The Road to PAX, Part 2: Scheduling

Monday, August 31, 2009
Doesn't that word get your blood pumping? SCHEDULING! Exciting stuff. Taking a day planner and carefully filling in the empty slots until you've maximized your task completion to day ratio. Hell yeah.

In all honesty, I've never had so much fun scheduling a trip as I have with this years PAX. The number of things to do and people to see far outweighs the number of hours available in a standard Earth day. I would like nothing more than to be able to see everything on offer but I cannot feasibly cover more than a quarter of it by myself. That's why the first order of business was securing a press pass for Line.

Line wrote a couple of articles on top of her normal duties of making the site look pretty and keeping our contacts in order. We sent off the links to those along with a few other things to the appropriate contacts and surprisingly received a confirmation within 2 hours of it's submission. You should have seen the look on Lines face when I told her the news. Like a kid who's won their first deathmatch.

After the required squeeing period ended, Line and I set about planning our itinerary. Luckily, most of the developers e-mailed us. We were sure to take full advantage of their generosity.

We've lined up some great playtime and a couple other things I'm sure you'll be interested in. We've got sit down time with ODST's Firefight, hands on with Beatles Rock Band, a few matches of Modern Warfare 2, even some time with Star Trek Online. We'll be putting up daily posts from the convention and daily recaps every evening. Keep your RSS feeds turned here my children.

We're leaving Thursday afternoon and meeting Earthborn in Seattle later than evening. We'll probably be posting from the road (where we can) if you're interested in our weary travel ramblings. Line and I plan on taking tons of pictures, so we'll be sure to put them up on the site. Keep an eye on our twitter feed if you don't already as I'm sure there will be times we can't quite get the laptop out fast enough to capture the moment.

Until then somnambulant ones. Maybe we'll even see you there.

Welcome to His Game. He Put Zombies in It, for Our Pain!

Monday, August 24, 2009
Even before Xbox Live's "Community Games" section was renamed "indie" it's been hit-and-miss. For the arrival of each "Miner: Dig Deep" come approximately four controller massage games. For every beautiful rose there are a dozen noxious weeds. Yet the Xbox Live community manages to thrive, germinating -- as the metaphor goes -- the decent games by gossip, by word of mouth, and the exploits of courageous pioneers. We could do with fewer "Barf and Beer" and more titles like "I MAED A GAM3 W1TH Z0MB1ES!!!1," which is one of the best games in the indie games section.

And it's only a dollar.

"I MAED..." isn't a long game, but we all learned brevity is the soul of wit and tediousness the limbs of outward flourishes from Polonius. There are no outward flourishing limbs here. Well, actually, there probably are, but you can BLOW THEM THE FUCK UP, something Shakespeare probably never considered.

Though short, "I MAED" is clever and fun, relying on the appeal of zombies, spastic disco lights, and a hilarious soundtrack to win you over. If you're not a fan of zombies or overly literal songs about them, you might not like "I MAED A GAM3 W1TH ZOMB1ES!!!1." But I'm convinced that type of person is just in denial, and we all know that's the longest river in the world.

Keeping with popular indie genres, "I MAED A GAM3 W1TH ZOMB1ES!!!1" is a dual-joystick shooter. All the standard weapons are accounted for -- pistol, shotgun, machine gun, plasma gun, rocket launcher, flame thrower, laser. And killing zombies feels rewarding and balanced, although I personally found the laser insufficient for my zombie-killing needs. Enemies drop weapons, shields, and lives, but besides the different weapons your options for killing zombies is somewhat limited. The game is also co-op (sorry, no drop-in) so you and three friends can race for a high score, or just kick back with a few beers and... kill zombies.

Did I mention zombies?

You'll only find one tougher variation to the standard zombie. For some reason, there are Geometry Wars inspired "snake" enemies as well as slow-moving blobs and flashing, floating faces. While there isn't a whole lot of variety in the enemies, you probably will be moving and shooting and laughing too much to care. I would have liked to see some upgrades for each gun, as well as a few options to tweak the game settings, such as zombie speed and weapon pick-ups. The lack of options notwithstanding, "I MAED A GAM3 W1TH ZOMB1ES!!!1" has it where it counts.

