Sunday, August 26, 2007

Live & alive @ PAX w/ the Fat Contradiction (Day 2)

here follows further txt dispaches filed by Fat Contradiction, in attendance @ PAX2007:

Watching an amazing Saturn commercial. 3 minutes of a karate guy (Segata Sanchiro) frowning, training, beating up ppl found NOT playing Saturn. Sega!
-11:06 a.m., 8-26-07

Ulala had a Japanese maxipad ad. Golly. This panel had a LOT of fun on Youtube...
-11:13 a.m., 8-26-07

Just tried to set up a MP:P match w. 'Owneress'. There are time when all I can say is 'that's really clever, actually.'
-1:31 p.m., 8-26-07

I'm done. Gotta find some bento and a bucket of gin for the train, 'n'm out!!
-2:38 p.m., 8-26-07

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Saturday, August 25, 2007

Live & alive @ PAX w/ the Fat Contradiction (Day 1)

here follows txt dispaches filed by Fat Contradiction, in attendance @ PAX2007:

Fat's well. Well HUNG!! Well, he's well-hungOVER, anyways. I'm gnawing on a breakfast, and abt to miss a panel on Japanese gaming culture: Mimosas FTW!!
- 10:22 a.m., 8-25-07

dark clouds out on the horizon (fevered, my hands feel like 2 balloons). The Adonal Foyle era has ended. The Oakland Warriors are poorer for the loss.
- 10:39 a.m., 8-25-07

Gum cosplay; photo secured!!
- 4:05 p.m., 8-25-07

Winding down I think. Another run thru the main exhibition hall, then prolly done for the day. Liquor awaits!!
-5:04 p.m., 8-25-07

Crazy but hilarious Metroid girl costumery - photos obtained! Also...I has one SECRET. Possible further updata (im)pending.
- 6:08 p.m. , 8-25-07

Update. I have pwned nary a noob. 'Adamantium' played a dozen matches of Metroid Pinball 'gainst me. He sent many metroids onto my screen, playing valiantly, and with honor.
- 7:54 p.m., 8-25-07

And I absolutely TAXED that delicious candy ass eight times! Taste my mastery, nimrod, like yr supple mother did this morning! Wipe the SUCK off, loser.
- 7:59 p.m., 8-25-07

Seriously, tho. Nice game, dude.
- 8:00 p.m., 8-25-07

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Thursday, August 23, 2007

on the eve of distraction: Fat goeth to PAX (what rough beast slouches toward Washington)

It's rarely difficult for me to pack--what I lug around on the daily is more than enough to carry me thru a couple days of travel or whatever (I Dress for Adventure). Seriously. I never leave the house without at least the following:
DS or other beloved little handheld
Leatherman multitool
mini-Maglite
Benchmade stabbing knife
arm warmers (in case of inclement, typical Oregon weather)
extra layer in case of chill (ranging from extra tshirt to extra hoody)
brace of pens/pencils
notebook
travel mug for coffee
chewing gum
largish purse, or, during the rainy season, giant purse
small flask (in case of snakebite...or untenable, awful, wretched sobriety)
spare pair of socks, in case of waterloggedtoeitis

This means that rolling to PAX is largely a matter of finding my large flask and throwing a couple of pairs of extra socks into my giant purse. Maybe another tshirt... (And all available chargers, of course.)

The fun part is always choo-choo-choosing the media to lug along. Trains are dull, and hotel rooms aren't much better, and I didn't co-found a videogame fansite to not play videogames in dull environments while at a videogame convention. My DS has been waning a hair of late, so all I really wanted to take along was
Star Trek Tactical Assault, so maybe I could finish it, finally
Gunpey, because I just can't quit you, Gunpey
maybe Sprung, which Canada found for me at Fry's for a fucking five-spot.

Gibson's new one, Spook Country--I've always had good luck reading new books when I roll up to Seattle, and. Well. It's Gibson's new one.

For my beloved little micro, I wanted to pull along
Metroid Zero Mission, which I hit a wall on today, but which is pretty much all I need to play lately
River City Ransom, because sometimes nothing else will do (and gimmie a break: noway is Daddy leave-behind the democratically-elected OFFICIAL GAME OF REVIEWIERA)
Polarium, because sometimes you have to stare at some static puzzles instead of moving pictures
and I'd had a strange craving to play Yoot Saito's rather good Tower.

