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Malik (5/22/06)  

There is a good reason why I usually keep my bitchiness in check (believe me, I could go a lot more in that direction) when I talk about a lot of things that seem flat out stupid. That reason would be Europe (and Australia) gets it a lot worse than we in the US do.

On one hand, even with nearly simultaneous launches on systems or games, Europe gets it later than the other two big regions, like they had with the 360 and the planned PS3 launch, and they have to pay through the nose for the privilege to be last. Yes, Europe is going to be paying about $799, when converted into American dollars, for the PS3 that Americans will "only" be paying $599 for.

However, to make things worse, Sony of Europe is now saying that Europe may not even have the option of the ghetto (cheaper) PS3 setup. On one hand, that's kinda weak to not only charge Europe more, but to lock them in at the highest possible price. On the other hand, it makes you wonder...

Sony was pimping the ghetto PS3 as a fully enjoyable system. In fact, the whole concept between the two prices is that the 20GB ghetto version would be for casual gamers (whatever...$499 is not a casual gamer price by any means), while the 60GB version existed for the hardcore elite games. However, despite the audience differences, the systems would both be equally useful. If that was true, then why would they remove the ghetto version from the European market?

On one hand, it's due to greed, but I think there's more. Maybe they figure that Americans would be more likely to buy something they probably think of as an inferior system. Maybe they even think Europeans are stupid enough to buy whatever is thrown at them. Either way, there's something fishy about this whole situation.

I know I'll end up with a PS3 something in the next couple of years, but I do have to say that this will be one of the few consoles I will not even make the slightest effort of obtaining during it's launch window. I won't even consider dropping a single cent on this thing until three things happen.

I will need some good games. I have not seen a sign of anything I'd really want around the system's launch. I'm not a MGS fan (I like to series...but only with a passing interest), and most of the other early games seem too focused on the elements I don't care about. The only announced year one game I want is GTA4, which I can get (with episodic content) for the 360.

I will want to know how reliable the system is. I know launch systems are more faulty, but the main issue I have is the number of Sony products I have seen die on me. Playstation...I'm on number 4. PS2...I'm on number 2. I don't want to see a $600 (pre-tax) system die on me...and I'll avoid it until I see better.

Most of all, I just can't justify a $600 payment for a games system. I still have minor regrets on spending $400 on the 360, and I have major regrets of dropping $250 on the PSP. I need my money to be justified, and it's very hard to justify the extra price for the PS3...hell, that's the cost of all of my student loans, my car payment, and my cell phone payment...and then some...for an entire month.

Well, I got Rise of Legends this weekend (thanks to two friends). I didn't get much of a chance to play yet, but I'm enjoying it so far. I've gone through the first two single player missions.

I do have a couple of comments, however. First of all, this is not Rise of Nations. The mechanics have been changed a fair amount. In fact, this game reminds me more of how RoN could be if it was turned into a Starcraft style of play. Not a bad thing, but it's something that one has to keep in mind when they play...this is not RoN2.

The best example of this is how there are three types of races/nations in this game. They don't have perfectly matched up armies. It's like the three sides in Starcraft. They all have rather unique units and the true strength comes more from knowing how to use an army and less with how big your army is.

Another difference is that peons/builders/civilians/whatever no longer flat out exist. You don't build farms, you don't control if a worker is a miner or a farmer or a builder. In fact, mines let you build dedicated miners, and otherwise you will never deal with the peasants. If you build a new structure, it is just placed and the map and then it is slowly build by invisible workers. This means, more than anything, that your population cap is not longer based on peasants plus your army (it's army only).

Military units are not necessarily single units anymore. If you build smaller things, like a platoon of marksmen, then they will actually be built as a small battalion. However, bigger objects, like tanks and cannons, are individual units when represented on the playfield.

Overall, I am enjoying RoL. I only have one real complaint with the game...ok, two complaints. First off, the camera is way to zoomed in. You can never get quite far enough out to feel like you have solid control over an army of people. I have constantly found myself scrolling back on my mouse scroll wheel, to no avail. Secondly, I have not seen any signs of nukes yet (which were always my favorite thing of RoN).

I am starting my New Super Mario Bros review, and it should be up this week...assuming I don't get too distracted by RoL.


Malik (5/23/06)  

To start things off on the right foot, I do have my New Super Mario Bros review up and running. Wow...I actually promised a review and then delivered. Maybe this is a sign of things to come, or maybe it's because of other factors...

The main thing giving me some extra time is simple and is covered in that review. NSMB was too short and had too little replay value (I cannot get into playing the mini-games to kill time, since I already did that over a year ago when I finished Mario 64 DS). Beyond that, there is not really anything worthy of more than a passing glance. In fact, I think it's safe to say that the usual summer drought is once again upon us.