The best thing about the game is arguably the soundtrack. The song while you play is possibly the best song I've heard in an indie game, ever. And later, while playing "Shadow Complex," my friend and I couldn't stop singing it, then chuckling, then talking about going back and killing more zombies. The literalness and self-referential quality of the game really go far to deflate the lingering seriousness of current games climate.

Thanks to some zombies and a clever writer, Xbox Live Indie Games has a new hit.


Tuesday, August 18, 2009
It is time to state clearly the point we have been trying to make here at Somnambulant Gamer by simply existing. We are not terribly fond of game reviews and the current games journalism scene. There is a battle going on today between Traditional Games Journalism and New Games Journalism. We represent the latter.

The largest problem with Traditional Games Journalism (IGN, Gamespot, Gametrailers after the Spike TV buyout, Metacritic, etc) today is the huge conflict of interest with major gaming news outlets and their advertisers. There is often a direct financial tie between the news outlet and the advertising revenue received from the publishers. As a result of this relationship the majority of the "news" is a cut and paste from press releases or a hastily slapped together review based on only an hour of game play. More often than not there are a large amount of favorable reviews given to the outlets primary advertisers. All of this is further motivated by a need to be the 'first' reporting in order to attract (and keep) readership.

This is a difficult hurdle to over come. Sites need funding and it is hard to break into the Gaming Journalism scene without it, and if you can't adhere to the unspoken agreement that rules the industry to day, you are doomed. It is all too easy in this line of work to fall into the established pattern set by the major outlets but to do so robs the reader of valuable insight and quality material that is given to most other areas of specialized journalism.

It is important we not forget a big part of journalism is to keep people honest. And when attention is given to a game based on publisher PR and funding instead of the game's merits, how can we hope in return to receive games that we want and enjoy?

This is where the New Gaming Journalism comes in (Joytiq, MTV Multiplayer, Games Politics, Penny Arcade, occasionally Destructoid) it is a cousin of travel journalism based in subjective experiences with games. Instead of reviews we try to offer unique perspectives on games, how we play them, and the culture that has emerged from our love of them. Games offer many unique experiences, it makes more sense to report based on personal accounts rather than and extension of the publishers advertising.

Games and readers deserve more than the cookie cutter reports done these days. There is a lack of creative reporting in an industry that depends on it, and it's sad to see it given such poor respect and attention. An important cycle of communication is broken and we desperately need to fix it. It will take a lot of hard work but it needs to be done, the easy road has been taken for far too long.

The Road To PAX, Part 1: Funding continued

Monday, August 17, 2009
When last we spoke, I was cowering from a tooth spitting, plasma swilling undead hobo Santa. I warned you that our quest for money got worse but you came back anyway. No sense wasting time, let's get to it. God help you, reader.

When it came my turn to find some funds, I too turned to bodily fluids. I was determined not to go anywhere near a needle however, and since no one will pay me for my spit I was left with one option; sperm donation.

I called the local sperm bank to make an appointment only to be greeted by an automated message listing the minimum requirements for donation. Good family medical history, check. No STD's, check. At least five foot eight, che- wait, what?! There's a height requirement? What's next, blonde hair, blue eyes and a fanatical devotion to the Fatherland? Finally, after a list of other requirements that ranged from weight to relative opinion of Dianetics I got through to an actual person.

They call the first appointment a try out since they have to test the specimen to see if it's appropriate for commercial use. I vowed to walk out the moment they brought out any costumes.

The office itself shared the seventh story with a lawyers office. Why a lawyer would choose to share a floor with the local sperm bank I can't really say but I certainly knew where to go if any part of the process was uncomfortable.

The interior of the office consisted of four rooms. A reception area about the size of a bathroom, an exam room complete with framed photo of a many breasted Hindu goddess, an office occupied by a doctor who vaguely resembled Cruella DeVille, and a cryo-storage room/lab. This last room also housed a small microwave which I imagine they use to execute the unruly sperm.

