General Discussion

2014 Gaming Resolutions

Posted By on Jan 07, 2014 |

Happy New Year, everyone! This is coming a bit late, but I was on vacation, and this is my first post. So, whatever. You guys should take what you can get.

I guess everyone is talking about SteamOS and the Steam Boxes that have been announced at CES this week. I have a bunch to say about it, too, but mostly I’m still struggling to figure out why I would want one. So I’m going to think about it a bit more and see if anything that other people have said strikes a chord with me. So far, though, it’s mostly just making me want to build a micro-ATX machine for my next PC.

Instead, I am going to talk about resolutions. And, since this is a gaming blog, I’m going to focus on my personal gaming-related resolutions for the year. Lots of times, I come up with something really specific, like “complete X games that I start!” or “Play through all the Dragon Age games (including Inquisition) with a single storyline!” or something like that. Those are all fine and dandy, but it’s really easy to fail when you get your resolutions too specific. So, instead, this year, I’m doing something a little broader. And where I am getting specific, I’m doing so with either a larger goal in mind, or with some room to fall back and still be relatively successful. So, here are my generic resolutions, in list form!

Be a more active blogger!

I guess this isn’t strictly a gaming resolution, but it’s definitely important to me! This is one of those places where putting a strict number of posts or something can lead to falling behind, which leads to a feeling of failure, which leads to failing even more. At least, that’s how things tend to go for me. So I’m going with a slightly more nebulous goal here. That said, I would like to be a more active member of the blogging community – both in terms of posting (ideally, a couple times a week) and reading/responding. This probably means that I ought to get more involved on Twitter (@ThatAngryDwarf) or G+ or whatever. I’ll give it a shot, maybe by using a list!

Work on the Backlog!

This is my major gaming-specific resolution. I’ve been working on a way to systematically attack my backlog for a while, now, and I started with a recent post and a Listmas list. I’m still trying to figure out the best way to do it, but my plan involves a) getting some other people to also take on a similar challenge – for companionship and slight competition, b) actively tracking both what exists in the backlog AND what I am playing/completing, and c) trying not to buy tons more random games until my list is either more manageable – or with the conscious decision to PLAY them shortly after I purchase.

Hopefully, the tracking of the games can turn this whole thing into a bit of an achievement hunt. I’m usually pretty good about working off of a to-do list, so having something to look at and check-off will hopefully help! I’m also going to define pretty reasonable goals for what constitutes “completion” – almost certainly no 100% achievos required sorts of things for me. I don’t really tend to play that way, anyway, but I think it’s important to limit the scope of a game so that you feel like you’re getting through it. If I then also want to go back and do achievement runs or whatever, I can add those as a separate task on my list.

I’ll also be making periodic blog posts about my attempts, in an effort to both keep myself honest and progressing and hopefully to inspire other people to make their way through their collections!

Play more Co-op games!

This goal is always on my list, and I realize that many times when I’m playing an MMO, it sort of vaguely counts for this. But what I really want to do is get through my list of games that require co-op. Games like Monaco and Magicka (okay this doesn’t require it, but it’s certainly more fun) and Alien Swarm and Guns of Icarus Online. Luckily, I do have a couple of other people who are looking to do this, as well, and we are attempting to set up a regular “co-op night”, at least every other week for a few hours. Here’s hoping it works out, because co-op games are great!

I’d like to get more couch co-op going, too, but generally, my life has conspired against making this happen. Usually when I am getting together with friends, we are doing more “adult” activities, like actually talking about our lives since we haven’t seen each other for a while. That, or we’re playing a board game/D&D. Which is totally fine and awesome. It just doesn’t help me finish Castle Crashers or Scott Pilgrim or Gears of War coop.

Make additional gaming-related content!

