Malik (10/18/04)  

So, I ended up spending the better part of Wednesday and Thursday night of last week trying to download drivers for two different video capture devices. On one hand, I had a piece of shit from Pinnacle (well, it's a nice device, but...), the masters of having no customer support for anything. On the other hand, I have a rather crappy TV Tuner card from a generic manufacturer, which is the worst type of card to find drivers for. So, I blew about 12 hours on all of that crap...then, as I was preparing for a LAN party on Saturday, I needed my Baldur's Gate 2 CDs, and spent some time looking for them. I blew a lot of time looking for these CDs (like I did with the TV Tuner card CD) before I realized that BG2 was right in front of my PC...on top of my damned TV Tuner drivers...sigh... 

So, the moral of that story is quite simple...I'm blind. Also, I now have the TV card installed and good to go, but I now have the problem of needing about 20 feet of RCA cables to hook everything up from the entertainment center to the PC. At least that problem is a far easier one to solve. So, the site should start to have some visual effect soon...once I find a couple of RCA cables that can total to 20 feet. 

So, before I get the video capture solution completed, I will have to present a review of Shadow Hearts: Covenant without visuals. I figure, unlike when I promised to bring visuals later to my Fable review, this one is more feasible since the card is actually good to go. Anyway, for those who haven't played either SH1 or SH2, I'd suggest you hit the SH1 review, determine if you'd like the game, and then play it first. Then SH2 goes from being a fun RPG into being an awesome sequel that wraps things up nicely from the first game. I mean, without SH2, you can't tell why you were doing what you did in SH1, and without SH1, you can't see what happened because of your hard work in SH1. I just suggest you play in order since SH2 is a giant spoiler for SH1.

Speaking of which, I played a good deal of SH2 this weekend. I'm now in the final dungeon, with all but two of the final side-quests done (I'm skipping the Solomon's Key quest since I've missed a few too many crests along the way). So, once I finish the Grand Gara's uber-battle contest, then I'll be set to finish everything. For those who are used to a FF style of game, in which the final side-quests are tedious and pointlessly hard, SH2 is a dream come true. The final quests are not needed, they are not hard, but they definitely help to wrap up some of the key loose ends on the plot.

Also, as I said, I did the LAN party thing again this last weekend...with mixed results. After forgetting the basic rules for BG2 (2nd edition rules are so damned screwy) and watching as my thief exploded as he failed a detect trap, I spent a long while sitting around playing Metroid Fusion on the GBA. After a while (a couple hours), we booted my thief, and reloaded my saved template to get me back in the game...just in time for us to finish the first dungeon and then quit to grab some food. Then we played a little Sveen Co-op for Half-Life...which didn't work on the PC I was on, so I sat around on the GBA for a few more hours. So, while I had some fun with my GBA, the whole LAN thing was a bust for me...blah.

Speaking of Half-Life; There's some interesting news about HL2. It involves something that I think many of us doubted would happen in 2004.

Anyway, I want to finish Grand Gara's battle royale, so I must go. 


Malik (10/19/04)  

Well, between Smash Melee and the Red Sox game, I didn't get nearly as much done with SH2 as I wanted. I got in only enough playing to see some additional side-quest plot and got the final fusion (which is insanely powerful and fast as hell). I still want to finish up this game really soon, but it might take me an extra day beyond my expectations due to Gama's Ring Tower quest (a series of about 35-40 fights that are mainly solo or small team work with the vampire as the hero...I can't spell his French name worth crap, so I call him the vampire). I want to see what happens at the end, but these fights are just tedious. It is just fighting; no exploration, no plot, nothing. Blah. However, I am so pulled by the plot for each character that I need to see the final outcome. 

I also read some more after posting last night and found a firm release date for Half-Life 2. It will be scheduled to be on store shelves/Steam on the 16th of November (one week after Halo 2 arrives). Since I'm both impatient and more of a Halo fan, my decision is now set...if the release dates were swapped, then I'd have some serious thinking to do. 

