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Saturday, March 17, 2007

Trailer Park Saturday: No More Heroes

Due out for the Wii this year. Looks like Killer 7, but fun.

Trailer Park Saturday: Super Mario Galaxy

I thought Mario 64 looked kinda childish and dumb until I actually owned it. Then I didn't like, sleep, for three days.

Trailer Park Saturday: The Darkness

Looks sick. The cool kids tell me that means "good".

Friday, March 16, 2007

God Of War II: Peak Of The PlayStation 2?

That is exactly how I’ve felt playing God of War II, the luscious, stunningly well-designed mythological action game that delivers a glorious swan song for Sony’s PlayStation 2, the world’s best-selling game console. Sony has sold many more than 100 million PS2s since the system’s introduction seven years ago, and since then more than 1,000 games have been released for it in North America. You could argue that God of War II, released on Tuesday, is not only better than all of them but is also perhaps the best single-player action-adventure game yet made for any console.

The PlayStation 2 still sells (and likely will for years, given its $130 price tag), but the buzz in gameland has moved on to “next-generation” machines like Microsoft’s Xbox 360 and Sony’s own more than $500 PlayStation 3, which is packed with so much silicon that it makes its predecessor look like an alarm clock. God of War II is likely to be the last top-end game made exclusively for the PlayStation 2.
-- A Game With New Tricks for an Old System

Honestly I think it's in Sony's interest for this not to be the case ... but I'm blanking at the moment of a good exemplary title which proves theory wrong. Surely Sony should be showcasing more and more PlayStation 3 titles ... but considering the strong sales of the PS2 ... why stave off new development?

Pondering: Will 360 Games Ever Play On Vista?

Nuts, right?


Microsoft doesn't make money on the consoles - they make money on the software. They are already trying to blend Xbox Live into a Vista Live. 360 software developing is almost certainly cannibalizing Windows gaming ... especially with the focus on Xbox Live as a far more enticing delivery for indie titles. PC gamers are becoming faced more and more with a simple fiscal decision: keep paying premium costs for upgrades or buy a console for the price of graphics card.

It's an unspoken slap in the face when someone has dual PCI-E cards to rip through polygons like butter but a top tier game like Gears Of War comes out for only the 360. With the Xbox, PC gamers saw plenty of titles (Deus Ex II anyone?) developed so that they could easily come out for both platforms - even though the PC could easily handle more.

So why shouldn't a 64-bit dual graphics card monster with access to a Xbox controller not play the same games?

The common response would be, I think, that PC hardware is a maze of potential configurations whereas the 360 only has a couple. Drivers are user controlled on the PC and firmware on the 360. All the normal noise.

So the answer is a compromise. Microsoft gets to license a "360 compatible" label for PC configurations which will run 360 games. Likewise, 360 games might require a "Vista Ready" certification. Match the game to the hardware and you have a go.

Course, there are technical issues which probably rip this pondering right out of reality. Like any copy protection Microsoft has designed for the 360 that may not be apparent on PC hardware. Or anything special the 360 DVD drive does to recognize 360 games. That kind of thing.

Still - I'd be more likely to buy a new Vista box if I knew that Microsoft's investment in console gaming was beneficial to me as well.

Variety: Comparing Movies To Games

First off: What's wrong with a movie being similar to a videogame? While it's a young medium compared to movies or literature, any culturally literate person in the year 2007 should be able to see that videogames are creative productions, not mere pieces of software.

Those critics who complained that "300" is short on narrative and long on mind-numbing violence implied that videogames are the same. Popular videogames like "Gears of War" and "Mortal Kombat" do fit that description, but there are many other games that don't. Even the much-derided "Grand Theft Auto" features relatively complex storylines and large casts of characters.

