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Malik (6/13/05)  

So, if you check out Gamespot, there is more stuff on what will become more and more common each day. Yes, I'm talking about something related to Sony or Microsoft bashing the other side. In this case, it's ATI talking smack about the role of Nvidia and the RSX graphics processor versus ATI's Xenos. I know, this is not in the least bit news. Seriously, will ATI or Nvidia either stop and say, "we f#%$ed up! Our competitor is better and we're teh lamezor!"? No, that won't happen. 

In this case, ATI is saying that their unified pipeline will be less taxing on games, and thus the unified pipeline will make a faster overall processor experience. Is it true? I think that's all, ultimately, up to the developers. I mean whatever the final specs for a system are, it's really up to the game developers on how hard they press to squeeze a little extra power out of the available hardware. 

Also, ATI shed some light, as they see it at least, on the backwards-compatibility thing with the 360. According to ATI, the 360 won't be backwards compatible as much as it will have an emulator that will let the 360 play XBox titles. ATI claims this is due to too many differences in the hardware and programming methods to take advantage of the hardware in the current-generation. So, this emulator will either be included or downloadable for the 360. Either way, that's where this sticky subject is landing. 

Anyway, I wanted to get in a good deal of Rise of Kasai this weekend. I did get some time with RoK, but nearly as much as I would have if the game didn't infuriate me so much with bad AI. I played one level. I couldn't stand anymore. I was placed in a role, as Rau, to snipe the archers, who were the only real threat to Tati, by partner. Well, instead of waiting for me to do my job, Tati liked to run into the best place to be hit by the largest number of archers...and then she would sit there, taking massive damage. Then, when she died, I had to start again from the last save and see her do the same shit again. 

To make matters worse, we both can use health pick-ups, and she can be greedy when she doesn't need health, and stupid when she does. One time she grabbed a max health increase (which also refills one's health) that I needed, despite her health and max health both being higher than mine. That left me struggling for about 30 minutes. Finally I found some health, and then she was badly injured. So, I left the next health pick-up for her and she did the stupid choice; leaving the health behind, dying, and making me repeat the last 15 minutes. 

RoK could've been an awesome game. All it really needed, more than anything, more than good AI, more than the same graphical feel of the original Mark of Kri, was a simple command button. I really would be able to enjoy this button if the GTA:SA-style command system of "stay" and "come" were implemented. Oh well...I'll probably not finish this game, just because of this blasted AI. I will keep trying, but I'm only about half way through, and my patience is running on empty. 

Anyway, I feel sorta crap-tacular today. I'm just going to log out about now. 


Malik (6/14/05)  

Well, it's another day with not a whole lot to talk about. So, you'll have to excuse me if I keep things overly short. 

About the only real news that interested me today is that Nintendo is not planning to support HD on the Revolution. I read it at Gamespot that Nintendo plans to completely ignore the HD owning segment of the geek world. On one hand, this means not a damned thing. Seriously, how many of the average game players own HD? Not all that many. However, at the same time, Nintendo could add support quite easily to at least please these few people. They don't have to design their system to run best on HD, like how Sony and Microsoft are doing, but at least show some support by treating it like it should be; as an option. 

HD is still somewhat elusive, at least for now. The price of an HD TV is a little beyond the affordability of most geeks, or most people of any type. However, the prices are dropping, and the prices are expecting, in particular, to drop by a good amount in the next 2-3 years. During that time, the Revolution will be mid-life. So, why design a system that will probably be a joke after it's been out for only a couple years. Now is the perfect time for Nintendo to realize the mistakes of the past, such as supporting the wrong media (like carts instead of CDs in the N64 era), by taking a little initiative. While I don't think nearly a quarter of the 360 and PS3 owners will take advantage of HD when the systems launch, it's hard to know how this will turn out when the major breakthroughs, that are soon expected with HD affordability, come about. I do know, at least, Nintendo is not being so damned arrogant to pull a Sony with the concept of people having two identical sized side-by-side HD TVs, but support of a single HDTV is a good bonus on a console in this day and age. 

