Wednesday, January 30, 2008

A Brave New Venture

As I work towards completing my courses in web design and development, with graduation drawing ever nearer, I’ve got a side project going on for a wife’s coworker. He’s an independent musician and singer, and he wants a new site for all the services he offers from videography to photography to live music. I’ve already made him a new word mark logo, a business card, a 4 by 6 flier and a tri-fold pamphlet, but now comes the harder part: a full-featured site.

It will be my first.

The idea is to have a nice flash intro with footage of him in action, and then an option for a basic HTML/CSS page or a sporadically Flash-flavored page. Originally we were going to go with a blog-style format, but he’s decided he’d rather just link off to his MySpace page and then back to his professional page. So I think we’ll be using the page I build for showcasing his materials and services… which makes my job a whole lot easier and I should be able to focus solely on design.

What’s the point of this post?

1.) I don’t have much to write about today or at all lately in the MMO world.
2.) And I am hoping that some fellow bloggers with knowledge about web design might be able to give me some words of wisdom, or lessons learned as I ramp up into actually designing my 1st full site that’s not just plain old HTML.

So blagosphere… whatcha got for me? Out of the 5 of you who stop by, I’m sure one of you has some perl (pun intended) of wisdom to give unto me.

Tuesday, January 29, 2008

The Little Things

I recently got hooked up to Xbox Live at home, and I also bought Madden 2008 on the cheap. I know, I'm becoming a regular frat-boy aren't I? I blame the joy of a new console.

Anyway, last night I found a feature in Madden that hooks me up to constant sports updates. Now, I'm not big on sports. I barely follow them, but I have to admit the idea of getting ESPN Radio updates every 20 minutes via my football videogame is very cool. It has me wondering how many more games are missing out on this opportunity. Sports games make the most sense for the ticking news updates, and EA's Radio updates are fantastic. I kept track of the NBA games while playing Madden last night... no switching back to TV necessary. That has to be a boon for your more faithful sports fans.

But imagine if MMOs put in an optional real world news filter, or filters, that let you choose what topics you want to be kept up to speed on. I know a lot of folks would hate the immersion factor being ruined, but I know I would dig a feature like that. I can get lost in MMOs, and often feel like I'm missing out on the rest of the world's events when I'm sucked into one for an evening. For my personal taste, a news ticker or something along those lines that was optional would be fantastic.

Ye or ne for you and why?

Monday, January 28, 2008

A Massive Thrusting Purchase

My office-mate is prone to some very colorful commentary. Sayings like, "I'm boning for that new Rambo movie" are commonplace. Over time spent in the same office as him I find myself adopting his language here and there. When I'm all about something, I now refer to it as "jocking" whatever it is that I'm really into. It could be said, for instance, that I have been "jocking my 360" lately.

That all said brings me to the title of this post.

I made a massive thrusting of a purchase this weekend. My wife and I went to Best Buy for a CD by Man Man, and somehow left with a 42" 1080p LCD TV... and I didn't even have to coax her. I was the one saying, "do we really need this right now?" I guess we did. In fact, I'm sure we did.

Once we got the thing set up and hooked up to all its brothers and sisters (we still need the HD cable box now and HDMI cables to boot, but they're free from the cable company), there was no going back. Seeing John Woo's Stranglehold on my Xbox in 720p was awe-inspiring. I played a game of NBA 2K8 and saw the sweat dripping from my virtual self as I choked on a late-game free-throw. Mass Effect, needless to say, is now due for another play-through.

If there are any of you out there who are still mulling over getting an HDTV, as in you have the means but are not sure yet, wait no longer. Go get one. Now. If you dig movies, games, whatever... you'll not regret it a bit. Right up there with my Xbox, it's the best purchase I've made since I bought my wife her engagement ring. It doesn't bring the same amount of happiness, but it makes boring Sundays not so boring.

Cheers, you lot.

Thursday, January 24, 2008

GTA IV Hits April 29th

I just read over at Next-Gen that Rockstar's newest installment of Grand Theft Auto will finally be hitting store shelves on April 29th. About friggin' time, I'd say.

I've been playing the GTA series since the 2nd, still top-down oriented, edition on the Dreamcast. I never could have anticipated how big the series would become with GTA III though, when it entered the 3D realm and gave players an entire city to play in, and a pretty decent story to be a part of. Then Vice City hit... and the world was shook. It was like playing through a mixture of Scarface the movie and Goodfellas thanks to the VO work of Ray Liotta. As a fan of crime fantasy film and novels, it was a dream come true.

Since Vice City, countless clones have come and gone... but not one has captured the magic of that title, not even San Andreas (which to me played more like one giant farcical look at 90s LA than anything). But Rockstar's been working on IV for a while. There's a likeable and identifiable (to me, anyway) protagonist as the main character. The over the top humor from GTA:SA seems to be gone. Maybe they realized Saints Row did enough of that schtick for both of them.

Most of all? GTA IV has characters with fingers. Thank JEEBUS. Really, I'm not sure what it is about the GTAs that draws me in. My local Gamestop guys find it odd that I'm drawn to these titles, being a lifelong Nintendo fan. I've played the recent GTAs on the PC only. I'm not your average "I-will-do-whatever-it-takes-to-fit-in-because-I'm-a-sheep" gamer. I just like the feel, the look, the alternate reality of the series I guess. The wide-open nature that Rockstar puts forth in the GTA series is second to none. Many games try to equal it, but very few come even remotely close. They may be fun in their own ways, but nothing beats what Rockstar puts out.

I guess, the point of all this, is to say that I'm excited. No more delays please. April 29th gives me a few weeks before AoC hits the PC. I don't want to cut it any closer.

Wednesday, January 23, 2008

Hook Me Up

So, I'm getting cable finally. It's been nearly a year since my wife and I moved out of her parents' house, and we've not had the little life-sucking box since then. But months of Netflix, rentals from Family Video, and lots of TV via the Internet... we realized we'd save patience and hassles in the long run if we just got the damn cable TV.

