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Malik (3/27/06)  

I There isn't much to really talk about today. In reality, beyond some various rumors and other hearsay, there is not much really going on. It's that wonderful time of year in which gamers have been treated to some quality games...especially, for once, this is true for the RPG geeks who have been treated to imported FFXII, Suikoden V, Grandia 3, Shadow Hearts 3, Oblivion...the list goes on and on. In fact, it's like a years worth of great games have all come out at the same exact time. 

On the other end of the news spectrum are the new makers. The developers and producers are all sitting in quiet contemplation as the GDC is done and the next big thing, E3, looms a month and a half away. It's one of the quietest times of the year from developers, who need to save their A material for E3. 

In other words, there is just a nice calm sense of serenity that should be enjoyed for the time being. This is a rare calm that not only doesn't happen often, but should be enjoyed to it's fullest. 

On that note, my "enjoy to it's fullest" tool of choice has been Oblivion. I managed to play for about 12 hours this weekend, and have loved nearly every minute of it. The only part I didn't care for was something I honestly expected more of; in about 20 hours of playing, I have now experienced 1 singular crash of the game. Compared to Morrowind, this is a turly amazing thing. I know I wasn't alone in Morrowind with my obsession on saving every five minutes, no matter what, to ensure that when the game DID crash, I'd be ready. I started Oblivion with this same mindset and now...well, I feel just fine with a save only when I feel like it'll be needed most (usually before I do something stupid). 

I've also enjoyed Oblivion for the small details. For example, I broke into a castle for a thieves guild mission. I managed to get caught on my way out of the job, and since the guild has a rule of no killing while on the job, I ran. I ran for a couple of miles. I ran out of the castle, out of the surrounding town, and into the wilderness. I had two guards on my ass, and I kept running. I even ran right up to a bear, who was running at me. I managed to strike it once, as I jumped a rock past it, and kept running. That's when I heard the guards swinging their swords, and the bear growling behind me. It seems I angered the bear enough to get it to strike the guards, who were forced to defend themselves. It only took them a minute to kill the bear, but I got some ground. Then, I ran past a boar, who I decided to swing at, and I left the enraged boar as guard fodder again. Long story short, I did get away, thanks to all of natures little helpers. 

I cannot emphasize enough how awesome this game is compared to Morrowind (which was a good game on it's own). The missions are better, the lighting is greatly improved, the world is more detailed, the visuals don't make you sick, the combat engine is wonderful, the skill system is great (especially the little perks, like when you learn to dodge attacks), the regeneration of MP is perfect (since you can actually afford to play a mage now). It is all just a wonderful gaming experience for anyone who likes the sandbox philosophy of The Elder Scrolls games. 

The best part of the game, in my opinion, is how you have more options than ever before in how to tackle your goals. This is the first TES game that allows for true freedom of character choices in almost all possible ways. With the improved combat engine (especially with poison and sneak attacks with the marksman skill), regenerating MP, and the improved dialogue choices, this game can really be handled with any character type. Also, thanks to the nifty red crosshairs, you can now tell if an action (like taking a certain item) is going to require sneakiness, or if it's perfectly legal. 

Anyway, I could go on about this game all day, so I'll end things now. Things to do, and places to go...and all that. 


Malik (3/28/06)  

Specially delivered for all Square Enix fanboys who can't help but love a sequel to a game they loved involving horrible cameras, a very limited battle system, a lack of a serious plot, very (for lack of a better word) sissy themes, and plenty of fanboy moments...Kingdom Hearts 2 is here!!11111!!!1 Wait. I think I didn't mean the "!" stuff. In fact, I think I should've said that I couldn't care less. 

The first Kingdom Hearts was one of the key games in turning me off from Square Enix. On top of how the theme and plot is nothing short of silly (not in the good way) and pointless, the original was obviously aimed at fanboys. Why would Cloud and Sephiroth be in the coliseum from Hercules? Only to appeal to fanboys. Why would Square and Disney people chill together? Fanboys. If there ever was a game that was fan-service, this was it. 

