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Malik (4/17/06)  

With the 360, Microsoft came into things with one solid advantage. They may not have come from the prior generation with the best third party support (Sony), the largest lead (Sony), the best first party support (Nintendo)...and even the early launch isn't really an advantage when you look at how some people have f#$@ed that up before (Sega). However, XBox Live was a major advantage. 

Live offered the most complete, and tested, online structure for any game console...ever. Sony had just a hint of online with the PS2, and Nintendo had only real one online game in the last generation (PSO). So, when Microsoft started to announce, about 6-10 months ago, how the Live experience for the 360 would be, it sounded amazing. 

We would have some lame ass shit for the people who try to hard (theme packs), game demos, full Arcade games, movie trailers, more downloadable content, miscellaneous videos (help videos, etc), and whatever else one could ask for. Well, that was an awesome plan. Not only that, but the Live experience would be the big advantage that Microsoft would use against the behemoth known as Sony. After all, if the way of gaming is going online, then whoever can do online justice from the beginning would also be the one who would be able to get an early lead. 

I don't think this is what anyone had in mind. In fact, I'm pretty sure of it. Who thought that it would be awesome for Microsoft to give us a bunch of demos for games that are now clearance titles (Amped 3, PGR3, Tiger Woods, etc)? Who thought that a trailer for a movie that is already kicking ass in the box office (Ice Age 2) would be smart? However, to make it even stupider, we just keep getting more any more old content while the menu and navigation system for Live just keeps getting more chaotic. 

Did anyone think this complete lack of navigation options was a good idea? For example, you can start to download something, and then have it cancel (maybe your connection was lost, or maybe you wanted to play a game before it finished downloading), and the system will still tell you it's complete. Or there's how the names of these downloadable files are so damned long that they get cut off with "..." at the end of the first few letters...making a dozen files with the same name that you must manually sort through and check the description on to determine if it's something new. Also, if you check "new" downloads, you will be treated to all downloads relating to anything that has one downloadable file added in the last few weeks. This means you will now see all the Tiger Woods themes, picture packs, trailers, etc. when you click for new downloads because of the new demo. 

The only section of the Marketplace that has any organization at all is for Arcade games. However, in this section, you are forced to guess what genre a game falls under, when many games fall into a mix of several different genres, and you may not even know the name of a game you want (since many are unheard of titles). A good example is this; Marble Blast Ultra. It's "puzzle" like, since you have set goals, much like Monkey Ball's single player. On the other hand, it's quite "action" filled (like Marble Madness). It can even fit into another one or two genres. 

I don't know how to do it best, since it's not my job or anything, but maybe it's time that Microsoft released another Live patch. This time it could address the issues of organization that need to be address so badly. Just think of it this way; it's been less than 5 months right now since the 360 launched, yet the Marketplace is this confusing. How will it look once a year has passed? How bad will it be a year after that? It makes me think of how a little over a year ago, I removed frames from this site. I should had done it sooner, since each individual page had to be modified with frames, and the longer I took, the more hassle it was to fix. That same thing will apply to Live soon. 

Anyway, the reason I bring this up is with all the talk of some new shit being on the Marketplace, I just wanted to say why I don't download any of's too much hassle to determine what's new, and to determine which checked off items I've downloaded, as opposed to have aborted a download of. Live may be a big selling point of the 360, but it won't remain so with the chaos of it's layout. Plus, when the Revolution hits the market, and with the many game downloads Nintendo will offer from day one, it might be interesting to see how things compare between the two online structures in about 6 months. 

Before I take off...three words for you...Guitar...Hero...Two!!!  F#@$ YEAH!!!


Malik (4/18/06)  

One would almost think the 360 is a crappy fact, it's a quite valid thought process when you look at matters. Especially with a HDD in place, the 360 seems to be one of the most glitchy consoles out there. At least it does when you look at how so many games have so many weird bugs. Let the system boot a game without entering the Live menu first with the HDD in place and the HDD may be formatted (like with DoA4 when it launched), or play a long delayed game and suffer possible load times of 10+ minutes (like with Oblivion with a HDD attached if you don't clear the cache), or watch MLB from 2K freeze like a mo'fo' (with the HDD attached). In fact, that latest one has a quite lame solution; boot the game without the HDD (the first game for the 360 that requires a memory card...?) or fully load three other games first (the first game for a 360 that requires you to buy other games to play it...?). 

