What Are You Playing This Weekend?

Fred Van Lente

Fred Van Lente, comic book writer

The Amazing Spider-Man writer discusses aggressive Halo superfans and managing continuity in the Marvel universe. Share your weekend gaming plans in the comments.

By Derrick Sanskrit • July 13, 2012

In What Are You Playing This Weekend? we discuss gaming and such with prominent figures in the pop-culture arena. We always start with the same question.

Fred Van Lente is a popular and critically-acclaimed comic book writer whose credits include Cowboys & Aliens, Hulk: Season One, Marvel Zombies, the Amazing Spider-Man, Action Philosophers and many others. His Comic Book History of Comics is in bookstores now. The debut issue of Archer & Armstrong hits comic shops in August.

The Gameological Society: What are you playing this weekend?

Fred Van Lente: I’m playing Borderlands all the way through for the third time. I had never played the role of the Hunter before and it’s my all-time favorite game. I thought I would do the entire thing. I got the Game Of The Year edition really cheap on Amazon, so I’m playing it straight through. With Borderlands 2 coming out, I assume I’ll have this done before September rolls around, but that’s definitely my all-time favorite game. 

Gameological: Big Borderlands fan. That’s a super fun one. Have you played anything else from Gearbox? Are you familiar with their games?

Van Lente: I tried playing Duke Nukem—I’m a big fan of that video game franchise—but I couldn’t get very far into it, I’m afraid.

Gameological: I don’t think anyone blames you for ducking out on that.

Van Lente: It made me sad, long story short.

Gameological: Unlike a lot of writers these days—who have taken to the decompressed method of storytelling—your comics seem to be very densely packed. You still have the character moments, but the pacing feels tight and moves with consistency as if they were the set pieces of Modern Warfare

Van Lente: I can enjoy games like Mass Effect, which are clearly trying to be half-movie/TV show, half game, but I tend not to prefer them as much to stuff where I just want the writers to shut up and let me play. I get it, this is very important to your phony made-up alien species, I get it. I just want to shoot it in the face. I don’t need to know [every detail]. There are these things called books that I can read. [Laughs.] But now I’m starting to write games, and I definitely appreciate a lot of the challenges that writers of video games have. As a gamer, I would much rather play. The Arkham series is the perfect example of this, when it blends action and storytelling well.

Gameological: That makes sense because it’s handled by a popular Batman writer. You’ve got Paul Dini writing those games.

Van Lente: Maybe it’s because I’m older. As a kid, I grew up with pixelated tanks in a 2D environment, when I was a very small child. So I’m not used to video games as a long-form storytelling medium. That said, my other two favorite games of all time are the Fallout franchise. I love Fallout, particularly New Vegas, and my all-time favorite Rockstar game is Red Dead Redemption, which I think is a terrific game. 

Gameological: Redemption was beautiful.

Van Lente: I guess what connects all those games and makes them separate from the more heavy narrative games like Mass Effect or L.A. Noire is the sandbox aspect. The non-linear aspects are as important as the linear ones. That’s why I like it.

Gameological: While I love the whole Rockstar thing, I kind of suck at shooting. And so I appreciate that L.A. Noire’s a detective game, and it’s more about talking to people and questioning. You really get a vibe for the writing of it all.

Van Lente: But that game I found to be too linear as well. You have each case you have to follow, and there’s challenges along the way. And I would have preferred long-form detective games. The extreme example would be something like the Homicide TV show. Even though each episode never broke from the real detective show genre, they would have cases, but the cases wouldn’t necessarily close at the end of the episode. For some of them, the cases would be murdered, and they would have to go out and deal with that. I think you could make a great sandbox detective game, or at least a cop game, that was a little more non-linear.

Gameological: There was no sense of cohesion. It’s very episodic. 

Van Lente: Yeah. Or The Wire. The Wire’s almost a bad example because it’s one long case over an entire [season]. The structure of Homicide would make a terrific video game.

Gameological: You mentioned the Batman games, which are written by Paul Dini, and that you now are writing games. Is that a source that you’re looking at as an influence? You’re primarily writing games for Marvel, right?

Van Lente: My game is a completely different format, but I definitely look to that for inspiration. 

Gameological: I imagine there’s a mandate from Marvel to keep the continuity strictly to the games, or tie it to the movies. How are you dealing with that?

Van Lente: I’m not sure how much I’m allowed to talk about that. A lot of the continuity has been established in our Facebook game, Avengers Alliance. And there’s a module attached called Marvel XP that’s going to be very important in moving forward. Anything beyond that and I think the Mouse will have me whacked. [Laughs.]

Gameological: In your tenure at Marvel, you’ve written both short stories and comics set in the Halo universe. Were you familiar with the Halo lore before that gig came along?

Van Lente: I wasn’t, but those guys sent me a bunch of books, the art of Halo books, and provided Frances Portela – the artist – with computer models that they’d been working on, stuff that I think never appeared in the game. That was really awesome. They’re very supportive. They’re very intent about the structure and integrity of the universe in a way that in comics, the fans are very anal about the game’s continuity, but we have this brand, which unlike Halo which has had a handful of games and novels, Marvel universe has hundreds of titles publishing every month. It’s a little bit more challenging to make things consistent across the board and Marvel has a long tradition going back—you know, Stan Lee at one point was calling Peter Parker “Peter Palmer,” and Bruce Banner “Bob Banner,” and confused everything.

Gameological: It’s easy to lose these things.

Van Lente: I was interviewed by one of the big Halo fan-sites before the book came out, and I didn’t know too much. I was a PlayStation person up to that point, so I went back and got an Xbox, got the Halo games, and was like “Now I’m a 100-percent Halo fan!” What killed me was in the comments section of my interview all the fans were like, “What’s he’s talking about?! 100-percent Halo fan? I own this, this, and this! What am I, an 80-percent Halo fan?!”

Gameological: There’s this unnecessary competition on the internet. 

Van Lente: Like, “You take this really seriously. I’m not speaking directly to you through the computer, it’s a general statement!” So I will say I’m a 72-percent Halo fan. I’ve learned my lesson.

Gameological: Amadeus Cho, from Incredible Hercules, very much feels like a character that speaks to video game nerds.

Van Lente: When Greg [Pak] conceived him, he was running around with a Game Boy as his universal tool. So I can definitely see that. One of Archer’s abilities is he is literally a walking encyclopedia of physical skills, so I bet he could give Mozart a run for his money on the piano. Doing dueling pianos à la Who Framed Roger Rabbit?

Gameological: So we have a scene with four of them in an old Western saloon, two at the bar and two at the piano.

Van Lente: Right. Then Hercules would have to fight Mozart, which would be a whole new realm of nerdery. 

Gameological: Well there you go, your next title: Action Composers.

Van Lente: [Laughs.] Why not?

And now, we put the question to you. Tell us what you’ve been playing lately, and which games—video or otherwise—are on your playlist for the weekend.

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  • Cloks

    I (like many others) will be playing Steam Summer Sale 2012, gaming the prices and trying to get the best deal on games that I’ll never touch. Now that I can get a badge for doing so, I’ll be sure to vote on every single 8-hour deal just so I can remember those long summers when I had no real commitments many years from now.

    When I get a chance to breath, I’ll be playing Fallout New Vegas for the fourth or fifth time.

    • http://www.avclub.com/users/merve,96925/ Merve

      In a twisted way, I’m glad that there are no more games that I really, desperately want. That way, I’ll be able to resist overspending during the sale.

    • Destroy Him My Robots

      Speaking of getting the best deal, I still have a copy of Puzzle Agent to gift. Should work for PC and Mac. If anyone’s interested in saving 100% on that one, hit me up on Steam.

    • Effigy_Power

       I was looking through the packs yesterday and came to the same conclusion as @Merve2:disqus. I have a lot of the good games they stuffed into the packages and no desire for most of the filler. I dipped in pretty good at the XMas sale last year and thus far nothing amazing has come out that I didn’t buy already.
      Great sale, but I am pretty saturated at the moment.

    • AHyperkineticLagomorph

       Like @Merve2:disqus  and @Effigy_Power:disqus I have too many games on Steam. I pretty much have everything I could feasibly want. Even the human desire to own things just because you can isn’t enough. When you realize that there is no real way to play them all, even if you won the lottery, quit your job, estranged your family, and hooked yourself up to a feeding tube, you start to focus on the games you really want.