I may be able to find a break from the boredom depending on how Heroes of Might and Magic V turns out to be. It's officially out today, but I'm giving the game a little more time to be fully reviewed before I jump in. Especially, I am going to be cautious when bugs are already being spotted at a swift pace.

Considering how the HoMM5 beta and demo were both so glitched out, and how they had other non-glitch issues, I really hope this is not a sign of how the game actually is. I think it's safe to say that I'm a diehard Heroes fan (I spent about 4 hours playing Heroes 3 last night, not to mention how much I play it on any normal average week), but I still cannot easily jump into the new games when the series has been going downhill since Heroes 4.

Most of all, I want to wait for word (if you know, send me an email...) on if the multiplayer has the ability to generate random maps. This, more than the stupid design of towns, is what kept me from playing Heroes 4 to it's fullest. I honestly could not give a damn about the single player campaign mode. I love Heroes games just from Hot Seat multiplayer, and if there's no random map maker, then it will just be a shortly lived experience (like Heroes 4 was), instead of being a time killer for the better part of a decade (like Heroes 3 still is for me).

Most of all, with the bugs that are being seen, I think it's safe to say that this was another rushed PC in, the developers will probably release a patch soon to fix the problems that they knew existed, rather than how they could have simply delayed the game for a week or two to tackle these issues ahead of time. Nothing like the PC way of releasing games prematurely since a patch is always an option.


Malik (5/24/06)  

Well, if you want me to say anything nice and intellectual today, it's not gonna happen. I got no sleep (due to my new neighbor not understanding that they have people trying to sleep around them at the magical time when PM goes to AM), had the fun of racing a school bus driver who had no desire to let me into the legal lane of traffic when my merging lane ended (would've possibly been funny if there weren't a bunch of kids on the bus...f#@%er!), and a strong sense of my hype and anticipation being popped by stupidity.

First up...Rise of Legends. I do enjoy this game, and I am planning to have some fun when my friend Bastich hosts another fun LAN party this weekend. However, some of the changes are just pointless. For one thing, the idea of building generic city parts instead of building an actual city is frustrating. I have solid plans in any RTS on how to build things to fit my exact style and the requirements for the current game. I cannot do this when I don't build market and trading posts, but rather build merchant sectors of the city. The same applies to farms, etc. I like to cover my ass in a RTS, and part of that requires me to not keep my entire city condensed in a very small area (making it easy to raze).

Secondly, with RoL, the plot sucks. I have nothing to hold on to. While plot doesn't mean too much to me, I still want a compelling reason to keep playing the single player (between LANs), and these three random and almost generic races don't give me anything to give a shit about. If you plan to invent a whole new set of races and technologies, take a look at the masters before you do it...namely, it's amazing how the races of RoL are so similar to those of Starcraft, but in the end, while I like the Starcraft races from day one, I still find the RoL races to be pointless and hollow.

I haven't played it, and I probably won't because of what I've read, but how could the once amazing franchise of Heroes of Might and Magic be reduced to the steaming pile of shit that it Heroes 5? What the hell happened?

First off, look at the f#@^ing visuals. I remember a while back, Penny Arcade went off about how the visuals of Everquest 2 looked like something that a robot made. They complained about how the visuals looked soulless and devoid of any creative spark. Well, I think, in comparison to Heroes 5, EQ2 looks f#%$ing brilliant. Just check out some Heroes 5 screenshots (Gamespot has some nice ones). What part of this lifeless trash is one the same vein as the wonderfully designed art of some of the better Heroes games (namely, Heroes 1-3)? Heroes 5 visuals just look like fancy CGI attempts at promo art so that Nival could find a publisher and some money...not the visuals of a finished game.

Secondly, I looked it up last night...there is no map maker, no random map generator, and they won't come along for a while. Why did this happen? Because the developers couldn't see why anyone would want this type of stuff on their wonderful (/sarcasm) single player game. Well, you know what Heroes has meant to thousands (hell, we can bump that number to hundreds of thousands or even millions easily) of fans long after the shine of a new game has worn thin? The series was always a multiplayer game. To make it even worse, in Heroes 5, as of now, you cannot make a multiplayer game that has actual can just promise your friends that you won't attack each other.

Plus, the civilizations of Heroes have been raped, killed, and then skull-f@#%ed! Use this link and scroll down to the "Creatures" sections to see for yourself. Many of the old favorites that have been around since Heroes 2 (and even the original) are gone. The Evil Eyes? Gone. Manticores? Gone. Red Dragons? Gone. Master Archers? Not gone, but no longer fire twice per round. Efreets? Gone. Nomads? Gone. Bandits? Gone. Harpies? Gone. Gogs? You don't even want to know...they were booted for weaker demons (demons that are literally as weak as imps).