In reality, videogame developers have created acclaimed works that span genres.Few horror pics are able to instill the bone-chilling terror of "Resident Evil 4." A dramatic filmmaker should aspire to reach the epic scope of "Shadow of the Colossus." And those looking to make the next great franchise should should only hope their movies engrossviewers half as well as "World of Warcraft."
-- '300' critics cling to consoles

Via The Brother. This is kind of fascinating on a few levels. One - it's an excellent point that up until now compaing movies to video games has almost always been derisive. As games approach movies in technical achievements ... this starts to feel a bit like prejudice. Motion capturing in a game isn't art ... but it is in a game? Digital backgrounds are only artistic if they're on a big screen?

300 feels like a tipping point. I don't think you argue against the movie's appearance. It's quite attractive. There's no uncanny valley here - the film does not jar the senses in any unintentional way. Now, though, the critics are realizing that they're talking about the same technology that goes into all those horrible games corrupting the youth. So it would be pretty if it wasn't built like a game?

On another level, the convergence of this technology makes the hypocrisy between attitudes on subject material all that more apparent. Is it acceptable to praise 300 for being a ballet of violence ... but GTA isn't artistic because ... it's too violent? If the gaming industry can make a game which just as violent as 300 but also photorealistic ... does that suddenly make the violence acceptable?

NPD Out - Let's Take Stock

In the month of February 2007, there were 335,000 Wii consoles bought, 228,000 units of Microsoft’s Xbox 360 were purchased, while Sony’s PlayStation 3 (PS3) came a close third with the sale of 127,000 units.

PlayStation 2 sold 295,000 units and the PlayStation Portable sold 176,000, markedly behind the DS, which had a sell-through of 485,000 units. Together, Nintendo systems represented 54 percent of all hardware sales in February, more than those of all other manufacturers combined.
-- Nintendo Wii Game Console tops US NPD Sales for February 2007

I think calling 127k a "close third" to 228k being a little kind. But let's break it down by the companies.

Nintendo has the kind of problems most companies dream about. They don't have enough hardware to meet demand. Fans are hotly anticipating the arrival of big titles like Metroid. Right now - they are the darling of the media.

Between the DS and the Wii - I think all bets are off with what will happen with Nintendo. If anyone has the ability to take the crown from the PlayStation 2 as the next truly commonplace console ... they appear prepped to do so. That said - there's a small laundry lists of concerns:

- The Wii still hasn't managed to attract the same kind of franchise titles that the 360 and PS3 enjoy. Grand Theft Auto, Unreal Tournament, etc. - are no shows on the console. This does show some uptick from the GameCube though, with titles like Medal of Honor and Scarface, and Wii owners should be hoping that the studios will be following the numbers.

- No online features until later this year means that Nintendo won't have anything to directly compare to the mature and robust Xbox Live and nothing to steal any media thunder from Sony Home.

- On the DS side of things - I'm honestly a bit disappointed in the titles of late. Yeah, Elite Beat Agents and Hotel Dusk are fun ... but I don't see anything that is going to get me nearly as jazzed as Animal Crossing or Metroid: Hunters.

Nintendo needs to ramp up manufacturing before their media halo wears off. They also need a summer title that will help make their hardware shine.

I think we can call it - the media honeymoon for the 360 is just about dead. The headstart is no more and the 360 is now in the thick of it. About this time last year the supply glut was starving 360 sales (I can't find the numbers, but they were probably about what the PlayStation 3 is now) but after the supply was raised ... sales have remained relatively stable.

The question Microsoft should be asking themselves is ... why is a new console with a small library and no online multiplayer beating the tar out of theirs?

I think that answer is simple - HDTV. I'm guessing the HD-DVD accessory sales for the 360 are still pretty miserable. 360's are currently the plaything of early adopters who have are or getting an HDTV and there still just aren't that many of them.

By comparison, the Wii costs almost half as much and plays on every television in the world. Looking at it this way - are we really surprised Nintendo is taking the spoils right now?

Hardware-wise, the 360 is too expensive for SDTV owners to consider seriously and it's lacking in features compared to the PS3 for HDTV owners. Pretty soon, MS might face a crunch between the two. HDTV owners want HDMI. They want high-def. And they don't want to buy an extra drive for it.

