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Malik (6/12/06)  

I don't have anything too big or important to discuss today, so I think it's best if I present a series of random thoughts on things.

First off, the World Cup is an awesome sight to watch, even if it's only on TV. However, I have to say that the Ivory Coast/Argentina game was hideous. The game itself was pretty interesting, but the officiating during the game was amazingly bad. The first goal of the game came a bit after Argentina got the ball to clear the Ivory Coast goal line for the first time. That was bad on it's own, but the missed tackles, among other things, just made me wonder how the game might have been with fully qualified refs on the field...

I saw a movie at the Seattle International Film Festival this weekend. It was an amazing movies from South Korea called Blood Rain. It basically dealt with a murder mystery in which the head of a paper mill was sentenced to death seven years in the past for being a Christian (it's a historical movie), along with his entire family. Since there were five people laid to death, and there were five unknown informants who betrayed the man (who was not actually Christian), someone started to get revenge on the five informants using the same methods used to execute the mill owner and his family.

Blood Rain showed a great level of goriness (which is sometimes fun in a movie like this one) in a very intriguing setting. I would say that you shouldn't worry about me spoiling the movie, but I think that isn't needed...because the f#@%ing film broke near the end. So, instead of enjoying a murder mystery, we were left in a situation like on MASH (the episode in which the camp had a mystery novel with the last couple of pages missing), if any of you have seen Blood Rain and know who did it, please feel free to email me...please...

I also put down Xenogears this weekend to play some Suikoden V. It's not a bad game, by any means, but it is slow. I played for about 3 hours before I entered the first real dungeon of the game. I don't have a clear idea of what is going on, and I feel like the names for characters have just gotten to be a little too complex and over convoluted. I only can clearly recall the name of the main hero, and that's because it's the one character you name.

My other complaint with S5 is that the visuals will make most games (unless you haven't played any game for the last couple of generations) feel a bit under whelmed. Seriously, most rooms and locations are almost empty of detail. Add to that the fact that most character models are very bland on the map screen and you are left feeling like this game was meant for the SNES generation.

Hopefully I'll have better things to say about this game in another day or two of playing, but for now I definitely am not feeling the Suikoden love. I was one of the few people who enjoyed Suikoden 4, so it's really saying a lot when I say that S5, so far, is a waste of a DVD. I will give the game more time and love, but for now I'm actually not expecting to finish the game.

Lastly, for the three people (it was five before Velveeta and I changed our tunes) who still have not watched Lost...holy shit, this show is f$#@ing awesome. I didn't start watching until about a week and a half ago, and I am now done with the first season...and in desperate need for more. I think Lost is a great example that TV doesn't need to be nearly as bad as it is. If a show as awe inspiring as Lost can exist on ABC, then more quality TV can definitely be on the air...if American viewers can make a message to the networks by stopping their pointless addictions to poorly conceived and predictable sitcoms and the mind rotting plague known as reality TV.

One last bit before I go for the day (and try to save my opinion of Suikoden 5); An American remake of Battle Royale is in the works. There isn't much known, expect that a writer and director (not to mention a cast) is still being hunted for. Well, that, and there's this petition to end the stupidity before it goes too far. If you haven't seen the original Japanese BR movie, you owe it to yourself to do so...NOW! If you have, and you were unfortunate enough to see other Japanese to English remakes like The Grudge, Ring 2, Godzilla, etc, then it's time to sign the petition. We, as a community, can end this bastardization of classic films.

Last of all, before I go...if you enjoy Smash, check this out.  Thanks for the link, Metro.


Malik (6/13/06)  

At the recent Sex in Video Games conference, keynote speaker Sheri Graner Ray had some interesting opinions on why video games only find about a 10% female audience. For once, I don't mean it's interesting because it's absurd (usually, "interesting" is Malik's code for "insane"). It's all quite a point.

While I think it's safe to say that limiting repetition is a key way to make a game more appealing to vaster audiences, and the same goes for making female characters into characters and not just virtual sluts, but I think her view misses an important point; this is not what is needed to bring in female gamers...this is what's needed in the industry as a whole.