This is not the end of the list of missing creatures, and it's not the end of how the races have been raped of their soul. One one hand, you now have archers that carry a mere 5 arrows. What type of archer would enter combat with less than a full quiver of arrows? The Death Knight is now homeless (there is a necromancy town...). What? Did this proclaimed "vampire" and master of death feel like he was being stifled living at home? I know for f#@%ing sure that no necromancer would've told the dude to split.

Most of all, what the f#@& is this shit about Dark Elves? I sure as hell know that my Dungeon towns have Evil Eyes, Manticores, and Obsidian Gargoyles...not these lame attempts to catch the eye of the emo crowd. If I want dark elves, I can play some Warcraft 3/WoW, or I can call up some friends for some D&D, or I know what? They have plenty of homes already and they have no place in the world of Heroes.

More than that, the whole world of M&M, along with all of the conventions and plots that have built up over a good couple of dozens of games has been put to sleep in favor of some attempt to make the game generic.

Last of all, just check how many (or few) artifacts are in the game. What about spells? Skills? There is simply not enough stuff to customize your heroes with. It wasn't always the army that made the difference, but rather the artifacts, the spells, and the skills. When you plunder those vast riches and leave skeletal remains, things will not turn out good.

I will say that I think it's great that Ubi/Nival tried to bring back Heroes for it's loyal fans. However, as I learned many times as a kid, good intentions only get you so far. You can intend to do some good, but when your final result is this shit...maybe it's a sign that you should've stuck with what you know, and not what you think would be fun to play around with.

Now, all loyal fans of Heroes, I ask for you to spend some time with Heroes 3 (and his friend, the expansion). Love it, caress it, and speak gently to it. It may be getting on in years, but let the old guy know what he's meant to you, and how there may be attempts, but no one will ever replace him. Now when you've let the old guy know this, load him up (and if you must install again, Heroes 3 will understand and will not judge), and conquer the world with 8 glorious races, randomly generated worlds, possible real alliances with friends, countless artifacts and spells, and enough skill slots to truly live the life of a hero.

Also, if you wonder why I'd call to you, a loyal fans of the series, and I didn't say to load of Heroes 4...I don't try to be elitist too often, but you sir/madam, can go and f#@% yourself with your Heroes 4 un-loyal whore!


Malik (5/25/06)  

I had another night of too little sleep (this time it was my own fault...well, the fault of a really fine local restaurant offering free all-you-can-eat of high quality sea food when you buy a single beer...who could turn that down?). So, I think I'll do what I know, to get back into it, I present another day of some well overdue Bitchings.

I was reading in the paper, yesterday, about the major Windows conference in Seattle. This is the all important conference on helping various companies take advantage of the new abilities in Windows Vista, prior to the OS's launch. It's a good thing, blah, blah...

However, at one point, Bill Gates was heard to say something along the lines of of it's been a slow process to make the PC a fundamental part of the living rooms of America. Really? I wonder why people are not just jumping into the Windows XP MCE 2005, I don't. It's pretty f#@&ing obvious, and if Bill cannot figure this one out, I think he's either in denial or is a complete idiot.

I have my PC as part of my living room. I would hate the thought of watching anime, listening to music, or whatever else on my tiny 17" monitor when I have a 52" 1080i display sitting there, waiting for a chance to be shown off in all it's glory. However, I sure as hell don't do things the way that Bill would want me to (using MCE 2005). I, on the other hand, do things in my own special way, and hate it. I simply run my audio out of my sound card (onto a surround sound system that is not optimized for surround sound) and watch the video on the TV using a DVI connection. I would love to use the proper audio hook-ups (using the main surround sound system of my living room), but Bill has actually stopped me from doing so.

In other words, I don't use Windows MCE 2005 because I literally can't. Well, I could, but I hate the thought of ordering the OEM disks off of a place as "respectable" (/sarcasm) as eBay. However, Microsoft only offers MCE, in the fully legal and safe methods to obtain it, by buying a PC that is fully assembled and "designed for" MCE.

Like many people with some knowledge of computer prices and knowledge of how to run, maintain, and upgrade their own PCs, I am a do-it-yourself-er. I don't like the thought of ordering a MCE containing computer from Dell, HP, Gateway, or any other company when I could easily build the same equivalent PC for hundreds less, and actually have a better understanding of where my parts come from and a full working knowledge of why each component and adapter is present. No waste and no extra hassle if I need to upgrade something down the road.

