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Friday, June 27, 2008

My Biggest iPhone Annoyance

How the hell did Apple, whose love for all things design is near holy, allow what might be the worst possible interface for download MMS messages?

The Girl sends me one. I get a text saying that I've gotten an multimedia message, a link to and randomly generated id and password. The link works on the phone - but of course doesn't link to anything *useful* since it can't send the id & password. The iPhone also lacks any cut and paste, mind you, so you end up staring at your iPhone with one hand and entering the codes with another.

And then, because AT&T's website is just so fine, sometimes you still just get a big blank white screen.

Sadly, I have no hopes that the 2.0 OS will fix it.

Wednesday, June 25, 2008

Hot Coffee Ends With A Dull Thud

In what might the best example of moral panic in history, the Hot Coffee fiasco culminated into a class action lawsuit which has now fizzled into a whopping 2,676 respondents. This is a number so small that if we crammed them all into two square miles, you could barely call that block urban. It will cost Take Two about the same as it would to buy a small luxury car to pay off the claims.

Or in other words ... wait ... one, two, three, four...

OK. Sales of Grand Theft Auto IV just paid off the claims while you were reading this post. That's how insignificant this response measures compared to the hype and craze the media, the lawyers, the politicians and let's face it - even the game industry - made out of the deal.

This speaks volumes to the fact that games, by the way, are not the domain of children alone. The most outstanding reason why this was never a big deal is that the vast majority of GTA owners are thirtysomethings who could care less about a crappy sex rhythm game when, let's face it, they have the Internet to download porn in massive volumes for free. And most of the other demographics were too busy downloading porn to care.

In the spirit of not simply dismissing things as "just a game" we can at the very least agree that San Andreas was a pretty poor method of getting your jollies.

I still say the biggest impact that Hot Coffee had was unfortunate and unintentional. The game industry, in all it's own moral outrage, left modding out to dry a bit. If Take Two does skip on a PC version of GTA IV - there will be another punctuation mark in the obit which has been the recent history of user mods.

Update This will not stop, of course, some politicians from acting like complete and utter idiots about the subject.

TV Watch: 30 Days, Same Sex Parenting

There are those, I assume, who would watch this episode and perhaps walk away thinking they just watched a woman who held true to her beliefs in the face of adversity.

If I'm to believe polls that say that a majority of people in this country still oppose equal rights for gay people, then apparently it would be a lot of people. As Kati, a Christian mom (and also an adopted child herself) goes off to live with two gay men and their four adopted kids - we get to see that adversity over and over again.

The problem that turns the episode into such a clunker is that it becomes pretty clear early on that Kati's goal for the exercise isn't to learn anything in particular but to hold firm to conviction that homosexuality is just wrong, wrong, wrong and that kids shouldn't be allowed around them.

Does the fact that the four kids raised by the two gay men seem healthy and well behaved dent her conviction? Not at all. Does the fact that one of the kids didn't even speak before living with the two gay men sway her belief? Not an iota. Does visiting the broken down foster homes where these kids could have ended up if her fight to make same sex parenting illegal move her? Well, briefly to tears it does ... but then she is quick to remind us that being gay is just wrong, wrong, wrong.

When confronted by nearly the whole set of one of the adopted kid's biological family, several of whom admitted they were worried about the Gay Agenda (TM) when they found out where the kid was going - and they confessed that the child had a much better life with the two gay men ... she screams that she is being prosecuted and storms off to the house.

At one point during the show, Kati says that she just wanted to see some facts. And yet, when presented with anything factual - she simply falls on her bible. We continually hear the same cognitive dissonance that this circle of intolerance spouts. About how they are the victims here, because clearly two gay men raising four healthy young kids half way across the country is "stepping on her toes" (her exact words). About she doesn't disrespect these people - she just believes that the happiest things in their life should be illegal, banned and swept under the bed.

Spurlock does try to flesh out some of the other side's viewpoint, including a brief (but potentially not brief enough) interview with a woman who feels she was wronged by her gay adoptive father for his sexual ways. And it sounds like she was wronged by her gay adoptive father for his sexual ways - but not because he was gay but because he was a creepy jerk.

Which is, in the end, where Kati's supposed search for facts falls finally with a resounding thud. At one point she is being forced (and complains about doing so) to hand out posters for a local gay rights group and in the process is asked why she would ban good gay parents and keep bad straight parents legal?

Religion isn't supposed to drive our legal system and there are few good reason why. For one thing, anytime a religion requires a law in order to justify itself - it ceases being a religion and becomes instead a system of governance. Secondly, religion often makes for poor logical arguments even when it makes for decent exercises in faith.

And finally, it ignores completely the basic concept of liberty to which we should hold dear. As much as Kati might feel like a victim, nobody in Michigan is trying to tell her what to do in her own home, place of work, or church. On the flipside - she is trying to remove these two men's entire life at home.

My Grandmother was one of the great God fearing women of her time. And she would tell you that simply isn't terribly Christian.

What's interesting about 30 Days I think is that often the story is as much a reflection of the specific people involved as opposed to mixing experiences. Take "30 Days In A Wheelchair", which shows as much revelation about being disabled and the hardships and struggles involved as it shows that Ray Crockett is really one hell of a guy.

While I'm sure there are some that watched "Same Sex Parenting" and walked with the thinking that Kati simply held to her beliefs - I got a lot more joy out of watching Ray empathize with his fellow people.

