Wednesday, 27 April 2011

E-sports


            E-sports are fast becoming a major passion of mine and I felt it was time to spread the word so to speak. Many of you may not be aware of the existence of such a thing but fear not dear readers for I am here to cast Esuna and cure you of this unfortunate status ailment (geez that was crow barred in!). E-sports are exactly what it says on the tin, professional gamers who compete at the highest level in tournaments with (depending on game and prize pool) up too $100,000 prize money for first place. That’s a lot for playing a video game!
            The biggest organisation involved with the e-sports scene is MLG (Major League Gaming) and thanks to their fantastic website everyone is able to watch live, professionally commentated, streams of all the events on the calendar. The next event (at time of writing) is the weekend of June 3-5 and I urge you all to at least check it out for a bit of the cast if not the whole thing. I for one have (and I’m aware of the frankly ridiculous level of nerdiness here) booked that particular weekend off work so I can stay up to stupid o’clock each day to watch the entire StarCraft 2 tournament live and not compromise my job by being a caffeinated zombie. Now I don’t expect this kind of reaction from many people but I have fallen in love with SC2 and watching the best players in the world, with a notebook at my side in case I see a strategy I want to steal and use myself, is just as rewarding as watching any other professional sports match to me; if you knew me and how much I love my baseball, American football and ice hockey you’d realise that this is a bold claim to make!
            Luckily it does seem to be catching on and more and more people are tuning in to watch these big name players play the games they love. The first event of the year was so popular that the servers couldn’t handle the traffic and the stream promptly crashed and experienced problems for the first day and a half of the event. This has been taken into account and the head of MLG made a personal apology on air to say that it won’t happen at the next event. Companies should take note of this and get in on it whilst it’s still a rising business. The advertising potential is huge and for a relatively small investment companies could show their wares to a huge number of people. Even the smaller events I’m currently watching get at around 30,000 viewers for the live stream and many more on the VODs afterwards. This is not only good for them but also for the fans of e-sports like me and hopefully some of you as well. More investments mean bigger prize pools, bigger prize pools mean better tournaments and better tournaments mean more entertainment for the fans. It’s a win-win situation.
Currently the games in MLG are SC2, Call of Duty: Black Ops and Halo: Reach, each has its own commentary team and its own designated stream so you can chop and change or stick with one for the duration. The thing that’s so great about the set-up they have are the commentators they have chosen. I can’t speak for Halo or CoD but the SC2 team, headed by my man crush Sean ‘Day [9] Plott, is phenomenal. They make the games exciting yet accessible for those people who might not know what the hell is going on. I can only assume that the other games have similar teams but this MLG I will take a look at those streams during the downtime of SC2 (or during the Zerg vs Zerg matches) to check it out for myself. In fact this will be a great experiment to see if they’re as beginner friendly because on the most part I don’t give a shit about FPS and thus have little to no understanding of how it works at the top levels of play, it always just seems like a clusterfuck to me but what do I know?
If this has whet your appetite for some high level gaming action all the VODs of the first MLG are currently available at www.MLG.com and the next event, as I said previously, is a little over a month away. I urge you to check it out, if possible with some gamer buddies. If you like what you see buy the event pass to get the high quality stream. For only $10 which is basically nothing, especially if you split it with the aforementioned buddies, you get a much better picture and you help to boost the growth of e-sports in general, which again will result in better quality stuff for us to enjoy in the future!

