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Malik (12/17/07)

The Seahawks game yesterday has to have been one of the most boring three and a half hours I've ever spent in front of a TV. It ranked up there with Velveta making me watch period piece movies (Jane Austin and all of that stuff) or recent King of the Hill.

It's one thing to watch a football game while hung over. It's another thing to watch a game hung over when the entire game seems to be made up of hung over individuals. For example, the crowd was tiny (a lot of empty seats) and not that vocal, the Seahawks and Panthers both failed to perform for the first three quarters (a football game should not be scoreless for three quarters of the game), and the announcing team was one of the most dull and lifeless announcing teams I've ever heard.

I would go into some details on what I think went wrong, but then I'd just have to name everything about the game. It was a bad game. There is no further analysis needed for this crap-fest. Actually, I could add one more thing;

Alexander is playing two out of every three drives while Morris plays the final third of the drives. After watching what Alexander can do (get smacked around) and what he cannot do (anything constructive), I don't think I need to repeat myself...but I will. Morris is the future for the Seahawks rushing package, and Alexander is the past. This situation needs reversed. I don't mean who is doing good, but rather that Morris needs two thirds (or more) of the playing time while Alexander needs to be relegated to one third (or less) of the drives.

Anyway, I am done talking about this game. The Seahawks should not have lost, and the first rou nd bye week is now officially owned by the Packers. The Seahawks will make it to the playoffs, but if this type of playing remains in January, then the Superbowl run will not last beyond losing to the Vikings.

As for the other recent bit of sports news...the MLB steroid witch hunt. I will not go into this much, but I will say one (and only one) thing. While the NFL was cracking down on enhancing drugs, MLB sat on it's thumbs and tried to ignore the problem. So, what I have to say is this...any past player who used steroids and HGH may seem like a horrible taint on the game, but in reality they were not cheating. Using steroids was definitely immoral and wrong from an ethical position, but MLB (and Bud Selig) were responsible for not making this behavior wrong to the game from a rule perspective. So, if you wish to point any fingers, just keep in mind that it took the US government to make this issue have a rule added to the MLB handbook.

I don't condone steroid usage, but I also despise any organization that tries to ignore a problem rather than tackle it head on. MLB dropped the ball on this, and that's why the 1990's and the early part of this decade will always be the wild west of baseball; lawless and brutal.

On a final note for the day, there's now more to the Harmonix/Activision feud. Previously, Harmonix said that they had a patch for PS3 owners of Rock Band to use the Guitar Hero 3 controller with RB. However, after they supposedly gave the patch to fix this to Sony, Activision supposedly blocked the way and would not allow the patch to be distributed.

I think it's safe to say, with reading between lines about how Activision says "Harmonix and MTV Games/Viacom are unwilling to discuss an agreement with Activision," that Activision is probably asking for money to license their technology. Like I said before (look to last week), this will only prevent some additional hardware sales for Activision. If they did let the patch go through, and didn't demand some "agreement" (read by me: money), then RB owners who skipped GH3 (since RB is the superior game) would still think about buying Activision's controller for a second guitar/bass player when the GH3 controller goes on sale (separate from the game) before the RB controllers do the same. This is, in both money and PR, Activision's loss.

Speaking of that same line of I'm due to get my second replacement RB controller. I'm really getting sick of this. Playing on expert is not easy to pick up when you keep having to change controllers.


Malik (12/18/07)

It is nearly the end of 2007, and many gaming sites are using this as a chance to put together whatever lists they can think of. For example, I saw in Game Informer (which I mainly get since it's part of the Gamestop $10 membership thing that gives me a good amount in savings on their used games) a list of, in no particular order, the best 50 games of 2007 in their January issue. Well, I don't see myself doing that type of thing.

Afterall, one man's 50 best games (or ten best, or however many) is another man's crap. For example, I keep seeing Mass Effect in lists of the best games of 2007 and of the best RPGs of 2007. Either way, I don't see this myself. It's more of a good concept for an RPG and a great attempt to bring FPS (3rd person and 1st person only really differ in what you see on the screen but not in how you interact with it) fans and RPG fans together. It was the perfect idea that was simply not utilized to it's fullest.

I also see talk of Halo 3 being one of the best games of 2007. Halo 3, on it's own, would have been an interesting game. However, after two previous installments, there was nothing new. It was Halo Part Deux: Part Deux. In other words, it was simply a sequel of a game that was simply a sequel of an original idea (FPS may not be original and the plot is corny, but Halo, the first one, did show that FPS can be fun on a console). In the end, Halo 3 was the opposite, but equally as worthless, of Mass Effect. It was once a good idea with a good execution that got stale.

