Someone once told me that in life, instead of just paying people to do work for you, you should always try to do something yourself at least once. "That way," he said, "you'll know how much you're willing to pay someone to do it for you."

That piece of advice has always rung true for me. I already have a natural tendency towards fixing things myself, as Colure can attest. Granted I've got a better success rate with plumbing than, say, electronics, but I do what I can.

I'm also fussy about having random people in the house. Call it paranoia, suspicion, or just plain rudeness, but I don't much care for it and like to avoid it at all costs. So, at no point in my life will you ever see me hire movers, cleaners, or probably even painters (even though sometimes the thought is incredibly tempting).

That being said... there are three things that I will never, ever attempt to do by myself, and will gladly pay anyone whatever exorbitant fee they require of me for the service. Some of them are based in lack of knowledge. Others because, well, they're kind of icky. All are based in utter fear.

1. Car Repairs - I once took the ASVAB, which is a test to help determine military placement should you enlist. I had the second highest score in my high school... but had the lowest score on the automobile section. Period. I trust myself to do nothing more then change a battery, and that's it.

2. Pest Control - This one is kind of obvious. I mean, no one's going to spray their own house with hazardous chemicals. But Home Depot sure sells plenty of mouse traps and other forms of rodent elimination, and you won't see me buying any of it. I'm not saying that I'd only ever pursue non-lethal means either... this is just one of things that I will unabashedly puss out of every time.

3. Ironing - I realize compared to the previous two this is serious weak sauce, but I have an undeniable fear of ironing. I have opted to go to events with a wearing a suits with a topographic wasteland of wrinkles over attempting to use an iron, and why? Because that's a much better option than showing up with a burned shirt, which is what I'm sure will happen if I attempt to use this deadly clothes torturer. Fortunately I have a wife. Unfortunately she hates ironing. We may have to pursue acquiring another weapon of massive wrinkle-destruction.

I'm sure everyone has at least one of these. In fact I'm also pretty sure that the first two are pretty popular choices for a lot of people.

Posted by Kevin on 11:19 AM

Back in August I decided to sign up for NaNoWriMo on the basis that:

1) It seemed like one of those things I would regret not doing
2) It sounded cool
3) It was a very slow job hunt day

If you're not familiar with NaNoWriMo, well! You should be. The idea is simple: Write a novel in a month. That's it. No one's saying it's gonna be good. In fact, they warn you that it might very well be very bad.

But nothing's gained from not trying, right? Besides, my wife and a couple friends are doing it too, so, you know, peer pressure. You don't want to be the lone dude sitting outside of the circle.

I have no less than three ideas, although two of them might be the same. One is comedic and the other is not, unless, of course, it is. I'm not sure. I'm not really what you'd call a planner. I stopped doing outlines in college because early on it became clear to me that I was doing better on my exam essays than I was my actual papers, which is not usually how it's supposed to work. The trick was to try to write more like I did when sitting down for a test, so I dumped outlines and just figured it out as I went along. As a result, I started Acing papers, and found other ways to bring down my grades from there. I used to feel bad about this, but it turns out I'm far from the only one - in fact, there's a couple writers I really admire who are the same exact way.

None of this has anything to do with gaming really, except to say that, as a warm-up for NaNoWriMo, I'm going to start trying to use this blog more often - if only to get used to constructing words into sentences once more, if not quite doing actual preperation.

In other words: Still here. Will update.

Posted by Kevin on 1:28 PM


Way too tired for short sunday write up. Also, uh, not much to write up. it was pretty much line-event-line-event-line-event-end-depression. but that doesn't mean it wasn't awesome because it was totally awesome. I'd go so far to say it was a bonafide ride on the U.S.S. Awesome!1. And you know who the captain of that ship is.


In short: Old Republic looks incredible, wil wheaton is awesome, and I've never yelled so hard about a match of skeeball in my entire life. These are the things only PAX can provide and now that it's gone I'm definitely feeling the loss.

PAX is over and I am sad. I will enjoy the next couple days of seattle immensely and then I will return to overtly-warm climate and eastern time zones and be a little depressed for a week. I'll talk to you then and maybe do a decent write up, sometime while I'm knee-deep in youtube videos of PAX events I missed and trying to find a way to time travel back a week.

Posted by Kevin on 12:02 AM


Friday was pretty much a slam dunk, so I definitely woke up with a spring in my step today, excited for what Saturday would bring. Since Expo Hall was a little low yesterday (although already higher then last year's total, frankly) I came determined to preview more games, starting with my personal favorite, Mass Effect 2. While I might be a bit biased towards all things Mass Effect, there's no doubt in my mind that right now Bioware is crafting their own Empire Strikes Back in the second part of this video game trilogy. And I cannot wait to get my hands on it.


Other games played today included horse-bucking Darksiders (surprisingly fun, really debated preordering it for free shirt), LEGO Rock Band (Rock Band with LEGOs, not much more to say), and then later in the day Beatles Rock Band (just for fun, since it comes out in like, 3 days) and Star Trek Online. Which, uh, was something special. I've waited a long time to play a game that actually really captured the Star Trek experience, and while this is certainly still early into the process (game won't be out until next year), I think they nailed it. Hell, extended quests are called "episodes" and designed to last around 45-60. There's a lot of love put into this, and I think it'll make a great product.

Panels were at a low today. We missed Old Republic demo because the Make a Strip went long and had quite a few complications. Not that I really minded, truth be told. It was still entertaining from start to finish, with only a minimum of bad/weird questions (the worst being an actual stalker detailing some of her missed attempts at stalking. Ugh.) I gotta say that the make-a-strip is the one thing I feel like I must do every year, and issues aside, I definitely walked away feeling the same way this year.

Had a couple other interesting events occur today, but not sure how much I want to blab about them. What I can say is that the show's been excellent, and that while I'm excited for tomorrow, I'm also incredibly depressed that this show is coming to an end. I really love PAX, and even though it's a huge cross-country trip for me, it's completely worth it.

At this point? I'm not sure that I can stop going.

Posted by Kevin on 11:49 PM
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Quick post before I konk out in bed: Friday at PAX was pretty awesome. Line to get in was absolutely insane, but it moved fast and we were in the expo hall quickly. Spent the better part of an hour and a half wandering and seeing the sights, while also giving the mechanical horse promotion for Darksiders a go. After that, we did some PA Q&A, met Kris Straub and Wil Wheaton, had some food, hit up the Scott Kurtz panel, and then ended the night with a Rock Band tourny entry (which won't go down as our best performance of "Carry on my Wayward Son", but might certainly have been the most fun), before finally settling into some console freeplay, giving the 1990 Nintendo World Championship cartridge a roll.

Ultimately I'd say the day was partially successful, if only because we missed the ODST panel (due to Q&A going long) and the DS World Record Attempt (because it was poorly planned), but despite both those setbacks still had an absolute blast. Honestly, the day worked out great and any complaints I have are far overshadowed by how much fun was had.

PAX is pretty much the best con I've ever been to, and this year so far has definitely surpassed my previous experience. There's just a lot more space for everything, and as a result the place feels less crowded, even though I know it's about 15,000 more people. I feel like I've already done so much, and yet it's only Friday. I have two more days and I still don't want this weekend to end.

