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Malik (11/6/06)  

I have several e-stores that rank up there as some of my favorite businesses to show my loyalty to. One of the highest ranked, in my eyes, was always They offered some great prices on one hell of a wonderful selection of imports. Everything from movies to games to toys and even electronics (they are the people I got my region-free DVD player from).

Well, my impression of them changed after Friday night. They joined the Wii pre-order party, but unlike most places, they were not too welcome at this party. In fact, they might have lost a good deal of respect from various attendees of this party.

Why? Well, listing the North American Wii as having a $500 list price and selling it for $450 may be a very good reason. Also, before you get excited and plan to pre-order from them, let me mention that $450 is not for the Wii and some other games and maybe an extra Wiimote or two. No. $450 is the price for the system and nothing else.

I can see why Yesasia did this obvious price gouging. After all, the management probably saw how an eBay auction can go for $500 for a pre-order Wii. It's a great way to make extra money. However, most eBay people are not setting $500 prices, but rather letting the potential customers set the insanely high prices through their bids. Also, most of these auctions will not leave a bad impression in the customer's mind, since most people don't do repeated business with eBay auctioneers. However, Yesasia is established enough to form a loyal customer base...and these customers will remember the price and the obvious attempt by Yesasia to make a quick buck at their expense.

For shame...for shame...I know I may be ending my loyalty to Yesasia since it's obvious that making an easy buck is more important than making a customer happy.

On a different note, I watched Borat on Saturday. I won't go into too many details, since you either know what the movie is about and have probably seen it, or you just wouldn't be interested. I will say that this is one of the best movies I've seen in a good several years. The only other movie I've seen this year that enters the same level of quality entertainment was Jackass 2. I cannot recommend either of these movies enough.

While I'm saying some of the strong impressions I've found this weekend, I'll throw in another. It's less about having fun as a geek and more about protection...

My license for my CA Virus Protection Suite expired on Friday for my main desktop. When they were E-Trust, I had no problems, and I've been a loyal customer to them ever since I first added Windows XP to my household. I've never had a single problem...that I knew of. Well, I had to install their software from scratch to renew my license. ~$40 dollars and a reboot later, my PC was toast. I started to get error messages every time I closed an error message...with the first one appearing about 3 seconds after boot up. I'm not talking about some "exception code" errors. These were "unstable system" and "critical system error" messages that followed one sluggish boot up cycle.

At the same time, my 60 free trial of Norton anti-virus, which was a pre-installed deal in my laptop, had expired. Well, I was planning to purchase a license for CA for my laptop...well, long story short, that was not in the works. So, I removed Norton and downloaded, to both PCs, Avast's FREE anti-virus software. A quick reboot later and I found a couple of interesting facts.

My PC was only unstable with CA's software, so I am no longer going to send them any of my business. Secondly, after putting Avast on my laptop and doing the standard virus scan at boot up, Avast found three or four adware programs hidden on my PC that Norton never saw...and my boot up cycle now takes about half as long as it did in my Norton days. So, in the end, Norton and CA are not touching my PCs again. I'm a loyal customer when someone does me right, but this type of bullshit, from supposedly experienced companies, is not going to be tolerated.

While I'm on the note of being pissed off about iPod, which I got about 10 months ago, is completely f$#@ed. The HDD is corrupting itself and now I can play only about 25% of the songs without causing the damned thing to lock up. Hopefully it will keep playing those few good songs until I find a good alternative.

I also want to give another shout out to a company that has me mildly pissed off..."mildly" can that word and "pissed off" share a sentence. Let me correct that. I am pissed off at Red Octane. Not the game developmental/publishing end of things, but the e-store side of their operations.

While a good number of retail stores have broken the Guitar Hero 2 street date (some Wal-Marts and Targets were reportedly selling GH2 in the middle of last week), Red Octane's online store is f#@$ing with their customers. The tage line on the GH2 listing on RO's site says "We will ship out your order as early as possible so you will be one of the first to receive this product". Really?

Here's the reality of the situation; I, along with a large number of GH fans, purchased GH2 on RO's web site because of this claim. It was assumed that the game would ship early enough for it to make it to it's destination by tomorrow (the official release date), and maybe even a little early...making RO purchasers some "of the first to receive this product". Instead, they delayed shipments to people who used their online store. Worse than that, they even, according to my UPS tracking information for my GH2, "rescheduled" the delivery date to be on Wednesday. The game was given to UPS with enough time to get to me for tomorrow's release date, but it was purposefully rescheduled to be delivered on Wednesday. More than that, I have to wonder why the f#@$ did I have to pay for 3-day delivery if they are holding back the delivery date?!

