What we’re playing: Getting ready to Brawl!

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For those Wii owners out there, you’re probably well aware that on Saturday night at midnight, the much anticipated Super Smash Bros. Brawl goes on sale at thousands of stores across the country. Like others at the office (I’m looking at you, Mike Dulany), I’m definitely looking for forward to picking it up as soon as possible. Not sure that I’ll brave the midnight crowds though, especially since I’m already going to lose an hour of sleep because of daylight savings.

Whether you’re playing Brawl or something else, feel free to share what you’re playing this weekend as well.

Mike Lattanzia, QA: Hellgate: London (always!), Patapon, Rock Band (spending way too much money on DLC), and Super Smash Brothers Brawl finally!

Mike Dulany, Programmer: Smash Brothers Brawl

Jabarie “Pokemon Trainer” Brown, Quality Assurance: Rock Band (I challenge you to a rock off!), World of Warcraft (I wish I could quite you…no, seriously I do.), Halo 3, and SUPER SMASH BROS. BRAWL (this is going to be amazing)!!!!!!

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R.I.P. Gary Gygax

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Gary Gygax reportedly passed away today at the age of 69. He was, and still is, a legend. As co-creator of D&D and co-founder of TSR, there probably aren’t many RPGs that haven’t been influenced in some way by Gary and what he started, not to mention his being responsible for Gen Con and the consumption of countless bags of Cheetos and gallons of Mountain Dew. Personally, I have never been able to look at a Crown Royal bag without thinking “dice bag.” I spent my first all-nighter playing a game because of AD&D.

We asked around the team for thoughts on the influence Gary and D&D/AD&D had on them. Here’s what folks had to say:

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Two Years Ago…Oblivion went Gold

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Yesterday was the two year anniversary of Oblivion’s “Gone Gold” announcement. Personally, those two years feel more like a decade to me. The team is insanely busy right now, but a few developers did e-mail me some thoughts on the anniversary. I’ve worked on Oblivion longer than most people here, and I continue to be amazed at how successful it was and is and how many people still play it today.

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What we’re playing: Game Over Edition?

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So this week we’re back to talking about games, and I’m starting to wonder if guys at the office actually spend more time watching stuff, listening to music, and reading books — you’ll see the response level is about half of what I got last week. Could be that everyone’s busy, or maybe they’re just playing the same things they were last time?? I’m guessing it’s the latter, and that when I turn on my 360 or PS3 over the weekend, I’ll see guys from the office playing plenty of stuff

At any rate, here’s what some of the office is playing. We’ll kick it off with Jeff Gardiner, since he whined that he never gets to be “on the front page.” Congrats Jeff…you made it!

Jeff Gardiner, Producer: Sins of a Solar Empire

Chris Esko, System Programmer: TF2, Mass Effect, Descent the board game.

Pete Hines: Just finished Professor Layton. Playing Brain Age, Tiger Woods 08, Picross, Zelda

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What we’re reading…

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Sometimes I get the impression from parents, politicians, and Fox News that if you’re playing videogames, you’re not reading. So when I decided we should do a “What we’re reading” post this week, I was pleased to see so many responses. It’s worth noting that a handful of folks relate reading to videogames in their answers — but I suppose that’s fair game. On that note, I hear there’s tons of optional reading in Lost Odyssey. After getting an email from Gavin, I’m think it’s one game I need to read up on:

“The plot (at least so far) revolves around one character trying to build this giant station called. ‘Grand Staff.’ So you get lots of lines like ‘I must complete work on Grand Staff!’ or ‘Grand Staff will make our magic stronger!’”

I couldn’t agree more. On that note, let us know what you’re reading. Have a great weekend!

Erin Losi: Gluten Free Girl, A Thousand Splendid Suns, Grazia (my new favorite British gossip mag)

Steve Meister: Just finished The Name of the Wind, by Patrick Rothfuss, which was extremely good. I also recently finished Scarlet, by Stephen Lawhead, the second in his re-imagining of the Robin Hood legend, which was also very good. I am now reading The Wanderer’s Tale, book one in the Annals of Lindormin by David Bilsborough, and I’ve got to tell you, this is one of the worst books I’ve read in a long time. It really has no redeeming qualities. Avoid it.

Brendan Anthony, Programmer: Thomas Paine’s Age of Reason, The Pillars of the Earth, Michio Kaku’s Visions.

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What we’re playing: Off to GDC!

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Starting on Monday, the annual Game Developers Conference (GDC) kicks off in San Francisco. The week-long event is a chance for game development industry to get together and attend meetings, panels and keynote speeches. Since a lot of guys in the biz know each other, it’s also an opportunity for catching up and having fun. Thus far, I know two of our Ryans, Ashford and Salvatore, will be attending the event…as you’ll see they’re already planning the DS games they’ll be packing. For more info on GDC, take a look at the official website.

On with the list…

Ryan Ashford, QA Engineer: Playing Phantom Hourglass on my flight to San Fran for GDC!

Ryan Salvatore, GDC-bound: Advance Wars DS, LoZ Phantom Hourglass, New Super Mario Bros.

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You Ate Your Weighted Companion Cube More Quickly Than Any Subject on Record

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This morning I got an email from Fred Zeleny saying that I needed to check out his birthday cake downstairs in the kitchen. Knowing that Fred likes to dress as a Fallout Raider and even put a Fallout sign in his hair, I was anxious to see the cake with my own eyes. Still, walking down the stairs, I couldn’t shake the vision of the cake you see at the end of Portal (sorry, SPOILERZ!). You can imagine the look on my face when I this concoction instead.

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What we’re playing: 2008 games!

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Can you believe how fast January came and went? With 2008 kicking into gear, I’m seeing less Mass Effect and The Orange Box and more Rez HD, Poker Smash!, No More Heroes, and Advance Wars: Days of Ruin. Of course, not everyone has moved on. Take Associate Producer Tim Lamb — I did some checking, and it looks like you have to go back to late October to find the last time he wasn’t gung ho for Call of Duty 4.

Here’s what Tim and the rest of the gang are playing over the weekend…

Craig “I Jinxed the Patriots” Lafferty, Producer: Culdcept Saga, Devil May Cry, 4, Poker Smash!, Rez HD, Advance Wars: Days of Ruin DS – yeah, for like 15 minutes each.

Jenna Noland, QA:
No More Heroes.

Gavin Carter, Producer: Nursing my Advance Wars: Days of Ruin addiction. Continuing the slog towards my A-class license in Burnout. Fighting the Tax Man and trying to get the lowest score possible.

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Daryl returns with another Portal map

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Back in November, we posted about a Portal Map, Ren_Test2, that our very own Daryl Brigner designed. Daryl, and the rest of us at the office, were surprised and excited to see the response it received. In addition to becoming the most popular post on Bethesda Blog, buzz about the map spread to numerous gaming blogs and it was even featured in a recent issue of PC Zone.

Well, Daryl’s done it again. This morning he let me know that a new level, appropriately titled_Ren Test3, is now available for download. In addition to the new map, Daryl has included Ren_Test 1&2 in the same download. The download also offers Step, Portal, and Time challenges for you Portal fanatics that are looking for a real challenge.

According to Daryl, here is how you can install them to your PC:

Simply extract the Ren_Tests.bmz anywhere, then load up Portal, click ‘Bonus Maps,’ click “Import Bonus Maps”, then just navigate to where the Ren_Tests.bmz file is, select it, and click ‘Open.’ Then, the Ren_Test Mappack will be in your Bonus Maps window.

Sounds simple enough. If you check it out, let us know if you think it’s as devious as Ren_Test2.