Tommorrow's planned schedule is a lot more open, so we'll see where the day takes us. Also - this took longer then expected. Sleep needed now.

Posted by Kevin on 1:11 AM
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At the airport now on my way to what is essentially the gamer prom. This'll be my second pilgrimage to Gaming Mecca and I'm pretty excited. Last year was pretty overwhelming at times, but now I'm a PAX veteran and I'm a lot more confident about the trip. The plan for con-conquest is solid, with a good amount of leeway room for Expo Hall and whatever else we feel like. I'll admit – I'm still a little torn about whether to do either the Keynote/PA Panel #1 or the HAWP Panel, but the wife seems to be leaning towards Keynote, so I guess that's how we'll roll.

Either way this vacation is going to be awesome, and I expect that PAX won't disappoint. Here's hoping we manage to fit everything in!

Posted by Kevin on 11:36 AM
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Last week made it official: Bethesda has finally finished releasing DLC for Fallout 3. And what a trail of destruction they have left in their wake - 5 DLC packages at 10 bucks a pop. At fifty bucks, that's practically the cost of whole other game. So, you might be wondering, is it equivalent to the content of a new game, and if so, is it awesome?


In short, it is awesome, but not really worth 50 dollars total. I don't know. It's hard. Each content feels like it's mostly worth it, but when you add it all up... on some level, doesn't feel quite right. But Fallout 3 is a great game, and getting more content for it is utterly delightful.

So let's do a quick rundown on each DLC if you haven't taken the plunge. That being said, if you don't yet own Fallout 3, wait. They're releasing a Game of the Year edition in October with all of this included, and your wallet will be much happier with that version.

Without further ado...

Operation Anchorage
In some ways, it's the most fun I had in Fallout 3; I loved being presented with a very different scenario that was a joy to play through from start to finish, even if it features a smaller scope then some of the later DLC.

Worth it? Probably not; buy it anyway.


The Pitt
Fascinating look into how other parts of the Wasteland are surviving, with a moral choice that displays greater complexity then the typical "kill extended family vs. send kitten to college" option - oh, and it's fun too, albeit a bit short.

Worth it? It's great but 10 dollars? Not sure, but I can say that the thought of paying 20 bucks for the Operation Anchorage/The Pitt combo found in stores seems a little high.

Broken Steel
Of all the DLC it's probably my least favorite quest line (with the exception of the very beginning), but it's a must have; fixing the game's ending and raising the level cap provides some welcome revisions to make this great game work even better.

Worth it? If you only buy one DLC, this is the one to have. Without a doubt, yes.

Point Lookout
Like the Pitt it adds a whole seperate area to explore, but there's much more to see and do here beyond the main quest line, and creates a unique environment reminiscint of the survival horror genre; of all the DLC, this one caters most to those who wish to explore.

Worth it? Oh yeah

Mothership Zeta
This will probably be a love-it-or-hate-it add-on, but I couldn't get enough of it; that being said, it is a very different piece of content, and doesn't particularly feel like Fallout so much as some sort of sci-fi extraveganza - personal tastes are the key factor here.

Worth it? Maybe, if you're down with something different and the thought of taking over an alien ship is your kind of thing.

Honestly, I really enjoyed all of the DLC - in a lot of ways, it's the best stuff the game has to offer. Through deals and discounts, I ended up paying 40 bucks for all of it, which still seems high, but you know what? Price isn't everything. Oblivion's Shiviring Isles expansion cost 30 bucks and while there was certainly enough content to justify the price, I thought it was awful.

You know what? Forget price - if you enjoy Fallout and want more, this DLC is some of the best I've ever played, period.

Posted by Kevin on 8:01 AM

Tonight's iteration of 1 vs 100, Microsoft's unique take of an online gameshow, is hosted by the crew of Penny Arcade. Which should be fun. But there's no topping last week's 1 vs 100 experience for me.

As an idea, I think 1 vs 100 is great. There's a basic fun to gameshows, and people have been yelling out the answers to Jeporady! for years. 1 vs 100 gives you a chance to participate in a way that's a bit more meaningful, even if you are just a glorified audience member. Nevertheless, it's a blast, and a fun one to pull out when having a few friends over.

I suppose another appeal is that YOU could be IN the SHOOOOOOOOOOW but to be honest I never put a whole lot of stock into that. Wasn't what made the game fun.

Imagine my surprise when I got thrown into the Mob (the 100 against the 1) last week after playing a few matches. Things got real, fast.

As much fun as playing the game casually is, it gets intense when suddenly you're up for prizes. Compared to typical game shows, the prizes really aren't much of anything, but the idea that you could win something is actually quite exciting.

Granted, I didn't actually win anything. Unfortunetly for me, the 1 that my 100 was up against wasn't all that great, and was using a lot of lifelines early on to get through some fairly easy questions. When he had a chance to take the money and run, he did... even though it was only 800 points (10 bucks :P)

So yeah, had a taste of the agony of gameshow defeat. Kind of felt like the guy who bid 1 dollar on the Price is Right only to get screwed by another contestant who bid 2 dollars instead. But it was still fun and made me enjoy 1 vs 100 all the more, which is probably the point. It's something very unique and fun, and these days those are the two things that I want to experience most when I pick up a game.

Posted by Kevin on 6:47 AM

Commanding an army of ancient machines can be a lot of fun. Maintaining them... not so much. For the most part, they don't really require a whole lot of attention. They're plugged in and ready to go whenever, but they don't recieve anywhere near as much use as they did in their hey-dey. So, in theory, you'd think they'd last indefinitely, but you'd be wrong.

Unfortunetely, the laws of nature dictates that all things must march on towards a state of entrhopy, a law that technology is not inherently immune to. Sometimes stuff just doesn't work. One month you're playing your Dreamcast without any issues, then next month you're got it upside down with a towel wrapped around it with a book inbetween. There's no real law to it and a million reasons why it might not work. Stuff happens.

When something does go wrong, I've found that the problem tends to fall into one of three stages of broken. The higher up it goes... the worst it gets.

STAGE 1: Game is Busted - The first go-to check on a old console that's not working is to try another game. More often than not it's the game, not the system, that's giving you problems. Sometimes you can fanagle something, but almost always this means your game is dead. Not fun, but sometimes preferable to a dead console

STAGE 2: Cords are Busted - If the games clearly aren't the problem, the next stage involves praying that it's just a console's power adapter or A/V cord that's the problem. This isn't as unusual as you think - I've lost a couple power adapters over the years, and have had some A/V fail on me. Usually it's not a big problem to replace, although some of the more unusual systems may give you trouble. However, often times you'll find that certain systems share components with each other - the Sega Master System and the Genesis share the same A/V and RF cords, and the Virtual Boy has the exact same power adapter as the Super Nintendo.

STAGE 3: System is Dead - This one hurts. Sometimes your system is just dead. You can attempt surgery, and you might have some luck with older systems, but often times there's no clear indicator of what the problem is. Some systems also change their hardware over time - I have three different Dreamcasts and none of them look the same on the inside. When system failure does occur, most often the only result is complete replacement.

My Atari 2600's been on the fritz the last couple months and finally bought it. It's the third system I've had to replace (2 Dreamcasts, 2 360s) , and while I'm not thrilled about it, it's a pretty good track record all things considered. A funeral may be held sometime soon, we'll see. I have to decide on a replacement first. I had a jr. model, so I might opt to get one of the more classic, boxier versions manufactured by pot smoking hippies. Or I might delay a 2600 replacement and finally get a 7800 (which is backwards compatabile).

