Monday, December 24, 2012

Resolution: 2012

Back in January I posted about the games I was most excited about for 2012. Today we take a look on how that worked out.

Diablo III: Well, I got this for free with the WoW Annual Contract. In a word, Diablo III is OK. It's really fun the first time through, but the repetition is very rough over time (this is coming from a WoW player). Playing as a new class didn't seem to help that either. There was a huge fiasco about connectivity on launch day, but I didn't really care about that. I stayed in the hospital that night for a sleep study. Ha! This game is still pretty fun with friends and Blizzard's made some positive content updates. Still no PvP though....

Starcraft II: Heart of the Swarm. Not out yet! There's a release date for march though, so not much longer to wait. I'm in the beta and that is a lot of fun. They've made some good changes and I'm excited to see how the eSports scene evolves. Can't wait for the campaign either.

World of Warcraft: Mists of Pandaria: Excellent. It really is. I haven't played too much of it because I decided I needed to quit WoW to focus on other things, but the new content is fantastic and there's more on the way.

Mass Effect 3: Yeah, I never played it. Whoops!

DOTA2/Blizzard DOTA: DOTA 2 is pretty good. Really hard though. I've never been that good at MOBA games in the first place. Blizzard DOTA is still a work in progress. I've heard rumors that they're going to put more effort into it once Heart of the Swarm is released and out of the way.

Awesome indie games that came out this year: Um. I'm going to have to look these up. Ok...I haven't actually played any. I have Dustforce which is supposed to be really good but I haven't played it yet. Torchlight II is supposed to be great but I played enough Diablo to scratch that itch. I hear Journey is awesome but I don't have a PS3. I dropped the ball here this year.

And I did get and play more of all the games I mentioned at the end there. I have Bastion (and it's on iOS for only 99 cents now) as well as Trine 2. Both are great. I've gotten more Skyrim in but haven't gotten any of the DLC. The excitement on those keeps dying before it becomes available on PC. And Mass Effect...I think I spent a couple of minutes in there somewhere.

All in all it's been a great year in games. Video games continue to outsell movies and the eSports scene continues to grow in America and around the world. My Mom is still addicted to Angry Birds. If I can ever get my Dad to play Starcraft, all my Christmas wishes will have come true.

I'll bust out Anticipation: 2013 in a bit. Spoiler alert: Heart of the Swarm will be on that list too. I'll put together a most-enjoyed of 2012 as well.

Saturday, December 22, 2012


I've always wanted to have guest bloggers on this site. I don't care who you are or what game or whatever as long as it's modestly well written and presentable. I don't think I ever put it out onto the blog, but I think it would be awesome to have several people posting on here.

We have a first guest post incoming shortly! My lovely wife, Aubrey, does some gaming in her own right. And she's volunteered to throw down a post! She hasn't actually written one yet, but I wanted to build a little anticipation and introduce her a little, as well as encourage others to contact me if they're interested in posting here.

Anyway, Aubrey.
Aubrey has been a gamer ever since she convinced her parents to get her a Nintendo 64 when she was in middle school. Her first gaming love was Donkey Kong 64 and Dr. Mario 64. Professionally, she has been teaching secondary English for just about four years. She loves, as you might imagine, reading and learning. We frequently discuss game logic and motivations and their implications in engaging students and enriching the learning process. She is also prone to approaching games with literary critique (which is why she really likes the show Metadating). Her favorite games include straightforward ones like Dr. Mario, Civilization, and Starcraft. Also she's hot.

We should have a post from her coming soon. I can't wait!

Anticipation: 2013

It's the end of the year and it's time to take a look into the future. 2012 was a great year for gaming, so I feel safe in assuming that 2013 will be great as well. This is my list of games I'm most excited for, followed by everything else.

Take off work excited

Starcraft 2: Heart of the Swarm - I don't think I need to elaborate. I want this bad. And I don't want to hear a word about the story before I play/see it myself.

Elder Scrolls Online - I covered my mouth an gasped when I saw the announcement for this. I'm super excited for this one. I just hope that (1) They do a no-sub premium model like GW2. (2) It doesn't suck or end up like SWTOR. and (3) That it's just as awesome as playing an Elder Scrolls game. The only thing that could possibly improve that series is multiplayer. Let's hope they pull it off.

Looking forward to

Amnesia: A Machine For Pigs - Aubrey and I had a lot of fun playing/watching Day9 play Amnesia. With an eager audience and plenty of funding, the sequel should be great!

A Skyrim DLC sale - Sorry, I'm not paying $15/20 a pop for DLC. I'm just not. Especially when I have to wait so long for it after the XBox 360 gets it. If history proves right, I'll just be able to buy a complete digital pack at the end of next year for $20 anyway.

More Dungeon Defenders DLC or equal - Yeah this is kind of a lame entry. But I do really enjoy this casual game.

Things I'll keep an eye on

Bioshock Infinite - You may ask why this is on the lower part of my list when lots of other people have been crapping their pants about it. I just never get that into first person shooters. I've played a little of the first one (which was great) but I look forward to an updated game made by the original production team. If it's good, I'll pick it up.

Destiny (Bundie game) - The first game made by Bungie in 10 years or something. They didn't even make the last couple of Halo games. There isn't a lot of info out about the project, but the team has definitely proven they can make a good game.

Tomb Raider - Lara Croft needs rebranding something fierce. This new game will feature her without the boobs and shorts and turns makes her more of a survivor. Could be just what the franchise needs. Plus I haven't been able to play any of the Uncharted games since I don't have a PS3 and I've been getting the itch for a good adventure game. I'll keep an eye on it!

Thursday, December 20, 2012

Humble Bundle Giveaway!

Hey. There's a new Humble Indie Bundle. And it's a good one, too. You should definitely get it, and then play Dungeon Defenders with me because it's awesome.

Also, the Winter Steam Sale just started. I'm pretty sure that I won't be getting anything this year though.

I have some games to give away! Just comment on this post to enter. Make sure you're logged in to Google or something when you comment so I can get back to you. I'll pick a random person in a few days and send them a Steam key or few. EZPZ! Actually, I might just buy another Humble Bundle and give that away. Yeah, I think I'll do that. Yes. Ok, it's official: comment here for a chance to win a Humble Indie Bundle #7. It'll even be an over the average purchase. You only have a couple days, so make it quick!

Wednesday, December 19, 2012

The Pokemon Trading Card Game Video Game

Once upon a time, when I was growing up, I was a huge nerd. 

This will probably not come as a surprise to most. But I still wanted to preface this post because we're about to go pretty deep into my geekhood. And it's not even cute or awesome like my Starcraft History post. 

