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.

Notes:

“Common” = Achievements that are shared among ALL of the games.
“Conditional”
= Achievements that require the player to do specific actions for set results.
“Skulls”
= A collection set that consists of Skull Objects that when used perform specific game mods.
“Story”
= 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!

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?

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.

Image

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…

Cheers!

C

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!”

fm3-1

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.

fm3-2

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…

The Emotional Impact of Gaming…

While the most obvious advantage younger gamers have over older gamers is finer hand-eye-coordination because, let’s face it, the older you get the slower you get…  But perhaps the most valuable advantage that the young have is that they have yet to form emotional attachments to specific games that can cause depressions and long periods of daydreaming about days past.

I am serious about that last one — the older I get the more frustrating the realization of just how fleeting the memories and the experiences we have in video games really are.  Which is sad because it is not uncommon at all to encounter a game in which the player willingly invests a significant measure of emotional attachment.

I am speaking specifically about the MMORPG Star Wars Galaxies.

Here was a game that we played for years – seven years for me – that we originally were drawn to thanks to childhood memories of the movies and the way that they somehow helped to shape our childhood world.  Seriously.

When the end came it came not from a lack of customer-base — there were still plenty of players who wanted Galaxies to continue despite the mucking about that the developers did that nearly ruined the game and certainly ruined the combat system in the game!

No, it was closed out of concern that allowing it to remain in business would somehow have an impact on the new Star Wars themed MMO – little did the folks at Sony and LucasArts realize that the hard feelings that Galaxies saw at their hands ended up causing a large chunk of the core supporters of the games to simply walk away, never to return to the franchise because they felt personally betrayed.  And they were, really.

There are mornings when I wake up and I feel eager to log in to Galaxies, check out my home on Naboo and its small museum-like display of the many treasures and souvenirs collected over seven years of game play…  Only to remember that I cannot do that.  That world no longer exists.

Star Wars Galaxies EMU

Call it an act of rebellion.  Call it a gesture of respect.  Consider it something that serious fans did because they CAN — but at some point following the closure of a game and social environment that was well-loved by so large a group of Star Wars fans that some sort of gesture was inevitable.

At some point a group of code-slingers got together and decided that they would resurrect that world – Star Wars Galaxies – by developing core server support that was sufficient to permit the legitimate owners of licensed copies of the game (I own a dozen myself thanks to special releases, expansions, and the like) that permits them to run the program and enter – and PLAY – the game as if nothing had changed.

Well of course something had changed – for one thing that world that you spend so many years on and all of the different objects that you collected is still gone – but at least there is the possibility for you to add at least the flavor of those experiences back into your virtual life.

For most players what this means is that they will dust off the disc, re-install it to their game box, and then log in and play on a server someone else has created and hosts for that purpose.

Call it once bitten, twice shy if you like, but the experience of losing my Galaxies world once at the hands of the creator was enough to make me vow never to invest that sort of emotion into a game again unless I control it.

So instead of playing on someone else’s server, I will delay this gratification of a return to the world of SWG until I can afford to put together a dedicated SWGEMU server of my own.  A robust high-end custom-built system in other words, that will sit on my home network in the network room here at Four Pines Farm and pump out Star Wars Galaxies all day, every day, and no delays!

I will make that server available to my mates but that is as far as it goes.  Well, not quite.  You see the admin who controls the server can also craft and deploy missions on that server, so I can see me spending the time and effort that it will take to grow familiar enough with coding that beast to create custom missions and objects and…  Yeah, I can see that happening.

Some day soon…  In a Galaxy not so far away… On the green and verdant planet of Naboo… The Server RECNEF will arise.  Oh yes…  Of that there can be no doubt!

So how was your week?

Ghosts and the Paranormal in Video Games

An original painting by artist Nicole Wong (http://nicole-wong.com) titled Cemetery Ghost.

An original painting by artist Nicole Wong titled Cemetery Ghost.

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After I wrote this I realized that I needed to preface it with something to explain that it was not an indictment of the paranormal and ghosts — a disclaimer was required or I am certain to end up on the receiving end of a lot of angry email telling me how much of a wanker I am…  This is not my first rodeo, just saying.

Part of my concern has to do with the fact that ghosts — and the paranormal — are not really a simple, cut-and-dry issue.  Not like UFO’s for example, which really, if you think about it, we all have to believe in because anything that you see flying in the sky or in space that you cannot identify is actually technically and in reality a UFO — an Unidentified Flying Object.

The question of ghosts and the paranormal is simply not that easily managed because there are a lot of people out there that firmly believe in them, believe that they have seen some, and believe that they know what it is that they saw.

I am not one of those people — but at the same time I am also not one of the people who say that ghosts do not exist because the bottom line is… I don’t know.

So to head all of that off, I want to say, first thing, that I am NOT saying there is no such thing as ghosts. Quite the contrary, what I am saying, again, is that I don’t know.

