16
Apr
09

One track brainnnnn

The Walking Dead: Volume 1

After reading my buddy’s blog down there about the Left 4 Dead cover and zombie fiction, I simply had to add my 2 cents. Color me inspired. (Thanks, David!)

I’m a fan of pretty much zombie anything. If it ends with “… of the (Living) Dead” I’ve seen it. Be it Shaun, Dawn, Night, Day, Afternoon, Morning, Brunch, whatever. Zombie games? Yep, I love those too. Resident Evil(s)? Check. Left 4 Dead? Check. Stubbs the Zombie? Double check! (If you have a few Xbox Live Credits lying around I highly suggest downloading it. It’s a gem.) Dead Space? Not quite zombies in the traditional sense, but Check anyway. Anyhow, I think you get the point.

So when I saw David’s suggestions for zombie fiction, I thought I’d stop by to add a Zombie fiction “lite” recommendation to his magnificent list. You know, all the zombie with half the calories. Enter The Walking Dead graphic novels. Though I was a bit skeptical at first, I thought I’d give it a shot. I was pleasantly surprised. It’s not heavy reading by any means and there are only zombies every fifth page or so, but that’s the beauty of it. It’s not about zombies, per se, but rather about what happens to us after a zombie outbreak. In fact, the author, Robert Kirkman, begins his Introduction by stating that he’s not trying to scare anyone. Odd for a zombie story, no? He’s more interested in exploring how people press on and persevere in such extreme situations. And really, how much more extreme can you get than a full blown zombie outbreak?

So if you’re a zombie freak, appreciate graphic novels (or just aren’t into books that don’t have pretty pictures), give the Walking Dead a shot.  You might be surprised. I was.

 

Now if you’ll excuse me I have to get back to Ghostbusting. :-)

PS. David was right about Dying to Live. It is an AWESOME read.

14
Dec
08

Left 4 Dead Achievement Hunting

l4d_06Even though I’ve been playing the game for a few months now, Left 4 Dead remains my biggest online addiction. Lately I’ve been trying to round up as many achievements as possible…and it hasn’t been easy. But here’s a few tips for getting some of the more challenging achievements.

Cr0wnd
Gamerpoints: 30
Description: Kill a Witch with a single headshot.
Tips: While it’s possible to hit a Witch with a sniper rifle, it’s best to take her out at close range with a shotgun. But timing is very important. I’ve seen most teammates get this achievement while standing slightly behind the Witch while she’s still in a seated position. As they creep closer (with flashlight off) she begins to stand; this is the time to attack. Aim for the back of her neck and head, but you must wait until she’s standing to register the lethal hit.

Field Medic
Gamerpoints: 20
Description: Heal 25 survivors with a first aid kit.
Tips: This one just takes time but is made easier with some cooperation from your teammates. Instead of constantly healing yourself, always offer your assistance to teammates…especially if they don’t already have this achievement. As long as you heal a teammate and they heal you, you’ll both stay healthy and quickly meet the criteria for this achievement.

Ground Cover
Gamerpoints: 30
Description: Save another survivor from a special infected while on the ground.
Tips: It’s hard to stage this one. For me, it just happened. I was incapacitated when one of my teammates was pounced by a Hunter. I just took aim with my pistols and blasted the Hunter. So if you’re down, look around for teammates being attacked by Hunters or Smokers and help them out. Your pistols are surprisingly effective in these dire moments.

No-One Left Behind
Gamerpoints: 20
Description: Beat a campaign with all 4 survivors.
Tips: I didn’t think this one was too hard, but some players are having difficulty with it. The trick is to make sure all of your teammates are up and walking at the time the evac vehicle arrives. If anyone is incapacitated ensnared, or pinned, they’ll be left behind. So consider holding near the evac vehicle until all your teammates are inside. If you’re standing inside the vehicle, anyone lagging behind can be abandoned instantly if they run into trouble, giving you no time to stage a rescue attempt. So don’t step inside the vehicle until everyone is okay. Also, it’s best to attempt this on easy or normal difficulties.

Pyrotechnician
Gamerpoints: 20
Description: Blow up 20 infected in a single explosion.
Tips: This one is easy if you have the cooperation of your teammates. A single pipe bomb is sufficient to draw 20 infected prior to the big boom. However, make sure your teammates hold their fire while the pipe bomb is beeping. The more zombies that gather around the pipe bomb, the more likely you are to get this achievement.

