Thursday, January 27, 2011

The Video Game Post

Remember back in the day, when I use to write about video games ALL the time? I wrote about video games so much, that at my wife's request I actually started a separate video game blog that I was really good about updating until Seminary started. I even had a following. There were random strangers who bookmarked my blog and everything.

I don't write about video games as much because I do not play them as much. There are two major and related reasons for this. The first, is that between a full time job and a kid I do not have as much time anymore. The second, is with the time I do have I would much rather spend it with Abigail than playing a video game by myself.

That being said, I still do play video games, just not as much. Two years ago I probably played video games a minimum of 10-15 hours a week. Now it is probably 2-5 hours a week, and some weeks it is even less than that. I have several small video game posts ideas, that if I I left them be they would never get posted. So I am going to put them all together into this one "video game post".

First, I played a game demo last night that I really liked. The game is called Breach. It is an online shooter that does so much right in my mind. The pacing and feel of the game is a great middle ground between the run and gun, twitch action of Call of Duty and the slower, more deliberate pacing of Rainbow Six or Ghost Recon. In addition to that, a major draw of this game is that one of the main game modes is the Battlefield style conquest games. In this game type there are various capture points on the map that teams try to hold. I played several of the maps last night, and the size of the maps is just right. Finally, this game includes fully destructible environments, with the added bonus of being completely vehicle free.

Of course, there are a couple of downsides to this game. First, it s a downloadable title that is online only. The game has no single player. The only way that I can play it is with other people. The reality of it is that in 3 to 6 months most of the players will be moving on, and I will be left with a game that I bought and can not play any more. Another downside is the timing. The game just came out and cost $15. In a couple of days, the new Call of Duty map pack comes out and also cost $15. They both cost the same, and they both involve online shooting. I really liked Breach, but I am heavily leaning to getting the map pack instead. That kind of makes me sad, because I did like what I played of Breach.

Second, I am having a hard time deciding what video games I want to get this year. Last year, Abigail and I decided that the best way to budget for video games is that I would get five new releases. In the end, I only bought four in 2010. Assuming, we go the same route this year I am having a hard time deciding which five to go with.

I do know that one of them will be DiRT 3. This is a rally racing game. I greatly enjoyed the original game, and missed out on the sequel. I am really looking forward to this one.

The other games I am considering kind of fit into three major categories:

1. Fighting
Marvel vs. Capcom 3: I am not very good at fighting games, but I have a soft spot for them, and really enjoy playing them from time to time. Marvel vs. Capcom 3 is probably the big fighting game release this year, and if I want to really put some time in to playing online this is the one I should get. However, the single experience will be bare bones in this game, and I tend to be not the greatest at this series.

Mortal Kombat
: Mortal Kombat is the reason why I like fighting games. There is a series reboot coming out this year. When it comes to being competitive, Mortal Kombat is the only series that I was good at. I could hold my own in Mortal Kombat: Deception and in Ultimate Mortal Kombat 3 when it was released on Xbox live arcade. I will probably get a fighting game this year, but only one so I need to decide between these two.
2. Shooting
Ghost Recon: future Soldier: I really like the Ghost Recon games, and GRAW 2 is one of my most played games on the 360, so I am very interested in this sequel. However, this game takes a more sci-fi future tech bend, and I am little worried that the future tech is going to make the multiplayer un-fun for me.

Aliens: Colonial Marines: This game is being made by the studio that has made the excellent Brothers in Arms games, so there is a good track record. The real sale to this game though is going through tight corridor and shooting aliens.

Gears of War 3
: The first two Gears of War were very good single player games. The first one had good co-op (but the second was a let down). I also played a lot of multiplayer on the original Gears, but not so much for Gears 2. I want to play this game to finish it out, and I think some of the changes they are introducing may make multiplayer better.

CoD: Modern Warfare 3: Since 2005 there has been a new Call of Duty every year and I am sure this year will be no different. The games have always been good. Call of Duty is developed by two studios who alternate years. This year is an Infinity Ward year, which means the 2011 game will not be as good as the 2010 one. However, along with DiRT 3 this is probably the only other game that is a "Must Buy" at this point.

3. Single Player Epics
L.A. Noir: This is detective game that I have high hopes for. This game uses new technology that has incredible facial recognition. This means that players will be able to tell someone is lying or scared by the face on the screen.

Elder Scrolls: Skyrim: The previous Elder Scrolls game, Oblivion, is one of the best games that I have played. I put like 80 hours in to the game in like a month. The same company made Fallout 3, which is also one of my favorite games. The pedigree of this game, means that I will probably love it.

