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Malik (8/11/08)

I refused to pay good money to see Transformers in the theater when it came out last year. I figured between the obvious trend of my childhood being raped and pillaged in movie remake of my favorite childhood experiences and the Michael Bay name, I had nothing good to get from blowing $10 to see the movie.

However, it's now the latest new movie on HBO, and having HBO on my cable plan, it only made sense to now give it a shot. Afterall, it's free to me, so all I'd be paying is the 2:30 running time. I think that was still paying too much. I could go off (and I did while watching...thank you DVR for giving me a chance to pause while I went off on Hunter S. Thompson style rants) about the way the Transformers were handled in the movie. Instead, I just feel a great need to point out a few things that really annoyed the shit out of me.

First off, this movie was a lot like watching a bad cartoon (in particular, it's like a Hanna Barbara production) from the 1960s or 1970s. You know what type of cartoon I mean. The type that would have Fred Flintstone randomly teleport between shots, or the color of Yogi The Bear's tie changing colors in the middle of a shot as the animator apparently ran out of green ink. Or even like one which has so convoluted of a plot (like and Yagi The Bear movie length feature) that could have been solved by ignoring half or more of the material scripted for the experience.

For example, there are about four or so main plots. There's Shia LeBeouf getting his first car, the small group of soldiers in the desert who survive an attack and must get a recording showing an invisible shield on the Decepticon to military command, the elite government hackers who are tracing a signal from the Decepticons, the romantic plot of LeBeouf and his car (or his love interest of the human variety), and there's Sector 7 (the uber-elite government agency that knows about Megatron, who was frozen in ice). In the end, all of the plots were there to get nowhere.

The military plot wasn't needed as the humans never used the knowledge of invisible shields to tackle the Decepticons...afterall, it was the Autobots who did all the successful fighting. That's one plot that can be removed. Even if it was probably the most interesting plot to have been fully utilized. The single best plot was Autobots versus Decepticons, but that was never really important to Michael Bay's twisted take on my childhood.

The other plots all involved finding "the cube". No matter which one they went with to bring it to the movie for the climax, they all could have been replaced by the lame LeBeouf love story with Bumble Bee (his Autobot car). The story of Decepticons trying to find the glasses that LeBeouf was selling on eBay that held the coordinates of the cube?...that was solved by a Decepticon's head turning into LeBeouf's cell phone that followed him when he was captured by Sector 7 and taken to the cube (in Hoover Dam...of all places). It all came down to LeBeouf and Bumble Bee being taken to Hoover Dam. All of it. 75% of the movie was serving the same damned purpose, but never was needed. Maybe if this time was put to other things, like Transformers fighting, I could have found something worthwhile to watch from this damned mutilation of a movie by Bay and company.

Then there were the just nonsensical things. For example, Bumble Bee drives off and LeBeouf chases on his bike thinking his car was stolen. This seemed to take place in the morning. Well, by the end of the events, which appeared to take place over a thirty minute span (in movie time, not real watching time), the sky is dark and it's obvious that night is upon us. Did this chase actually take something like 12 or more hours? Really? Or was this a classic equivalent to Yogi's tie turning red for a few frames before being green again? I think it was this. There was even a Decepticon that vanished at one scene, to never return. Poof! It's gone...?

My favorite, however, is this question I have to ask; do they really, on Air Force One, keep the president's Ding Dongs (tasty Hostess snack cake, if you are thinking something perverted with that word) right next to the mainframe computer that can access all of the nation's computer systems? So, any stewardess who must get the president a snack is given total access to the, supposedly, most important computer terminal in the free world? Wow. Why don't terrorists just send in some stewardesses to Air Force One to really f#@$ over the US. Thank goodness that Michael Bay's vision of the world is nothing close to what the world really is.

Like I said, I could go off about this movie in many more ways (like how all Decepticons, in robot form, look identical), in a Gonzo style rant. That's what I did while watching the movie...always with a drink in hand to ease the pain of wasting my time on this poor excuse for reliving my childhood memories. Instead I'll just stop now...before I can't get out of my rant.

