Tuesday, September 29, 2009

Life With My New Sims

I've been working hard at creating my new Sims 2 university and it's turning into quite the college! I decided to build my first dozen or so ideas and then create a household of 6 random young adults to start populating it. This way, I have plenty of room for new buildings but these people have plenty of places to visit as well.

As the theme of this particular college is "Big State School" I made a lot of ivy-covered buildings with tall columns and lots of brick, inspired to some extent by my own college visits of long ago. The main campus buildings include a library and student union as well as a bunch of "academic" buildings focused on particular hobbies and areas of study, like a performing arts center with lots of musical instruments, a ballet studio, and so on. There are also two sports stadiums, an outdoor one for soccer and an indoor arena for basketball (I also plan to build a "hockey" arena even though the skating rink is definitely more for figure skating).

Hopefully this will make my new Sims graduate with skills beyond their college requirements. This is the ragtag group that will be responsible for populating the world. I tried to make them diverse, from the money-loving blonde snob to the goth chick who (somewhat surprisingly, I think) wants nothing more than to start a family to the pleasure aspiration hippie dude who just wants to create fun for everyone. They all started out in a dorm together, but now that they've finished their freshman year I split them up into groups. The guys will start a fraternity (I'm building their Greek house right now) and the girls are moving into other dorms according to their interests.

What I find rather funny is their preferred hobbies, some were so surprising! The goth girl loves cooking above all, not what I was expecting but it's a fun twist. Luckily, the nerdy one is into science, couldn't have planned that better! She even wants to be an oceanographer, which dovetails quite nicely. Her logic is already at 6! In practically no play time!

Not too much happened during their tenures as freshmen, I let them have a bit more free will than I usually do and just watched their personalities and learned how I can guide them in the future. They also started some good friendships together, which I plan to exploit like crazy later.

I think I'm having more fun with this game than I did before TS3 came out, it's like the new game made me appreciate the old even more. I do get a little confused at moments, though, forgetting that some of the features of TS3 are NOT in TS2. I also miss the ability to turn objects diagonally. Oh, well, it's worth missing those things to play the overall better game.

Monday, September 28, 2009

I'm Trick-trick-trick-trick-trick-trick-tricky!!

Another Sunday/Monday, another chance to have fun with the ol' PS2. I finished Castaway again and moved on to SSX Tricky. Oh, so fun! I used to rock that game and it was a little frustrating at first to try to remember all the controls and then it took awhile to make them work like they should. This game has quite a bit of nuance, I forgot that after it became easy when I was playing it a lot.

Which begs the question: Will there be an SSX for PS3? I've seen much speculation and even news of possible teasers for it, but I (wisely) don't trust rumor and speculation. It was a highly successful franchise for PS2 and, while playing Tricky on PS2 I can't help but marvel at how beautiful it could be in HD.

There aren't that many games I care about bringing to this gen, there are too many bad sequels about already and the only thing worse than a favorite franchise being killed off is when the sequels suck. On the other hand, there are a lot of lame snowboarding games and having a great one in this gen would be simply marvelous. SSX is the only snowboarding franchise that I would bet on making something worth the money.

I am proud to say that I did get the hang of it again pretty quickly, and had a lot of fun blasting through the World Circuit (made it through to Tokyo Megaplex in freestyle and topped that off with a few gold medals in the early races). My loud cheering for myself even eclipsed my boyfriend's football cheers! I didn't have as much time to play this week as I spent most of Sunday at a street fair but quality beats quantity every time, and this is a quality game.

Thursday, September 17, 2009

Revisiting My Past

Ah, the PS2! You have been neglected lately, living in a drawer in the bedroom under the old TV we rarely use. You were the first expensive present I gave my boyfriend and you helped us bond over so many wonderful games. You still work perfectly but have to compete with two shiny new-generation machines and even a couple of handheld systems and my phone and computer. It's a sad fate for something that has been practically a friend over the years.

But wait! It turns out that you have more use being in the "other room" than you did just a year ago, when you were our best Sony system and attached to the plasma. The first hints of autumn bring football and fantasy football and take the big TV and the computer away from me quite a lot. Now, you are my savior! I'm not avoiding football, I'm gaming!

A lot of people have complained about the PS3 not having backwards compatibility but I'm almost glad it doesn't. I can't imagine playing even my favorite games from the PS2 on it, there's just too much fun to be had with my PS3 games if it's available. As a backup console on a backup TV, though -perfection.

Plus, there's something pleasant about not having to go through menus and stuff. I wouldn't give up a single feature of the PS3 to make that happen, but it's just a nice change. On the other hand, the load times are DRIVING ME CRAZY!

So, okay, I've been laming out on Sims 2 Castaway (which is fun to play again now that I've forgotten EVERYTHING about it), but I am definitely mapping out an awesome queue of games to get me through February. It's the first time I've been excited about the start of football in years, used to be a big fan but I guess I outgrew that and have started to dread the season. Oh, yeah, it may be because I lose my computer and big TV and even boyfriend to it... hmmm?

Still, I feel I must add: GO GIANTS!!!

What can I say? I'm a mess of contradictions.

Wednesday, September 16, 2009

Gone Simming!

