Monday, February 28, 2011

A community mourns

I think everyone that follows me will be au fait enough with gamerscore to know that MGC shut down for good last week.

I'm not going to lie and say that I used the site very often or that it held some special place in my heart, but I will remember it fondly for a number of reasons. It was one of the few sites that I would visit sporadically and I would often check my position on the global and UK leaderboards, plus the genre leaderboards were amazingly compelling though I never could commit to one type of game to mount any kind of serious challenge on any of them.

The real issue is just how such a huge site could possibly fail? Obviously people will point to the 5 million gamertags and say that should have generated enough money to keep things afloat. However, they would be missing the point. Not many of those people even visited the site - as friends could sign each other up, plus the only money was generated was via the forums as MS said that the site could not profit from the gamercards themselves.

Obviously rival sites would crop up too and that seems to be what rankled the most for Morgon (the sites founder). He had approached MS about being given access to the achievement feed, in the hopes of using the extra data to provide extra stats and information. He was turned down flat. I know a similar request has also been made on numerous occasions by x360a, with similar results. Other sites like Raptr and TA instead just went ahead and took the data directly from, via HTML scrapes, without even bothering to ask for permission. As a result they could offer information and stats that other sites did not have access to - and as a result traffic from MGC gradually slipped away.

I even saw more than a few posts on TA along the lines of "Who cares - this site is better anyway." Well of course it is seeing as you had an unfair advantage in terms of data whereas a site that played by the rules had to close it's doors. One person even posted up a message from Major Nelson that said, categorically, that scraping was highly disapproved of.

And yet here we are.

Now do not take this as an attack on scraping sites, or TA in general, as they do what they do to get traffic and provide an interesting source of stats and information. Heck - I'm a member of both sites though my use is sporadic. However, the truth of the matter is that their activities are not in any way endorsed by MS and as such things need to be changed.

The real issue here is MS themselves and the fact that they seem to refuse to make a formal decision on what is or isn't allowed. Some sites see the XCDL (community dev. licence) as carte blanche to do what they like, while other sites try to go through the right channels and get turned away. So MS have to sit down and either allow all sites the same access or none of them - as just turning a blind eye to such activities is really not doing anyone any favours, and I include Raptr and TA in that assessment.

Obviously a ton of page views from unmanned scanners, such as those sites use, will inevitably slow down. At the moment the numbers are probably not enough to be too much of a concern (TA has 120k members compared to the 5 million of MGC) so leaving the sites well enough alone is in the best interests of MS, as that leaves a couple more community driven sites that are generating interest in Xbox and all of its related products at zero cost to MS. Win, win.

Now what would happen if TA and Raptr suddenly had 1 million members (specifically with an Xbox 360 in the case of Raptr - as they are already over that mark thanks to the fact they cover PC, PS3, Xbox and even Flash games)? Or 3 million? Or more? That would be an awful lot of data requests on an hourly basis, which in turn would probably slow to a crawl. In that scenario do you think that MS would then act? Of course they would, the access for scraping sites would be blocked and all of a sudden two more thriving communities would be down the pan.

If MS do not want sites to access certain data then why don't they just come out and say so, rather than letting some sites get away with working outside the rules to the detriment of others? All of this could be avoided with the kind of community support that the XCDL was meant to provide, instead the current members some to be overlooked and ignored when it comes to new ideas and input. The data feed is currently woefully inadequate and unless it is bolstered and independent sites are given a lot more support then this cycle will repeat itself.

In the end MGC was a victim of its own success and other sites could inevitably follow suit which would be a sad state of affairs.

Thursday, February 24, 2011

When old games attack

Since I've started delving into my back catalogue for games to finish off I seem to have become more and more energised by what to play next. I never thought it would happen but I actually WANT to play Battlefield 2, Fairytale Fights and Project Sylpheed. At this point I cannot see a game on my tag that I'm not considering going back to, heck I even thought about playing Spiderman 3 this morning - SPIDERMAN 3!!!!

I'm planning on popping to the shops at some point in a bid to get a second copy of Virtua Tennis 09, as I managed to win my first 16 online tournaments today but will now have to wait a week before they are available again. It doesn't make sense for me to keep hold of a rental game for that long so I'd rather pick up a cheap pre-owned copy to tide me over.

I'm a bit torn after that, as I really want to go back to Battlefield 2 and finish up the MP stuff that I have missing (which is mainly playing 500 games). If I could do that then I could wrap up the solo stuff anytime I wanted to, plus it might give me the inspiration to do just that.

