summertime blues (and yellows)

I haven’t felt much of an urge to write lately, and that’s mostly because I haven’t really been doing all that much, game-wise, beyond Diablo 3.  And what, ultimately, is there to say about Diablo 3, anyway?  I’ve gotten to the point where I’m playing it with the sound off and Spotify on, because the act of clicking mindlessly through levels you’ve already been in a dozen times requires a different sort of aural stimulation.

My monk just hit level 57 last night.  It was not an easy road.  After finishing the game on Nightmare with relative ease, I immediately restarted the game on Hell, and found myself dying repeatedly, constantly, by those elite molten mobs with jail/freeze abilities and those goddamned fucking arcane sentry laser beams, which are the bane of my goddamned existence.  I struggled mightily to finish Act 1, found that Act 2 was even harder, and decided to take a little break.

I started up 2 new characters – a Demon Hunter (who’s now at level 12 or so) and a Barbarian (level 5 or 6), just to see the differences.  I may have said this before – normally, when I play any sort of RPG, I tend to pick the Barbarian/Tank character, but for whatever reason I picked a Monk in D3, and after messing with those two other classes, I still feel that for the most part I made the right choice – the Monk is quick and agile, has useful healing abilities, and has some very effective magic spells.

Here’s my current Monk build (I think this is right):!YcU!ccYYcY

Anyway, after getting bored with Normal difficulty, I decided to get back to the Monk.  I went to the Auction House and picked up a pretty amazing weapon, and restarted Act 1.  And whaddya know, suddenly I was kicking the shit out of everything and everyone.  I don’t know if it’s the new weapon, or that I restarted Act 1 at level 56 instead of level 54, but whatever it is, I’m plowing through it with great aplomb.  (I think I’ve only died once so far, actually, and that was due to a lost internet connection.)


Beyond that, there’s not a tremendous amount to report…

  • I’m not nearly as addicted to Pocket Planes as I’d thought I’d be, although it’s still a suitable distraction on the subway…
  • The Xbox and PS3 have been collecting dust, for the most part – I did rent Dirt Showdown, which was sort-of fun (although in order to do multiplayer I would’ve need to buy an online pass, which I wasn’t really inclined to do), and I also rented last year’s Vanquish solely because the guys on the Giant Bombcast were gushing over it – it didn’t do that much for me, I’m afraid.
  • I downloaded Cthulhu Saves the World  last night for my iPad (though I haven’t yet had a chance to mess with it); and then I saw that Cthulhu: The Wasted Land was available for free – I’d heard some decent things about it.  So at least my iPad is full-up with Lovecraftian goodness.
  • Also downloaded Magic 2013 for the iPad, although I’ve never played Magic in my life.  My wife has, though, and she watched over my shoulder as I tried the tutorial.  It’s a beautiful-looking game, but it’s also very complicated, and I ended up bailing on the tutorial because our dinner had arrived, and I don’t know that I’ll get back to it.  (It was a free download, though, so I didn’t necessarily lose anything beyond some hard drive space.)

Subway Gamer: airplane edition

I’m leaving tomorrow for a mini-vacation – a wedding followed by 2.5 days in Orlando – and since I’m not the best air traveler in the world (though I’ve gotten much better), I’ve been stocking up on iOS diversions to help keep my anxiety in check.  Likewise, there’s bound to be some downtime during this trip, so I’ll need some stuff to keep me occupied.

Here, then, is a quick rundown of what I’ll be checking out over the next few days:

Pocket Planes:  Nimblebit’s followup to the insanely addicting Tiny Tower arrived late last night, and I’ve become arguably even more hooked on PP than I was on TT.  Instead of building an endless skyscraper, you are gradually building an airline.  Right now, I’ve got 5 or 6 planes ferrying people and cargo along a narrow corridor in the Northeastern US (on my iPhone, at least – my iPad game is starting out in South America), and soon I’ll be buying airports in the Midwest and beyond.  It’s engaging, it’s non-stressful, it’s got the same charming 8-bit art style that TT had, and it’s FREE – and not in that annoying way where it’s technically free but you have to shell out real $$ in order to actually get anywhere.  Free, Universal

Temple Run: Brave:  Imangi’s follow-up to its mega-hit Temple Run, now with Pixar branding for its forthcoming film.  It is pretty much the exact same game as the original, except with better graphics and an “archery mini-game” which really just requires you to tap on archery targets as you run past them.   It’s a little awkward, but it does mix things up a bit.  $.99, Universal

Air Mail:  A truly gorgeous 3D flying/exploration game, reminiscent of Crimson Skies (but without the combat, at least so far).  It’s a little aimless at times, but it’s also one of the best-looking games on the new iPad.  $4.99, Universal

Defender Chronicles 2:  I’m not much for tower defense games, but this has been getting great reviews… $2.99, Universal

And of course, lots of 8-Bit Ninja, Spellsword and Fairway Solitaire.