Sunday, 24 April 2011

Portal 2


            Before I get into my review of the sublime Portal 2 I first want to say a few words about how I will be reviewing games in general. I believe that a game has to be able to stand up on its single player with multiplayer as an option for those who wish to use it. As such in most cases my reviews will be based off of the single player alone unless specified. In particular there comes an issue with multiplayer when, for example Portal 2, the people you know want it on a different platform than you do. I don’t have the money to buy multiple copies of the game simply to test the multiplayer, nor do I intend to buy a version I don’t want and pay Microsoft for the ‘privilege’ of playing with other human beings. Right that said let’s get down to business.
            Portal 2 is the full length to successor to, wait for it, Portal. Portal, for those of you who don’t know, was a gem of a game that was added almost as bonus content to Valve’s ‘The Orange Box’. If you haven’t played the original minimise this right now, get on Steam and download it for the measly £6.99 it will cost you. Done that? Good, now play it, its okay I can wait it’s not that long. Congratulations you’ve made one of the greatest decisions of your life.
            The Portal games are best described as first person puzzle games in which the player use a gun that creates blue and orange portals to solve puzzles of increasing difficulty. That was pretty much all there was in the original but in the second instalment the guys at Valve added in some extra stuff to help keep it fresh and set it apart from its younger brother, after all this game was to be full length so there needed to be a little bit more! These extra’s come in the form of a different kind
 of block that redirect lasers, I should stress at this point that many of the puzzles involve moving boxes or directing lasers onto buttons which open doors, and 3 gels which you spread around using portals. The gels each do different things, the blue one makes the floor or walls bouncy wherever you put it, the orange one makes you run very fast along it and the white one turns previously non portal-able surfaces into portal-able ones. Using these tools you have to try and escape the Aperture Science facility where you have ‘volunteered’ to be a test subject. I’m aware that the idea of moving a box onto a button or using Zelda-esque light directing may not sound enthralling but stick with me here.
            The puzzles themselves start out very easy and get increasingly fiendish as you go along as you may expect, and in the sections where the gels are introduced there are some very clever ones indeed. That being said they are never so difficult that you’ll have to seek internet guides and I think this is in the games favour. There’s no point in making a puzzle so incredibly difficult that no one can do it but at the same time you need to feel challenged, after all this is a puzzle game. Thankfully Portal 2 is able to give us exactly the right amount of head scratching before the ultimate epiphany, and believe me when you solve some of the puzzles you can’t help but feel a great sense of achievement.
            Perhaps where the game really stands out, physics bending challenges aside, is the writing. The two main characters you will hear are Glados, the robot left in charge of Aperture since everyone else has died, and Wheatley who is a small robotic node voiced expertly by Stephen Merchant. As a simple breakdown Wheatley is your clueless ally against the sarcastic, bitter and vengeful Glados who is a bit upset that you killed her at the end of the first game. Both of these characters are fantastic on their own, Glados constantly putting you down in an incredibly entertaining way and Wheatley full of pluck and optimism. Both made me literally laugh out loud which isn’t something that many games have done in the past. As much as they stand out as individuals it’s when they are together that they really shine, and that’s all I’ll say on the matter since I want to keep this as spoiler free as possible.
            I feel it’s my duty to point out the very few bad points in the game so let’s get to that, far shorter, art of this review. Although the game looks beautiful there is a bit of a repetitive backdrop, especially once you reach the areas that are in tact and not being claimed back by nature. There are also a fair few sections where all you’re doing is walking along walkway with the occasional jump where it’s broken. These are longer than I would have liked and left me feeling slightly perturbed as I wanted to get to the next puzzle. Luckily even in those sections there is nice, if a bit grey, scenery to look at and they do give the sense of scale that they’re probably in there to do. Aperture is big and you certainly feel it when you’re wandering around with the facility stretching far above and around you. Again the major saving grace during the walkways is the writing, the voice over the tanoy spouting very amusing pre-recorded messages that are centuries out of date making me chuckle and taking the focus away from walking in a strait line.
            That’s all there is to complain about. Seriously. This game is a masterpiece, I simply adore it. It’s funny, clever and engaging and it’s very easy to forgive the small niggles for the smile it will put on your face. It’s not even that short; I blasted through the original game in less than 3 hours and was worried at how it would translate to a full length title. I think 7-10 hours is a good clock to put on it given various play speeds and allowing time to get stuck for a bit every now and then. That may seem short but it’s at least as long as it takes to finish *insert generic inexplicably popular FPS title here* if not longer. There’s even a co-op multiplayer mode that I may review retrospectively once I’ve been able to play it. All that said I implore you to buy this game. The feeling you will get from playing it is something a lot of games don’t provide anywhere near enough of, fun. Copious amounts of the stuff and there is no better reason than that to purchase something designed form the ground up to be entertaining.

