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Malik (9/6/06)  

I'm back! After a nice loooooong 4 day weekend (which is nothing short of paradise), I have refreshed my batteries, had some unusual experiences, and learned some nice little lessons. I'm a bigger geek for it, and isn't that what really matters? I think so.

To jump into things a bit, there's some new news on how Sony is trying to drive up some prices with the next gen. Namely, no HD cables of any sort will be included with the PS3. This means there will be no component, HDMI, DVI, or whatever else you may feel would make a PS3 truly...sigh, I hate this word..."next-gen" feeling on your TV until you're ready to shell out some extra money.

In other words, Sony is going to require a bit of an investment to use the PS3. I guess this is continuing the idea of an "entertainment supercomputer". Since a PC requires more than the initial investment, it only makes sense for an "entertainment supercomputer" to require some additional investments. So, if you want a $600 game system, be prepared to spend an extra $100 or so on a longer warrantee (which only makes sense with how the PS2 was class-action worthy), and then some extra for some HDMI cables if you want to use the Blu-ray player to it's full value. Yippee! Nothing like extra investments, prior to even getting a game, to make your system fully functional.

I don't care how many times you feel like adding the "$" to the name "Microsoft" or "MS", they at least did give the best possible types of cables (if not with some nice quality) for their video hookup in the Premium box. Is it really that hard to include HDMI or component cables in the PS3 box? Especially in the $600 version? I don't think so. This is just another reason why I'll happily sit and wait for either one hell of a price drop or one hell of a major game library upgrade before I consider buying a PS3. I may like to be frivolous from time to time with my money, but the PS3 is just looking a bit too rich for my blood.

Speaking of Sony and some issues I may have with their new console, there's some new news about the launch numbers for the PS3. In particular, the launch numbers for the US and Japan are now standing at about 500,000 consoles combined. Supposedly this latest set back is due to problems with manufacturing of Blu-ray drives. On top of that, the PS3 is being delayed in Europe for the same reasons. So, while Europe will have to wait until sometime around March, the US and Japan will have a far earlier start to another console being sold with some massive launch day shortages.

Is this a surprise? Hell no. However, it is worth noting for a couple of good reasons. First of all, it's a good time to say that the Sony fanboys who complained about the inflated prices of the 360 on eBay after massive shortages were present could finally shut up. I honestly prefer for everyone to understand that console launches always suck arse...and it's not just certain manufacturers that's all of them. Secondly, it's worth noting since some people are ready to make a huge PS3 investment in November, and this is information that they should all be aware of...especially since it's means they can count on a long night of camping out in front of Walmart, Best Buy, and Toys R Us.

On a different note, I learned, from personal experience, a bit about the 360. I had no idea until last night that the 360, when being used as a Media Center Extender (or whatever you call it when it's working with a MCE PC), cannot handle most video files types that Media Center on a PC can handle. In other words, no matter what codecs you may have on your PC, it will not matter for the 360 because it will not take any AVI files. Period.

With this in mind, and considering how a good 99% of files on the net that are worth using a Media Center Extender function on are AVI files, this looks like the next obvious feature Microsoft needs to implement in a 360 dashboard update. If the Media Center functionality cannot handle the most obvious file types, even when a PC's Media Center feature set can, then this should not be a difficult task for the Microsoft team to tackle.

In particular, I bring this up with one key thing in mind. I'm talking about when Microsoft stated that they wanted the 360 to be that one magical link to bring the PC fully to the living room. If that is what Microsoft wanted, then they need to make the 360 fully functional in all of the methods they intended. This would start with some really basic codecs being added to the 360. After that, the pieces should easily fall into place.

If you couldn't tell from the obvious direction of the last few paragraphs, I was lucky enough to get an early Christmas/Birthday present from Velveeta, in the form of a new laptop. I so love this thing. Velveeta got me the HP Pavillion dv8305us. While it may not be the best laptop on the market, it easily does everything I wanted it to. Basically, it's good enough to handle Civilization 4, and that makes it fully functional in my mind. Plus, it allowed me to see what I can learn from Windows MCE, and it allows me to have a more reliable PC for when my main one is acting funny (by rebooting with no warning). It also allows me to see that I might have been wrong about HP (who I considered the devil ever since the first time I tried to daisy link a scanner through a HP printer, back on the parallel port days).

Well, I'm still playing plenty of Saint's Row and have been trying to find the power to stop playing SR long enough to try some real time with Enchanted Arms. I don't think EA will get that much love until SR is finished...which could be a while. Despite many claims on the net, this is not simply a GTA rip off, and this is not a quick and simply game to feel like you've really completed it. It just keeps pulling you back in everytime you think you've found the will power to put it away for an hour. Once I finally do get around to writing a review for SR, I can assure you that it will be a very pleasant experience.


Malik (9/7/06)  

The DS is going to soon have an MP3 player from the looks of things. It may be another feature to not hit the US, but that's what importing is for, since the DS is region free.

However, I have to think that this is a worthless investment. Considering that the DS, with the MP3 player add-on and with an SD memory card or two will cost more than an iPod Nano and would be bulkier and probably offer less quality to the sound and the abilities, this is not the best of MP3 offerings. However, if you already have a few SD cards (maybe from your camera or something) and a DS and you need a portable MP3 player, this could be a budget choice.

