Archive for August, 2008


The Sims 2: Apartment Life Author Tips 1/3

Apartments, communites, roomies, witches and more!  The Sims 2: Apartment Life is full of new goodies for all your Sims and master Sims player Greg Kramer has a set of tips to get your apartment setup correctly the first time!

1. When your Sim is first transformed into a witch by the NPC Witch (Good or Evil), buy as many of each kind of reagent as your Sim can afford. Nothing’s more frustrating than having all this new power and no way to use it.

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Too Human: Class Spec Faves

Too Human is releasing on Tuesday. Have you given any thought to which class you’re going to choose? What about skills or alignment? Here’s a quick run down of my favorite specs for each class, customized to match my style of play.

Skill Focus: Attack Speed/Dual Wield
Alignment: Human
Dump skill points in the left branch of the skill tree to take advantage of The Bear’s Boiling Blood, Swift of Claw, and Unrelenting Blades. On the human alignment tree, max out Hero’s Heart. Consider maxing out both A Capacity for Rage (skill tree) and Quick to Anger (human tree) to increase the Berserker’s combo level capacity to five.

Bio Engineer
Skill Focus: Durability/Healer
Alignment: Cybernetic
Invest in the center branch of the skill tree to access the awesome Ward of the Norns’ protective shield spider and hit point enhancing Cellular Rebonding. Increase the spider’s deployment time by maxng out Eveflowing Source in the cybernetic tree.

Skill Focus: Aerial Combat/Melee Damage
Alignment: Human
Max out Asgard’s Fury, then invest in the nodes on the skill tree’s left branch, taking advantage of the damage-boosting One Will Rise Above All and Warrior of the Blood-Eel skills. On the human alignment tree, invest in The Everburning Heart to decrease combo costs and Hero’s Heart to increase melee attack speed.

Skill Focus: Ranged Combat/Explosives
Alignment: Cybernetic
Initially, max out the Wrecker of Mead Halls root skill to boost damage of all secondary fire (grenades, missiles, etc.) munitions. Rain of Iron is another worthwhile skill, as are Tree of Shrieking-Flame, Cut to the Bone, and Gift of Gungnir. Choose cybernetic alignment to gain access to cannons, then invest heavily in the left branch to increase ammo capacity, range, and penetration.

Skill Focus: Durability/Tank
Alignment: Cybernetic
Boost your defense by investing heavily in Defender’s Resilience, Ward of the Norns, and Reversal of Wyrd’s. Most importantly, max out Tyr’s Best Work to enhance the protective value of each equipped armor piece. On the cybernetic tree, boost Augmented Musculature and Enhanced Mobility Actuators to increase damage output. At the bottom of the tree, invest in Hardened Carbotanium Chassis to further boost your total armor value.

For more information on Too Human, including detailed breakdowns of each class and all 94 skills, see our guide releasing this Tuesday; or download the sections on the Commando and Defender now for free! The guide has everything you need to take your character to level 50 including maps of every level (showing all obelisks, containers, and secret areas), complete stats for every ultra-rare epic piece of equipment, class-specific anti-monster tactics, in-depth character bios, and much more.



I’ve now worked on two Viva Pinata guides and played the first game rather intensely for a period of a couple of months. I did well, attracted many fun papier machie beasties, and made the lives of unseen virtual children joyous with deliveries of candy-filled whack-a-creatures to bring sugar-fueled happiness to their unseen virtual parties.

Yet I’m still utterly baffled as to how anyone in this world thought up the premise for the game. I mean, how did they pitch it?

“OK, here’s the idea…living pinatas.”

Would you have green-lighted such an enterprise? I would’ve given it some seriously raised eyebrows. It sounds ludicrious. I have trouble explaining it to my friends and family. (“No, you don’t build pinatas, you raise them…yes, like a farm animal.”).

