Beta Test Ultima IV for the iPad


No High Scores

I make no bones about the fact that I consider Ultima IV one of the finest games of its time. But while I’m glad EA is making it available for free (via the recently launched UltimaForever.com), the chances of me burning off precious desktop PC gaming hours playing it are pretty slim. An iPad version, though? Now we’re talking. And that’s just what the xu4 project team is seeking beta testers for. If you’re interested (no jailbreaking required), check out the details at Ultima Aiera. (They’ve also got a separate page with more screenshots and a rather difficult to see video.) All in all, this looks promising!

Witcher 2 to Get Easier


No High Scores

According to yesterday’s story at Eurogamer, CD Projekt’s Senior Producer on Witcher 2, Tomasz Gop, has said they’re looking at easing up on the difficulty curve for the 360 version of the game (with some of those tweaks also being made available on PC). I’m good with that. On Normal the game is certainly playable, but it can be a real bear, even punitive at times, especially where some of the boss battles are concerned. A few weeks ago, on Jumping the Shark, I even noted that I’d like to see a difficulty mode put in between Normal and Easy because Easy is simple to the point of mindlessness. So what did Gop have to say?

“Definitely we are thinking about the easy mode. It should be easy.”

Guys, I applaud the thought, but if you made Easy mode any less difficult my cat could play the game and she’s been dead for three years.

Ken Levine Talks Bioshock Infinite

Ken Levine talks about the factions in Bioshock Infinite and you get a brief glimpse of the demo we saw at E3, sans the crazy roller coaster stuff.

Below is another Levine clip from earlier last week about the skylines…aka the crazy rollercoaster stuff we saw at E3. Both vids are worth a watch if for no other reason than to see a guy who has a very clear vision for the type of game he wants to make. Want to know why Irrational Games and Levine’s games in particular work as well as they do? These videos provide some insight.

Don't Shoot the Food – Green Lantern Pie Edition

No High Scores

I’ve been playing a lot of Green Lantern: Rise of the Manhunters for review purposes lately. It’s not a bad game. It takes wholesale from God of War and waters it down to be more kid friendly, but it’s competent at what it’s trying to do. As movie games go, it’s much better than what we usually get. As action games go, it’s pretty much middle of the road. Hey, look, I just saved you the hassle of reading my review.

Any way, playing GL got me thinking about green foods for this week’s column and as the only green things I could come up with were vegetables and Green Eggs and Ham, all seemed lost until I remembered Grasshopper Pie. Yes, I know, another pie. What can I say? I love pies and I love baking pies and Grasshopper Pie is not only very easy but it’s easily one of my favorites. It’s somewhat on the expensive side if you don’t already have creme de menthe or creme de cacoa, like I didn’t the first time I made it, but, the plus side is that once you have the liquor, you can make a whole bunch of pies, or a whole bunch of drinks, or a whole bunch of both. You don’t need to buy the green colored creme de menthe, as it comes in clear as well, but where’s the fun in that? Not only is that not very grasshopper-y, but it’s not very Green Lantern-y either.

Grasshopper Ice Cream Pie

Ingredients
1. 1 large store bought graham cracker crust or home made graham cracker crust – I buy them from the store. I ain’t got time for all of this baking when there’s delicious, minty drinks to be consuming.
2. About a quart of vanilla ice cream
3. 1/4 cup whole milk
4. 5 cups mini marshmallows
5. 3 TBL creme de menthe
6. 2 TBL creme de cacoa
7. 1 1/4 cup cold heavy or whipping cream
8. 1/4 confectioners’ sugar