Upon my arrival, a somewhat rotund med student with hair stolen from an episode of Scooby Doo had me fill out some paper work and escorted me down the hall to a locked door with a keypad. This door opened on a short hallway with another door at the end. Walking through the hall, I pass their office supply room and just around the corner from the door are rows and rows of cryo-storage banks. I quickly put all thoughts of how many people contributed to that frozen throng out of my mind.

The room I was shown into was smaller than their supply closet and looked like it had been decorated in the early seventies. On the table were a few copies of Playboy and Penthouse while a metal rack on the wall held a small collection of VHS tapes. The door to the room had a window. Why was there a window on the door to a room where dubious and very private things are expected to occur. Was it there for people who get off on office supplies and cryo-banks?

Let me just say that donating sperm is probably one of the most uncomfortable things a man can do. I was trapped in a tiny room confronted with a grim understanding of the biological composition of every stain. When I turned to the magazines for comfort I found man crotch and football on almost every other page. I winced when any of the pages stuck together.

I turned to the video rack on the wall, thinking I could use them to shut out the rest of the tiny, dirty little world I found myself in. When the copyright came up 1972 on the first one, I quickly swapped it out with another. It, like all the others was old, blurry and worn out. That and I wasn't, shall we say, intrigued by the content that much.

You see, porn, especially of this style (the quick and dirty "we are two or more people of opposite gender in a room. Shall we intercourse?" kind of thing) doesn't really get me going. I'm a picky man. The magazines were crap, too many ads for cars and interviews with mildly popular alternative bands. Where was the D.H. Lawrence, he's sexy. Not the man himself mind you. I find he looks like Mr. Toad had he played Darkman.

Of course it didn't help that Line was sending me a text every five minutes for the entirety of my stay there.

In the end, I did what I had arrived there to do and left with most of my dignity intact. I called a week later, and they had decided not to use my sperm as I was a couple thousand swimmers shy of their 20 million minimum.

So our funding efforts continue. We will find a way to fund this trip if we have to sell our kidneys to do it. I hope to see you there.

The Road To PAX, Part 1: Funding

Saturday, August 15, 2009
Unlike the media giants Kotaku, Joystiq and the like, the coffers of Somnambulant Gamer run almost perpetually on empty. We have to fund any venture, game etc out of pocket. Sometimes we've resorted to begging, sometimes to more drastic means (not prostitution yet). This year, we've found all new and degrading ways to come up with the scratch for PAX.

First off, Line has gotten in deep with a local plasma donation center. If you've ever given plasma, you know what I'm talking about when I draw upon the old "wretched hive of scum and villainy" chestnut for help describing this place. If you haven't, hunker down and prepare for creepification.

The building itself is sandwiched between a vacant all you can eat Chinese buffet and a 24 hour erotic boutique staffed by a six foot five, bleached blonde transvestite. No, the transvestite is neither scum nor villain, but serves as further detail in the already hilarious tale.

Upon entering the building, the first thing I noticed was that most of the donors appeared to donate plasma more often than they showered. One man with strange, sunken eyes and a recently staunched nosebleed sat at the edge of his chair, darting looks between me, Line, our baby and the League of Extraordinary Gentlemen being piped through the various TVs throughout the building.

Line got signed in and was shuffled off for a full physical. Apparently, you are required to pass said physical before you are allowed to donate (at least they have some kind of requirements in place). I sat down in the lobby thinking I could simply wait out the donation. Not ten minutes later an older, gutter Santa looking fellow sat down beside me. At first I thought he was chewing on something but when his smacking revealed that nothing occupied his rotted mouth I began to wonder with more open horror at this man's activities. When he spat a piece of tooth on the floor, I decided it was time to go.

The process of plasma donation post physical is very near to a vampiric dairy farm. The donors are sat down in one of nearly 50 beds in six cubicle areas. An arm is struck with a needle and a large machine begins the process of drawing out and filtering your vital fluids. As your blood leaves your body, it is fed through a series of tubes that filter out the plasma and store it in what looks like a sport drink bottle. The plasma that collects there is a pale, almost bile yellow with a nice frothy head to it.

Even now I can imagine the bottles being sucked down by beleaguered legions of undead decked in various sports gear.

Line escaped with her life and fifteen dollars, although during the process her returning blood began to pool beneath her skin instead of re-entering her vein, creating a golf ball sized hematoma on her arm. Upon her return, they would turn her away due to "extensive bruising."