And yet, here we are and the game is a great time. I’m not one for the cutsey, cartoon spawning, collection games but I was enthralled for hours upon hours. Apparently, when it comes to the animate pinatas, I’m a 12 year old girl, delighted when I attracted a Chewnicorn.

The next installment that we’re doing a guide for now is Trouble in Paradise. New animals, funny names, new Garden items and textures. Good times. Pinata times…


Too Human Author Gameplay Tips

Ten tips from the man who wrote the book, David Knight:

Combo Meter Growth

Combo Meter Growth

1. Combo meter growth is based on hitting and killing enemies. But you can gain higher combo growth by killing enemies in the air, performing consecutive slide attacks, killing light polarities with a fierce attacks,or killing dark polarities with finishers. Increasing combo levels results in bonus experience, dramatically faster slide speeds, increased slide distance, bonus slide damage, and increased rate of fire for your guns. Combo levels also are required to initiate ruiner attacks and battle cries.
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Tom Clancy Thriller? No, it’s the news

While the world’s attention was focused on the sensational Olympic opening ceremonies in Beijing, Russian tanks were rolling into the former Soviet republic of Georgia. The Russians claimed they were protecting the ethnic Russians living in South Ossetia, a region in northern Georgia, from Georgian forces who had moved in to punish separatist forces. Let’s go back a bit to see how this all came to a head. When Georgia declared independence from the Soviet Union in 1991, the people in South Ossetia shortly after tried to become independent from Georgia. Fighting erupted and finally Georgia and Russia signed a peace treaty where South Ossetia remained part of Georgia, but Russian peacekeeping troops remained. Russia also issued Russian passports to the people of South Ossetia, essentially making them Russian citizens.


What set off the recent conflict is that Georgia launched a surprise operation last week to restore its control in South Ossetia. This was all Russia needed to launch a full scale invasion with their forces that just happened to be at the border. In addition to driving the Georgian forces out of South Ossetia, Russian troops advanced into clear Georgian territory to capture the town of Gori which is located in the middle of the country along the main east-west highway. Furthermore, Russia captured Georgian military bases and sank a Georgian naval vessel. Russian aircraft bombed the Georgian capitol of Tbillsi attacking not only military targets, but also civilians.


From my point of view (I have a degree in history and military history as well as teach high school history), Russia was just waiting for an opportunity to move into Georgia. This former republic has become very friendly with the west and the US is working with it to include it in NATO. Russia, which is becoming an economic power due to its oil reserves, has taken a back seat since the end of Communism and under the leadership of Putin, who by the way is no longer president, but still pulls the strings, has tried to regain its status are a world power with which to be reckoned. Other former Soviet republics are also leaning to the west. It appears that Georgia may be Russia’s example to the rest. Russian foreign policy has often been heavy-handed, especially when dealing with smaller countries. Now it looks like Putin is taking a page out of Al Capone’s tactics from 1920’s Chicago.


As for Tom Clancy, it is interesting that part of the premise of the upcoming game, Tom Clancy’s EndWar is that Russia, gaining power by exporting oil after trouble in the Middle East, starts World War III in order to regain its supremacy in Europe. However, with the US busy in Iraq and Afghanistan, will the west be able to support Georgia? Or will they let it fall to Russia just like France and Britain let Czechoslovakia fall to Hitler’s Germany (which also began as protection for ethnic Germans)? Time will tell.








the secret life of a strategy guide writer / 11

Last time: I played ball with the resident cool cats at Naughty Dog. This time, I enter the maze known as Electronic Arts’ Redwood City Campus.

Part 11: Arts for Arts’ Sake

I’ve been there to work on The Godfather and Crysis, and I’ve had a whale of a time on both occasions. During the 1990s, when I was working at the hilariously awful incite Video Gaming magazine, we watched (in-between bouts of deathmatch Kingpin) as a series of university-sized buildings rose skywards near the 101 Freeway just south of San Francisco. We knew EA was planning something big, but didn’t realize just how enormous the place actually turned out to be. Fast-forward six years, and I’m attempting to find my strategy guide contact. Three reception rooms later, I’m in the main foyer of one of the buildings. The one with the 20-foot wide projector screen broadcasting E.A. T.V. to the assembled sharp-suited dudes who are here to make billions, the executive’s kids here to play Madden before anyone else, and Coolio. He’s always there: In spirit, if not congealed form.