Mass Effect 3
: I have played the first two Mass Effect games and I have been blown away by both of them. Mass Effect is a trilogy, where players can carry their characters over from game to game. For Mass Effect 2, I waited a few months and bought the game cheaper.

So that is 10 games, and I can only get 5 of them. DiRT 3 and the Call of Duty are for must gets, so that leaves 8 games for 3 spots. Any ideas?

Monday, January 10, 2011

What I Want to Do This Year

So last year I posted a list of four things I wanted to make a point of doing in 2010. I batted .500, so by baseball standards I did awesome! I did successfully read a History book and I did succeed at greatly improving my disc golf game. By the end of the Fall I was hovering right around par at the Avon course for 18 holes. I did not get published again. In fact, with in a few weeks of writing that I honestly did not think about it during the entire year. I also did not successfully make my own board game. However, I got a really good start. I came up with an idea that I think is worth pursuing and I wrote a rough draft of the rules. I started working on a prototype, and then Abigail started school back up.

So this year, I have thought of what things I would like to accomplish this year. At the heart of these things is wanting to find balance. From August-December, Abigail and I really struggled with getting the balance right between working, being parents, being a couple, and being ourselves. We know that this balancing act does not get easier and we are starting to learn how to do it. All of these things I want to do this year are only possible with the proper balance.

1. Create a Board game
This is the third year, of wanting to do this. And this is the year! As already mentioned, I think I have an idea worth pursuing. So I will pursue away and make it happen this year.

2. Write Regularly
I have already taken the first steps to fulfilling this one. It is fully my intention to update a serial story twice a month. I already got it started, if you have not done so then you should really go read it!

3. Ride Regularly
Last year I got a bicycle that was made for riding on roads, and for about six weeks I was really good about riding it fairly regularly. Each time I went out I pushed myself a little further. Then, I had a really busy beginning to June. After that it was miserable hot. Then, Abigail started school, and it kind of just sat there. I probably will not do anything until Spring, but I want to be much more serious and more importantly regular about bike riding.

4. Run an Event at Gen Con

So I first went to Gen Con in 2008 for one day. Each year I have ratcheted up my experience. This year I am going to go through the process of trying to run my own event. As evidence to this blog, I like to create things for other people to experience. As of right now, I am making plans to run two events. The first is a Western Miniatures game and the second is a pulp heroes RPG. I am sure if I get this set up I will post more information, but if you are reading this AND you are going to Gen Con you should make plans to take part in these events (so at least one person does)

5. Read the Bible for a 3rd time
Now that does not mean I have only read it twice. There are some books like Romans, Ephesians, and 1 John that my reading of might be close to triple digits. By my count I have read the entire bible 2ish times. I have to say 2ish, because on the second time there are definitely parts of the Old Testament that I skimmed more than read. Like (I would hazard to guess) most Christians I have really over-emphasized the New Testament in my Bible Reading. I need to remedy that, and I am excited to see how Christ is revealed in even the most obscure passage of Old Testament law.

Thursday, January 06, 2011

Top 10 Memories of 2010

This is the final best of 2010 list, and it is always one of my favorite posts to make. 2010 was probably one of the most unique years of my life. I simultaneously feel like I did a ton, and that I did very little. This is of course, all because of Connor. This was the first year of having him around, and there were a lot of adjustments, and lessons to learn. As the lists will hopefully show, it was a good year :)

10. Iggy Baby Shower
When Connor was three weeks old, I began to phase back into work at the church. One of the groups I work with are the 5th and 6th graders and the group is called Iggy. Several of the girls in that group took it upon themselves to throw a baby shower for Connor. It was a very kind thing to do.

9. Sr. High Retreat/Jr. High Retreat (tie)
I am always a fan of retreats, so we will have to call this one a tie. Honestly, the Sr. High retreat feels like forever ago (it was in March). Most of my memories from that retreat are not related to the theme, but to the fun stuff that happened. We played a really great game of Capture the Flag, and had a rather incredible Euchre Tournament. The Jr. High retreat was memorable because it was great group of kids. Plus at the end just about all of them made the decision to be more serious about following Christ.

8. Church Softball Tournament
In the Fall, I worked to help get Avon UMC in a church softball tournament. We got absolutely destroyed the first game. In the second game, we were competitive but still lost. Even though we were the first team out, it was a lot of fun playing. This was my first time to play on an organized sports team since 2004. I am really hoping that playing in the tournament in October will be a stepping stone to having a full team this summer.

