Archive for June, 2010

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Burying The Past One Man At A Time – Thoughts On Red Dead Redemption

June 30, 2010

After roughly 30 hours of gun-totin’, horse-wranglin’, Liar’s Dice playin’ fun on the Xbox360, I’m finally finished with Red Dead Redemption. Even so, I can’t say I’m entirely enamored with it, though I did enjoy myself quite a bit.

We've got a whole big fat world to see.

Admittedly, my anticipation for this game diminished somewhat when I heard someone I know describe it as “Grand Theft Auto with horses”. Nothing against GTA, but it just wasn’t my thing. What eventually wore me down in that game was the repetitive content and the aggravation involved whenever you failed a mission and had to drive back clear across town from where you respawned in order to redo it.

After a glowing review from Blue Kae, however, I decided I had to give RDR a try.

Thankfully, it had none of the things that made me feel so irritated with GTA. Nevertheless, I can understand the comparisons. Despite the setting, many of the mechanics remained very similar, and in some ways, that familiarity helped me jump right into the game. Mid-mission save points are also a godsend, and while some elements of the game still felt repetitive, I felt RDR provided a much better mix of activities and mission objectives.

The open-world concept is also intact, and players can choose to plow on through the main quests with John Marston or take him on a detour through a town to play some Black Jack, rescue damsels in distress, or help strangers complete various tasks. I loved the freedom and flexibility to do things at your own pace, and the ability to explore the beauty of the American frontier while experimenting with different actions to see how the in-game populace will react to your shenanigans. There are some consequences of gaining or losing a certain amount of honor or fame, and sometimes they can surprise you.

Playing John Marston was also very different from playing the protagonists of the GTA games. Here’s a man who has walked away from his life as an outlaw, and now going to great lengths to save his family. You’re still forced to do some pretty douchey things, but as some have already noted, it’s easier to sympathize with Marston because his intentions are honorable.

This was mostly why, as I’ve mentioned in an earlier post, I played my John Marston as a gentleman, leading to conservative gameplay as a result. It suffices to say, I always like to play “in character”, but at some point I did decide to loosen up a little, and by the VERY end of the game, I was a downright jerk. There’s another reason for this, but it has to do with the ending of the story, and there’s not going to be any spoilers here. However, I will say this: Anjin was right about his praise for the ending of RDR. I felt the pacing of the game took a bit of the poignancy out of it though, but nonetheless, I agree that it’s one that stays with you.

Now that I've been enlightened, this Jinx shirt makes me LOL.

When all is said and done, I did very much enjoy being a cowboy. After a friend of mine told me about the “poncho outfit” I’d be unlocking once I got to Mexico, I put it on and wore it every chance I got, walking around feeling like Clint Eastwood from A Fistful of Dollars. I reveled in driving cattle, breaking horses, dueling challengers, and hunting coyote. The one thing I didn’t do a lot was hit up the card-and-dice tables at the local saloons. I don’t much like gambling with my hard earned money, in-game or in life.

By the way, I have not done any of the co-op play, but if anyone is interested in trying it out with me, let me know.

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Girl Gamer Thoughts: Why Do I Feel Like A Quirk In Real Life?

June 29, 2010

I met up with my best friend last night, because for the last few months she’s been letting me use her basement to store some of my old junk — DVDs, CDs, boxes of books and comics and the like — and I was finally picking it all up. We don’t get to see each other all that often now, with me living downtown and her up in the suburbs, but there’s a reason why out of all my girl friends she’s my best friend, and why we stayed close even after so many years. She’s into a lot of geeky things just like me, and it was fun being able to catch up and talk about our interests.

This made me realize, that even though my site is called “MMO Gamer Chick”, most of the time I don’t actually feel like I’m blogging from a “girl’s point of view”. I mean, I’m female, but that fact has little to nothing to do with how I experience games, and for the most part I think my posts have been pretty gender-neutral (all right, we’re not counting the ones where I gush about my crushes on video game characters, okay?) Also, while I know a lot of female gamers out there have expressed frustrations about being treated differently in MMOs (e.g. being favored, patronized, or “let off easy”), I’ve been fortunate enough to have avoided all of that so far.