On a different note, it was awesome to see Morris playing in the Seahawks/Vikings game. Maybe I could say that differently; it's so damned good to not see Alexander on the Seahawks. I think this season may be pretty good and it should be a fitting farewell for Holmgren.

Lastly, I got in some band time with the new SoaD songs on Rock Band. All I can say is that BYOB is as hard as I thought. One of the few songs I've had to skip any thoughts of playing on expert...for now. It goes up there with Smokin' (Boston), Green Grass, Blackened, and Ride the Lightning as songs I will have to keep on hard when in band mode...and definitely have to keep on hard in solo play. Still, BYOB is one hell of a fun song to play with someone on the mic.


Malik (8/13/08)

I checked out the new songs in the Roadrunner Pack for Rock Band. While I am a metal fan in the world of listening (and to a minor extent in playing actual guitar), I just don't see myself going for anything in this pack. For one thing, the songs just don't look fun on expert guitar. They are fast (sometimes faster than I would almost imagine possible to strum on a plastic guitar), challenging, and just not that creative in appearance on expert guitar. To round them out, there is the one thing I never care for in Rock Band or Guitar Hero; overly technical solos.

So, while I'd listen to some of these songs in the real world, I don't see that leading to me playing them, with enjoyment, on RB. It also makes me dread RB2 since Megadeth, Dream Theater (the two worst offenders for challenge and technical solos from yesterdays pack), and Metallica are all going to bring a damper to the fun of playing.

The other thing I noticed is that it looks like as DLC is released that the tier numbers are changing in meaning. For example, BYOB (tier eight guitar) and the tier seven and eight songs from yesterday are just pushing well beyond what was expected in any tier eight in the core RB game (like Enter Sandman, Foreplay/Longtime, Welcome Home, Cherub Rock). In fact, off of the ratings given to recent DLC songs, I'd imagine those original tier eight songs would now be classified as tier six and seven songs.

Anyway, the Fable Pub Games are supposed to be out today. I'll check them out tonight since I have my pre-order code for them waiting for me after I post this. While many people would not expect too much fun and only a chance to meta-grind for gold ahead of the Fable 2 launch, I have some high hopes. I really enjoyed the pub games found in Fable, and I don't see any reason to expect less from Fable 2.

Lastly for today, I've started something on FFIV DS that I never tried in any past incarnations of this game; trying to obtain pink tails (used for obtaining the best armor in the game). I went to the final dungeon (where you find pink tails), cleared out every map to ensure I got the rare item augment (doubles the odds of picking up any rare drop), and went to the room in which you can start farming. I walked in with 94 sirens (item that will summon a set battle based on where you use it) in the right place and started fighting. After about 5 hours and 86 sirens, I received exactly zero pink tails. I now know why I never did this in past FFIV versions. It's time consuming and would probably lead to insanity without the augments found in this take on the game.

At least I did find a rainbow pudding (second most rare item from that battle, and needed to finish the new DS specific side quest). I guess that's something. Of course, only finding one rainbow pudding and no pink tails after 86 battles is not that great of a feeling. I think I'm at the point in which I'll finish the side quest and then probably call it a game by killing the final boss. I think the optional secret armors and weapons found from various tail colors are just not worth it...even if they do carry over to a new game+.


Malik (8/14/08)

After playing the Fable 2 Pub Games, I'm left with a bit of a quandary. What to really say? There's are three games and so much to say, but I think I can summarize it all rather nicely; these games are crap.

Maybe I should step back a bit. It's not that there's a lack of creativity in these games. It's not that the games are flat out bad. It's actually more that I have played, and loved, Fable and the little pub games that were a part of making money (rather slowly) in that game. Fable had honest pub games. Fable 2 has, what would be more appropriately titled, casino games.

What's the difference, you may ask. Well, it is a big difference. Pub games are small games that a few people can play in a pub with nothing more than what is at the table with them. A pack of card, or even a couple cards, a coin, maybe use the drinks at the table in some way. A good example of a pub game would be something like poker, beer pong, paper football, or any number of these simple types of games that rely on skill more than they rely on chance.