      That said, if it goes on sale, I might consider Spec Ops: The Line.

      Otherwise, I’m going to say I’ll spend the weekend re-reading Fate/Stay Night all the way through, but more than likely I’ll give up after a few minutes and play Team Fortress 2.

      • http://www.avclub.com/users/merve,96925/ Merve

        I’m only a few hours into Spec Ops, having picked it up in Amazon’s half-price sale a while back. I don’t know if it’s the most fun shooter I’ve ever played, but it’s easily one of the best-made. I could see it being a dark horse GoTY contender for some publications.

    • Aaron Riccio

      Indie Bundle II on Steam has Splice + Botanicula (and three other games, but just those two alone are worth the 9.99 price, unless you think they’ll be in bundles). 

      Cheers!

  • http://www.avclub.com/users/merve,96925/ Merve

    This weekend, I’ll be playing Spec Ops: The Line, Saints Row: The Third, Fallout: New Vegas, and Alpha Protocol: Unnecessary Colons.

    I might try to get in some BioShock or Beyond Good & Evil if I have time, but playing those games feels almost like a chore at this point. Neither has really clicked for me, and latter is a crappy console port that has problems running on Windows 7.

    We’ve discussed some ways in which BioShock succeeded and fell short in these comments before, so I’m interested to do the same for BG&E. From what I’ve played so far, the game just isn’t very good. The story is overwrought, the camera is uncooperative, the tone constantly alternates between goofy and ultra-serious, the combat consists mainly of left-clicking rapidly, and the game is terrible at instructing the player about what to do. What am I missing? I’m only five hours in; does the game get better? I’m genuinely interested to read your thoughts; I’m not trying to convince anyone that it’s crap. I want to like BG&E, and maybe seeing it from a different perspective will help.

    • caspiancomic

       BG&E could, I think most cynically, be called an interesting failure (although personally I’m of the opinion that it’s an interesting success). What is has as an advantage over most of its peers is an interesting and unique setting, an amicable cast, unparalleled world building, stealth and puzzle solving components that don’t feel totally clunking and forced, and one of my personal favourite sidequests in any videogame: photography. The tunes are catchy (is that guy actually saying “propaganda!” or is it just in my head?), the graphics are capable if never breathtaking, the visual design is excellent (the green lipstick is, I think, an inspired touch), and the core gameplay mechanics are… well, functional.

      You could be right that a pure critical re-examination (a la Bioshock, recently) would reveal the game to be a competent albeit beautiful game, but if nothing else it stands for the importance of things like aesthetics, sound design, writing, and creating a strong sense of place, and how those elements can elevate what is otherwise a merely serviceable piece of software. Personally I believe it’s more than that, as I think the gameplay pretty deftly blends combat, platforming, puzzle solving, stealth, racing, and most importantly, photography, into a cohesive experience. But then again I considered Bioshock damn near perfect my first time through, and while I still love it, the opinions of the staff and community here at Gameological helped convince me to take of the rose coloured glasses and be more critical and demanding of the work. BG&E might be overdue for a critical re-evaluation, which is a process I think it’s capable of surviving.

      (A single unqualified gripe: the game appears to be relatively sloppily coded around the edges. Without wishing to spoil anything, in the very last section of the game I was able to accidentally trigger certain plot sequences out of their intended order, which locked me out of the area I needed to progress through to continue the game, and basically trapped me 95% of the way through the story with no way to advance. I had to delete my save file, and was pretty pissed. I traded it in not long after that, and today kind of regret it.)

      • http://www.avclub.com/users/merve,96925/ Merve

        The seamless blending of different gameplay elements is one of the things I admire most about the game, and the fact that most of those elements work relatively well is impressive. It doesn’t feel as if the hovercraft races and the stealth sections belong in different games.

        You mentioned how good the game is at creating a sense of place, and I have to agree. Hillys feels like a fully-realized world, even if the player never gets to experience most of it. My problem is that…well…I just don’t care. I don’t care about Hillys. I don’t care about its inhabitants. I don’t care about the Alpha Sections or the DomZ. The world is rich and full of character, but there’s nothing that makes me want to invest in it.

        I can’t exactly explain why I feel this way, but I think it has something to do with the fact that the player never gets to see what life was like for Hillyans before the threat of the DomZ. We know what the resistance is fighting against; we just don’t know what they’re fighting for.

        • George_Liquor

           I know how you feel. I bought that game for the PC when it first came out and have been sitting on it ever since. For whatever reason, I just can’t get interested in the story or the gameplay.

        • http://www.facebook.com/people/Kevin-Johnson/501651 Kevin Johnson

          One other thing to remember is that, at the time, games weren’t really like they are now, but they were BECOMING like they were now. BG&E is really a product of its time – the outdated stealth mechanics and fighting controls, the relatively straight-forward levels and NPC, and so on. But, like Deus Ex, it was very unique in the late 90s.

          I remember playing it and thinking there was a huge twist coming. KINDA SPOILERS (?)  —- there really isn’t. Everything and everyone is right, and you just kinda stop them in the end. The game doesn’t really -get- anywhere, plot or design wise.

          But as someone else said in the comments, Jade as a character is the best female lead in a video game… well, pretty much ever. There are two “being chased by DOMZ” sections that are really fun, but extremely short, and it’s inexplicable why most of the game didn’t have this.

          It seems like BG&E2 is the new Duke Nukem, which is unfortunate, because it seems like all the lessons learned from the first one could be incorporated in the sequel.

    • blue vodka lemonade

       I always mean to play BG&E and never get around to it, because it feels like a chore. BioShock I was actually excited for, finally got to play a couple years after it came out, and then was terribly disappointed by. Sorry if I’m repeating things said a thousand times, but the character design/animation, storytelling mechanic of recorded journals, and generally non-varied environments (save a few very cool ones) left me cold.

      • http://www.avclub.com/users/merve,96925/ Merve

        Here’s the thing about BioShock: playing BioShock feels like playing a crappy version of BioShock. I can easily imagine a version of the game where the shooting is tighter, the enemy AI is smarter, the objectives don’t feel like drudge work, and the overall experience is less wearying. It’s also easy to imagine a game whose takedown of Randian philosophy isn’t so repetitive and facile. (It may be true that unfettered free markets allow psychopaths do as they please, but BioShock’s depiction of this phenomenon relies on the presence of an unnaturally large number of psychopaths.)

        BioShock isn’t terrible; it’s just disappointing because a better version of it exists in my head. I can’t say the same for BG&E, because I don’t know how one would go about improving it.

        • http://www.facebook.com/people/Kevin-Johnson/501651 Kevin Johnson

          At the risk of getting all “self-promote-y”, I did kinda write about that same exact issue on my blog years back: http://www.totalmediabridge.com/?p=94

          Basically, the whole Objectivism angle is really just a means to an end – that is, a highly detailed but straight-forward and generic FPS. And like you said, there’s definitely a better game inside  a shitty game; big twist aside, I’m not sure why the game is taking place after everything went to shit, instead of in the midst, or the beginning, of the fall of Rapture, which would have been a HELL of a game.

        • Electric Dragon

          The problem I have with BioShock is that, having deconstructed the concept of objectives and missions in games via that twist, it really fails to justify why the protagonist simply swaps one person ordering them around for another.

        • aklab

          I just played BioShock the first time a few months ago.  It’s definitely flawed, but I think it fares much better if you think of it as an RPG with shooter elements rather than vice versa.  

    • http://www.gildedgreen.com/ Girard

       I think BG&E gets a lot of charitable praise for having a not-completely-awful female protagonist, but beyond that I found it thoroughly generic from a narrative, artistic, and gameplay standpoint. I did end up beating it, but didn’t really care, and pretty much immediately sold it back to Gamestop for a copy of Pikmin 2.

      Bioshock definitely fell under the category of “chore” for me, too. This is probably largely due to my apathy toward fps games – they created this ostensibly interesting world and then have you explore it in the least appropriate or interesting way possible: as a floating gun. The laughable “moral choice” system didn’t help. I played the first two levels for what seemed an eternity, was already sick of it, and checked an FAQ to see how much I had left to go. I found I still had, like, 8 levels and hours and hours of this thing ahead of me and just said “NO.”

