Thursday, October 27, 2011

XBox 360 Dashboard Update Next Week?

This report claimes the XBox 360 Dashboard update set for 15 November will be released next week.

Tuesday, October 25, 2011

Battlefield 3 Launches!

I have been anticipating this title for some time now. Three million preorders can't be wrong.

Find some reviews here and here.

The consensus seems to be that the single player campaign is weak, but multiplayer is everything you would expect. BF3 is all about the multiplayer for me anyway.

Itching to play Battlefield 3 for the last few days, I fired up Bad Company 2 and played a few rounds to remind me why I enjoy the franchise so much. Unfortunately for me, money is a bit tight at the Pit and the Wife says we cannot afford to upgrade the gaming PC at this time. It is on its last legs, so I will keep working on her and maybe she will eventually break. Until then, I can seek some advice on how to build a kick ass Battlefield 3 PC here.

Tuesday, October 18, 2011

Session Report - Battlestar Galatica - Where are the Cylons?

This game was played on Saturday, October 15th, 2011. Six players were present, no expansions and we decided to ignore the sympathizer rule. Two players had never played before.

Baltar (president)– Matt
Tigh – Me
Apollo – Johnroy
Adama (Admiral)– Brandon
Chief – Will
Boomer – Demetri

I am not a Cylon.

The game starts out a bit tense for me. I am sitting between Boomer and Baltar, the two most likely to be Cylons (with their extra loyalty cards).

The game starts out poorly, failing our first crisis, putting Baltar in sick bay and losing one morale. A Cylon boarder gets on the ship. The next few players spend their time trying to shoot down Cylons or kill the boarder. A few ships are shot down, but that stubborn boarder cannot be killed. During the round we lose a nuke, more morale and a civilian ship. By my turn there is not much to do. Baltar wants me to XO him so that he will get out of sick bay and start to collect his quorum cards. I am reluctant, as I figure he is most likely the Cylon and collecting quorum cards and then doing nothing with them is my usual MO when I an the president and a Cylon. Since I have nothing much else to do, I figure give him enough rope to hang himself, so I use my XO. The first round (everyone getting one turn) is over and we have barley moved on the jump track. The Cylons have stacked the deck with crisis after crisis that have with no jump track moves.

Baltar starts turn two, collects more quorum cards and pulls Sleep Deprivation for his crisis, sending him back to sick bay. More attempts to kill the boarder, all of which fail. The chief draws Boarding Parties for his crisis and then Apollo (next turn) draws Ambush. Two Cylon attacks in a row and the board is full of Cylon ships (see pic) with the jump track only at -3 population.

There is no choice. Boomer goes to FTL and jumps the ship. We get lucky and jump distance 3, but we lose 2 fuel and 1 population. Not a bad exchange considering all the Cylon ships. It is the longest first turn I have seen and way to many civilian ships on the board. A tough round but we make is relatively unscathed. No sign of a Cylon within the Fleet. Perhaps the humans have a chance.

Getting to our second jump takes almost as long as the first. We lose a few more food and morale and the Chief finally kills the Cylons on board the ship. Unfortunately, he immediately draws the Besieged crisis, the Cylons destroy one of our vipers and good natured calls of Cylon are sent towards the Chief . However, on Apollo's turn he kills 3 Cylon raiders, easing up the pressure. Boomer launches in a viper shoots a raider but draws Heavy Assault and the Basestars hit Galactica, damaging the Hanger Bay and the Armoury. Sticking with the alcoholic theme, Tigh XO's (third time in a row) the Chief who quickly repairs the damage to Galactica. The rest of the round passes uneventfully and we auto jump distance 1 and gain 2 fuel doing it.  