I can also assure Bill that my PC is more than MCE complaint, with only a few minor exceptions (mainly being that I don't currently have an IR port hooked up for receiving remote control input...which I would do if I had MCE). However, I am stuck with Windows XP because of their tight firm hold on keeping MCE under lock-n-key.

The largest shame in this is that the 360 is actually being effected, in small ways, by this draconian control. As it stands, the 360 can be used to stream data "from a MCE compliant and installed PC". However, if MCE was open to all the DIY crowd, then it could be said that 360 will stream video from "a PC". Big difference. I definitely know I would love to stream video from my PC to my 360 and then watch it without having to resize my video playback windows on my DLP's desktop. I would also love to listen to the proper audio sources, since my 360 is hooked up to my properly configured surround sound system, with the best of hook ups (digital optical).

Even better, Microsoft would make some major gains in taking over the living room just by releasing an add-on (for a price...of course) for Windows XP to allow the streaming of video from a PC to a 360. It wouldn't have to be an expensive upgrade/update, and it would be well received by the majority of 360 owners (who don't have MCE). It would be a win-win situation for Microsoft.

I guess, if Bill really wants an answer for why the adoption of Windows based PCs in the living has been so slow, maybe he should...oh, what's that term? I know! OPEN HIS F#@^ING EYES!

Ok. I'm really sleep deprived, so I'm afraid that's all you get from me today. Also, if you haven't heard, Nintendo officially announced (too lazy to put in a link to one of the 1000 articles on this) the Wii will go for under $250 (which is pretty much the same as them saying it will be $249.99...because that somehow counts as "under $250").  Peace.


Malik (5/25/06)  

It's good to know that Microsoft doesn't always ignore the voices of their customers. Namely, the 360 is supposed to be getting a dashboard update sometime in the not too distant future. The exact date seems to be up for some speculation, but the basic details make it sound like it could be anything from now until the end of the summer. In the end, Microsoft is currently saying it will be about a week from now, but then again they've said some other dates, and they have no always been the most prompt of businesses.

The update will finally be one worthy of being a real update, and it will be one that will definitely be enjoyed by all. It will allow, most importantly, the ability to set up a download list and then to download items in the background while still using the system for it's normal purposes. In other words, there will no longer be a time, in theory, when you have to let the 360 sit, without really using it, so you can download a huge demo. You can now just let the download carry on while you use the 360 for better uses. Also, if you finish said download, you would then be able to still use the system normally as it sets up your next desired download.

The smartest part of this new feature is that Microsoft will allow the system to automatically halt a download when the player starts an online game. It's almost like Microsoft is actually wanting to make the Marketplace something more than a giant pain in the ass.

On top of this, Microsoft will also initialize the ability to fast forward and rewind trailers and videos downloaded from Live. Plus, on that note, the 360 will now have a bookmark feature for playing DVDs, so that you can turn off the system and then when you turn it back on, it will remember where any DVD movie you were watching previously is currently at.

In basic terms, Microsoft has finally decided to give people both what they want, and they are giving what is opposed to how they have previously had more of an attitude of "WE will let you know what you want". They are even now reorganizing the Marketplace, so that it's not confusing as all hell. The subjects and categories should now make some sense.

The only things not mentioned that I would like to see should hopefully be coming soon. That is to say, if Microsoft is smart, they will show up within the next two updates. Namely, I would like to see my downloads not marked off as completed in the Marketplace when I am only partially done with downloading something. Secondly, I'd like to see things better classified by category and not just this lumping of all non-game things into some general "game" of "Entertainment". Lastly, I'd like for the fonts to be rearranged on the Marketplace, so I don't have to select an item to see what it really is (try downloading a trailer for something, and then notice how you have to select two identical looking trailers before you know what resolution they are coded in).

On a final note for the week, it looks like there's a chance that another secret may be in store for the least according to Gamespot. While there isn't exactly the most compelling data for this, it looks like the Wiimote may have a microphone inside of it. The main purpose looks like it will let the Wii be a Karaoke machine. However, this would allow for some interesting ideas.

Mainly, the ideas I am thinking of would be for insane/unusual games, like Wario Ware. Just think, for a second, of all of the Wario Ware Touched (DS) games that used the think of them in conjunction with being able to move the Wiimote at the same time. I honestly would enjoy that...or at least a lot more than the DS mic features (which can be pretty embarrassing in public places). Plus, if Nintendo keeps things simple enough, the mic could have some really innovative uses in future games. It may even allow for more of a speaker phone style chat system for online games (as opposed to the 360 and it's closed circuit system of conversing).

Well, I'm out of here for a nice 3-day weekend (no post Monday). "Happy birthday" to my bro-in-law. Later.


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