Extra Super Bonus Achivement

Let’s talk achievement points for a second because there’s something I need to get off my chest. This is aimed directly at game developers and whoever is the liason for said developers and the XBL team. What the hell is up with achievement point being 100% fucking impossible to get. Although there’s a site that offers tips and tutorials on how to get all 1000 points out of your game you either have to be a 14 year old shut in with 4 thumbs, unlimited bandwidth, a friends list 500 people strong and a constant IV supply of Red Bull, or some sort of fucking zombie gamer.

I like the concept of achievement points, I really do. I have a few myself as you can plainly see. It adds an extra little icing onto the cake you were already going to eat to begin with. I play video games for two reasons: A) for entertainment and/or some sort of “leisure sport” and B) to finish them to my satisfaction. Achievement points are like a 50% “street cred” and 50% “thank you for playing” in my eyes. I was already going to finish Mass Effect. It was on my to-do list. Getting 100pts for doing what I was already planning on was just a nice bonus.

What becomes bothersome is that points and accomplishments aren’t relative. For example, Guitar Hero 3. I’ve beaten Guitar Hero 3. How many points do I have out of the 1000? 70. I’m sorry, but beating a game should give you 700-900 points out of that 1000. Another example, Rainbow Six, I beat R6 in both modes, solo and co-op on HARD, played online quite a bit and I have a whopping 355 out of 1000 points. And the most ridiculous example as of late, Mass Effect. I finished Mass Effect, playing through what I felt was a healthy percentage of the side missions, and I’ve got 435/1000. Chip, who I know is a consummate and dedicated gamer, who probably did way more side quests than I did, only has 515.

The problem is realistic re-playability and, for a large percentage, online play. I know for a fact that I’m never going to go back and play Halo 3, Skate, Gears of War, and the like, online to the extent that I get all the unlocks. It’s impossible. I can see maybe being dedicated to a game, maybe two, but playing Halo 3 enough to earn the rank of “supreme douchlord” or whatever it is, and getting the measly 20 points for it requires the player to have absolutely no life at all. Same thing goes for offline games like Mass Effect. To get the other HALF of the points for playing the game would require not one, not two, but at least 3 complete game play throughs (40+ hours X 3) on Legendary. That’s retarded.

Average players will play a game once, strait through. Games with Co-Op might get 2 or 3 turns. Games with a large percentage of its action in multiplayer mode will get played until the next multiplayer game comes out if you don’t hang it up sooner.

If we are rewarding the playing of the game itself, shouldn’t the completion of the game warrant the majority of the points? Don’t make me go back through the game to collect flags/coins/items over and over again for a disproportionate amount of points. Some points sure, but not HALF.
Let me say that I have no problem with the existence of these achievements. I think it’s a handy tool developers can use to add a little replayability to a game but they should be worth something like 5 points and all but the most hard core of gamers should be insane enough to get them. I finish a game, I should have 950 points. If I really want to keep playing, and collect bullcrap items, then I can finish off those last few points.

Having a total completed game, beaten in multiple ways, yeild 200 points or less is an insult to the gamer. That’s like saying that really hard game you just beat was nothing. Nothing. Yup, you saved the universe, captured the castle, stopped the alien horde, here’s $0.25, nice job. It’s demeaning. “No, I saved the fucking planet, rescued the girl, killed the ultimate bad ass, it’s time for a friggin reward!”

I couldn’t tell you how pissed I was when I finished Gears of War, beat General Raas, saved the day… and got a pathetic 10 points for it. I’ve counted, and Gears has 57 possible achievements, 27 of those are online only. That’s insulting to the people who don’t want to pay for XBL.

What really really chaps my ass, and was the main reason for todays rant, is the existence of hardware specific achievements. Yup, I’m talking about the XBL Camera. It’s sad that game makers are forced by the Microsoft marketing department to put in achievements for this piece of crap. It’s 640×480 and it’s $40! All so you can get the last achievement in Burnout. What’s worse is that some of Burnout achievements are tied to OTHER people having this crappy camera. You get achievement points for collecting “mug shots” of other players when they lose. That’s bullcrap. Now, not only do you have to have one, now your friends do too? Come on.

