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GamesRadar’s 100 Best Games of All Time – OH REALLY

The folks at GamesRadar threw down their list of the top 100 games of all time, and while I’m not going to comment on every game (I haven’t played all of them), I’d like to point out what I think they got right and what they missed.

  • 99.  Ducktales – Excellent pull here, actually, as this game was fantastic.  You don’t want to admit to your friends that you played this, but it was really that good.
  • 92.  Quake 3 Arena – Meh.  It was fun, but top 100?  Let me see where the other games end up.
  • 81.  Kingdom Hearts 2 – I’ve tried to play this several times, and it’s like the beginning is some impenetrable wall of text and zzzzzz….
  • 77.  Star Wars:  Knights of the Old Republic – Man, this low?  Not sure about these guys.
  • 72.  TeamFortress 2 – Pure entertainment.  Love this game.  Even if I suck.
  • 64.  Braid – Just a beautiful experience.  Try it out.
  • 58.  Counter-Strike – I came to this late, but had tons of fun with this.  Hours spent at Cyberjocks when it was open here in Buffalo, and many more online.
  • 54.  Sim-City 2000 – THERE BETTER NOT BE ANOTHER CITY BUILDING GAME ABOVE THIS although a Caesar game would be OK I guess.
  • 40.  The Sims 3 – So much better than the first game, as I can manage to get these Sims to stay alive.  With the first game, it was a race to see how my Sims would die (usually trying to cook).
  • 39.  Diablo 2 – On the front of my mind, thanks to the Diablo 3 beta.  Burrows into the part of your brain that likes getting stuff, and then getting more stuff, and more stuff…
  • 38.  Mega-Man 2 – Jesus this game nearly killed me, but I kept the fuck at it and finally triumphed.
  • 30.  Skyrim – Interesting it’s up here.  Is Morrowind not on the list?  I still go back to that.  Maybe because it’s my first Elder Scrolls game.
  • 29.  Super Mario 64 – Agree 100% with this one.  All the different ways to interact with the environment, yet not so complex that you needed a cheatsheet.  Just played great.
  • 27.  Deus Ex – Yes yes yes.  Might’ve been over my head at the time, but still a ton of fun.
  • 26.  Civilization V – I need to give this another shot.  Civ 2 forever!
  • 24.  Final Fantasy X – Never played this one.  But I will smash these guys in the face with a shovel if FFVI (or FFIV) are not above this.  No way this is the only FF.
  • 19.  Starcraft 2 – You’ve read my thoughts on this.  SP is good enough, but MP is a whole bunch of rabid clickers with meticulously mapped-out build orders.  Just not fun for me.
  • 17.  The Legend of Zelda:  A Link to the Past – Still the best in my book.  Worth busting out the SNES for.
  • 14.  Final Fantasy VI – THANK YOU I will not get arrested for shovel-based assault.  Great story, great villain, replay it in whole or in part every year.
  • 12.  Half-Life 2 – Will the original be above it?  Either way, if you are reading this, I probably don’t have to tell you why HL2 is so good.
  • 4.  Super Mario Bros. 3 – The ultimate Mario game, ever.  No equal.
  • 2.  Tetris – We all have a favorite version, whether it’s the Tengen NES (or Arcade) game, the Nintendo version, Game Boy…EVERYBODY has played it.
  • 1.  Portal – Portal 2 was on there too, but I want to replay the original before I comment on the new one.  Portal remains one of my all-time favorite games, and GLaDOS is simply the best villainous AI there is.

WoW is on the list, but I’ve never been big on MMOs, if you are wondering about that.  I think they’ve done a solid job on the list, but there are some glaring omissions to my eyes.  In no particular order:

  • 4X games – What, no Master of Orion?  Stars!?  Galactic Civilizations?  Sins of a Solar Empire?  Anything?  Tough room.
  • Flight Sims – Another genre that isn’t ‘cool’ right now, but so many games here that are worthy.  X-Wing?  X-Wing vs. TIE Fighter?  No Wing Commander games?  Elite?
  • Combat Sims – Microprose needs to be here somewhere.  Gunship, Silent Service, Red Storm Rising…heck, there still isn’t a tank battle game to beat M1 Tank Platoon.
  • Sid Meier’s Alpha Centauri – No Civ2 AND no Alpha Centauri?  How does this happen?
  • M.U.L.E. – How many games did they miss from this era?  Still fun to play today.

And with that, I’m sure I’ve missed some games.  What would you add?  Hate any of my choices?

