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The Number of the Beast

Posted by smrnov on March 20, 2012 – 12:56 pm (11 Comments)

Last night around midnight I manager to finish up Silent Hill: Downpour. It marks my 666th game completion, which seemed like a good fit. My initial plan was to try to finish Dante’s Inferno as my 666 but the coop trials just aren’t cooperating. I have them all done other than the stupid Ascension one. A number of peopole have asked how Silent Hill is, and I have to say I’ve rather enjoyed it. It was a good looking game and something any fan on the survival horror genre should check out. All in all it clocked it around 20 or so hours, and it’s likely I could have avoided the third playthrough if I’d been smarter about my choice and save files.

Silent Hill also marks the first game I’ve played in 3D since I upgraded my home theatre projector in February. I’ve watched a number of movies since the upgrade, but this was the first game I’d tried. The 3D really enhanced the overall experience. I have a 101″ screen that I sit about 10 feet back from, and everything from the cut scenes to the in game play was well done. Running down a hallway where the end keeps pulling away from you in 3D is pretty cool. The one issue that I did encounter was that during the tutorial, opening the first door doesn’t work in 3D. I had to turn off 3D, then get past that point, then turn it back on. I’m looking forward to trying out some more games in 3D. For the curious, I am using this projector.

Also on the technology front, I did pick up one of the new iPads. I had a first gen model that I use for walkthroughs/checklists/etc while I am gaming and not near a laptop that was getting a little long in the tooth. My Safari was crashing randomly and all the newer apps/games were starting to take a while to launch. The iPad 2 didn’t really offer anything I was interested in, a camera doesn’t seem overly useful. However the new model with the better display and more horsepower is pretty nice. Everything launches quickly and not a single crash to be had to date. If you’re playing from the couch a lot, it’s a pretty useful tool to have.

I’ve decided that instead of doing a bean dive (for now) I’m going to slowly just load up the games I have sitting around here on my tag. So for those who’ve sent messages asking about why all the 0 point games lately, that’s the reason. 360voice actually tracks the game as played even without an achievement in it, so I’ve been watching the leaderboard there.

Goodbye old friend

Posted by smrnov on December 13, 2011 – 3:14 pm (13 Comments)

This post isn’t related to gaming or gamerscore or much that will mean something to anyone just interested in those things. It just falls into the category of things that mean something to me.

I want to say goodbye to one of the best and most loyal of companions, my dog Enzo. Thank you for being there through all the good times and bad times in the last 13 1/2 years. Thank you for never judging and always wanting to please. Thank you for holding on as long as you did, even as your body was giving out on you. I hope you have endless rabbits to chase, streams to swim in, and of course, lots and lots of food.

RIP Enzo

Long time no blog

Posted by smrnov on December 10, 2011 – 10:38 am (11 Comments)

So it has been an excessively long time since my last blog post. Generally speaking I only blog when something interesting is going down or I have had something come up that it may help others to know about. There have actually been a few cases of that in the last bit, but I just haven’t had the time to sit down and write something.

I’m composing this post from my WP7 using the WordPress app, and it is pretty cool. Gives me a chance to put some stuff out there during what would otherwise be down time or phone gaming time.

So, some stuff of interest that’s happened since my last post:

• tjayars and I won the year long TA challenge.
• tjayars and I were politely given direction that it would be preferred we not join again.
• I passed the 600k milestone.
• I passed 600 completed games as well.
• I was given the impression my participation in a year long 360voice challenge wouldn’t be appreciated.
• The MachiNes came in second in the x360a GSL, and I exceeded my personal scoring goal.

I really am not a rock the boat kind of guy. I can do without a bunch of drama in what is – at the end of the day – my hobby. However I am pretty discouraged with the exclusions lately. I can’t think of any competitive scenario where you would ask the top seeds to sit out?

I’m looking for suggestions/trying to come up with a strategy to get some of my unstarted games onto my tag. I’d like to keep my completion percentage over 75.

Network Rebuild

Posted by smrnov on August 29, 2011 – 8:21 pm (7 Comments)

Not sure how interesting this one will be to folks, but it was a fun experience for me so I thought I’d document it a little bit and share the results. So first off, a little background – between stuff for work and my Xbox habit, I have the following connected to my home network:

A large number of Xboxes
3 X laptops
3 X PCs
2 X iPads
2 X PS3s
2 X cell phones
1 Wii
1 Slingbox

As much as possible, I try to keep things wired for better performance. Connection points in the house vary from my office, upstairs rooms, living room, and basement theatre. Almost all devices in my upstairs office are wired, and it serves as the entry point for internet in the house. One of the upstairs rooms has 2 Xboxes and the Slingbox “wired” (via a Apple AirPort Express joining the wireless network), one Xbox Slim wireless and one PS3 wireless. The other three Xboxes are on WiFi (either Slims or with the USB adapter) as well as the Wii and PS3. Some upstairs, some downstairs, and some in the basement. Overall I’ve been happy with things upstairs, but on the main floor things start to get spotty, and in the basement it is unbearable. The basement is where the Kinect lives, and it was near impossible to get any of the uploads in the Kinect Labs applications to work, and checking walkthroughs and what not was unbearable as well. Additionally, the very old hub I was using to connect the Slingbox, etc. to the Airport Express often would have a port flake out.

