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Friday, February 22, 2008

Ghost N Goblins, Pacifist Style

Insert credit points the way to a truly excellent video of getting to the first level boss on Ghosts and Goblins without harming a sprite (the boss, however, must die).

It's apparently part of this Something Awful thread about amusingly difficult game challenges.

Valve Says "No Refund" To Broken Software

So my attempt to download The Club from Steam has ended in miserable failure and to Steam support's suggestion that it is all Sega's fault, I just responded that I wanted a refund.

I get a one line response:

As with most software products, we will not offer refunds for purchases made online as outlined in the software license - please review Section 4 of the Steam Subscriber Agreement for more information.

Sure, I can see if I was bitching about framerates or complaining that the graphics suck or something ... I can kinda see their point. If I had played the game for a few hours and didn't like it ... I can see their point. They were selling a game, not a demo, and there's a certain amount of buyer responsibility there.

But Valve didn't sell me a game. They sold me an error box. I've never so much as seen a splash screen from this software. They have no clue how to fix it and Sega's support site is likewise blank. I spent $50 for an error box and for Steam to chew up some more of my hard drive.

What's more to the point is .... Valve should know all of this. For the love of all things, this is what Steam does. It gives Valve a gateway into the games I've purchased with them. They control whether I can play it or not. They log how much I play them. There is no technical reason they can't use this software to look at my account, realize I've never been able to keep the game running for more than a couple seconds, and remove my access from it.

But they won't - and here's why and why you should never buy anything from Steam. Steam is not designed to protect the consumer. It has one purpose in life and that is to protect Valve. Valve's response to you ... even if Steam throws a wrench, breaks down and keeps you from playing the games you have paid for ... will be sod off.

If I had bought the stupid game at Best Buy and ran into the same problem (which I bet I wouldn't - I'm willing to bet this is still a Steam problem) I'd be able to return it for store credit. I could get some candy or something instead of a bag of screw you which Valve is offering.

Now, Valve is perfectly capable of giving refunds and I've pointed that out to them. If they don't grant that by the end of today, I'll just call my credit card company and deny the charge this weekend.

I still get my $50. Steam will get removed from my hard drive and I'll likely never, ever buy another Valve product for any platform ever again. I don't care if Portal 2 or Half-Life 3 is the greatest game ever made, Valve's customer support is borderline criminal.

And I'll likely add a "Don't Buy From Valve (Or Steam)" block on the blog.

To clarify: Under Steam's Subscriber Agreement you are obligated to pay for the software before you actually receive it.

However, Valve is not contractually obligated to actually deliver that software to you. They could download a completely non-functional block of code to Steam's secret vault. It could be a text file encrypted to say "Ha Ha". You still have to pay and Valve does not (and apparently will not) refund your money. It is quite honestly the least consumer friendly piece of technology written in the modern age.

Use it at your own risk.

Updates: As soon as they referred me to their refund policy, I became persona non gratis to Valve. They continued to ignore the ticket even when I asked for it to be escalated, and even when I informed them I would take it up with my credit card and the BBB.

Both of which I've now done.

To date I have no verification that Valve ever delivered the software for which I paid.

TV Watch: Lost, Eggtown

Eggtown? I guess we were supposed to read more into Locke breaking eggs and babies being a theme or something?

While I thought Eggtown was pretty good, I think there is a noticeable trend here with Lost overall. The episode focused heavily on Kate as a character and her plight with her mom and her plight as a fugitive and her plight with Sawyer and ... OK basically it was about her plight. And honestly it was fairly solid as that stuff goes and gives us some greater detail into her plot. So unlike some of last season's fluff pieces, this was pretty good television.

But wow golly was it slow. There were only three big events: Miles talking to Ben, Kate's release and the revelation that somehow Kate gets Aaron (Emilie de Ravin might want to start updating that resume now). And I do like how that last one ties back into Kate's reluctance to let her crazy ass mom back into her life, but the first one was classic Lost - a whole episode to open some new questions without answering much of anything.

Naturally my favorite part was Locke putting a grenade in Miles' mouth. OK, a bit of an extreme measure but at least someone realizes that getting these people talking about the bigger picture is probably key to their survival. Kate going to similar extremes just to find out if Miles "knows her" was kinda silly, to be honest. It's like the island removes all deductive reasoning. Miles has already shown he has a decent stack of information about the Losties - it wouldn't be hard to assume he had her rap sheet as well.

I'll be interested to see how the writers tie Ben into this whole global game of assassination back into DHARMA. Considering Ben was just the son of a janitor until Batmanuel Forever helped him betray everyone, he sure seems to have done plenty with himself. It's possible the Island chooses champions (Jacob, Ben, Locke, Hurley) and uses its freaky powers to help them in some quest.

If that's true, though, are the frieghties then pretty much the anti-Losties? And if so, is there an anti-Island somewhere?

Thursday, February 21, 2008

Is The Force Coming To Blu-Ray?

Having already defeated Toshiba's Death Star, the good old AsianMack sent along this link to an Amazon page for the original Star Wars trilogy on Blu-ray Disc.

