Review: Star wars: Battle Pod

For those that haven’t seen this arcade machine yet, check out the [videos]

Machine wise this is pretty much is a almost sound proof enclosure with a projector using a concave screen with 5.1 sound sound and a fan to move air around you (and to keep the machine from smelling)  along with all the standard hard points to allow the machine to stand up to the riggers of the public.

Game play wise, this is really nothing more than an upgraded version of the [Star Wars Arcade] from Sega.   

Having a screen large enough to see in your peripheral vision was pretty cool, but just a gimmick since none of the action happens on the sides of your vision.   The controls where pretty responsive and something you’d be used to if you’ve ever played an arcade game with a throttle and flight stick.

At 15.8 credits (I played it at my local [Dave and Busters]) I would wait until 1/2 price Wednesdays to even check it out. 

All and all it was a ‘cute’ machine, though I was left feeling very disappointed.  A) it’s a expensive game since you are paying for the experience which isn’t much more then what you would get playing any sit-down game with a shell.  Sega’s ‘Turbo’ would be an [example]
B) It feels like nothing more than an HD update to a game that’s already been in arcades for a while, so not much new their.  and C) Once you beat a level, you need to PAY again in order to continue.    So yeah, you get about 3 minutes of game time and then need to pay the 15.8 credits to continue.   EABOT!   (Eff a bunch of that.)

Getting Started with Unreal Development Kit–Book review

A couple of weeks ago I ran across a post requesting a review of a new book coming out ‘Getting Started with UDK’ by John P. Doran from Packt Publishing.   In the post it was stated that this book was geared to those that have never touched the Unreal Development Kit (UDK) before or even had experience using the Unreal Editor.    This is right up my alley, for I am (still) interested in creating my own games and do have some experience in creating levels for Unreal Tournament.

This 140 page book can be either downloaded (PDF, Kindle, among other formats)  or as a printed copy and shipped to your door.   Within those 140 pages you are treated to the wisdom of the authors knowledge of the unreal engine. 

The book then outlines creating a Tower Defense style of game from the humble beginnings of how to construct new geometry to how to use Kismet to visually design action sequences.   Each section of the book builds upon the last, adding more content and information and reads like a cook book with simple, easy to follow, instructions.

If you are looking for an intro into designing First/3rd person style of games, this would be a great addition to your library, and at ~$13 bucks you can’t go wrong!

Wizardry Online–A design review

I thought I would shake things up a little bit.  Since there are a metric butt-ton of review sites out there, I want to start taking a look at the design of the game to see if it’s really worth playing.     As the first of these series of posts, I’m taking a look at Wizardy Online

As per the website, “Wizardry Online is the most hardcore fantasy MMO ever created. The difficulty level is insane. The dungeons are brutal. There is no auto-healing. You will earn your levels. Your crimes taint your soul. Your allies could betray you at any moment. And when you die, you die forever. Are you ready for the challenge?”   Sounds, to me like, holy crap!  a MMO that plays like an RPG!

yeah..    about that…

Wizardry Online has got to be the most effed up design I’ve ever seen in an MMO.    Not just the technical problems (granted the game IS only a few days old, as of this writing) but just the game design itself.   I understand that this is pretty much a jRPG that was converted to the West, but seriously, who in their right mind thought this was a good design in the first place?

Would I recommend this game?   Not really, it make be an interesting time waster; but all and all I believe you’d get bored with in a week or so.   I doubt I’ll put much more time into it, myself.  

