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Malik (10/15/07)

As you may or may not have heard, EA is taking ownership of Bioware and Pandemic. This is not bad news on it's own. Afterall, the small companies, especially in the West, tend to be bought and traded like a pack of baseball cards. It's just how business is done.

However, when EA is stating that they expect about four to five new games per fiscal year from these companies, it's not a sign of good things to come. Afterall, Bioware has a decent track record of making quality games...but on a far slower time line. Bioware is not a company that has produced numerous titles per year, but rather has taken a slow and steady approach. So, when EA is stating that numerous games per year should be expected from Bioware and Pandemic, it can only mean that the EA business model has a good chance of appearing.

This means we can expect the games and intellectual properties that have already been proven by Bioware to be given the green light for a non-stop barrage of sequels and spin-offs. True, there is a chance that EA will still allow some freedom of development to come along to the Bioware staff, but there's also a chance that the next Madden game will not be another round of a cheaply made game that features fewer pieces of content and a new roster of players next year. It's a possibility, but it's not a likely one.

Also, it leaves a bit too much room for EA to make more multi-platform titles out of Bioware licenses and properties. While this, on it's own, is not necessarily a bad thing, it also means games with the ability to have downloadable content will face the chance of different content on different platforms. I could care less about this on most genres, but RPGs is not one of them. To buy an RPG and face the console differences in an effort to sell the game twice to each consumer is not something I look forward to.

As I said, there are no guarantees in this. EA could do the right thing. EA could now be focused on quality over quantity. However, when they say they aim to crank out of Bioware and Pandemic so many titles per fiscal year, it does not look all that likely that EA has changed their ways.

Sadly, since game development costs keep soaring with new technology, this is something we'll see a lot more of as time goes on. The smaller developers who can't make a half dozen titles per year need to find financial backing somewhere. When they look for help with this problem, it will be places like EA and Ubi Soft where they are forced to turn. It's not the same as the old 1990's hostile takeover times, as much as it's a time when the environment is the hostile factor trying to force takeovers and purchases of the smaller companies. It's just too hard for the small guy to remain free of large company restraint and creative control of their destiny.

On a different note, I don't know what to think of the Seahawks. For one thing, the first touch down of the game last night was embarrassing. It's one thing to replace your long snapper with a quality player when you have something better come along. It's another thing to replace your long snapper because the old one was not excellent and to bring in someone who was unsigned previously for a reason. I would rather see the long snapper's slowness lead to a blocked punt than a missed hiking of the ball...and the following score by the receiving team before the ball is ever graced by the punters foot.

That started the game in a bad place. When the score reached 21-0 (in favor of the Saints) before the second quarter was over, it really started to look bad. At least the Seahawks could bring about a 28-10 score by the end of the half.

The final score was not as bad as it could have been. Also, Hasselbeck did end with some good stats. He had a rating of over 109 at one point (before he gave up an interception on a idiotic play near the end of the game). Holmgren really should have planned a little better in this game. It was clear how bad some of the play calls were when the Seahawks, on their last important possession, went for a random and play on the 4th down instead of an easy field goal. Yes, the field goal would have left us down by 8, but the game would have still been alive. All that would be needed would be a successful on-side kick leading to a touch down and a 2-point conversion.

Yes, that would have been an uphill battle, but it would have been possible. All that really would have been needed, more than anything, would be the momentum found by scoring 3 and then pulling off the on-side kick. Afterall, the Seahawks did show that they knew how to ride the momentum train during their last drive of the fourth quarter (up until a certain intercepted pass that should not have been).

I think the real lessons that should be gained from last night are simple. For one, Holmgren needs to go with what's possible and not with what is a very long shot. The best example is that final play of the Seahawk's possession.

Secondly, the running game is gone. Alexander needs to be given some time to train and reacquire what he has forgotten during the last summer. Maybe it's time to bring in Seneca Wallace as the running back of choice. Wallace is fast, agile, and can make some amazing plays happen. Since we have Frye as the 3rd string QB, we can take more risks in keeping Wallace as a playmaker, instead of a wild-card-trick-play-maker. At least keep Alexander out until he is healed so that he can afford to switch what hands he is give him a little bit more of an edge.