However, I think the real fact is just becoming more obvious when you have higher levels of technology. Developers and publishers are just not doing their jobs fully, especially in the field of testing their titles. If a game will freeze if the system has a HDD, this is not just the type of bug that can be dismissed as too hard to detect. This is a very simple one to see in the testing process, and thus it should have been a very easy one to have fixed prior to the game going gold. However, with the ease of using downloadable content, publishers and developers have an easier job on hand...they can always release a game now and make a patch (like 2K is currently working on for MLB) later for download...of course this is fine in a game like this in which the HDD is the problem. However, what will happen if the HDD is not the cause of a problem, but the HDD is required for downloading a patch. Will those who believed Microsoft's claims that the HDD is not required (justification for the 360 Core system) finally be forced to not only deal with reality, but to see that Microsoft ripped them off with the Core package? 

The main fact in all of this is two-fold. First off, with more sophisticated technology (this is not a 360 will face the PS3 just as readily), bug will be easier to find and they will be plentiful. It will hit each new console with a little more ferocity (except, possibly, the Revolution...but it will not be the major leap in technology we see with the 360 and PS3), and it will be more of an issue with each new generation. 

Secondly, when games are costing tens of millions of dollars more each year to develop and produce, maybe it's time to look at the big picture. Usually a developer will focus on a few important areas...much like a movie studio. You need a big amount of money going to the "star" (if they have a "star" designer, like Shigeru Miyamoto, Yu Suzuki, Warren Spector, Will Wright, Sid Meyer, Peter Molyneaux, and so on), a lot going into the new graphical effect engines and computers that can handle the new technology, a good deal may go into leasing a game engine from Valve or ID, and a lot will go into the hiring and studio time needed for voice actors (which may include an actual "real world" "star"). Last of all, you will need to drop a big lump of cash on publicity. However, while all of these bills get bigger each year, I'd be willing to bet good money that, proportionately, the testing/QC/QA budget has not kept up. I'd be willing to bet that for every exponential increase in game budget, the quality control budget only increases two-fold. 

I say all of this for a damned good reason; technology may be allowing more bugs into games, but some of these bugs are not the type that should sneak through. The deletion of saves when the game auto-boots? F#@% no! The freezing of a game if the HDD is in or if you haven't played three other games between sessions of the broken game? F#@% NO! Needing the cache to be cleared each time you play and it's not automatically done by each game on boot up? HELL F#@$ING NO! This is not a group of hard to detect errors...this is just sloppy practices from the game makers. 

In fact, the first rule that a dev/pub combo needs to see is that the solution is not a patch. If there is a system that doesn't require the parts needed to access patches (not all 360s have HDDs and they don't "need" them), then you better get it right the first time. We are not dealing with a PC, which may face compatibility issues from the many unique component combinations. Each 360 is, more or less, identical. Each PS3 will be, more or less, identical. 

If the makers are afraid of the cost over-run of more QC time/staff, then just cram one more pop-up ad in your game and get back to doing your job. While a developer and publisher both have the right to do whatever they want with a game (limit content and then charge for it like Oblivion, simplify a game when you have too little time to finish it before self-appointed deadlines like KOTOR2, charge for access to the game like with most MMORPGs), and they have all rights and privileges to be dicks about it, they don't have the right to sell faulty merchandise. 

In fact, software is the only type of product that this can actually happen with. Cars get recalled for less (a game that will not work without a patch may be safer than a car with a bad roll-over risk, but it's still more faulty), hardware gets recalled, appliances get recalled, food gets recalled (despite "patches" known as antibiotics)...true software will not cause you harm (in most cases), but when not everyone has access to a patch (like 360 Core owners), it should still be obvious that some software is faulty. Considering the hundreds of programs that have needed patches, and the limited number (I think I can count them on my fingers) that have gone through recalls, something just seems wrong...and it's getting more wrong with each new level of technology. 

By the way, this raises one major question in my mind; if so many 360 games have issues with the cache not being cleared, is it not maybe the right time for all programmers to make the first step in their game's boot up to be the clearing of the cache? I know I clear the cache on Oblivion each time I boot it up, and I would rather know that the game would do it on it's own without requiring me to hold down A each time I start the game. I also bet that MLB fans would prefer to not have to load three other games fully first...while holding A for a minute is annoying, the three game technique is just retarded. Anyway, I just think it may be time to install this first step in all new games... 

Lastly, for today at least, the Orrery is available for the 360 version of Oblivion.  I may consider getting it, but many people are hinting that the limited abilities and the 10 minute quest involved are just not worth the less than $2.  Sounds about right to me after the $2.50 charge for horse armor that even added content (not just cosmetic in nature) would be worth less than the price.  I probably would've been better off upgrading my memory and video card and going with the PC version.


Malik (4/19/06)  

Well, the stupidity is officially beginning. It's DIVX time all over again...The first HD-DVD players should be on the market right now, and for a "mere" $500 you could have access to an amazing library of nothing (well, there are a few movies out...a few). However, like with many things in life, it's all about having to power to show off your new toy. It's like how the PSP (for the most part) offers nothing, but it's shiny, sleek, but it looks professional and trendy enough to play at work. 

