Tanker Pride

When the simulation strategy game World of Tanks first launched on PC it was a game play experience that for many simmers fell into the easy to take-it-or-leave-it category.  It’s not that it was not unique enough, nor was it a matter of lacking polish – in almost every respect it was – and is – a great game.

That said though, what WoT lacked was a strong sense of accomplishment via play.  Not that it failed to TRY to create that sort of feedback mind you!  I mean look at the immediate feedback and recognition scheme that it uses in the form of medals, ribbons, and performance award!

I just this very second finished a battle.  So let me tell you about it as that will surely illustrate what the game truly has to offer.  Oh, and I should add for the same of clarity and transparency that the round and battle that I just finished?  Yeah, it was on Xbox One.


The T-18 Tank Destroyer – a specialized tool whose job was to hunt down and kill other tanks. To that end, they come equipped with a large bore gun and a combination of M48 High Explosive and M66 HEAT (High Explosive Anit-Tank) shells.

Somewhere in Germany there is a town called Himmelsdorf where a battle between two tank units has just wrapped up.  I was on the losing side of what the game classifies as a “Standard” Battle – but even so and as a consequence of my veteran skills, I came out of the battle with my totals in terms of both XP and Funds – on the plus (positive) side.

According to the summary screen even though my unit lost, I rolled away with the following:

  • $5,648 non-premium funds;
  • 442 XP
  • Master Gunner Award Ribbon – Scored at least 5 armor-penetrating hits;
  • Fire for Effect Ribbon – Caused more enemy damage than hit points on my tank;
  • Master Badge III at 50% – Earned more battle XP than 50% of the other players for my type;
  • x1 Critical Hit Ribbon – Damaged an opponent or crew member on an enemy tank;
  • x8 Enemy Damaged – Damage an enemy tank times 8;
  • x2 Tank Destroyed Ribbons – Personally destroyed two enemy tanks.

During the battle, which lasted nearly 15m, I personally destroyed 2 enemy tanks, did a total of 302 pts damage via 8 penetrating shots and assisted in 2 additional fights of which 1 of the tanks I personally “detected” from its concealment.

A closer examination of the results of my shots reveals that over the course of the battle I engaged a total of four (4) individual tanks, doing the following damage:

  1. Fabio BR1’s T16E-X1: 1 Shot for 36 Damage that destroyed the tank;
  2. K0rmil’s T2 Medium: 1 shot for 78 damage and I killed his gunner!
  3. Boysrule123’s T7 Car: 1 shot for 63 damage;
  4. Blindside62287’s T18: 5 shots for 125 damage and I destroyed his tankl.

On the enemy side the collection of tank types and tanks were:

  • G.Pz. Mk. VI (Class II) x1
  • Medium I (Class I) Medium Tank x1
  • Medium II Tank (Class II) x2
  • Pz. Jag. I (Class II) Tank Destroyer x1
  • Pz II (Class II) Light Tank x1
  • T1E6-X1 Light Tank (Class II) x1
  • T-2 Medium (Class II) Medium Tank x2
  • T-7 Car (Class II) Light Tank x1
  • T-18 (Class II) Tank Destroyer x2
  • T-57 (Class II) Artillery x1
  • T-60 Light Tank (Class II) x1
  • UC 2-pdr Tank Destroyer (Class II) X1

On our side (my unit in other words) there was:

  • Cruiser III Light Tank (Class II) x1
  • FT BS Artillery (Class II) x1
  • LTraktor Light Tank (Class I) x1
  • M2 Light Tank (Class II) x1
  • Medium II Medium Tank (Class II) x1
  • Pz. 35t Light Tank (Class II) x1
  • Pz. II Light Tank (Class II) x1
  • Pz. Jag. I Tank Destroyer (Class II) x1
  • T1E6-X1 Light Tank (Class II) x1
  • T-2 Medium Tank (Class II) x2
  • T-18 Tank Destroyer (Class II) x2
  • T-57 Artillery (Class II) x1
  • UC 2-pdr Tank Destroyer (Class II) x1

In the final analysis it seems that our mistake was having too many Light Tanks (we had a total of six to their three) and perhaps some of it was down to the fact that it was uban fighting in a town built into the side of a mountain…


The Xbox One version of World of Tanks has managed to add something to the experience of playing this excellent tank battle simulator.  It is an element and feel I cannot put my finger on exactly or define, but it is sufficient to make all the difference somehow.

