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I hope you can handle change...

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OK, I finally got sick of that psychotic rock-asplodey-man avatar and switch back to my classic standby. To be honest, I was having a heck of a hard time finding my own posts when skimming threads, and that just got annoying [grin] So now everyone who had nightmares from my avatar, you can finally sleep peacefully again.

I also decided to break down and finally play with the custom header/footer feature of the journal system. I'd like to add a little background information and "easy access" type stuff for people who don't visit on a regular basis (those poor, poor, deprived souls). I'm also thinking about adding a sort of "personal favorite entries" list where I link journal entries that I find particularly interesting or stupid.

I also thought about an informal poll for "community favorites" once a month, where the favorite entry of that month would get hotlinked. But I'm not sure my ego can withstand all that inflating - it might explode. And I don't want to have to clean up ego-gibs.

Last week, in a fit of laziness and whimsical cash-burning, I went out and bought a copy of Destroy All Humans. It's a pretty funny game - a highly tongue-in-cheek mockery of pretty much every 60's-era alien invasion story ever. There's a lot of great one-liners, and scanning people's thoughts yields a veritable mine of hilarious quips (like the cops that idly wonder if they should beat someone with their nightstick to seem more authoritative).

It's got some glitches and rough edges, though. One of the features of the game is a sort of meta-game scavenger hunt, where you roam through each of the "invasion sites" and collect little alien probe robot things. This naturally prompts people like me to systematically scour every inch of the playing area looking for the little buggers. Doing so takes you often into the "border areas" where an annoying little-boss voice repeatedly tells you to return to the level. I haven't yet tried provoking his wrath to see what happens - the voice is annoying enough and I don't feel like dying. In any case, though, there's a horde of little problems to spot when venturing that far afield: trees floating in midair, bush billboards that are only visible from one side, and even some really nasty draw-distance clipping problems (stuff which I know the Xbox should be able to cope with gracefully).

The side missions themselves aren't all that stimulating, either; most of them are very basic and take only 2-3 minutes to complete. There's a lot of potential for really cool stealth and subversion missions, but most of the time you just do basic point-A-to-point-B type stuff.

The ubiquitous "invert controls" option is present, which is good, but it fails to invert certain control modes - e.g. walking, looking around, and shooting all invert correctly, but enter mind-control mode and it goes back to the "wrong" orientation. Gahhh! That definitely never should have made it out of beta.

The number one thing that irks me, though, is the greatest missed opportunity of the entire game. Thanks to a fairly potent physics engine, you can kill people (and cows) in a variety of hilarious ways, including picking them up with your mind and slapping them into each other. What the game really needs is some kind of score system that awards you for the most bizarre and creative kills - like, say, squishing the farmer under his own cow, or levitating the mayor into the line of fire of the National Guard. The game environment is rich enough to let you do that, but there's no feedback to encourage it, so most of the time it's easiest just to fall back on the instant-death-gun and be done with it. That's a real shame, because the game could have had a huge boost from encouraging a little more creativity.

All in all it's a good way to waste some time here and there, and it provides a nice alternative to the predominantly combat-oriented games I've got for the Xbox. It's certainly good for a quick laugh and a little twisted venting (nothing eases stress like assassinating rural politicians with flying cows), but it could have been so much more. I saw DAH2 profiled at E3 this year, but unfortunately didn't pay terribly close attention, having not played the first game yet at that time. It sounds like they're really reinforcing some of the weak points, though, so it should be good to see what they come up with.

The most disturbing part of the experience, though, is wondering how our own games do in that regard. Is it as painfully obvious in X3 that the missions are lame? Are there gaping holes in the fun-possibilities that everyone sees immediately when they pick it up? What kinds of improvements are we missing simply because we stare too closely (and too long) at the game to have a proper vision of how it feels as a whole to the rest of the world?
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I love space freelancing games, like Elite and Escape Velocity, but I find X3 and X2 hard to get started with. They cough you out in some ass-end of the galaxy with anything interesting like 60 million miles away.

It's hard not to get bored trying to rocket off to the next space station. Maybe if you guys had a story mission at the very start, like the ones in Knights of the Old Republic, with other ships blowing shit up all around you. A bit of structure early on would serve to introduce the player to the game much better than the admittedly dry tutorial missions.

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I found Elite much harder to get going on than X2 and X3. Things missing...more and unique missions. The player continues to feel "generic". For instance you can play and be "friends" with all the races to a degree, but wouldn't it be more interesting to delve into consequences for being a Pirate, or a dare I say, a sniveling Split. Don't get me wrong, Egosoft is doing a fantastic job, and much of what we are missing is due to the current inability of machine's (and coders) to keep up with a tonf othings going on.

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