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Malik (7/30/07)

I spent a good amount of the weekend just playing Civ4, especially with the Beyond the Sword expansion. I'm still finding new units and additions to play with, so I've by no means exhausted the new content.

However, a few things stand out about this expansion. The first being that there seems to a be "bitch" player/civilization in each new game. My first new game had the barbarians going ape shit on my lands. Each turn found about five new barbarian units entering my land. This, I must say, was without the raging barbarian option being turned on. The next game had the same thing happen, but for some AI controlled civilization. I don't know who, but I know that my military advisor screen showed a skull (representing a dead civilization) pretty early on.

My friend, Bastich, had the same thing happen when he played BtS. For him, it was India that became the mythical land of barbarians. I don't mind knowing that the barbarians are ready to put up a fight, but they really should be less geared toward flat out war with a single civilization. At least without the game giving a new option to help get aid against barbarians from a friendly civilization in the diplomacy screen. I know I'd appreciate both being asked to help and being able to ask for some assistance in saving my sorry self.

I also appreciate the game giving more sway to religion this time around with the Apostolic Palace wonder. It's like the UN, but built around a single religion of the founding country. If you don't belong to this religion, then you're shit out of luck when votes come down for things like "we all stop trading with heathen civilization X". It also shows how important it is when I was attacked by Napoleon, who was not a religious member of the Apostolic Palace group. Well, right after he declared war, the rest of my religious homies just in to declare world war on his sorry ass. I wasn't until I demanded a few cities for peace that the rest of the world gave him a break.

The new units are also a great improvement...not to mention that a few are quite broken. The units like the airship, which is an early version of the bomber, is fun for defending a city early on in a game (just bomb the invading army, which cannot fight back against air units). However, the paratrooper is almost broken. These troopers can drop in up to five squares from their base, then move an additional square after landing. It's quite broken, but since everyone gets these units, it's good fun.

In the end, my favorite change is the addition of the Christ the Redeemer statue as a wonder. This one lets you change civics at anytime without a turn of anarchy. This means that when some leader demands you change civics, you now can tell them yes, and immediately change back. So, instead of angering them by both having a different civic and by refusing them, you end up only with the original insult of believing in a different form of government. It also works great when you're strategically building a wondering in your capitol, since you can change to the civic that adds 50% production in your capitol, without being slowed for a round or two of anarchy.

I also watched The Simpsons movie yesterday. It's not like this is quality cinema that will evoke a great sense of some emotional or psychological revelation (unless you needed a reason to favor environmentalism). However, it's a movie that offers a lot of cheap laughs and is definitely worth the price of admission just for the entertainment. I don't know if I'd pay full price for this movie, but a matinee is well worth it...just make sure you don't watch it during a time when a lot of children will be up and about, unless you want one annoying movie going experience.


Malik (7/31/07)

I am enjoying the rivalry between Harmonix and Neversoft. On one hand, Harmonix really has nothing to prove, besides that a $200 price tag is worth it for a rhythm game (like Rock Band will probably sport). On the other hand, Neversoft is the development studio that once was tall and proud with their license of Tony Hawk...however, that was before THPS was replaced with THUG and then THAW. Tony Hawk fans, and previous Neversoft fans, have all seen Neversoft sink further and further into obscurity from lack luster titles. So, they will need to prove to Guitar Hero fans that GH3 will not be the THUG of the GH franchise.

So, on one hand, you have Harmonix trying to bring along endorsements from Slash and whoever else will end up wanting and easy paycheck. All while they brutaly attack the core ideas of GH with power ups (where the f#@$ is the power up button on my real guitar...I could sure use that when I'm trying to act like I have musical talent) and more battle oriented of multiplayer modes.

I think, with downloadable albums, the introduction of Metallica to rhythm games, and the included ability to do drums and to sing, Rock Band is coming out on top of this pathetic battle. By pathetic, I don't mean Harmonix's offering, but...errr...the other side in this lop sided battle.

I mean, first Harmonix scores Who's Next as their first downloadable album, then they may have a Metallica album in the works, and now it sounds like Nirvana's Nevermind is coming their way. They are on fire, while Neversoft is...they...ummm...they have...uhhh...Slash and power ups...?

Anyway, I'm still getting in some time with Civilization 4: Beyond the Sword. Until I finish conquering the world, I will not be able to stop playing. That, or until I get Picross DS in the mail later this week. Either way, I need my Civ4 fix right now. After playing so many hours of Oblivion and Dragon Quest V, I just really need some time with something that's a little different. True, all of these games are, in a sense, Role Playing-like. However, the overall feel of Civ4 is just too much of a break from non-stop pure RPGs.

I've now gotten to the point in Civ4 when I can start to send forth my corporations upon the world. Nothing is as fun as sending out missionaries and businessmen to bring the world to it's knees...via words and shiny trinkets. I have gotten most of the world under my sway, besides Napoleon (who was a dick and has generously gifted me with many cities through war and negotiating for his survival) and Shaka (who's on the other side of the world and being dominated by Churchill).