I recommend this game – which is truly Free-to-Download, and Free-2-Play!


For this battle I was at the controls of my trusty T-19 Tank Destroyer whose name is


Halo MCC: Achievements Run Amok

Before we jump right in to the subject of this post I wanted to explore my special feelings for the word “Amok:” which, being one of those special words that sounds very different from how it is written – and how significant it is to expression an idea accurately.

The Word “Amok”

The word first entered popular usage in both English and Spanish in the mid 17th century, and its roots can be found in the original Malay word mengamuk – which is defined as “rushing with great frenzy”.

The origin is significant for a number of reasons, not the least being the general atmosphere for highly educated and verbally articulate members of society at the time.

Perhaps more significant (at least in terms of its strategic use in debate) is the fact that it contains specific emotional and even religious connotations.  It is fair to characterize Amok as being similar to the original meaning of Berserk, the two words sharing a fanatical religious origin.

It certainly helped in increasing the popularity of these strange words and ideas that there  was something in the atmosphere then that was very much like that of the habitual collector – and when we say “habitual collector” we are tactfully saying they horde… That comment requires some explaining…

In the mid-17th century the world was rapidly growing smaller, and not simply because everyone and their brother was outfitting small merchant vessels for exploration and trade, dispatching them to the far flung corners of the earth in the hopes of discovering some very specific goals that were widely believed to exist.

Around 1 in every 5 of these expeditions actually returned, and of the roughly 20% that completed a successful voyage, perhaps 1 in 10 returned with the fortune in goods and spices that their benefactors hoped for.  Dismal odds to be sure!

The European exploration of the Pacific during this era was largely inspired by four obsessions: (1) finding a faster and safer route to India by sailing into the sunset; (2) finding the fastest and most productive routes to the spice-rich islands of the Moluccas.

In addition to those two important considerations, there was (3) finding undiscovered sources for cash crops like cocoa beans (which recently gripped the continent in a vice-like habit of taking in the news – and the newest beverage of the elite – whipped chocolate); and finally (4) locating the route to the vast and as-yet undiscovered massive southern continent that simply MUST exist in the South Pacific waters!

A fifth consideration actually existed – though this one was what we might call a fringe element today, and was not widely embraced by nations or the leaders of city-states, and that is that the origins of social culture and wisdom originated not in Africa, but in the South Pacific!

Specifically it was thought that if an island so small and isolated as Greece might produce learned men such as Thales of Miletus, Aristotle, Pythagoras, and Plato, what might the islands of the South Pacific offer?

Fame and Fortune via Patronage

The consequences of this rapid exploration though mostly unscientific was new opportunities presented to the naturalist and natural scientists of the era – men (and with rare exception a few women) who could go to the New World, spend six months collecting seeds, drawing plants, and classifying them, taking samples back with them to England or one of the more affluent European city-states.

A system of fashionable collectors and patronage existed that basically meant that any natural scientist who managed to defy the odds and get their new collection of notes, seeds, and best of all, live plants — back home — could depend upon widespread support to the extent that certain collectors of botany and keepers of rare plants would fight over who got to purchase that new flower!

Now add to that environment a subset of scholar-patrons whose interest fell in both the preservation AND the inclusion of languages, lore, history, and the like, and you can easily see how all of those language books, history books, and basic travel guides ended up being published.

To help explain the thought patterns of the era and color-in the personalities and how that all came together try to accept that for these wealthy sorts who considered themselves the patrons to the natural sciences, any triumph for one of the many natural scientists, biologists, linguists, and scholars that THEY supported was widely accepted as reflected glory for THEM.

So you see, when the book was published it did not simply contain a dedication to Mssr. Ronald Smythe-Blunt, Patron, but was credited as published by that patron.  So shared glory was largely the currency of the realm in terms of fame at the time.  Today we have YouTube.