I wouldn't be surprised if Microsoft splits the 360 line into two new SKUs. One a low end machine which closely resemebles the current Core with perhaps the addition of a 20GB HD and a slight price reduction (or, more likely, a better bundle). The second a higher end box with HDMI, a larger HD and HD-DVD built-in. The lower end would be upgradeable to the higher end, minus the HDMI.

Finally, I'd like to see Microsoft announce a 480 requirement for all games. If they did that, SDTV owners wouldn't be reluctant to buy a lower end model and then upgrade when they go HDTV later this year or early next.

Sony is a bit of chaos right now.

127,000 units would seem to be running short from just about anyone's business plan. Where Microsoft has burned through their headstart, Sony is playing catch-up with itself. It only now announced solid details about their online strategy and showed off some gameplay you can't get on the PlayStation 2.

Sony isn't going to get a serious uptick in sales for March because nothing has changed February to March. And let's face it - a Second Life style online lobby and a physics playground is not going to add the 100k to the figures anytime soon to make the PS3 sales resemble the 360. The GDC announcements were a great first step for Sony, but they need to keep a full court press on features through the summer.

Upscaling DVD's should be paramount since that's a serious impediment to early adopters wanting to use the PlayStation 3 as a centerpiece for their living room. Blu-Ray is showing some signs of life, but until it has some market saturation ... people will be digging out their DVD libraries. Who wants to spend $600 on a machine that won't play their DVD's correctly on their big new fancy HDTV?

Since Sony won't be able to garner exclusives until they can meet the capacity required - they should be focusing on features which they can deliver quickly. Movies, music, downloadable games, etc. If they wait till June to roll this kind of stuff out with Home ... they'll be eating dirt all summer long when it comes to sales.

360 Core Auction Includes Towel Tip

Once in a while the red light problem happens on my 360, so I put a blanket on it and turn it on for about 20 minutes to let it heat up. After I take off the blanket and turn it off and I let it sit for another 20 minutes. After it works perfectly but the red light problem does come back and I have to repeat the blanket process, and it will work again perfectly!
-- Xbox 360 Core Console Gears Of War and 2 Controllers

Gee, wonder why he's selling? To be fair, his Buy It Now Price is $200, which is dirt cheap considering the extra controller and game have a street price of like $70 or more. Still, would you want to walk into a known red light problem?

Thursday, March 15, 2007

Dev Diary: Geek To Me

In my fickle way I'm considering abandoning the backstory and premise of Dreadnought (which I've never fully unfurled). The reason isn't that I don't like it - it is just that I keep thinking of it in graphical ways that aren't really an option right now. Sure, part of roguelike design is to ignore the graphics.

For now, though, I want to streamline some and create a scenario which fits the graphics. So consider a roguelike where you are a process in a remote computer, trying to take it over. There will be an "overworld" which is a network of computers. The more computers you take over, the easier it is to tackle larger and more powerful computers.

I'm trying to sketch out the mechanics. Functions as weapons, data as chests, mods as equipment, that kind of thing. Harder is trying to define the "monster" processes that will try and stop you. I'm considering some CTF elements you have to "spike" a core process (boss) with a specific item to take it over ... or something.

Any suggestions would be most welcome.

Trajectory Design Model

"Ever try to shoot a slow-flying duck while standing rigidly on a fast rotating platform, and with a gun that uses bullets which curve 90° while in flight?
-- NASA - Trajectory Design Model

More powerful than a slide rule?

Rein Agrees With Me

He [Mark Rein] also took a shot at some of the system's critics regarding the supply and demand issue.

"So wait, if they don't have enough machines in stores, that's a bad thing? If they do have enough machines, that's a bad thing? Pick one!"