I also see more talk of things like "the best RPG" lists. Well, the sad truth is this; 2007 was not a good year for RPGs. It was a good year for concepts, but also for failed execution. It started in January with Rogue Galaxy, which was a fun game...for the first hour. Then it turned into a typical squad based action RPG. That is to say that RG turned into a game in which your party members loved to commit suicide and you were left holding the bag. It only made it worse when your party members could die, but you could not (unless you wanted a game over). The same exact stuff can be said for how the RPG year ended...with Mass Effect.

Why am I talking about this? Well, on one hand, I simply want to explain why I'm not putting some half assed "best of" list together. More than anything, I feel 2007 did not offer too many games worthy of "best of" lists. It was an interesting year, but hype and quality rarely go hand in hand (exception for 2007: Rock Band). Also, what I call awesome is what another person calls crap. I may have beaten Mass Effect, for example, but I was the only person I know who did...the rest of my (equally excited) friends put down this game in was more that ME was put down in a yawn filled state of boredom.

So, for the next week and a half, which is all that really remains of viable posting days for 2007 (I'm still on the fence about posting on New Years Eve...), I'm going to go over the year, for the most part. Like I usually find in the last part of December, news will be sparse. Afterall, news is hard to find when the news makers are all on vacation. On the other hand, I prefer to be more bitchy in how I look at things. So, no lists. No "best of". No "2007 was teh amazing". Instead, the next couple of weeks will find me going off and ranting about the things that really made 2007 feel like crap to me. The only exception being next Monday (Seahawks vs. Ravens on Sunday) and the following one (I guess I'll post since it'll be Seattle vs. Atlanta on the 30th).

I'm just using today's post as a heads up on what will be filling these pages. So, while you can turn to other sites for why 2007 was so gosh darned cool, here you will find a bit more brutal of a perspective. A perspective that is more grounded in the fact that hype did not make for an awesome time.

It's not to say that there will be no love. Afterall, there were a few really amazing games this year. However, they were a bit more surprising (at least to me). While I starting the year drooling over Mass Effect and Blue Dragon, I ended up having the most fun (not counting Rock Band) with Puzzle Quest and Picross DS...two puzzle games.


Malik (12/19/07)

Before I really get started today, I found a few things pretty cool. First off, good old Reggie Fils-Aime is, like many gamers, sick of Wii bundles. There's not much to really say about this, except it's nice knowing that people with the outlet to speak and are involved with the game systems we all want so badly are actually feeling a lot like consumers...sick of being forced into a choice-less scenario designed to simply drive profits. I hope Reggie does "remind retailers of the strength we have right now" to bring about some change in this if it remains constant.

Also, everyone's favorite joke/vaporware has made another appearance into the world. Yes, a new Duke Nukem Forever trailer was shown, behind closed doors, to the employees of 3D Realms at their holiday party. I still stand by my past thoughts on this game (that it will never be released), but it's great to get a Christmas present from 3D this case, the present is a nice laugh at their expense.

Anyway, to get back to what I was talking about yesterday, I am going to start my week and a half of bitching about 2007. To start it off, I'll go with something easy (I'm short of time today) by talking about the biggest failure of the I see it, at least.

In a year which had so many possible candidates, I think I'd have to go with the less than obvious (at least to myself) but most frustrating; peripherals that are needed (or almost needed) for games that are beyond awesome. In other words, controllers and such that ruined, or at least lessened, the experience of playing some of the most hyped and anticipated games of the year.

If I need to spell it out any clearer, then let me; freakin' musical instrument controllers. I don't just mean the broken-out-of-the-box Rock Band guitars. I mean the drums, guitars, bass pedals (which EA classifies as separate instruments/controllers), USB hub, the occasional mic, and even the Guitar Hero 3 controller.

For the least obvious, the GH3 controller looks good to most. Especially this is true when you look at the RB guitar. However, what some people see (including myself from time to time) is that a controller meant to be in one piece should not be designed to break down into two pieces. Especially when the electronics cover both ends of the single piece. This leads to faulty connections and a great weak point on the overall package that leads to more room for both technical and player-induced break downs of the final assembled item.

I doubt I'm the only one who loses connectivity to one or two buttons from time to time on this thing. If you're in the same boat as me, I do have one bit of advice; try squeezing the two ends together if you find the buttons failing. It will usually leave you set for at least one more song.