On the bright side, I did not have to pay sales tax (living in Washington, sales tax can become a problem), but I did pay double the sales tax on an expedited shipping means. So, I will get the game later than a regular retail store customer, far later than some Wal-Mart customers, and I paid more for it. In the end, I just have one thing to with CA and their virus protection suite that crashed my computer, I will NOT buy from Red Octane's online store again. Period.

Anyway, it's easy to get caught up in this storm of negativity. Throw in severe rain storms (and flood and high wind warnings), and negativity is an easy thing to embrace. So, to end on a brighter note, I just want to give a shout out to my D&D (I am a geek...D&D and geek go hand in freakin' hand) crew. Knowing you all are having a blast is definitely a bright spot on this dreary and dark Seattle day.


Malik (11/7/06)

The weather is still dark and cloudy in Seattle, the rain keeps coming, and I feel like crap. Nothing like bad weather to really made one feel uninspired and unexcited. It's like forcing oneself into a coma despite life still continuing in the background.

On the other hand, a nice heavy rain does make for some fun football. I was happy to see the first half (especially the first quarter) of the Monday Night Football game between my precious Seahawks and the hopeless Raiders. Too bad the second half felt more like Seattle was trying to run down the clock as the defense and the offense both became rather offensive to the senses.

I just feel a sense of dread for next Sunday. The Seahawks will face their bitter rivals, the Rams, in a game that is lacking Hasselbeck, a good defense (unless Holmgren does something to whip things back together, and the slim chance of no Alexander. It will not be a pretty game, but since the 12th Man will be in the house, it could still turn out to be rather unexpected. Plus, even if the Seahawks do lose (::knocking on wood::), they still won't fall out of contention since they will simply be tied with the Rams. Also, if things turn out pretty good, the schedule for the rest of the season is not exactly the most awe-inspiring one the Seahawks have ever faced.

To shift gears, on November 22 the 360 Live Marketplace will start carrying more HD videos and TV shows. I really wish I could be excited about this. I really do. However, when you're talking about up to 5 GB per movie and a HDD that can handle only about 13GB total of user files, it will not be a pretty site. Throw in the fact that a 1GB demo can take a few too many HOURS to download and it will just turn into one ugly mess.

I think, more than needing a better rate of transfer, Live needs something to handle this type of idea. Either we need a way to hold more files (ala a bigger HDD) or we need a method to transfer files to a bigger location, once they have been downloaded. The first method is not my favorite of concepts, since it would leave me with a wasted 20GB piece of junk. Considering that Microsoft was not insightful enough to offer a good HDD at the 360 launch (20GB last year was still pathetic), it would be really weak for them to even consider a larger HDD that will still be over-priced compared to what a PC has to offer...which is basically the same HDD architecture, but with a different case and connector.

The file transfer concept would be sweet...but it would also allow Microsoft to face one of two questions. Do you put it in a format that PCs can somehow not handle and allow a transfer to a USB portable HDD or do you allow the potential of piracy? Both options will eventually lead to the same final destination; the files coming to the PC. Even Apple failed to keep their iTunes songs locked, so it's just a matter of time...

...unless Microsoft does nothing to tackle this situation. This is the most likely scenario. We will have the option to download 5GB files, and we will have 13 GB to store them. That's it. Like something but don't have the room to keep it? Then you'll possibly face the risk, in the future, of having to kill 8 hours to download it all over again when you want it back.

Now this is a lose-lose situation if I ever saw one in the works. At least Microsoft still have about 2 weeks to come to some sort of solution before we watch them put their foot in their mouth.

Speaking of a lame situation...still no word back from Red Octane on their greed/weird behavior that they decided to show me with my Guitar Hero 2 pre-order. It shipped with enough time to get to me today, but they informed UPS to "reschedule" my delivery for tomorrow...just keep that in mind this evening while you possibly enjoy playing the latest in rawk-goodness and I sit and wonder why I was charged for a delayed 3-day shipping.

Blah. At least I have about an hour of Tales of the Abyss to enjoy before I'm done. It won't last long enough, but it will be fun while it lasts.