Sleeper Phase: 

Loyalty cards are handed out. I am not a Cylon. Boomer goes into the brig. At this point there has been no indication of any Cylons. However, there is doubt now, there must be 2 out there and I am still sandwiched between the two most likely Cylons. Baltar uses his turn to check the Chief and says he is not a Cylon. He draws the Admiral Grilled crisis, which we fail, losing another morale. Now a proven a loyal member of the human race (well almost), the Chief agrees to XO Baltar on his turn and Baltar checks Apollo, who is not a Cylon. However, Guilt by Collusion is drawn and although we pass, 3 yellows are in the deck. Only the Chief or Apollo could have spiked it. Apollo is thrown in the brig. He is next in the turn order and he revels as a Cylon. But who is the other? Is it Baltar, who said he was not a Cylon? But Baltar have been helping with Inspirational Speeches. Adama has been picking good distances and Boomer jumped us at a critical time. No one is acting suspiciously, and even until his revel, Apollo had done nothing to indicate he was a Cylon, except not contributing much (that is probably just his poor ability). I have no idea who to suspect.

Boomer is next and tries to get out of the brig. I am torn, but she has done nothing to make me suspicious. Although she has received 2 cards this turn and is most likely to be a cylon, I figure let he out and, if she is the cylon, maybe we can flush her out. We auto jump after Tigh's (my) turn, go a distance of one and gain 2 fuel. After 3 jumps we stand at 5 distance, 4 fuel, 4 food, 4 morale and 10 population.

Things start to get dicey right off the bat. Baltar fails his Inspirational Speech and draws Raiding Party. Cylon ships are on the board and we are at the start of the jump track. This is likely the best time for a cylon to revel and for Apollo to use his super crisis card. We fire at the Cylon raiders and use Brutal Force to kill a heavy raider.

Apollo's turn. He uses his Super Crisis card, but in a lucky break for us, it is Bomb on Colonial 1, probably the only card that cannot take advantage of the mess of Cylon ships. We barely pass the check. We try to keep the Cylon ships at bay.  Boomer's crisis costs us 1 fuel and I XO (again) and we destroy a few ships. I draw Informing the Public, which we pass. I am not sure who to check. My gut tells me the Chief, but he has had one check already and Apollo took the fall for the spiked skill check and did not deny it. No one has been acting suspiciously. I decide to check Baltar, hoping to get lucky. I reason that, if he were a Cylon at this stage and we do not suspect him, he could really screw us later. He is not a Cylon. Baltar goes next and continues to build up his quorum cards but draws Tactical Strike, putting a fair amount of Cylon ships on the board. We need to get out of here. Adama is next and goes to FTL to jump us a distance of 2. At the end of our fourth jump we stand at 7 distance, 3 fuel, 4 food, 4 morale, and 9 population. We might just be able to pull this off.

The next turn passes fairly quickly. Apollo (the reveled Cylon) picks a crisis card but makes a bit of a mistake by giving us Scouting for Water, which we pass (barely) and gain 1food. Unfortunately, Boomer loses us 2 population on her crisis and, while Baltar uses Inspirational Speech to gain 1 morale, he immediately loses it when he draws Terrorist Investigation which we fail.However, we jump on his turn a distance of 2 for a total of 9, losing 1 fuel and 1 morale. With one more jump to Kobol, we stand at 2 fuel, 5 food, 3 morale and 7 population.

The final round. All the humans have to do is get to -3 population on the jump track and they can win. Adama moves the jump track on his turn. The Chief revels that he is the second Cylon. Apollo (cylon) helps plays witch hunt which we pass and also moves the jump track. Tigh gets Water Shortage and moves the Fleet into the -3 population jump prep space. Baltar moves to FTL and jumps the fleet. Humans win.

Final tally: Fuel 1, Food 2, Morale 1, Population 4.

Post Game: The Chief revels that he was a Cylon from the start and Apollo got his during the sleeper phase. Throughout the game, there was only one indication of a Cylon, which was the 3 yellows on a skill check. We knew that one of them had to be a Cylon, but the truth was that both spiked the check with one yellow. A fun game but not a suspicious one due to the zeal with which the Cylon Chief repaired Galactica and Vipers during the game. The Chief reveled too late to be effective. Perhaps it was my fault, as I usually tell new players that their best bet is to wait as long as possible to revel so as to sow confusion and suspicion amongst the players. I should have made it clear that Cylons should revel before the last jump in order to get to use their super crisis card and cause maximum damage.