So yeah, I was in middle school and a huge nerd. This was during the period of time where Nintendo was basically printing its own money in the form of Pokemon cards for the trading card game. it's embarrassing to think about just how much money I spent on those cards. I'm pretty sure they're still in my parents' basement too. But before I had any money at all to burn on Pokemon cards, I discovered that there was such a thing as the Pokemon Trading Card Video Game for the Gameboy Color. Yes, it was a game where you would collect digital versions of the cards, build decks, and play the card game against NPC's. In Japanese. Only obtainable (as far as I was concerned) through the wilds of the internets. So I got an emulator and downloaded that sucker so I could play the TCG w/o having to buy the cards.

This worked for about as long as it took for me to get through the intro video when you turned the game on. Turns out not knowing any Japanese will make playing a text-heavy game pretty difficult. I was eventually able to remedy this with a fan-made translation patch to edit most of the text into English. Or at least something that resembled English. 

I played the crap out of this game. Then I showed it to a friend of mine and he also began to play it a ton. Then, after a couple weeks, we started having problems progressing as the translator hadn't really finished his project and we were having problems understanding what was going on in the game. So we gave it up in favor of becoming completely addicted to the actual cards and dropping pretty much every cent we could get our hands on to buy more cards. 

I had three of these. It was a big deal.
That, too, eventually died out. The English version of the gameboy game was eventually released (I just checked wikipedia, it was almost a two-year gap between the release of the Japanese and English versions of the game) but I never bothered with it.

Fast forward to this past Monday. I was listening to some Familyjules7x (as should you!) and came across the boss music from the Pokemon TCG video game! A couple hours later, I started to get "the itch." So I again turned to the wilds of the internets, found myself a copy of the game in English, and fired it up. 

The game HOLDS UP! Granted, the official translation actually isn't much better than the fan-made one I found forever ago, but I'm willing to bet it's at least complete. I played during my lunch hour and I had a blast! Each match seemed way shorter than I remembered too. I doubt this game will entertain me quite as much as it did before. But hey, maybe this will finally be the motivation I need to jailbreak my iPod. 

Monday, December 17, 2012


Start video now. And then start reading. 

I've been trying to come up with a good idea for a blog post for a couple of weeks now. And not only has there been one right under my nose this whole time, but it's inspired a second post as well. How great for all of us!

Now that I'm working full time again I've been in the need for some good music to keep me going. I'm trying to work the kinks out of a couple of Pandora stations, but in the meantime, I've discovered something awesome! There's a dude that looks like Logan Eccles from Veronica Mars that's been making a video game music cover a week for the past two years.

Seriously, that's over 100 songs. There's a music video for each one and there are two mp3 packs (one for each year) if you want to just download them. He's only got about 41k subscribers on YouTube, so it doesn't seem like that many people really know about his stuff. We need to get the word out. 

Anyway, these are some high quality covers. Every song is arranged, played, and mixed by the one guy. Then he makes a video for each one. Every week. Most of the songs are high in nostalgia, there's lots of Pokemon and Nintendo 64 covers. I'll post a couple of my favorites here, but I encourage everyone to run right over to the Familyjules7x YouTube page to peruse and subscribe so you get updates as they come out. 

Tuesday, December 11, 2012

Positive Experience #6

So we're starting a 20 minute positive writing right now! It might get cut a little short though. PLus I"m on a weird keyboard so I'll have a lot more typos than usual. SOrry about that.

SO it's been a nice couple of days for the most part. There's been a little more snow, which is always cute. And work's been going really well. The company appears to be very big on investing in its employees, which is fine by me. they're easing us very slowing onto the phones and so I'm currently listening in on another person's calls and help her to do the paperwork side of it. She called me her minion earlier. That was a little bit funny, but it made me think about the minions on Despicable Me, which I was never that big a fan of. (Note: I liked the movie, I just thought we spent way too much time with the minions.)

Due to work, I've been a bit behind on Starcraft things, but that's aok. I read this awesome article earlier about the educational value of Starcraft and how it's like the new chess and would be better incorporated into schools. How sweet is that? I totally agree with the educational value part. And so does Aubrey, and she's a teacher (a good one, even) so it must be true.  :P

So I've been a bit under the weather for the past several days. It's been a little disruptive, but things have still been going good. This morning I started doing this thing where I would try to describe a kind of crappy situation in a cool way and then tweet it with #BeatThat! I won't lie, it's an awesome pick me up! My favorite one was that my stomach freaked out because of a kind of funny breakfast. So I put "Totally got a tummy ache from my wierd breakfast. but my office has free tums in its awesome kitchen area." The kitchen area is indeed 100% awesome. It can't be denied. 

ONe last thing: AUbrey and I wanted to play through the game Amnesia: The Dark Decent, but she always made me drive and it was indeed pretty scary. So we've been watching the Day9 playthrough and it's both funny and hilarious. Also, it means we have something cool to watch on our cool new tv. And even more cool it means we can cuddle on the couch in the dark. Win win win!

Have a great day!

Sunday, December 2, 2012

Positive Experience #5

Sorry I'm late on this one. 20 (or maybe 10) min starting  now.

So it's been a really exciting month. We had two Thanksgivings, one with my sisters and their families up in Cow Town, and another with my wife's mother's parents and some uncles/aunts/cousins. Both had fantastic food. Aubrey's maternal grandparents are totally "do-it-yourself" types to an extreme degree (even though they're both super old and poor and have medical problems), and wouldn't even give us a food assignment for dinner. So we bought them a couple little presents and surprised them. That was really nice. It always feel good to help people who don't generally get much in return.

Also, I totally landed a job! It's for inthinc doing tech support. The pay's good and it's fully benefited  Yay! I feel like such an adult suddenly. From the sound of it, there's room to go up in the company as well, or at least sideways, once I get some experience and get farther along in my degree. I can't say just how lucky I feel about that. It's even in a nice part of town too. I took Aubrey to see the building after church today and there was even a little canal with ducks that I hadn't noticed before. Seriously, my workplace has a duck stream. I'm going to miss the library a lot. There were a bunch of cool people there and the benefits of working at a library are many. I think they'll still let me get away with fines but I don't think I should try to stretch it too much. I told my boss I was looking for other work a couple months ago, so it wasn't a surprise when I was leaving. But it was a little short notice for my last day. I feel a little bad about that.

Things are going well in Starcraftiness too. I'm currently on an 8-game winning streak and hopefully I'll be out of bronze soon. I've been getting a lot better but I psych myself out a little bit. The group I've been casting in Spanish for seems to have taking a liking to me too, so once I submit some casts in English I'll be able to cast for them in English too. Might even be able to make some moneys off of it one day when we get enough viewers. Sweet! Also in Starcraft streaming, I totally met a bunch of guys from Norway that play the Heart of the Swarm beta every morning (my time) that are fun to talk to/play with. Work's going to throw a wrench in that, but I'm sure I'll still see them around.