Mr. Rein, if there aren't enough systems at launch and they cause craziness, that's bad. If Phil Harrison says they are completely sold out everywhere and they aren't, that's bad, or at the very least misleading. Situations can change like that.
-- Mark Rein: PS3 "the one to beat" - Kotaku

I'm not dissing Kotaku here, since this is a feint most every blog and site out there is doing right now ... but it's still a feint. It's a copout. Using Tretton's stupid exclamation (and it was Tretton, not Harrison, IIRC) as a defense for essentially using contradictory arguments to attack Sony was just silly (on many people's behalf).

When I poked someone about this recently (I won't name names), they insisted that the "shelf theory" was sound even in the face of logic. Likewise, they agreed that Microsoft's "shelved units" were equally a symbol of 360 demand ... but for some reason that wasn't a focus.

If the NPD sales number plummet or stumble, I'll buy into it. I'm not accepting counting shelf stock as any reasonable measure of demand.

I don't need no emu

I found a VGA box on Amazon and decided it might help provide a decent gaming alternative to the Mac Mini. VGA boxes theoretically take any composite feed and convert it to VGA - so you can run your old console on your fancy LCD monitor.

Apparently your mileage may vary. I got one made by Yobo and so far my results have been excellent. The PlayStation 1 and Dreamcast both ran perfectly on it. There is a RCA out for headphones or speakers. Booting up Jet Grind Radio and listening to the old tracks was a real treat.

The only real con is ... well, it's still a low res display intended for television that has been essentially upscaled. It's not like you're going to see crisp new graphics off your aging hardware - you see the same graphics with a bit of a vengeance. Plus, I'd guess the refresh rate is a bit slow because it can be a little more strain on the eyes than your standard computer monitor. Still, I played Crazy Taxi for a decent amount of time without any trouble.

There are easy wins here. Jet Grind Radio is fun to revisit even if you've beaten the game. I forgot how much of a playground that game really can be. I still have X-Com for the PlayStation (in fact, it's the only real viable platform for the game I have left). I'm trying to figure out old Nintendo64 games worth digging out. I mean, Ocarina of Time was excellent ... but do I need to play it again?

Phantasy Star Online comes in the mail pretty soon. I know the servers don't exist and the offline version isn't really the same ... but I just don't care.

Homebrewed DS Text Adventures

We can't tell you to download them (in fact, we'll tell you not to), but we can definitely applaud the technical achievement. A homebrew genius called papafuji has ported a massive selection of classic text adventures and early graphic adventure games to the DS, including all of Infocom's text adventures and Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy author Douglas Adams' interactive fiction.

These aren't just barebones ports, either: you can save games, and you can choose to enter text via an onscreen keyboard or handwriting input! And the game engine contains shorthand functionality for common commands like cardinal directions and "get".
-- Text adventures arrive on the DS via unofficial channels [DS Fanboy]

The Brother forwarded that little tidbit last night. Dang, why does this have to be homebrew? I've got a Hotel Dusk review in the hopper, trying to get enough time to get farther in the game ... but doesn't that game show that the DS could be a viable market for this? Give me an Infocom classics on the DS any day of the week.

Lost: Par Avion

So I'm willing to admit when I'm wrong. I don't think I was very wrong - but this week's episode was a little better than last week's ... so we're not bottoming out here.

However, it's not like the show is ready for takeoff again.

The best part of this episode was that Claire's backstory was revealing and relevant. Her issues with her mom neatly tie back into Charlie's impending doom. Fans had long suspected that Claire was related to Christian Shepard's bizarre booty call from the Ana-Lucia episode way back when, and this pretty much ties it together.

Everything on the beach was gold this episode. Pure gold. In the jungle? Not as shiny.

If one more character kills, yells at, distracts or pushes away someone who has advanced knowledge about the inner workings of the island ... I might just scream. Did Locke actually push that guy and then just basically say ... oops? I'll give them credit for at least trying to talk to him before pointing a random direction and saying "look over there".

And what the hell is up with Locke? One episode he acts like a worthy leader and now he's the Dr. Smith of the island.

Ivan did cough up one interesting tidbit - he was recruited. So Ben is from the island. Juliet was recruited. One Eyed Ivan was recruited. But Ben's group did war with DHARMA? Who else would have recruited them but DHARMA? So I'm guessing that at one point, everyone was DHARMA.