Then you have RB...possible the best contender I can think of for my own Game of the Year. However, I cannot help but lose some love for the game when I am now on my second replacement guitar. Add in that the drums have become notorious for failing, the hub is a piece of shit (I don't know anyone who doesn't have at least a minor issue with the hub from time to time), and that the bass pedal is known to break in half from time to time.

There's also the fact that EA has a horrible customer service group. If you have a problem controller, you can find anything from an empty box coming in as your replacement to your replacement coming a couple weeks late and EA giving you a free game to buy your loyalty, and from getting multiple controllers back to getting the wrong controller as a replacement. Then there's the fact that they keep changing their rules and the methods to returning controllers. I have returned my guitar twice and have seen two entirely different package designs for the replacement (one with bubble wrap and a return label that is not a sticker, and the other without bubble wrap as described in the packing instructions and a stick on label for returning it).

When you add in the fact that warrantees will only last so long, I am predicting that in January (after the 60 day hardware warrantee fails for early adopters) that we will either see EA extending the warrantee (like Microsoft with 360 red rings of doom) or there will be one hell of a class action lawsuit. Either way, the shit will hit the fan.

I think the only reason that the GH3 guitar, in all it's stupid-design glory, is not getting more attention is only because of how bad RB has done with this. However, it doesn't stop just there.

You even have an additional level of stupidity with the battle of Activision and EA on using one controller on the other game. Thankfully, the GH controllers are universal on the 360. Sadly, on the PS3, Activision has ensured that, unless Harmonix and EA cough up some cash, that only the RB controller will work on the PS3 version of RB. However, it does go both ways if you look at it. The RB controller may have more buttons, but the basic design is the same as the GH why is the RB guitar 100% not compatible with any version of GH? I'd love to point fingers just at Activision, since Harmonix has done me so well in the past, but when you're looking at the larger picture, we have Activision ("The New EA") and EA ("The Old EA") both facing off on a battle of who has the largest ego.

Maybe it's time for both sides to just whip it out next to a yard stick...and then they both can be sadly embarrassed when they both see that they simply are not measuring up. This is two big companies. But it's two big companies with overly inflated egos that cannot come to face reality. The reality being that they both have f#@$ed up more than their fair share of times.

Anyway, now that I have my second replacement RB guitar, it's time to send in the old one and to enjoy the new one...for a few hours...before I fill out another online submission for a replacement.


Malik (12/20/07)

In continuing with my current concept, I have more things to get off my shoulders about the last year.

In particular, the direction that games have started to go as seen through the eyes of someone who was bored in 2007. Yes, there were some awesome games (I'll name Rock Band, once again, since it's the greatest game I think I've ever seen), but there were some that just went to crap.

In particular, I think one genre has been hit harder than any others...the RPG genre. If you look at where RPGs have gone in the last year, it's pretty clear that something is just off.

The most obvious thing that seems to have changed is that standard turn based RPGs (those of you who hate turn based RPGs can kiss my ass for all I'm concerned) are on a major decline. Think back to the previous year and you will probably only be able to name one, or maybe two if you're really thinking hard, turn based non-action RPGs...or at least new ones (not ports of older ones to the DS, GBA, or PSP). Yes, turn based games can be dull...but only when they are not done right. I bet most RPG fanatics will still, even if they dread turn based games, think back fondly to some past Final Fantasy or Dragon Quest game. Maybe it could even be a game from the Suikoden franchise or the Wild ARMs world. I know I think fondly of all of those franchises, as well as Shadow Hearts and almost any other quality turn based affair.

It's one thing if turn based RPGs were phased out for something more advanced. I mean games like Rogue Galaxy, Mass Effect, or Eternal Sonata have great potential...but they also all have failed hard at giving a quality experience. I know I just angered a lot of fans of these games, but the truth is that hype and content rarely go hand-in-hand.

RG was nothing short of a button mashing affair that suffered from action-RPG syndrome. That is to say that it was either way too hard, or you gained a couple of levels and the current area was way too easy. There was no happy medium. Hell, even some enemies would not take any real damage at a given level, but when you gained one level they started to die in a single hit. I don't know if the difficulty of ES was the same, but I do know that the battles in the demo were the truest example I've seen of button mashing boredom. It's one thing to integrate some action elements, but it's another thing when you just replace selecting attack with mashing the A button. This is not what an RPG should be about. It's no longer relevant if you have a strategic or creative mind, it's more about how much stamina your right index finger has.