For Andy Parsons, chairman of the Blu-ray Disc Promotion Committee in the US, the deciding factor for consumers should be "content, content, content," Parsons said. "It's as important as location is when buying a house," Parsons said. "Remember, you're not buying this equipment because it looks good with your furniture. You're buying it because you want to watch movies. We have a fairly significant leg up because we've brought to market a wider array of (movie studios)." 

Let me just say, despite what Mr. Parsons may say, the simple truth is still out there; if you buy one of these players from day one, you are buying it because it looks good next to your...well, not your furniture. You're buying it because you think it looks good next to your friends' envy. Here's a doesn't. 

In a simplified picture of things, it should be said that the Blu-ray players (which are a little over a month out) and the HD-DVD players will both offer the same thing; trendy electronics with unknown futures and unknown lifespan with no real purpose in the short term. So, it's safe to say that both will fair pretty well...for now. However, anyone who realizes the value of a dollar (which, despite how some may disagree, still has some value...I think a single dollar is worth about the tip you pay for a large...that would be the second at Starbucks), I'd just suggest you stay away from this nightmare. Let some time pass, let the dust settle, and then join the game when the future is certain. Afterall, I'd hate to see more people join in a worthless camp like the DIVX people did last decade. 

By the way, on the note of worthless technology, the price and date of GTA:LCS (the former PSP-exclusive) are shaping up. The game is set to come to stores around June 6th for the PS2, and should go for an actually respectable price of $19.99. I'm surprised. I guess Rockstar is willing to realize the fact that this is an old game with old technology, despite how they could've probably sold the game for a good $10 more and still had great sales. I may even consider buying the PS2 version since I could possibly enjoy it (since I know I hated fighting the poor controls of the PSP version so much that the game itself completely escaped me). 

To make one more random jump in subject, I've finished the main quest of Oblivion finally. I have to say, after finishing this game, and after seeing how much of an impression this game left on me versus what the original (non-expanded) Morrowind left on me, I am honestly not looking forward to an expansion to this game. The game, since it uses the leveling system for monsters and treasures, just feels empty and defeated once you reach level 22. At this point you will be fighting all of the game's monsters, you have access to all quests, and you have access to all armor and weapon types. In fact, the only thing that leveling up and playing further does after you reach 22 is this; it pisses you off. 

A great example is in one of the final main quest missions when you have to defend Martin during a massive assault. Let's just say, this was the only time in the game that I ever died more than a few times. I died constantly, and do you know why? Because the monsters were all leveled according to me and thus Martin (and his group of unleveled fighters) were stuck in an epic assault against a few dozen level 38 enemies. If Martin dies, the game ends, and Martin will die. 

In fact, if I was to play this game again, I would intentionally pick my seven class skills (the ones that you must boost/increase 10 times to level up) to be seven skills I don't use, but could power level when I feel like it's time to find better equipment. For example, if you're not aiming to use illusion magic, make it a class skill since you could force it to level by simply casting a minor light spell for a few minutes in an enemy-free area. 

I hate to think that I have not changed my weapons or armors since about 35 hours (18 levels) before I finished the main quest. I have had glass armor for ages, my daedric weapons have been with me that whole time, and my enhancements (which came mainly from grand soul gems) have been on them for all of that time. I have honestly been playing only for plot, and not for that amazing feeling of gaining levels and powers. In all honesty, I think if the leveling system of Morrowind (along with non-leveling monsters and treasures) was put into this game, it would've been about 10 times better of a game. 

I still have enjoyed Oblivion, and I still have some quests I will finish before I quit playing, but I still long to see what this game could've been. Also, on a side note, the Orrery just sounds too lame to be worth a couple of bucks. The powers included with it are lame (you get better from means that don't require paying extra for), the quest sounds really weak (and short as hell), and it just sounds like it wouldn't be worth it. I'm still on the fence about the Mage Tower, but I'll probably wait to see some initial impressions from Oblivion fans before I jump on it (once it's available). 


Malik (4/20/06)  

So much stupid news, and so little interest. The Family Guy game is going to hit the current (or "last"...depending on if you are still living in the past) generation consoles in the Fall. It will probably be like most games that are based on popular media; in other words, it will probably be a big steaming pile. If you look at other cartoon to game (or even anime to game) translations, especially on FOX cartoons, you'd see a shocking trend. That trend would be some of the worst (if not "THE worst") games ever to grace the discount bin at EB. Between the dozens of Simpsons games and say Family Guy (the game) is a hopeless endeavor would show you have optimism. 

On top of that stinker, FFXI is out for the 360 now. Wow. I would try to be impressed, but I tried the beta and I can safely say that this is an old game and it shows. Unless the beta and the actual game are not in any way related, I'd advise people to avoid this. Even more so, I'd advise people to forget about FFXI or any other Square Enix future MMOs. Especially if it somehow winds up on the PSP. 

