What a Racket!

So I have been in the market for a larger hard drive for my Xbox 360, really the only gaming I do these days, even at that it’s spent playing FIFA. First person shooters have lost luster with the time I spent on Urban Terror. That is not to say there are not good FPS games out there, but something that is revolutionary and new, sorry don’t think so. My son and I stop by GameStop yesterday and I notice they have refurbished 120GB hard drives, so I inquiry about them. Hearing nothing negative I decide to spend $99 as opposed to the retail price of $149.99 for the same product new. Of course there is a kicker. The refurbished hard drive did not come with a transfer kit that includes a USB type cable to transfer your data. The other kicker, no retail stores locally carry the transfer kit. You can always spend $49.99 and let the Geek Squad do it at Best Buy. Talk about a racket!

So I am not sure what I will be doing. I know for a fact I won’t pay someone to do it for me. I thought about buying a new 120GB hard drive, using the software and transfer cable and then returning the hardware to the store. The last option is to buy one off any number of Internet stores. But $20 to get me a cable for something I will only use once. Not sure I like this idea either.

One would figure there would be a way to transfer saved game data to a temporary drive, like a flash drive and manually move it from one hard drive to another. The more I read, the less likely this sounds. But here is a nugget from the transfer kit manual, “Dispose of the cable in accordance with the Disposal of Waste Electrical and Electronic Equipment guidelines in your Xbox 360 Warranty manual (Volume 2).” So let me get this straight, I am supposed to throw away this cable AFTER I transfer my data. MS also doesn’t consider this an Xbox “accessory.” Whatever!

Hopefully a friend of mine who purchased an ‘Elite’ ordered their free cable/software from MS and transferred their data over from an older, smaller hard drive. If not, I am back to square one on what direction to go. This seems rather ridiculous to go through, especially these days with technology being what it is and the fact that the 360 is USB 2.0 compliant. I guess this is MS being the proprietary little bitch. Not as if this is anything new. I won’t get started in all the other accessory (WiFi, anyone?) that is overpriced for what it does. What about the fact the 360 only came with 1 USB port on the back of the unit? Guess I was supposed to shell out $50 to get their USB hub, so I could add media content on my one 500GB hard drive.

Okay, enough bitching from me. All of this is to be expected because it IS Microsoft we are talking about here. The same company who still can’t fix my damn Xbox 360 from the “red ring of death” from occurring. I give it under 6 months and I will be filling out the paperwork and shipping my Xbox off to Texas again to be fixed. Maybe I should send it COD to Bill Gates and tell him to fix his shit before selling it to the public. Then if that were the case their operating systems would have never gotten off the ground and we would all be hailing Steve Jobs and Apple.

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Point Blank Review: Battlefield 1943

Since my “retirement” from software development I have never return to that community or any other online computer gaming. I have lost all desire because software developers are very uncreative these days. It seems that everything that could be designed has been and the first place a developer looks for a “return to glory” is in the past. Look at the lineup from id Software, Doom, Quake, Wolfenstein. Many other titles from other developers are developed in the same vein.

I believe the last good game I played was from Dice, titled Battlefield 1942. Although in my opinion BF1942 was not as fun as Codename: Eagle, but ’42 was a well done game. Being out of gaming, I was rather excited to see Battlefield 1942 (yes that is a typo) available for the Xbox 360. What I didn’t notice at the time, until I spoke to my buddy in Los Angeles, that this was was actually called Battlefield 1943. It was a new and updated version of 1942 some years later.

I was torn, so much for having faith in Dice as they have now regressed and moved backwards in order to redevelop their last good hit. I am no fan of the console controller, they are just terrible for FPS games, especially a fast paced online BF1943 or any other game. So my aiming leaves a lot to be desired, it is not as accurate as the popular keyboard/trackball (or mouse) combination that is so common in the gaming community.

After realizing 1943 was a remake of 1942, some of the thrill was gone. Yet the game is visually stunning, given the technology running in the Xbox 360. It does seem that is what sells games these days and not game play.

As for the game play, there is really nothing much to report. Some of the movement over the terrain and up hills is smoother than I recall. I found myself not getting stuck on objects when operating a tank, for example. One new addition that adds to the game is the ability to blown up portions of buildings and structures. You can run over fence, through buildings and it seems to really add bit of pizazz to the game.

Flying was easier in the PC version. Both sticks are required as is the trigger button for your throttle. The left stick is used to help make a coordinated turn by using the rudder. Personally I don’t think it works all that well and you find your aircraft slowing way down to make a tight turn. But the planes are a bit more balanced in this version versus the PC version.

I have only put in a few hours but I am enjoying my experience. I think the air raid feature sucks, but Dice did the same type of thing with their crappy follow up, Battlefield 2 with the artillery strike. I could not pass up the opportunity or the price to check it out.

Unfortunately one of the things Dice or any other developer cannot get rid of with programming are the asshat players. Just like the previous community I was involved in there are many who just ruin the fun and enjoyment. I am sure this is will be my deciding factor when I loose interest in the game. Way to go players!

I recommend it though for the Xbox 360, it is worth the small price tag.

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Netzwerk Terror LAN: A Look Back

Holy shit, I must be coming down with an illness as I post back-to-back Gaming pieces on T6F. I happened upon our old LAN web site by mistake. I can’t even remember what I was looking for or how I stumbled upon it. But using the “way back machine” I was able to find much of our old LAN news from Netzwerk Terror.

