Friday, November 16, 2012

A Case of the "Humbugs" Or: Taking Back Thanksgiving

Okay, so if you've ever lived in Minnesota for any extended period of time, you learn that we're very, very, VERY loyal to companies headquartered in our state.  Best Buy and Target stores are just about everywhere.  So now there's news that both Best Buy and Target will be opening on Thanksgiving day.  And this just made me mad.  Last year, stores were opening at midnight, and now we as a society have gone too far.  So I'm just going to say it.  I've developed a case of the humbugs!

Wednesday, October 24, 2012

Scrooge Alert! Lollipop Chainsaw for $20!

Don't let this guy ruin Juliet's day!
If you saw my review of Lollipop Chainsaw and still didn't pick it up, now is definitely the time to do so.  Amazon has it on sale for as low as $20 right now.  Go get it!

Wednesday, October 17, 2012

Playing for Free: League of Legends

If you haven't been gaming under a rock for the past couple of years, you've probably heard about League of Legends.  If you haven't played it,  you can sign up for an account here.  You may have heard about how passionate the community is, the cheating at last week's world championships, and the folks that drop an insane amount of cash into it.  But the game says, "Free to Play."  Is this a game that you can actually play without spending a dime? Over the past six months, I've been putting this very question to the test.  And now, I'm here to post my results.

Friday, October 5, 2012

Preview: MechWarrior Online Closed Beta Impressions

Some of you may have noticed that I've been away for a while and haven't spent much time writing about games.  Part of that was due to the Non-Disclosure Agreement I signed when I started trying a few games.  I've been in the closed beta for MechWarrior Online now for a little bit, and I've been holding back on gushing about it.  That is, until now.  The NDA has been lifted, so there's a lot to discuss on this little gem.  So, without further ado, let's get started!

Wednesday, September 26, 2012

Scrooge Alert! 10% off Mists of Pandaria! has a 10% off deal for the newly released World of Warcraft: Mists of Pandaria.  It's $36, down from the MSRP of $40.  Those of you that were thinking about getting it, this might be the tipping point.

Wednesday, September 19, 2012

Wishlist: Expanding horizons in Dance Central 3

Back in July, Harmonix teased a partial song list for Dance Central 3.  One of the included songs was "I am the Best" by Korean pop group 2NE1.  K-pop fans on this side of the Pacific unanimously jumped up and cheered for the arrival of cross-cultural songs in what is arguably the best game franchise on the Kinect.  But why stop there?  Harmonix stands to bridge the culture divide and broaden musical tastes.  Now, while the game is coming out on October 3, and probably has little room for adding songs now, there's always room for DLC.  If anyone at Harmonix reads this, consider these songs for DLC.  Seriously.

Tuesday, September 18, 2012

Welcome SuperPAC Listeners!

For those of you who stumbled upon Treasure Bin through the Super Podcast Action committee, Welcome!  You can read the AO rant here.  Also, check out my other rants while you're here.  Please enjoy your stay, and I'll see you around.

Wednesday, September 12, 2012

(BREAKING) Defaced has found its website defaced today.  The entire website appears to have been wiped clean, leaving only one folder: "index-cgi," which blocks access with a "403 Forbidden" error.

Tuesday, July 24, 2012

Review: Tony Hawk's Pro Skater HD

Players: 1 (2-4 online)

Rating: Teen (Violence, Blood)

Price: 1200 MS Points ($15)

Platform reviewed: Xbox Live Arcade

Back in February, I posted a "wish list" of what should come back in Tony Hawk HD and what shouldn't.  After sitting down in the career mode for five hours straight last Friday, I can safely say that there's at least a few people within Activision who share my sentiments.  Turn it up! Bring the noise!

Saturday, July 21, 2012

Scrooge Alert! Metro 2033 for $5!