Sorry I haven't written much lately. I have this stupid Christmas present crafty thing I've been working on (I know, I know, I'm nuts, it's only September, but it's a HUGE project) and every other spare moment has been dedicated to playing The Sims 2 again. Well, also playing some PS2 again, but that's a topic unto itself.

As I mentioned in my last post I decided to start fresh with a whole new neighborhood of my own creation in every way. This means a LOT of building and planning if I want the neighborhood of my dreams.

One thing I always felt like I did wrong in the past was create adult Sims after I got University. I mean, not everyone needs to go to college but the perks of those extra want slots is a good way to go with a new Sim. Not to mention that creating my founding Sims as young adults will let them get some skills before entering the job market, as a Sim born and raised in the game would have skills before becoming an adult.

Therefore, my first move this time around was to create the base neighborhood (of course) and go straight to creating a university. The neighborhood is named "Polansky" in honor of NASA Astronaut Mark Polansky (who tweeted his way through STS-127 as @Astro_127 and helped get me re-addicted to following the space program). The university is the completely uninspired "University of Sim State" because I wanted to build that style of school and play on "Sim State University". A stupid inside joke with myself, I realize.

Going with the huge state school style means building some huge fancy buildings, though, so it is taking awhile. I'm trying to gear the school towards a diversity of interests and thus am creating at least one building that covers each skill and hobby. There are the campus staples like a library, a student union, a "quad", and even a basketball arena and soccer stadium. I also made some "academic" buildings for visual and performing arts and plan to make a culinary center, science building, and an agricultural center. Then you have the fun stuff like bars, a beach club, dance clubs, fishing holes, and stores where they can pick up nearly everything.

This is before I even touch the whole residential situation!

It will probably take a few more weeks but when the campus is ready for it's first Sims I will take some screenshots and post them. I think my Sims will like it a lot, though, and be able to graduate from college with much more than just the perks that come with a diploma.

Thursday, September 3, 2009

Newer Does NOT Equal Better, Part 2

I LOVE The Sims 2. Frankly, when I heard they were coming out with a 3rd version of the game, I was a little skeptical. The improvements between 1 and 2 were vast and obvious, they took a great game that became unplayable after a time (simply due to the lack of aging as it got boring to play the same exact family for too long) and turned it into something I had hardly dared to dream of at the time. Sure, there were still things that could be improved upon, there always are, but it was a solid game that could be played endlessly.

I like long-term value in a game. Even if I had a lot of money I'd prefer having a few games that entertain me for months or even years than every hot new title to come down the path. A great game is much like a great book except even better as each "read-through" yields a different story.

I've created giant families in TS2 with detailed and involved storylines, towns filled with houses that I would kill to live in, and built business and real estate empires that would be the envy of real titans of industry. I love each of my little digital people truly like a god should, for their quirks as well as achievements, even when they wreck my carefully-laid plans. I almost never play with houses or Sims created by others, I invest the time and build from scratch, a very rewarding effort.

The problem is, I have a laptop that's old and doesn't have a very large hard drive and you can't put Sims files on an external. My TS2 files are over 7 gigs, even without all the downloads and junk! So, I just can't have two different Sims games on it at the same time. The day my copy of TS3 came home I dutifully uninstalled all of TS2 (carefully backing it up, of course) and loaded the new game, even though I wanted to cry at the loss of everything I had created.

As mentioned in Part 1, I then discovered that I don't like TS3 nearly as much and decided to go back to TS2. So, much of my weekend ended up being a lot of re-installing. The weird thing was, I also decided to not re-install all of my downloads because I just don't have the drive space anymore, which meant going back to my old towns would be a pain as they are full of downloaded objects. I'm glad I went that route, the game is far faster and works better in every way without them.

The upshot is that I am starting from scratch again. I deleted all of the pre-installed towns and have a nice clean version of the game with exactly one neighborhood, where I plan to build every single building and create every playable Sim (unless the ones I create fall in love with townies, of course). All of the information about this town will be logged in my brand-spanking-new database that I've always wanted to create for this game. I guess you could say I renewed my commitment to TS2 in a very big way.

Wednesday, September 2, 2009

Newer Does NOT Equal Better, Part 1

Over the weekend I did something I never would have expected, uninstalling The Sims 3 and re-installing The Sims 2. I tried really hard to like TS3, but it just didn't work out.

I don't hate the game, it was amusing for a bit and a few aspects I even fell in love with. If I had the hard drive space for both games I could see playing it occasionally. Being able to choose patterns and colors for all objects and clothes was creatively freeing, working towards happy moodlets was inspiring, and being able to have different Sims having different adventures outside of the house at the same time took care of a few of the odd timing problems with the older versions of the game. It was also quite neat to have the whole neighborhood aging together, a bit more realistic and handy in creating life-long relationships. The problem is, at what price do you get all of those features?

My most basic issue with the game is the inability to develop your own neighborhoods or even customize much within the neighborhoods provided. I can understand that some of the new buildings, like the ones that provide jobs, would require some sort of extra structure to the game, but did they really have to make it so I can't just plop a lot anywhere I'd like to? I wanted to build a home by the shore for one family that still wasn't too far from the school or their jobs but there weren't any existing lots like that.