Streaming seems to be the big thing these days. The new consoles even make it easy to do (sort of). I’ve done a bit, and what I have done I’ve mostly enjoyed, but I think that in order to really be successful at it, you need to be on a consistent schedule. And I really am not. I don’t know that I’m going to be willing to commit to scheduled streaming, either, so maybe a better goal is to “make some video content.” This can take the form of recorded streaming-style sessions, Let’s Plays, Magic draft/sealed videos, or something else. Hopefully, I can do at least once a month. Which isn’t really that many, but is more than I do now!

So there you have it. The gaming-related things that I’m hoping to accomplish in 2014. What are your goals and resolutions? Care to join me on my backlog cleanout quest?

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Listmas 2013 – WoW To-Do’s Edition

Posted By on Dec 22, 2013 |

It’s day three of Blogger Listmas 2013! Every day from now through Christmas, I will be posting at least one list on a topic of my choosing. Most of them will be about games, but (possibly) not all of them. Hope you enjoy! For more on this, you can have a look at this roundup of all the posts, or follow the #Listmas tag on Twitter.

Mists of Pandaria has been out for over a year (although, I’ve been playing it for only a couple of months), and Warlords of Draenor is expected by this time next year. So it’s as good a time as any to start setting out goals for things that I still want to see/accomplish/attempt before the next expansion drops! Here are the top five for me.

  1. Complete all MoP raid instances on LFR (and hopefully Flex!) difficulty. Yeah, I mean, I know this one isn’t all that hard, but it’s something I still want to do! And, ideally, I will do it in a Flex raid so that I can do it with my friends (and maybe actually stand around and watch the cutscenes and understand what the hell is going on.
  2. Complete the Loremaster of Pandaria achievement. I think I’ve done this for all the other expansions (including getting pre-rearranged Loremaster), and I generally enjoy the questing and lore enough that I’d like to see it through at least once. Not sure if I will try to do it on both Horde and Alliance, but I will do it somewhere!
  3. Finish leveling my paladin to 90 via Monday Night Instances! This is the reason I’m even playing WoW again, and it’s been really fun. We’re going through every instance on the way from 1 – 90, by pretty much only playing as a group in instances. It’s been a great trip down nostalgia lane, AND I get to play with friends that I haven’t gamed with nearly as much as I would have liked in the last few years. Also, we mostly aren’t all wearing full sets of heirlooms, so sometimes we die.
  4. Proving Grounds – Specifically, get “You’re Doing it Wrong” The Proving Grounds is, conceptually, one of the cooler things that has been put into the game recently. I love doing difficult solo content in WoW, and I’m glad to have another opportunity to do it. The fact that there’s something extra for, say, doing a tanking challenge as a healer (or a healing challenge as a DPS), is really exciting! I expect it will give me a reason to practice a lot, and maybe even try to pick up some random purpose-focused gear.
  5. Get a Triceratops mount – I know there are a bunch of these, and one of them appears to be from reputation (and farming rep is always annoying), but I seriously must have one of these. I mean, just look at it!

    It’s a freakin’ triceratops!

As always, there are some other things that I want to do, too. Pet Battles are fun, and the Celestial Tournament seems like the logical conclusion of that. There are tons and tons of new mounts and pets to collect, which is always fun! I farmed a thing or two, and it seemed like an easy way to kill a bit of time each day, so I should probably figure out what all is involved. Oh, and now that I’ve committed a bit to a rogue, I am pretty tempted to go farm a blindfold from Illidan!

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Listmas 2013 – Top Backlog Games

Posted By on Dec 21, 2013 |

As a follow-up to my post on my gaming backlog, I figured I’d put together a list of the top 5 games in my current backlog for day 2 of Listmas 2013. Of course, my backlog is deep enough that I had lots more games than that, so I’ve split it up into “normal” games and indie games. The lines are always a little blurry to me, so if I get one wrong don’t yell at me. Or do. Whatever.