Malik (11/8/06)

I finished Tales of the Abyss last night. It did take a whole one more hour of I figured. Which would have been really cool if Red Octane didn't screw me over with their failure to make me "one of the first" to try Guitar Hero 2. I'll get over it, with time...namely, when the game is finally in my hands. However, I still await an explanation of why I paid so much for shipping to only get the thing so damned late.

From the sounds of it, several of my friends are definitely enjoying GH2 (I hate you guys :P). I wish I could comment, but I simply cannot. I'm not angry...but I'm not happy.

Speaking of not happy, Dave Karraker of SCEA says he'd be upset if he had a core 360. Since the core owners will not be able to take advantage of the new HD videos and TV shows that will show up on Live. However, if one of these people wanted to have an "entertainment supercomputer", I imagine Mr. Karraker would be happy to suggest a PS3. However, I'd like to say that if you have a core 360 and no HDD, then this type of content was probably not on your mind when you bought a "gaming console" to begin with.

I'd also like to say something to Mr. Karraker; you, sir, can shut the f#@% up. I've had enough of these attempts by Sony employees to start flame wars with Nintendo and Microsoft fans and employees. You don't have a 360 and are working for a company bent on taking down the 360, and therefore you should not have the moral right to call yourself enough of an expert to say what a 360 owner should feel. Secondly, unlike what Sony and Microsoft employees think, most console owners are here for one simple reason; to play games.

A gaming console is meant for games above all else. If you throw in a cookie like HD videos, then you're only adding a cookie to the final meal. It's a nice little bonus, but it is not what you came for. Think of it like a good Chinese meal; you have several courses. There's the appetizer, or the backwards compatibility. You didn't come for this to be your meal, but it's a nice little bonus and you'll probably pick at a few egg rolls or BBQ pork (mmmmmm....BBQ pork....). Next comes the soup. This would be the Live Arcade games. You'll sample them and you'll enjoy a bowl or two, but you will probably only have a little. Some people fill up on soup and end the meal there; these are the casual gamers/eaters.

Next up comes the main courses. You will have a large number of quality items. You'll have some chow mien, some fried rice, some kung-pow, a little Mongolian Beef, and a few other things. These are your genres of $50-$60 DVD titles. I'm talking about RPGs, FPSs, platformers, sports titles, puzzle games, and whatever else you may want. Some will imitate the soup (maybe you also ordered a full sized soup for your main course), and some will be entirely unique. However, in the end, this is what the bulk of us eaters/gamers are here for.

To finish up things, you will now get your fortune cookie. This is the downloadable videos, the game trailers, the music videos, and all of that crap. You will enjoy it, and you may be sad if it didn't come your way, simply because you expect it. However, if you came to the 360 Restaurant with the cookie in mind, then you have made a major mistake. If we wanted this stuff, we would have gone to DVD Cookies or to Internet-Ready PC Bakery. However, we came for the main meal and anything else is a bonus. While we may feel entitled to these bonuses, it is not what we PAID for.

Did you come for the appetizer? Not really. Did you come for soup? Nope. Did you come for the cookie? Hells no. However, while they are still inactive in the next-gen gaming world, Sony is going to tell you that you are being screwed by the 360 Restaurant. Well, here's the one fact that Sony doesn't want to say, but will soon SHOW us all; the PS3 Plaza (they try to hide it, but they are still in the same line of business...despite claims of selling "entertainment super-consumables") will be almost identical to the 360 Restaurant and it will only differ from Wii Love Food by having an extra shiny coat of paint. They are all offering the same general service and the same general "food". In the end, it's more of what price tag you'd be willing to pay and how many insults you want throw in your face by the management (I hear Mr. Kutaragi of the PS3 Plaza is especially vile and nasty with his tongue).

To step back into reality, the HD videos will not be what you buy a 360 for. I know for a fact that I will probably spend, at most, 1% of my time with the 360 not playing games. I bought it for games and gaming related goodies (game trailers, etc). I never bought one for the potential video services, the web conferences with video, or whatever other things we see in the next 5 years. For Sony to claim otherwise only shows that they have lost touch with their audience; gamers. At least with a slightly lower price point and Pop-Cap games, Microsoft can include casual gamers in their target audience. Sony doesn't even really have that, so they can only call the hardcore gamers as their target and to claim that they would want anything else is to show that they simple have lost touch with reality.