Other titles that are tickling my fancy right now include Fairytale Fights and Project Sylpheed. One of which will probably be my next main game after I'm done with VT09. To be honest it has been nice to play games at my own pace as well as making some strides towards finishing up some titles that I'd left hanging for far too long.

Wednesday, February 23, 2011

We have a winner........

The random finger of fate has chosen Virtua Tennis 09 as my next online project, which is funny really as I already have the online achievements for the game by playing legit. The issue is the rather ridiculous Gold Medal achievement which requires you to undertake a series of challengees that are all tied together for a paltry 25 points.

Tasks like 1,000 slice points won, Five Davis Cup trophies or making 25 friends on tour will all be fairly straightforward. However, amassing 250 Online Player wins, 250 Ranked wins and 150 Online Tour wins will not. So it will be a major grind that will only go towards an achievement. Yay?

The Player and Ranked wins can be done at any point, but I can only do a max of 16 Online Tour wins a week as once you have won an event you have to wait to take part again. Boo! So it will take me a minimum of ten weeks to get the number of wins I need. To be honest I may need to look at getting a second copy of the game permanently rather then renting it, as I really do not want a rental copy sat around for that long.

After that I can move onto my next partial completion, which at the moment is looking like being Project Sylpheed. Seeing as it is stuck at 60/1000 so far then I have plenty to do.

Tuesday, February 22, 2011

The fickle finger of fate

I was offered the chance to take part in some boosting for The Club over the weekend, but had to turn it down so I could spend some time with the wife. Plus, I'd only just finished grinding through Front Mission online so was not really in the mood to leap stright back into grinding something else as well.

However, I may well end up playing The Club this week anyway as the only two games on my Lovefilm rental list at this moment in time are that and Virtua Tennis 09. Both of them will give me a second copy of the game and enable me to boost the relevant tasks. If I get VT09 then I will grind out all of the online wins that I need and if I get The Club then I will get started with all of the easy stuff and then make my way up to 10k in my own time.

To be honest I would much rather do the game in a dedicated boosting party rather than solo, but that way means I have to be ready to play at set times - whereas if I go it solo then I can just do an hour here and there. We shall see if it pans out, though my choice is entirely in the lap of the Lovefilm gods.

I was also expecting to have a couple of review titles to deal with but it seems that Two Worlds 2 has been delayed yet again in the UK. Plus, the other game that was meant to arrive straight from the publisher hasn't turned up either. Sad face.

Last night did see me finish up all of the Keflings tasks except for having ten banner towers - still two short of that target, and I even resorted to hopping into random MP games and then messaging them to see if they would help out. I got no joy doing that at all, curses!

So let's roll the dice and see if it comes up VT09 or The Club. Exciting.

Monday, February 21, 2011

Helper monkeys

I finally managed to track down that last pesky sensor - thank you Jesus (assuming Jesus is a twenty foot tall mech with a sniper rifle and missile launchers).

With that nightmare FINALLY put to bed I have gone back into the soothing world of Virtua Tennis 09. I actually enjoy tennis games quite a lot, and I always seem to have one in my collection no matter which console I've had down the years. VT09 is a pretty decent game and one I had left in limbo for some time, mainly due to a number of achievement glitches that apparently had a chance of rearing their ugly heads at certain points.

At least now there is a patch so it should be smooth sailing, though apparently one achievement will only unlock if you remove the patch and play offline. Try and make sense of that if you can - an achievement that is messed up by a patch to fix other achievements? Nice.

Still I have managed to soar up from 150 in the rankings to being on the verge of the top 50. It is a bit of a grind in places as you can only enter certain tournaments until you are ranked highly enough - so I have already had to play a season and a half on the Pro tour just to get this far, and that is after winning every event I have entered too.

Assuming I get all of the single player stuff done then I have an almighty grind to get the required number of online wins that would net me the relevant Gold medals. Happy, happy, joy, joy.

In other news I made a start on A Kingdom for Keflings, which is a cute strategy game that sees you helping your diminutive subjects to build a nice place to live. It should be a fairly easy 200 points but my efforts hinge on the assistance of other people, as I need random strangers to join my game and build their unique banner tower. I managed to get eight helpers (out of ten needed) over the weekend but only four of those were from my friends list - come on chums, help a Kefling kicker out!!!

Friday, February 18, 2011


So this morning I sat down to try and finish off Front Mission Evolved before work. I had about forty minutes of free time and two levels to scour for the pesky buggers.

