Monthly Archives: February 2011

Burgers and Video Games Live

Nina (my wife) got me tickets for Video Games Live for a Valentine’s Day gift, after we mutually enjoyed the Video Game Orchestra at PAX East. This afforded us the rare opportunity to go through Rockville and visit Urban Burger. If you live in or around Rockville, for God’s sake visit this place. It’s amazing.

Video Games Live was pretty good, if a bit pandering and juvenile at times. I think I was expecting more of a VGO-like performance, which was very much about sitting and enjoying renditions of orchestrated video game music. Instead, it was more of a “show” environment, with little games and videos scattered throughout. It was good fun, but if you’re going you should expect a more casual atmosphere. If you really want game music treated artistically, go to a VGO show or one of the probably dozens of campus-held video game symphony programs (one of which, from the University of Maryland, was present tonight).

They featured this guy as a special guest, and let me say, I can vouch for him. I can’t say with certainty that he didn’t speed up that video or use a blindfold that he could see through, but having witnessed his skills first hand, I can say he definitely didn’t have to. My damn. I’m learning the piano slowly, and sort of taught myself a basic version of Terra’s Theme from FF6, but he put me to shame.

The conductor was the composer for a few games, including Afrika. They let him feature his own Afrika theme song with some video clips, the result of which is that now I’m kind of curious about the game. Not enough to buy it, but maybe enough to rent it someday.

Nina and I got into a conversation about show theme songs on the way home, and couldn’t for the life of us remember Family Matters. It was so conflated with Full House that thinking of one just brought up the other.

And as long as we’re sharing videos, lolwut.

I’d like to thank the Academy…

So, Oscar time again. I’m not going to pretend I have any knowledge of some of the more obscure categories, so I’ll just make a few predictions for the biggies.

  • Best Actress: Natalie Portman
  • Best Actress if Natalie Portman Unexpectedly Disqualified: Annette Bening
  • Best Actor: Jesse Eisenberg
  • Most Grizzled Actor: Jeff Bridges
  • Least Grizzled Actor: Jesse Eisenberg
  • Best Picture: The Social Network
  • Most Old Men Missing the Point: The Social Network
  • Best Snub That No One Cares About But Me: How to Train Your Dragon

That was fun, wan’it?

  • Victory Games confirmed. This story doesn’t actually grab me that much, but I wanted to point out a benefit of the new Shack design. Rolling our Comments section into the Chatty makes the article threads more active. For example, this story got 41 comments, while the original story from last week, pre-redesign (which contained all the same information) got about a dozen.
  • PS3 price drops ahoy! It’s too bad I’ve already played all of them. First world problems.

The PSP greatest hits, on the other hand,  look interesting. I didn’t link to them in bullets since I didn’t write the story, but there’s a pretty solid collection of things I haven’t played yet. I might just go for Resistance or Monster Hunter. And if you haven’t played Crisis Core, it’s the best thing with the Final Fantasy VII name attached. I say that without reservation or caveat.

Leigh Alexander wrote a pretty insightful look at game culture and hostility, and it’s worth a read. I don’t think I agree with all of her conclusions, and her mention of the “Dickwolves” controversy is unbelievably reductive, but overall it’s a great read.

Apparently my 1UP article, the one I’ve been talking about non-stop, is now set for Monday. Crossing my fingers it doesn’t get pushed back again, because I’m pretty eager to share it.

Mature Game Trailers, Exhibits A-B

Despite working in the game industry, I don’t tend to watch game trailers all that often. They’re usually pre-rendered, lots of jump cuts, and just don’t excite me much. Today, though, I finally gave in and watched the trailer for Dead Island. It was as incredible as I had heard. I felt like I had to sit down, and I was already sitting down.

Then again, sometimes you have mature trailers like the one for We Dare. It defies words in a completely different way. Apparently Ubisoft is moving into the video game sex toy market? Good luck with that. Assassin’s Creed 3 should be… interesting.

Links!

  • I can’t wait for L.A. Noire. It’s really looking better and better. I couldn’t give less of a crap about pre-order bonuses, but hey, I’ll probably get the Amazon one by nature of… tending to buy just about everything from Amazon. So a fist-fighting suit, eh?
  • This invitation like the sort of story that belongs more in the developer community than the gaming community at large. I mean, sure you might find a few former developers, but is that worth sorting through the thousands of “hilarious” pranksters?