So this weekend, I set out with the goal of improving my wireless experience in the basement and improving the reliability of my Slingbox (which is how I keep up on TV while I boost). I was looking for a wireless option that could extend fairly painlessly and still had good (Gigabit) LAN performance. Overall, I’ve been really happy with my Apple products (2 MacBook Pros, 2 iPads, and the AirPort) and decided to go whole hog with it. So I picked up an AirPort Extreme to replace my DLink DIR-655 (which was decent outside of the wireless range issues) and grabbed a second AirPort Express.

Step 1 was to minimize the downtime in my office. So I quickly did a straight replacement of my existing wireless router with the AirPort Extreme. Swapping the cables and power around only took a minute or two, with having to move one of my devices off a direct plug into my router and off to my 16 port switch. Power on and configuration of the new router was maybe another 3-4 minutes, so within 5 minutes my office was back up and running. Because I kept the same network name, all other wireless devices in the house as well as the existing Airport Express were functional as well. So before moving on to the other hardware replacements, I decided to play around with some of the settings on the new router. One nifty thing I uncovered is the new router actually puts up two wireless networks – one that’s your standard a/b/g/n network as well as a 5GHz version for devices that support it. All my laptops and the iPads support the 5GHz network, and the speed and coverage range on it was impressive. I can pretty much browse with as many tabs as I want anywhere in the house now.

So with step 1 completed with better than expected results, I moved on to step 2, extending the lower frequency wireless into the basement with better coverage as well. I plugged the Airport Express into the wall, fired up the Airport utility, and with a few clicks had extended my wireless coverage. I then fired up some Kinect Labs games downstairs and both video and photo uploading went off without a hitch.

Step 3 proved to be the most annoying of the lot. So I wanted to replace my old Linksys hub with my now decommissioned DLink router. I initally tried using the AirPort Express uplink as the WAN port on the DLink, but that resulted in the Slingbox being on it’s own subnet and not being local for my other devices, as well as requiring additional setup on both routers. I spent the better part of an hour trying different configuration options with no luck, and called in a night with Xbox connectivity working but the Slingbox not so much. So I turned to Google and the magic combination ended up being plugging my uplink into one of the LAN ports and turning off the DHCP server on the old router.

So two easy steps and one more annoying step and I’m in network nirvana. All connections seem faster for the most part, and reliability is on the rise. My final setup being:

AirPort Express as a wireless hub -> DLink DIR-655 as a wired switch
Cable Modem -> AirPort Express -> < 16 port switch AirPort Express as a WDS AP This one is probably only interesting to 1 or 2 people out there, but it is something I find interesting myself.

No Bean Dive for me

Posted by smrnov on August 12, 2011 – 4:10 pm (4 Comments)

So a few days ago my console locked up as the achievement text was on-screen while playing History Channel: Great Battles Medieval online with TheBlackDragonX. I had the normal momentary “oh nos, an achievement that’s going to glitch now” panic, but the gamerscore added fine and on the main profile screen of xbox.com the score was right for the game. So all was well in the scoring world and I continued on my merry way. On the same day, I also popped in a few other games in order to get some badge score over on 360voice.com. Some of the games didn’t update, and something was off on my HC: GBM score/played games when the blog updates ran. When I looked at my profile HC: GBM was on the bottom of my tag and had points, however it had an unknown Last Played date. Also Dragonball Z: Burst Limit 2 didn’t update its Last Played date. So I tried popping additional achievements in those games as well as just popping them in, and it would show me in the game while it was loaded but the Last Played wouldn’t update. I tried adding a few other new games with no luck.

Today I decided to try removing some 0 point games from my tag, and as soon as I got the number of played games showing on xbox.com under 955 both of the games above updated their Last Played date on my tag. I have no idea why this is happening to me. Other folks have more games on their tags, and one other guy has more gamerscore (/wave Stallion) and to my knowledge they update fine. All I can think of is I’m hitting some issue with a combination of the two. My profile is sitting at 207 MB, anyone else around that? Another thought is I haven’t done a profile recovery on my Xbox ever that I can remember, but I have on the PC (new laptop, etc.). Can anyone confirm if I do I won’t lose progress in any games, particularly Horde on Gears 2 JAP.

