Archive for July, 2008


It’s Alive…again!

The Prima Games staff has made it safely back from a fantastic San Diego Comic Con, lugging our video games and Wii Consoles, tired yet heroically through the airport back to our offices. Upon arrival back at my computer, I’ve found a cute little creature, well…robot to be exact, popping up on my screen.

After closer inspection, I realized my robot friend was a herald of awesomeness: the Prima Games Codes and Cheats Database is back online! Completely searchable with over 18,000 codes, cheats, glitches, easter eggs, and unlockables for over 1,500 of the most popular current and next-gen games on the biggest platforms.

Oh, and my little robot friend wanted me to remind you that they are 100% verified.

Robby and I invite you take a peek at the database and help yourself out with some tips from the people who know games.


the secret life of a strategy guide writer / 09

Last time: I braved the artic tundra in a quest to witness the warmth of Bioware’s ice palace up in Edmonton. This time, I travel to the wilds of North Carolina, and visit Cliff Bleszinski and the Epic Games crew, hard at work on Unreal Tournament 2004. Yes, this was before the Gears of War money flooded in.

Part 9: An Epic Office

Back when PC guides were black and white, I was sent to spend a couple of weeks with the good folks over at Epic Games in their North Carolina offices. This wasn’t the first Carolina I’d been to; I’d had to find a small hotel somewhere in South Carolina and interview the band P.O.D. about their love for Sega Rally. Don’t ask. Actually, do; that was for a magazine where celebrities were valued as highly as video games. It lasted seven issues. Go figure. Anyway, as exciting as the nearby waffle house had been, I wasn’t itching to get back to the Carolinas, but Epic’s office changed all of that. Partly because it was in the middle of the flattest backwoods around (but still within spittin’ distance of a Red Lobster), and I love my own backwoods at my Pacific Northwest Doombase, but mainly because Epic had amenities even EA would have been excited to show off.

Yes, they had a large black room decked out in foam, where they stuck ping-pong balls on actors and forced them to play-fight as if they’d been gibbed. And that was before you wandered around the developers’ office space. Back in 2003, everyone in the Epic office had one of those big CRT monitors with a SONY logo that weighed as much as Forrest Griffin’s head, and was just as difficult to hold onto. But Cliffy B (as he was known back then) had not one, but two of those brand-new 24-inch flatscreens, back when they cost $2,999 each. His office was pimptabulous, if you’re a fan of Optimus Prime and Dodge Vipers (in which a rode to a luncheon where we talked about Seanbaby). Although the office was shared with others, Epic had their own luxury level, with views across deciduous woodland, high ceilings, thick, executive wood doors, and (because I’d descended right in the middle of crunch time; a tendency that really leaves a developer wanting to string you up by your gaming thumbs) a mass of white DELL keyboards, a mess of chunky computers plus wiring, and great camaraderie.

Cliffy B’s office was Epic, is Epic — and after they changed gears and garnered giant success with Marcus Fenix’s excellent adventure — is probably festooned with giant plastic and metal versions of everything thick and sinewy that appeared in the game. I wouldn’t be surprised if Field Marshall Bleszinski now rides to work in a life-size Optimus Prime truck. He’s earned it.

Next time, Santa Monica calls, as I shake Naughty Dog off my leg.


Just finished: Nope, no finish in sight for me.

Currently: Touring the Wasteland and noting down interesting locations.

About to: Cross-reference items, going slightly doo-lally in the process.



Too Human: Runes and Charms

As a player who’s always trying to optimize my character, I find the equipment screen in Too Human to be extremely addictive. It seems I spend as much time sorting through my gear as I do smiting enemies. Not only is it fun to customize gear, but Silicon Knights has created a very deep yet intuitive interface. In fact, I think it’s the best equipment/inventory screens I’ve seen in a console game. The weapon and armor options are all quite self-explanatory, especially if you’ve played WoW or other RPGs. But runes and charms are somewhat unique and require some explanation to fully understand their power.

Runes: These items are sometimes dropped by enemies or obelisks. There are numerous types of runes, each capable of boosting your character’s stats in some way. But before equipping a rune, you must have an empty rune slot in one of your weapons or armor pieces. Sort through your equipped gear to see if you have one; it will say Empty Rune Slot in the window on the bottom right and show a hollow circle icon next to the square equipment icon. Once you’ve found an empty rune slot, press X to insert a rune. This brings up your rune inventory screen allowing you to fuse any rune to the selected piece of equipment. Runes can provide a variety of bonuses but try to focus on runes that boost either your weapon’s damage or your armor’s Total Armor value. These bonuses are stackable too, so don’t be afraid to apply identical bonuses to the same piece of equipment. For example, if you place one Total Armor +5% rune in all six pieces of armor, your Total Armor value is increased by 30%. But make your choice wisely. Once a rune is fused, it cannot be removed. So before applying powerful runes, make sure you’ll be using the selected piece of equipment for a significant duration. In the full-game, colored runes are available in the shops of Aesir, allowing your to customize the appearance of each piece of equipment. Colored runes can be applied to any piece and don’t take up a rune slot.