Bourbon wants you to buy Metro 2033.  Go do it!
Those of you who read my review of Metro 2033 and didn't buy it now have no excuse to pass it up.  Green Man Gaming has the game available for PC download for all of $5.  Go do it, now!

Wednesday, July 18, 2012

Review: Dead Rising

Players: 1

Platform: Xbox 360

Rating: Mature (Blood and Gore, Intense Violence, Language, Partial Nudity, Use of Alcohol)

Back when the Xbox 360 launched, Dead Rising was one of the titles first available.  Zombies and shopping malls and a lawsuit from George Romero? Sign me up!

Wednesday, July 11, 2012

Off Topic: Why I kissed Facebook Goodbye

In the spring of 2006, I created my facebook account.  In May of 2012, I shut it down.  Why? Lots of reasons.  Mark Zuckerberg created an empire, that much is certain.  His little networking tool for keeping in touch with his classmates bloomed into a multi-billion dollar juggernaut, and finally went public this year.  Perhaps that's part of the problem.  The new facebook doesn't match the values and principles of the old, and it's slowly killing it from inside.

[Editor's note: this is the first of the off topic rants I mentioned in my "One Year Later" post.  While I could easily include gaming topics, I'm going to avoid that as much as possible during this rant.  I have enough material as it is...]

Wednesday, July 4, 2012

Review: The Conduit

Platform: Wii

Players: 1 (up to 8 online)

Rating: Teen (Blood, Mild Language, Violence)

Developer: High Voltage Software

Publisher: SEGA

Since this review is going live on July 4th, it's only fitting to do a "patriotic" game.  There's really not many examples of "modern" patriots in gaming.  Save, of course, for Michael Ford.

Wednesday, June 27, 2012

How to fix World of Warcraft

In the years since Blizzard released the MMO juggernaut World of Warcraft, the community has seen its share of ups and downs.  In the past year, WoW has shed roughly one million subscribers to various competing MMOs.  Now, with Mists of Pandaria on the horizon, Blizz is banking on more people coming back.  But what if they didn't need an expansion to accomplish this?  What if there were simple things that they could do to bring in more users and subscribers?  Here's my laundry list of ways Blizz can "fix" their aging titan.

Tuesday, June 26, 2012

Announcement: Ask Me Anything!

send your questions to
Have you ever wondered how I go about reviewing games? Do you want to make your own blog, but don't know where to start?  Well, now's your chance to find out!

Saturday, June 23, 2012

The Resurrection of Treasure Bin: One Year Later

Well, it was one year ago today that Treasure Bin got its face lift after two years of inactivity.  So, here's a look back on the past year, and looking forward to the next.

Wednesday, June 20, 2012

Review: Lollipop Chainsaw

Players: 1

Rating: Mature (Blood and Gore, Drug Reference, Intense Violence, Partial Nudity, Sexual Themes, Strong Language)

Available for: Xbox 360, PS3

Reviewed on: Xbox 360

Oh look, it's another Suda51 game!  Released last week, Lollipop Chainsaw has been on my radar for a while.  As always, Suda's trademark humor and art style are present from the very beginning.  But how does it hold up?  Actually, pretty well.

Monday, June 11, 2012

Review: Diabolical Pitch

Platform: Xbox Live Arcade Kinect

Players: 1-2

Rating: Teen (Violence, Blood)

Price: 800 Microsoft Points ($10)

When Goichi Suda announced Grasshopper Manufacture's work on an Xbox Live Arcade game designed with the Kinect in mind, reviewers and fans were a little stymied.  What could this "Codename D" possibly be?  Why, Diabolical Pitch, of course!

Wednesday, June 6, 2012

Getting Digital Distribution to be taken seriously

PC gaming has changed, just like war.  Developers have had to grow and adapt to the changing environment.  Some do better, some don't do so well.  However, there's still quite a bit that needs to be fixed.  If this is going to be the future, there's a lot that needs to be done.

Monday, June 4, 2012

Scrooge Alert! PS2 and GCN B2G1 at Gamestop!

