Non-Flash Links At Bottom Of Page

Malik (9/24/07)

They might have won...but damn!  The Seahawks need to stop looking like they are always one step from teetering off the great cliff of defeat.  It's one thing if you lose to or barely defeat a strong team.  It's another thing when perennial losers (like the Cards, the Bucs, and the Bengals) are making a supposed powerhouse team work for each point.

Despite feeling like crap, still, I had a concert to go to on Saturday. Namely, Endfest, which promised some good entertainment. So, putting up with feeling like crap, Velveta and I made our trek to the show and were ready for a slow start (as the local stage and the up and coming band stage had the first crack at the audience).

The first few hours were pretty dull and slow as most of the bands on the non-main stages were just imitations of either The Killers (not a band band, per say, but not my thing) or bands that have decided to fight convention by not having their own real sound. This gave some time to gauge the crowd and see what type of people we'd be dealing with when the real event started later in the evening.

Sadly, the crowd was filled with a lot of who I take to be the current young concert group...the most conforming of uninspired people that have ever graced a generation. It seems that today offers younger people the chance to be complete non-conformists...which, like for the goths on the You Got Served episode of South Park, meant that every conformed by being the same type of non-conformists. This doesn't matter much, on the surface, but it meant some bad things were secretly in store for us once we got into the crowds.

First, however, I need to talk about the music we heard and the different shows put on by some of the old timers.

Satellite Party, Perry Ferrell's current band (formerly of Jane's Addiction), was really cool to see. I'm not much of a fan of his music, but Satellite Party did cover some of the best Jane's Addiction songs. More than that, Ferrell is insanely awesome when putting on a live show. He is flat out, out of his f#@$ing skull insane. His behavior is the type of stuff you cannot see anywhere else, and it was just awesome to see a front man take the time, during a small and limited set, to really get the audience involved. There's no real description for what all he did, but it was just freakin' sweet! High energy and high insanity...what more do you need in a live show?

As for Social Distortion...words still escape me 36 hours later. Mike Ness knows how to talk to and perform for his fans. He told the same sort of awesome stories as you'd hear on the Live at the Roxy Social D album. He played an awesome set of songs, and he kept the energy beyond high. In a typical festival style concert, it's hard for any band that is not the ultimate headliner to make a very big impression, but Social D was easily the best of the night one of the the concerts I've ever seen...just on their performance Endfest was worth the insanely high price of admission (not too expensive until Ticket Master had their say in the ticket prices). If all I saw and paid for was Social D, I would have still walked away a very happy man.

As for the real headliner (Smashing Pumpkins)...I don't know what to say. Maybe it was partly because of the sound crew (who could not level a board to save their lives...or hopefully it cannot save their wasted careers) who made me realize how much skill I have with a sound board (I did occasionally work one for three years, off and on, in college). Maybe the Pumpkins have not healed their old emotional baggage yet. Maybe their were jet lagged (or tired from their show the night before). Maybe...well, it would be nice to try to put some sort of "maybe it's because of..." on their performance, but that's not right.

You go to a show expecting the band to rock. A band needs to be ready to rock, no matter the problems. I've seen the Foo Fighters when their bassist had the flu (and they still rocked by bringing out various bassists from other bands playing the same show, as well as a certain epic leveled bassist from one Nirvana). I've seen non-headliner bands being treated like shit by their audiences. I've seen a lot of unfavorable conditions for bands, yet they would always put on an awesome show.

Smashing Pumpkins...well, they put on the best attempt at lip service I've ever seen in a headliner. That is to say, they were about as half assed as possible. No communicating with the crowd, no emotion in their music, no energy in their anything. Velveta was the one who really wanted to see the reunited group play live, and she was also the one who whispered to me, half way through their set, "if the next song sounds like 'this', we're leaving"...then she was the one who made the gesture to leave when the next song sounded like all of the previous five or six songs. That is to say, when the next song sounded like complete shit.

