by Catriona Mills

Articles in “Gaming”

Packrat Woes: Again

Posted 25 May 2008 in by Catriona

I’m still thoroughly enjoying this game, as are a number of other people, judging from the people who wander into Circulating Library looking for information on how to complete the fiendish Quest for Montezuma.

Well, it was fiendish when I completed it. As I noted then, we early adopters of the Montezuma quest were struggling to collect Gold Coins, frantically flipping through the packs to which we had access hoping to either steal them from under the rats’ noses or to have them miraculously pop up for us.

But we persevered and we made our Spotted Leopards, our Turquoise Masks, and our 20,000-point Montezuma’s Headdresses.

And then . . . then we noticed that Coins were suddenly available for sale in some of the markets. And, at first, we weren’t certain whether we’d overlooked that option. Had we really spent hours searching the packs when we could have bought Coins for fifty credits each?

But no—this was a new phenomenon. So we grumbled a little along “back in my day” lines, felt smug about completing the set under difficult circumstances, and got on with collecting the next set.

But then it happened again! For the Boy Genius set, you needed a high number of Mindwave Helmets: to make Time Machines and Android Irwin, and then to use those to make Tripod Seeker Drones and rocketships.

And suddenly it was the gold-coin frenzy all over again: we were searching packs and rapidly losing whatever morals we’d developed in the interests of co-operative play. One poor friend—I hope she’ll forgive me eventually, because over a period of a week I must have stolen every Mindwave Helmet she’d managed to collect.

Then, having finally completed the set by grabbing the final, elusive, pop-up card—Baron von Heisenberg—from a rat who wasn’t paying attention, I noticed the Mindwave Helmet had suddenly become available in stores. And once again, I couldn’t help but think that maybe I’d just never noticed this before. Maybe I’d been running the risk of damaging decades-old friendships when I could have been spending eighty credits a pop instead.

No—once again, the card had become readily available after I ceased to need it.

I’m not even going to go into the struggles to obtain Fountains to complete the Rat Pack set.

Yes, I am—because this is one of the frustrations of the game for me. Increasingly, the high-end cards, the ones that you cobble together out of other cards, are coming to rely on extremely rare pop-up cards: cards that you can’t buy from the markets, but have to hope will spontaneously appear for you during game play.

Take Rat Pack, the Vegas-themed set, for example. This was the most extravagant set to date: twenty-eight items, the most valuable of which were worth 50,000 and 25,000 points.

But the key card was something called “The Strip”: worth 15,000 points on its own, you made it out of the Wedding Chapel (itself made from three different cards), the Casino (ditto), and the elusive Fountain, a 4,000-point beauty of a pop-up card.

So far, so good. The chances of a Fountain popping up were fairly remote, but you might find one. Well, two: you had to vault the Fountain individually, as well as The Strip.

But wait: you need to make The Strip a further two times, because The Strip is a key component of the two highest-scoring cards, The Jackpot and Vegas, Baby! And suddenly, things became a little desperate.

Frankly, I suspect the same thing is going to happen with the Beatnik (also a 4,000-point pop-up) that you need for the Dark Roast coffee-themed collection, except that you only need two Beatniks and the highest-scoring card in that set is only 8,000 points.

I’ll commit gaming sins for 50,000 points that I wouldn’t even consider for 8,000.

But this is one of the frustrations of the game, even more irritating to me than the fact that the rat players—previously so passive, and only useful because they held packs full of cards that you could plunder without repercussions—are now able to steal from you in return. So now, half of the available fifteen spaces in your packs have to be saved for Locks, so the rats don’t steal the Codex you spent a week making or the Blender you saved up for.

That’s frustrating enough.

But if the Fountain suddenly becomes available in the markets after I begged, borrowed, and stole the four that I needed, then I’m out of here.

Things You Might Find Yourself Saying to a Geek

Posted 24 May 2008 in by Catriona

Example 1: “Never mind, honey, you’ll defeat the giant Cthulhu mime next time. After all, remember how long it took me to kill that two-headed ogre?”

Never Distract a Gaming Geek

Posted 22 May 2008 in by Catriona

I popped in to the study to see how Nick—back On the Rain-Slick Precipice of Darkness after spending the specified forty-five minutes with me—was going with the game.

ME: Hey, honey. Are you killing mimes?
(Note: That’s not a euphemism. It’s an odd game.)
NICK: I’m trying. I’m not doing very well.
ME: You’re doing fine. Oh, you’re dying. But you’re better now. Oh—well, you were. Look, I’m just going to leave.

Sometimes the fatalities aren’t all mimes.

Grass Widow

Posted 22 May 2008 in by Catriona

Nick has finally got his hands on On the Rain-Slick Precipice of Darkness—the Penny Arcade game that he has been breathlessly awaiting for months, the first episode of which was released late last night, our time.