      • The_Misanthrope

         Bioshock did have a pretty annoying habit of dangling a goal within reach, then pulling it away through some incident of making you trudge off in another direction to do just one more thing before you can reach your goal.  While usually compelling, the audio logs were a half-assed way to do exposition, only slightly better than text or cutscenes; There were many times where an audio log would go partially unheard as heated battle erupted.

        The photography/upgrade system was pretty well-implemented; It was just a pity you can max it out so early in the game.

        • http://www.avclub.com/users/merve,96925/ Merve

          I keep forgetting to take pictures of splicers. My first inclination is always to shoot. It doesn’t help that they usually see me before I see them.

        • caspiancomic

           Y’see: photography. I loves me a photography minigame.

        • blue vodka lemonade

           The constant yanking-the-goal-away bit really annoyed me, since they didn’t have to frame objectives that way at all.

          I did not like the audio logs, both because they would get interrupted as you said and because I thought they were way lazier than cutscenes and just as lazy as finding text. It was the same thing as in any game where you pick up paper journal entries or documents or whatever, but somehow voicing them made a lot of people think it was something revolutionary.

    • HighlyFunctioningTimTebow

      I’d be interested in what your first impressions of Alpha Protocol were/are. I feel it suffers unfairly from console specific bugs; It’s critical reception was hobbled right out the starting gate by them. It’s a much better PC game than it is a console game.

      • http://www.avclub.com/users/merve,96925/ Merve

        I just started the game, so I’m only at the first mission. So far, it’s a much better game than Jim Sterling’s now infamous 2/10 review at Destructoid would suggest, and it’s nowhere near as buggy (probably because it has been patched since its release). I can see some of his complaints materializing, though, like glitchy enemy AI and mediocre graphics.

        My one major complaint so far is that the hacking minigame was not ported well to PC. Controlling the left cursor is fine. Controlling the right one is a fucking nightmare. The mouse simply isn’t precise enough.

        I also have a minor complaint: the dialogue choices feel too much like QTEs. I think the developers wanted the game’s social interactions to feel like actual conversations, so that’s why the time limit is so small, but there’s not enough time to read the dialogue choices, let alone remember the information in the other person’s dossier and make an informed decision.

        • HighlyFunctioningTimTebow

          I vaguely remember the lockpicking and hacking mini-games were bunk on the PC, as if Obsidian was biased towards the twin-stick analog design. The dialogue wheel is better than a static tree, but short descriptors would be better than long verbatim passages. The dossier/conversation mechanic has a particularly good payoff at the end of Russia (no spoilers), so there’s that. Could be better with icon pop-ups. Even a light-bulb going off.
          The less said about Jim Sterling, the better. That is as nice as I can put it.

        • http://www.avclub.com/users/merve,96925/ Merve

          @HighlyFunctioningTimTebow:disqus: Lockpicking is fine for now, but I see how it could suck if it became much harder.

          As for Jim Sterling, at this point, I tend to think of him more as a consumer advocate than as a game critic.

      • http://www.facebook.com/gareth.hughes.1253 Gareth Hughes

        I played maybe 10 minutes until the first hacking bit and got so annoyed with how badly implemented it was I gave up and wrote it off. I would have made more of an effort but I think I paid £1.20 something on Steam for it so didn’t care enough. I may go back to it if the general consensus is that it’s worth persevering with.

  • HobbesMkii

    Oh, man, a homicide detective video game where you could fail to close cases would be awesome. I loved that TV show. The Wire is definitely David Simon’s best work, but Homicide is definitely the best network detective show ever to the be aired. The book, as well, is a wonderful piece of nonfiction writing and reporting. One of its best features is that it doesn’t always tell people whether the person being arrested is actually the killer, because real life tends to be more ambiguous like that. A game could really mine that for all it was worth.

    I will hopefully be finishing up Arkham City and starting Halo: Reach, speaking of that particular stale shooter franchise.

    • KidvanDanzig

      Fun as it would be, a game mechanic which you can “fail” is exceedingly difficult to pull off. Players metagame even when they don’t actually mean to – outside of a select niche of hardcore roleplayers, most people are going to respond with a failed quest negatively, preferring to go back and “do it right” if possible, even if the player isn’t particularly punished for messing up (because people mess up), or even if they are rewarded in a different way (as in Alpha Protocol).

      It’s the same sort of dilemma you run into with special dialogue options. RPG dialogue is generally set up to allow characters to play different kinds of personalities, but in a system like Fallout:NV, which gives special dialogue for skill checks, or Mass Effect, which gives special dialogue for alignment, players will instinctively gravitate toward the special option because they’ve been taught, over and over again, that it gives bigger carrots. It sets up an unintended dichotomy between the normal dialogue options and the “good” dialogue options. It’s a skinner box thing.

      • frogandbanjo

        If the storytelling is good enough, the choices are subtle enough, and the world is immersive enough, you can get away with it. It’s incredibly difficult, and all of your points are valid, but I thought that some of the pass/fail stuff in The Witcher 2 crept closer towards that ideal than most other games have (although in fairness I’ve not played a lot of sandbox games, so maybe they’ve done an even better job.)

        All of that still sets aside the tremendous bloat that it adds to development. The ME trilogy was supposed to be the pinnacle of choices mattering in a modern, AAA game, and it collapsed under its own weight for most of its final third. Bethesda hyped its radiant quest system for Skyrim, but for the most part it was vapor, even when it worked as intended.I think “choices matter” games could stand for a dramatic reduction in their scope while new AI avenues are being explored. Even though hardware specs might easily keep apace with the demands of ever-larger tangles of branching paths, I don’t think AAA level development can sustain much more of it without massive sacrifices in overall game quality, and even in the quality of the primary objective – choices actually mattering.

      • The_Misanthrope

        You could always do the single save-state thing, like Dark Souls does.  That way the players would be forced to commit to their choices.  To keep people from gaming the system, I suppose you could hide the stats until the end of the game.

        It is a shame that LA Noire didn’t work out.  The AAA industry needs more variety.

      • HobbesMkii

         I think the difference is that I’m not actually talking about “failing” outside of the way it happens in real life. In LA Noire the attempt is made, but the game has its overriding plotline, so it has to sort of elbow you in the side and go “*PPSSST* this isn’t the guy…but you’ll have to arrest him anyhow.”

        If you ever saw Homicide, two detectives spend the entire series working a single homicide case, bringing in multiple suspects over its course. Many could’ve been charged with the murder. The game doesn’t have to explicitly let you know you’ve failed. It just has to give you an alternate solution that could be correct. I think the biggest disappointment of LA Noire was that there was never really a moment when I felt like there was a serious alternative to guy being arrested. I never felt like I could’ve arrested the wrong man by mistake, only if the game forced me to.

      • caspiancomic

         Yeah, like @The_Misanthrope:disqus, I think the solution is to have the mechanics of the game corner players into committing to their choices. So for example, something like Dead Rising, where the save system is often perceived as a cumbersome inconvenience, but is designed that way to force players to commit to certain events in the game. Something in the mechanics like a game autosaving before and after making a decision would really force players to take a stand.

        • HobbesMkii

           Someone go get $40 Million and let’s make this sucker!

    • duwease

      Actually, L.A. Noire plays around with this idea.  Occassionally, you just need to arrest *someone*, and there’s even sometimes pressure to arrest a particular person that it may not be (which even reflects in your post-case star rating!)  I thought that was a clever idea.. it certainly strained my completionist nature having to choose between who I thought it was and who would give me 5 stars for the achievement..

      • The_Misanthrope

         Yeah, I remember being torn a new one by the chief for not picking the guy he wanted to go down for the arson case.  Both cases were as flimsy as paper, but since there was no option to let them go and keep an eye on them while gathering evidence, I decided to go with the greater of the two evils.  I probably felt that that arrest tarnished Cole Phelps’ otherwise squeaky-clean facade.

        SPOILER!

        …and then it turns out to be a crazy guy from my old military unit.  Go figure.

        SPOILER END

    • HighlyFunctioningTimTebow

      Halo: Reach is a good game to return to if you have left the series for a while. Cutscenes are much improved, and Bungie’s camera artists have lifted a few tricks from other titles (mo-capped IGC’s, rail-shooting / free-form flight sections, etc) since their last release. Look up the datapad locations for some crazy meta-content and Halo 4 foreshadowing.

