I discovered last night as I was preparing to play some crazy Time Splitters 2 action with my Bro and Bro-in-law that me uber saved game with everything unlocked and super high scores was....zonked.

It goes without saying that a rather sour feeling filled me. I remember when it happened as well. At the time I told my roommate not to worry because the memory card loaded up fine. His mistake in killing the power while my file was saving didn't have any immediate reprecussions. I never thought that the specific file would have been corrupted, obvious as that possibility now seems.

I'm not going to point fingers at anyone or comdemn people, I already said not to worry. However, between that and the overuse my system and controllers (I had to replace at least one) last year I find myself desiring a more strict regime when it comes to others and my video games.

It may seem irrational, but it strikes me as akin to how one would protect a nice set of china. Once someone chips a cup, you become far more attuned to how everything is handled. You might have bene previously aware of the carelessness with which your treasures were handled, but it didn't bother you too much because nothing ever came of it. It all changes when a cup gets dropped.

In any case, It won't be worth my while to go through the game again and beat the ever loving snot out of it. As such, I'm handing it over to my brother and moving on. StarCraft: Ghost will be coming out soon, complete with multiplayer. That should be a good replacement, and a new experience.

Prophet or Idiot?

Just when I was about to corner the market on criticizing research, this comes along.

I told you so?


Will is Wright

I mentioned my amazement at a game called Spore some time ago. It piqued my interest. I wasn't prepared for the following.


The prior link may require some registration or something, but it's well worth it. My jaw dropped, I drooled, I was drawn in completely both to the game and the concept of procedural and algorithmic programming. The whole thing is utterly and completely awesome. Normally, I would shirk away from the thing because it is done by the now infamous Electronic Arts. Unfortunately, the thing looks too awesome.

So, who wants to be the first to make a Ravenous Bugblatter Beast of Trall?

A brief, I hope

Recently, both Microsoft and Sony released statements to the affect that the Xbox 360 and Playstation 3 are not gaming consoles, but are instead media centers. Here are my thoughts.

It is well documented that, unlike when the PS2 launched, DVD players and even burners are commonplace within homes. It is terribly likely that most of the condensed functions we find in the aforementioned "consoles" are already covered by equipment consumers already possess. Thus, the main draw for people must be the one thing we know they certainly can't have now, the next generation gaming console.

Now, given the market shares of Sony and Microsoft for the PS2 and Xbox, it is entirely likely that people interested in those companies' next offerings already have their previous ones.

We must assume that Sony and Microsoft plan to price these media centers below the cost of manufacturing. If this is not the case, the price will be extremely prohibitive (at least $500 if no $700 each). This means that both companies must try and rely on software and related sales to make up the deficit (both companies aren't exactly producing movies to play on these media centers).

Given the likely cost of the new systems ($300-$400) they really need a good software draw. Both companies had impressive showings at E3, although there was skepticism as to Perfect Dark Zero's ability to be complete prior to the launch of the Xbox 360. The question here is will it be enough.

Nintendo's system is built to be a gaming console, with the option of paying extra for add-ons to play movies and whatever else you may need. That's their advantage. You can buy all the bells and whistles the other consoles have (maybe not quite, but almost) if you want them. If you already have a DVD player, the Revolution will be that much cheaper than the competition.

Being centered around being a video game console, I have no doubt that Nintendo will be able to underprice the competition (they always have before, even before this "media center" stuff). The question then is put to consumers, buy extra expensive "media centers" with functions you don't need and in some cases limited backwards compatibility or, buy the actual console with backwards compatibility for numerous consoles complete with the entire history of the greatest franchises included the console from the last generation and keep your other consoles and their libraries?

The argument is somewhat of a stretch, but it makes sense to me.


Am I Missing Something?

Am I the only one who notices the ambiguous and largely useless or common sense results of research studies these days?

Think about it for a moment. The government, corperations and organizations dish out a few oodles of cash to some research group. They conduct a study on topic X. After a few months, a year or maybe a few years we get the results. The results somehow always end up as follows.

"The frequent use of video games may cause an increase in violent behavior."

At first glance, as it always seems, we get some useful information here. However, a close analysis reveals the following:

•The specification of how frequent is missing
•Exactly what kind of use, or duration thereof, is also missing
•Note the use of the word "may"
•How much of an increase is also absent
•Violent behaviour is not defined, meaning it could very well mean more video game playing

While the material I'm critiquing here is made by my own hand, I'm sure you can see the similarities between it and what information we get from the researchers. I could say a similar concerning water.

"Repeated overconsumption of water can lead to discomfort, frequent waste discharge, and/or death."

In plain english, minus all those millions of dollars and long night spent analyzing data, all that says is, "If you drink too much water too often, you'll feel bloated, probably have to pee a lot, and might drown."

I might be missing something, but do these researchers have some method by which you can be privy to the data they base their claims off of? I'm far more interested in looking into what kind of people are are risk or would benefit from eating or drinking whatever reduces or causes cancer than hearing these common blanket statements. However, the internet hasn't helped me find out any of that.

Studies seem to find some strange fact, and leave it at that. For all that time, money and research we don't get anything that seems at all useful. If someone is going to study how video games effect people, it would really be nice to know what kind of background had what trends. Did playing these video games affect this demographics different from that one? How does age factor into it? Questions like these would help me disprove or affirm my common sense which states, "Don't give violent video games or other media to disturbed or impressionable people."

Sadly, I don't ever seem to be able to find any decent followups to studies to help me with this. As the title of this post indicates, I might really just be missing something. I'm afraid that if I'm missing it, there are also a ton of others like me doing likewise. Such a state will only reinforce the ignorance we face these days, and should be stopped.

So please, if there's some way to get my hands on some of the hard data, I'd love to know what it is.


Mr. Smee: Technology

Oh my aching arteries. You won't believe the arthritus I have.

Oh, hallo there. It's been a while sonny-jim. I could have used you around here a week ago, when those chickens came through. Cleaning up the feathers was a nightmare beyond the wildest imagination of Susan.

You probably don't know Susan. Most people don't. You see, way back in the days before nightmare meant "bad dream" as opposed to "dimwitted hedgehog jockey", Susan had an epiphany. Scared the living daylights out of her it did. But she kept it around because occaisionally it would put on this adorable cute face that was addictive.