Witch Hunter
Gamerpoints: 20
Description: Kill a witch without any survivor taking damage from her.
Tips: Depending on the circumstances, this achievement can be earned at the same time as Cr0wnd or Burn the Witch. If you need Cr0wnd, sneak up behind the Witch and perform the close range shotgun kill for the double achievement. If you need Burn the Witch it’s best to attempt this from a upper level requiring the Witch to climb before reaching you. Smack the Witch with a molotov to earn Burn the Witch, then rapidly blast her until she dies before she can attack you or your teammates to get the Witch Hunter achievement.

09
Dec
08

Holiday Gaming

The holidays are upon us. As we assemble with others for seasonal gatherings, video games are beginning to become a part of the festivities. So if you have a party coming up, here are a few ideas.

Wii is a natural party platform since it gets people up and moving. Even with the included game Wii Sports, you can have a homerun derby or similar contest with everyone getting a turn with the Wiimote.

Another idea are quiz type games such as Scene-It. The Xbox 360 version comes with four buzzer type controllers allowing four people (or four teams) to answer questions about movies. This game is a hit not only for parties, but also with a family or significant other. I gave this to my wife last Christmas and she, who had never played on the 360 at all, loved it.

For really livening up a party, get the gang back together with Rock Band. Four people can play this at once and it can be really entertaining just watching. Other music games like Guitar Hero and even American Idol are fun for group gatherings.

Bring a little retro to your party with older games you can download from Xbox Live or the Playstation Network. For those in their 30s and 40s, Pac-Man, Dig-Dug, and so forth can be a lot of fun to play. These are fairly inexpensive and you can have tournaments with these classics.

Video games can even be the theme of the party. Have several friends bring over televisions and their own game systems and set up game rooms throughout the house or party location. Rock Band can be head banging in one room while movie trivia is in another and sports in a third. The key is to pick games that partygoers are either already familiar with or can pick up quickly. Be sure have something for everyone. Zombie slaying is not for everyone. You can even make up your own games with a computer, digital camera, and PowerPoint. Trivia games about your guests can be a great way to start the evening. “Name that Baldspot” or “Which couple has been together the longest” are easy to put together and help everyone get to know each other better.

Have a great holiday season and please write to let me know how video games were a part of your party.

 

 

30
Nov
08

Left 4 Dead: Versus Mode Essentials

l4d_05
Over the turkey holiday I had the chance to play several pick-up games of Left 4 Dead’s versus mode. While I had a blast playing with the developers at Valve, my experience with public games on Live was less than stellar. Why? I think some players are still trying to get the hang of it which is completely understandable. Versus mode plays very differently than the co-op campaign or any other adversarial multiplayer game. So here’s a few quick tips to make your versus matches more enjoyable.

Don’t hog the infected slots: It may sound stupid, but I’ve waited in lobbies for more than 10 minutes waiting for a game to start simply because all four infected slots are taken. It doesn’t seem to matter that everybody gets a chance to play as the infected. Some players will join, see the infected slots are taken, then disconnect. So consider leaving some infected slots open as an incentive to keep impatient players in your lobby so you can finally start the match.

Don’t just plug in your mic, use it: I’ve played several public matches where my teammates simply don’t talk. Sure, they have mics attached, but there’s no communication. This just doesn’t work in Left 4 Dead. Communication is vital whether playing as the survivors or the infected. So get over your shyness and talk to your teammates. And don’t antagonize the 12-year-olds on your team because they will shoot you.

Speed is the key: Too often I’ve been stuck on teams of survivors that want to explore every nook and cranny of each map at a grandmotherly pace. While this may be fun in the co-op campaign, it’s stupid and dangerous in versus mode. The more time you waste exploring, the more chances you give the other team to kill you. As the survivors your goal is to reach the safe house at the end of the map as quickly as possible. Anyone who intentionally lags behind should be left behind.

Infected teamwork: The infected have a tremendous advantage if they work together and coordinate ambushes. One of the best ways to start out an attack is with a Boomer. Vomit or explode on as many survivors as possible to trigger a swarm of common infected. In addition to attracting zombies, the viscous bile also temporarily blinds all affected survivors. This allows the Hunters and Smoker on your team to take advantage of the chaos and attack, sometimes without being noticed until it’s too late.

Watch your fire: I’d say more than 50% of the damage I’ve incurred is caused by my own teammates. Friendly fire is a huge threat in versus mode so go easy on the trigger cowboy. If a teammate is pinned by a Hunter or ensnared by a Smoker, don’t shoot! Instead, melee the attacker to free your teammate, then open fire on the infected. Also, be careful when using molotovs and igniting the red fuel cans. Fire is extremely deadly, especially if your teammates are incapacitated within the flames.