To take a quick look at the only people who know what gamers want, the Wii will be bundled by EB/Gamestop on Thursday. I have to find it funny that Gamestop is only offering one bundle with a potential $449 dollars worth of crap thrown in with the system. It's a given that $250 is the price of the Wii. However, the rest of this bundle seems both unusual in price and to be worthless to most gamers. Especially, however, I take offense at Madden being included. I am just sick of this game and of EA Sports in general...but...I am slightly interested in the Madden Wii prospects...I would be interested, and willing, to spend $700 on the Wii through a bundle if one thing was allowed; the picking of what goes into the bundle.

I guess the real joke will be in when there are enough Wiis to be found on store shelves shortly after January starts. Either get what you want five weeks later or waste your money on games you'll never play? I think I know what I'll pick.


Malik (11/9/06)

I found this rant (interview) of Nolan Bushnell's to be very interesting. Considering he's someone who has made some brilliant ideas (Chuck-E-Cheese, Atari, and mother f#@^in' PONG!) as well as some boneheaded mistakes (his exclusive deal with Atari that removed him from the video game world), this is a man who I think can give some good insight into many gaming world developments.

In this case, he has a nice take of the PS3. In particular, he has some issues with the price, the launch numbers being slashed, and the entirely arrogant way in which Sony presents themselves to both the public and to the development world. So, when Mr. Bushnell says that Sony has "shot themselves in the foot", I like to think could be taken as a master speaking to a student (Sony).

I also have to agree with his take on Sony. When Sony acts like the hottest shit in town, and when they keep jerking around customers, it should be noted that they are indeed shooting themselves in the proverbial foot. It's times like this that not only show us to appreciate our elders, but also that it's a true shame that Mr. Bushnell is such a master of shooting one's feet...since we'll never have him directly in the gaming world again (unless he becomes a pawn of Atari).

On a different note of shooting one's feet; I received some feedback from Red Octane on my Guitar Hero 2 taking longer to reach me, on the West Coast, than it took to reach many gamers (who used the same, or worse shipping methods) on the East Coast. Side note: Red Octane ships from California.

I won't go into the details too much, but I will say one thing...OK a few things. First off, I love Red Octane's products. That goes without saying. After all, no matter how I feel about their online store, the GH franchise is freakin' sweet.

Secondly, I did not receive any satisfactory explanation of why the game took longer to reach me than it took to reach a good deal of other gamers in farther areas. I also did not hear why my copy was sent to UPS after many others were, nor why UPS had listed my game as being directed to be delivered a day later than it should have been. Nor did I hear why the total transit time was five days (not counting weekends) for three day delivery. I also did not hear any word of what most proper e-stores would do in this situation (refund the shipping price due to their blatant stupidity).

I did hear one thing, however. On the note I started this post with, Red Octane showed me some of the infamous Sony-style arrogance that Bushnell was talking about. The response I received, which was well after their expected reply time frame for customer support (8-16 business was more than another one of those windows of time...), was one of the most arrogant replies I've ever heard from a customer support email. In fact, I think the reply was cut off before the final line, so I'm guessing it falls into the "now proceed to kiss our feet or ass...your choice since we know you'll feel compelled to do both because we are you deity".

I'll continue to buy Red Octane products, assuming they continue to make GH quality products. However, I can say, with 100% total conviction, that I will never buy from their online store again. If they stop selling GH products, except exclusively through their e-store, then I'll wait to buy it from a more friendly and reliable place...such as the ambiguous and sleazy world of eBay.

Also, on the note of further arrogance; I watched the big final episode of Lost before the show resumes in February. This episode was promised to be the best episode of the season. Well, I'll avoid spoilers, but I'll add that to pick this episode apart from any others this season as the best would be like having six or either piles of crap and deciding which of the feces samples is the best. I honestly would never make that decision...since I'll lose no matter what I pick.

The episode included only one thing I found entertaining; Jack growing some major balls. Beyond Jack acting more like someone in his position (a prisoner who's tired of being held captive), this episode was a two dimensional as the rest of the episodes this season. There was more vague bullshit about "I think was meant to happen!!!11!!!11", more of a back story I didn't care about (Kate's), and more of the usual of nothing being answered. Yippee...?

At least, despite having a nice day of annoyances going on, GH2 is one hell of a great game...almost. It's fun, it's addictive (like the first one) enough to make me play for over 4 hours without a single break, and the music selection is nicely balanced. Best of all, the encores are really fun to get involved with as you watch the stage go dark and the audience shouts for more!