7. Going to Bub's
Even though it was completely irrational, wasteful, and unhealthy one of my life goals was to get my picture on a wall for eating something. This year, I did it by eating the one pound burger (that is the weight AFTER cooking). My strategy was to eat it as fast as possible, and that is exactly what I did. I went with a couple of youth and one of them got a quarter pound burger. I had consumed the whole pound before she had ate half of the smaller burger.

6. Christmas 2010
This Christmas was fun because of Connor. However, what really made this Christmas memorable is that my sister Kristen and her husband Matthew came over from England. This is the first time everyone was together since Connor was born, and it was the first time to spend Christmas with my entire family since 2007.

5. Sr. High Mission Trip

It seems every year that the Sr. High mission trip makes it on here. So next year, expect to see the 2011 trip to Alabama listed. This year's trip was good for a couple of reasons. First, the facility we stayed at, Camp Kingswood, was awesome. For anyone looking for a mission trip I highly recommend them. Second this trip was good because it was the first time I was on my own. I am not the most handy person in the world, so I have always tended to make sure there was another adult with me on site. That way I could be the cheerleader/quality control person and the other adult could be the foreman/expert. As it worked this time, I was the sole adult with six juniors and seniors. We figured it out, and built the deck/big step thing you see in the picture.

4. Connor's first birthday party
Connor's first birthday was good for all the reasons one might expect. It was good to have so many people who cared for him in on place. It was fun to watch him eat cake and open gifts. It was also meaningful to celebrate one year of him being around. Along with his birthday party, I have to include his ACTUAL birthday four days later. We went to the children museum and had a lot of fun. Connor absolutely loved it.

3. Abigail's 30th Birthday
For Abigail's birthday we went to the West Baden Hotel. The location was very beautiful and the weekend was very romantic. It was nice to know that even though we are parents, we can still just be a couple too.

2. Family Vacation to Cincinnati
It was fun going on vacation as a family. I think we planned this one perfectly. The pace we went at was exactly right. We really enjoyed going to the aquarium, biggest grocery store in the world, a baseball game, and the creation museum.

1. Gen Con with Abigail
The picture is the closest thing I have to a picture of us at Gen Con. This is a game we played together. For me Gen Con is one of the true highlights of the year. It is pretty much a four day celebration of everything I find fun. The best part about Gen Con this year is that Abigail went with me. We had a lot of fun there playing some of our favorite games like Race for the Galaxy and Memoir '44. There are 365 days in a year and in 2010 this day was the single most fun day I had.

Wednesday, January 05, 2011

I NEED to tell a story part two

Not to long ago I wrote about my desire to be more serious about writing fiction. I am attempting to make good on that. I am going to be trying my hand at writing pulp fiction. My goal is to add to the serial story every other week. Follow the link, bookmark it, read, let me know what you think, and enjoy!

Tales of Daring

Tuesday, January 04, 2011

Top Five Video Games of 2010

So one of the big effects that Connor has had on my life is that he has greatly decreased my playing of video games. Evenings after caring for him and putting him to bed, I often would like to spend time with Abigail instead of play video games by myself. Before Connor, I got most of my game playing hours in on my day off, but now I have him all day so that takes a lot of the time.

That being said, I did spend a healthy amount of time playing video games this year. Most of the games I played this year were actually from 2009 such as Borderlands, Batman: Arkham Asylum, and Wolfenstein. I played 12 games that came out in 2010, but two do not count as they were Xbox Live arcade re-releases from the 1990s.

There are a couple of games from 2010 that I hope to play still. I know that it is just a matter of time before I play Fallout: New Vegas. First price drop or sale on the game and I will be getting it for sure. I am also hoping at some point to borrow Medal of Honor and Red Dead Redemption from my brother. Of course playing 2010 games in 2011, will probably make for a short list again a year from now. So in the typical descending order here are my top five video games for 2010.

5. Deadliest Warrior

I love the concept of the show Deadliest Warrior, and despite having a little to much testosterone overflow, I like the show. Despite being terrible at them, I like fighting games so over the summer when this game was released I downloaded it instantly. This is a rather unique fighting game, in that blocking is more important than combos. A well timed spear throw can instantly end the game as well. The game was a little bare bones in what if offered but I had a decent amount of fun with it.

4. Pinball FX2
The original Pinball FX is one of my most played games. I think listening to a podcast while playing Pinball is a great way to spend an evening. Pinball FX2 added four new tables, plus the ability to play all the tables from the original game with the new interface and with new achievements. I am particularly enjoying the Marvel Superhero tables they released.