It gets worse that this, but you'll have to wait until Monday for the next installment of this saga.

All we are saying (is give games a chance)

Sunday, August 9, 2009
Before I start this quick post, I need to apologize to John Lennon. I have selfishly butchered your hymn of peace in order to make a (sort of) clever headline. My apologies. I'll buy Rock Band: The Beatles to make up for it. I know, since you were an enthusiastic capitalist, that you would love that.

Now, what I came here to post:

I found myself tonight with a little extra time and a few games at my disposal that I, honestly, hadn't ever given a chance. They either got poor reviews or didn't generally appeal to my tastes. One of these is a reasonable factor in whether or not to try out a game, and one is not. Guess which one.

So it was that I popped in Tomb Raider: Underworld. Now, let me be clear about the conditions of this playthrough. I had a beautiful 50 inch 1080p screen to play it on, Bose surround sound, a quiet house and no pressing responsibilities. (How often in your life do you get to say that?) Perhaps, most importantly, I didn't pay a dime to try out this game.

I don't know what I was expecting. Am I so jaded that every game with lackluster reviews is immediately tossed in the meat grinder? As I played Tomb Raider, I found myself thinking back to my days as a fledgling gamer, in an age where the back of the box or a word from a friend told me what I liked and what I didn't--not a (fucking hilarious) fast-talking Brit who currently resides in beautiful Australia, nor thousands of Kotakuites, or Joytiqers. It came down to whether or not I had fun, and let me tell you something. Once upon a time, I had fun playing Shaq-Fu. Yes. In fact, I still have the cart. In the same vein, King of the Monsters had some serious issues, probably, but I played the hell out of it. Perhaps Earthworm Jim had a better framerate on my buddy's console than it did on mine, but I never noticed--I loved it with all my heart. And you know what? I had fun playing Tomb Raider: Underworld today. Sure, the camera had issues. No, it wasn't as good as Uncharted. But I dove to the bottom of the ocean! I shot a shark in the mouth. I dropped a chandelier of deadly barnacle spikes onto the giant head of a blind, ancient, rage-filled cephalopod. All this I did in the first friggin' level, and you know what? I had a good fucking time doing it.

So, all I am saying, is: give games a chance. No matter your console. No matter what the reviews say. Don't drop sixty bones, maybe, but hell--if you're interested, give it a shot. Who knows? Maybe you'll end up enjoying yourself.

How to Make Sure Final Fantasy XIV Doesn't Suck--Final

Wednesday, August 5, 2009
So, this is it. The end. The final installment of--No, no, don't cry. Really. It will be okay. I'll write more articles, I promise! Oh, sweety...stifle your weeping. There, there. It's all right. Let any tears you may shed be tears of joy, for the day of reckoning has come! Descending thunder-like upon us (and bristling with familiar blue pincers) is the oft-heralded Part Seven of Somnambulant Gamer's


Okay, don't rejoice. I know that really, I owe you an apology. This entry has been a long time coming. (Well, not so long time a time to a Galapagos tortoise. Maybe to a fruit fly. Or an orchid. At any rate, it's been an eternity in Internet time. You are all old and shrivelly, by now! Digitally, anyway.)

So, I'm terribly sorry if you've been waiting. If you had held your breath, you'd surely be dead. I don't have any reasonable excuse other than one involving a three-headed monkey or Line's delicious cherry pie. No, that isn't a double entendre.

Okay, okay, I'll get to the stuff you came here for. There's business to get to, and I intend to get to its meaty core.

