Look ma, I’m on TV and “Lock up your credit card, it’s Steam sale time”

The tall and short of it: me (the short guy on the right) and NZ Breakers basketball player Tom Abercrombie (that’s him on the left).

I’ve been a print/online journalist all my life: I’ve never really dabbled into on-screen time apart from the odd online video and that sort of thing. So when I headed up to Auckland (New Zealand) last week to take part in a charity challenge arranged by PlayStation and Vodafone, I was a little concerned to hear that it would be filmed by youth-orientated channel TVNZU. I  dont’ really feel that comfortable in front of a camera: I’d rather just write and let my words do the talking.

In the end, it didn’t turn out too bad (my team didn’t win, unfortunately – congrats Alan and Che Fu, but we didn’t get last, either). We were in four teams of two: four celebs – NZ Warriors Manu Vatuvai and Ben Matulino, NZ Breaker’s star Tom Abercrombie and musician Che Fu – teamed up with three video game writers – myself, PC World’s Siobhan Keogh and NZ Gamer’s Alan Ball – and Social Media NZ’s founder John Lai). Much to my delight, I was teamed up with Abercrombie, one of my basket-ball mad son’s idols. Seeing it was school holidays he and my wife came up for the two days I was in Auckland so got some photos with Abercrombie and got his autograph).

The winner of the challenge would get a $1000 cheque for the charity of their choice and the challenge involved using PlayStation’s Vita handheld and Vodafone’s 3G coverage to complete a variety of challenges (find Sackboy who was at a watering hole in Auckland’s trendy Viaduct Basin, get a high score on Reality Fighters, Skype someone from PlayStation to find your next location, that sort of thing). It was a lot of fun and competitive, which was good.

The final challenge was to beat a presenter from U-Live’s score on Wipeout 2048 – and I’m sad to say I lost control on the final corner of the track we were racing on and crashed, losing me precious seconds. My score was nowhere close enough anyway. I should have practiced more. Anyway, check out the video and have a good laugh. I’m the one in the blue and white checked shirt. (I’ve been told by a couple of people that the video isn’t working properly. I got it working but it was pretty slow loading up. Let me know how you get on)

Steam Sale: a licence to take my money money

The Steam sale has been going for a couple of days and so far I’ve been very restrained and only bought one game: Portal 2 for $4.99 (despite the fact that I already have it on Xbox 360). It’s not much but the Steam sale is like virtual crack: once you buy one game, another is sure to follow, then another, then another …

I’m convinced there will  be other games that I’ll purchase over the coming days but I’m trying to be very restrained and curb the use of my credit card this month. I’m only going to buy games that are under $10. That’s my plan and my way of making sure that I don’t spend crazy amounts of games that I probably don’t need.

That said, I’m checking the sale every day, seeing what gems are there they I just have to have and then won’t play for months and months.

I’m now contemplating getting Indie Game: The Movie. It’s pretty good, I hear.

How is the Steam sale for you?

My love affair with Diablo 3 is over

I think my fling with Diablo 3 is over.

It was always going to happen, eventually. I don’t think I was going ever have the patience to grind for countless hours in a game that can consume your life if you let it. I played World of Warcraft once: after six months of playing it just about every night I had to wean myself and stop playing it. I didn’t want the same thing to happen with Diablo 3.

I think it was the relentless grinding that finally did it for me: It just became too much, too repetitve. The constant click-click-click on enemies  often more powerful than my mid-level barbarian  as I fought to reach my objective finally got the better of me and I started playing less and less Diablo 3. Even my teenage son remarked how I didn’t play it much any more (just before asking if he could play it instead).

Originally, I wasn’t planning on playing Blizzard’s latest game, but when a review copy arrived  in the letter box changed my mind. I hadn’t actually played a Diablo game before so I was keen to get stuck in. But launch week, as most players will remember, was a shambles: I got lots of “Error 37” messages (meaning demand was so high the server couldn’t log me in) and I moaned about the “always-on” internet connection that the game demanded, even if you wanted to explore world of Sanctuary and take on the Lord of Terror.

Unhappy with the launch week shenanigans, though, I gave up on the game for a few weeks: Constant disconnections mid-quest is never much fun, only resuming after a major patch that seemed to have sorted things out. The connection remained rock solid, which was pleasing, and I was once again guiding my barbarian, lovingly called Rathnulzerok (that’s not him in the picture, by the way), and his weapons of destruction, through the sands and dungeons in the quest to kill Diablo himself.  I was mesmerised by the gorgeous cut scenes, which truly are wonderous, and the intricately detailed world. It seemed blissful.

I had always meant to try out the co-op mode, and much to my delight, a friend, Mike, who informed me he had picked up the game as well, obliged. We partnered up and explored and pillaged, virtually you understand,  smashing all before us: him a wizard shooting magical powers from his fingertips, me a barbarian wielding a huge weapon and stomping the ground, dazing foes.

My friend even helped me defeat the Act 1 boss the Butcher, a huge beastie with a mean ground stomp of his own and a massive weapon that fired spikes on chains. We battled Medusa-like creatures in underground viaducts and fought wasp-like bugs,  me dazing them with my stomp, he freezing them with his magic. I realised that this was how Diablo 3 was meant to be played: with a companion, even though we didn’t bother to use our headsets to communicate with each other while playing, instead chosing to use the game’s in-build chat window to tell the other what we were doing.

But then something happened, as often does when I play role-playing games: it started becoming a chore and I started playing less and less of it. I can’t put a finger on what it was specifically: Maybe it was because I was constantly being smashed by higher level monsters and running out of health potions, maybe it was because I was annoying my wife with the constant “click-click-click” while she was trying to watch TV (my PC is in the same room as the main TV), or maybe it was just because after Act 1, Act 2 seemed  a tad boring and just seemed to be, well, Act 1 but with different scenery. I think my friend is still playing Diablo 3. He’s probably a top-level magician by now, able to defeat big bosses with his character’s pinky finger.

So, yeah,  I’ve stopped playing Diablo 3 for the time being. I’m embarrassed to say I haven’t actually finished it yet, either, but I just don’t think I can make it to the end at the moment. I’m not in the right frame of mind. Besides, I’ve got other games to play and my right forefinger is thanking me for the rest I’ve given it, anyway.

I’ll go back to Diablo 3 again sometime. Probably but I’m not sure when, but I will. Rathnulzerok will have to make do with standing in limbo in the game’s welcome screen for the time being, his sword of magical awesomeness* no longer inflicting damage on the undead of Sanctuary, his helm of unwavering protection** sitting atop his head undisturbed.

I’m sure he’ll be pleased to see me when I venture back into the world of Sanctuary. Who knows? It might be next week.

*I made this name up. ** This one also. Neither of those items exist in Diablo 3. At least I don’t think they do.