The plus? I'll be able to record and save episodes of Family Guy, American Dad, Heroes, Futurama, etc. and so on. I'll also have the cable guy change where my router and modem are so that I can connect to Xbox Live. WIN!

The negative? I'll not be able to play my Xbox for a solid week or two for any lenght of time more than 30 minutes as the wife will undoubtedly want to catch up on EVERY show known to man. She'll be a zombie for a while, I think. But I guess I'll be able to see what's going on in an MMO of my choosing while she does that then... maybe log myself into my father in law's LotRO account and check out how that game's doing since it won't cost me a nickel.

Anyway, just want to share that as it's a *sniff* big deal for me *tear*.


Age of Conan's Delay and Rock Band

Those two titles have nothing to do with each other, but I figured I could combine the two topics into this post as well... this is my blog and I want to.

Darren of TCSG raises some valid points recently about what the recent AoC delay to may 20th could signal. It's his duty as a blogger to speculate, and his main worry for Funcom's project is that it's putting itself too close to the steady-aiming crosshairs of EAMythic's Warhammer Online. This could be true... if there's not another delay for Warhammer.

I think it's safe to say that the most anticipated MMO is Warhammer, and any MMO going up against it will be in for a tough time unless Warhammer tanks in the press or fails to ignite gamers' passion... both of which I doubt will happen. So then, it's really up to whether or not Warhammer will it its Q2 release date. One thing's for sure though... at least EAMythic has had the sense not to set an actual date only to revise it close to launch.

That's one thing I think Funcom should stop giving until they're absolutely certain they'll hit they're mark. Me? I'll be playing both games, whenever they come out... because both look fantastic. I'm an equal opportunity gamer.

Now, for Rock Band. Wife and I played a bit last night, and we're both reliantly on Medium now. Me on guitar and her on drums makes a viscious duo. But we met our match towards the end of the night in the form of two songs. First, Green Grass and High Tides. Second, I Get By by one of the "local" bands. Guitar on these two songs was hard, but not to the point of losing it... but my poor spouse. There was no saving her on the drums. When I did kick out a save, she'd end up falling seconds later because the drums were just too fast and awkward compared to the rest of the songs we'd been playing. These tunes are definitely going to take a few tries.

The beauty of Rock Band is that practice really makes perfect. We found ourselves falling to sleep on earlier songs like In Bloom and Say It Ain't So, so it's likely we'll be on hard with them soon. But I think our drummer might have to go down to easy for a couple times on the two above-mentioned songs... just so we can get past them and then work on them after. They are truly feats of her endurance... almost makes me feel bad because the guitar is way easier on medium.

Anyway, back to work. Cheers, you lot.

Tuesday, January 22, 2008

Answering the Call... of Duty

I rented, played, and beat Call of Duty 4 this weekend. I'm not usually a big war game kind of guy, but when a title gets such raring reviews, I'm hard-pressed not to stand up and take notice.

Really, it's a grand game, even coming from someone who's not a fan of the genre. The gameplay is absolutely rock solid, the story is engrossing, the cinematics are decent, and the ending is fulfilling and even a tinge sad. There are many, many heart-pounding moments throughout, like carrying your stealth teammate through a warzone and waiting near a ferris wheel as dozens of the enemy come hurtling at you while you cling to life as the rescue chopper makes its way to you. Or using smoke screen grenades to create cover while you sneak up behind a BMP and strap some C4 to it to make it go BOOM.

This is not a game that you "relax" with, this is a game to let loose some frustration with. Few shooters give such an exhilerating look at what military combat might be like. I was almost thankful when the end credits ran after a measly 5 hours of play. The bulk of COD4 is meant to be experienced online, I'd bet. But if there's one thing I know, it's that I don't feel like getting "WTFPWND" by folks who will insist on calling me any deragatory remark their feeble minds can think of. I know I suck, I don't need them reminding me in oh-so-clever ways.

Still, for anyone who has yet to experience COD4, I'd say it's a definitely rental/buy depending on whether or not you want the online competition. For me, it was a very fun run through the offline campaign, and one I will likely rent again or pick up on the cheap down the road.

Good stuff. Next up on my Gamefly list is John Woo's "Stranglehold". Looking forward to getting my Chow Yun Fat on.

Monday, January 21, 2008

Also stolen from Darren...

When going to check out the new SUWT podcast, I caught wind of this on his site.

Age of Conan is receiving ONE more delay until May 20th of 2008. Citing the ever-popular "polish" as the chief reason, I can't say I blame them. It's overused these days, post-WoW, but if you're going to have a successful launch and in general a successful game, things had better be working damned-near perfection come release day.

I'm willing to bet part of the reason is the recent re-shuffling of classes, as well as the complex city-building, real-time combat system, and mounted combat among other things. It's a lot of new stuff they're trying, and I can't hold it against them for wanting to do it well. Likely want more time for stress-testing in beta, too as the press-release says. Here's the official word from Funcom:
Durham, USA – January 21, 2008 – Funcom announces a new release date for Age of Conan: Hyborian Adventures. The highly anticipated MMO receives 8 more weeks of development, allowing Funcom to deliver a more polished MMO experience when the game launches on the 20th of May 2008. Despite great feedback on vital aspects like immersion, fun factor and the exciting combat system, the management of Funcom has decided to polish the game even more. Eight weeks of development work is therefore added to stress game systems and polish the game further leading up to launch.
So this means, I'll be "MMO-less" until May 2008? Damn... will AoC's crew let me into their beta soon please? I'm not sure I can take that long of a wait.

Shut Up We're Talking #18 (con Bildo)

Darren of TCSG was vigilant enough to keep hounding me until I was finally able to schedule a time to sit down and be a part of the SUWT podcast.