In any case, Susan was not fond of these technowhatsits that you young-ins always are bringing around. Did something to her liver they did. At least that's what she claimed. We were relieved to hear that, as the prevailing theories as to why she was so afraid of technology was because her epiphany was a foreshadowing of a dire doom that awaited techno-savvy youth.

Some time ago, Susan locked herself away with her epiphany. We're not sure where, but we're guessing Cambridge. She always liked that name. In any case, she whent into hiding around '83 of the last century. Something about Nine Ten Dough or An Eatesse. Raved on about mind control and how the light of day would never see the light of day. Didn't make a whole lot of sense.

Speaking of sense, you young whipper snappers should get outside occaisionally. It could use some exercise you hear?

Enough is enough

It's time to stop arguing about the consoles. This will be the last post until something really meaningful is revealed concerning them, and the only part concerning them is this paragraph. And we're done.

Moving on, I'm thrilled to see that StarCraft: Ghost is finally wrapping up. What really kicks butt is its multiplayer. The game was not originally supposed to have a multiplayer mode, and now we'll be having what is bound to be some of the most awesome killfest imaginable. My only qualm there is I can't play as a Protoss Zealot or Dragoon. Somehow that won't much matter in the end. Besides, Blizzard could always make a StarCraft: Templar or StarCraft: Zergling or something. Actually, perish the thought.

Despite my best efforts, I haven't been able to get any good glimpses of Perfect Dark Zero. Gamespot's stream services have been less than impressive of late, probably due to a billion and a half crazy people like me overloading their servers.

I am currently still gasping for breath as I was winded by some news concerning the port of Dynasty Warriors 5 to the Xbox. Apparently it will have some special console specific features such as A JAPANESE LANGUAGE OPTION WITH SUBTITLES. I can only hope that because the Xbox port of Dynasty Warriors 3 was similar in that it had extra content that ended up in the Xtreme Legends add-on anyway there will be Japanese voices to save my ears from corrosion when an Xtreme Legends add-on inevitably arrives for Dynasty Warriors 5.

I'm still playing the ever loving snot out of Dynasty Warriors 5. I've burned through five characters out of forty-eight, so I have a ways to go yet. Perhaps I should shelve it and hope for that Japanese...


Things have been heating up as E3 has been continuing. After Sony announced that the PS3 would be backwards compatible (which is something akin to saying that the sun will rise tomorrow), Microsoft countered by doing likewise for their Xbox 360. There's been some mockery of Microsoft's wording concerning the backwards compatibility. It's been summed up as "partial" compatibility for "top selling" Xbox titles. In any case, it doesn't sound quite as impressive as the PS3's almost universal compatibility with PS1 and PS2 games.

On the heels of this little spitball fight between Sony and Microsoft comes Nintendo's press conference, along with some startling announcements of the Revolution's capabilities. Ironically, not one of the attributes revealed is the revolutionary aspect we're all in the dark on.

We all knew long ago that the Revolution would be backwards compatible with the Gamecube. We didn't know diddly. The beast will not only be backwards compatible with the Gamecube, but will come with an online service for downloading NES, SNES and N64 games to the console's 512MB of flash memory (expandable). While this is likey to be an iTunes like service, it's still insane.

The console is also supposed to be accessible and ready for both big budget developers and far lower scale ones. I'm hoping this means that me and a few friends can hang out in a basement somewhere and makes games that will actually appear on the console.

If you want all the details, check out Nintendo's article. Not highlighted there is that a new Super Smash Bros. game will launch with the Revolution. The beast will be online capable, meaning I can knock heads with people everywhere. It's going to be a long year waiting.

The only point of concern I have now is the Revolution's power. Nintendo has said it will be two to three times as powerful as the Gamecube. Given the claims Microsoft and Sony have been making about their console's capabilities, that seems a rather low figure. However, I take Sony and MS's hype with a grain of salt, and Nintendo's with that familiar eye one takes to a self-depreciating person. Sony and Microsoft both have histories of over hyping something that really isn't quite as great as they say it is. Nintendo has historically been the opposite, for better or for worse. As such, Nintendo's two to three times more powerful may well be up there with Microsoft and Sony's consoles. Because Nintendo President Iwata promised the Revolution would be technologically competitive with Sony and Microsoft despite Nintendo's emphasis on innovation and gameplay as opposed to graphics, I'm still hopeful.

I'm no longer concerned about Nintendo's revolutionary aspect. Whatever it is, the genius who decided the Revolution should be backwards compatible all the way to the NES wouldn't let something rediculous or silly sneak its way into the console. What is interesting is that while it has been announced that the Revolution's controllers will be wireless (like everyone else's), the actual controllers haven't been shown. This has given a lot of credence to the theories that the revolutionary aspect is largely in the controller. I think it's both true and a red herring.

Nintendo knows it is being watched really carefully by the competition. You don't announce you're going to have a revolutionary new aspect in your next console and expect other companies to sit idly by and assume you're a crazy hack. I'm almost dead certain that, in preparation for Nintendo's announcement when it comes, both Sony and Microsoft have teams ready to design and complete competing controllers. Nintendo has had their controllers copied before (the N64's analog stick and rumble pack were quickly added to the Playstation's reputuar). I highly doubt they haven't thought about how to prevent duplication.

I highly, highly suspect that Nintendo's revolution isn't just in the controller, but also the console. While we got to see a prototype of the Revolution in Nintendo's E3 press conference, we didn't see it do too much. It is not impossible that Nintendo has carefully hidden the secret right in front of us. Besides, there's a year yet of time for them to tweak the hardware. Albeit at this point the amount of tweaking can't be too much, or else developers will be alienated. However, Nintendo has far more room to adapt their console than Microsoft or Sony who have both revealed their specs already.

At this point I can't see Nintendo doing poorly at all in this coming generation. The PS2 had a large library of PS1 games on its release to augment the typically small number of release titles. While the PS3 will have both the PS1 and PS2 titles availible, the Revolution will have games beyond imagination, and the nostalgia factor as well. Even if Nintendo's market share remains as it has been, they're bound to turn a profit with ease once more. I'm just shy of saying there's no way Nintendo could possibly be beaten. Just shy being due to the lack of information on Nintendo's big secret.

