Tuesday, April 15, 2014

Hide Yo Kids...

I am fairly certain that we have covered this topic before, but I feel like I need to bring it up again.  Little kids and video games.  I don't have a problem with parents deciding that their child is okay to play an "M" rated game.  I do, however, take major issue with little kids being all up on the mic.

When a game requires a clan, I see the whole idea as being a way to play together, socialize, group up, and engage with one another.  MMOs are particularly meant for a social experience.  When you take a game for adults (violence, skimpy clothes, F-bombs) and add small children (ages 12 and below), the parent is doing so at their own risk.  Allowing those same small children to get on a mic in clan chat is painful for everybody involved.  

Let's start with what should be the most obvious: my age vs their age.  I am 31 years old and I sure as hell do not want to hang out with your 7 year old.  That's weird.  It's annoying to me that I now have to spend time with a small child in order to get things done with my clan of adults aged 40 and up.

Second, what the hell kind of parent is allowing their child to get on the mic and talk to complete strangers?  Would you allow your kid to hang out in chat rooms online by themselves?  Or approach and converse with strangers in a park by themselves?  So why are there people that think it is harmless to allow their small children to be in a public lobby?  There is nothing to keep me or anyone else from saying something violent, threatening, or sexual.

Lastly, the adults that allow these kids online are super inconsiderate.  I was actually told in clan chat that I need to watch my language because there was a small child in chat.  An adult game full of talking adults should be no kids allowed.  It makes the game less fun and more awkward for everyone else.

So please, please leave your kids off the mic.  It's inappropriate for everyone involved, and I definitely won't be sorry when I teach your kid some new words.

Wednesday, March 26, 2014

Just Spit It Out Already!

Here's the breakdown of gaming at my house lately: I've been playing Defiance, my husband has been playing Sid Meier's Civilization: Revolution, and my daughters are obsessed with Animal Crossing: New Leaf.  We're kind of all over the board.  But do you know what the combination of listening to these three games has taught me?

Voice overs are totally important.

All three games have a different way to handle voice overs.  Defiance has inane, repetitive chatter, but it's completely voiced and in English (or whatever language, I'm guessing??)  Civilization has constant, interruptive voice overs, but the characters just jabber.  Kind of like Sims.  And Animal Crossing is completely voiced, but it's just bleeps and bloops, not really word sounds at all, except when you type it says the letters you hit in a majorly robotic voice.

So different, and what do they all have in common?  SO ANNOYING.

Of the three, I would say Animal Crossing is the least offensive.  I am not crazy about the fact that every time a character talks to you it makes a steady stream of noise not unlike a dial-up modem in the 90's, but it's easily tuned out.  Civilization might be the worst.  You have advisors helping build your civilization, and they are constantly popping up to talk at you.  It stops game play to have you read their blurb and make a decision. But the whole time they're up they are just jabbering away in nonsense.  Why?  Why did they even spend the time recording this inane blabbering?  If you're going to record someone talking away, just have them actually speak the words.  It's super annoying to me.  I wish they were just silent.  My husband stands up for the game by saying this way it could be shipped worldwide without recording multiple languages.  It still grates on me.

And Defiance voice overs are annoying in a category all their own.  There is tons of voiced dialogue during quest hand-outs and cut-scenes, all voice acted and well done.  But during actual game play you have your very own Navi-like computer chick, who talks incessantly but repeats the same lines over and over and over.  Everyone who plays can recite EGO's lines.  And everyone hates her.  I'm not generalizing.

I love the work programmers and designers put into games...but how about going that extra mile, or going a mile less, and just not annoying the gamer?

Tuesday, March 18, 2014

Titanfall: Doing It Right

I have always enjoyed games from the Call of Duty series.  I think they are a fun, brainless way to pass time, laugh with friends, or vent frustrations.  With the last couple releases, the Call of Duty online experience has become so intense that there is little value for the casual player.  Having releases every year causes the learning curve to approach so fast and so steep that it can be impossible to keep up.

Titanfall provides the action and fun of the online multiplayer experience, without all the baggage.  Of course, there are some players that magically become pros the instant the game loads up.  But for the most part, everyone is wading through these foreign waters together.  

There has always been a presence on the Internet that would like multiplayer and solo campaign games to be separate.  In the case of CoD, even the zombie levels should probably consist of their own title.  Instead of cramming all this into one, Titanfall poured all their attention into the multiplayer game.  With no focus being given to a single player story, the end result of Titanfall is near perfection.

The only decision I don't quite understand about Titanfall is why there is a multiplayer campaign.  The story is almost non-existent.  I played through and I don't remember any part of it; I was too busy messing with my loadouts.  The campaign consists of lobbies that play exactly like the regular, multiplayer game.  Developers really could have just left the game as Red Team vs Blue Team; we don't need a backstory.

While I have never enjoyed achievements that are based on online play, I think the goals they set are manageable.  For those of you who were raised in the Call of Duty era, give Titanfall a try for something a bit more fresh.

