Father’s Day Game – Champions of Norrath (PS2)

I continue to enjoy the “Father’s Day Game” as my oldest son is fond of calling Champions of Norrath; yes – it was one of my father’s day presents last June. I have yet to finish this game, and I have not played online yet, but it continues to suck me in each time I play. This game definitely causes a case of “just 5 more minutes.”

So why does this game have lasting power? Fun factor and serious replay value; true hallmarks of a worthwhile game.

First, it is hack-and-slash action at its finest! If you just want to power your way through a game with little regard to anything other than “mash, slash, and bash” this one is for you. The cool thing is that the game plays completely differently depending on your character of choice. Do you want to plow through the game with brute force, or would you rather use a vast array of spells? Either way the game is equally fun.

Second, the graphics are exceptionally solid. Snowblind Studios is one of my favorite development shops – they also developed Baldur’s Gate: Dark Alliance, which was the previous bar for hack-and-slash action on the PS2. The graphics in Champions of Norrath are about as good as it gets; regardless of the effects, be it water, fire, spells, arrows sticking to attacking creatures, pools of blood (option for those with small children), level design, or pretty much anything else. Seriously, even your most jaded graphics whore will be impressed.

Third, the intangibles are impressive. The flexible “level-up” system provides some strategy and makes the game a little more interesting than your normal flavor of hack-and-slash games. You get to allocate points to various attributes (strength, dexterity, intelligence, and stamina) and you get to allocate points to various skills (power up your slash attacks, shoot ice/freeze arrows, cast disease attacks, and so on). On top of all this, you also get to power up weapons for a truly creative system that provides a few reasons to plan out your path through the game.

Fourth, the game is a joy to play in co-op mode; my son and I are having a blast playing through this one together. Needless to say, this game has me convinced that I may actually be missing something by not playing online. That is a big omission for this gamer.

Final words – Champions of Norrath has what it takes; the game has an extremely high fun factor, and the reply value is easily worth the price of admission [currently $19.99 new at most major retailers]. Check out Game Rankings for more Champions of Norrath information.



Ratings System

I think we all knew that I could not make it very long without spouting off about this, that, and the other. As I have said elsewhere, lack of an opinion and things to write about was never an issue. Instead I grew weary of the current format – detailed, unbiased content is one thing, but I no longer have the time or desire to write reviews that are so damn long that your head starts to spin half-way home.

For now, whenever I feel like writing about videogames and whatnot, the following will be my overly simple rating system:

Buy – Buy; worth spending your hard-earned duckets on this product.
Rent – Rent; a cheap “look-see” is a good idea because your cash may be better spent on something else.
Dud – Dud; a can of beans on the discount rack is a better buy then this steaming pile of sh^+.


Air Style Wireless Controller (PS2) – Full of Hot Air

Last summer I imported an Air Style Wireless Controller (produced by Fountech) from LinkSang after reading rave reviews from IGN and PSM. I needed something on the PS2 equivalent to the GameCube’s WaveBird. The Air Style Wireless Controller does fit the bill.

After PSM named the controller one of the best wireless options on the PS2 and IGN gave the controller some sort of 2003 E3 “Best of” award, I figured I could not go wrong. After all, the specs on the box listed the controller as having 50+ hours of battery life, a 30 foot range, and the latest RF technology, I figured I was good to go – wireless I would be – life would be good.

So why am I writing this sad little tale now? After laying out $61.99 ($39.99 + $22.00 shipping) to import this little wireless wonder, I cashed in my losses on eBay last weekend – recovering $17.00 + shipping. Could have been worse I guess.

This controller acted more like IR (line of sight) instead of RF. I had to sit within about 5 feet of my system to get decent response, and even then at times the inputs (button presses) often queued up and really messed up my playing experience. I could go on, and I will…

The controller’s vibration response is almost non-existent, the D-pad is completely flaky when in analog mode, and the controller’s response time complete stinks. Game after game I wondered what I was doing wrong. Gone were my dreams of being untethered from the entertainment center, gone were my hopes of burning a perfect lap, lost were my chances to hit the perfect button combo in pretty much any game.

I found myself frequently changing the 2-AA batteries, and constantly switching between the full-analog mode and the power-saving economy mode. At times the economy mode actually worked better than full-analog mode. Something just did not add up. Maybe my Asia version does not work so well on my US PS2? Maybe the new US version actually performs better? I am not really sure, but I must say that I was completely disappointed in the controller IGN and PSM crowned the would be king of PS2 Wireless.

If you must be wireless, try the Logitech Cordless Action Controller, which is a fabulous alternative to the standard Sony Dual Shock controller, and is actually the real deal when it comes to RF technology.



Willis McGahee – JA, Ignorant, or Just Plain Stupid?