As a result of the Spanish casting, my Spanish has gotten much much better. I still forgot a lot of easy words. but things are much more fluid. I'm trying to stay sharp with that. I was hired at my new job in part for the Spanish skills (thanks mission and Starcraft!) so I've been reading "The Hobbit" in Spanish again to pick up more words and to get ready for the movie when it comes out. (Already got tickets!) I should probably try to watch some movies or something too to try and get better at understanding dialects. Unfortunately, most Spanish language TV we get here are Mexican news and soap operas...those don't really hold my attention. I guess Disney movies are all translated though, I should get out a new dvd's and watch them in Spanish. That wouldn't be bad at all!

Friday, November 30, 2012

Monday, November 12, 2012


Yes, I'm a day behind on my positive experience blog, but that doesn't mean that I forgot about it. I'll just have more things to write about tomorrow.

Also, I've been doing more casting in Spanish for that Sixpoolgaming tournament. You can see them in all their glory on my youtube channel.

Also, also, I got a pass to try Guild Wars 2 for free this coming weekend. Let me know if you're interested. It's very good.

Wednesday, November 7, 2012

Mikey's Debut

Tonight's my first live cast for a tournament where people will be making money as a result. That's pretty exciting to me. I'll be casting the first match from my stream at 5pm Mountain Time (7pm Eastern) and again on Saturday afternoon at 1pm Mountain. Should be a whole lot of fun! The regular English casts will be on BaseTradeTV. Be sure to mark those calendars. Again, the tournament is sponsered by SixPoolGaming, a premium Starcraft training site, featuring training videos made by proven professional players. I haven't used it myself, but I understand it's some pretty good stuff.

I went ahead and bought a Latin America license of the game so I'll be able to be 100% legitimate with my casting. And so now I have two copies of Starcraft. Not yet 100% sure how I feel about that. At one time I wanted to have three copies so I could have one for each race. But, now I'm not afraid of just playing random if I feel like shaking things up. But hey, maybe this Spanish casting will go somewhere and it will keep on being useful. It's certainly good language practice, that's for sure.

My schedule's a little off today because my lady stayed home sick from work. Not 100% sure if I'll be casting more ReHacked today or not. Also, I need to make a decision on how much I'm going to do in Spanish as opposed to good old English. Either way, if I do something, I'll edit this post and link it here.

Tuesday, November 6, 2012

Positive Experience #4

Got it!

I was asked to cast some of the first matches for Six Pool Gaming's tournament! In Spanish! Ha! I love that it's in Spanish. I start tomorrow. Maybe one day I'll work my way up to English, but Spanish is still a lot of fun. I'll post a link when it's showtime. I'm really grateful that they're giving me a shot.

Speaking of grateful, I am so glad the presidential election is finally over here in America. It's just so long and drawn out and exhausting. I'm going to have to go through Facebook now and unblock all of the people who couldn't keep it nice over the past several months. My Dad's really lucky he didn't get blocked. He wouldn't be able to get away with that stuff on my Feed if he were anyone else. Anyway, I'm super glad it's over. Maybe now we can all just try to get along. I'm being optimistic there, but I really wish that were the way it worked. All we can do is try to find what is helpful for the most people. If people tried to see what they had in common with each other and actually treat other people like people, I think we would have a lot less problems.

Anyway, back to Starcraft. I cast my first series of games in Spanish today. It was a blast! I'm still in the process of learning the names for everything but it shouldn't be too bad. I'm not 100% sure that I'm ready for the matches tomorrow because I can't get my normal account to run in a Spanish version of the game. Blizzard's language support is apparently known for being kind of sucky, but I don't want to pay for another copy of the game. That would be kind of awful. Either way, I'm excited for my first real gig casting Starcraft matches. It should be a party.

Imma cut this post short so I can put in a few links. I hope everyone is having a great week and that we can all try to stay positive.


Here's the games I did in Spanish. I was streaming it as part of my ReHacked series so all the technical goofs are still in there. Feedback is always appreciated!

Sunday, November 4, 2012

Positive Experience #3

Happy Sunday, everyone.

Here we are, already onto Positive Experience blog #3. It's been a nice couple of days so far. I didn't get picked for the IPL thing but it's ok. I was watching MLG Dallas this weekend  (which was awesome despite the technical issues they were having) and was totally inspired to try out the ReHacked Valencia thing. I think that's going to be a whole lot of fun as well as a good educational experience. I made a post over on TeamLiquid about it and I haven't have many responses but the people that did seemed pretty positive about it. I'm looking forward to starting that up tomorrow.

Aubrey and I had a nice weekend together. I didn't have to work on Saturday (yay) and it's the end of term for her school so she didn't have anything either. So that meant we just got to hang out the whole time. We got ot just lay in bed for like an hour and a half after we woke up. It was amazing. I dont understand why people have children. Ok, I do understand, but it's really nice to just lay around and that totally wouldn't ever happen if we already had kids (the human kind, not the goat kind). We went to thrift stores that afternoon to look for a new microwave (as ours blew up) but we didn't really find anything great. They're super expensive new, though. We'll just have to wait it out for something good to come up. We did, however, find a like-new copy of The Best of James Herriot  I love this series (If you haven't heard of it, you must track down a copy of All Creatures Great & Small and start reading. The audiobooks are great, too.) and this book comes with a lot of illustrations and photographs of the area and is just awesome. New family heirloom. Bam.

We also found this cool little Italian place is Salt Lake for lunch. We got sandwhiches and mine was a beef brisket sandwich with brie cheese, tomatoes, and this tasty garlic aioli. It was great. I wanted another one right as I finished it. Then we went home and watched more MLG, cleaned up a little, and other hang out at home stuff. We've been watching this show called Raising Hope that's pretty good. Not like Modern Family good, but still good. 

Today we went to church and took naps (yay naps!) and went to Aubrey's parents for dinner and to help her brother with his homework. He...didn't pay a lot of attention in high school so now he's in college and need some help from time to time. He's trying really hard though, so that's good to see. He's taking an English class and a Math class so that means he's always looking for me and Aubrey to help him out when he's in a pinch. It's nice to be helpful though. 

While we were there I read about another Starcraft tournament that Six Pool Gaming is doing and they were looking for foreign language casters for their matches. It just so happens that I speak Spanish so I emailed the guy about it but haven't heard anything back yet. I'll take just about anything I can get at this point. Lol! I take that back, I think casting in Spanish would be a lot of fun. I'll probably yell a lot more though and want to shout "Gooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooaal!" when one of the players GG and leave the match. That's not a problem though, right?

Also I took my quiz for my computer class and got a 96% on it! I haven't gotten that good of a grade on a school assignment for a long time. It's sad to write that, but it feels good to be back on the up and up. The one question I missed was total crap, too. I should have gotten that one. 

My productive adult schedule got kind of thrown off last week because of Halloween and trying to cram for the IPL contest. So this week I'm looking ward to getting a lot more reading done (and treadmilling while reading) and getting my school work done a lot faster. We have plans to hang out with my sisters in Park City this coming weekend as well and they're always a lot of fun. 

