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Re-Minecraft

by Justin N

I'd given up my Xbox 360 addiction to Minecraft.

2 months ago I lost everything I had in the Netherworld, hunting down bits and pieces to create the newly created ending to Minecraft on the Xbox: fighting the Ender Dragon. I was nowhere near close enough, but I lost all my very labor intensive items and all that I had collected since I started working towards the end.

It was very easy to give up. I could move back to some of my back log of games. I could put some time into the harder mode of Batman: Arkham City, torture myself with more Call of Duty: Modern Warfare 2, and try to enjoy some of the really awesome games released in Microsoft's Games for Gold program.

Then I got a paycheck that fills the coffers after our weird annual schedule that pays on December 1st and the 18th (instead of the 27th), creating a really long fiscal January. With that paycheck I fulfilled a work deal that said we'd all buy PC Minecraft and start a server. Well, I'm the only one who went through with it.

I don't like computer games. I hate using a mouse and keyboard to move and jump. I hate sitting in this chair (which I chose to be uncomfortable so I wouldn't spend hours sitting here). What I didn't realize is how quickly I would fall back into Minecraft's pixelated grip. I found a few servers online and tried them out, only to realized that most of them only give you resources to play the game if you partake in their voting system, creating accounts and pushing up the popularity of their servers. I just paid $36 for this game; I'm not wasting my time helping make someone else more money.

So I started a couple of maps on my computer and spend a little time here and there getting used to the new controls and tuning my computers settings to find a comfortable medium between good graphics and a useable frame rate, something I'm not used to having to do with a console like an Xbox.

I think what got me hooked again was my own experience in the Xbox version. I quickly built the important things; fences to keep in animals for health and bad guys out, mining for iron to quickly be ready if I found diamonds, using seeds and plants effectively with animals for luring and breeding, and the ever important cup for transporting water and lava.

The side benefit, and maybe the only real benefit, was my son checking things out and sliding a chair over next to me to watch and direct. I enjoyed explaining things to him and describing how the system worked. He quickly got the idea and helped me start constructing a system for catching zombie mobs: a border around my house of pressure plates and trapdoors that drop down to a tunnel system that filtered the baddies into my basement bad guy zoo. He was catching on quickly for a 5-year-old.


A Week Without Him

by Justin N

Having properly spent our first day with our son in New Jersey with his grandparents, doing absolutely nothing, hints of missing him floated around the house all day. We were only a married couple with a cat. 

Sitting down to dinner and some television, we received our first nightly Skype call as an update to his whereabouts. Expecting some kind of conversation from a four year old would set me up only to be reminded of how good this little vacation might be. His silly voices and lack of focus just made for a disappointing first phone call. If only I could have been there to threaten to take something away.

I assume, though, that he is behaving perfectly fine any other time. As a parent, it was a litmus test that I think we tend to offer up way too many times to our children. He's on vacation in a new house with different people and a different schedule. While my mind is in full parent mode, considering options for his actions and my mentality for the rest of the night, I can't take things out of perspective as a person might upon seeing children behaving badly in a restaurant or store. In all truth, he wasn't being bad, he was just being a kid. 

That is a parent missing their child. I am missing the silliness and the jokes and the opportunity to join him. Tasking him to tell me how his day was is not something a lot of parents would do, at least expecting any kind of real, meaty answer. I would expect a silly story a sentence long that I wouldn't understand because he forgot to let half of it out of his mouth and a request to play his favorite songs on the stereo as we drove home, asking if we're going the right way and if I need gas.

Plus, no kid acts in their right mind 30 minutes before bed. That is state sanctioned crazy time.

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Slow June

by Justin N

There was not much going in terms of games that actually exist in stores right now and it doesn't look good going into a post-E3 June, pre-new console holiday in November.

I tried State of Emergency, a cheap zombie game, and found it really lacking. It's a straight mission based game, which is fine. My most hated elements were the bad graphics clipping and stuttering, weapons that break completely unrealistically and a lack of mission instructions. That last one hurts me the most because I probably play 4 hours a week and a lot of time passes in between sessions of gaming nod I completely forget what I was going. I have a couple of missions that have progress bars labeled "Trust" and I have no idea what they mean.

God, I hate typing on an iPad.

I also spent most of the day today playing Borderlands 2. I'm on Ultimate Vault Hunter mode, a third play through of the game. What I never enjoyed about the game was that if you were playing with friends who were, say, 5+ levels ahead of you, the game scaled up the enemies way too high. I always get stuck tagging along, unable to deal any damage, take more than a few hits of damage myself and literally stand around soaking up the free XP. Most of this game I've spent playing by myself is when I've really enjoyed it. That sucks.

