Tuesday, June 15, 2010

Super Mario Galaxy Review

Super Mario Galaxy (Wii)
Release Date: Nov 12, 2007

Kidnapped again, WTF!?
The game begins like every other Mario game, with Bowser kidnapping Princess Peach. Shocker, I know. Then again, we don’t play Mario games for story, am I right? Anyway, it’s the Star Festival, which celebrates a comet that comes by every 100 years. Bowser breaks up the party with his spacecraft and pulls the entirety of Peach’s Castle into space. Mario gets pulled up with the castle too and tries to save Peach, but fails. Mario wakes up on a strange planet and meets Rosalina, who lives on the comet. Rosalina agrees to take Mario to the center of the universe where Peach is being held captive if he’ll get back the Grand Stars that were stolen by Bowser. Without the Grand Stars, the Comet Observatory is immobile.

I like the way you move
The controls are very solid and fluent…except when you’re underwater. As not one single developer can seem to get swimming controls down pat, I guess I can forgive it, but that doesn’t change the fact that they’re still there and feel a bit funky. Anyway, for a platformer, moving and jumping should be the primary function, and if they don’t work right, then you’re game is going to suck. That’s not that case here however, as Mario moves as he’s supposed to.

So your most basic controls are running and jumping, but in addition, you can waggle the nunchuck and Mario will do a spin move. This allows him to knock over enemies and objects, extend his jump by just a bit, and perform special functions in boss fights. There’s also the classic ground pound by jumping and pressing Z.

The newest feature is to aim your wiimote to collect sparkly rock things called Star Bits, which are used to feed hungry Lumas that grant you access to certain areas. The game can be played “co-op,” where if you have a second wiimote, a friend can collect and shoot Star Bits for you. Yea, that’s co-op.

Don’t forget your towel!
There are six domes on the Comet Observatory. These domes house over 40 galaxies in total, which are your levels. There are usually three main galaxies in each dome, including one or two special galaxies and the boss galaxy. In each main galaxy, there are 3 basic stars you can get. Some galaxies have more as there are special comets that appear that increase the difficulty on the level for a special challenge which grants you another star. So in total, there are 120 stars you can collect, but you only need 60 to beat the game.

The galaxies look awesome, are very colorful as expected in Mario games, and are a blast to play. The difficulty varies on which star you’re after, as some are ridiculously easy, or straight up hard. Some levels, especially the comet levels, can really make you want to break your controller in half as you miss a jump or something. Practice, practice, practice. There were some spots that I really got hung up on, mostly on boss galaxies, but I never used more than 8 lives to beat a galaxy.

1 Up Yours!

My only real gripe with the game is the 1up system, it just doesn’t feel right. During stretches where I was doing really well, I had upwards of 20 lives. However, this would all disappear once I turned the game off to take a break, because they reset. What’s the point if they’re just going to reset? Because once I get down to two lives, I can just reset the game to gain back continues. There’s also a way to get practically infinite continues by hitting the box by the Mushroomship, because the box always resets when you leave the area and come back. The only significance it holds is as a check point holder. Once you get so far into a level, you get an invisible check point (invisible, because you never know when you hit them). When your lives run out, you just simply have to restart the level from the very beginning. With continues bearing no weight, there’s no reason to go out of your way to get them or buy them when a Luma offers a 1up or a Supershroom (gives you 3 more HP). Um yea, give me the Supershroom, I can get a 1up from the box in the ship.

Verdict: Awesome

That's also 1 game completed for the challenge, 27 more to go!

Monday, June 14, 2010

D&D: Campaign Info, Tools, and First Impressions

My Dungeons & Dragons group had our first session last Wednesday, and I must say that I was very impressed. It was insanely fun and our Dungeon Master did a wonderful job of keeping things interesting and running smoothly. In the beginning of our session, it took me a while to understand what was going on and how things worked. It’s one thing to read the handbook, but it’s another thing to actually play.

New Player Tip: Pay special attention to Chapter 9: Combat in the Player’s Handbook. During game-play, you’ll spend a good portion, if not most, of your time in combat. I would even suggest rereading the chapter two or three times.

New Player Tip: Familiarize yourself with your character’s skills, feats, and powers. Make sure to know these inside and out. Print out your Character Sheet to help you keep track of stuff. Everything really important that pertains to your character and combat is on that sheet.

As I mentioned a few posts back, I’m playing online with some World of Warcraft guild members. I know I’m missing out on the “true” D&D atmosphere with rolling dice, Mountain Dew, and pizza as seen below, but the group and I still have lots of fun thanks to a few online tools. The group meets every Wednesday night and our party consists of:
Turok – Dragonborn Cleric (Me)
Quatre – Human Druid
Erdan – Half-Elf Sorcerer
Wergild – Gnoll Fighter
Alantin – Changeling Warlock

I took notes during the session of what happened during play, and I plan to write them up for you to read. I intend to write it up in a story style though to help me work on my writing skill and to also spice it up a bit more so that it’s more enjoyable to read.

