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honestgamer It's not all an elaborate ruse, some misguided attempt to establish for myself an online persona of dubious quality. I really am dull. If you don't find that unbearable, though, this is my blog that examines just how truly boring I can be.

Title: More site tweaks...
Posted: December 06, 2007 (01:28 AM)
I continue to make substantial site tweaks as the end of 2007 draws ever nearer. I'd like to have almost everything finalized by the time 2008 arrives, since I have big plans then that will likely keep me too busy to do much coding.

Tonight's work is as follows:

1) Forums now display in a broader scope. The left column has been removed so that there's more room for content. That brings the forums morein line with typical forums without sacrificing the critical right column where the latest reviews and other interesting content displays.

2) Cheats can now be categorized by type: code, password, secrets/easter eggs, unlockables. Those types will be divided up on the pages so that it's easy to find exactly the cheat you want. Some slight tweaking may follow to make things easier on the eyes, but some would say there's already been a huge improvement.

3) On a related topic, cheat tables will now display properly in your blog (before, the site's HTML automatically eliminated those all-important extra spaces), as they do on the main site. Additionally, you can now click to edit your content right from your blog, which you couldn't do before.

4) Users who are permitted to submit screenshots can now do so in batches of 10 at a time, at least until such a time as the server groans under the weight of so much incoming content at once. That day may never come. Either way, for now you can quickly submit a bunch of shots if you prefer that method to the one I prefer (submit > Back > browse > submit > Back > browse... repeat).

I'm sure EmP is wondering why there's still no HG Mail outbox, and the answer is that designing that feature is giving me a lot of difficulty. I have tried recently, but it just didn't turn out well again. I'm not sure when I'll make another attempt, but I haven't forgotten. Honestly, we may never have an outbox feature, or it could come in a few days. I just never know with these things.
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Title: Lovely weather continues...
Posted: December 03, 2007 (03:19 PM)
So, the lovely weather here has been continuing. There's a flood warning in place throughout most of the day, some businesses are closed (or shutting down early) and the winds persist... to the tune of frequent power outages. Ah, how beautiful!

Supposedly, the wind warning expires at about 7:00 tonight and we should have calmer weather thereafter, with the flood watch ending around the same time. I'm upstairs and our apartments are on high ground, so to speak, so floods don't particularly concern me.

The newscaster gave all this news and then took time to make a special note that people should not drive under downed wires that are located on the south side of town. He called it "not a wise choice," since apparently a lot of people are doing it at present.

Also, he pointed out that signal lights that have gone out should be treated as four-way stops, not free reign. Apparently, there have been several accidents (and a few more near misses) because people figure if the lights are out they don't exist.

People are stupid.
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Title: Windy
Posted: December 02, 2007 (04:59 PM)
It's been really windy here most of the day. Gusts keep buffeting our apartment and you can almost feel it swaying (we're upstairs) as the trees outside bend this way and that like they're about to break. The streets are littered with branches, the power went out once, and rain spatters your face with fury if you venture outside.

I took my wife to work just a moment ago (and threatened to make her walk home tonight, because I'm a butthead). As I was pulling away, an older gentleman probably in his late 40s or maybe early 50s was walking slowly across my path, not particularly giving a shit that he was making everyone wait for no apparent reason other than that he felt the urge to walk abnormally slow.

As he walked, the wind caught his windbreaker and blew down his hood. A few steps later, it caught the front of the baseball cap he'd been wearing and tossed it up into the air, then carried it away several yards before depositing it on the asphalt.

I found it rather amusing.

Title: My November Reviews
Posted: December 01, 2007 (01:07 PM)
So, it turns out that I posted 16 reviews in November. Two were on sites other than HonestGamers, and the remaining 14 are exclusives you won't find anywhere else but HonestGamers. So yeah, I had a busy month. Below are links to those reviews, along with a little description of the story behind each one.