Another basic, yet all-important, gripe I have is that you can't play multiple families without undoing all the work you've put into one. When kids grow up I'd like to be able to move them out of their original households AND still keep track of them. The one time I sucked it up and switched households, to a now-adult that my Sims had raised and I had developed to be an ambitious workaholic scientist, it turned out that he hadn't bothered to go into work since he'd moved away! If you are going to get to set personality types the Sims should actually live up to them, at least to some extent. After all, what's the point otherwise?

Not helping the game at all is the absolute patheticness of it's Prima Guide. I have their guide to every single Sims game and expansion pack and have found them immensely helpful in the past. I believe Greg Kramer wrote all of the older ones and I was dismayed to see his name missing from the new one (yes, I have become a fan of a game guide author. A little scary fact about the person I've become). As it turns out, my fears were well-founded. Every single question that cropped up in my head went unanswered in favor of the author, Catherine Brown, doing things like talking about Sims she created and their experiences. Seriously? That didn't help me at all, and certainly not as much as having basic details like what day and time the symphony performs would have. Guides are for charts and facts and details that are very hard to find without help from the people who designed the game, not prose.

I'm not thoroughly dismayed that I not only bought the game but sprang for the collector's edition (especially since I really like the included USB flash drive), but have absolutely no problems waiting for the day when I have built my new gaming desktop to play it. I just don't have the same kind of cravings to play it as I do with TS2. Oh, the cravings!

More on that in my next post, though.

Tuesday, September 1, 2009


Hi my name is CraftLass & I'm the live-in girlfriend of a PixelJunkie. What's worse, is I fear I may become one myself.

We downloaded the demo of PixelJunk Eden awhile back and played it a lot. It was a bit pathetic how much we played that demo before I decided we really should buy it. After all, a $10 game that gives you more than 10 hours of fun is a great value, right?

The thing is, I've barely even gotten to play it (or anything on our main entertainment system) since then. My boyfriend has become thoroughly addicted. It's at the point where he is claiming to hate the game because it's gotten a lot harder at his current level and he is quite frustrated, yet he still plays it so much he's even missed a lot of pre-season football (he's in a fantasy league and generally watches pre-season more avidly than the real season to try to spot the surprise new players that would be great for fantasy).

Meanwhile, I'm on the 5th spectra of Garden 1 still. I meant it when I said I've barely gotten to play at all. If it weren't for my PC and his PSP I don't know if I'd get to game anymore!

I'm glad he's so into the game, I really am. Yet, I can't help but wonder if I created a monster. The trouble with a two-gamer household is that it's hard to share, especially when multiple consoles are on the same TV. It's also easy to both forget about things like cooking, eating, drinking water, and sleeping. You know, that mundane stuff that's a requirement for being alive and healthy?

So, thank you and damn you to all the folks at PixelJunk, for making such a silly little game that is so darn compelling!

Friday, August 21, 2009

Hatred is Never Helpful

I logged into Twitter this afternoon and found a link to this article: Why Do the Press Hate the Sony Playstation 3? It's from an Australian site (so don't get confused by the prices they quote) and may be the most overdue piece in gaming journalism today.

"As you can see, the arrival of the PS3 Slim has done nothing to quell the fires of hatred from the gaming press. For reasons I can’t begin to fathom, fair and balanced journalism seems to have gone out the window when it comes to Sony, with many commentators treating the Nippon conglomerate with as much distaste as a sniffling swine flu victim. Just what has Sony done to tick you all off, exactly?"

It truly is baffling. As far as I've ever been able to tell, the only mistake Sony actually made was releasing the PS3 later than the 360. That's it. They also gave gamers plenty that we want and need with this generation, like wireless networking included and wireless controllers that can actually survive a pretty long night of marathoning, and of course, the all-important lack of online fees. The only things I've ever needed to buy were an extra controller and a long HDMI cable to reach our TV. Our PS3 was a present, but even if I'd paid for it the grand total expenditure, minus games, was about $500. That's BEFORE the new price cut, obviously. I may buy two more controllers at some point, but as we mostly play single-player games on it, they're only needed for LittleBigPlanet parties around here.

One of my closest friends ended up spending about $2,000 on 360s and necessary accessories. I say 360s because he has owned 3. All got the infamous RROD, one took about a year to die but the subsequent two died in about a week. I would LOVE to get a 360 for about 2 or 3 games, but that is just too rich for my blood. I have no hatred of Microsoft or their consoles, I just can't afford to own a 360 as things stand. Gosh, I wish it was different.

Still, I find it baffling that anyone who would call themselves a journalist wouldn't jump on that story. Why is it that everyone is so quick to call out any tiny "evil" thing Microsoft does in the computer arena but no one in the gaming press ever calls them out on making a console that can die so quickly and easily? Why does everyone scream, "Monopoly!" when it comes to Windows but at the same time seem to want Microsoft to have a monopoly in the gaming world? (On a side note, why do so many people seem to want an Apple monopoly? Just as baffling.)

Console competition is healthy, it makes engineers and developers search for new inspiration and directions to move in. If one company truly won the war we would never have all these wonderful features and choices because there would be no impetus to design them. Heck, we would likely be content to just play our PS2s forever if it weren't for all these smart people needing to find ways to differentiate their next product.

