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Friday, September 26, 2008

Excellent El Train Sticker Vandalism

While the stick people moshing, falling off train, was pretty funny, it was actually the addition of Pac-Man eating pellets from train to train that caught my eye...

Thursday, September 25, 2008

High Def Hijinks: X-Com

Been meaning to post this for a while:

That's the original PlayStation version of X-Com: UFO Defense splashed onto our 50" plasma. Tactical brilliance in pixelated glory.

And people wondered why I insisted on backwards compatibility.

Thompson Disbarred, Remains Completely Insane

As if this wasn't a treat enough:

In a disposition from the judicial body, the court stated that it had taken particular note of multiple transgressions from Thompson, including that he “made false statements of material fact to courts,” “falsely and publicly accused various attorneys of engaging in a conspiracy/enterprise involving "the criminal distribution of sexual materials to minors",” and that he “sent courts inappropriate and offensive sexual materials.”

Thompson has a maximum of thirty days left to close out his legal practice and protect his existing clients, though disbarment could come earlier should Thompson complete these responsibilities before his time expires. Thompson will not be able to reapply for admission to the Bar following his disbarment. He is also required to $43,675.35 to the Florida Bar in costs.
-- Jack Thompson Disbarred [Next Gen]

But they also point to Thompson's response as posted on Kotaku, which includes this peach:

Thompson looks forward to successfully litigating his federal claims, now before US District Court Judge Marcia Cooke in the Southern District of Florida.

Thompson always wanted to own a Bar. Now, armed with multiple US Supreme Court rulings that no state bar can do what it has done to Thompson, he is set to own that Bar.
-- Thompson Responds To Disbarment [Kotaku]

Remember that this is Thompson writing this ... about Thompson. Owning the Florida State Bar.

Sorry, BatJack, not even Fox will book you now.

Wednesday, September 24, 2008

Game Play: Spore Origins

Spore Origins is a heavily modified version of the first stage of Spore redesigned for the iPhone. One's expectation might be that it is essentially the same gameplay, but that's not entirely the case.

Spore Origins has actually far less emphasis on evolution than one might think. Customization is certainly present, and options like the ability to use your own images as textures are much appreciated, the watered down creature creator doesn't come close to the kind of flexibility as the full version. Plus, "evolution points" which can be spent on items come infrequently throughout the 30 level game and there's no ability to sell back parts to try out new ones.

Most of the gameplay involves tilting the phone to either catch or avoid other creatures. The accelerometer makes for tricky input in general, but I will give EA bonus points for adding the ability to reset the baseline angle so that you at least have the chance of being able to use it when you can't comfortably stare directly down onto your phone. Still, when gameplay requires you be careful of where you're running, going up or down gives the user scant little room to see incoming objects. I've died more than a couple times by what felt like completely accidental collisions.

The gameplay can get repetitive over time and so EA tries to mix it up occasionally. Some levels are bridge levels where you navigate through a maze. There's an attempt at a boss mechanic, but the results are pretty uneven.

What really sells the game for me is the excellent production values. The game looks great, sounds great and runs very smooth. There's a lot of attention to detail that has been hard to find in some iPhone applications to date. In the end it feels more like a decent distraction rather than a good game - a hard sell at $9.99 perhaps. This would be one game which could benefit heavily from a decent demo version so that people could try a level out and see for themselves.

TV Watch: Heroes, Season 3 Opener

While I'm not sure Heroes merited the SuperBowl style countdown we stumbled on right before the show, I will say it was a strong start to the season and worked to get us excited about this year. Granted, Heroes has always been pretty good at the beginning of the show before devolving in to a series of plot twists that general get punctuated with a confused face.

Tip of the hat to Francis Capra, who played Weevil alongside Kristen Bell's Veronica Mars, for getting on the show. It's hard to tell how much we'll see of him, being mostly a reflection and what not, but if we just got Fennel on the show we could practically call it a reunion (albeit in a wacked out alternate universe kind of way, of course).

As usual, Hiro steals the show for me - although evil future Peter is pretty interesting as well. I'm still not in love with Sylar's return or anything about that subplot, but can see how he might be a necessary character to offset Peter down the road.