My problem, however, falls into the covers for some of these songs. Trippin' on a Hole in a Paper Heart sounds like it was done my a band more accustomed to playing anything besides Stone Temple Pilots (the vocals blow and the instruments lack any punch). The vocals on Monkey Wrench made me want to cry in shame. It just sounded like the quality of cover bands used in the first GH (which were mostly good...except the Sum 41 and Incubus covers) was tossed away like a pile of trash. In exchange, we have more songs, but they sound far less authentic.

I also have an issue with how there are a few too many covers of wussy rock. I'm sorry, but the level that has Jessica and that cover of Heart almost made me quit when I realized I'd have to beat one or the other (I picked Heart...and my ears still are in pain from the wussiness). The overall selection of music is fun, but there's just a few too many songs that don't exactly inspire "rawk" feelings. In fact, I can't help but wonder if they were set on including certain bands; why pick some of their lowest and least rock inspiring songs?

Oh well. I played for over 4 hours, non-stop, and felt like crap when it was done (my wrists and legs were all killin' me) that must be a definite sign that this game is worthy of continuing the GH legacy. Now I just need to try some co-op (which will wait for tomorrow night...).


Malik (11/10/06)

Well, it's another day in paradise in Western Washington. The rains are not letting up and the winds are finally starting to pick up to annoying and unsafe speeds. I think there's been about 15+% of this year's total rainfall since Monday morning...despite how this region had it's second longest stretch of rainy days, ever, covering a good deal of January. I say all of this because it explains my state of mind...I am going crazy being surrounded by a wall of water...not to mention a floor of water.

The Gamestop/EB pre-order bundles for the Wii came and went last night. Around 5PM (Seattle time) the pre-orders began, and only 10 or 15 minutes later they were done. I was almost interested in this bundle pre-order thing. Between the fact that it had only games that I would play (despite Madden not being my thing, the Wiimote may make it into a fun game even for this Madden hater) and the fact that I am the type of early adopter that console launches thrive from, it would have been a good chance to pick up a Wii.

True, the SD card, the GI subscription, and the extended warrantee were all a big rip-off that totaled around $100 of the bundle price. In fact, I think the warrantee and the SD card that were "offered" in the bundle are some of the biggest scams I've seen. At least in the greater Seattle area. For one thing, a 1GB SD card for $59.99 is like offering a 20GB HDD for $100...except, unlike the 360 HDD, the SD card for the Wii only differs from a normal digital camera/PC/whatever SD card by having the Wii name printed on the front. It's the same architecture of the 1GB SD cards one could find online for $15...hell, a 2GB would cost far less than the Wii branded ones. It's like with the special PSP logo memory duo cards offered from Sony and SanDisk...except SD cards are even cheaper at their basest of prices.

As I mentioned, the extended warrantee is a waste. Nintendo, unlike Microsoft and Sony, are famous for their good customer service skills. I don't know what service plan is included, out of the box, for the Wii. However, I imagine that it's somewhere in the neighborhood of many months to a full year. Throw in the fact that authorized Nintendo service centers are common place, and that the Redmond Nintendo headquarters is one hell of an awesome place to visit if your system dies (they let you play games and check out a mini-museum of Nintendo history while you wait), and this wasted money that Gamestop/EB required in their bundles is truly that...wasted money.

I am still determined to get a Wii around particular, I aim to still get one at a reasonable price, and I am sure as hell not going to camp on a Sunday morning in the middle of my vacation (starting the previous Friday at 3 PM). I still have options...any real geek who is a collector of game systems should have options for everything. Some options have imploded (like pre-ordering at a physical store), and some have exploded (like paying $459 at However, that's when I have my ace in the hole.

Speaking of which, here's another fun link or two. Yes you are seeing those right, assuming you clicked and were terrified that a business not on eBay could charge over $1199 for a PS3. Also, you're wrong if you think they simple forgot to mention what games are included in this bundle. It's no bundle. $1500 for the 60 GB PS3 from Japan. Yes, there are always higher prices with importing...but not that high...especially since the Japanese PS3, in either flavor, is cheaper than the corresponding US versions.

Between the rain and the price gouging and the camping, this will be one hell of an interesting November. At least there's enough good games to go around, between Gears of War and Guitar Hero 2, plus Zelda (assuming you get a Wii and you're not one of the GCN faithful who were betrayed by Nintendo's delay of that version). This is the type of season the game industry coming in from all sides and not a sign of it letting up. It's like a rain storm for them as well...but the rain is all of our money.


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