  • vinnybushes

    I’m going to be away from my gaming pc and ps3 for three weeks so I’ll probably be playing the board game Citadels (a personal favorite) and engaging in the occasional session of Pokémon White or Aliens Infestation.

    • TreeRol

      You know what, we need a weekly Non Video Game Thread, and this is as good a place as any to start.

      This week’s Friday game night is going to be a little lighter on participants (3-6, where usually it’s 7-10), which will allow us to bust out a few games we haven’t had the chance to play in a while.

      I’ve been dying to play Agricola again for a while now. I don’t think I could play it often, because it’s so stressful, but it’s just such a well-designed game. We’re also planning to tackle the group puzzle known as Pandemic. Still trying to suss out how much the expansion really adds to the game, aside from character variety (which I’ve found more bad than good, I think).

      If more people than I expect show up we’ll have to bust into group favorites such as Bang! (not a good game, but fun enough) and I hope Citadels (one of my favorites as well, although there tends to be a ton of downtime so it’s hard to keep the whole group interested).

      • Aaron Riccio

        Tree, there are some online Agricola-by-correspondence servers; you might look into those. (I’d play with you, lord knows I need the practice, as I suck to the point of it being stressful, too.)

        Bang! is plenty fun, though I’ve also enjoyed games like Resistance and Saboteur. (You need lots of people for these to really work, though. They’re party games.)

        • TreeRol

           I don’t tend to play games by correspondence, although I’ll look into it. I do think part of the stress of Agricola is the immediacy. You can’t really map out a whole string of turns in the moment (unless you’re really good), so that adds to the difficulty, and the enjoyment. I feel like some of that would be lost.

          For my birthday my girlfriend got me Saboteur (and its expansion), as well as Ricochet Robots. Saboteur is fun and light. The expansion may be more trouble than it’s worth, although it does give a little more ambiguity as to the roles. Ricochet Robots is for any number of players, and actually goes faster with more, but it’s a spatial reasoning game, so it appeals to a limited audience. But I guarantee that audience will love it.

  • ImANarc

    I should get around to getting more than one hour into Fallout: New Vegas.  I don’t know why I haven’t gotten very far into it because I remember enjoying what I played.  Maybe I just need to settle on a character to play and not worry about missing out on things.

  • Staggering Stew Bum

    Am playing through Borderlands right now and it’s a bit of a slog. Don’t see much replay value there. And it seems a lot of the people playing online are complete arseholes. Like the guy in the article I got a cheap GOTY edition so am weighing up whether it’s worth playing through the add ons.

    Will hopefully knock off the main part of Borderlands today so this weekend can tackle some Mass Effect 3 co-op for the community weekend thing. Also may import my Mass Effect 2 ‘disaster’ save, where I killed off most of my squad during the suicide mission, just to see if my Shepard gives a shit.

    EDIT: And this is my 100th post on Gameological. Just out of interest, I looked at what I’ve posted over the last few months. Somehow 40% of my posts have mentioned Mass Effect, 14% have mentioned Uncharted, 8% have mentioned either Dark Souls or Demon’s Souls, most of them have included swearing and probably a good one in five have been taken the wrong way. Good times.

    • http://www.avclub.com/users/merve,96925/ Merve

      I’ve always wanted to import an ME2 disaster save, just for the hell of it. My entire squad made it through on my playthrough, so I wonder how different it would feel with most of them missing from ME3.

      • Staggering Stew Bum

        I initially started out a new Mass Effect 2 game so I could have an import for ME3 where the Rachni queen was saved, Kayden survived and the genophage data was kept. But then I figured, why not have my holier-than-thou paragon Shepard incompetently kill as many squad members as possible?

        First time through the suicide mission with this philosophy everybody died, so Shepard died, so had to have another go. Next try Garrus got through, Miranda too (she appears to be almost unkillable even when not loyal - never underestimate someone ballsy enough to wear a swimsuit into a battle), and I think Mordin survived as well. Also sold off Legion without activating it. So this will make the next ME3 run feel a bit more fresh (also, playing as a vanguard, and I don’t really like vanguards). No Tali, Jack, Grunt, Legion, Jacob or Thane. Played previously through with Samara dead (i.e. chose Morinth) so that’s no big deal. Hmmm, I think I’m going to try and *SPOILER* kill off the Quarians this time.

      • Electric Dragon

        One of these days I will do a complete playthrough of all three games being as spiteful and renegadey as I can, rather like John Walker’s wonderful Bastard of the Old Republic. I’m thinking of calling it Masshole Effect.

        • http://www.avclub.com/users/merve,96925/ Merve

          On my next playthrough, I plan to bed a different crew member in each game. Man? Woman? Alien? Doesn’t matter. Shepard will sleep with them all!

        • Electric Dragon

           Ah, the “Jack Harkness” technique.

        • The Guilty Party

          This is going to sound pretty pathetic, but I have such a hard time being an evil dickhead in games. I know it’s not a real world and none of it matters, but it’s just difficult to do. Occasionally I can pick the choices in Mass Effect that are ‘logical but a wee bit ruthless’ but just defaulting to the lower-wheel decisions? Not happening.

          The only time that I can recall doing it wholesale is being an evil Sith Inquisitor in Star Wars the Old Republic. Not sure why it was ok there. Maybe because I’m supposed to be a vicious anti-hero?

        • http://www.avclub.com/users/merve,96925/ Merve

          @The_Guilty_Party:disqus: I’m actually the same way. While I don’t “roleplay,” per se, I tend to pick moral choices that reflect what I would choose (or what I’d like to believe that I’d choose). If ever I go through a game being as much of an evil dickhead as possible, it’s more of a metagame that I do for the lulz.

    • caspiancomic

       Out of curiosity are those your personal estimates or is there some kind of tracking system built into Disqus to monitor those sorts of trends? I’d like to know if I mention Metal Gear Solid in 100% of my posts or merely 60 or 70%.

      • Staggering Stew Bum

        Nah, worked it out myself with good old fashioned counting.

        Disqus has enough problems with functioning solely as a comment system, let’s not give it any delusions of grandeur.

        • frogandbanjo

          It’s already intelligent enough to randomly ignore paragraph breaks, as opposed to always ignoring them. Don’t sell it so short!

        • Staggering Stew Bum

          Hey everyone this guy @frogandbanjo:disqus over here is sticking up for Disqus…. GET HIM!

    • Raging Bear

      Borderlands was a guilty pleasure/timekiller for me. It’s probably for the best that I never even tried it online, except a few times with one non-stranger. Gawd ‘elp me, I’ve preordered the sequel.

      The add ons are at least more worthwhile than the main campaign, in my opinion, if only for having new and slightly more interesting environments.

      • Staggering Stew Bum

        I finished Borderlands last night. It was weird, the first three quarters of the game could be beaten by one shotting enemies in the face with a shotgun, then when you get to Old Haven suddenly the enemies are ten times tougher. Most games make the difficulty curve gradual, Borderlands just went ‘fuck it, from now on this game will be tedious AND difficult’. Plus for the last few areas the frame rate on the PS3 dropped to Broken Steel levels which didn’t help.

        Online was worth it for when I dropped into a random game where a high level team mate one-shot-killed the Rakk hive boss with some sort of uber gun, that made me laugh.

        • Raging Bear

          But at least there was that mind-blowing story payoff of an ending, right?

          I’m managing the hell out of my expectations for the sequel.

          Edit: I kid Borderlands, but I think the reason I sunk so many hours into it might be that it’s about the only FPS to come out in the last 5 years or so that actually provides steady action without setpiece-ing you into a coma, and that’s a definite plus. As long as they didn’t bring that crap in, the sequel could just about only be better.

        • Staggering Stew Bum

          @Raging_Bear:disqus After beating the final boss the ‘guardian angel’ woman who appears in the top right hand corner all the time started speaking but then it glitched and cut out mid sentence and went to the credits. So I googled the ending and it said she was a satellite… M Night Shyamalan would be proud of that. Big payoff!

          If the sequel sounds good I may pick it up in the bargain bin some time in 2015.