Of course the night of the recording, my wife forgot I had scheduled this shindig, and I suddenly found myself 45 minutes from my house when taping was beginning, eating Indian food. The D (not Tenacious) was kind enough to let me join once I got home, though. I'm fairly certain I brought the show down once I joined in, but the first bits are great. Lauren of Mystic Worlds and Ethic of Kill Ten Rats

Here's the itinerary and the link, stolen shamelessly from Darren:


Listener mail/What we’re playing
Conan on the Console
Kids vs Us
Why Just Fantasy
Screw being nice!!!
Blog of the Week


Darren -
Lauren - Mystic Worlds
Ethic - Kill Ten Rats
William - Ramblings of Bildo


Friday, January 18, 2008


Sorry folks. Two days, no posts. I'm flabbergasted. I've got nothin'. Rest well, have a great weekend, and look for something interesting if I come across anything work rambling on.

Until the next post of something with substance, why not use the comments on this one to do a 3-Word-Story game? That sounds interesting enough... I guess. I'll start.

There was once...

Wednesday, January 16, 2008

Saints Row: Examination of Some Annoying Game Mechanics

So I took a night's break from Rock Band, being that my fingers were starting to form into a balled mass of flesh and bone from playing the guitar. Instead once I had taken care of my nightly household crap, I settled in for some Urban Warfare in Saints Row.

The game's a lot of fun, don't get me wrong, but there are a few pet peeves I have with it. Let this be a warning for any developer coming out with a shooting-heavy game or an "Urban Sandbox" from here on out.

Games like Mass Effect, Gears of War, and Uncharted have changed some things about what we players will accept in our action games, and I think that it goes without saying that a cover mechanic in any kind of shooter is now necessary. The fact that I spend more time crouched behind a car unconvincingly stalking about while in this position is not very believable, nor functional. Nor is the fact that my guy holds his gun tilted to the side as though he were 50 Cent. The dufus won't hit a damned thing like that, but that's a rant for another day.

Also of annoyance, more so than the lack of a cover mechanic, is the fact that to progress in the game's 36 story-based missions I must run all about the city doing odd tasks that at 1st seemed fun enough, and now seem only a deterrence from me doing the truly interesting activities. It IS fun to launch myself in front of speeding cars, and it IS fun to help a hippy deliver drugs in this urban farce, but it's not fun when I HAVE to do these things to advance the story.

"What's that?" my character says to the gang boss. "You're pissed that I killed your brother, and now you want to take it out on me and the rest of my guys? Well, gee whiz, that sounds like a hoot. But first let me go fake some insurance claims so I can get my RESPECT LEVEL up enough that I'll be allowed to take that mission."

I mean, I can kind of see why this mechanic's in place, in order to pace the main story and make sure players don't finish the game too quickly. But wouldn't have adding more than 36 missions also accomplished this feat? Wouldn't make a little more sense to have players capable of completing a whole section of the story, a chapter if you will (say just one of the 3 gangs you're out to destroy), and then have to worry about "respect levels"? As it stands in the game, the fact that I'm deep in the middle of a gang war and find myself stopping to collect hookers for needy pimps does little more than annoy me... much less humor me.

The game's a fun one. The complaints with its mechanics are few as most everything works great control-wise. And the ridiculousness of the setting and themes is like watching a Spike Lee's Airplane! remake (even if its unintentional), but for the love... this whole RESPECT thing is just stupid.

That's my rant for the day. Sorry for all those who wasted their time reading.


Tuesday, January 15, 2008

My Big News

Now, I realize this will be shuffled as inconsequential in light of recent Star Trek Online developments but dammit, I don't care about the trouble with tribbles right now. I'd be surprised if STO ever really makes it out of production. But here's hoping it does and it's done right *raises glass*.

Now, the "Big News" of Bildo's.

I can finally announce today the reason I'll be missing out on Pirates of the Burning Sea, a game I have long been awaiting. I recently had the opportunity fall to me to apply for and take up a position with Ten Ton Hammer as a CM for their up and coming Age of Conan portal... and I have. It was completely unexpected, fell into the realm of possibility within the past month or so, and now here I am. TTH's new CM for Age of Conan.

That probably explains to some of you why I've made a few posts about that game on my blog. It has obviously been on my mind since I'm going to be spending quite a bit of time with it over the next several months. The site should launch on TTH this week I've been told, and I'll be joining Machail (the site lead) in just a couple of weeks' time as his right-hand man.

I know my fair share about Age of Conan, and I truly am optimistic for its outcome, but I don't have any first-hand experience yet so I'm sort of walking blindly into this one, unlike with the LotRO Vault when I had already been in the beta for a couple of months before coming on board to the fansite. But it was an opportunity I couldn't pass by. One more step closer to actually working "in the industry", you know? And since school is winding down towards the April graduation, I'm finding myself with more time to do things like write articles and guides and whatnot again.

So anyway, there you have it. That's my news. That's the reason I'll be saying "Fare thee well" to PotBS for now. I simply won't have the time once things get really rolling on AoC. This also means I won't be a part of the Vault Network anymore, obviously. I will still be posting here like normal though, since I can't really do anything with TTH in the daytime while I'm at the office. So you lot won't be suddenly without my ramblings to look forward to (as if you actually do, ha!).

Another anyway, look forward to a lot of AoC related stuff as the game nears launch in March and then beyond as it is the next MMO I'll be playing. I'll be sure not to turn this into a blood and boobs blog either. :)

Now back to your regularly scheduled STO talk.


Monday, January 14, 2008

Turning it up to eleven...

So Friday night came, and my wife and I decided to go out and buy Guitar Hero III because we'd heard from too many people that it was extremely fun and addictive. Only problem was, no one had the bundled game with the guitar controller. But that turned out to be a blessing in disguise, because we ended up biting the bullet and taking many others' advice and gettign Rock Band.

Good--freaking-GOD... what an immensely entertaining experience!

My friend Adam was over for the evening, and while we started playing as our band "The Caffeinators" at 8pm, we soon found ourselves still playing by 2:30am. Yikes, indeed.

The Caffeinators' members are as follows...