I'm not the biggest Pumpkins fan, but I do enjoy their music enough to have looked forward to hearing them live, and back together. It probably didn't help, however, that the band who was up before them (Social f#@$ing D) kicked every ass in the place. In the end, no excuse can really make up for the way the Pumpkins sounded. It was the most painful to watch or listen to experience in my long life of attending some of the best and worst of concerts. The price of admission would have been better spent (if they were the only band to have played) on buying some of their CDs and enjoying them at home.

As for what I said above about the crowds and the bad things in store for us...

A large amount of the crowd was not old enough to have been born when Perry Ferrell, Social D, or even the Pumpkins released their first CDs. They were, as Velveta once dubbed the crowd she got stuck in at one Warp Tour, mainly a bunch of "thirteen year old girls". I have no problem with younger crowds, if they are ready to rock because of the music. I don't mean the people who want to be at the concert as some sort of bragging rights (like a young kid who's wearing a Pink Floyd hoodie, despite not knowing any of the music of Pink other words, "posers").

If the general crowd is posers, it's one thing, but when you get in a mosh pit, it better be the fans in there. The pit is not something that's forgiving enough for the poser crowd. Sadly, the poser crowd likes to hit the pits, just like they will hit a show for a band they've never heard or enjoyed, just for some weird idea of bragging rights. This will only lead to the pit's natural cycle of mutual camaraderie and loathing. A place where pain is no problem, but you will stop to help a fallen ally in your mutual desire to work out some energy and aggression.

Instead of this normal cycle that's both beautiful and ugly in the same moment, you have people who don't belong. It's not the like pit is a special exclusive club, but you don't need people who are too afraid of being hurt finding their way in. You can tell these pain fearing posers by many of their actions. They start off grabbing clothes to stabilize themselves. You can push and you can make plenty of contact, but there's only one time to grab in the pit; when a person goes down and a hand is offered to get them back on their feet. Grabbing clothes of another person, especially one you don't know, is about the lamest example of needing to get the f#@$ out of the pit that exists. It's like hair pulling in a fight; inexcusable and immature.

On that note, I hope the neck to my Aquabats shirt gets back to it's normal shape after I run it through the wash.

Then, after some time has passed and these posers realize they are trapped and not where they should be, one of two things happens. Either the smarter ones (which are few and far between since they don't want to lose some lame idea of bragging rights) get the f#@$ out of there, or the shittier ones will start to become ultra aggressive. This makes another stupid situation.

These agro loving posers are easy to spot. They will hide behind a very tall person (the shield), who probably doesn't know the aggressive person but is tall and stable in the storm that is the pit, and then start to shove and throw punches at arms length...where they can have no fear of retribution. If you want to shove me in a pit, that's fine. It's what we're all there doing. However, like when getting insulted or attacked in any other way, I want it to my f#@$ing face. Don't hide if you can't take the idea of retribution coming your way.

It's too band so many shows I've gone to recently are festivals and the like. I say this since it's nearly impossible to find such a show with the 21 and over restriction...which doesn't guarantee a better show, but will at least promise none of the out of place little kid crowd.


Malik (9/25/07)

OMG! Teh Haloz b teh herezor!

Blah. Like I've said before, I really can't get extra excited about the game. Number 2 was a killer app for me. I don't me it was a be all end all game, but rather that it killed my excitement for Halo. Since I'm not a online deathmatch type of fan, I like to stick with the single player and (most importantly) co-op experience on my FPS selections. Halo 2 had the annoying feature of death on co-op leading to needing a new check point to respawn. This was just not a helpful addition or change from the first Halo when you take into account how your NPC friends are all out to grab a Warthog and run your bitch ass down in the name of helping you to stop the Covenant.

Since Halo 3 is supposed to go back to the Halo method (respawn if there are no enemies near by), I am slightly interested. Not enough to drop $60 on Halo 3, but enough to ask one of my good friends who works at Microsoft to pick up the game for me using the employee discount program. It's also not enough for me to NEED the game right at launch, but rather to wait until my friend can secure a copy on the cheap.