That's 20 minutes. Everyone have a great week!

Saturday, November 3, 2012

ReHacked Valencia 2012

I haven't heard anything yet but I'm pretty sure I didn't get picked for the IPL contest. That's okay though. I totally get why I didn't get picked (I started the day of the announcement) but I'm not going to let that get me down at all. I just need to keep on playing and keep on casting. 

Speaking of casting, I've been watching MLG Dallas over the weekend and watching the casters and I had an idea. Casting a full on tournament is pretty hard work. There's time between matches they have to fill and everything's live and if the caster straight screws something up they have to save face and can't restart the video and try again. So I've decided that I'm going to cast a major tournament. The tournament is going to be DreamHack Valencia 2012. I know this already happened a couple months ago, but I didn't watch any of it and DreamHack made all of the replays for the entire event available for download (like a bunch of sweethearts!) So starting at the round of 32 I'm going to go through the entire tournament match by match until the finals as if it were live and unfolding as I watch them over the course of several weeks. And that I was the only person there to commentate. That could totally happen. 

This will (hopefully) give me a more realistic tournament-style experience. I'll be taking some notes to remember what each player did during their matches as well as what maps they were on to help me with commentary. This will hopefully help me to be more cohesive through the entire event. I'll be doing it live on my Twitch channel and I might even have my webcam on and dress up as if I were at a real event. That's to be determined. 

All in all I think it'll be a lot of fun and I think it will be a great learning experience. Tournaments generally have two people watching together (and a third person controlling the observer camera) so I'll really have my work cut out for me trying to get it all done myself. I feel up to the challenge, however. Frankly though, if anyone wants to join me and try to co-cast it some we might be able to figure something out with Skype. That would be fun too.

I'll get started on Monday. I'll tweet when I get started (@mikeysce) and it'll be on my Twitch channel. I'll also edit them into match-by-match videos for YouTube. Links to all of those pages on are the sidebar. See you there!

Thursday, November 1, 2012

Postive Experience #2

Yesterday was a big day. It was Halloween. That's not necessarily my favorite holiday but I do like Fall and now that I live somewhere with fancy leaves it can be really refreshing. Instead of giving out candy last night, Aubrey and I both had a on of crap that we had to do. She's been grading essays like a madwoman and I was trying to get my crap together to apply for that caster position with IPL. Once we got all that worked out, we played some Amnesia: The Dark Descent together. That game is freaking scary. I know it's kind of an old hat now and has been around or a few years but we really enjoyed ourselves.

Also, it's November now. That means Thanksgiving is coming. I love Thanksgiving. I love the food. I love having the days off. I love playing the video games I generally play on said time off. I love the leftovers. And family. Totally love spending time with family too. I have a blog post from a couple years ago entitled "An Ideal Thanksgiving" that I'm totally going to repost here and I'm really excited about it. Also, my old roommate proposed to his wife on Thanksgiving in a hot air balloon a couple years ago and Aubrey and I totally saw it on the way to buy rolls at the store or something. Also, it was that same day I ate like 7 slices of pie at Aubrey's grandparents' house and I've been well-liked ever since.

Anyway, to be a little more current. I finally got some good casting experience in practicing with some profession replays. It was amazing how addictive it got. Also, it was strange how much I felt like I was noticing now that I was actually looking for things to talk about. All and all it was a lot of fun and definitely a learning experience. I'm totally going to switch to Random now when I ladder so I can really have a better grasp of each race. That's going to be awesome.

Tomorrow I should know if I made it into the running for the IPL job. I'm super excited to see how it goes. And I'm looking forward to keep on playing and casting even if things don't work out. Then I'll be ready for the next time. 

I hope everyone is having a great day!

Wednesday, October 31, 2012

MLGSCE is Official!

I've finally done it! I've cast six professional level game and uploaded the videos to my YouTube page. I'll embed the one I think is best here. I was super nervous doing this at first but I felt like I was just getting better and better as I went. Not that hard after all!

Tuesday, October 30, 2012

Positive Experience #1

I'm reading a book called The Happiness Advantage by Shawn Achor. Here's a TED talk by the author. The purpose of the book is to inform that people become more successful when they are happy and not the other way around. I know I've gotten stuck in the mindset of "When [I've finished school] I'll be happy" or "When [we pay off student loans] we'll be less stressed." While those are good, positive things, science shows that there are active, measurable activities that people can do that will make them happier people. Those happy people then proceed to perform better in work, school, and in their personal lives than neutral or depressed people. I'll do a full review once I finish it, but up to this point I highly recommend the book. 

One of the things that improves happiness is to be grateful. This includes take a few minutes to write down three things you are grateful for each day and another idea is to write for 20 minutes three times a week about a positive experience you've had. My wife, Aubrey, and I are already doing the first one of those. We even bought a fancy little journal that we write in each night. I want to start doing the 20 minutes thing too. And it just so happens I have a blog! So for the time being, I'm going to start taking 20 minutes three times a week to just throw something that made me happy down in my blog. I might start to ramble from time to time, but I'm going to try and make it about one particular experience as opposed to just a bunch of nice random things. I'm planning on doing this on Sundays, Tuesdays, and Thursdays. Also, they will generally not be proofread because this is supposed to be a quick exercise. Sorry if that hurts your brain.

Positive Experience #1
Today I pulled off my very first blog giveaway! I'm pretty excited about that. Sure, I think I may have only gotten one new reader (if that) but it's exciting to see that people actually notice some of the work you do. And I got to give them cool stuff for free! Maybe I should start practicing to be the next host on The Price is Right. I used to watch that show a ton when I was little (and to a much lesser degree, The Young and the Restless, which came on right afterward) and it turns out giving stuff away to happy people is a blast. One of the DOTA copies went to a good friend of mine, so I look forward to getting to do that with him. Additionally, I might have ended up with three copies of DOTA 2. So I might have another one I get out there to the people who entered. That'd be awesome.

Turns out I might not actually people able to write about that one topic for a full 20 minutes. But I'll keep going the best I can. So yeah, the giveaway was cool. I really enjoy doing this blog. I know most of my page views seem to come from bots or Adsense checkers or whatever but it's still a good outlet. I remember when I was a Freshman in college (7 years ago) and finally learned that the key to being a good writer is not following a highly-structured guide but just putting down whatever you were thinking and making sure your grammar is good enough that people actually understand it. That was a real brain-opener for me at the time. Aubrey teaches high school English and she's always trying to help kids understand that. It's too bad that so many people write off writing (lol) as just a hard, stupid thing they make you do in school. It's actually pretty fun. Not to mention a great way to get your thoughts out there.