To make things even worse, the original had a camera system that shouldn't be in a turn based RPG. However, since it was in an action RPG, I know I felt more than my usual level of headaches in just trying to see where the hell I was going. In fact, the camera alone was enough to make me quit playing KH1. When you throw in no reasonably good semblance of plot, I had no reason to fight the camera's attempt to dissuade me from playing the game. 

So, the sequel is now in America. Yeah...I wouldn't even talk about this, except for two important facts; I love to bitch about the more popular and stupid games, and that there is no other news out there. I would like to say that at least it will probably end here...but that would be ignoring this. I just ask, where can a game of this...ummmm...caliber hope to go in the future (besides to the clearance shelf)? 

This is the type of stuff that is really sad to me. Why? Because it's when consumers (that's us) buy into these types of games (fan-service) in large quantities that sequels are made and originality is put on the back burner. 

Anyway, at least I can play a game like Oblivion to relieve some of my frustrations. Now this is the type of game that deserves adoration. For example, every place in this game has a purpose. If you find a dungeon in the middle of the wilderness, it's safe to say that either a quest involves this place, or the place will initiate a quest. Either way, everything has it's own purpose. 

Last night, I found some little shrine in the middle of nowhere. I was only in that area because I felt like hunting down bandits (who are usually found in little camps in the middle of nowhere). Next thing I knew, the shrine had given me a quest that had me tracking down criminals, delving into a troll infested dungeon, and battling for my life against mountain lions and bears...all for one hell of an awesome reward (infinite use lock pick). 

Meanwhile, in KH, you will encounter Cloud and Sephiroth in a battle arena. What purpose do they serve? Well, if you're a FFVII fanboy, they serve to help you make a mess in your pants. Beyond that, you get a battle with no true sense of reward, and no true sense of accomplishment (unless you've always wondered if Haley Joel Osment could take on the most fanboy-appreciated FF boss ever), and definitely no true purpose. In fact, the whole game is this sort of fluff. I even know people (who I wonder why I even know them) who tell me that the only reason they played KH was to battle Sephiroth...?! Why not put in FFVII and beat him for real in a game that gives a bit more back to the player than a hero who wields a giant key looks like a human take on Mickey Mouse? 

Ok. I'm no good as a writer today. I just can't get thoughts of people...I mean fanboys...flocking to stores to buy this game that should be nothing more than a black mark on the record of the gaming industry. Just like the fanboys freak out for this shit, I freak out a little too much when it's time to bash fanboys. 


Malik (3/29/06)  

Unless you want to count how the Revolution will probably not see a worldwide launch, it's another slow day in the Asylum. Of course, there's something a little deeper to this. The PS3 will be facing a worldwide launch at the end of this year (if the launch month of November holds true), just like how Microsoft did with the 360 last November and December. However, there is an advantage to trying to go against the worldwide launch idea. 

Mainly, the advantage comes down to how Microsoft (and Sony WILL join this trend) just didn't have enough 360s to go around. Why? Not because of high demand (well, in part), and not due to manufacturers not having enough production (well, once again, in part). It came down to how the demand and the required supply were both effected by the worldwide launch that made more people want what there was just too little of to go around. If you think this won't happen with the PS3, you are either deceiving yourself...or you're a Sony fanboy. 

Worldwide launches always will have the same effect of limiting production (due to having so many orders to fulfill) and raising demand (by adding extra territories to cover). So, while the Revolution launch may be delayed in some areas, the actual supply situation shouldn't be anything nearly as bad as the 360 and PS3 scenarios. 

Anyway, as long as Nintendo holds true to their words, I will be just fine. Getting a Revolution in November, no matter if the US is first or last to get the system, I will be just fine. Knowing that there won't be as much of an imbalance in supply and demand even makes me happier, since I'll be able to secure a Revolution far easier. 

