Getting away with murder

I’ve been thinking a lot about how people view account security for different platforms lately.

Mostly, because I thought it was great for PS3 users that they received free games once PSN had recovered from the major attack it was under a while back. I don’t have a PS3 (and don’t plan on getting one), but I was happy for PSN users anyhow. Because it seems only fair to be compensated when a major company like Sony had their security breached in such a manner as it was.

The reason (to elaborate) why I keep thinking about that, is this; Microsoft Live is the most insecure “service” I’ve ever had the displeasure of having to put up with, coupled with one of the worst pieces of software for PC gamers ever.

A few years back, I bought myself an Xbox 360; I love the machine itself. Couldn’t complain about it, except for one thing…The need for a Microsoft Live account.

The thing that impresses me is, I’m definetely not the only person this happens to; A while back, I was subjected to the infamous Fifa 12 hack (Bear in mind, I have never even thought of buying it, since I don’t give two craps about soccer). Over the years since getting my 360, and subsequently my Live account, I have lost count of the times I’ve lost control of my Live account.

Everything from being unable to log in on my 360, to my friends complaining that I’m sending them dodgy links on MSN Messenger, and now this. Being unable to play Gotham City Impostors (which, as an aside, I have to admit is oodles more entertaining on PC than it is on the 360).

I tried to log in to GCI earlier today, only to be greeted by the message that I was unable to log in, either because of a login/password error, or just plain inability to get in touch with Windows Live.

Only once I clicked the “Details” button on the error message would I get the message that my account had been compromised (AGAIN), and used for spam.

At least, Microsoft must be aware that their security is craptastic, because this time I was able to get my account unlocked in a matter of minutes (instead of days / weeks).

Microsoft is, figuratively, getting away with murder here. I know I am not the only person who thinks the worst about Microsoft’s so-called security. When I was subjected to the Fifa 12 hack, I could find tons of people writing on message boards and blogs about getting hacked. Hell, you can even hear Joel F. Gardener (AKA FPS_Doug of Pure Pwnage and Cardboard Warfare fame) complain about the lousy state of service from Microsoft to his buddy Derek Sweet on their incredibly awesome podcast, SITMOS. Yet somehow, this major fail at security is still flying below the media radar.

I’m happy for the PSN users who got their free games; I just wish that someone would blow the whistle on the abysmal state of security for Microsoft Live accounts, so that we people who were unfortunate enough to buy a console which requires such an account can get satisfaction for putting up with this crap.

Gotham City Impostors

So I recently got to play Gotham City Impostors for a review.

You want to know the thing about GCI?

It COULD be a good game. But FPS games just shouldn’t be played on a console (I was given a 360 copy of the game). That’s strike one for me.

The second…Well, the idea behind the game is great; I bloody love it. But I don’t love the game..:Because there are a few annoying issues;

* It’s a messy game, visually. WB should’ve gone the L4D route with shiny outlines on players, because sometimes players just kinda chameleon their way into the background of the game.

* Bugs with body armor / body type and general bullet resistance. I’ve unloaded entire clips of ammo on unsuspecting targets, only to have them turn around and oneshot me. Put that together with body armor upgrades which are hard to tell from regular clothing on characters, and you have frustration heading your way.

* Matchmaking…It’s horrible. At least, the game will get an update (in March as I recall) which is supposed to fix matchmaking, which will actually go a long way towards making this game more enjoyable. Nothing more annoying than waiting for a lobby to fill up (during which you cannot go into any menus), only to suddenly be all alone in the lobby.

Hell, in the week I had to play the game, I never even got the chance to play the Psych Warfare game mode because matchmaking >_<

Apart from that, the only real annoyance i have is that the weapon selection is kind of generic. In a DIY Bats VS Jokerz game, I’d have hoped for more wacky weaponry.

Apart from those annoyances, I’d probably buy the game on PC once Matchmaking (and other bugfixes) have been fixed…Except the game is on Games for Windows Live.

I cannot abide GfWL. I simply cannot…I have only had annoying experiences with it.

During this little, rant, I*d like to bring up a discussion I had in TotalBiscuit’s “That’s no WTF is…” vid of this game with another youtube user;

This guy (and I’m guessing others) feel that having stuff that can be unlocked by grinding (Costume coins, gear unlocks) but which can also be bought with Windows Live points is a bad thing.

I disagree with that sentiment…There’s a limited time advantage to buying stuff with actual money. I just can’t be arsed getting upset over people too impatient to grind their way to costumes.

The guy also said that microeconomy meant that a game HAD to be a F2P game, a sentiment which I also disagree with; As I can see, none of the stuff you can buy in GCI is exclusive to being bought, so it’s just a matter of time.

That said…I’m definetely trying this game again after it has had the matchmaking fix, since there’s fun to be had. It’s just a pity that the implementation of an otherwise great idea is so subpar.

-Barl0we

Minecraft

With the event of Minecraft going from Beta to Full Release very soon, I’ve made a few videos of myself making stuff in Minecraft. Even though I’m pretty terrible at using Redstone so far, I’m learning :p

Without further ado, check out my channel over here. So far, I’ve tried making an Adventure Map (process? slow), and I’ve made a Single Player Creative save for my Workshop where I try to make Redstone tutorials.