You have to remember that this was a period roughly 75 years BEFORE Carl Linnaeus appeared on the scene and delivered his significant influence on the great value of learning and classifying the discoveries one makes in both the world and natural sciences!  More on that in a moment…

First though, consider this: the Javanese language was virtually unknown in contemporary and learned society outside of the small community of naturalists whose hobby-slash-profession included exploring the mysterious corners of the world, and what was at that time considered to be the last truly great mysteries – the South Pacific Islands.

While very few readers could tell you where the islands upon which these amazing words and ideas might be heard, words like Amok very rapidly entered the lexicon largely due to their colorful nature and a shared desire to be able to speak influentially.  That last bit was very important to the learned and those who thought that they were learned.

Amok Amok Amok!

The early use of the word – and the reason that it so quickly caught on – was as a noun denoting a Malay who was in the grip of a homicidal frenzy and on the attack.  Several very popular (read that commercially successful) exploration adventure books (these were a specific sort of adventure book that were a mixture of non-fiction and fiction, very heavily embellished and, prior to the mid 17th century, largely focused upon the dark continent (Africa).

You could do no better in scoring social points – and particularly among the diverse collection of psuedo intellectuals to be found in coffee and chocolate houses – to win an argument using a real word that was so new your opponent lacked the basic comprehension to know HOW to respond to you when you used it – and so words like “Amok” soon became the .44 Magnum Bullets of the day for personal dueling.

It may help you to understand why this was so powerful a phrase to consider that by its very definition an episode in which the person has run Amok was normally thought to end with the attacker being killed — either by bystanders or by committing suicide – and thus you can see how colorful it stands as a way to paint an adversary as being on the route to a Pyrrhic victory.

So Where is This Taking Us?

When Halo: The Master Chief Collection (hereinafter called Halo: MCC) was announced the fact that it was to include FOUR major game titles under ONE roof was not lost on the gamer community in general, or Halo fans specifically.

It did not take long following the announce for speculation to begin on how the Achievements would be handled.

It was widely accepted that the games would probably get a brand new Achievement scheme, one that combined game play rather than isolating it.  Oh man was that off target!

Not only did the wizards who were creating this new package opt to retain the original Achievements Scheme, they did so with no apologies offered – to the tune of 500 Achievements worth a total of 5000g (!!)

500 @ 5000g

Those two numbers are so large that they deserve some examination.  The first point is there is no way to use the traditional display system on either the Xbox 360 OR the Xbox One to set and display them.  There are simply too many.

As a result of this reality in place of the standard sliding row of Achievements what we received instead was a token sample in that format that, once the player actually moved to examine the remaining 95% of the Achievements was then forced into a PiP window in the form of a narrow column divided into two themes: Locked and Unlocked Achievements.

Okay that is not so bad really, and it is easily managed up to a point, for sure, but once you actually begin to dig into the first game (and most players pretty much started from the beginning) which is Halo: Combat Evolved Anniversary (or Halo: CEA) a curious pattern emerged.

The typical player ended up STAYING in HCEA mode far longer than might otherwise be the case, largely as a result and consequence of the Achievements!

Put this another way – most players were loathe to move on from CEA until they had unlocked ALL of the Achievements that they felt they likely COULD unlock, for reasons (we suspect) that have more to do with the ungainly display scheme for Achievements than anything else.

Oddly enough – considering that WE do not play these games strictly for Achievements or adding ‘g’ to our score, we also found ourselves being influenced by precisely THOSE concerns!

So what does that look like?  Typically we mean? Consider that for JUST Halo: CEA there are 91 Achievements worth a total of 855g (those do NOT include the Common ones, of which there are 71 Achievements worth a total of 895g!)

Loitering for Achievements and ‘G’

Using Halo: CEA as our example, the Achievements Scheme for the game is structured as follows:

  • Common Achievements – G that applies to ALL of the games equally / cumulative activities.
  • Story: Level Completion – 10 Achievements worth a total of 100g.
  • Conditional: Par Times – 11 Achievements worth a total of 120g.
  • Conditional: Par Scores – 11 Achievements worth a total of 120g.
  • Conditional: Terminals – 11 Achievements worth a total of 70g.
  • Conditional: Skull Collection – 14 Achievements worth a total of 85g.
  • Conditional: Completion Difficulty Levels – 4 Achievements worth a total of 70g.

