicates otherwise. Would our favorite little media mafia empires support it so heavily otherwise? I doubt it, personally. The bill also provides for “voluntary grants” for schools, in partnership with outside organizations, to develop effective and reasonably priced anti-piracy tools. Given the MPAA and RIAA’s track record, I suspect these so called tools will be used to augment their lawsuit sprees against so called “pirates”. Whatever happened to reasonable expectations of privacy?

Call your House represenative, and get this killed before it ever makes it out of the House. Please. The MPAA and RIAA are out of control with their lawsuits and lobbying to protect their failing content business model and need to be stopped.

Moving on from my political discourses, but not too far away from music, I have to tell you about a new CD I just picked up that is utterly phenomenal from one of my favorite bands of all time. The band in question? Demon Hunter. They’re a recent favorite, yes, but I absolutely love their work.

Their new CD is called “Storm the Gates of Hell”. The title alone should tell you volumes about what to expect. There’s a theme that seems to run across this album, the best way I can think of to describe it is “Live what you believe if you claim to believe in and follow God”. This is not a light album, at all. It aims deep, right to the core. It will make you ask questions about your life, and you may feel some serious conviction as a result. Just a warning, you may have to be prepared to deal with that. I encourage it, because it can only lead to freedom and a better life for ya.

Fortuantely, the album is a continuously enjoyable metal experience as well. It’s hard for me to say if this is album is any better than their others, because so far, not a one of them has not been phenomenal in my eyes. If you’re a fan of metal or Demon Hunter, this one won’t disappoint. Go get it. Hell hath no fury, at all.

I know a lot of you haven’t seen my house here in Fort Worth at all, but those who have know about the Coca-Cola themed decorations. Well, this past weekend, we finally finished purging it all. It’s all gone. We’ve gotten some more modern decorations up on the walls, and painted the one wall that had the “old soda shop-style” striping a dark green. It looks really really good, and I’ll get some pictures up here as soon as I can.

Thanksgiving is coming up. Have a good one, and I’ll see ya’ll before then hopefully. Got some updates on my WoW characters I’d like to post some screenshots of, if nothing else, and I want to talk about BioShock as well, since I finally got my hands on it. For now though, I’m out.

HL2 Episode 2

If you are playing Half-Life 2: Episode 2 at the moment (or intend to at some point), be advised that this post has spoilers.

I just finished my first run through of the game. It’s incredibly fun. More of an outdoor environment than the dark sewers or cityscapes of Episode 1, and Valve did a beautiful job.

But the ending…that incredible battle with the Striders, the awesome cinematic watching the portal close, we FINALLY get some indication of WHO the G-Man is and what he’s doing, and the final reward is watching Eli Vance get murdered by a Combine Advisor, fading to black with the sounds of Alyx crying over her father’s body??

Gah…so depressing. Valve had better get Episode 3 out to us a lot quicker than 2. This is almost as bad as the cliffhanger ending to Halo 2. And when they do, I’m going to enjoy putting lead justice into every Advisor I come across.

Still, incredibly fun. I’m going to enjoy playing through it again, and especially doing some of these unlockables.