Besides, I've got enough games going on in my life as it is. I picked up Rune Factory: A Fantasy Harvest Moon late last week. I know, I still have to get back to Metroid Prime 3, but Rune Factory sounded like a good lighthearted game that I could just take my time with. Which is just the type of game I need.

Rune Factory makes up for what I've seen as a declining level of quality in the Harvest Moon series. The SNES game is still my favorite, but RF does add some nice things to make the game interesting. You once again have a lot more choice in who you may chose to marry. You have about 10 choices. You also have some other nice new twists in how the game has a leveling system and the bulk of the game revolves around balancing making money via farming and going in to dungeons to slay monsters and progressing a plot.

The combat is pretty fun since it uses the same old Harvest Moon style engine, but with a little more fluidity to make it play more like a Zelda game. Also, the dungeon times are balanced between slaying monsters and also thinking of the farm waiting for you in the outside world. You can try to just slay enemies and progress the game (which ends, this time around, when you kill the final boss). However, you can also use caves to fish for rare fishes, to mine for minerals that will allow you to more an easy profit and to upgrade your tools, and you can even use the static environment of the caves to farm different seasonal plants all year (like the first cave has a spring environment and lets you farm things like strawberries all year long).

Just like with past HM games, this is still, at it's core, a farming RPG. Which can sound really weird to those unfamiliar with HM. However, it does offer enough new changes to really bring in a bigger crowd of potential fans.

Anyway, I'm through the first and onto the second cave and about half way through the first 30 day season. So far, I'm enjoying each minute of RF.


Malik (9/26/07)

While I'm not looking to get very hyped about Halo 3, there is one interesting thing being brought up by this game. I'm not talking about it being the "killer app" for the 360, or how it will be the big "system seller", or anything of the like. In fact, it's something that goes far beyond Halo 3, but is only getting important attention due to Halo 3.

I'm talking about how games are packaged. The average game is one disc and is sold in a normal looking DVD case (well, normal but with a different color scheme) or CD case...or maybe some hybrid depending on the console the game is designed for. No matter the exact shape of the case or it's color, they all use the same standard technology of locking the disk in with a simple flexible piece of round-ish plastic.

However, things tend to fall apart when another disc is added to the picture. In Halo 3 Limited Edition you have a fancy metal case with a plastic nub that cannot keep a firm grasp of the game disc. For Blue Dragon, you have an extra long spindle on the plastic nub so that it can hold three discs. On some games you'll get some half assed sleeve instead of a actual secure disk holding nub. No matter what they end up coming in, they are usually not in the "correct" type of package.

Is it really so hard for game makers to ship their games in a multiple disk holding case that works? It should not be the case. I have enough cases for CDs and DVD movies that have taken the time to add another little disc holding "shelf" within the case (one that flips out of the way like a page in a book). However, most game makers just can't seem to grasp the best way to keep a game safe. When you add in the fact that a majority of games will sell, even with multiple disks, for more money than DVDs, even multiple disc sets, it seems like someone is forgetting that you should get at least some of what you pay for.

On that same thought line, I have another issue with modern game cases. Most games require a simple and small instruction manual to play the game. However, some games, like Oblivion on the 360, require more documentation, some extra maps and other pull out items, and there may be the obligatory ads that are stuffed into most games on separate leaflets. My problem is that the standard DVD case cannot handle so much crap being crammed into it.

The best example I can think of in the modern generation is the 360 version of Oblivion. My case does not close, and it never really did. When I first took the plastic wrapping off of the game, along with the little plastic sticker that CD cases and some DVD cases use to keep them extra sealed, the case opened on it's own. It has never closed since then. Why? The case was just bent out of shape by the larger than average manual, the poster sized map, and whatever other crap was in there.