Gamestop stores are running a buy 2, get 1 free special in all stores nationwide.  If you're missing a few gems, this is a great time to do it.

Wednesday, May 30, 2012

Retro Review: Digimon World

Players: 1-2

Rating: Teen (Comic Mischief)

Digimon sprang up right alongside the Pokemon revolution, and never really had the thunder that Pokemon did.  That said, BanDai made several solid titles around the Digimon franchise.  Digimon World, one of the first, is one of them.

Thursday, May 24, 2012

Metro Last Light teaser now online!

Those of you who saw my review of Metro 2033 yesterday will be interested in this little tidbit...

Wednesday, May 23, 2012

Review: Metro 2033

Platforms: PC, Xbox 360

Publisher: THQ

Rating: Mature (Blood, Sexual Themes, Strong Language, Use of Drugs, Violence)

Players: 1

Reviewed on: Xbox 360

Metro 2033 literally flew under the radar of most of the gaming communities when it came out in 2010. It's based on a Russian novel by Dimitry Glukhovsky, and set in a post-apocalyptic Moscow.  After playing it, I really wish I'd stumbled upon this game sooner.

Wednesday, May 16, 2012

What can we learn from Diablo 3 & and open letter to Blizzard

With all the hype about Diablo 3 as of late, it's been plagued by several issues.  What lessons should Blizzard take away from this?  In my book, plenty.

Retro Review: Area 51

Players: 1-2

Rating: Mature (Realistic Violence)

Reviewed on: Saturn, PS1, Arcade (Yes, I've played all three, and recently!)

If there's any genre that gets a ton of attention out of me, it's the light gun shooters.  There's something about the actual holding the gun and actually aiming that Call of Duty and Half-Life just don't do for me.  And Area 51 is quite probably one of the quintessential light gun games of the late '90s.  For a game that gave me the willies when I was younger, it really has its charms.

Wednesday, May 9, 2012

Review: Bayonetta

Japanese and US covers
System: Xbox 360, PS3

Players: 1

Rating: Mature (Blood and Gore, Intense Violence, Partial Nudity, Strong Language, Suggestive Themes)

Reviewed on: PS3

Bayonetta was on my radar screen for a while, though I had never taken the time to pick it up and play it.  Boy, was that a bad idea!  This little gem from Platinum Games deserves a look, if you haven't already.

Wednesday, May 2, 2012

Video Game Music: It's Finally Mainstream!

Game Music in general is reaching the point of being on par with movie soundtracks.  In some cases, they're even bigger than movie soundtracks.  Title themes from The Legend of Zelda and Final Fantasy have as much of a spot in the public conscious as Indiana Jones and Star Wars.  Hum a few bars of any of those themes, and you'll find a whole group of people who know what you're singing.

Ever since the advent of the home video game console, game music has become increasingly popular in the public eye.  And now, finally, video game music is reaching the point of mainstream attention.  In this rant, I'm going to point out some of the more ingenious musicians out there, as well as a few major works of art.

Monday, April 30, 2012

Announcing: Reader Contest!

So, I'm going to be closing on a house this Wednesday.  As such, I won't have nearly as much time for writing articles as I used to.  I'm going to schedule a few reviews for the next couple weeks, but I won't have time to work on the Top 5 lists.  So to fix this, and in celebration of hitting 10,000 page views last month, I'm going to have a little contest.

For the month of June, I'll post a Top 5 from my readers every Thursday for the entire month.  Send me your Top 5 lists about anything gaming related with a short blurb for each item.  This can be your Top 5 favorite games, your Top 5 games in a genre, your picks for bad boss fights, anything goes.  Send them to with "Fan Top 5" in the subject line.  If you have pictures in mind for your list, attach them to the email.  Otherwise, I'll dig up photos for you.

I'll post the best lists every Thursday.  Let's see what you've got!