Oscars this weekend. Hoo boy! Maybe for tomorrow’s entry I’ll sort through the nominees and make my predictions.

The Shackocalypse

So the new Shack launched today. It’s been in the works since way before I arrived, and it lacks some of our wish list of features, but I like certain aspects of the design a lot more. The blue/silver color scheme looks a lot nicer than the old red/tan, and larger text looks more modern.

Predictably, the internet hates it. At least, some portion of the internet hates it, but I’ve been pretty happy to see most of the Shack users making thoughtful, constructive criticism. If the site team takes the feedback to heart and rolls with making improvements, this could be a fantastic design in a few months.

Speaking of Shacknews, let’s take a looksee at what I wrote today.

  • The iPad 2 is a near certainty. This is one of those rumor stories that’s barely even a rumor, but I have to report it that way. I’ve been waiting to get an iPad for the second generation, so I’m curious what will come of this.
  • So that’s seven dollars in EA’s coffers. I’m sort of a sucker for Dead Space, and more single-player content is exactly what I want. It’s just too bad I have to pay real moneys for the PSN version since I own the game on PS3. I already have some Microsoft Points banked.

I went on a little Pokemon binge today, after Bryan pointed me to this site. It’s actually a pretty easy process, as long as your DS can connect to the interwebs. Is it cheating? Yes probably. But considering I’ll only ever play the single-player game and against Bryan in some bouts, I figure it’s fair.

I continued my Logical Fallacies 101 series yesterday on Newsvine. It’s been a modest hit, and one of the few places I find some real chin-stroking at Newsvine these days, so I want to keep it up. This entry was on association fallacies.

Bulletstorm should arrive tomorrow, which should at least make good podcast listening fodder. I tend to like having at least a couple of brainless games around for that very purpose, and Bulletstorm seems about as brainless as humanly possible.

Why yes, I would give you all of my moneys to see Western Star Wars. Why?

I stumbled across this little gem in my RSS feed today, and damn would I love to see that cartoon re-imagining. I especially like the C3PO and R2 stand-ins. Luke and Han are a little boring, and Chewie might be a tad racist, but a great concept overall.

Bryan turned me on to Chris’ Invincible Super Blog, and I saw his review of All-Star Superman went up today. I just finished reading the trades a few days ago, so I was a little disappointed that they apparently removed or altered some of the more poignant scenes. I’ll still watch it when it inevitably hits Netflix, of course.

But enough of that malarky, it’s link-dump time.

We’re launching the Shacknews redesign tomorrow. I’ve been behind the curtain, and I think it looks pretty good. I wouldn’t say I love every aesthetic choice, but it’s prettier than the current Shack in a lot of ways.

Apparently 1UP’s Zelda retrospective was a smashing success, so we might see more of those in the future with help from yours truly. I’m told my Useless Items article was one of the bigger hits of the bunch too, so that’s always a nice pat on the back. It also ruffled feathers of people who are way too passionate about Zelda and unable to see a humor article for what it is.

I just got finished with an interview for an upcoming piece for GamePro. It will probably take a while before it sees the light of day, but I’m pretty excited about this one. It’s got an solid concept and probes a pretty unique issue. I always like when I learn more about a subject as I’m researching it and then can pass that knowledge on in the article.

Much more writing to do tonight before I can relax. No rest for the wicked and money don’t grow on trees.

Teddy Roosevelt wishes you a bully day

The ShackNews offices are closed in honor of President’s Day — yeah, I’m surprised too. So that means no daily updates from me today. It did give me a nice relaxing Teddy Roosevelt day and an opportunity to work on some freelance projects I’ve had in the hopper for a while.

Speaking of freelance work, my piece for 1UP went up today: the 25 Most Useless Items in Zelda History. I don’t tend to do the snark/humor thing, but I liked how this piece turned out. It’s one of several top-25 lists from 1UP celebrating the birthday of Zelda.