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Skyrim Mod Idea

Posting it both to keep it somewhere I’ll see and remember it, and to see if anyone else is interested in it…I’ve been thinking about taking a stab at a mod that would let you use mundane items (like brooms or empty bottles) as weapons.  I just think it would be hilarious to beat a giant to death with a broom, or to wail on a dragon with duel-wielded buckets.  Might even have to add a ladder that can be used, Jackie Chan style.

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Player versus Developer Narratives

David Jaffe, designer of the Twisted Metal series of games, made a splash recently at a DICE summit presentation.  The Ars article linked has a good breakdown of it, and if you want the full talk, go here (he’s a bit obnoxious and vulgar, FYI).  Here’s a pertinent snippet:

My talk is actually a warning, about why we shouldn’t tell stories with our video games. I think it’s a bad idea, I think it’s a waste of resources and time and money, and more importantly I think it actually stunts, and has stunted over the last 10 years or so, the medium of video games. Sort of at our own peril. And to be clear, I’m not talking about player-authored stories, and if you don’t know what that means, it’s kind of a buzzword these days amongst designers, but basically, a player-authored story is something… I mean, the best example these days is… Skyrim and Arkham City are wonderful, but you can also go down the chain of scope to a game like Angry Birds. A player-authored story is basically where the mechanics and the interactive is so compelling and so engaging that the player, by the very act of playing the game, creates a narrative in his mind.

Now, there’s a good bit here to agree with.  I love Skyrim, and if you read the site, you know I’ve actually written an adventure or two I’ve had in it up as a story – a literal player-authored story.  I’m not the only one either.  Other games – MULE jumps to mind – are ripe for this as well, since it’s different every time you play, and can really engage your creativity if you role play it.  But Jaffe’s logic breaks down for me when I think of some of my all-time favorite games, Dragon Age: Origins and Starcraft.  Looking at Starcraft, there was a developer-made story, progressed in a linear fashion, but it HOOKED ME.  I finished that game – I cheated to finish it the first time! – because I HAD to know what happened.  I didn’t create that story, and maybe Jaffe would tell me it would’ve been better as a book or a movie, but I don’t agree.  I felt like *I* did all those things, I was betrayed by Mengsk, I fought the Queen of Blades, it was ME.  Maybe that’s still a player-narrative in his mind, but it doesn’t happen without Blizzard’s story.  Without the story, Starcraft is just a series of skill challenges, which can be plenty of fun, but it’s not the game I love.

I think Dragon Age: Origins is a great example of why a developer driven narrative is still needed.  While I’ve built up quite a player-narrative in my head for the game, often referring to ‘My Warden’ as a unique individual starring in a story of my imagining.  But again, it’s BECAUSE of what we went through.  We killed an Archdemon!  I let out a “Hell YEAH” when she killed that asshole Arl Howe.  How much of that could you strip away, and still inspire me to think of my Warden like that?  To make in-game decisions actually in-character?

It’s worth noting that there are plenty of games I love that work exactly like Jaffe describes, but I don’t know why there can’t be variety.  Just because one set of games works this way, doesn’t mean they all need to or should.

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Skyrim – Mod It

So, Bethesda finally released the long-awaited Creation Kit for Skyrim, so the modders of the world can finally really sink their teeth into the game and start producing outstanding content.  Well, there’s some good stuff already, but the options are now thrown wide open.  If you are interested in giving it a whirl, they’ve got a wiki set up with starting information, including how to install the Kit (not obvious via Steam, at least to me) and some solid tutorials.  I myself am not much of a 3d designer (hence why most of my art resembles The Order of the Stick), but new quests (or adjustments) would be fun.  I added a room in the basement of many buildings (one room, linked in many places) in Morrowind to give me a place to store stuff as well as to ease travel restrictions in that game.  What would YOU add or change?

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We need to talk about Starcraft 2

I kind of hate Starcraft 2.  There, I said it.  That feels better.  I guess, I should be more specific – I don’t hate the game itself, as it seems like a perfectly good (probably an all time great) RTS.  I had fun with the single player aspect.  What I hate is what it’s turned players into.  You can’t swing a dead cat without hitting an SC2 player studying build orders and worrying about their lackluster ‘macro’.  It’s almost impossible to find someone just playing for fun, and if they say they are, they are probably taking it easy on you.  Not much fun for them.