Third...the long snapper...what the hell? A few blocked punts are bad, but giving up a touch down on a botched punt attempt is a thousand times worse.

Fourth, Seattle needs to see some defense for Hasselbeck. They should not give up two sacks in a row to a team that had a sad and pathetic one for the season going into the game. Hasselbeck needs to remain healthy, and that will not happen if the line cannot cover his ass for a few seconds. The opposition doesn't even need a blitz to gain a sack...just any normal defensive play will find Hasselbeck facing a choice of throwing the ball away or eating dirt.

Fifth and final, the defense needs to do some re-tuning. Yes, Seattle's defense has finally, this season, found a good way to stop the rush (I forgive last night since Bush was due to explode...and explode he did). Gore was shut down when Seattle faced San Francisco two weeks ago, and he was the biggest threat to raking in the rush yards that Seattle could expect to face this year. After he pummeled Seattle last season, it was good to see Gore get stopped. However, Seattle has a new problem this season...they cannot cover the receivers worth a shit. If the opposition wants some easy yards, just call for a passing play and make it happen. With such a light and quick defense, Seattle should have no problem covering some light and quick receivers.

At least the Seahawks are still in a good position in the NFC West. Technically they are as good as tied with the Cards. If they can find some wins, on what should be an easy remainder of the season, then things will be looking up. However, things need to change in the minds of the playmakers and the play callers. Things also need to change with who is in each game. Alexander needs to be out as he needs time to heal and to remember what he used to do. Boone Stutz (the abysmal long snapper) needs to be pulled. There's a limit to understandable mistakes on the field...and a failed snap on a punt is not one.

However, when you're division is the NFC West (or even the AFC West), a good position doesn't mean shit to the rest of the league. Afterall, the two West divisions are the only divisions with the top team(s) running a 0.500 average. Compared to the Super Bowl run from two years back, the current Seahawks look about as bad as they come. They are sloppy, uncoordinated, and confused. It's time to shake things up some, but within reason.

Next week, Seattle faces another win deprived team. Hopefully it will not be another case of Seattle losing to the wounded opponent in a humiliating example of what has been lost in the last year or two.

In an ideal world, here's how I would have seen things go down in the game. First off, that first punt would have been punted, and not some lame ass snap to a certain punter's foot. That would have resolved 7 of the points, possibly, that the Seahawks felt crushing them down at the start of the game. That would have reverted the final score to a four point deficit. Secondly, Holmgren would have taken a risk or two earlier particular, he should have gone for that 50 something yard field goal attempt instead of a punt from Saint's territory. That would have further absolved the lead to one little point in the fourth quarter. At which point that final important drive, when Holgren called for the fourth down conversion (instead of the needed field goal), would have gone for a field goal, even in Holmgren's rattled brain. That would have given the Seahawks a 2 point lead late in the fourth. At which point, playing tight defense (instead of the uninspired defense that the Seahawks have been relying upon) could have prevented another score, and the game could have been victorious for the boys in blue.

At least that's how things could have gone in an ideal without idiotic long snapper changes (Boonie was released last week from his former team for a reason) and a lack of desire from Holmgren to make some risky maneuvers. True, victory would still be uncertain, but it would have been possible. Just like how, in the un-ideal game that happened, that a field goal attempt in the fourth quarter could have kept the game alive.


Malik (10/16/07)

According to movie industry executives, Halo 3 is causing a bad season for ticket sales. I believe that. I also believe Holmgren has played an amazing game of football this season and is the master of time management. I believe that Seattle did good in replacing their long snapper. I believe that Alexander is playing with his fullest ability. I believe that injuries are a good thing since it's allowing Seattle's second string receivers to shine. I believe that the Saints are an amazing team this year and beat Seattle due to their skill (and not Seattle's lack of talent).

In other words, Halo 3 is not in any way responsible for ruining box office totals for October. Why do I say that? Well, let me answer this question with another; What movies have come out this month? Struggling for a response? So am I.