Speaking of births! And segues! A friend had a baby today, so we might go to visit sometime. Apparently another snow storm is coming tonight, which may mean another school closing as well. As someone who works from home, though, snow is basically meaningless.

We watched the Amazing Race last night, one of our favorites in the “reality show” camp. This is a good season too, since it’s bringing back so many fan favorites. We’re rooting for the cowboys, but the episode ended with them dangerously close to getting booted off. You know they won’t, though, because otherwise tipping the hand this early would be stupid.

The Breakfast Battle

My wife and I tried out the new IHOP in the neighborhood tonight, and the conversation turned to breakfast, as it usually does in an IHOP. She had ordered the french toast, which is basically bread soaked in eggs. I realized the egg-in-a-basket is also an egg/bread concoction, but totally different. Egg-in-a-basket is, as far as I can tell, a British thing, and french toast states its nationality right in the name.

I have a theory that one of the two countries made its egg/bread breakfast treat first, and the other decided to make their own based on their years-old rivalry. Any evidence to the contrary is clearly a cover-up.

A bit of a dull day for game news. I wrote five stories as always, but as I’ve pointed out before, I only reference the ones I’m interested in here:

  • I know what I’m doing June 7. I love Sucker Punch, mostly for the Sly games, but inFamous was a lot of fun. I doubt I’ll get the Hero Edition, though. $40 extra? Do these people even look at what’s normal in earth money?
  • I also know what I’m doing March 8. I’ve actually already got Dragon Age on pre-order, and judging from all the extra content they’ve been giving out, my version of Hawke will be pretty insanely equipped as soon as I start the game. Some people are calling it excessive, and it is, but I don’t mind a wide variety of optional crap.

I felt like a bit of an idiot today. After losing an early battle of Tactics Ogre while half-asleep, I tried fiddling with my equipment and realized I hadn’t actually used any of the skill points I had gained to buy abilities for anyone. No wonder I was just squeaking by through battles.

The 1UP piece I had talked about was due today, but it actually won’t be running until Monday. I like how it came out, and hopefully I can do more off-the-cuff humorous pieces like it in the future.

Nothing like a last-minute assignment

I tend to do a lot of freelance for different outlets, but I keep the deadlines pretty open as often as possible. Today, though, I got a ping from Frank over at 1UP about a feature set they’re planning on rolling out soon. Like, possibly tomorrow. And like an idiot I volunteered to help out, so I spent a late night putting my part of it together. With any luck you’ll see the fruits of my labor tomorrow.

And now, the usual link dump;

  • Walking Dead adventure game? I’m there. The show caught my interest, and I like the Back to the Future games they’ve been putting out, so I’m eager to see more of this one.
  • I’m a sucker for Assassin’s Creed. I like to think I’ll pass this up, $10 isn’t cheap, but a new mission to save Leonardo Da Vinci? Ubisoft you sneaky bastards.
  • I hate issuing retractions. Anyone does, of course. What’s strange is that Eurogamer sticks by their translation here. I suppose this sort of thing is bound to come up with something is translated from English, to German, then back to English again.
  • Forget Phoenix Wright, this should be the crossover Versus game. They couldn’t make a more comically obvious game imitation if they were trying.

I’ve only played a bit of YDKJ. I’m noticing Xbox Live games aren’t going too well, with some dropouts and people who are obviously gaming the system. I played my wife, though, and I’m planning to play a friend of mine. Seems like if you stick to who you know it’s good. Meanwhile the production value and humor are fantastic.

If you’re not watching Archer, you’re missing out. Tonight’s was one of the best this season, with a lot of development on Lana and Archer, and some good gags with the team back at the office. Pam (Bryan’s favorite character) had a few great moments all to herself.

Staring into the flashing, colorful eye of madness

Have you ever wondered what it looks like inside the head of a coked-up comic shop owner? Play Marvel vs. Capcom 3. I rented it from GameFly today, and I’m not quite sure how I feel about it yet. Basically, here’s the breakdown of pros and cons so far:

Pros: Hitting random buttons and watching cool stuff happen

Cons: Galactus

See, I’m not much of a fighting game guy, so when “hit random buttons” is a perfectly valid strategy for everyone but the final boss, it throws me off. I just want to see Tron Bonne’s ending, dag nabbit.

