Diablo III Announced

Dear goodness here we go again. Two monumental sequals are now in the works at Blizzard, and the newly announced Diablo III looks to be incredible. IGN has coverage including gameplay videos and some details about classes and abilities. Gamespot also covers the same event, the Blizzard Worldwide Invitational.

Diablo III will be available for PC and Mac, and it will be available whenever any Blizzard game is ready. “When it’s ready,” they say.

So, in 2010, be ready for Diablo III!

Meeting with John Avon

Although it was just a brief hello, I got to meet a very talented artist yesterday: John Avon. My wonderful wife purchased an original painting of his for me a couple years ago. I got to introduce myself and say hello and thank you for the opportunity to own a piece created by a very gifted person. It was a cool experience.

John was in Indianapolis doing signings and other commissions at Gran Prix Indianapolis. I didn’t play in the main event, just did some drafts and hung out, said hi to several players I know from the scene in Ohio. It’s always a nice trip to the Indy City.

Trouble With 150cc Lightning Cup

I’ve tried to get 1st place on the 150cc Lightning Cup no less than a dozen times without success. Stupid Toad just rocks me every time. The Grand Prix game mode on 150cc just feels like a 1 vs. 11 team mode. One time I even got first place on each of the first three races, only to take 11th place in the last race and lose to Toad by 3 points. Ugh.

I think I’m just bad at Mario Kart. I have been having a lot of fun with the time trials. I enjoy that game mode more since you just compete against a ghost and there are no items to deal with. It’s a more pure driving mode, and that’s what’s really fun about the game, stringing together a huge set of drifts, hitting the perfect line, jumping over obstacles and doing tricks.

I’m going to be a sucker for Gran Turismo 5 when the full version finally releases. I hope it has aerial tricks, too.

Nvidia GT280 — Eating My Words

Nvidia has just dropped a new video card retailing for $650 dollars. Called the GT280, it has 1.4 billion transistors, and uses as much power as most nerd’s entire computer rooms. It should destroy anything else on the market, previous-generation Nvidia and the poor ATI guys as well.

The only thing is, it doesn’t.

From what I’ve seen, dual Nvida 8800GT’s running in SLI mode beat the new GT280 in benchmarks in Crysis and in Call of Duty 4. Yes, two cheaper cards (likely one of which you already have) will get you higher performance at a $400 price point than a $650 card will. Simply shocking. What I said would never happen has happened.

To all my friends: I apologize. Finally, I’ve been proven wrong. Two 8800 GT’s can outperform a video card two generations beyond for nearly half the price. What a fool I’ve been.

Metal Gear Solid 4

I’d be amiss if I didn’t mention something about the new Metal Gear Solid 4: Guns of the Patriots. Having not played it, my position isn’t really informed on the game itself, but the game’s reviews bring up a lot of issues surrounding the gaming industry.

There’s a lot of back and forth regarding some of the scoring assigned to MGS4 out there. Some sites, such as Gamespot, IGN, and 1UP have lauded the game as an unrivaled convergence of gaming and art. Some, such as Penny Arcade, have derided the game as having several personalities, with most of them being near-utter failures.

It’s very difficult to score games. There are analogs in movie and music reviews, and of course in all other art forms. Even if you don’t believe video games can be artistic expression, as they almost certainly are in some cases, they are definately entertainment, the same as our popular art forms. As hard as it is to grade a movie or CD, something that may last an hour or two, it’s even more difficult to score a video game, something that people experience for hours, days, weeks, or years.

As a gamer, while I read reviews, I don’t simply rely on absolute scores to determine the worth of a game, or whether or not I will play it. I’m always going to play a Command and Conquer or Star Wars real time strategy game, even if they get a “6” or “two of four stars” because I love the franchises, and I’m a fan. I’m probably not going to play Metal Gear Solid 4, not the least because I don’t have a PS3, but not because it got this score or that. It’s because I’m not a fan of stealth-combat games, in the genre of Splinter Cell or others.

When I recommend games, I can only speak from my experience. If I had fun with a game, I tell a friend why I liked it, not why I think he or she may like it. That’s why as gamers, and those who read or write video game reviews, we should take scores as they are, not objective measures of market wealth like an auction price on eBay. Rather, they are subjective things, an all-too-human attempt to quantitize the unmeasurable.

In the end, we can only ever truly know what we know and experience as individuals. My experiences are my own, played through my eyes, controlled through my hands, endured by my body with a small child bouncing off of it. Your 4.5 might be my 10.0, your A+ my F-. Don’t take it too seriously; scores are simply an attempt to convey unknowable experiences using language, imperfect as it is.

