Thursday, August 24, 2006

How's it going, eh?

So, I'm in Toronto for a conference and Hertz gave me a Lincoln Towncar to drive around.

This thing is a monster. I don't know why anyone would buy a car this size -- I have to do a 3 point turn everytime I pull out of a parking space. It's longer than our minivan, and has the turning radius of a space satellite. Ugh. As if that's not bad enough, it gets 17 miles to the gallon, so you get to have that on your conscience each day as well.

It's clear I don't know what driving big cars is all aboot.

Speaking of being out of town, we've starting using Skype with a minicam so that I can videoconference with Karen and the kids -- cool! The kids get to make funny faces at me (which apparently never loses its luster), and (other than some audio problems last night) it's a lot easier for the kids to talk to me in front of a computer than on a phone (though Carson seems to have picked up on the whole phone thing quicker than Tyler). And, of course, it's completely FREE, even for international calls. Looking forward to using this in St. Kitt's.

Thursday, August 03, 2006

My list of the Top 10 video games of all-time

My opinion only - doesn't include any great games that I haven't played myself. And obviously I don't play every genre of game -- for example first person shooters and team sports games hold no interest for me, yet they are probably the two most popular genres overall. I'd rather mow the lawn in August than play Madden NFL 2006.

1. Fable (XBox)
It's hard to put my finger on what exactly made this game such a blast. The thing that made the game unique was that you decided whether your character was good or evil based on the decisions you made throughout the game, and that was certainly cool. But it still would have failed if they had don't basically everything else right in the game - the visuals, the voice acting, the pace, everything. I've played it all the way through 3 times, and I'm sure I'll be playing it again. Bring on Fable 2!

2. Civilization (PC))
The original turn-based strategy game and still the best. This is the kind of game where you'd find yourself muttering at 3 a.m., "...just one more turn...just one more turn..." The sequels have also been excellent, but there's still a special place in my heart for my first time.

3. Elder Scrolls IV: Oblivion (XBox 360))
Wow. The scale of this game is simply massive, yet unlike the previous Elder Scrolls games, you don't ever feel lost and aimless... and it also seems to be much less buggy. I would find myself exploring the mountains in the game just because you never know what you're going to see around the next vista, and yet the combat and quests are engaging as well. Only a couple minor warts kept this from being #1 on the list.

4. Shining Force II (Nintendo NES))
This was an old school RPG in the mold of Final Fantasy, yet superior in every way, IMO. In particular, the turn-based combat included moving characters around the field of combat, which was shockingly addictive. I discovered this game in grad school and I remember playing it 18 hours a day through Christmas break. To this day, I still haven't found a similar game that is as good.

5. Warcraft II (PC))
I thought this was a pretty good game... then I started playing it online and lost several months of my life. I literally had to give the game up because it was affecting my performance in grad school. Complete obsession. I was in California and I'd partner with a buddy in Indiana to go up against other teams, and every time out it was a thrilling experience with the outcome in doubt. I got really, really good at it (I once took on five newbies single-handedly and they didn't stand a chance), yet there were still plenty of guys online who could crush me without breaking a sweat. The range of skill from newbie to master was enormous.

6. Grand Theft Auto III (PS2))
Forget all the silly media attention this game got because it dared to be unrepentently targeted at adults - this game was successful because it was fun. Tons of missions that were actually challenging, tons of cool stuff to explore, tons of interesting characters... I was disappointed when I completed the game because I didn't want it to end.

7. Master of Magic (PC))
Another Civilization-style turn-based strategy game, it had crappy graphics and no story to speak of. But it was still loads of fun because it had a bunch of different races to play, each with special abilities and armies, and as soon as you finished one game you couldn't wait to start the next one with a different map and a different race to see what would happen next. It caused me to pull many all-nighters.

8. Might & Magic V: The Darkside of Xeen (PC))
In retrospect, this is kind of a hokey game. The graphics aren't 3-D, the story lines and quests were often silly, but this was the first computer RPG game I played that I really enjoyed. I played D&D when I was a kid and loved it, and I thought CRPGs were going to rock. But mostly they stunk... until I discovered M&M, which managed to be cheesy and enjoyable at the same time.

9. Tiger Woods PGA Tour 2004 (PS2))
This is the TW that introduced the Game Face feature, as well as tons of great courses to play. Developing your golfer was endlessly satisfying, and I feel like I know every nook and cranny at Pebble Beach. I recently got TW PGA Tour 2006 for the XBox 360, and what a disappointment -- there's only 8 courses now to choose from, and the Pro Shop system makes no sense. At least I waited till it dropped in price to $40 from it's original $60. I hope the 2007 makes up for it.

10. Grand Theft Auto: Liberty City Stories (PSP))
Okay, so this game is mostly a replay of GTA III, but what causes this to make the list is that I played it on the Sony PSP, and it's simply amazing to me what that little handheld machine is capable of doing. Obviously, given how much I loved GTA III, the idea of doing a sequel isn't a bad thing to me, and I would have paid money to play this on the PS2. But instead they did it on the PSP and it looks just as good as the original did on the PS2. I wish the PSP had more good games available, because functionally it's an amazing piece of hardware.