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Saturday, May 26, 2007

The Sims On The Silver Screen

I guess it is true all video games can be made into movies. As to whether they should, we will have to wait and see. According to Variety, 20th Century Fox will be making a movie of the ever-popular PC game “The Sims”. Going strong for the past five years, it is the best selling game in history with $1.6 billion brought in worldwide.
-- Popular PC Game "The Sims" Heading for the Big Screen

Wait ... what?

Trailer Park Saturday: Lego Complete Saga

As much I despised the new prequels - I adored these games.

Illinois Loses Another Million To Video Game Fight

Thanks to Winkyboy for sending this wonderful tidbit along:

Illinois governor Rod Blagojevich has spent $1,000,000 in taxpayer money attempting to "appeal a 2005 federal court ruling that a state law banning the sale of violent or sexual-explicit video games to minors was unconstitutional." Money was diverted from "the public health department, the state's welfare agency and even the economic development department," because health and welfare aren't important when our children's welfare is at stake.
-- Q: How Much for That Family-friendly Game in the Window? A: One Million Dollars.

Oh brilliant. This is after he lost half a million to the ESA trying to fight for the bill in the first place. Illinois, for the record, is not exactly running high on the hog when it comes to cash these days either. Diverting funds from public health runs contrary to his public goal of providing health care for Illinois children as well.

So maybe instead of talking about opening more casinos or selling off the state lottery - we should stop spending millions in a fight against bogeymen and windmills.

Friday, May 25, 2007

Master Chief's Naughty Bits

Microsoft has delayed the release of Halo 2 on Vista again due to the last minute discovery of some partial nudity in the game. According to, the delay won't be used to remove the potentially offensive content but rather to apply a sticker to the game's packaging warning consumers about its presence. A patch will be available from the game's official site that will cover up those naughty bits.
-- IGN: Master Chief's Wardrobe Malfunction [IGN]

First I think it's interesting that Microsoft runs into this problem considering the widespread conspiracy theory that Rockstar had left their content in purposefully. Clearly this kind of problem is much easier to stumble into than most of the Rockstar kickers wanted to admit if a company of Microsoft's girth can have it.

The "naughty bits" in question apparently amounts to a bare buttock which can be found with a game editor. So in fact, this is an easier piece of flesh to find than Rockstar's error, since the latter actually require code munging and a breach of EULA to uncover.

The patch to remove the buttocks I'm sure will be quickly downloaded and I'm sure nobody will figure out a way to upload the texture online. Nor will anyone use this texture in an immature fasion.


Whatever the case, it still annoys that Microsoft is making this a Vista exclusive.

Surviving Veronica Mars

Salon mourns the truncated finale which was Veronica Mars. The note that the CW didn't even advertise the "two hour finale" as the series finale felt odd ... as did the fact that there were actually two one hour episodes.

In short, it felt rather like V had just been dumped.

Sadly the show's ending note started to ring similar to the themes fans loved in season one. With imagery like huge pictures of Lily Kane, Keith being smeared in the press and our dear Veronica walking off into the rainstorm ... how can a fan not feel a bit melancholy about this ending?

So here's a couple tips to keep you afloat:

Re-watch Season One
This time, though, when ever they say "Neptune High" - say "HEARST" really loud and when Duncan shows up - insist that its actually Piz. The way the last season was ending, you might just not tell the difference.

Pretend Seasons Two And Three Never Existed
This is what I do whenever anyone brings up stuff that occured after the Buffy musical episode. Now granted, most of what followed that episode was just plain bad - and with V you'll be missing out on some great moments ... but at least you won't know the pain of the show being cancelled (again).

Write FanFic
Keep the stories going. Just don't show them to ... you know ... other people. Or tape a fan show and get famous on YouTube ... your choice.

Best New Reason For A PlayStation 3

24th May 2007 sees the release of the latest firmware update from Sony for the Playstation 3. This latest update takes us to the heady hights of V1.80.

This update includes the following goodies:

Upscaling DVDs, PSone and PS2 games upto 1080p (note: HD telly required!).
-- Playstation 3 - Firmware V1.80 [The Average Gamer]

Old FluffyFist also links to a gameswank page showing of the upscaling on some PlayStation 2 (and PS1 Doom) titles. If it upscales DVDs even nearly this well, the PS3 just became an excellent choice for people wanting high definition content for their new HDTV.

Thursday, May 24, 2007

Lost: Through The Looking Glass

First off - I've got some wicked head cold/fever ... so if go off rambling incoherently about like penguins or something ... that's the fever.

So in a word? Anti-climatic. It's not that I thought it was a bad episode. Actually in a lot of ways the episode was a lot of fun. There were lots of good twists to it (even if the trailer had managed to spoil about half of them). There were some truly great scenes as well - like Hurley saving the day with the DHARMA van. Or Desmond going all Rambo on Mikhail (who ... just ... won't ... die). Charlie's death was poignant and fair to his character.

