Tag Archives: tulsa

Lost Odyssey and My Disc Four Woes

Lost Odyssey - Japan

“Are you kidding me?” I sat there and thought as I kept failing in my attempts to install the fourth disc of Lost Odyssey to my Xbox 360. You see, in the hopes of reducing load times and allowing my Xbox 360 to take it a little easier (less disc spinning should mean moving parts are being used less) I prefer to install any game I play. And, this tactic worked just fine for discs one, two, and three. The fourth disc on the other hand was being a bugbear and dampening my good feelings upon reaching it after 35 hours of traditional JRPG excellence.

So, when I had the opportunity, I took the troublesome disc to a local game shop to have it resurfaced. This, being Friday after work (aka payday) and accompanied by my closest gaming equal Jeff, we made an evening of the trip. As I always say: “it isn’t a weekend if I haven’t bought a video game!” The first stop – Tulsa’s midtown Vintage Stock – was a bust. Their disc resurfacing machine was out of order, but we took a look around nonetheless. Were it not for his suggestion to choose this Vintage Stock location, I wouldn’t have added Rippin’ Riders (Dreamcast), Murakumo: Renegade Mech Pursuit (Xbox), Battle Fantasia (Xbox 360), and Space Invaders Extreme 2 (Nintendo DS) to my collection. In other words, the trip wasn’t completely unfruitful.

Thus we headed to the Tulsa Hills Vintage Stock, with the foreknown knowledge that their resurfacing machine was in order. As it was getting late (around 9:00 at this point) and both he and I (as well as Jenny, back home) were ravished with hunger, I quickly scanned the walls and only walked away with Ferrari F355 Challenge for the PlayStation 2 and the strategy guide for Infinite Undiscovery. The former, in the hopes of comparing/contrasting it alongside the Dreamcast port, and the latter in the hopes of… well, we’ll see if I actually ever get around to playing that game; I mean, I’ve owned Lost Odyssey for a couple of years now, have wanted to experience it since its announcement, and I’m only now getting around to it!

With food retrieved (Chinese, if you must know) we enjoyed our meal with a humorous selection of videos courtesy of YouTube. Afterwards, we proceeded to play the first episode of Telltale Games’ Game of Thrones adaptation. Wait… what!? Well, Jeff had just played through it himself and was curious to see how my decisions contrasted with his. Personally, I very much enjoyed what I played. This was my first experience with the newer style of their games, and was a strong reminder that I NEED TO PLAY THE WALKING DEAD! When he vacated the premises to return to his abode, I sat down and set about installing the final disc of Lost Odyssey. And it got no further. Heck, I even tried multiple times, again.

“Okay, what’s really wrong with this disc” I thought to myself. As they generally do, the quick Google search I performed yielded the answer and luckily enough, the solution. It turns out, for the North American and European releases of the game, the clamshell packaging was only made to contain three discs (which I always thought was odd considering the secondhand copy I acquired had all four in the disc slot clearly labeled three). The solution was to place the fourth in a paper sleeve, which, at some point during shipping or storage or whatever, a thin film of grime was produced on this disc, which has proved difficult for most to remove. As I mentioned however, my Google search also yielded the solution, although I was equal parts hesitant and flummoxed at the suggestions: boil the game disc.

As a layman on the structure of a DVD, I was understandably incredulous. However, many disparate sources were suggesting the remedy with as many or more claiming it worked for them. “I can always acquire another copy, or borrow Jeff’s. Surely he still has his copy.” I thought, placating my doubts. And so, I started to boil a pot of water on the stove. As the water was getting to temperature, I tried installing the game yet again in the hopes I wouldn’t have to take such a drastic measure, but no dice. So, with the water at a steady boil, the disc took the plunge.

I held it just at the top for the recommended ten seconds, dried it off on a nearby towel and forced the plunge once more. As it neared the water, the heat emanating from the pot caused it to warp slightly, inflicting second doubts in my mind, but it returned to normal after the plunge. After a moment for it to dry and return to room temperature, I went back to the living room to try yet again; all the while leaving the water on a low boil in case it was needed once more. I sat patiently as the percentage slowly climbed. When the 40% figure was reached, I grew tentative. The Xbox 360 was audibly having difficulty and this was always around the percentage the system gave up. The odd starts and stops soon disappeared and it smashed past 50% and never looked back. I could get on with my life again – problem solved!