        • Asinus

          I must have missed all of these shitty aspects of Borderlands. I didn’t even mind the ending except that I was hoping that there would at least be a zone on the interior of The Vault.. but that wasn’t a big deal. I actually liked how hard the Crimson Lance were. It made sense, really. I mean, we’re fighting all of these bandits in, essentially street clothes, and then we run into the CL for the first time and ‘get it.’ They’re scary mother fuckers. I loved Old Haven the first time I went there– it was really tense creeping between buildings and trying to score a headshot before running off.

          It is definitely worse to play on the PS3 than on the PC– I’m kind of bummed that I won’t be able to get them both for 12 bucks and that I’ll have to get the PS3 one first (so I can play with my friend who borderlands). Maybe part of it is that I played from start to finish with one friend and that was sort of subsumed into the narrative I was constructing in my mind.

          The only things I didn’t like — nigh infinite range and accuracy on thrown weapons; limited visual range for sniping (if I’m at my longest range and you can throw something at me, then that’s stupid); enemies crawling out of buildings that I can’t enter and clean out. Oh, and the strafe keys should turn the car and the mouse is for looking. Steering a vehicle with the mouse is sloppy and makes it hard to look around. Over all, though, I thought it was and is tons of fun. Not getting the “guilty pleasure” thing at all.

    • uselessyss

      I’m also gonna try to get through ME3 this weekend so I can finally see that “extended cut” content.  I keep forgetting that it’s actually a fairly lengthy game, and I want to build up my “war points” or whatever so I have as many ending options as possible.

      I’ve also recently been wondering about how the deaths of certain squad members would impact ME3.  I mean, Garrus plays a pretty important role throughout the third game – he’s even a squad member from the third mission on, or something like that.  What happens if he dies during the suicide mission?  Is he replaced by some random turian?  What about Tali?  Some day I’ll have to find out.

    • Asinus

      I played borderlands alone or with one real life friend. I thought it was a fucking blast and definitely one of the few games I’ve played to the end lately. I was bummed when playthrough 2 was over (though I did use an editor to wipe out playthrough 2 except for the mission that triggers playthrough 2.5 so I could go again with everything scaling to one or more levels higher than I was).

      Something about that game really clicked for me and I got into every aspect of it– the play itself, the world, the story, NPCs, etc. Shit, I just realized that I’m listening to the soundtrack as I write this. I didn’t have the shitty online experience that I have read about a lot, but I always hate playing with strangers. They might as well be AI most of the time.

  • Mookalakai

    I was on the fence about Borderlands 2, but the trailer from today(yesterday) was just awesome, and I appreciate their ability to embrace doo-wop as well as dubstep. As for this weekend, Fall of the Samurai for me. But I’m pissed because I bought the main Shogun 2 game a week ago, and I paid $20 too much for it now that it’s on sale. I’ll make up for that by buying a bunch of other stuff I don’t want on sale. You’re losing money if you don’t buy it!

  • caspiancomic

     Oh my goodness, is it that time again already? Let’s go ahead and bore you for the millionth week running with my progress in the best twenty dollars I ever spent:

    LIMBO: Finished!
    Superbrothers: Sword and Sworcery EP: Finished!
    Bastion: Finished! X6
    Braid: Finished!
    Amnesia: The Dark Descent: On indefinite hold until my courage is sufficiently plucked up.
    Super Meat Boy: I am beginning to think that this is a game with no ending. I’ve completed enough content to fill ten standard indie platformers, and I’m less than half way through the game. Man, I though Hell was hard, but the Rapture is dragging my corpse all over the place. I don’t even want to think about what the Rapture Dark World is going to be like.
    Lone Survivor: This game is kicking my ass. I don’t even remember the last time I was playing a survival horror game and just straight up ran out of bullets. More than once I’ve found myself starving and exhaused, with no ammunition, and with three or four monstrosities between myself and the nearest mirror, and just resigned myself to death. It sounds frustrating, ending up in literally inescapable situations so frequently, but after I take a night off to calm my shot nerves and reconsider my strategy, I usually jump back in with gusto. This is a game that is seriously putting the survival in survival horror.
    Psychonauts: Come on Double Fine! That Mac patch is like three weeks late!

    Also possibilities this weekend: I might pick up The Binding of Isaac in the Steam sale (it’s like three bucks!), but on Comrade Douchetoevsky’s advice I might wait until it’s even more on sale (if I could pick this game up for like, a dollar fifty, that would probably blow my mind). I also looked at Stacking through the sale, but there’s no Mac version, so it looks like I get to eat shit for now. I’ll also probably pick up Indie Game: The Movie since it’s five bucks, although I’d rather have a physical copy. I might also peer pressure my more military-minded friend into purchasing Spec Ops: The Line since it has my curiosity at maximum piqueitude, which is difficult for a military shooter to do.

    • blue vodka lemonade

       I tried Team Fortress 2 for the first time about a week ago and got my ass kicked… by the practice games against AI. It was pretty humbling.

    • JohnnyLongtorso

      The Binding of Isaac is so horribly addictive. I have 84 hours logged on it; I had to uninstall it to stop playing it.

    • The_Misanthrope

       You should definitely get BOI; Aside from playing co-op Minecraft at the behest of my friend’s 6-yr-old daughter, I’ve played little else.  I will admit playing it through the Steam server can get a bit laggy when there are a lot of enemies/projectiles on screen, but it doesn’t bother me too much because it reminds me of that retro video-game thing when the last couple of enemies would speed up due to the freed-up processing power.

      It has also been the game that kept me from cracking open HBV,

      • caspiancomic

         To be totally honest, S:S&S doesn’t really get more “gamey” after the first episode. There are a couple of fun new tricks, like the Song of Sworcery puzzles, and the battles against the Trigons are pretty intense. But for the most part, walking about, playing Simonesque battles with the Gogolithic Mass, and listening to some kickin’ tunes is the sum total of the game experience.

        I think the problem with playing it on a computer is that the game is (to its credit) so obviously optimized for tablet play. With a touchscreen the whole experience would probably feel that much more “correct”, but having to approximate that experience with mouse clicks isn’t quite as visceral as the Superbrothers intended.

        That said, I do highly recommend following the game to the end. Any given episode will usually run you less than an hour to complete, and the game itself suggests taking breaks between episodes, so don’t feel like you have to sit in front of your monitor and grind the game out. Hell, there’s a mechanic in the game that basically insists that you take two weeks off if you want to beat the game the traditional way.

    • aklab

      Binding of Isaac is now $1.24!!  Next round’s on me!  

      • caspiancomic

         Welp, that settles it! Time to get 84 hours of fun out of the price of a Vanilla Coke!

        • http://www.avclub.com/users/merve,96925/ Merve

          Vanilla Coke is $1.24 a bottle? Yeesh! You’d think it were Saffron Coke.

  • Enkidum

    CK II – As Harald of Norway, I managed to kick out William the Conqueror from England, and took over the whole country, although I’m now having to put down a few rebellions. Should be just a while before I get that dealt with, and then hopefully I can hold off on the battling in order to consolidate and actually develop my economy, which is shot to hell. Fortunately most of my vassals love me, and my younger son died so Prince Olaf will succeed unchallenged.

    Also hopefully get a couple of games of go in, but we’ll see.

    • Effigy_Power

       I managed to unite Britain into a Saxon Empire last weekend (getting both Harald and William to agree to peace isn’t actually too hard) and saw it flourish and grow, encompassing Ireland and Scotland… until one of my Emperors outlived all his legitimate sons and handed the place over to his slow, ugly and leprous bastard, who was demoted all the way to King of England and then further before dying of… syphilis of all things.
      It was fascinating to see his dynasty crash and burn.

  • KidvanDanzig

    Fallout: New Vegas, with the “Jsawyer mod” created by project lead Josh Sawyer - 
    http://www.falloutwiki.com/JSawyer Makes hardcore actually hardcore.

    • http://twitter.com/marlowespade Chris Holly

       Does the mod make its changes to all modes or only to hardcore mode?

      • djsubversive

        all modes, I think. it’s just that things are more noticeable in HC – chem weight, food/hydration levels, hp for the player (and I think NPCs, but I could be wrong about that). 

        It’s worth mentioning that it requires all the dlc, including Courier’s Stash, which is basically all the pre-order bonus stuff in one package. JSawyer mod moves them to Chet’s store rather than loading you down as soon as you wake up in Doc Mitchell’s, though.