The remaining Achievements consist of a collection of conditional events as well as multi-player events that require some rather amazing commitment from the player to fully unlock.

Put it this way – in terms of TIME, the soonest that a player can complete unlocking the entire Achievements for Halo: CEA is around one (1) month (depending on the day of the month you begin) since one of the Achievements can only be unlocked on the 15th of a month.


“Common” = Achievements that are shared among ALL of the games.
= Achievements that require the player to do specific actions for set results.
= A collection set that consists of Skull Objects that when used perform specific game mods.
= Achievements that are unlocked as part of the Story Mode for Single / Multi-player and so cannot be missed.
“Terminals” = A collection set that when used triggers an external news and notification system.

So because of the diversity in the design of the Achievements – and the odd display scheme as well as organization – most players (particularly those who are into neat and orderly game play in terms of Achievements) quickly find that there is no way for it NOT to be messy!

Because of that we find that a lot of players end up opting to stick around in CEA until they have taken the unlocking as far as they reasonably can BEFORE moving on to the next game in the series, Halo 2, where they do precisely the same thing!

Is that strange or what?

Now that you understand that – and we have very well defined both the meaning and the origins for the word “Amok” – can you think of a better and more accurately descriptive word to use for this instance?  Because if you can, I would really sincerely like to know!

The Deed in Practice

Recently a reader emailed me asking if I actually really and genuinely DO the things I write about?  Now as I am a firm believer in full transparency it appears to me that the best way to demonstrate that I do, indeed, do the things I write about, I cordially invite you to verify that which I say!

You can accomplish this UN-style Trust but Verify policy by loading your favored Web Browser and pointing it at any of the following URLs:

You can also log into your Gamertag Account on Xbox Live (http://www.xbox.com/en-US/) then select the following:

  • Log In
  • Click the “Friends” Tab
  • Enter “Recnef” in the Search Box on the Friends Page

You are sincerely invited to “follow” me if you like but please do not send Friend requests (you can follow w/o doing that).  It is NOT that I do not want to be your friend mates, it is simply that I have run out of slots in the Friends Scheme and I cannot accept new friends.

I don’t want you to think I am ignoring your request but there is nothing I can do about it if you do send one.  Just saying.

Note: You will need to select View Xbox One Profile for the details on Halo: MCC…

Not only will you be able to verify my G and Gamerscore, but for most of the above you can see details on the different Achievements including data like the date it was unlocked, what it was worth, and the like.

Happily you can ALSO see my G in other games, and even compare YOUR status to mine if you like.  And how cool is that?

As you will quickly note, I do not speculate, but put into practice that which I write of!

Xbox One Anniversary

Is it possible that the Xbox One is already a year old?!  Wow… That year really raced past right?  Because it sure is a year old!

So, hey… First before I say anything else: Happy Christmas!

Now that that mischief has been managed, the wizards at LIVE – in honor of the Xbox One First Anniversary – send me some statistical information…  I will share that with you below!  But hey, if/when they send you yours, share it with me, umkay?

The Xbox One 1-Year Anniversary Statistics for Recnef

  • Xbox LIVE Member Since: 2008
  • Hours Gaming on LIVE: 1,423
  • Position Among LIVE Membership: Top 5%
  • Xbox One Gamerscore: 7,750
  • Gamerscore Position: Top 5%
  • Achievements Unlocked: 474
  • Achievements Position: Top 1%
  • Total X1 Game Library Played: 12%

For the record mates I should mention that my actual Gamerscore – when we tally up the X1, X360 and Windows = 142,540

The Agony of Decision – Little Slices of Improvement in Boom Beach

Life is full of little victories that are wrapped in large clinging blankets of boredom.  Luckily there is a mad angry midget with hand grenades taped to their bracers who shows up when you are least expecting them and does what they can to make life (please select all that apply):

(a) Exciting
(b) Frieghtening
(c) Terrifying
(d) Cloudy
(e) Require the assistance of an attorney
(f) Launch angry fathers into the room
(g) Misundertood
(h) All of the Above
(i) None of the Above
(j) Some of the Above – Pick what Works Best??