Tuesday, October 11, 2011

XBox Live News

More TV Content for XBox Live

Microsoft has announced the addition of almost 40 more digital content providers added to their service in 20 countries. For us here in Canada, this includes Rodgers and TELUS. The above article mentions that this content will be available in time for the holidays, so I would assume it would be included in the next Dashboard update which is supposed to happen on 15 November. 

XBox 360 System Update

There was an XBox 360 update today. No new features and no change log has been released (as usual) so not sure what was changed. Some users complained of problems getting their system to work after the update in the comments on the above site (Major Nelson). Does not appear to be widespread and I did not have a problem with my update. 

It it likely that the above update is to prepare for the big dashboard update that is coming on 15 November.

Update: No update yet, rumours are now 19 or 25 November. 
Follow this link to sign up a public beta for the new dashboard.

Sunday, October 9, 2011

Gears of War 3 Review - Part 2

Continued from Part 1

Warzone: Same as Team Deathmatch, but with only one life. Matches tend to be quite fast in this mode

Execution: Similar to Team Deathmatch, but enemy players must be killed with an execution. 

Capture the Leader: Each team has a leader and if that leader is captured by the other team, that player holds him as a meatshield and a countdown timer begins. Free your leader before the countdown ends or lose the match. If both leaders are captured, all countdowns stop. 

King of the Hill: A ring opens up somewhere on the map and teams must move a player into that ring to capture it. Once captured, the opposing team must move into the ring to break the capture and then remain in it to capture it. Once captured, each “tick” adds a point to the team total. First team to 150 points wins the match. KOTH is my favourite mode, as deaths do not matter for wins, so my Kill/Death ratio of .3 (yes, that's 10 deaths to 3 kills) is not as much of a penalty to my team.

Wingman: Also another great mode that is less played. Four 2 man teams take the field and work to kill all the other teams. One life for each teammate. Points are awarded for kills, downs, etc. The team with the most points wins the match. Being the last team alive does not guarentee a win.

Horde Mode: This is the mode made famous by Gears. Five players work cooperatively to stand against up to 50 waves of locus beasts. Players gain money for kills and assists and then use that money to buy fortifications, targets, turrets, sentrys and silverbacks to help them keep back the hordes. Although you get some ammo at the start of each wave, you will have to scavange ammo during each wave. Getting to level 20 is fairly easy. Anything after level 30 is a challenge. There are various challenge modes that pop up which give bonus ammo and weapons (survive the wave without any player being killed, kill 7 enemies with chainsaw bayonet, etc) and each 10th wave is a boss wave. There is a bit of a persistant element to Horde mode as the amount of money you spend on each type of fortification is counted and the more you spend, the more advanced fortifications are available to the player in future games. A lot of fun, but be prepared to spend 1-3 hours to finish.

Beast Mode: I love beast mode. This is the other side of Horde mode. The players choose a locus beast to play and attack the AI which are set up as per Horde mode. There are up to 12 waves and each wave is timed. As the players complete a wave they are given more money which unlocks up to 4 levels of beasts, including the highest level, which includes the boss level beasts. Although you can lose a wave if you are not paying attention, it is pretty easy to clear all waves. High scores are based on clearing the wave with the fastest time. Being the bad guys is always fun, so this is my favourite mode due to the pure, animal carnage. 

Conclusion: Gears 3 is a great game. If you enjoyed Gears 1 or 2, getting 3 is a no brainer. If you enjoy story driven FPS then you will love the campaign. Multiplayer has enough game types to appeal to everyone, even a crappy player with a K/D ratio of .3

Update: This weekend has an event running, Big Head Mode. It is similar to Team Deathmatch, except the head are bigger and all voices sound like they have snorted helium.

This guide provides a video walkthrough to the locations of all collectables (Spoiler Alert). It is so complete, you could just watch all the videos in order and get the story.

First DLC on November 1 - Details here. 