Also, at Gamespot.com, there's a good deal of information on the less important new features of GTA:SA. So, if you want to see what the sound track will include, or the identifying features of the rival gangs of San Andreas, you should check out Gamespot. From the looks of things, new info will come along pretty frequently for the next week (GTA:SA comes out in one week...BOOYAH!). There's isn't anything really newsworthy, even if Gamespot calls it news, but the obsessive may find this stuff interesting (I know I found it good for short term reading, since I am GTA obsessive). Of course, my main question is on a subject not really touched yet; how much will there be in terms of elevation on the map? I don't want another flat Vice City type of world...my greatest thrill in a GTA game is still, as my friends call it, sacrificing to the hill god in GTA3. That hill would be the cliff by the Columbian turf on Shoreside Vale and the road that bends around that cliff at the top. The sacrificing would be shooting a car that's driving towards the cliff and watching as the driver freaks out enough to fly off the cliff rather than make the 90 degree turn to the right at the bottom of the road (top of the cliff). Any GTA3 fan who hasn't tried this should give it a shot just for the fun of it. It's especially fun when the cops get involved (try jumping down the cliff and watch as the cops leap and drive like lemmings after you). 

Anyway, not too much is going on for geek things for me this week. I can't get too much real thinking in since I can only think of how close GTA:SA is...like I said, I'm obsessed. I'm still wary of the eating and some of the other new innovations, but it's still GTA and, therefore, I'm giving it the benefit of the doubt. 


Malik (10/20/04)  

I finally completed Shadow Hearts: Covenant last night. I started with the goal of finishing the Ring Tower (or The Man Tournament...or Grand Gara's side quest...whatever you want to call it) in mind. Basically, I was 10 floors from the bottom, and needed to go an additional 90 to the top, with one battle per floor and a pointless cut-scene before each fight. In other words, it's extreme tedium. Well, I was glad to see that once you reach a certain level, you automatically jump up to about 11 floors before the final battle...which basically saved me the hassle of about 65 really easy, but time consuming, battles (each floor of the tower, with cut-scene, takes about 1-2 minutes, even if you win immediately, after loading time). Well, they finish the tournament with the gayest scene I've ever seen in an RPG (and I do mean homosexual...not just "teh gay"), and it was...ummm...quite disturbing. I don't mean that it having a homosexual theme makes it disturbing, but rather how they handled it. I'm surprised this game is not rated M...so very surprised. I mean there have been plenty of people taking about the "gay porn" (which are actually just really sleazy pictures of an individual guy, not doing anything gay in the least, with very little clothing, and sometimes just a well positioned prop, preventing any visible nudity) you collect in the game, but this is the real, and disturbing, deal. 

So, after finishing that scene, and wondering what the hell was going on, I went off to the final dungeon. I figured that this game would probably have a longer final dungeon than SH did. I was wrong. The final dungeon took about 45 minutes to solve the only puzzle, and then you save, decide which ending you want, and then fight two boss fights. That's it. Kinda disappointing after how long the final dungeon was on SH. Also, having the choice of picking your ending right before the last two battles removes any reason to play through this game a second time. With SH, you decided which ending you got by going through a large series of events in perfect order, or not, to pick the good ending, or the crappy one. I never did see the bad ending to SH because of this. The time it took to complete the required scenes for the good ending, and how early you have to do them before facing the final dungeon, made it too hard to just save before setting up the good ending and then finishing the pre-good-ending-setup saved game. With SH2, you just go through a dialogue, pick which ending you want, and then kill two boss battles, which take less than 30 minutes...hell, if you have a couple seventh keys (let's you get seven rounds of attacks in in one action...you can even pick up one of these in the first of the two boss fights, if you know what you're doing) and a getitup! (turn Joachim, the vampire, into the Grand Papillon or the Great Question, which is is superhero form) item, you can finish the two boss fights in about 10 minutes, max. So, I saw both endings with no real effort. 