Saturday, January 25, 2014

When Good Games Go Bad

Yeah, I know, the title is a bit on the dramatic side...forgive me, it sounds awesome and I had to use it.

Debbie & I have been playing a ton of Defiance on the 360 lately.  It came out in April 2013 and the price point dropped embarrassingly fast.  It is an MMO which is pretty intriguing and awesome on the console, as my MMO experience before this was only WoW.

Us ladies of Achievos have fairly similar taste in games, but somehow we rarely end up playing the same stuff.  If we do play the same game, I'm usually playing it about a year after Debbie has already completed and re-sold it.  So it has been super fun to have this game that we can run around in together and kill all the evil, diseased masses.  The game is an MMO, so we do see lots of other people in game as well.  But seeing them running around is pretty much as much interaction as you're going to get.

And this is where the good game goes bad.

Defiance has an unbelievable amount of potential.  It is fun.  It is a functional console MMO.  It has a large world map, easy travel, a number of weapons that would rival Borderlands, and multiple skill trees to build out your perfect character.

That said, it is the least multi-player MMO that I have ever heard of.  The grouping option is sloppy at best,
Hey, I see you over there. Wish we could interact.
as we are constantly booted from our group for no apparent reason.  And the group questing is also confusing.  If one character has already completed the mission, they often can't see everything going on, and their partner will freeze and disappear during cutscenes or to fight bosses that are no longer available to you.  There are clans, but we have unsuccessfully joined a couple and there doesn't seem to be much benefit to being in them.  Although that might just be because we haven't found a great, active one yet.

The world map is large, but the quests are extremely repetitive.  I hope you like ranchers, because you're going to be saving the same few groups of them day in and day out.  Yes, it is a reputation daily quest, but there are story lines and side missions that have you doing the same thing over and over too.  And the game is notoriously bad for having you travel 100 meters to pick up a quest, then 200 meters to get the next piece of information, 150 meters to kill 3 guys...etcetc..  It gets old quick.  At least there is fast travel, and the vehicles (while easily stopped on any small barrier) are super fun and quick to drive.

Finally, the weapons.  There are approximately 80 gazillion to choose from.  There are all of your favorite types. Prefer pistols? Snipers? Shotties?  We've got it all.  And on top of that, there are 4 or 5 different variations.  Sawed-off shotguns, pump action, combat...  And you are constantly getting loot.  New and amazing things to shoot.  And mods to make them even better!  But heaven help you if you can manage all of this with the awkward menus, impossible to compare weapon lists, and constant juggling of those mods.  It's fun, but good luck.  I find myself keeping my old trusty weapons and mostly scrapping or selling everything else.

Now you may be wondering why we're playing if it's just got so many hiccups.  Why?  Why are we pouring hours and hours into leveling up our guns and characters and searching Paradise for the random information stash?  Because it is really fun.  Even though the game has its issues, it is still a blast.  And remember when I said the price point was embarrassingly low soon out of the gate? That is a glaring hint to you, readers.  If you haven't picked up this game, go get it.  The more of us who play, the more fun it will be.

Wednesday, January 8, 2014

Kinect Is Watching You......

Let's start by acknowledging that this is not a review.  There are numerous reviews of the Xbox One and the new Kinect, therefore I will save us all the time of running through the specs.  This is just a few bits of information and mild anecdotes to help you make an informed decision. 

The new Kinect that comes with the Xbox One is about twice as tall as its predecessor, but the height is worth it.  The original Kinect required a shockingly large amount of space.  The new Kinect allows playing in a much smaller area, significantly closer to the sensor and the TV.  With that comes the warning that the Kinect can see everything.  That person in their underwear walking 15 feet off to the side of you will be plainly visible to the relatives you are Skyping with. 

The face recognition is neat and indescribably creepy.  I sit down in front of the console and it logs me in using my face.  If Kevin walks by in the far corner for just a split second, the Kinect chirps in with "Hi, Kevin!".  I was testing out a game under Kevin's profile, and the Kinect wouldn't let me.  It kept seeing my face and the IR sensors of the controller and kept automatically switching to my profile.  Not until Kevin was standing behind me and the IR censors were blocked by a pillow did the console let me use his tag.  My Kinect loves Kevin.

When it comes to dancing and movement, the new Kinect is hugely improved.  I was playing a Zumba game and that thing picked up all the head flicks and hip shakes I could muster.  Everything matches pretty well and there is longer any of the distortion when identifying body parts.

If you acquire the Kinect, I highly recommend you turn the microphone off.  There are numerous times when someone else is having a conversation in the room and they use the word "Xbox" in a sentence, and Kinect takes that as a cue to start listening.  When I was playing Call of Duty, about once per match someone would start yelling into their mic "Xbox: Stop Listening".  This thing is desperate for attention.

If you used the Kinect a lot before, then the new one will be amazing.  If you thought it was clumsy, find a friend that has one and try it out.  If you absolutely despise motion control, this won't change your mind.  But above all else, remember that Kinect is watching and listening.  If this thing isn't the first step towards a real life Hal 9000, I don't know what is.