Let’s list out the some of the design issues:


  1. When you try to login you are met with a ’Connecting’ screen.   This, to me, is not the same as being told I’m in queue to log in.  Just telling the user that you are connecting is frustrating because you don’t know what the program is doing.   On top of that,  there is no other feedback besides the words “connecting”, not even scrolling dots or anything to advise you that something is happening behind the scenes.
  2. You can’t change any of the video/audio option until AFTER you have connected to the game!?   Seriously?! 
  3. Can’t have lag if you are making an action game with jumps, which Wizardry Online does.   Being killed by Lag is a serious flaw in the design and proves that the code/servers weren’t  ready to launch. 
  4. Controls don’t need to be this complicated.  It seems in trying to make a ‘realistic RPG’ the design required non-MMO standard and complicated controls.  Which it doesn’t.    Really, who puts emotes on the combat skill bar? 
  5. The ‘Permadeath’ is bit misleading since you can’t really die unless your not paying attention.   When you die, (either from lag or being stupid) you still have 15 minuets to get back to a resurrection statue and be resurrected.   I do not know if  this amount of ‘fix me’ time gets smaller as you level, but nothing so far has shown me that death is really a problem, unless you go AFK for a while to close to a mob spawn point.
  6. Extensive server/code maintenance the first three days of being published is telling me that A) The code wasn’t production ready and rushed.  B) Your Quality Assurance team didn’t do their job or you didn’t listen to them.   I feel bad for your team having to go into crunch mode because management didn’t listen.
  7. Text takes WAY to long to display.   It looks cool, but it gets old after you have waited 5 seconds for text to display that you could have read in half a second.  Waiting for the ‘flashy’ text render to display the text is frustrating.  I want to PLAY, not spend 10 minutes of my session waiting for the text to display.
  8. I must confirm taking a mission, really?   I need to confirm if I want to turn in a mission?  After I’ve already clicked on the NPC to take the mission?    
  9. Bottom line, too many clicks to do anything.     Which also tells me that the game was created in departments that didn’t really talk to each other, could also explain the total lack of QA.


  1. Massive log in lag, people have been reporting being in queue for hours.  I know it’s a new launch.  But there is NO reason for this.   The excuse giving was “we didn’t know it was going to be this popular.”. Seriously?   What that tells me is that no one was watching the net or your forums.  Along with the lack of QA and cohesion of the design, this does NOT give me confidence in the on going management of the game.
  2. English translation lacking in some areas.   For example, using ‘depart’ in the channel selection form.  ‘Depart’ doesn’t even make sense in this context.
  3. So far I’m seeing VERY Cliché story lines.  Being a role-player (Pen and Paper, RPGs, and MMOs for a number of years) I’ve seen these tired stories and missions many times before.   What’s more problematic is that the stories don’t even follow the theme that was set up from the beginning intro movie and newbie missions.    The game into talks about you coming to the town in order to adventure and claim your stake in fame and glory.    Then the game seems to forget that aspect and sends you on standard ‘go kill 10 of these’ missions.
  4. Wizardry Online reminds me MUCH more of the original ‘Bards Tale‘ series more than anything from the Wizardry series.
  5. Because of the into I was disappointed to see a Hub based system.  I was hoping for a sandbox setup, since the whole intro is talking about adventuring being the ‘big’ thing.. and then you can’t adventure or explore.  You do what you’re told.
  6. Seems that every two steps someone stops you to have a char or start a cut scene.  This is very annoying.
  7. Now you can click to fast display text… Sometimes?
  8. As with any MMO, Forced grouping sucks.  No matter what your ‘numbers’’ say,   it is not fun running around with people that don’t know how to play.  Even worse when you’re shoved into your first dungeon and pretty much have no hope of moving forward unless you group or grind for more than a few levels.