Either way, hitting Stage 3? Always a bummer, but I think the fun of having a console army on hand more then makes up for it.

Posted by Kevin on 6:55 PM

Despite featuring a nonsensical plot and a protagonist that's closer to serial killer than "anti-hero", running off buildings, falling from skyscrapers, and kicking helicopters is a blast from start to finish.

Side Note: wtf is with those brackets in the title?

Posted by Kevin on 9:53 AM

A few weeks back Colure and I decided to embark on a small adventure for my birthday: visiting any and all legitimate, non-Gamestop used video game stores in the Greater Orlando region. I knew of one, and a few phone calls and google searches confirmed two others, one of which was part of a newer chain that had a few stores open in the region. The other had a name and logo that was practically begging Gamestop to sue them. That's not a whole lot of stores, but then again I didn't expect to find much more.

I've always had an affinity for independent used video game stores. As a rule, they were always more likely to have more unusual products, and the selection just seemed vast. I've been trying to frequent them all my life: when I was a kid in South Florida, it was the Video Game eXchange; in middle school, I always counted on Microplay. For college years, it was Cybertron. But all of those stores had the same ending; none of them lasted.

These sort of stores have always struggled, and there's plenty of reasons why. One Cybertron employee once summarized the problem by saying that their biggest issue was that people were trading them crap they couldn't sell. It's a fair point. My eyes might light up when I see a stack of TurboGrafx games, but how many people actually care? Other issues come into play when gauging how much new stock to take in, and how much you can expect to turn around. Gamestop has done well for itself in this regard, but it's a big name brand with deep pockets - chances are good that the casual customer is much more likely to dump their old games with them. A Cybertron customer would probably just ebay it. Maybe Gamestop customers are fine about just getting store credit, but at Microplay? No dice - it had to be cash.

But as much as these stores have struggled in the past, I really think that nowadays it's a sort of business that's impossible to do, for two big reasons.

1) Internet - It is impossible to compete with the internet in two critical categories - price and selection. Price is incredibly low, selection is virtually unlimited. How do you compete with that? There's a lovely little shop in Winter Springs called S+F Video Games that I visit once every few months or so. I'd go there more often except that their selection is fairly so-so; you're not likely to find the older game you had in mind, and the times they do have something worthwhile, it's marked up higher than it's worth. If anything, my visits there just inspire me to hit up ebay for something, and that's not good.


The solution for a lot of stores is to utilize the internet, whether it be selling on ebay or operating your own storefront. That's certainly a step in the right direction, but it still presents difficulties - instead of just competing with other stores, you have to compete with the guy cleaning out his attic, who doesn't really care what he gets for any of the things he's selling, just that he gets some money. That's stiff competition, and while it's something I think these stores have to do, it's still no guarentee of survival.

2) Virtual Console - Xbox Live Arcade and Playstation Network could be counted in this as well, but I want to focus on the Wii's Virtual Console, because the Wii has both the largest user base, and the biggest online store for old games.

The Virtual Console is, simply put, the worst thing that could ever happen to used video game stores. You can't compete with it. It reduces your potential customer base down to collectors and aficianados - losing perhaps the most profitable customer in the process, the nostalgic guy. Because why would he go to your shop if he can just get it from his home? Virtual Console games are cheap. Rarely do you see one that's being sold for more then the actual cartridge. Furthermore, they all run on one console, with no need to actually dust off old hardware and pray it still works. They're more reliable, cheaper, and in almost every tangible way, better. How do you compete with that?

Honestly? You don't. You can't. And I'm not sure how these sort of shops, which have always struggled to make a buck, can hope to stay in business.

It's a depressing thing, but that's the reality of the situation. Which is a little tragic. So much for my childhood dream of owning one. I really love visiting those stores, and I don't particularly like using ebay to buy things, but yet, more often than not, it's ebay that my money goes to. I'd rather have the actual catridge than a virtual Wii version, but if the latter has a copy of Secret of Mana for 8 dollars, then that's the one I'm going to buy.

And if I can't be a reliable customer to these stores... then who can?

Ever wonder how much American TV gets released internationally? Answer: A ton. But that shouldn't mean it's entierly intact. Sometimes changes are necessary for cultural reasons. Or something.

Example #1: German Teenage Mutant... Hero... Turtles



Apparently Ninjas are evil in Deutschland? Maybe? Either way, they're Hero turtles overseas. I'd probably find this more offensive if that German intro wasn't totally awesome.

Example #2: X-Men Gone Anime



I always liked the regular X-Men intro and theme, but I guess it was too American for a Japanese audience, so they just ripped off every anime convention possible and threw this together. Stereotypes aside, I kinda like it, I have to admit.

Example #3: This is Where Things Go Wrong



Yes this is real. No, it does not make sense. Yes, it is a crime against mankind.

Example #4: Some Things Need No Change


It's comforting to know that, no matter where it airs, The Super Mario Super Show is still absolutely insane.

When I put up some thoughts on E3 last week, something about it seemed a bit... familiar. Turns out I did the same thing on my old 1up blog (which I will not link) back in 2006, albeit with a little more... passion. For fun, let's take a look back and see how well I predicted the future.

Just for clarification sake: Back in 2006, the 360 had launched, but the Wii and PS3 had not. In a lot of ways, it was the latter two's "coming out party", while the former was eager to prove itself.

I definitely felt the Wii really performed the best at the show, and it did a lot to get me very excited about the system... they completely deliever[ed] on content for the system... I have a hard time making notable comments about Wii games; there is literally too much I am excited for."

Jesus, too much content for the Wii? Alright, well, I was justified to be excited about the Wii - back then it was a very exciting product with limitless potential. And I'm not the only one who bought into that - it's the number 1 selling console this generation for a reason. But I think we can all agree my enthusiasm was a bit too... overzealous. Nintendo Kool-aid was in no short supply back in 2006. But how about the 360?

[T]he 360... did an awesome job in it's approach to E3 by plugging up Xbox Live users with tons of E3 content, some of it as it was happening. Really looking forward to Enchanted Arms and Nintey-Nine-Nights which look great, and the Fable 2 trailer was really nifty and got me excited.

That was the first time any console really put up trailers concurrently with E3 and it was exciting for the time mostly because it was new... whereas nowadays I generally watch things on my computer. But it's still a neat feature. That being said Enchanted Arms was okay and I never actually bought Ninety Nine Nights, or N3 as was eventually called. However...

[B]ut what impressed me the most, of any game, was most certainly Bioware's Mass Effect... it just sounds... incredibe...
I am uber-psyched.

Mass Effect went on to become one of my favorite games ever, elevators be damned. So that's justified at least. As for Sony...

PS3, on the other hand, depressed the hell out of me. I mean, the 500-600 price thing was something we all saw coming, but that doesn't make it any less lame... Sony has completely failed to prove how superior the PS3 is to the 360 like they did with the PS2 against the Dreamcast... The whole new controller with no vibaration but motion sensitivity comes off... cheap... It's just pretty terrible.

