Tuesday, January 22, 2008

Last banjo to Clarksville

My review of Rock Band was published in the newspaper last Sunday, and you can see it at Techcetera here.

My son, who's quite good at Rock Band and Guitar Hero, downloaded "Last Train to Clarksville" on Xbox Live over the weekend. Actually, I was the one who wanted to download it, because Fortiscule didn't even know who The Monkees were.

As a follow-up to my review, I want to note that although I'm not such a strong Rock Band guitar player, I do practice on my banjo quite a bit. Thus it came to pass that I was noodling around on my banjo while Fortiscule was playing Rock Band this weekend. He played "Last Train to Clarksville," and I started picking out an accompaniment on the banjo. I started noticing which notes on the banjo corresponded to the little colored notes he was playing in the game, and we got it going pretty well.

Fortiscule agreed that the banjo sounded good with the Monkees. Looks like I made a banjo believer out of him!

Sunday, January 20, 2008

Prestige or practicality? Rank in COD4

I've reached the top rank in Call of Duty 4: Modern Warfare, which is 5-star general. To get any further rank I'd have to opt for "Prestige mode." That's where you reset your rank to zero, giving up all the weapons, accessories, perks and gun camo patterns you've unlocked.

I'm a role-playing gamer at heart, and one of my favorite things in RPGs is collecting weapons and armor and various treasure. That's why I like this collecting aspect of COD4. I like winning all the guns and stuff. The rank is almost incidental, a windfall for unlocking the guns. That's why I just don't see the point in me doing the Prestige mode.

That's not to say I don't understand Prestige mode. The fancy rank icon does suggest a certain amount of skill. My friend Fartknockker has "flipped" Prestige mode at least twice, and he's very skilled. But it took me forever to unlock all the stuff, and I still haven't unlocked the blue tiger and red tiger camo patterns for some of my favorite weapons.

Moreover, as one of my online friends pointed out during a match one night, "Sythbane is OLD, dude!" Indeed, I'm old enough to not be concerned with how much prestige I have in the eyes of a stranger. The guys I play regularly with know about how good I am relative to their skill level. For all the rest, I'd just as soon they don't know how good (or not good) I am. I don't feel the urge to impress anyone with the colorful prestige badge, although I salute my buddies who've earned it.

I'd be happier if "Prestige" mode consisted of more accessories and camo patterns for the weapons. I don't even like that red stripe pattern, but I want it because it's the highest one. That's prestige aplenty for me.

I got a little weary of COD4 the other night and popped in Rainbow Six: Vegas, which I haven't played in months. I'm afraid COD4 has ruined Vegas for me. I felt like my feet were bogged down in peanut butter, and everything was in one of those slow-motion nightmares. Vegas just moves too slowly. I hope Vegas 2 is speeded up, or it sure is going to be frustrating.

Sunday, January 6, 2008

Gale Force Wins

Our friends HZG, HZG Extreme and ANT Pogo came over this afternoon for a tabletop game of the Star Wars Roleplaying Game, using Star Wars Miniatures. We've been playing this particular scenario for a pretty long time. It takes place shortly after Order 66, a few months into the Jedi Purge.

My character is an experimental clone trooper, an ARC Trooper who was given genes for Force abilities. He was being trained with Jedi, so he was in a dilemma when Order 66 came down: Should he side with his brother clones, or the Jedi with whom he trained? He opted for loyalty over betrayal and sided with the Jedi, after witnessing clones suddenly shooting Jedi in the back. He went rogue and joined a band of fugitive Jedi.

He grew his hair long to disguise his clone-trooper face and embraced his Mandalorian heritage as a bounty hunter. During a stop on Naboo, he picked up some mirrored fighter pilot goggles to further the disguise.

Here is Gale Owassa with his lightsaber and flame thrower gauntlet. I doodled this picture this afternoon on my character sheet while we were playing, and colorized it just now in Photoshop. I was playing using a miniature of Quinlan Voss for my character, and it gave me the idea.

Here's a picture of Fortiscule's character, Drace Ragbar, a Trandoshan pilot who carries a repeating blaster that looks like a SAW gun.

This game is a fun break from video games sometimes, and a lot easier on the eyes and nerves! However, it sure does whet our appetite for Star Wars: The Force Unleashed. Let's hope that LucasArts allows for lots of customization of a Jedi character for online multiplayer. It sure would be cool to construct video game characters that resemble our tabletop characters!

A duty to customize

Speaking of role playing games ...

I recently completed the campaign in Call of Duty 4: Modern Warfare, and this morning I ranked up to four-star general in the online multiplayer. The other day, I was looking at the COD4 site called Charlie Oscar Delta, and I saw an invitation to sound off to the developers what you thinking about the game, what it needs and so forth. I wrote a response that was about three paragraphs long, and when I tried to submit it the thing said it had to be no more than 500 characters.

Here are my suggestions for the game as I wrote them first and then didn't have room for, followed by the shortened version that I submitted to Infinity Ward. What do you guys think? What features would you like to see in the game?

Suggestions for COD4

COD4 is the best modern-setting shooter yet, but it needs more customizing options to make the player feel like an individual character inhabiting the game. COD4 stands to lose a lot of multiplayer participation to Rainbow Six Vegas 2 this year if multiplayer customization isn't improved. Here are my suggestions for free updates via Xbox Live:
  • A. The ability to configure a persistent character's uniform in as many ways as can be, rather than linking the character skin to the weapon type. This feature should be more like Rainbow Six Vegas, except for making the uniforms more realistic than in R6V. Even being able to select from the existing character skins would be an improvement.

  • B. The ability to affix multiple attachments to a weapon in multiplayer, once they are unlocked, such as a scope and silencer like you use in the campaign. A single attachment is an absurdly unrealistic limitation, considering the overall realism of the game. Perhaps an additional attachment could replace one of the perks.

  • C. Team deathmatch and free-for-all modes that eliminate helicopters. Players able to call in helicopters are usually dominating already anyway, and helicopter kills allow them to build an insurmountable lead, often doubling the kill counts of most players in the game. This would level the playing field considerably.

  • D. The ability to customize your character with a real-world unit patch (such as the Screaming Eagle patch of the 101st), or design your own embroidered unit patch, like you can design tattoos with the art system in Rock Band. Such colorful unit patches could be used to designate clans online, like the emblems can be used in Halo 3, instead of using tedious prefixes in parentheses. After all, real units have their own patches! Just make sure they have the embroidered texture to look real.

  • E. COD4 needs a split-screen online co-op mode and split-screen multiplayer party mode, so my son and I could play together, like we can in Halo 3. Not having that option often means we turn off COD4 and play a different game, even when we both want to play COD4.
Shortened version that I submitted to Charlie Oscar Delta

  • Add an ability to customize your uniform, rather than linking the skin to the weapon. Even selecting an existing skin would be better.

  • Allow customizing with real-world unit patches such as the Screaming Eagle patch, or design a patch, like you can design tattoos with the art system in Rock Band. Patches could designate clans. Make sure they have the embroidered texture to look real.

  • Multiple weapons attachments should be allowed once they are unlocked, such as a scope and silencer.
Be sure to tell them what you think, too! Go here to Charlie Oscar Delta to tell see the suggestions and offer your own. I think you have to be a "member," to leave a comment.