Now this is just cute.  A Viva Piñata fan from Jacksonville, Florida let the Piñata Island community know about the recent proposal to his girlfriend.  In an act of remarkable selflessness (I guess), he bought the lucky girl her own 360 with another copy of VP so she could share his addiction to Rare’s adorable sim.  He sent her a gift in-game:  the only diamond he’d ever unearthed from his precious piñata gardens, with The Question attached as a message.  Afterwards, he proposed to her for real.  I wonder if a “dance” followed…

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When I first read the headline, I was expecting yet another instance of people falling in love via headset then hitching up sight-unseen.  My first reaction was to just shake my head, as I think that that is one of the most dangerous decisions a person can make.  Imagine my relief as I read further and realized that the whole thing happened in the same room.  I really didn’t want to hear about a couple of piñata traders getting married with a minister and a pair of Live Vision cameras.

I wonder how long he’d been planning this.  According to his gamertag, he really enjoys delays…

Source:  Computer and Video Games

shadowrunbox.jpgLong-circulating rumors have finally solidified into fact.  This forum post from FASA’s head Mitch Gitelman confirms that the development studio behind a few underappreciated Microsoft exclusives has been disbanded.  In addition to Shadowrun, FASA created both MechAssault titles and Crimson Skies for the original Xbox.  FASA’s Community Manager and Technical Support Manager will remain on board to assist those still loving Shadowrun.

As for us Shadowrun fans, this confirms our worst fear:  the complete impossibility of future downloadable content for a title sorely content-deficient to begin with.  The game shipped with a distinct lack of three critical ingredients:  match customization, map variety, and an entire single-player campaign.  Thankfully, Shadowrun’s team-based multiplayer gameplay is fairly original, well-balanced and entertaining.  I recommend the game whole-heartedly to those seeking something different.  It’s also a painful reminder of what can happen to great potential that doesn’t receive the proper support.

Source:  Kotaku

omfg.jpgEveryone’s favorite insider Major Nelson has been updating the status of the recent Xbox Live maintenance and how it’s giving people inaccurate NAT settings for their routers.  However, there may be a connection between the maintenance and the fact that many participants in the Call of Duty 4 beta (myself included) can’t play it at all.  This thread at charlieoscardelta.com is filled with complaints from people now unable to play the beta.  The first three posts are dated Sept 3, but the remaining dozens were posted after the Live maintenance.  Also interesting is the fact that only about half as many people are playing as usual at the time of this writing. 

Here’s what happened to me:  After playing a bit of the amusing game Overlord I felt the urge to squeeze off a few rounds in the Call of Duty 4 beta before getting ready for dreamtime, Mr. B.  After loading up the beta and choosing “Xbox Live” the screen went black momentarily then greeted me with the following:  “Notice:  You must be signed in to Xbox Live to play Xbox Live matches”.  No sh*t.  So I double check.  Yep, signed in, and attempt to start/enter a match.  Although thousands of people are playing, the beta kept me waiting in a room all alone and wouldn’t hook me up with enough people to start a match, except for one attempt out of seven or so.

So there you have it: evidence of some kind of incompatibility between the new and improved Xbox Live and the CoD4 beta.  Hope this gets remedied fast.  I can’t get enough of running around the Vacant map with a shotty.

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Precious few great franchises debuted on the original Xbox.  Even more rare for the system was a remarkable RPG, a fact that earned sneers of contempt from PS2 owners enjoying one bizarrely-titled JRPG after another.  That’s all fine and dandy, but they were denied one elite franchise that gave instant nerdgasms to Xbox owners.

Star Wars: Knights of the Old Republic was developed by Bioware, the minds behind the legendary Baldur’s Gate PC titles.  KOTOR, as the game is commonly known, takes place about two thousand years prior to the events from the epic films.  KOTOR puts you in the role of a mysterious force-sensitive human given the responsibility to lead a group of fellow warriors around the galaxy in an attempt to find and defeat an evil Sith Lord.  The plot is brilliant in its simplicity and thoroughly engaging, mainly due to very educated writing, fascinating characters, and the best voice cast money can buy.  The game also sent players reeling in disbelief with one jaw-dropper of a plot twist.