Wow! Ouch! Calm down there bud, you're going to buy one of those overpriced paperweights one year later. Not to say I was really offbase - price has been the constant issue for the PS3, and that whole vibration business was a blunder they've corrected and tried to forget rather than excuse. Back then I basically called out the machine as being deadset for third placedom. To date, I haven't been proven wrong. So what else do we got?

On a similar note, Final Fantasy XIII has got to be the biggest disappointment I have ever seen in the series... We've all done some whining about FF12, but I still believe it will be an enjoyable game, and nothing FF12 has done compares to what FF13 is looking to do. When I first saw it, I declared the series dead to me... and in the coming days, that has not changed.

Man, chill out fanboy. I was actually pretty surprised by that. I remembered not thinking much of it, but man - I guess I was pissed. I think it's mostly because, at the time...

The "real" FF13 really does just look like a Devil-May-Cry-esque Final Fantasy...

Which it's totally not. Ironically it's probably more traditional than FF12 was. So, first impressions aren't always everything. But that's not the only thing I was upset about...

[T]he game is PS3 exclusive, which is really the nail on the coffin. I mean, despite all of the above, if this game was multi-console, I'd probably give it a shot. But, it's PS3-only, and I don't really want a PS3, and I don't really want this game, so I'm not gonna get either.

But of course you'll get both, dear boy, and you should never have fooled yourself into thinking otherwise. Plus, you got your wish - the game is multi-console now, thanks to the PS3 failing with Western markets. Any more predictions before we close?

Quite frankly, with Sakaguchi and Uematsu gone and now working on Blue Dragon and Lost Odyssey, I consider those two games much more Final Fantasy then FF13 ever will be.


Uh, definitely no on Blue Dragon. Sorry about that. But actually, Lost Odyssey was very reminiscent of a Final Fantasy game from the FF7-FF9 era. Had Sakaguchi had more control back then, it might very well have been Final Fantasy 10.

Okay so it turns out I'm a little 50/50, but cut me some slack - I was a little more passionate back then, still had a few things I had a tendency for fanboyism about. It's all part of the maturing process. For the most part, there's good lessons to learn here - avoid getting sucked into the hype, try to keep an open mind with new products, and rest comfortably knowing that a $600 price tag is always bullshit.

In another news, expect my E3 2009 retrospective sometime in 2015, where I'll comment on our naiveté in believing motion controls to be the future when in fact the Virtual Boy 2 would prove that VR brain simulators were the only games worth playing.... That is, until the discovery of Holodeck technology in 2020, which would ultimately lead to the destruction of the human race. Until then!

After spending the last 2 years buried in a grave, E3 is back this year in traditional form, for which I'm quite grateful. I'm not as grateful for the rise of fanboy infighting this week, but I've already commented on that, and there's no need to return to the topic. What I do want to do is try to take a non-biased look at some of the announcements and events of this year's E3.

I should note that I'm at a slight disadvantage here, because while I did get to watch both the Microsoft and Nintendo briefings live, I didn't get to see the Sony one, which has probably colored me a little unfairly. I'll try to remain neutral regardless.

I probably enjoyed the Microsoft briefing the most, if only because it resembled more of a party and less of a business meeting. There were no charts and graphs, just a lot of games and gameplay footage. That's really what E3 is all about, and they definitely nailed the right tone. Nintendo had a mix of great announcements and... vitality sensors. So, you know, a mix bag, not helped by the fact that it came off as business meeting. And Sony, well... I don't have anything against them, but there wasn't a whole lot they had to offer me, personally. [1]That being said, it wasn't really about the games this year. Something else took front stage: motion controls.

For better or for worse, all three have declared this to beway of the future. Having been a Wii owner from launch, I can safely say that the future may be slightly overrated, but still - motion controls have potential, are selling a lot of Wiis, and bad use of waggle aside, probably are where things are headed. So let's take a look at three very different directions for a far sweatier video game future.

Nintendo is the original proponent of motion controls, having made them a cornerstone of the Wii experience. Now they're here to give you an upgrade in the form of Wii Motion Plus. I'm seriously doubt this'll bea whole lot better than what we already have with the Wii, but you know what? I'm still gonna buy it, because Wii Sports was a ton of fun, and it's sequel is probably just as enjoyable. And it'll be here this summer, so we'll see if it's any better soon enough. That being said, the presentation didn't really sell me on this being some sort of miraculous step forward - seems more a tip-toe forward.

Microsoft revealed Natal, which is essentially going towards a no-controller future in the form of using full-body "controls" via use of a camera-like device. People calling it a "M$ eyetoy" don't really understand the product's potential, but it does propose interesting questions, like how conventional games would work with it. Using an invisible steering wheel is impressive, but I'm not sure how I'd move forward in an FPS. That being said, it would allow me to move menus with my hands, and that is exactly the sort of control scheme I've been waiting for ever since I saw Minority Report.

However, what impressed me the most about the tech was the voice commands - players would answer a trivia question out loud or tell a movie to start playing rather then pressing a button. I am all about that. Voice controls are the future as described by nearly every sci-fi story I love, and I want it right now. Ultimately, I think this one has a ton of potential, but at the same time I'm cautious. I want to see it and use it before making a decision. One thing that is encouraging, however, is that it was on the floor at E3 and available for use - meaning it might not be as far away from commercial release as you'd think. Plus, Wii Magician Johnny Lee is working on it, and if that's not exciting, I don't know what is.

Not to be left behind though, Sony also showcased some impressive motion tech. Using both the Playstation Eye and motion controllers with giant ping pong balls on top, Sony presented an accessible set of motion controls that would work well with many conventional games. I can already see how it'd be used, and looking at the tech demo, the controls seem much more responsive and accurate than the Wii. That being said... it came across as much more "tech demo" than Natal, and wasn't available on the floor for others to use. I worry that it might still be quite some time until we see any sort of implementation of it, and there's been no word on whether or not any developers have even had a chance to work with it.

All in all, without a doubt an entertaining E3. A lot of talk has been going on about how this would be a longer console cycle, which I gladly welcome. No one seems eager to talk about new hardware, instead focusing on improving the current experience for consoles already on the market. It's a unique position, but I'm glad all three are embracing it in some form or another - what remains to be seen is who will deliver best on their promises.

  1. As for FFXIV, well... to say I'm disappointed that the next FF game they're announcing is another online MMORPG doesn't really cover it. The fact that it's "exclusive" to the PS3 (and PCs and, oh, probably the 360 as well...) is kind of irrelevant - at the moment, I'm just not interested in the product.

Posted by Kevin on 12:41 PM

I had way too much fun looking up images of Nintendo memorbillia for Friday's post, and may have gotten a little carried away. That being said, here's one that didn't make it that, in a lot ways, really deserves it's own post.

It may be hard to believe now, but trust me: In 1988, this was the coolest kid on the planet.

Posted by Kevin on 12:41 PM
Labels: , ,

Seeing all the message board skirmishing as the E3 corporate chest-beating is about to begin, I’m reminded of The Great Nintendo-Sega Console War, fought in lunchrooms, playgrounds, and classrooms in schools across America. I like to think we handled it a bit more “gracefully” in our time than current day console warriors (i.e. corporate shills), but I make no guarantees. I can tell you that Sonic was dumb and that a bunch of games featuring a fast hedgehog couldn't compete with an veritable army of quality titles, filled with plumbers, an elven warrior, some dude (who turned out to be a chick) in a suit with crazy lasers, and a robot whose powers and adaptability could only be defined as “mega”.