Cooking steps
1. Once you get your hands on a crust, refrigerate it until you need it.
2. Put the ice cream in the fridge for about 15 minutes to soften it up. Once the ice cream is soft, spoon it into the crust and press it in evenly. Be careful not to crack the crust. If you do, it’s not a total deal breaker, but presentation is everything! Smooth out the ice cream and then put the whole thing back in the freezer until the filling is done.
3. Find a metal bowl to use for making the whipped cream and place it, along with your beaters in the fridge or freezer.
4. Combine the milk and marshmallows in a large saucepan and heat over low heat, stirring frequently until the marshmallows are fully melted. Once everything is melted, remove the pan from the heat and let it cool to room temperature.
5. Once the marshmallow mixture is cooled, stir in the creme de menthe and creme de cacao.
6. Using your chilled bowl and beaters, whip the heavy cream until it holds soft peaks. Add the sugar and beat well. You want the whipped cream to be stiff, but not taste like a mouthful of sand.
7. Fold the marshmallow-liquor mixture into the whipped cream and mix until fully incorporated. Have a taste. Go ahead, it’s ok. Minty, right? Well, don’t worry, it will mellow out over time.
8. Smooth your cream-marshmallow-liquor concoction over the top of the pie and freeze for at least three hours. I know waiting is tough, but this pie tastes much better the next day when the mint has had a chance to mellow out a bit. Plus, because it’s kept in the freezer, you don’t have to worry about anything getting soggy.

So there you have it, easy, minty, green, delicious. Hard to argue with such a mix.

I’m going to be on vacation next week, so you’ll be on your own in the kitchen for a week. Try not to burn the place down while I’m gone.

Still hungry? Check out the Don’t Shoot the Food archive.

Call of Duty: Black Ops Annihilation Trailer


Enjoy.

Chaos in the Old World: Horned Rat Expansion in Review


My review of the new Chaos in the Old World Expansion, The Horned Rat, has gone live at Gameshark.com. It’s a good one.

Chaos in the Old World was my pick for our Game of the Year award back in 2009, and it just continues to grow in stature. I think it’s one of the best games of the decade when you add in this expansion- having a fifth god increases the brutality and violence in the game, which is exactly what should happen given its setting and principal figures.

See, I don’t always slam FFG…just when they release overpriced, over-exploited, and underdeveloped garbage.

FemShep Finally Getting Her Due in Mass Effect 3

No High Scores

FemShep fans rejoice! The Escapist is reporting that based on tweets from BioWare marketing director David Silverman that not only will FemShep appear on the game’s Collector’s Edition, but the most ass-kicking renegade in the history of the universe will also get her own trailer. Sure, she may not be canonical, but those of us that fly the FemShep banner know who the real Shepard is. My only hope is that BioWare either changes the default FemShep look to look like the “canonical” FemShep, or they provide the proper values for the facial generation stuff.

Seen at The Escapist.

The Rumor Mill


No High Scores

Image: digitalart / FreeDigitalPhotos.net

I was a big fan of the show Studio 60 on the Sunset Strip. It was pretty much just me and a half dozen other Aaron Sorkin acolytes who are universally in love with what it says about our under-appreciated intelligence that we’re the only ones who really “get” the man’s writing. One scene I particularly liked from the show is when the character of Jordan McDeer gives an interview with Time magazine. She gets an inane question about her personal life, justified with the always popular, “talk in the industry,” and proceeds to take the man down a peg when she says, “I think you’re reporting on what you and the guy in the cubicle next to you were talking about at lunch. And that makes you a hairdresser and a cockfight promoter.” (See time code 7:37 of this clip.)

That line occurs to me a lot when I read about “rumors” or “talk” in the gaming press. Now, before I pull out my high and mighty pedestal, in which I pretend I’m somehow above the influence of mundane rumors, let’s be clear: I’m not saying rumors have no place in our discourse. They’re fun forum fodder. They can generate valuable discussion on more mainstream sites. They have their place. At the same time, I think a lot of big gaming news sites attach the word “rumor” to their stories anytime someone wants to justify writing about something that is completely unsubstantiated or only has the very loosest possible sourcing. This went on today with the “news” that Mass Effect 3 may in fact have a multiplayer component…

Multiplayer rumors have swirled around Mass Effect for a good long time, although they’ve picked up steam of late. But it was a specific story that caught my eye today because it then showed up on half a dozen other sites within a couple of hours. Hell, my Twitter feed was loaded with discussion about it. And why not, right? We’re talking about adding multiplayer to what has been a wholly single-player experience. The notion of that actually happening kind of makes me want to vomit in my mouth, but I get I’m in something of a minority there. I had even started to do my own write-up on it before I really read the story. That’s when I decided to throw my post out. Why? Well, let’s look at what they’re actually reporting:

- An unattributed lead that says ME3 is “rumored to feature four-player co-op mode.”
- An “understanding” by the site that it will have four-player co-op as a standalone feature (as well as “competitive elements.”)
- “Current reports” that say ME3 multiplayer includes a Horde-style mode
- A “source” that says Bioware Montreal is creating a multiplayer component for Mass Effect, but cannot confirm if it’s for a separate game or for Mass 3.
- A named source (Muzyka), from a separate interview by the looks of it, that does say, “We haven’t talked at all about multiplayer…” (emphasis mine)
- Mass Effect 3 was delayed from its initial 2011 launch, with a strong implication that the two are connected.

