Monday, June 23, 2008

Gamer's Diary - Puzzle Pirates, Pirates of the Caribbean Online, Halo 3

It seems odd that of all the puzzles I've played, I enjoy bilge pumping the most. The puzzle resembles Bejeweled, though not as closely as the one in Puzzle Quest. Next up: pillaging.

I would set up my fiancée's youngest daughter, J---, with Puzzle Pirates but for two things. First, she has 11 years and the game requires players of at least 13 years of age. Second, the game looks as though the age requirement is sensible. It looks sensible not because of violence or adult content, but rather because the mechanics of the game outside of the puzzles seems a bit complex and daunting, even for an adult.

But Puzzle Pirates put me in mind of another similarly themed MMO with an E rating: Disney's Pirates of the Caribbean Online. It has a lot less to do in it than in Puzzle Pirates, but what it has seems fun, the game world appears more accessible, and its target market enjoys it, so why should I naysay it?

I installed it and helped her get set up in it, and she played it for a good two or three hours straight. She seemed to like it, and spent a good deal of time customizing her pirate and picking a name for her boat. I'll see if J--- still plays it in a couple of weeks.

Just as I had settled down in front of the 360 to relax with a session of Puzzle Quest, I got a message from my fiancée's son, A---, who currently stays in Colorado, visiting relatives and friends there. It turns out he wanted to partner up for a few rounds of Halo 3 multiplayer, so I put the disk in and away we went.

I have four things to say about that.

First, A--- has a temper problem, which shows up in his voice and language, especially as we progress through rounds without winning. By the end of the hour we played, he had progressed to cursing a blue streak in a voice as high-pitched as the stereotypical 13-year-old griefer.

Second, although I would have liked to have tried actual team tactics this time (with someone else as team captain giving orders), it couldn't be done. A--- had a crappy Internet connection up in Colorado (from Qwest), such that I typically could only hear half-second scraps of voice from him, now and then. Disappointing.

Third, I heard him at one point yelling at the opposing team that they, being in America, should speak American rather than Mexican. This struck me as wrong on many levels. I had little time, so I focussed on the one error of fact least likely to provoke an argument. I pointed out that the Internet is global, so he could easily find himself playing against Mexicans who play in Mexico. He should expect them to speak Spanish. He grumbled a reply to the effect of, "What's this country coming to?"

Last, I discovered that the practice of standby has life in it in Halo 3. For those unfamiliar with it, a cheater practices standbying by first becoming the host for the game round, then disconnecting from the Internet for a few seconds. During those few seconds all the other players get a "reconnecting to game" screen, and the cheater gets to run around in the game and kill people, take flags, and so on.

One can tell when one has a cheater using standby - as opposed to the game simply lagging due to poor connections - when one comes back from "reconnecting" and finds oneself and one's teammates dead, or finds the flag missing, and so on. That happened during one of the rounds I played last night.

I hesitate to report such things, because something similar can happen by accident, when a player with a poor connection also has host status, and simply keeps playing when the connection drops. I didn't find the event I witnessed blatant enough nor repeated enough for me to decide that the other team cheated.

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