Well, there isn't much else to discuss. I could go off about Oblivion...I could do that every day for a year and probably not even scratch the surface of this game. I can say that my initial impressions after about 3 hours have held true after nearly 30 hours; this game rocks. There are some flaws, mainly with frame rate and loading issues, but they don't ruin the overall experience. In fact, if I gave this game a review right now, I would still give it a 10. It may have issues, but the overall enjoyability of a game should determine it's final score...and I could not possibly enjoy this game any more than I do right now. 

Best of all, each quest you take in Oblivion, as opposed to Morrowind, no matter how lame it sounds like at the start of the quest, becomes an epic event. For example (and for minor spoilers until the end of this post), for one Mage Guild recommendation quest (you need all the branches of the Guild to recommend you to the main guild in order to get real quests from them), you are simply told to get a ring that is probably at the bottom of a well. However, the well is full of water, and the ring weighs more than most mages can afford to carry. This is when you have to try to decide the best solution to this problem... 

Do you use alchemy to make water breathing potions and potions to carry more weight? Do you have access to water breathing spells and feather spells? Do you drop all of your shit in the well and try to recover it later? Then, when you finally solve this issue, you have more. The mage who requested the ring, while you were out, went off on a possibly homicidal rampage, and he is the only one who could recommend you to the headquarters of the Guild. It just gets deeper as you play. In the end, you are left with a tale of a renegade mage who practices the forbidden arts of necromancy who is now on the loose...but you get a substitute recommendation. Will more come from this chain of events in the future? Quite possibly. No matter how quickly a quest may end, you are usually left with repercussions of you acts that may bite you in the ass later, or they may even save your ass. Now that's a great RPG. 


Malik (3/30/06)  

For those with a 360, who don't find Oblivion to be their cup of tea (I don't know who you are, and I don't want to...), the GRAW and Battlefield 2 demos should be up on the Live Marketplace. After having the 360 for the last 4+ months, I still have to say that the best feature of this system is the ability to download demos. While too many demos are coming weeks, or months, after the launch of the actual game, it still beats paying for a rental of a game to see if you actually want to shell out $60 for the real game. 

Speaking of $60 games...Satoru Iwata (A.K.A. Mr. Nintendo), has decided to tell the world that Revolution games will come in under this price. In fact, while the wording is a bit vague in places, all first party games should be under $50. Of course, that still leaves room for a case like the 360 is giving us in which third party games are about $60 and first party games are $50. However, knowing the Nintendo theme for the Revolution, that everything should be affordable to all games, and casual non-gamers, it would only make sense for Nintendo to pull off some nifty tricks to keep third party games under this price point as well. 

Also, Iwata went on to talk a bit about storage...which is a good thing to discuss. With the idea of having downloadable classic Nintendo (and Sega and NEC) games as well, the concept for 512MB of flash storage seems a bit...what's that word...limiting. So, while he did not say anything directly, he did make it obviously known that this will be addressed at E3. Also, considering the Revolution, as it's currently planned, as UBS and SD slots, this could be the potential solution. 

Personally, I like the idea of having a 4GB SD card in my system to save my downloaded content over having a bulky HDD. The reasoning is quite simple. If we, as a consumer mass, are being aimed at to buy this console without regard to gamer status, then it would make more sense for games to be more portable. In other words, if my friend has a Revolution, and I have one (of course) too, it would be more friendly and convenient for me to be able to take take the option of bringing my downloaded multiplayer game to my friend's house. 

However, this may be limited. Considering the pricing scheme for downloads have not been addressed, there is potential of piracy in this type of plan. While Nintendo ROMs are some of the most pirated things in the Internet world, I don't think Nintendo aims to help this problem. Also, this would mean that an SD card could be put on a PC, copied to the HDD, and then copied to another SD card...creating an endless piracy portal. Of course, there are a couple of problems with this idea; 

On one hand, a peripheral only really works for consumers if it's INCLUDED. Look at the peripherals of the past and tell me which of these really succeeded. PS2 HDD? Failed and even Sony made the slim PS2 unable to use it. Sega CD? Failed because no one wanted to pay $200 for an add-on to just play a few extra games. 32X? Failed due to being pricey and having a whole half dozen games (not to mention the Sega CD/32X games that required both and were horrible titles). Jaguar CD? No one wanted a giant toilet shaped device that was so over-priced. Eye Toy? Barely hanging on, and that's only due to the price being really cheap. Gameboy camera and printer? Hahahahahahahaha...that's a good one. The only good peripheral is an included or cheap-as-hell peripheral. 

