Wednesday, January 21, 2009

In the Lion's eye

I've been quoted! I feel like Steve Martin in "The Jerk" when he found his name in the phonebook.

The Fable II developer blog on the Lionhead Studios site has highlighted my review of the Knothole Island expansion. They even quoted my recommendation. It's exciting to know that the feedback in my reviews is actually making its way back to the source!

Squadron Notes

I appreciate all the interest in Sythbane Squadron lately, and I'll try to step up the posting.

D man has suggested a Sythbane Squadron clan tag for games where some of us might want to band together: SB-S.

Thanks to Bama Breeze for posting thoughtful comments on my reviews on Techcetera and here on Sythbane Squadron. I urge everyone to read her comment for insight on what it's like to be a female gamer.

I appreciate our resident achievement ace Fartknocckker's contributions to the blog. I've enjoyed some recent correspondence with TeeBoan about gaming issues, and I look forward to more discussions with him.

Are you folks following "Battlestar Galactica" lately? It's sure getting interesting.

Saturday, January 17, 2009

Sythbane Squadron gets reinforcements

My circle of friends on Xbox Live continues to grow. I'd be proud to call these friends "wingmen" as the new members of Sythbane Squadron, if they want to join the formation.

The common thread among my friends in Sythbane Squadron is that we prefer polite, fun banter on Xbox Live, even while we're killing each other. You might hear any of us utter an expletive now and then in surprise or dismay, but you won't hear us using hateful, bigoted or insulting trash talk. We pride ourselves on good sportsmanship and helping to make Xbox Live a happy community.

D man 4270 is a friend of Fortiscule. Fort and I were happy to assist recently when d man got his Xbox connected to Live and went online. Watch out if you face him in SoulCalibur IV, because he packs a mean roundhouse kick.

You'll do well to give Bama Breeze the respect the lady deserves. I suspect this homegirl calls herself "Breeze" because after she shoots you full of holes, the wind blows right through you!

TeeBoan is a good sport and a gentleman. A good-humored shooter, he is a longtime member of the Ogreatti, the band of buddies who rally around Big Daddy Ogre and identify themselves with "Mr." as their clan tag.

Speaking of clan tags -- I've racked my brain trying to come up with a good clan tag to represent Sythbane Squadron. I came up with "squadron" for the blog name because it suggests teamwork and camaraderie, flying and fighting together, and patriotism. The problem is that abbreviating Sythbane Squadron yields "SS," and I'll be damned if I put those letters in front of my name and let anyone mistakenly associate me the Waffen SS or neo-Nazis, whose notions are evil and abhorrent. As Doc Holiday said in "Wyatt Earp," I disapprove of their very existence.

Do any of you Sythbane Squadron mates have proposals for a clan tag that would fit in the four- or five-character limit for clan tag fields and signify us appropriately? Please post your ideas in a comment or e-mail them to me.

Glitches, Updates and Forums

By Fartknocckker
Sythbane Squadron contributor

We all have played a game and thought some aspect was not right. Your character or an enemy gets stuck in a wall. Checkpoints are not saving your progress correctly. The items you collect aren't being counted. Or, maybe you pull off a feat in the game that you're not supposed to be able to. Gamers call such problems "glitches."

There are several types of glitches, but technically a glitch is a problem in the game's code in which the inputs of a circuit change, and the result is a random value not originally programmed.

Intentional glitching results from hackers manipulating code. A perfect example is the recent hack in Left 4 Dead in which a player could spawn weapons at will or make maps small and people huge.

Another type of glitch is simply bad programming that causes poor collision detection or game freezing.

We take for granted now that consoles can download updates to fix the glitches and even add new content. But in decades prior to 2000, if your console had a problem, you just had to deal with it.

How do developers learn what the problems are, so they can deal with it instead of you? Forums. They are a very effective tool for developers to use to identify problems with their games, because the information comes directly from players who suffer these problems first-hand.

Tom Clancy's Rainbow Six: Vegas 2 has an achievement for completing the game on the hardest difficulty. I did it three times and still failed to unlock the achievement. I posted this problem on the Ubisoft forum and soon realized that other players had reported the same difficulty. Six weeks later, there was an update. I started the game from the beginning, made it to the third checkpoint on the first level and the achievement popped. It took a little time, but the problem was fixed -- thanks in large part to the forum.

Epic Games recently announced it will release a major update for Gears of War 2. This update will mostly address online exploits and issues, most notably client side hit detection on the shotgun in high-latency matches. That means that if you're playing in an online match and you are not the host (client side) and the connection is laggy (high latency), your shells will be more likely to hit your target. That makes me very happy, because I was getting tired of pumping rounds from the shotgun into an ugly Horde head only to have that player turn and take me down in one shot. Some of the issues in this Gears 2 update are a direct result of posts on their forum.

So if you are unhappy with a game, know that you have a voice in the forums. Support the forums with posts of things you would like to see fixed or improved. It works!

Sythbane Squadron contributor Fartknocckker is a longtime Xbox Live friend and ally of Sythbane. Fartknocckker is also an ace at shooters who will kill you and then politely salute you with an easygoing Southern gentility.