Mass Effect went a slightly different route and integrated two different genres quite well. It did have third person shooter combat within an RPG world and dialogue system. It suffered from another obvious issue in many current was rushed to the market. If you can play through that game and not think that the game was either too short or it was forcefully lengthened via laughable side quests that forced you into true monotony, then you must have a wonderful existence filled with bliss (for ignorance, or fanboy-ism, is bliss).

The only RPG I can think of from 2007 that captured any attention that seemed to have most of it's pieces in place was Blue Dragon. It did contain random monsters (to an extent) and turn based combat. However, what it really had was a fleshed out game that did not feel forced in length and did not rely on the player being a button mashing master.

Sadly, Blue Dragon fell apart in the end as well. In particular, the game was easy. Most RPGs can be argued to be easy since you ultimately can make most RPGs easier by just grinding a few extra levels. However, Blue Dragon required no grinding to become easy...the monsters were just too weak, even if you rushed through the game. It did not help that the hard mode was turned into downloadable content that did not surface until a few months after the game was launched. Unless you felt like, at the time BD was released, making a Hong Kong gamer tag, you were kept from what should have been the default difficulty.

Even games that did not come to the US (or sometimes did not come out anywhere) in 2007 had problems. That is to say that Dragon Quest has started to see some ports and updates to the DS. DQ4-6 are all scheduled for release (or are released) in Japan with no solid guess on if they will ever see the US. Then you have DQ9, which, as of one year ago, I was more than excited for. However, that was before it was revealed that the game was not going to be a true DQ game. The entire system and engine were being replaced with enough changes to merit it a sub name (like "Dragon Quest Monsters").

Most of all, the worst part of RPGs this year was the hype machine. If you look at some of the most hyped games, then you see why there was so much disappointment (at least from gamers who appreciate quality within the quantity). Rogue Galaxy was a brand new idea from the same brilliant developer who gave us Dark Cloud 2...but they ended up just selling out with repetition. Two Worlds was supposed to be the next Oblivion...and it was just a laughable beta that could never even show why it was worth developing or publishing in the first place. Mass Effect was supposed to be the next big thing from the minds that gave us KOTOR with even more options and outcomes from our decisions within the game...and it was a broken tactical squad shooter, with a miniature main quest, a forced on set of side quests, and no effects being felt from even the most galaxy changing of decisions. Blue Dragon was the first game from Sakaguchi for Mist Walker and it was going to bring about a new era of classic styled RPGs...but it was so easy that it become boring, and contained a plot that took too much time to get rolling. Even Super Paper Mario was supposed to be a new blending of RPG greatness (via past Paper Mario games) with classic Mario platforming...and instead it was a fun platformer with annoying, long, and dull fetch quests and too much damned dialogue breaking up the fun.

2007 was, without a doubt and in my opinion, the most disappointing RPG year I have ever experienced. As an RPG fanatic, I like to buy the quality RPGs and keep them for all time. I never sell a good RPG, since a good one will always find a place in one of my old systems when I'm going through a gaming drought. I think 2007 is the first year I can think of that has found every RPG I've bought being traded in to Gamestop for credit...with the exception being Mass Effect (which has not been traded in yet...I'll wait until I'm ready to put a down payment on Smash Brawl to trade it in).

The only good thing that can be said about the RPG genre in 2007 is that some risks were made that may pay off in the long run (assuming Bioware listens to it's fans, ME2 can become a truly amazing game). That, and the fact that RPG elements are finally sneaking into more and more games, in all the right ways. Rock Band includes the Band World Tour mode that is, if anything, a band RPG.

At least there's always 2008...


Malik (12/21/07)

I think another major issue that took place in 2007 was related to games being delayed. GTA4, Super Smash Bros. Brawl, Rock Band (which originally was rumored for an earlier release in November), and a good amount of those games which escape my mind right now. There were plenty of delays in 2007, and there were a fair amount of games that still were able to live up to their original release dates.

RB, SSBB, and GTA4, as well as the other delayed games are not my problem. My problem is with games like Guitar Hero 3, Mass Effect, Blue Dragon, Beautiful Katamari, and some other games that SHOULD have been delayed.

I, like many other gamers, do not care for a game being delayed. It only makes me sad to not have something I've been hyped for as soon as possible. However, I'd rather have a delayed game that's as close to perfect as possible than to have a game not delayed and have it obviously suffer because it could have used another month or three in development.