Sven LeTigre - Lead Guitar (Me)
Jozie - Vocals (My Wife)
Guy Topon - Drums (Adam)

My guitarist started out as an homage to European hair metal bands, with a big white fluffy doo and tight pants and a shirt, but when I saw some of the other clothing options he quickly became the spitting image of a homeless Vietnam War veteran... and he looks great because of it.

Guy Topon also saw a change of image within our first few songs, and quickly became something of a Rockabilly dude with aviator glasses and a Pompadour, thick mutton chop sideburns and all.

And of course there's Jozie, our charismatic spazz of a rockin lead singer. Her look changed too much for me to even remember now what she looked like. I'm sure however of one thing... our fans were looking at her and not me or Guy Topon during our shows.

The whole "World Tour" mode is also something of a dream come true. Your band starts out in the tiniest of clubs, playing the easier warm-up songs. Then as you go along earning fans and cash, even vans and airplanes to travel with, you move on to harder songs that also tend to reap more profound monetary rewards as well as more fans.

Occasionally you're given the option to play a gig for charity, greatly increasing your fans, or conversely for a corporate event which nets you a lot more money but earns you no fans. Then there are times when you can take a bet to hit 4 or 5 stars on all songs in a set, and if you do you get a lot more cash, but if you don't you get zilch. The whole "cash" aspect is a bit meaningless to the actual gameplay, but the money gets you better looking gear and we all know that if you're in a Rock Band, you'd better look good.

In all, it was one hell of an expensive game... but worth every penny. I can't stop playing the thing every free moment I have, and because the gameplay is split up into 3-5 minute songs it's perfect for quick sessions. Solo play can be boring when compared to group sessions (duh!), but it's still nothing to be scoffed at. There's something soothing about sitting on your couch and wailing the vocals of your favorite songs away... like a very visual and much better put-together karaoke machine. Solo-play is also essential for mastering those hard songs. I'm not much of a drummer yet, but I'm wailing on guitar on medium after just a few days, and soon I can see myself on hard... if I can ever make it past "Enter Sandman". That thing knocked me on my arse the 1st time on Medium.

Anyway, enough rambling for right now. Just had to go on a rant about this fabulous game. It really is everything the masses say, and well worth the steep price tag.

More to come later.

Friday, January 11, 2008

Still no "Big News", but it's coming...

Well, it's Friday and I don't have my potential "Big News" to report to you yet, but if it comes over the weekend I'll be running to my PC to type up an entry. It's not earth-shattering or anything, but it's a big deal to me so I hope it turns out like I wish. I'll write it in normal English first, and then also in Gizoogle-speak just for kicks.

Other than that non-news story, I don't have much to report on today. I played a bit more of Saints Row and Eternal Sonata last night, with the former slowly training back into being decent with console FPS controls. I tell you, going back to a joystick for aiming after Scarface, Godfather, and more importantly Metroid Prime 3 on the Wii is like having electricity to light your way and then suddenly reverting back to an era prior to 1877 and thus before the lightbulb. If the Xbox 360 hd the Wii-mote to go along with all of its shooter games, there'd be no stopping this system... maybe they're working on one though so who knows. It wouldn't be the first time competition copied Nintendo's innovations. That's how we got the Dual-Shock a while back in any case.

In other gaming related Bildo-thoughts, I saw a few more videos for SOE's "The Agency". Said title is really shaping up nicely, I think. It's very minimalist in its UI with contextual menus popping up based on what you're aiming at, so it keeps the clutter off the screen and the focus on the world and the action, which is what the game's going to primarily be about. I can see this one being a serious draw for your more casual MMO-players, especially if they wind up going the ArenaNet free-to-play, but buy expansions way which is under discussion now at their offices.

It's due out in the summer or fall of this year, and already is looking quite good both graphically and gameplay-wise, so head over to Gametrailers and check out the walkthrough videos. It made my eyebrows raise at the very least. I'll be watching that one for sure.

--Gizoogle Version*--

Wizzell, its friday n i dont have mah potential "-B-to-tha-izzig news" ta report ta you yet, but if it comes over tha weekend ill be runn'n ta mah pc ta type up an entry. its not saggin' or chillin' but its a big deal ta me so i hope it turns out like i hustla thizzay that non-news story, i dizzle have mizzle ta report on today. i played a bit more of saints row n eternal sonata last night, wit tha forma slowly train'n bizzy into being decent wit console fps controls paper'd up.

i tell you, going back ta a joystick fo` cruisin' playa scarface, brotha n more importantly metroid prime 3 on tha wii is all like weed-smokin' electricity ta light yo way n then suddenly revert'n biznack ta an era prior ta 1877 n thus before tha lightbulb. if tha xbox 360 hd tha wii-mote ta go along wittall of its cracka games, thered be no stopp'n this system... maybe theyre work'n on one though so who knows with the S-N-double-O-P. it wouldnt be tha fizzirst time competizzles copied nintendos innovations . Tru niggaz do niggaz. thats how we gots tha dual-shock a while back in any case.

in otha gam'n related bildo-thoughts, i saw a few more videos fo` soes "izzle agency" ya feelin' me?. said title is really shap'n up funky assly, i think fo' sho'. its very minimizzles in its ui wit contextual menus popp'n up based on wizzy yoe aim'n at, so it keeps tha bitch off tha screen n tha focus on tha world n tha action, which is whizzat tha games going ta primarily be `bout. i can see this one being a serious drizzaw fo` yo more casual mmo-playa, especially if they wind up going tha arenanet free-to-play, but buy expansions way which is playa discussion now at they offices.

Its due out in tha cracka or fizzay of this year, n already is cruisin' quite good biznoth graphically n gameplay-wizzles so heezee over ta rappa n check out tha walkthrough videos. it made mah eyebrows raise at tha very least. ill be watch'n thizzay one fo sho.

* = The Gizoogle translated text is in no way a reflection of my thoughts or way of behaving... it's just a way to get a cheap laugh on a Friday morning. God bless Snoop Dogg.

