Fable III’s Dog Suit is cheap, then expensive

Man, this was weird.  I logged into Fable III this morning to play a little, and I went into the store. 

“Ooh, a dog suit!  That looks like the chicken suit from the last one!  I wonder how much that is,” I thought.  Then it got weird.

I selected it, and it showed me this:

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One Microsoft Point.. I’m ON IT!  …wait, what?

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Minus one point?  So it’s going to give me a point? 

Naturally, I’m gonna do it.  After clicking on “Download Now”, I got this completely bonkers error.

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I worked this out. That many Microsoft Points equates to five billion dollars, or more specifically, $5,368,709,118.

…that dog suit probably has fleas, anyway.

Movie shoot underway, Nov. will be costly

We’ve got two days of principle photography under our belts now on the “Reality” shoot.  So far, it’s been a blast.  I can’t wait to see what it looks like.  In two weeks, we’ll hit the ‘mansion’ and shoot the date and invasion scenes, and more.  I’m fired up!

I have a new IMDb photo on my profile. It’s one Neil Kellen took one day for me, in a panic, after realizing I had no photos to post on the “Reality” website.

November is going to be an expensive month, because it’s when a few different gadgets I’m wanting all come out around the same time.  I’m looking forward to the Kinect, the Samsung Focus and the latest Assassin’s Creed game.

I’ve been pretty darn terrible at updating here, and think I should probably turn back to my ridiculous image posting.  It always inspired me to sign in and update, so here’s today’s:

 

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Dear Splinter Cell: Conviction - I Love You, Just Not in THAT Way

samsad copy Splinter Cell: Conviction is exceptionally fun.

I had a blast playing the single-player mode, finding out about Sam Fisher’s latest adventure and the trouble he faced, saving the world and learning about the mystery of his daughter’s death.  It was exciting, well-written and compelling.  In fact, this might have been the most connected emotionally I’ve been to Sam.  Like a TV show or movie series you’ve watched for years, Sam & I had been through a lot together, and as the story unfolded, I was taken along for the ride.  I think Michael Ironside and the writers should be given giant raises for their work throughout the series.

I have a ton of fun playing the multiplayer co-operative modes, both the prologue to Sam’s story and the Deniable Ops, bite-size chunks adventures, featuring new-on-the-scene Archer & Kestrel.

The graphics are good.  The sound is good, other than Michael Ironside’s tinny-sounding voice clips this game.  He normally has such a more commanding voice in these games, in the same vein as James Earl Jones.  It just seems like something is off there (bad mixing, weird recording, etc).

I have always loved the Splinter Cell games, since the demo disc that Toys R Us handed out before the first game’s release nearly ten years ago.  Since playing that, I’ve never seen a game series get my attention or get me so immersed in the gameplay and storytelling as the Splinter Cell franchise. 

I played each of them repeatedly, honing my skills until I could get through each game rarely, if ever, getting detected.  I took pride in my ability to assess a situation and come up with the best possible course of action for either eliminating or avoiding any opposing force.  I don’t know that I’d set any records with my gameplay, but I was proud of my skills. 

This is what Splinter Cell: Conviction takes away from me:  my pride.

Playing Conviction requires a totally different skillset, a “run & gun” style more akin to Gears of War or Rainbow Six (which isn’t such a far stretch, seeing as how Maxime Beland, the game’s Creative Director, came over from the R6V team).  However, in an added twist that neither of those games even have, you can, at most points in the game, see through walls and mark bad guys with a little flag.  At that point, if you’ve earned an “execute token”, you can barge into the room, hit just one button, and automatically shoot and kill anyone you’ve flagged, up to three at a time (four, if you’ve upgraded a particular weapon).

No longer do I have to lurk in the shadows, watch enemy patrol routes, spot weaknesses in their defense and exploit them.  Now, I can just flag a few baddies from another room, bust in and hit the “win button”.

There’s a making-of video on Xbox Live and floating around the internet that has one of the most perplexing quotes I’d ever heard from a developer.  Sean Stanek, the game’s Scripted Events Director, said, “I love the old Splinter Cells, but it was time to kinda do something new.”  Wh…WHAT?  He likes them, so it’s time to change them?  What sort of message does that send to the fans?  “We know you like this… but we don’t care.”

What I hope is that this was a hiccup, a misstep on their adventure to making the next great Splinter Cell game.  While very fun in its own way, it doesn’t fit the genre I’d grown accustomed to and respected for this last third of my life.  Perhaps Ubisoft will see that though there’s no denying a group of gamers who require simpler, easier-to-master experiences, Splinter Cell fans aren’t part of that group.