Kept nagging at me, though: I knew I had to prepare for the awesome social possibilities offered by the DS and its delightful wire-free fi. I mean, I never leave the house without Metroid Prime Pinball anyway, so of course PAX wouldn't be any different. Then, last night, after a boneriffic lap dance, I finally checked the schedule.

There's a lounge, all day every day, entitled "Handheld Lounge". There's an abberrant hour and a half labeled "PSP Games", but the remainder is like most of my time: wholly dominated by DS titles. And certain blocks of time are to be devoted to, I would assume, tournament-type play. So I had to dust off
Meteos
Metroid Prime: Hunters
Osu! Tatake! Ouendan!

So there's three games I've barely touched for eons. At all of these, I'm sure to soak up abuse and failure. --I expect to be at least competitive at Metroid Prime Pinball, but then again, competing with the sort of people willing to travel to a videogame convention? Man, fuck me. Fuck me! With any luck, I shall exhibit a typical Reviewieran level of sportsmanship and decorum, however...

Confidential to DDT: please keep some time freed up o'er the weekend in case I need you to bail me out of some ass-eaten Seattle jail cell, after clubbing some doughy putz about his scabby melon after attracting that two dozenth sniggering headshot.

'K. Off to recheck the schedule, and top off those flasks.

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Sunday, August 19, 2007

hill, thrill, bust that grille

Sitting at the coffee shop, I browse a recent issue of Wired (a crucial component of my initial 'nets experiences, along with Juno and Jerry Pournelle). Sept 07 issue. 'S got this midsized article on how Bungie fungeneers Halo3, monitoring playtesters to optimize routes through maps, weapon balance, enemy strength and like that. After a while, Clive Thompson drops the following sidebar atop p145, which I thought might make intersting fodder for DDT's burgeoning work on why games are nearly as good as o'er-caffinated self-touching.

Predictably I've been unable to avoid annotations.



Blood, Guns, and Research

While Bungie is using science to make better games, researchers are learning more and more about gameplay itself. Among the findings so far:

It's just as fun to die. A group of Finnish scientists wired gamers with skin meters, cardiac monitors, and facial electromyographs and found that getting killed in a game produces the same positive emotions as beating an opponent or completing a level.



Okay. This actually sound right to anybody? Look into yr parts, people; even a Finn should know better. T'other night, DDT and I burned thru nearly 60 Soul Calibur matches on his well-loved Dreamcast. Believe me when I tell you that my emotions upon dying were NOT the same as when surviving to fight again.

I concede, tho', that there's something to these Finnish savants: the only thing that makes me want to take up the controller more than a winning streak...is a losing streak. Properly-administered losses feed the habit as well as any other experience, it would seem...



Fellowship matters. Researcher Jonas Heide Smith ran a study with 19 gamers and discovered that even hypercompetitive players tend to help others. Desire for fairness in play, it seems, is as strong as the desire to win.



Yah, sure. Sounds pretty close. Dr Smith needs to sharpen up those categories a little, tho'. Remember this test-site that distinguished nicely between a desire to win and the desire for a robust challenge, and identitfied which is stronger for particular players. Both of these desires would, I suspect, count as Dr Smith's "hypercompetitive" category, but will result in very different styles of play... I should find that site again: there was a little questionaire that pegged me pretty accurately, as I recall.



It's OK to cheat--a little. In 24 interviews with gamers, researcher Mia Consalvo discovered that "a majority of game players cheat"--though they also have strict social codes governing what's acceptable. Consulting a game guide: cool. Using auto-aim software to target opponents: uncool.



Who the holy living FUCK promoted game guides to "cheating" status? Is reading the cunt-lapping MANUAL cheating now? Are my macros cheating at text editing? Is using porn cheating at masturbation?

When I used to fax out Mortal Kombat II move lists, was I vectoring to some vasty arcade-based cheatz0r epidemic? How about discussing equipment optimization and counterattack strategies in Super Robot Taisen? Am I cheating when I spam Ifumi's Wing Layer attack thru the first level, grabbing high scores that'd rate on the high score lists over to shmucks.com?

All that being said, cheaters suck and should be flogged with a hawser.

All that being said, I'd love to be able to cheat at Metroid Prime: Hunters. So very tired of being a headshot magnet...