E3 2012: final thoughts

Before I get into E3, I suppose I should explain last week’s unexpected (and unintentional) silence here.  During the first half of the week, my office’s internet was totally screwed up, and it was impossible to post.  During the second half of the week, however, I was beset by a particularly vicious head cold, and the last goddamned thing I wanted to do was think about putting words together that described bright lights and loud noises.

Indeed, about the only thing I did get up to during my weekend of death was to plow through Diablo 3 on Nightmare difficulty, which I managed to finish Sunday evening, just in time for Mad Men.  My monk, Lolily, is now at level 51, and I’ve sunk just over 39 hours into the game.   I must confess that right before I started Act 4, I did buy an incredibly powerful weapon in the auction house – not with real money, though, just in-game currency, which I’d been hoarding for no particular reason.  (To this point, the only times I’ve spent any gold in-game is when I’ve either had to fix my equipment or when I’ve trained my blacksmith and my jeweler, both of whom were as high as they could be until I unlocked Hell difficulty, where Tomes of Crafting began to drop.)  This was done partly because (a) I wasn’t looting anything particularly good up to that point, which was frustrating, and (b) I was getting a little tired of the game and wanted to plow through to the end.  The weapon I bought had a buyout price of 50,000G, which was fine enough with me; it boosted both my Vitality and Damage stats over 1000 points over my current weapon, which is something that’s hard to say no to.   I thought that it might break the game a little for me, but the truth is that my internet connection is still wonky, and so there were a number of times where the game just straight-up froze (thus resulting in death by an unsween swarm), and still other times where the game’s stuttering performance meant that the teleporting enemies who could also freeze me in place pretty much had their way with me at all times.   This is all to say that while I have an incredibly powerful weapon now – a weapon that I’m not sure I’ll need to replace – I still have my regular, non-spiffy armor, which just barely gets the job done; I still die from time to time.


It’s hard for me to comment on this year’s E3, being that my means of intake were generally limited to Giant Bomb’s absurdly long 4-hour podcasts and 20-minute video recaps of each day’s activities.   Every press outlet more or less covered the same ground, and being that my head was swimming in mucous, I could pretty much only handle one source at a time.  (This is why I am still a part-time blogger and not a professional journalist.)   I’d scan my Google Reader every hour or so, see that there were 70 articles about the same thing, and then I’d sneeze a dozen times and then close my eyes.

Still, even with my limited information and access, the general theme of the press at large  all seemed to agree on some variation of the theme that this E3 was dumb, unnecessary, uninspiring, fundamentally broken, etc.  There are several pretty obvious reasons for this, though, and I suspect that 2013’s events are going to be much, much different.

  1. It’s been said for a while now – we’re at the end of this console cycle, and developers/publishers are very reluctant to show off new IP this late in the game.  The fact that we saw as much new IP as we did (The Last of Us, Watch Dogs, Beyond) was pretty amazing, especially since all three of those games look really, really promising.
  2.  E3 doesn’t quite mean the same thing that it did a few years ago.  Back in the day, it was THE ONLY event that mattered; the internet didn’t leak quite so quickly as it does now; video streaming was ugly and impractical; the discerning gamer basically just read lots of stories and looked at tons of screenshots.  Now, though, it’s simply one event of seemingly dozens – PAX and PAX EAST seem to be just as important, and then there’s CES and Tokyo and Germany and all the rest.  Meanwhile, the internet’s caught up and so now we have high-quality video streams and commercial-free live TV feeds of keynote speeches and there’s all this HYPE and POMP; it’s just caught up at the wrong time, is all.  I guarantee that when Microsoft and Sony announce their new consoles at next spring’s 2013, we’ll forget all about this little bump in the road.

I still haven’t seen Sony’s keynote, so I can’t comment on it (other than that I keep hearing that they said pretty much nothing about the Vita, which is a big, big mistake).  I saw bits and pieces of Microsoft’s keynote – it wasn’t the horrible embarrassment that some people called it, though it certainly was a bit underwhelming.  SmartGlass seems like a way to keep a step ahead of the WiiU – as someone who is fiercely addicted to his iPad, I certainly plan on putting it through its paces – but it’s not a game-changer.  The games they announced were, more or less, more of the same; I think it’s fair to say that Microsoft’s first-party lineup leaves a lot to be desired, at least when compared to Sony.  I did end up watching Nintendo’s keynote (since I was home, sick), and I’m not sure I know what I saw.  There seemed to be genuine animosity between Reggie and the poor bastard who had 5 minutes to talk about the 3DS, and that guy’s 3DS spiel spent more time talking about how little time he had to talk instead of actually talking about things that mattered.  I don’t know that it’s fair for me to talk about Nintendo, anyway; they clearly don’t care about me, and I stopped giving a shit about their first-party IP a long time ago.  (I gave my Wii to my mother-in-law with zero regrets; indeed, when she expressed interest in getting one for herself, I suddenly saw a golden opportunity to get rid of the thing.)  Still, though, I was ready to be wowed by the WiiU, especially given my vulnerable state, and I was completely and utterly underwhelmed.  Nintendoland?  Really?  A shittier version of Playstation Home?  Fantastic, well done.