One solution to this is, like I said above, cases for games need to be designed with less of a one size fits all ideal and more with room for special circumstances and exceptions to the rule for games that don't fit the norm. The other solution is, sadly, already evident...

Publishers have been trimming down instruction manuals and added packed in materials for years. It becomes more and more obvious with each generation. For example, the instructions to Rune Factory (DS) mention pages that are higher in number than the manual actually goes up to. Part of this can be typos, but another part was probably how the manual was obviously trimmed down (obvious because a lot of content is not covered in the booklet)...probably to fit the case.

It should not be the case, but I'd rather have my old SNES and NES era boxes than a simple to use and convenient DVD/CD case. True, the modern cases are more uniform and look nicer on a shelf (not to mention how they fit better on a shelf)...but I want the full pack in of materials. No game in the modern age could rival how much info was even packed into a simple and ancient RPG like FF1. That game had two full sized posters (with dungeon maps, equipment lists, world map, and an extra bit of artwork), a manual that was nearly one hundred pages long (and had a quite large surface area per page), and the game itself...not too mention an ad for Nintendo Power and whatever other crap was enclosed (I don't know if the Nintendo epilepsy warning was included yet in games).

We're getting to a point that almost requires people who buy more complex of games (like Rune Factory) to either hope that the game first came out in another region so they can check out slightly mistranslated (to their region) FAQs and walkthroughs, or you have to buy the latest half assed guide that launched, hopefully, with the game...just to know how to properly play the game.

This has been a major annoyance for me for quite some time, but thankfully Halo 3 came along. Not because I'm excited for the game (although getting it about 66% off is damned nice), but rather how it's bringing simple problems to the attention of larger crowds.

If I pay $30-$60 for a game, or more, I want to at least get the same level of quality in the package that I expect from a two CD music set that can cost me less than $20. It's not asking for too it?


Malik (9/27/07)

My $25 Halo 3 is now ready for me (thanks to El Monk). Unfortunately, I'm so caught up in Rune Factory that I will probably not even notice Halo 3 (at least until I notice Velveta looking bored and annoyed with me not playing something with her...then co-op Halo 3 will enter the picture), I don't feel like running 20 miles down the road to pick it up when I'll be hanging with El Monk on Sunday for football goodness.

So far, I have to say that Rune Factory really makes up for all of the past mistakes of the recent Harvest Moon games. For one, you now have a choice of ~10 prospective brides. While it sounds silly, half the fun of the HM games have been trying to balance earning money, maintaining your farm, and handling other chores while trying to improve relations with the people in the nearby town. In fact, on top of the ~10 prospective brides, the game also includes a large number of additional people in the town which play important enough of roles in your daily errands.

The other thing that is really making the game fun is that you need to put some additional planning in to your activities. For example, you can focus on crops (which were the prime focus of the original HM) as your way to make money. However, this involves the challenge of; do you focus on the crops alone (which can deplete your stamina or Rune Points) or do you focus on gathering wood so you can build huts? The huts will allow you to recruit monsters, who can then be assigned to water crops and to harvest any developed produce. You also can think about if crops really matter all that much, since fishing and mining can also be important in your money making operation.

The only real constant, if you want to focus on the non-combat side of RF, is that you need lumber. Lumbering is a tiring chore, which limits your abilities for the day (if you run out of RP, then you lose HP with each out of HP and you will either die or be sent to the doctor)...but is needed to build monster huts and to improve your house. If you neglect this chore, then you can never buy the best kitchen gadgets, forge your own weapons and tools, or think about the purpose of wooing any potential brides, since your house will forever be a tiny useless shack.

The only part of this planning that I don't like is how the dungeons are set up. For the most part, they are well thought out. For example, to enter the first dungeon, you need a pass from the Mayor. He will not give out a pass until you till at least 50 squares of land on your farm. Then second dungeon is closed until you till 50 or so squares within the first dungeon and then kill the boss of the first dungeon. With a few exceptions, this is how you progress where you can explore and fight...not too mention where you can fish (you can fish in dungeons), mine (better and more expensive ores are found in new dungeons), and recruit monsters (including ones that will produce milk, eggs, and wool for you).