The reason why movie tickets have failed for the last month is the same (real) reason that the recording industry is losing sales. No...I am definitely not talking about digital pirating of movies and music. I'm talking about how quality is not there, and people will, despite some usual hyped trends, typically speak with their wallets.

If the music being released is of sub-par quality, and if the movies are just not living up to any sense of hype, then they will not sell as well. If there is nothing worth spending money on, then these things will be neglected and ignored. If the movie studios want to see better ticket sales, then skip out on art flicks (there are a few out right now) and on any movie that's an obvious attempt to make a quick return off of little investment. Give us, your target audience, something worth the price of admission and we will be there. No matter how much you spend on a game, you will always find $10 to see a movie. As long as you need a simple date idea, there is going to be the movies. As long as you want a little quick escapist entertainment, there will be movies.

Halo 3 is not the only game to ever be sold and make record sales. Halo 2, Half-Life 2, GTA:SA, GTA:VC, FFXII, and Guitar Hero 2 all did excellently. However, you don't find movie releases now being removed from months in which hyped games become available. Why? Because we all will buy games, if it's our thing, and we will do so nearly each month. The only difference with Halo 3 is that more people bought one single title when Halo 3 came along. We still will buy games each month.

In fact, think of it this way; each November is a non-stop flood of quality game titles and it's typically the console release month (DS, Wii, 360, and PS3 all hit around November in various years). However, despite these even larger investments (costs to own), the movie industry did not chose to stop releasing new movies in November and December. The movie industry has not gone belly up from November of any year (the last three had major and popular consoles; 2004 DS, 2005 360, 2006 Wii and PS3). However, instead of having the usual supply of cheesy yet entertaining horror flicks in October, the movie studios have opted for a more crap-tacular October in 2007. Major games will hit in November (Mario Galaxy, Rock Band, Lego Star Wars: The Complete Saga, Call of Duty 4, Mass Effect, GH3 on the PC, Crysis, Unreal Tournament 3, Fire Emblem: Radiant Dawn...just to name some that have a potential to draw in a sizable crowd), and more will come along in December. If the movie industry was so afraid of games, then it would mean that three months of lost ticket sales would doom them. By the start of 2008, the movie industry would be destroyed.

In reality, when January rolls around, the movie business will still exist. All forms of media can live in perfect harmony. Blaming Halo 3 for the failure of the studios is just how the industry is trying to maintain their ignorance about sales. It's how they attempt to ignore that bad movies are the cause of bad ticket sales. It's just like how the RIAA blames digital distribution for the loss of CD sales, despite how CDs are just losing quality (as the call for conformity to the current hyped sound forces artists to give up creativity, which would increase sales, to appease the record studios who believe creativity would kill sales).

Anyway, today I finally get a game worthy of my time. Beautiful Katamari should be in my hands before I walk through my front door tonight. I'll finally have a fun and silly game to erase the horrid memory of Zelda that I got in the last week.

On the note of new games, I tried out the Tony Hawk's Proving Grounds demo on XBox Live. I sat on the demo for a while and did nothing with it, but since I needed a bit of entertainment last night, I tried it out. I actually have to say I'm happy with the game. I know that Skate is becoming the new flavor of the week in extreme sports, but THPG is something I found fun.

Maybe it's because I know the controls so well for the last decade, but I can just dive into Tony Hawk games so much more readily than anything that tries to redefine the controls for boarding games. Also, the career path idea is pretty fun. I don't know how this pans out in the actual game (is it three games in one, or do you have to do all three career paths simultaneously to beat the normal game?), but it gives a good opportunity to feel like you have some choices in what you are doing. Plus, it's nice to see that just doing lame ass pranks while having Bam forced down your throat is looking like a thing of the past. I'm sure Bam will show up from time to time, since he and Tony Hawk are friends and all of that, but having a whole game centered around Bam (like THUG2 did) is not my idea of a good skating game.

I'm not sure if I'll get THPG, since there will be too many other games I need to worry about playing for the next two and a half months. However, it might be a good pickup game in the summer, when the usual game drought returns. Maybe by then it will be priced more reasonably (something like $20-$30).