It so happens that I do not suffer from the sort of hubris that dictates that, just because I cannot prove something or because I don’t know something, means it cannot be so.

In point of fact — and I feel like I really need to explain this: I have never been a person who was sure of things I was ignorant of.

I had a lot of experience with that sort of personality type while doing my military service, and I can tell you first hand that not only does nobody like that type of person, they don’t trust them, because that sort of mental attitude can get you into dangerous situations where asking “what is the worse that can happen?” is not a good idea.

As a result of early exposure to that mindset, I have always been the sort of person who endeavors to take personal note of my inadequacies — particularly where knowledge is concerned — and act and react accordingly.

After quite a few years of living and experiencing life outside of environments in which people have to do what you tell them to do because you outrank them, I have come to believe that as rare as it is, the type of personality inclined to qualify situations with the acknowledgement that a lack of certainty, familiarity, or knowledge is present is most often a personality trait typical of the writer — and I am a writer.

It is a good thing to know your limitations and not be afraid to admit that you don’t know — especially if you are in a group where there might be someone who actually does know, since you can then consult them.  There is no shame in admitting your ignorance, only shame in concealing it.

With that on the table, I should explain that my general awareness of the paranormal is a sort that comes from being (A) Catholic, (B) part-Irish, and (C) spending my formative years surrounded by other people who are both Catholic and part (or completely) Irish.

That is to say what I knew I knew from childhood stories and the often necessary rituals that one performs to ward-off evil spirits.

So my imperfect knowledge of the paranormal was in line,  I suspect,  with that of most people, or it was until just the last few years anyway.

Even now, what little I do know on the subject was acquired via listening to Tim Weisberg, and his radio show Spooky Southcoast on WBSM FM radio which has a more scientific approach to the subject.

I should point out in the interest of transparency that Tim is a colleague who, in addition to covering sports for our sister publication, The New Bedford Standard Times, also hosts two radio shows at WBSM — a Saturday morning talk show that I have never listened to because I never get up on Saturday morning unless pastry is involved, and his famous Spooky Southcoast radio show on Saturday nights which I do listen to, especially when Pizza is involved and it usually is.

Tim sort of opened my eyes to the whole paranormal sciences thing in the world, though not in video games because my eyes had already been opened to that phenomenon due to events that took place years ago.

Ghosts and the Paranormal in Video Games

The subject of ghosts in the real world is a bit tricky because for the most part, it is my understanding that to see and experience ghosts in the real world, you actually have to go to them — which as I am mobility challenged and use a wheelchair, is rather more difficult — I suspect — than you might think.

I do not imagine ghosts prefer to appear in handicap-accessible locations that would be convenient for me to access…  If they were I suspect that the existence of ghosts would be a lot wider in both recognition and posts on Twitter and Facebook.

Ghosts in video games on the other hand, while clearly created by the developers as a recognized mechanism for moving the story forward (or for some other purpose such as a cameo by a dead person, or a comic element) — are pretty obviously a LOT easier to come by.

This is true particularly when it is a game that is about ghosts or the paranormal, but not so obvious when it is framed as a cameo or ancillary part of the story being told.

Game developers tend to use that sort of thing as a tool, and usually without investing a lot time, energy, or research in terms of plot and background let alone the actual manifestation sciences that are attached to the phenomenon, so I imagine that they get it wrong more often than they get it right…

The use of ghosts — and more widely the paranormal — in video games probably does not make games — or the people who make them — very popular with the folks who actually DO study ghosts…  Just saying.

With all of that taken into consideration, the first “ghost story” that I recall being aware of outside of the video game itself happened as the result of a conversation covering that aspect of a game, which took place among a group of my peers that began — as such conversations often do — as a friendly conversation that very nearly devolved into a fistfight.

To qualify this just in case you want to ask, the introduction of violence (or the impending introduction of violence) is not a usual element in the conversations that I have inside or outside of the games journo environment, and it should be well understood that this was not directly the fault of any ghost, real or video game.

I should explain…

The games journo community is pretty small compared to the that of other, more traditional beats in journalism.

A nice way to describe that community would be “intimate” but honestly “small” is more accurate — in that small is the size and the number of journos who can make a living on that beat.

The natural result of this is, when a sufficient number of what we have taken to calling “traditional games journos” (I will write about that distinction some other time) gather in one geographic location — for example covering one of the many annual video game expos that take place around the world –we make it a point to get together and break bread — and chat — at least a few times during the event.

These gatherings often take the form of dinners or, more frequently, evening drinking sessions, though the truth be told we are most of us reaching the point at which our advanced age makes all-night drinking sessions a thing of the past.

If you are curious these gatherings tend to take place in the same locations, year after year, granting a measure of familiarity that we crave due to having to travel so much.