Here are a few of my pieces today from Shacknews:

  • More free PS+ games! – I knew being a Plus subscriber would pay off eventually. I don’t have much interest in playing these Genesis titles yet again, but free games is free games.
  • Yeah, threaten them, that’ll stop the hackers – Never mind that free PSN accounts means. This is the problem with hacks; anything that can be done can be undone by someone with the know-how. I don’t blame Sony for trying to put the toothpaste back in the bottle, but it just seems so futile.

I tried out Tactics Ogre last night, and it’s pretty much exactly what I’ve wanted in a spiritual successor to FFT. Though FFT was inspired by Tactics Ogre, so it all comes full circle. I also played through a bit of the latest Pokemon Mystery Dungeon; I had a little money left in trades and I’ve gotten a fondness for roguelikes lately.

I’ll be trying out You Don’t Know Jack pretty soon; the buzz has been really positive so far. And I came to find out in the middle of the wee hours that Telltale has released episode 2 of Back to the Future. I reviewed the first one for 1UP and really liked it, so I’m looking forward to cracking into this one now.

My wife and watched Survivor tonight; we’re not huge fans (Amazing Race is better), but we’ve gotten into the habit lately. The Redemption Island element is kind of interesting, at least, but I don’t like giving Russell a third shot so soon. Hilariously, though, his strategy seems to be a conniving ass again. The only reason that worked the last two times is because you weren’t known for it then, dummy.

Tonight’s tribal council was among the strangest I’ve seen. This former government agent Phil is both weird and douchey, which I have nicknamed “weirdouchey.” He basically spilled all the details of his alliance’s plan with no prompting whatsoever. I predict he’ll be kicked off soon enough.

Also, apparently this is Wonder Woman? Alright, I suppose. Anyone who’s listened to the lastest GeekSpeak knows we have some justifiable reservations about this show.

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New in the neighborhood

It occurred to me about a week ago that I’ve become spread pretty thin lately. Not in terms of workload, but where people can find my work if they want to read it. I’m on Shacknews, 1UP, GamePro, GeekSpeak, Re-Play Radio and Newsvine — and still others might be coming. It was getting awfully inconvenient to follow my work.

So I decided to start up a blog that would serve as a a catch-all for everything I produce. I’m still working on prettying up the place, so don’t mind the dust and drop cloths while I get settled in.

Here’s a little sampler of the types of links and commentary I’ll be trying to provide here.

  • Double Fine somehow gets more adorable – It’s too bad I don’t own a Kinect. I’ve really enjoyed this notion of smaller downloadable games from the studio, but I might be counted out of this one. I have a soft spot for Sesame Street, and all Muppets really. If I had a toddler I could justify buying a Kinect for this game. Maybe I can borrow my nephew….
  • Man, nerds love Felicia Day – But then, you don’t play a freckled WoW player and a mad scientist love interest without picking up a few fans.
  • Oh, like robot kittens – I just can’t think of Voltron without picturing that Penny Arcade.
  • Looks like I’m getting Joe Danger for 50% off – At least, I hope so. It seems strange to give the discount based on popularity. The people voting will be the people who played the game, and if they already played it they don’t need a discount. Maybe I’m just bitter that I already own almost everything that will probably win.

I also wrote a story on DJ Hero 2 at Shack today, but I have no real commentary or interest in it. I never was much of a music game guy, but sometimes you just write a story that you don’t personally care about, because it’s still valuable news to someone. When it comes to Shacknews, I produce at least 5 stories per day, so I’ll only bring them up here when I have something to say.

I should have a cool feature coming at 1UP, restarting a series that I began years ago. Now it should be monthly again, and I’m pretty excited about this first entry. Look for it sometime next week.

I got Tactics Ogre in the mail today (thanks Amazon trade-ins!), so I’m looking forward to starting that up. It came with a deck of tarot cards, which I had read about a bit in preview coverage but not thought about too much. I didn’t realize it was literally going to come with them, at least. I’m not sure if I’m going to follow the Law or Chaos path, but the idea of more Final Fantasy Tactics appeals to a very potent synapse in my brain.

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