91%

Monday, 18 April 2011

They Don't Make 'Em Like They Used To


            During some recent conversations with fellow gamers I came to realise something that surprised me somewhat. Before I begin let’s put some context into this, there is a common conversation among fans of anything which revolves around the very simple premise, what’s your top 5 best X, where X is the thing of which you are a fan. Obviously, given my nature as a gamer, our X was video games. In a group of people aged roughly 18-30 (yours truly being 22 at time of writing) not one of us had more than 2 games from the last 10 years in our lists. Incidentally my own consists of, in no particular order: Final Fantasy VII, Legend of Zelda: Ocarina of Time, StarCraft 2, Sonic The Hedgehog 2 and Deus Ex. A quick internet search will show that (with the exception of SC2) all of these are from 2000 or earlier and this was, like I said, a very common occurrence.
            Somewhere along the way games designers have lost the plot somewhat it seems. Why are all these games from earlier in life so much better than the stuff that gets released these days? At first I considered it as a purely nostalgic root, however this was shut down by the fact that some people I’ve spoken to played these sorts of games later in life, long after they were first released and certainly after they’ve played more recent games. So with what seemed to be the obvious reason immediately debunked I had to consider it more deeply.
            What I came to in my deliberations isn’t particularly profound or amazing, just what appears to be a simple fact. Games were just better back then. Sure the graphics look pretty awful for the majority nowadays but if you examine the games on merits of gameplay and story, the two main categories by which any game should really be judged, they are so far ahead of what is produced now that it’s simply embarrassing. I have yet to experience any other game that has a story so perfectly told as Final Fantasy VII, to be introduced to characters I genuinely care about or with an antagonist with whom you can sympathise, understand and like as a character. Sephiroth is, and I won’t take any arguments here, the greatest video game antagonist of all time. These days it seems that villains have to be the sorts of things that power armoured meat heads can pump a shit-ton of ammo into before eventually collapsing full of bullet holes or exploding an impressive but ultimately unsatisfying explosion.
            Games developers today seem more interested in making games that look astounding, and to give credit where credit is due, they are pushing the limits of what I ever thought would be possible. I remember my mind being blown by how awesome Super Mario 64 looked, then the Final Fantasy VIII cut scenes demolished what was left. Little did I know that a decade later those would be in game graphics. Unfortunately in doing this they’ve lost track of what makes games such a powerful medium. What movie gives you the chance to BE the hero? Which books allow YOU to control the very events of a complicated story? Games can go so much deeper than any other story telling method and this is why it saddens me that Call of Duty is so fucking popular. They had a go at a clever story, it didn’t work guys, it was convoluted, stupid and mildly predictable, oh and it was about 6 hours long. It seems that if you want to make a successful game you just need to put it in a first person view, stick a machine gun in someone’s hand and put them in what is essentially a corridor, a curvy and well textured corridor, with the instructions of ‘shoot everyone and get to the other end.’ This is all well and good for a little while but I find myself tiring of it very quickly and returning back to the classics desperate for something with substance.
            I want to stress at this point that I’m not just hating on modern games as a nostalgic RPG fanboy (though I am one). There are a ton of games that have been released in much more recent times that are fantastic, innovative and fun to play. Fallout 3 for example devoured an incredibly large portion of my life and Portal was ridiculously good despite being possibly the shortest game I’ve ever played. What I’m getting at here is that good games do shine through the sea of mediocrity that plagues modern consoles; it’s just that they don’t shine quite so brightly as the super novaeic brilliance of their forefathers. This has made me feel rather old but you know what, sod it I don’t care, I’m going to keep playing the classics and hoping that one day a new game will reach the heights that they currently occupy, now if you’ll excuse me there’s some kids I need to tell to get off my front lawn.