If you were thinking that I was actually going to tell you where these meet-ups take place, well, no…  I am sorry to say that I can’t do that for several very good reasons, not the lease of which is legitimate fear that one of the less stable gamers who, having taken umbrage to the hatchet-job of a review one of us did to their favorite game, might be so inclined to show up wearing a propane tank… You can’t be too careful these days.

Back from that digression, the conversation took place in a very nice and comfortable  restaurant on the evening before the opening day of E3 2010.   I am reasonably certain it was E3 2010 because the subject that kicked-off the conversation was the video game Alan Wake — which had released just before that E3.

Considering the subject matter of Alan Wake, it both fully qualifies as a ghost-story game, but also seemed to be overkill in that regard since its primary foundation was built around the darkness and its ghosts. Well, sort of.

A Conversation Starter

Bearing in mind that the conversation I am about to relate to you was, if any term can be used to properly define it, an alcohol-fueled discussion of the role that ghosts have played in the world of video games — by a group of writers who would know — and you should get the idea that it was slightly more than simply shop-talk.

While Alan Wake served as the spark that started the conversation, it quickly moved on to other games with less obvious spookiness — but still ghost-story worthy — naturally starting with some of the earliest examples of this unofficial games genre like the ghost games of the early computer-based gaming scene.

Please bear in mind that if you did not cut your teeth on Commodore Computing’s C=64 or Apple’s II GS model line, chances are you never heard of most of the games we were discussing…

Among these ghost-game titles the Blackwell game series quickly popped up — actually there was no way that the Blackwell series was not going to come up in the conversation because one of the games journos present — before he crossed over to a very successful career in games journalism — worked for Wadjet Eye Games, which is the tiny development studio started by Dave Gilbert to produce his games, among which was the Blackwell series.

That part of the conversation began with an argument – we could not decide if the Blackwell series (which was created in the mid-00s) was related to another ghost-story video game we all thought was called “Blackwell” that was released in the mid-80s for Commodore’s C=64, Apple’s II GS, as well as the Amstrad — the former pair being pretty common to the gaming community in the 80s while the latter would place you in the UK at the time.

That was about the same time that the sequel to The Staff of Karnath — a game called Blackwyche — appeared on C=64 as a continuing adventure for protagonist Sir Arthur Pendragon — that being a pretty infamous game series in its own right.

The insertion of The Staff of Karnath and Blackwyche into the conversation served to muddy the waters, but it also clarified them as it was at this point that we all realized — pretty much simultaneously — that the game we were thinking of as “Blackwell” was in fact Blackwyche, and the mystery was solved with our recognizing that the game we were thinking of pretty much had nothing at all to do with the Blackwell series that came later!

The actual Blackwell series was an important game series in that it certainly had a heavy influence upon the ghost-story genre of games and, in terms of the games industry, upon many of the games that followed throughout the late 00s and beyond.

There were four titles in the main series: The Blackwell Legacy (2006), Blackwell Unbound (2007), Blackwell Convergence (2009), and Blackwell Deception (2011), all of which pretty much dealt with the subject of ghosts and what they need.

The intense story-arc begins honestly enough with Rosangela Blackwell (Rosa), a young freelance writer based out of New York City — so right there the developers already had us cold.

You see games journos — like journos from the other beats — tend to quickly and willingly accept and embrace anything in the entertainment realm that purports to tell the story of a freelance journalist clawing their way up the ladder.

Do you remember Dick Wolf’s television show Deadline? We do.

Interestingly enough the paper from that show — The New York Ledger — featured prominently in some of Wolf’s other shows, particularly Law & Order and its offshoots, but for some reason Deadline only got one season.

Anyway the Blackwell games started out honestly enough, as a ghost named Joey Mallone appears in Rosa’s flat as she is working on a piece on suicide following the recent death of her aunt, Lauren Blackwell, who it quickly develops was a medium who was in regular contact with “the other side.”

As the story began to unfold it worked out that Rosa had inherited that talent — or ability — that bit was never really all that clear.

So Rosa learns about her new (or maybe it was deeply suppressed) ability as Joey explains how she is needed to perform a critical service to the newly deceased — that being to help them “cross over” into the afterlife by helping them to resolve outstanding issues that are keeping them chained to the mortal world.

In the process of this she discovers a link between the death of a girl and other deaths that happen to relate to the assignment she is working on, and it sort of snowballs from there.

Not going to go too deeply into the plot here in case you end up deciding you want to give the games a go, in addition to fleshing out the world of the super-ghost-talking-to-hero that Rosa is, you also get a chance to see how fragile the world of the freelancer is, and why they try to keep their editors happy if at all possible…

The thing is that, as cheesy as that plot might sound, The Blackwell Legacy was actually a very good (and more important, entertaining) video game.

So good in fact that in 2011 they re-cut the game to feature the voice actors who did the other three, for continuity, and released the first three games (with the re-cut first game) as a bundle at the same time that the fourth game in the series was released.