This entry is all about everything not covered in the other parts of this series: PvP, Jumping, Crafting, Mini-games, Chocobos, and Music. That's why this entry is titled


Games have a myriad of factors that make them good, and gameplay is at the forefront of these. If the core gameplay isn't at least good, no amount of extra bells and whistles can distract players from its core failure. This is not true for anything if it is not true for MMOs. That said, what do we do when the core gameplay is great? Well, we make all that extra stuff awesome. We don't have to, no--but that's what sets good games apart from legendary ones. I don't know about you, but I want Final Fantasy XIV to be legendary.

player versus player

I'm just going to come right out and say it. Final Fantasy XI's PvP sucks. This judgment is coming not from a place of experience, but a place of utter indifference. I have only played Ballista two or three times, and if I have ever played Brenner, it didn't impress me enough to take up any space in my big, meaty brain. I think most of FFXI's player base will agree that while FFXI's "PvP" games do have one or two redeeming qualities, they are, by and large, ignored by the community. The reason for this is multifarious, but there is one singular blockade to participation that I think trumps all others, and that is: accessibility. Between all the teleportation, NPCs, item trades, chat log announcements, level caps and strange locales, getting to, joining, and participating in a PvP event in FFXI is more headache than its worth. There is almost no reward for participation.

It sucks.

Final Fantasy XIV needs, at the very least, a duel mode. Duels might be able to support 2-12 players, enabling two six-man teams (say, a Linkshell's best fighters) to face off. They should be able to challenge, accept, and engage in a battle in any area--better yet. Add to that a colosseum. I can think of a half-dozen ways to make this interesting, including Gil and Experience wagers with safeguards in place to prevent cheating.

Another possibility is to expand FFXI's 'Conquest' system. Instead of having players gain influence in an area by killing monsters, have areas come under nations' controls through PvP battles. This would work in exactly the same way Campaign works now, except that fighters from both nations would show up and battle for dominance of the zone. Depending on the zone, level cap the fights so that any player has a place to participate. Players then have to defend their nation's zones from both other players and campaign-like waves of monsters. As nations expanded their territory, player forces would be spread more thinly throughout, leading to an eventual collapse in power. In this way, the system would be self-regulatory. In essence, it would rock so hard all of our faces would fall off.

We still have a lot to cover, so let's move on to the next order of business. It's simple. It's seven letters. It's


In Final Fantasy XI, you can't jump. Galka, Elvaan, Mithra, Hume, or Tarutaru, your legs can literally carry you across the world--but they can't get you up onto a shin-high ledge.

World of Warcraft, on the other hand, has a key that is only for jumping, and nothing else. This leads to people jumping absolutely everywhere they go, and generally looking like assholes.

Neither of these are optimal. Thankfully for yours truly, (and all of us, really) a user by the name of Kharmageddon has come up with one solution that seems workable: a charge jump. Simply hold a button for a few seconds, and your character executes a jump in whichever direction you're holding.

Another possible solution would be an 'action' button system. That is to say, small cliffs or ledges could be vaulted up onto by pressing the Action button when standing next to it.

The point? I should never have to worry about my level 75, uber Samurai character to not be able to scale a three-foot ledge. In keeping with the running theme of this series, it just doesn't make sense. Give us something in Final Fantasy XIV, SE. This is 2009 and and there's no excuse not to.


Crafting in Final Fantasy XI is an area in which I don't have much experience. The furthest I ever got was a level twenty-something smith.

A good friend of mine, however, has leveled a different skill, Alchemy, and I can't emphasize enough how many hours and how many hundreds of thousands of gil he's sunk into his craft. Yes, he makes a profit now--on one or two recipes. But the effort it took to get there is not, in my opinion, worth the reward. And I don't think I'm the only one with this opinion--hardly anyone I know on FFXI has leveled a craft to any notable level, although some out there do nothing but.

In addition, the crafting system is ingenious in a villainous sort of way. Hidden variables affect successes and failures, down to the direction your character is facing when attempting a recipe. This would be okay if such algorithmic mechanations were still not largely mysterious--e.g., players have discovered (through seven years of trial and error) what variables affect success or failure when crafting. But to what degree they affect is still somewhat of a mystery, mathematically. While developers don't need to reveal the key to 100% success rates, they do need to cut players who don't have the time, money or patience for that kind of abuse some slack.

What I mean to say is this: crafting needs to be something I can do when I don't have time for adventures. I want to pop on with 10 minutes, grab a few materials. and craft some items. I shouldn't need guild support, have to look up the proper direction to face, make sure I'm doing it on the right day, blah blah blah, to make a sword out of a few chunks of metal. If I'm a woodworker, it shouldn't be too much to expect that I can do something with wood--like turn it into lumber--at a relatively low level. Make crafting more transparent, Square Enix. Entice us. Make gathering materials something you can do through quests--make it fun! Hell, if I do some quest to get a rare piece of lumber, (say I can only do this quest once per week), why shouldn't I get experience points, too?