The truth is, when it comes to the matter of my gender, I’ve never been made to feel like I’m any more or less of the person that I am when I’m in a game, or felt the need to hide the fact that I’m female. In fact, I’ve always been pretty comfortable with being myself and expressing my love for MMOs in an online gaming environment, or even in the gaming community.

Real life is another story, though. We all know that the world is already filled with misconceptions and less than flattering stereotypes about online gamers. For example, a guildie of mine was once asked by a colleague if he also liked to play dress up and hold play fights in the park, just because he told him that he played World of Warcraft. In light of this, it’s no wonder that a great many people I know are actually reluctant to tell their real life friends or acquaintances that they like to play MMOs, for fear of being judged falsely thus.

Granted, it’s a little different when you’re a woman, because right off the bat, you already don’t fit the mold. That doesn’t mean I go informing everyone I meet of my geeky gaming ways, though. I don’t know why, but even as the number of female gamers continues to grow, the real world still treats us as a sort of aberration. It was worse a couple years ago when I still worked in a corporate office. All made-up and clad in my dress suit and high heels, I knew I didn’t look like a gamer because people looked at me like I just grew a second head when I piped up in a WoW conversation and told them my main was a level 80 feral druid tank. When you’re a girl, liking online games is like an eccentricity or something.

That said, it’s not so bad when I’m discussing games with men, because more often than not, after the initial surprise they’re just happy enough to chat about a shared interest. I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again: geeks are like the nicest people on the planet. Doesn’t matter where I am — in a comic book store discussing the origin of Supergirl, or chatting about the Star Wars expanded universe while in line for Carrie Fisher’s autograph at a sci-fi convention — they just make me feel at home, though 9 times out of 10 the person I’m talking to will still remark on how “strange” it is that I’m a female interested in this stuff.

Women, on the other hand, are another matter. First of all, I haven’t had much luck when it comes to finding other girl gamers in real life. Amazingly, none of my female friends play MMOs (in fact, many of them outright reject them with repugnance) and even my best friend with her geeky interests only plays console games that she describes as “aren’t intense”, like Rock Band. Thank goodness for the internet, because otherwise I wouldn’t have anyone to get excited with.

At best, my girl friends will think I’m weird but will still listen to me chatter on about MMOs and other geeky subjects while their eyes slowly but visibly glaze over with disinterest. At worst, they resent me because they think I’m into these “guy things” for the attention. The latter was especially the case in middle and high school (I know we girls can be catty at that age), but you know, it’s not my fault that boys always seemed to have the coolest toys. I still think that, even today. Earlier this year, one of my clients invited me over to his house and showed me his basement. The guy had a Captain America shield hanging on a wall as well as a replica of Thor’s hammer leaning by his computer. Thor’s friggin’ hammer. Now that’s something I can squee over, and I’ll take his “man cave” over a dream closet any day.

Don’t get me wrong, I’m into a lot of girl stuff as well. The aforementioned office I worked in was a place dominated by young women, and I had my share of fun discussing things like Coach purses, Gossip Girl and the Sex and the City movie with my colleagues, not to mention how fifteen minutes of every Friday morning were always put aside to talk about how hot McDreamy was in the latest episode of Grey’s Anatomy. But I get excited over geeky things too. Yet when it came to certain topics that I’m personally passionate about — stuff like comics, sci-fi and fantasy, and of course, MMOs — I kept my mouth shut. For one thing, I wasn’t confident that I actually wanted the people I worked with to know about my love for online gaming, and risk having them see me differently. And secondly, I was 100% sure none of them would know what the hell I was talking about anyway.

Often, it made me feel like an outcast among members of my own gender, and it’s probably why growing up I’ve always had more guy friends than girl friends. Maybe only other girls can understand this, but some part of me is always yearning for more female company. Most of the girl friends I have now are wonderful to hang out with and we’ll have lots of fun talking about girly stuff…but if only they’d get excited with me too when I blather on about my progress in Lord of the Rings Online, or when I nerdgasm over Star Wars: The Old Republic! Or at the very least, you know, not think I’m a freak because of it. I’m grateful I have my best friend, but sometimes I really wish I had more girl gamer friends in real life.