Play Metal Gear Solid 4 if you can, and be richer in experience for it, love it or hate it.

May Video Game Sales Figures; Nintendo on Top

As I once again lament my failure to invest in Nintendo stock nearly two years ago when I predicted the Wii would blow the competitors away, May 2008 video game sales information indicate Nintendo has massive leads over Sony and Microsoft. These sales data come at a time when most US economic factors indicate slowing growth, while video games buck the trend. Similar data from last month tell a similar but not as drastic tale.

According to ArsTechnica, for the month of May, the top two hardware items in terms of volume, the Wii and DS, combine to sell over one million units in May alone in the US. This in the face of the number one game released this month, Grand Theft Auto IV, which is not available on either platform. As a comparison, the PS3, PSP, and 360 sold just under six hundred thousand units combined.

Software sales tell a similar story. While GTA IV is tops, with the 360 version selling nearly nine hundred thousand copies, Nintendo rounds out the rest of the top ten with seven titles; second and third are Mario Kart Wii with just under eight hundred thousand sold and the pricy Wii Fit with nearly seven hundred thousand units shipped. Fourth is GTA IV for PS3, and the rest, six through ten, are all Nintendo titles; Wii Play, Super Smash Brothers Brawl, Guitar Hero III for Wii, and the twin Pokemon Dungeon Explorer titles. It truly is a Nintendo renaissance.

With the exception of the recently released and excellent Metal Gear Solid 4, Sony and Microsoft may be having a tough time with pushing consoles in the next few months. Until the holiday season, Nintendo may rule the US markets, and likely overseas as well. But many titles, including Force Unleashed on Wii with lightsaber battles, the rumored Spore for Wii in the next year, COD:5 finding a home on the Wii along with Sonic Unleashed, the new Sonic RPG for the DS, Rock Band Wii, along with the very exciting The Conduit first-person shooter, make Nintendo’s future bright.

I sure wish I had bought that stock…

Mario Kart and More

We’ve decided to make this Saturday a mandatory day of rest after the crazy time we had last weekend. Even if the mandatory day of rest does include laundry, dishes, or other chores, it’s still easier than preparing for a wedding.

I was playing a little bit more Mario Kart online this afternoon with my son online, which is still the most fun to be had with the game. Mario Kart is now to me even more enjoyable on my new 32″ Samsung LCD TV. It’s a huge difference now, definately with two players, and I’m sure when you crank it up to 4 per screen it’s a world of difference. Also with the newly aquired Wii component cables along with the widescreen mode on the Wii, all gaming on the Wii is greatly improved.

I’m also excited to try a little bit of PC gaming on the new TV as well. I’ve heard that Sins of a Solar Empire looks amazing on the big screen, so I’m going to have to get that set up.

4ED

Yesterday I had the chance to peruse the 4th Edition Dungeons and Dragons materials that Wizards of the Coast recently published. The writing and artwork of the books are top-notch, and it seems that Wizards has gone a long way to both simplify the game and make the feeling more epic.

I was impressed with the DMG, perhaps the most comprehensive guide of just how campaigns are practically run. Previous books dealt a lot with mechanics, but the new DMG has more to do with player styles, the type of character roles needed in play group, how to create and run adventures, really practical stuff.

New and different races and classes in the PHB were also wildly different and somehow more sensible. The new cleric has abilities at will and a more focuses style. I loved how the PHB addresses the ideas of builds, similar to video game analogues, describing how a battle cleric or a party support cleric might pick skills and abilities.

I’d love to get back into play the game, but it’s so hard for me to find the desire to create and run a campaign. If Wizards supports the game with excellent published adventures and campaign settings, I may go that route and run through an adventure with some of the old gang.

Mass Effect Main Story Completed

Yesterday evening I completed the main storyline of Mass Effect. The ending was epic, if not completely a setup for the sequels. There were a bunch of great moments leading up to the ending, and several heart-wrenching choices that determined the fate of the lives of many. The level of storytelling in Mass Effect is so high that you honestly feel good or bad depending on the choices that your character makes, and the consequence of those choices are highest near the end of the story.

I’m very much looking to a replay through as a different class, and will probably play more to the renegade rather than paragon behavior, to see how the “dark side” lives. Hopefully by then the downloadable content will be available, as it still can’t be downloaded!

But Mass Effect was a blast, and will be worth at least one more playthough.