Thursday, January 10, 2008

Saints Row and Whoops! I forgot I had Gamefly now...

I did leave work early yesterday, and decided to drop buy Gamestop to pick up a 2nd controller finally for the Xbox. I got a black one (ooh, sexy) for anyone who cares, but I also couldn't resist the allure of the used game section and ended up walking out of the store with Saints Row at the suggestion of many respected bloggers and friends.

When I got home, I found my mailbox filled with the usual junk mail and, oh yeah, my 1st rental from Gamefly. Doh! Thank Jeebus it wasn't Saints Row or I would have been very ticked at myself. While shrouded in the soft and humble glow of the Gamestop games and their wonderfully green plastic cases, I must have completely forgotten that I started that thing up again... and that there were games on this system I actually cared to rent. The rental in question was in fact Eternal Sonata, and since I had the entire night to myself I bet you can guess what I did.

That's right... my eyes now are bleeding from hours upon hours of gameplay. I probably could have used that time off to do some homework, or clean the bathroom, or even just vacuum... anything more constructive. But no, that wouldn't have been nearly as fun. Mind you, at the end of the night when getting ready for bed, I surely felt lazy and all, but man was it worth it. I think the entire country should get Wednesday afternoons off after yesterday. We all know that there's not enough time in the day during the week to get anything done, much less enjoy yourself, and a half-day Wednesday is the perfect break in the middle of a long post-Holiday workweek. I'll be doing it again sometime in the near future.

Now, about those games.

Saints Row has got to be one of the dumbest games I've ever played... but it's also easily one of the most fun. Let me explain. The art work, the horrible puns, the general subject matter... it's all clearly a GTA: San Andreas rip off. And for someone who thought that game was horrid in its portrayal of 90s Los Angeles, this one goes one step further. Its over-done attempts at humor are as flaccid and witless as the "jokes" in any of the recent National Lampoon's movies. I mean truly awful. The "Gangsta" vibe the game tries incredulously to pull off is also heinously over the top and uncalled for.

But despite these things... I'll be damned if the game's not a ton of fun. The activities you have to do in order to gain "respect" (sort of like experience) are wacky in the "This Equals Fun" kind of way. At least for males it does. Not sure some of the more feminine persuasion would find carting around lawyers and celebrities while they're "serviced" by a young lady and tyring to stay away from the raging press fun. It's not the subject matter that's entertaining in these events, it's the way the game handles and how it plays. Do away with the hookers and the drugs and the lame as all hell "gangs" and you'd still have a fun game based on a huge open city and lots of crazy tasks to do. There's even one where you're asked to throw yourself in front of speeding cars to collect insurance money. This might not sound fun, but when you throw in 10 car pile-ups and rag doll physics you quickly realize the genius in it.

It's obscene and ridiculous... but it's also a lot of fun. This is the "1 Sentence Review" for Saints Row. $26 well-spent for pure open-city mayhem. The only thing I wish Saints Row had is the ability to scale buildings and throw cars and large objects a la Crackdown. Those two games together would make the ultimate urban sandbox experience.

Eternal Sonata is a decidedly less manic adventure than Saints Row, but by no means less enjoyable. Traditional Japanese RPGs have fallen off of my list of must-play games over the years, due to the lack of innovation or excitement I was seeing in the genre. "Random-turn-based-battles-are-all-we're-about" is what they used to say to me, but then along came my first "Tales of..." game from Namco on the Gamecube. I was thrilled. it had all the same campy anime goodness, but the combat was much more akin to Smash Brothers than Final Fantasy, as in it was action-based and not turn-based.

With reservation I followed the development of both Blue Dragon and Eternal Sonata (called Trusty Bell in Japan, I believe), and while the former turned out to be a good game based on a very traditional premise and thus one I have skipped so far in my 360-ownership, the latter decided to go a different route and use a more action oriented battle system. You still trade turns with your opponents, but what you do with your turn requires much more than menu-filtering.

You must run around the battlefield, find an advantageous spot to attack from and use either your normal attacks, your special skills, or an item if you're in need of healing. And on defense you'll find that you must quickly adapt to enemies' attack rhythms so that when you're prompted you can press B quickly enough to deflect majority of the damage. Toss in varying attacks and enemies depending on whether you or they are standing in shadow and you have a surprisingly deep an complex combat system that really is engaging.

In Eternal Sonata, you can see your enemies before you enter combat with them, and thus you can avoid them, but I still found myself purposely trying to get behind an enemy's back so that I could both have the joy of the fight, as well as the attack first advantage. Combat's a lot of fun, for sure. But what about the rest?

Well to say that ES is a bit full of cut scenes would be a major understatement. At times so far it has felt like I've done more watching than playing. The English voice acting is decent, but nothing compared to Mass Effect, so it can be tedious at times to sit through them all. You can skip them by pausing and then selecting to do so, but this being a story-oriented game, I wouldn't recommend it unless you truly don't care about the tale and just want the action.

The story itself is interesting enough though. Detailing what Tri-Crescendo (the developer of both Baten Kaitos games on the Gamecube) what believes to be the last dream of Frederic Chopin, the game's premise is both artful and enthralling once you make it past the first couple of boring introductory hours. In what's becoming standard practice in the genre, the beginning is slow as hell but not entirely lacking entertaining moments. I wouldn't call it high-art in terms of dialog, but as translated from Japanese it is admirable. And the way the developers weave the dream and reality together, along with little history lessons about Chopin's life and work, is nothing short of unique. Like Mass Effect before it, if though a bit campy, one can certainly say that Eternal Sonata is trying to advance the art of storytelling in video games.

And really, as developers, isn't that what the job should be about: making something fun, unique, and entertaining to play with? If you're a fan of JRPGs or anime, or even Frederic Chopin, this one's worth a look.

That's it for today, thanks for reading the rambles.


Wednesday, January 9, 2008

No Pirates Last Night, But I Cracked Down.