I managed to blitz through the first mission without too much trouble, I did miss one Sensor but it turned out to be the very first one on the list that I hadn't looked for closely enough. Then I hopped into the last level and all was going swimmingly, some of the little buggers were annoyingly out of the way but as I closed in on the end of the mission I was perfectly in tune with the list I was going by.

Until I got to the last one and found myself with 19/20. Arrrrrrgh! The real frustration here is the fact that I picked off a bunch of sensors when I was completing the game and never really paid attention to where they were (plus it was last year) so now I have to trawl through the level, step by step, in a vain hope of finidng the very last sensor in the whole game. I truly hope that it is somewhere obvious as I'm starting to grow tired of stomping around in mechs - which I never thought could happen in a million years. COS MECHS ARE AWESOME!!!!

Hopefully I will find that pesky little critter at some point this evening and then I can move onto something a bit different.

Thursday, February 17, 2011

Oh the irony.........

I wrote a blog post not too long ago about collectibles in games and how they can soon come to be amazingly tiresome if not implemented properly. Well it seems like the gaming Gods took offense at my harsh words and saw fit to smite me in the form of Front Mission Evolved.

This game has 20 Sensors hidden on each level which you have to shoot, plus a further three Emblems per level that need picking up. The real ball ache is the fact that the sensors are pretty damn small and are hidden in some ridiculous places - a bunch of them are actually off the playing area and can only be seen/shot if you use a gun with a zoom feature. Yay!

Normally in such a situation you would just leap onto the interwebz and find a really good guide, perhaps with videos, to help you along. However, the game is pretty much a non-entitty in terms of sales and the guides available are not great. Someone did do a bunch of videos for some of the sensors, but they stopped after about five levels (dammit) so I'm following a written guide on PS3T, which is pretty helpful but also has a few flaws and ambiguous descriptions. As a result it is taking me about an hour to scour each level for every item and, when you consider that I could probably complete some of those levels in about ten minutes, then it soon becomes a real ballache.

I even went and had a look at the Prima strategy guide and it is absolutely APPALLING for the sensor locations. They are not even numbered in the order you encounter then, so for one map number 20 on their list is actually right at the start of the level - meaning you will miss it if you progress too far. Who the hell thought that would be an acceptable layout is beyond me.

To be honest I've seen a lot of shoddy strategy guides for various games and I often wonder how those things get made, if they aren't going to include even the most basic information then what good are they?

Still after a lot of trial and error I have got through the first three acts with everything found. So now I have six more levels to endure before I finally have the full 1k.

After that I will be at a bit of a loose end. I really want to round up a posse to challenge the Firefight missions on Halo ODST, but other than that I'm not sure what I want to play at the moment. A couple of ideas have come to mind, mainly because I have a month of Live on my backup account now, so that I have all of the online stuff done in a couple of games.

My first choice would be Virtua Tennis 09, as this is a game I've already started and would dearly love to finish off. The main problem is that I need 650 online wins (no really) in order to get the relevant Gold medals - yes, 650 wins would only HELP me towards one achievement. It wouldn't get me any points in and of itself.

My other thought was The Club, as there have been rumours of the servers being shut down so if I want to get it done then I have to start fairly soon. I could probably knock out most of the online tasks in a day or so, leaving me with a gring to 10,001 worth of kills. Considering the fact I'll be doing it on my own then it shouldn't be too rough, but at the same time I really don't want to be stuck with another incomplete game.

Choices, choices.

Monday, February 14, 2011

What next?

I finally finished off FFXIII for the full 1k over the weekend. It clocked in at about 96 hours give or take - which may well be a few hours short as I remember reloading a few sections without saving when I was farming for gil and items.

Overall I enjoyed the game for what it was, but it really did not feel like a traditional FF game to me. It also annoyed me that all of the sidequests were little more than a series of battles against enemies that you had long since grown tired of. Even the final mark mission was not as tough as I had hoped, and my party made short work of the opposition to net me most of the points I was missing.

The lure of RPG games to me has always been the story and levelling up elements, but in this case it was only the levelling up that really kept me hooked. As once you hit post game then the story is non-existant and you are pretty much tasked with running around various areas to beat up on the Mark mission targets and grind enough money/components in order to acquire every accessory and weapon. Hardly the stuff of RPG legend.

The most positive legacy from the game is that I really want to delve into another JRPG fairly soon, although I do still have to go back to Fallout: NV at some point too. The most likely candidate at the moment is Eternal Sonata, as that game has been on my shelf for an age now (I bought it day one) so could do with some love. Plus, the fact it is meant to be gorgeous to look at and fun to play is no hardship either.