I have a good feeling that SE is going to do something like this. Today, they revealed four beginning classes for FFXIV. Two of them are crafters. How they're implemented, well, it remains to be seen.


The above image is not an FFXI screenshot. It is an FFIX screenshot of the card game Tetra Master, which is playable through Playonline--sort of "down the street" from FFXI. But aside from a non-really-in-the-game card game, FFXI has no mini games. Yes, there are a few gambling tables. Yes, there is chocobo racing...sort of.

The problem is that there is no direct player to player minigames. I am a staunch supporter of the card game idea, (and although I preferred FFVIII's Triple Triad to IX's Tetra Master, I can see why Tetra Master is a better choice for an MMO), but the implementation of the game was completely wrong.

In VIII, or IX, you simply clicked a player using the Square button to challenge them to a card game. Why can't we do the same in XI? FFXIV needs a card game. Period. People like me, (and there are a lot), will obsess about collecting that shit until the end days. It's also a great way for people who don't like PvP to do PvP. Let monsters drop cards, even. Just give us something!

More minigames could involve chocobos. More on that below, in the Chocobo section of this article.

The point is that XIV needs minigames in which players can interact. Let us bet on the chocobo circuit. Give us something like FFVII's battle arena, to see how many monsters you can take on by yourself--or hell, the Gold Saucer! Give us a carnival where we can play games. Things of this nature bring a level of vitality and fun to the game world which can't be obtained through fighting and questing--namely, not everything you do is drama-filled, life or death situations. The world's in dire straits, sure, but the denizens are getting enjoyment wherever they can. Think of Chrono Trigger's millennial fair. Life doesn't revolve around fighting. Things of this nature give us the impression that our world is alive.


FFXI didn't give us Chocobos like we wanted them FOR EV AR. I, for one, was very excited when SE finall did give us things like:

Chocobo breeding/Calling your own chocobos
Chocobo colors
Chocobo racing

And yet, Square Enix, even when what fans wanted was so obvious, you still managed to choke. Bred Chocobos had to be raised to PERFECTION to be any faster than the ones you could rent from the stables, which literally took months of daily care. Chocobo colors gave your chocobo no special attributes. You got to name your chocobo, but there was never any way for other players to see that name. Worst of all, racing your chocobo was a boring, sit-and-watch deal in which you almost never raced against other players' chocobos.

The only thing even remotely right was Chocobo Hot and Cold--one of XI's few minigames (that most players still aren't even aware of), taken straight from FFIX in which you use your chocobo to hunt for treasure. Keep that up, Square. I sure do love making Autumn Flare dig up some tree roots, or whatever. (Read: make the spoils a little better, in the future!)

In XIV, we want all of those things you tried to do in XI, but done right.

-Chocobos should be as fast as rental chocobos upon reaching maturity.
-Colored chocobos should be rare, but have attributes. Flying should definitely be considered. Stealing the attributes from VII would be more than okay.
-Players should be able to race their chocobos agaist one another. Active participation is key, as is having the chocobo circuit PASSIVELY VISIBLE. This means that players can see chocobo races happening while they do other things. Just imaging running through Southern San'doria in XI--instead of those stupid guards along the walls, wouldn't it be cool to occasionally see your friends go racing by on their chocobos?

Also, just to throw it out there, I have two words: Chocobo Jousting.

Make it a rock/scissors/paper game. 1 on 1. Each player accepts the Joust. Before the match, chooses their 'high', 'mid', or 'low' attack. High>Mid>Low>High. It doesn't matter who wins. Just make sure other players can see this happening. Nothing like watching a weak newbie knock a veteran off his bird!


Okay, Square Enix. This is one area where I'm going to just start off by thanking you. You've already announced that Nobuo Uematsu is returning to do the music of Final Fantasy XIV.


Not that XII's music wasn't good. It was. And XI's was good, too! Well, the little bit Uematsu did. X-2? I don't know any game by that title.

