Just when you thought WoW gaming gear couldn’t get more geeky

$160 for a new headset?

Yup, the clowns over at Creative think it’s just about time to take your hard earned paper route money for their over the top ‘l33t’ headphones.  And you thought we were in a recession!?!

So what does $160 in dedicated WoW headphones get you other than repelling any chance your gonna get laid by your girlfriend (unless she’s an emo Blood-elf herself)? 

Supposedly you can mod the translucent lens on the earcups in either Alliance or Horde motifs straight out of the box (like anyone cares), and there are LEDs which are programmable in 16 million color combinations via an ingame setup….but then I ask, “Who the hell is gonna see this anyway?”

There is a noice-cancelling mic that is also detachable and the headset itself is wireless and offers THX TruStudio sound and is rechargeable via USB.  There’s even a voice modulation element that can change your ingame voice to sound like various races/factions in the game.  Female Orc?  Male Tauren?  Ultra gay?  Oh, and what about the additional detailing including Frostmourne runes around the earcup?

But $160?  Well, if you have money to burn and you must have, go over to the Creative homepage and get your preorder on now.  Loser.

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Star Trek Online (Beta) – First impressions (prologue)

After some initial wishy-washy, going back-and-forth within my own head thoughts, I plunked down a bit of cash to secure myself a copy of Star Trek Online when it releases in a few weeks, and thus also securing myself a spot in the current ‘open beta’ test the that currently going on for the next few days.

So why this MMO?  Well, Bioware’s “Star Wars” is at the very minimum a year away, and as these things go I won’t be surprised if it is delayed even beyond that.  Of course, with Bioware backing that one and it’s history of great RPG styles games going on for over a decade, everyone has their eyes salivating for this one.  Could SW:TOR be the first ‘real’ challenger to WoW?  We’ll see.  I’m pretty confident that it will be much better than SOE’s attempt at the Lucas’ universe that Star Wars Galaxy: An Empire Divided will ever be.  That has to be my own biggest personal let down in gaming.  I had such hopes for that one, and pretty much from day one it was plagued by bugs, major sweeping gameplay changes, and not delivering on promises it made, it left a sour taste in my mouth.  What’s left of that game today (SWG) looks nothing like how the game was introduced years ago, and I can’t help but think how much money I threw away on a subscription that just wasn’t fun to play anymore.

The last two MMO’s I’ve been playing is the aforementioned Blizzard’s “World of Warcraft” which is fun, yet can be a grind most of the time (and to be honest, fantasy genre’s aren’t my favorite) and NCsoft’s (aka Cryptic) “City of Heros/Villains”.  When CoH first came out, practically 5 years ago, I loved it almost immediately.  I really took to my first created character and was proud to work on his backstory and build him up, level by level in Paragon City.  Then came the expansion CoV which was fun in it’s own right, although one could say it was very similiar in premise to CoH (I guess one could argue, “Why wouldn’t it be?”) with just some re-skinning of powers and costumes, but it gave players the ability to live out some sort of muted sadistic and anarchistic fantasies in classic comic book faction.

However, after a couple of years, it just seemed to lack any further innovation.  I give NCsoft/Cryptic a lot of props though: they actually opened up a new genre (superheroes) instead of the tired and overplayed orc, dwarf, goblin stuff that every other developer for a time thought players wanted.  Yeah, it just got a little stale after a few years, and while they added things like bases and lairs (which never worked out the way developers intended), a ‘crafting’ element, and new badges….the graphics and missions/quests began to seem dated, and the game resorted to the same ‘world eveents’ at regular intervals, and at least to me, began to feel like ‘been there, done that’ most of the time.  They did have some awesome instances and Task Force missions, although a bit long at times to have a whole team stay intact until the very end.

I won’t even get into WoW.  Most of you know what’s that’s like, and I still play it, but I’m currently on break from it right now until I get the urge to get back into it again.  That too can become a grindfest at times, and I’m pretty tired of some of the missions.  Although my main Paladin is only lvl 74 right now, even after owning Lich King for a year.

Anyway, I’m getting way off track here.  Back to Star Trek.

So after seeing some online movies of the game in which the space battles and ship models won me over, I began to read a few player takes on their beta experiences and I was intrigued.  The idea of a space based genre MMO in an established franchise by the developers who did CoH/CoV and Guild Wars pretty well mitigated the risks of it being really ‘sucky’.  Most, not all, but most games based on Star Trek tend to blow and I’m not sure why.  There is so much potential and lore and characters and created history, I can’t begin to understand how many developers in the past blew it…or just didn’t get Trekkers/Trekkies.   Dare I say that the Star Trek experience goes way beyond just big ships and Klingons?  It is about exploration, strange new worlds, new civilazations, etc., etc.