Or so I would claim in the trenches of my elementary school, a time when Nintendo was king and I was one of its many loyal followers. I was in pretty thick too. We’re not just talking games here, I was knee deep in the TV shows, the toys, the lunchbox, the bedsheets, the puzzles, and whatever ever else I could get my Nintendo-loving hands on. I even had the Nintendo Sticker book. Naturally I was also a subscriber of Nintendo Power, our own version of The Daily Worker, which fueled me with the monthly information I needed to claim supremacy of the Nintendo brand above all else. Does what Nintendon’t? Not a chance.

As an adult I can look back on this sort of thing and laugh, knowing that the only reason anyone participated in this playground warfare is because we had to make a choice. It was going to be one or the other, and whatever it was, that's what you stuck with, no matter what. I can't imagine any of my fellow warriors ever turning down a Genesis if one had been offered to them. Hell, even I bought a Game Gear with money I had saved up, and thought it was pretty cool (when it wasn't consuming all of the AA batteries I could find). What it ultimately came down to was I had one, not the other, and there was no way I was going to feel like I had the short end of the stick.

Knowing how that sort of mentality is, you'd think I'd have some sympathy for today's youths and console warriors, but the truth is I don't. First off, I'm not sure that any of these companies really court fervent followers like Nintendo and Sega did back in the day. I can't believe that anyone really loves giant corporations like Sony and Microsoft, who honestly don’t give a damn about them, and yet people defend/revile them like they’re some sort of helpless kitten/Nazi war criminal.

Secondly, none of the big three have anywhere near the propaganda of old days. And even if they did, there’s more information out there than ever before, so you think people would make informed decisions about what works best for them and live with it. But no, instead they twist whatever little pieces of information they can find for slander and ammunition.

Do they still suffer from the “my mom can only buy me one” mentality? I suppose it’s possible, but there's less and less reason to care – compared to the Sega-Nintendo days, exclusivity is a joke. They make portable versions of most big releases nowadays for Christ's sake. And yet people still fight on across the internet about which is the better console, even going so far as to compare screen shots. And none of it matters in the slightest, because the console that looks the worst is outselling the other two in spades.

Maybe I'm getting a little old and curmudgeonly, but allow me, a veteran of the console wars, to say a little something to the younger generation of troops in the battlefield.

Chill out.

And lay off the corporate kool-aid. Because you don't want to end up like this guy.

Case closed.

Main Entry: iro·ny

Pronunciation: ī'rə-nē, ī'ər-

Function: noun

Inflected Form(s): plural iro·nies

Etymology: Latin ironia, from Greek eirōnia, from eirōn dissembler

Date: 1502

Definitions:

1: Raaayyyyaaaaain on your wedding day

2: Free advice that you just didn’t take

3: Doing two reviews immediately after posting about how you don't actually read reviews

Posted by Kevin on 7:33 AM

This is the kind of game I want to play all the time: one that doesn't punish you badly for death, lets you save anywhere, has a great story that doesn't get in the way of gameplay, features a beautiful soundtrack, and ultimately is a blast to play.

Side note: Are you aware that Jerry Bruckheimer is making a Prince of Persia movie? Well he is! They're filming it now. They've cast Jake Gyllenhaal as the whitest arabic Prince ever, looking more ridiculous than you can imagine. Prediction for future One Sentence Review of Prince of Persia Movie? "Play Prince of Persia instead."

Posted by Kevin on 7:58 AM

If you want an okay action film with some explosions, see it, but if you want a good Terminator story, just watch Sarah Connor Chronicles.

Posted by Kevin on 7:47 AM

I don't read reviews.

Well, that's not quite true. Let me rephrase – I don't read reviews to determine whether or not I should purchase something, which I think is the point of a review. I do read them sometimes after the fact, out of curiosity, but generally as a rule, I tend to avoid them.

There's a couple of reasons for this, and it varies depending upon what medium is being reviewed. To be honest, I will read reviews for books, products, hotel, etc. and give them some merit. What I'm really talking about here are reviews for movies and games.

In the case of movies, I avoid them like the plague. I've found that a perfectly good movie experience can be ruined by reading a review beforehand, because essentially what it's done is given you an opinion without having a chance to form your own. When you watch the movie, it's like having a commentary track on – all you can hear are the critics' complaints.

Granted if the movie received a good review that's not as much a problem, but you never can really know that going into it. It's true that generally movies that receive good reviews tend to be pretty good, and movies that receive terrible reviews tend to be godawful. But most movies are somewhere in the middle, with mixed results. Personal preference comes into play more. I may have enjoyed The Incredible Hulk (not to be confused with Hulk), but plenty of people didn't, and that's OK. But that doesn't mean that I want their review forced down my throat and affecting my movie watching experience.

In the case of video games, I'm not as religious about avoiding reviews, but they rarely effect me. When The Force Unleashed received fairly bleh scores, it didn't reduce my enthusiasm for the product – I just assumed reviewers were being overtly whiny (they were). Same for Assassin's Creed, Lego Indy, and plenty of others I've bought in spite of reviews. If a game receives a truly awful score... it's possible it might make me sit back and reconsider, but that's a pretty rare occurrence. On the flip side, it doesn't matter how highly you rate a game – if I wasn't interested in it before, a shining review doesn't do much to make me consider the product. I will occasionally read these reviews, certainly, but only to get an idea on how the general press thinks of the game, which is information I like to supplement with how well these games actually sell. Either way you slice it, the review doesn't sway me in any way.

When it comes down to it, for me the only “review” that can effect me is one from a friend. Generally you know this person and their likes/dislikes, and how often that lines up with your own. And those I'll definitely give some weight. A few non-trek friends had rave reviews for Star Trek before it came out, which let me know that it was going to be something special. Equally, another friend saw Terminator Salvation early and despised it, which gives me pause until I remember that he also wasn't a big fan of The Dark Knight (which is insane), so there's still a chance it could be good (I'll know either way after tonight). Ultimately, the review basically comes down to one of three things: it's cool, it's okay, or it sucks. There isn't really much more to say about it that can't be wrapped up with a thumb gesture.

In any event, that's why I tend to keep my reviews on the short end – mainly because if I don't read them, I've no business writing them, but also because, when you get right down to it, they're easy to summarize. Either it's cool, it's okay, or it sucks, and everything else is just personal supposition.

Posted by Kevin on 12:12 PM

THE GAME: Zelda II

What's the Deal?: The first Zelda was a hit, so Nintendo made another one, which also sold a lot of copies. As a kid I loved it, my friends loved it, and it was generally acknowledged as the harder game. Nowadays, the internet has seen fit to curse it as the worst game in the Zelda franchise.

Why Everyone Hates it: Because the gameplay does not resemble the original Zelda, or any other 2d incarnation of the Zelda franchise. Rather than using the top-down perspective, it's actually a side-scrolling game, with a top-down overworld map used only to walk to locations, not for any real gameplay, much like an RPG. It also features a number of additional RPG-elements, such as possible random encounters on certain world map areas, towns with people you can converse with, and experience points for gaining levels in attack, life, and magic. Oh, yeah, magic. It has magic. You learn spells which do stuff, and replaces the use of items as your primary support base. Not to say there aren't items, because there's still an item in every dungeon you need to get, but their functions are generally passive, not unlike the raft in the original Legend of Zelda.