Games are good practice. A study in the February 2007 issue of Archives of Surgery found that laparoscopic surgeons who excel at videogames make 47 percent fewer errors and work 39 percent faster than their peers.



Sigh. Okay, just for the record, let's have a quick little round of "correlation and causation are not the same thing". The reasonable explanation for this finding is NOT that videogames make people better at surgery. (Trauma Center, a DS surgery game, for example, is wholly awful.) The proper hypothesis is that people who are good at fine motor skills (like surgery) are good at fine motor skills (like [certain] video games).

Even the authors of that study wouldn't be claiming that playing a couple hours of Minesweeper a day makes for good surgeons. Or solitaire. Let's unite against sloppily-formulated premises, mkay? Mkay!!

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Saturday, August 11, 2007

I have a problem.

Diligent readers may have picked up on the vibe that the crux moment, such as it is, of the Reviewieran experience occurs in the post-market economy. The CD-Game Xchange. The local Goodwill. The used rack or clearance rack at a primary retailer.1

"So you guys are cheap, big fecking deal," you say.

True, but the Pleasure of the Deal lies in the Thrill of the Hunt. It might seem, shall we say, loser-ish, to venture to Goodwill, espy a copy of Streets of Rage 2, think that US$4.99 is too much, go to the Xchange, see that thier copy is $9.99, grab Vectorman for US$3.50 instead, then go BACK to the Goodwill & get that copy.

And then, 1 day, you wake up & you have the pictured collection, acquired entirely at a single Goodwill, & every single thing for US$4.99 or less.

Annotated Collection

A. Dreamcast microphone.
B. Dreamcast VMU.
C. Dreamcast 4-in-1 Memory Unit.
D. Ecco the Dolphin
E. Beyond Oasis
F. Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles: the Hyperion Heist
G. Bio-Hazard Battler, a pretty rad shmup.
H. Contra: Hard Corps.
I. Partially obscured for good reason: Sonic Shuffle.2
J. Soul Calibur.
K. Shenmue.
L. Phantasy Star Online 3
M. Resident Evil:Code Veronica4
N. Sonic Spinball
O. STREETS OF RAGE 2!!(!!)
P. Golden Axe II5
An Ms. Pacman Genesis cartridge has been accidentally excluded.6

Also not pictured: 3 Dreamcast consoles, 4 controllers, at least 1 more VMU & a third-party MU.

Also, the Genesis console Fat found for me at his Goodwill.

-d.d.

1 Okay, "clearance" isn't exactly "post-market," but its really close. "Pre-post-market" close, even.
2 The stuff of nightmares.
3 A truly great day: I acquired the 4-in-1 MU, the mic, Soul Calibur, Shenmue, and Phantasy Star Online all one rainy Wednesday evening! I also got the rare Gundam: Side Story, or whatever its called, tho I sold that to Fat. None were more than US$4.99
4 I'm surprised to admit how much I've actually played this version of Resident Evil. I've dabbled w/ at least 2 versions on the PlayStation, & was completely uninterested. This one hooked me (sorta), tho. Go figure. Maybe I just never cared for Raccoon City.
5 Fat found Golden Axe II & Sonic Spinball for me @ his local Goodwill.
6 The vast majority of my Genesis collection being cartridge only - no case, no booklet - I am faced w/ a looming crisis. For tho' I can survive w/o the booklets, the lack of cases gets under yr skin. I figure I have 2 options: (A) Buy shitty sports games that ARE in thier cases, like Joe Montana Football & multiple editions of NBA/NFL/NHL/MBL 19xx. Take the game home, throw cartridges in a shoebox, throw shoebox in the toilet, take now empty case, print out a different slipcover from the 'nets, & taa-daa I have a case for the games I actually, y'know, like. (B) Order ONE HUNDRED empty cases from these guys. Which is too much? Spending $3-4 to get an individual spare case? Or dropping $40 for 100 empties?

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we--are--not--alone!!

Looks like I'm not the only one who enjoys whipping out his beloved pink handheld...in public...and playing with it.

The charmingly-named Flynn de Marco (nee Fruit Brute) over to Kotaku has lately pointed out some hideous accessories for the DS Lite. Yeesh.

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I am the great white hunter

Hit up Goodwill between burritos and work. Thru a layer of thick plastic and packing tape, I glimpsed a confusion of familiar shapes. What manner of bagged treasure awaited me?