At least, in the end, you do get the option for a new game + type of situation. Also, with beating the game, you are allowed to watch, in any order, whatever CGI cut-scenes you had seen during the game...also, it will remember which bonus ones and which ending you have seen. It'll also tell you the title for each scene you can play, which can clear up the matter of which ending is the good one and which is the bad one (they both end with a certain feeling of being a bad ending). Anyway, this theater mode is a nice feature since, while some people seem to say otherwise (like the Tech TV show X-Play), the visuals are really nice and the plot is hella good. 

Anyway, I now have about 6 days before GTA:SA, and I've finished my current obsession, so I'm thinking I'll just wrap up some loose ends with some other games for the next few days. I only saw the good ending on Fable, so I'll probably go for the evil ending...of course that will keep me entertained for a whole 5 minutes (the quickest final boss I've ever seen in a game would be the one for Fable...literally took me 5 attacks to kill it). Then, I guess I'll try to get some closure on my time with Burnout 3. While I had fun with that game, I just feel like I've moved on (which always happens when I play an action based game, including a driving game, right before I play and finish a really good RPG and then try to go back to the action title). 

I guess I'm just being picky since I'm too excited about next week. I'll be taking the week off from my day job, and I'll be playing GTA:SA all week. It's too much for me to sit around idly and wait for. It's like waiting for Christmas as a kid and how the last few days before feel like they will never pass.

Speaking of which, to get serious for a moment, Penny-Arcade is doing their Child's Play charity deal again this year. I think this is a pretty good cause and thought I should just mention it in case anyone who comes here hasn't actually heard of Penny-Arcade (since the info is all over their site, so you'd already know if you've been there). Basically Child's Play is a thing that they have now done for two years (this year and last year) in which they organize a drive to get toys, books, and such to children at 5 hospitals (which is up from last year) around the nation. It's a good cause and I think it's worth a glance, at the very least, if you feel like being in the giving spirit. Anyway, check out the Child's Play site or Penny-Arcade for the details.

Ok, I've been serious long enough, so it's time for some fun...well, five minutes worth of fun...as I beat Fable once again (evil ending this time).


Malik (10/21/04)  

So much for my idea of playing the evil ending in Fable last night. I got in only a bit of Burnout 3 (including the bitchiest final race to a grand prix that I've ever experienced...nothing like crashing when I tap an opponent car...well, nothing is like that except doing it 8 times in one lap, before I hit the restart option). I played enough to go through the hellish sport grand prix; I still don't get why the game started to freak out so much on that last race (you're not supposed to crash when you tap an opponent), but it was bad enough for me to have to keep restarting for about an hour. I will accept a bad race when I mess up, but when the game glitches me to death, that's another matter. Then I was so pissed off that I just gave up with games for the night and watched Boston slaughter the Yankees. 

Anyway, I'm doubting that I'll get around to Fable, once again, tonight. Velveeta has given me an invite to hang out at her work after hours and school some people at some old school GCN games; Smash and Monkey Ball. I'm not completely sure of if I want to take part in this yet, but the thought of some Smash newbs versus my skills does have some promise. It's not that I'm an elitist bastard or anything, but when it comes down to it, during a hellish work week, there are few better ways to relieve the stress than to teach the world to sing, Jiggly Puff style. Also, a couple of the people involved are some of the most irritating people I've ever encountered, so being able to shut them up with a little Jiggly is also a nice bonus. It helps that it was people from this environment who, when the Geek-Asylum first went live about 6 months ago, thought I was some sort of spawn of evil for my vulgar language (I was deemed a "homophobe" for saying "teh gay"...if anything, they should be more offended because 1337-speak is just flat-out annoying and is never called for). 

Anyway, I'm just rambling since there's not much going on in terms of news, etc.  GTA:SA has been pirated, just like Half-Life 2, Doom 3, and Halo 2 have all been.  A sequel for X-Men Legends is in the works. It's all stuff that seems pretty obvious and not really news worthy to me. I mean popular games are going to be pirated (there's no absolute security) and unless it alters the release date (which it hasn't for GTA:SA), I really can't care less. I'm going to buy the game (in fact I already did pay full on it, so I just need to wait for delivery) whether it's been pirated or not. Plus, sequels of popular games tend to be inevitable, so X-Men Legends getting a sequel is not as much news as much as it's just common sense. 