1st Dungeon: Caligrase sewers

  1. Long load time even on an empty channel.
  2. Mobs re-spawn way too fast for low levels to make much (to any) progress.  Which means you will spend many hours in ONE area, not getting much XP because you are too weak to move forward and deal with the horribly fast re-spawn rate. Which isn’t much fun.
  3. The Town needs weeded..  seriously.
  4. Would think the inn and equipment vendors would be closer to where they are needed.  Not a map load screen away.    For a town set up to allow adventures to make their mark, why would the most needed vendors be so far away from the gates?
  5. Every time you level you need to click eight times to see what skills you powered up.    TOO many clicks, for no apparent reason.
  6. Use F to interact with everything… except people!?    Consistency doesn’t seem to be one of the primary design ideas.
  7. Report missions.. Not turn in?   I think this is a translation issue.
  8. Camping is almost worthless for mages because it doesn’t really do anything for your mana.   And why do you need to camp when you have a spring to drink from which heals 75% of your health/mana?
  9. Two clicks to return to town is annoying.   The ladder is out of the way and not something you are going to press F on accidently.   
  10. the whole process to Buy/sell items and equipment is very annoying and not thought through and makes the process a complete test of mental strength.
  11. View distance is lacking.  To me, this denotes need for engine update already.  There doesn’t look to be many polys being shown, but everything is bathed in a fog and greyed out like 3 feet away from your character.
  12. What’s up with the shadows?  They Flickr, along with a extreme haziness to everything.  This is not creating atmosphere its hard on the eyes
  13. Server downtime again.. And bad link to the forums from the launch pad.   (wow..)


  1. This patch updated the intro.. Really? So many problems with the game already and you ADD another click to log in!?
  2. Login worked.. Load times are MUCH faster.  Like playable faster.   (though now there is yet another click before you click to log on..)
  3. No help info on what items means.. WTF is the ‘Hardns‘ of an item?   the HARDNESS?   OK, and you couldn’t make the window a little bigger to say ‘hardness’ and a mouse over?
  4. And servers down again…

Guild Wars 2 a review…

I have been playing Guild Wars 2 for about 1 1/2 weeks now, and am having more fun in this game than I have had in all of my years in World of Warcraft.  I cannot explain it, but the game’s mechanics are so different and so refreshing, other games just seem to pale in comparison.

The game is not made up of the typical MMO formula of quest hubs (in which you move through the world by going from quest hub to quest hub, collecting a bunch of quests, completing the quests, turning in the quests, and moving on to the next quest hub).  As you explore the world of Tyria (the setting of Guild Wars 2), you encounter what is known as "heart quests", in which you perform a number of actions for an NPC in the area. As soon as you enter the area, the quest is assigned to you automatically.  Once you complete the quest, you receive the reward in your in-game mail (which can be accessed anywhere in the world).  Heart quest givers are also karma vendors… as you gain karma completing events, you can buy items from each of the karma vendors.  Items available from karma vendors are typically better armor, better weapons, or hard to find crafting materials.

As you explore the world and complete heart quests, Dynamic Events spawn near the heart quests.  Dynamic events are group based events that require the cooperation of multiple people to complete the event.  The more people involved in the event, the harder the event becomes.  There is no need to accept the quest or form a group… you are automatically assigned the related event quest.  If you participate, you receive a reward. 

This brings up one of the nicest facets of Guild Wars 2 – this game encourages cooperation.  There is no such thing as kill stealing.  If you help kill a monster, you get experience and can loot the monster.  Harvesting nodes are instanced, so everyone can gather from the same node.  The game actually encourages people to work together.

Profession skills are all tied to the weapon currently equipped.  Skills are unlocked the more you use a given weapon.  You automatically receive new weapon skills as each one is unlocked.  Swapping weapons equips a new set of skills.  Daggers and swords tend to have close-range skills.  Staffs are typically AOE based skills.  And sceptors are typically range based skills.

Add in skill points (challenges that give you skills points to unlock utility skills that are in addition to your profession based skills), vistas (locations in the world in which you need to figure out how to get to the vista point, which unlocks a beautiful cut scene showing the surrounding area as seen from that vista), scouts (NPCs directing you to interesting activities and quest hearts in the surrounding area), jumping puzzles (attempting to reach an elevated area that contains a chest of goodies), and a really nice community, this game has everything I want and need in an MMO.

I won’t kid you… Guild Wars 2 is a difficult game, and is not something you can face roll through.  You need to dodge – mobs are smart, and will modify their attacks based upon how you react.  Because of this, it tends to attract a more mature and serious gamer community, one that prides itself on helping others and working together towards common goals.