Above is my tutorial on how to make a sticky piston door (hidden) easily.

It’s fun, and since my mate over at Minecraftia Nabs showed me the Sphax PureBDCraft 128bit texture pack, my Minecraft has been looking gorgeous.

Now all I need are some damn ideas on what to make…Lol.

-Barl0we

I hate Windows Live.

I was going to write a blog post about how much I love playing Indie games, but then my Live account was hacked – once again.

I seriously cannot abide the low, low security on Microsoft’s Live product. I literally can’t count the times I’ve lost control of my Live email.

This last time it happened to me, I was even logged out of my 360 because it happened, much to my chagrin.

And thanks to Microsoft’s crappy password recovery system (Hey, if links in password recovery emails aren’t for some reason fully link-y, please write it in BIG BOLD LETTERS so I don’t miss it.

Apart from the hell that is trying to get back a Live account (again), it is for some reason impossible to get in contact with Microsoft without jumping through a million firey hoops. I had to create a second Live account just to get to ask them a question (Only then did I find the answer I was looking for, and not because a Microsoft rep had written it – oh no, the help I so desperately needed came from another disgruntled Live user).

Now I finally have my Live account back – but to sign back in, I had to perform a damn Gamertag Recovery, which took longer than it should have (Hey, Microsoft; How about letting me just re-type my password after I’ve changed it? Or better yet, improving security so this shit doesn’t happen?).

I can now only anxiously hope that this doesn’t happen again, and that whoever hacked my account to play FIFA 12 (a game I have absolutely zero interest in) doesn’t get back control of my Live account again.

The worst part about this is that I have only ever lost control of any internet-based account because it had to have a goddamn Windows Live email attached to it. And once, in my naivety I used a Hotmail account as my WoW account’s email…Which lead to the first and only time my WoW account has ever been hacked.

No other service I use online has ever been compromised, but I guess Microsoft makes up for that by having my Live account hacked so often that I literally do not know how often it has happened (all while every forum profile, facebook, steam, and any other website logins I have, have always been safe).

I’m going to go with Sony in the next console generation; At least they have only had one major security breach that I know of, and that was compensated by free games to their PSN users.

-Barl0we

Things I learned about Dead Island

So, since the release of Dead Island, I’ve been spending as much time as I’ve been able to find exploring this tropical hellhole.

I’ll try to keep this one spoiler-free for those who haven’t played the game yet (I’m around 75% through the main storyline at the moment).

  • All the cars have “Dead Island” leetified as their license plate (D34D 15L4ND or something like that)
  • Around the island (but most easily viewable in the Lifeguard station at the start) you can find the book “Dead Island – A True Story” (It’s not interactable, but funny).
  • Kick (E on the PC) is one of your most valuable tools (especially if you later on in the game spec for curbstomping zombies). With the spec upgrade for stomping, you’ll save tons of durability on your weapons.
  • Bullets, while firearms (in the beginning) are very sparse, are best saved for dealing with the non-zombie Punks (they are easily headshottable), and for the very much annoying Suicider special zombie.
  • Important note on bullets: Any chance you get to take out Punks (So far only really found in the City and the Jungle, take it. Most of the time you’ll end up with max bullets for your pistol, and sometimes for the shotgun or the automatic rifle.
  • Lockpicking seems to be a useless spec – I took 3/3 points in it, and I’ve so far found 1 rifle that was better than any rifle I had (by exactly 5 points of damage), and no superior quality weapons at all. Use your speciality points on something more useful (which is basically anything).

Lastly, there are rare colored skulls to be had around the island which can yield you so-called “Developer Mod” weapon recipes. The catch is that you have to drop off the skull at a predetermined spot close by where you found it. I found out about this approximately…A long time after finding any colored skulls, and now I can’t be arsed going back to find the spots to turn them in.

So if you find the skulls, it’s worth the effort to pause, tab out, and find the skull locations (as the weapons are kind of frail, but deadly. Also note that some of them work better as thrown weapons than when used for melee).

I’ll update more on Dead Island as I find out about stuff (easter eggs, tips & so on), but here’s my short verdict on Dead Island:

It’s the zombie game I always wanted. It has a few areas where it could use some tweaking (The map sucks, and the quest-help arrow on the minimap sometimes wants you to pass through sheer rock cliffs)…And for god’s sake, BLOOOOOM. I’d really like a way to tone down the goddamn bloom :P

But apart from that, it’s definetely worth the price of admission.

-B

Saying goodbye to an old friend

My niece has wished for a Nintendo Wii for ages. It’s literally been on her wish list for years, for Christmas and Birthdays.

As it happens, I bought a Wii some years back, and for the last year and a half, I haven’t used it. It’s just been gathering dust next to my TV, and every time I’ve taken notice of it, I’ve felt kind of guilty. Like I was abandoning my old friend. Personally, I blame the damn Toy Story movies for making me feel bad about leaving behind old toys :D

That’s why I was so happy when my sis’ and the rest of the adults in my family accepted that I donate the Wii to her, as a gift from the entire family.