So, I think in the end, despite how much I've complained about this season already, I haven't even touched my biggest complaint. It's not the fact that smaller games, no matter how good they are, will be more likely to fail this season. It's not that there are too many good games at once and no matter what I'm going to be missing out on something (at least while it's still exciting and new). No. It all comes down to the fact that there is no news in a time like this. The only news that exists is about a game going gold, being shipped, or being successful enough to warrant a sequel...woo-pidee-doo! I just want November to pass so there can be some real news again. 

Anyway, I need to do some thinking about joining the GCN party thing with Velveeta. I'll probably go for it, just to take down the annoying people (like the one who thinks he knows everything geek, yet has confused his ass with a hat, if you follow my meaning). Anyway, I need to decide, so I'm out of here. 


Malik (10/22/04)  

First off, as I always (try to) do, I have a new issue of Malik's Bitchings up and running. This week, like I've seen for the last couple of weeks, there really wasn't much news, which makes it hard to bitch. However, I was saved by one special event that truly showed stupidity at it's best; The Serious Games Summit. Let's just say that any event that has a speech about how a spreadsheet can be a game (wish I was making this shit up) is a perfect target for my bitchy nature. 

I ended up hitting that after-hours game deal at Velveeta's work last night. It was pretty good fun, after all. It consisted of only Mario Kart: DD and a small bit of Smash Melee. Things were good, except for one individual who made some rather awkward comments when he continuously got pwned...I always hate playing games with people I don't know too well just because I'm (not trying to sound like an ass, but just stating some facts) as close to a professional as possible (without the tournaments...although, I have done a few in my day), and thus I will win a good number of times (damn, that makes me sound like a conceited ass...); however, with people you don't know too well, it's hard to be completely jovial ("Will this person be offended if I say, 'Booyah! Mother f$#@er!', or 'suck it down, biz-natch!'?") and fun-loving, but then I am silent and look like I'm being an elitist whore. Plus, with this one person I pwned like a mad mo-fo, he said some things that sounded serious, but I'm not sure if he was being serious (and thus an ass-monkey) or if he's really hard at conveying when he's sarcastic. Oh well. At least a few of the gamers were good, competitive, and had fun...which is what geeking out is all about.

The most intriguing part was playing Smash. Since I've played this game, on average, about 10 hours a week since it came out, I am somewhat skilled with about every possible character. So, one stage I had a bit of a fight with Velveeta, who was the only other person who had any formal Smash education. Then, the next stage I was playing against 3 people who never really played before, and I managed to hold my own for one main reason...no one ever listens to the voice of reason. That voice belonged to one of Velveeta's supervisory/boss/whatever type of people who had a great plan of everyone teaming up on me (which is cool since I'm the one who had plenty of prior Smash time and none of these three had)...and everytime he suggested this plan, his potential team mates would smack him around. I didn't even know what was happening. Sadly, we quit the Smash a little early (only two games)...before I was going to make a better suggestion that we could have team play (3 vs. me...I'm so not trying to sound like an ass...I'm just hella practiced...and with some of the skills the other people were showing, it would've been a good match-up). I guess there's always next time.

Nights like last night really make me wish that my work was more down with the geek lifestyle. Like I've said before, I am in the most anti-geek of workplaces, so I can't help but feel a little envy about Velveeta's workplace...at least in terms of their tastes.

Anyway, I'm thinking of picking up an old game or two for the next few days (until GTA:SA hits the stores). I was actually thinking of picking up Pikmin again. I don't mean number two, I mean the original. It's too costly to buy yet another new game this month, and with only a few days before GTA:SA, I figure I might as well give Pikmin another shot (my first attempt was ruined by the 30-day limit and one really bad day that I was dumb enough to save...it was Pikmin Massacre day...I still weep at night about my lost Pikmins...and for the single, final blue that survived as his friends were burned alive). Ok, that's it. I need to come to the rescue of some Pikmin.