I hope that over the next month or so I can put more time into these to games, sit down with my iPad and figure these games out. There's not much hope for Borderlands 2, in terms of making it better, but I'll continue playing by myself and possibly purchasing older content I haven't played yet. There's no hope for the Tiny Tina update because that's really meant for multiple people, which is this game's weakest point.


May Games and Collecting Things

by Justin N

There are more bad games about Pac-Man than there are good. Like, a lot. Trust me, stick with the classics, Pac-Pix (which shouldn't even be a Pac-Man game), Pac-Man Championship Edition and the four-player, arcade hit, Battle Royale. Does anyone care about how Pac-Man is doing with the "challenges of being a teenager"?

I've been playing a lot of Batman: Arkham City the last few weeks, in the very spare moments that I have between house work, child rearing and spending time with my wife. Now that it's summer, we are outdoors a little more, coping with the "challenges of being" allergic to nature with a four year old.

I might still say that this is the best comic book based super hero game of all time. Besides that, this game has it's hooks in me for collecting items and unlocking content that I really don't even care about. Only Crackdown can compete for time with all it's tiny orbs floating around the city. I must have them all in these games. If someone ever figures out DLC that's just fresh locations for collecting stuff, I might be a little less likely to stop at 7-11 for an eclair as often as I do. Seriously, someone just go back Halo or Gears of War and drop some artifacts, dog tags or little pretty flowers in the maps and I might have my games planned out for the rest of the summer.

Stick Man Golf 2 is also competing on iOS with You Don't Know Jack for the winner of the award for Game Most Played At Work While SOL Testing Is Going On. Standards testing for technology support staff is a huge game of sit and wait. You're bored out of your mind and want something to do, but you just hope it doesn't have to do anything with testing the overly tested kids and stressed out teachers.

My son is in love with the Wii U Nintendo Land and Warioland: Shake It. He's quite good at playing the Pikmin game in Nintendoland and loves repeating one level over and over again. Sometimes he even asks me to play because it's so fun. Now we just need a full on Wii U game for it and we'll both have fun playing that one together. And of course I'll need extra time to make his dinner, clean up a bit and catch a breath. I really don't know how people with WoW accounts and two kids make anything happen in their lives. More power to you all.


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Finished: Bioshock

by Justin N

I picked up the boxed set of Bioshock 1 and 2 a couple of months ago and was so excited to play thought the first one. I got about 4/5ths through it before Halo 4 came out and didn't get back to it until now.

One of my pet peeves about adventure games like this is that when the difficulty ramps up so high and you repeatedly die over and over, you start to forget what you're doing and why you're doing it.

I'm playing Bioshock on the normal difficulty and I'm about finished with the game, when all of the sudden they completely flip the game over on it's head and tie your hands to your own feet. I was happily dealing with harder parts of the game with a couple of deaths here and there when I was acting stupid, but after you reach a major milestone in this game, the enemies are three times as hard to kill and it just becomes an exercise trying to get a little farther than the last time you died in order to make any progress. And, since there isn't a penalty for dying at all, it doesn't make any seance why the game got so hard, so quickly.

What was a game that was interesting and beautiful with great voice acting, level design and flow is now a boot camp in the desert with barely any water. This great game of chess is now just a snowball fight and the other kids have rocks in their snow balls. All of the sudden my weapons are doing very little damage to the generic enemies, alarms are triggering around every corner, causing sentry bots and general chaos to rain upon me and I haven't even gotten to the the part in the game when I'm supposed to be chasing down the last enemy. I'm struggling just to make it to him. That's all good and well in some games, but it makes no sense in Bioshock's context.

Hopefully this experience won't ruin the end of the game for me, like I fear. Bioshock is a well crafted game that is involving and magical. I got to this part in the game really wanting my scripted revenge on the evildoer. I played right into Bioshock's story and it felt good doing it. Now, I just want it to be over with so I can't start the next game and forget all about, what I would consider to be, Bioshock's one mistake: an ending sequence too big for it's own britches.

Update: after finally getting to the last boss in Bioshock and dying once I had to wonder what the idea of kicking the gamer out to the title screen was for. The whole time your playing this game there at no penalties for dying. Was I supposed to stop and start a new game?

85% great game, 10% repetitive dying is pointless and 5% what?

Hey, I think I just invented a new type of review score.

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Review: Gears of War - Judgement

by Justin N

When Brian mentioned getting this post-trilogy Gears of War game, that doesn't have anything to do with the main characters or involved the ex-Epic lead designer, I balked at the idea. There was no way I was getting involved with an after thought of a game like Judgement. It wreaked of stink.

Then I caved on release day.

It was the best cave of buying video games I've had in a long time. The best cave of my gaming life was the Xbox.