Tuesday, June 24, 2008

Game Play: Bad Company Single Player

I'm actually not entirely sure the demo did the single player of Battlefied: Bad Company justice. It takes place towards the middle of the first block of scenarios and places the player into moderately difficult place without much introduction.

In the full version, the player is quickly but thoughtfully brought into the action with occasional tutorial style moments, many of which are still clever and fun (in fact the first is brilliant, but I won't spoil it here).

I've spent scant little time in the Battlefield series, so I can't compare it directly with any real accuracy - but compared to modern shooters like Half-Life 2 or Doom 3, it stacks up quite well. The game manages a realistic feel, a great "inner loop" - the feedback between the player and his immediate functionality (shooting, running, etc), and yet manages to throw in the occasional unrealistic game mechanic (like a timed health boost instead of limited quantities) which just makes sense in context of play.

The framing of military orders fits into this well - it keeps a quasi-sandbox feel to the game while laying out well designed objectives.

My biggest complaint might be partly to blame on my SDTV, but I kinda doubt even a fancy new HD set would make those enemies pop out in any greater detail. There's a little bit of fun in trying to watch for movement and react quickly - but there's less fun in getting pelted by someone with little to go on but gunfire flare to determine the position. There are times when playing the game when it feels less strategic and more like running for cover while spraying areas with fire.

A couple graphical glitches hit as well, like disappearing vehicles and the occasional shearing (which, again, might have something to do with mashing the screen down to SDTV). In general, though, the game looks simply wonderful.

I've generally been bored with military based shooters since abandoning Counter-Strike so many years ago - but Bad Company's single player might be one I actually mean to finish.

Sunday, June 22, 2008

Game Play: Send Mario Kart Wii Friend Requests

We finally got a chance to play The Brother and wife online for a little Kart action. It was completely wonderful but most people really don't need a blog post about that.

What you might need a blog post about is the fact that you can send a friend invite to play Kart online to anyone in your address book without pulling a pen and paper out and copying some annoying unique ID.

It's true. This oddly hidden feature is on the Friends screen where you can normally register them, but you have to wait for the little scrolling bar at the bottom to say something like "Send Invite To A Friend". Only then will clicking on it allow you to pull up your address book and send someone a nice little wiimail that they can easily use to accept said invitation.

Why this feature is so obscurely hidden when it is just sooooo damn handy I have no idea. Even after Big Bro had sent it once, it took him a while to find the way to do it again.

Horrible interface design, Nintendo, just simply dreadful.

But now you know, and knowing is half the battle.

TV Watch: Battlestar Galactica, Revelations

Finally getting this up, I know.

Spoilerifics to follow. Read at your own risk if you haven't made it to Season 4's mid-finale.

I'm not exactly sure what I was expecting from this episode, especially with all the buzz that was surrounding it. This probably wasn't it. Somehow I had assumed that the precipice that the Cylon rebels and the Colonials had created was going to follow with some kind of epic level tragedy. It made me wonder things like, would the creators destroy the show's namesake and that kind of thing.

This is what I love about shows with finite endings. The show can take any angle it needs and it doesn't have to worry about keeping the handsome hero around for ratings.

What we got was much better, I think. My only real complaint is that it feels a little bit like we got shortchanged with the impact of the four being revealed, although seeing Adama go to pieces was a pretty choice scene and Lee's standoff with D'Anna was well worth it as well.

I'm guessing that we'll have more of to follow. Instead, the writers wanted to get us to their end scene of choice - the broken, apocalyptic, devastated remains of Earth.

Not that the sight was a huge shock. Firstly this is a show which has never allowed characters to get off easy. Second, if we follow that the show has more than a little religious undertones, then we won't get grace just by parking ships in orbit.

It does raise some interesting questions though - who exactly did all the bomb dropping and when. If the Cylons were, in general, unaware of Earth, then why exactly were there five hidden models that knew the way? How much of this ties into the "This has all happened before" mantra from a season or so ago.

Especially since, in reality, the four didn't know the way to Earth. They were just there to help open the envelope. Starbuck was the messenger - or rather Starbuck's ship was the messenger.

And to paraphrase Starbuck, it all makes it seem like there's someone pulling the strings. If you look at the whole show as an organized plan to rediscover Earth ... which seems the only explanation since Earth would still be missing without some pretty divine intervention, the real remaining questions would be - who is the puppetmaster?

Or rather, without putting to deep a point on it, the show is asking: Who is God?

And should we read too much into the fact that the final model is as of yet unrevealed. Would they be one and the same? Was D'Anna being specific with the whole "there are four" statement in the sense that the fifth isn't part of the fleet or that the fifth was already on the Baseship?

My money is still on Roslin, Baltar or some yet unseen character. Definitely looking forward to the show's conclusion.

Game Play: PAIN

I feel like I should say something like "if you can get past the whole human torture thing" to describe PAIN - but I feel like that's doing the game an injustice. The whole fact that you're slinging a human into a physics playground full of monkeys, mimes and explosive crates is just part of the hilarity.

The premise is simple - through either chain reactions or the use of "Ooch", which allows you to push your slung avatar post launch, do as much damage to the character and existing world as possible. Despite this take, the game isn't even an ounce gory, but rather sticks to cartoonish designs befitting the much maligned objects in the game.

PAIN is far more rounded than one might expect for a budget download. Single and multiplayer games give the game more than a few options, the graphics are good (even on our still hanging in there SDTV) and there are few games which allow you to say "sorry, The Girl is throwing mimes through plate glass ... call back?"

For the price, PAIN is an easy recommendation for PSN users.