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Malik (7/11/05)  

Just when I thought my week was starting pretty badly (I always believe the number of cars that almost hit me on the way to work on a Monday is a good sign of how crappy my day and week will turn out), I saw this article at Gamespot. As one of the people who really did love the original Fable, I cannot begin to say how awesome it is that Fable: The Lost Chapters will actually make it to the XBox...and for a cheap as hell $19.99. 

When the original Fable came out, the game was pretty short. I could complain, but I still got a nice 25 or so hours from it (seriously...if I'm not going to complain about a 2 hour movie costing $20, then why would I complain when a game gives me over 5 hours of true fun for $50?), if I complain, I'd just be acting like an ass. Anyway, it was announced earlier this year that the PC version would come with extra material. That is when I could complain. I mean I had awaited "Project Ego" (the original name for Fable) for a long time, and had always known of it as an XBox game. To hear that the non-original audience would get more shit...well, that is not cool and worthy of complaints. 

Anyway, it's all good now that the larger game is XBox bound later this year. I know that I already spent $50 on the original Fable...but I think trading in a game or two for the remainder of the game will be well worth it. 

On another Gamespot related note, their latest Rumor Report has some obvious things that I find funny. First off is that people are acting like it's a surprise that it's nearing (we're not there quite yet, however...) the end of the time when someone can order a 360. Is this supposed to surprise anyone who saw the mayhem of the PS2. Seriously...consoles are big business, and new consoles are bigger business. However, I'll offer some advice. 

If you want a 360, then you better order it now. It's that simple. It a guarantee right now if you go down to a game store...well, almost a guarantee. If you wait, then you'll probably have a harder time. However, there is always one piece of good news (if you're the type who likes to suffer pain and humiliation); you can wait until the day of and order online from most places and feel the wrath of the "bundles". I mean for only a ton more than you'd want to spend, you can get a few games you'll never play, probably a really lame DVD movie (I got Armageddon with my PS2 bundle...that was pure humiliation and pain...still collecting dust on my shelf since no one will buy this lame thing and I'll lose a friend if I give it to someone), and an extra controller. It's how console sales work. There will always be a few extra ones to be bundled, since this makes a little extra cash for the retailers who always need to unload some rather crappy games. If you don't want to pre-order, just check out places like Kay-B-Toys (the real stores), or online only sites, like 

Speaking of money wasted...I also find it funny when people can call the PS3 the most expensive console ever. Seriously, 3DO and Neo-Geo will always own the right to be called the most expensive. People are too quick to forget the past. Hell, PS3, if it sells for $400, will not even be in the same ballpark as the 3DO. That's also counting the way I like to count my money spent on a console. That means that I'm counting, in my own calculations, the cost of the HDD, which will come later, since it's already being designed to not be included with the system itself. 

Anyway, I don't have much personal stuff to talk about today. I finished watching the DVD set of Firefly, and I have to say I'm filled with a nice sense of rage...I mean FOX could not have f#%@ed up anymore with a series than they did with one as sweet at this. I think I'd say Friefly is, if not the best, one of the best five TV series I've ever seen (counting ones from the world, not just US). At least, and this is not too big of a consolation, Sci-Fi is going to start airing the series on the 22nd of July (Bastich or Meat Shield, if you see this, I'd set your DVR for this one) in the evening. I'm sketchy on the details, but I think they'll air it in the correct order (something FOX also messed up on), and not end with the first episode. I just hope that the movie does so well that Joss Whedon can get Firefly back into's a long shot, I know... 

Well, I need to get in some Tales of Symphonia time. I ignored ToS all weekend, and I think I owe it some love and affection. 


Malik (7/12/05)  

I'm finding this whole "hot coffee" thing ridiculous with a little background for those who haven't been paying attention, there is some code that may or may not have been in GTA:SA that was definitely not accessible on the actual game. This bit of code, that may have (or may not have; Rockstar has actually denied that it is their code, and Rockstar usually tries to be cryptic on things like this) been included on the DVD, depending on who you ask (check out Gamespot for this), is a mini-game that allows CJ to not only have sex, but to let the player be interactive in the act. 

In the end, however, it all boils down to one thing...this is not playable by the average person. It is not accessible from the normal game. The only way to play it is to find the right mod for the game, and this only applies to the PC version. However, the ESRB (the ratings people) are not taking this lightly. 

In fact, the ESRB is feeling rather pissed off as they get hammered on two fronts in this one. On one hand, they have a politician from California (the land of censorship) saying that the ESRB failed in giving this game only an M rating. Meanwhile, they are possibly looking like fools by something that either Rockstar or some hackers have done with a game they rated so innocently (if an M can be an innocent rating...I personally think not). Either way, the ESRB is firing off their voice left and right. 

