Monday, July 22, 2013

Packrats and Gaming

I am not a packrat... I am not a packrat

Some of you are probably already wondering what packrats have to do with gaming. Of course, I don't use the word in the literal sense; I am a self-professed packrat, but in a figurative sense. I generally loathe to throw things away despite the obvious fact that the item in question has generally outlived its usefulness.

I'm willing to bet many of you reading this can identify with this sentiment. We've all been faced with situations where we thought, "... if I'd only kept that so and so then I could have easily taken care of this." So somewhere in the back of my mind, there is a little voice telling me that someday a situation will present itself when this item would come in handy. So I pack it away against such a day.

This habit extends to my gaming as well. Over the past 8 years, I've picked up probably over 130+ console titles for my Xbox 360, and a good half-dozen for my PS3. I got the PS3 rather late in this console cycle so I haven't purchased as many titles for it. This in addition to some PC purchases, and I've got a pretty huge collection. In fact, I've been collecting games since the good ol' DOS days when all my gaming was done on the PC.

I am normally quite busy and don't necessarily have a lot of time for gaming. My gaming comes in spurts, sometimes on weekends but normally during long holidays. Still I regularly pick up highly rated games, again, against the day that I have enough time to play them.

I live in Taiwan, and the local distributors will only carry a limited number of newly released games due to the size of the local market. Unlike the US where you can order online or find older games in bargain bins, generally when a newly released game sells out here, you're not likely to see it again. So by necessity as much as by habit, I will pick up a good game even if I don't have time to play it right away.

At current count, I'm looking at about 100+ games I haven't played yet and next gen hardware is just around the corner. I'm not planning on buying a next-gen console this holiday season. There are likely hardware and manufacturing issues on these new consoles which will take at least a few months to iron out, so in all likelihood I'll probably bite by summer or fall of next year.

That gives me about a year to go through all these games, and there will still be more games to get before this year is out: XCOM Declassified, GTA V, the next COD and Battlefield 4, and titles which will come to both current and next-gen machines such as Titanfall and Bungie's Destiny.

I've got years and years worth of great games to go through and I'll certainly enjoy all of it, but this packrat mentality of mine certainly doesn't make things any easier for my gaming habit.

Sunday, July 21, 2013

Time in a Bottle

 I'll be back! (and other famous last words)

General Douglas MacArthur makes good on his promise to return to the Philippines during WWII

I return to my orphaned blog nearly two years to the day since my last post. At the time I had big plans for content and updates, mainly because of my own personal interests with regards to gaming and tech and specifically because I had a lot of time on my hands. I had always been a super-consumer of tech and gaming news, and I felt that I also had something positive I could contribute back to the the community in this regard.

I launched the blog with the intention that it would be my little corner of the web where I could occasionally climb up on my soapbox and talk about things that mattered to me and may also be of interest to a wider audience in general. I would post what I felt were newsworthy items, provide some analysis or commentary, and talk about games and tech. Although I only managed to squeak past a dozen posts, what is present is a good representation of the vision I had for my blog.

Then, REAL LIFE (tm) caught up with me and, well, we know the old saying about the best laid plans...


A blast from the past

Last night I had spent the better part of an hour revisiting my original posts and discovered that they made for a good time capsule. The posts covered a very short period of time, and they had captured what in my mind were newsworthy or discussion worthy items of the period in question. The intervening two years neatly encapsulated these posts and allowed me to view them with 20/20 hindsight.

In the quickly changing technology and gaming landscape, industry observers and pundits  alike have a hard time making predictions based on current trends with any amount of accuracy even months out, much less for a period of years. What I found most interesting about some of my posts, was how prophetic some of them actually turned out to be.

The next next-gen

On the matter of next-gen hardware, I think I got most of it right - much to my surprise. Back in 2011, much of the gaming press was still casting about trying to figure out when the next, next-gen was going to arrive. Estimates ranged from holiday 2012 all the way up to 2017. In my commentary and analysis of Nintendo's Wii-U, I predicted that both Microsoft's and Sony's next-gen consoles would be out probably by 2013 and latest by 2014.
I was also spot on regarding the Wii-U's (mis)fortunes to date. Nintendo's Wii-U sales have been lackluster and it suffers from the same issues facing the previous generation Wii - lack of content from third parties and first party developers - which I predicted would be a problem for Nintendo. And now that Microsoft and Sony are launching real next-gen hardware with lots of content during their launch windows this holiday season, I see the Nintendo ship slowly sinking under its own weight.

It's all about the games

I started this blog with an initial post on the XCOM reboot by 2K Games. XCOM is a series very near and dear to my heart and to the hearts of many gamers now in their 30's and 40's. It was a simple game to grasp, but like any good game it was difficult to master. There was a lot of concern with the direction that 2K was taking this franchise and I put in my two cents worth on what I thought 2K needed to do to to make things right with the XCOM fanbase. 

At the time, there was a lot of concern that 2K was going to make a shooter with the XCOM license but not provide the game with the strategic and role-playing elements that made the original XCOM series a critical success. In the intervening two years, 2K has reworked the original concept into The Bureau: XCOM Declassified, due out next month.

The Evolution of The Bureau: XCOM Declassified courtesy IGN

Recent trailers during and after E3 show a very polished third person perspective shooter, but with strategic and role-play elements necessary for a proper XCOM branded game. While the focus has changed from being the overall commander to that of a battlefield commander, the inclusion of real-time shooter mechanics create a more frenetic and fast paced game with a sense of real urgency. If anything, the real-time battles are even more visceral and immediate.

We even got an updated turn-based XCOM from Firaxis which came out of left field to become one of the best games of 2012. The first time I heard of this development was well into 2012 and long after I had stopped blogging; but just the same, I'm very glad Firaxis was able to create a modern XCOM game for the current generation of gamers, many of whom knew nothing about this seminal franchise.

Firaxis' XCOM Enemy Unknown gameplay, a modern update to a seminal classic

Looking back, I'm really quite amazed at how relevant some of my posts still are, two years after they were made.