In other news I spent a fun 10 hours over the course of a few days playing through the online portion of Front Mission Evolved. You do need four players to start a game, but luckily Mechahertz and I had two consoles each and two copies of the game each too. So that cut down on the time required dramatically. With the ultimate goal being to get to rank 70 we settled into grinding out the kills in order to rack up the 179k worth of XP needed.

People often say that boosting is a form of cheating and disrupts geniune players, but I can honestly say that we barely ran into ANYONE as we played Front Mission. The online is truly dead and out of all the games we played, we probably only saw another four or five people online in total. To be honest I played the game online legit when it first launched and it was just as bad back then. I know that EA have come out and said publicly that online gaming is the future for ALL games, but I really do not think this is the case. There are some titles that will never thrive online and developers need to start realising that.

After that was done, well nearly I still have a bunch of collectibles to find throughout single player, I then moved back to Harry Potter. Seeing as it is a rental (and my wife wants to get Zumba for Kinect next, ugh) then I figured I should finish it off. I managed to blitz through my second playthrough in just a few hours and find the last set of items that I had missed first time around. I now only have my Easy difficulty completion to do and that will be another completion onto the heap. Yay me!

I think achievements have certainly made me play games differently in one respect as, back in the day, I would never play a game more than once no matter how good it was. Whereas now I will play it until the points are all mine - is that commitment or just OCD?

You be the judge.........

Thursday, February 10, 2011

Stats update - sorry kids!

RETAIL - 37 games

Assassins Creed: BH – 270/1000
Battlefield 2: MC - 315/1000
Beatles Rock Band – 130/1000
Beautiful Katamari - 1050/1250
Bladestorm - 150/1000
Call of Duty: B. Ops - 1000/1150
Call of Duty: WaW - 1000/1500
C&C Kane’s Wrath - 130/1000
Dante's Inferno - 1220/1290
Fairytale Fights - 165/1000
Fallout New Vegas - 155/1000
Final Fantasy XIII - 625/1000
Front Mission Evolved – 750/1000
Gears of War 2 - 1420/1750
GRAW - 752/1000
GRAW 2 - 1000/1250
Guitar Hero 2 - 320/1000
Halo ODST – 870/1000
Harry Potter: DH Part 1 – 920/1000
Hellboy: SoE - 310/1000
Kinect Adventures - 85/1000
Lego Star Wars TCS - 260/1000
Lost Planet - 350/1000
Perfect Dark Zero - 150/1000
Project Sylpheed - 60/1000
Risen - 70/1000
Spiderman 3 - 10/1000
Splinter Cell: DA - 670/1000
Star Wars: Republic Heroes - 365/1000
Supreme Commander - 110/1000
Table Tennis - 630/1000
The Sims 3 – 150/1000
Tomb Raider: Legend - 1000/1250
Vampire Rain - 650/1000
Virtua Tennis 09 - 545/1000
WSC 2007 - 550/1000
You’re in the Movies - 140/1000

TOTAL - 18347/39440

ARCADE - 8 games

Boogie Bunnies - 115/200
Eets: Chowdown - 40/200
Geometry Wars - 40/200
Puzzle Quest - 200/250
Scott Pilgrim – 150/250
Texas Hold ‘Em - 105/200
Wallace and Gromit - 100/200
Where's Wally - 40/200

TOTAL - 790/1700

Overall - 19137/41140

Yes, I know that people do not really care how many points I have left to play for and they do not give a rats ass about my strategy for upping my completion percentage - but hey, I'm going to do it anyway.

Part of what draws me to playing achievements in the first place is my love of statistics and seeing an actual benchmark of my progress towards certain goals. So posts like this one help me to keep on top of the things I still have to do and also inspire me to pull out some of those older games in a bid to get them done and dusted. It is a helpful tool - albeit one that is kind of mind numbing for anyone reading it, so I apologise in advance for that.

I have 22,003 points available in games that I am actually likely to play. That is kind of a big number (and is even larger according to at 24,203 but that includes glitched stuff and games like Chromehounds that I can't score anymore points on) so obviously I need to whittle it down to size.

My main goal is, and probably always will be, getting that target down to 10k or less. Of the arcade games I'm only likely to finish off about half of those games and seeing as Scott Pilgrim will probably take a while then I don't know when I will get around to it. The real soncern is obviously all of that pesky retail stuff: though seven of those games only have DLC left to polish off to be honest.

At the moment I'm focused on three games in particular: FFXIII, Harry Potter and Front Mission Evolved.

