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Malik (7/21/08)

E3 2008 is now all said and done. In the end, I still feel like I did when I posted a few days ago. There was a lot of nothing. This could be from one of two things. Either there is not much news worthy in the gaming world, or it could be that since the ESA has f$#@ed with the format of E3 and has lost several key members that E3 is just not important. I am leaning towards the second option on this.

Most of what came along could have been summarized in one sentence press briefings. Microsoft is getting a larger HDD. Microsoft is imitating Nintendo by adding their take on Miis. Sony is ditching the best option to get casual gamers by losing backwards compatibility in their cheap PS3. Sony is getting a larger HDD. Nintendo is going to release voice chat at the same time as Animal Crossing for the Wii. Nintendo is getting more Pikmin. Gow of War 3 is in the works. Fable 2 is ready for October.

Is that a good explanation for the bulk of E3? I think it just about summarizes the main points. With one exception, that is.

The only games or consoles to make news worthy of more than one sentence is the stuff coming from Neversoft and Harmonix with their rhythm games. I mean GH:WT is getting backwards compatibility with instruments from Rock Band and is getting Hendrix. This is stuff that deserves (as I did last week) elaboration and some deeper thoughts.

Harmonix had their whole set list, news of 20 free songs in the future, and some other cool tricks up their sleeves for Rock Band 2. This was worth enough of my time to touch on it for an entire week, even if I only gave it a day or two of my time on this post.

Anyway, I think E3 is in it's death throw. We really don't need an event that has become so convoluted in the ESA's way of thinking that it no longer offers a venue that the average game company wants to be involved in. Plus, E3 is falling victim to being made obsolete by more important of conferences. The GDC offers more room for developers to understand the nature of the industry while offering some chances to showcase new ideas. The other half of the year (the second half of the year) sees the Tokyo Game Show and PAX. Both of which offer better chances at showcasing while also offering some chances for informative discussions of different types (booths versus panels).

I personally wouldn't mind seeing E3 go away into the night. It's one thing to see that it's still being forced as big shit from the media, but it's another to see this once mighty conference torn down to a lifeless shell of what it once was. All that would be required to eliminate the need for it is for a few game developers and publishers to jump away from using their most important news at this show and saving it for Germany (sorry, can't spell that one city well enough to get my spell checker to give me some help...I'm a spell checker addict), Tokyo, Seattle (PAX), or a dozen other venues viable to become the real next big thing.


Malik (7/23/08)

Yesterday I skipped posting for a simple reason; I was pissed off. I was simply too filled with unhappiness due to the simple fact that being blamed for other peoples' mistakes is never a good way to spend a day after working your ass off following directions exactly as prescribed.

Anyway, I didn't go into it earlier this week, but I did see The Dark Knight on opening day. I will avoid "teh spoilerz", but I will say that this is the first superhero/comic movie I've seen that I am not just being a fanboy when I say it deserves major Oscar consideration. Heath Ledger and Christian Bale both put up incredibly acting jobs on the leading actor field, while Gary Oldman is definitely worthy of consideration for supporting actor. Even Morgan Freeman and what's-his-face (sorry, I can never remember the actor who played Harvey Dent) could go into the hat for supporting actor. Hell, this entire movie was an acting powerhouse topped with some damned good plot and direction. This is exactly what I never expected to see; a brilliantly handled comic book movie.

Also, for the record, I am really surprised at the lack of an R rating. While the violence is never quite shown and the language never goes into the swear word range, it's still some stuff that a bit...errr...dark. The violence not shown may be far more brutal than what is shown in any R movie just due to how much it leaves to your imagination while twisted your imagination into a dark and perverse one with the language...which is definitely some scary shit when Ledger opens his mouth.

