Bingo Anyone?

I remember having lots of fun playing Bingo. When I was a young girl, we played it in school when it was too wet for our class to go outside for recess. My family had a game that we’d play at home, when my Mother could get all of us kids to sit down long enough. Our local school’s PTA often held bingo games as fundraisers. The local Lions, Elks and other such clubs still have a couple of bingo nights at their lodges. Still, as a game, it seems to have fallen out of fashion everywhere except on the web.

Playing bingo and other games of chance on the web is a trend that seems to be constantly growing in popularity. Many of the game-based websites offer free on-line play, or you can register with them to play for money or other prizes. Online bingo lacks the fun of a game held in a room full of people frantically trying to get those tiles in a nice neat row, so they can yell “bingo” at the top of their lungs. Still, it is easy to access and very convenient. You can play at almost any time of the day and from the privacy of your home on sites like Caesars online.

I may be waxing a bit nostalgic, but I would really like to see bingo become more popular as a pastime that is undertaken in person. Oh, I could go to the local Elk’s game, but they usually offer it on a night that is inconvenient for me. So, I guess what I’d like to see is the game become part of our culture once again, whether or not you play for money. It was fun and competitive, but based entirely upon luck, so that those of us without any particular skill still had a chance of winning.

Get Dante’s Inferno for $39.99 at Target

Cool pic of Dante.If you haven’t played Dante’s Inferno yet, you should. The atmosphere of the game alone is enough to merit the 8-12 hour excursion into the epic poem. Find a rainy weekend and rent the game at the very least. If buying is your thing, though, you can get EA’s latest slasher for just $39.99 at Target next week. That’s a damn fine price for a fresh title – a full $20 off retail.

Target is also having a sale on NBA 2K10, dropping it down to $29.99. There are also a few Pokemon deals going down if you want to have the most random collection of games this side of a Sega Saturn. I should probably also remind you that Bad Company 2 and MLB 10: The Show both drop on March 2nd, though those will be full price. Not an altogether bad week for gaming.

D&D Online got the free-to-play model right

D&D Online.Everyone loves a free game, especially a free game done right. Take League of Legends – the game has been around for less than a year and has already been downloaded more than a million times. It’s a great model, but one that hasn’t been as successful in the MMO world. Dungeons and Dragons Online is bucking that trend, continuing to grow both its free and subscription fee paying user base.

Turbine announced that the game has seen more than a million players in growth since the re-launch last September. Paid player subscriptions have also doubled, and the game’s store transactions are blazing along at three times the industry average, giving the franchise a 500% growth in revenue. Can you imagine what WoW’s numbers would look like if Blizzard could pull that off? Are there numbers with that many zeroes?

CEO Jim Crowley summed up the success quite well. “We’ve known all along how great this game is and by implementing an innovative new model that put the players in charge of how they pay and play DDO Unlimited, we’ve successfully expanded our reach and injected new energy into the game. Without a doubt, DDO Unlimited is a hit!”

Source: Kotaku

LoL: My first experience with the queue dodge penalty

Champion Select screen.The patch a few days back brought along one of the most undesirable things I’ve seen in League of Legends: queue dodge penalties. I’ve written enough about the semantics that you should have a feel for how it works. As a quick overview, your first dodge gets you an advertised 3-minute ban from joining queue. The next dodge is 10 minutes, with a reset 8 hours from the initial ban. Here’s how it really works.

This afternoon I queued up with a friend for a quick game. For whatever reason he didn’t join queue when I did. Instead, he was stuck at the invite screen for Arranged Team. By the time he asked if I was in queue, the game had popped. It showed him at champ select but on his screen he was still at the AT invite screen. He hit cancel and got dumped back to the home page. Instead of staying in queue and forcing him to relog, reconnect, and deal with whatever random hero he got, I dodged.

On relog we tried to queue only to be greeted by the new leaver screen that pops up over the client with a timer that counts down your penalty. Our timer? 5:14. I haven’t take math since my freshman year of college but that seems like slightly more than three minutes. Luckily we didn’t have the same problem, but I will say, I’m fairly annoyed by the fact that this isn’t functioning as advertised and that I was penalized because of a client error over which I had zero control. The more interaction I have with this new system, including the fact that dodging is till extremely common, the harder it is to believe that Riot actually pushed this through. There are so many reasons for a game to fall apart in queue that penalizing the process seems arbitrary and absurd.