It's also probably the most difficult entry in the franchise.

Why it Totally Doesn't Suck: I've noticed a reoccurring trend with this game: If you grew up with playing it, you seem to think well of it. If you didn't, well, you despise it. I think the flaw is in the second group. The reason most people hate this game has absolutely nothing to do with its quality; it's a seriously well made game that's a huge leap technologically over the first. It's also a lot of fun, when you aren't being totally destroyed by it while trying to get that hammer. No, the reason people hate this game is because it doesn't really resemble what they think a Zelda game should be. They get upset because the game they think they should be playing isn't the game in front of them.

That's a dangerous mindset, in my opinion, and it still happens a lot today. A sequel isn't beholden to being an updated port of the previous game. I think it's fun to see changes, and when a franchise is willing to really shake things up, you can get some interesting results, something Zelda games have done a few times. In other words, you can't worship at the feet of Ocarina of Time, which changed a lot of things about the franchise, and then in the same breath curse Zelda II for going completely off the rails.

As a kid, I preferred the original, but I didn't really think less of this one. I thought it had some really awesome qualities. Hyrule seemed absolutely huge for the first time. I loved that the endless combat actually meant something, that my Link was getting stronger because of it. Some of the magic spells, like Fairy, were really nifty, and let me do some unique things I had never seen in a game before. It also had multiple lives, which I greatly appreciated since I was often times in dire need of them. When I play it now, I still enjoy it just as much (if not more), simply because it's a quality game, and for all the same reasons I enjoyed it as a kid. As a child, you're a lot more accepting of changes, as long as the game is fun. That's an attitude I try to emulate as much as possible today, and I'm much better for it.

I should also mention that I'm sure the difficulty is a big turn-off for most players. That comment about the hammer earlier wasn't in jest - for better or worse it's an item you have to go after fairly early in the game, and it can be devastating. I spent a good year mapping out a course to get it when I was a kid. Nowadays I'm actually a lot better at this game then I used to be, but it's still a challenge. Unfortunately, no one has patience for that sort of learning curve (myself included) nowadays, which means this game doesn't age as well as the original. Then again, I'd argue that going after that hammer was no more frustrating then burning hundreds and hundreds of trees with a blue candle in order to find the 7th dungeon in the original Zelda. Nowadays a quick FAQ will fix you right up, making the frustration level for replaying the original game fairly low, while the challenge in this game remains fairly intact.

Conclusion: The things I loved most about Zelda games was the exploration and the action-adventure trappings. Both of those games had those same qualities in spades, merely differing in execution. Zelda II is a great game and captures the right spirit. It deserves to be considered a proud, although different, entry in the franchise. Believe me, if you want to see some things that shouldn't be considered Zelda games, they're out there. Got a whole system dedicated to them, actually.

Posted by Kevin on 6:29 AM

This weekend I had the pleasure of seeing Star Trek on IMAX... but unlike what I suspect was the majority of ticketholders that contributed to breaking IMAX sales records, I actually saw it on what I would define as an actual IMAX screen. As opposed to, you know, a FakeMAX screen.

What's the difference? Well, I define an IMAX screen the same way everyone's defined IMAX since the technology first rolled out back in 1971: A really big screen. There isn't a whole lot more to it - if the screen is gigantic, it's IMAX.

If it's not, it's FakeMAX, and it's preying on unwitting movie goers as we speak. Across the nation, "IMAX" theaters are starting pop up seemingly out of thin air. Personally I was excited and confused when our local Altamonte AMC theater announced IMAX was coming, because while I loved the idea of having a close IMAX theater... I wasn't sure how they were installing it when it didn't appear that they were doing a single bit of construction to increase the theater's size.

Of course they didn't really do jack, because weren't installing a real IMAX screen. But I didn't have any way of knowing that, so by the time it was up and running and I went to see Watchman, I figured, why not? The theater said it was IMAX, the ticket certainly cost like it was IMAX... so how was I to know any better? Once you walk in though, it's impossible not to feel disappointed. The screen is a bit bigger, but honestly it's like the difference between a 55" TV and a 60" TV; I'd rather have the 60", but it's not really going to make much of a difference. The sound system was certainly better (i.e. louder), but was that worth my ridiculous ticket price? Not in the slightest.

On the flip side, seeing Star Trek this weekend was an incredible treat, and reminded me just exactly what the appeal of IMAX was in the first place, and all for the same cost as a ticket at a FakeMAX theater. I'm completely amazed by the lack of business sense IMAX has in setting up these FakeMAX theaters and refusing to differentiate between them. It is utter and complete brand suicide, ruining decades of establishing their name only to make a quick buck on theater licensing deals.

Certainly the backlash has begun to gain momentum, and you can read some more details about it elsewhere. Personally, I'll never buy a FakeMAX ticket ever again, but they did get me once. I bet they'll get a lot of people once, but after that? There's no way you'd go back again, ever. These theaters might be getting a few suckers right now, but in the future, I honestly expect FakeMAX sales to take a nosedive. And rightfully so.

In the meantime, don't fall victim to FakeMAX screens! While the actual IMAX website won't tell you which ones are real, internet heroes are already on the task of sorting out what's what. And just in case your theater isn't on the list, just ask yourself this: Is my IMAX theater about six stories tall? No? Then give that FakeMAX screen the boot.

Posted by Kevin on 12:35 PM

One of my favorite things about the internet is that it's given me the ability to buy just about anything I want. Not only can I get some really ancient consoles, but if there’s a game I'm interested in that hasn’t hit stateside yet, it doesn’t take much to buy it, as long as you’ve got the desire and the means. Simply put, importing games has evolved from a relatively painful process to something rather simplistic with today's technology.

That being said, while I’ve gleefully imported a few items in my time, there are standards. While I may be tempted to import Record of Agarest War because it’s never going to hit the U.S., I know that’d be a huge mistake. And why? Because I’d be breaking the rules on importing games. [1]


But what are the rules? I'm glad you asked!

WHAT TO IMPORT

  • Games that will never be released here. Ever.
  • Games where language will not be a barrier to gameplay
  • Games where the plot is either non-existent or utterly irrelevant

A great personal example of this is Starfy 4: The Legend of Starfy. I’m a big fan of platformers on handhelds and Starfy sounded like a lot of fun. There was zero chance of it being released here, gameplay was fairly easy to figure out, and I couldn’t care less about the plot. In short it was a great import

I'm not saying there aren't exceptions. One such example is my Wonderswan collection of Final Fantasy games. These are games where language is a serious barrier, but since I already know them inside and out, it didn't really matter. The important thing here is being true to the spirit, not the letter, of the laws.

DO NOT IMPORT A GAME IF:

  • A stateside release is imminent
  • It’s not compatible with your console
  • That game is an RPG
  • You have any sense of hesitation or doubt

And now the flip side. Back in February of 2003, I was dying of excitement for the release of Final Fantasy XI, which was taking foreeeeevar. I had read up on people who had imported the game, and if it was working for them… why couldn’t it work for me? After some not-so-careful thought, I made the plunge and imported the PC version.