I, to change subjects, also got FFIV for the DS yesterday. If you are a fan of old school RPGs, especially old school Square titles, then this is a must have game. It receives the same treatment as FFIII DS did (looking more like FFVII than some 16-bit era RPG like many DS games look). However, to make it even grander, there is some building upon the plot, instead of just giving you a plot when none was found before. You also get voice acting and some good looking CGI cut scenes (only one FMV before you start the game, however) in a tiny DS cart.

The biggest change is the addition of new objectives and minigames. You now have a reason to explore every dungeon to its fullest (you fill out a map as you explore and filling in a dungeon equals bonus loot). You also have minigames to build a new summon for Rydia...although the bonus games include some less than awesome things, like timed math challenges...?

The other major change is you now have special abilities you find while playing that will give characters new abilities. It's a pretty cool idea since it allows some customization, but it also feel unrequired since the original FFIV was so good without these abilities.

Then again, they don't hurt to use since you now have the hardest difficulty level of any FFIV version. Monsters will kill you and bosses will stomp you out before you even know what has happened. I'm not saying the challenge is overly imposing, nor is this anything compared to the challenge of many Atlus RPGs, but it is a definite step up in the FF world.

On a final subject change for today, I didn't have time to check the new RB songs last night. Being Velveta's b-day, I was kept a bit busy. So, I'll be taking care of deciding if anything is worth my time tonight...if I can find the time between Xenogears, FFIV, and playing real guitar.


Malik (7/24/08)

I'm predicting tomorrow will see a Rack Band DLC announcement of something a bit more on the older and more mellow side after getting some fairly new and heavier music this week with NIN and Shinedown. In particular, I see something from the 1970's or 1980's in the future.

That's not to say that I would love to see some Nirvana come along. There's just something nostalgic for me about Nirvana (probably the being born and raised in the Seattle area thing). I also wouldn't mind seeing the rumored Rolling Stones songs (Brown Sugar and Satisfaction) about now. However, I'm thinking both of these possible desires of mine are a bit too hard in sound after a week of heavy songs. Harmonix will most likely break it down with something slower and softer. I do, however, see another week of more than three songs coming in the announcement tomorrow.

To shift gear, Nintendo lost in a suit about the patents supposedly behind the Wii Classic controller, the Wavebird, and the Gamecube controller. This means that a judge is looking to ban their sales until Nintendo can get authorization. The bright side is that any ban will not happen until the status of a Nintendo appeal is decided.

Personally, while I do support patent law since it's one way to protect one's intellectual property, I have some issues with where it goes in modern times. Namely, in effect, everything has been patented to some degree. So if a new product, like a new console, comes along it will have broken some patents. Something this is intentional, but a lot of times it's the console maker just selling something they designed on their own without even realizing some obscure patent exists that barely touches on their (entirely original from their developmental standpoint) product.

It is not like Nintendo, Microsoft, and Sony all look for whatever obscure patents they can find and then rip them off in whatever way possible. No. These companies simply develop new products that happen to overlap, in most cases, with excessively broad and poorly detailed patents.

On the bright side, this will probably never go into effect. I'm talking about the ban of sale of these controllers. Ok, the Wavebird one will since Nintendo discontinued them a while back. The Classic and GCN controllers will never face a ban since Nintendo will either win on appeal, or if they fail, cut a deal with their opposition. Nintendo has too strong of a product to not throw some money at it to make the problems go away.

A final note for today on FFIV DS.

The minigames on this title are retarded. I've played two of them so far (you unlock them by having members of the final game party in your current party). One is a set of math problems with a timer. You have 60 seconds to drag tiles into a

<number> <math symbol> <number> = <new number>

arrangement. You goal is to use all four number tiles, with access to the four basic math symbols (plus, minus, times, divide) to end up with 10 and no leftover tiles. That's one math problem down. To get the best score possible, you have to beat 10 in a other words, do three equations to equal ten, then repeat ten times without 60 seconds. If this seems annoying, you're right.