Amid the blaring awesomeness, dozens of flat-screens showing off games from the last six months, and more projection screens showing pre-production art from different video games (a rather nifty way to re-use assets), I was given an exciting swipe-card that opened just enough security doors, and escorted to meet the teams. The floors of the building itself are set out like a cubicle metropolis, but open plan enough to prevent screaming. You’re always close to an executive office, conference room, Starbucks machine. Starbucks coffee house, basketball court, football field, contemplation pool… it’s a wonder anyone leaves. Naturally, I made a wrong turn and locked myself in a maintenance corridor, eerily like the one in the Mirror’s Edge demo. Lacking the ability to see red sections of concrete, I feebly tried to phone my way out. Two hours later, security dragged me back to normality.

Next time: I inspect Jade Raymond’s tree house.


Ubisoft trip wrap-up

So we made the return trip home from Montreal with minimal delays…at least until we hit Vegas on an unusual rainy day. But we’re back now and poring over our notes and assets in attempt to figure out how we’re going to approach this guide. Far Cry 2 is shaping up nicely and is easily one of the best looking games I’ve seen on the 360 or PS3. Plus it addresses many of the issues I’ve had with shooter genre. But I would stop short of calling Far Cry 2 a simple shooter. It’s so much more than that.

Not long ago I was writing a guide for a tactical shooter and determining the best path to a hilltop objective. While glancing at the in-game map I saw that there was a narrow twisting road leading up the hill; an area that was certainly packed with enemies. Instead of taking that path, I looked for other ways to reach the objective. But there were none. In one area my attempt to flank was impeded by an overturned row boat. And we all know badass military types can’t hop/climb/crawl over such contrived obstacles. So I was forced to take the narrow road up the hill and was hardly surprised when ambushed by scores of enemy troops. This sort of fixed-path design seemed really old fashioned, not unlike the maze-like games (Wolfenstein 3D, Doom, Duke Nuke Em 3D) from a decade ago. Even recent bestsellers like Call of Duty 4 suffer from this “one path in, one path out” rail-shooter style of level design.

For this reason, Far Cry 2’s open world design feels much more like a GTA game than a standard shooter. You’re capable of taking on missions at your own pace. And instead of giving you a confined maze to run and gun through, the designers have provided an entire African country to explore. When you get a mission, it’s completely up to you how to get to the objective area. Want to drive a jeep? How about piloting a river boat? Once you reach the objective, you can accomplish your goal in a number of ways, attacking from 360 degrees. You can hold back and clear out the objective area with a sniper rifle or mortar, rush in with guns blazing, set distracting wild fires with molotovs, or you can sneak in with silent weapons, carving up unsuspecting hostiles with a machete. This type of design inspires immense creativity and replayability, allowing the player to customize their tactics based on their preferred style of play, weapon availability, time of day, current weather conditions, NPC behavior, and numerous other factors.

On our last day at the studio Jason Arsenault showed me the game’s multiplayer map editor, shipping with all versions. This powerful tool allows any user to create and upload their own map by easily molding mountains, raising the water level, “painting” the terrain with vegetation, and hand placing a wide variety of structures and objects. Of course, making a well-balanced and fun map won’t be easy, so the uploaded content will be rated by the community, helping the best maps rise to the top. This is a very exciting prospect, practically ensuring a perpetual fresh batch of multiplayer maps within days of launch.

Well that’s enough for now. I need to get back to playing the game. There’s something I need to blow up. More Far Cry 2 info incoming in the days/weeks ahead.

August 2008
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