Speaking of positive things about the blog. I totally set my mom up a cooking blog that you should check out. She's in her 50's and has raised five very weird children. But we all seem to be doing okay at least. Now that we're all good and out of the house, she's decided to go to culinary school to learn some new skills. She's already a great cook, but I'm super proud of her for making an effort to keep learning. She's way older than the other people in her class, but so far it sounds like she's doing great and really enjoying herself. The website is It's pretty blank at the moment because...well...I keep forgetting to tell her how it all works. It just updates through blogger but she called me with a question like a week and a half ago. I should call her back. (Note: I call my mom and dad every Sunday. This just didn't come up the last time.)

Speaking of things I've mentioned on this blog, I am so super exciting to apply for a full time SC2 casting position with IGN. Sure, I'm totally not going to get it. I casted my first couple games the other day (which I've been putting off a long time. It's really nerve-wrecking to get started!) and they were definitely not professional quality. I'll have to keep practicing on that. But the fact that there really are jobs like that out there is so awesome. I really need to keep practicing so I can get into that one day. I like programming, for sure. But I would LOVE to be a SC2 commentator. Can you even imagine showing up to work and getting paid for that? I can't think of anything else I would want to do more than that. I think that comes from a few different areas of my brain though.

I really like playing video games. Duh. Particularly the kinds that require some thought and planning. And then you get to see your plan pay off. That's a great feeling. Secondly, I really like helping people learn things, especially if it's something I'm passionate about. Commentating Starcraft 2 is synonymous in my mind with teaching Starcraft 2 thanks to watching Day[9]. So getting to have a job where I do both would be freaking amazing! It makes me so excited just to apply and motivates me to keep up practicing and keep up this blog because it might actually amount to a sweet job in the eSports industry. I'll admit I was pretty pessimistic about the whole thing at first. Aubrey convinced me that I should just go for it. She says that because she thinks I'm a lot smarter and more capable than I really am, but it's still nice to have someone believe in you so much. And I figured the "rejection" wouldn't be any worse than the buttheads on the internet now a days that just ask you to send them a resume and you never hear even a peep back. That's totally crap.

Anyway, we're being positive here. My twenty minutes are up and I hope that everyone has a great and happy day. I'll cast some more Starcraft games later. Hopefully I start to improve drastically with practice!

DOTA 2 Giveaway results!

a Rafflecopter giveaway
Tyler and Justin both won a copy of DOTA 2! Congrats to them and I hope they have a great time playing. Hopefully Steam (or anyone else who may feel generous) will keep sending things my way so we can do more giveaways.

Monday, October 29, 2012

Last day for DOTA 2

Hey. Today's the last day to register for the DOTA 2 giveaway. You MUST have signed up using the widget to qualify. Click anywhere on this first paragraph for details. 

Secondly, I casted my first two pro Starcraft 2 games. There is definitely room for improvement. But I'll keep it up. You can check them out on my YouTube channel. Feel free to comment if you had any constructive feedback.

Thirdly, remember when I was all like, "I'm making a video game plan and I'm sticking to it!" That's been going pretty well so far. Granted, I decided to switch back to Zerg this morning because it's just better. But other than that things have been going pretty smoothly.

Saturday, October 27, 2012

Applied Problem Solving Through Refrigerator Malfunction

DON'T FORGET about the DOTA 2 giveaway! More info here!

I've transferred universities yet again. More on that later. I'm currently in an introduction to Computer Science course and in our first week I read all about the history of CS, what an algorithm is, and various forms of binary. For my first assignment, I had to write an essay defining what a problem is, discuss how I solved a problem in my own life, and provide a general process of how to solve a problem. I did. And it turned out kind of funny, so I'm going to go ahead and post it here. Enjoy!

Applied Problem Solving Through Refrigerator Malfunction

Mike Harrell

Regis University


This paper defines what a problem is and provides a generalized approach to solving any problem of any kind. The process is illustrated through a personal experience of the author on the day of writing this paper. On the day in question the author’s refrigerator stopped working, causing the author to systematically implement the provided generalized approach to problem solving in order to prevent of his family’s food from going bad. All parts of the solution are demonstrated and elaborated upon.
            Keywords: problem solving, general solution, potatoes

Everyone seems to have problems of some kind or another. However, people approach their problems in very different ways. When reconciliation time approaches, there is one general pattern that is followed. To solve any kind of problem one must first define the problem, identify the source of the problem, brainstorm solutions, and finally alter or fix the source of the problem so that it no longer causes issues.
            A problem can be described as an object or circumstance that prevents or inhibits optimal progress toward a desired goal. I had such a circumstance this afternoon. My wonderful wife, Aubrey, was microwaving two potatoes for dinner when the microwave went on the fritz and most of our major kitchen appliances suddenly lost power. This included the refrigerator, the microwave, and the dishwasher.
            In order to solve the problem, we first had to define it. In this case the problem was that some of our appliances had stopped working, most importantly the refrigerator. We can do without a microwave. We can wash our dishes by hand. But, in order to lead a happy and productive life, I require that my perishable food items remain in a state where they retain as much freshness as possible before I consume them. If the fridge isn’t working, all of our food will go bad in a day or two, and we can’t really afford to replace them on such short notice. This was our problem.
To begin reparations we needed to identify the source of the problem. It seemed unlikely that a microwave could have directly influenced the refrigerator on a functional level. We needed to determine was had happened with the electricity in the room that caused the fridge to cease its regular function. We tried unplugging the fridge and plugging it back into the wall. This yielded no change. We then tried plugging in a phone charger into the same socket and found that it received no charge from the wall either. Thirdly, we plugged the same phone charger into another wall socket in the kitchen and found that it did work. The refrigerator had stopped working because there was no power coming from its regular wall socket.
We then had to brainstorm potential solutions. In this case, we needed to determine what could have stopped electricity from flowing to those specific sockets without affecting the rest of the apartment. We decided to try the circuit breaker in our apartment and found that one of the little switches was indeed flipped to the “off” position. This was the source of the problem. The microwave had blown the fuse, making the breaker disable all of the wall sockets on that side of the kitchen. In order to restore functionality to our refrigerator, I would need to move the switch back to the “on” position. I proceeded to do so, when the little switch broke in half and fell into my hand. It was now stuck in the “off” position.
At this point I could no longer manipulate in the switch in any way in order to directly fix the fuse. Not without potentially electrocuting myself anyway, and that was off the table. Having identified the solution to the problem but finding myself without the resources to address it specifically, I had to construct some sort of workaround. This is often referred to as “treating the symptoms.” I could not restore power to the wall sockets at the present time but I still needed a way to keep my perishable food items in an optimally cool and dark state until such time that I chose to eat them. The key to this workaround would be to find an alternate source of power until we could call the landlord to come fix it. We couldn’t do that immediately because he’s a very cute, old, man that lives on the other side of town and he doesn’t really do anything on short notice. Also, it was pretty messy in the apartment and we didn’t need to hand him any more ammunition. Aubrey found this alternate source by plugging our refrigerator into an extension cord and running it into one of the working sockets on the other side of the room. This restored power to the refrigerator and provided our food with a choice environment yet again.
However, this will prove to be a temporary solution. Tomorrow morning, after we’ve cleaned up a bit, we will call our landlord who will take the breaker box off the wall, disconnect the wire to that switch, replace the switch, reattach the wire, and replace the box to the wall, which will return both the switch and the wall sockets that our refrigerator, dishwasher, and microwave normally inhabit to their normal working order. This will restore our appliances to their typical functionality as well (except maybe the microwave, which may be a whole other can of worms). We will also no longer have 15 yards of orange extension cord going across the kitchen floor.
By defining the problem specifically, identifying the source of the problem, brainstorming solutions, and fixing the source of the problem so that it no longer inhibits progress, we were able to solve our refrigerator problem. Or rather, we will tomorrow. In the meantime we have been able to employ a short term solution so that our food doesn’t go bad. This same process can be used for any type of problem no matter how big or small. Simply adapt it to your circumstance. 