I hope to god Riot realizes just how bad this system is and fixes it soon, but my guess is they won’t. It took a poll in the forums about Champ Select AFKers for someone from Riot to take interest in any opinion that doesn’t penalize queue dodging. This could have easily been considered prior to the patch. Now we get to sit back and watch as the company tries to clean up. It’s going to be a rough couple of weeks.

Blizzard still wants to release SC II in the first half of the year

Starcraft 2 interface.Depending who you ask, Starcraft II has been in development as long as 10 years. The game finally entered closed beta earlier this month, which is hopefully a sign that we will see it go to print before the end of the year. Blizzard is staying optimistic as far as timetable is concerned. The latest Blizzcast included Chris Sigaty, production director for the game, who said they were shooting for first half of the year for release.

“We were targeting three to five months for the beta, we’re really at a three month period of time for the beta at this point. We are still targeting the first half of this year, so with that in mind, it really shortens the window of time with our major content patch coming out pretty close to the end whether it’s even worth it putting out the map editor at that point.”

The map editor is one of the things that has everyone all hot in the pants, but it wouldn’t be so bad not to have it at release. Just remember, you’d be playing StarCraft II. Are you really going to get hung up on a map editor?

Source: Blizzcast Ep. 13

iPhone version of Plants vs. Zombies makes a milly

Plants vs. Zombies logo.I’ve had to make a conscious effort not to get Plants vs. Zombies for the iPhone, simply because I know I’ll spend too much of my life playing it. That game is insanely addictive, to a point I think is fair to consider unhealthy. A couple hundred thousand people have been bitten by this brainless monster, putting the total sales figures for just 9 days at a million bucks.

As PopCap has it, the game sold more than 300,000 units in just 9 days, which set an App Store record.

“There’s always a concern when bringing a computer game to a mobile, pocket-sized device that something will get lost in the process, but in this case the overwhelming consensus is that Plants vs. Zombies is even more fun on the smaller touch screen!” That’s Andrew Stein, PopCap’s director of mobile business development. The company is also responsible for Bejeweled, a game that never leaves the top downloads page it seems. Apparently Bejeweled is now the first paid app to reach 3 million dollars.

Source: Kotaku

LoL: Rolling with Jax

Jax on some neutrals.With yesterday’s Jax buffs you can bet you’ll be seeing a lot more of the lamppost-wielding master at arms. The changes made him much more viable for competitive play, but he still requires a skilled player to truly dominate a game. I lost a few games in a row as Jax today, in part because my teammates couldn’t quite figure out how to complement the Jax playstyle. He is very different, so I’ve put together this quick guide to help you get the most from any Jax you might lane with.

As with most melee carries, Jax is most effective when he’s fighting. He really starts to shine, though, when someone is attacking him back. This is especially important to consider early game, when one stun can be the difference between a kill and a death. If specced and runed, Jax can have nearly 20% dodge at level one with Counter Strike. If you see him engage an enemy, especially a physical damage dealer, get in there with him. Chances are he’ll have a Counter Strike stun within the first 2-3 hits.

The same is true for the rest of the game. By level 6, Jax can easily have 30% dodge or more if he gets his Ninja Tabi, and it improves, albeit with diminishing returns, from there. If you see Jax engage and you are confident it will be an even fight or better in your favor by numbers, fight. His damage output is huge, and with his dodge chance and stun, you should both walk away in the end. The one exception is two casters, like an Annie/Ryze combo. Without silence, you’re both probably dead.

For the rest of the game, your best bet is to shut down casters early and often. Very few players can withstand Jax and a friend, and once you reach a certain farm level, meeting Jax one on one is guaranteed death.

There is one situation in particular that I feel needs covered because it happened to me several times today and it is infuriating to watch. If you have a Zilean on your team, consider that he can use his ult offensively. It is not just a tool to help you get away from an ignite or a poison. Jax is a great target for Zilean ult because he is very high damage and has to get in the mix to be a threat. If Zilean throws his ult on Jax, blow all of your cooldowns on as many enemies as you can see. They’ll surely burn Jax when he jumps in, but if you’ve done enough damage, he can pop up in the center of the scrum and wreak havoc.