Since this is a table top game and we’re playing online, we use what’s referred to as a Virtual Table Top. The videos in the link below can explain it better than I can, and it’s always better to show rather than tell, so here you go:

For our campaign, we don’t use a lot of the automatic stat tracking that can be used in Maptool. We still mark and keep track of our own stats on paper/monitor since that’s part of the fun of the game. We mainly just use Maptool for a visual map, token movement, and dice rolling in the chat function. Maptool is free, and you can download it here: http://www.rptools.net/index.php?page=downloads#MapTool
Maptool Video Tutorials: http://www.rptoolstutorials.net/?page_id=7

From what I hear, there are other free to use, or even subscription, application programs that you can use to host and play on, but this is what our Dungeon Master wanted us to use, and we like it.

Since we’re primarily a World of Warcraft guild, our guild owns a Ventrilo server which we use to communicate for raids and such. We just make a passworded channel on the server for our D&D need and to keep wanderers from disturbing play. Ventrilo is free to use, and you can download it here: http://www.ventrilo.com/download.php

You can either host the server on your computer for free or pay a monthly fee to have a reliable company to host it. An alternative is Teamspeak which is pretty much the same thing or Skype.

Character Builder
This is an application program directly from Wizards of the Coast, who own the Dungeons & Dragons franchise. It pretty much walks you through character creation, and helps you manage your character through play. For our campaign, this is what our Dungeon Masters uses to keep track of our character progression and stats. The other players and I just simply e-mail the save file to the Dungeon Master and he does what he needs with it.
There is a demo of the program, which you can download here: http://www.wizards.com/dnd/tool.aspx?x=dnd/4new/tool/characterbuilder

To level your character passed level 3 however, you’ll either have to subscribe to Dungeons & Dragons Insider, or know someone who is a subscriber and they can provide you with an update to grant you full access.

Sunday, June 13, 2010

E3 2010: My Most Anticipated

So with E3 unofficially kicking off tonight and continuing on until Thursday, June 17, I figured I would let you know what I’m most excited about.


10) Killzone 3 (PS3)
Release Date: TBA

Why I’m excited: The third installment of the Killzone franchise. Killzone 2 was excellent, and I definitely want to see more. There’s also the implementation of 3D graphics for the game. It will definitely help prove if 3D has staying power with gaming.

9) Fallout: New Vegas
(PC, Xbox 360, PS3)
Release Date: Q4 2010

Why I’m excited: Fallout 3 was excellent. New Vegas looks like more of the same in a new territory, but that’s alright with me.

8) Enslaved
(PS3, Xbox 360)
Release Date: TBA 2010

Why I’m excited: I’m a sucker for post-apocalyptic stories, plain and simple. This game actually deviates from the standard brown and grey spectrum though, and actually has a wide variety of exciting colors.

7) Gears of War 3 (Xbox 360)
Release Date: April 5, 2011

Why I’m excited: …speaking of brown and grey spectrums, just kidding. I really enjoyed the last 2 games, and look forward to the conclusion of the story. It’ll be interesting to see how they one up Gears of War 2.

6) Dead Rising 2 (PC, PS3, Xbox 360)
Release Date: August 31, 2010

Why I’m excited: The first Dead Rising was extremely fun and inventive when it came to killing zombies, and now 2 will expand on the whacky and zaniness for new weapons and combos AND with an all new area to explore and cleanse. Plain and simple: Zombies.

5) Dead Space 2 (PC, PS3, Xbox 360)
Release Date: Q1 2011

Why I’m excited: Isaac is back and now with a voice! Dismemberment was one of the coolest gameplay mechanics when the first game released.

4) Portal 2
(PC, Xbox 360)
Release Date: TBA 2011

Why I’m excited: I’m a big fan of the first game, and Valve is one of my favorite developers. With this second installment however, it’s going to be a full length game and feature co-op! I can never say no to co-op.

3) Deus Ex: Human Revolution (PC, PS3, Xbox 360)
Release Date: March 2011

Why I’m excited: While I never did get to play the first 2 games, I’ve heard nothing but good things about them, and this game is apparently going to be a prequel. The story sounds amazing, and if you can do even half of the stuff in the trailer, that’d be a rad game.

2) Bulletstorm
(PC, PS3, Xbox 360)
Release Date: Q1 2011

Why I’m excited: Military shooters be damned, this game just looks like insane fun.

1) Warhammer 40k: Space Marine
(PS3, Xbox 360)
Release date: TBA

Why I’m excited: Huge fan of the Warhammer 40k universe and Space Marines. I’d love to get into the boots of a Space Marine and just wreck havoc on the enemies of the Emperor… even if they are Ultramarine boots, For Sanguinius!