Now will STO capture this?  Hard to say right now only having played the beta a few hours (more on that later).  I can see the potential, but there are parts that already feel like re-skinned WoW or CoH missions.  But the space battles are HELLA cool and very pretty.

NCsoft/Cryptic/Atari also went full out on the pre-order exclusives.  There are a ‘TON’ of varying exclusives depending on where you made your pre-order.  Tribbles or Targs for pets….”KHANNNN” emotes….exclusive uniforms or ship equipment….Borg as a playable chracter…and of course if you got from GameStop/EB you get yoru grubby hands on the original Constellation class starship (of which Kirk’s Enterprise was).  Out of all these choices listed (and not listed), I went for the Constellation class starship and look forward to piloting a retro-enterprise in my adventures.

So I plunked my dollars down at GameStop and was granted a ‘beta’ key that I rushed right home to begin downloading….Mafia Wars and FarmVille be damned!!.

One thing right at the start, that was forgotten but quickly remembered, was how wonky the “signup/account creation/login” process still is with NCSoft.  After a few false starts and having to reset my password reset and resent to my mail account at least twice for who knows what reason I was able to enter my ‘key’ and begin the download process.

The download was over 7GB in size, and I’m sure so many people were hitting it up that evening along with my local ISP bandwidth issues after 6PM (as everyone is getting home to jump on their own PCs) it took right around 3 hours to download.  Thankfully the checksum was right on, as even though it was a lengthy download, I encountered zero problems so far.  The executable took another 10 minutes to unpack and install, and to my chagrin as soon as I got excited to begin my adventures and hit the ‘Play’ icon, of course another 800MB beta patch now needed to be downloaded and applied…..another few minutes.

Next: Initial impressions…..

Personal gaming journal #5

It’s been a really long time since I did any updates on the games I enjoy playing, so I’ll just give a quick synopsis of where I’m getting my feet wet again.  That is to say, I’m going a little retro lately, digging out some of my older 360 games, and even a much older PC game.  Why?  Well, I just can’t justify all the new $60 games these days and I know if I wait around long enough, they’ll eventually drop in price to something a bit more attractive to the pocket.  There are just so many big titles I’d like to get my hands on, but I am definitely discovering that ‘Platinum Hits’ is where it’s at.

  • Was able to pick up Guitar Hero: Aerosmith for $29.99 a few weeks back.  I can’t say I’m a big fan of them, actually, there are a few songs of theirs I don’t like at all, but there are plenty of tolerable ones plus the addition of other artists like Joan Jett and RUN DMC make it palatable and fun.  I’m about 1/2 way done on ‘medium’ difficulty and so far have racked up quite a few gamer points.
  • 1 vs 100 (Xbox Live) – I like trivia, and this beta has been going on way too long lately, but the gameplay is addictive and when it finally goes Live (gold) to win real MS points, I’ll be all over it.  I suck at sports question though, and up until those are being asked, I surprised how well I’m doing against other players.
  • WOW – Taking a break…need to recharge my batteries, but I think the frozen north is calling my name again.
  • CoH/CoV – Also taking a break. 
  • Fallout 3 ‘The Pitt expansion’ – Pretty good expansion with a few neat weapons.  There were some tense moments with the Trogs as they have the ability to seemingly jump out of nowhere and you need to be much more aware of your ammo supply than before.  A nice diversion, but really looking forward to getting ‘Point Lookout’ DLC.
  • Saints Row 2 – Not playing as much as I’d like because of the ‘mature’ content and my daughter hanging around way too much.  Fun little sandbox version of GTA4 I picked up also for $29.99.  Looking forward to playing this again soon.
  • GTA4 – Same as above with the daughter.  Was getting back into it and finally making some progress on the game just to put it back on the shelf until I get some alone time.
  • Brothers In Arms Hell Highway – Played the demo and I really like it.  I may pick this up soon as it’s currently going for $24.99. 
  • Tiger Woods PGA Tour 2010 – Lovin’ it.  I may give this it’s own post soon enough, it warrants it and I’ve barely scratched the surface of the content.  I jumped right into tour/career mode and working my way up.  Wind can be very frustrating to me if it’s over 15 MPH, and some holes just seem very random, but overall it takes me a good hour to play 1 round and I have some nail biting moments and get very excited when I do a fabulous shot, and very hard on myself when I shoot a crappy one.
  • Railroad Tycoon 3 – Totally retro Win 98 game I’m really getting into as well.  Graphics are a little dated at this point, but who doesn’t love playing with trains?  Deserves it’s own post as well.