ArenaNet (the developer of Guild Wars and Guild Wars 2) takes pride in their creation.  The are quickly working on resolving in-game bugs and issues, and actually listen to their player base. 

I can honestly seeing myself playing Guild Wars 2 for years to come.

– Wayne Fisher

Modern Warfare 2 – First Impressions

Well there is nothing like good gun porn, except with this, you can enjoy it with friends. The biggest FPS of the year finally arrives and all is well with the world. Or is it? Is this game worth the hype that has been on this game since the trailers at E3? I believe it is.
This is for FPS fanatics as what Madden is for football fanatics. The reason why I have some trepidation in giving this a full endorsement is although I have played through this for 7 hrs, in single player, Spec Ops and Multiplayer, there is not enough time vested to give it a `full’ review yet I feel like I played it enough to know what to expect, so take this as truly a 1st impression and not a full blown review.
Story mode:  Still feels the same as any other CoD game especially the last MW game. You are randomly given a character and assigned any given hotspot in the world pointed at a target and you go achieve your goal. That’s pretty much it. This is also MW’s weakest point in my opinion because the way that the narrative is told it feels like you are dumped onto a set and away you go. Not to say that the set pieces aren’t nice but I still would have liked a tighter story setup similar to possibly an older game like GRAW’s setup that makes me feel like I am more involved in the story.
Because of the lack of a tight narrative, it took away the impact of the airport level (those of you that played it, know what I am talking about) and how it would make one feel playing that particular role and because it’s brief, you don’t have time to get into it
Online and Spec Ops
However, this is not what most people come to MW2 for. They come for the multiplayer and this is where MW excels.  What can I say? Tons of modes, tons of weapons, perks and better maps all designed for the sole purpose of creating arenas of digital death for online players to enjoy. Added to that, when you don’t want to play with many people, you have the option of playing the Spec Ops mode in co op mode either split screen or online with a friend. The AI in this mode is no slouch as it can and will adjust to your play style. They won’t keep sticking their head out in the exact same spot waiting for you to shoot and they will take advantage of whatever is around you and double up to outflank and kill you and some levels you have to do this and not hit innocent civilians caught in the middle. Every now and again however, I have seen a glitch where the enemy AI will just stay `struck’ in one position until you kill them.  The multiplayer hasn’t change much in the overall scheme of things, but the structure is still RPG like, the more you play, the more you unlock and the more you are rewarded, and to help draw new people in or people that aren’t all that good, there are rewards to be had if you get dominated that will keep lower level players from feeling too frustrated or left out by higher level friends.
Control wise, if you have played one, then you have played them all and this is a no brainer. It’s as intuitive and responsive as ever and no sense in making any radical changes. I do however wish and I have stated this is past iterations, that it would be nice to see possibly some kind of cover system instituted into the MW series. But I guess some fans would say, if you want tactical shooting, go play a Tom Clancy game or GoW. But hey, I am just one person.
So all in all, MW2 gets a strong 8 for such a good focus on seriously supporting and augmenting the multiplayer aspect of the game especially the co op part (which can take a lot longer than the main story) but it falls a bit short on telling the story.  With so many games that they have done on the current gen systems, I really think that by now, it could have been fleshed out a lot more and made to be just as enjoyable and immersive as the multiplayer side.  The graphics are as great as ever, the set pieces are fantastic (wait til you see Northern VA for those of you that are from around these parts…) voice acting is always top notch, (Keith David anyone?) and the action is nonstop as ever.

