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November 30, 2006


Incredibly, I scored a Nintendo Wii today. I am very happy that I was able to get my hands on one, not only because they are hard to find, but also because I didn't have to camp out or wait in a long line to get one. I also wasn't forced into buying one of the ridiculous bundles that retailers often foist upon people.

Of all the places selling them, I was able to procure one at one of the more unlikely establishments - an HEB Plus! grocery store. Earlier in the week, I had asked the manager of the electronics department if they were going to be carrying the impossible-to-find console. To my surprise, he told me that they were expecting a shipment of a few units later in the week - either Thursday or Friday. He also mentioned that they usually took receipt of shipments early in the morning (like 2 am), and put the product out around 7:30 in the morning. So, if I were to call early in the morning, someone would be able to tell me if they had any product in stock.

This morning, I called the electronics department around 7:45 am. The woman I spoke to stated that they hadn't received any units overnight, but to check back again tomorrow. I hung up and started getting ready for work. Approximately 20 minutes later, the phone rang. Caller ID showed HEB Plus! as the caller. My wife picked up the phone, and the woman on the other end asked if we had just called looking for the Nintendo Wii. My wife answered that we had, and the woman at HEB stated that they had received several units after all. Excellent!

Fortunately, I was already dressed for work, so I hauled ass over to the store (about a 10 minute drive). I arrived minutes before they carted out 8-10 units. I got the first one off the cart. Unfortunately, they didn't have any extra controllers or games at the time (which was no big deal, as I had already purchased The Legend of Zelda beforehand). So, I paid for my console, dropped it off at home and headed in to work.

Having played around with the Wiimote and games for a couple hours, I have to say that the Wii is very cool. The control is quite intuitive, and easy to pick up. Even my wife (who hates games) picked it up and played a couple games of Wii Sports tennis. My four-year old son also played tennis and did surprisingly well. Looks like we'll have a lot of fun with the Wii. The graphics aren't great, but that was to be expected. In fact, I may hook it up to the SD television downstairs instead of the HD set where it currently resides.

It will be interesting to see how Nintendo fares against Sony and Microsoft in this round of the console wars. I think they have a genuine contender in the Wii, but they'll have to ensure that quality software titles are produced in the coming months.

November 15, 2006

Echoes of Faydwer

The new expansion for Everquest II (EQ2) - Echoes of Faydwer - was released yesterday. This expansion is unique (compared to the other two EQ2 expansions) in that it provides content for all level ranges, not just the high levels. The previous two expansions - Desert of Flames and Kingdom of Sky - offered content for the upper level ranges (50-70) with little content for the lower ranges.

The expansion introduces a new continent, Faydwer, a new race (the Fae) and city (Kelethin) as well as a ton of new quests and items. There are new "tinkering" and "transmuting" tradeskills, which allow crafters to enhance items. Also introduced is the ability to wear cloaks. Guilds within the game can customize the cloaks with heraldry and other designs. All in all, it's a huge expansion, and I'm really looking forward to discovering all the new areas.

I created a new Fae character in the city of Kelethin. The Fae have a few abilities not found in other races. The most notable is their ability to glide down from high places. This comes in handy in the starting areas around Kelethin, as the city is built into the tops of several large trees. Where most characters would fall to their deaths from such heights, the Fae simply glide down softly to the ground. The starting areas around Kelethin are quite exquisite, with lush greenery, large forested areas, and undulating terrain. The starter quests are pretty standard fare (go retrieve X items for a reward), but they do have a nice storyline that immerses your character in the lore of the Fae. I was able to get to level 7 with just a 3-4 hours of play, which is about the right pace for me.

I'm looking forward to exploring more of the new continent with my other characters. As it stands, I have characters at just about every level range, so I'll be able to actively enjoy the content in many of the new areas.