Wednesday, 13 April 2011

Motion-Shomtion


         Why is it that all three console formats are insisting that I stand up to play my games these days? Nintendo started it off years ago with the remote waggling, unresponsive and fairly inaccurate Wii and Sony and Microsoft have subsequently jumped on board the motion sensitive train with the Move and Kinect respectively.
            In their credit both of these later additions into the current trend (3D being the one that is surely set to follow) are much better than what the Wii has to offer, even since the motion plus was introduced which admittedly did make it better. My issue is the fact that the whole thing is simply ridiculous. Coming from the viewpoint of a ‘hardcore gamer’ as the companies would label me, all this jumping, waving and general awkwardness takes away from games rather than enhancing them. I get the theory, on the surface it seems like it would be more immersive but what has been achieved is making games less precise. Why would I want to replace the pressing of a button which takes a fraction of a second with a movement which could take a second or more? What they should be doing is working on some kind of technology to allow me to control my games with my mind… Ok that may be a ways off but hell it’s better than sticking a tennis ball on a Wii remote and claiming it’s a revolutionary new idea, we noticed Sony, there’s no hiding it.
            When we play games we do it to relax, sitting of slouching comfortably on a bed, chair or sofa and this is how it should be. Games are a great form of escapism and fun which lends itself well to being comfortable, introducing things like Kinect which actively forces you to stand and jump about like a buffoon to get results doesn’t actually help in what they are trying to do.
            The games for these devices are all pretty much the same sorts of thing too, with dancing or fitness games being pretty much the sole releases for Kinect and the best sellers on the Wii, granted Move has slightly more variety but with the exception of Heavy Rain compatibility (which if I’m honest I can see working beautifully) it’s all just not as good as a controller. Take Killzone 3 as an example. It has move compatibility and 3D, 2 fads with one stone there, both of which severely detract from the experience of playing the game. The move controls are clunky and ineffective so you will very quickly find yourself switching back to a standard controller to get the precision you want, nay, need in an FPS. Even the 3D isn’t great, sure it looks cool and everything but turn it off and the entire game just comes to life. So what they’ve done is thrown money at a game to make it compatible with all these different things which won’t get used for more than 10 minutes because they take away the fun.
            Some may cry that this is simply a gamer conforming to stereotype and being a lazy, sofa bound nerd who shirks exercise and natural light in favour of the glow of a monitor. I assure you this is not the case. I’d be 100% willing to give these things the time and money if they could improve my gaming experience, until that point they will not even be remotely considered. My Wii is in effect an N64 and SNES rolled into one, with Super Smash Bros: Brawl and a few choice GameCube titles left over – none of which use the motion controls. I have no desire to pay £50 for Move in order to play the one game I’ve already finished and Kinect has so many problems I don’t know where to start, but let’s have a go anyway. It’s expensive, unresponsive, needs a 6 foot gap between you and the screen and has no game support unless you like to dance or do yoga or whatever…which I do not.
            So in an attempt to wrap up my rant here, listen up games developers. Nice try with the whole aim stuff at super happy casual gaming families (which don’t exist in the way the adverts depict) and get people up and moving. It’s time to realise that this is just a phase you need to get over and go back to making awesome games instead of new ways to control crappy ones. Controllers have been around for a long time now and there’s a reason, they work. Also while you’re at it please take steps to minimise 3D stuff, most of us can’t afford a 3D TV anyway so it’s really not worth it.

Pokemon Black/White


 It’s that time again folks, with the inevitability of the tides and the fact that day will follow night the next Pokemon game has arrived for the Nintendo DS. First things first, what’s new? Well in a sense everything and nothing. Until you’ve finished the main story you won’t find a single Pokemon from any of the previous games, there are 150 something brand new critters for you to find, beat up and throw balls at. There are a few areas in the game with a slightly different perspective, one entire city where the camera is set far lower and at more of an angle, giving the impression of a towering cityscape. To be honest this was the only shot I’d seen of the game before playing and was expecting all the cities to be designed in this manner. Thankfully they aren’t as although I see where they were going with the design to me it seemed unnecessary and I much prefer the standard way of viewing you get in most other places in the game, with the exception of a big bridge or two. The other major difference added into this 5th generation Pokemon is a completely unique area depending on your version. White players get the White Forest and Black players the Black City so for the first time there is an actual difference between the two games beyond a few Pokemon that are exclusive to each version.
There’s also a couple of extra battle modes which revolve around a 3 on 3 format, one being a strait 3v3 and the other a rotational system. This involves you and your opponent each having three Pokemon out but only the middle one can attack and be attacked, you have the ability to rotate your platform left or right before you make your move potentially creating a very strategic battle format. Unfortunately the AI trainers can be defeated incredibly easily whether you make use of the rotation or not so in the single player at least it seems redundant. The battle animations themselves are quite nice with zooming camera shots and effects flying around and the little movements of the Pokemon on the whole give a nice touch, although this varies as one has sections that flash blue which is cool but another looks as if it’s having an epileptic fit so it’s a bit hit and miss.
Now onto what’s the same, and that’s pretty much everything else to be blunt. It’s the same sequence of events as all previous Pokemon titles. 8 Gym battles to get 8 badges to get to the Elite 4 and the Champion with intersperced shenanigans of Team Plasma, Crusader dressed Pokemon freedom activists lead by your rival N (his actual name, not an algebraic representation of what you may have called him) and the Sages of Team Plasma. So far so generic but in its favour there are a few little differences thrown in from the norm but nothing game changing, and I think that’s where my problem with the game truly lies.
This instalment was built up from the start to be new and different and it just isn’t beyond a few superficial things. It gives you a new objective after conquering the Elite 4 beyond the old, go and catch anything you haven’t already got and level up for the high level trainer area whose only purpose is to test your strength without any real reward so to speak. The second glaring problem is the new Pokemon. It was a nice idea in theory, an entire new set to help give older players something new and the younger players who are first time trainers the sense we got when we played the original Red and Blue versions. A sense of discovery somewhat diminished if you know the names and looks of a lot of things you’ll be seeing. They levelled the playing field and I respect that. What I don’t respect is the new designs they came up with, in fact I think it’s safe to say that they’ve pretty much run out of ideas over at Pokemon HQs design department. I mean there’s one that is literally an ice cream cone, starting as a little fast food chain kind of thing, it evolves once into something resembling a 99 and then again into a double 99 with a wafer straw sticking out of it. I wish I was making that last sentence up but honestly it’s all true. In fact so few of the new Pokemon are appealing to look at that by the time I’d finished the main quest I still couldn’t fill out an entire team of Pokemon I actually liked, I think I managed 3 out of 6 with some place fillers to balance out where I had weaknesses.
Don’t get me wrong I did in fact enjoy the game. It’s nice that the ‘click’ of a pokeball locking on a particularly difficult to catch Pok√©mon still brings a sense of joy to me it used to. It also seemed harder than the previous generations, I found I actually needed to buy and use potions but that might be just that I was running with the best aesthetically pleasing team I could muster with little regard for their actual fighting ability. It was an enjoyable time sink and when you spend as much time on public transport as I do that is a welcome thing indeed. It’s nothing ground breaking, it’s not that different than it’s predecessors despite some claims but at it’s core it’s a solid Pokemon adventure that follows the tried and tested formula, and you know what they say, if it aint broke don’t fix it.