In any case, I'm not terribly hopeful for the Xbox 360 at this point. It can still do well, but I think it will be an uphill battle. They may well have alienated hardcore gamers by showing off the Xbox 360 on MTV, and then only having partial backwards compatibility. With the very alluring option of the Revolution, I'm pretty sure that Microsoft's only hope of keeping any people such as I lies in Halo 3. It's supposed to come out at the same time as the PS3, which is only in a years time approximately. So when did Bungie have time to work on that? Last I heard they were still developing new maps for Halo 2. I have nothing against Bungie, I love them in fact. But I can't see them delivering a good product with only a year to do it in.

They could always suprise me I guess.

To conclude, viva la Revolution.



The man in charge of the utterly incredibly Ninja Gaiden title for the Xbox had this to say in an interview about the Ninja Gaiden Black revamped game coming out for the Xbox soon.

"Q: What do you think of the Dynasty Warriors series?

A: As a real man, I find no feeling of achievement in beating up millions of defenseless enemies. As for my opinion as a gamer, my free time is too valuable to spend it hacking away at an endless stream of dumb-as-a-brick opponents."


I can't fail to admit that honestly, Ninja Gaiden is far more fun a game than Dynasty Warriors.

I can still like Dynasty Warriors, can't I?

I could argue that after having to deal with one of the toughest and most satisfying games games I've ever played (Ninja Gaiden) one needs something a little less mind-involving and intense (Dynasty Warriors). I won't.


To begin, there is a video circulating around the internet titled "Nintendo ON" that is a fake "leaked" trailer for the latest in Nintendo's console offerings. It's pretty impressive for being done by a one guy (in supposedly a week). You should have a look at it, just realise as I didn't that it wasn't the real deal.

The latest in Xbox technology is coming out this year, while Sony's PS3 is presumed to be coming out next year, and Nintendo has confirmed a 2006 release along with some juicy details about their console without really telling us what's so revolutionary.

The first thing that happens? Nintendo gets flak for missing the Christmas Season.

I will not be so silly as to say that there are no disadvantages in being second or third out of the gate, nor will I make ludicrous statements to the affect that there are no advantages in being the first. I will simply note that there are advantages and disadvantages to both. I actually would argue that Microsoft is not making a mistake by releasing first, and that Nintendo is not making a mistake to wait until 2006.

The first of several major detractions cited for Microsoft's November release of the Xbox 360 (why oh why did they ditch Xenon? Anyone else thing Xenon a far better name?) is the common citation of Sega's complete failures to drum up sales for the Sega Saturn and Sega Dreamcast by releasing ahead of the competition. While a valid point, there is more to say on the subject.

First off, the Sega Saturn's polygonal capabilities were far inferior to the Playstation's, especially considering it was originally designed to basically be a souped up Genesis. Sprites were supposed to be the center, and suddenly Sony turned around and smacked them out of the limelight. Releasing early doesn't mask last minute changes to make a console ready for primarily polygonal games.

The Dreamcast was not an ill-conceived effort like the Saturn, but a well planned out console. While less powerful than the others to come, it was not so much so that it could not have done well. However, Sega had several factors going against them. One was their inability to properly market the system. The second was their strange decision to wait an entire year before taking the console stateside. By that time, Sony had released all the juicy details on the PS2, and the rumblings concerning the Gamecube and Xbox were growing loud. The Dreamcast did well, but not well enough to last and Sega abandoned the console.

It is notable that even the Sega Genesis emerged before the Super Nintendo, but there Sega was the first to ever even challenge Nintendo, and did a darn good job at it.

In the end, we have one win, one loss and one inbetween for early console releases. At the same time, we have one instance of Nintendo's late arrival to the market yet still capturing the majority of the market (the SNES).

Microsoft has shown itself to be able to market, or at least spend money by the bucketload on marketing. Being only one of three competitors and with Halo 2 mania still buzzing in the ears of many college students, it is unlikely the Xbox 360 will have the same problems as the Dreamcast.

The next citation for problems the Xbox 360 will face is the nature of the upcoming Christmas Season. The PSP and Nintendo DS will be going full force before the Xbox 360 is even on the shelves. This will be the PSP's first Christmas, and both handhelds will have had time to widen their lineup of games. Because neither of these handhelds are cheap ($150-$200), they will likely be cheaper or at the least equal in price to the Xbox 360. Additionally, with the PS3 and Nintendo Revolution certain to be backwards compatible, owners of PS2s and Gamecubes are not likely to be going out and grabbing a console they have no investment in. If the Xbox 360 is not backwards compatible, even Xbox owners might not want to bother. With games like the latest Legend of Zelda installment due out this Christmas, Microsoft seems to have an uphill battle.

All of these factors are irrefutable in that they will turn away hardcore gamers. That will hurt Microsoft, but they are willing to take the hit. The people they are really aiming for are not hardcore gamers at all.

No video game company in their right mind or with any idea of demographics would advertise a console on MTV if they were targeting the more serious slew of gamers. What should be obvious is their full intent on swallowing whole the perhaps larger number of casual gamers who are more likely to buy movie tie-ins and sports games than whatever Mario happens to be doing. Releasing early to an audience so unlikely to get a PSP or DS is a smart move.

To release next year holds few advantages if any for Microsoft. In addition to having to directly compete with Nintendo and Sony right out of the gate for sales, they would be giving the other systems all the chance they needed to draw in the crucial casual gamers. With Sony likely to have some leeway in terms of riding the wave of the PS2's success, and Nintendo's possible revolutionary steps towards changing the industry, Microsoft would not only be shooting themselves in the foot, but doing so with a rocketlauncher.

I honestly can't see Microsoft's Xbox 360 doing well and being released next year.

For Sony, I don't really think it matters what they do in terms of their own martket share. If they wanted to, they could do incredible damage to the Xbox 360's chances by releasing this year. Were they to drum up a "war" between themselves Microsoft for the Christmas Season, they would likely be able to sideline the late arriving Nintendo by getting gamers to choose between the PS3 and the Xbox 360. The only downsides here would be a possible increase in sales for Microsoft as a result, or a decrease in PSP sales.