Oh the end, Nintendo has lost touch with technology, Sony has lost touch with reality, and Microsoft is an evil empire...but at least MS will make a good console while the others are either insulting or out of the common man's (or woman's) price range. 


Malik (6/15/05)  

Not a bit of real news today. Well, at least there's nothing interesting. When the majority of news is stuff about a single game going gold, especially a really lame sounding game, I can't help but feel like I don't give a damn. Yes, it looks like we've entered the most confusing time of the year. It's far enough after E3 that major news is not coming around anymore, and all the E3 reviews are done. However, it's too soon in the year for anything interesting. 

I never could understand this trend in the game industry, or any industry for that matter, of having major news and events occur from September (sometimes late August) through May, and then having nothing at all for a whole 3 months. To me, and I do speak as a target audience of this industry, but not as a person in said industry, this seems like a waste of revenue. I mean if some major studio decided to release a major title right about now, it would have close to 100% of the market. The only games being released in this dead period that comprises the Summer month are those that shouldn't be released anyway. It's almost like the opposite of the film industry, which only likes to give us good movies in the summer, and then pushes crap on us the rest of the year. If either industry realized how well the other group does in their off months, then the wacky idea of year-round entertainment could exist. However, that would make too much sense. 

Anyway, look at it this way; last July, Tales of Symphonia was released for the GCN. What competition did it have? Well, there was none from the GCN, but that's because the GCN is pretty devoid of quality year-round. However, in the other consoles there were no good RPGs, or even games of other genres. Now, think about this; how well did ToS do? It sold far greater than Namco could've ever hoped for. It didn't see well for a GCN sold excellent all across the board for standards. So, if such a neglected genre, like GCN RPGs, could do so well in the off-months, maybe it's time for the game industry to open their eyes and give year round entertainment, and not just the lameness that will soon be upon us in the Summer, and the lame-chaos of Autumn. 

I know, and I'm sorry...I was making sense and trying to use logic, while the game industry seems to be devoid of this whole "common-sense" thing. Also, what do I know? I'm only their target demographic, not some know-everything industry genius. Maybe they are right when they say that money wouldn't be spent on entertainment during the Summer...assuming children are not given the freedom of Summer Vacation from school (and thus have plenty of free time to use on games), and that those of us who work for a living don't see entertainment the same way year round...and assuming that the movie industry loses a lot of money from no one wanting to be entertained in the Summer. Of course all of that is wrong, but let's assume... 

Anyway, I'm nearing the end of Rise of Kasai. I still keep feeling like the developers flipped a coin while making each stage of each level. "Ok, it's heads, so this part will be insanely fun!", "...tails...time to make your AI controlled partner "special" again...I feel sorry for the poor saps who play this level". I know it's not how it went, or at least I really hope this is not how it happened, but it very way should have with how this game could bounce so quickly from fun to torture. 

I only have about 4 levels left, and I am aiming to finish the game before the weekend. I am also aiming to then write a review before next Friday. I don't know how this will turn out, but that's my goal. I guess it's all up to how lame, or how awesome, the final 4 levels are. Speaking of which, I won't get this game taken down if I stand around posting all day. 


Malik (6/16/05)  

Before I say anything, I find this link at Gamespot hilarious. Seriously, when a game is this old, and when the "sequel" is out, it's like admitting defeat in one way or another. Mainly it's admitting that EQ2 is a pile of crap is expansions are still surfacing for the original EQ. Anyway, maybe it's the sleepiness, or maybe it's my hatred of EQ, but I find this damned funny. 

Ok, now to something a little less off my usual list of topics. Not that MMORPGs suck, but they just don't get discussed here since I just don't care for them. 

Gamespot had another article of great interest to me. This one dealt with how the game developers, and not the console manufacturers, are looking at the next generation line up. Most of the article starts as a fluff piece, with one guy (Itagaki, of DOA fame) looking forward to Pikmin returning, and the interest of how Nintendo will try to "revolution"-ize the gaming world. Another guy (Hino, at Level-5) was pretty excited about the PS3 and called the XBox 360 devoid of having anything "fresh" and pretty much looked at it like a novelty. Blah, blah, blah. 