As a part-time rational adult (the details behind THAT little matter are part of a whole other story so you will just have to take my word for it for now) I recognize that my professional accomplishments fall outside of the norm.  When my wife sets up play-dates with other adults and we be social certain things tend to happen.

One of those things that invariably happens when we meet new people – or more often when I meet people who are new to me but who my wife already knows – part of the polite conversation involves them asking me what I do for a living, and then telling me what they do – always in that order.

The thing is I suspect that they already know what I do for a living – I am a writer – so what they are really asking is not so much what I do for a living, but how what I do for a living works.

When the person asking the question is female, their eyes tend to glaze-over as soon as I mention video games – no matter how I mention them.  If I happen to be in a reviewing frame of mind, Glazed Eyes.  Walk-through Guides?  Glazed Eyes.  Feature Pieces?  Yeah, glazed eyes.

Interestingly enough that is also true if I am in Techno-Geek Mode and share the details of that – but it is NOT true when I am covering Fashion Week in Manhattan.  Odd that.

But I am totally upfront about the fact that I am a whore, and I write where the money is.  Totally up front.

The odd thing is that the fact that I know things about fashion and particularly period fashion and haute couture has just the opposite effect on them – suddenly they are very interested in what I have to say about what I do.  Weird.

By they way, haute couture does not mean what you think it does…  A lot of guys think it either means high fashion or expensive bits of cloth masquerading as clothing – what it really means is high sewing, and is a French phrase that carries a lot more meaning in two simple words than English speakers are used to encountering in their phrases.

Now for guys it is a different story completely.  Their reaction is almost always an are-struck question like “Wait, so you get PAID to sit around and PLAY GAMES?!” and “You get FREE GAMES?!”

Here is the thing – and I hate to burst their bubble, but no, I don’t get paid to sit around and play games all day – I get paid to WRITE about games.  That whole playing part?  It represents only a tiny fraction of what I do and… Why are your eyes glazing over?

Boom Beach Business

One  of the games that I got paid to play and then write about is called Boom Beach – and it’s from the same code wizards – an outfit called SuperCell – who brought us Clash of Clans and Battle Buddies.  It is a mobile game of the battle sort, with hints of city-building and resource management.  In fact its game play style and cross-genre complication can easily be held out as a metaphor for video games journalism…

Here is the thing – under ordinary circumstances I download a game/app, play the hell out of it, then write about it.  Following THAT process, I delete the game, and never think about it again.  Unless an expansion is launched, in which case I then re-download the game and its new expansion, and start that process all over again.

In the case of Boom Beach something went wrong.  I never quite made it to the delete the game stage, and what is worse, I still spend 10 minutes or so playing it every day.

This has actually happened before…  Do you remember the app/games Camp Pokemon, SSG2 and Storm Casters?  Yeah I still play those as well…

With Boom Beach at least part of the reason I still play it has to do with the very time-intensive process of how you make progress in it.  By building and placing defenses, then upgrading them. I am still doing that!  And I might add, making pretty good progress at it as well!

My goal is to get all of the defensive weapons to Level 7 – I am not wuite there yet though – right now I have 4 Sniper Towers, 2 Machine Guns, and 2 Mortar at Level 7, but I still have other weps that need upgrading (A Level 4 Cannon, a Level 5 Cannon, Level 1 Flamethrower, and a Level 5 Machine Gun) which means I have weeks and weeks of 10 minutes a day to play yet before I am even close to feeling secure in my defensive position.  Just saying.

But it is those little slices of improvement that help get you through the day mates!

It’s progress that in the big picture has no meaning – but still, it IS progress.

It’s like my favorite George Takei line: “We’re Lost!  But We’re Making Good Time!”

So umm, hey… What do you do for a living?

A Killing Bonus – Sniper Elite III

While this is mostly for my own amusement and reference if you happen to be playing the video game Sniper Elite III on either Xbox One (that is what I am playing on), Xbox 360, PlayStation 3, or PlayStation 4, then you may find this to be of interest as well!

While each “kill” that you score against the German army results in the award of a specific score, depending upon how well you kill them – or how unique the kill is in terms of the body part hit, and the conditions under which the trigger was pulled – that can (often will) result in the award of bonus points!