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Trauma Center: New Blood (WII)

If you look online, you'll find several negative reviews for this game from high-profile sites. If you read those reviews, you'll see talk about how the difficulty broke their spirits, how the game is a nightmare and so forth. Well, it IS brutally difficult. I had a lot of trouble with the DS version of the first (the Wii port simplified things and felt more intuitive), and this was the first Wii-exclusive entry in the series. Aside from its difficulty, it's pretty much perfect. And as I see it, a little difficulty (or a lot, in this case) isn't always a bad thing. This game isn't good for the casual players that will likely pick it up, but for the hardcore ones it's a real treat and one of the most rewarding games of its type on ANY system. That made it difficult to rate, but I came down on the side of 8.

LUXOR: Pharaoh's Challenge (PS2)

Someone has to review casual games, and this time that someone was me. I was interested in LUXOR, since it looked a lot like Magnetica for the DS (which I like). In some ways, Magnetica remains the better game, but as a $20 bit of software, LUXOR: Pharaoh's Wrath is a solid investment for puzzle fans and should last them a long while.

Time Crisis 4 (PS3)

Light gun games are awesome but they've traditionally been out of my budget. That's still true, but I had the chance to get this one free so I did. Now I have a light gun, so any future releases on the PS3 won't be too costly for me. Hopefully, they actually come. I have my doubts that they will. In any event, I really enjoyed the 'Arcade' mode of this game, but the story campaign shares far too much in common with dog crap for my liking.

Uncharted: Drake's Fortune (PS3)

Hardcore Gamer Magazine did a write-up on this that really caught my eye, so I was anxious to play one of the top PS3 titles of the year, plus Naughty Dog has a fantastic track record. After playing through it, I can safely say that Uncharted: Drake's Fortune is one of their top projects to date. It's just an incredible experience. I only gave it an 8 because it does fall victim to some of the same flaws other really good games do--a few annoying areas detract from the whole experience, plus there IS a lot of shooting and not so much in the way of pleasant diversions--but this is a must-play for any PS3 owner and the most compelling reason yet to give the system a look. Sony is building up a huge library of really good exclusives that just aren't quite system sellers, and this is the pick of the litter.

Strawberry Shortcake: The Four Seasons Cake (DS)

Shin'en can sometimes make really great games, even if it does stick to children's licenses most of the time. This isn't one of the developer's best efforts, but it's a solid game that should appeal to younger kids... who will probably have trouble finishing it, since it can get more challenging toward the end. I know that kids can theoretically mop the floor with us older gamers since they have so much time to play games, but that's mostly the males of the species. The little girls this game is aimed for are more likely to find a tough spot in the game, shrug, then go play 'tea party' with their dolls.

Assassin's Creed (X360)

I had been watching this game for most of a year, thanks to IGN's regular coverage. When I asked Ubisoft to send it, I anticipated disappointment. Instead, I got a notice that it was on its way. When it arrived, I dove into it as soon as I my other obligations let me, and I had a heck of a time. I did find that things were getting redundant, though. Penny-Arcade wrote that if you take the time to finish every objective along the way, the game suddenly becomes better. I found the complete opposite to be the case. I don't care how much time you have; running around the environment searching in every corner for a useless flag is not going to thrill you. Still, it's a great game. Even when you're sick of some task, you'll probably be stunned by how excellently it is presented. I highly recommend this game. And since it's an Ubisoft title and is bound to eventually drop to $30, there's no reason it shouldn't eventually be in your library of games if you like action titles at all.

Rayman: Raving Rabbids 2 (WII)

I really liked the first Rayman: Raving Rabbids, so when I saw that the second was coming, I asked Ubisoft to send it along with Assassin's Creed. They did. I've since read other reviews that score this game lower than I did, most of them. I'm really not sure why. Theoretically, the first one was 'new and exciting,' but now the same gameplay that people liked the first time around is no longer good? To me, it still is. Not only that, but Ubisoft really went the extra mile with the FPS bits, which are a hoot (even if they drag on a bit). The mini-games are a riot, too. I was playing this with my brother-in-law after posting the review, and we couldn't stop laughing.