Malik (10/17/07)

Yesterday I started playing Beautiful Katamari (360), and it's easy to form some opinions of this game rather quickly. First off, it is, as it should be, a lot more of the same. For many games, this would be a bad sign. However, with a game that has such a great record of remaining true to it's original incarnation, this is a great thing.

It is, more or less, the same game as Katamari Damacy and We Love Katamari, but with a whole new set of levels. That is nothing short of a wonderful thing. However, some of the "more of the same" is actually a bad thing.

In particular, it's more of the same long loading screens. A single level can last as short as three minutes (for a standard "make your katamari this big in this many minutes" level) and the loading time can take upwards of thirty or more seconds. That is not cool. You should not have any level in any game last for less than ten times the loading time. It's an annoying thing that should be eliminated or reduced in modern gaming systems. Especially considering the power of the 360 and how the game does not use nearly as much of the processor ability of the 360 (when you compare it to being ran on the PS2 for previous Katamari games).

This loading issue only gets worse when you realize that the game freshly loads a level every time you play it. This means that if you start a level with a unique goal (for example, on level ends in failure when your Katamari is cooled and is only finished by collecting hot items), you may be defeated in just a couple of seconds and you will have to sit through up to thirty more seconds of loading to get rolling again. Even if you simply pause the game and select to restart the current stage (that you are on and is already loaded), the game will fully reload the level.

Another problem I've seen a bit too much of is the fact that the King of All Cosmos doesn't know how to shut the f#@$ up. Every time you grab a present or a cousin (both items, if you don't know the franchise, are special items you want to locate in a level for a bonus and maybe a bonus stage if this is like We Love Katamari), the King will just keep talking across the screen. You are expected to hit the A button repeatedly to make the text go away. This is not always easy or fun when you're in a groove and you blow your momentum because you couldn't see fully through the giant text bubble in the center of the screen.

Speaking of cousins, there's another problem...Beautiful Katamari does not remove a cousin from a stage after you collect him or her. We Love Katamari would remove them...but since BK keeps restoring them each time you play a level (even if you've collected them already), you face two issues. One is that the King always has an excuse to talk during the stage. The other is that it makes it harder to find cousins you've missed (multiple cousins can fill a single level) since you may waste your time seeking out how to obtain one you've already obtained.

My final issue, so far, with this game is that hot/cold level I mentioned above. There are always some unique levels in Katamari games. We Love Katamari included a few that had you trying to collect the largest item of a certain type and the game would end when you pick up the first item that meets the requirements. There have also been stages that ask you to create a fireball to light a bon fire, or ones that require you to get enough fireflies for a kid to read a book at night from the glow.

The hot/cold level of BK is just annoying. For each hot item you get the temperature increases and for each cold item you get the temperature drops. That's simple enough...but some of the hot items are hot despite being cold in real life (sushi...which I would never sushi?). This creates some unneeded confusion. It's also an annoying level since it's really setup to cause nothing but frustrations. Most of all, if you do good on the stage, you'll never get big enough to find some of the cousins. Plus, since you only unlock a cousin if you pick him or her up and then finish the level successfully, it makes a major annoyance on a level with such a strict failure point.

At least, in the end, Katamari is still alive and well. I'm glad to see that the game franchise did not end with the PSP game and that the series may have potential to survive, if enough fans buy the game. I do have a few more minor issues with the game (such as the soundtrack not being as good as in previous Katamari games), but the fact that this is more of the same easily balances that out. I'd rather have a slightly less than perfect Katamari game (for perfection, check out We Love Katamari on the PS2) that no more Katamari in my life.

On a final note before I go, I picked up the game at Gamestop. I had some games to trade in and it was the best place for me to secure a pre-order. Normally I'd skip Gamestop, but for a game that had the potential to be very rare and for a chance to trade in some crap that I just wanted out of my life, it was a good choice. I am aware that trading stuff to Gamestop is a rip-off, but sometimes I'd rather skip the eBay route (especially when a game is worth more to Gamestop than to an actual eBay user).