I'd trucked around my trusty 'Casty, my 1st Dreamcast, last night, and had become worried about its standing up to such rough treatment. (I don't have a carrying case.) Now, I've got a backup, Jocasta...but when I saw this lovely little lady hanging around the mean streets of 15th & Broadway...I just had to pounce.

So now I've got another Dreamcast, Castandra,
three more controllers,
two more VMUs,
two big 4x memory cards,
a light gun (!),
a controller-extender cable,
and another copy of Crazy Taxi.

Oh yeah--there were a couple Game Boy games in there: James Bond and Donkey Kong. I do so love the way Goodwill bundles their electronics...

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Friday, August 10, 2007

Because You Demanded It!!

Latooni appears to wear the maid outfit all the time now.



-d.d.

Thursday, August 09, 2007

this week in mild frustration

Hanging out, drinking a little beer at Collision's work, I pulled out my DS. This incurs a bit of scorn from the public--you don't have to be a videogame fansite contributor to understand that bars are not normal venues for handheld gaming. But hey. For some reason, I cannot get my great grey lil' guy to connect to my house's wireless, so when I want to play Spark Wars, I have to do it down the pub.

Also, I really really like playing Gunpey.

image yoinked off of gamepro; I play mostly as this guy


Gunpey's a puzzle game; you've got the standard rectangular play area, 5 rectangles wide, 10 tall. Shoving up from the bottom come line segments, four kinds:

^ V / \

You move the segments up and down (only) in their columns, trying to make continuous lines across the play grid. When such a line is made, the segments disappear. If the segments reach the top, as usual, you lose.

It's great on its own, but also comes with a whole raft of (typically) great Mizuguchi touches: strong musical integration, lots of cumulative collection elements, and the like. The game is framed as a "gunfight": you pick a character, and the game sends you off--in yr charming, retarded little spaceship--to another character's planet. You play until one of you loses. Either it's gameover, or you move on to another planet. Win four or five of these, you unlock a new character! Takes about half an hour, usually, on normal.

I've got two characters left to unlock, and I've had those two characters left to unlock for, uhm. Months now. This isn't our usual sort of Reviewieran malaise, either: I play this game a ton. I'd been trying to beat it on hard, but my skills have plateaued, and it becomes clear that I'm never going to crack that code.

I fire it up last night. I'm playing along, on normal. Battery's a little low, sadly, but hey. Just playing to kill some time anyways.

But things get weird. I'm playing...really well. Cranking through, I end up having a MONUMENTAL battle with Vincent:

image yoinked off of mojodojo


Seriously, I play against him for better than 20 minutes. Total game time is like 35 minutes at this point. See, I was playing so well that I could actually also monitor the numbers. My previous high score? Like 627,000. This game? I'm at like 850,000. I finally beat Vincent, absolutely sure I've just beat the game, unlocked my second-to-last character!

And then there's another battle. Jesus. I'm gonna crack a million!! Noway can this clown beat me. No. Way.

Then my battery died.

In other news: Wow. Just...wow. His pokemans let him show you them. All of them. This guy...might be the anti-Reviewieran par excellance. Our OCD is always ADD: I've gotta have all of this! No, wait! All of THIS!!

In other other news: some folks have been out on front on this one: Nintendo has...abandoned us. I don't always agree, but then there's this:
one of the few upcoming games I'm stoked on? only being sold at goddamned WalMart. As a retail enthusiast, as a raving Marxist, this news couldn't be any worse.

Looking at Nintendo's website offers no better news. Flush with their crushing successes in these dark, casual times, previous failures are being swept under the rug. Want any support for the GameCube? Well, yer not gonna get it from the manufacturer. Crimony, the only thing about the system that everybody liked was the WaveBird, and you can't get one anymore! Fuckers.

In final news: why, yes, that IS a PAX pass I'm wearing!! Ayup: Reviewiera is sending an envoy to PAX. I'll be the pasty six-foot redhead in all black. Who will you be?

Thursday, August 02, 2007

I beated it.

image hosted by photobucket

Our dedicated fanbase may have discerned that tho' Reviewiera undertakes many a videogaming projekt, most of these campaigns flame out, tire out, are eclipsed by the new kid on the block, get boring, cease to be rewarding1, get frustrating, require too much MU, seem awesome at 1st but then end up sucking. And so forth.