I forced myself not to play Pirates last night. Because though I want to, I also don't want to get attached to my captain if I'm not going to be able to really play the game in the coming months. So I'm still holding off on that.

I did however get some time with Crackdown, enough to "beat it" even. Here's my issue though. Maybe some other 360 owners can tell me, once you've rid the city of all the gangs, and you've been contacted by the Agency about doing your "duty"... is that it? Is there nothing more? I need to get Live so I can download the additional weapons and the "reset gangs" option if so, because now there's nothing to really do in the city except cause mayhem, turn on the Peacekeepers, or hunt down agility orbs... and I very much still want to play this game, but I need bad guys, you know?

Help me out if there's something I'm missing.

Leaving work early today, so probably not another post until tomorrow, unless something cool comes up.


Tuesday, January 8, 2008

The Agency in Action

Massively has some new video coverage from CES up about SOE's "The Agency"... and while I am prone to suck at FPS games, I have to say... this one just really rose on my radar. Why? Because it's so damn interesting as a concept. I'll especially be happy if my PS3 owning brother and I on my PC can play this together. Very cool looking game this is, can't wait to see more.

Check out the video and whatnot over at their site by following this link.

Thanks to Tipa highlighting one of this guy's strips a while back, I can't stop reading them. There are far more hits than misses, but here are a couple that stood out to me today during my browsing due to my current course of study. Head to the main site for all the awesome humor you can stomach.

Captain Bill Braggard of the Bonny Server

I did manage to get a tiny bit of time with Pirates of the Burning Sea last night. it was a "tiny bit" because I first had to patch up the client (I knew I should have been patching during the open beta), and by that time it was nearly 10pm.

Anyway, I went Pirate (I know it's going to be overkilled, but it's where my loyalty lies), and my name is Bill Braggard on the Bonny server. Like I said yesterday, I'm still not sure how much time I'll be able to devote to PotBS. It all depends on what's cooking behind the scenes here in Bildo's world. But if anything I wanted to be able to claim my awesome parrot, my level 20-ish weapons that are useable at level 1, and get to sailing the open seas for a bit before I must take my leave until a later date.

But it wasn't very easy to play last night. Servers were lagging like mad thanks to there being such a slew of players in the starting towns and it was rough walking around. I did the 1st few tutorial missions, reached level 2.5 and called it a night. I'll try again this evening and try to grab some screens of my awesome Captain BB.

More later... I'm sure I'll think of something to prattle on about.

Monday, January 7, 2008

Pirates Launches Today (For Pre-Orders) and News Incoming...

Well, today is the day my fellow buccaneers. Pirates of the Burning Sea is finally setting sail today, at least for pre-ordering folks. It's still 2 more weeks until the actual launch date. But what do I care? I did pre-order.

The only thing that's up in the air is the big news I mentioned last week. I still don't know the outcome, but if it heads in the direction I expect it to, it very likely means I won't be able to devote much, if any, time to PotBS. Other obligations will be taking over. I know, I'm being somewhat secretive here, but I don't want to say anything final until I know for sure. Hopefully by the middle of this week I'll have an announcement one way or the other.

I hope everyone had a good weekend now that the Holidays are officially over. It felt weird to have a normal 2 day break on my end, that's for sure. Now I'm here at work, trying hard to not think about the fact that it's Monday and there are 4 more days to go until the next weekend.

I started up my Gamefly account once again this weekend, and sometime this week I should be receiving either "Kingdom Under Fire: Circle of Doom" which is a new Action RPG for the 360, Assassin's Creed, or Eternal Sonata. The last of these three is a somewhat traditional Japanese RPG with an interesting take on turn-based battles, and an even more interesting story involving famed composer Chopin. The only "in-stock" game is Eternal Sonata, so I think it will be what arrives in my box 1st, and I'm looking forward to it.

In the meantime, it's been movie-a-palooza at my house. I think over the Holidays we watched at least a dozen flicks, most of which were crap, and a few of which will be remembered. Out of them all, I can only heartily recommend Sweeney Todd, Stardust, and of course the Wes Anderson classic, The Royal Tenenbaums. Everything this guy makes is worth watching though.

Lastly on the Bildo's Homefront Report, Advanced Web Design is in full swing and the first thing we're doing is... making a JPEG image layout for a website. Which I've done... a lot. Maybe next week will prove more fruitful, because the class had to start with a refresher of the basics I'm sure.

Cheers, and more to come if some tidbit of news or discussion pops up.

Saturday, January 5, 2008

Mass Effecto Finito

After watching the final episodes of HBO's ROME last night with my wife (excellent series, such a shame it was canceled prematurely though they at least wrapped up the storyline they were on), I decided to keep my arse firmly glued to the couch and play some Mass Effect.

Over the course of the past week and a half, ME has been pretty much the only game I play with little dabblings in NBA 2K8 ad Crackdown here and there to boot. So imagine my surprise, when after a marathon (for me anyway) session of 3 hours, I found myself watching the credits roll on what has been one of the best gaming as story experiences I've ever had. 24 hours, side quests included, to complete a BioWare RPG. I even got the Achievement points for "Completionist" or something like that, which signals that I had finished the majority of the game along with beating the main campaign.

I don't feel that it was short, nor do I feel remorse for finishing the game so swiftly. I just didn't expect a BioWare RPG to be less than 40 hours long minimum. Maybe it's because of the need to get the game out for the Holidays, but I think it's more likely that where the story ends is where they want the game to end as the 1st part of the trilogy.

It has a cliff-hanger, but luckily it's not like the end of Heroes Season 1. It wraps up a lot of plot lines, including the major arc of the game, so I feel like I accomplished my goal of saving the galaxy... even if it's only for the moment. One hell of a game. I can't recommend it strongly enough. If you're a fan of intelligent science fiction, action games, or more importantly games with real feeling. Go get it.

