Cast Your Net unto Thy Darkness. It is Time for Some Pods.

podcastGenerally when I look out on the surface of the Podcast listings on my iPhone I’m confronted with two things; NPR and Video Games. Neither of which are exactly expanding my listening horizons.

Every so often though, I find a few that fit within those publishing categories but also expand my interest and thinking. Here are three episodes listed in order of least-to-most video-gamey.

  1. Fresh Air from 1/28/09:
    This episode continues the fine tradition of Terry Gross’ 30+ year tradition of excellence through interviews of cultural and intellectual icons. The recently deceased John Updike’s past Fresh Air appearances taking the place of the show’s usual format. I will admit to having never read one of Updike’s books, though after hearing this interview I am inspired to try them.
  2. What They Play from 02/03/09:
    The meat of this episode has little to nothing to do with the usual content of this podcast, which is why I find it so surprising. The usually chipper host John Davison surprises us by being boring and uninterested in his own show to start, and then he throws out a substantial bit of discourse with ngmoco‘s CEO, Neil Young. Complete 180 from a usual What They Play episode, but not entirely unexpected from John Davison. Listen to this show if you have any interest in the iPhone gaming market. Then go download ngmoco’s great games if you haven’t already.
  3. A Life Well Wasted Episode 1:
    Usually when you get to the most game-y side of discussion you’re prepared for unintelligible fart jokes and prattling on about the latest Gears of War in a round table format from a group of schmucks over Skype. I’m certainly no exception having contributed to that for a good while. Then along comes Robert Ashley to class the joint up without giving up any kind of personality. Though the subject matter of the first episode is kind of played out, it is a great example of what to expect from this new podcast in the future.

There you have it, three podcasts to which you most likely haven’t listened. Enjoy.

Supreme Grievences Filed with thine Commander 2

Giant RobotJeff Buckland over at AtomicGamer has written up something that I wouldn’t normally dream of reading, a wish list for a game. However, this is one game that I happen to think was overlooked by many strategery fans for the minimal things in which it was lacking, instead of the greatness for which it is.

So, What does Jeff want for Supreme Commander 2?

For all of Supreme Commander‘s talk of epic scale and millions of lives hanging in the balance, we never saw a single one of those people we were fighting to protect. The whole battlefield was full of robots with humans only occupying the ACUs, and you never seem to fight in population centers or heavily inhabited areas. Other than what the story dictated to us, for all we knew we were just fighting with robots out in some field somewhere for fun. For the sequel, having fights in cities would be incredible, and would probably do a better job of showing off the scale of the units than the original game did.

And that is a point with which I couldn’t agree more, the main thing that lacked in the first game was atmosphere and personality beyond robots. I didn’t care for the single player at all due to the restrictions placed on the tech tree throughout and  would have loved to have played some multiplayer missions through SimCity style cities as they’re pulverized beneath the feet of my giant robots.

It is like that old science fiction trope of “What is the point to conquering the universe if you won’t have any sentient beings left under your control once you do it?”

So what then is the point of having giant robots if there aren’t any squishies (and their dwellings) for the giant robots to trample underfoot?

In any case, read the rest of Jeff’s article. Not because it talks about giant robots, but because it is written in the style of a real Supreme Commander fan instead of the generic “fan(s) of the genre” tone you might get on other sites.

Real Triggers Review (PS3)

realtriggers2Most people would probably expect the Dual Shock 3 to be the best of both worlds; the useless wobbling from the SIXAXISâ„¢ disaster, and the great design and heft of the Dual Shock 2. Unfortunately, someone at Sony forgot to fix the triggers (R2, L2) for first person shooters.

Most likely they don’t understand why that is important for shooters.

Well, that is all in the past now, and what we’re left with is terrible for shooters or anything else that relies on you to retain your grip on those triggers. Fortunately, some kind pacific rim company is popping out these accessories as depicted in the above diagram which repairs the issue. I’ve finally got a pair of the “Real Triggers” via amazon and can say they work as intended. Not sure they’re worth the $5 they go for on amazon, but they’re still good.

Now the only problem is that some games refuse to let you rebind the button layout so you can use your newly repaired triggers. Battlefield: Bad Company I’m looking at you.

Lord of the Rings: Online 10 Day Free Trial

LOTRO FloppyWhile I was downloading 10+ gigabytes  of the new Lord of the Rings: Online 10 Day Free Trial, (because LOST doesn’t air for me until tomorrow on abc.com) I wondered how many floppies that would be if this game were released in the early 90’s.

Of course, nobody sane would ever release 10+ gigabytes of data on floppies. In order to visualize the result I consulted my handy tools, google image search and the gimp.

But how many floppies is it?

Seven Thousand, Three-Hundred and Sixty Seven Floppies!
Seven Thousand, Three-Hundred and Sixty-Seven Floppies!

The Lord of the Rings Download Manager estimates that it’ll take about four hours to download the remaining 8+ Gigabytes.