My time with Starcraft is some of the best gaming I ever had, but I should’ve seen the cracks even then.  I played Bunker Command and Bunker Command 2, a ‘Use Map Settings’ map that pit you in a fast-paced game against the other players where you got points for blowing up their dudes, which in turn earned you new units.  The trick being you had to defend your bunker while you went after theirs.  Simple and fun, and it didn’t take 2 hours to play out.  But as SC aged, people stopped playing it.  It was all about improving their rating.  No one had time to play a game that ‘didn’t count’.  SC2 has jacked that up ten times at least.  Sure, there may be a few holdouts like me, but I don’t have time to find them.  It’s honestly one thing that has driven me away from multiplayer gaming and back to things like Skyrim and Dragon Age.

If anyone finds a working SC2 version of Bunker Command, I’d be interested.


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Friday Finds – LOTR and Star Wars

Hey, it’s been a while.  Vacations, children, car shopping, attending Sabres games in the press box, all take a toll on my time.  Onto the posts!

Bah, I’ll be impressed when the docking bay is built into a giant Death Star model.

100 facts about the Lord of the Rings movies, many of which you might know if you watched the movies with the DVD commentary on.  Neat for those of us who haven’t.

I just love glaciers, and science.

The Math that Saved Apollo 13 – this is cool.  I had JUST watched a show about Apollo 13 where you saw Lovell with this very manual.

Mimicking nature, always a solid option when you have a technical challenge like this.  These ‘kelp forest’ underwater power generators could possibly be adapter to work almost anywhere.

Really does sort of resemble the Silver Surfer.  It’s a comet, though.

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Skyrim Screenies

In case you want to see more of my adventures, including me blinding a bear:





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Skyrim Stories – The Shakiest Swordarm In The North

This is a new series I’m doing, highlighting some of the cool cinematic moments I find myself in while playing Skyrim.  I hope you enjoy them.

A rescue mission!  My first task as a new Companion is to head to a cave and rescue Camilla Valerius of Riverwood.  I collect Lydia, my housecarl, and head out of Whiterun.  I see from my map that our path will take us past abandoned Fort Greymoor, which is sure to have at least a few bandits nearby (abandoned forts are funny that way).  We approach the fort, and spot at least two bowmen stationed on the battlements.  It looks like more at first, but the bandits have placed training dummies along the wall to try and obscure their numbers.  Smart.  I line up a bow shot on the living bandit on the wall, and let loose an arrow.  Hit, but not dead, he alerts his companions.  At least a half-dozen bandits come boiling out of the ruined gate.  I raise my bow again as Lydia fires her first arrow, confident I will hit SOMETHING with all the targets when I hear it.  Beating wings, and an ear-piercing shriek.


I scramble for the cover of the wall while shooting arrows, and I see the bandits have momentarily forgotten our quarrel and are doing the same.  The dragon glides around in a circle, then dives towards the ground, landing just in front of the gate.  I run left as a tongue of flame sweeps my way.  I’ve lost track of Lydia; I can only hope she got out of the way and is still in the fight.

I put aside my bow and take out a massive axe.  I run to the dragon’s side and swing the axe into it with a scream.  The creature howls in pain, and I swing again.  Scales are flying, blood flies off the axe and into my face, but I keep hacking.  The bandits keep firing arrows, and I, with one more mighty swing, cave in the dragon’s ribcage.  I stumble back as beams of light curl out of the dragon and into me, and I feel the power.  I then feel a sword crash into my helm, apparently there’s a couple of surviving bandits.  I whirl on them and use my VOICE.  They fall back – one stumbles to the ground – I swing wildly at the two still standing and they fall.  Without pause I line up a powerful swing, and realize too late that my target is wearing a nice set of steel armor.

The force of the killing blow rolls the body over.  It’s Lydia.  Oh, crap.  At least she won’t have to carry my burdens anymore.

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The Elder Scrolls V: Skyrim First Impressions

I’m only maybe 5 or 6 hours into Skyrim, but I feel like I’ve seen and experienced enough to give you my first impressions.  It’s a downright beautiful game, it set my detail level to ‘High’ based on my specs and it was just ridiculous how good it looks.  I think there’s been an emphasis on the Elder Scrolls games after Morrowind to try and get you into some action right away, and Skyrim does not disappoint.  You start the game as a prisoner (as per usual with these games) and being taken to your death.  You escape when, as they shove your head down on the block for the headsman’s axe…well, you’ll see.  A member of a rebelling group of Nords (the Stormcloaks) helps you, and depending on how you want to play it you can join them if you like.