Top 5 Backlogged Games

  1. Beyond: Two Souls – I don’t care what anyone says, I loved Heavy Rain, and I am really excited to try this one out. I just expect that it will eat an entire weekend, so I need to have the time to devote to it. That’s why I put it at the top of my “when I finish games I’ve started” list.
  2. Assassin’s Creed (various) – I’m midway through AC:Brotherhood, and Ezio is awesome. I really want to see the rest of his story, and even though I’ve heard hushed rumblings of discontent with AC3 and AC:PIRATES, the core platformy/stabby gameplay is still fun to me. Plus, lots of people still love them, so I’ll judge for myself.
  3. The Last of Us – I started this briefly, but I think I will need to start it over from the beginning. It won lots of awards, and I really like everything else by Naughty Dog that I’ve played, so I’m looking forward to it.
  4. Dishonored – I picked this up in the Fall Steam Sale, and I’ve been meaning to get to it eventually. I like the idea that you can be stealthy, non-stealthy, and various things in between. Plus, the world seems pretty awesome to me.
  5. Saints Row 3 (and IV) – Every bit of these that I have watched or played has been awesome. But they are open-world enough that they are daunting to jump into. I aim to change that.

Top 5 Backlogged Indie Games

  1. Bastion – Rave reviews from everywhere, I’ve just never actually gotten around to it. It’s up near the top of my “what I am planning to play” list.
  2. The Walking Dead Season 1 – I’ve made it through 3 of 5 episodes, but it’s really, really stressful. I love the gameplay and the writing is great! But I am weak to the horror. Even this relatively low-level horror. So it takes some concerted effort. I will do it, though, and then I will play Season 2, which just came out.
  3. FEZ – I played this a bit at a friend’s house when it first came out, and have been sitting on a copy forever. I think I even have a copy on Steam now, too. Probably from a Humble Bundle. These things happen, but it always seemed like a lot of fun.
  4. Brothers: A Tale of Two Sons – Everything about this looked great, except the timing. I missed out on it when it released, but I still definitely want to play it!
  5. Viscera Cleanup Detail: Santa’s Rampage – Okay, yeah, I have no idea what is going on here. But Secret Santa gave it to me, and, well, it looks and sounds hilarious. So I’m adding it to the list.

As usual, there are a number of other games that I want to play – Borderlands 2 DLCs sit unused, Mirror’s Edge has been sitting around for ages, my Fallout: New Vegas playthrough needs some love, LIMBO, Spelunky, and Trine are all indie games that I want to play. Plus, some older, hidden ones like Alan Wake, Mafia II, and a number of shooters from over the years. SO MANY GAMES.

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Over the next few days, I will be participating in Blogger Listmas 2013! I got the idea from Liore, who linked me the previous post, and I think it’s a great way to participate in the general community. Plus, it’s the end of the year, so it’ll be fun to do random round-ups of things. Every day from now through Christmas, I will be posting at least one list on a topic of my choosing. Most of them will be about games, but not all of them. Hope you enjoy!

My first list is actually not specifically about games, but it is related in a way. I’ll assume that everyone has figured out that I am on a podcast at this point, and since that is gaming-related, I figure that if I talk about podcasts, in general, then it totally counts! I don’t actually have a ton of time to listen to podcasts right now, since I don’t have a daily commute, but these are the ones that I always make a point of listening to each week:

