Games I’m Looking Forward To

Most people do these lists at the beginning of the year. I’m doing mine before the fall rush. Of course, I’m not limiting myself to games that are releasing this fall. In fact, I’m not really limiting myself at all. Heck, I might even throw in a game or two that been released, but I haven’t played yet.

So in no particular order:

1. Dishonored — I haven’t been a huge Arkane fan, but this one looks to have some of the old Thief magic to it. That plus the amazing art has me intrigued.

2. Bioshock Infinite — On the other hand, I have been an Irrational fan. They combine story and gameplay that make your agency seem important. I’m excited.

3. Borderlands 2 — More guns than you can shake a stick at, solid gunplay in a colorful coop shooter just about define my idea of tactical fun. When you add in the RPG lite levels and ability trees, I’m in heaven.

4. Torchlight 2 — I enjoyed Diablo III a lot, but Torchlight is moving in a different direction in the same space. That’s exactly the kind of competition I like. And I enjoyed the first one.

5. Company of Heroes 2 — I own and enjoy all the CoH games. I still don’t think I’ve given them nearly a fraction of the time they deserve. The next generation looks like more and better. Thank you Relic.

6. Simcity V — I think they’re just calling it SimCity, like a reboot. I think I first played SimCity in 1990 on a friend’s Mac. Now they’re finally taken the step I’ve been waiting for with individual Sims going about their virtual lives in the city I build.

7. Elemental: Fallen Enchantress — I liked the thought behind (though not the execution of) Elemental. Mostly I’m excited because the mind behind the excellent Fall From Heaven mod series is working on fixing the kinks and creating something even better with Fallen Enchantress. Hey Kael.

8. The Witness — Yes, Jonathan Blow will probably bring us something different and challenging. Will it be fun though?

9. The Last of Us — Yes, it’s another zombie apocalypse. But Naughty Dog looks to bring some real storytelling and a human element to this adventure. Plus they’ve earned my respect over the years.

10. Assassin’s Creed III — I enjoy the series. I’m a bit of a history nut for the American Revolution. So this is looking good. I just hope they don’t get too wacky with American heroes.

11. XCOM: Enemy Unknown — I’ve only been waiting for good follow up to the original games since the mid 90’s. I even played the space shooter one. Please let this one be good.

12. LittleBigPlanet Karting — This is mostly about playing time with my son. He loves ModNation Racers and LittleBigPlanet. So we’re both looking forward to this one.

13. Carrier Command: Gaia Mission — This one is all about nostalgia for the original Carrier Command. The only thing close to it since is Hostile Waters: Antaeus Rising (with excellent Tom Baker narration).

14. Starvoid — I admit I don’t know much about this one, but it sounds like a cross between Starcraft and World in Conflict, both games I love.

15. Ascend: New Gods — The team behind Toy Soldiers is trying to create something new by stealing bits from games I enjoy.

16. Kingdom Under Fire II — We’re approaching release for, what, the fifth time? I really enjoyed the Hack and Slash meets Strategy mash up when it was on the old Xbox.

17. Sins of a Dark Age — Sins of a Solar Empire was good enough to make me pay attention to anything Ironclad does next. Fantasy Strategy? Good enough.

18. Defenders of Ardania — Warlock surprised me by being better than expected. Perhaps the next game in the Majesty universe will as well. Just don’t give me a by the numbers tower defense.

19. Hand of Odd — I don’t know if this will be made this time around, but I’m intrigued by a strategy game in the Oddworld universe.

20. Mechwarrior: Tactical Command — I loved Mechcommander back in the day. I’ll gladly take a new version on the ipad.

21. FTL: Faster Than Light — A roguelike on a spaceship in a hostile universe? I just know that I was sorely disappointed when release got pushed from August to September.

22. Total War: Rome 2 — I probably spent more time with Rome than any of the other Total War games. It just seems to fit the model so well. So yeah, give me some more.

23. Prison Architect — I really like the Introversion team. This may not be Subversion, but it does look interesting. I don’t know if it will be more fun to build the perfect prison or see things spiral out of control.

24. Scrolls — Minecraft isn’t really my cup of tea. I respect everything Mojang has done, and I love some of the creations users have built. I just enjoy other types of games. On the other hand, Scrolls is a strategy/board/card game. Right up my alley.