        Personally, I use Project Nevada with the equipment and cybernetic modules – sprint button and dedicated grenade-throwing are wonderful additions, and being able to tweak most of the behind-the-scenes numbers (loot scarcity, HP for you and NPCs, carry weight, AP formula, how well skill determines damage for weapons, how much bleedthrough occurs when you fail to beat someone’s DT, all sorts of other stuff) is nice.

      • KidvanDanzig

        I believe all the listed changes are implemented universally, but since they’re all contained in an .esp file, you can simply toggle it to turn them on or off. Normal hardcore mode rules otherwise apply. For example, weight changes (tin cans, stimpacks, etc) are universal when the mod’s installed, but non-hardcore mode will still have instantaneous healing instead of gradual healing.

  • blue vodka lemonade

    I’ve been mostly internet-less and computer-less for the last week (up in a cottage in Wisconsin,) but am heading back to civilization on Saturday. Probably will have to apologize to my cabal in The Secret World for disappearing without notice, and then will frantically try to make up for lost time in that game. Assassin’s Creed II just arrived at my house from Gamefly, so I’ll pick at that. And Portal 2 is going to be my first Steam Sale purchase, though it will be a while before I have time to play it through.

  • Captain_Internet

    Hobbes has set up Saturday as International Day on the Gameological Society Steam Group, so why not shoot / stab / hex / revive / eat / buff / gift a Balloonicorn to a foreigner?

    http://steamcommunity.com/groups/gameological/events/

  • dreadguacamole

    “Big Borderlands fan. That’s a super fun one.”
     Did you tell him how you really feel about the game, Mr Gameological?
     Or, should I say, Club? A.V. Club?

     D+

     Never forget.

    • Effigy_Power

      I remember the review. It was a crisp, sunny day and then clouds arose in the north. And all went dark. And a pretty grindy and repetitive game got its appropriate grade.

      • dreadguacamole

         And a thunderous sound arose from metacritic, as a thousand nerds ground their teeth as one. And from their collective outrage was MikeR spawned, fully formed, to fight for conformity where’er the critical consensus might be challenged.

        • http://www.avclub.com/users/merve,96925/ Merve

          The best nerdrage was on the Uncharted 3 and Mass Effect 3 reviews. Most of the people who left angry comments on the former hadn’t even played the game yet. As for the latter, many commenters bashed the reviewer for grading the game so highly despite its ending.

          (For the record, I sort of understand the complaints about Uncharted 3 review, because length restrictions prevented from going into detail about what was wrong with the game. That’s why I’m glad we have Gameological now.)

  • dreadguacamole

     I’ll be playing The Secret World. Just got to Egypt!
     And now I’ve got my wife hooked on it, I’ll also be playing The Secret World.

    • The Guilty Party

      Just finished Egypt, but I want to go back and dig up some lore. I always say that I want to take it slow and thorough the first time through, but then I get sort of caught up and want to know what comes next and then suddenly you’re done. :(

  • Brian Stewart

    Gather round kids and hear the sad tale of how my one year old corrupted my Dragon’s Dogma save file after 55 hours of play. Had a sweet little strider/mage archer/ranger going and was finally pushing the story ahead full steam when she turned off my playstation mid save… GONE. The sad ballad of the one save file per account rule. The only positive is that in my replay of the first thirty hours, I’ve managed to not miss/fail any side quests. And I’m working more efficiently. I do escort missions and drag them along to the depths of the underworld while I clear out Saurian nests. I like to imagine the reaction they have when they see I’m leading an assault on Goblins with them in tow like it was a Bruce Willis action movie. 

    • ChumJoely

      Did your little girl come out of the situation OK?

      My 3-year-old put four (!) DVDs in the PS3 while I wasn’t looking once.  If I hadn’t quickly found a winning suggestion online for how to fix this situation without busting open the case, his life might have been in serious danger…

      • http://sarapen.ca/ Sarapen

        Got no kids, but out of morbid curiosity, how does one solve this problem? 

      • Asinus

        yeah, how did he get 4 in there at once? That’s an amazing feat in itself.

        FWIW, the PS3 is pretty easy to take apart, especially if you just want to get to the drive. I turned mine on this spring and got the red screen of death (which is REALLY weird), then I turned it off and back on and got the yellow light of death (Just after I put in a 500gb hard drive!).

        I was all set to pay to have it replaced out of warranty, but thought that I might as well take it apart and reseat the heatsinks first. STripped it down to the motherboard and the white thermal paste was almost chalk (and the heatsink face itself was pretty roughly machined, but I didn’t feel like lapping it down). It’s been working great for months. I was pretty bummed because I Thought I was going to have to return the large drive to offset the $150 for out-of-warranty service/replacement.

        I’m probably biased because I feel that everyone should take apart all of their electronics to see how they work.

  • JohnnyLongtorso

    Dark Souls. I got it from Redbox around Thanksgiving last year to try it out and it frustrated the hell out of me. I’ve given it another try (spurred on by an entertaining LP of it going on over at the Something Awful forums) and I’m doing a lot better, now that I understand how more of the game works. I really love the actual gameplay mechanics, but I think the design decision to not explain anything to you beyond the basic move/attack/block controls is really stupid. Offering a challenge is one thing, being willfully obtuse is something else entirely.

    Also, several of my deaths have been due to getting hung up between enemies and the level geometry and not being able to move, which is annoying in a game that requires precision.

    • duwease

      I just started and am maybe two hours in, and I’m inclined to agree with your point.  I love a hardcore challenge, but for a game this unforgiving (and where each mistake can set you back quite a bit, with the autosave making each mistake permanent).. they really should have explained a few key things more.

      The first time I got to a campfire and saw the Kindle option, I thought “Ooh, what is this?” and selected it.  Nice, but then I found out you should hoard those as each one eats Humanity, which has a high cost of many hours grinding souls.  And again, there was no reloading.  Sigh.

      I think I’ve actually spent more time reading Wikis and forums at this point to make sure I’m not permanently screwing myself than actually playing the game..

    • Priest Kristoph

      “…the man who comes in pieces! He’s LONG!”

  • ToddG

    Still working on finishing the Shadow of the Colossus platinum trophy, with probably some Planeswalkers 2013 on the side.  Also, I am now looking forward to the week where I will be able to say I am finally playing through MGS4.  Which has been sitting on my shelf since release day, awaiting the just-promised trophy support.  My patience has been vindicated!

    • Staggering Stew Bum

      And my word you’ll need that patience to get through MGS4. I haven’t seen the trophy list but assume it will go something like this:

      What the hell was that all about? (GOLD)
      Finish the game on any difficulty.

      All downhill from here (BRONZE)
      Chase a guinea pig.

      Just a tiny taste… (BRONZE)
      Get through the first ten hours of cut scenes.

      You still here? (SILVER)
      Get through the first fifty hours of cut scenes.

      Enough with the fucking eggs already (GOLD)
      Watched every single one of the many many longwinded cutscenes, and didn’t go insane from boredom.

      Majestic! (BRONZE)
      Take a moment to gaze into Liquid’s wondrous mullet-moustache combo.

      Much like this fake trophy list, it’s not funny or clever (BRONZE)
      Meet that arms dealer guy and his monkey.

      Don’t even try because this game is broken (GOLD)
      Use stealth throughout the entire game and don’t kill anyone.

      Stop sucking this guy’s dick already (BRONZE)
      Track down Hideo Kojima in real life and give him a slap.

      Yeah, I wasn’t a big fan.

      • caspiancomic

         I have repeatedly demonstrated my shameless crush on the Metal Gear Solid series in these comments, and even I am forced to admit that MGS4 was just not very good. The first two Acts or whatever they were called certainly had their moments, and the boss fights were as always really excellent, but the game abandoned any pretensions to stealth gameplay like two-fifths of the way through, and that slugfest of a final boss was some bullshit.

        • Destroy Him My Robots

          Same here, except I didn’t even really like the boss fights (and certainly not the characters themselves). I think one important thing the series lost is Kojima’s skills as a director — wait, hear me out! In-game. I loved the way the corridor-based gameplay in 1 & 2 allowed him to play with the camera. Creative, visually interesting, and in service of gameplay. That’s how you put your cinematic ambitions to good use in a video game. And it was just gone, sacrificed at the altar of over-the-shoulder shooting. I have other gripes (from enemies spawning from outside the map during non-alert states to disturbing casual sexism), but I don’t really feel like going into too much depth now. I feel it’s kind of like the Resident Evil 5 of the series. Is Peace Walker any better (the Revelations of the series, so to speak)?