The following Bonus Point System has been noted by me, in SE3, so far:


    Distance Bonus +10
    Empty Lung +5
    Headshot Bonus +5
    Long Distance Bonus +20
    Multi-Kill +20
    Penetration Bonus +5
    Rifle Kill +20
    Tagged Kill +10


    Ghost Kill +10
    Headshot Bonus +5
    Pistol Kill +10
    Silent Kill +5
    Tagged Kill +10

Frustrations of Modern Video Game Tech and other Wandering Thoughts

The world was a very different place in 1990. 

The Australia from whence I came — circa 1991 — No longer exists,

The two seemingly unconnected observations sadden me so profoundly and in so many different ways that I hardly know where to begin. 

It’s not simply a matter of fond and sentimental reflection upon better times — simpler times — or even just a lost national innocence, but then all of those apply…

This may appear to be a rather funny (funny as in “odd” not funny as in “haha”) way to begin a post about the Frustrations of Modern Video Game Tech, but then there you are… 

If you bear with me I promise that this will make a certain sort of sense; though I make not a single promise in the direction or the area of rational thought since this is more a combination of emotions that ebb and flow on a river of lost opportunities.  I am just saying.


Sometimes the things we carry are ideas or emotions, and sometimes the things we carry are physical things; oddly I find that the intangible often weighs far more and is more pressing upon the soul than the tangible.

An oxymoron is a figure of speech that juxtaposes apparently contradictory elements, with its most common form involving a two-word combination of  adjective–noun; classic examples include barbed and often plunging notions such as Jumbo Shrimp, Living Dead, Mad Wisdom, or my personal favorite, Deafening Silence.

Queen Victoria chose as her Poet Laureate Alfred, Lord Tennyson, who later due to his services to Crown and Country as Poet Laureate later became 1st Baron Tennyson with the agreement and recommendation of Prime Minister John Russell and the word (and Sword) of the Queen…  

While his tenure was one of the longest in the history of the position,it was marked by a string of passable but unexceptional works.  Every so often though (mostly when Tennyson felt events warranted the effort), a truly exceptional work would emerge.

Examples of the latter includes Break, Break, Break, Charge of the Light Brigade, Crossing the Bar, and Tears, Idle Tears.  

In addition to putting some very good words together in a fashion and with a pattern that was catchy, easy to remember, and nicely  expressed the emotions inherent to the story or events –Lord Tennyson enjoyed something like the fame of a modern-day rockstar — in fact it is fair to say that he was the Roger Waters of his day.   I do not flirt with hyperbole when I say that.

When the need was present, the Queen’s Poet Laureate happened to like the oxymoron as a tool of clarity — or not depending on how you look at it and what he wasn’t saying — a fact that can be no better illustrated than by the following line from his piece titled Idylls of the King:

And faith unfaithful kept him falsely true…

Yep, he not only made use of oxymoron, but he used TWO in that single short line!

I feel compelled to reveal something personal before I go on to reveal some things personal: I think in pictures, not in words.

When I think of you, I don’t see your name spelled out in letters inside my head, though I am told that a majority of homo sapiens have just that experience when they “think.” In place of that word instead I see your face, and what is more, I often smell you too.

While thinking in a mixture of pictures and words is very common – it’s estimated that around 65% of the humans presently alive on good old Terra do so – thinking exclusively in pictures (what is officially known as Visual/Spatial Thinking) is not common at all. 

That very uncommon — statistically speaking the estimate is around 4% of the world’s population — thinking process is what you might call a mixed blessing…   The Dutch call the phenomenon beelddenken and you probably will not be surprised to learn that elsewhere the phenomenon is known as Eidetic Memory (AKA photographic memory).

I said it is a mixed blessing because while some of the people who think in pictures like me are pretty much normal, a statistically larger percentage suffer from conditions like Autism and Dyslexia… Happily I don’t but I should probably be thanking God daily for that.

The rarer still phenomenon of eople who think in pictures and also experience (and define) olfactory symbolism as a familiar form of identification is very rare indeed. Of course it could also be the early signs of a brain tumor…  Sigh.