Ultimately, I think the DS is offering too much of what's simply not needed. The Opera web explorer is simply not going to be as smooth as a real dedicated portable web surfing device, and the MP3 player will probably not be what a real person would want from an MP3 player. In the end, these are only real options if you simply want to either attempt to geek-out with you DS or if you just don't know what you're really wanting.

I'm still trying to find the strength of will to play Enchanted Arms, but I simply have too many fun toys to play with before I'd be able to play EA with a strong conviction. I have Saint's Row, which is still devouring my time and forcing a semi-obsessed attitude from me. Last night I aimed to play for only a mission or two, and I ended up playing through several levels of activities (side-quests), and a good three or four missions before real life situations forced me away from the game. In fact, I don't think I'll be able to put this game away until I've finished the main plot line to completion.

While the little I've seen of EA firsthand (I did play through an hour or so when I first bought the game), I feel that it's getting the same bad treatment from reviewers that Saint's Row is also getting. Apparently, because both of these games stick to traditional mechanics and plot ideas, they simply cannot be found fun to a professional. Good thing I'm not a professional (and you probably aren't either), so I'm allowed to see how damned good both of these titles are.

I honestly don't understand where a (professional) reviewer can get off saying that traditional game play styles are simply not good. While they may offer less of that most dreaded of words, innovation, they do offer an easy to get into experience that will help a gamer to judge them for what they really are, and not for what they think they are (unlike what many modern Final Fantasy games end up doing).

For example, in SR, you will already know how to control a car, how to enter and exit places, how to go through missions, and how to do another dozen things if you've played any modern (3D) GTA titles. However, you will not know the plot, you will not know some of the rather humorous dialogue, the new and amazingly fun activities (like insurance fraud), or the joys of using some GTA:SA items and abilities to their fullest (like gang recruitment...which is damned fun in SR and completely worthless in GTA:SA).

In fact, if that's the worst part of SR, then why the hell are so many people anxiously awaiting GTA4? After all, I'm willing to bet that GTA4 will probably only mainly differ from GTA:SA in both visual quality and in having a new Rockstar developed physics engine. Beyond that, GTA4 will be uninspired and unoriginal, yet it will be great anticipated. Also, don't take this as a knock from me against GTA4, since I'll make sure I have it one day one for my 360.

Well, there isn't much else to say for today. I really need to play some more SR, so I can move onto EA. In other words, I need to end this post so I can continue my obsession of an "unoriginal" "rip-off" of a game...a game that brings me pleasure like so few have before and only GTA3-GTA:SA have ever done this level of entertaining of myself before.


Malik (9/8/06)  

So 2K Games is releasing a special box set of all 4 Civilization games, counting all of the expansions. Wow. This would be a great idea if the games didn't build upon themselves so much with each new release. For example, if you have Civ2, then Civ1 is pretty much worthless. If you have Civ 4, then Civ2 is not of any use. I won't even comment on Civ3 (which I feel is the worst of the lot). So, if you feel like throwing away some money, this is the package for you...otherwise, just buy the Civ4 and Civ4 expansion and save yourself about $10-$20.

In other news, the first batch of IBM Broadway CPUs have been shipped to Nintendo. While this doesn't mean too much to the average gamer, it is nice to see Nintendo handling things correctly with the Wii, and I can take some comfort in knowing that the Wii will probably be on it's way into my home sometime in November. This also means we could probably expect some decent launch numbers for the Wii, since the CPU would probably be the biggest factor in determining console shortages.

Still, it would be nice if we had a better idea of the Wii's immediate future without having to wait for next week. I especially feel this way since I am more than ready to drop some money on a pre-order, but no stores are allowing them until some real numbers are finalized. While it's nice to see that this can help to avoid the 360 pre-order fulfillment issues of last year, I just want to get a pre-order out of the way so I can feel some comfort in what will be one crazy November.

Well, I haven't been doing too much, beyond testing the limits of my laptop. I've so far confirmed that Dark Messiah of Might and Magic is definitely too much for my laptop (it's almost too much for my recently fully upgraded desktop) as with all settings turned down the game was like playing Doom on a 386. I also confirmed that Half-Life 2 is workable on it, but that memory is an issue...just got the thing and I'm already looking at upgrades...nothing like the wide world of PCs.

I'm still determined to finish Saint's Row as soon as possible. On one hand, I'd really like to post my own review for this game...a review that doesn't just keep comparing the game to GTA:SA. Hell, while SR is in many ways a GTA clone, it definitely is worth noting that this game is it's own entity. An entity that deserves more respect than to simply be compared over and over with a game that's not even on the same console. I mean no one complained when so many 3D platformers arrived shortly after Mario 64, yet they were far more deserving of the title of "clone" or "rip-off".

I also want to put SR to rest since it's devouring all of my free time that I would so like to put into Enchanted Arms (yet another "rip-off" or "clone"). Until I can wrap up things in SR, I don't see myself being able to devote any real span of time on any other least any games that require more than a very short attention span. It all comes back to one of my own often broken rules of gaming; play only one RPG at a time or they will both possibly suffer from inattentiveness. While SR is not what we traditionally would call and RPG, it's the same principal.

Well, as I type all of this, I'm in a building filled with acrid plastic smoke and am starting to feel like I need to throw up. So, I think this is where I log off and get some fresh air. Good weekend to all.


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