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Road To Rivendell

June 28, 2010

Summer days usually mean less game time and more time outdoors, but this weekend, I stayed in the whole time. I didn’t have much of a choice, since I live in the heart of downtown Toronto and, well…anyone who’s been paying attention to the news would know that things have been pretty insane in my city for the last few days, not to mention that the detention center holding the 600+ people who were arrested is literally just down the street from my house, complete with protesters and riot police. Holy crap, was that tear gas?

Anyway, amidst the chaos and confusion, staying indoors and avoiding the G20 mayhem was for the best. It did make for quite a productive gaming weekend, though; I got many new levels for my Tauren warrior in World of Warcraft, I’m almost finished with Red Dead Redemption, and best of all, I finally made it to Rivendell in Lord of the Rings Online! And geez, I thought High King’s Crossing was impressive.

I definitely thought it was worth a post to detail my experience, seeing as how I’d been looking forward to this for a long time. Also, from reading around, I get the impression that reaching Rivendell is a milestone of sorts. Hell, even if it isn’t, I’m going to make it so.

Getting to the home city of the Elves was a harrowing experience in and of itself. Even though I was given a quest to meet Aragorn there, it became immediately clear that I was way under-level for the zone. The quest log advised traveling only during the day and sticking to the main roads, but I was nonetheless molested by all manner of hostile wildlife on my journey there. There was also a brief moment of panic where I lost my way (I’m directionally challenged in the most severe sense) but it was all worth it when I finally emerged from the forest to the view of the beautiful valley before me.

I made it! I made it! I made it!

The beauty of Rivendell is everything people said it was going to be and more. Seriously, at this point I’m really starting to contemplate a series of “photo travelogue” posts for this game, much like I did for Age of Conan, because with the rest of the Trollshaws, Misty Mountains and more still to come, somehow I don’t think the pretty surroundings are going to end here.

Speaking of which, there’s plenty more where that screenie came from, so you’re just going to have to bear with me, you poor, poor bastards.

I may be completely off-base here, but that’s the river Bruinen, I think?

The Bridge of Rivendell…

The Spire of Meeting…

The Last Homely House…

Again, I’m sure that there are many stories associated with these landmarks that are lost to me, but that’s not going to stop me from appreciating the significance behind Rivendell. The sights and sounds of this gorgeous city provided a much needed respite from all the craziness that was happening this weekend, and I was also pleasantly surprised to see the whole gang — Gandalf! Frodo! Bilbo! Boromir! Elrond! Sexy Aragorn! Turbine’s attention to detail continues to amaze me, and now I’m really glad I pushed myself so hard to get over the Lone-lands and North Downs hump.

This is the farthest I’ve ever gone in this game, and by all accounts things should start picking up from here on out. While I’ve been hopping in and out of different MMOs lately, I think it’s pretty obvious that LOTRO has become my main focus. I’m not going to deny that the idea of experiencing content I’ve never done before is a powerful draw for me, and being able to see new things is always good motivation to keep playing.

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Another One For The Backlog (Curse You, Steam, Curse You!)

June 26, 2010

With my busy schedule and an impending move on the horizon (not to mention the backlog of games I still have yet to play), I really, really shouldn’t have been checking out Steam’s Perils of Summer Sale. Curiosity got the better of me though, and I went to take a look, promising myself that I won’t get anything.  But that was before I saw The Witcher Enhanced Edition for sale for $6 and change, and well, I just couldn’t help myself.

This is one of those RPGs I’ve always wanted to play, but never got the chance. I have no idea when I’ll be able to get to this but I figured it couldn’t hurt grabbing it at this awesome price (I found it interesting that Victor also went through a similar thought process when that game caught his eye, I guess great minds think alike!) just to have it now and decide when to play later. Also, the development of The Witcher 2: Assassins of Kings has also been on my radar screen ever since fall of last year, so getting the first installment out of the way is definitely on my to-do list (whenever that may be).

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Red Dead Shenanigans

June 25, 2010

I guess I haven’t mentioned it on my blog yet, but I’m currently playing Red Dead Redemption on the Xbox 360. I was going to wait to borrow it from my brother, but he was taking a really long time to finish and with everyone I know raving about the game, I just couldn’t wait. So last week, I traded in Alan Wake for it.

