Wednesday, March 29, 2006

DS vs PSP vs ? (Update #1)

I've been trying to decide if I need another handheld gaming system. My choices are either a PSP (which just dropped in price) or a DS Lite (which isn't for sale yet). This is what I'm weighing:

Pro: It's not another Nintendo; UMD movies; Some good games; Wireless net browsing; Putting stuff on Memory Sticks; Larger screen
Con: Will I really watch a UMD movie? (It would help if they had director commentaries); Not very many good games; Small screen wireless browsing doesn't work very well (or at least not on my PDA); GTA:LCS will be out on PS2 soon

DS Lite
Pro: Some good games out there; Cheaper than PSP; Plays GBA games; Is brighter even then new GBA; Mario, Zelda, and Pokemon games
Con: Touch screen; Nin still hasn't really figured out if it's in the game or not in regards to videos; Sort of feels like just another Gameboy

Well, the debate goes on. I'll have to get serious when the DS Lite is actually released over here.

Update #1

Out of all my posts, this one has actually resulted in responses (one I accepted, the other I didn't). As for who "won", I will be getting a DS Lite in June. It has better games (I think) and, while I will admit the PSP is a good unit, some of it's lesser features (load times, battery life, etc) make me less interested.

Wednesday, March 22, 2006

Journey into Oblivion

This is my first attempt at a running account of a single game experience. (It's also my second attempt at making a blog entry today - don't ask. :P) I've been looking forward to TES4:Oblivion for a couple of years now and yesterday was finally able to get my hands on it thanks to a Fry's special price of $37.99. For me that's a lot to spend on a game - I'm normally a cheap bastard who waits for the games to drop in price. But patience be damned!

Picking the box up in the store I was a little disappointed that it came in only a standard box - the type you just empty and toss. I much prefer the plastic case type box some of the other companies are using. I couldn't help but think that the release push had mandated these flimsy boxes as the only choice the marketing department had. Oh well. At least they only tried selling a PC-DVD version.

Opening the box at home produced another small wave of disappointment. While the manual and map looked ok (maybe a little too small and shiny for an RPG game), the disc came in nothing more remarkable than a paper sleeve. There was an insert advertising the mobile edition of the game which, bearing in mind the steep system reqs the game has, made me laugh. Yep, your desktop system might not be able to run Oblivion, but you can run it on your mobile phone! What I didn't see surprised me even more - no CD key! Very strange in these days of anti-piracy paranoia. I had expected something even if it wasn't as restrictive as HL2's online reg system.

As time was a little short, I was mainly interested in just getting the game installed. Game installs these days can take hours so I knew this was no small task. When I put the disc in, I was first greeted with an ATI install screen. WTF? A couple of retries showed that it wasn't an error. Apparently, this game first checks your graphics driver environment and if you have ATI Catalyst Control Center it will replace it with ATI Control Panel. This is before ANYTHING about Oblivion comes up on your screen. I checked the disc's root directory for a README that might explain this but didn't find one. As aborting the uninstall/install of the ATI software caused the whole install to stop, I didn't have much choice but let it have it's way with my system.

After the ATI stuff, the game install started and I have to say looked pretty cool (menus looked like parchment and were very simple). It took about 45 minutes (I think) to do the whole install. At the end, it asked if I wanted to put an icon on my desktop and....if I wanted to read the README file. Oh well. What I saw in the README, btw, was lots of stuff about how to turn off various graphics features to speed up your game. Given my borderline system, this might not bode well.

Tonight - I actually will try to run the game! Stay tuned!

** Update #1 **
Well, it runs without crashing (so far, anyway) which is more than I can say for most of the people on the Oblivion forums. It didn't think much of my P4 2.3ghz and Radeon 9800Pro, starting me off with a 640x480 resolution and most of the graphics features turned off. First thing I did was to defiantly bump it up to 800x600. Take that!

Opening sequence had beautiful music...and Patrick Stewart!

I created a character using the character creator program which makes some of the homeliest humans outside of a Neanderthal tribe. It also lets you choose from a whole host of species which I find a little odd. If you are fated to be in this adventure, how can you not be a specific character? It's one thing if you are entering a world like FFXI as just another citizen, but here you have a role to play. Probably just picking nits. Anyway, the humans or Imperials are still ugly - especially the women. My first character is named Harry, but I'll probably make a new one with a better name.

My next problem was one of control. Basically, I had none. The game won't recognize the right thumb stick on my gamepad and trying to use the keyboard blows. Left shift for run?? Yes I can change these, but I'd rather use a game controller. So, today I bought a Xbox 360 controller and a device from Fry's that let's you put an Xbox controller on your PC. If I can get one of these to work, I'm in business and I'll show those rats that I know how to wield a dead captain's katana.

** Update #2 **
Ok, nothing's working now. The Xbox controller adapter was a disaster (the hub was recognized but not the controller) and the 360 controller didn't work any better than the Logitech (ie, not right thumbstick). Worse, the drivers for the 360 unit basically locked up after I ran the configuration utility. BTW, what the heck is a Z-axis on a gamepad?

The forums are going nuts with people having all kinds of problems, mostly video related but I saw a couple of people who had the same problem as me. I really think my best bet is to hold off trying to play this anymore until Bethesda releases a patch. Lots of other stuff I can do in the meantime.

** Update #3 **
Not being able to just ignore the game, I decided to keep trying to get the controller working over the weekend. And after finding a post on the forums, actually did get the controller to work like it was supposed to (turned out it was a change to the joystick sensitivity parameters in the .INI file - who knew?). HOWEVER, all is not perfect yet. Since the game still requires you to use the mouse on menus, you have to keep switching between the gamepad and mouse. This is leaving me to think I will go back to the old numeric keypad I have and see if that works better. At least I figured out a good name for my character - Bryne.

** Update #4 **
Last night I started playing Oblivion for real. Turns out the keyboard and mouse method works pretty well. I still need to work out a few details (like how to swap between ranged and melee weapons), but I think Bryne is on his way.

** Update #5 **
Played some more last night. Just exploring more of the underground area you start in, but I did kill my first zombie! Using magic on rats is fun, but after our recent home issues, fighting rats makes me a little jumpy. The weapon swapping thing works well, but I wish I could sell some of this extra stuff and lighten my load.

Friday, March 03, 2006


I almost never get a game when it is only a day old, but Black was an exception (Oblivion will probably be too, but that's later in the month lol). Made by the same crash-happy folks of Burnout lore, Black is as advertised - gun porn! The manual could be a single page describing what the buttons on the controller do and even that you can figure out fairly quickly. It is a game devoid (I'm happy to say) of subtlety. The room you start the first mission in has a closed door. I must have spent 5 minutes trying to figure out how to open the door. Aside from getting familiar with the controls, I wasn't able to budge it - so I shot it with the shotgun. Oh, that's how you do it! Well, duh! Black is for folks whose favorite movie scenes are the lobby scene from Matrix, the camp attack in Predator, and all the stuff in Navy SEALS that doesn't involve Michael Bein's love interest. I particularlly like the fact that cover can be shot away, although the grenades could have been done a bit better - I can't figure out how to throw them any distance. I managed to get through the first level on Easy on my first try, but it was touch and go a few times. This is just as it should be. I recently tried a demo of something called Ubersoldier, but the game didn't let me get out of the first room without dying. That pretty much killed any interest I had in it. I want to do max damage in a FPS and see plenty of carnage - but not of my character! I'm glad I didn't wait for this one to go any farther on sale.