Jax is in a better spot than he’s ever been, but he requires an extremely aggressive playstyle to succeed. If you can support that style, you’ll probably have a lot of fun playing with him. If not, be ready for a long game, because you’ll need a lot of farm before he becomes effective.

LoL: Gragas hasn’t made a comeback

Gragas tossing some barrels.In my post about today’s patch I neglected to mention the big changes made to Gragas. The barrel-tossing brute hasn’t been in many of my games since his release. The ones in which he’s appeared have typically resulted in a loss for his summoner’s record. He simply doesn’t cut it. Today, Riot tried to rectify that situation.

Gragas got a round of buffs and bug fixes to help him get his groove back. He now attacks faster, scales better, moves faster in Body Slam, his barrels roll faster, and his ultimate casts farther and hits a larger radius than before. Granted, it was just patch day, but I have yet to see him once.

I’ll admit, I’ve never played Gragas. I’m willing to bet, though, that his unpopularity comes from his feel. His spells aren’t very interesting, and for thick casters you can do a lot better. I’ll keep an eye out for Gragas sightings over the next few days but I’m willing to bet the buffs weren’t enough.

LoL: Patch Day

Vandal Jax.It’s patch day again, bringing us a slew of changes to some of the less popular heroes, a much needed (though still lacking) TF nerf, and the new champ, Mordekaiser. The patch also gave us one highly undesirable feature: queue dodge penalties. Overall, though, I’d say I’m pretty happy about this patch.

My favorite part so far has been the Jax remake. I’ve played two games with him and he seems like he’s in a good spot. The extra HP makes a big difference and the Leap Strike change gives him a nice escapability buff. He’ll still struggle at times, as all melee DPS does, but the changes make a significant difference. Also, that Vandal skin is badass.

I’ll be taking a look at the Warwick changes later today. I had a Warwick in one game, but he was awful so I won’t say he’s a good judge of the situation. The mana changes alone should be a boon.

The TF nerf seems good, though it doesn’t address his real problem – map control. I played a game as Jax with Mundo, Ryze, Pantheon and TF in which our Ryze went AFK around level 9. We still stomped them, mostly because our TF held his port for the perfect moment in just about every situation. Sure, he does less damage, but when he’s stunning people consistently and turning even fights into landslides, I can’t help but think they nerfed him for the masses but he’s just as good for skilled players.

Mordekaiser actually looks to be a lot of fun. The fact that you can cast his shield on creeps makes him a bit like Dark Seer from Dota, though it’s only allies. That would be an interesting change if they feel he isn’t laning well. He does seem to harass decently enough, and his ult is pretty cool. I’m not going to spend the RP on him and all my IP has gone into runes recently, so I’ll have to wait for a free week to give a real analysis.

Lastly, the queue dodging penalty. This thing is so stupid I hate to even write about it. Every time you leave during champion select you get a leaver mark on your account. The first leave gives you a three minute queue penalty. The second brings it up to 10 minutes, though that timer does reset 8 hours after your first leave. I can’t understand why they would implement this when there are so many legitimate reasons to leave at champion select and no options to deal with those issues. AFK summoners are just part of the problem. There are also team composition problems, and the fact that matchmaking will still pair you with people on your ignore list. Add to all of this the fact that people are still dodging like mad and it’s pretty clear that a dodge penalty is about the worst solution Riot could have come up with.

You can find complete patch notes in the announcements forum.

Will delay sink Project Natal?

Xbox 360 Breakout game.The blog circuit is finally getting some hands-on time with Project Natal, and there’s a lot of excitement about it. The breakout game in particular seems to get people to really appreciate the power of the peripheral, even more so than the Burnout demo we’ve seen so many places. A big part of that is the barely noticeable lag that accompanies the system. Unfortunately, barely is just enough to make for a frustrating game experience.

MTV says the delay is about .1 seconds – just enough that you’ll notice it, especially in games like Burnout where to-the-millisecond response becomes important. That kind of delay is bad enough for finely tuned controls that it could take Natal down to something neat you show your friends once. That is, if fine control were all Microsoft was after.

One really cool feature of Natal is head tracking. It gives the viewer a whole new level of immersion by changing the image on screen based on the position of your eyes relative to that screen. It’s something Johnny Chung Lee demoed using the Wiimote some time ago. It’s just one facet of Natal that will take it beyond a simple control device to creating a new kind of experience with games.

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