Get your discounted Lich King strategy guide

Lich King strategy guide

Lich King strategy guide

If you’re a World of Warcraft fan like me, you probably didn’t waste any time getting your hands on the recently released expnasion, Wrath of the Lich King.

Because there is just so much going on anymore with all the classes, new areas, battlegrounds, dungeons and more, I opted to but the strategy book from Brady Games.  I purchased the original guide after the original game dropped and even today I still use it as a valuable resource guide when I’m not using Wowwiki or Thottbot.

Brady usually does a great job in putting out a very detailed and colorful guide, especially for large games.  There are always a few minor mistakes, and you can’t blame Brady as the developer always tends to make last minutes changes and patches even after the game is released.

But if you’ve already dropped $39.99 for the regular edition of the game, or $69.99 for teh CE like me, you may not want to spend the $24.99 for the 352 page companion guide.  Well, you don’t have too.  I found that both Target.com and Amazon.com currently have the guide listed at $14.99 (40% or $10 off), and if you go to Borders.com and print out their ‘20% off any on item’, you can get it from them for $19.99. 

And if you don’t care about a slight bend or worn spine, you can even find some listed in the ‘used’ section of Amazon.com as well.  They are new by all means, but may have some minor cosmetic flaws.

Sadly EBgames and GameStop are selling it for full price (as of this writing).

One of the topics the guide covers is ‘Complete Crafting Coverage’, meaning every recipe for every crafting profession is listed in detail.  Whew.  That will be such an aide as I often forget where I can farm items and end up paying inflated pricing on the auction houses.

Personal gaming journal #4

WotLK CE

WoW: WotLK CE

It’s been a while since I did one of these.  Not sure why I’ve been saving this up for so long, or if you’re really interested in it or not, but the last few days I just find myself acting as excited as a giddy little school girl who just doesn’t have enough time to get my fix on.

Rock Band 2: Well, Harmonix finally released the 20 freebie songs if you registered with your RB2 code (inside manual). It was a whopping 540+ MB download, and that’s all I did so far…download them.  I was trying to rally my friends to come over this past Friday night to play, but I couldn’t pull it off.  I’ve been itching to play lately, but other things have been getting in the way.

Fable II: The first weekend it came out, I bought it and played pretty straight solid days on it.  Instead of taking the critical path like many players do and finish it in under 15 hours, I like to take my time and do many of the side quests, upgrade my character and explore.  I figure I’ve spent a total of 15 hours in game so far, but at my pace, perhaps am only about 50% done with the main story.  Unfortunately, I don’t think Fable II lived up to it’s hype.  While it is indeed fun, many of the quests do seem a bit repetitive, some tasks slightly mundane, and there are some glaring inconsistencies within the world of Albion and game mechanics.  In all seriousness I’d probably give this game a B/B-.  The good news is thous is that Lionhead Studios has announced that there will be some premium DLC headed this way soon, and I believe it may be free.  I’ll comment more in-depth about Fable II in a later post.

City of Heroes: My once favorite online game has been sitting on the sidelines for a bit now.  I have conflicting feelings on getting back into it.   Like any online game a person sinks so much time into, my superhero, Mighty Ra (champion server, lvl48) is very dear to my heart, and I have a hard time pulling the plug on my subscription right now.  But the fact of the matter is I haven’t felt NCsoft or Cryptic Studios has made any compelling content or world story arc to get me super interested any longer.  The latest issue, I believe #13, has been on hold for a bit now…well longer than a while…and doesn’t seem to offer much new content, basically changes to early level leveling mechanics, some PvP balancing, and improvements to bases (which no one really uses anyway….which is too bad.  Everyone was super excited when bases were originally announced, but once implemented, it doesn’t seem Supergroups use them the way they were originally conceived to be used, a shame really).  Anyway, because Issue 13 is delayed, that also mean Issue 14 is delayed as well.  Sigh.

Mercenaries 2: There is supposed to be some free DLC as well that was targeted to hit in October, but has been delayed.  It was rescheduled for early November, but as of today, it hasn’t hit yet either.  New skins will allow you to play as Barack Obama or Sarah Palin.  Now that Obama has been elected, I wonder if they have to change it, hence the delay.