Charms: Charms are dropped exclusively in cyberspace. You can find a few by raiding the obelisks in the first cyberspace area in the demo; during Baldur’s flashback when he joins Freya at the World Tree. Although they look like runes, charms are like mini-quests, requiring you to perform a certain task and insert the appropriate runes in exchange for some type of offensive or defensive bonus. These are usually proc-based (random) bonuses, increasing the chance of inflicting certain types of damage or status effects on your victims and/or attackers. You can have up to two charms equipped at a time and one must be equipped before the requirements can be met. Once you’ve completed the requirements, press X while the charm is selected to insert the appropriate runes, matching the runic characters to the ones shown on the charm. Runes inserted into charms cannot be retrieved, thus their bonuses are lost. So avoid inserting runes you may want to use later. A completed charm must remain in one of the two equipment slots if you wish to take advantage of its reward.

So if you’re still hooked on demo, give it another run and make the most of the runes and charms in your inventory. For more info on runes, charms, and all other aspects of Too Human, check out our guide releasing next month.


the blame game and MMO addiction…

For a long time now I’ve stayed away from MMOs such as World of Warcraft, Lord of the Rings Online, and the such. Not because I was afraid of getting addicted or anything, but because I blamed MMOs like WoW for ruining the lives of many people. I’d seen friends and familiy completely lose themselves in the game and become “that” person. If you’ve seen the “Make Love, Not Warcraft” South Park episode, then you know what I’m talking about. To make matters worse, I’d see headlines about kids that fell dead among a sea of HotPocket wrappers or people who would lose their jobs, relationships, etc. because they’d become more enamored with MMOs than with actual life. Or “irl” as MMO players like to call it. It made me sick.

Recently, I had a conversation with a life-long friend about WoW and guess what. He’s engaged, has a steady job, goes out with friends “irl”, and even retained all of his social skills while managing to level a few “toons” to Level 70. At first I was amazed that he’d even try WoW. He was never the gaming type to begin with. I joked with him that I was going to write a mock newspaper story (a’la The Onion) with a headline reading “MMO Player Maintains Relationship, Job, and Social Life: WoW Community is Outraged.” Then I heard about another friend who also plays Lord of the Rings Online (He even wrote about it here.), but didn’t become addicted to the point of installing a microwave next to his computer. 

So I got to thinkin’ that maybe I had it all wrong. You’ll never read a story in the newpaper about the Alexises and Marios of the world- the MMO players that can enjoy the game safely without having to keep empty bottles of Snapple nearby so that they don’t have actually get up and go to the restroom. You’ll never read a story in the newspaper (wait.. do they actually have print news anymore?) about a kid who has a maxed out character in WoW yet still gets good grades, got a scholarship and went on to succeed in college. It’s not going to happen.

I decided that placing the blame on MMOs made no more sense than blaming the hemp plant for people becoming drug addicts. Its dumb. How can anyone blame a plant, right? Its just a plant! At the end of the day it is we gamers that make the choice to log on and play for 18 hours straight or walk out of that door and enjoy the sun. It all boils down to choices. You can choose to lose yourself in MMOs, drugs, drinking, shopping too much, eating too much, etc. or you can choose to be responsible.

Needless to say, I don’t blame MMOs anymore. Hey, I even signed up for one. But I’ll be darned if I ever choose to stay home and “finish one more quest” rather than go out with my girlfriend or hang out with my brother. It just won’t happen.

With all that being said, I’ll take advantage of my soapbox and leave you all with the best gaming tip that Prima or I could ever provide: Game responsibly.


Way down south

And we’re off again. Representing Prima at the San Diego Comic Con for the second year in a row.

I attended for many years as a fan and a hopeful, crushed against the other fans in the rows of booths. Now being on the other side of the table it’s a different world. A good one. Now I can be nice to all the geeks and creatures that pass by, knowing how they’re in shock from either disinterested (or overwhelmed) talent that can barely scribble an autograph before growling for the next person in line or the desperate ballyhoo of the independent boothers trying to get them to buy something.

We’re not selling we just want to say “Hi, we’re here.” And as individuals we’re not famous, we are instead completely unknown, subverting our independent selves to the betterment of the company. And so I think of our area as an oasis, where they can approach without pressure or self-consciousness and talk about video games (Pokemon, mostly) or anime (if Lex happens to be at the booth) or comics (so I can dominate the conversation with fevered rants about the literary intention of the graphic novel).