I’m going to finish Burnout, it’s a great game and I’m playing it because I enjoy it (which is the point). But when I beat it, by rough estimate, I’ll have 600 points. There’s simply no way for me to get the rest. Getting the rest would require things like 8 player co-op racing (friends not internet strangers), a XBL camera, and 50 other people to have the same camera. That is never going to happen. Not ever.

That’s sad.

Achievement points are nice, but they’ve completely warped the sense of accomplishment you get for “beating” a game. I can see what they’re doing. They know the demographic they’re targeting and they’re egging them on. They’re saying “you think you’re good, you’re not that good, try harder”, and for a gamer, that’s like messing around with their sister. Something needs to be proven, someone needs to be beaten, contests need to be won. Gamers are competitors at their core. Saying “you’re not good enough to finish” is a slap in the face.

I’m glad that I’m (mostly) able to resist it. I’m glad I’m not concerned about going back and finishing games that I played months/years ago just for a few stupid points that literally mean nothing. There’s nothing in achievement points. They exist to give the gamer a sense of accomplishment. But if your sense of accomplishment is satisfied with merely playing the game to the best of your ability, then you have nothing to fear. Points are meaningless to you.

What worries me are the kids online right now, playing Halo 3 until 4am, trying to get those last points in, thinking that that’s what they need to do to “achieve”. Somewhere between Mario level 8-4 and today we’ve lost what it means to game in the first place. Stupid points have replaced good old fashion feelings of accomplishment when Bowser final dies. I would love to see a game in the future, for the 360, come out with 1 achievement, worth all 1000 points, just for finishing the game.

That would be perfect.

2007 Game of the Year

So what if it’s the middle of February, that’s how long it’s taken me to wrap my head around the gaming that was 2007. It was a big year for gaming, well, console gaming at least. PC games had their share of excellence, just unfortunately not as numerous as the consoles.

It’s very hard to pick a favorite game of 2007. I played, roughly 15 games that could, at any given point, have taken home “Game of the Year” honors. All of the following came out in 2007 and deserve a nod towards excellence in one category or another: Bioshock, Team Fortress 2, Call of Duty 4, Halo 3, Rock Band, Mass Effect, Guitar Hero 3, Forza 2, Ghost Recon 2, skate, PGR4, Assasin’s Creed, Portal, HL2: Ep2 and Crysis.

For shear amount of “time spent” I was prepared to buck convention and give the nod to a game like Skate. It’s all consuming, fun to play and just “feels right” which is a very important characteristic to have when you’re trying to simulate something as free form as skateboarding. Bioshock certainly dazzled me in terms of it’s level design and overall feel. It’s engaging story, atmosphere and gameplay really make Irrational Games (may they rest in peace) one of the great developers of all time. Then there’s Valve. Sitting here wearing my “The Cake is a Lie” tshirt, it’s hard to argue that if Irrational is “one of” the best, then Valve IS the best. There’s little doubt. No single developer has time and time again delivered such beautiful, high quality products. Everything from the original HalfLife right up to Portal has literally shaped the way I play and enjoy video games. There is no bar higher.

That might sound like I’ve already decided a winner, but there are a few more games to consider. Call of Duty for example, was without a doubt the best entry into that series. It’s multiplayer (especially on XBL) is so mind-numbingly simple to get involved with that it deserves major points. Not to mention the fun the single player campaign was. Mass Effect was also brilliant. I would have considered giving it the nod but realizing it’s merely the first in a trilogy assures me that the best is yet to come. Everything else is icing on the delicious slice of gaming cake… which is a lie…

So, does multiplayer win out over story telling? Does FPS trump all? Do you want me to just shut up and tell you?

Envelope please….

And the winner is….


Laborious Task

I need a laptop.