I just wish some key parts weren't so confounding. Like how Jin, Bernard and Sayid survive. Let's face it - that was complete theater so that the writers didn't have to kill off three characters at once and off screen. Ben had already given the order to kill anyone who got in the raiding party's way. He already ordered the deaths of of his own people. So why fake the execution?

But for me the worst part is just what a letdown Jack's "flashforward" turned out to be. OK, sure, it was a huge shock to find out that at some point in the future at least he and Kate (and possibly several, several others) escape the island. And yeah, its interesting that this goal that he worked so hard for somehow, in some inexplicable way (which I assume they'll be explaining in the next two seasons), was a mistake.

Still - we kinda got robbed of that moment. And there's all this time we spend with Jack in future repeatedly laying down the fact that he's an unhappy drug-addled loser. Now instead of wondering if he'll make it off and wondering how and if he'll survive or anything - well we're just left with this explanation of why he shouldn't have.

And here's what so frustrating about that - I'm not sure there is any good reason why he shouldn't already know. I'm convinced that the Island's other secret power is make everyone a poor communicator. Don't say what you mean, lie and obfuscate.

Look - Ben makes one last ditch effort to keep Jack from phoning home. First he apparently lies through his teeth as Naomi's bunch clearly didn't kill them all off. Second he resorts to fear tactics. Wow, what a genius Ben is - maybe in this final moment of defeat it would be time to try to ... I dunno tell a little truth?

If you're about to lose your precious island forever ... isn't it about time to try a different tactic? Especially since the previous two is what brought Jack to slaughter most of your raiding party?

Or how about Locke? This must be one of the bigger letdowns in terms of surprise entrances. Sure, it was interesting to see adolescent Walt bring him from the pit ... but follows doesn't really add up. First Locke manages to run like hell to catch up to a location he wasn't previously aware of, kills a complete stranger by throwing a knife in her back just because she was holding a phone ... and then lets Jack dial out anyway with only the following phrase to try and stop him:

"You're not supposed to do this."

Or whatever it what was. Seriously? That's the best you can do? How about, oh I dunno:

"I've seen Walt. And he has something to tell you."

Gee, that would stop Jack for a moment or two. He knows Walt is supposed to be off the island and obviously wouldn't believe in this "manifestation" crap ... but maybe if he had a sitdown with "Walt" he would.

So the twist of Jack's future was a big disappointment to me - because I can't blame Jack. Jack is just us, after all, he's just like the viewer. He is stuck on a crazy island with people who, instead of defending it, spend their time frightening, killing and lying to others. Not to mention polar bears and what might be an invisible dinosaur. Ben held Jack captive for days and simply played with his head. Ben's had many chances to fix the situation and only let things get worse. Ben has had way more control over the situation than Jack.

Ben lets them off the island - not Jack.

Now granted, I'm assuming a lot here. I'm assuming the rescue takes place shortly after Jack's call. I'm assuming that Jack isn't provided new information and new chances or new choices. There's some evidence that is false - because he tells Kate in the future that he is tired of lying. Lying about what? Did he agree to a cover story if the "bad guys" let him off the island?

Maybe. However right now it seems like keeping all the secrets is the biggest factor to the Lostie's rescue. The conflict between them and the Others started with Ethan and only got worse from there.

Or from a more deconstructionist point of view - it's the writer's own need to keep the mysteries unfolding slowly that is working against the island itself.

Tuesday, May 22, 2007

Dev Diary: Modding Again

Trust me, I'm as surprised as you are.

No, I haven't finished any of the web/text/interactive fiction pieces I'm working on - although they are still in the cooker and not the backburner. The nice thing about those projects is that I can work on them in short little bursts from nearly anywhere with a net connection. The IF piece will take a good long time, though, so nobody should expect another Randolph Carter anytime soon. Whereas with Carter 70% of the text was recycled from Lovecraft and then extended, this is not only all original but there should be about ten times more depth as well.

The other, using code cobbled from work stuff and a little from the remaining roguelike code, is shaping into a kind of web-based strategy game. That might be done sooner.

So how did I get back into modding? Well I made the mistake of playing some shooters online again. First F.E.A.R. and then UT2004. F.E.A.R.'s sameness, this feeling that I had played the same game over and over again, starting to get to me. I think it was terribly aggravated when a cheater was complaining that he wasn't allowed to use his speed hack because the "running was so slow" (I kid you not). Then i realized I was surrounded by punkbuster, bunny hoppers, speed hackers and probably the occasionally bot and I started doing the time warp again. So I loaded up UT2004 to see how the old girl was doing.

