Worms, Mana, and Warlords

After nearly two weeks without playing my X360 due to work, cycling, and a wireless adapter that forgot my IP address, I'm back online. I just finally completed the 20th and final challenge in Worms HD on Live Arcade to earn the final Achievement for that game. I had to rely on the cheeseball tactic of using the blowtorch and girders to barricade two of my worms inside a safe spot at the top of the map and wait for sudden death to gradually drown the other worms. I hate playing that way, but after a dozen or more failed attempts at that challenge, I had to do it. Worst of all, when you pass a challenge in that manner, you don't get a time reported to the online leaderboards. So, for example, if you see someone on your Friends list post a time for challenge #18 but not #17, they didn't skip ahead somehow. Instead, it just means they won the earlier challenge during sudden death.

In other news, I finished co-authoring the strategy guide for Dawn of Mana for the PS2 -- I'll have copies available next month for those who want one. Co-authoring a guidebook isn't something that I'm tasked with doing all that often because, hmmm... how should I put this? I have a reputation for being a control freak with a strong personality. Yep, that pretty much sums it up. I've had some very, very good experiences co-authoring over the years (and one particularly bad one), but this was fortunately a pleasant one. The key is to make sure the other author and I have clearly delineated responsibilities ahead of time and that we agree to a TOC (table of contents) and chapter-by-chapter writing duties before beginning. This we did, and it worked very well.

I have to admit, though, that I was a little hesitant this time around because while I was responsible for the walkthrough, maps, and the main "how-to" chapters, my supporting author was none other than David Cassidy who authored the original strategy guide for Final Fantasy VII, back ten years ago. The FFVII guidebook has not only sold a bajillion copies, but is largely responsible for the success of this niche of the industry. David's name appeared front and center on the cover of that book -- which BradyGames still gets requests for to this date -- and garnered him quite a bit of celebrity amongst gamers, living rooms the world over. I was one of those gamers. David's FFVII book wasn't the first strategy guide I ever purchased (that honor goes to the guidebook for the original Myst) but was definitely the one that got my mind dreaming of making a career out of playing and writing about games. And that was a good two years before I made a real attempt at it. At the risk of sounding melodramatic, working with him on this book had the sense of being a "you've reached the big time" moment. Probably like what an up-and-coming actor feels when given a lead role in a movie with Nicholson or DeNiro. Now, obviously, with over 50 books to my credit and what often seems as first-dibs on the AAA projects, I think it's safe to say that I reached the big time several years ago. And by no means do I consider myself an up-and-comer in this biz. But, while I wasn't necessarily starstruck (I don't get starstruck by real celebrities either), I can at least recognize some symbolism in the moment and, I'm not ashamed to admit it, but a sense of professional pride and accomplishment as well. And perhaps one day someone will feel this way about working with me. Who knows?

Lastly, I have to admit to having shelved the books I've been slowly reading the past month or two and have once again surrendered my pre-sleep minutes to the Nintendo DS. I am totally hooked on Puzzle Quest: Challenge of the Warlords. Especially now that I have given up the foolish (and masochistic) plan of starting over whenever I lose a battle. There's no way to not occasionally lose battles in this game and, in fact, the story and leveling system are built to expect you to lose the occasional battle. And sometimes these defeats are not-so-occasional. If you have a DS or a PSP, you must check out this game. If you've ever dreamed of a puzzle game with a story and some role-playing, then this is the game for you. If you've ever wanted to play a role-playing game but found the combat tedious, then this is the game for you. Actually, if you breathe and blink, this is the game for you. I don't know how to recommend it any more than that.

Now, if you'll excuse me, I've just been invited to the beta for Enemy Territory: Quake Wars and have a game to download. Which, by the way, will be the last mention of it you see from me prior to the game's release this summer. You know, what with the NDA and all...

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