Is Willis McGahee a jackass, ignorant, or just stupid? In this “what have you done for me lately” society, McGahee has yet to do jack-crap. The Buffalo Bills drafted McGahee 23rd overall in the 2003 draft despite have a messed up knee. The Bills pulled the string anyway, and rehabbed McGahee, and now the dumbass demands to be traded? McGahee, what have you done for me lately?

Maybe McGahee is ignorant. Maybe he does not realize that the Bill’s current starting running back, Travis Henry, rushed for 1,438 rushing yards (4.4 yds/rush) in 2002, and in 2003 rushed for 1,356 yards (4.1 yds/rush). What did McGahee rush for last year? Oh yeah, he was rehabbing his bum knee.

In McGahee’s first preseason game against Denver he had 58 yards on 13 carries (4.5 yds/rush), which was pretty good, but not “I should be the starter or else” good. Sure the TD was nice, but this is the preseason – don’t go getting excited.

This weekend McGahee managed another TD, but only scampered for 28 yards on 11 carries good for a paltry 2.5 yds/rush – ouch! “Look at me, look at me! I am special, I am a star!” What a jackass!

Personally I think McGahee must be stupid – I have yet to see him do any damage control despite some reported PR type BS coming out of the Bill’s front office. McGahee may one day be a star, but for now he should just be thankful someone rehabbed his knee. McGahee should also shut the f-up and do something on the field, when the games actually count, before making his next trade demand.

Jackass, ignorant, or plain stupid? You make the call.


Nuke Cops and BAD-TAGS

I guess I am just a bitter b*st^rd about the whole php Nuke fiasco. Nuke is not a bad CMS by any stretch, and it certainly proved its usefulness to me over the last year, but this junk is completely unsecured and hack prone.

Nuke Cops is a fairly respectable site when it comes to securing a php Nuke deployment. They have 1000s of registered users, and it is the first place a php Nuke admin should look to find the latest downloads, mods, and security fixes. It really is a one-stop shop for php Nuke security info.

Too bad Nuke Cop’s user ban system is so f’ed-up. Seriously. I kid you not – their system completely sucks. After the first couple of hack attacks on the previous manifestation of Calvert Games, I decided to explore Nuke Cops to see if I could come up with a solution. I made the mistake of including “script” in one of my searches, thinking about the “admin script” add-on. Too bad for me because the “admin script” is actually “admin secure” and I later learned that fortress (another php Nuke security add on) was responsible for the auto-ban.

And by the way – admin secure is not a good solution in and of itself; it should be run in conjunction with other security scripts such as Fortress.

Fortress is a pretty cool script; I encourage all php Nuke sites to run it – I think it was responsible for finally eliminating the hack attacks on my humble site. While looking at the code I learned that sending the word “script” through a request would trigger an auto ban (assuming a site has this option enabled). Sure is helpful for stopping injection attacks, but down right piss poor for users. I mean, who would not search for the word “script” on a security site (i.e. Nuke Cops) that provides scripts for a CMS script (i.e. php Nuke)?

To this day I still cannot get to Nuke Cops – I am presented with “Banned by BAD-TAGS.” So Nuke Cops is now on my official wanker list. Why have an auto-ban system that does not even provide any sort of contact info “just in case” a mistake is made? Pretty poor decision on the part of Nuke Cops.

Thankfully cheers go to Computer Cops, which is incidentally run by the same guy that founded Nuke Cops. The Computer Cops community was extremely helpful in getting my php Nuke based site secure. The owner even provided me with contact info for the Nuke Cops guys, but no dice. No reply; banned to eternal damnation.

Nuke Cops and BAD-TAGS can jerk off for all I care.


Dream Team No More

After yesterday’s debacle I hope that the current NBA representatives known as would-be Dream-Teamers will be known as the clank and crib club. This new generation of “players” – these guys are truly an embarrassment to the US and to the NBA. It is time to get back to fundamentals.

I think I what I had to say on this matter yesterday was somewhat more cleaver, but all of that was lost with the hack attack. Too bad. Still, something has to be said, even if I have now lost my thunder.

I will leave it at this. The current Olympic team is a disgrace to the fundamentals of the game. Does anyone even care? These guys are almost irrelevant; just a bunch of NBA Ballers that are out for the individual instead of the team. The rest of the world understands the basic concepts of the game – teamwork, possession, precession passing, parameter shooting, and sound shots from the charity stripe. These birds may yet win which as an American I truly want, but man-o-man do they piss me off. You cannot just throw together 12 NBA “super stars” and hope to intimidate the rest of the field, let alone take home the gold.


A New Beginning

I had something rather glorious to say, and it was said, but that damn hack attack blew it away. Can you tell I am bitter? This time I made a backup! Lesson learned; I may be ignorant, but I am not stupid.

I will try to recap; after all it is only fair to have a historical explanation to the former staff (Adam, Derek, Kevin, and Ted) and the once loyal readers of that previous entity known as Calvert Games. Besides, it brings about some closure, and helps set the tone for where I am going with this blog.