While a 2005 PS3 release seems to have a lot of reasons going for it, I think that Sony would be wiser to wait as well. If gamers are anticipating not one, but two consoles to be released the year following the Christmas Season, that might be enough to dull enthusiasm for the Xbox 360. Additionally, fighting a juggernaut of a company like Microsoft head on is like running directly into a wall of lava. Even if you are a juggernaut yourself, you're only making things easy for whoever else wants a cut of the market. By competing more directly with Nintendo, Sony would not only steal some limelight from Microsoft's big show for Christmas, but also deal with a longstanding threat that could with each generation explode back into the top position. If Nintendo and Sony mutually work together on starting a war between the handhelds without making gamers turn to the Xbox 360 from disgust, they could seriously do some harm.

Which inevitably brings us to Nintendo, the people I'm rooting for unobjectively, but tentative about from a less biased standpoint. Having already weighed the possible benefits and detriments for Microsoft and Sony, where does this leave Nintendo?

To begin, we'll ignore the revolutionary aspect of the Revolution. I'll deal with that later.

We already know for certain that the Revolution isn't coming out until next year. Here's my reasoning as to why. The general talk going round and my own feel for the industry points to several basic goals in terms of competition between the companies. Sony is content to be on top, and will simply fire its cannon at all comers. Microsoft wants to take out and possibly take over Nintendo as a step towards better cornering the market (and eventually ousting Sony). Nintendo is probably more interested in taking out Sony directly.

It seems obvious that taking on Sony directly is exactly what Nintendo is doing. Nintendo is already in direct competition with Sony's PSP via the Nintendo DS. While where that fight is going is up in the air, Nintendo is doing anything but poorly. To continue the trend by waiting until 2006 when the PS3 is likely to be released would simply be logical.

Additionally, Nintendo is purportedly going to be really tight lipped concerning the Revolutionary aspects of its console (no surprise, Microsoft and Sony are infamous for their copying of competitors) as E3 rolls by. As Microsoft and Sony battle it out for media coverage, Nintendo can wait until later to grab all the attention. In the same way, if Sony releases early with Microsoft, Nintendo can let them battle it out and coast in later. Considering its late start with the Gamecube, Nintendo didn't do too poorly. Arguably, it would be better for Nintendo if Sony released in 2006.

The odd factor out is the revolutionary aspect(s) of the Revolution. The specs for it sans that factor are impressive enough. It would take a person without a single bit of geekiness in them to be blind to the obvious technical competition Nintendo will bring against its competitors. However, what can make or break Nintendo in this next generation is that odd factor.

As an anything but objective gamer, I'm all for Nintendo's next console and given my large Gamecube library will likely buy that first and any other consoles later (I do have a PS2 and extensive Playstation library, but again I'm not objective). However, if I remove my bias one soon finds a deep, dark fear lurking in the back of my mind.

What plagues me is the fear that Nintendo's revolutionary, industry changing aspect of their console is either going to be too gimmicky for everyone, too weird for casual gamers, or too mundane for hardcore gamers. If it is any of those things, Nintendo is likely to be hurting.

However, if it is only somewhat gimmicky, only slightly weird, or a tad bit mundane, Nintendo will survive. Obviously if the console is backwards compatible it can do the basics and if the revolutionary stuff is a turn off they can scrap it. However, if the first statment is true, Nintendo will survive.

If the end result is better than the first statement in that last paragraph, then I project some good times for Nintendo. Given the ravings of those who have seen it (even with a grain of salt), I find it likely that the Revolution will be just that.

In any case, all we can do is wait patiently for E3 and whatever details emerge on these systems. Like all projections, they get increasingly accurate as the moment of truth approaches.


In the Dark

There are few college age people these days who did not, at some point, come into contact with Goldeneye for the Nintendo 64. That game alone was the cornerstone for all future first person shooters on console. It's predecessor, Perfect Dark, was not so well known. It was however, incredible.

The company responsible for these games, Rare, has been in the hands of Microsoft for some time. The only immediate benefit Microsoft recieved was a hole of 375 million dollars, which Nintendo cashed in on. The sole game Rare has released post sale was Grabbed by the Ghoulies, which is somewhere between pathetic and a blight upon history.

If you missed the news, Microsoft has released all the details on their anticipated entry into the next generation of consoles, the Xbox 360. Personally I prefered the name Xenon. In any case, amoung the launch titles is Perfect Dark Zero.

Perfect Dark Zero is the extremely long awaited sequel to Perfect Dark. Originally slated for the Gamecube prior to Rare's sale and then for the Xbox, Microsoft wisely put this title off until their next gen entry. My immediate reaction to this sequel finally seeing the light of day is a loud, "Booyah!"

However, for some reason I find myself feeling rather odd concerning the whole business. The only words to truly describe it adaquately are "hopeless dread". It's as though with the announcement of the first of the next generation consoles a shadow fell over the entire gaming world.

I've long since abandoned my prejudices against the one and only Micro$oft, but for a while I've been hesitant about the direction they wish to take video games in. Some of the major reasons people thought Microsoft was bound to failure with the Xbox was because they didn't understand the minds of gamers, or at least the hardcore brand. Call us elitists, but at the time most gamers I knew considered themselves (myself included) different from everyone else. We thought differently, acted differently, didn't ascribe to popular culture etc. While everyone else was living mundane lives, we were fighting intergalatic battles against malevolent and powerful forces of evil.

Perhaps my dread relates to Microsoft's use of MTV, the very embodiment of popular culture, to reveal their new console. Bikini clad babes associated with the little device that brings previously unattainable realms into my own home somehow jives with the established order. Aside from some ill-fated "adult" games, no one has ever linked sex, sexiness or the like to a video game console.

The whole MTV thing points to something deeper. I'm honestly not going to complain if video games are no longer labeled "nerdy". Honestly I wouldn't mind if girls thought it was sexy, because then they'd be all over me. What bothers me is the implicit statement that goes along with MTV being associated with video games. Namely, thet video games belong popular culture.