Tomorrow, my niece will step up from being a handheld gamer to having an actual console hooked up to her TV (Even if it is a casual console). I felt kind of melancholy finally hooking up the Wii one last time, making sure its firmware was up to date, and organising the Virtual Console / WiiWare titles she’s most likely to enjoy on the main menu screen.

It feels weird to pack up the Wii, the buddy that’s gone with me and my girlfriend to the summer house so many times (To be used for so many hours of Mario Kart and Wii Sports, the companion through the half-year i spent unemployed after finishing my education as a Multimedia Designer until I actually got a job (which of course was only working retail, nothing to do with my education).

I know it’s corny, but I really feel like I’m passing the torch to my niece…Maybe one day she’ll even get enough skills to kick my ass at Mario Kart :D

It feels weird…But it also feels good. It means I can finally introduce her to some of the games I’ve always wanted to introduce her to.

 

-B

F2P MOBA’s

Back when I played Warcraft 3 on a semi-regular basis, I used to get into DOTA matches. I was never really that great at it, which is also why I’ve generally avoided games like Heroes of Newerth and League of Legends. (I was in the HoN beta for a very short time, but left after 1 or 2 matches due to the “community”.)

Now that HoN (and LoL for that matter) have gone Free 2 Play, I’ve decided to start playing the genre again. I’m currently trying out HoN, and doing…Well almost semi-decently. It really depends on the opposing team :D

Nothing’s changed about the community…Same crap as back in Dota in WC3, same crap as back in the beta for HoN . If the game ever gets an achievement system, I believe one of the feats I managed to earn tonight must be one of ‘em… [Gain non-IRL friend on your friends list].

Part of my problem with Dota – and by extension, HoN- is that the raging players on my teams are such easy trolling targets. Even if they are right about me (or my teammates) playing like crap, it’s just too darn fun to spur them on.

I don’t know what it is about the Multiplayer Online Battle Arena (MOBA for short) that makes people so angry..Is it because a younger, more rash crowd is attracted to the genre? Maybe it’s just that early deaths result in great advantages to the enemy team in a way that games like TF2 and “PvP” in WoW doesn’t have. I’m not sure I’ll ever find out, but I do know that so far, the players in the MOBA style games are by far the worst “community” that I’ve ever encountered in gaming.

-Barl0we

The rise of Free-to-Play MMORPG’s

In the current year, 2011, more and more MMORPG games either start out – or turn out- as Free-to-Play games. This, of course, is not completely free to play, as each is backed by some sort of microeconomy. It IS kind of interesting to note, however, that games like Global Agenda works so well – Short dungeon queues, fun PvP. And they have gone the route that if you buy the box, you get additional treats for doing dungeons.

Then we have games like Champions Online, which allows for free creation of two type-cast Heroes. If you’re a paying customer, you get to customize just about everything about your hero, from which color your spells (in case of magic attacks) look, to which part of your body they emanate from. The non-paying – or Silver- customers still get to customize their typecast heroes pretty well, with the option of paying the microeconomic store for additional costume parts, or special powers.

I think it’s interesting that MMO’s are taking this turn – and also inevitable. To compete with the monster MMO – World of Warcraft – more and more turn towards luring customers in by having a free, basic package which allows potential customers to get sucked in – and then hooked.

Steam is also helping along this trend, with their recent addition of Free-To-Play games section in the Steam Store, backed by their safe & sound payment.

I’m fairly sure we won’t ever see the “WoW Killer” mmo…Unless it comes from Blizzard itself. Instead, we’ll see all these F2P MMO’s prospering as more and more western customers accept the microtransaction plan, coupled with the fact that people get tired of WoW. This is a whole other subject in and of itself, but I can say that after playing the game since 2005 – for 6 straight years, almost without breaks- it really IS the game I’ve played the longest. The strain is starting to show, and I’ve spent less time playing WoW than I have in other years (though this is also due to having found my education of choice, which I am currently attending).

-Barl0we

The real genius of Portal (Or how to win at game designing)

While playing Left 4 Dead 2 earlier after a break from that game, I thought about some of the quirks of game designing. There’s one of them, which can really be the bane of any game, but which is most often seen in Adventure games (Think Monkey Island etc).

What is it, you say?

Game developer logic. Often in Adventure games, you are required to think in the same specific mindset as the game developer, which can be disastrous if the gamer is given too many choices (this is a problem specific to either games with loads of talent tree options for the character, or adventure games…Chicken with a pulley in it?), or if its just not readily apparent what the game developer wants you to be thinking.

This is where Valve did so exceedingly well with Portal. The beauty of it is, Valve told us from the very start how to win at Portal, with their tag line as seen in this YouTube video. Thinking With Portals is exactly what you’ll have to do to get through the game…The only problem is, once you’ve succeeded at this, even all the new elements added in Portal 2 won’t make the game as challenging as Valve probably hoped for.

I really look forward to the additional downloadable content which Valve have stated will be released for Portal 2, especially the co-op content. The co-op campaign was, in my opinion, way too easy when both players have succeeded in gaining the developer’s mindset – Thinking With Portals.

-Barl0we