So the question on everyone’s mind is “why?” Why close Calvert Games?

Three years ago I answered my own call (for “the love of the game”) and started Calvert Games after writing the following:

So it is up to the fans, the true “hard core,” to revitalize the hobby. When was the last time you posted a review to your personal web site? When was the last time you posted a review to a message board or Usenet? Give it a go. You will feel better about yourself, and you will provide a service to fellow gamers.
Reviews used to be free. Freely posted, freely distributed, and free from the Monkeys [banner ads]. Remember, it’s not about the money; it’s about the love of the game.

I am biased, but we (the staff) met the call with a no nonsense approach; those guys were the best. Damn good bunch of guys, and great writers to boot! I would say that my staff was the best staff that money could buy – of course I got off on the cheap! I am sure our friendships will last and hopefully transcend the break-up of Calvert Games.

So we come full circle – why? There are a bunch of reasons – maintaining a website grew tiresome, the hack attacks wore me down, it became a burden to review and analyze games instead of just playing them. Gaming is now mainstream, and “breaking down” games became irrelevant (no offense to Adam, Derek, Kevin, and Ted). In short, it was time for a change.

So where do I go from here? What you are now reading is the new Calvert Games; just call it version 3.0. No fuss, low maintenance, carefree, no pressure; just good old fashion short takes about … well … pretty much anything that I happen to be pondering. OK, I admit that the verbose style will most likely live on, but I think something can be said for brevity.

Calvert Games was officially launched September 27, 2001 – it was pretty barebones, and more or less hit the mark despite the Mickey Mouse look and feel. June 2003 saw a major overhaul of the site – the switch to a php Nuke based site brought about Calvert Games 2.0. The blog you are reading is my attempt at a simpler, more interesting format, that hopefully will provide me with an interesting outlet, and maybe, just maybe, entertain a reader or two.

So you see, Calvert Games continues, just in a new, different format. Lift a cold one or two; I know I will; and as long as gaming remains a pleasure, watermark breasteses (thanks for the laughs Don) and Calvert Games will live on to fight the good fight.


Hackers Still Suck!

This is rather ironic, but my new site has been the innocent bystander of a recent hack attack of another php Nuke site on this server. The end result is that I lost all my work from yesterday; new blog, new mods, and all my posts!

A word of advice for would be webmasters – php Nuke is an unbelievably unsecured script. If you are a using php Nuke, or thinking about using php Nuke, make sure you have the latest version (7.2 or 7.3) and multiple security scripts such as fortress, admin secure, admin tap, union tap, and others.

The lesson I have learned is that I need to setup a cron job to do backups and exports!

Hackers suck. Bloody f’ing bas*ar*%! One of the reasons I pulled down the previous incarnation of Calvert Games was that I was sick and tired or worrying about maintaining (and securing) my site. Of course those of you who read the site yesterday already knew this was one of the reasons for giving up the ghost. Now that post is lost, so I will have to be creative and come up with a cleaver replacement. [sigh]

The previous hack attacks were truly draining. That and I laid out some duckets to pay a Unix admin to help secure the site. And now my new site was blow away because of a hack attack on another php Nuke based site. Hackers are evil – that much is certain; evil and malicious.


A Simple Parting …

With these final words, the face of Calvert Games was forever changed:

I wanted to take a minute to thank the readers of Calvert Games for your support. The last three years have been a heck of a lot of fun for me, and I hope this little corner of Internet sports gaming has been equally as enjoyable for our readers.

I have a lot to write about, but I want to keep this parting fairly short. I have to express my thanks and deep gratitude to the staff – Adam, Derek, Kevin, and Ted. You guys are great, and I sincerely thank you for all the hard work you have put into Calvert Games, and more importantly for your friendship. Kudos on a job well done!

Sometime over the next few days the “current” Calvert Games will cease to exist. I may attempt some sort of historical archive, but that is also up in the air at this time.

At this point I have not decided what to do or where to go next. To quote Bilbo “I need a holiday – a very long holiday – and I don’t expect I shall return. In fact, I mean not to!”

Well, I would be foolish to say never, but I do not have plans to revive Calvert Games in the immediate future.

Calvert Games was founded in September 2001.

Special thanks to the staff – Adam, Derek, Kevin, and Ted – the best damn group in the industry!

Special thanks to Steve at OS – you have always pimped my junk for free; thanks for the help!

Thanks to Matt C. and Paul K. – you guys always encouraged me and helped spawn CG. The original SR was something special.

Thanks to Tonya, my wonderful wife, for always supporting me, and putting up with my gaming addiction.

“Happy trails to you,
until we meet again.
Happy trails to you,
keep smilin’ until then.” – Roy Rogers Show

In Jesus’ name anything is possible. God bless, and good night!

And so Calvert Games 3.0 is born; the adventure begins anew.