On the other hand, a casino game is based on luck and odds. There is very little skill involved in the majority of casino games and they typically are based around the simple fact that the odds are never in your favor, despite being disguised to look like you'll win easily. While poker and blackjack are easy cross over games between pub and casino environments, roulette, craps, slots, and that type of game are entirely based on a casino setting. They require almost no skill (despite what some obsessive gamblers may claim) and count on you needing luck...which is a nonexistent variable.

The important fact in pub games being skilled based is that you will be drinking. So, the skill level of each player, in theory, goes down with time. This helps to also make forfeits more interesting. You lose, but you also have to down a shot. This means you have a little more incentive to do good next time before all inhibitions are out the window and you've bet away your home.

So, Fable had some cool actual pub games. There was an object game that relied on your memory of what was there one second and what changed when you turned your back. Entirely skill based, but sometimes "luck" could compensate for a poor memory. There was also table golf using a coin. This was all about your skill with selecting the right trajectory and power to aim a small coin around a table filled with mugs and whatever else was on hand. Once again, skill trumps luck any day of the week in that game. I honestly cannot remember any other Fable pub game off hand, but it doesn't mean there were no other fun and creative games.

The Fable 2 Pub Games are entirely luck based. One game is basically slots with a different (more pyramid) layout of the changing symbols. You can alter how much you bet per spin and play different machines with different possible bonuses (extra free spins, more slots total, different odds, or bonus multipliers that must be used before you fail on a spin or they are erased). This is probably the most enjoyable game. Why? Well, if you want to take a gamble, you can just set up how many chips you'll bet and then button mash while doing something else (watch a TV show). If you'd win, then you'll win without needing to look. This, might I add, is also the best paying game (more than tripled my money in an hour).

The next game is called Keystone. All it is is a variation of craps (with three dice) and roulette. You try to place both long standing and single throw/round bets on what number will be hit next. Just like craps and roulette, this game requires a lot of babysitting. You need to keep placing bets over a game that could take you around ten minutes to complete. Slow and low odds. Not my idea of a good time.

The last game is possibly a pub game (not a casino game), but it's not exactly skill based. It's basically Deal or No Deal...but with cards. A small pyramid is formed from cards. First you have a face down card at the top, then two cards places below it. All cards after the top are face up. The next round, you have three cards placed in a row. Then four. Then five. It goes to seven cards in the final row. You will get a payout based on the total of the cards shown in the current row. You can opt out at any time and collect your winnings. However, you have to keep in mind that you will need around a total score of 15 on the current row to break even. The game will see you lose if you don't back out at any point and a card from the current row overlaps an identical number on the previous row. The first time it happens, the top card (the face down one) will replace the offending card. Also, if a hero card (four per deck are present) is on the row with the offending card, then it is saved.

Like a real casino game, it looks easy enough to win from...but your odds are shit. You have almost no chance to win anything big and the "skill" one would perceive is nothing more than blind luck with a bit of a Deal or No Deal style head rush in excitement. Do you take the small win, or do you try a little longer and go for the big prize?

At least the games are all pretty creative (ok, slots is not). However, they just fail in comparison to games like table golf from Fable. Also, considering this is a chance to win some money for your Fable 2 character, you have another problem...the odds are so bad that you may not ever want to transfer your guy from the Pub Games since he will be broke and in debt. Supposedly, if you transfer data to Fable 2, debt follows.

To round it all out, you can play in tournaments...against cheating computer controlled players. Yes, they do magically know when to stop in the card game, where to bet on Keystone, and they hit a lot of big jackpots in slots. You will get some special prizes by just placing in a tournament (five prizes per game type with five different entry fees and challenge levels). Some of these items may be unique from the final level tournaments. There's a ring, a cutlass, and a gun. But do you really want these items bad enough to kill so much time on them? I doubt it.

I think I'll keep playing, but with a twist. I'll primarily play the low level slots tournament. It has no entry fee, and you can get a few hundred gold if you finish in first. You'll get as low as 30 gold (I think) for finishing in fifth place. I can do that game, button mashing, while watching TV. No loss, and minor odds of winning. I'll take that. Unfortunately, to unlock higher entry fee tournaments, to get the good items, you do have to boost your gambler level. The experience points per gambler level is how much you've wagered outside of tournaments. So, to see the fifth slot tournament, I may build a small fortune in the free tournament for slots and then blindly play the solo slot games.