  • Maudib

     I’m spending the weekend figuring out how to play the classic game Uplink.  Been sitting on it since the Introversion humble bundle and slowly figuring out how to get it to run on my system properly without things getting chopped off or the font being too small.  I want to give it a fair chance in the lull before I succumb to Planescape: Torment.

    • Priest Kristoph

      Uplink is plain old cool.  There’s just something about fake hacking that never gets old somehow.

      • http://www.facebook.com/gareth.hughes.1253 Gareth Hughes

         Another game I’ve put disgracefully little time into. I mainly bought it to support Interoversion as they’re a small British company but enjoyed playing it briefly. Time to get back into it and maybe pick up Defcon as well.

  • Priest Kristoph

    Gonna be spending my gaming time in the EVE universe!

    First there’s the Thukk You, Frill Me event: A bunch of cruisers and frigs burning a swath of destruction and dying in fires!

    That, and DUST 514 is running a weekend event trying to get to a million
    kills total; if so, everyone gets a million ISK and a million skill
    points. Good deal! Hop on the DUST 514 beta if you have a PS3. Worth it.

    • Effigy_Power

       I so wish I had the time and dedication needed to play EVE (or what seems like it’s needed to play EVE). It’s so gorgeous and I love the change from serenity to wild chaos.
      -sigh- Alas, burned out on MMOs and without wanting to make the commitment, I will just keep sighing. :P

      • Priest Kristoph

        Give it a shot! You can join our wormhole corp! It’s the good life, I’m telling you. :)

        I understand the burnout of which you speak. But the time and dedication are not actually needed, as long as you’ve got good people to fly with and help you out. It’s definitely better as a group experience, and good corps give their nubs and babbies lots of free stuff.

  • indy2003

    Been playing Goldeneye: Reloaded this week and will probably finish it up sometime this weekend. I greatly enjoyed the N64 version, so I figured I’d give this update a try. It’s still a fun game, but at the same time it feels like there’s very little this game offers that couldn’t have been done a decade ago (it actually reminds me more of Nightfire than of the original Goldeneye game).

    I had been playing Dark Souls, but decided I needed a break after quite a few fruitless hours of attempting to take down Ornstein and Smough. I’m almost tempted to start over from scratch as I know I’ve made some poor decisions up to this point, but I hate the thought of trekking through Blighttown once again.

  • stakkalee

    I’m still running through New Vegas.  I’m about halfway through the “Honest Hearts” DLC and I just have to say, without getting too spoilery, that the story surrounding the survivalist’s caches is just devastating.  I’ve always enjoyed the little stories the Fallout series tells with those computer terminals – sometimes quirky, or funny, but then I found the first cave with the terminal, and I read the entries, and BOOM, gut-punch.  And then I found a second cave, with a second terminal, with a story about his second attempt at a family, and I’m seriously tearing up a little just thinking about it now.  I’ve found 4 of the 6 caches, and I’ve figured out a little more about the story, and there seems to be some happy (or at least less sad) parts, but Holy Shit.  It’s one of the most affecting, emotional moments I’ve ever had from a video game.

    • djsubversive

      “May 19
      Bighorn sheep! A family – ram, ewe, and little one.”

      The Survivalist is the reason I recommend everyone play Honest Hearts (well, that and Joshua Graham). Eventually, you find/are given clues towards his final resting place, and can get his personal rifle. I like to think that I’m using it with his blessing. :)

      Also, there’s this:
      “I tell them to read and to learn and to make the most of their new home. I tell them I’m giving them Zion as a gift to make up for all the sorrows of their lives so far and all the sorrows man has visited on man. I tell them to be kind to each other and modest. I tell them never to hurt each other but that if someone else comes along and tries to hurt them to strike back with righteous anger.”

    • Effigy_Power

      [spoiler]

      The DLC bugged out for me somehow, since right after entering Utah, the caravan was attacked, which I am sure is a scripted event, but in the firefight someone was killed which immediately failed a quest and gave me another one with a location I couldn’t possibly have know.
      From then on there was no interaction and just shooting, making this a pretty boring DLC (again, due to a bugout).
      Also the Giant Cazadors freaked the shit out of me.

      • djsubversive

        hey, Eff! (still working on material)

        that’s a common issue; Follows-Chalk is supposed to take out the dude on the cliff then start a conversation with you when you get close, but he isn’t marked as “essential” or anything, so he can still die. 

        You CAN give it another run, but you’ll lose anything you picked up in Zion. Go somewhere else (my usual spot is the hotel room in Novac), save, and exit the game. Disable the Honest Hearts DLC. Restart and load, and it’ll give you a message that says “this file has DLC that is no longer found.” load anyway, make another new save, and exit the game. Re-enable Honest Hearts, and when you load (again), you’ll get the Happy Trails message again and should be able to play Honest Hearts the proper way (this time, just let Follows-Chalk do his thing and don’t worry about the last guy on the far side of the bridge). At least Obsidian had the foresight to put in a failsafe for people who decided to just murder everybody they saw (not just the Follows-Chalk/guy on cliff thing – like I said, that’s a common issue and apparently it just didn’t exist on Obsidian’s version of the game).

        On consoles, the process is a little more involved (I think), but follows the same basic steps – disable HH, make a clean save, re-activate HH.

        I recommend you do go through the story. It’s damned good. [edit] eh, on second thought, it’s not the story that’s so good. It’s Joshua Graham. The story’s not bad, but Joshua is a standout.

        And yes, Giant Cazadors suck. So do groups of Yao Guai (but on the other hand, yay Yao Guai!). What makes it worse is the spawn bugginess – you’ll exit a building or arrive from fast-travelling, look around, and 5 seconds later, things will spawn in. I actually watched a Yao-Guai and her cubs pop into existence as I was checking out the view from the porch of my claimed “house” (Zion Ranger Station because it’s got a lot of containers and I pack-rat everything).

        Anyway, off to work! Hopefully you’ll give HH another shot!

        • stakkalee

          I am enjoying the interplay between Joshua and Daniel, and their competing visions for how to handle the problem.  I’m hoping to find a way to navigate between those two poles, but we’ll see.

          Also, and I don’t know if this is intentional, but I made a connection: Yao Guai – Yogi, as in Yogi Bear.  I know yao guai has an actual meaning in the Chinese language, but being in the “national park” setting, running around wearing a ranger hat, it just seems appropriate.

        • djsubversive

           @stakkalee:disqus re: Joshua and Daniel: yeah, I like that both solutions are viable, and that it’s not just a cut-and-dry “good/evil solution to quest.”

          And now I’m picturing a Yao Guai in a pre-war hat and a green tie.

  • http://twitter.com/marlowespade Chris Holly

    Thanks to Bethesda’s complete inability to optimize their engine to run correctly on the PS3, I’ll be taking advantage of the Steam sale and picking up Fallout:New Vegas and Skyrim for PC.

    (I have both on the PS3, but I’ve hit a point where the save files are so big they just slow to a crawl or completely freeze up about 30 minutes in each time now.)

    Also looking forward to spending more time in The Secret World, which just keeps getting better and better.

    On the boardgame front, I’ll be playing some Star Trek: Fleet Captains and maybe a little Fortune and Glory.

    • Mookalakai

      You’ve made some bold decisions today.

  • Wa_Z

    I will try to log a few hours playing Deus Ex: Human Revolution. I have had it since December, but I just can’t get myself to commit a lot of time to playing videogames like I used to (it has something to do with feeling guilty because I know I could be doing something more productive, comes with age I guess) , but I think this game is incredible. I also want to check out Journey and Uncharted 3. I saw some videos of Starhawk and was impressed by it, Warhawk was one of the first games I owned on PS3.

  • Effigy_Power

    I might try and give CK2 another shot, this time with a Muslim leader nice and far away from the action, like Mecca or something down south, so I can really concentrate on preserving my dynasty.
    I’ll probably also pound some more MTG before I finally get sick of it (it’s an annual tradition: buy game, enjoy, get frustrated, chuck).
    And then I’ll scour the sales a few more times and see what else I can pick up for $5.