Oh, and I did make whoopee with a blue alien. It was... unique. Weird might be a better word. But I will say this: it was very tastefully done, and in no way "cyber-porn". Oh, and there are some hefty choices that need to be made as you work towards the end of the game, but go with your gut. My guy ended up being a major Paragon (good as opposed to Renegade) and I think my ending was one of the "good ones". As long as you're not naturally a prick, you should be fine. Worst case scenario, make a separate save file in Virimire before you reach the Krogan research labs (you'll know what I mean) and then replay the game from there if you want to see a different path's ending. It's what I'll be doing.

Cheers and have a good weekend!

Friday, January 4, 2008

The Weekend Comes

Nothing of import to write on today, as it seems the internet is all still recovering from the Holiday. New class starts this weekend, Advanced Web Design. Basically, it's learning how to use server technologies and web-based applications and how to put it all together into one tightly coiled ball of awesome. Here's hoping I keep up that 3.8 GPA, right?

On the gaming front, I do believe this weekend calls for several heaping spoonfulls of Mass Effect, Crackdown, and NBA 2K8. And then come Monday, Pirates is finally for real. Thank Jeebus. I hope I love it now as much as I did a few months back. The time off should have been good, but I really haven't had the urge to play an MMO since I got my 360 and that worries me. The new toy is luring, you know? Time will tell. I've got two weeks to play PotBS and make sure it's worth the remaining 40 bucks I owe Gamestop.

I also may have some pretty big news coming in the next week or so, but it hitches on luck, so wish me lots of it!

Thursday, January 3, 2008

Massively Effected

To say that that the story of Commander Sheppard is enthralling would be an understatement. To say that Mass Effect from BioWare is anything less than a work of art, would be to disrespect the love and care the development team has put into the game. To say that I can't stop playing this thing, would be absolutely correct.

Mass Effect is the kind of game that only seems to come along every few years or more, because BioWare (and maybe Bethesda even) seems to be the only studio capable of delivering such a quality piece of role-playing. However, you may be turned off at 1st by the title if you're coming into the experience with the assumption that it will be more shooter/action than RPG. Make no bones, Mass Effect is all about the story. What combat there is, while visceral and extremely entertaining, comes secondary to top-notch story-weaving and voice acting. But if you're like me, you'll greatly appreciate the way each and every conversation you have seems to fit solidly in place with the universe created by BioWare, and what's more how your choices weigh into the overall scheme of things.

In all, I've spent about as much time talking to people and exploring as I have fighting aliens, Geth machines, and Krogan mercenaries. It's been one hell of a mix of activities, ranging from scanning maintenance creatures called Keepers in the Citadel capital space station, to tracking down a cult of Biotics in the far reaches of space. I've even hunted down a mad scientist and let my squad-member kill him to end a long chapter of his life. Never, and I mean never as this is no usual Bildo Hyperbole, have I played a game that made me feel this connected to the world. BioWare, and I'm sounding redundant here I know, is now at the forefront of story-telling in the videogame industry. No one does it better.

It's not all fun and games though. There are some complaints, as always, but they do pale in comparison to the full experience of Mass Effect. Mainly, the biggest problems in the game are technical issues. Framerates are rarely steady, and you'll notice it dipping all over the place throughout the adventure. Also on the performance side, you'll get used to seeing textures not fully loaded in a fresh area and see them quite plainly pop into resolution. It's funky, but not gamebreaking. Loading times are frequent though not long enough to be too much of a nuisance. Squad members can easily get in your way during a heated fight, but luckily it's not possible that I know of to kill them. They just obstruct your target. I may be wrong here though, so maybe someone can post and tell me if they've ever managed to accidentally kill Wrex or Garrus. And lastly, my biggest fault with Mass Effect has got to be the handling of the Mako, you're on-ground tank-like ship.

I've gotten used to driving the heap of junk, but at 1st it feels not at all unlike being put behind the wheels of a Caterpillar and being told to dig a small square hole with it. You look at the ship, and you think "Cool, a car with six wheels, sort of like a truck." But in actuality, it controls nothing like it. There's no throttle and then steering as one would with a normal car-game. Your controls in the ship are the same as the controls with your character. Back moves towards the screen, forward moves forward, and left and right move left or right (turning if necessary or moving straight left or right if your camera is positioned behind either side of the ship). Does this sound odd? Because it is.

My only guess is that BioWare found this the easiest way to give the player conntrol of the top-mounted turret and still make movement feel natural. But the Mako doesn't control like a normal car. It feels like its center of gravity is ten feet below the earth, and thanks to some rough land you'll be traversing it bounces around so much that precision driving is pretty much out of the question. There's no changing the way it handles either as far as I can tell. If I could offer advice (like they care) to BioWare it would be to make sure this is refined for the 2nd installment. Make it control like a car should, with break and throttle buttons, and have one stick turn the vehicle and one stick aim the gun. This way you still have the aiming control, but maneuverability will be greatly increased.

If it seems like I'm harping on this one issue, it's because that truly is the only thing I find disagreeable enough in ME to cause alarm. The rest of the game is nothing short of awe-inspiring and the story will have you up later than you intended everytime you pick up the controller. When this sucker hits the PC in a year or whatnot (as I expect it may), those without a 360 would do well to rush out and buy it. And if you have a 360 and are reading this site, you are likely a fan of RPGs so what the hell are you doing reading this? Go play the dang thing!

There Will Be Blood...

And no, I'm not talking about the Daniel Day-Lewis film that's making its way towards many an Oscar this year. I'm talking about Age of Conan from Funcom which is currently slated for a March 25th release.

The always poignant Tipa had this to say about Conan's coming fate:
"Age of Conan will launch and sink without a trace. Come on. PvP with sex and boobies and lots of blood in an election year? The first politician who sees this game will tear it to shreds. ‘Sinking without a trace’ would be the best outcome. ‘Being used as a reason to crack down on MMOs’ would be the worst. Luckily, the teenage boys who make up its natural audience will balk at the subscription fees. Plus, who the heck even knows who Conan is? If the average player even remembers the old Schwarzenegger flick, that’d be amazing — the people who would want to play this game weren’t even born then."
I have to say that I think her statement and others across the blogosphere strike me as remarkably off-target. It's not that I don't see her point, it's that I think far too many people are focusing on the subject matter and the stupidly hyped blood and boobs aspect of this game. No one seems to be focusing on the actual gameplay, and it's in that aspect that I expect AoC to be at least moderately succesful.