The game series just gets better from there, but you know we never did hammer out whether or not it was the fact that the games featured a journalist protagonist that was the primary attraction for us, or that they were ghost-story games…

Either way though, we all agreed that we liked them and that they were very good games for the retro-style point-and-click graphic adventure genre that they were part of.

Killing Time

At that point having exhausted the subject of the Blackwell series we were all willing to allow that, while Alan Wake game was entertaining and very well written, it was not really in the same league as the other ghost-story genre of games.

None of us were willing to admit that we had played any of the Casper series, let alone offer an opinion regarding like/not-like, but all of us were willing to offer opinions on Clive Barker’s Undying (2001) and Jericho (2007) — though considering the source material it was kind of difficult not to.

The Nightmare entities from F.E.A.R. were next but they were quickly supplanted by the “Water-Clock of Thoth” that served as the MacGuffin for Killing Time (we all agreed that the original release by 3DO Studios for the 3DO – 1995 – was far superior to Intrepid’s port of the game for Windows 95 and the Mac – 1996).

Killing Time was actually rather innovative for the ghost-story genre in that it was not only an Action-Adventure and Mystery game, it also happened to be one of the first fully legitimate zombie-shooters for the genre.

If you are not familiar with Killing Time,well that is a shame.  While none of the structure in the game was really original, the manner in which the development team took core elements that were either new to gaming or that were just getting popular, and mixed them together to create this Ghost-and-Zombie-Shooter-Mystery-Action-Adventure game really stands out.  More importantly though, it had a significant impact on games and gaming.

In Killing Time you play an ex-Egyptology student who has set out to solve the mystery revolving around the ancient artifact called the “Water-Clock of Thoth” that had been discovered — and brought back to New York — by your professor of Egyptology, the mysterious Dr. Hargrove.

This sort of situation where often priceless historical artifacts were found on foreign digs by a team of teachers and students, who pretty much took whatever they wanted from the dig in terms of artifacts, without bothering to seek the approval of the local government, which in the case of Egypt was, after all, largely made up of corrupt wogs who simply wanted to be bribed, right?

Well that was the 1930s for you; besides the fact that the artifact was probably historical, and certainly has a paranormal and powerful magic power in it, the important bits you should be taking away from this is that it has gone missing following a visit by Hargrove’s patron, the very wealthy and equally mysterious Tess Conway.

It does not help that Tess Conway shortly thereafter turns up missing (just how one “turns up missing” was never really all that clear) and her disappearance took place while she may or may not have been holding an occult gathering at her estate on the semi-private Matinicus Isle, in Maine (say, with proper nods to Stephen King who is a God among games journos, why is Maine such a ghostly place???).

As the story unfolds we discover that Tess is far from slightly-interested in the subject of archeology and serving as an angel investor to help fund historical research — in fact it works out that she is, in fact, something of a diabolical monster in her own right.  Well that and she not only knows what the secret power is for that particular artifact but means to make use of it to further her nefarious plans for immortality.

At this point you should pretty much get the basic idea. We already knew it because hey, we are all games journos and we not only played (and liked) the game, most of us actually wrote reviews of it.

What set Killing Time apart from other games in the ghost-story genre at the time was the fact that the back-story was largely revealed to the player in the form of live-action cut scenes acted out by real actors, which was sort of a fresh idea at the time (think Red Alert).

The live-action CS’s helped the game to stand out in its genre, but it was really its status as a shooter that pushed the attention its way.

Among the arsenal of weapons for this game (the game was set in the 1930s but thanks to the isolated location in Maine the developers were able to interpret the era loosely), which included a collection of weapons that would seem more familiar to bootleggers than a wealthy heiress, it offered serious opportunities for ass-kicking that few games of the era provided.

The weapons in the game include the to-be-expected magical Ankh that delivered devastating AOE — which the player used to quite literally wipe out a large number of enemies in one go (assuming that they were conveniently grouped inside the AOE range of the Ankh, which invariably they were).

Seriously.

The weapons also included the required Crowbar for melee (1930s era archeologists routinely opened well-made wooden crates all the time so naturally they had a variety of hefty crowbars handy at all times – just ask Indiana Jones!).

The gangster-collection of traditional shooter weapons included dual-pistols, a shotgun, and a Thompson sub-machine gun (what they called a Tommy-Gun in the vernacular of the era).

If that failed to get the job done you could always use your Molotov Cocktails and trusty flamethrower, both of which were very useful for dispatching the undead.

We were tempted to say “killing” the undead — but really if you think about it, being undead is what they do, so unless you can completely destroy them, you cannot “kill” the undead you are merely slowing them down, right?

While Tess Conway is legitimately a nutter, among the other characters in the game were some interesting personalities, and among them, two really stand out in memory.

There is “Mike” — who is Duncan DeVries personal bodyguard and who doubles as the director of security for the estate — and “Lydia Tweksbury” — who gets extra points just for having that name, but turns out to fill the Judas role in the game in a way that only she can.