Anyway, I met up with my brother earlier this week, and we started trading RDR stories. Before I go on, I just want to mention that my brother is actually a really sweet guy in real life, but he can be a right bastard when it comes to video games. Games like Fallout 3 and RDR appeal to him a lot, because it gives him the chance to do these messed up things. So he asked me the other day if I’d had the chance to lasso and hogtie people yet. I said, “Sure.” He then asked if I’ve tried dragging tied up prisoners behind my horse. I was like, “Yeah, there’s even a statistic in-game that tracks it, but it’s not like something I relish in.” In fact, I’ve been playing pretty conservatively, doing things quick and clean, avoiding trouble with the authorities if I can help it. My John Marston’s a gentleman; he does some things because he has to, and he’ll put a bullet in the head of anyone who wrongs him…but at least he’s polite about it.

My brother, on the other hand, not so much. He went on to tell me how he lassoed and dragged this one bandit a few miles out of town, hogtied him and then placed him in the middle of the railroad tracks. He then sat back and waited patiently for the train. “Well, no doubt the scumbag had it coming,” I said, “but isn’t that just a tad sadistic?”

But apparently, that wasn’t it. “For some reason, there was this nun walking down the road,” my brother told me with glee. “She stopped to check him out. Then something must have bugged or something, because she just stood there with him on the railroad tracks. When the train came, the nun and the bandit both exploded in this huge cloud of red mist!”

Granted, I probably don’t experiment as much as I should when it comes to these sandbox-y type games, but seriously, sometimes I can’t believe I’m related to this guy. Feel free to share your RDR shenanigans if you have any. While I’m not inclined to get into too much craziness myself, it always impresses me to hear how much freedom and flexibility this game allows.

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Toy Story 3

June 24, 2010

Unrelated to gaming, but this movie affected me in a way I haven’t felt in a long time. On the surface, just another fun and innocent kids’ movie…but under all that runs a more thoughtful and poignant message. This one will appeal to people of all ages, and I highly recommend it.

Watch it in 3D too, if you can. Not that I’m buying into this 3D trend, because I’m not. But if you’re a softie like me, those stupid-looking 3D glasses are great for hiding the tears you’ll no doubt be crying (or struggling to hold back) by the end of this movie. I can’t think of a more perfect and touching end to a story that began 15 years ago about a boy and his toys. And as our world continues on its path into the digital age, I’m reminded of a time in my life when things were much more simple, a time when a box full of toys meant the world at my fingertips, or when the feel of my favorite stuffed animal in my arms was enough to bring a smile to my face. We grow up, lives move on, and things get thrown out or lost along the way, but the memories of our childhood possessions and the joys that they brought us stay with us forever.

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In Honor Of The Kings Of Old

June 23, 2010

The Lord of the Rings Online never ceases to amaze me. Just when I thought the sights couldn’t get any better…

Wow...

Longtime players of LOTRO will probably look at this and go, “Oh, yeah, it’s just High King’s Crossing.” But for a newcomer like me, the first time seeing this landmark was truly an awe-inspiring experience, from the very first moment I caught a glimpse of the statue’s head looming over a hill in the distance.

Riding under the statue’s gigantic base, I felt a passing sense of shame knowing this is probably yet another one of those important landmarks I really should know a little more about. Ever since finding out that I climbed Weathertop for the first time with its significance completely lost on me through the whole thing, I’ve wondered how much more of this game has gone right over my head without me realizing it. Admittedly, my very limited knowledge of Lord of the Rings lore pretty much ends at the Peter Jackson movies, The Hobbit, and what I actually managed to get through of the literary trilogy, which sadly, is only Fellowship and half of The Two Towers before giving up and watching the animated film instead. In my defense, my philistine self was only 11 when I attempted the books, old enough for the vocabulary, but perhaps still too young to appreciate the nuances in the writing. I do plan on one day revisiting the entire trilogy again…after 15 years, perhaps it’s finally time to stop putting that off.

Anyway, to everyone who suggested that I should check out Evendim, I want to say thanks! There’s so much to explore in this game; I have a feeling this zone would have eluded me a while longer if I hadn’t been given advice to venture north of the Shire (having not picked up any breadcrumb quests to take me there, methinks I would have gone straight on to the Trollshaws.) After languishing for days on end in the Lone-lands and North Downs, Evendim proved to be a breath of fresh air.

Night-time shot.

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