73%

When It All Goes Wrong


 Story time everyone (in Farnsworth voice, naturally)! Let’s set the scene shall we? Right, you’re on the first part of a long commute. You sit down in the too small bus seat, seriously they don’t cater for the leg length of the taller among us, and uncomfortably fumble through your bag. “It’s all going to be ok” you think to yourself, “I’ve got my PSP to pass the time.” You dig it out and flick the on switch. Nothing happens. Right, not the end of the world, let’s try again. Nothing. Irritated you open the back up, remove the battery and replace it again, you think to yourself “This must work.” It doesn’t. Dejected, you move to your MP3 player of choice; music will have to do instead of gaming but that’s ok. A track and a half in and… LOW BATTERY appears in all its formidable glory across the screen. Bugger.
            What I’m getting at in this tragic example of a recent trip of mine is that when technology works it makes everything better, but when it doesn’t boy is there hell to pay! In defence of myself, the PSP was charged but the battery has gone the way of the Dodo, the MP3 was entirely my fault but I’m sure I’m not the only one who’s accidently forgotten to charge their device of choice before a trip when it’s going to be used to keep drudgery at bay.
            We are at the mercy of battery operated travelling companions and when we are deprived of them, when we need them the most, the rage builds and builds. It also never seems to be one failure at a time, it’s like the tech-gods conspire against us occasionally to screw us over and ruin our days.  There is a silver ling to all this occasional disappointment; we have the magic entertainment boxes in the first place.
            I remember before we had portable music players, portable games machine and hell, a phone without anything worth playing on it. These days we have smart phones with a huge variety of games, we have the DS and indeed the 3DS from Nintendo. Sony provide us with the PSP and later this year PSP2 (since if it’s called anything else when it comes out I’ll eat my proverbial hat). We have advanced from cassette walkmans with 10 songs on to MP3 players with 10,000. This is truly the golden age of portable technology and the next steps are being taken to level it up again.
            Take the 3DS, I was sceptical at first but having played on one to some degree I am very impressed, the 3D really does work and isn’t as gimmicky as I was expecting. Granted it may not work so well on buses or trains, you have to look pretty much straight on to get the 3D and on a bumpy vehicle this may not be achievable but even with the 3D off it looks fantastic for a handheld. Speaking of looking great Sony’s upcoming portable, going on what I’ve seen so far, looks spectacular.
            “But wait!” I hear people cry, “What about books?” Well let’s examine books in the same way shall we. Yes they don’t run out of power or break; unfortunately there is a massive drawback to the printed medium, which for the record I deeply enjoy. On public transport there is almost always lots of noise, morons playing music out loud from phones, people talking really loudly, crying children etc.  This isn’t an environment which I can comfortably read in; I need peace and quiet to concentrate properly. This problem is of course eliminated by headphones or ear phones.
            So all in all it’s worth the pain and frustration when these things don’t work for the fantastic experiences when they do. These things make long journeys bearable and without them public transport would revert back to being loud, boring and generally unpleasant which it oftentimes is. The biggest problem is remembering to get off at your stop, but as long as you can keep that under control (believe me after a few slips you will!) it’s simply the only way to travel.