World of Warcraft: Unless you’ve been living under a rock the past week, Blizzard released the second expansion, Wrath of the Lich King, last week to it’s 13M+ subscribers.  The regular edition is $39.99, but the collectors edition (CE) runs $69.99.  I waited to long to decide which one I wanted and so when it was released to the public, all the CE’s in the area have been sold out.  I’ve been checking Amazon on a daily basis and they have been sold out a week as well, allowing for crazy price gougers to sell new copies for as high as $150 a copy.  You can still buy the CE’s online, and after a week of waiting, my patience ran out, and I bought a copy from EBgames.  The one think I don’t like and is clearly bogus in my eyes is EBgames ‘justification’ to charge an additional $4.99 ‘special handling’ fee because the box is slightly larger than most PC games.  Total crap.  If Amazon.com and many other sellers can ship for free, or regular shipping charges, how EBgames says it costs an additional $4.99 for handling is beyond me.  Just a way to get another $5 out of people.  Well, in the end, they win, because I’m a sucker and I ordered one.  Total cost after tax and shipping – $80.79.  So I paid an additional $5 to save my from driving all over and wasting time walking in and out of stores.

So speaking of WoW, that’s been my big kick again as I’m really holding off on buying any new XBox games right now.  At least until Christmas is over.  In a nutshell, this casual player was able to get my human paladin to lvl 68 this past weekend after running two instances in the Burning Furnace and some questing in Blade’s Edge.  Also working on my blacksmithing skill (currently 245) and starting to make some ‘blue’ weapons and armor.  Having a lot of fun doing it as well.

I also worked on my level 34 Draenei priest yesterday, trying to get him to 35 in Desolace.  He also has professions in enchanting and tailoring.  Playing a priest can be difficult.  They don’t cause a lot of damage and armor is a bit low (priests are more known for healing abilities and as an aide in dungeons as the primary healer).  Makes for long questing as I don’t have enough money to outfit him with nice equipment.  Tailoring is also hard.  It’s difficult to make money early on with limited items to create, but now that I got to tailoring 100+, I just learned to make bolts of silk cloth, and items that use spider silk as well.  I should be able to create items, then enchant them, and put them on the auction house to get more money soon.  But this character (specced Shadow) is a slow grind.

An onslaught of titles for the 360

Whew….

It seems a damn busy time in the realm of console games for personal consumption over the next few weeks.  With so many A & B titles being released for my 360, I have no idea on which ones to grab first.  With the average price being $60 each to, I really have to be careful in my choices.  Hopefully for our 5th wedding anniversary, my wife will also be getting me a certificate for one of the store to help out.

So let’s see, what do I have to choose from:

  • Fable II: I loved the first Fable and had a blast completing it on my original Xbox.  I like the idea of revisting the world of Albion, especially with an AI dog as my companion and the co-op online mechanic.  Reviews of this game have been highly positive and a reads like a great solo casual RPG that isn’t overly complex.
  • Far Cry 2: I never played the original, but I like the idea of the open style sand box of a 20+ square miles of Africa.  The visuals look lush, and decisions really do count in the game and affect how you progress.  I also like the idea that the game never breaks for pauses if you need to look at a map or inventory….It’s all real time.  Explosions and fire mechanics look great.  Another highly reviewed game, although there is a comment about inconsitent damage to baddies.
  • Fallout 3: I never played the originals, so I’m a bit unfamilar with the Fallout universe, but hey, it’s Bethesda.  A lot of great hype is surrounding this game and the visuals I’ve seen are also fantastic.  Promises over 100+ hours of game play with a lot of RPG elements and special effects.  Can we sat VAT and PipBoy?  Yup…I’m in for this one.
  • GH-WT: Though I am just scratching the surface of my recent Rock Band 2, I totally play these games with my friends and can spend hours on the music rhythm genre.  Much more customization and a killer song list.  I’m also jonesing for the re-tooled guitar (bigger, badder).  There will be a lot of late night weekends coming up with my house band rocking the party soon.
  • Tom Clancy’s End War:  Voice controlled RTS set in the Clancy universe. ‘Nuff said.
  • Gear of War 2:  I may put this one on the back burner for now as I still need to complete the original GoW.  I figure I’m about 50% done on that one?
  • BIA – Hell’s Highway:  I’ll get this eventually.  Maybe when the price drops or it becomes a Platinum Hit.  Got above average scores and I enjoy that kind of strategic FPS’s.
  • Dead Space: Also looks good.  I like the story line premise, even though it may not be super original.  Reminds me of the original ‘Alien’ movie.  Already out and the user community says its a nail biter.  Maybe another I’ll wait for the Platinum Hit price drop.
  • Banjo Kazooie – Nuts & Bolts: I like the cheaper price point of $40 and it looks to be a fun ‘casual’ style platformer.  I’ve never palyed any of the Banjo games before, but I really like the ‘Lego’-ish aspect of collecting parts and building my own creations to solve puzzles. 
  • Call of Duty – World at War: Another in which I suppose I should finish CoD4 before I buy this one.  Although I’m tired of WWII games, it is CoD afterall, and the idea that it’s in a different theatre now…along with flamethrowers makes this look interesting to me.
  • Wrath of the Lich King: Okay, so technically not a console game, I do love my WoW and this will be a must buy on my list.