Not only does modern news need a new Walter Cronkite but the gaming world sure could use some of his ethics.

Thursday, August 20, 2009

Indian Giving by Accident and Addiction

I have a confession: I bought my boyfriend a PSP last Christmas, saved up my pennies because he'd wanted one for years, and he has yet to get to play it. I even bought him some cool games and one of our friend's filled out the collection a little more as she knew about his gift. A wonderful trick I learned from my mother, let select people know about a big gift and they can get things to go with it (of course, you need friends who can keep secrets for this to work).

I even bought him a whole football-themed set of accessories, from case to car charger. I got really sick of football a few years back and figured that all the accessories would make it clear that it was his PSP, not mine. Great thought, but it hasn't played out well.

As I mentioned in my previous post, I am addicted to Patapon for the second time, and in-between I played a lot of Echochrome and Ratchet & Clank: Size Matters and used it as a media player and even as a browser when my computer was in the shop (whenever the TV and PS3 or Wii were being used). I take it with me any time I think I'll have even a few minutes to game and enough room in whatever bag I'm carrying. It's getting to the point where I can't live without it.

My boyfriend, bless his heart, keeps telling me he doesn't mind, but I still feel quite guilty. He's hogged a few games he bought for me, too. We share pretty much everything, as you should when you share a home. Still, this was supposed to be something special just for him. I thought it would be great for him to take to work and use during his breaks, but he never does.

Maybe it was inevitable that I would co-opt it then?


When Patapon 2 came out I got all excited. I adore Patapon in a way unlike almost any other game. It amuses me on so many levels, from the ego boost from being called "Mighty" all the time by those funny little eyeballs to the way the Patapon's react to my drumming. I'm trained in percussion, so obviously I'm a bit predisposed towards it, although you would think that means I play other rhythm games and I haven't tried them. Nope, not even Guitar Hero or Rock Band.

But back to Patapon 2. I was all set to buy it and realized that I had never finished the first game. I got close, but set it aside for a time. It just didn't seem right to move on to part two without getting all the pleasure I could out of the original, and of course, I hadn't played for awhile so I didn't want to start right where I had left off. On a rainy Saturday I pulled it out and started all over again, tutorials and all. I'm so glad!

I'm back to near the end of the game again and played it so much smarter this time. Careful material holding has allowed me to build a fantastic army with lots of rarepons and everything is both easier and more fun. I've worked out the secrets to all of the bosses' movements. I have lots of materials to build more rarepons before I enter the final stage and am confident I'll have this thing beaten soon, even though I can't help but dither around with the bosses a little more.

It's just too much fun! Now, that is a great game value. When a game only gets MORE fun after months of play it's pure magic. Even better, the game makes me smile, which is sort of rare these days (a lot of fun games are a little depressing, you know? Serious subject matter and dark graphics can be wonderful but hardly make you smile a lot).

I just hope the sequel lives up to it.

Wednesday, August 19, 2009

WHY Am I Enjoying This?!?!

As I mentioned in my last post, I have been playing Order Up! all night tonight. I threw it in thinking I would play for about an hour to check it out and then turn on TS3 and dig into the pile of shows my DVR recorded while I was out last night. Ah, the best-laid plans!

How did this silly game suck me in so hard? I've logged 2 hours of game time with no end in sight. That's actual play time, it's been more like 3 since I've turned it on.

It turns out that cleverness can make up for almost anything.

The gameplay is fairly obvious in some ways, especially if you have ever cooked in real or virtual life. The Wiimote is wonderful for this, you actually chop, flip items in the pan, tear off lettuce leaves, and so on. Does it feel like the real thing? Of course not. It's a pretty good video game version, though. Some of the bits of cooking are quite difficult to get just right (my bane is the lettuce thing), but quickly the game gives you the option of skipping the onerous tasks by giving them to an assistant to prepare. It's a nice feature even though I realized early on that by not practicing these motions I will never get better at them. Oh, well, that's why you get to hire more assistants as you need them and earn enough "coin".

Even a cooking game with nice controls and a bit of a challenge gets boring after a bit, though, which is where the cleverness comes in. Every so often they throw you a mini-game, from a mid-shift game to shake your assistant awake to a very funny rat-flicking challenge. They come up frequently and you can't get out of them. I actually had a lot of trouble at first figuring out how to flick rats and I still don't completely have the hang of it, but luckily, if you fail to rid your restaurant of rats the health inspection mini-game is quite easy. Yep, the Health Inspector will shut you down until you prove you can really get your plates clean!

The point, though, is that these games wake you out of your cooking stupor and get you more engrossed. The monotony that most games suffer from is decimated.

There is also a tiny bit of management to your restaurant ventures but it is very rudimentary, involving mostly upgrades and spices. The game gives you a mini-tutorial on all of these different gameplay aspects as they open up, which is nice. They don't take long and they usually tell you just what you NEED to know.

I just got to the end of the first restaurant, where the food critic comes to evaluate your greasy spoon. It's a little bit crazy how excited I was to manage a perfect recipe and plenty of praise from the critic.

I wanted to stick with the game to this point at least just to see what happens when you open your second restaurant, a Mexican one.