Let's face it...the game industry has gotten so addicted to low risk options that games are becoming stagnant. That comment about "I pulled his heart out once. Why do I need to do it again?" is dead on. This is why I personally find myself avoiding a lot of games. It's not because I am offended by blood, gore, blah, blah. It's rather that I've been pulling out the hearts of foes, breaking spines, severing heads, and lighting enemies on fire for 20+ years now. In fact, the whole populace of mainstream game players have. The one difference, if Ray is correct, is that more female gamers are sick of it. Maybe it's a sign that, supposedly, female gamers are just a little quicker on accepting that crap (in terms of cookie-cutter games) is not cutting it anymore.

I would like to propose something better. Maybe the real problem is that the average gamer (which is around early 20's, male, blah, blah) is too ready to jump onto hype. If this is true, then it just means that most gamers don't think about what they are buying, and spend their money blindly. I know, from personal experience, that (as a jaded gamer) the so-called "emotional content" is about the only stuff that keeps me playing a majority of games...

WARNING: Random Subject Change how it's turning out with Suikoden 5. This game is fundamentally flawed. There are vast open areas with no visual stimuli (that's read: the graphic department at Konami took the year off while this game was being programmed). There are long dialogue sections that automatically progress as the voice actors rehearse their lines...with no freakin' pause button (which is very rare for an RPG made in the last 10 years). The game play mechanics are beyond dated (same as they were in Suikoden 1). Each time you enter a battle, there is a horribly long load time to start the fight, and another to load the map when combat ends.

However, despite these very obvious flaws, I cannot stop from playing this game. It's nothing short of addictive. The addictive quality, in Suikoden 5, all comes from the plot. True, a very bad game cannot be recovered with a good plot. However, a mediocre game can be saved by an excellent plot (let's call it "emotional content"), and that's what Suikoden 5 has going for it.

The first 3 hours of Suikoden 5 left me wondering how much longer I would play the game before I couldn't take it anymore. However, that was when the plot was still being unveiled, the characters were too foreign, and the game hadn't sunk in quite yet. 2 hours later, and the game is nothing short of addictive (still frustrating to not be able to put it down during the 10+ minute dialogue scenes).

I think this is a great sign of a simple truth; it's not the female gamers who need something original (be it plot, game play, or genre)'s all gamers. The sole exception is the fanboys and the spend-aholics...who will buy any crap that has the least amount of hype to it. Maybe it's time for the industry, as a whole, to accept that the low risk model of game making is killing a once amazing industry. Maybe some risk, from time to time, is more than's needed.

As for the slutty female characters...I think there is a time and a place for everything. I personally enjoy a little of that from time to time, but it is seriously disturbing that well over half of all female game characters look more suitable in the dreaded pr0n than in a video game. Hell, I think that was most obvious once game characters were posing nude in Playboy, etc (seriously, if you were turned on by need some serious counseling...NOW!).


Malik (6/15/06)  

Yesterday, I spent about seven hours helping one of my close friends prepare to move out of state (as in, I spent six hours loading a U-Haul, and one hour drinking beer), so I wasn't around to post. My bad. Anyway, I'm back with a vengeance.

If you're a fan of true classic films and the great impacts they have on society, there is some damned good news for you; Jackass: Number Two (thanks for the link, Meat Shield). We're just a few months away from the September 22nd release date! I still can't believe a sequel is being made, but as a fan of the first, I'm already there in my mind!

I saw this stuff yesterday, and while the Gamespot coverage is not all that interesting, the official Tim Schafer take is a damned good read. Double Fine (who has one of the most entertaining web sites in the game industry, thanks to Mr. Schafer and his sense of humor) is demanding that Psychonauts is made backwards compatible on the 360.

Namely, they are wanting as many fans as possible to write Microsoft and they backwards compatibility team to get the game working on the 360. I guess, beyond that, they are even offering to send their coders to Microsoft to do the work for the big M. I guess this is not exactly what Microsoft wants, but I think when a company is volunteering their coders, free of charge, to make a game on the b/c list, maybe it wouldn't hurt Microsoft is take the help when it's available.

Anyway, if you've never visited the Double Fine web site before, I suggest you follow the link and enjoy it. The news threads are fun, but even the Job page has some interesting information (just go to that page and scroll to the bottom). It's too bad that so many game companies take themselves way too seriously and don't give us this type of information with this style of humor.