And then some went "hostile". Possibly loyalists to Alvar Hanso, but I don't know if that fits with the events of the Lost Experience.

When I bothered to drift through some forums, a Lost fanboy told me that he didn't think Jack would ever ask Ben about the island's history because he couldn't see why Jack would care. He didn't see how it was relevant. Why should Jack care about the numbers or the origin of DHARMA?

I'm just not sure I could ever handle characters so near sighted. Obviously things on the island simply aren't normal. So how could you possibly know what to do next without a little recon? Wargamers back me up here ... gathering intel is step zero.

Anyway, a slight improvement which at least makes me more optimistic for the season end.

Back, sorta ... maybe

I've always heard good things about MarsEdit and figured it might be able to solve my little Blogger problem. If I could draft the posts without worrying about the captcha, I could just go in later and make them live without too much effort (although the captcah will still fail sometimes the first time through).

We'll see how it goes today.

Blogger Still Busted

No end in sight to the captcha that won't let me publish. Well, OK that probably sounds ironic considering this post - but the problem specifically is that if the post takes longer than the captcha's timeout ... you can never get another capthca now.

And your post is toast, more or less. I actually had to write this, open a new create window, paste again, resubmit. Considering that's true of edits as well - it's not exactly conducive to real blogging.

Blogger's help system is a freaking nightmare. I thought I had submitted an issue last night but it seems like it vanished into the ether.

Wednesday, March 14, 2007

Technical Issues

Blogger doesn't want to post anything now because it's normally faulty captcha system refuses to return any blog posts when it fails. So you can't actually correct the captcha.

And the captcha usually fails at least once, even when entered correctly.

Annoying. Really annoying.

Hope to be back soon.

Tuesday, March 13, 2007

ESP Motion Simulator

An aviation-quality motion simulator just like the ones in our stores! Choose from an entire library of CD-ROMs for your 3-D adventures. The simulator has an eight-seat capacity and ergonomic styling, and it comes equipped with a fully digital audiovisual system. Custom exterior options are available.

For the aspiring ... um ... motionist? It's $300,000. I wasn't going to get one ... but custom exterior options! SOLD! P1MP MY ESP B1TCH3S!

Sorry. L33t off.

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100 Worst Reviewed Movies

Rotten Tomatoes has a feature out - the 100 worst reviewed movies in their database. It begins with Catwoman at 9% ... making me more than a little frightening to even go to #99.

I breezed through them. Yes, Uwe Boll makes the list with each of his movies.

Yes, one of them is very, very close to be the worst movie ever made.

I'll let you find out which one.


Animated Pong Shirt

The shirt we have here has animated and playable pong game on it. The pong the shirt needs just two AAA batteries to get it playing and well, some display mechanism that can (hopefully) withstand a good wash. Actually this isn’t a worry since all you have to do is carefully peel animated decal from front of T-Shirt by Unplugging the ribbon connector behind decal. The same has also to be done with the batter pack. This is concealed in a small pocket sewn inside the shirt
-- Atari on Your Tee, Animated! -

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TV Watch: The Riches

We almost missed the premiere of The Riches due to being out all night at a fancy dinner. Thankfully they had the 10:15 repeat because as premiere go - it was pretty darn good.

The show follows the trials of gypsy travellers - those roaming con men (and women) heavy on the bloodties and a penchant for RV's. Not to spoil the plot much more than the previews already have, the family (headed by Eddie Izzard and Minnie Driver) find themselves out of sorts in just about every way and then end up with the chance to assume the lives of well-to-do suburbanites.

A beat is rarely missed here - the acting is solid, the directing is solid, the writing is solid. There's a gritty air about the show and some realy edgy plot elements which makes it suitable for a channel like FX. With Studio 60 in purgatory and Heroes on hiatus, Riches is definately our Monday night.