My current theory is that Amazon employees, especially ones with access to their CMS, like to get drunk just like the rest of us. LucasFilm says it is a clerical error. Lucas dragged his feet until he was good and sure everyone had bought the VHS format at least once before rushing to DVD, and I would think that his love for money has probably not waned in recent years.

Plus - is anyone else afraid what he might do with another chance to mess with his work? I see Jar-Jar talking to an ewok and am cold and afraid.

This Is Why PC Gaming Is Dying

I had Steam download The Club last night in an attempt to keep from being bored with my PC. I got a break from work, and I was working from home today, so I figured I'd take about a half hour, have some fried chicken and try it out.

It launches. First I get a popup telling me I need to write down a reg key for multiplayer mode. And by write down, it's not kidding, you can't seem to highlight and copy the text or anything. Whatever, I pull up Notepad and jot it down. I send the popup along its way.

DirectX rears its ugly head and insists on installing .... um, nothing I think. But it wanted to be sure, so, ok, whatever. It does its thing and disappears.

Screen goes dark. I put on the headphones. I make sure my fingers are clean from fried chicken goodness.

I hear that wonderful Windows alert noise. Screen stays blank. I tab out to the desktop and see two error boxes. One is Windows firewall telling me that The Club wants to do something nasty with the Internet. I tell it that's just rubbish and to go away. The other is a JIT compiler error. I'm hoping one has caused the other, so I relaunch the game. It reminds me about that reg key thing again, launches, goes black and crashes. JIT error.

Fine. I reboot. Rebooting fixes things. I reboot, launch the game.

Screen goes blank.



Steam pops up a window asking if I'd like to take a hardware survey. I tell it would not. I try to find some kind of handy left-click off "The Club" which will help. Something like "find updates" or "patch this crap" or "work, damnit" but the closest I see is a link to visit the forum. So I hit that. No word on a JIT error, just some guy complaining about the graphics. And a big link at the top reminding me about that whole "Ask A Question" thing which represents Steam support.

I click that and get sent eventually to a page which tells me there's an error because I'm already logged in. I go through the hoops to "Ask A Question", which is hard at one point because The Club isn't even listed under the games list and another because it wants things like "CD Key" and I don't know if that's the same key as before and I'm too lazy to care, so I just send it along anyway.

Steam support tries to be friendly and offers me three knowledge base articles on "cafe" to see if that helps.

It doesn't. This time I did get response from an actual Steam support person who asked if validating the local cache would help.

It doesn't.

So this is why PC gaming is dying. And yes, it is dying. It is getting smaller while game sales in general is getting larger. You can say it isn't isn't isn't but it is, is is ... and this is why:

Users are annoyed with the PC game publishers. We're tired of the copy protection crap crashing the games, the installation hassles, the endless patches, selling us beta software and lousy, half-assed technical support.

PC game publishers are annoyed with the users. They're tired of throwing money at useless solutions to solve piracy, endless hardware configurations and annoying bloggers who send them drunken rants at the early hours of the morning.

PC gaming is dying because it is quickly getting to the point where it is too annoying to be left alive.

Update: Steam support just responded with a link that can basically be summarized as "blame Sega". Need any more proof?

Movie Watch: The Lookout

Joseph Gordon-Levitt might just have the best eye for a script going right now. We saw Brick a while back and thought it was just an amazing mashup of high school and film noir. The Lookout is a more serious and somber, but in many ways a better film. Levitt plays one of the most beautifully broken main characters to come across the screen in some time. Jeff Daniels is simply brilliant as well.

I'd like to rattle on and on about the plot and other details ... but this movie has some charm to it when you walk in without knowing much about it and what's happening. It's not that it is overly twisty in terms of surprises or anything, in fact some of the events are broadcasted well in advance. Still, the movie has a very distinct flow to it and builds a lot of anticipation and tension slowly.

Highly recommend.

Wednesday, February 20, 2008

Team Fortress 2 "Big Update"

Jeebus, am I missing something here? I had to reinstall Steam ... again ... wait for TF2 to download all over again ... have it update ... again ... reboot because the update crashes the box and .....

.... drum roll ....

It looks like I get one new map out of the deal? That's it?

City Life: Hoboes On Chicago Avenue

Chicago has it's fair share of hoboes. I pass by them on my way to work every day. Some people call them bums (or worse), but I'm not sure this does their chosen profession any real service. A bum is just someone you don't like ... a hobo is practically a lifestyle.

Two excellent examples last night. One was the one eyed (medical patch), clearly intoxicated, hobo who wandered into traffic quite voluntarily and wavered his way in front of a car. A normal hobo might have shown fear here ... but this guy simply held out his hand (and all of this was especially impressive since I think the oncoming danger was to his blind side) and waited for the car to stop. Then he wagged his finger in disapproval and stumbled the remaining three feet to the curb.