Even being a diehard World of Warcraft player, it's still fun to take peaks at up and coming competition. Currently I'm really excited about Star Wars: The Old Republic as it's being made by Bioware and looks fantastic. I'm also really looking forward to what THQ will reveal about the Warhammer 40k MMO.

4) Vindictus
Release Date: Fall 2010

3) Tera
Release Date: Q1 2011

2) Warhammer 40k MMO

Release Date: TBA

1) Star Wars: The Old Republic
Release Date: TBA 2011


1)Tie: Kinect (Natal) & Move

Why I'm excited: These two products have been hyped and hyped. Soon we'll find out if they really have staying power or are mere peripherals to capture the casual gaming market. Mini games are all fun and dandy, but they don't essentially make a game. One can only play mini games for so long. It's also software that will have to push the hardware, because like I said, "Mini games will not sell Natal or Move." Sure you'll get some early adopters, but there are many, like myself, who are still skeptical as to what really can be done with these peripherals. "Potential, potential, potential!" has been shouted numerous times, but as stated, it will be software that truly pushes the hardware sells. Let's just hope that Microsoft and Sony show us some living proof of what games we're capable of playing with Natal and Move.

2) Nintendo 3DS
Not much is known about this piece of hardware yet, and it's not known if this will continue in the DS vein or be it's successor. 3D this, and 3D that have been shoved down our throats for almost 2 years now with movies, and it now seems that the phenomenon is coming to gaming. 3D gaming for consoles seems to require a much more expensive buy in to utilize the technology (ie. owning a 3D capable TV). However, 3D in a hand-held form will be much more available and accessible to the common consumer as (hopefully) the price will be more reasonable.

Wednesday, June 9, 2010

D&D: My Character's Backstory

So for our Dungeons & Dragons campaign, our Dungeon Master has made a custom campaign for us to explore and enjoy. As such, players were required to write their own character backstory. While I've mainly been distracted with reading the Player's Handbook I hastily wrote mine last night since we begin play later tonight. It could probably use some more editing and detailing, but I like it well enough:

I am forever shamed, because my parents are of different clans; my father being a black dragonborn, and my mother of the brown dragonborn. The two met on the battlefield when all of the dragonborn clans had to come together to defeat the ever growing and dangerous Orc threat in the Tribulation War. After the war, my parents parted ways and returned to their clans. I only know of my parents from what the Cleric leader has told me as my mother passed away during labor. Being alone in the world, Darvinrok, the Cleric leader, cared for my egg and took me in after I hatched.

Growing up in a pure brown dragonborn society, I was often treated different, because I had inherited my father’s black scales but kept the brown dragonborn society’s breath weapon of ice. Although the color difference was subtle, it made me stick out like a sour thumb as my childhood nickname was “Wrongscale.” As much as I tried to fit in, my scales always skewed someone’s opinion or treatment of me.

To prove my honor to the clan and follow the only footsteps I knew, I became Darvinrok’s Cleric apprentice and dedicated my time and devotion to Shelnedok “the Earth Shaker,” Ancestor of the Brown Dragonkind. Under Darvinrok, I not only learned how to live a life of prayer and devotion, but also to slay with a mighty broadsword and protect with a light shield. Wielding these weapons and learning to channel Shelnedok’s divinity, I became a battle cleric.

One day while praying at the Altar of Shelnedok, a group of fiendish Purescales* looking to make trouble on my behalf entered the temple. I heard them laugh and mock me as they walked down the aisle but still I continued to play the fool and stayed kneeling, pretending to pray.

One of them shoved me from behind, “Didn’t you hear me, Wrongscale? You don’t belong here. This isn’t your world.”

I recovered, pretending as if I meant to lean forward in a bow, my eyes still closed as I started to hum.

The same voice growled, “Nobody mocks me, especially not some two-bit dragonborn.”

I heard the hastily unsheathing of a weapon and snapped to attention, rolling into the target’s feet and knocking it over. As I tried to get to my feet, another Dragonborn uppercut me in the ribs. The blow sent me reeling backwards into a third Dragonborn who grabbed me from behind. To loosen his grip, I slammed the back of my head into his face and hurtled myself backwards, using my body weight to crush him as we crashed to the floor. The Dragonborn that had uppercut me now lunged for a second blow, but I sidestepped the attack and drew my shield to bare. The wild Dragonborn swung with another strike, but quicker, I heaved my shield into him, catching him under the chin, knocking him out cold. I drew my broadsword and turned to face the first Dragonborn whom I had rolled into.

The Dragonborn smirked, “Very impressive, Wrongscale, but now you die!”