Monday, March 12, 2007

Klaatu Barada Nikto References

# In the MMORPG Ragnarok Online, a vengeful sprit can be found in the town of Nifleheim. One available conversation tree leads to the player choosing "Klaatu Barada Nikto" or "Klaatu Barada Necktie" in order to send his spirit to rest.

# Also in Ragnarok Online, an NPC in Niflheim states that, "To break a curse, tell Gort, 'Klaatu Barada... oh dear, I've forgotten the last word.'"
-- Klaatu barada nikto [Wikipedia]

"Gort! Klaatu barada nikto!" is the phrase used to stop Gort from "policing" everyone to death in the classic The Day the Earth Stood Still ... although I heard it first in Army of Darkness. As the Wikipedia article indicates, it's been used frequently since then ... from Star Wars to Alice Cooper to MMO's.

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Songs Sung Simlish

Kottke points out a list of songs sung in simlish, the language of the Sims. The Girl and I still mumble "fish, fish, kettle of fish" sometimes.

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Rorschach Sighting

For the graphic novel fans following the buzz on whether 300 might be followed by Watchmen as has been oft rumored, the above image should be a treat. Solace In Cinema (who also gave the comparisons below) has the info on its appearance in a recent 300 trailer on YouTube.


300: Film To Comic Comparisons

View the whole lot of them at this photostream from Solace In Cinema.

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Game Play: Elite Beat Agents

I actually brought my nice headphones in from the office to play Elite Beat Agents on the DS over the weekend. This oddly caused something of a problem as the Flash I was playing with earlier apparently started to sing on its own after I left.


Elite Beat Agents is a spiritual sequel to Osu! Tatakae! Ouendan - a Japanese rythm game which had such a high import rate that EBA apparently became something of a no-brainer. It has a unique setup for a "dance game" which takes advantage of the DS hardware. The game really is something of a great example of using the DS ... except the normal DS speakers are really woefully underpowered. Get yourself some headphones, really, it's night and day even for the non=audiophile.

I rented EBA from Gamefly ... which was a little odd since it means some of the game was already unlocked. In fact, that was really distracting because it meant that the normal ramping up of difficulty was a bit of a hunt. In an afternoon I managed to beat all the scenarios on the easiest difficulty except for a couple.

Elite Beat Agents is a great game that everyone should at least try. I haven't decided if I'll keep it or send it back yet. It's kind of an odd, interactive, way of listening to music at the very least. I may keep it around long enough to see if I can beat the easy mode and then go from there.

Fun Fact! Keiichi Yano, vice president of iNiS and director of the game explained in an interview with, selling the game at retail in Western markets would have been infeasible due to the game's innate reliance on Japanese popular music and cultural references.[1] It was due to this fact that when Yano and iNiS began work on the North American version, the black-clad cheerleaders of Ouendan were removed and replaced with a trio of men styled after government agents, using distinctly American references such as the Blues Brothers, Ghostbusters, and Men in Black for inspiration.(Wikipedia)

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Movie Watch: 300

300 is a beautiful array of images and ideas strung together by a tight narrative. Comparisons to Sin City are unavoidable although honestly ... should be avoided. True that both movies take Frank Miller's genius of graphic novels as their source and true that they both take art direction from the comics - but 300 also has a foot in the old movie that gave Frank Miller some inspiration, 1962's The 300 Spartans. It recaptures a bit of the awe that classic movies once earned by having hundreds of extras, rolling battle scenes and lots and lots of violence.

Lots of violence. 300 is an extremely violent film. It packs battle scenes together the way most people would make a sandwich. At the same time though - it's very artistic in the display. Hard to describe - but this isn't a gorefest with shiny shields ... here the film learns from the pages of a comics and doesn't drip the entire frame in blood but maintains the figures and characters which are telling the story. Even if they are being dismembered at the moment.

Highly recommend.


Sunday, March 11, 2007

For Sunday: Stop Motion Web 2.0


Trailer Park: The Host


Trailer Park: Wii Heatseeker

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