Sadly if you are going to play the game we cannot go any deeper into our reasons for selecting these two characters as the truly standout characters, but suffice it to say that despite their very minor roles in the small picture, in the big picture these two are rockstars.

Can’t say anymore than that and I have probably said too much already, sigh.

We all agreed that the creative use of real-world locations as part of the backdrop for the game was a significant element in quickly dispelling doubt and permitting immersion to take place naturally.

It was certainly an important element, particularly the use of the very real Boldt Castle, found on Heart Island (one of the islands in the Thousand Islands region of New York State) along the shore of the Saint Lawrence River — which stands in to represent the Conway Estate.

The appearance in the castle of a ghost — who as it turns out is more or less the castle ghost — cannot be dismissed however, despite the fact that your character handles that pretty well considering that it doesn’t you know, freak out or anything…

But then again your character has a six-shot revolver that fires an unlimited number of shots without ever having to be reloaded (watch the video) so it makes sense that something like a ghost who appears offering advice is not going to phase them, right?

The back-story of the castle ghost eventually gets explained — don’t worry, watching the video we embedded above will not really ruin the game for you — but we all agreed that her second ghostly form (the white one) pretty much reminded all of us of the appearance of Princess Leia in Star Wars Episode IV: A New Hope, where R2D2 shows the partial message to Luke before Luke inadvertently brings the droid to the intended recipient of the message.

If the amount of detail about Killing Time I have shared here gives you the idea that it represented a significant amount of the conversation we were having, that’s good because it did.

Despite its very Doom-like appearance, the game did have a significant impact not just on the games journos but to some extent the games community in that it provided what amounted to the first taste that most gamers had with the notion of treating the undead the same as the living with respect to the shooter genre of game…

So if you are looking for who to blame for the massive number of zombie-based video games that now plague the world, look no further.

Bubble, Bubble Ghost, Toil and Trouble

It was at this point that someone made an unfortunate comparison to Bubble Ghost, another ghost-story game with roots in the mid 80s, and nearly caused a fistfight.

The game Bubble GHost was widely known in its era, having appeared on pretty much every gaming platform from C=64, II GS, and the Amstrad, to PC DOS, the Amiga, Atari’s ST line of computer/game consoles (the ST included a cartridge slot), and later, on Nintendo’s Game Boy handheld games console!

The basic mechanics for the game involve the players guiding a ghost around the castle, positioning it to use its ghostly breath(?!) to guide a bubble past a series of obstacles while avoiding having it come into contact with surfaces or other obstacles.

The ultimate goal being to activate different objects and, eventually, to enable your escape.

Part of the reason why this was an unfortunate comparison is that the developer of Bubble Ghost (Infograme) put a lot of pressure on its North America publisher (Accolade) to push the many ports it had created as a hard sell — which it seems was what the company was doing in Europe and the UK, where it WAS the publisher — using a variety of ad campaigns that were, well, creative.

It will help if you are aware of the back-story here: Infograme was a massive French holding company based in Paris that had the well-deserved reputation of being something of a whore in the games industry.

A lot of games journos at the time considered the company to be shameless producers of shovelware — low quality games that tended to make their entire profit during the first three to six weeks following launch; that being the time period before word-of-mouth could succeed in revealing the true quality of a game.

I don’t know how much of that was truth and how much was rumor or unfounded opinion — I was not a games journo during that period I was still a kid and gamer — but I do know that the feelings among the veteran journos at the table were such that the comparison was interpreted as a slap in the face to one of the journos present who had worked on the game that was being compared to the shovelware…

Anyway due to its rather trite underlying mechanism for game play, you may be amused to learn that among the old school games journos, the game Bubble Ghost is often called that Ghostly Blowjob game…

Speaking of Chuck Norris

We were not speaking of Chuck Norris, but being the sort of person that chooses to use humor in order to defuse stressful situations, and concerned that a punch was about to be thrown that, once thrown, could not be taken back (and the certain knowledge that the person who caused these bad feelings and would be on the receiving end of that punch was just the sort of person who would, in fact, call the cops) I popped off the following:

“You know Agent 47 may actually be more formidable than Chuck Norris.”

The reaction I got from this was way better than what I was hoping for…

A chorus of “What?!” and a few “Waitress, I will have the crack that one has been smoking” quickly followed, and then the insistence that I explain myself…

“Remember the ninth mission in Codename 47? It was the seventh mission in Hitman: Contracts too — but you remember it, right?” They nodded for the most part.

“OK so after Agent 47 enters the hotel, and makes his way through the halls to the room where the crime scene was, where the murder had been committed?”

This was the mission in which you were supposed to derail the plans of terrorist Frantz Fuchs, who was like the less-clever cousin to the terrorists in the first two Die Hard movies?