If I were to install all Seven Thousand, Three-Hundred and Sixty-Seven Floppies, it would take about 491 hours, assuming only 4 minutes per floppy.

Based on the download speed of a 56k modem (which rarely worked as advertised on my phone lines), ten gigabytes would take about Seventeen Days, Eighteen Hours, and Five Minutes to download, assuming the connection is never interrupted by someone picking up the phone to call for pizza.

The number of floppies is probably unrealisticly low since my calculations don’t take into account the floppy headers, and the archive data that interprets each disk in the chain.

Can you imagine if you went into Radio Shackâ„¢ and they had one of those cardboard cutouts with a Seven Thousand, Three-Hundred and Sixty-Seven Floppy Free Trial of Lord of the Rings Online cellotaped into one bundle?! There could only be one set in the store!

F.E.A.R. 2: Scary Slider: Demo Impressions (PS3)

Dear Horror Games,

You’ve got Audio sliders for volume levels, and difficulty sliders for difficulty levels.

Why not Horror sliders for Horror levels? So if I’m about to go asleep, I can turn it from bleeding-walls and scary little girls to flowers and puppy dogs?

Other than that, the FEAR 2: Preposterous Subtitle Demo on PS3 has good shooting mixed with a mediocre PS3 port. At one point the audio in the demo cut out almost entirely (not due to Spooky/Scary sound effects as far as I can tell), so I quit the game out of frustration.

Goozex Review

funcolandMost people who want to turn their video games into other video games take them to Gamestop, despite the huge discrepancy between how much gamestop games sell for, and the trade-in value. Old timers will recall Funcoland and their even worse trade-in values.

At least Funcoland had a book you could flip through to spare yourself the embarrassment of asking how much money they could give for your copy of Anticipation.

There is another choice, though it does involve trading with humans.

Goozex offers a trading system where you ship out games to others in exchange for points, which you can purchase if you don’t want to send out any of your games. Games are offered on a sliding scale from 100 to 1000. Most new games are between nine-hundred and one-thousand points. Their system automatically adjusts the price (in points) of each title based on the supply and demand. They end up fairly balanced, so your trade that is still in demand is worth a fair bit.

Lets take Call of Duty 4: GOTY Edition (PS3) as an example, today it is worth 850 Goozex points. 100 Goozex points are worth $5 in real money. So, CoD4: GOTY  is worth about $42.50. If I wanted to trade in that game, I’d toss the game into my offers queue and wait until the system finds a match. There are apparently 90 some people in line waiting for that game to be available, so that shouldn’t take long.

Once Goozex finds a match, I can look over the profile of the person who wants it, approve it if their feedback looks solid, print out a label, and finally ship it. Obviously you lose a little in shipping, most of these folks have a stack of envelopes and quite often you’ll get a game in the mail inside an envelope that has clearly seen better days. Your faith in scotch tape will assuredly rise.

Now here is one of the problems with Goozex; once the guy receives the game, if you’re lucky they’ll give you feedback immediately that says it was in good condition and receive your 850 points. Otherwise, you could end up waiting 21 days for the system to automatically give you the points. I’ve had several folks take a week to give me feedback, which left some of my requests in the lurch while I waited for the points.

Getting a game is a little bit more straight forward, and is the only time you are forced to pay into the system. Receiving any game costs 1 trade credit, which cost $1.  So if I want to receive CoD4: GOTY for 850 points I can either buy the points (you can only buy in hundreds or thousands of points, so you’ll probably have some left over) or you can trade in games to get them. Those points, plus a trade credit net you the game once you’ve passed through the queue. Most of the people in it won’t have enough points to request the game, or will be excluded for some other reason, so it might not take that long to traverse the queue.

The exception is with new games which often have a trainwreck of folks stacked up to get the game. If you really want a new game, some folks snipe the queue by logging on early in the morning. Otherwise it is best to trade new games into the system and get back out less recent titles. Even if you were to snipe the queue, you’d have to wait for someone who wants to trade the game into the system.

One of the nice benefits to Goozex over Gamestop, is that they have PC and Mac game trading. Though newer titles come with their caveats of cd keys, online activation, and the like. I’ve tried this once with a cdkey’d game, Mass Effect. It turned out fine and I had no issues.

All of this might seem a little complicated and there are bunch of caveats like the inability to trade directly with someone you know within Goozex. Fortunately the site is organized well and streamlines you through the process of offerring or requesting games. In the past few months I’ve both sent and received a variety of games and have been pleased in general with the condition of the games received and the people I’ve sent games to.

While I wouldn’t rely entirely on Goozex, especially for newer titles, it has been useful for avoiding the loss in value that comes from dealing with the used game system at gamestop. The prices on games match their actual value to the gaming community, which is a benfit to both people requesting and offering them. So the benefits of it outweight the negatives and I’ll continue using Goozex for the forseeable future.