As an RPG, KOTOR stands as one of the most finely crafted in existence and delivers the best in diverse customization and strategic combat.  Moral choices also have an incredible effect on how the game unfolds:  you can be a legendary hero, a sadistic and homicidal psychopath, or someone like Han Solo.  Choosing the Light Side of the Force via good deeds will result in an aptitude for defensive powers such as healing, and your companions will often pat you on the back with the proper respect.  Falling to the Dark Side makes you fluent in hostile, offensive powers and will earn you contempt from those around you.  Your skin will also take on a gray and sickly pallor as a physical manifestation of your corruption.  Some decisions will even affect whether or not certain supporting characters will join your team at all, which can remove potential party members and their respective backstories from the plot entirely.  Herein lies the core of KOTOR’s magnificence:  replayability.

KOTOR’s main weaknesses are purely visual and easily overlooked given the game’s variety and depth.  Textures lack detail, characters tend to consist of the same few models, and the framerate chugs a bit throughout.  KOTOR will also talk your ear off if you let it but your character can often tell those chatterboxes to literally shut up, and one may be so inclined given the repetitive vocal phrases of most non-humans, especially the Twi’leks.  But skipping dialogue means skipping story, so handle that as you will.  Well, that pretty much sums up the game’s flaws.  So what, right?  Exactly.

KOTOR is widely reknowned as the best Star Wars game ever made, one of the greatest RPGs ever made, and the single most impressive RPG to ever grace the Xbox.  Even amongst Star Wars fanboys, KOTOR is often considered equal in quality to The Empire Strikes Back.  Could there be a higher compliment?  

Be sure to check out the game’s incredible reviews and you’ll be more than willing to shell out a measly thirteen American dollars for a used copy of this classic at any Gamestop…and I’m not being sarcastic like I was with my last BCGOTW :).

PAST BCGOTW RECOMMENDATIONS:
Elder Scrolls III:  Morrowind 
Fable:  The Lost Chapters

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I suppose we can do without the standard paraphrasing just this once and simply show the email I received last night regarding the CoD4 MP beta:

Hey Everyone – Straight to the Point: The Level Cap Is Rising!Friday morning at 10 am PDT (1 pm EST) we’re going to be increasing the Rank level cap to Level 16. This is going to allow you to rank up and unlock more weapons, more perks, and more features; including Clan Tags (lv. 12). This is the first of several level increases we’re going to do throughout the beta, so keep playing, and we’ll keep you informed of incoming updates. Thanks to everyone currently playing for the tremendous amount of feedback we’ve been receiving; Keep sending it, and we’ll see you online!”

callofdutyboxmb2.jpgThis is great news for those of us tired of joining 16-player matches where all but three people are at level 11, and have been for quite some time.  You have to admit that this is a well-designed system Infinity Ward has implemented in order to keep players coming back.  I’m sure many people have already grown bored with the shooter’s beta phase given its level cap and three maps.  It’s important to dole out little morsels to maintain interest, after all.  I hope that the next carrot-on-a-stick will be an additional map but it’ll probably be another raising of the level cap to 22…but that unlocks the Dragunov :D!

As if the original Elder Scrolls IV: Oblivion didn’t have enough creatures to slay and a big enough world to explore, the Bethesda Blog says that Shivering Isles and Knights of the Nine expansions will be made available on retail store shelves in October.  For those not already savvy to the best-selling RPG, these expansions have been available on Xbox Live Marketplace for months and have received outstanding reviews. 

Those without Xbox Live access can finally experience these great add-ons, and also for a lower price.  On Xbox Marketplace, both expansions combined cost 3200 Microsoft points, or the equivalent of about $40 USD.  The retail version will spare you ten bucks at $29.99, a pittance for forty more hours of an already outstanding title.  As an added benefit, the disc-based expansions can be resold once completed, as opposed to being stuck with a digital download you don’t play anymore.  Shivering Isles and Knights of the Nine are expected to hit shelves in October, but a specific date wasn’t given.  Also, bear in mind that the remaining additional content to be found on Xbox Marketplace, such as the coveted horse armor ;), will not be included with the retail expansion.

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No, this isn’t the highest eBay bid for a code key.  Seems that remarkably simple action has finally been taken to prevent unauthorized access to the CoD 4 MP Beta.  A photo at The Above Domain shows beta access priced at a slightly-inflated 99,999 MS points, the equivalent of 1,250 American dollars.  So if you don’t mind hitting up Daddy for the cost of twenty games, then I guess there’s no stopping you, theoretically.  Whoever has the money has the power, right?

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