    • Mooy

      I just bought and played CKII for the first time last night, and within ~4 years my kingdom was hopelessly bankrupt and bleeding money, all of my vassals despised me, and my sole surviving heir revolted against and subsequently killed me off. I almost feel like I’m not cut out to rule!

      • HobbesMkii

         Yeah, you gotta play conservatively to start with. I recommend a county in Ireland to start with, as you’ll be able to expand, but not so rapidly that you’ll collapse.

        • Mooy

           Thanks I’ll try that out tonight, I can see how starting on an island would make the game easier to digest for a newcomer.

        • http://www.backloggery.com/colliewest Colliewest

          Have you played the first game? Is it any easier to get into?

        • HobbesMkii

           @Colliewest:disqus I have played the first. I dunno if I’d say it’s easier. It’s certainly different (and I definitely prefer the changes made in CK2, which I think have improved the game’s playability). But I could see it as a possible introductory try.

          I will say that I think part of the game’s fun comes from failing in new and spectacular ways, though. What I recommend to start is to browse through the CK2 Paradox forum: http://forum.paradoxplaza.com/forum/forumdisplay.php?551-Crusader-Kings-II and read up on threads where people have encountered difficulties. Lots of people on that forum are free with advice, and I always learn of a different strategy for success when I read it. And, of course, I always recommend playing a careful Ireland to start. And reading tooltips. Hovering your mouse over any number or icon in the game should give you some important details about what’s happening.

      • Effigy_Power

         I am not sure there are a lot of people who are cut out to rule, to be honest. I know I am not one of them… somehow the dirty serfs don’t appreciate being taxed up the wazoo… -grumble, grumble-

        • http://www.avclub.com/users/merve,96925/ Merve

          Tax them more, and OFF WITH THEIR HEADS!

        • HobbesMkii

           Never ever tax your feudal vassals. Tax your bishops and mayors.

  • thelandofdoasyouplease

    I will be playing Skyrim, I am still working on building a character with a cool background that I like enough to be interested in.  I am currently running around as the “reincarnated god Talos”.

  • Cornell_University

    grumble grumble Final Fantasy 8 goddammit grumble grumble I was going to go to Gamestop and treat myself to not spending money like a jackass all week but now I’m punishing myself for eating Taco Bell twice in one day grumble grumble.

  • caspiancomic

    Hey friends: if anyone’s on the fence, Sonic Generations is ten bucks today on Steam. I just felt like I wouldn’t be a loyal subject of His Hedgeholiness unless I spread the Good Word about it.

  • aklab

    I will be playing Civilization 5 this weekend (and presumably every day for the rest of my life).  And maybe Minecraft with the kids.  

    • Mookalakai

       My friend and I played a LAN game of Civ 5 last weekend, and it went well for a few hours, he was a military power, I built like 5 wonders, until the connection was lost and we were no longer playing in the same game. There wasn’t a notification of this, so both of our games went on without each other, but we kept talking to each other as if we were in the same game. We kept noticing  a few minor discrepancies between our games, like how we couldn’t see each other’s military units anymore, how I no longer had to wait to end my turn, and how I owned cities that the enemy owned in his game, but we finally realized we were in separate games when I could build trebuchets and he couldn’t, and we no longer had shared technology. If anyone had been paying attention to us, they would have shared a mighty guffaw. So in conclusion, we were disconnected for well over an hour without realizing it. He was a little intoxicated, but I was completely sober and still missed the cues.

  • ChumJoely

    I’m just continuing to enjoy some time off from my kids by playing PS3 games for hours on end.

    I picked a few from my company’s game lending library (I work at Ubisoft Montreal) that have relatively steep learning curves on the control schemes, at least for me as a relatively inexperienced gamer: NHL 12 and (to a much lesser extent) Driver SF.

    The controls on these EA Sports games… holy shit, it’s got to be one of the most complicated schemes ever.  Maybe I wouldn’t find it so hard if I understood hockey better? I have to hand it to EA though, they make this game fun even though I am still pretty bad at it.

    So to sum up, I work at Canada’s leading game studio and I am neither a gamer or a hockey fan. Good times.

  • stryker1121

    Will try and make some progress in Far Cry 2 – which i’ve been playing off and on for a year – despite how much of a pain in the ass the game can be. Such a good game, and yet so frustrating at times.

    • djsubversive

       YES. There’s something about it that keeps me coming back every month or so. I play for about an hour, do some cool stuff, get into a couple tense gunfights with guys in jeeps (usually leading to 2 exploded vehicles and me hoofing it to a checkpoint to steal another one under fire), and get frustrated when I hit a roadblock in the form of guys that are too well-equipped or numerous for me to take out by my lonesome. and my “best buddy” said he’d help, but I think he was just using me to shoot the guy in the villa (which I didn’t do). Wouldn’t be surprised, either, considering that “shit just keeps getting worse” seems to be Far Cry 2′s theme.

      • stryker1121

        FC2 is one of the very few open-world shooters (i can’t even think of another one right now) where the world actually feels dangerous. It punishes recklessness and impatience unlike ANY shooter i’ve ever played. I guess that’s part of the game’s failing, too, with checkpoints respawning enemies within minutes. 

        FC2 really needed the ability for your character to shoot out the window, especially w/ the amount of driving you do. Can’t tell u how many times my vehicle was shot up to the point where I had to leap out and kill my pursuers.  

        • djsubversive

          the S.T.A.L.K.E.R. games are pretty good for “the world wants to kill you” feelings (well, I haven’t played Clear Sky, but the other two, Shadow of Chernobyl and Call of Pripyat, are great games). 

          The big problem with Call of Pripyat is that the human NPCs are, for the most part, neutral or friendly with you, so there’s not as much danger from guys with guns as there is from falling into a cave full of angry blind dogs or getting chased by mutant boars. The times where you do have to get into a firefight with people, though… it’s very much a “kill them before they kill you” situation, with lots of flanking around and picking people off from surprise, not unlike FC2.

          No vehicles, though, and the “open world” is actually smaller areas separated by loading screens (in SoC, there are entrances/exits; CoP uses a “guide” to basically fast-travel to the other maps), but the Zone definitely wants you dead. A lot.

      • HighlyFunctioningTimTebow

        I went through this in phases, and it’s tough to hate the game while waiting for it to finish re-downloading. It’s like a real messed up relationship. Whenever you get in a crash, there is an increased chance you’ll succumb to Malaria the instant you hop out of your car.

      • stryker1121

        STALKER sounds pretty great. Just entered the land of PC gaming pretty recently so there’s tons of titles I’ve yet to try. 

        • djsubversive

          well, I went back to FC2, and got past the hurdle that had been frustrating me, although I admit it may have been because the guy with the rocket launcher blew himself up by shooting into a rock directly in front of him and therefore wasn’t an issue during the fight. 

          so thanks! bringing up FC2 gave me enough of an incentive to get back to it and change up my strategy (also, the rocket launcher guy), and I ended up sinking about 4 more hours into the game tonight. :) Found some diamonds, spent some diamonds, and now I’m rolling with a PKM machine gun, a sniper rifle, and a silenced Makarov pistol, and trying to get the police chief to run back to the station so killing him won’t be such a hassle. 

          Far Cry 2: Things Keep Getting Worse: http://cloud.steampowered.com/ugc/936997652405730580/A7368B1BC2452EDA6CA5870275B72F037D0EAC21/

      • stryker1121

        Played a bit more today myself…Been using the dart rifle (it counts as yr ‘special’ weapon) and it’s quite effective picking off dudes when you’re wearing the camo suit at the same time. Makes life a little easier, anyway. 

  • ferrarimanf355

    Got some stuff from the Steam sale, including Deus Ex Human Revolution, The Sims 3 Showtime: Katy Perry Collectors Edition (don’t judge me) and Ridge Racer Unbounded.

    I installed the latter. I hope it’s good.

  • http://www.facebook.com/gareth.hughes.1253 Gareth Hughes

    I’m going through the games on my shelf to try and finish some of them so I can make a start on the Steam games I either have or am about to stockpile. This weekend, it’s Splinter Cell: Conviction, which has so far been extended about 4 hours by the broken save system which randomly wipes out an hour or so of progress every time you start it up.