Also, people are allowed to comment on posts. Feel free to do that. You know, tell me how awesome I am. Or that I'm full of crap. Whatever you like.

Thursday, October 25, 2012

Feeling Ambitious!

I'm going to apply for this: IPL Starcraft II Caster Search Contest!

Sure, it's a long, long shot. But hey, I gotta start trying at some point, right? I'll be trying to put together a good application package over the next couple days and I'll keep you updated! Maybe we can at least get some more readers for the blog, right?

Also, news broke today that Heart of the Swarm will have leveling and cosmetic rewards incorporated into the ladder system. Exciting! Now let's hope that they put in separate ladder ranks for each race. So it's not all wonky with matchmaking if you want to change things up. That would make me happy.

Finally, DON'T FORGET about the DOTA 2 giveaway! More info here!

Tuesday, October 23, 2012

Changing Gears

I'm giving away two copies of DOTA 2! Click this link for details!

Want to know how big of a dork I am? So big that I'm constantly planning out my gaming time and intentions. Today you'll get to be part of that planning.

The main goal here is that I want to play more Starcraft because I really want to get good at it and have a better understanding of the game so I can contribute more to the community. However, there's about a billion other fun games to play. I've gotten way into Dungeon Defenders in the past week and I've hardly played anything else at all. Guild Wars 2 just had it's first major patch with a ton of Halloween content. There's this new game called FireFall that I don't know anything about but is getting hyped out the yang that I might want to try. Plus there was that whole Panda thing that just happened....

And then, of course, there's my real life. Taking my wonderful wife on extravagant dates. Classes. Finding a full time, benefited, job so that we don't have to live just over the poverty line. Keeping new content on the site. Remembering to take the trash to the curb on Mondays. I'm a busy guy.

So here's my gaming plan:

  • At the end of next month, I'm going to let my WoW subscription die so I wont have to pay that anymore. I'll go back for major updates, but other than that, I've got too much to play. I've got some triple experience refer a friend bonus stuff doing on until then, so I'll try to get my priest and my monk up to 80 to take full advantage of that. Done. 
  • I'm going to stop playing Dungeon Defenders like a freak.
  • I'm going to check out Guild Wars when there's a major update and whenever I get that MMO itch.
  • I'm going to play more Starcraft. I'm actually going to start putting it into my weekly schedule.
  • I will start to actually follow my weekly schedule. I'm an adult. It shouldn't be that hard. Right? ...Right?
And here now is my structured Starcraft plan:
  • I am going to be playing exclusively Protoss in 1v1 (and usually streaming it).
  • I'm going to be focusing on what I feel like I am "sucking at."
    • First, I will be choosing one build order to improve. 
    • When I'm feeling really good with the one, I'll move on to one for each match up.
    • From there, I'll address specific things and change my play to incorporate them more.
      • For instance, I never use air as Protoss, so I'll use an air-heavy build.
  • I will do this until I reach Master league.
  • I will then buy another copy of the game and start the same process for another race. 
  • I realize those last two are very ambitious. I might stop at diamond.
  • I will start casting one pro game a week to help myself get more familiar with players, builds, and maps.
And that, my friends, is a gaming plan.

Monday, October 22, 2012

The Great MikeySCE DOTA 2 Giveaway!


I have two copies of DOTA 2 to give away so we're going to have the first-ever giveaway on the site. Here's how it's going to work.

  • TWO winners will each receive ONE free copy of DOTA 2 through Steam.
  • In order to enter, all you have to do is subscribe for email updates for the blog and share this post on Facebook.
  • You will need to use the widget on the bottom of this post to enter.
  • If you cheat on the widget I'll be able to tell and you will not win. 
  • The contest will end at 12:01 a.m. EST on Tuesday October 30th.
  • After the contest is over, I'll compare those who entered using the widget to the list of subscribers to determine eligible entries and, using a random number generator, pick two winners from the list. 
  • I'll contact the winners through email to get a confirmation and then send them an email that containing a coupon for the game. You will need Steam on your computer to play this game.
  • Also, this is my first time doing this, so I'm sorry if I completely screw this thing up. But I don't think I will. 

a Rafflecopter giveaway

Saturday, October 20, 2012

Holy cow! We can have a giveaway!

Ok. Get this:

I just got two free copies of a DOTA 2 and I want to do a giveaway on the blog. Only...I don't really know how to make that work for my website. Do I make people subscribe or repost on Facebook or give me their email or what? Comment here if you know anything about this or have a good resource.

Monday, October 15, 2012

Book Review: Ultimate History of Video Games

The Ultimate History of Video Games: From Pong to Pokemon - The Story Behind the Craze That Touched Our Lives and Changed the World, by Steven L. Kent, is more than just a book with a really long name. It's still the best book I've ever read about video games.

This fantastic book covers video games from its inception until the release of the Playstation II. Kent shows his extensive research with very detailed accounts and descriptions of all major (and minor) events in the industry during this time, generally with direct quotes from the people who took part in the them. The more modern part of this history (late 90's and beyond) begins to feel a bit rushed, but this is 100% worth to read to see how our favorite addiction began to be. Despite being nonfiction, which I admit I sometimes struggle with, Kent's work is not only readable, but enjoyable to read.

My favorite anecdote from The Ultimate History is about one of the guys who would pull the coins out of Atari arcade games each week. One of his stops was in a bar at a college campus. Once the game really took off and he was pulling hundreds of dollars of quarters of the machine, he started started to panic that one night he would get mugged. So he decided to bringing his wife along, who would carry a baseball bat just in case.

It was here that I learned about the very first video game, why video games suddenly had ratings, and that the people at Atari were a very colorful bunch. Whether you think you know everything about video games or not even one thing, you owe it to yourself to pick up a copy of this wonderful book and get to know an industry that has changed the world!

I give The Ultimate History of Video Games: From Pong to Pokemon - The Story Behind the Craze That Touched Our Lives and Changed the World a very solid 5 stars out of 5 for being the book to which I compare all other books about video games.