In so doing I broke most of the above rules and ultimately wasted 70 bucks. First off, while the release of the American version was taking forever, it certainly hadn’t been cancelled; in fact it arrived just later that year in October. Secondly, this was an MMO that involved a lot of party play... I wasn't going to be able to talk with anyone. Soloing was only going to get me so far, something I didn't really address. Finally, through a comedy of errors involving language barriers, fake japanese addresses, and credit cards with middle names, I was never able to register an account and play the game the first place! My decision to import was completely premature; without a doubt I was giving into my excitement for the product, ultimately to my detriment.

So consider my tale a word of warning. I should also mention that you need to be careful to look at the region of a game before importing it. Handheld devices excluded (mostly), most games still tend to have region lock-out codes. And no, unless you’re living in another country (or speak the language) don’t ever buy a region’s console just to play their games. Whatever it is, it’s not worth it – in the end, it’s almost always better to wait for a proper translation, or just find something else to play.

  1. I should clarify that this is a guide for importing something from Japan and I'm assuming you don't speak Japanese (watching a lot of anime doesn't count). There is rarely a reason to import something from Europe to the US, so I don’t feel the need to discuss that particular issue. As for the reverse… well, look. If tomorrow I had to live to England, I would be importing all my games from the U.S. It’s an entirely separate set of issues. While things have gotten a lot better compared to 10 years ago, there's definitely still problems. Another discussion for another time.

Fairly fun multiplayer game that's a little overpriced for what's inside, but note to developers: Please stop making multiplayer games that actually have no local multiplayer k thx.

Posted by Kevin on 11:42 AM

Now that I've vowed to try out these games I've bought but never played, I want to take a look at each one as it comes up. I'll figure out why I never got to it, play it, and then decide whether or not it was worth the purchase in the first place. Without further ado, allow me to present...

DUST COLLECTORS: PHANTASY STAR UNIVERSE

Bought: Sometime Post-Christmas '07

Amount Played: Nada, although I did play the online beta for about half an hour before it came out

Why I bought it: Gamestop was doing one of their Buy 2 Get 1 Free deals for all used games, which have been the bane of my bank account for some time.

Why I was interested in it: I really liked Phantasy Star Online, just like everyone else. It was a lot of fun. This was supposed to be a sequel, and everyone was interested in it. After tons of delays they announced that there would be no offline multiplayer of any kind whatsoever, and then no one was interested in it. So it sold very badly and price dropped fairly quickly. I wasn't really interested in the online multiplayer (which cost extra, unlike the successful PSO), but it did have a solo campaign. And I had played plenty of solo-PSO and really enjoyed it, so I figured... why not?

Why it collected dust: Because I bought it right after the holidays when I had tons of other games to be playing and no business being in a game store. I didn't even finish Super Mario Galaxy until this year, for Christ's Sake! There was no way I was going to get to this game anytime soon, something I knew perfectly well when I bought it. That's how I know I have a problem.

Reason to play it now: Kind of in an RPG mood, but not really. So action RPG sounds good

Reactions: It's a good thing I never tried to "sample" this game to see what it was like. It'd still be collecting dust. The first hour of the game features very little actual playing, tons of handholding, and just about every awful JRPG cliche you can possibly imagine. If I had been playing the Japanese RPG drinking game, it would have killed me. PSO had a solo campaign, but there was virtually no plot. And that's the way it should be. Because Team Sega cannot make a game with anything resembling a good plot. They can't even make an amusingly bad plot. This is the team that thought it proper for a hedgehog to be kissing a human. It should be illegal for any one of their members to submit anything resembling "story ideas", or, God help us all, "dialogue".

I was really close to giving up on the game, but after a couple hours you start getting into some legitimate gameplay, and I was reminded of all the things I liked about the series to begin with. Fortunately, by this point, the plot isn't beating me over the head as much, so I'm managing. Ultimately the gameplay is a lot of fun, but the plot is unbelievable awful, so for now I'm taking the bad with the good. If it continues at this rate I'll probably play it to completion, but we'll see - you never know what awful event Team Sega has planned for me down the road...

Buyer's Remorse?: No, I don't think so. Look, I was really curious about the solo campaign, and info was scarce because no one bought the damn thing. And it was pretty cheap, so even if it had been awful it's not like it cost me much. The combat is exactly what I'm looking for, and while it's not nearly as good as PSO, that's only because the plot won't get out of the way when all I want to do is play the game. But that gameplay is there, so I am enjoying it for the moment. Mark this one down as a "okay purchase."

Grade: C

Posted by Kevin on 11:44 AM

Since I was about 6 years old, my number one gift request has been video games. If I got some new games for my birthday, well, that was a pretty good birthday. By that simple definition, one of my best birthdays was when I turned 12. I can't remember exactly what we did for it that year, but you better believe I remember what games I received. After all, it was a very good year.

The first one I opened up from mom and dad was one I had specifically requested, which was X-Wing. That game is a topic for another time, but let me just say that my parents gave me not a game so much as an addiction that would last for many years.

But it's not the only game I received that day. At 12, I had never really had a whole lot of experience with adventure games. I seem to recall playing a version of King's Quest on my uncle's machine and getting tossed into jail fairly quickly with no hope of escape. But otherwise I just hadn't played them much. That was about to change in a big way.

The LucasArts Archives Volume 1 looked like some sort of gaming treasure trove, and it was. It included what appeared to be six games (but was really more like 3 games, 2 demos and some Star Wars screen savers) and completely blew my mind. I didn't exactly get a ton of games growing up, and suddenly I had been thrown six, all in one package! Two Star Wars games! An Indiana Jones game! Some bunny thing and a dog driving a car game! And a... tentacle chasing a nerd, or something game! This was awesome!

I quickly discerned that Rebel Assault wasn't actually Rebel Assault the Game as much as Rebel Assault Levels 1,2 and 12: The Glorified Demo (I still played the hell out of it). Then the actual demo cd wasn't as demo-tastic as I had been led to believe, with the TIE Fighter demo I coveted so much being little more then the opening (albeit awesome) cinematic. And it took awhile (hours), but eventually I did get bored of watching Obi-Wan and Darth Vader fight endlessly across my Windows 3.1 desktop, although not before I watched all of the "Star Wars Script" screen saver for what had to be longer then the actual movie length (And what's worse? I was disappointed when it didn't roll into Empire Strikes Back after it was done).

But none of that could tarnish how awesome a gift this was, because the remaining 3 CDs were undeniably awesome. Nowadays I can't fathom playing multiple games at one time, but back then it was a way of life, and honestly a necessity for enjoyment. This was a time before GameFAQs and the internet being a source of easy answers - adventure games worked because you really had to spend a long time trying to figure out by yourself what on earth to do. Sometimes the solution would only take you a few minutes, other times maybe a couple hours. In the case of a particular Sam n' Max puzzle, it may in fact be months. But the fun was in figuring things out, so that was just part of the game. Having all three of them, however, allowed me to jump in between them. If I couldn't figure out what on earth Indy was supposed to do in Iceland, I'd jump over to Day of the Tentacle. Then, if I couldn't figure out how to get George Washington's wooden teeth, well, I'd take a stroll over to the Stucky's in Sam n' Max. Not only did this limit the frustration that is inherent in any adventure game, but it also gave me a chance to learn things in one game that could help me in others.