  1. The Bugle – John Oliver and Andy Zaltzman doing an incredibly sarcastic satirical take on the week’s news. All the best parts of The Daily Show, but with more puns. It’s incredible, and the first thing I look to listen to every week!
  2. This is Only a Test – General tech news podcast run by the guys at These guys are now affiliated with Mythbusters, and as such have awesome access for random stories. This can be on the longish side (about 2 hours a week), and I’m sure most people have a favorite tech podcast, but this is the one I’ve settled on. Plus, I love when Gary Whitta is on it because he is hilarious and can’t stick to a topic. They have a spinoff called “Still Untitled” where they sit down and have a chat with Adam Savage about random topics that is arguably more interesting.
  3. Limited Resources – Magic: The Gathering! I think this is one of the better-known Magic podcasts, and it focuses entirely on Limited (drafting mostly, some sealed). Several former co-hosts have gone on to work at Wizards on the game, and it’s been incredibly informative. Plus, Marshall seemed really nice both times I’ve run into him in person!
  4. 99% Invisible – This one is a little harder to explain. It’s a public radio show about “design” and everything that goes along with it. I’ve learned about the architecture and downfall of an incredibly popular skateboarding location, a discussion of the I <3 NY design and trademark, and listened to a really incredible music-backed reading of a story on an early 20th century conservationist. Roman Mars and his team do a great job, and they just got Kickstarter backing to do even more content next year!
  5. The Football Ramble – A funny and irreverent weekly roundup of the European Football. Lots of jokes about Brian Pinas. Apparently, I like English people talking into my headphones.

There are a few others that I listen to, but those are my top 5. I really enjoy The Alton Browncast, Brainstorm Brewery (Magic finance), and Drive to Work (Mark Rosewater’s Magic design rambling). The occasional episode of RadioLab and Wait Wait, Don’t Tell Me round out my typical listening options.

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What’s in YOUR Backlog?

Posted By on Dec 13, 2013 | 2 comments

Vikings, that's what!

The other day, I mentioned how there were still a few games sitting next to my consoles that I wanted to play but that I haven’t touched for one reason or another, and it got me to thinking. Huge mistake, I know, but I went for it anyway. How is it possible that I’ve let myself get this backed up? How will I ever catch up? Do I even want to?

I know that I am absolutely not alone in this, but sometimes the extent of my backlog is pretty intimidating. This is especially true when I know I have some quality gaming time coming up (Extra-Life was a good example of this), or whenever a hot new release comes out, or whenever there is a Steam Sale (MORE GAMES FOR THE GAMES GODS). And, well, there are just a lot more opportunities to buy games than there are to play them.

I mean, have a look at my Steam library. There are a ton of games in there that I haven’t gotten around to playing – games that have either come highly recommended, or I am looking forward to, or both – but where do I start? Do I start with the indie games (Limbo, Bastion, Fez, Spelunky)? Do I finish off the games I’ve started but haven’t finished (AC:Brotherhood, Fallout: New Vegas, SR3, Serious Sam 3)? Or do I just start with something fresh, hoping that it grips me in a way that pushes me through to the end? Where do the random endless/non-story games go (FTL, random racing game, any multiplayer shooter)?

And then, of course, there are the console games where I actually have to go to a different room (sometimes this is a bonus!). Or, god forbid, the time-and-library-killing demons known as an MMOs. And, as much as I love MMOs, I definitely think that they are a huge part of the reason I’m as deep into this mess as I am. MMOs make a great “default” game – something that is just really easy to sit down at and spend either a few minutes or a few hours on without thinking too hard. Sure, you still have to figure out which character/race/faction/whatever to play, but at that point you’re already committed to a game, which is a big step in getting through a backlog! Or, even worse, what if I want to replay an older game for <insert various totally reasonable reasons here>.

Well, I think what I need to do is to just start dropping games into buckets and then prioritize each of those buckets. Then if I’m like, “I want to just screw around and play something mindless”, I can pick the game at the top of that list (currently, it tends to be DIRT 2 or Serious Sam 3, depending on my mood) and go for it. If I want to play an MMO, that’s cool, I’ll do that. But if I just want to play something then I should really start defaulting it to whatever the current “backlog” game is. That, of course, takes discipline. But I think it would be worth it! I could even consider uninstalling everything not on my immediate/short term list, but that’s so sad…

Anyway, lists! These will clearly change, especially after people tell me how much I need to play game X over game Y or whatever. But at least they can serve as a starting point.