25. Monaco: What’s Yours is Mine — Who knows if this will work out? But a coop grand heist game that sounds like more of what I expected when I first heard of Payday: The Heist.

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Planetary Annihilation

It’s no secret that I love strategy games. I even enjoy the ones I’m not that good at. I may eventually slow down enough that I have to retreat to only turn based strategy, but for now, I still enjoy a good RTS. Unfortunately, there haven’t been many releases in the genre lately. Sure, there was Starcraft II. And you’re doing fine if you want a Multiplayer Online Battle Arena (MOBA) like Defense of the Ancients 2. And I can’t forget tower defense games. I’ve played some great ones, but when I think of RTS, I tend associate games like my first RTS, Dune II. So Command and Conquer is going free to play online. Somehow, I don’t think that will lead to great single player campaigns or coop comp stomps. Did I mention that I’m not the greatest RTS player online?

So if someone is going to offer me a chance to get a game with battles spanning an entire solar system, who am I to say no? Planetary Annihilation is the new kickstarter from Uber Entertainment. Yes, it’s clearly related to Total Annihilation and Supreme Commander. That’s a good thing since we’ve got two more expansion to go for Starcraft II. Who doesn’t want to smash giant asteroids into your opponents main base? Check out the video and see if you think I’m being a sucker for backing it. They’ve got 22 days left and have passed two thirds of their goal.

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Hack Attack

Update: Apple has suspended phone password resets for the time being. Amazon and Google are emphasizing security in the same article. I guess words do matter.

Original Post:

I’ve had the site hacked a few times over the years. It’s always painful and frustrating. That’s part of the reason sections of the site are locked down. I’m sure a determined hacker could still get in, but the casual roaming hack bots of destruction will usually move on to easier targets. I’ve learned the dangers of being on the web since I started this site years ago. That’s why I’m a bit nervous about cloud computing.

On the one hand, I can see all the glittering towers it promises. As a gamer, I like saves that move with me from device to device seamlessly. I like the idea of restoring my phone or tablet with a simple login or two. Then something like this come along. This poor guy, a seasoned tech writer, had his digital life wiped because (allegedly) someone liked his twitter handle.

I’ve lost hard drives, so I try to back up my data. I even try to keep some at a remote location. Still, I wouldn’t want to go through that. I wish him the best and a quick, smooth recovery.

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Match and Magic Kickstarter

Thanks to Tim Schafer, most gamers know about Kickstarter. Now there’s a new game along the lines of Puzzle Quest looking for backers. The game is largely done, but needs money for polish and additional artwork. This might not have caught my interest if Bill Harris, hadn’t fallen in love with the game.

So if a roguelike crossed with Puzzle Quest catches your fancy, send Jeff a few bucks. If you’re not sure, there’s a demo available.

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Ex Early Adopter

The momentum is building for the PS Vita launch. Reviews are coming out for the system and the launch games. The fans are getting hyped up. The early adopters are awaiting their tracking numbers or calls from the their game store. It doesn’t look like there will be long lines for the Vita or a huge scarcity at launch, but all signs point to a positive launch.

So why am I so ambivalent? The short answer is that even though I like the looks of the new handheld, I just don’t think I’m an early adopter any more. I’ve realized that the thrill of new hardware can come at any time in a consoles life span. However, hardware and software bugs, limited libraries, launch bundles and high prices are front loaded. The DS Lite and the PSP 2000 and beyond were better and less buggy than the launch models. Microsoft eventually got a handle on the red ring of death. Now the 3DS has had a major price drop and filled in the holes in its library. If you’re cynical, you can see if a console is doomed by a bad launch or early sales figures.

I’ve come to realize that I like stable, refined hardware and software more than just having the cutting edge. I love my third generation kindle. Even the new touch doesn’t dampen my enjoyment of it. If I get an iPad, it will probably be this third generation. The old Windows rule of waiting for the first service pack to upgrade seems more generally applicable than I thought.

Mostly it has to do with limited time. I have many good games in the backlog. I have many systems to rotate through. Then I’m also distracted by the new hotness on my phone. The Amazon free app of the day doesn’t help either. Without a group of peers that are early adopters any more, I’ve lost that fire (or perhaps the masochism).