The 30 steps it takes to walk from my couch to my computer is simply too much. I could easily be writing this from the comfort of my living room, enjoying the Firefly marathon going on in my DVD player but nooooo, I have to have a “desktop” computer that, despite my constant insisting to the contrary, apparently does not go with the decorum of the room. I don’t know why. A giant, metallic blue, neon glowing computer is just what every living room needs in my opinion. Of course, my opinion on interior furnishing wavers towards whatever was “on sale” at the time, and so I need to defer to the experts on such matters. My wife assures me I’m wrong on all accounts, blue neon included. She is the expert after all. If it were up to me the living room would be full of bean bags and those cool video game chairs with the speakers built in. That tends to put a crimp on entertaining guest but hey, if my guests can’t appreciate a good bean bag, why are they at my house in the first place?

I jest of course. Just not about the laptop.

Unfortunately, there are far too many other things that require my financial attention. A boy can dream though, right?

I’m rambling. What I had really intended to talk about were the 400 things I haven’t designed, implemented or gotten to and how I need to do all of the above. I won’t. Mostly because I don’t have to and partly because I don’t want to bore the crap out of you. Which I’m probably doing. I should stop.

What was the point of this post anyway?

Completely random question: What do you guys feel is an appropriate markup for computer building. I mean, if I order someone $1000 in parts, what should I charge them? $1000.50? $1200? $1500? I don’t know how much computer builders make in the wild on a per hour basis. I only ask because I’ve gotten requests to build 3 different systems as of late and, although the “kindness of my heart” is bountiful, I’m not a complete moron. Maybe I should make a website devoted to system building? I am rather good at it. Sub-domains maybe? systems.liquidillusions.net or something like that. I should take some real pictures of my case.

This has been an exercise in random thought writing. Thank you for your patience. We apologize for the inconvenience. According the Douglas Adams, the only way to get better at writing is to write, regardless of the content.

It’s this whole stream of conscienceness thing I was going for.


I think I’ll make some lemonade.

Flickr, Gallery and NextGen

I’ve decided to try something a little bit different. After working on the website for my good friends Matt & Melinda and trying to fix their install of Gallery 2, it became really clear to me that Gallery simply isn’t working anymore. I don’t like the way it works, I don’t like the way it’s harder than hell to integrate into something like WordPress and I just don’t like it’s design anymore. Flickr, don’t get me wrong, is a great web service, but it simply isn’t for me. There’s no incentive to use it. If I didn’t have my own website or my own hosting I’m sure I’d be completely happy with Flickr. But, having 99% unused space on my server, there’s little to no point in using Flickr for storage alone. Plus, I never got into it to begin with, so that may have something to do with it. Now, enter in NextGen Gallery, a completely self contained WordPress Plugin fully capable of organizing and displaying photos in albums and galleries. I like it. I like it a lot. It’s easy, fairly intuitive, and a breeze to work with. I think I’m going to end up ditching both Gallery and Flickr in favor of NextGen. I’m working on moving, copying and or transferring photos over to it as we speak. I can FTP whole folders, autoscan to add them to galleries, and be done with the whole thing in less time than it would take Gallery’s uploader to start. So, from now on, take a look at the “Photos” link above and in the page links. It’s there to stay and the other galleries/link will be deleted from the project page. Sorry this isn’t a more in depth, life affirming sort of post, but I just thought I’d share a nifty plugin. More life affirming later.