Thursday, April 26, 2012

Top 5 Gamecube Games: The Runners Up

I had a hard time writing the last Top 5 list, primarily because there are so many awesome games on the Nintendo Gamecube.  I had narrowed down a top 10, but the other titles were so awesome that I couldn't just let them get lopped off. For that reason, I'm going to take this week's Top 5 to list numbers 6-10.

Wednesday, April 25, 2012

The Great Update Revolution: Is it really helping?

One of the modern trappings of video games is updates after a game has been released.  A lot of people cry foul when it comes to this sort of thing, and with good reason.  Online networks can only provide so much in terms of fixing stuff that's broken.  However, there's other underlying issues at play here.  Patches and updates are increasingly used to fix game-breaking bugs, and this is hurting the gaming industry in general.

Wednesday, April 18, 2012

Review: Xenoblade Chronicles

Platform: Wii

Rating: Teen (Blood, Mild Language, Partial Nudity, Use of Alcohol and Tobacco, Violence)

Players: 1

Xenoblade Chronicles has finally reached American Shores!  It's been over a year in the making, and about time.  I couldn't wait to dive into this title from the moment I picked it up.  And dated engine aside, it's got its charms.  For the readers across the pond in Europe, put up with us for a bit.  This game is new to us, even though it's a year old.

Thursday, April 12, 2012

Top 5 Gamecube Games

Now that Gamestop has officially cut off trade-ins on Gamecube games, it's time to go back and look at the best of an era.

Nintendo's Gamecube, originally, code named "dolphin," was a real underdog in the console wars.  Even so, there's still so much epic win on this console, that I suspect it will have its fans for quite a while.  Let's look back on the best of the best, from a console that hasn't seen a new game in five years.

Wednesday, April 11, 2012

Review: Naruto Rise of a Ninja

System: XBOX 360

Rating: Teen (Blood, Suggestive Themes, Violence)

Players: 1-2

With the most recent Naruto Shippuden game now on store shelves, I thought I'd go back and revisit an older Naruto game that deserves a lot more credit than it gets. Rise of a Ninja is a unique foray into the world of Naruto and his quest to become Hokage.

Wednesday, April 4, 2012

My voice is shot but that's okay: A look back on Anime Detour 2012

So, my voice is completely shot from the past weekend, where I volunteered on staff for Anime Detour.  Was it worth it?  Absolutely.  I'm taking a week off, in a sense, to talk about the awesomeness that was this past weekend, and show some of the awesome costumes.  Regular articles will resume next week.

Thursday, March 29, 2012

Top 5 Bad Ideas in Video Games

Thanks, XKCD!
Bad ideas seem to invariably start with a frat boy origin. "Guys, we should do this.  It would be totally awesome if we do this!"

And then, they fall flat on their face.  Every industry has its share of good ideas and bad ideas.  It just happens that the bad ideas in the video game industry are far more humorous than other industries.  Video games have had their share of gaffes, and some of these are worthy of making a Top 5 over it.  So, here's my Top 5 bad ideas in video games.

Wednesday, March 28, 2012

Review: Dragon Warrior Monsters

Platform: Game Boy Color

Rating: E for Everyone

Price: $12.00 - $35.00

There's a new 3DS coming out soon, and it's coming with a 3D re-render of the Game Boy Color classic "Dragon Warrior Monsters."  Since this is a classic game that inhabits so much of my childhood, I figure it's only fair to write a retro review about it.

Wednesday, March 21, 2012

AO Ratings: should they really be a kiss of death?

The Adults Only rating, or AO for short, has long been seen as a "kiss of death" to a video game.  Most if not all retailers will outright refuse to stock an AO game, and the rating itself is largely associated with porn, sex, and the most depraved violence out there.  But, perhaps the fear of an AO rating is doing more harm than good.  Here's a couple of ideas on how to make AO work, and where it can and should be used.