Oh, it's so wonderfully kitschy (cactus chairs!) and just adorable. This game may have the worst graphics I've seen on a home console (even for the Wii) but it manages to take advantage of the crappiness somehow. Even the food is cute and is kind of making me crave some tacos.

With a new restaurant comes not only new recipes but new spices to buy and more assistants to choose from. There are also some new characters and a really tough (for me) folding technique.

Oh, did I mention the characters? To add complication to all matters, your customers have personal preferences like how well done they like their meat and what spices should be in their food. You end up memorizing them a bit and the names are rather Rowling-like, obvious clues to their favorites, like "Tex Porterhouse" liking barbecue sauce and "Sweet Tooth" loving all sweet things (even when completely inappropriate).

You can go back and forth between your restaurants, too.

So, I should get to bed but it's been a fun night. Do I think I'll hang on to this game for all that long? No. Would I recommend it to a friend? Maybe, if they like this sort of thing. I would recommend it for kids, for sure, because it's definitely got some good basic lessons for them and they'd probably have an easier time mastering the motions than I did. Still, it's a nice, fairly mindless distraction that I will enjoy right up until it goes into the mailbox.

Today's Surprise

The thing I think I love most about games is that they are always surprising me. Not just in the sense that technology is catching up to imagination more and more every day, the actual games often surprise me. You can read reviews, listen to your friends, and even follow the development of the game and still have no idea of what you will experience while playing it. Games that look phenomenal turn out to be uninspired and games that look absolutely idiotic entertain you more than you could have dreamt.

Either way, it's always an adventure.

Thank goodness for GameFly! I am willing to put so many games in my GameQ that I wouldn't look at twice in a store. I mean, why not? There's only so many A-list titles out there. Sometimes you don't even want to play a "great game" (using the term like "great books"), the really good ones make you think a lot. They're also ridiculously addictive, and some days you just don't have time to get sucked in.

On the other hand, sometimes you pick up a casual game and do get REALLY sucked in. I'm experiencing this right now (well, I'm typing this during load screens, obviously you can't type with a Wiimote in your hand). I will now make a rather embarassing confession - cooking and food-related games seem to have become my favorite casual games of all. My phone is filled with them and months ago, on a whim, I put Order Up! in my GameQ because I heard it was the best one for the Wii. Still, when it got here I made so much fun of myself and considered sending it back right away. After all, cooking games are great on a subway, but do I really want to dedicate my precious home gaming time to one?

As it turns out, yes. I really do. For the first five minutes the game was on I was cringing at the over-infantile graphics and feeling, and then I did the tutorial and realized this game is HARD. To do okay is pretty easy, but who wants to do okay? I don't care if something is absolutely stupid, I would like to excel at it.

I'm going to start a new post with my review, as my musings have made this one so long already. I think the real point, though, is that you shouldn't shun a game just because it looks dumb. If you can try it out without unloading a bunch of cash you may as well give it a spin. Who knows? You just may be surprised.

(I must remind myself to read this every time I fall into that trap.)

Friday, August 7, 2009

Who Ya' Gonna Call? ME!

I finally got a chance to try out Ghostbusters! First off, it's amazing how much the theme song still gets me excited and that is amplified by being able to participate in this story. I also think it's really cool that they added a "casual" mode for people who don't want to play the game but do want to experience the original storyline created for this. Not what I would pick but I have a few friends that I think would really enjoy that. Just might be a good way to suck more people into gaming, too, as you apparently do have to catch a few ghosts in that mode. I always appreciate things that might get people into gaming, you know?

I chose "experienced" level play, which is the middle option, and I'm very glad I did. This game is HARD! There are so many facets to catching ghosts and a lot of options for screwing up. You can completely destroy the area around you and even accidentally let ghosts loose from containment if you damage the firehouse. It's also likely a bit harder for me because I don't play shooters and in games where I have the option for ranged or melee combat I usually go with melee (said it before, but I really do love a good swordfight). My aim is not the best, particularly with a PlayStation controller (as opposed to a Wii-mote) and third-person perspective.

Speaking of perspective, that's my one real complaint about this game so far. It's an odd one, not the usual third-person view where your character is centered. It's more like looking over your character's right shoulder and that creates this disorienting sense that you are never looking straight ahead. Instead of the usual HUD all the meters you need are on your proton pack, which I'm assuming is the reason for the bizarre perspective, and that's also a little disorienting.

However, that's all window-dressing, what matters is the story and the gameplay. Even more important, this game does make you feel like you're a Ghostbuster. I imagine real ghostbusting in this manner would be difficult to learn and the game gives you a real feel for that. When I say it's hard, I don't mean the kind of frustrating that makes you not want to play, I mean the kind that makes you want to master it.

I didn't get very far into the game on this first session, I don't know if this will be a marathoning sort of game because it feels like you do need a break. I had a bunch of ghosties slamming me like crazy and couldn't even tell where they were coming from on the first three or so attempts at the level I was in and it was a little tiring. Still, I'm excited to give it another go!

The story is fun so far. It seems to be pretty much what you would expect from this series of stories, filled with ghostbusting cliches that you can't help but giggle from and the personalities we fell in love with so long ago. It's also funny to see all the guys portrayed as they looked back then, as I've gotten used to their older selves. I can't wait to get deeper into it and see where it goes. Glad it's almost the weekend!