Judgement has a lot of things going for it and most of those are features and changes that weren't in the original games. People Can Fly brought a lot to the table, being the developers of the single player campaign: the three star system for each level, the declassified mission option to make each level even harder with various things like no lights on or fog throughout the level, and making each chapter of the game narrated by each different playable character. They also created a new system for enemies to spawn different each time you play a level. They sound like small things, but it made the game different enough that I didn't feel like I was playing the same old Gears of War. It was refreshing.

I haven't played a lot of the multiplayer, but a lot of people are complaining about the changes. Now that I've about finished up the main game and collecting COG tags, I'll be moving into the online side of things and making myself at home there.

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Flickr Groups

by Justin N

The Flickr groups that I created are doing quite nicely.

  • Video Game Rooms - For people to take pictures of their rooms dedicated to video games and culture.
  • Video Game Photo Mode - For pictures taken from within console video games using built-in software and no external manipulation.
Soon I'll have to post pictures of my new basement and all the stuff that's been put in. The last iteration was pretty cool, but my new room is much nicer.


Back To Blogging

by Justin N

You know what happens when you have a child? You have no time.

I'm reviving the blog in 2013 with a renewed sense of self documentation about video games and on my personal blog. Part Time Gamer's old domain may be dead, but Blogger with suffice for now.

I'll be writing some posts soon about Gears of War: Judgement, Dead Space 3 and children with video games.


RAGE and that status of RPG games

by Justin N

I'm about 8 hours into RAGE and I have to say that it's not only the best looking Xbox game yet. That's debatable of course, but no one reads this blog, so I'll just assume that I'm right.

Among the things that I absolutely love about this game there are still flagrant annoyances that bug me about every adventure game in the past couple years.

  • I'm getting tired of pressing buttons to talk to people or advance conversations. Let's do a proximity thing that reads a little more into positions and facing people. If I turn to walk away, interrupt yourself and say something like, "...oh, okay. Guess we'll talk later." Or pull a gun and fire a warning shot if it's really a big deal. Let me know you mean business.
  • If a game has multiple locales, stop repeating resources in each one. Parts, weapons, medicine/mechanics, games of chance need to be more organic. Not every town has a parts store or weapons dealer. Maybe a town only has a thrift or pawn shop. If a game is popular, show more/less people playing it every few hours. Those two guys aren't playing that game all damn day. I don't care how shitty the apocalypse is.
  • Stop making side quests something I start and complete manually. Make something happen to me that I can choose to participate in naturally. I don't want to hit a button. I don't want to be singled out as responsible. If someone runs into me with their car, let me decide if I chase them down or not. That's why nothing ever gets done in GTA games anyway, am I right?
  • Stop making me run back and forth. There has to be better ways to repeat use of gameplay areas. RAGE just sent me on a reverse course through a hospital path (and gave me an achievement for it!). You just admitted that you have no game play creativity by doing that. 
  • If you're going to use someone like John Goodman and Claudia Black as a voice actor, use him in the entire game. I don't ever want to stop hearing him talk.
I love that RAGE made graphics one of it's highest priorities. I'm a little bothered by three disks, but I completely accept it for the payoff. I also really love the enemy A.I. and how they approach you. The muntants have multiple abilities from crawling fast to jumping off walls and monkey baring the ceilings to come and attack you. It's creepy and fantastic. The Authority soldiers aren't that smart, but I like their shields and willingness to toss grenades. 

If you liked playing Resident Evil or Dead Space for it's creepiness and enjoy Borderlands or Fallout for it's questing and item building, this game is a perfect mashup of the two "genres". I highly recommend it.

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XBLA gives s a stroll down memory lane with Perfect Dark

by Brian

Check out this movie of a walk around Carrington Institute.


17 year old gets Modern Warfare for Xmas

by Brian

He asked his Grandparents for Modern Warfare for Christmas. And this is what he got.


He had to laugh when he opened it. But still thanked his Grandparents for his gift.


Capcom Still Burning Over Bionic Commando Failure [Business]

by Justin N

It sounds like, to some developers, that some video games are like pieces of furniture and cars: part out creation to another company to increase output just because your too greedy.

I was looking forward to the Bionic Commando reboot last year but once reviews and the demo of the sausage headed, cyber armed hero started dropping with low returns, I hung my head and continued to play Call of Duty.