Thursday, March 15, 2012

Top 5 video games based on movies

Ah, the ever classic movie tie-in.  It's the bane of quality video gaming, full of rushed games and frustrating controls.  Every now and again, however, a shining gem appears out of nowhere.  Here's five of them, epic games based on movies.

Wednesday, March 14, 2012

Review: I AM ALIVE

Developer: Ubisoft Shanghai

Rating  M for Mature (Blood, Intense Violence, Sexual Themes, Strong Language)

Players: 1

Platform: Xbox Live Arcade (XBLA)

Price: 1200 MS Points ($15)

When I AM ALIVE was first teased at E3 last year, I was intrigued. What happens when civilization collapses?  Who do you trust?  TV series like Jericho and The Highschool of the Dead touch on this topic, but I AM ALIVE takes a slightly different approach.  Everybody loves earthquakes!

Wednesday, March 7, 2012

Still more reasons why DRM isn't working

Destructoid had an interesting comment thread in an announcement about Ubisoft games going offline for server maintenance.  With this downtime, legitimate copies of some of Ubi's biggest PC titles will be unplayable, even in the single player campaign.  Here's an excerpt from the article:

The affected PC games are HAWX 2, Might & Magic: Heroes 6, The Settlers 7. Those using a Mac will be unable to play The Settlers, Assassin's Creed and Splinter Cell: Conviction. Most other games will have their online modes unreachable for the day, although Just Dance 3 and Driver: San Francisco are said to be unaffected.

Understandably, people are less than thrilled about this.The comments in the Destructoid thread are funny, but they raise some good points.  This rant is continuing on the DRM rant that I posted a while back, and I'll be including some other topics that have come up since then.

Thursday, March 1, 2012

Five video games that were marketing ploys in disguise

As long as video games have existed, there has been someone looking to advertise in them.  Some companies go a step further, making a game that serves as one big advertisement.  Some of these games are surprisingly enjoyable, and others are notable in a historical sense.  So without further ado, here's five video games that were marketing ploys in disguise.

Wednesday, February 29, 2012

Review: Beat Hazard

System: PC (Steam), Xbox 360 (Xbox Live Indie Games)
Rating: N/A
Reviewed on: 360
Price: 400 MS Points (~$5) / $9.99 (Steam)

Now here's a game that makes me feel like a little kid again.  My dad got me started on gaming when I was three years old.  We played all the classics: Galaga, Centipede, Pac-Man, Asteroids...

Wait a minute...This game looks a lot like asteroids!  What's this? I can use my own music?  It's only $5 on XBL?  I'm sold!

That was more or less what I first thought when I saw this game.  As I sat down and tried it out, I found myself feeling more and more mixed.  I had a lot of fun with this game, but not without reservations.

Wednesday, February 22, 2012

Can you say Machoism?

~After writing last week's post, I asked OPP1123 for her take on it.  This is her response. *ddrfr33k*~

Alright guys, I'm not going to tell you the best way to not get laid. The first is recognizing that feminism is not man-hating, butch women who want to dominant society. The core definition of feminism according to Bell Hooks is "a movement to end sexism, sexist exploitation, and oppression."

This means that men can be feminists and the ultimate goal is not female domination. It also does not support reverse sexism where the society is dominated by females. That would be equally unhealthy as male dominated. Many gamers are violating my core beliefs holding that women are intelligent human beings who provide useful and highly valuable perspectives in work, school and home settings.

Thursday, February 16, 2012

Top 5 Light Gun Games

It's no secret that I have a serious penchant for light gun games.   Something about the actual pointing the gun controller on screen and pulling the trigger lends it a unique feel, something much different than most shooting games out there.  For that reason, I'm going to spend today's Top 5 on my:

Top 5 Light Gun Games

Wednesday, February 15, 2012

Misogyny in games: It's time to man the f*** up!