23
Nov
08

More Left 4 Dead Tips

l4d_04

Left 4 Dead launched last week and it looks like most players are getting the hang of it, fully embracing the teamplay aspect of the game. But the game isn’t easy, readily apparent when playing as the survivors in the chaotic versus mode or when tackling the co-op campaign on advanced or expert difficulty. So here’s a few more tips to help your team survive the zombie apocalypse.

  • The Boomer is a highly volatile target and should be dealt with delicately. When encountering a Boomer at close range, don’t shoot it. Doing so will only coat you and your teammates in bile, triggering a swarm attack. Instead, melee the Boomer, pushing it away from you. Backpedal to a safe distance and shoot it. If nobody is splashed with bile, this will get you the Clean Kill achievement.
  • When attacking a Hunter on a pinned teammate, use melee attacks to knock them off. This prevents you from injuring your teammate with friendly fire—an important consideration when equipped with a high-powered weapon like a shotgun or sniper rifle. But be prepared to shoot the Hunter as soon as it’s knocked off your teammate. Otherwise it will attack again. Knocking a Hunter off a teammate with a melee attack earns you the Hunter Punter achievement.
  • If a teammate is ensnared by a tongue attack, quickly locate the responsible Smoker and shoot him. If the Smoker isn’t within view, perform a melee attack on the tongue to release your teammate. Avoid shooting the tongue to prevent inflicting friendly fire on your teammate. Once a Smoker has snared and released a target, they can’t attack for several seconds. Use this time to hunt them down before they can strike again.
  • If you can’t engage a Witch at long range, look for other ways to delay her attack. If she’s in a room, toss a molotov at her and shut the door. She’ll eventually claw her way through the door, but will sustain heavy damage from the molotov while doing so. Hitting a Witch with a molotov gets you the Burn the Witch achievement.
  • The Tank is by far the most deadly of the infected and must capture the attention of the entire team if you have any hopes of killing one. Although incredibly strong, the Tank isn’t very fast. It’s entirely possible to backpedal while firing at the Tank without getting touched. But that’s assuming you don’t run out of room or back into a corner—in which case you’re pretty much screwed.
  • The pump and auto shotguns’ extreme damage output is a double edged sword, particularly when playing at the harder difficulties where friendly fire is a huge threat. One misplaced shot could seriously injure or incapacitate a teammate. So be extremely careful when firing around teammates. If in doubt, use melee attacks until you can get a clear shot. This is critical when trying to knock away Hunters or Smokers, as attacking them directly may hurt a pinned or ensnared teammate.
  • Two pistols are always better than one. Look for pistols lying around and pick one up, allowing you to operate dual pistols. This essentially doubles the pistol’s magazine capacity, rate of fire, and damage output. There is no downside. Once a second pistol is acquired, it cannot be dropped unless you’re killed.
  • Operating the SMG requires a cool head and a steady hand. Even during swarm attacks, avoid holding the trigger down for long durations. This simply wastes ammo as your weapon pulls off target or pumps round after round into a an already neutralized zombie. And never swing the weapon left or right while firing—this is a good way to hit teammates. Lay-off the trigger, aim, then shoot.
  • Only use the sniper rifle’s scope when a teammate is nearby to cover you. While peering through the scope your peripheral vision is completely eliminated, making it easy for infected to flank you. In most situations, the crosshairs on the HUD are adequate for aiming.
  • Given the assault rifle’s automatic capability and penetration power its possible to score multiple headshots with a single auto burst. Bullets fired through one target’s head continue travelling in a straight line, penetrating anything behind it. Also, try aiming the rifle at head-level and panning the crosshairs across multiple targets to decapitate a line of approaching common infected.
18
Nov
08

Todd McFarlane One on One

Our author, Fernando Bueno, got the chance of lifetime, to sit down and interview Todd McFarlane:

Not everyone gets to live their dream and make a living of all things leisure-time like sports, comics, movies, and so on. One person has, however. Todd McFarlane, Spawn creator, founder of Image Comics and McFarlane toys, was kind enough to grant me an interview recently. We talked about his involvement in creating the Halo collectible action figures, his approach to work, and his view on video games.

Todd McFarlane

Todd McFarlane

Fernando Bueno: Thanks for taking time out of your busy schedule to speak with me, Todd.

Todd McFarlane: No problem.

FB: So tell us, how did you end up here?

TM: Well, I broke into the comic book industry out of college and sort of hit the ground running there. I worked my way up the ladder, working on some big characters like Batman, Spider-Man, and Hulk. From there I started my own comic company, Image Comics, at which point I pulled this comic character named Spawn out of my portfolio that I had since high school and made him sorta the flagship title of my studio. From there, I started to push Spawn up the mountain, if you will.