Given my elitist tendencies, you can understand my dread. What is being ushered in here is an object that it will be "cool" to have. Not "cool" in the nerdy technological sense, but "cool" in the sense that some women with cleavage endorsed it. There are certainly tech specs galore to make geeks like myself drool. However, somehow I feel like I'm being excluded.

That's a rather ironic statement seeing as how elitism tends to exclude, but honestly, if you want to be a hardcore gamer all you have to do is play games excessively. There have long been many casual gamers, but they aren't the ones who typically obsessed over the next console or game sequel. They are excluded simply for the same reason someone who only read half of J.R.R Tolkien's The Hobbit is excluded from the deep discussions of the Tolkien club on The Silmarillion. They're not stupid, they just aren't informed.

So when I say I feel excluded, it isn't just me in particular but the whole of the hardcore gaming population. What is happening is that the casual gamer is now the primary target of the people leading the gaming industry. While hardcore gamers are not forgotten, we're unaccustomed to being out of the developer's limelight. While we were easily able to deal with the fact that Mario wasn't going to grow up with us as we aged, this strikes us in a way we didn't expect.

Perhaps this is just a necessary integration of something wholly awesome into the mainstream. This isn't going to mean that people like me are a thing of the past, we just won't be special just because we play video games (and extremely well at that).

I have high hopes for Perfect Dark Zero, though I doubt I'll pick up an Xbox 360 within any proximity of its release.

Peacesim beware.


The Dynasty Continues

Some of you may remember the veritable discontent I expressed towards Samurai Warriors, Koei's Meiji Era based Dynasty Warriors spinoff. This is little if anything like that.

I've been playing Dynasty Warriors 5 recently. Actually it's Shin Sangoku Musou 4, but there was a fighting game that predated Shin Sangoku Musou that, upon entering America, was dubbed Dynasty Warriors. Since both were based off of the Romance of the Three Kingdoms and had the same characters, and because there weren't any more fighting games made, they dubbed the similar series of hack'n'slash the same.

Anyway, the last game in the series I played was Dynasty Warriors 3. Samurai Warriors doesn't count because it was a spinoff (and a bad one at that if you read my opinions on it). Dynasty Warriors 3 was pretty incredible, 40 characters, cool items, a plethora of stages, and a large population of Chinese soldiers to slaughter. If you've played the game, you know how awesome (if repetitive) it was.

That brings the first major point into clarity. This series is repetitive. Levels pretty much consist of hitting one button on your controller an endless number of times to slaughter enemies. You occasionally hit another button, but not so much as the one. The game has progressed over time to be not so mindless if you want it to be, but can still be played without two brain cells rubbing together.

I think it's fun.

However, not everyone will agree with me on that point, and even I won't sometimes. Mindless and addictive (for some) as it is, it won't click with everyone. But be forewarned, if you like the series in the least it will eat your time away fast. So think of the poor Chinese you'll be slaughtering. I'm quite sure that between all the people who've played the series the entire population of China has been killed several times over.

Down to business.

Dynasty Warriors 5 has one major, and dead obvious, flaw in comparison to Dynasty Warriors 3. #4 will not be appearing here, because I never played it (I heard it wasn't so good anyway). Anyway, Dynasty Warriors 5 does not have and option for Japanese voice acting. If you've seen more than ten seconds of these games in English, you'll know just how bad the English voice actors are. They really are something else. "Butchering" doesn't even begin to describe what happens to the lines dispensed as battles progress. While #3's English acting is definitively worse that #5's, it was saved by the fact that you could switch the language track to Japanese in a flash, and since it's all subtitled anyway...

Samurai Warriors also had the Japanese language option. I say this because it was a very nice feature that managed to accomplish very little in helping the game to be more than mediocre. While the same option made #3 go from excellent to awesome, #5 does a very good job of being fun despite having to deal with some very bad lines and casting.

Pang Tong, a wizened advisor to one of the characters in the game, should never, ever be confused with a seventeen year old high school student. That's exactly what the people who cast voices for this game did. In his noble death scene during a particular scenario, he says in the most casual and disinterested way, "I'm sorry, but I'm moving on without you all." Somewhere I could hear echoes of a noble Japanese recital of the same lines, but that was merely my imagination.

The terrible acting is the first and foremost barrier to enjoying #5. I had some sound issues related to the TV I was using that made it harder for me at first, but that's hardly typical. If you skipped out on #4, there's enough of a difference between #3 and #5 that you don't feel like you're playing the exact same game again. In fact, there are a lot of awesome improvements I like very much.

The first improvements are in the basic battle system. #3 was plagued by an "auto-lock on" wherein your ability to control what direction you were attacking in was often compromised when you actually hit an enemy. Even after you killed a specific enemy, you couldn't turn to hit the enemies behind you, and simply continued attacking in the same direction the enemy had been regardless. Obviously, this could end up quite frustrating. #5 does away with that. While this means that the novice player will now have to aim their strikes for themselves, that's hardly difficult as the game's learning curve is about as difficult as breathing.

It is also nice to note that Koei did not add the craptacular "enemies get stronger as you do" system that was in Samurai Warriors.

Another asset to the battle system missing in #3 is that the Imperial Seal, a special in battle powerup that allows you to continuously do a very power Musou attack without stopping for a short period of time, is no longer found in crates and pots in random parts of the level. This was a point of frustration as there was rarely ever any enemies near it and, if there were, it was likely you'd kill them before opening the crate that housed the Seal. In #5, the Seal is now dropped randomly by enemies like all other powerups. While occasionally this happens on one of the last men standing, it happens just as often with the first few men you kill (leaving the rest ready for a lesson in pain).

Ironically, Koei did something that everyone had suggested for the Imperial Seal with a different, and brand new, powerup. Hidden in crates and rarely dropped by enemies is the Musou Token. Also attainable by killing one hundred enemies with the special Musou attack, this token is usable after pickup at the player's discretion. Upon activation, the player has super boosted attack and defense, attack speed, and their special Musou attack bar is filled. Additionally, if a special Musou attack is used it will be more powerful. Eventually the token wears off and things return to normal, minus a good number of enemy soldiers. Only one token can be held at a time, which makes sense given the visage of death you become when you use one. When a character has their ultimate weapon, a token is given every one hundred kills period, which is extremely fun.