Okay, this is one article that I'm none too keen on writing.  Partially because it's so pervasive, but partly because I know I'd run my mouth in ways that are very NSFW.  But a post on IGN put me over the edge today, and I can't let this slide.  It's time to talk about the objectification of women in gaming.  There's too much testosterone in this industry, and it's killing any credibility gamers have.

Disclaimer: this rant will contain some seriously foul language.  Viewer discretion is advised.

Thursday, February 9, 2012

Reaction to the RIAA editorial

This post needs to be said now, not during my regular schedule.  I cannot let this one wait for a few weeks, because the moment of relevancy would be gone.  So for you, my lucky readers, you get TWO articles in one week!  You lucky people, you...

The CEO of the Recording Industry Association of America, Cary Sherman, recently wrote an editorial to The New York Times about the SOPA bill that was shelved after the Wikipedia blackout.  He makes quite a few claims which I'm going to pick apart.  Be advised, this rant will be full of bias and verbal lashings.  You have been warned.

Wednesday, February 8, 2012

Review: Terminator Salvation (Arcade)

Platform: Arcade
Genre: Light Gun (shooter)
Players: 1-2
Rating: Not Rated by ESRB (unofficial rating: Life-Like Violence: Strong)

Ever since that annoying dog graced the Nintendo Entertainment System back in 1986, the light gun genre has been as strong as ever.  Arcades across the country sported games like The House of the Dead, Time Crisis, CarnEvil, and others.  The light gun genre is a staple of the arcade experience, especially when it feels right.  There's something about teaming up with a friend and launching round after round into a seemingly unstoppable foe.  After most of the arcades dried up at the turn of the millennium, few companies have produced new games specifically for that arcade experience.  That said, Terminator Salvation was a total surprise when it came out in 2010, right alongside the movie.  Better whip out that machismo, boys! It's time to raise some hell!

Thursday, February 2, 2012

Top 5 Strangest Bosses

One staple of video games is the bosses.  They make for a great end to a level, and they serve to prepare the transition to the next level.  But every now and again, you'll run across a boss that makes you scratch your head, say, "what the f***?" and walk away.  With that in mind, here's:

Top 5 Strangest Bosses

Wednesday, February 1, 2012

5000 Pageviews? Booya!

I just now realized that I've hit the 5000 page view mark.  It's a small milestone, but thanks for visiting me here.

To many more 5000 posts!

Wishlist: What I want in Tony Hawk HD

He's back....
Now that Activision has announced a new Tony Hawk game coming to XBOX Live and Playstation Network, I feel compelled to point out to Bobby Kotick what worked in the classic Tony Hawk games and why their recent games sucked.  There's a plethora of topics that I can talk about, but I'm going to limit this one as much as I can.  So Mr. Kotick, here's what I want to see in Tony Hawk HD when you release it.  Please don't disappoint.

Tuesday, January 31, 2012

Scrooge Alert: Buy refurbished apple devices to save some serious cash

LifeHacker has a fantastic piece on buying refurbished apple products to save money in your wallet and still get kick butt technology.  I highly recommend you check it out.

Wednesday, January 25, 2012

Defending Duke Nukem Forever

I know it's been established that I'm completely and utterly insane.  However, this next post might actually put me in the looney bin.  I'm going to defend Duke Nukem Forever.


Too many people like to rail on the king with "balls of steel," and he doesn't deserve all the bad rap that he gets.  For that reason, I'm going to ignore all the bad stuff in DNF and talk only about the good stuff.

(Disclaimer: I have received no compensation by 2K games, 3D Realms, Gearbox Software, or anyone related to the development and publishing of Duke Nukem Forever.  I am simply stupid enough to write an article like this for the lulz.)