To round out stupidity in games, and I say that not on fact but on a strong hunch, Phastasy Star Universe is going to come to the 360 in the fall. I really do want to be excited about this game. Really. If it was about 7 years ago, I probably would be about ready to explode. However, PSO and all of the variations/episodes have left me wondering if Sega was smart in resurrecting this series after it's once-official finale (PSIV). 

While the multiplayer online part scares me to no end, I am afraid of seeing how the single player turns out. Since the game has both online and offline, it's obvious that the engine would have to cater to one of these styles, while the other style is forced to conform to this engine. Since single player is more versatile, it's safe to say that the online engine will be the whole game experience...which means it's safe to say that PSU will probably play quite similar to PSO...and be another reminder to any old school Phantasy Star fans (like myself) why the old say is true; "you can't go home again". 

At least PSU does show one important thing; the rumors of how bad the 360 lineup for 2006 will look is complete BS. The 360's game calendar has been looking pretty bland for the rest of 2006, but if a game like PSU can come along out of nowhere and make the list, I think it's safe to say that what we know of for 2006 is probably a minority of what we will really see. Now if only another real RPG (as in, not MMO) or two can make it this year. 

As a final bit of stupidity, check this out. Basically, Phillips, the major electronics company, has come up with a new patent for what may the single most bitchy bit of technology ever made. Yes, they have patented a technology that would cause a viewer to be unable to change TV channels during a commercial. The service would be controlled, in theory, by the content provider (the network or your cable company) with the idea of either forcing a viewer to watch ads, or making the viewer pay the network for the ability to change channels during ads. 

How do I put this? I know! F$#@ you, Phillips. If this technology is made, it could mean that you can't channel flip during commercials. It also might make the ability to change channels impossible when you are done watching a show. For example, many shows end and then cut into commercials. What will this technology mean if you wanted to watch (let's name a show for ease of discussion) American Dad. The show ends, and you sit through the credits (because you wanted to know who did the voice of the wacky guest star). Some commercials begin and you are done with American Dad, so you decide to flip to Adult Swim to continue with some Family Guy. Well, you can't change channels yet...not until the next show begins on FOX (or your local affiliate). During this time, the show you might want to switch to may have begun. 

Try this one on. You were watching some TV when you get a call from a friend saying that a good game is going on with XBox Live. You decide to change channels to your input that the 360 is hooked up to. Well, sadly a commercial just began. Are you ready to sit for 5 or more minutes while ads run before you can change channels? You're done with the show you were watching, but you can't flip away unless you decided to pay this network for the "right" to change channels. Wow. 

I can say, without a doubt, that if this technology ever hits the market, I will be the first one to not buy into it. This is the type of technology that should never see the light of day. In fact, I'd just like to know where the concept for this came from. I don't mean the "how can we stop people from channel flipping during our ads?" that many ad firms have wondered about. I mean the concept from Phillips that went along the lines of "How can we turn people off from our technology and try to turn free broadcast TV into a pay service?" Just think about it... 


Malik (4/21/06)  

I'm mainly posting right now because I try to do so every day. I have practically nothing to say that hasn't been said a thousand times before...well, except for the following... 

First off, I'll aim to start making a review of Oblivion sometime soon. I can't say how soon, but I think I'm finally ready, 100 hours later and 5/6 (not the fighters guild) storylines completed. Considering how much of the game I've experienced, both the good (most of the game) and the bad (scaling monsters/treasures and the glitches), the boring (not much) and the exciting (most of the game). It feels like the right time. It only took me a month for me to feel prepared. 

Secondly, there is nothing like the feeling of Heroes V going gold. I never got around to trying the second beta/demo (no agreement from anyone on if the second beta was in fact a beta or a demo), but I've heard enough good things to know that May 23rd will be a good day for my PC. As long as it's a more solid experience than Heroes IV (it's funny how so many worshipped this game when it was new, only to be the butt of a horrible joke compared to Heroes II and III now), and has good hotseat multiplayer. By the way, for any who don't understand the thrill of hotseat on Heroes games, I'll just say this; best date style game possible if you and your special other play cooperatively. I also hope, for those hotseat games, that Nival had enough foresight to include a random map generator (the single best part of Heroes III was being able to never be forced to face the same map twice). 

Third, there is nothing like how you can feel on top of the world one minute, and twenty minutes later you can feel like a bumbling buffoon. Thank you phone interviews! Whenever I feel like I'm on top of my game, I know I can always count on you...sigh...I need a new job...NOW! I have a $70,000/yr resume/skill set trapped in a $35,000/yr job. I hate the American Dream. 

...and on that note, it's the weekend, and the weekend was made for beer. 


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