A strategic delay can be an awesome thing. For example, with SSBB, the game's site has been updated with a flood of information. If the game's original release date (back at the start of this month) was met, I imagine a lot of the goodies we have seen on it's site would have been unable to have been included. Afterall, that would have knocked over two months off it's development cycle. So, while the thought of playing Smash over my vacation filled December would have been awesome, it will be better to play Smash, to it's fullest, when it finally comes along in February.

The same is probably true for GTA4. Not as much information is out there for GTA4 as there is for Brawl, but I'm willing to bet that the game we'll see in 2008 is a lot different than the game we could have seen a few months ago. If a delay is going to offer some more solid of controls, a better aiming system (which 3D GTA games have always needed), more cars, more weapons, more missions, and maybe a more refined plot, then I'm all for it.

For some reason (Christmas shopping season) developers and (especially) publishers have this idea that games must be ready for Christmas shopping or they will not live up to their fullest potential in sales. This idea is archaic and backwards. Why? Because everything comes out in November as it stands. Look at the big name games that came out in time for the holiday season...Halo 3 (which is barely in the early holiday season as opposed to late summer), Mass Effect, Call of Duty 4, Mario Galaxy, BioShock (another early season game), Assassins Creed, Guitar Hero 3, Rock Band...the list can go on for a long time.

Now look at the games that will come out and make a major impact in February. We have Smash Brawl, GTA4 (it's sometime in the first quarter, supposedly, so I'll call it February for sake of making my point harder to defend...I know it's probably more like April, but bear with me), and...ummm...I don't think there's much else right now. What does this mean for these two delayed games? They will not only sell better than anything else in their release months, but they will probably sell better than they would have against such strong competition. If they were out for Christmas shopping, they would have had a push from consumers needing to buy gifts, but they also would have had strong competition. The competition would have possibly offset and even reversed any push that the season would have given them.

On the other hand of the spectrum, you have games that need to have gone through a delay. GH3 had issues with sound on the Wii (mono, despite being listed as Dolby), and there was no co-op quick play (unless you played on a system with room for updates). You couldn't even play the boss battle music as a song without facing the bosses...unless you have a download friendly system that got a download after the game was out for a while.

Mass Effect was hyped to be long and amazing. Instead the actual game was short (it can be beaten, without too much rushing, in around 5 hours), some promises were cut (like having your actions actually effect anything), your squad AI was nerfed (you were, supposedly, going to be able to issue individual commands and even take control of your allies), and the side quests were the worst example of a game needing my most dreaded game feature; the random dungeon generator. On top of that, you had a clunky inventory system that was obviously not play tested, dialogue that usually equaled the same thing being said despite having five or so options at some points on what you wanted to say, and some controls that were more than a minor annoyance (Mako anyone?).

I didn't get too much time with Assassins Creed, but I could even see the need for some delays there. The game was fun and amazing...but it got old quickly. The game needed something to have been done to keep your final assassination as fresh and amazing as the first...not just a place to live out repetition.

Even my beloved Rock Band could have used a delay. Why? Well, the software may be awesome (except for how you cannot change what instrument a character plays...Harmonix, ever hear of Dave Grohl or Pickles?), but the hardware is complete shit. Ok...that may be a little overly harsh. However, while the design is solid, the quality is shit. These things break like they were made of glass. So, why not have a little delay in order to do some QA on the hardware? It would have probably served EA and Harmonix better than having constant streams of angry fans who will, unless the warrantee is extended beyond 2 months, raising a class action suit against EA.

In fact, both Rock Band and GH3 needed a delay for another good reason; if you want to rock on Rock Band on the PS3, or play GH3 on the Wii or PS3, can you? Yes. Can you play multiplayer, comfortably (Wii-mote doesn't count as a comfortable guitar controller on it's own)? No. I know that you cannot buy the controllers separately since they needed to divert all hardware to the release bundles, but this leaves co-op and battle modes out of the question. It would have been better, to me at least, if any system that did not have an already available guitar controller (360 and PS2 are the only matches here) had seen the game delayed so that the best feature of both games (co-op) could have been ready from day one. I may be alone in this, but when GH3 has several locked songs that co-op unlocks, and when RB has massive product failures, you want some backup plan to get as many people into the action as possible.

Anyway, I am glad that some games were delayed. It's a risky move, since it does anger your potential fans. However, when the delay only offers to improve the game, give more content, and maybe allow for the game to not be broken, it's a good thing. It's an even better thing when popular games are delayed out of November (when the most popular games come out) and sent to a time around February...when the gaming community is most in need of a quality game.


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