3. Halo: Reach
I like Halo, and I am all in as a fan. I have played all of the games, read all of the books, and I have the DVD. Halo is always good, but as Halo: ODST showed last year, Halo is best when Master Chief is not present. Reach offers an incredible single player experience, and makes strong improvements on an already strong multiplayer. I feel kind of bad for Halo: Reach, because while I really enjoy its multiplayer I like Call of Duty Black Ops better, and I really only have time to play one.

2. Call of Duty: Black Ops
Every year since the xbox 360 was released there has been a new Call of Duty. In my opinion this is the best one by far. It delivers the best single player story of probably any first person shooter I have played. The real draw to this game is the online multiplayer. The balance in this game is much better than it was in Modern Warfare 2. I have long said that Treyarch(the developer of this game) is better at making multiplayer maps than Infinity Ward (the other call of duty developer) and this game continues to prove that. I have not reached the level cap yet, so there is a lot more Black Ops in my future.

1. Mass Effect 2
I am fairly sure at some other point I wrote that Mass Effect is the best video game I have ever played. Objectively this is a better game as it makes several tweaks and improvements over the original. However, since I have already played the original it did not have quite the same "wow" factor. That being said Mass Effect 2 was still a splendid game. The loyalty missions were great, as was the real threat of people dying. I played this game in the Fall, and like a good book once I started I just could not put the game down. Mass Effect is a trilogy, so I am really looking forward to the third game.

Monday, January 03, 2011

Top Ten 2010 Movies (Kind of)

I have gotten to a point in my life, where I am very selective in movie watching. I really just don't want to invest 90 to 120+ in something that I have a feeling that I will not really care for. If a movie looks bad, cliche, or uninteresting I really want nothing to do with it. I would much rather spend that time doing a whole lot of other things. I have been heading this way for a while. The addition of Connor this year, plummeted my movie watching to really low. I watched a grand total of eight movies released this year. Now there actually are movies that I want to see, but I have not yet had the chance to see them yet. I went to a movie theater once the entire year. So this list will have 10 movies, but it will be divided up into two segments. The four best movies I saw this year, and the six movies from 2010 that I want to see still.
Four Best Movies I saw in 2010:

4. The Losers
With the A Team, Expendables, and this one there were a lot of mercenary action movies this year. While the Expendables had a better cast and more over the top action sequences (barely), I think I preferred this one a bit more. If anything because both movies had a similar villain, but the bad guy in the Losers was a bit more hateable in his smugness and conceit.

3. The Crazies
I suppose technically this movie is about distrust of a government that cares more about it's secrets than it's own people. That is there I suppose but the movie is really a good survival horror tale. It feels a bit like a zombie movie only sick crazy people replace the undead.

2. Book of Eli
In 2009, while playing Fallout 3 I had the thought what would it be like if someone had a Bible and followed God in a post-apocalyptic future. This movie is the answer. The action sequences were fantastic and I greatly enjoyed watching this one.

1. Toy Story 3
It is rather rare for a movie that is third in the series to actually be better than the first two, but Toy Story 3 does just that. It was an absolutely excellent story and well executed movie. Despite being animated, I am fairly confident this is not a movie for kids. The target audience are people who were kids when the first Toy Story came out in 1997.

And now the top six movies that I still want to see from 2010.

6. Harry Potter and the Deathly Hollows Part 1
I have seen all of the other Harry Potter movies, so why not this one as well?

5. Iron Man 2
Same deal, I liked the first Iron Man so I feel like watching the sequel is a good idea.

4. Red
I do not know a lot about this movie, except for the trailer shows Bruce Willis step out of a movie car firing a gun, and another guy shooting a RPG out of the air. That kind of over the top action movie magic, is usually a winner for me.

3. Scott Pilgrim vs. The World
Given the people I know who generally read this blog, they are going to think this pick is a dumb movie. However, I know that it is heavily inspired by comic books and video games. Plus, Scott Pilgrim lives in a world where disagreements are settled by over the top fights. Sounds like a movie that is made for me.

2. The A-Team
My brother said this is one of the most fun movies he watched this year. I like fun movies more than critically acclaimed movies so this will probably be a good use of my time.

1. Inception
I know this one is about dreams and has a surprise ending. Getting a lot of comparisons to the original Matrix is enough to make me want to see it. Several of the youth like this movie, and I have successfully avoided spoilers (unlike Shutter Island, which would be on this list if I did not already know the big twist). I really need to see this one soon, just so it does not accidentally get spoiled.