Anyway, this should sound like one I'll be treating this more like a chore than a game. It's because it is more of a chore than a game. However, with some of the items to be won including, I believe, a new trick for your dog, I want to give it a little more effort...even if it's just to teach my dog a back flip.

To conclude...if you got the Pub Games free as a pre-order deal (like I did), then it's up to you if you want to play or not. It can go either way. I would personally suggest you just play solitaire on the PC or with real cards. You'll have more fun. If you are thinking of paying the $10 for these games...DON'T! It's a rip-off.

You've been warned.

Speaking of being guess for the Rock Band DLC announcement tomorrow is...

CRAP!  A lot (at least four songs) of MTV inspired crap!


Malik (8/15/08)

I played the Fable 2 Pub Games a bit more last night. Not so much for the fun of it, but as a cross between being a little bored (I'm getting burned out on FFIV and MLB Power Pros 2008) and being determined to give this game it's full chance.

I still don't like it. At all. However, I have found some nice tricks to hurry through obtaining all items and getting as much (or as little) extra gold as you see fit. Basically it comes down to three strategies.

Fable 2 Pub Games Guide (Rock Band DLC announcement stuff will be at the bottom of this post):

First off, don't be afraid to go into debt. You can clear it all in no time if you're smart and follow this mini-guide. Just start playing the slots (Spinnerette or whatever the hell it's called). As new machines are unlocked, just keep moving to higher stake machines. Always bet the most possible and keep progressing. This is the quickest way to reach five stars in gambler rank (and that's needed to get all the rare items). Your rank experience is exactly the number of chips you've bet. Winnings don't factor into you level. Neither does what game you've made the bets on.

Next, you may be in debt or not. This will be handled in the end of this mini-guide. However, it's time to start playing the tournaments. Just follow these strategies to win each one. Remember, you only have to be in the top five to win the special item...and you cannot win multiple copies with the same gambler.

Slots: Just pick one tournament (start on the low level to make a little cash without going more in debt). Now, mash the A button while you do something else. You're already at the TV, so if you're not playing on a PC monitor, change the channel and watch whatever for about five to seven minutes. When the tournament is done, the progress/results screen will remain since it requires a hit of B to continue. If you are in the top five, then move to the next tournament. If not, repeat that one. Do this for all five levels of slots. You will now have five unique items under your belt.

On a side note, since you can't select your bet, this is the most pointless tournament in the Pub Games. You literally can't do anything to change the odds or to add any idea of strategy. All you can do is button mash A and you need to do 100 spins per tournament. This is why no serious competition exists for slot machines in the real world.

Keystone #1: There are two good strategies on this one. Either bet the minimum possible. Place one outside bet and never place an inside bet. I've found that nine times out of ten, the fifth place position in Keystone tournaments is held by someone a fair bit below their starting gold (the games are rigged for computers in the same way they are rigged for the real player...nearly everyone loses). If this sounds too boring and you want a little feeling like you're awesome, then go to the other strategy...

Keystone #2: Place maximum on 3 and 18 on the outside. Next, place maximum on all of the bottom row stuff (3, 18, and the triples) for each inside bet. Repeat each round. To repeat quickly, the RB will repeat your last bet (this also works for outside bets to start a game) and the LB places a maximum bet in a selected space. Now keep progressing the game. As soon as you win and roll, just go back to strategy #1 (bet as little as possible outside and nothing inside). You will be first place when the tournament ends since the odds are so mighty for and triple roll. As a note, this strategy has a greater chance of seeing you fail than the first one...but you'll also come in first and feel special about your "mad skillz".

Fortune's Tower #1: To not cheat, just bet the minimum and play smart. If the top card is used, get ready to quit even on a low payout. If you get a high number (~20+) on the first four rows, take it. If you get higher on a later row, take it. You will not win much, but you should make it to the final game/championship table. If not, rinse and repeat this strategy. If you make it to the final table, then you will place in the top five and get your unique item. Done.