I've also been lucky enough to obtain the Jesus the Redeemer wonder, so if I see any corporate salesmen coming from my neighbors, I just quickly change civics for a turn to lock them out. Then when they go off to the next potential business partner/civilization, I change back and enjoy being my own corporation. Afterall, if anyone is going to win over the hearts of people through diplomacy, religion, and coercion, it will be my mighty Spanish.

Anyway, not much else to talk about today, since I've got about ten things more on my schedule than I have time for. So, in the name of being overworked (and yes...underpaid), I shall end this here and do some constructive things. Blah.

Also, if it needs to be said, Beyond the Sword is a must have for Civ4 fans. No doubt about it.


Malik (8/2/07)

There was no post yesterday. Well, that's not quite true. There was a post, but before I put it online, I did my usual job of editing, and I found something. It was more like the ravings of a mad man than a good post.

In a nutshell, I was ready to post about my thoughts on However, Amazon...well...when someone says something is the bane of their existence, it's usually just someone being overly dramatic and it's rarely as important as someone makes it sound. However, Amazon is really the bane of my life right now, and has been for the last three or so years.

It started when I tried to get Smash Melee (way back in the day) for the GCN when it first came out. I pre-ordered the game on Amazon, paid for two day shipping, and received the game about two or so weeks after it came out. Amazon was just that slow with shipping a game. This was the last time I ordered a game from Amazon. About four weeks ago, Velveeta ordered Picross DS for me, off of Amazon (she had a gift certificate and was doing the nice thing of giving me a game from it). Well, when I asked her for an order update on Tuesday (around the time I should get the game from Amazon since it shipped out on Monday), I was told that Amazon would expect delivery around the 8th to 10th of August. This was despite how Amazon said the game was ready to ship from their web site.

That Picross DS issue was mostly small, since I went to Best Buy's web site and took care of placing an in-store pickup on Tuesday, and had the game in my greedy hands an hour later. However, this was simply the straw that broke the proverbial camel's back.

The big issue I have with Amazon is that they have turned my home life into hell on way too many occasions. It's not from failed orders and the like (although I don't get how a business can operate and survive the dot com burst if they don't treat customers with respect), but rather the fact that Velveeta got that gift certificate as a reward from her employer named

Amazon does a lot of things, which I will not get into too deeply, that make the infamous "EA Wife" story (from a year and a half ago) seem like a nice alternative. Hell...I'd take Velveeta being at EA and me being an "EA Husband" over the situation of me being an "Amazon Husband" any f$#@ing day of the week. I am not even remotely exaggerating on this. Amazon has a few major departments/divisions, and the one that Velveeta works for makes me feel better about my job each day...and I hate my job more than almost anything else in the world (with the only major exception being Velveeta's job). It's division that requires excessive hours, lower pay than accepted by the majority of the similar jobs in the region, and leaves a nice blend of physical (Velveeta has spent excessive time in physical therapy from her job) and emotion scars.

The two constants I can be sure of from Velveeta's work is that there will be plenty of yelling matches between us (always based around her job) and physical damage to her self. She has wrists that make Kyle's (from the South Park "Make Love, Not Warcraft" episode) seem strong and healthy. Worst of all, until she finds another job, she is doomed to her doctors informing her that her wrists simply cannot get better. If she had a new job, she has an excellent chance of recovering, but with Amazon...well...if things keep up, eventually surgery may become a requirement.

She has complained to her supervisor (who is an arrogant asshole who refuses to accept that people below him has physical or emotional feelings...imagine Michael from The Office...but evil), her HR department (who are as oblivious as HR departments can get...where's Toby from The Office when you need him), and even the state Labor and Industry department (now they really don't give a flying f#@$). In the end, the only option is to find a new job, but...and there's always a "but" won't happen as long as she's burnt out and a fragile shell of her normal self (hiring managers can smell weakness, and Amazon is forcing that weakness upon her).

It's so bad that Velveeta doesn't even get vacation. When she schedule, in advance, to get the 3rd and 5th of July off (the 4th is a mandatory holiday for Amazon...the only good thing I can say about that damned company), we went out of town...with Velveeta's work laptop in tow, since she had to work from her "vacation" for two of those three days (the 4th is in, no one is "allowed" to work).

Anyway, it's this blending of total neglect (it's about one step from criminal neglect...and I do have a lawyer picked out already...too bad this means that I, a person who hates the idea of getting the courts involved, will have to get the courts involve) towards their employees and the inability to ship out products on time that lead me to live by one simple rule about Amazon; I don't use them. I won't even accept the kindness anymore of someone wanting to use an Amazon gift certificate on me. I don't want anything to do with them, and I hope for the day that Amazon's headquarters are struck down by some natural disaster (I know it probably won't happen...but one can dream) and I can declair it a smite from a higher authority. It's a nice dream...that, or the time they step once more into criminal neglect territory and I sue their bitch asses into the stone age (too bad I didn't collect evidence against them until after some things had already happened...sigh...).