Build-A-Bear Workshop (DS)

This is one of those games that just showed up uninvited. It's not even really so much a game as it is a 'pet' simulator, only the pet is a teddy bear. When I played through the game, I kept getting flashbacks to all the fun little games kids play when they're bored, and the presentation was really solid. I gave this game a pretty solid score because it really deserves it. If you have an 8-year-old or whatever, this is the perfect title for him or her and should last a good long while because of the customization options and fun mini-games, plus it's not violent. All around, it's a much better game than you might suppose (though it's not even remotely appropriate for hardcore gamers).

Call of Duty 4: Modern Warfare (X360)

As press, I was invited to the multi-player beta for this game. I was thrilled, because I'd wanted to play it since the first videos surfaced. I had a blast then, and I had a blast when it finally showed up and I got to play through the single-player campaign. The training area recommended that I run through the game on the lowest difficulty level, but I didn't. I ramped up the difficulty a bit to keep my pride intact, then had a fun trip through the game. It's a short trip, but wow is it fantastic! Then I went online, and even though I played around 20 hours in the beta, I've played that many again in the final version, as well. I kind of feel like playing it right now, but alas, I have other games I'm obligated to play. When I'm done with those, though... Anyway, of all the games I've actually played this year (still haven't played Galaxy, sadly), this would easily be my pick for "Game of the Year." There's just no question.

Aqua Teen Hunger Force: Zombie Ninja Pro-Am (PS2)

I'd barely seen the cartoon at all before playing this one, but I liked the idea of cart racing, golf and action all rolled into one delightful package. Unfortunately, that's not what I got, even if the ads seemed to promise it. Instead, it's almost exclusively a golf game, with plodding segments between each swipe at the ball that are theoretically action but more like tedium. The driving bits are pretty freaking bad, too. Still, there's no denying the game's unique sense of humor. And you get to watch four episodes of the show, uncut, so that's a treat if you haven't seen them.

Conan (PS3)

THQ sent two versions of this game: PS3 and Xbox 360. I kept the PS3 version and played through it in a few short hours. It was a fun game but I wasn't terribly disappointed when it ended so soon. Nice graphics in places, killer boss battles (the best part of the game) and a character I wanted to strangle. I guess I'm not a Ron Perlman fan. Anyway, the Xbox 360 version went out to zigfried and seems to be lost in the mail. If it ever arrives, look for an opinion on that edition from him.

Disgaea: Afternoon of Darkness (PSP)

I loved the first Disgaea, and this port is about as perfect as you can imagine a port ever being on the PSP. It even adds extra content. Most of my time with this release was spent with that new content, which took me around 20 hours to clear all by itself! It was nuts, and quite difficult in places. It only reminded me why Disgaea is such a great game, though. If you haven't already played it, this might just be the PSP's best release of the year!

Tony Hawk's Proving Ground (X360)

I really like the THPS games, so I had really high hopes for this one (especially after Tony Hawk's Project 8 was so good). Unfortunately, I was in for a crushing disappointment. This is a convoluted mess with barely any focus on skating, and even that has been butchered. The Skate franchise is looking better all the time. There's still hope for Tony Hawk's franhise, but at this point it does look like Project 8 may be its last worthwhile entry.

Puzzle Quest: Challenge of the Warlords (XLA) (X360)

I had heard a lot of good things about this game, so I finally got to try the Xbox 360 version... and promptly became addicted. I played it several nights into the early morning hours (to my wife's chagrin) and had a lot of fun most of the time. I eventually even beat the single-player mode. Online was a wasteland with pretty much no competition, but that's not the game's fault. Anyway, this is a great download and you should pick it up if you don't have a DS on which to play it (of the two handheld versions, it's widely reported that the game works best on the DS). What you hear about this one being addictive is true.

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In case you wondered, those other two reviews for other sites that I mentioned were Victorious Boxers Revolution for realmofgaming.com and Cooking Mama 2 for GamesRadar.com. Pup has reviewed both of those here, and did a darn fine job.