Fortune's Tower #2: Let's cheat our asses off. This will also work in the non-tournament version of Fortune's Tower. Place the minimum bet. Press A to select that low bet. Now remember how LB raises to the maximum bet? Well, as soon as you select the lowest bet with A, start hitting LB. You will be charged the lowest bet from your chips, but you will get paid according to the highest bet possible. You now only need a tiny number to make money on a round. If you're not number one at the end of a tournament, then you have to be either greedy or an idiot. This is also good if you're an achievement whore and you want the one for placing first in a tournament (assuming Keystone #2 didn't do it for you).

Now comes a special question; do you want the game (Fable 2, not the Pub Games) not feeling broken when you start or does massive money not bother you? If you didn't use the tower cheat method, all of the stuff you've earned was fairly rewarded and you have earned it. However, if you used the cheat, you have some ill gotten tournament winning money. If this bothers you, or the thought of a broken Fable 2 economy bothers you, then play fortunes tower (single play) and bet the highest and you'll get rid of your false money.

Now if you want to erase a debt (getting five start level can put you in a mighty debt), or you want to start Fable 2 as a millionaire, it's time to play Fortune's Tower. Just play single games of it using the cheat method. Do this until your debt is gone (if you want to start Fable 2 without debt but with the special items). Afterall, those items were won long as you didn't cheat. If you want to become a broken gold hoarder, then cheat at the good old tower and slowly unlock higher paying games. Eventually you'll unlock the 150/1500 game and this will net you a shit ton of gold in no time. Also, this will get you enough points to unlock the final bit of art (the second to last art is unlocked at your five star rating, but the final takes a bit longer to get).

To get the final achievements with points (one is zero point and requires Fable 2), you just need to do a few things. You probably got the 1000 in a spin on slots by leveling up. If not, play the slots a lot. You will need to play a lot of games of Keystone and Fortune's Tower to open all the tables (tables have game dependant experience points). In the process, try to go crazy on your playing with the tower to get a jackpot situation. If you make it safely to the final row alive, you get an achievement. For Keystone, just keep playing to unlock new tables. Eventually you should, in theory, get a jackpot. It requires a 3 or a 18 on the first roll of a game. If you get it, then you should have the last luck based achievement.

I found some of this info on various message boards (hard to pinpoint who discovered the cheat since a few dozen people seem to be claiming credit for it), and the no/low betting methods were entirely derived by my own observations...and frustrations. I discovered and learned this stuff with on goal in mind. I don't aim to be rich in Fable 2 (although I have won a lot, and honestly, from slots) without earning it. I just wanted to unique items (especially the more amusing ones like the dog trick, the hair style and tattoo, and the game from the second level of slots). That's it. I couldn't care less about starting rich or achievement points, but I just want to have access to all items possible.

...although the concept art stuff does look pretty cool.

As for Rock Band DLC, it's Duran Duran (Rio and Girls on Film), Devo (Through Being Cool and Girl U Want), and The Janitors (Get Your Rock On). All are masters, with the Devo stuff being new recordings that, if memory serves me right, were redone to make the synth solos into guitar solos.

I was right on saying it would be at least four songs...and partially right on the crap factor. I like Devo, and can enjoy Duran Duran on occasion, but the song choices could have been better. Since The Janitors is from the American Mall soundtrack, it can go either way...but I'd bet on bad (especially being from a failed MTV made for TV movie). Of course, Vesuvius proved me wrong, but it was also a free download and not a $1 one. All the other songs are $2 each.

I just wish it was some of the more enjoyable songs from Devo and Duran Duran. Maybe some Whip It, Love Without Anger, Hungry Like The Wolf...oh well. I can't complain too much since it's better than the rumored Slipknot pack. Still, I get the feeling that Harmonix is holding back on us to release some major stuff when Rock Band 2 is released. At least, if that hunch is true, there's only a few more weeks of crap.

I just wonder, with about four to six songs per week how Harmonix is going to reach their promised 500 songs by the end of the year. We'll be around 255 next week, and with around 104 from Rock Band 2 (counting the bonus 20 free DLC tracks), they will have a lot of work to do for the rest of the year to hit 500. Maybe as much work as around an album a month and six song packs every week without an album.


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