Busy weeks, and a contest - quick Gaming Thoughts

This feels like a theme right now.  Lots of time spent at work, lots of time at home doing work for work, and then in my spare time spending what time remains sleeping or with family.  It does look like things should return to 'normal' (no one's ever actually accused me of being normal, mind you) this week, at least for a few weeks.  Sadly, my Lions let me down last night against the 49ers (I had a hunch they would, but hey - you can still hope.  That is why they play the games), but I've still had enough time to rattle off a few hours of gaming here and there.

First - what you're probably most interested in - the contest.  This one's pretty simple.  A Double Dragon: Neon code for the PlayStation Network.  I reviewed the game back on Friday and have had a really good time with it.  That said, not everyone is a PlayStation Plus user and has access to it for free.  What are the rules for this contest?  Do one of three things:

- Comment below in this article
- Follow me on Twitter
- Follow me on Facebook

See how I put those little links in there and everything?  Good stuff, right?  Makes it real easy.  Then, just shoot me an email at Chalgyr@yahoo.com and let me know how many of the above 3 things you did, and that's how many entries you get.  I'll hand this thing out sometime Saturday this upcoming weekend.  Normally a $10 game, now - free to the winner. :)  Can't make use of this code yourself?  Even if you can - show this site to a friend, and let them enter!

Alright, moving on.  I did get some Pure Chess in while my dad was up visiting (which is fun, even if he is a lot better than me).  Played a bit more Zen Pinball (Matt's beating me in almost every table currently).  I've been playing the new Square Enix game Guardian Cross on my iPhone (seriously, if you start to play it - and it is a fun CCG style game, use this referral code so we can both get some bonus goodies: 


And some quick thoughts on Madden and online presence.  I found it interesting that the Wii U seems to have so little storage when there's such a push for digital downloads, but that is really only half the conversation when it comes to how gaming is affected by the internet.  The other is in how they play online, and while I absolutely love having the option to play franchises online with old friends, there could still be improvements to the experience.  Two major problems:

- Lag
- Disconnects

The first has been around forever, but there have got to be improvements in how much lag there is when playing games online.  Some of it falls on my ISP, but some of it has to be the servers I'm connected to also, right?  My son plays Call of Duty, Battlefield and more online all of the time, but only occasionally suffers from severe lag.  Madden has suffered from it every time but one.  How bad was it when I was playing against a friend online over the weekend?  I was trying to toss the ball to my wide receiver using the Triangle button, and it took me hitting the button 3 times and I never released the ball.  He just held onto it for a good 2 seconds.  I got sacked.  Then the command went through a second or two later, and it accidentally forced me into the no-huddle offense on 4th down, making me burn a time out so I could punt it.

The lag actually got so bad that several times I could not get through all of my defensive audibles before the ball was snapped.  Not because I wasn't inputting them quickly enough - but because the game couldn't keep up.  I can roll through 5 or 6 changes in under 2 seconds when I'm playing the cpu offline, but the audible 'screen' would freeze for a few moments, not letting me input anything else, and my opponent had plenty of time to snap the ball.

Disconnects.  I've had this problem in a lot of games, but it seems more painful to me in a sports title than a fighter or shooter.  Fighters and shooters are generally 5 to 10 minute investments.  Maybe a bit more depending on the game and play format, but sports titles are generally 20-40 minutes for a game, whether it's NBA 2K or Madden.  The problem is the data lives in this sort of real-time space that does not get saved until the game concludes.  This means if there's any connectivity hiccups, you wind up losing the last fifteen or twenty minutes of play and have to start over. 

There have to be things the devs can do to help these problems out.  Don't get me wrong, it's not JUST on them - my ISP stinks so far.  I have WOW! cable, and they use the "It's that kind of experience" tagline.  Well, that experience has been really rough sailing so far.  They bought out Broadstripe not too long ago, and inherited a ton of problems I'm sure, as Broadstripe was pretty awful too, but our internet drops pretty much daily, several times a day, and can stay down for an hour or so at a time.  When you call into their support, they're pretty helpless/clueless most of the time.  Here's a basic synopsis of the last two calls I've put in to them:

- Wait on hold 45 minutes
- Me: "My internet's out.  Again.  It was out around this time the last three nights"
- Tech: "If you're using a router, it's probably that.  Your settings on it may be wrong."
- Me: "Well, it's a pretty decent router.  Couple hundred bucks.  It's never done this before this week at these consistent times and I haven't changed any settings.  I also reset it and the modem both before calling you."
- Tech: "Oh, well try unhooking from the router so the modem goes into the computer directly."
- Me: "That is how I have it set up currently as a test.  Same results.  I ran a tracert and it's showing the connection ending right outside the house on like the second hop."
- Tech: "Sounds like you know what you're doing."
- Me: "Yeah... I manage a tech support department so I usually try a few things before calling and bugging you guys.  So, any ideas, or am I just reporting a problem.  Any suggestions?"
- Tech: "We're not showing any outages in your area."
- Me: "Well, do you see my modem on your network."
- Tech: "Well... no.  Oh, there it is!  Oh, it's gone again.  Seems like maybe you're seeing some questionable behavior."
- Me: "... yeah.  Kinda figured that out.  So... any suggestions?"
- Tech: "Not really.  We've been seeing some problems in your area lately, but they should be cleaned up soon."
- Me: "You said there weren't any outages in my area earlier.  But whatever - when's 'soon'?"
- Tech: "Well, we know there's some work being done in your area to fix the lines.  It should be better soon though.  Also, since it's happening around the same time every night, I would still check your router."
- Me: "... We're bypassing the router right now, remember?"
- Tech: "Oh... yeah.  Sorry, I'll report that you're seeing some trouble.  Is there anything else I c an do for you?"

It's just round and round with these guys, but the thing is - I know I have several other friends with so-so internet as well.  You mix that in with the data caps every month and it just seems like we're not quite as 'ready' for the all-digital, all-online world of gaming yet.  Whether it's doing away with discs in favor of downloading big games, or needing always-on DRM or just doing a better job of honing the online experience to better compensate for questionable connections, I do hope that the gaming companies keep these problems in mind going forward. 

Anyway, I hope you all had a great weekend, got some gaming in and have a good week ahead of you.  Don't forget about the contest!
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