Anyway, I think I am starting to get a little sick of the backwards compatibility bull shit that's been flying around lately. On one side, Peter Moore is saying one thing, the b/c ninjas (or whatever they were called...I know they were some sort of "ninja") are saying they wont rest until all games are b/c, many fans really don't give a shit (I'm in this group), and a few overly zealous Microsoft haters are trying to turn b/c into some major issue in regards to "Sony teh pwnzor M$ because they make all backwards compatible!!!11!!!1 I b 1337!!!11".

Well, to say it simply, a next gen console is meant for new games. Backwards compatibility is nice, but it's not what we buy a NEW console for. Plus, Microsoft made no promises when they started the 360. Well, they did, but it was vaguely worded as being "all best selling games" would be on the list. Well, that definition could mean they would be done at Halo 1&2. For Microsoft is go any further, without any monetary reward, just shows that they are trying to keep fans happy, and they are not being greedy about this. Considering the hassles they must face in getting the emulation of these old games correct, I think they are doing a hell of a job.

If you're put off about how Barbie's Horse Adventure is on the list and Burnout 3 is not...well, they never said they wouldn't put the truly hardcore and amazing cult favorites (like BHA). That's sarcasm. However, they never made any specific promises, and they have delivered what they promised. So, all I have to say is this; I don't play the 360 to play XBox titles, and the only games that matter on the 360 are 360 games. If we really need more of something, I think it's 360 titles and not b/c XBox titles...right?


Malik (6/16/06)  

It's interesting when the ramifications of seemingly small game industry events have a much larger scope than one first realizes. For example, I had no idea that Rockstar was so strongly effected when Criterion (the people behind Burnout Revenge, etc) was purchased by EA. Namely, the RenderWare engine Rockstar had used in the past three major GTA games (3, VC, SA) was owned by Criterion...which now means it's owned by EA...which means Rockstar, ala Take Two, would owe one of it's largest (ok, THE largest) competitors a nice chunk of change from any new GTA that would use that same RenderWare technology.

So, the rumors began to flow and it's pretty obvious that Rockstar would want out of a deal in which EA would profit off of the largest and best selling game franchise (or at least the best selling non-sports franchise) on the market. So, the rumors are now saying that Rockstar will try to use the RAGE engine used in Rockstar Games Presents Table Tennis to power the next GTA.

While this may sound weird, especially since a good number of us geeks have avoided Table Tennis (I know I have...and not just because the game sucks in single player), the visuals and the physics seen in this RAGE poster child have been nothing short of note worthy. So, it sounds a bit weird at first glance, but if this new engine is stable enough for a large scale game like GTA4, I say more power to Rockstar. Afterall, we know the engine works on the 360, which is one of GTA4's launch vehicles, and we know that this would prevent Rockstar from owing royalties (which is good business sense).

Well, I have been trying to get in some more time with Suikoden 5. It's been a bit slow going so far, with having to help people move and trying to watch some Lost episodes. However, I think I'm finally getting to the point in the game when the plot emerges (which, in all Suikoden games, is about 5-10 hours into the actual game). I do have to say the this plot is nicely refreshing from previous Suikoden games.

In past games of this franchise, it always seems to start with you being a character that is only loosely tied in with the government (son of a general, adopted grandson of a famous national hero, well respected knight, blah, blah). For once, you start as the crown prince of a kingdom (although it's a matriarchal society, so you have no solid power besides continuing the bloodline if all female relatives are killed), and the kingdom you live in is not corrupt at the highest levels. In fact, the royal family is a bit kooky at times, but they are good people. Instead, the game deals with your home being destroyed by a minor faction of the government.

It's a nice change of pace from playing the self-righteous citizen who feels like he MUST step in and save the world. It's also nicely refreshing to see that not all of the open looking characters are completely devoid of hidden plot elements. In fact, Suikoden 5 serves as a perfect example of how the plot should matter more than anything else, like visuals, in an RPG. Hell...S5 is ugly as hell, the engine is slow (in terms of loading), and the sounds are not exactly amazing. The game doesn't even give you a pause option during larger cut scenes. The game, with the plot of something like Suikoden 4, would have been shit.

Well, I'll wrap things up for the week about now. If you're in Seattle, it should be a good weekend for baseball (nearly sold-out games for the first time since opening night) when San Francisco comes to town. On top of that, tomorrow is a US World Cup match (against Italy) that is not showing at some random middle of the work week or middle of the morning time (noon on the West Coast). It will be a nice weekend for sports.


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