After posting 16 reviews in one month, I have two words: "Never again." You'll almost never even see me hit double digits from here on out, I figure. I plan to spend a lot more time on behind-the-scenes stuff like game database work, screenshots, movies and news stories. I'll still review, of course, but I'm going to take it a bit easier. Don't want burnout!
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Title: Blogs are updated again...
Posted: November 30, 2007 (12:33 AM)
I've updated blogs a bit this evening. The result is that they should be a bit easier to use. *fingers crossed*

The top bar now includes a 'Site' option (to return to the main HonestGamers site), a 'Blogs' option (to view the landing page that new users will see if they click the 'Blogs' link from the main page of the site) and a 'My Blog' option (which of course takes a signed-in user to his current blog). If you view blogs while not signed into your account, that third link allows you to easily login.

The main landing page now lists the most popular blogs, from most popular (mine currently) to least popular of the top 8 blogs. Users can easily click to check out those blogs and get to know the most popular bloggers.

The final addition is a feature (turned on by default) that lists the three threads in your blog's forum that have most recently received activity, along with the time of said activity. If you don't want this information to display, you can easily turn it off on the "Settings" page, but several people had requested a feature like this and now it exists!

I know that these aren't huge changes, but they should hopefully encourage more users to give blogs a shot and they should increase the general community feel of the site. I don't plan many more tweaks from here--certainly nothing huge--for quite awhile, but after a few hours of work tonight I feel better about the blogs already. Hopefully, you share that feeling...
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Title: A free Xbox 360 up for grabs
Posted: November 29, 2007 (06:00 PM)
I'm trying to get as many people as possible involved in a giveaway that's going on over at hardcoregamer.com (where as some of you know, I spend a great deal of my time). The contest is for a free Xbox 360 (Halo-themed) and a copy of Halo 3. If I were eligible, you can bet your ass I'd be participating right now... but I'm not.

You, however, are completely eligible. So, here's the post about the thread that I've posted elsewhere online (since I'm too lazy to type everything up again).

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Hardcoregamer.com and Gamer Graffix have teamed up to award one talented and fortunate gamer a free Xbox 360, along with a bunch of other really cool stuff related to Halo 3. If you're a Halo fan, here's the grand prize you could win:

- 3 FOOT GAMER GRAFFIX HALO 3 MASTER CHIEF WALL GRAFFIX™
- 4 FOOT GAMER GRAFFIX HALO 3 MASTER CHIEF WALL GRAFFIX™
- 2 18 X 24 INCH HALO 3 MASTER CHIEF WALL GRAFFIX™
- XBOX 360 (Halo Edition)
- HALO 3 GAME
- THE OFFICIAL NOVELS OF HALO
- RED VS. BLUE - SEASONS 1,2,3,4,5
- HALO GHOSTS OF ONYX - NOVEL
- HALO GRAPHIC NOVEL
- Gamer Graffix Xbox 360 Skin (Death Card)

All you have to do is sign up on the account (it's free) and then enter the site challenge. To win the grand prize above, submit the best essay explaining why you're the craziest Halo fan around. You can write up to one page if that's what it takes.

Another way to enter is to submit photo proof that you're the craziest fan. That will give you a chance to win one of several other Halo-related prizes. Full details are on the contest page on the site, available here:

http://www.hardcoregamer.com/index.php?option=com_chaluser&task=viewchal&chalid=76

You need to be signed into your user account to view the contest and enter on the site. If you don't already own an Xbox 360, or if you want another one for your bedroom or a friend, this is a great chance to score a free system. Depending on the number of people who actually enter and the quality of those submissions, your chances at winning could be pretty good!

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On a side note, hardcoregamer.com is a pretty sweet site. You get points for participating, like you do here on HonestGamers, and you can use the points on swag in the free online store. They've given away some pretty great stuff, including signed copies of games and the like. You might want to check it out and maybe get yourself something cool while you're at it.