Basically you were supposed to eliminate Frantz, secure his bomb — it was a very nasty chemical bomb — and then you needed to escape to the rendezvous spot, all without being detected by the army of cops and private security patrolling the halls and rooms in the hotel.

Typical Hitman mission structure in other words, but of course getting through the mission with a Hitman rating was like, well, like being Chuck Norris?

Actually it was better than being Check Norris, they agreed, but then insisted that I explain the ghost-game connection and my assertion that Agent 47 could out-Chuck-Norris Chuck Norris.

“Well, Agent 47 kills the ghost in that one; I think there actually might have been an Achievement for doing that — so do you think Chuck Norris could do that?!” I demanded.

I distinctly recall the reaction of the journo who was, moments before, about to throw a punch: “What ghost, what the hell are you talking about?!”

Great, I silently said to myself. Now instead of wanting to hit that wanker, he wants to hit YOU!

“The ghost that you see outside of the hotel room where the murder took place.

“The ghost that you can, if you are really fast, sort of kill with the shotgun on the floor of the bathroom but not really because to kill the ghost you have to sort of catch it unawares, and use your garrote!” I explained.

It took me nearly twenty minutes to convince them that I was not having the piss on them, and even then to fully satisfy that lot I ended up whipping out my trusty HP notebook and loading YouTube.

After quickly hunting down the video “Hitman Ghost” (http://youtu.be/V_z7AZR2euo) that not only features that ghostly encounter, but was created by a gamer who made it a point show just about every sort of interaction you can possibly have with that ghost, and well, then they were convinced!

The conversation at that point turned to how the developers had managed to slip in a ghostly encounter AND a ghost that for the most part they were completely unaware of, though several of the journos allowed as how, now that they had seen the mission on YouTube, they did actually remember the ghost, but they did not realize that it could be killed…

We played and then replayed the video over and over, and noted the different potential interaction options that were available to the player — here is the list:

 

  • 0:00 – 0:45 — Getting to the hallway.
  • 0:46 – 0:47 — The first sighting of the ghost, in the hallway.
  • 1:11 – 1:25 — Seeing the ghost in the bathroom mirror and taking a shot at it (note the blood splash).
  • 1:46 – 2:16 — Properly garrotting the ghost and then dragging its ghostly body into the hall.

Note that the first almost full minute if the video consists of the player just getting Agent 47 into a position so that he would actually be in the right area…

I suspect that the reason most players both never knew that the ghost was there and did not interact with it has more to do with the desire to score as highly as possible in the game (meaning to get the best hitman rating).

Ghosts in Video Games

When all was said and done we had, between the twelve of us, worked it out that video game ghosts come in three basic types – the first type, in games that are about ghosts, haunting, and basically are ghost-games as a genre, because it is more or less about ghosts, elevates them to a character in the games and so rarely ever observes the different rules that people serious about ghosts tend to state that ghosts follow.

What I mean by that is simply that in that type of game environment, you can end up having long and meaningful conversations with ghosts, which sort of flies in the face of the whole ghost science thing considering that while real ghosts (it seems to me) may in fact have a message that they want to share with you, don’t use punctuation.

The second type of ghost in video games usually takes the form of the ghost-as-guide, in that they generally are there for a very specific reasons and, once they fulfill their purpose, pretty much disappear, never to be seen again.

Finally there is the third type, which I like to call the Accidental Ghost. These can take the form of ghostly cameos, or a ghost who appears because ghosts are known to appear in that place/time, and of course the not so rare but nevertheless heartbreaking use of ghostly appearances when a loved one dies.

That last one can, arguably, be explained away as the overpowering grief and the desire to see that person just one more time, so it may actually not be a ghost so much as a sign that your player is going nuts, like in Heavy Rain…

Ghost Games You Might Enjoy

Since this is a muse about my experience with ghosts in games, I thought it would be a good idea to close this with a list of games you might like to play — if you are looking for a game with ghosts that is…

  • Alan Wake (Xbox 360)
  • Blackwell Series (PC)
  • Calling (Wii)
  • Clive Barker’s Jericho (Xbox 360 / PS3 / PC)
  • Cursed Mountain (Wii)
  • F.E.A.R. (Xbox 360 / PS3 / PC)
  • Ghost Trick: Phantom Detective (Nintendo DS)
  • Haunt (Xbox 360)

I did not include the obvious or funny – Ghostbusters for example — since these are supposed to be games that sort of treat the whole ghost subject with a bit more respect…

If you have trouble sleeping after playing these, don’t blame me mates.

Cheers!

C

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Note 1: While this post was created as one of the “muse” posts which are about things that amuse me or stories that are somewhat to very amusing, since it was about the subject of ghosts in video games and since ghosts appearing in video games (even games that are NOT strictly speaking about ghosts) I decided to include a selection of videos from YouTube about ghosts appearing in video games.