I am a gamer who enjoys challenge, complexity and critical-thinking in some of my video games.  I understand the casual gamer is an appealing audience as well, and they can have most any other franchise they want.  Just don’t give them my Splinter Cell.

Splinter Cell: Conviction Demo Impressions

Being a die-hard Splinter Cell fan, this was an immediate download for me.  It was also years-worth of waiting, hype, delays and more, so when I played the demo, I had lots of expectations.

First off, the overall tone IS Splinter Cell, including the mood, writing, music, acting, etc.  I so far very much like the projection-style flashbacks and objectives.  It’s an interesting story-telling device I’ve never seen in a game.  The levels still seem dark, grimy and very tangible.

Sam is voiced again by Michael Ironside, who, in my opinion, is making it nearly IMPOSSIBLE to create a movie around Sam, since I don’t think there’s an actor around that could do that role justice.

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I’m having trouble with a part of it, and I’m not sure whether it’s the gameplay or the control scheme.  I don’t mind the game moving in a different direction, since the plot is so different from the other games, but I’m very uneasy playing it, which I haven’t been since the FIRST Splinter Cell.  Sam’s moves haven’t changed for four straight games, so in trying to make Sam do some familiar things, like drawing his gun, or taking cover, I end up throwing a grenade or reloading my gun.  There’s always a learning curve to games like this, so it’s no big deal that I can’t IMMEDIATELY do what I want.  That happens with almost all games… except Splinter Cells, until now.

So I’m going to give it several more playthroughs to familiarize myself with the controls, and try and unlearn, or at least repress, my normal thought process of controlling Sam.  I’m looking VERY forward to the story and the co-op, so I can’t WAIT to get my hands on the full thing next month, and until then will practice up on this demo.

Learning the Ropes, Halo-Style

Darren, Chris and I recently played a round of Halo 3.  Darren, being a beginner, was dropped frequently as he learned the weapons, the vehicles and the controls altogether.   The next night, he decided to cut a musical montage of his more interesting deaths, which I begged him to let me upload and share. It's attached below.  Enjoy! 

Money for… Nothing

avatar-bodyI just paid $5 for virtually nothing.  It makes my avatar look cool.  It’s a developer/publisher I’m happy to support with my dollars, but it’s something I can’t really ever interact with, just display.

I paid for an outfit to make my Xbox Live avatar look like a character from a game series I like; Splinter Cell.  It wasn’t TOO bad a deal in the grand scheme of things, because I had $7 in free Microsoft Points Picture390(Microsoft’s virtual currency used to buy Xbox and Zune purchases) from buying shampoo and stuff from Target over the weekend.

I have no tangible media on which this content is sitting.  If Xbox Live’s servers break, I cannot access what I purchased.  In essence, I purchased a license for it, which I’m granted if Xbox Live’s servers are functioning properly (which to their credit is VERY reliable, barring last winter’s complete meltdown).

The concept of it is just blowing my mind as I sit here thinking about it.  Perhaps a nice thing about it is that the money I’ve spent on this content license is going to the developer, who in turn could make a potentially stronger product with my money.

I wish more things would do this promotion, like ‘Buy a Big Mac, get $1 in MS Points’. I know it’d only appeal to a limited market, but I’d wager they’d still draw that specific crowd out to make a lot of money. 

If you play Xbox, how much virtual money do you estimate you’ve spent on the service over the years?  Is there a way to tell?

“X-Men Origins: Wolverine”, A Surprise on Two Fronts

wolverine-poster-500x740 I’ll start out by saying that I never watched the leaked “work print” of the movie that came out several weeks ago, which seems to be the source of most of the trash talk, since it was only released four days ago (from posting this).  After hearing all the negativity, I had pretty low expectations about the movie, but I thought, even if the movie around him is bad, Hugh Jackman as Wolverine would still be fun.

By the way, I’ll keep try and keep this as spoiler-free as any trailer you’ve already seen. 

This movie ended up being somewhere around the first X-Men movie, not quite to X-Men 2 level, but far better than the third movie.  Like I thought, Hugh Jackman was good, but some of the story around him was equally good.  There is MUCH creative license with his origin. Had this been Spider-Man they were dinking with, I probably would have been more critical.  However, with Wolverine’s past, so much of it has been muddled with false memories, amnesia, his healing factor “healing” his brain from painful memories, brainwashing and so forth, that it’s hard to definitively nail down his past, even IN the comics.