All the games I listed here either just came out this past week, or will be out before the end of November.  That’s a lot for such a small window of time.  Thankfully there’s nothing I really see on the horizon after November that I’m really stoked about as the games above (even if I end up getting 2 or 3) should keep me busy for many months to come.  My 360 will be very busy.

I think my top runners right now are Fable II, Fallout 3 and Guitar Hero: WT.   Now I just need to prioritize and come to the realization that a few will not be purchased until sometime in 2009, and hopefully by then, many of the prices will indeed drop.

Personal gaming journal #2

Well, overall it was a pretty ‘okay’ weekend in my gaming life.

Friday night I was able to play Battallion Wars 2 on my Wii for a mission which was pretty darn fun.  I actually played it twice.  The first time I got a rank of ‘C’, and then I immediately replayed it again concentrating more on speed and improved my rank to a ‘B’.  Looks like I’m about 33% done of the campaign right now.  My eyes were seriously bugging out afterwards as so much seemed to be going on over my 42″ plasma that I was afraid to blink.  Wore out my batteries too with teh nunchcuk attahcement, so for $9.99 at Target, I bought a rechargeable battery pack for a single remote that charges via a USB cable and port on the back of the Wii.

Saturday morning I was able to play Wow for almost two hours.  I played my lvl 46 undead warlock and got him up to lvl 47 in the Hinterlands.  It’s been so long since I played that toon, it took the first 45 minutes just to re-acclimate myself to the spells and skills he has.  Thank goodness for my Void Walker as my personal tank.  I also am having a hard time gearing up right now as I am either cash starved, or there’s nothing good at the ‘ole AH.  Also working on my engineering as well.  I discovered I need a lot of raw materials from other players as ingredients to make my own engineering stuff that the products I end up making are just too expensive for what they are worth by the time I’m done.  I need to do a dungeon crawl and really get some money or good drops.

Finally, I really started to dive into GTA IV over the weekend playing a few hours both on Staurday and Sunday and had a blast.  I have a few complaints with GTA though….One, I hate if you fail a mission, you need to start all the way back at the beginning forcing the player to drive the same sequence leading up to the mission over and over again.  I’m doing a mission for Faustin right now that I have to kill some guy Lenny on a subway platform on another island.  Well, you need to drive to that island from where you pick the mission up from Faustin/Dimitri and actually do the mission.  If you fail (which I have), then you need to drive that whole sequence again and again.  Boo.  Second, even though it has an autosave feature, I hate that I have to go to my safe house and park my car in a special spot in order for an ‘actual’ save.  Lastly, the driving controls overall are wonky in the early part of your career and the traffic AI is bad.  NPC cars often don’t know how to make turns, or really get confused at merging intersections.   Putting that aside, the game really is beautiful the more I play it and truly feels epic and huge and living and breathing.  I’m gonna learn to love this game soon.  However, some of the achievents are ridiculous…like killing 200 ‘Flying Rats’ (aka pigeons) strategically placed throughout the city and this counts toward the 100% game completion achievment as well.  Seems a bit steep, and even more so for a casual gamer.

I had a coupon for 25% of off any one items at Borders, so I bought the Brady strategy guide for GTA and it ended up being $16 and some change.  Kinda pissed that Amazon has it for 32% off ($13.59).  Borders really isn’t a bargain despite all their coupons and promotions.  I can almost always find it cheaper elsewhere if I spend all of five minutes looking elsewhere.