FFXIII is a major time sink and I'm in the process of grinding towards the Item Hunter achievement with all of the others coming along the way. I find it ridiculous that a game should ask you to put in double/triple the time it took to complete the story in order to max out a game but there you go. Instead I am reduced to murdering a bunch of giant turtles in order to get enough cash to upgrade all of my weapons and accessories. What joy - and it is not helped by the fact that the drop rates for Platinum Ingots seems to be stupidly low at times. Still I'm hopeful that I will have the game done and dusted by the end of the month.

Next up is the latest Harry Potter game. A night of random flailing managed to net me all of the Kinect achievements, but now I am faced with the prospect of completing the game in its entirety on Easy and Medium difficulties to finish it off. Why not make thos achievements stackable? You've got me......

Finally I have started working on the online achievements for Front Mission Evolved. Luckily I am doing it with just one other person (we have two machines each) and after just over an hours work we both had 20k experience out of the 177k needed, so I think it should be fairly manageable. Once that is done I will go back through the game for all of the collectables to polish it off.

So maybe three games will be done with by the end of the month, which is a start.

Wednesday, February 09, 2011

What is wrong with Kinect........

I'm sure that no one really cares about my opinion but that is the beauty of a blog - I get to tell you anyway, and you have to sit there and take it. Or at least click away from this page.....

Anyway, while I have to agree that the Kinect is an impressive piece of kit it seems to fall foul of the same issues that plague the Wii. Mainly whether or not you have adequate space to play the damn thing, the quality of the games and the accuracy of the technology.

The space issue is the real killer, especially if you want to play with more than one player. We pretty much cleared out our living room (and it isn't that small) in order to play and still ended up with very little space to work with and were constantly getting in one anothers way, which is hardly ideal. The main issue is the one of depth, as you need to be stood at least six feet away from the Kinect camera in order for it to pick you up. This means that a lot of the space you need is acTually not going to get used as the second you start moving too far forward then the whole thing stops working properly.

The games themselves are also not at a very high level at the moment. Admittedly so far I've only played Dance Central, Kinect Adventures and Harry Potter, so perhaps I'm not giving it a chance. Though having seen some of the reviews for third party games then perhaps it is just as well if I do steer clear.

From what I HAVE played, it is fair to say that Dance Central is arguably the best of the bunch. Though if you have zero co-ordination like I do then perhaps you will not find it as much fun. For my sister (former dancer) it was a walk in the park and much enjoyment was had. Kinect Adventures is pretty much a bunch of mini games that show what the machine is capable of, it gets old pretty quickly and does not really have the long term appeal that Wii Sports did. Finally Harry Potter is just awful. The Kinect aspect of the game is just a bunch of on rails sections where you flail your arms furiously to cast a bunch of spells and defeat enemies. The main problem is the fact that the game does not recognise what you are doing most of the time which led to some hilarious moments - especially when my wife developed a move to cast a spell that looked as though she had dislocated her arm. We laughed hysterically but not really because the game was in any way good.

The problem here is that people without large empty rooms are going to get very little enjoyment out of their new purchase, and the games kicking around at the moment do not offer much in the way of long term entertainment. It reminds me very much of the early days of the Wii, especially when I took the Kinect out to meet my family and the in-laws over Xmas. Everyone loved it, loved playing the various games and then got a bit bored after a while.

Since then it has pretty much gathered dust in my house, with the only use being from my wife playing an exercise game every now and then (Biggest Loser, which is also a bit naff about picking up certain movements - but at least it was cheap). Until we played Potter last night so I could mop up some achievements it had sat unloved for for nearly two months, which leads me to believe that the lure of motion control is perhaps not as great as the Wii had made out.

The Wii phenomenon was a simple one, people would play on a friends console and be hooked by the wonder of it all. They would then rush out and buy their own Wii, play it religiously for a few weeks and then never touch it again. I think it is telling that the Wii has the lowest software attach rate of all the current consoles, as people never bothered to look beyond Wii Sports and the console would soon be gathering dust. Unfortunately, MS and Sony simply looked at the hardware numbers with more than a hint of envy and decided motion control was the way forward.

Whether it will pay off in the long term is another matter. Both companies are touting good sales figures, but will the software keep up or will it fall by the wayside as people get tired of shovelware and titles that are little more than a few dull minigames, as happened on the Wii. I think, as with Nintendo, the onus is on MS to produce some amazing first party titles to drive things forward and until that happens it could well be lean times for those people that enjoy virtual dancing, flailing and spellcasting.