Achievement Lag

Posted by smrnov on June 16, 2011 – 11:12 am (11 Comments)

So for some time now, the amount of time between me reaching the criteria for an achievement and the actual achievement popping has been increasing for me. Right now I’d say it’s anywhere from 15-30 seconds. It’s always a bit of a nail biter. Will it pop? Will my save get corrupted while the system is hung up? Will it pop but not sync online (Dirt 2 PC was the worst)? Will my Xbox lock up making the achievement permanently unattainable for me?

Silly stuff maybe to some, but legitmate concerns I have. This week, Borderlands actually took this to another level. I was lucky enough to have someone volunteer to power level me a bit in Borderlands and kit me out with some awesome gear. I was leveling so fast that the system chugging took on a new concern to add to the list. I really wasn’t tracking things with a checklist (I figured I’d sync it once the session was over) and was happy to be getting what I was. Once the session was over, I switched to a single player instance hosted by me, and suddenly the Level 10 achievement popped. As best as I can tell, I wasn’t level 10 log enough for the achievement to pop during the deluge, but the system caught it up when I started it locally.

So I’m aware this one looks hinkey, there’s just nothing to be done for it. I usually blow off all the stupid cheating accusations (you played XXX 10 times! no one with a life can play that much! get a job (have one thanks), family (that too), and house (yup)), but this one I can’t chalk up to anything other than achievement lag/weirdness.

Mixing it up

Posted by smrnov on May 12, 2011 – 10:35 am (6 Comments)

So I’ve been thinking about ways of mixing up my play style in order to keep things interesting for me. Focusing on a decent point average and monthly completions has been good, but every now and then everyone needs to find a way to shake things up. The “track your progress on a leaderboard over time” functionality at True Achievements got me to thinking about things I’d like to work on. I mean let’s face it, I’m parked at number 2 and have been for a long time on a lot of leaderboards. So I went ahead and started tracking myself on games played (because I think I can make progress there) and RPG games (which is still up there for my favorite genre).

In the short term, I’m going to be working on the games played piece. Game rentals in Canada aren’t as easy to do as in the states. In store options are dwindling, and Canada Post makes mail based systems not as effective. So basically, most games that aren’t on my tag yet or aren’t at a full 1K I’m sitting on. The question is, how do I roll them out and still keep on the other things I want to keep up with (points and completions). I think what I’ve decided on is playing a game for what I can get for one day every day for a week (to start) and then keeping on cleanup and scoring for the next week. I realize I’m going to take a completion percentage hit on this one, and I’ll likely adjust the model based on if I dip much below 75%.

It could be this turns out to be unsustainable, but I think I’m going to give it a shot.

How to travel and keep on scorin’

Posted by smrnov on March 24, 2011 – 3:17 am (5 Comments)

I recently returned from a family trip down to Florida. While down there I was given a chance to pick up some achievements that had a time limit on them. If I hadn’t brought a "connect to Live from a hotel" kit with me on the trip, there’s a good chance I would have missed out. So with that in mind I thought I’d throw out the checklist I use when I pack up for a trip. Please keep in mind I’m happy to answer questions about the setup, but as far as actual operating system, network, or router support Google is probably a better resource than I am.

Here we go:

1. Xbox 360 – fairly obvious. I prefer a Jasper or higher model for the ungrounded (two prong) version of the wall plug.
2. Combo component/RCA video cable. This is the one that came with the elite’s back in the day, it has a switch that lets you toggle HDTV or standard definition output.
3. Wireless adapter (or Slim with built in wireless).
4. 2 wireless controllers, rechargeable batteries, and a play and charge cable.
5. 2 network cables, with one of them at least being decent length.
6. A wireless router.
7. A laptop (with both wireless and wired as options).
8. A small piece of coax cable.
9. A RCA to coax converter box (RadioShack has these).
10. A small power bar with a decent length power cable.
11. Your profile.
12. Some games.

So the first thing you want to sort out is the TV, as it may or may not make some of the hardware you packed unnecessary. What you need to know is: Does the TV have RCA or component inputs you can plug in to directly (NOTE: they may be in the front or side of the TV) and have the ability to change inputs either via the remote or a hard button on the front. If so you can skip to the next bit. If you’re dealing with a REALLY old school TV (I hardly see these anymore in hotels, but I’ve been burned by it enough that I still bring the stuff for this) you need to use the RCA converter box. Basically you take the cable going into the back of the TV and plug it in as the input for the converter box. Then you attach the extra coax cable you brought and attach it as the output on the converter box and plug it into the TV where you disconnected the other cable from. Now when we get to the connecting the Xbox in the next section, you’re going to use the standard definition option and plug the RCA cables into the back of the converter box.

Next you want to run the video out on the Xbox to component if you can get it and set the switch to HDTV, otherwise use the RCA connection for standard definition. Now hook up your wireless adapter to the Xbox and power.