The thing I learned yesterday at Gamestop is that they recently changed their computer systems (as told to me by the employee who was struggling to learn the system). This is not bad, since the old system seemed to have been slow and worthless. The bad news is that they cannot manually punch up credit card numbers anymore. This means that if something is messed up with their debit/credit reader, then you better have cash or check on you. I don't have either on me during an average day, so that was fun. I was trying to pre-order some things (Rock I don't have a fight on my hands on Black Friday), and luckily my store credit could cover this. I really would have hated having to drive across the street to grab cash and then to return to another round of the slowness of their new system (and the learning process for the clerks in the store).

Consider that a warning...if you ever have trouble with your credit/debit being read in a store, bring cash if you're going to Gamestop.


Malik (10/18/07)

I played a good deal of Beautiful Katamari last night. In fact, I played through almost all that remains of the game, minus the final level of forming Uranus. So, I think I'm getting far enough to add some more insightful of observations about the game.

First off, the game is short when compared to the first two Katamari games (I never played Me and My Katamari on the PSP). I think, if I didn't replay some levels to find the cousins I missed the first time or to get a more impressive score (the King judges your final Katamari each time you finish a stage and gives a score of 1-100, with 120 for anything ridiculously big or fast), I would have finished the game in less than half the time I've played so far.

While I'm fine with a budget titles being short, as long as it's still fun, I think BK may be pushing it a little far. Afterall, I got far more value from the cheaper PS2 Katamari titles (each launched around $20, versus BK being $40) than I did from BK. I also have more things to do in We Love Katamari, since it offered more variety to levels.

While BK offers one major setting (the world at large), WLK offered some unique separate environments, like the underwater lake level, the race track (now part of the world in BK), the world at large (about the same size as the world of BK), a school, and some other places within the world. Meanwhile, BK just has a few places within the world (a mansion, a toy/candy store, a TV studio, and the world itself). True, BK allows for your Katamari to grow to larger sizes (one level involves going from small enough to be in a house and growing up to swallow islands and land, then big enough to swallow countries like in the end of WLK, and then in space like a separate mini-game in WLK, all in one level).

I'm also noticing that the music of BK is just not up to par with the insanity of WLK or Katamari Damacy. It's not to say that the music is bad, but instead it's just not as impressive as it should or could be. I honestly cannot think of a song in BK off the top of my head, but anyone who's played KD or WLK could easily think of a few that will forever be inscribed on their brains (naaaaa na na naa na nah...).

In the end, however, I still cannot speak too badly of BK. Yes, it is not as impressive as the other Katamari games, but it is still a good diversion from reality. It offers a lot of fun, it offers something you simply cannot find anywhere else, and it also includes an amazing mini-game at the end of the main part of the game.

The mini-game feels and looks like an old fashioned NES era top-down shooter, but has you both shooting stuff and absorbing the smaller things to grow in size. It's like what Katamari could have been in the 8-bit era.

There is one thing, however, that is missing and it makes no sense. In KD, you had the cut scenes of the Japanese family with the father being an astronaut. They went through wacky times as the father prepared to launch into space and the world was in confusing over the missing stars in the sky (all due to the King of All Cosmos). It was weird and fun to watch what was happening with these poor people caught up in the results of the King's bender from the night before. Plus, hearing the daughter describe the results of the special theme levels (to make constellations) was disturbing in its own unique way.

WLK had the same theme of cut scenes, but this time describing the history of the King and how he met the Queen. It was a nostalgic journey for the King as he attempted to be his own person while trying to win the approval of his disappointed father. It involved as many unusual themes as one could ever expect to see in a single video game cut scene...and then added a few more for the hell of it. If it wasn't so confusing and silly, it might have even been emotional and sad.

BK, on the other hand, has no cut scenes. There is the opening and closing ones to explain what happened and how it was resolved. That was all you get. There were no other explanations of it relevant or completely off the topic of the game. All you get is a starting movie to explain why the world is facing peril (the King plays sports a little too powerfully), and the aftermath that came about from the Prince's diligence and hard work. Nothing comes up in the middle to give your an outsider's take on events or to give you random background into the main players of this saga.