On the other hand, I put up with enough crap in having to buy Memory Duo sticks for the PSP. I didn't just get rid of the PSP because of how completely useless it was...or how bad the nub was...or how they games sucked...or how the system felt cheap and breakable...or how expensive it was...or how expensive the games were...what was I talking about again? Oh yeah. The Memory Duo cards were pricey and otherwise useless. I don't have a memory card reader on my PC (and don't need one), I don't have a camera or phone that takes Memory Duo, and I sure don't want to spend $200 for a Memory Duo that is half the size of a SD card that runs half the price. However, while the SD is cheaper per size, I still would have no use beyond the Revolution, and I would rather pay a cheaper proprietary memory card price than have a universal thing that I don't aim to use in any other device. 

I think the most likely solution to the piracy is simple; have downloading games be on a monthly access charge (like XBox Live Gold for multiplayer games), and then a downloaded game will only play on a system if that system is currently paying said price. Then a game downloaded by one player would be just as obtainable on another Revolution owner's system, so it wouldn't matter if games are copied. The only issue is keeping the non-subscribers out of this with some online verification. Of course, that would also mean that any download would actually be a rental, so if you stopped paying for the service, your downloaded titles would stop working. 

No matter what, Nintendo is going to be in for some unusual solution-making sessions on this one. While they want to deliver the promise of massive game libraries, they will still need to control piracy while keeping gamers happy. However they pull this off, it will be interesting. 

Between the Revolution hints about E3 and the fact that Sony is going to have to put it's promises on the center stage, E3 will be freakin' awesome this year. Plus, since Microsoft is the first out there, they will need to have some awesome announcements to show the world why we shouldn't buy the Revolution or PS3. Plus, with the potential blockbusters from Mistwalker still relatively unknown, there will be some great news in May. I have not been so excited about E3 in a long time. 

Also, on a completely different note, the NWN2 web site is up. There isn't too much information, but the screen shots sure make it look pretty. Not as pretty as my precious Oblivion (sorry, I think I'm nearing the realm of fanboys...and I'm scared)...but not too bad. It'll probably be, like with the PS3 and Revolution, sometime around May when we actually start getting some real info from Obsidian/Atari on this one. 


Malik (3/31/06)  

Not much to say today. It's a slow day, I have a lot of Oblivion to pla....things to do, and I really need to get back to...those...things... 

If you've been following the stupidity of the last year (Jack Thompson's battle against GTA/Rockstar), there's more. An appeal was denied, some legal words were used, and the story, in short, is that the case against Rockstar and some game retail outlets is going forward. Yippee. I guess this means that it will be another several months/years of this crap before it's eventually overturned as the BS that it is. Let's face it; this is a bogus lawsuit that wastes the time of the US legal system, it wastes money that could go towards better things, and it keeps feeding the PR goliath know as Jack Thompson. 

On a more humorous note to end on, my friend Meat Shield sent me a link to this. Wow. I don't even know what to say. The idea of a game crucifying misbehaving players seems like either something really cool or really...word defying. I think it's probably more on the cool end, since it actually makes a misbehaving player become a focal point of ridicule. Afterall, if you will be put on display like this, it might just be a better deterrent than just a flat out banning. You will be seen and recognized as an ass, and that might be a little better than remaining unknown for your discretions. 

Plus, it helps redeem crucifixation in video games after the last really well known event of it...ChuChu being crucified in Xenogears...that was just a little too silly looking. 


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