The part that I found interesting, however, is what Akitoshi Kawatsu (producer of the SaGa games from Square Enix) said. It quite mirrors what I've been feeling, and it always makes me feel good to know I'm not the only one thinking these things. For one, he said that the hardware specs that have been given don't mean shit. After all, they will all be able to pull off similar levels of gaming quality. However, the one detail that hasn't been discussed all that much is going to be the most important spec; how much memory will be found in each of these machines? As Kawatsu said; 

"When the machines evolve this far, they lose characteristics. As a developer, I'm most concerned about how much memory they're equipped with--the more, the better. The other specs aren't that important. I don't think that their graphic capabilities are too far apart from each other. Of course, their specs haven't been finalized yet, and we won't actually know how difficult it is to develop on them until we try it out," 

I think he's got to be the first voice in the game industry that's actually talked intelligently about the new generation. After all, just like how many geeks are fans/fanboys of a certain system or console maker, the same goes for game developers. I mean it's obvious that Tecmo loves Microsoft with all of the XBox exclusive DOA and Ninja Gaiden type of games. Meanwhile, Capcom loves Nintendo and the GCN with how they released Viewtiful Joe, etc, first on the GCN. 

So, we all need to realize that when some game developer calls the system they will be working with as perfect and all the others as crap, it's only due to a misguided sense of loyalty. In reality, it takes the voice of someone who's not fully aligned, like a Square Enix (who does both Sony and Nintendo, right now, and will be moving on to Microsoft with FFXI) employee to speak in a more neutral voice. 

Plus, when he talked further and said how the additional features, like the USB ports, will be a waste on most gaming households, I think he might have hit the nail, the same one that Sony has been ignoring, right on the head. We, as gaming geeks, are not waiting for our "entertainment supercomputers". We are waiting for gaming consoles to play GAMES on. That's it. Like he said, it was once as easy as putting a game in the machine, and that's all we need. Maybe Nintendo has it best with the simplicity of the Revolution. 

There were some additional blurbs in this article, like how Yuji Naka (Sonic's creator) would like to see Sega games downloadable on the Revolution, that were interesting. I especially think it would be cool if Sega and Nintendo could come to an understanding that would put Sega emulation software on the Revolution. I mean if Sega is now out of the console world, maybe they could share their wealth of games with someone who is ready to relive their glory days. 

In the end, however, it looks like many of the developers who were spoken with have a shared opinion on many things. The 360 should be the easiest to work with, as developers, which should be good for having quicker releases on some good quality games. The PS3 may be overly complicated to develop for, but the ceiling is higher for this console...however, I'm personally betting that with how quickly a new generation tends to come along, and with the difficulty in programming on the PS3, that the ceiling will never be reached...hell, the mid-point between the ceiling and the floor will not even be reached. As for the Revolution...well, no one knows what to expect, but it might have some more support than the GCN since it sounds like just about everyone interviewed seemed to share a strong interest in the enjoyment that this system could bring. 

Anyway, I find this all pretty funny. In the end, here's my ultimate prediction (and this should be fun to look back at in about 2 or so years...or even about 3.5 years when the next generation is making way for the following next-next-gen consoles); The 360 and the PS3 will offer very similar games and technology in said games. It'll be just like the PS2 and the XBox...they both offer very similar games, with XBox shining in FPS, only because the PS2 analogue sticks suck for aiming in FPS games. That same thing will continue with the 360 and PS3. They will both offer the same genres, the same overall quality, and the same numerous crap-tacular titles to fill in the gaps between the smaller number of awe inspiring games. Also, this will be the time for FPS games to enter an overly saturated market. Hell, look at the 360 launch window games...mostly FPS. Also, with the additional support of Japanese developers, 360 will put up a far greater fight than the XBox did. 

As for Nintendo...whatever the controller turns out to be, it will be mainly kid oriented. I hate to say it, since I love Nintendo, but they will be too kid friendly, again. It'll be their permanent role in consoles from the age of the N64 until the day Nintendo folds...which will only come about when the world ends. They will always be a guilty pleasure for adults, and just "a pleasure" for kids. As for games, the Revolution is going to be too heavy on puzzle games, and on games that defy genres (like the plankton "game" for the DS). 