This WAS a time when gaming was enjoyable and the games were still worth a shit, unlike now. Quakeworld, Quake and Quake 2, as well as some wonderful mods for Quake 2 including CTF, Rocket Arena, Action Quake and Chaos-Mod, just to name a few. Who can forget the hours of pre-LAN racing using the latest and greatest pirated software courtesy of dEucE or Dr. Frag.

I see my first LAN event was dated “11.21.98” and took a fourth place finish the next week in the 2nd (monthly) NT Quake II Tournament. Good friends. Good gaming. And good grog! Of course as things go, the LAN eventually moved out of the one bedroom apartment, where we crammed 24 games into the bedroom, living room and kitchen to Tony’s PC Parlor that could hold at least twice as many gamers and a $10 fee was introduced to help offset renting the room for the weekend. Although Mimi and dEucE would always accept donations on a weekly basis.

Things started to go downhill at this point. The gaming had moved on post-Quake 2 and Quake III: Arena was not all it was cracked up to bed. The game mods were not as enjoyable as their predecessors in Quake 2. Not sure why. Maybe it was just bound to change as newer technology and pretty graphics replaced solid game play. Sorry, but the game play for Quake III was shit. Q2 had much better playability.

Why dwell on the past? Oh yeah, that was when games had game play and were not just a fancy box with a hefty price tag and pretty graphics. Guess it was better I moved on and decided to retire from any sort of online gaming. Too many changes. I guess some things are better left unchanged.

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The ARG.

It’s rare to have anything to discuss when it comes to computer gaming. In my mind the thrill and excitement of gaming has lost it’s luster. This is not because I have become jaded after retiring from game development and supporting the game community for nearly 10 years. I am still impressed to see new games come to term, unfortunately many companies and distributors today don’t give a shit about the gamer, but the bottom line. I guess that makes sense, get some dumb bastard to spend $60 bucks on a game, take WoW for example and then charge them a money service fee to play. Better yet, charge the end user for new content. Nearly all games use some component of this today. I know I have been taken in by it with Rockband 2 and well as a few other XBox 360 games recently.

Back in the late 90s, the actual year is fuzzy and I have not been able to search and find the exact title of the game, there was a game that was played real time, in real life by gamers. The only way to describe it now is by calling it an alternate reality game or “an interactive narrative that uses the real world as a platform, often involving multiple media and game elements, to tell a story that may be affected by participants’ ideas or actions.”

I happened to stumble upon this game concept when reading a thread on a UFO hoax at ATS yesterday and they mentioned ARG. I found the concept rather perplexing and decided to give it a further look. Currently, I am reading up on a ARG called SF0 of SF Zero. Your character is “You” and You are tasked to complete objectives, submitting proof when you accomplish a task. There are more dynamics involved in the game, but this is the general principal.

I find the concept rather interesting and definitely off the main stream of computer gaming, yet gaming nonetheless. While computers are involved they are not the primary means of interaction. I am continuing to read about SF0 but the concept does interest me. Just like the original text adventures that paved the way for future games to follow.

** EDIT: Majestic produced by EA was the ARG I was thinking of, which debuted in 2001 and was discontinued a year later.

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Gaming Goes Retro: Apple ][

It’s not often I feel the desire to sit down and play computer games any longer. After 10 years of gaming and development I got very tired of seeing the same crap regurgitated from developers, with fancy new packaging and a heftier price tag than the previous year. Development even left a more sour taste in my mouth because gamers are really a thankless bunch, demanding everything and expecting everything, when they paid nothing. But I won’t go down that road, no reason to rehash the past when we can go back to the beginning, when gaming was golden and the adventures were exciting.

It seems just like yesterday I wrote, Textual Healing, here on T6F, which discusses the true roots of computer games, the text based adventures. In reality it was over 2 years ago when games like Zork, Wishbringer and Planetfall resurfaced in my world. With games such as these in mind I move to the early 1980s (late 1979) and the advent of the first graphic based adventures (I played), Mystery House from On-Line Systems (Sierra).

These games took the text based adventure to a new level. Gone were the images the mind created when you were deeply involved in a game like Zork and now could see and “experience” places visually in games. Mystery House was a very simple game, in adventure terms, but was still a solid base from which other adventures were built.

While I don’t spend much time around gaming related web sites any longer, a childhood friend of mine who I was reacquainted with via Facebook brought the Apple ][ emulators to my attention. Why? Because at the time we both owned these and lived just a few doors away from each other and spent countless hours playing these early computer games. The PC had really not taken hold as a gaming platform and Apple was the dominate computer early on. Yet a game like Mystery House ended up retailing for about $24.95, after the first versions were freeware with a $5 donation.

While I still fancy some of the great text based adventures I have been memorized by the likes of Mystery House, Wizard and the Princess, Cranston Manor and the other titles in the ‘Hi-Res Adventure series‘. Graphically, they don’t impress but they were the next best thing after text based adventures. It gets me back to my roots of computer gaming, which has spanned some 29 years! Mind boggling if I actually think about it.

Currently I am searching through archived games found at VirtualApple.org and going back to a time gone by, when games were simple, enjoyable and left a lasting impression. Unlike many of the games today that are old news a few weeks later. This is a great way to waste some downtime at work or, if you are like me to kill many hours at home. For those who never owned an Apple ][ I don’t think you will get the same joy and excitement, but I still recommend you give it shot.?

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