Corrupt Game Saves

Thinking for me is often something like an adventure due to the path that naturally forms to make the process happen – or perhaps to facilitate the thought path would be a more accurate way to express it.

For example this morning I discovered that my Xbox 360 would not load and play the game Splinter Cell: Blacklist.

After a fair bit of diagnostics the culprit turned out to be a corrupt save file — which meant I had to delete my existing save file in order to play the game.  Which meant I lost all of the progress that i had made up to that point.  And it was a lot of progress, believe me!

Confronting that situation caused me to think about previous similar events, which took me back in the movie projector of memory to Oz, then somehow that path branched to oxymoron, then from there to Tennyson, Queen Victoria, and a paper that I read not to recently about beelddenken and the thought that it would be nice if computers — and when I say computers I mean computers as well as video game consoles which, if you think about it, are really just computers you hook to your TV just saying…

Now I wish that my Xbox 360 could be my Huckleberry Friend — but I am afraid that she knows about the relationship that I am having with a new interloper — called Xbox One.  God forbid she learn about another new face in the crowd called PlayStation 4 – but they are kept segregated in different parts of the entertainment center so the chances are slim that they will meet let alone start comparing notes.

Was it Tony Soprano who gave a toast to wives and girlfriends, with the desire that they never meet each other?

The question that bothers me still is this: how can these game companies make such intense and immersive pieces of interactive entertainment, making use of the bleeding edge of the console platforms upon which they are coding for, and still somehow end up creating entropy in the form of games that randomly self-destruct in the form of corrupting their own code?

On the one hand the complexity of these games means that there is certainly potential room for that sort of problem, but on the other well, this IS what they do to create their revenue stream, so wouldn’t you think that this sort of thing would be quickly stomped on and corrected?  Well, if you thought so, then no, sorry, not so much.

Something to think about as I wander through the comics of my thoughts…



Forza 3 Guilt

When the next title in the Forza Motorsport series — Forza Motorsport 5 or FM5 for short —  was released a running conversation began among mates about the game, what we were all looking forward to, and the value (or lack thereof) of playing the previous titles in the series before playing FM5 if just to have the experience.

These are racing simulations with absolutely no story or campaign mode beyond the actual racing experience, so it is not like there is a need to play the previous games in order to be able to effectively play the most recent title.

Still there are some reasons to play the previous games – for example if you happen to be a committed and serious fan of auto-racing simulations, or a member of the Forza Faithful (though in the latter case why haven’t you played FM3 before??) that is good reason enough.

As I am known to be a fan of the series, I was asked – and because I am a fan of the series my response to those who asked me was to say “heck yeah you should play the previous games in the series!”


Forza Rewards (rewards.forzamotorsport.net)

That enthusiastic response was actually given BEFORE the remembering of the newest loyalty program offered by studio Turn 10 (the creator of the Forza games) which is called the Forza Rewards Program, and just like it sounds, rewards players for playing the Forza Motorsport games.

Specifically FRP rewards players for whatever progress they made in pretty much ALL of the previous titles with the exception of the first game in the series, which was an Xbox original title and therefore has no Achievements or network save-related data associated to it.

Since the FRP system uses the network save and Achievements data to award points, it is quite obviously in a players best interest to have unlocked as many Achievements and goals in the games as possible.

The following criteria is used for the Forza Rewards Program:

Forza Motorsport 2 (500 Points Total)

  • Achievements (500 Points)

Forza Motorsport 3 (1,000 Points Total)

  • Achievements (300 Points)
  • Days Played (200 Points)
  • Miles Driven (100 Points)
  • Cars Owned (200 Points)
  • Driver Level (100 Points)
  • Paid DLC Owned (100 Points)

Forza Motorsport 4 (2,000 Points Total)

  • Achievements (350 Points)
  • Days Played (300 Points)
  • Miles Driven (250 Points)
  • Perfect Passes (50 Points)
  • Cars Owned (250 Points)
  • Driver Level (250 Points)
  • Paid DLC Owned (250 Points)
  • Tokens Purchased (300 Points)

Forza Horizon (2,000 Points Total)