Tuesday, August 4, 2009

Ghostbusters Dilemma Solved!

I've been away for about a week because my birthday this year turned into an extended whirl of fun and family visits and I sort of took a break from the internet during it. Everyone should do that once in awhile, it's so easy to forget that there's lots of world right outside when you're constantly checking Twitter and email. But I digress...

One of my birthday presents was the PS3 version of Ghostbusters. My wonderful boyfriend decided enough was enough with the hemming and hawing and went for the one I couldn't really afford. Very smart guy, he is! Even better, he got the Prima guide for it so I don't have to scrounge the 'net for tips on this one. I'm avoiding the guide until I get into trouble (I think I've mentioned I hate spoilers?) but it's nice to know it's there.

The sad thing is that I haven't had a chance to play it yet. Our DVR has been packed with stuff and my obsession with the STS-127 space shuttle mission and NASA TV kept me from watching the backlog for a bit, so playing games on the TV was a little out of reach. It's okay, Patapon and The Sims 3 kept me gaming and I'm going to schedule a night or two of ghostbusting into my week.

I also found my missing GameFly games (lost right inside our entertainment cabinet, truly pathetic) and sent those in, plus added the Wii version of Ghostbusters to my GameQ. Perfect! Being able to use my GameFly account again is very nice.

I will definitely post my first impressions of both games once I play them, but for now I'm just going to give my boyfriend kudos on the perfect present. Screw jewelry, I just wanna play!

Friday, July 17, 2009

Oblivion Madness and Inspiration

Gosh, I really do love Oblivion. Played it some more and yakked about the game on some message boards the past two nights and I'm completely sucked back in. Then I got really inspired and decided to make a journal of Celenya (my new character) and her progress through Cyrodill and the alternate worlds it joins.

While I haven't played my second character as frequently as the first, I like her a lot more. I've run into a psychological problem, though. Part of me wants to grind levels, making each level-up as productive as possible and turning her into a master of everything. Part of me want to simply go adventuring. Still another part just loves to rack up completed quests.

So far, the best compromise I've managed is to do a quest and then base which skills to grind on which have gained the most points through normal activities. For example, while raiding a fort I ended up with mostly blade, block, destruction, and restoration points, so I worked on strength, endurance, and willpower skills until I leveled.

Any advice? You can check out exactly where I'm at and post suggestions here on this post if you have any. Is my compromise a good one or could I find a better way?

Scary how one game can infiltrate your brain so completely and make you want to do more than play it. I have two games like that in my life, even scarier. I LOVE it, though!

Thursday, July 16, 2009

Obliviated by Oblivion

I started a new character in Elder Scrolls IV: Oblivion in May. I keep marvelling at myself over this, because I clocked almost 200 hours with my first character and got nearly to the end of the main story as well as finishing Shivering Isles and Knights of the Nine (plus a ton of other side-quests), but decided I really wanted to use all the knowledge I gained in that play-through to create a better character that levels smarter.

What makes us do this?

I realize that I'm literally late to the game, as we didn't have a PS3 until last Christmas. I got the game for my boyfriend for his February birthday, thinking I would never touch it because I was busy with LittleBigPlanet. Well, it turned out that we both got obsessed, but maybe I did even more so because since he finished the main line he has only played once while I forge on with my still-lame new elf, trying to get all my strategy just right.

Okay, it probably helps that I can't afford any new games right now. Oblivion may be the best value in gaming, it's now cheap and really amuses for so many hours. It's also fun to watch someone else play. It's also fun to talk about, since every player has different experiences according to how they choose to play and what kind of character they want to be. It's also, it's also... I could write a book on my experiences.

Actually, one of my Sims is almost literally writing the tales of my new character. He's a fantasy author, so it makes sense, right? I name all of his books after her.

I haven't been playing Oblivion as much because of the Sims 3, a too-full DVR, and the fact that both the PS3 and the Wii are on the same TV and we both play both, but I do still play and I'm REALLY craving some sword fighting at the moment.

So, as much as I'm dying to get my hands on a few new games, I'm endlessly grateful to Bethesda for creating something that can be so enjoyable for such a ridiculously long time.

Wednesday, July 15, 2009

Addicted to a Lame Game?

I hate to say this, but around here we've been a bit addicted to Army Men: Soldiers of Misfortune on the Wii. The controls are clunky, aiming is deceptively tough, and there are a host of complaints and bad reviews about this one everywhere you look, all quite valid.

We can't stop playing it!

Maybe it's just my weird tastes (I also like some REALLY bad movies, like Ed Wood bad) but we're having so much fun with this game. The lame controls make it really difficult so maybe it's the determination factor ("This game will NOT defeat me!") that keeps us coming back. It's also a good game to play when you have 15 minutes until dinner and need something to occupy your mind, as each level seems to take about that long. Or maybe it's just that my boyfriend bought it for me for Christmas, and that makes me want to love it. Hard to say.

So, now that I've embarrassed myself a bit by admitting all of this, is there anyone out there who knows what it's like to be hooked on a game you KNOW is really lame? What are your favorite bad games?