I know I am not the only one who feels that Uematsu brings the emotion to Final Fantasy. Without his memorable scores, I doubt that Final Fantasy I - IX would be the masterpieces each one is. It is commonly accepted that Final Fantasy lost something after X, and many players argue over just what that is. They bring up gameplay, camera angles, characters, story...

but the truth is, they're missing Uematsu. To me, it just isn't Final Fantasy without him--to the point that Lost Odyssey, on Xbox 360, felt just like an FF game, largely because of his musical touch.

That said, you have two major ways to cock this up, if you really feel like it.

One is to tell us Uematsu is doing the music...and then reveal, later, that he's actually done maybe 1/5th of it. Let him do it all. Pay him whatever he wants. Just, please. Make this happen.

The second is to repeat a terrible mistake you made in XI: to allow there to be zones without music.

Look, we have the option to turn it down if we want a more ambient, open-world feel. But honestly, it's mind-numbing to run through a world of silence. Soul-crushing.

You probably are thinking, "well, there are just too many zones to have music for ALL of them". Okay, that's fair, but there's an easy workaround--one you've done in other FF's.

Give music according to environment. Dungeons have one or two songs, forests get something else. The jungle gets something, as does the desert. You could break this down into maybe a dozen zone types--god knows you clones enough areas in XI-so we could have music everywhere we go.

Get it? We want music AND ambiance. Players' emotional connection with a game is largely dependent on music, and while XI had some good tracks, there simply weren't enough of them.

Well, Somnambulant Ones, that's it for How to Make Sure Final Fantasy XIV Doesn't Suck. As more news rolls out, I may post some thoughts, tirades, and/or pictures of myself doing the electric boogaloo. I really look forward to seeing you all in Final Fantasy XIV, to enjoy what Square Enix has to offer and to see if the game can live up to our (admittedly lofty) expectations. If you were wondering, my player character for Final Fantasy XI is Hiroken, on the Hades server. If you weren't wondering, I hope you choke on a chicken bone.

I kid, I kid. I just get uncomfortable at good-byes and make inappropriate jokes.

At any rate, keep reading Somnambulant Gamer for more of my and our other capable authors' posts. Bookmark us, or say awful things about us or our mothers in forums around the web! Either is okay, although I admit I'd prefer the former. A heartfelt thanks for everyone who's read and contributed comments to this series--it was your enthusiasm that made my editor chain me to my laptop, going without food or light for days, you sick sons of--huh? Oh, shi- he's coming.

Ahem! So, thanks to readers, commenters, and Final Fantasy enthusiasts everywhere. And Square, if you're reading this--I only say these things because I love you.

Now get back to work.

Xbox Live Update impressions

Monday, August 3, 2009
The latest update for Xbox Live will be making its way to your console soon, but we've been lucky enough to be given an early look at it. It's nothing next to the complete redesign the last update was but this little update contains some clever advances and long awaited features.

Most touted by Microsoft, the Avatar Marketplace allows you to purchase game themed clothes and accessories for your little digital cartoon selves. Like Halo? Buy a shirt with the game's logo on it. Be prepared to drop some dough, the prices for these items are a little high. I don't know about you but I have a problem with spending over 100 points for the Fable 2 Highwayman Boots. There is talk of rewards as well but I've yet to come across any (word is it'll be added later).

The majority of the changes are small and focus mostly on streamlining the experience. People dropped from a party unexpectedly will now automatically rejoin the party when they reconnect, things of that nature. There's the full game downloads, though I can't really understand why I'd want to take up all that hard drive space with games I can't trade in when I get tired of them.

If you're really interested in all the little changes, take a look at the full list from Crunchgear. The biggest face lift went to Netflix. You can finally update your instant queue from the console, although you can't browse the complete list of available titles for instant viewing.

Moreover, you can watch netflix movies with your friends in a party. As a longtime fan of Mystery Science Theater 3000, I can't really help but make fun of any movie I happen to see. Now my friends and I can watch and make fun of any number of bad films without worrying about the logistics of gas/snacks/babysitters. Hooray!

The update isn't that big a deal when it's all said and done. More ways to spend our money, more ways to get your friends together. That about sums it up.