Thursday, January 19, 2012

Top 5 Creepiest Non-Player Characters (NPCs)

Non-Player Characters, or NPCs, are a staple of most single player games.  They can be hapless civilians, wizened teachers, or merchants willing to keep you stocked in exchange for a few coin.  As always, however, there will be at least a few characters that make you scratch your head and wonder what is wrong with them.  Here's my picks for:

Top 5 Creepiest NPCs

5. Christopher (Shadows of the Damned) 

Christopher is not so much creepy as he is misunderstood.  It's easy to brush him off as another demon at first glance, but he's got his charms.  I still can't forget that cut scene when you first meet him. Of all the faces he could have made, why did he have to choose this one?

4. The Merchant (Resident Evil 4)

"Geetings, Strange-ah!"  Just the way that he greets you is more than slightly unsettling.  When you factor in the firepower he's packing at some of his shops, you really have to worry that this guy isn't going to go on a murderous spree or fund people who will.  I dunno about this one, he just seems like a loose trigger.

3. Plasma Man (Mystical Ninja Starring Goemon)

 PU-LA-ZU-MAAA! He sure doesn't wear much. I wonder if that's how he attained enlightenment?  Those awful, heavy clothes must really weigh down your brain.  If we all go nude, maybe we'll be as wise as him!  (Seriously guys, DON'T DO THIS!!!)

2. Happy Mask Salesman (Legend of Zelda: Majora's Mask)

Yeah...this is one guy you don't want to make angry.  One minute, he's all smiles.  The next, he's about ready to slit your throat.  He really needs to relax.  Perhaps a cruise to Koholint island would give him the stress relief he needs...

1. Great Fairy (Legend of Zelda: Ocarina of Time)

I'm not even going to say anything about this one.  Just watch the video...

Are you creeped out yet?  Good!  I'll see you again in two weeks.

Wednesday, January 18, 2012

The end is nigh! (and that's not a bad thing)

There's an apocalypse coming!  And we're NOT gonna die!


There's an old proverb: "those who do not remember the past are doomed to repeat it."  It means that we can learn from past mistakes to prevent future ones.  What if repeating history would be good instead?  Before you start dismissing this as a 2012 rant, it's not.  Gaming is on the cusp of another crash, and I can't wait for that to happen.

Wednesday, January 11, 2012

MMO tropes that need to go part 2

Continuing the story from last week, here's part two of this article.  If you missed the last one, you can read it here.

That's not what I meant by player versus player...
Player versus Player, or PvP, has always been a staple of the MMO genre.  Just about every MMO has their own take on it, and some do it better than others.  Silk Road, for example, relied heavily on PvP for endgame content.  The faction war between merchants, hunters, and thieves made for a highly entertaining experience at the higher levels.  Of course, this wasn't always the case.  There were several occasions where a level 60 or 70 thief would go to the level 14 area (tiger mountain) and spawn tons of attacking mobs that would kill nearby players.  This usually meant a loss of experience, a significant hit to the equipment's durability, and quite a bit of gold in repairs.  For a higher level character, a loss of experience can mean having to grind an additional month or more to level up.

If PvP is going to work, you cannot have a penalty for dying due to PvP, especially in the open world.  Having an arena or specified PvP zone is helpful, especially if the No Death Penalty applies there.  Penalizing someone for being killed by someone 40 levels their senior is just not good planning at all.  Ideally, PvP needs its own arena.  If that's not feasible, enable someone to "flag" themselves as open to PvP, but keep it to players within the same level.  I remember hearing a story about a level 1 fighter in Final Fantasy XI, who was challenged by a level 60+ character to a duel.  People started stopping to watch, just to see if the underdog could do it.  Some white mages started healing the fighter, and black mages stunned/debuffed the higher level character to keep him from attacking.  By the end of the fight, the spry little dude had quite the following.  So I'm told, he actually won the duel, too.

PvP does not necessarily have to be one on one, either.  Before it was shuttered, All Points Bulletin, or APB, had an interesting take on PvP.  The duel system, or whatever they called it, would, on occasion, pair three or more level 20 characters against one level 40 character, where the weaker team would have to use smarts, teamwork, and a little luck to bring down the higher level character.  Game Informer pointed out that this system was actually surprisingly balanced, and the match would be a fair fight.  Go figure.  It would be interesting to see more MMOs approach PvP in this way, and give the underdogs an entertaining fight.