The idea here is to provide you with a selection of the different ways that ghosts have been used in video games, but also to break up what would otherwise have been experienced as a solid wall of text, and I think we did OK at both goals…

Note 2: I was not aware of this until quite recently but it seems that WordPress has recently changed its policy on free hosting for blogs in that the hosting is not, entirely, and strictly speaking, free anymore.

A case in point is that for blogs (like this one) that chose NOT to pay the ad-free fee that is now required, WordPress may insert ads into the posts on those blogs as a means of making a little pocket change off of those freeloading blogs.

So IF you see ads on this blog, it was NOT us that did it – it was WordPress.  We apologize to you for exposing you to advertising and want you to know you are under no obligation to actually purchase any products in those ads – we do not in any way profit from those ads.

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Recnef’s FM4 Status as of 5 July 2013

The following post and its contents was created to measure my standing in Forza Motorsports 4 as of the date indicated and was created at the request of one of my mates who I regularly play the game with – because they wanted to compare their standings with mine.

That being the case this is probably not going to be of much interest to you, but if you are curious or you also play FM4 and want to compare standings with me, well then hey, have fun!

FM4 Stats as of 5 July 2013 (0900GMT -5)

GENERAL STATS

  • Percentage of Career Complete: 33.5%
  • Number of Victories: 551
  • Number of Podiums: 552
  • Number of Races: 552
  • Number of Cars in Garage: 72
  • Total Winnings: 6,371,552 CR
  • Online Winnings: 2,347,458 CR
  • Garage Value: 39,390,300 CR
  • Garage Parts Value: 371,300 CR
  • Credits Earned in the Auction House or Storefront: 1,000
  • Credits Spent in the Auction House or Storefront: 50,000
  • Total Repairs: 61,137 CR

RECORDS

  • Number of Badges Earned: 177 of 491
  • Number of Titles Earned: 129 of 458
  • Number of Perfect Turn Scores: 1,232
  • Number of Perfect Drift Scores: 0
  • Number of Perfect Speed Scores: 373
  • Number of Perfect Draft Scores: 0
  • Number of Perfect Pass Scores: 8
  • Top Speed: 218.6 MPH
  • Average Speed: 86.8 MPH
  • Distance Driven: 5,629.76 Mi.
  • Distance Jumped: 90.5 ft.

TIME

  • Time Driven: 64h 49:17
  • Time Spent Test Driving: 00:00
  • Time Spent Editing Liveries: 11:20
  • Time Spent Upgrading: 01:26
  • Time Spent Tuning: 35:03
  • Time Spent in Autovista: 00:00
  • Time Spent in Storefront: 17:21
  • Time Spent in Auction House: 00:00
  • Time Spent in Menus: 4h 37:16

 

Manufacturer Affinity Levels & Personal Ownership / Garaged Car List

Note: When a ‘0’ appears under the Affinity (to the right of the manufacturer name) that means that I own and have driven a car in a race but have yet to actually acquire sufficient XP to gain a level of Affinity. Where no number is listed I either do not own a car of that make or have not driven it in a race to the point that a level of Affinity was acquired…

The Affinity and Garage List is organized by Country and then alphabetically.

AUSTRALIA

  • Holden: 4
    • 2011 #11 Pepsi Max Crew Commodore VE (100 CR)
  • Joss:

FRANCE

  • Bugatti: 4
    • 2009 Veyiron 16.4 (100 CR)
  • Citroen: 4
    • 2011 DS3 (100 CR)
  • Peugeot:
    • 2009 #9 Peugeot Sport Total 908 (100 CR)
    • 2011 #10 Matmut-Oreca 908 (100 CR)
  • Renault:

GERMANY

  • Audi: 4
    • 2009 Q7 V12 TDI (100 CR)
    • 2010 R8 5.2 FSI quattro (100 CR)
  • BMW: 4
    • #92 Rahal Letterman Racing M3 GT2 (100 CR)
  • Gumpert:
    • 2010 Apollo S (100CR)
  • Mercedes-Benz:
    • 2009 SL 65 AMG Black Series (100 CR)
  • Mini:
  • Opel: 0
    • 2003 #5 OPC Team Phoenix Astra V8 (100 CR)
  • Porsche: 19
    • 1970 914/6 (12,000 CR)
    • 1982 911 Turbo 3.3 (19,000 CR)
    • 1989 944 Turbo (6,000 CR)
    • 2010 Boxter S (23,000 CR)
  • RUF:
  •  Smart:
  •  Volkswagen: 6
    • 1992 Golf GTi 16v Mk2 (100 CR)
    • 2009 Scirocco GT (100 CR)
    • 2010 Golf R (100 CR)
    • 2011 Fox (100 CR)
  • Wiesmann:

ITALY

  • Abarth: 4
    • 2010 500 Esseesse (100 CR)
  • Alfa Romeo: 4
    • 1965 Giulia Sprint GTA Stradale (100 CR)
  • Bertone: 4
  • De Tomaso:
  • Ferrari: 4
    • 1967 330 P4 (100 CR)
    • 1968 365 GTB/4 (100 CR)
    • 1969 Dino 246 GT (27,500 CR)
    • 1984 GTO (100 CR)
    • 1987 F40 (246,250 CR)
    • 1991 512 TR (37,500 CR)
    • 1995 F50 (251,400 CR)
    • 1999 360 Modena (45,000 CR)
    • 2004 F430 (100 CR)
    • 2007 430 Scuderia (100 CR)
    • 2009 California (110,000 CR)
    • 2010 #83 Risi Competizione F430GT (100 CR)
    • 2010 458 Italia (100 CR)
    • 2011 599 GTO (100 CR)
  • Fiat:
    • 2010 Punto Evo SPORT (100 CR)
  • Lamborghini:
    • 1999 Diablo GTR (100 CR)
    • 2006 Miura Concept (100 CR)
    • 2007 Gallardo Superleggera (100 CR)
  • Lancia:
  • 1982 037 Stradale (100 CR)
  • Maserati:
    • 2005 #15 JMB Racing MC12 (100 CR)
  • Pagani:
  • Spada Vetture Sport:

JAPAN

  • Honda: 4
    • 1992 NSX-R (78,100 CR)
  • Mazda: 4
    • 2008 Furai (100 CR)
  • Mitsubishi Motors:
  • Nissan: 4
    • 2000 Silvia Spec-R (100 CR)
  • Subaru:
    • 1998 Impreza 22B STi (100 CR)
  • Suzuki:
  • Toyota: 4
    • 1985 Sprinter Trueno GT Apex (100 CR)

KOREA

  • Hyundai:
  • Kia:

NETHERLANDS

  • Spyker:
    • 2010 C8 Laviolette LM85 (100 CR)

SPAIN

  • SEAT:

SWEDEN

  • Koenigsegg:
  • Saab:
  • Volvo:

UNITED KINGDOM

  • Ascari:
  • Austin-Healey:
  • Aston Martin: 4
    • 2006 #007 Aston Martin Racing DBR9 (100 CR)
    • 2008 DBS (100CR)
  • Bentley: 4
    • #7 Team Bentley Speed 8 (100 CR)
  • Jaguar:
    • 1993 XJ220 (100 CR)
    • 2010 XFR (100 CR)
  • Land Rover:
  • Lotus:
  • McLaren:
  • MG:
  • Morgan Motor Company:
  • Noble:
  • Radical:
  • Triumph:
  • TVR:
  • Ultima:
  • Vauxhall: 4
    • 2004 VX220 Turbo (100 CR)

UNITED STATES

  • Acura: 4
  • American Motors / AMC: 4
  • Buick: 4
  • Cadillac: 4
  • Chevrolet: 4
    • 1960 Corvette (100 CR)
    • 1970 Chevelle SS-454 (100 CR)
    • 2004 #3 Corvette Racing C5.R (100 CR)
    • 2009 Corvette ZR1 (100 CR)
    • 2010 #99 Green Earth Team Gunnar Oreca FLM09 (100 CR)
    • 2010 Camaro SS (100 CR)
    • 2010 Corvette Grand Sport (100 CR)
    • 2011 #04 Chevrolet Racing Monte Carlo SS Stock Car (100 CR)
  • Chrysler: 4
  • DeLorean / DMC: 4
  • Devon: 4
    • 2010 GTX (100 CR)
  • Dodge: 4
    • 2008 Viper SRT10 ACR (100 CR)
  • Eagle:
  • Ford: 4
  • 1970 Mustang Boss 429 (100 CR)
  • 1973 XB Falcon GT (100 CR)
  • 1987 Sierra Cosworth RS500 (100 CR)
  • 2009 Focus RS (100 CR)
  • 2010 Shelby GT500 (100 CR)
  • GMC Truck / GMC: 4
  • Hennessey:
  • Hudson:
  • Hummer: 4
  • Infiniti:
  • Jeep:
  • Lexus: 0
    • 2009 IS F (100 CR)
    • 2010 #1 Petronas Tom’s SC430 (100 CR)
  • Lincoln:
  • Mercury:
  • Mosler:
  • Oldsmobile:
  • Panoz:
  • Plymouth:
    • 1971 Cuda 426 HEMI (100 CR)
  • Pontiac: 4
  • Rossion:
  • Saleen:
  • Saturn:
  • Scion:
  • Shelby:
  • SSC:
  • Tesla:
  • Viper:

Note: Cars with a value of 100CR were either received as gifts from Turn 10, received as rewards, or other special sources and thus have a fixed value of only 100CR. Most if not all of the cars so designated are locked from trading/gifting to other players as well.

Note: I was one of the unlucky gamers whose save ended up getting corrupted after I had pretty much completed the main game play through and unlocked most of the Achievements, so what you see now status wise is what I have after restarting anew.  Yeah, it was painful, but what can you do?