In other words, and to conclude this rambling of mine...the next generation will be just like this generation. Games will matter more than abilities on the consoles. FPS will drown all other genres on the 360 and PS3. The Revolution will have more puzzle and miscellaneous genres than you would ever want...and a lot of them will be aimed for kids. However, most importantly, it will be memory that defines how well a console can be how GTA is better on the XBox, just because it has more memory than the PS2 and thus has a better draw distance. To quote someone...maybe it's a Pepsi commercial..."the future is now". 


Malik (6/17/05)  

Since I'm saying, for the who-knows-how-many-times, that there's no news again, I think it's safe to say that the Summer game season is in full swing. I was hoping for a little more time before it fully hit, but it seems that now is the time for the boredom to begin. 

At least I have some games to keep me entertained when the game news can't do so. I've been hitting a lot of time on Rise of Kasai and Hot Shots Golf: Open Tee. On one hand, I think I could write a review for Hot Shots in an instant. I mean this is not just a game that it's easy to invest large chinks of time into, but it's hella addictive and fun. I've never been much of a golf person, not counting Mario Golf, which shouldn't count since it's so cartoony. However, Hot Shots, which uses a fairly deep golf mechanic system, is really fun to get into. Maybe it's the cartoony coating they stuff on such a deep golf game, or maybe it's because it's an actual golf game that keeps the controls simple enough to enough, but complex enough to get away with some realistic golfing experiences (well, realistic for a video game). Who knows? In the end, I can just say that when I want a quick time killer, I keep finding myself going to Hot, with the PSP sleep option, I can drop it in a minute's notice and not have to worry about how I have 5 more holes I need to play through to finish the current round. 

On the other hand, Rise of Kasai is not quite as addictive or enjoyable. I'm really trying, but I can't finish this game. The worst part, like I've said before, is that this is a great game, with wonderful visuals, great sounds, and an awesome plot...but the AI of your required partner is so damned lame that you'll find yourself dying when you get no assistance, or you'll find the game ending as your partner triggers yet another ambush and dies. 

For example, here's one great instance of what I have had to deal with. Playing as Rau, who's your typical barbarian (big guy, has a sword, axe, staff/spear, and a bow...and likes to throw people into walls and then impale them with his sword to finish the job), while the AI plays Tati (Rau's sister...who's very fast and ferocious, and has some nice mine-like weapons), I was getting ready, with Tati, to ambush a few sentries. If they have enough warning, they will call for help, and then things get ugly. So, I move into position, bow in hand. Two sentries are present; one is walking, the other is standing still. I get ready to shoot the standing one, as soon as the moving one faces away. Then I will kill the moving one, and that will be that. So, I shoot the two sentries, in that order, and am ready to move into the next area. However, Tati decided to place a mine in the middle of the next narrow hallway we must travel. I think she was preparing to kill the moving sentries with it...however, since I killed him, I'm now left with an active mine that I'll have to trigger...which will take about 90% of my health. That would be bad, if I hadn't been injured earlier while trying to save Tati after she triggered an ambush. So, I do the only thing possible...walk right into the mine and other choice. Game over. The last save point was about 15 minutes ago, so now I'll have to do it all over again. 

I should mention that on the second attempt, I waited for Tati to lay the mine that killed me, and she didn't do so. She let me kill the sentries. So, basically, I had to waste about 15 minutes just because Tati felt like doing something stupid one time, but wouldn't do it the second time. Which also shows that it's not poorly devised programs that the AI runs...they actually formulate these stupid actions on the fly. Blah. 

I also had to face the same dragon boss, once again, that kicked my ass so badly a few days back. Only this time it was two dragons and twice the number of guards. I love wasting about 2 hours on retrying a boss since my partner is too stupid to do her job of protecting me while I take out the bosses. At least I only have 3 levels left, and then I'll be free. 

Anyway, I'm not sure how much I'll get accomplished with RoK this weekend. I know I said I was aiming to finish it. However, my schedule has suddenly filled, and I think my only really open time would be better spent watching Batman Begins than to play a small area of RoK over and over as Tati unintentionally sends me to an early grave. 

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