To everyone excited about the Vita launch, I’m happy for you. I hope the system exceeds your expectations. If I may make one request, please test everything, log every complaint, and sift the gems from the detritus. Those of us coming along later will benefit from your efforts. I’d like to thank you in advance for the better product I’ll eventually get.

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Welcome to Now

If you were stopping by the old site, I’m sure you noticed that I flipped the switch to make the blog the main site. It was time for some housekeeping. This and the twitter feed are the only parts that will be updated in the near future. Let me explain why.

First, I have limited time to work on the site. I want to keep writing about games, but I have to do some reading and gaming to stay current. I love my three kids and spend a lot of time with them. They do some gaming, but most of it probably isn’t of interest to most older gamers. Do let me know if you want to hear more about Tangled spelling challenges on the Leapster Explorer. So I’m not going to be writing as much as before, but I will try to make some regular updates.

Next, I liked postnuke (now known as zikula). However, I kept getting errors and failures trying to update the news site to more recent versions. I’m sure if I had time, I could get it working, but after a couple of years and decreasing attempts, I’ve admitted that it’s not going to happen. The blog here is WordPress. It does nice things like letting me update automatically. I’m sure there will still be security issues, but this set up is easier to use than the HTML and postnuke/BBS mash up I was using before. There are also nice features I can add if I get ambitious.

I’m sure nobody noticed this next one, but the Talk Strategy Wiki is dead. It was completely taken over by spam. There was really no way save it. I could start it over, but I don’t have the time or inclination to police it. And to all the Seach Engine Optimization companies that helped ruin the wiki, shame on you. Malicious bots and questionable product sales, I expect, but SEO’s know better. I feel somewhat better knowing that all those links you planted are gone.

The old HTML site is still around. You can find it Here. I’m sure most of the links are broken by the move, but if you replace WWW with OLD in the link it should work. I’ll probably try to fix the front page links sometime, but probably not anything beyond that. Once Google crawls the changes, I’m sure you’ll be able to find anything you might want from it.

The news site is still up and works. I had to lock down the bulletin board due to spam and bots. I probably won’t be updating it much, if at all. If that changes, I’ll let you know.

Finally, I do miss the interaction and stories from the site. So if you have any stories in your backlog, send them my way. I can post them here. I’m just itching to start a games stories category. Do let me know what you like or don’t like about this layout. Also, any feedback on the mobile version of the site would help as well.

More to come as it happens and as I have time.



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Swarms of Flying Robots

Where have I heard that before?  This brings out the kid in me.  Way back when I was learning to program, I tried to move sprites around like this and had collision problems.  I can’t imagine three dimensional collision detection.  Still, the results are a lot of fun. Click Continue Reading for the video.

Thanks Technabob.


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Speeding Up

It certainly seems like we’re moving towards a downloadable future. The Steam library is huge (as is my Steam backlog). All three consoles have large downloadable libraries. The PSP, DSi and 3DS have plenty of games available for download. Sony’s goal for the upcoming Vita is to have the option to buy every game either via physical media or download. Don’t get me started on music and videos.

There are some problems with this glorious future. One is the move towards bandwidth caps. Another is throughput. Increasing download sizes just make this problem worse. Yet, games sizes, at least will just keep getting larger for AAA games.

Recently, I realized that I had a throughput problem with Playstation network. I would get great speeds for a while then it trickle down to take an uncomfortably long time to finish. This hadn’t been a huge problem since background downloading has been around for a while. Then when you’re done, you can either tell the PS3 to turn off when done with download or you can start up Folding at Home and let it shut down after it finishes protein folding. However, recently I’ve had some downloads that lasted longer than overnight or folding. After checking with some online friends, I found that most had been praising PSN for it’s improved performance.

I had been using the built in wifi on the PS3 (802.11g with WPA2). I decided to try using the same connection that was giving me much better results on the Xbox 360. It’s my wireless-N bridge connected to a gigabit switch. Since I was out of ports on the switch (and wanted more for future use), I grabbed a new 8 port gigabit switch from Monoprice.