The only change to general purpose powerups in battle aside from the new treatment of the Imperial Seal and the addition of the Musou Token is the addition of a pair of shoes that make you run really fast. The speed boost even helps fast characters a bunch, and is quite fun.

Weapons follow a very similar system to #3. You can have four weapons, and there are four types of weapons, each more powerful than the last (and the last being a unique, ultimate weapon with killer attributes). Weapons can have anywhere between zero and six special attributes to make it stronger. There's the first difference there, as weapons in #3 never had more than five (and usually only three or four). Another significant difference is the addition of a weight attribute. Weapons can be light, medium, or heavy. Light weapons attack faster, but are weaker. Heavy weapons are slower but lay the punishment on thick. Medium weapons are in between. A weapon of X attack power will not do the same damage with a light weight as it will heavy, because weight is simply a modifier on damage.

Weapons have another new attribute in addition to weight. This attribute is a little squiggly symbol above its image that indicates it allows for what are termed "Evolution Combos". What this means is that if your special Musou attack bar is full, you can attack more than the typical maximum of six times. A total of nine attacks are possible, and they aren't anything to scoff at. While you can't finish with a charge up attack like you can in the first six strikes, they are still worthwhile. It also means there's more of a point to having a full Musou bar than simply saving it for when you need to really lay a pounding.

Also notable is a change in the elemental system. The element of a character is no longer whatever is tacked on to their ultimate weapon. Instead, one of four elemental orbs is equippable to add the desired effect. The four elements are fire, ice, light and shadow, each with their own unique effect.

Orbs are equipped in the item screen pre-battle. You can only have one orb equipped at a time. Koei enforces this through the best item system they've come up with yet. Instead of a set five item slots that cover everything, Koei divided it into an initial four slots, one for choosing a steed, one for an orb, and two for other items. In case you missed it, that's a downgrade of five to four items, and one has to be a steed, and another an orb. I'm sure there are plenty of people familiar with the series wondering how the heck it's a better system. Put down your weapons, here's where the awesome starts.

As your character grows stronger, you get additional item slot for other items. You never get another orb or steed slot, but as you fight you'll eventually get a full five item slots.

This covers for me one of the more silly aspects of #3. Why would anyone want to equip an item that gave them a horse when they could A) Probably prefer one of the stat boosting items B) Get knocked off of it in a jiffy and C) Get one from a random enemy general anyway? Now that's all in the past, and thankfully so. While one hit still typically knocks you off a horse, enemies in #5 are much worse at succeeding in doing so. In addition, you can really do some nasty damage on a horse, especially with the right items.

For all those miscellaneous items a few things have changed. In terms of stat boosting ones (and this applies to the bonuses that appear on weapons as well) instead of a direct +X, it's all done in levels between one and twenty. It simplifies things a bit, although I think I'd prefer the straight numbers. There's the addition of an item that increases the strength of charged up attacks, which can make them rather nasty in combination with the all around attack boost. What makes horseback really, really possible is that now mounted attack and defense have been condensed into one boost. This means that what once took two items (or weapon bonus slots) is now one.

As far as leveling a character's stats up, it's all pretty much the same. Kill a general or sub-general, he'll drop an item, a weapon, or a stat boost. Combo him enough, and you'll get a better item, weapon, or stat boost. The only difference here is that instead of having to comb the levels for the dim sum, generals now drop those life boosting items. However, you'll still need to scour the land for the Musou Wine. It is nice to know that on Hard mode they'll be likely to be +20 as opposed to +10. Regardless, comboing a life giving general should give you a +20 life bonus.

While the non-historical characters Fu Xi and Nu Wa have been scrapped, there's many new historical ones (although how much they participated in battle is up in the air) and one non-historical one. All of these new comers are pretty cool looking, but then again, so is everyone.

Koei has done an excellent job making all 48 characters as unique as possible. Considering that EA couldn't even make the four hobbits in the Return of the King movie tie-in game different save in appearance, it's rather astounding how well they do. I haven't played all 48 characters so I can't tell you how fun they all are, how balanced they all are, or how bad each of their voice actors are. I assure you that there are plenty of fun ones, balance is okay, and don't count on any past favorites sounding anything close to heroic, evil, or even intelligent.

Because I'm going to be in Japan in the fall, I'm toying with the idea of picking up a Japanese PS2 and copy of Shin Sangoku 4 while I'm there. That or just the game and I'll use those region defying utilities to allow me to play it.

I guess I'm hoping that in the destined to be made Xtreme Legends expansion, Koei adds some Japanese into the mix.

It may just be that after suffering through Samurai Warriors anything looks good, but I genuinely think that the only gaping flaw in Dynasty Warriors 5 is the English.

That all said, play the game.


Dr. Weis: Duck Blind

Greetings from Dr. Weis! Today, Dr. Weis recite great oratory of Dr. Weis.

Topic of oratory today, duck blind importance for research. Much research done only when subject not know. Dr. Weis provide basic step of hidden researcher.

First method of hidden researcher, most effective. Convince subject that you not researching them. Like spanish word on internet translator, meanings not found.
•Way number 1: Inform subject research already complete.
•Number 2: Inform subject you researching alternative subject.
•3: Inform subject, "Just taking notes on greatness of comrade." Like blindman in archery, subject miss obvious.

Second method of hidden researcher, most effective. Make self not noticed. Like shadow on plaid skirt, who care?
•Way number 1: Blend in with surroundings. Researcher not seen is researcher indeed.
•Number 2: Bring in second subject. Create conflict. Watch as both ignore researcher.
•3: Make nuisance of self. Subject will have strong desire not notice researcher. Dr. Weis say: "Like lightning bug during thunderstorm, not seen."

Last method of hidden researcher, most effective, very simple. Convince subject to research if subject is bad researcher. While attention is elsewhere, research freely! Like crab apple hidden underground, grow into crustaceon before noticed.

Dr. Weis say: "Research, like constant creation of Mortimer-laid plans, never cease!"

Viva la Resolution

Right now, I'm listening to a song called Viva la Resolution. There are other mirrors available if you look up the SlashDot article.

I found it rather hilarious. The lyrics can be mildly explicit at times, but I think it shouldn't be a problem for anyone I know. The opening story is priceless as well as is the rather 80s retro gaming instruments.