Ok. That's a summary of what I was aiming to post yesterday, but with a lot less insanity. I won't even explain how insane it got, but I'll say that I must have channeled the spirit of the great doctor (Hunter S. Thompson) into me with that never to be seen post. It went to the crazy levels of his coverage of the Nixon impeachment and Watergate scandal.

So, as I said, I got Picross DS. I have been waiting for this game, or any new Picross game, since the first time I finished Mario's Picross on the GB. I loved the original, but it was a wrong time for it in the US. It's only now that casual and brain-training games are popular that Picross can succeed.

The game is great, so far. I've finished the easy mode (which is very easy), and am about 55% through normal. That means I've done 15 easy puzzles and about 82 normal puzzles. There's still the free mode (with about 150 puzzles) ahead of me when I finish normal (which has about 150 total puzzles). Compared to Mario's Picross, Picross DS is worth far more on a price per minute played scale...and it's a $20 budget game!

My only complaint so far, versus Mario's Picross, is that this game doesn't force you to quit if you make too many mistakes on normal or easy mode. MP would force you to quit if you time got over a certain time (with each mistake adding more time to the clock). Picross DS, on the other hand, just let's you go forever...despite some unlockables requiring times below one hour. The game should just abort if a puzzle goes over one hour. Not only does this make sense with unlockables, but it also allows for a sense that you can fail.

Well, this is enough posting for one day. Too much to do and too little time.


P.S.  Happy anniversary mom and dad, and happy birthday to my uncle.

Malik (8/3/07)

It's the first Friday in August. Normally, this wouldn't mean anything more than it's time for me to have a nice weekend and to relax a little. However, tonight should be a different type of fun for me. After being in my house for about 4 months, I am finally having a good larger scale game fest. In other words, tonight will be beer, booze, and (most importantly) Guitar Hero...loud Guitar Hero...triple pane window, in a basement loud.

I'm still playing way too much of Picross DS. Well, it's not really too much in my eyes, but Velveeta is starting to see why I was so excited for this game; it's an obsession to rival modded Oblivion and Civ4 with expansions. It's an addiction that removes me from the world until I finish "just one more puzzle". An addiction in gaming that I have not felt since I first played Mario's Picross...way back in a decade I like to call the 1990's.

I've been playing each level of normal, one at a time. I won't progress to a new level until each puzzle on the previous level is solved in less than an hour (the time considered passing). I'm now at level 7 or 8...whatever one introduces 20x20 puzzles.

Nintendo decided to bring in 20x20 puzzles in one hell of a bitchy way. Your first 20x20 is not some easy one with a lot of 20, 19, 18, or other large sized rows and columns. It's instead based around a lot of small numbers. In other words, it's a difficulty jump that I have not seen the likes of since I went from Umbra on vanilla Oblivion to Umbra in OOO Oblivion.'s a nice little dose of reality to show the player that they may think that the game is getting easy...but it's really the game taking it easy on the player. Plus, by still having the same time pseudo-limit of one hour, you have a lot more tiles to get through, with as few errors as possible...of course, running off of too little sleep doesn't help things either.

I decided I won't play and of the free mode puzzles until I finish normal level puzzles. So, even after I finish the next few stages, this little budget $20 title is still going to give me a lot more bang for my buck. I'm glad that Nintendo has not only brought a new era of puzzle games, but a new era of budget thinking games, since I doubt we could have seen a $20 Picross a few small years ago.

Now for a little game news, instead of just my raving rambling thoughts on Picross DS (the king of puzzle games).

Metallica is coming to GH3 now, as well as Rock Band. I guess this would even the playing field some...if it wasn't for RB having drums, a mic, and the freakin' downloadable albums. So, while GH3 may be trying to play a nice game of catch up, I know that RB will get my money long before I give any to Neversoft...but if another good song is added, then I'll get GH3 the instant it drops...despite the stupid changes.

Another thought before I have to end this early...I was wrong. However, I believe in doing things to your best level at all times. So, I made a nicely giant mistake. I said that Rockstar would not delay GTA4 but a few weeks to help with the Halo competition...and in that I was right. They would never delay GTA4 to appease Bungie. Instead...

GTA4 is now being pushed back to 2008. That's lame, since I was needing a new GTA fix. However, what's worse is that this is going to f#@$ their stock prices and further cause problems for the publisher (Take Two) and developer as they struggle with constant delays and bannings of their prized franchise titles, like Manhunt 2. This is the type of news that makes me glad I dumped my Take Two stock a while back. If they cannot bring out either of their most hyped games for 2007 on time, then they will need a lot of help, and they will face a lot of hard times as the damage control teams get to work.

When the other news for Take Two, as of late, is that their founder is escaping any jail time...well, that's just a reminder of their woes and not a good direction for the company right now. At least Take Two will have football again to make up some of their losses.


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