Highlights of the show include:

  • South Park RPG
  • The Last of Us (Uncharted post-apocalypse)
  • Beyond (Heavy Rain 2.0)
  • Criterion:  Need For Speed Most Wanted reboot
  • Tomb Raider
  • Star Wars 1313 (everyone seems to say that this is a next-gen game)
  • Watch Dogs
  • Lego City: Undercover (if this is a WiiU exclusive, I will be bummed)

Other notable games that I have knee-jerk, ill-informed opinions of:

  • Halo 4 (at least they’re trying something new – and the graphics look great)
  • new Gears of War (developed by People Can Fly)
  • Forza Horizon (what is this?  some sort of DiRT clone?)
  • new God of War (meh)
  • Elder Scrolls Online (this seems to be the consensus winner for Most Disappointing of E3)
  • Far Cry 3 (didn’t see the trailer since it’s NSFW, but I don’t care)
  • Crysis 3 (didn’t see the trailer since I don’t care)
  • Assassin’s Creed 3 (hoping for the best)
  • Splinter Cell reboot (looks a lot like Assassin’s Creed: Future Soldier)

Did anyone see Borderlands 2?  That’s a big title for me for later this year, and I’m not sure I read anything about it, although that’s certainly something I could fix with a quick Google search, although I’m not going to.  Maybe they’re focusing on the final push to the finish and didn’t show at all?  (Bioshock Infinite wasn’t there at the show, either, as far as I know.)

Here’s what I was hoping to learn at this year’s E3:

  • a release date for GTA5  (none given)
  • some sort of acknowledgement that The Last Guardian isn’t dead. (sort-of acknowledged)
  • a solid holiday release schedule for the Vita (if there was one, I missed it)
  • a solid holiday release schedule for the 3DS (see above)

We’re clearly in for a much stronger 2013 than I was anticipating, so that’s something to get excited about.

In the meantime, I will continue to click the shit out of monsters in Diablo 3.  I think I may need a new mouse, actually…

E3:2012 keynote impressions

[It appears that the office internet seems to be functioning somewhat normally today!]

Normally, E3 is an exciting time; a glorious week where I spend every free moment frantically refreshing Google Reader and doing the arcane mental calculus required to make sure I have enough money saved up to buy all the things that need to be bought.

(*apologies to Hyperbole and a Half)

But I’ve been saying for a while that I had pretty low expectations for this year’s E3; I never thought it was going to be all that exciting.  Most developers are seemingly reluctant to release new and exciting IP this close to the end of the current generation, and the console developers themselves can’t really reinvent the wheel at their keynotes at this stage of the cycle, either.  Nintendo has the WiiU to push; that’s really about it, as far as hardware.

Even so, it’s hard not to be totally underwhelmed by this year’s keynotes.  I was really hoping Sony would be able to sell me a Vita; did they even mention the Vita, beyond COD:BLOPS2 and AssCreed3?  Likewise, Nintendo went to great lengths to say that they could only spend about 5 minutes on the 3Ds during their presentation, and most of the 3DS section was spent apologizing for their lack of presentation time, rather than maximizing what they had.   Microsoft’s “SmartGlass” thing sounds intriguing, but it also seems mostly like a way to render the WiiU’s new tablet controller irrelevant; and in any event, the only big exclusive stuff they have coming out this year is the usual – Halo 4, Gears, and whatever that Forza Horizon thing turns out to be.

If anything, I do have to give Sony a lot of credit for not totally giving up on new IP – I’m really intrigued by Beyond and The Last of Us, both of which have been picking up a lot of positive buzz.  (Not as sold on the new God of War game, though.)

In the meantime, I’ve been thoroughly devoted to Diablo 3.  It does seem to be running smoother!  My monk is now at the beginning of Act 3,  either Level 46 or 47, and thoroughly decked out and dealing much damage.

I can’t be certain that my office’s internet hasn’t totally crashed, so I’m going to cut it short here.  Look for a CouchCast coming up later this week, though, wherein Gred and I will continue to whine and moan about what we’ve learned about this year’s E3 purely through hearsay and Twitter gossip.

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