The only sad thing for me is that while I love all of these games, and I think they really stand the test of time , I can't go back and play them. I mean, I can, but it's not the same. You'd think 10 years later I'd forget all the puzzles, but you'd be wrong - no matter how hard I try, I cannot forget that I need to steal the hamster so I can put him in the freezer so I can flush him to the future where I can heat him up in the microwave whereby he will then be able to run in the makeshift generator I have created in order to get the time machine working again. I really, really wish I could, but that knowledge will be with me for the rest of my life.

That being said, I think they're fantastic. They were the first games I played that really adhere to what has now become my cornerstone philosophies on modern gameplay; All of these games allowed you to save anywhere, and each of them provided challenges without punishing the player with death. It's a shame adventure games have largely gone the way of dinosaur, because they really did provide engaging environments where you really had to think your way out of a solution rather than shoot it up. But looking back over this set reminds me of how much fun they provided me over such a long time, and I really have to conclude that this was, without doubt, one of the best gifts I ever received.

It also reminds me that I never did play the full retail version of Full Throttle or The Dig. I think it might be time for me to finally do something about that.

Posted by Kevin on 6:53 AM

Excerpt from "The Undiscovered History of Aviators", pg. 36-40

Most now accept that the origins of aviator sunglasses lie, like many feats of ancient construction, with the Egyptians. Indeed, aviators have often been compared to the pyramids, as they share similar mysteries. Their construction was, for its time, a technological wonder. Often times the suggestion of an other-worldly presence has been theorized as a way in which these creations could have been built so early in time. This can be seen in the movie Stargate [1], which visualizes the theory that pyramids were in fact landing platforms for large triangle ships, something even the most fervent detractors have a hard time arguing against.[2]

However another theory, gaining traction, argues that aviators cannot be extraterrestrial as they contain distinctly Terran aspects of "awesome", confirming that their origin must be from humanity itself. That is not to say that they were created by the ancient egyptians, however. Instead, these scientists argue that the introduction of aviators is in fact due to a time traveling prank perpetuated by some 26th century teenager who theorized that Egyptian hieroglyphics with aviators would be "frakking hilarious." Little did he know that, time being circular, he would instead become the unintended "creator" of aviators, and plunge Egypt eventually into a war that would not only erase most proof of the existence of these majestic sunglasses, but forever embitter mankind over the coolness factor of the sunglasses.

Indeed, we need only look at the writings of Alexander the Great, who stated that "...although I had initially planned to withhold crossing into Egypt, I simply could not relent. Have you seen those ridiculous things they wear? Why on earth do you need that extra line of metal, I demand to know! No, I will take their land and I will crush every piece of their outlandish head-decorations until their eyeballs burn in the brightness of the sun which will then reveal the folly of their ways!"

Alexander stayed true to his word, but he could not quite destroy the legacy of the aviators. Many rumors persist about their continued appearance and survival throughout history. Sketches by Leonardo da Vinci imply that he was attempting to deconstruct a pair that he had stumbled across during his time in Venice.[3] Nevertheless, aviators would not appear in more mainstream use until the 1850s, when their unfortunate timing served only to make them one of the many issues of Northern-Southern frustration that would culminate into the Civil War.

  1. Aviators were originally in Stargate too, but studios deemed them "too controversial. They were subsequently removed in post-production. Kurt Russell has often said that this decision was a mistake, as he considered aviators a fundamental part of his character's motivations for many of the decisions he makes throughout the movie, such as "being a genuine badass.
  2. I mean, they certainly couldn't have been square ships.
  3. His only flaw was an insistence upon a "box" shape for the frames. The design remains a perfect example of both da Vinci's genius and complete lack of fashion sense.


Posted by Kevin on 10:34 AM

Quite possibly the best Star Trek film ever.

Posted by Kevin on 7:42 PM

Hi there. My name is Kevin and I have a problem.

Well, actually I have a few problems. But let's stay on track here.

I have a fairly large video game collection. A couple years ago I took an inventory to see just how many games I owned. Now, I haven't really kept up with it, but glancing over it and factoring in how much I've picked up over the last few years, we're looking at something around the mid-to-high 300s. Which sounds like a ton to a regular person, but is a mere pittance to an actual collector.

According to my inventory, I've beaten over 150 of them, which is actually a lot when you consider that 1) a lot of the old games (i.e. Pac-Man, Space Invaders) have no real end and 2) I own a lot of older games, and most of the ones you can beat (theoretically) are incredibly difficult. But there's another statistic, one I don't even have outdated numbers to reference, that I want to examine.

I'm talking about games I've bought and never played.

Think this over for a second. You have some hard earned cash. You go and buy something with it. You bring it home. Take it out of the bag. And never use it. Ever. Why did you even buy it in the first place? I'm not some sort of rich socialite; I don't have money to throw around on stuff I'm not gonna use. Hell I'm the kind of guy who flips out when some cheese goes bad. That's hardly even worth a dollar, yet I've spent 50 bucks on a game and never thrown it in a console.

Why on earth do I do this?

There's no simple answer. In the end it just comes down to what drives me to normally buy a game. I hear about something that sounds cool, so I mark it in my head as a game I want. Eventually I come to a position where I can buy it, so I do. And then for some reason the process breaks down.

There's two main causes for this, I think. The first is time. Let's say I've been watching a couple games for awhile and thanks to a little bad luck they come out on the same day. Well, I can't start them both (I mean I could, but I've never enjoyed it. Same way I can't read multiple books at one time). So I start one of them.

Now, hopefully I pick up the other one right after I finish. But what if I purchase a new game before that happens? What am I going to do, shelve it? No way. It's a lot easier just to jump into that. Plus, what if I bought two RPGs? Do I really feel up for another RPG after just getting through one? Probably not, so to the shelf it goes, and after awhile it becomes little more then a dust collector.

It's not that I don't want to play it. I always think about getting back to it (for awhile), but it's hard to find time to do so when other games I want to play are coming out left and right. In the end, I have to work a job and support a marriage. There's only x hours to play games, even if what I really need is y.

The other cause is money. Sometimes I see a fantastic deal on a game that I considered trying out, so I pick it up. The problem with these games is that usually I'm already playing something else. I have a tendency to always prioritize new games (mainly to justify having spent more money on them), so used games that I got a good deal on (or even gifts sometimes, to be honest) also tend to fall through the cracks.

On the bright side, there is hope. In an effort to save money, I've really tried to tighten my belt on which games I buy and which ones I don't. Maybe I'd like to have Street Fighter IV, but is it really worth 60 bucks when I know a year from now it'll sell for less than half? Better for me to only buy games that I really want new, and take the extra time as an opportunity to play through games I've never gotten around to. So far this has worked out great, finally giving me a chance to play through games like Trauma Center: New Blood (nerve-wracking), Super Mario Galaxy (incredible), and Dead Rising (tons of fun once you power-level) that have been gathering dust on my shelves for far too long.

Honestly though? What's helped out even more is that there hasn't been a whole lot of great games coming out this year. Looking at the line-up, I don't see that changing. '07 and '08 brought some amazing titles, so I suppose we're about due for a lackluster year.

Personally? I'm fine with that. Right now I can do with a little less temptation. In the meantime, I'll try to dust off some of these lost games and see what I've been missing out on.

Posted by Kevin on 2:03 PM