One of the main endgame features for many MMOs is the raid system.  Usually, this involves gathering a group of twenty or so friends to beat the snot out of a huge "boss" monster.  At the end of the fight, the boss will drop a rare item that can only be obtained through that raid.  This can add a sense of community to a game, especially if the raid requires a large number of people.  On the other hand, it also can be the only place where players can obtain some of the best items in game.

One pitfall that MMOs should avoid in this field is the trope of making the high value drops too rare.  If the players need this gear but can't get it in a timely manner, they will get discouraged and give up on playing.  In addition to the grind issues that Silk Road Online had, getting the "good" equipment, known as Seal of Star, was an exercise in futility.  Seriously, it seemed like the game would drop you one every 16 levels or so, if you're very, very lucky.  A mid-30s set of armor would cost 1 Million gold per piece or more, and Seal of Star weapons at the same level would go for 5 to 10 Million gold.  Seal of Moon/Seal of Sun armors and weapons would go for two or even three times their Seal of Star counterparts.  This wouldn't be an issue if it weren't so blasted difficult to earn gold in the game.  You can see why gold farming is so pervasive in Silk Road.  This video captures my sentiments.


To be fair, I'm not encouraging game developers to give away the best items in the game willy-nilly.  The current World of Warcraft patch falls to this trope a little too much.  Come to think of it, "Nerf Now!" tackled this very topic when the most recent patch went live. Eventually, those "super rare items" that everybody wants will be so commonplace that nobody cares about them anymore.  Between all the PvP and Raid gear available to the people who work for it, everybody and their mother can have a set of epic equipment.  Purple means nothing anymore.

Thankfully, there's an MMO out there that has elevated this balance to an art form.  Phantasy Star Online kept a fantastic balance of rarity and availability.  The boss fights were challenging, but the rewards were worth it.  They also weren't as ubiquitous as World of Warcraft's current shenanigans.  Sega may have shut down its Dreamcast servers back in 2003, but fans have operated private servers ever since, a testament to the staying power of Phantasy Star Online.  Even the Gamecube and Xbox versions have numerous private servers available for fans of this classic.

The MMO genre has opened up a new layer of social activity to the average gamer.  We've covered a lot of ground over the years, but there's still a lot of work to be done.  Developers should learn from the mistakes of their predecessors, or else we will never see progress.  This concludes part two of my rant.  Do you think there's another trope that should go? Sound off in the comments below!

Thursday, January 5, 2012

Top 5 Video Games Based on Anime

As long as Japan keeps producing video games and anime, there will be anime tie-ins to video games and vice versa.  Like the movie to video game counterparts in the states, there's a lot of crap and a lot of good titles.  Here's my...

Top 5 Video Games Based on Anime

Tuesday, January 3, 2012

MMO tropes that need to go Part 1

When in doubt...
I've played many massively multiplayer online (MMO) games in my lifetime.  Some of them were free to play, others required subscriptions.  While I routinely say no game is without its flaws, there are some "tropes" that have developed in the genre that are legitimately hurting it.  Here's a look at what game developers did right, and what others didn't do so well.

Since there's a wealth of information to cover, I'm going to turn this into a two part series.  Part two will go live next week, so stay tuned!

Monday, January 2, 2012

2011: Year in Review and Game of the Year

It's a big year for video games.
With spaceships and zombies in flames.
We've seen booms and busts
in under 12 months,
And all of it from games we play.

All joking and limericks aside, it's been an amazing year in gaming. 2011 saw Sony's flagship PlayStation Network get breached, a plethora of huge titles released, and even a few long-awaited reboots. So now, let's take a look at the last 12 months for a Year in Gaming: 2011