Tuesday, July 14, 2009

CraftLass' Law of Video Gaming

As I've mentioned before, I've been gaming since I was about 3. That's about 30 years of experience at this point and games have changed quite a lot over those years. Still, there is one thing that I have found consistent across all platforms and genres, which I have declared a law (sort of on the order of Murphy's) and decided to share:

  1. If you are doing really well for too long you WILL make an extremely stupid mistake. The better the game is going, the stupider and more preventable the mistake.

  2. The stupider the mistake you make, the better you will do on your next attempt.

This Law used to be rather fatal, before the advance of being able to save your games. However, with the advent of saves, you can use this to your advantage as a reminder to save often and save separate files wherever possible.

You should also feel free to use it to console yourself when you make a real doozy of an error. It's not your fault, it's the Law! Plus, it means the next attempt should work out great!

Have you had the same experience, or is this just my own way of dealing with the agony of defeat?

Monday, July 13, 2009

Tips for Women Who Date Gamers

I mentioned in my first post the frustration over how many (most?) women seem to not only dislike video games but they actively abhor the grown men in their lives playing them. I've been on message boards (or BBSs, back in the day) pretty much since they were invented and talked to hundreds (or maybe even more) of women about this subject and it never ceases to amaze me how much this frustrates so many. I've also heard from just as many men about their annoyance at women getting in the way of their games.

This is not good for anyone.

So, I'm going to do a series of my own tips on how to cross the divide. This one is for the ladies because, well, there is less advice already out there for them. Sorry about all the stereotyping, which I usually don't like, but this is all about steretypes and you can change a lot of the nouns to suit you.

"All he does is play." I completely understand being frustrated when your man seems to be using games to get out of doing stuff around the house. I know, it's really annoying that men seem to have so many excuses, watching sports being the even more common version (and these days sports are on 24/7 on multiple channels!), and a certain amount of pulling them away from their pursuits is necessary if there is going to be an equal partnership. If your man is doing NOTHING to help, this is not for you, he needs way more help than any blog could give. Most men these days ARE pulling their weight, or at least trying very hard to, and that's why it's very important to allow them time to do what makes them happy. It's no different than enjoying a manicure or watching a chick flick, or whatever you like to do in what free time you can wrangle. Compromise is key from both parties.

The other thing to keep in mind is that when someone is in the midst of a huge event in their game, like a battle or a tough puzzle, they really shouldn't be interrupted unless ABSOLUTELY NECESSARY (as in trip to the emergency room necessary). A person needs to focus in those moments, just like focusing on the meal you're preparing when it's just about done so you don't burn it. If you do interrupt someone at that point, expect a certain level of anger and resentment that is completely justified.

"I just don't like video games and don't want all that stuff in my house." You need to explore WHY. It's not for everybody, but I've heard an awful lot of excuses that just don't apply to anyone but the person who makes them. If the problem is that he likes uber-violent games that you can't relate to, well, you just have to accept and ignore it, just like, say, "Die Hard". If the issue is that that you don't want to have your TV time interrupted by games, you need a seperate TV option (cheaper than a divorce, lol). If you don't like consoles in your living room or wherever, well, keep in mind that he puts up with your tchotchkes and pillows, which are far more intrusive overall. Consoles can be hidden cleverly away, especially in this age of wireless controllers. If you don't want a giant new HDTV, well, keep in mind that you will get to watch movies in a way that looks WAY better than any movie screen. I was worried about a 50" overwhelming our tiny living room but now I'm almost as in love with it as with him (just joking, well, mostly).

"He doesn't spend any quality time with me anymore." This is the most legitimate complaint that I've heard. It's hardly restricted to gaming, but when a man is playing in your house it's very conspicuous that he's paying no attention to you. The best solution to this is compromise again. Schedule a regular date night, where both of you have to spend time talking (especially important if you have kids) and doing something you both enjoy. Create a schedule for both of your solo pursuits, making it equitable. It's not fair for one partner to get more time than the other for fun under any circumstances. The best solution, though, is to find a game you both enjoy and can play together. In this day and age there really is something for everyone, you just need to get past prejudices and search. A trip to the game store can be a wonderful activity in and of itself if you agree to not make fun of each other's tastes. Besides, how many shopping trips does your guy actually ENJOY?

Around our house we have the problem of both of us loving games that are single-player more than multi-player. We have 3 consoles and a gaming laptop, so our solution is to play games simultaneously in the same room. Even though we are playing seperately it fosters a lot of togetherness, we both tend to spend at least some of the time watching the other and helping with strategies. It's fun and adds a great dimension to both our games and our relationship.

"He spends too much money on games." Okay, another very legitimate complaint, at least in many cases and particularly when you are financially joined, as in marriage or even just sharing expenses. Games have gotten ridiculously expensive when you are talking about complex games on discs and even cheap downloads add up rather quickly. Here's the thing, though, this is the same exact thing as any other financial concern. You need to work together on budgeting, where each person gets a certain amount of "play money" for the things they enjoy according to the amount of money you have left after bills and other necessities. If you are not actually financially tied together, though, you are out of luck on this one and need to examine if he's really overspending in this area. Does he shirk his responsibilities to buy the latest game? Well, that's not a gaming problem, that's a spending problem you need to decide if you can deal with. If he is responsible, though, you have no right to dictate what he does with what he's earned. If he doesn't put dates with you high on his priority list, financially and otherwise, well, that suggests deeper problems that have little to do with gaming once again.