Personally, my ratio of games completed-to-not-completed isn't too bad due to a sterling PlayStation service record2. Since those halycon days of leveling, alcoholism, & leveling, things are less productive. I've beated Advance Wars II & Super Robot Taisen: Original Generation.

And that's it.

Pokemon:FireRed? Got bored, got interested again, got bored again at Pokemon Mansion, or whatever. Still pissed I can't catch a Scyther.

Drilldozer? Love the way it looks, love the way it plays. Somehow always end up buying something else...

Much beloved Astroboy? Got really really far, like to the brink of victory, & got burned out on the 3rd or 4th consecutive sub-final-boss fight in a row.

And it was after this burnout I decided I dearly wanted to sink my GBA SP teeth into a JRPG level-fest. For sentimental reasons related to the never-finished-on-the-PlayStation Lunar 2: Eternal Blue, I was gravitated towards Lunar Legend, a GBA port-thing of the original Lunar: Silver Star, originally for the Sega CD.

Lunar's got the combat system, sorta, that I remember from Lunar 2. The hallmarks of the Lunar series (in my mind) are strong & frequent voice acting, & well-drawn & frequent anime-style cut-scenes. The anime scenes make for nice stillscreen asides in the game, tho' sometimes these seem a bit a silly. The voice acting, of course, is gone, &, sadly, the script has not picked up the slack. There's 7 playable characters but they're pretty predictable. I mean, christ, Taisen has like 3 times that many playable characters but at least they make me chuckle.3

Aside from these, admittedly, matters of taste, there are some major gameplay faults.4
1. You cannot "free-roam" the world map. You can only take "roads" from set point to set point. In other words, outside of dungeons, there are no random encounters. I believe that a prime tenet of JRPGs & rpgs in general is the ability to leave of the confines of city & town & wander hither & thither.

2. This may be more of glitch than a flaw. If you port something to a portable system like the GBA, you have to add an on-the-fly save option so that when you have to get off the bus or your boss is going to be coming by or whatever you can just save, shut down, & go back to the boring world for a bit, until later. Lunar has this, but when you do so & then turn it back on, you continue where you left off w/ all yr HP & MP recharged. I'll admit, its kinda sweet to do every dungeon in ONE FUCKING TRY but it kinda takes the challenge out of it.
So yeah, I beated it. The reward was I could put the game away knowing I NEVER HAVE TO TURN IT ON AGAIN, not that it was that bad, just nice to not have it nagging me like those other games.5

That, & that now I get to play Taisen2.6

image hosted by photobucket.


-d.d.

1 Stimulation of the brain's reward center being, in my interpretation of ludology, the primary appeal of video games. 'Course, different games reward you in different ways.
2 Fat suggested a theme months ago where one lists every game, going back to the dawn of time, one has beaten DEFEATED. Hence I end up the CGA-graphics Afrika Korps strategy game or maybe Duck Tales on a rented NES. Not including that kind of stuff, the graves of defeated PS games read as follows:
Final Fantasy 7-9. Legend of the Dragoon. Siphon Filter 1-3. SuikodenII. Thousand Arms. Xenogears. Front Mission 3. Legend of Mana. Parasite Eve 1-2. Dino Crisis 2. And whatever the last edition of NBALive on the PlayStation was. Games never finished (not including stuff I never liked so never really tried): the 1st DinoCrisis. Romance of the Three Kingdoms IV: Wall of Fire (which is FUCKING AWESOME!!! The only reason I can't beat it is my generals die of OLD AGE!!). Bushido Blade II. Lunar Legend II: Eternal Blue (lot of regret, there).
3 Excellen, you fucking tease...
4 In Phantasy Star II, for example, you barely see the playable characters' faces, much less get to know what they're talking about, what their hopes & dreams are, etc. But I LOVE that game b/c the RPG play element is strong.
5 Looking at you Shenmue, Space Channel 5, Jet Grind Radio ( I swear, I'm really close to the end in this one!! SWEAR!!!), Phantasy Star II (cart battery probs), Astroboy, Drilldozer, Pokemon, uh, probably others.
6 That Atlus logo came up the 1st time in Taisen2, a solitary tear marched down my chiseled cheek...