The trouble with Quiznos

The trouble with Quiznos is not that it exists, which, is a argument some people might make, especially hungry people wanting something that resembles a sandwich in what a sane person might call a timely manner. It’s not their menu, they’re ingredients, or their sandwich making prowess either, all of which might be valid points in their own right but aren’t the main crux of this discussion. No, the problem with Quiznos is their amazing ability to completely fuck up a sandwich is you don’t pay strict attention to the process along the way. Being diverted momentarily to the chip rack, contemplating soup instead of the afor mentioned chips, looking longingly at the bottled drink cooler even though you know its more economical to get the obligatory combo, all of which will cause instant fuckery with your sandwich. It also doesn’t help that the Quiznos counter is designed in such a way as to create a seemingly impregnable barrier between you the customer and the sandwich being made for you. Sneeze guards so high that you can’t see any of the ingredients, counters just high enough to make those sneeze guards ridiculously high in the first place, and stickers, adverts, menu options and nutritional facts stuck all over it to the point that it might as well have been a solid wall to begin with. So, hungry customers such as myself are left with two options: to either stand on our tippy toes, making sure that the “zesty ranch” gets put on your chicken sandwich as it should be or slinking down the counter in defeat whilst the sandwich barista slathers regular mayo all over it. At this point of course you still haven’t been asked what you actually want on your sandwich, nor will you be. This is apparently against Quiznos regulations. No, you’ve ordered your sandwich and now it’s on auto pilot through the construction process. First the meat needs to be weighed. Not, of course, to ensure you’re getting enough, but rather to ensure that you’re not getting one speck more than you’re going to be gouged for at the register. There is a theory which I believe to be true that state that a “sandwich artist” would rather add their own finger to the pile of meat on the scale than to dip back into the ingredients to get more. They are however, completely content with cutting a 1/8″ piece of chicken in half and removing the extra 1/16″ so as not to upset the scale gods.

This is at least a more sane process than Subway which doesn’t necessarily weigh but certainly counts the elements on your sandwich. The last time I was in a Subway the conversation went something like this:
Me: Can I have some black olives on that please?
Them: Sure… (adds THREE olives to the sandwich)
Me: Umm, actually, can I have a few more?
Them: Sure… (adds THREE more olives)
Me: Actually, I quite like olives, can I please have a few more?
Them: *silent stare* (adds TWO more olives)
After a few minutes of this I gave up. In the time I had been standing there I had managed to acquire a measly 15 thin slices of olive. Glued back together they wouldn’t have fashioned a reasonable attempt at a dirty martini, let alone a sandwich for anyone hungry, but I figured it wasn’t worth the jail time to try and get more. Not that I couldn’t have worked it out, but I had visions of the police pulling me off dead sandwich makers, their mouths stuffed with fistfuls of black olives, shouting “that’s how you make a sandwich you bastards.” I digress.

By this point your sandwich meat has entered the warm liquid bath. No one really know what it is, but they seem completely content to dip every type of meat imaginable into it to make it slightly warmed and considerably more moist. This is a direct violation of both the laws of nature and the sandwich makers third law of structural bread integrity. Soggy food makes for soggy bread. That’s ok by Quiznos standards because the sandwich is about to take a trip into the heat tunnel. Calling is an oven is a gross mischaracterization. It could be cold, it could be hot, it could be the housing for a tiny thermo-nuclear device, we’ll never know because usually its not turned up high enough to make, well, toast, let alone toast and entire fucking sandwich.

At this point your sandwich has come to room temperature, which is apparently what they were aiming for, because now it exits the tunnel and is handed over to the vegetable portion of the trip. The employee that’s station here must have the easiest job in the world. I say this because it consists of completely ignoring the station at which they are standing. You don’t actually get any lettuce, tomatoes, pickles, or OLIVES without asking. Even then you have to catch them trying to wrap up your sandwich before they have a chance to do so. You’ll never actually be asked if you want anything and once that sandwich is wrapped you can forget about them opening it back up to correct it. Then your sandwich, which is nothing more than pre-measure meat and mayo, is wrapped and taped and handed to you along with a $12 bill, because of course you just needed to have that tea in the bottle and not the tea from the soda fountain.

By now you’re wondering why how on earth a place like this could stay in business when they’re so completely dense. Then you remember that the reason you’re here and not across the street at Subway is because you wanted a “real” sandwich and not one of those corporate sell out sandwiches. Then you feel bad about thinking mean things about Quiznos, pay and head back to your office where you realize that all you have is meat and bread, soggy bread at that, and wish you had the time to go back there and yell at those guys because they really are complete fuck-ups. You’ll of course forget about every bit of this by the next time you go in because all you really want at that point is lunch and surely it can’t be as bad as last time.