It pretty action-packed, with a few slowdown parts to show that Wolverine has a heart.  That may be another sticking point with die-hards.  He seems to be VERY sympathetic in this movie (and the following ones).  From what I’ve read in the comics through the 80’s and 90’s, Wolverine was more apathetic and self-centered than this, but I understand that you’ve got to care about the guy.  Otherwise, why would some of your audience watch the movie?

The weakest part, as I’ve discussed with some other people familiar with the source material, is the expendability of some of the complimentary characters.  From what I’d read, Gambit was an afterthought added by the writers after realizing that they’ve skipped him in three movies already, and the fans wanted to see him.  But unless there’s some director’s cut, he’s SEVERELY underused, using his kinetic power MAYBE twice, never his hypnosis, and otherwise just being really good at fighting with a staff.

The weakest part of the entire storyline, and what I’m betting is the most upsetting to the fans, is what they do with Deadpool.  It’s very weak, and I wish they’d just created a new character to do what he does, but instead, I suppose for name recognition, they pulled in Deadpool.  The only positive of that is that it doesn’t take up much time in the story.

Overall, I think the movie was as fun to watch as its predecessors, and don’t understand all the bad press it’s getting.

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Now, the second, bigger surprise was the game of the same name.  This game is incredible.  It’s not the same as many other movie tie-in titles, rushed out the door to make sure it’s there for kids to buy as soon as they leave the theater.  This game is a Wolverine game, that just happens to have some ties to the movie. 

In an interview with Major Nelson, Don Vondrak with Raven Software’s explained that after doing Marvel: Ultimate Alliance, they wanted to make a mature Wolverine game, and it wasn’t until a way into development that they were approached for movie tie-in themes.  The game, which was already very violent, could have some tweaks made to the plot, and they could continue making the game they wanted to make.

Then, in another bit of rare game development, Vondrak said the game had been wrapped up in December of 2007, but after the movie was delayed, they were given an extra 12 months of development time, which they used to polish it into exactly the game they wanted.

I’ve played several hours into it, and I’m TOTALLY impressed.  There are already several story lines that have nothing to do with the film, so I feel like I’m really forging new ground with Wolverine. 

Also, the game maintained the hyper-violence most suited for the character, instead of being watered down to match the tone of the movie.  So you get a better sense of the Wolverine in the comics, that you’re actually leading down this cool path of his broken memories.

Another amazing feature of the game is this incredible physics engine they use to destroy and rebuild Wolverine’s body as he takes damage.  His body can be stripped of skin, then muscle, then down to just bone.  Then, it will slowly rebuild itself as you watch.  It’s REALLY fun to experiment with.  At one point, I had taken a shotgun blast to the head.  Half of Wolverine’s face was gone, and just his metal skeleton showed through, but slowly, muscle tissue regenerated over it, then skin, then hair.  It was WILD.

I really liked both, so it was a good weekend for geekery.

Good Game Trailers II

I apparently like game trailers with interesting music choices, like in my first post like this.  This is an old one, but now, after starting watching House, I remembered this one.  If you know the show, you’ll probably know why.

Do you like this one?  What trailers stick with you?

“House, M.D.” & Bargain Bin Specials

house I’m slow on some issues.  Many of my friends, including probably the biggest proponent, Regan, have been hounding me to start watching House, M.D.  I kept saying, “I have too many shows already.  I can’t get involved in another.”

This was a mistake.

I recently got Season 1, Disc 1 from Netflix, and watched the pilot and second episode.  I’m now disappointed that I’ve let the show go for so long, but at the same time, SUPER-EXCITED that I’ve got a show to watch this summer, when all my other shows stop.

The reason I’d been holding off is because I’m now into Heroes, How I Met Your Mother, Law & Order, LOST, The Office, 30 Rock, My Name is Earl and maybe one or two more I can’t recall right now.  It would be hard to commit more time to more TV.  But the timing of my discovery couldn’t be better, because all of my shows will be wrapping up in about a month.  Then, I can catch up at my own pace to the new kid on the block.

Also, Chris and I finished Army of Two last night.  After buying the game, brand new, for $19.99 at Wal-Mart, I talked Sean and Chris into picking it up.  Sean and I played through the first few levels together, but with his erratic schedule, it’s often kind of tricky catching up online.  Then Chris picked it up, too, and he and I blasted through it in three or four nights.  There’s still plenty of reason to go back and play more, also, so not only is squeezing the life out of existing games fun, but now finding the cheapos and having fun with them is great recently, too.