Now, I’m not going to name the site that reported this information because I’m not looking embarrass that site (or the writer) here. Chances are you know exactly what story I’m talking about. If you do, let’s leave them out of it in the comments. I respect the site in question a great deal and this sort of thing goes on everywhere. We’ve done it here. I’ve done it. There’s no nefarious intent and I’m more interested in the discussion than playing holier than thou. But here’s what we have in this story: Not a single named source in the “yay multiplayer” corner. Those first three bullet points? Completely and totally unattributed. Attribution is implied, but it’s not there. There is one person referred to as “a separate source” with absolutely no additional detail. What we do have is Muzyka saying they haven’t talked about multiplayer for Mass “at all.” I’ll grant you that statement strains credibility beyond the breaking point, but it’s the only thing on the record. And the shipping delay? Name for me a AAA game that hasn’t been delayed. One thing does not equal the other. I read all that and I think this is constructed to look like a story, and sound like a story, but it’s just not a story. It’s there because it puts “Mass Effect” and “Multiplayer” in the same title. It’s the epitome of, “there is talk in the industry,” reporting.

Look, rumors are fun. Speculation is fun. I just find it fascinating when something without a toehold of confirmed fact or credible source behind it catches fire like this story seems to have done. (When I say “credible source,” I mean something more than “a source” that makes me think this person knows what they’re talking about. “A source within Bioware,” for example.) What say the rest of you? Do you like it when sites post unconfirmed or only tacitly confirmed rumors or would you rather they wait until there’s something concrete to go on? How much does the tone of the story influence that opinion?

Nicholson Electroplating Arson Case Trailer Has Crazy Damage and Crazy Multimillionaires

The Nicholson Electroplating Arson Case drops for LA Noire next week and has our favorite stoic hero investigating an explosion that did a lot of damage, killed a lot of people and apparently involves Howard Hughes in come capacity. At this point, given that I have every achievement in the game, Phelps can try and solve the Lindbergh baby kidnapping for all I care. I just want the points! Well, that and I like the game, but yeah, I’m all about the points.

Zombie State Games announces Scavengers; includes 1" custom bear figurine


Last year, Zombie State Games put out an interesting but not very good zombie game called, of course, Zombie State. It took a look at the grossly overgamed subject from a global perspective, with nations trying to contain the walkin’ dead while developing technologies to combat them. Some good ideas, but between the worn out theme and some clunky mechanics, it didn’t quite make the cut. This year, they’re going camping. With the Hamburger family. In a light card game called Scavengers, which I doubt will make my review pile but the Zombie State folks are really nice so I don’t mind giving them some press. In a shameless attempt at hit-trolling, I’m hiding the image of the 1″ custom bear figurine that this game ships with past the “read more” below. Go on. You know you want to see it.

There, see. I’m not holding out on you. Press follows.

Each year the Hamburger family escapes into the great outdoors for a liittle rest and relaxation. During their stay eager animals scavenge for food that has been left unattended to take home and make meals of their own.

Light enough to delight brand new gamers and yet versatile enough to intrigue the saltiest veterans, this game is a must have! Scavengers is a card-based family game. The game’s compact box makes it easy to take camping or over to the neighbors for game night. This game is sure to leave your friends and family hungry for more!

Scavengers is an addictive game for 2-4 players ages 10 and up and comes in a compact box approximately 8×5 inches.

The Game Includes

1 custom bear figurine

1 game board (map of the camp ground)

69 food scraps (tokens)

3 crow tokens

44 scavenger cards

24 camper cards

16 food cards

1 rulebook

Expected release date August, 2011. $24.95 retail.