Like this post? Feel free to subscribe to the blog and/or share it on the social media platform of your choice!

Monday, October 8, 2012

Mists of Pandaria: Haters Gonna Hate

Just my luck to devote a blog to Starcraft just as a WoW expansion comes out.

If someone's really all that curious about Mists, there's about a million sites and videos they could watch, so I'm going to make this a pretty simple review.

1. The new continent has a great sense of presence for the player and the environments and music are all fantastic.The Pandaren and other new races all look great and fit right in with the game.

2. The Monk is good. I've been leveling up a tanking monk and it feels fresh and fun. Thumbs up to the Monk.

3. Questing is better than ever. There are several driving story lines that I promise are not "juvenile" or whatever it is that people are so worried about since there are giant pandas. There was one quest line in involving some raccoons that was particularly good.

3.5. The factions are all pretty cool so far and give awesome mounts when you hit exalted. And they're even going to buff reputation gains for alts soon. That's going to be pretty great. Unless of course your enjoyment of the game depends on things taking a long time so you can gloat that you have it and other people don't. Then you'll hate that. And pretty much everything else in life as well.

4. Pet Battles = awesome. Sure it's a total Pokemon ripoff, but anyone who played Pokemon back in the day knows it was a great game and it's nice to have it incorporated into WoW. I know I'm really enjoying it.

5. And the big one: there's a ton to do once you hit level cap. There's lots of rep to get. There's two new battlegrounds coming out. There's the pet battles. There's three raids plus LFR coming soon. There's a bunch of heroics as well as scenarios (shorter, more story-driven, dungeons). There's challenge modes (special versions of dungeons for speed runs and exclusive loot). There are world bosses that drop raid loot. There's the Black Market Auction House. And Blizzard's already about to put the new patch on the Test Realm with even more new content. The future looks bright!

All in all, people who want to whine will do so. The rest of us are having a great time.

P.S. Here's my main dude. He's a stud.

Bonus pic:

Friday, October 5, 2012

Mike's Starcraft Story

It is a truth universally acknowledged that an Alaskan in need of anything at all must be in want of a Costco. Seriously. They really do. When I was growing up we looked forward to going to Costco more than we did the mall (this is still true for me). We even got a lot of our clothes there. And I definitely bought all my computer games at Costco.

This is The Costco of my youth. Google Street View will
get you right into the parking lot!
In the early summer of 1998, I began to hear rumors of two new games. Unreal and Starcraft. I was a little more excited about Unreal because I the graphics were supposed to be amazingly awesome. Starcraft looked cool too, but I already had Warcraft 2 and Red Alert and I figured it couldn't possibly be better than those.

I was fortunate enough to have a friend with both of them. I went over and we tried them out. Unreal was, just like I expected, completely awesome. The guns all did more than one thing. And you could aim up and down, in addition to left and right. Then we tried out Starcraft.

Starcraft blew my mind. The three races were fundamentally different from each other. The campaign was full voiced acted with a dramatic storyline. The Terrans were funny, the Protoss were mysterious, and the Zerg were scary. There was blood! When you used nukes, they actually blew things up! (This was Red Alert's major downfall.) To the point: I had to have this game. My friend let me borrow it (what a pal!)  so I could show it to my brother or something. And we proceeded to play the crap out of it for about a week. We went all the way through the storyline, cheated like crazy in skirmishes against the AI, and I even gave it a whirl online. I got my butt handed to me, of course, and we only had one phone line at the time so that complicated things a little. Then Friend wanted it back. Boo.

So my brother, Dave, and I hatched a plan. We'd save all our money and the next time we went to Costco he would get Unreal and I would get Starcraft. Somehow this happened pretty quickly. I'm not sure how we ended up with $80 together but I distinctly remember us having a budgeting summit where we had all of our money (and all the money we could find) lined up in piles on our bedroom floor. Now that I think about it, I think I was a little short and Dave gave me another $5 or so. That's a good brother for you. A few days later, we heard the magic words: "We have to go to Costco."

We went. I had done my homework too. There were three different covers for Starcraft, one of each race. There also appeared to be a re-release of some kind because the version with the three different races was rated M, while the originals (of just the Protoss cover) were rated Teen. I definitely had to get the Teen one. I was 11 at the time, so I guess I wasn't going to try and get away with any more than I had to. Game ratings were so new then I don't think my parents even knew to look. Either way, I got the Teen rated Protoss box, Dave got Unreal, we paid, ate Costco pizza (why wouldn't you?) and we headed for home!

I recall few drives home from Costco more joyous than that one. We both had awesome games in tow and each had a good manual with lots of info in them. We read our own manuals, switched, and then switched back. It was the best of times.

That's when things started going downhill.

Unreal, it turns out, wouldn't run on our computer because it didn't have enough RAM or something. That sucked. Then, two days later, my mom overheard Arcturus Mengsk swearing up a storm during a campaign mission and she said I had to return it! CURSE YOU MENGSK! It got worse from there. Mom then mobilized The Mom Grapevine and pretty soon all the moms in our neighborhood knew that Starcraft had cussing in it and all the kids were getting in trouble. I didn't take too much flak for it in the end, but it was sad knowing that I had blown it for everyone.

I was now Starcraftless. At the beginning of the next year, I heard about Brood War coming out but didn't get to play it until three years later (at that same friend's house). I wasn't even aware of the pro scene or anything. And I spent a few years being obsessed with the Final Fantasy series. But that nostalgic feeling came back when I heard that a Starcraft 2 was approaching. Naturally, I pirated it off the internet and playing through the campaign again. It...hadn't aged well. Still awesome, but pretty ugly by 2008.

Starcraft 2 happened a couple years later and I bought it the first week it came out. Thinking back, I should have sprung for the collector's edition, but whatever. After a few weeks of playing the campaign and messing around against the computer, I decided to go online and see if I could get some tips. I found a lot of tips. I also found the infamous Husky, The Starcast, Day[9], Teamliquid, and the Global Starcraft League. This was when Starcraft became much more than a game to me. It was a skill and an art with a huge community of players and followers. For lack of a better word: it's a sport. The first computer game to make eSports a real thing in my mind. The first sport I ever really cared to follow and be a part of.

Sure, I've had some long spans of time between actually playing the game and I'm still in Bronze league, but I've finally decided on one race and I'm determined to start climbing that ladder! I bought the digital edition of Starcraft with Brood War a few months ago to finally make good on it (it's even uglier after playing SC2). I even wrote a critique of it for a term paper last year. I am psyched for Heart of the Swarm and want to get into some casting once I have some better game understanding. There's totally some wing places near my apartment where I'm hoping to get some BarCrafts going in the next couple months. Watch for it on this blog!

Also, should you come by a Heart of the Swarm beta key, feel free to send it my way.

Friday, September 21, 2012

Mike Likes Games: Starcraft Edition

The times are a changing!