  • 1000 Club Challenges (200 Points)
  • Cars Owned (150 Points)
  • Miles Driven (250 Points)
  • Perfect Passes (50 Points)
  • Achievements (400 Points)
  • Days Played (400 Points)
  • Paid DLC Owned (250 Points)
  • Tokens Purchased (300 Points)

Forza Motorsport 5 (3,000 Points Total)

  • Achievements (500 Points)
  • Cars Owned (250 Points)
  • Driver Level (250 Points)
  • Paid DLC (350 Points)
  • Tokens Purchased (350 Points)
  • Badges and Titles Unlocked (400 Points)
  • Days Played (500 Points)
  • Miles Driven (350 Points)
  • Perfect Passes (50 Points)

The cumulative points that are gained via the above games add up to the Tier Level for the rewards system, which translates to a reward of credits and, depending upon the game, also a reward of cars.  As far as I can tell the games that have rewards from the Tier Levels are FM4, Horizon, and FM5.

Feelings of Guilt

So having made the recommendation to my mates the notion that the previous games in the series may have reached their official “End of Life” as far as Microsoft and Turn 10 are concerned just never occurred to me.

Seriously – and if it had, while I might have entertained the notion that the original Forza and perhaps FM2 might have reached that point, as I distinctly recall having recently seen brand new copies of Forza Ultimate 3 on the shelf at my local GameStop, the idea that FM3 might be in that nebulous and very unfair status again simply did not occur to me…

So imagine my shock and horror when my mate rang me up telling me that following my advice they had gone and purchased a copy of Forza Ultimate 3 ($29.99 new) and, after getting it home and installing it as per the onscreen instructions, were unable to use the download codes that came with the game because – wait for it – the game it seems has reached its End of Life and as such is no longer supported.

Which means that ALL of the game-related DLC has been removed from the Xbox LIVE Marketplace.  When means that NONE of the codes that are included with the game will actually work.

I did some digging and discovered that the so-called End of Life declaration went into effect in August of 2013.


If You Got It You Still Got It

The really terrible part of this story is that while new players who are just discovering FM3 for the first time are basically locked out of the DLC (save for whatever appears on the companion disc for the Ultimate version that is) gamers who previously owned any of the aforementioned removed DLC can still download it whenever they like.

I know this for a fact because of an odd situation…

You see my original copy of Forza 3 was scratched by an evil cat who somehow got it out of its case and really did a number on it – and boy don’t I wish I knew what I did to the cat to make her do that to my game!

Because the disc was damaged to the point it was not playable, I too went and purchased a new copy of Forza Ultimate 3 – but when I tried to play the game all sorts of things went wrong!  Tracks only half-drew, some tracks would instantly show the bad disc warning, it was as if the disc I was using and the game installed on my hard drive were two different games!

Well, they were actually…   It seems that my game save and saved game were calling for memory locations that were wrong on the new game disc, and that was creating all sorts of problems – so I had to completely delete the installation of the game from my hard drive, at which point having done so I realized much to my horror that that included all of the DLC content!

Without expecting much to happen, I went to the downloaded content list on my 360 and the first one I found in this very ancient list was a car pack – a car pack that no longer exists on the Marketplace.  But you know what?  It downloaded just fine thanks.

For the record I was able to re-download the following DLC, in this order:

  • Hyundai Car Pack (Game Add-on)
  • Motorsport Legends Car and Track Pack (Game Add-on)
  • Community Choice Classics Sample (Game Add-on)
  • Forza Ultimate Sample (Game Add-on)
  • World Class Sample (Game Add-on)
  • VIP Car Pack (Game Add-on)

Needless to say I was shocked.  The content is not available to anybody who has a valid code, it is not available for purchase, but if you have previously downloaded it, it is present and available?

I can see how someone who has just purchased the game for the first time would find that to be more than annoying – they might find it to be insulting…

I know that I felt guilty all over again – having sung the praises of the game only to have it turn out this way.

So, and I know this will not mean much to you all, but I am very sorry for leading you all astray in suggesting that you purchase the game…  I know that you can still play the game (it is not broken) and that that bonus install disc has a lot of DLC content, but it is still not quite the same as what you were expecting – and having codes you cannot use must really rankle bad.

Sorry mates…