I'm a big fan of Robert E. Howard's work, and while I'd love to see Solomon Kane in his own game before another Conan game, I'm confident in the pieces of work we've been shown by Funcom that they're taking the license seriously. Say what you will about the gore and the sex, but without either... it simply wouldn't be Conan. It wouldn't feel like Cimmeria or Stygia. However, despite the title of this post, I'm not here to play advocate for the mature-rated side of Age of Conan. I'm writing this to point out several areas where, if done right, Conan could very well push the genre in some very welcome new directions.

~Action and Combo Based Combat~
To say that traditional MMO Combat is in need of revision is merely an opinion, but one I'm proud to have. I do have my nostalgia for the highlight and hotkey combat, but I'm also the kind of person who believes in constant stiving for improvement. Combat in MMOs has largely been the same for the past 10 years, with very few successful steps away from the core mechanics. One of the more recent successful implementations of a new form of MMO combat has been Tabula Rasa (even if the game's sales underperformed), and Age of Conan is aiming to take things a bit further with their own Real-Combat System.

The RCS is basically a melding of what players will be used to in an MMO, and what a fan of God of War might be more inclined to enjoy. You will control the individual swings and where they're aimed at in AoC. You will aim the bow as you would in an FPS, and you will chain your spells together in an as of yet unrevealed "Spell-weaving" system. No longer will you simply, highlight one enemy, use your hotkeys, and watch the health fall. You'll have to think about the armor of your opponent as their defenses will adjust to where you're hitting them most, you'll have to link your sword swings in an appropriate manner for maximum damage, and you'll have a real chance to hide in some foliage and snipe an unsuspecting bandit from afar with your longbow.

While this will undoubtedly turn off some of your more seasoned MMO veterans, it does nothing but excite me. After playing and understanding the combat of TR, I can't wait for another company to take it one step further. If it plays well, Conan's biggest strength will be the Real-Combat System. This is where they need to make sure their focus lies. In yet another fantasy MMO primarily focused on combat, what's new needs to also be "what's good". The exact same sentiment goes also for Mounted Combat. If they're really going to do it, it had better work brilliantly. It's something many people want, but that doesn't mean it can be crap either.

~Town and PvP Keep Building~
Every guild or Clan in AoC will be able to amass the materials necessary to build their own towns or cities in the wilderness, and subsequently defend it from invading NPCs, or if in one of the Border Kingdoms (PvP Zones) from other Clans. This was something that was done to a very good end in old Star Wars Galaxies, and I think every fan of the MMO can agree that aside from the ghost towns they became, the player-made cities and villages in SWG were what made the game so special among other things. Again, IF AoC does this well, and they end up as more than a side-show and instead become something integral to the gaming experience, than the feature will be another aspect of what makes Conan so compelling.

It's in these two (3 if you count mounted combat seperately) facets that all hope lies with Age of Conan. If they're built right, if they work well, politcal quagmire or not the game will be a success in the States, and in whatever parts of Europe it sees release in. Last I read, Gaute Gaudager was talking about how they have to tone down different aspects of the game for different countries, so expect to see a EU and NA release relatively close to each other if not simultaneous. I am not saying that the emphasis of the press concerning Age of Conan hasn't been solely on the boobs and the blood. Hell, the last trailer for the game had more flying heads than Kid Icarus. But I'm intelligent enough to know that it's just bad marketing. It will undoubtedly work for some, both teens and violence-loving Droogies alike will dig Conan for its gore and sex-filled atmosphere. But not me.

I'm more excited about the new ideas the game is trying to bring to the genre. As fans of the Universal MMO we should all be focusing more on these merits, rather than its jubblies, media be damned.

Sorry for any typos, busy morning and just wanted to hammer this out quickly.


EDIT: Tipa unintentionally reminded me of one of my main reasons for writing this. The Xbox 360. That's the wildcard here. Forget the gore (which I might add is no more prevalent from what we've seen than in God of War or Resident Evil), and forget the sex (you can make it with an alien woman as either a man or a woman in Mass Effect, need I remind you?).

This article is meant to put those aside. The focus here is on gameplay, and also the fact that Age of Conan is aiming to be the 1st true MMORPG since FFXI hit the PS2 to make it onto the console side of things. I'm sure I'm not the only 360 owner who wants to be able to play his favorite genre with the comfort and stability a console provides meshed with the depth and socialization that thus far is only available on the PC front.

I think AoC will do okay, but not great on the PC. Where it will shine, if it plays well, is the 360. There are some 16 million (right?) Xbox 360 owners across NA and EU, and I'm willing to bet at least 500,000 of them are wishing they could play WoW or some other real MMO that's not the uber-hardcore FFXI on their sexy little consoles. I know I am. I'm not trying to be all over Funcom's jock here, but come on... what console owner that likes MMORPGs wouldn't want to play a solid offering on his/her console? It can be done, it just hasn't been yet for my tastes. I hated FFXI. Bring on Conan. I HOPE it turns out well. I really do.

Wednesday, January 2, 2008

I'm back... sort of.

I'm sitting here thinking of all manner of things, gaming, politics, film, etc... and yet I can't seem to get the thoughts to fix themselves into writing. You'll have to forgive me, but today is going to be a lax day once again at the old blog. I've got some impressions on Mass Effect and Crackdown coming along, but there a ways off still.

In just a few days it's Pirates time, so there will be that to talk about as well. Here's hoping my shiny new toy (the 360) hasn't faded my lust to play this one. We'll see soon enough.

Wish my brain luck on recovering from this holiday hangover, and hopefully I'll have something of more substance to chat about tomorrow.