No pressure. Stop by. We’re waiting.


Advertising in Games

In the late ‘80s, the movie Top Gun was released on video (VHS). Critics were upset because the video contained a commercial for Pepsi before the movie began. You may remember the F-14 Tomcat with the Pepsi bottle dispenser (it was a glass bottle as well). While the advertising may have been a problem for some, I did not mind it at all. In fact, I was glad for it because it allowed for the movie to be sold for a much cheaper price than other videos so I could afford to buy it. Before that time, videos were expensive and move people just rented them rather than pay the steep price for a single movie. By having Pepsi sponsor the video release, Paramount (I believe) was able to sell the video cheaper. It sold so well, that other videos dropped in price as well as studios realized that cheaper price means more sales as well as a greater profit.


The purpose of advertising is to sell a product. Companies pay media outlets to run or print their ads and that is where media makes a lot of their money. Television and radio shows are free (not counting some satellite and cable channels) because advertisers are footing the bill for you to watch and listen. Magazines and newspapers are about 60%-75% ads. Comic books used to be full of ads. When they dropped outside advertising, the cost of comic books went up. Therefore, according to this economic model, advertising makes media cheaper for the consumer.


Over the weekend my wife and I were watching Vantage Point (a great movie, by the way). Forrest Whittaker’s character uses a video camera during many scenes in the movie. Right away I noticed that from several different angles, I could see the Sony logo. I then remembered that the movie was by Columbia, a Sony Pictures studio. It is no coincidence that the video camera in the movie was a Sony. As you watch TV or movies, you will notice lots of product placements throughout.


Advertisements have been appearing in video games for a while as well. Atari used billboards in the arcade version of Pole Position, a racing game, to advertise their other games. So this is not new. What brought up the top of this blog was that I recently learned that some upcoming games will have dynamic advertising throughout. From what I have read, these might be billboards with real ads. If that were not enough, one of the goals is to destroy as many of these billboards as you can. Of course, if you are going to destroy a billboard, you will have to aim and look at it. This is taking in-game advertising a bit too far in my opinion, by rewarding players for looking at ads with points or achievements.


However, if the publishers of these games with advertising are including ads to make the game less expensive for the players rather than just pocketing the extra profits, I am willing to let it slide. Maybe advertising will make brand new next-gen games more affordable.





the secret life of a strategy guide writer / 08

Last time: I remembered the great days when visiting Rare involved retinal scans and Great British fry-ups. This time, I pack slightly too few pieces of clothing for a trip up to the Edmonton tundra, to visit the largest mall in the Galaxy. Oh, and Bioware’s Ice palace.

Part 8: Bio-hazards

You take a plane to Seattle. You take another plane to Vancouver, politely smile and waver your constitutional rights away at customs, then stagger to a prop-plane for a spot of tundra-skimming. Then it’s off to the white snow and frigid temperatures of Edmonton, Alberta Canada. Flying there was an interesting experience, as the landscape was pure white. Alas, there’s nothing that you’d call “hills” for hundreds of miles, so skiing was out of the question. I half-expected to spot Steve Buscemi’s mangled foot sticking out of a wood chipper while Peter Stormare gets shot in the leg by a pregnant Frances McDormand out on Moose Lake. But that was the hundreds of miles of white you peered at until your eyes go funny until you reach an approximation of civilization; Endmonton itself.

The place is nice enough, and features the world’s biggest Mall, if you want to take your mind off the -35 degree weather they were having when I sprinted from the taxi to the hotel that Bioware’s offices share, and immediately lost all sensation down the left side of my face. After warming up in the faux-British pub, I wandered through an interior atrium, and into Bioware’s lair. There’s a good deal of turquoise and wood if I remember correctly, and offices stretching around long corridors, interspersed with zones where groups of people work furiously on games; in my case, they were finishing up Jade Empire. The Bioware crew are what you call “dedicated.” Sleeping bags were spotted. One of the team had gout. You don’t get gout by putting in the bare minimum of hours, you know. There’s a great communal room where the latest video games are played, and the coldest pizzas are reheated and eaten. Except when buckets of Chinese are delivered.

I’ve never met a nicer bunch of folks before, and I’ve never had all the moisture in my face sucked out from the time I left my taxi to reaching my hotel. It was a trip full of firsts.

Next time, I step cautiously away from Cliff Bleszinski’s Transformer toy… action figure collection.

Just finished: Touring the Wasteland.

Currently: Touring the Wasteland and noting down interesting locations.

About to: Continue my tour of the Wasteland.


July 2008
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