Most geeks know that Monoprice is the place to go for cables. I’ve tried some of their hardware in years past and found it a bit cheap and junky. In the last year or more, they’ve been upgrading to provide more and better hardware. The first new item I tried from them was a HDMI switcher. It was inexpensive, but not cheaply made. It worked well and still does. Then I tried some of their earphones. They’re good, but don’t jump into the great category unless you go by price.

So how is the switch? Do you need dynamic configuration and packet shaping tools? No? Then it’s great. It’s fast and compatible. More importantly it let me hook up the PS3 to try it out. For some reason I expected the PS3 to automatically switch to ethernet if you connected one. This is not true, at least it’s not true if you had to manually set up your wifi on the PS3. So I had to go into the settings, network settings menu. Then I let it try to automatically connect. That worked. Now it was using the switch to the bridge. Sure enough, streaming data got better, PSN store downloads were faster and more stable.

So I guess the problem was the built in wifi on the PS3. Before I turned it wifi off, I was digging through the network menu. There was a connection status screen. I noticed the signal strength was varying wildly even with no user activity. Now I get download speeds on par with the Xbox. Just something to keep in mind if you’re having problems.

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Kinect For

I got a Kinect for my Xbox 360 for Christmas. It’s an amazing device to consider. It has brilliant potential, but right now it seems confined to the baby carriage of minigame collections.

I know there are some better games out there now. Even the improvement from launch games to current Kinect games seems tiny to what our imaginations hope for with an accessory like the Kinect.

Let me start with some of the flaws of the system before I get into the good stuff. Sure, it’s expensive and needs a lot of room, but those are the things you know going in. My first complaint is the new dashboard. It’s allegedly designed to work better with Kinect. I had it before I got the Kinect and hated it. Now I have Kinect and still hate it. It feels like a chore to do just about anything beyond launching your disk or quicklaunch games. Voice command helps with this but it seems pretty limited. Sure it can take me to the games tab, but that’s about it.

Next up is lag. The best games I’ve played disguise the input lag, but it’s still there. Sure ‘Minority Report’ controls are cool, but lag can kill it. I understand the need to keep costs down that resulted in pulling the processor and memory from the Kinect, but it could have been so cool if the had kept it.

Another problem is kids. Actually my kids love the Kinect. The problem is that either the games or the hardware have problems with the height differential between me and my kids. Two kids playing side by side is better than me playing with them. That’s too bad, and I hope they solve that one.

I suppose I could complain about occlusion, but that’s really nitpicking. There’s a reason the Kinect captures our imagination, and it has nothing to do with the hardware or software limitations. It’s all about magic.

Kinect can be magical at times, but that’s not really what I’m talking about. I’m saying Kinect works the way we think magic should work. We wave our hands and the world changes. As an aside, wouldn’t Google Earth (ok, Bing Earth) be a cool app for Kinect. Spin the globe with your hands. Lean in to zoom in, and lean out to go back. Anyway, everyone from Jedi to magicians make the wondrous happen with a wave of their hands. That’s why Fruit Ninja is such a great bundled app. It’s all about waving your hands to make the magic happen.

I’ll write some more later about the Kinect. I don’t know if everyone should own one, but everyone should try it out some time.

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Happy New Year

It’s hard to believe how fast time has been moving. Just yesterday, I thought I’d get back to a game I’d been playing recently. When I went to start it up, Steam was happy to inform me it had last been played in September. I could have sworn it wasn’t more than a couple weeks.

I’ve been doing some behind the scenes work on the site. I’m probably going to redirect the main site to the blog and provide links back. WordPress is much easier to manage than the old CMS and keeps getting better. I’m still debating on things like comments and forums, but overall I’m getting pretty comfortable with the idea of blogging. Obviously, I don’t have the time any more to keep doing the site the way I was.

I do have plenty I want to talk about. It’s about time for a new computer. The next generation of handheld gaming devices are coming out. They’ll soon be followed by the next generation of consoles (which some believe will be the last). We’ve got Move and Kinect battling the Wii for waggle dominance. I still manage to play some traditional games now and then. I’m also doing more smart phone gaming. Speaking of phones, I moved from WebOS to Android. Let’s have a moment of silence for the old Palm.

Mostly, I just wanted to post that I’m alive and thinking about what I can do to be able to say the same for the site. The old emails still work if you want to send me your thoughts.

Happy New Year.

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