Thinking back on it now, there’s surely another reason for the fourth disc to cause so many people issues. I mean, I’ve played games that have been kept in paper sleeves and they worked just fine. Perhaps there was an issue with the manufacturing of the mentioned regions’ fourth disc. If it truly was the paper sleeve, it still comes down to Microsoft as the publisher choosing to skimp on the clamshell case and jury rigging a solution. Whatever the case may be, I can now resume a damn fine JRPG. Plus, I got an interesting story out of this predicament!

Heartland Gaming Expo 2013 – Light Wars

The final game my friend and I played was Light Wars. This was a game highly influenced by Geometry Wars and it wasn’t afraid to show it. It was the same concept, an arena-based shooter where players fended of loads and loads of enemies. The major difference, and perhaps the only one, in comparison to Geometry Wars was the weapon used. When firing, an energy beam extended from the player and bounced around for a few seconds before disappearing. When I played, I used this like a windshield wiper, cleaning the stage of the enemies.

Everyone was pressed for time at this point as the designers were given the order to begin tearing down their stations. I was fortunate enough to have gotten to play Light Wars for a few more rounds. Like Geometry Wars, it was an addicting score attack game. I also didn’t get any contact information for the designer behind it and unfortunately, I didn’t even catch his name.

Heartland Gaming Expo 2013 – Cannon Golf

The next to last game my friend and I played was Cannon Golf. It was probably my favorite game of the show as I really dug the learning curve and the responsiveness of the balls. Attempting to make it to the hole in as few strokes as possible was the name of the game and this was made difficult by the various obstacles on each stage. However, at players’ disposal were three different types of balls; a normal one, one with inverse gravity, and a third that would stick to surfaces.

I remember discussing with Kevin Meier, one of the game’s designers, the efforts he went through to have the balls react realistically when hitting walls. From what I could tell, his work was a success. The only thing I noticed was that sometimes, when my ball looked like it was in the hole, the game wouldn’t recognize this and I’d have to take an additional stroke or two so that was always a bummer. Still, I dug the succinct stages and the puzzle-like nature of the game and it held my interest for the entirety of the demo.

Heartland Gaming Expo 2013 – Shotgun Wizard

I loved the balloon baby!
I loved the balloon baby!

Now try not to get confused here, but the next game my friend and I played was Shotgun Wizard. Previously we had played a game called Gun Mage so the fact that there were two games with drastically similar names was something of a comedy, like Dead Space and Killzone. Even the developers were joking around with each other. These were two dissimilar games however.

Controlling the eponymous shotgun wizard, players were confined to a side-scrolling room that was continually bombarded by skateboarders, babies on balloons, and bouncer-size men. The shotgun used had three types of magical ammunition that players could switch between on the fly. In fact, it was encouraged through the game’s scoring system. Getting kills by alternating ammunition increased the score multiplier. Not utilizing this tactic would result in lackluster scores.

Shotgun Wizard was a score attack game and my only gripe was with its controls. Movement was done with S and D or the arrow keys, looking was the result of moving the mouse left or right, jumping was W or the up arrow, ammunition switching was the E key, and shooting was done with a left mouse click. I never got the hang of moving left and right and also having to look left or right, so when it got hectic (and believe me, it did) I cratered quickly. Still, with enough practice, it was fun trying to outdo my best score.

Heartland Gaming Expo 2013 – Pet Duck

A room in Pet Duck.
A room in Pet Duck.

Having actually completed Gun Mage, my friend and I moved onto Pet Duck, another game that I was able to see through to the end. Pet Duck was a lighthearted top-down action game which saw the player searching through maze-like stages in search of their pet duck. The player character was equipped with a gun but I found it inefficient – I wound up playing the game doing my best to evade enemy fire and I found enjoyment through that.

There were about five stages and humorously, when the player found the duck in all but the final stage, it turned out to be a decoy. The text explaining this had me grinning each time. The most impressive aspect of the game was the soundtrack. It was an epic summer-blockbuster sort of theme that totally didn’t match the game. But, it was just one more contextual thing that made the game humorous. Pet Duck wound up winning the game showcase so congrats are in order for End to Begin Games.