Good Game Trailers

I like them.  Epic has done a great job with their Gears of War ads.  I was showing Angie last night and she liked them, too.  I took that as a sign that they were a little more than an average gameplay trailer, especially since Gears is NOT her type of game.  The first one, with Gary Jules remake of the Tears for Fears song, “Mad World”:

And then for Gears of War 2, they used DeVotchKa’s “How It Ends”:

Do you like these?  Would you buy a game, or look INTO buying a game, after seeing an ad like these?

The Goose is Getting Fat

Right now, I have very few Christmas gifts bought.  I have nearly everyone on my list picked out, but have only actually purchased/built/etc around 40% of the presents.  I do this every year, and it’s never a problem, but this year, watching all the morons at the intersection of Burkhardt and the Lloyd, it makes me a little more nervous than normal.  I put a new poll up about Christmas shopping.  Let me know how you’re doing.

banjo On the gaming front, I’ve found a new gem.  Banjo Kazooie: Nuts & Bolts.  I’m amazed with its customization, sense of humor, and ability to talk to the outside world.  In the game, you can take photos, and upload them to the Banjo Kazooie website, then download them or send them to friends at your PC.  Also, there’s a workshop where you can build vehicles to drive, float or fly around the different environments of the game.

I’ve also gotten into the show Weeds recently.  Since I can stream the first two seasons over NetFlix, I’m caught up now through the end of the second one.  Unfortunately, season three isn’t ON NetFlix right now, so I’m kind of stuck.  But seeing Kevin Nealon and Elizabeth Perkins (from the movie “Big”) again has been pretty cool.

Angie, the kids and I picked out a puppy Saturday.  Normally, I’m more of a big dog kind of guy, being around German Shepherds when I was little and a Golden Retriever more recently, but I have to say this little mutt breaks the stereotypes of little dogs.  I’ve never heard her bark, though Angie did say she did bark at Beyonce on TV once.  Which brings me to this.

Angie showed me that yesterday, and I liked it.

Fallout 3 Quick Impressions

Fallout-3-e32k6-poster Holy moly.  Fallout 3 is MASSIVE.  I’ve been playing it now for a few days, and I feel like I’ve barely scratched the surface on seeing what there is to see. 

I’m playing the game as a sort of rogue character.  I will steal when necessary, but won’t hurt an innocent person or bystander.  I just need supplies.  As I was telling Chris, if the guy that will be the one to save the world steals a couple of bucks from you on his journey, I doubt you’d mind too much.  You might even feel honored to have played your part! </rationalization>

It has one of the best video game introductions of any game I’ve seen.  It’s right up there with Bioshock-calibur openings.  Good voice acting too, led by Liam Neeson.  Apparently, Bethesda likes to pull in some Anglo-Saxon talent to kick off their stories.  (Oblivion was led by Patrick Stewart as the Emperor)

It’s Oblivion in scope, as well, though like GTA4, it doesn’t seem as large of a game world, opting instead for a more densely populated, more detailed world.

It will be one that will definitely be installed to the hard drive once the NXE is released.

Saints Row 2: Bigger, Badder, Still a Little Buggy

I know that Bigger, Badder, Buggier would be a better working title, but it’s just not the case.  Saints Row 2 is FUN.

The graphics are updated, but the game still suffers from the tearing that its older brother had.  To be fair, there’s a v-sync option in this game, too, but then you take a framerate hit, so it’s six of one, half dozen of the other.

The city was FUN to explore.  I spent a lot of time in Stilwater from the first game, and became pretty familiar with how to get around.  So I was excited to explore again, and find that the city wasn’t some crazy departure.  The map of the islands were basically the same, and the only difference was it has expanded north and west to have newly developed suburbs, a trailer park, a prison area and more.  The neighborhood that your ‘gang’ operated out of in the last game has been pretty much leveled and rebuilt as a bizarre utopian community of the future by what looks like an evil giant corporation that we’ll be going up against later.

The music is a significant improvement from the last game, minus a talk radio station. I REALLY missed that station.  It was an over-the-top political pundit chat show, similar to the WKTT station in GTA4.  I can only hope it will be added as DLC.

Really, the only ‘bugs’ I encountered were when I was trying to play Co-op with Chris.  We had a HELL of a time, each getting booted one time, and various buggy things happening when we WERE connected.  I honestly don’t think it would be such a big deal if the game’s autosave feature wasn’t so negligent.  We would get pretty far in the game, making some money and earning ‘respect’, but when a crash happened to one of us, when we came back, everything we’d done over the last half hour would be undone.  Now, part of that is our fault, because we could ALWAYS have just saved once a mission was completed, but sometimes it’s hard to get used to a manual system like that for the first few hours.