Yelling, the Dragonborn charged with his sword held two-handed above his head, ready for a devastating blow. I yelled back, holding my ground. As the Dragonborn came within distance and began his downward swing, I broke his stride with a kick to the chest, breaking any chance he had for defense as he jolted and rebound. Upon seeing the opening, I thrust the pommel of my sword into his face, and he was finished.

Even though I didn’t provoke the fight and merely fought back in self-defense, the other members of the clans were none too pleased. Some even went so far as to demand that I be beheaded for my actions. Darvinrok pleaded with the Clan leader however, and their verdict was that I would be sent to Granwald, far over to the east to join the scout post. The scout post was near the edge of the Untamed Wilds, and would keep watch for any Orc or feral Gnoll tribe uprisings.

During this time I was only seventeen, and only Dragonborn over the age of eighteen were rotated to the post, but the Clan Leader made an exception. While I managed to walk out with my life and was told that my reason for leaving was to bring Shelnedok’s divine light to the wilds, I knew that being cast away from the clan was just as detriment as any death. The Clan Leader simply just wanted to cleanse his clan of my black scale impurity, and put me in a place where I would hopefully not cause any more trouble.

After many months of travel across the ashes of Verania and the scorching desert of Zesbalam, I made final camp at the scout post in Granwald. Choosing to have no more association with my clan and no desire to go by my nickname, I am Turok, Dragonborn Cleric.

Personality Traits and such
1) Why is your character interested in adventuring?

Turok has pretty much been exiled from his clan, and doesn't really dig the whole hermit thing. Turok will go anywhere and do anything to fulfill his sense of honor.

2) What drives your character (vengeance, desire for status, the seeking of penance, etc.)? What is the inspiration for this drive?

Even though Turok was always treated differently and disrespected in his clan, he still carries himself highly, because he knows that the situation wasn't his fault. However, living a life where most everyone detests him has left him with a slight chip on his shoulder, and has some slight trust issues as he is mostly reserved and tries to keep a guard up before letting anyone get too close emotionally. Being of Good alignment though, he upholds laws of justice, but should the law be morally unsound he chooses not to follow them. Turok has a deep sense of need for honor, because it's part of his Dragonborn quality and alignment.

Thursday, June 3, 2010

D&D: I Put on My Robe and Wizard Hat

So I had originally planned to do a Warhammer 40k tabletop gaming intro series, but an opportunity came to me to play Dungeons & Dragons. I know right? The nerdiest of nerd stuff, but I would be a liar if I said I never had a longing to play at some point. The thing that always eventually turned me off from the idea was that none of my other friends expressed any interest when I would ask them about D&D. So even if I did buy all the books required to play, I wouldn’t have anyone to play with. That was the other problem, the books. Not only would it have cost a small fortune to buy them all, there was then the avalanche of having to read them all.

Recently, I’ve been following a different tabletop RPG, Deathwatch, by Fantasy Flight Games which lets you role-play as a Space Marine in the Warhammer 40k universe. I realize that Deathwatch is a very different setting and will have a different rule set from Dungeons & Dragons, but playing D&D will give me some insight into the game type to see if I even like it. I’ve often wanted to be the Dungeon Master since they control the narrative of the game. I fancy myself an amateur writer, so if anything; it would allow me a chance to work on my writing skills to create custom narratives to play. For this time around though I’ll simply be a player.

Anyway, during a World of Warcraft raid some guild members were talking about an application called Maptool. After asking about it, I came to find out that it was a program they were going to use to host a Dungeons & Dragons campaign online. As I said earlier, I’ve always been curious, so I jumped at the chance to play since they still had room in the group.

Having never played before, I got myself a copy of the Fourth Edition D&D Player’s Handbook. I haven’t finished reading it yet, but I’m currently on Chapter 6 – Feats, out of 10 chapters. The book is 317 pages, but it’s actually a pretty easy read if you take it chapter by chapter. The longest chapter is 4, which is Character Classes and is 122 pages. The reason for it being so long is because each class’s powers for all 30 levels are listed after the class description.

A lot of the material is already very familiar to me since I’ve played many a video game RPG such as Never Winter Nights and NW2, which actually used the D&D 3.5 system. So characteristics such as Strength, Dexterity, etc, and stuff like Fortitude saves or Feats aren’t alien concepts to me, which is really making tabletop easy to pick up. Playing tabletop D&D also gives me a chance to actually see the nitty gritty of the math and concepts of the role-playing genre at work and in its original form before it became integrated into video games. In a way, it’s like a history lesson in the development of video games, and hopefully should prove useful one day since a career in video game programming is my dream.

Work in Progress

Work in Progress
Counts as Lemartes

WIP Automarine Test

WIP Automarine Test
What Optimus Prime would look like as a Space Marine... wow my highlighting sucks >.<