Heartland Gaming Expo 2013 – Gun Mage

The game doesn't look like much, but it was down right tough.
The game doesn’t look like much, but it’s down right tough.

After a brief experience with Greywater, my friend and I moved onto the game that I sunk the most time into – Gun Mage. It was a side-scrolling action game inspired by the likes of Contra and Metal Slug. The graphics were simple, but the gameplay reeked of its influences. It seemed pretty basic until I died enough times that Cameron Fowler, one of Gun Mage’s designers, clued me in on a cheat of sorts. Pressing the page up button filled the magic meter, which allowed me to combine a magical effect with a weapon. With about a dozen combinations, I had a blast experimenting with them and seeing their outcomes.

Even though Gun Mage only had nine screens, I spent a good twenty minutes to get through them all. I think I might’ve been the only person to do so at the show. Managing the stock of hearts I had well meant seriously paying attention to the two enemy types. Blue enemies appeared to have knives, only doing damage on contact, and beige enemies who were equipped with guns. Staying alive meant jumping over the bullets of gun wielding enemies and finding a weapon/magic combination that suited me.

The demo is available to play via the Dropbox link and through its Facebook page. Don’t forget about the page up button!

Heartland Gaming Expo 2013 – Greywater

Team Sweepy, hamming it up for the camera.
Team Sweepy, hamming it up for the camera.

The next game my friend and I transitioned to was Greywater – an isometric role-playing game in the vein of Diablo. If Project Land Mineded was the most technologically proficient game I played, then Greywater had the strongest art direction and implementation. The steampunk influences were readily apparent at first glance and the art style was complimented by a 19th century backdrop of a highly polluted city – hence the name, Greywater. It also seemed like there was a lot of story and character development already present in the playable demo, more than any other game I played at the show.

That said, I actually didn’t play much of the game as I didn’t gel with the control scheme. I might not be recalling correctly, but I believe movement and attacks were done via the keyboard while menu navigation was with the mouse. I would’ve preferred most everything but movement be done with the mouse. I also didn’t get a good sense of feedback when attacking enemies. I couldn’t tell if I was damaging them or missing completely. I wish I’d played more of Greywater in hindsight as Team Sweepy placed second in the game showcase and won the gallery show. Congrats to them!

If you wanna follow their progress, you can do so via their Tumblr or Twitter.

Heartland Gaming Expo 2013 – Project Land Mineded

This past weekend saw The University of Tulsa hosting the Heartland Gaming Expo 2013. Per the website, the goal of the event was to showcase the creation and development of video games in the central region of the United States, primarily Oklahoma. There were a few different events and it was free and open to the public Saturday and Sunday. My friend and I went Sunday morning and hung out for a few hours, playing the games that were present and chatting with their designers.

It was pretty desolate when we went on Sunday morning as many of the participants were taking part in the eighteen hour hack-a-thon that began Saturday evening. From what we gathered from some of the designers, many others just didn’t show up Sunday – which isn’t surprising as there didn’t seem to be much publicity for the event. Besides my friend and I, there were only five or so other spectators. There were about fifteen designers present though and it seemed like everyone was enjoying each other’s company.

The first game I played was Project Land Mineded. It was a first-person shooter focusing on arena-based multiplayer. It was designed with the Unreal Development Kit and was undoubtedly the most technologically-proficient game present. The game was a fast-paced, twitchy sort of deathmatch game through and through but it had an interesting hook. The sole weapon was a rocket launcher and after firing a rocket, it ricocheted a time or two before losing momentum and becoming a stationary mine. Before too long, the arena was ridiculously littered with mines, meaning evading them was nigh-on impossible.

Project Land Mineded was designed by a Norman, OK high school student – Marty Rand. What’s perhaps most impressive about the game is that it was designed using nothing but free software such as GIMP and UDK. The game’s technological proweress made a little more sense when he elaborated that he’s been programming for a long time, specifically robotic programming. He said he’d like to continue on in the game design realm and I think he has a bright future. Project Land Mineded was a blast and I can imagine with a little tweaking, it could be a commercially available product.