Join me on XBox - GamerTag: Grusome11

Saturday, October 8, 2011

Gears of War 3 Review - Part 1

There are numerous good Gears of War 3 reviews out there, such as this one from Gamespot or this one from IGN. I thought I would write my review with the assumption that the reader was already a fan or has read another more basic review. I will take more about the multiplayer aspects. 


Firstly, you should know that when I am playing a console FPS, I enjoy the more story driven ones such as Halo or Gears. I save what I consider the more serious FPS for the PC. Also I am a fan of the series. I played and enjoyed Gears 1 and Gears 2. If you enjoyed Gears 1 and/or Gears 2, then you will enjoy this one as well. The campaign is high quality and well written, similar to the first two. I found the final boss battle to be well balanced. In Gears 1, I had the hardest time killing RAAM, even after going online for hints. Gears 2 seemed too easy, I killed the final boss on the first try (although this may have been the difficulty setting). Like Goldilocks, Gears 3 was just right (on Hardcore).


Connection: I live a bit out of town in a rural area and my access to high speed internet is through wireless. My connection is probably at the high end of wireless when it comes to speed and realibility, however not on the same level as most of the people accessing through cable. Yet I get good connections 99% of the time. Although I prefer a list of servers that I choose, my experience with the 360 and Gears 3 matchmaking has been very postitive. The system lists the number of persons online for each game mode and the number in your region. It will then find matches and connect to the best one. This process usually takes 1-2 minutes, depending on the number of people playing that game. Occasionally it can take 5 minutes for me, but I am sure that is due to my connection andthe low number of players playing that mode. Anyone in North America with a cable connection should connect within 2 minutes or less.

Player Maturity: Everyone is familiar with the high pitched, squeaky voiced, homophobic 13 year olds found in console FPS games like Halo. Thanks to the mature rating of Gears 3, I have yet to run into one. Unfortunately this is replaced by the 22 year old who taunts you constantly for "sucking". However, I prefer this to being taunted by someone who's balls have yet to drop.

Game Types

Team Deathmatch: Standard Team Deathmatch with 20 lives per team. The maps in Gears 3 tend to be smaller, making it easy  to get back into battle quickly on respawn (something I do a lot). Even small, the maps provide plenty of opportunity to flank. Matches are intense and very enjoyable with the majority of people playing this type of match, making it easy to find a match or change teams if you are getting skunked.

Continued in Part 2

Sunday, October 2, 2011

Who Killed Videogames?

This article is one of the best I have read in a long time. If you have any interest in how games are being developed, especially social games, this is a must read. Also, it is written in an engaging way. I highly recommend it.

Note that it is more than one page long so you must click through to see the rest.

Saturday, October 1, 2011

XBox Live New Dashboard Design

XBox Live is preparing a dashboard redesign for release this fall.

This article has all the details. Release date is set for
25 October. Update : More recent info has release set for 15 November.

I agree with the above article, the present dashboard is cluttered and is due for a redesign. There have been a number of additions (Netflix, facebook) that have contributed to this clutter.

This update is to focus on
performance, discoverability and voice.

For me, increased functionality to voice will be welcome. Last month our old, white 360 finally gave up the ghost after a few weeks of the occasional 3 red rings. So we went whole hog with a new black 360 with Kinect. I thought my five year old daughter would get some use out of the motion games (she is not very good with a controller) and I was curious as to how it worked. We also signed up for netflix. My wife had signed us up for several different video delivery services, so going with instant delivery over the internet seemed a no brainer, compared with waiting for them to send you the disk of their choosing through the mail.

One thing that disappointed me about voice functionality was that it did not seem to work for certain functions. Being able to pick or play a movie with voice or gestures is less useful if I have to pick up the controller to get through certain parts of the process. This update should fix that.

Just by looking at the pictures of the new dashboard, the performance improvements are obvious. No more endless scrolling to find a deal of the week.

The discoverability aspect has to do with the use of Bing to search for movies, games, etc. There is not too much out there about how well the search functions. I will reserve judgement until I have a chance to test it.

Cautiously optimistic about October 25th. (or November 15th)