Let me pause right there and explain how The Elder Scrolls games are different than some other popular computer RPGs.  In The Elder Scrolls, your character is intentionally a blank slate.  You start in prison or under arrest in some way – did you actually commit a crime?  Are you wrongfully accused?  Maybe you stole to feed your family, or you killed someone who was attacking your wife.  You decide, and role play it that way.  Let that color your decisions for the rest of the game.  It’s freeing, especially if you’ve been playing linear RPGs for a while, but for some folks it can feel a bit directionless.  You are helping to create your own story, which for some people is not as much fun as starring in their own interactive movie.  I love it, though.  Similar to that is the fact that Bethesda doesn’t like to limit what you can do, and you can often find quirks in the game which you can exploit to your benefit.  It’s up to you not to game the system too much and ruin your experience.  If you’ve ever had a DM who had to house-rule something particularly gamebreaking out of a DnD session, same idea.

Below, I will talk about my early game experiences, and there are some minor spoilers.

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Friday Finds – Remembering

It’s 11/11/11, a day I’m already tired of being reminded of as being ‘special’.  The REAL reason it’s special is Veteran’s Day (or Rememberance Day for you folks north of me).  My dad was in the Navy for 26 years, in Vietnam, in the Gulf during some tense times, all of that.  I heard a ton of stories as he, my uncle and the husbands of my mom’s friends all told their stories while the ladies played cards and drank strawberry daquiris (half the time forgetting the rum).  The men, ranging from my dad, who spent most of his career in the ‘brown water’ Navy, on amphibious ships and in the rivers of Vietnam, to a supply corps Captain, to a Merchant Marine sailor during WW2, told stories ranging from hilarious to harrowing.  Many of the stories have stayed with me to this day.  Thanks, Dad.

On a less serious note, this week’s posts:

Links of the week:

7 Things You Should Do In Skyrim – The game is now out, and I must play it.

Create instant origami.  Light, heat and plastic sheets.

Urine Power.  I need say no more.  You’ve already clicked it.

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Old Game Tuesday – The Elder Scrolls III: Morrowind

I came to know Morrowind (I only figured out it was the third game in a series after the fact) through a friend.  He had taken time out from Everquest to play a new single player RPG that I hadn’t heard of.  I sat and watched for a while, and was intrigued.  There were a LOT of things different about Morrowind, such as skills that improved with use and not just from an arbitrary level-up.  The world was massive, with miles and miles of terrain with ruins and caves to explore.  You were free to roam anywhere and do the main plot at your own pace.  I really enjoyed that aspect, as it was one of the few games where you could really get in over your head in a dungeon meant for a higher level (but if you could sneak through and grab some of the gear it was incredibly fun).

It’s a game that is meant to actually be role-played, but that did mean that the gameplay was breakable if you were a bit of a min-maxer.  You could find (or steal) many solid weapons and armor right from the start if you were careful and had the patience, though the effectiveness of the armor stayed low until you had been hit in that kind of gear quite a bit.  You could also cheat the potion-making and enchanting systems by creating temporary stat boosting potions, using them (cumulative) and then creating even more powerful potions and so on.  Still, once you know how to break the game, it’s up to you not to do it.  I’d rather have the option to be creative than be hamstrung because of a few dopes.

The game itself looked good for the time, though it suffers (similar to Dragon Age: Origins) from too much brown.  The character faces were pretty muddy, but that leads to one of the other big strengths of this game series:  you can fix it with mods!  Bethsoft provided a fairly easy to use set of tools to customize the game, and gamers took to it.  There are 297 pages of mods listed at PlanetElderScrolls for Morrowind, and many of them are quite awesome.  Don’t like getting attacked by Cliff Racers?  Take them out of the game.  People are ugly?  Install new heads, new clothes or whatever you can think of.  Don’t like the housing options in your favorite town?  Build a new one, or heck, build a whole new island of your own.  People did, and it’s incredible.  There are numerous mods I wouldn’t start a new game without.

If you are as excited as I am getting for what you are seeing out of Skyrim, you owe it to yourself to go back and play Morrowind and Oblivion.  Classics.

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Future Games I Want

  • Dragon Age 2. Still gotta try the demo, but really, I’m all over it.  (have it now, see my reviews)
  • The Elder Scrolls:  Skyrim.  My favorite characters in Morrowind and Oblivion were both Nords.  Looks really, really cool.
  • Portal 2.  Please assume the party escort submission position.
  • Batman:  Arkham City.  Sweet trailer, sounds like a ton of improvements to a game I already enjoyed.  YES.

More as I think of them, and put your suggestions in the comments.  I love RPGs most of all, but RTS, FPS, Sim and adventure games are all welcome.  I have a DS, Xbox360, and a gaming PC.