I decided that I needed to get into other things like TV, movies, toys, and video games. Sometimes I used other companies, and in the case of the toys, I couldn’t find any that would understand what I was trying to do artistically, so I started my own toy company. As time went by with the toy company, I decided that I couldn’t have all my eggs in one basket so I decided to make toys of other stuff. I mean, what happens if people don’t like Spawn after a while? So from there I was able to dive into doing all the sports figures, because, well, I’m a big sports geek. I went to college on a baseball scholarship, y’know. Anyhow, as we began growing the toy company, we started doing sports and comic book [characters], and [taking on] movie licenses, music licenses, and TV licenses. In fact, I think our first video game license might have been Metal Gear Solid 2 a few years ago. That did pretty well for us.

FB: McFarlane Toys has covered a lot of ground!

TM: To me it’s all pop culture. It’s moving the radar across the nation and trying to tap into that.

Continue reading ‘Todd McFarlane One on One’

16
Nov
08

left 4 dead: versus mode

l4d_03

Now that you’ve had a chance to play the Left 4 Dead demo you have a good idea of how the co-op campaign plays. But what about versus mode? Versus is an adversarial game mode pitting the survivors against the infected. No Mercy and Blood Harvest can be played in this four-on-four mode, offering ten maps total. The gameplay is nearly identical to the other modes with the survivors tasked with making it from safe house to safe house and ultimately escaping after surviving the movie’s finale. It’s the job of the infected team to stop the survivors. Unlike the other game modes, in versus the survivors cannot respawn, but the infected team can. This provides a unique twist to the game mode, forcing the survivors to work together and watch each others’ backs.

While the survivors spawn as the main protagonists, the infected team take on the roles of the special infected. At any given time the infected team always has one Boomer, two Hunters, and one Smoker on the map. Who spawns as what is random, determined by the director. At some points in the map, one player on the infected team is given the chance to spawn as a Tank, providing the team with an extra boost in offense. The Witch is not playable by the infected team, but Witches do make appearances on occasion. Witch spawns are determined by the director and are never in fixed locations. Still, the infected team should use appearances by the Witch to bolster their numbers during coordinated ambushes.

During these matches, each team gets the chance to play as both the survivors and the infected on each map. So after the survivors have escaped or died in the first round, the same map is replayed and the two teams switch sides, with the former infected taking on the roles of survivors and vice versa. Playing as the survivors and infected are completely different and require different skills and tactics to win. But regardless of which side you’re playing, communication and teamwork are always essential.

So how do you determine who wins a match in versus mode? After playing a round as the survivors a score is calculated based on this formula:

Average Distance Traveled + Health Bonus x Survival Multiplier x Map Difficulty Modifier = Team Score

Average Distance Traveled: The points awarded in this category is based on how far your team traveled during the round. If your team made it all the way to the end of the map and reached the safe house, you’re awarded with the maximum 100 points. But if your team only made it through 37% of the map before being stopped by the opposing team’s infected, you only get 37 points. The percentage of the map your team completes determines this score.

Health Bonus: This bonus is determined by averaging the hit points of the survivors who made it to the safe house—survivors who were killed enroute are not part of this average. So if everyone makes it into the safe house with full health, the max 100 points are awarded.

Survival Multiplier: Once the average distance travelled and health bonus has been added, the score is multiplied by the number of survivors who made it into the safe house at the end. If all four survivors made it in, the score is multiplied by four. If only one survivor made it, the score is multiplied by one and thus has no impact. If nobody survived, the score is not multiplied by zero. Rather the score remains untouched, with no multiplier applied.

Map Difficulty Modifier: Each map is assigned a predetermined difficulty modifier. The easiest (or shortest) maps are given a modifier of 1, and the hardest (or longest) maps are given a modifier of 2. The rest of the maps fall somewhere in between, sometimes rated as a 1.50 or 1.60. Whatever the modifier is, it is then multiplied by the score, giving you your team’s final score for the round.

So what’s a good score? Usually posting a score close to 1,000 points per map is considered a praiseworthy achievement. But ultimately it all depends on how well the opposing performed in their turn as the survivors. While no points are awarded when playing as the infected, stopping the opposing team’s survivors is critical, preventing them from posting a high score. Even killing one survivor can have a dramatic impact on the final score, especially in close matches as it robs the opposing team of that vital survival multiplier. So don’t fool around while playing as the infected. Stopping the opposing team is just as important as reaching the safe house when you’re playing as the survivors.




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