The driving was GREAT.  It wsa nice to come back to a driving game that didn’t feel like you were driving on heavily lubed clouds (I’m talking to YOU, GTA4).  The cars were responsive, braked better AND they added a cruise control system that let you set your speed, then just steer.  THAT, my friends, is a cool feature.

It’s still cornball, over the top, wannabe ‘gangsta’ action, but it’s FUN!  One of the missions Chris and I did last night was dress up like police officers, and go with a sketchy producer and cameraman to fake a “Cops” type show called “Fuzz”.  There, we’d go to various crime locations, and beat the tar out of perpetrators until the guy got enough footage. 

My favorite part about the game is the INSANE amount of customization, from the curve of your top eyelid to the walking animation your character will have, the game lets you tweak everything about your character, clothes and car.  You can even choose from a weak selection of 3 voice actors.  Not that the actors themselves are weak, they’re actually quite good.  I just couldn’t find one to suit ME.  There’s a Hispanic, a British, and a “Gangsta” voice, of which, I am none of those.  I picked the Brit, knowing I’d get plenty of the other voice types from other characters in the game. 

Overall, I KNOW I’m going to like this game.  I played the first one from beginning to end, and my first two sessions with the game have been a blast.  Hopefully there’s some patch work being don to add stability to the co-op, because other than the two lockups, the going in and out was seamless.  Playing through that game alone will be a blast, but having assistance from a buddy will be that much better!

Blu-Ray: “A Bag of Hurt”, Jobs Says

That’s one of the funniest quotes I’ve heard in a long time.  Everyone’s so weird about talking about Blu-Ray, so when he said that, and described the pains, I was happy.  I still want a hard-copy of an HD movie, but it apparently should’ve been HD-DVD who won, since more studios liked working with it.  Sony and its proprietary format crap is KILLING them, and they still don’t get it.

Engadget quoted Jobs as saying, “Blu-ray is just a bag of hurt. It's great to watch the movies, but the licensing of the tech is so complex, we're waiting till things settle down and Blu-ray takes off in the marketplace."

If Apple can’t get it worked out, I doubt I’ll be seeing an add-on on my Xbox anytime soon.  =( 

The world isn’t ready for digital-only downloaded movies, is it?  What do you think?  I’ve got a poll up now on the right about the topic.

Summer Movies Shifting to Fall Games

As the summer movie season seems to be wrapping up, I thought about what a good summer it was.  There were several that I will probably want to catch again in the $3 theater, since it'll be the last time to see them on a big screen.  Tropic Thunder, Pineapple Express, Iron Man, Hulk, Mamma Mia, The Dark Knight, Wanted and probably one or two others I'm forgetting.

Now, as that slows down, fall becomes game season.  The summer is generally pretty slow, 'new game'-wise, which is actually great on the wallet.  It's also a chance to catch up on some games that got back-burnered from last year. 

So far, I've played through a really strong RPG called Mass Effect.  I don't know what came out shortly after that distracted me from it, but it's a very good game.  Lots of branching dialog paths and an intricate leveling-up skill tree, plus HOURS of well-done voice acting and good visuals make it a really cool experience.

Also I'm catching up now on Marvel: Ultimate Alliance, a superhero game where the teams you build determine your success in certain situations.  It can also be played co-operatively, so Sean and I have been going through a lot of it together, and I really think Luke would have fun playing it, too.

Though it might not be as big as last year's holiday season, this one is going to be big.

I'll be trading in several titles in the coming weeks, trying to keep the cash for some of these and still have enough for Christmas!

What games are you interested in?  Did I miss any big ones?

Braid: Wow

I downloaded the demo for a few Xbox Live Arcade games last night, and started playing one that I bought as soon as I finished the demo.  It's called Braid, and it's a cross between a Mario game, a Prince of Persia game and an impressionist painting.

Mario in that it's a side-scroller, with jumping and platforms.

Prince of Persia because of the manipulation of time.  If you mess something up, you can essentially 'rewind' the game back to where you'd messed up and do it differently.  Some things in the game AREN'T affected by your time control, like moving platforms or items to collect, so there are several puzzles and impasses that you have to work through how you can manipulate time to your advantage and help you through them.

And impressionist paintings can't really be described with words.  I attached a short video highlighting some of the graphics and music, which I can't get over how beautiful it looks and sounds.  A lot of time and artistry went into putting this game together.  It makes me wish I could do this kind of stuff.

(When time is manipulated, the colors kind of go grey and the music is played backwards)

What do you think of the game?  Poll time!