If that wasn't impressive enough, one hobo out of a group of many leaned to me while passing and asked for twenty dollars. Twenty bucks. Not the usual twenty cents that hoboes seem to be always missing for that bus fare they need to get to that job interview they think they have ... but twenty whole bucks.

Very enterprising.

PlayStation 3 Launch In Hindsight

When Sony launched the PlayStation 3 - they got a lot of criticism. And by a lot, I mean every corner of the mainstream and most every online outlet on the planet had something to say about it, mostly negative - some of it reasonable ... some of it not.

Engadget HD looks back at the now finished format war and declares the PlayStation 3 was probably the deciding factor. It was a good quality Blu-Ray player at a reasonable cost (despite what one might think of the cost historically as a game console) and put the format into a lot of alpha tech buyers who then proceeded to buy enough titles to help push studios into Sony's corner.

So the launch which was described by some in the blogosphere as "suicidal" has now put Sony (actually, the Blu-ray Disc Association) into a front row seat for the high definition generation. Microsoft, on the other hand, has already had to reverse course on several design decisions for the 360 - including resolution and HDMI connections.

That optional hard drive and add-on high def player probably isn't far along. Unless, of course, Redmond changes tactics completely and goes the Nintendo route. If they make it "all about the games" and try and make the 360 simply the simplest, cheapest console they can ...

... oh c'mon ...this is Microsoft we're talking about and they could never be satisfied with limiting Xbox Live with such things. While they hem and haw over what to do next, market analyst predict the format decision will up PS3 about 10%. Honestly that seems pretty pessimistic to me. We are now less than a year away from the digital TV conversion and high def sets have found pretty acceptable price points for many consumers. This is going to be a big Christmas for HD and the PS3 will be sitting right there in the front row.

Here's CNet saying much the same thing.

Tuesday, February 19, 2008

360 Red Ring Of Death At GDC

Via Engadget.

So let's recap the week the 360 is having:

Sony outsold it.
Toshiba dropped HD-DVD.
Microsoft can't keep all of them running at a conference.

Time for a serious hardware revision? Ya think? Maybe?

Monday, February 18, 2008

Audiosurf - Your MP3 In Music Based Game

Thanks to El Sterno for find this one. I haven't tried it yet, actually, but it is the kind of thing I was toying with as an iTunes plugin.

Except with much, much better graphics:

Steam sells it for a ten spot, it seems (if you can get Steam to run).

Jack Thompson - Video Games Media Man And Complete Douchebag

Wow. After offering his "free" services to NIU to explain to them just how evil video games are (trust me, I've seen the email exchanges Jack has ... he does nothing for free) ... he threatens to sue NIU in the wake of the shooting.

Way to be compassionate in the face of tragedy there, crusader. What's fascinating is that this happens after Jack's offer to come explain how video games caused all this grief. What? They said no and so you threaten to sue them?. Clearly, that's the only Christian thing to do. Fox News - you do know how to pick your "experts", don't you?

What wrong has NIU committed that has brought old BatJack to bring the courts to their table at this grim time? He seems to think that they have a stash of secret documents pertaining to the shooter's love of Counter-Strike.

Yup. And what you have to love about Jack is that he is such an attention whore - he is the one to fax the fact he's doing this to other people. He's proud to be annoying people with his batshit insanity during their time of grieving.

Steam ... Validating ... some more .... again ...

I should have taken some new comments to the old old post about Steam constantly validating as a clue that the fun might not have been over.

Sure enough, after a long day of work I try to load up the new TF2 updates ... but I can't. Why? Because Steam is broken. Once again after updating the game, it doesn't know how to do anything but validate things. 100% validating, over and over again.

Hey, maybe I should contact Valve's customer support and see if I have any more luck than your average joe ... except wait - I'm still waiting a response from my first complaint. Oddly, I'm getting an image in my head and it looks a bit like Gabe Newell's middle finger.

Seriously, this game is the slender thread holding me to PC gaming anymore. And Valve is holding a knife to it every single time they patch a game. Brilliant, just brilliant.

Honestly, I'm a PC gamer at heart. Just someone tell the people responsible to stop sucking the fun out of even owning a PC in the first place.

Sunday, February 17, 2008

Format War Officially Over - Toshiba drops HD-DVD

Wired via Reuters reports Toshiba is cancelling HD-DVD manufacturing, putting the consumer choice between Blu-Ray and that format to rest. Wired notes that Blu-Ray sill has to face the many download options which users have at their disposal, which is a widening array including torrents, web-based flash players and iTunes.

Obviously this is excellent news for Sony, whose PlayStation 3 could see a continued bump in sales. Whether this means Microsoft will swap their external HD-DVD player for a Blu-Ray or try to increase their downloadable offerings has yet to be seen, although the hard drive being optional (and quite small on some models) can't make that latter an easy option.

Update: Engadget reports that Toshiba cries 'not dead yet!' ... but sadly nobody really cares anymore.

Update 2: The possibility of an "Ultimate" 360, with internal Blu-Ray and the rest of the "Elite" offerings, has widened. Do us a fave, Microsoft, and toss WiFi in there too, will ya?