Some of you are great writers, as you know, so if you live in the US and you need an Xbox 360, you would stand a good chance at getting one with only moderate effort.
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Title: The month of my gaming spree...
Posted: November 24, 2007 (02:30 PM)
This month, I've been playing games like there's no tomorrow. I think by the time November has ended, I'll have written something like 15 reviews. It's crazy.

I plan to take a bit of a break in December. I'm sure I'll still review a lot of games, but I don't foresee myself playing through as many as I have in November... nor do I want to!

Playing through so many games has really improved my general skill level, but at the same time I'm not able to really absorb everything that's beautiful about the games. It's kind of like walking outside and suddenly you feel like staring at the clouds drifting lazily by overhead or the way the breeze stirs the trees as the ocean stretches to the horizon, except that you can't because you have to go to work.

I don't want reviewing to feel like my 9 to 5 job, and this month it's starting to do that. So next month, I plan to play and review fewer games. Instead, I'll probably go through and do the stuff on the site that people don't notice. I'll probably add a lot of screenshots, tweak some game listings, maybe post some cheats...

You won't be seeing me as busy on the front page, maybe, but I'll be getting things done and I won't be getting myself sick of playing games. I love how this site is growing into the awesome resource and community I always knew it could be, so it just wouldn't do for me to get burned out right on the verge of all of that coming to fruition.
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Title: Of Cranberries and Assassins
Posted: November 20, 2007 (02:12 PM)
I had a song stuck in my head today and it wouldn't go away. Fortunately, I own the CD, so I was able to listen to it and that has helped quite a bit.

In other news, I stayed up until almost 6 this morning finishing Assassin's Creed. The plan is to post a review for it on Thanksgiving. It's a good game, by the way, but it definitely has a few flaws the detract from how awesome it winds up being.
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Title: Should be basically done now...
Posted: November 11, 2007 (08:39 PM)
Okay, I think my flurry of blog updates has more or less concluded. I certainly have no more huge new features planned. The most work I'll be doing for awhile is smoothing out any rough edges I or other users find.

I'm really happy with these changes. The blogs have now reached the feature set I had in mind when I redesigned a few months back, and are also more in line with the plans I had when I created "realms" all those years ago (a few of you may remember those).

Now I can head into 2008 knowing that the site really has all the great features I wanted it to have, and can focus on generating content.

So, what's the newest feature I added? Well, now your blog is really yours. People can browse your content and click to view it without even leaving your blog (before they clicked links to the main portion of the site). Cover art still links to the main site and there's another link or two elsewhere that does the same, but for the most part your blog is truly your site to really dress up with your designs and content.

I might make a contest or two related to that very thing in the future, so make sure you get a jump on it by doing what you can to get your blog up and running right now!
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Title: Now blogs have forums...
Posted: November 11, 2007 (03:33 AM)
This feature was fairly difficult to implement and probably won't matter to most of you, but it's part of my long-term plans for the blogs and now it seems to be done.

Anyway, you now have your own forum associated with your blog. The reasoning behind this feature is that some people want to build a little community on the Internet, but don't necessarily feel like going through the trouble of making a whole site. For those people, I'm trying to make a lot of good features available through the HonestGamers blogs.

One thing a lot of people like is a forum, so now one exists for each blog. These can be moderated by HonestGamers staff (if you don't block us), but mostly I figure you can do the moderation yourself. When it comes to your blog-specific forum, you will find that you have moderation privileges and can delete posts and threads, edit them, lock and unlock threads... everything staff can do on the regular forums. Also, people you have blocked from your blog won't be able to post on your forums.

Though I can't find any bugs right now for the new forums, it's possible that some slipped through. It was a fairly intensive undertaking and I'll be truly surprised if there aren't a few minor glitches. It seems to be working overall, though. Please feel free to use your new forum and let me know if anything doesn't work as anticipated.

Now I can get to work on other tweaks I have planned. Will those come to light tomorrow or will it be weeks or months before you see something new? I just don't know...
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