Dragon Age – 1st Impressions

While December 25th for most people is Christmas, November 3rd was mine. The biggest RPG this side of Oblivion was FINALLY released and that of course is Dragon Age: Origins.
Before I get started, I would like everyone to know that I got this for both PC and X360 and I will discuss the specs for each.
Installation – Installed in about 10 to 15 minutes to the 360 took about a 1/2 an hr for both my desktop and my Macbook Pro in boot camp.
Graphically speaking, the game looks great on my desktop. I am running a 256Gb Over clocked Nvidia 8600GT so I can run most setting on medium to high with little slowdown.
Surprisingly, the Xbox’s graphics are a bit disappointing. Some of the colors are muted and some of the faces look a bit mashed and when doing cut scenes there is quite a bit of jitter and when there are many things going onscreen at once, the frame rate takes a hit. And that’s bad considering how great Mass Effect looked 2 years ago and this is keeping in mind that again, I installed this game on my 360’s hard drive.
On the Macbook, (Nvidia 9400M) it runs ok with all the settings down low and actually looks pretty ok despite the settings, but it’s what I expected. I installed it on the laptop because I will be traveling quite a bit during the holidays and I don’t want to drag my 360 everywhere I go! I do plan to boost the onboard RAM and I am hopeful that it will help the game run a bit better.
Camera-wise, the PC has the best option in that you can go from a 3rd person POV to an over world tactical view which lets you plan on where to move next and formulate your fight plans.
Control wise, while the PC has superior controls (as most PC RPGs do anyway) surprisingly the 360 manages to keep everything organized and easy to find using the control pad but still it’s a shame if you are using a mage you are still limited by key assignments where you can place your most used spells.
Now, play wise, (***Warning there will be spoilers!***)

I am using a male elf mage on the 360 and a female Human warrior on the laptop. I put this in detail for the very reason to test what I have read so far in that NPCs will treat you different ways and indeed they do! In some areas people will indeed talk down to the mage because he is an elf as elves are the minority in this game and in the other instance many will be shocked that a woman is also a warrior. Thank you Bioware for putting these issues in this game; I have actually gotten to see at least one character react differently to these 2 characters of mine and expect to see more!
One thing I have noted so far is that the mage’s origin story takes a little longer to play as that character has to go through an initiation phase to become who he sets out to be and this is even before he is set to become a Grey Warden and something tells me that within that portion, will play itself out later on in the game! As for the choices you make early on much of the mage’s story concerns himself with another apprentice there and his breaking of the rule while in training to become a mage. This storyline gives you a taste of the 1st major decision that will set the game in motion and when that section finishes you will be in for a bit of a surprise and the payoff is nice indeed for it to be so early!
The Warrior origin is a bit more straightforward and shorter and involves a family betrayal which winds up in murder. The decision that you make here determines which companion will come with you as you flee for your life.
Eventually you start to learn about the Grey Wardens and why they fight the dark spawn. This is where you start to see the difference in this game vs. Oblivion and how Bioware managed to work in so many tried and true stories (Star Wars and LotR specifically)to make the player feel a sense of desperation that the world is looking to you to save it. Some of the places in Felderen while nice to look at does indeed feel dark and dreary most of the time. People are fighting to stay alive and one step ahead of the darkspawn and there is a general feeling that there is little hope left. No one can be trusted but at the same time almost everyone has a story to tell. So, when it was said that this would be a dark fantasy, they were not kidding!
The NPC interaction in your party is most interesting of all with just some of the banter that goes back and forth. So, in essence, it’s as you heard. They kid around, tease and sometimes hate each other due to your decisions. You cannot do everything to please all of them but this will test you to see how you get through this game by trying to keep your groups together. Also the dialogue for this game so far is excellent!
I won’t get into the leveling system as I feel that it’s something that you as a player would need to see for yourself and tune to your liking.
Combat-wise, there is a lot of it and to be quite honest, this could have used a bit more polish as sometimes, it’s difficult to distinguish what you are targeting and hoping that you don’t hit your friends. Pausing constantly doesn’t always work because it detracts from the flow of fighting.
10 Hours in, I am very satisfied with this game and I can’t wait to see the DLC the comes out for both systems particularly the PC version since there is a toolset that will keep this game going for longer than the original 80 or so hrs that it will keep us busy! So, if you haven’t done so, run out and get this game because it’s well worth it!