Now comes the "fun" part. Wiring up everything to run on live. Again there’s two possible options here. If you’re lucky, your hotel has a wired hard line in the room as hotel wireless really is not great. I’ll outline at a high level the options for each.

Wired:
If you have a wire you can plug in as the uplink in your router it’s your best bet. Basically you plug the hotel internet into the router, then plug your laptop into the router as well (or use wireless on the laptop, either is ok). I recommend cloning the MAC address from your laptop so that if you switch to hard wiring your laptop you don’t have to re-authenticate on the hotel network. At this point you should more or less be in business with a room local wireless network. You should just have to put your Xbox on the network and start scoring.

Wireless:
This is a less desirable solution, but you gotta do what you gotta do right? Essentially what you’re going to have to do here is bridge your laptop’s wireless connection. So you need to connect the laptop to the hotel WiFi first. Then you’re going to plug the wired port on the laptop as the uplink port on the router. The next step varies by operating system, but next you need to bridge your wired and wireless connection on your laptop. This means using Internet Connection Sharing on the wireless network (XP or earlier), using bridging in Network Sharing Center (Vista or higher), or sharing as a general option (OSX, others.). Learning how to do this bit is probably the trickiest part of all this, and you need to know how to get your system back to normal for when you’re done with the hotel. Google is probably a better friend to you here than I am. But once you’ve accomplished this, you should have a room local wireless network and be all set to score.

For packing this all up I use a Halo 2 Xbox backpack and a normal laptop case. If you’re flying with someone one of you can take each as your carry on. If you’re going solo, you need a good sized suitcase that you can devote half to putting in the Xbox (I’d still pack it in the backpack) and the rest to your essentials for the trip.

And that’s it in a very large nutshell. How to travel and keep on scoring. However, I do recommend that even with your Xbox on hand, you still focus on the reason you went on a trip in the first place, be if family time, theme parks, or even work. Happy scoring!

500K

Posted by smrnov on January 29, 2011 – 2:12 pm (5 Comments)

Well, the final achievement took a little longer than I was hoping for. That’s what I get for planning things out and only having 46,000 kills done in Gears 2. As with most milestones, it’s usually a good time for a little reflection, so here we go!

100,000 – December 6, 2007. Playing Cars Maternational. This one came during the first GSL I did with Stallion83. I was a playoff substitute player, but that was the first inkling of the MachiNes.

200,000 – November 2, 2008. Finishing Iron Man, the Old School achievement.

300,000 – September 6, 2009. Finishing Dead Space on Impossible difficulty. I suppose a Dead Space 2 achievement would have worked for 500,000 too.

400,000 – May 26, 2010. Finishing Iron Man 2. Seemed like a good trend, maybe Iron Man 3 will be out for 600,000.

500,000 – January 29, 2011. Seriously 2.0. On top of being a decent achievement, it’s a pretty good game completion. And unlike Seriously, you could actually tell when you were going to get it.

All in all it’s been a good 100K, a good mix of online stuff, completions, easy stuff, and harder stuff. Thanks to everyone who’s been along for the ride, and here’s to the next round!

Doing something different

Posted by smrnov on November 30, 2010 – 10:18 am (2 Comments)

Last week I did something I hardly every do. Two things actually:

  1. I started a game the week it was released.
  2. I started a game with collectibles BEFORE a guide was available.

The reason for doing this was a chance to play the game within a week and still return it for a full refund. It’s something GameStop in Canada offers occasionally on a new title called a gaming guarantee. If you pre-order a game you basically have a week to try it and take it back if not satisfied. My thought being if I can complete it in a week, it’s not satisfactory.

So I opened my copy of Harry Potter: The Deathly Hallows Part 1 right when I got home. It was a weird feeling as I’ve literally got an unopened copy of Dead Rising (the first one) in my games closet. My initial thought was to just play it for a week and get what I could out of it. I did decide to play on easy first and scour the areas as best as possible and see if the collectibles were fairly obvious. At the end of the first playthrough I’d managed to only miss two collectibles and found out the difficulties don’t stack so I’d get three shots at it.

I decided to go ahead and keep some notes during the second playthrough and managed to get the two collectibles I’d missed the first time, but somehow missed three I’d gotten the time before. So my third playthrough I again crawled through, and ended up with only one collectible still missing. Turns out it’s one I’d picked up but because the game doesn’t save them until checkpoints I’d lost it when I’d died. After a final run through to mop up the one I’d missed I ended up being the first to 1K the game.

All in all what is a 20-25 hour game probably ended up taking me 30-40, but it was a nice to do something a little different. I did go ahead and post my notes as a guide over on x360a, and want to give a shout out to all those others who do so all the time making getting achievements easier for the rest of us.