However, this is not as annoying as the second game. In the second one, you are told a time, and then you have to leave your stylus on the screen for that many seconds (usually between 8 and 13 seconds). You get three trials. If you're precise three times, then you have the largest score possible. The problem is that "precise" means you are hitting a time to the hundredth of a second. You get almost no points if you 0.3+ seconds away. That is some anal precision. Even if you use a stop watch to cheat, you still have one hell of a time looking to be within a single hundredth of the goal time.

To make it worse, there's a constant beat during the game...and this beat is always not quite ever on the second (used to throw you off from the answer).

Luckily, I've read the remaining three games are definitely a lot more enjoyable. Also, no matter how annoying these games are, they help at low levels. As long as you do a moderate job, you get a free item. This can range for being half assed in your score (potions and such) to being pretty good (ethers and other good items). So, when money is tight at the start, these can beat grinding for gold...assuming you have the patience for two annoying games...which both almost require outside help to do well at.

By outside help, I mean a stopwatch for the second game and a good memory for the first. For the math game, if you can memorize the number tiles you start with on a round, you can then shut the lid to the DS (put it in sleep mode) and solve the math on your own time...or find one of many websites that will use a formula to solve it for you. Still, opening the game again and trying to solve a puzzle within about two seconds (time keeps going as the puzzle loads and changes images, so it's not 6 seconds per puzzle like 60 seconds may sound) is no easy feat.


Malik (7/25/08)

When the Wii was released, it was obvious that the console had a major shortcoming. I don't mean a lack of HD. Afterall, HD didn't matter to people who were Nintendo's target audience; casual gamers. These are the last people expected to get a new HDTV set. I also don't mean the limitations of DVDs. Why do you need Blu-ray or HD-DVD when you are running games without HD visuals. I don't even mean the lack of voice or gamer tags, despite how they would simplify and improve online gaming.

I mean, and anyone with a Wii should know, the shortcoming was the lack of storage. The 512MB of flash memory is nice since it's cheap and quick, but then there's no implementation of SD for on-the-fly memory usage in game. So, when games come along that could benefit from a large amount of DLC space, like with Rock Band, or when Virtual Console games for the N-64 can take up a vast amount of space, then the problem becomes more obvious.

Yes, Nintendo did allow one to re-download, for free, any purchase already made. However, this doesn't help the larger file clusters (read: Rock Band or GH DLC) that you want exposure to all at once. It also served as the prime reason that Harmonix didn't include DLC for the Wii version of RB. It also means that you cannot ever simply play whatever VC game you want when you want...unless you take the slow login and download time of the Shop Channel into account.

It's good to see that Reggie Fils-Aime is finally understanding this problem. Good old Reggie is finally acknowledging that the Wii needs space to save files. The big question, for me at least, is how will this problem be solved.

I see one obvious choice; allow USB flash drives or SD cards to work for in-game storage. This is simple and allows for the equivalent of 4+ GB of storage in mini-HDD like spaces. The other option to to create compatibility for USB hard drives. The worst option is the most likely; Nintendo creates a proprietary USB HDD that only works on the Wii and is the only one that will work on the Wii. I wouldn't be surprised to see this. However, whatever the solution is, Nintendo needs to get on it soon so future games of RB, GH, or whatever other games that rely on heavy amounts of DLC to remain fun can go forward at the soonest sequel release possible.

For the record, I was way off for Rock Band DLC for next week. Well, I was right about being more than three songs. However, I didn't see so much room for "blah" songs. The New No 2 is the random $1 artist for the week. Beyond that, at $2 each, there's a single song from Testament, Scars on Broadway, and Staind. The last two artists are pulling the whole Motley Crue and Disturbed thing of releasing their stuff to Rock Band at the time of a new album.

Anyway, I'd go into these track more, but I think I can save myself some time and just say this; another week goes by with me not caring. It's not that I hate this stuff, nor do I like it. This is the type of music I'd let play if it came on the radio, but I wouldn't even notice. It's not bad enough to make me change stations, but it's not good enough for me to even think about it. It exists, and that's the best I can say about it...and the worst.


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