This works out fine until the fifth dungeon. This one is only open during the winter (it's on a lake that needs to freeze over for your to get to the cave in the center of the water). This means that you have two ways of playing. You can either rush through the first four dungeons to ensure you're ready for the fifth one in the winter...or you can play at a normal pace and maybe be stuck with nearly a year to kill before you can progress the plot. I have heard, on message boards, of too many people unlocking this dungeon near the end of winter...once they are strong enough (with some grinding) to face the boss, then it's spring again and 90 in-game days have to be passed to get anywhere. When each day can take about 30 minutes (or more if you have some inventory management to do), that is a long time to kill.

Anyway, I have to say that RF is probably the best DS game I've played since FF3 came along. It's even better than Picross DS (which, for me, a Picross addict, to say that, is saying something).


Malik (9/28/07)

Halo 3 fever is a really...well...stupid thing right now. On one hand, you do have a game I have not played yet so I cannot go off of too much hype or my initial gut reaction (to dislike the game because of Halo 2...which only served to anger me for a $55 investment). However, even without the playing and rights to properly judge the new game, I can see when a phenomenon has gotten out of control.

For example, no FPS, or any other game for that matter, should have any tournaments until after the game has been out long enough to be learned to a reasonable degree. For a tournament to go on for a game, with the start of round one starting only less than a week after the launch of the game, means that there will be too much insanity of the newbs versus the people who called in sick to work with the Halo Flu (if you catch my meaning). It's simply a tournament that penalizes those who have had a real life to contend with for the last week.

My suggestion? I would personally say, just like how a game should not be reviewed without time being devoted to it, a tournament for any game should wait for at least a solid month following a game's launch. To do otherwise would mean that the tournament is half assed and that the players will not be able to, for the most part, put up a truly worthy fight.

Does it end with premature tournaments? No. It keeps going. Beyond the insanity of people camping out before midnight for special midnight launch parties (which are, in my view, only cool if you are a person who works an unusual shift and therefore midnight is your noon) there lies so much more. This is a game that has gotten attention from "news" outlets despite how it's not really worthy of front page coverage in a time when torture is legal, mediocrity runs the country, and we would rather drop a giant sum of money on a war that is not serving a purpose instead of spending less money on ensuring that all children of our supposedly advanced country have insurance to keep these children as (to quote those happy peppy message we all constantly hear) "our future". XB0x 360 signed by Bill Gates sold for nearly $9,000 on eBay. Did I miss something, or is a person unassociated with the game and in a less role at the company that publishes it that damned important? Should I shit a brick every time I hear Bill Gates is touring my work? Working in a non-profit biotech that receives a lot of money from the Gates Foundation, it does happen more often than one would think. Should all Microsoft employees shit a brick each and every day since it's almost assured that Gates has walked down many of the halls and into many of the rooms that these people work in and around?

Blah. Maybe I'm just in a grumpy mood or some shit. Actually, I probably am since I am right now, as I type this, sitting in a lab that receives so much money (usually via Gates) but cannot afford to make sure that half of my equipment is not stolen each time the floors are cleaned professionally.

At least it's Friday. This means three simple things for me. One, I get Halo 3 on Sunday, on the cheap, so I can finally see if it's worthy of any of this abundance of hype. Second, I get to also watch what I hope will be a good turning point for the Seahawks as they take on their number one rival for the NFC West title (and to see how poor of a decision it was to trade Jackson, an awesome receiver, to our main rival in the off season). Three, I got paid so I can afford to, if I break free from Rune Factory, buy Zelda on the DS when it comes out early next week.


For Those Who Don't Have Flash Plug-Ins...

Rested XP    News    Reviews    Videos    Features    Forums    Archives    Search This Site    Links    Contact Us    Disclaimer

Non-Flash Links At Bottom Of Page