This new acquisition first led to a conversation about time management:

NICK: I thought I’d play a bit of the game first, and then we could spend some time together.
(Anyone who has ever found themselves in a relationship with a geek has had this conversation at some point.)
ME: How about we watch something first, then you can play the game until you go to bed?
NICK: Well, it’s being released episodically, so I don’t want to run through it too quickly.
(Brief pause, while I sort this out in my head.)
ME: Hon, it really doesn’t matter whether you watch telly with me now and then play two hours of the game, or play two hours of the game and then watch telly—you’re spending the same amount of time playing.

This argument was not well received, which is why I’m sitting alone in the living room, updating my blog.

He did, I’ll admit, call me into the study to see the avatar he had created; I went slightly reluctantly, muttering “I am a devoted girlfriend,” but the avatar was kind of cute [So cute, in fact, that I’m updating this post with a link to Nick’s blog, where he’s posted his avatar picture].

On the plus side, all I can hear from the study are gales of laughter, shouts of “Oh yeah!” and “Ha ha!”, and what I would swear was “Pwned!”

It also gave me an excuse to go to Brewer’s Dictionary of Phrase and Fable to look up the term “grass widow.”

I knew that in using it to describe a woman temporarily separated from her husband, I was using it accurately (ignoring, for the purposes of this argument, my unmarried state.)

I didn’t know that it originally meant an unmarried woman with a child, “grass” in this context sharing some of the connotations of “a roll in the hay.”

I also didn’t know that it came into its current use in the days of British rule in India, when women would, to quote Brewer’s, be “sent to the hills where the climate was cooler and grass still grew.”

We may only be separated by a couple of rooms, but the point remains valid.

Live-Blogging Wii Bowling

Posted 6 May 2008 in by Catriona

Game One: Smack talk
During Wii Bowling, Nick comments on the fact that I have better bowling stats than he does:

NICK: Treena . . . pro.
ME: Did you just call me what I think you called me?
NICK: It’s a compliment.
ME: Pardon?
NICK: It’s just means you’re good at the game . . . and they pay you money for it.

That comment cost me a spare.

It also prompted my desire to, as Nick puts it, live-blog our Wii Sports competition. It’s not real live-blogging, but I am typing it as it happens.

Of course, the sensor bar has been moved, which is what I blame for my 50-odd point deficit.

I suppose the plus side to that loss is that I lost my “pro” status, so at least there’ll be no more ambiguous compliments.

Game Two:
NICK: That’s some weak sauce, young Nick.

See, everyone talks about themselves in third person. It’s normal. Totally.

Nick claims he’s not doing as well this game, which I blame on his years in Australia; it’s never that the opposition just played better, is it? Nope, he claims he’s “lost his mojo already,” which is strangely sad.

That’s probably why he’s cheating, sitting in my way for my next shot on the grounds that his feet hurt. On the other hand, he is getting a lot of difficult splits, while I’m getting spares and strikes.

COMPUTER (off Nick’s shot): Nice spare!
ME: That wasn’t a nice spare; it was a weak spare.
NICK: Spare me.

Oddly, I beat Nick comprehensively, but still didn’t regain my “pro” status. Still, at least I’m spared old jokes (except the bad puns I make myself).

Game Three:
Nick seems to have got his mojo back, and all I can manage are spares, despite the tried-and-true method of shouting “Fall over!” at the pins. I might have to challenge him to golf.

On the plus side, Nick has the most hilarious bowling action ever. Still, he wins—and I move further from my pro status. Golf it is.

Especially since the computerised bowling spectators boo gutter balls, which is intensely rude and rather off-putting.

Golf:
Hole 1 goes to me, with a rather neat par—if I say so myself—even including the fact that I stuffed a practice swing and cost myself a stroke.

But Nick insists that I mention that he wouldn’t have ended up with a triple bogey if I hadn’t distracted him at a key moment, which meant a 4.6 yard putt ended up sending his ball back onto the fairway.

And all in the comfort of our living room!

The golf crowd are much more polite than the bowling-alley guys.

Hole 2’s a tie, both pars.

But Hole 3’s an awful par 5 dogleg and Nick ends up behind a computer-generated tree, so we’ll see.

ME: I think I’m in the rough.
NICK: You always look good to me.
ME: No, I mean . . . never mind.

He’ll regret that when my birdy assures me victory. Really, once he admits that I’m better at Wii Sports than he is, I can stop boring people with my blog entries on, to paraphrase Dilbert, a computer simulation of a game that’s almost a sport.

But I don’t see him making that concession any time soon.

In fact, he wants to play again tomorrow. If he smacktalks me again—he’s just gone into the Wii newsfeed to gloat “Bowling pro status lost. Oh, dear”—we might just have another blog entry.

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