MMO List: Warcraft (this one is easy, since it’s the only one I’m playing right now)

Primary Non-MMO List: Serious Sam 3: BFE, Assassin’s Creed: Brotherhood, Bastion, Beyond: Two Souls

Random Filler: Hearthstone, Magic Online (look, it’s not going away, I might as well acknowledge that)

Driving Filler: DIRT 2, DIRT 3

Streaming: Dark Souls, Fallout: New Vegas

That’s a pretty short list, I guess. But you know what it does? It gives me direction and is therefore a good place to start. It also gives me a reward (Beyond: Two Souls) for playing through a few games that I have either started (SS, AC:B) or have been putting off. The Streaming category is actually a sort-of-separate list because I have been meaning to start up a semi-regular stream, and I think both of the games listed should be interesting one to have the shared experience of streaming. I expect to be particularly terrible at Dark Souls. Or maybe not! But probably.

How do you guys approach these things? Is your backlog as large as mine (not every game in Steam is a backlog game, but the point is clear)? Do you have any methods to track your backlog or figure out what games are next? Let me know, because I could sure use the help!

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Interactive Fiction is Awesome

Posted By on Dec 10, 2013 |

So apparently I’ve been living under a rock for the last three days, and somehow missed something called VGX. Okay, fine, I didn’t miss it. I knew it was coming and simply didn’t care. But that was apparently a mistake, because something very interesting came out of it. Specifically, the announcement that Telltale Games (makers of such games as The Walking Dead and The Wolf Among Us) is going to be releasing two new episodic games. The first one I heard about was Tales from the Borderlands. Yes, those Borderlands. In fact, before we go on, let’s watch the trailer right now:

So, that’s awesome. This is apparently a partnership deal with 2K/Gearbox, which I think is really an awesome idea. You know what else is an awesome idea? Partnering with HBO to bring us an episodic game based on Game of Thrones. Which is the other one that is coming soon. And so is The Walking Dead, Season 2.

So that means that, at some point during the next year, I will essentially be waiting for episodes of FOUR different Telltale games at any given point. If each of the games follows with 5 episodes released (approximately) every other month, then that essentially boils down to a monthly subscription to Telltale TV for $5-10 per month. And you know what? I’m totally fine with that.

Specifically, I’m fine with that because I love the kinds of games they are putting out. While The Walking Dead has taken me a long time to get through (look, I know it’s been out for ages, but it is SO STRESSFUL! And I really don’t want anything bad to happen to Clem, and if I never play it again, it totally can’t, RIGHT?!), every time I have played a part of it, I have felt absolutely connected to the characters, story, and world. Episode 1 of The Wolf Among Us is no different. It does a fantastic job of immediately setting the stage and throwing you right into the character of Bigby. Toad is downright hilarious, and your first interactions with him are completely memorable. I’ve already had a bunch of discussions with people about just how much of an asshole they were in their various playthroughs. But, at the same time, it just feels right.

I haven’t written a post about Heavy Rain, but I’ve definitely talked about it on the podcast, and I still have an unopened copy of Beyond: Two Souls sitting next to my PS3 waiting for a break in my current WoW phase. The reason that I’m so excited by those games – as well as what Telltale is doing – is because they aren’t just normal “games”. They aren’t even just normal “story games”. They really are embracing the interactive fiction aspect of things, sometimes eschewing traditional gameplay altogether.

I love this. I think there’s a ton of room to grow, and the general video game experience lends itself to immersive, interactive story-telling in a way that movies, books, and television simply do not. And that’s not to take away from movies, either – there are plenty of stories that can only work in that sort of directed, prescribed-ahead-of-time movie experience, and it’s an art form with a lot more experience and learning behind it – but the possibilities that exist in exploring the path within the boundaries of the tale seem really well-suited for something like a PC or console game, where the player is an active participant in the creation of the story.

So bring it on! As long as they back this stuff up with strong writing and not-too-terrible-to-actually-play mechanics, I will keep buying these kinds of games, and I will keep recommending them to other people who just like stories. Hell, maybe we’ll even get more “Story Mode“s in games.

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