Just remember, the moral of this is do not give game developers hurlable articles if your demo is going to crash.



Back in the day, before the internet became the land of carbon copy websites, one could find all sorts of obscure information and facts about anything relatively easily. Searches certainly weren't as advanced as they are today, but at the same time there wasn't anywhere near the volume of crud to wade through. It was a glorious time.

Two incidents recently revealed to me the sorry state of affairs of the internet's ability to provide information that really doesn't seem all that obscure. I recently wanted to look up some information on a video game a friend was playing. Enemies in the game sometimes are visibly holding items you can steal from them. In playing the game, I noticed that specific enemies carry specific items. To aid my quest, I looked to the internet for it's repository of video game information, GameFAQs, for this information.

After looking through about fifteen different FAQs, I discovered that the depth with which these FAQs delved into the game is akin to the depth of a puddle on a sunny day. In fact, only one of of the many FAQs I looked at even gave a passing glance to the fact that these enemies even carried items from time to time, beyond the description of an ability used to steal these items from your foes.

I've blinked disbelievingly for some time now, unable to understand where all the fanatical gamers like myself went. I've written an FAQ myself before, and in the purely fanatical fashion of capturing every detail imaginable in as full an explanation as possible. The only reason I never finished or published is because the whole capstone of the FAQ, the hope that I would find one elusive powerup that no one had found, never happened despite some pretty insane acts on my part. There's nothing like doing the impossible and not finding something.

In any case, I am still at a loss for why the fanatics like myself who were writing faqs with a passion not so long ago have suddenly vanished. The only game I can think of that has had a fanatical presence recently was Halo 2. All other console games have been forsaken.

Were it not for my impending return home, and subsequent job seeking, japanese studying, and programming (and maybe even despite all of that) I'd write the FAQ myself. But what worries me is the systemic scope of the problem.

I already ranted about this in The Death of the Internet, and there you'll see what worries me.

Part of the solution is, as I said, for me to write the FAQ myself. However, a full solution requires that the next generation of video gamers be educated in constructive fanatacism. Constructive fanatacism is the kind of fanatacism which drives one to fully understand and know something. This is different from the kind which drives someone to endlessly argue with someone else about something.

The lack of constructive fanatacism leads to other incidents like my recent search for the language options in a game. With the language options of every movie coming out on DVD carefully laid out before us wherever we go, I didn't think it difficult to see similar statistics on a game. Despite that, my search for whether or not Dynasty Warriors 5 had a japanese language option took more time than I am willing to admit.

What really bothers me is that this information I seek doesn't even seem that obscure to me. There've been FAQs in the past about the excessively complicated calculations for the damage in a game for a system barely anyone knows about which required that the author find these calculations without anything but the variables as they changed and the resultant damage. While this makes more sense with more popular games like Final Fantasy Tactics, there was a time when information that obscure was readily availible for just about everything. That time has obviously past if a game can't even have some information that is barely above basic availible.

Something needs to be done to correct the atmosphere of video games that is breeding this generation of gamers to miss the depth of a game. I'm sure there are others like me raising their eyebrows and wondering what the heck happened to in-depth FAQs. Somehow, we need to find each other and figure out what is going wrong before the path known as video games diverges off into a cliff.

Anyone have Nintendo's phone number?


A Dismal Future

This isn't about my finals, but about a dream I had last night.

Last night, I dreampt I was unceremoniously brought into the far future by accident. Some scientist was experimenting with someone and was as shocked as I was to find me in the future. He was so shocked he didn't do a thing when I walked right out of his lab onto the streets.

Now, this future I was in wasn't the gritty, black techno utilitarian utopia that we see in movies like the matrix, but was more like the white, glistening future the 50s and 60s suggested, with a little more sense of reality.

The city I was in would have been beautiful, were it not for the blistering number of advertisements invading the personal space of my mind. Apparently advertisers figured out how to project their crap directly into the sensory centers of the brain. The upshot of this is that the city was so completely and utterly full of advertisement you couldn't even close your eyes and plug your ears and be free from it. How on earth the people of the world dealt with bikini babes enticing you to buy something no matter where you looked I have no idea. All I know was that it was something akin to watching fifty channels of the most obnxious commercials imaginable simultaneously.

After some time, I learned that by focusing somewhat the commercials could be blocked and I could actually think again. Then I was able to actually notice much of the city around me.

People were pretty oblivious of everything, thanks to the commercials. Anything that wasn't necessarily important had been plastered with the advertisements, leaving only things you were about to collide with to actually be seen. Somehow people managed to navigate through this sea of stupidity daily without thought. Maybe the "without thought" part is how it worked.

Cleared of the insurgent attack on my psyche, I almost freaked out when I noticed an advertising poster on a wall somewhere. My immediate reaction was to concentrate very hard to make it go away, until I realised this was a physical reality. Some company involved in reclaimation of inheritances and whatnot was down on its luck enough and near enough to bankruptcy that it actually had unearthed the now ancient and unused method of using posters. This was completely unnoticable to anyone who was being assaulted by the advertisements.

After all the ages that passed, my one government bond I received for some outstanding newspaper delivery had gone beyond maturity. I was pretty filthy rich. In fact, so much so that the cut the company got was so large it not only pushed them back into the market, but they made the greatest quarterly gain in history and were #1 for their profession.

With some of this money, because noone could possibly spend the money I had in twelve lifetimes, I bought a cafe. One of those elitist places that you climb down a narrow set of stairs from the sidewalk on a semi-used city street to get to. It was run down, but I fixed it up.

For advertising, I put posters everywhere. That meant that only people with the capacity for thought could possibly discover my cafe. Elitist cafe indeed.

Sure enough, there were at least a few people in the city who could think. Thusly, my cafe was dubbed "the Underground". This was probably both because you had to descend into the place, and because it sounded elite.

Eventually, the government got wind of something going on. Apparently there were rumors of an underground resistance movement going by the name underground. It was probably started by unthinking people hearing about my cafe from thinking people. In any case, a private investigator was hired to find us and discover our plans.

It took him a long time, the poor guy couldn't find any clues because of all the advertisement. Apparently sleuthing is far easier in the future because people are all stupid and unoriginal. Dealing with someone who actually thought was tougher than normal.