Below is a video that Marty uploaded to YouTube and also, here are links to the game’s blog and Twitter.

In Between Posts, May 27, 2012

My highlight from last week was an evening out to a WNBA with my girlfriend and another couple. My friend’s wife won four tickets to a Tulsa Shock game and luckily we were all available to go! Unfortunately for us, and Tulsa I suppose, the Shock are the worst team in the WNBA – last season they were 3-31. During that period I know they had a mass exodus of players and coaches, and I’m guessing they’ve had a hard time adjusting to new owners; from 1998 to 2009 they were known as the Detroit Shock, before packing up and heading my way.

The game far exceeded our expectations. This was only the second game of the season and they played the Phoenix Mercury in a high-scoring match, yet, they lost 89-87. They actually made a buzzer beater shot, but after review it was discounted.

Three things helped make our evening (besides the fine game). Firstly, the tickets she won weren’t general admission but tickets to a preferred lounge complete with padded seats, a bar, and a buffet, plus prime seating at half-court. Secondly, my friend and I caught free t-shirts! Every now and then their mascot would throw shirts into the crowd, and since the arena was only 1/4 to 1/3 full, we had a great chance of getting one. Too bad they’re XL and we’re not… Lastly, the crowd was awesome. As I just mentioned, it was a small crowd, but they were passionate. Their passion brought some out in me as I rooted for my home town team. We got on the jumbo-tron too and that was cool, haha.

Arcade Games at the Movie Theater – Cinemark Tulsa and IMAX

My girlfriend and I went and saw The Twilight Saga: Breaking Dawn – Part 1 yesterday and like we did when we saw J. Edgar, we played some arcade games afterwards. Considering we see movies fairly frequently, these articles will probably turn into a routine feature. We went to a different theater this time, specifically Cinemark Tulsa and IMAX which is very large, and yet their arcade selection was about the same as the other, smaller theater we went to previously.

The arcade games were in a separate room by the entrance and a smattering of people also entered after Breaking Dawn was over. I took a quick look around and from right to left I noticed Ferrari F355 Challenge, Ms. Pac-Man, Sunset Riders, The Fast and the Furious: Super Bikes, DDRMAX 2 Dance Dance Revolution 7thMix, Silent Scope, Terminator Salvation, Time Crisis II, Virtua Cop 3, The Fast and the Furious, as well as a few pinball tables, UFO machines, and of course, a change machine. The room was packed; Cinemark had a bunch of options.

I initially gravitated towards the Ferrari 355 Challenge machine because it had a cockpit and three TV screens providing a cool first-person view from the cockpit, but it was occupied. Second in line was Sunset Riders.

The three monitor cockpit version of Ferrari F355 Challenge. Image taken by Flickr user gggames.se.

I’ve heard positive things about Sunset Riders but have never played it. It’s a side-scrolling shoot ’em up set in the old west and as bounty hunters my girlfriend and I walked to the right and destroyed anyone who came between us and the wanted person at the end of the stage. The characters were really big and they were responsive, but jumping up to a higher level (balcony of a building) was hard to pull off. A few stampedes happened and we had to run on top of cattle to survive. The first one caught us off guard, but these were fun to survive. We could pick our character and depending on who we picked we used either a revolver or a shotgun; I preferred the shotgun because of the bullet spread.

Facing off against the first boss of Sunset Riders solo.

Next up was DDRMAX 2 Dance Dance Revolution 7th Mix. We played three songs on easy and had a blast, although we both agreed that next time we play DDR, we’ll play on a tougher difficulty. The songs were crazy, like a group of Japanese girls picked European dance songs and sped them up, I liked it. I found myself not only hitting the pads when I was required to but dancing along to the beat to keep up with the song. We tried to play Virtua Cop 3 next but it didn’t work. Unfortunately I found this out after I inserted money.

I liked the selection of games Cinemark Tulsa and IMAX had. There was a good selection of games to play (light gun games, racing games, DDR) and a few alternatives like the pinball machines. I’d like to return with a friend and play through Sunset Riders to say I’ve played through an arcade game, but that probably won’t happen for a while.