And once again it hit me - oh yeah, I can change this. So I loaded up WotGreal and dug up an old project. Took me a bit to fix and compile, but then there it was.

This time though my goal is to change as little as possible. I was always really ambitious with ideas - purchase menus, upgrade paths, etc. This time I just want to see how much gameplay can be effected with the smallest changes. If I release anything it probably won't have new maps, mutators or weapons - just gametypes.

Naturally, nobody will probably play it ... especially online.

So I'll try to make sure the bots play really well.

TV Watch: Studio 60, Veronica and Jericho Cancelled

I rarely stumble into E! news and rumor pages - but I suppose if I did more I wouldn't be nearly the last to know that Studio 60, Veronica Mars and Jericho have all officially gotten the axe.

Studio 60 will at least get to air its last few episodes - although I don't expect anything nearly as great as the finale for Sports Night out of the run. I'll admit that the show didn't always fire on all cylinders ... but it was smart, sweet and funny. Sorkin is a rare talent and its always a shame to see him not putting something on the screen.

Veronica Mars got its act together too late for viewers it seems. The third season was a jumble of new characters, skewed plotlines and dropped fragments from other seasons. In the end, though, we see the V, Wallace and Mac clicking together and mysteries, short and encapsulated they may be, actually making some sense. Sadly now we will never know the fate of the election for sherriff, V's career in law enforcement - or just how much Pez was willing to throw away from her.

So let's just say: Keith wins. Veronica is a brilliant agent. And lots.

Update: sorry that sounded so fatalistic - I forgot tonight is a new episode, so maybe we'll see some more resolution there (but I'm doubting it).

Update 2: Wait ... there are two new episodes tonight!

As for Jericho ... well .... *kicks dirt* ... I never watched it. And I'm sorry because I kept hearing good things about it. So consider my mea culpa'd and hope it hits DVD or iTunes so that I can see what I missed.

Heroes: How To Stop An Exploding Man

The first volume ended last night with something of a bang and a whimper. The finale was good in a very straightforward way - it just brought everything together very smoothly and succinctly. It didn't feel like anything had been left by the wayside as we finally got the showdown between Peter and Sylar.

The "Generations" epilogue (is that what it was) was very classic setup for the next volume. Reminded me of Army of Darkness more than a bit, actually.

My only real complaint is the Sylar pulling a Joker on us. I can't think of a villain who made more annoying "swept under the waves" or "we think we exploded but can't find a body" or ... well, "pulled his near lifeless body into a sewer to get away."

OK, sure, we've seen Sylar fake death once before. Still, I think he had a good storyline which got a good ending. Pulling out one of the oldest comic cliches in history wasn't terribly endearing as a footnote to me.

Oh yeah and... can someone explain to my Peter couldn't fly on his own?

Still, the show totally sold me for next season.

Monday, May 21, 2007

Game Play: F.E.A.R. Combat

I tried out the free multiplayer component of F.E.A.R. a bit over the weekend - in part because after a late night session at the local goth-club-watering hole ... it was about all I could manage to accomplish on a Sunday.

This isn't my first leap into FEAR multiplayer - and not a whole lot has changed. Deathmatch in its free-for-all mode is just complete mayhem. You spend most of your time getting shot in the back or conversely shooting others in the back. The shotgun is often a source of contention since it requires all the skill of running into something while mashing the trigger.

Course, some servers have melee, or a form of it, which kills nearly instantly as well. I'm not sure who thought this was a good idea - but it brings that contention factor up like ... fifty. The fact that I apparently spawn with enough body armor to survive a good couple high caliber rounds to the chest but die when some jackass runs by jabbing me with his thumb is pretty annoying.

Team deathmatch is a far more civilized affair since you actually get to spawn and seek out the other team. It's a lot more cat and mouse than vanilla DM. It reminds me a bit of the game Counter-Strike used to be and a bit of what it became - a little strategy but mostly run and gun. Still, it disappoints me that years after that game started to get popular a game like this still gives lots of advantages to age old techniques like bunny hopping. The idea that jumping around like an idiot is a beneficial way to use an automatic rifle is really, really silly. It's silly enough in a game like Unreal Tournament - but hey at least you're like a robot with lasers there.

In fact if anything is rather surreal is this sense of same that pervades the game. I love the environments and shadows and in general it is very well produced and designed - but damn ... I feel like I've been playing the same TDM for like a decade now. I tried out Half-Life 2's team DM earlier this week and it was a very similar experience.

Granted, I haven't tried the latest shooters like Gears Of War to see how much evolution we've gotten recently ... but part of me wonders how much to expect when online gaming stagnates like this.

Still, I'd recommend F.E.A.R. Combat to the curious - it's free, well developed and fun.