Eventually, this guy focused so hard on finding where my group was "hiding out" he blocked out the advertisements by accident. Since I had posters all over the place, it didn't take him long to see one and check it out.

He found me and my clintelle enjoying ourselves in our ability to think and discussing various things. I was still dressed in my typical manner, though not the same exact set of clothes I'd come to the future with. It was probably all custom made.

Anyway, it was obvious from the outset that this cafe was in no way a resistance movement. Nevertheless, he still began to ask me about it, thinking I was just a minion or something. When he found out I was in charge, he was befuddled. It seemed really silly that the all powerful government couldn't find a place that wasn't intentionally hidden to begin with. The glowing neon sign probably could have clued them in.

In any case, I explained to him who we were, and how we were most definately not a resistance movement. What confounded him was my continual references to "my time". I had forgotten that I hadn't explained to him that I was from the past. The clientelle had long accepted this, as apparent from my strange ideas and mannerisms. It took some time to convince the investigator.

Apparently I'd also come in contact with a historian particularly interested in my time period. He'd drilled me with all sorts of questions, which I answered as I could. Thankfully, I can assure you all that Britney Spears does eventually die and stop singing, and her music is forgotten. Anyway, I didn't learn much history from the historian, but some necessary cultural aid.

What I didn't learn from the historian, and what I learned from the private investigator, was why the historian had pestered me almost entirely about Darwin and Creationists. I wasn't too happy with what I learned.

I confused the investigator specifically with a reference to World War II. Apparently by this point so many had happened they ceased numbering them and named them. He began to rattle off a list of them, the Great War, the Nazi War, the Darwin War...

I cut him off there and asked about the Darwin War. Somewhere deep inside I knew exactly what must have happened, but the 99% of me that believed in hope for humanity refused to listen.

War really went downhill, fast. The Darwin War (World War III) was basically caused because the whole Evolution vs Creationism debate got out of hand. They literally started a war over it. The end result was the status quo that was now in place currently, wherein the american continents were rich, affluent and secular, while everywhere else was quite poor, and largely Christian. Livable, and maybe not as bad as third world countries today, but definately a few millenia behind.

I was about ready to explode at that point. For anyone who knows me, the whole debate is utterly ludicrous in my mind. The continual claims from both sides they've proved the other side wrong, the arguments disguised as "level-headed" debates, the bias, it all drives me nuts when I don't see there being a problem between science and religion in the first place.

It got worse.

It really, really went downhill after that. While no wars after that point really changed much of importance in the end, there were vast conflicts over incredibly stupid things.

There was a war over which of two fashion magnates was hipper, there was one over the length of pants, and there was one over an ill timed sneeze during a governmental meeting. As the list of wars went on, I became more and more livid at the utter and complete stupidity of mankind.

This scared the investigator significantly.

Another apparent difference between now and then is that then, violence was pretty fully controlled. Between not thinking, and the constant advertisements, and probably some minor mind control, violence was extremely uncommon. Only people who could think could express it, and people in this world still weren't apt to. At least this was true in richville.

That probably explains why the investigator backed away slowly as I turned red and began to beat my fist against a wall. I eventually started ranting about the stupidity of mankind. I don't know how long I went on about it, but eventually I resolved to start a revolution that would get everyone thinking. I also convinced the investigator that religion and science were not mutually exclusive.

Anyway, he gave a report to the government, not explaining how he found us, but telling them we didn't intend on overthrowing anyone.

It was true!

Anyway, I woke up right then, before I laid any plans. Weird dream eh?

Should probably write a book on it.


Don't Panic

For faithful, fanatical, and fussy Douglas Adams fans, the announcement of The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy movie was one of both great anticipation and great anxiety. We dreamed of Arthur Dent, Ford, Zaphod, Trillian and especially Marvin. At the same time, we gnawed off our own right leg to survive the potential horrors that awaited us.

Don't Panic, for I have seen the movie and it is most excellent. That is not to say it is above criticism. Even the famed Lord of the Rings trilogy did not escape the scrutiny of endless hordes of fans.

The first thing I can say on the film is that given the sheer amount of material to cover, the movie covered a whole heck of a lot. Given my estimations, I'd say they made it through approximately one quarter of the radio series. This was not even frantically crammed together. The movie flows exceptionally well, something that must have been an incredible challenge given the insanity that is the series.

Most if not all of our favorite jokes make their appearances. Unfortunately, a great number of them are cut short of their full length. They are still funny, but at the end of the movie I found myself wishing that they had simply taken the extra fifteen minutes to take Adams' jokes to their full extent. Still, the movie rocks.

Some of the best segments of the movie are when the Guide itself details through voice and graphical effects information vital to our survival in our galaxy. Whoever designed these was a genius, because they were simply perfect. There are some occaisions as well where the Guide's voice talks about a subject during some interesting scenes involving our favorite characters. I personally wished that one (anyone) of those scenes would have been replaced with another book visual. The non-book voice overs are in the majority, but that isn't really bad. I just really loved the book so much I wanted to see it again.

Speaking of which, don't leave until the credits are done.

The visual effects are stunning and, dare I say it, perfect. While most movies spend vast budgets on computer graphics trying to hide vast plot holes and poor character development behind pretty lights and tricks, the Guide does no such thing. The effects are so well done you hardly notice them or care. They do the part they should always be in by supporting the cast and story instead of supplanting them. They are incredibly impressive both technically and in the way they were implemented.

The music is also wonderful. For those who have seen the BBC TV series and, better yet, listened to the radio series you will be tickled when the original theme revamped and executed perfectly, plays.

There are other homages to previous versions of the Guide. Look for the original TV version of Marvin in the background halfway through the movie. Don't strain yourself too hard, it'll be obvious. Also, Douglas Adams himself makes an appearance towards the end, though exactly how (especially since he's dead) I will not say. Gag Halfront (I believe that is how it's spelled) also appears near the beginning with his ever so classic line: "Hey, Zaphod's just this guy, you know?"

Random Note: The Vogons rock too.

Watch this movie. If you have any shred of humor, you will enjoy it. It is pure gold, or at least a close replica.