The Game That Stole My Life


           So upon reading the title of this article you’ll probably be expecting one of the normal contenders in the life stealing line up; World of Warcraft being the top of the pile and other MMOs coming in behind. So is it any of these? Nope, despite having dabbled in and enjoyed several MMOs, including WoW I’ve never felt the urge to rearrange my plans to spend hours a day grinding, raiding or whatever. My personal poison is in fact Starcraft 2, specifically it’s unbelievably intense multiplayer.
            It all began in the beta. I’d never played an RTS against another person but hell this was SC2 and I’d be damned if I wasn’t going to play it as much as possible, since the Beta was multiplayer only, that’s what I was going to do. Eventually I got lucky, I got my beta key and like a small child at Christmas I excitedly downloaded all the necessary bits from Blizzard. Before I knew it I was queuing what was unbeknownst to me the defining feature of many months to come, a 1v1 SC2 ladder match. It went horribly. I was nervous, shaking and got completely steamrolled. Deterred, I muttered to myself ‘fuck that guy’ and tried again with similar results. At this point my mood was somewhat diminished but I resolved to try at least one more game before calling it quits for the day. The third game was amazing, actually let’s put some perspective on this. To anyone who remotely knows the game it was awful, both myself and my opponent were terrible but in an equally terrible way that when I pulled off the win I felt like it was amazing.
            Invigorated by my victory I celebrated with a fist pump, a ‘hell yeah’ to myself and jumped strait into the next game, and it was perhaps this game that taught me more about SC2 than any of the other countless games I’ve played since. This game was close, back and forth down to the wire close between my Protoss pieces and my opponents Terran. There were points when either of us could have taken it but eventually I was defeated. The big thing was that I didn’t care. This was untraveled territory for me as losing is one of the things I hate the most in the universe but here I was, sitting at my desk looking at the menu telling me I’d lost and I was smiling. At this point I made use of the replay function and checked my game in detail, slowing down, pausing, seeing everything my opponent and I did to see where I went wrong.
            Having completed my analysis the next few hours disappeared and before I knew it I had 4 wins and 11 losses. Yeah I sucked but I was incredibly happy even with that, I figured that 30% was an alright win/loss ratio for a multiplayer RTS virgin. As time went on I made some friends I could practice with and my skill level slowly improved. I became aware of various YouTube channels which featured shout casting on ultra high level SC2 games. Soon after that I discovered the Day[9] Daily, a web show in which Sean ‘Day[9}’ Plott analyses in incredible detail high level replays in a fun and entertaining way which, most importantly, actually helps you get better at the game.
            My friends and I continued to play, travelled from Oxford to London for the midnight launch and proceeded to play Starcraft 2 every day until about November when they abandoned me to Cataclysm and I decided I should probably take a break. As it stands now I’ve hardly played in three months and have gone from being ‘not too bad’ right back to ‘holy crap I suck at this game’. The thing is, even though I wasn’t playing, I was still watching the Dailies, staying up to watch live streams of tournaments around the world and thinking about how I could steal strategies from the pros and try to implement them myself.
            So what did I learn from all this? For starters that Starcraft 2 is the best game I’ve ever played, a game I play for so many hours whilst frequently getting beaten at, yet holds my love and attention in spite of it is a rare find indeed. Not to say I enjoy the losing aspect, there have been occasions when I’ve raged pretty hard, but the game is fun even if I happen to lose - I’ve simply become appreciative of it regardless of the outcome (most of the time).  It’s also the only game I have ever encountered that has had me seeking out online sources like those mentioned previously and all of it combined has made Starcraft 2 a part of my everyday life, and here’s the best part, it has in no way affected the standard of my life like the media would have us believe. Here in England there was a TV programme which looked at video games being addictive, in fact I was interviewed by the presenter whilst at the aforementioned midnight launch. Alas I wasn’t broadcast, I can only assume my opinion was too balanced to suit their aims, but the point stands that you can immerse yourself in a game as much as I have with Starcraft 2 and still carry on as you always have. Thank you Blizzard for taking the time to produce this master piece of a video game. I’ve heard there’s even a single player mode, I’ve seen the tab on the menu screen as well so I’m inclined to believe it’s true, despite my never having clicked it in the 7 months I’ve had the game!