I've decided to take this blog in a new direction. I'm still going to do (semi) regular posts about whatever I feel like. However, I've also decided to really buckle down on Starcraft 2 and start laddering more seriously as well as to start casting pro games! I'm really excited about it. Kind of nervous, yes, becuase I know my game knowledge isn't exactly Artosis level, but I've been wanting to get more involved with the Starcraft community because it is awesome. I'm feeling brave right now, so it's now or never.

If you don't know much/anything about Starcraft, just check out this video. If you think this all just sounds kind of dumb, you should totally watch this video when you have some time.

In order to be a little more clear/recognizable, I've changed (or acquired) everything related to MikeySCE, Mikey:Starcraft Edition. So I've got the stream, the Twitter, the YouTube channel,, and the domain! This site is now accessible through as well as How fancy! I don't have any sweet content to share at the moment because I've still had to go to class and do homework this week. But I'm going to pull some replays off the internets and start casting this weekend. The first few (or several) will probably be pretty rough but I'm optimistic and I think it'll be a good time! Be sure to subscribe to my YouTube, Twitch, and Twitter to keep up with new content and don't be shy about leaving feedback at the new official email (again,

Furthermore, I'm going to see if I can spruce the design of the blog up a little. That might only mean changing the backdrop and some of the colors, but it means that there are more changes coming to the site. Tell all your friends!

Speaking of casting and your friends, let me know if you have any experience with shoutcasting or even just some pointers. I could use them.

Tuesday, September 18, 2012

Guild Wars 2: MMO relief!

I've done nothing for the past week except my homework and play Guild Wars 2. Mostly just Guild Wars 2 though.

"What?" you may ask. What's a total Blizzard fanboy doing spending so much time playing GW2? Isn't that Panda thing coming out next week? I'll tell you what I've been doing: enjoying it completely.

I'm just going to launch into the things I like about it. Keep in the mind the only MMOs I've played a lot of are WoW and AOE:Online.

Character creation is a lot more elaborate than other games I've played. (I know that City of Heroes apparently had the best creation ever, but I never got around to that one.)

Personalized story arch. I love this so much. For the first 30 levels, the story arch is dependent upon your character and choices you made during character creation. There are splitting paths during each possible story as well, adding even more variety. There are little cutscenes in this game too, which I think is kind of cute more than anything, but certainly effective for the narrative.

Attacks and abilities change with weapons/attunements/kits. This is one of my favorite features by far. You don't just learn moves as you level, you have a different set of moves for each possible weapon configuration (as well as another set for underwater) that can be swapped out on the fly. Add dodging and lots of positional abilities and you've got yourself a game where you actually feel like you're fighting something and not just mashing number keys.

You level for everything except mob grinding. Well, you get experience for killing mobs, but it is probably the least efficient form of leveling. Quests, crafting, PvP, and crafting are all emphasized to be something you can jump into at any moment and feel "productive" as far as character progression goes. I think this freedom is the driving factor for why the game feels so fresh and new.

Dynamic quest events add a great sense of urgency to questing. It also brings every player in your vicinity together to do something epic together, which is just a better way to play.

Quality of life improvements for the economically minded. Crafting materials taking up all the bag space? Just press a button to send them to your account-wide collectibles bank. Seriously. Why isn't this feature in every game? I love it. Need to check the Auction House (or in this case, the Trading Post) just press the "O" button on your keyboard and you can buy and post away. No need to head to town.

Speaking on heading to town. For a small fee you can Fast Travel like a demon in this game. And you're even rewarded for finding the Waypoints. If there's somewhere you want to go, you just go there. No travel time.

It's new. And by that I mean that everyone is still figuring it out to some degree and there aren't many elitists yet. As someone who plays a lot of WoW, I find that extremely refreshing. Sure, the game's got a billion bugs, but if someone pops into the area chat and says "Good grief, why can't I find X" or "This game seems hard, can I get some pointers?" people actually help them instead of just calling them a noob and telling them to go to a website. With the exception of last Friday night when a very strange (and uninformed) political debate broke out in the zone I was questing, the chat has stayed 100% relevant to the game and is almost always positive.

No subscription fee! Just buy it already! I'm on the Dragonbrand realm.

P.S. I should probably mention things I dislike too. I didn't really think of that. If I have to pick something I do not like, I would say it's that you don't get your first 5-man dungeon experience until level 30 and it's fairly difficult. Dungeons are my favorite thing about WoW, so having to wait so long for each class stinks.

P.P.S. There's 10 professions (or classes) but only 5 character slots. What's up with that?

Saturday, August 25, 2012


It happened: I've found a free to play game that I not only enjoy, but am constantly tempted to throw money at. This game is Age of Empires Online and I'm totally into it right now.

I played the original Age of Empires a ton as a kid. I wasn't very good at it, to be sure, but I liked the historical theme and the music. And I really liked hunting down and harvesting meat from elephants. Seriously, by the end of any game the elephants would be long gone. I think I even almost convinced my parents it was educational.

Fast forward to 2011, when Age of Empires Online first came out. It was free to try with two civilizations with many locked features and $20 for a license of the game, which included a premium civilization with those before-mentioned features unlocked. I heard it was pretty fun from a podcast but I didn't really get into it.

The gameplay is a mix between an RTS and an MMO. You have a capital city that is your central quest hub including inventory buildings, stores, crafting, and even dailies. After you accept a quest, you carry it out by going into an RTS game and playing as you would a normal Age of Empires game. But instead of just going from one game map to the next like the older games, you go back to your capital city for rewards and exp and such, and then choose what you want yo do next. Lots of these missions can also be done co-op with your friends! You also end up making alliances with other cities (you can travel to these for more quests/dailies) and there are neutral areas like Sparta (this is where you queue up for a game against another player) and another one who's name I can't remember which is where you can do skirmishes against the computer (also possible with a friend).

Now, it's truly Free to Play with a premium currency (Empire Points) that you can buy (charged through Steam) or earn very slowly in game to unlock things. More importantly, it's also on Steam now, which means awesome deals from time to time. That's what got me back into it. There is currently a 1st anniversary deal that includes a premium race (the Celts), the PvE skirmish "booster" (booster is their word for non-civilization specific content), expanded inventory space, and some other cosmetic stuff for only $10. Anyway, it was a good deal, and playing as a non-premium race isn't actually that fun because you can't equip any of the particularly good items. (Note, you can also get a Greek premium race on Amazon for like $4 right now.)

All told, it's a really fun new way to play an RTS and I'm having a great time with it. I really like the "level up" approach and the more social feeling of the game. There's also a new, cartoony, art style that is kind of fun (but not amazing...except for some of the animals, they have awesome animations) but will probably help it to not look so dated in coming years. Let me know if you play and we can do some co-op.

P.S. If they made a Starcraft game like this, I'm pretty sure it would be the last and only game I ever played.