Monday, September 22, 2008

TV Watch: House Premiere, Sarah Connor, Heroes Tonight

Quick make up post while I wait for servers to get done talking to each other.

The House premiere was kinda so-so, which is a bit disappointing after the unique and entertaining closer from last season. House needs to learn from shows before - the longer you go on ... the more you have to diverge from the formula.

I'd put the Sarah Connor opener in pretty average turf. The show feels like it has some legs but hasn't fully learned to run. Watching Glau as a killer robot is certainly a treat, but it only run on that juice for so long. Honestly it feels like the show is fighting against the budget more than anything else. In the end, though, it's a show I'm totally rooting for.

In what's been an uneven year for TV with some decent shows, the writer's strike, etc. - I somehow feel like we should be celebrating the return of new shows in full.

And yet kinda, sorta, not. Not sure if we'll hop on the Heroes opener tonight or just wait to download and watch later (in what has become a kind of post-Tivo time shifting tradition for us).

Microsoft Advertising Spirals On Downward

Now it seems that those "I'm A PC" ads? Created with Macs.

Don't even know where to start.

Spore gets patched

You lucky PC users get an updated version of Spore, we Mac people will have to wait a bit.

Of interest:

* Creature phase: Improved the pacing towards the end of the game, and increased the challenge in Normal and Hard modes.
* Tribe phase: Increased the challenge in Normal and Hard difficulty modes.
* Civilization phase: Increased the challenge in Normal and Hard difficulty modes.
* Space phase: Made Empires in Easy and Normal modes demand reasonable amounts of money in exchange for peace and adjust the level of punishment if the player doesn't pay
* Space phase: Made disasters less likely to occur in Easy and Normal modes and increased the time between each attack from the enemy empire when the player is at war.
-- Official Spore Patch

It always worries me a little when games need to tweak things like this. It eludes to the "maybe this is the patch that adds the fun" joke which I'm sure has only been uttered about a billion times today alone.

But seriously - war in the Space stage is a broken down mechanic, plain and simple, and I don't know if just adjusting ransom money and frequency times will fix it. The real problem is that my one spaceship versus their entire army isn't really a war - it's annoying losing battle that doesn't seem to ever stop.

Game Play: Endless Ocean

Endless Ocean is one of those games that is quite simply a hard sell. You don't blow anything up, the graphics already feel a bit dated and it wasn't made by Will Wright. It's hard to even get "scuba diving arcade sim" out with a straight face.

And insert "of course it's the best scuba diving game out there when it's one of the only scuba diving games..." at any point (actually Endless Ocean is an extension of the Everblue games for the PS2). The truth is - Endless Ocean shows some extremely smart design choices. There is a simplicity to the game that makes the whole thing a joy to play. The fundamental rule of the game seems to be: you can't really do anything wrong.

Basically you drive your boat around, dive into the water and poke fish around. Want to go somewhere else? Just select "Return to Boat" at any time. You can't get hurt. You can poke sharks to your heart's content. You don't have to worry about air or pressure or anything. Theoretically you can run out of air, I haven't done it yet but I'm pretty certain you just get magically teleported back to the boat.

Endless Ocean is a rare subgenre of gaming based pretty much solely on exploration. It's entirely possible this game would bore the heck out of you. But if it doesn't within the first ten minutes or so - you'll probably get many hours out of the game before repetition sets in. Even by the time you've scoped out most of the Manoa Lai sea, you'll have reasons to revisit areas and discover new things. Heck, I thought I had covered nearly everything only to run into a derelict ship last night.

And when it works, when you get that kind of cool chill because some enormous sea creature just emerged out of nowhere - it works really well.

Cons: it looks like it might be somewhat short and once you've gone everywhere there may be little incentive to simply complete your knowledge by poking even more fish. Honestly, the whole poking thing is not my fave and it occupies a lot of the game (to learn about fish, you interact with them, sometimes by clicking A repeatedly). It seems like the camera mechanic is underused here - I would have rather snapped shots of fish and analyzed than tapping buttons.

Also, and this totally and completely not fair and some Wii fanboy will rightfully smite me for it - but I really wish for a PS3 version of the game. With dense HD visuals and a large hard drive with downloadable content, this game would be an easier sell. This doesn't mean Wii users should pass it up though and the game is certainly a safe rental title at least.