There are plenty more complaints around, but I think those are the most common ones and they are pretty easy to get past if you actually want to. Just remember that all work and no play makes us all grumpy, not to mention that there are far worse ways for him to spend his time and money. Games are an easy scapegoat to avoid larger problems, rarely are they the actual problem.

Saturday, July 11, 2009

Which Ghostbusters?

I was actually planning to pre-order Ghostbusters. I can't really afford it right now, but the first movie was my favorite for a long time after I first saw it in the theater as a kid. I was even Slimer for Halloween one year and dressed my horse up as the Stay-Puft Marshmallow Man. Needless to say, it just seems like a must-have.

The problem is that I can't decide which version to get. The PS3/360 version looks beautiful and very fun but I keep hearing that the Wii version may not look as good but is totally different and even more fun. The thought of having a REALLY fun game that isn't sports or fitness-related for the Wii is nice.

I know I will likely end up with both eventually but, as I can't possibly spend $90 or whatever, it's a dilemma. Whichever I play first will have a distinct advantage in my mind, right?

Is there anyone out there who has played both versions and has good reasons for picking one over the other?

Or, should I just wait for the price to fall on that one and go ahead and get Infamous first?

Friday, July 10, 2009

I AM a Girl (In Some Ways)

I am a gamer. I hate the labels "casual" and "hardcore" because I think they are nebulous and divide people who love games, and the world is always better when people aren't so split up. To me, real gamers are any people who love to play any games as much as they can fit such pursuits into their day.

Give me five minutes or five hours of free time and I will find the perfect game to amuse me for that time. That requires an open mind and willingness to try games that may not fit into your usual favorite category, as there are plenty of games where five minutes of play is just not possible.

I'm not a big fan of shooters. As in guns. A lot of people may think that's because I'm female, but it's really got a lot more to do with being a bonafide peace-loving hippie. I've avoided guns in real life because they just seem like bad things in every way, they give far too much power to the human who is holding one. I honestly think I would feel that way even if I was male, it's got more to do with my parents than anything and they were quite gender-neutral in raising me as a pacifist.

It's got nothing to do with the violence factor. At one point I thought it did, but I love sword-fighting, archery, casting magic, etc. (and my favorite acting class was stage fighting, no less). I'm longing to try my hand at Infamous because the methods of fighting seem really imaginative and fresh. Actually, I don't even mind shooting that much if the guns are old-school or silly (like foam dart guns), it's the machine gun thing that gets to me more than anything.

I also like The Sims. I've had every single disc they've put out since the original game. I even tried the online one, although I lost interest very quickly in that. I'm obsessing over The Sims 3 right now, to the point where my consoles are probably feeling a little neglected. Of course, that happens with pretty much any new game I get, my Sims have been abandoned many times over the years (particularly from playing Oblivion). Since The Sims has been credited with being the first game that generally appeals to women this is the other girly stereotype I fit into.

I felt like I had to make this admission right off the bat as I don't want to be one of those female gamers who is snotty about what other gaming women play. My choices are no better or worse than anyone else's, they just make me alone happy. Actually, my boyfriend's tastes are extremely similar, which shows it's not all about gender. Everyone has their own taste and it has a whole lot less to do with stereotyping than an individual's philosophy. It makes me sad to see players bashing each other over personal preferences.

When games are going for up to $60-$80 (for those without special controllers and accessories, at that) and loads of people are counting pennies, our personal choices become even more personal and significant. So, I won't make fun of what you play if you treat me the same way.

The Golden Rule of Gaming. I like it!

Thursday, July 9, 2009

I Love Games

I don't remember exactly when I got my first game console. As I was 3 or 4 at the time, it's not too surprising. I do remember that it was an Odyssey and I took to it like Barney Stinson to a dumb blonde. I also remember going to the store and being allowed to choose one game, it would take hours of deliberation with my endlessly supportive father to select just one, and I loved them all.

When the Atari 2600 came out everything got better. Most of my friends had their own (so I got to play mine more instead of sharing with EVERYONE) and we could trade games. Girls, boys, everyone was entranced by this machine that didn't need quarters. Sure, playing the arcade versions was a special treat, but being able to play in pajamas while my parents were sleeping was pure luxury.

Full disclosure: I never owned an Atari, I had Colecovision with the Atari attachment. My father said it made more sense, and I am glad to have learned the lesson that more popular has nothing to do with better quality. It comes in handy today as the proud owner of a PS3.

My question, as a child of the late '70s and '80s, is when did things get divided by gender? I spent much of the '90s on the road with little access to TV, let alone home gaming, and it seemed like sometime during that time there became a big movement among my female peers to not only abandon their gaming but to actively protest the men in their lives playing them. Do these women not remember the joy of beating Pac-Man for the first time? I'm a bit baffled.

Is it because gaming became so centered around shooters and fighting in general? Is it because women are less subjected to Peter Pan syndrome? Is it because society tells us games are not for women and women are buying that line?

These are just some of the questions and topics I'm hoping to explore in the coming months on this blog. Women, do you game (likely if you managed to find this)? Men, do you wish more women played or are you happy to have this area mostly to yourselves as long as we quit nagging you to stop?