I think, even with the game being pretty solid, that this is the saddest part of BK and my most missed feature from the old games.

Now I'm awaiting to see what the downloadable content does for the game. It was supposedly promised for day one, and there's still no sign of the content. Considering the game already has achievements for this content, I think it's time to see it. I just hope that they don't charge an arm and a leg for it (at least it could be worth it since the game was $20 less than a new release when it came out a couple days ago). I also hope that the content keeps coming beyond the first pack. I don't mean content of added cousins, but more levels. If I could score a half dozen new stages for something around $10 a pop, I would keep supporting BK as long as the new content comes in.


Malik (10/19/07)

The last 24 hours have been complete crap. Well, it's more of the last 18 hours.

First off, I wanted to play some Katamari action and watch some of the On Demand episodes of The Wire. I've never seen The Wire, but one of my friends, who has some good taste in TV and movies, recommended the show and is having a get together tomorrow to watch the show with beer and ribs (Saturday, beer, ribs, and's a perfect combination). However, since Washington was going through an out of season wind storm, I couldn't watch. Every time power would flicker, which was pretty much every 45 minutes, the cable box would reset (obviously) and would need about 20 minutes to reload fully and allow On Demand.

At least Katamari only requires about 5-20 minutes at a time. So, as soon as the power would flicker, I'd try to load the game and play through some levels. It was working nicely. I found a few new cousins, got the Uranus level done, and found a lot of presents. I also scored some nice times on the time trial modes. However, the only part I got saved before power flickered was Uranus and the 4 gifts and 4 cousins I found on that level. All of the time trial and the gifts and cousins found in time trial were lost to the great expanses of power loss.

That is definitely a recipe for not having fun. However, I figure things would even out in the karma side of things. My mom, who lives about 20 minutes from me, was home alone (since my dad is on a trip) and needed some help preparing for the storm. So, I decided to help her out. I helped to find and put away a patio umbrella that got loose in the wind. I pulled their generator out of their shed and got it ready to get running when the power went out for her. I did some good hard work, and the only reward I asked for was a can of Coca-Cola (a fair trade since I needed some caffeine and sugar). I even scored some extra free food and all of that. Can't complain, but I thought karma would make sure good things happened.

Well, since I wanted to help out, I left work as early as humanly other words, the instant my 8 hours were done, I was racing for my car. This is where karma took a giant shit on me...a shit that now, that I know about all the facts, I cannot get out of my head and is tearing me up on the inside.

In Seattle last night Rob Zombie and Ozzy were holding a concert at Key Arena (the doomed home of the Sonics). I wanted to go. Hell, what metal head would not want to see the two masters of disaster on stage together. I would have done almost anything to go. The only thing I wouldn't do was buy tickets since I did not have the funds (between a new surround sound system and a mortgage, money is not with me right now...hence why I've been trading to Gamestop for credit and getting ripped off).

I came in to work today exhausted and worn down. It was a lot of hard work with the storm and making sure both my home and my mom's house were both ready. I tackled giant umbrellas and I pulled huge pieces of fallen trees from back yards. I was exhausted by I felt like the world would be with me since I did some good hard work that was for non-selfish reasons (besides one can of Coke).

How did karma repay me? Why did I mention the awesome prospect of Ozzy and Zombie together so close to my home (and only a mile from my work)?

I came in to work to find a note from two of the people at my day job telling me that they had two free tickets to see the concert waiting for me. I pull an early work shift (starting between 6:30 and 7 each morning, while the rest of my work place starts around 9), so I left just a few minutes before the email came in to my work account. I left at 2:45 yesterday, and the email came in at 2:50. In the end, I never checked my work email from home since I was so busy, and thus I never got to say that I would bow at these two employees' feet to go to the show. I never saw it until after the concert and after they had to give the tickets to someone else since I never responded.

So, instead of posting any more, I'm just going to stop here. My metal loving heart is breaking and the thought of, as these two employees said in email, "Pyrotechnics! Go-go dancers!! Flying Ozzy! Dancing and singing Zombies!!! Pyrotechnics!!" is killing me. So close...yet so damned can be one hell of a bitch at times.


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