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Capcom Still Burning Over Bionic Commando Failure [Business]

In a Q&A session held earlier this week, president Haruhiro Tsujimoto became the second high profile Capcom employee this month to get all negative when it comes to the company collaborating with Western studios.
Answering a question on Capcom's "alliances" with overseas developers, Tsujimoto echoes comments made a few weeks back by Resident Evil producer Jun Takeuchi (not to mention reminding us of his own personal scars), by essentially saying that it's hard, hard work joining forces with an international studio.
"Our experience with Bionic Commando has demonstrated the difficulty of outsourcing the development of new title to overseas companies", he said. "Nevertheless, we cannot develop a sufficient number of titles without using the resources of these companies. This is why we plan to continue using these alliances."
"We are considering ways to separate the roles of activities in Japan and overseas. We plan to develop new titles primarily in Japan. Overseas companies may be used mostly to develop titles for existing game series with well-established characters and universal themes. Overseas companies will also handle certain parts and/or lineups of such games."
So the West is a sequel farm for Capcom IP. And just like that, Capcom's decade-long program of reaching out to international developers in order to increase their global market share misses the point entirely.










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Something Modern Warfare 2 Got Wrong About Pakistan [Infinity Ward]

by Justin N


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Something Modern Warfare 2 Got Wrong About Pakistan [Infinity Ward]

Pakistani reader Saad was thrilled when he heard that Infinity Ward's Call of Duty: Modern Warfare 2 was getting a multiplayer map set in the city he calls home, Karachi. That is, until he played it.

"I, being a Pakistani, was so excited at seeing a Karachi map and then immediately so disappointed when I played the map," says the Karachi resident. The map has Arabic written all over, even though that isn't the country's language.

The country of Pakistan has two official lingos: English and Urdu. With somewhere between 60 and 80 million speakers of the standard language, Urdu has more speakers than, say, Italian, Korean or Polish.

"Infinity Ward probably thought, 'Oh hey its a Muslim country so Arabic is the language,'" says Saad.

While Arabic and Urdu use the same script, the words are completely different. For example, the noun "people" is "al-naas" in Arabic (الناس), and "log" or "loug" (لوگ) in Urdu.

"To someone who doesn't know urdu won't be able to tell the difference," Saad explains. "It's like Spanish and English, I guess. Some letters are same, some are different but the words are completely different."

There isn't a single Urdu word on the entire Karachi map and no one writes in Arabic in Pakistan.









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Holiday Gaming Post

by Justin N

For the most part it's been a relatively non-gaming week. I left all the video games at home besides my iPod, which has become a Internet/gaming staple on long trips, and my Wii, which I only brought because I replaced it at my parents with their own Wii for Christmas.

I got reacquainted with Super Mario Galaxy. I've been tempted to buy the Mario Wii game. And I finally beat a level boss on Hero of Sparta on my iPod. I also got a $50 iTunes store gift card that will go to mostly music, but I might buy a game or three.

What have you been playing this week? What are going to be playing to end out the year?


Crackdown 2 in Game Informer

by Brian


Game Informer had an exclusive look into Crackdown to in there October 2009 issue. The story between the two games is as follows.
The infected that were inadvertently released in the first game carried a virus. This virus took over lager populations within Pacific City. The Agency started cordoning off these areas and the citizens formed a group called The Cell, and began to revolt. They didn't trust The Agency and were tired of living in fear with the infected in the sewers during the day and out in droves at night. Something like the Darkseekers in I am Legend I guess.
So now with the city in ruins, you deal with vigilante citizens trying to take back there streets from the infected and The Agency. And the infected themselves need to be eradicated. Now with a three way struggle, The Cell attacked The Agency and destroyed the agent program. Leaving the Agency with only in control of Agency Tower.
Now years later with the agent program up and running again. The Agency feels it is time to regain it's power to Pacific City.
The developers felt like they had a good basis with the structure of the city. So they fed on the players complaints. The lack of a good story. Players felt there were times in the game that you just blew things up just for that reason. Just blow it up. So now a solid narrative is being added.
There will come times in the campaign that it seems impossible for a single agent to complete mission. You will need help from a friend or two, when hordes of infected are involved.
Ruffian Games will be addressing some complaints players had of the first game. One being, in a mission you would work your way to the boss and just take them out. It was very simple and became a little repetitive. Now you're not dealing with single individuals but hordes of both The Cell and the infected. Missions will not always be directed towards them, instead you may be going after a power plant to take electricity away from The Cell organization. The Creative team wanted to have a living breathing city. For example, if you take out that power plant and afterward attack one of The Cells' camps. The Cells' guards would be fending off the infected in the dark and with there hands full you could make your way into the compound with ease.
There is a larger variety of weapons, some are a lot bigger than the previous editions. The creative staff felt that when your character progressed and gained some bulk in the first game. The weapons stayed the same and seamed almost toy like.
Don't fear that Realtime Worlds isn't involved this time around. Ruffian Games was created by people involved with the first Crackdown with the intent of getting the contract for Crackdown 2. Once they won the contract they received resumes from employees of the original team at Realtime Worlds to join Ruffian Games.
Oh yes, this one isn't just on my radar. It's in my sights.