In the end, I'd say this is a load of bullshit. One one hand, even if GTA:SA gets an AO rating, it will still sell like mad. In fact, it may sell even better. Does anyone who is voicing their complaints about this game realize that there is no advertising like someone in authority calling a product evil, but not lethal? GTA:SA is getting more attention from this bit of news than all of Jack Thompson's baseless lawsuits put together. Plus, even if the PC version gets an AO rating (it's not like the PS2 version or XBox version can be held to these standards since hacking a console game's programming is a little too much in the complicated department to warrant a ratings change in these games), PC gamers have no issues with buying their games from sources beyond Wal-Mart (just look at Half-Life 2 and Steam for a perfect example). Hell, the PC version will still sell just fine...if not better, after people realize how much the mods to the game could improve or add to the game play. 

Anyway, even if the code that's in question is on the disk, it was not accessible by Rockstar. How many games have bits of code that cannot be accessed? Most games, if not all, fit into this category. If someone finds how to access the hidden bits, it's not the game maker that should be held responsible. Hell, if I was good at programming, I could probably make some GTA:SA (PC) skins that show everyone walking down the street as a naked couple who are going at it like animals as they walk along (it would look silly, but it would also be AO qualified). 

Anyway, I'm rambling a bit. I just think that holding a game to it's playable features is what should be judged for an ESRB rating, and that these outspoken opponents of Rockstar need to realize how much attention (free advertising) they are directing towards their foe. 

Anyway, on the next-generation front, it looks like Sony (as I saw at Gamespot) is ditching the plans to have the PS3 function as a broadband router. This is supposed to be a cost cutting move, but at the same time I think it's a bit ridiculous to say it's just that. In the age of Wi-Fi, and in the age of when you should have a PC with broadband if you're planning to use a console with broadband, it just doesn't fully add up. I think the final part of the router removal was to make the console cheaper. However, Sony probably just realized that the router function would not be wireless, and that this seems out of place if they already have a wireless only system (PSP) that they are hoping to be in every home. Plus, they could probably safely assume that there will already be a router in most homes that plan to take the PS3 online. Plus, if someone could afford this monster's price, then it's probably a tech-savvy person who would have a router already. 

It will cut costs, a little, but there are many other features that could be toned down on the PS3 to save more money and would be missed just as little (like removing three of the seven wireless controller ports...with a four-player split screen so hard to see off of in most cases, what good would a 5th through 7th player do to the actual game...or there's the dual HD display ability that no one in their right financial mind could afford or would want to waste the money on if they could). No, this is just removing of a purely excessive feature, and maybe it's the start of Sony realizing an all-in-one is only good if it's really a true-all-in-one (give the router Wi-Fi and make it do something that's more impressive than the router that their target audience already has at home). 


Malik (7/13/05)  

Well, the Hot Coffee dealio is now hitting on the Australian shores. I'm not surprised. I mean this is the nation that liked to ban games, like GTA3, for much more minor of sexual themes (like picking up hookers in GTA3). I'm guessing, with the usual knee-jerk reaction that Australia has with games, that GTA:SA will probably be banned, no matter what the outcome is with if Hot Coffee is actual in SA or if it's just a mod in every sense. That's the Australian way, after all. 

Well, if you check the more business side of things, you'd probably have seen that Majesco's CEO has left the company. I don't honestly care too much about the details of the business side of most businesses (that would mean the businesses I have not invested in), but this news has some pretty good implications for some gamers. While I have not yet played Psychonauts, I've heard enough good things to know I'd probably want to buy it. I also know that I'm a cheap bastard. These two facts, combined with how Majesco is taking a beating for the failure of Psychonauts at retail means that we may have another Beyond Good and Evil on our hands. In other words, I'm planning to buy this game quite soon as the price drops to $20, like how BG&E did. 

On the down side, it means that if Psychonauts is as good as everyone is saying, there's no chance in hell that a sequel could be developed (just like with BG&E). That means this game, which has scored plenty of 9's and above from reviewers, could be the last of it's type (well, not platformer...I mean the last Platformer from Tim Schaffer) for a very long time. At least, in the end, I'll probably be able to get it on the cheap in only a matter of a few more months. 

Anyway, I didn't mention it earlier this week, but I was unfortunate enough to see Fantastic Four this last weekend. I think the word "unfortunate" should spell it out, but I'll elaborate. 

FF was not as bad as the previews made me think it would be. That's about as good as I can say it. Well, I could also say that Michael Chiklis did a hell of a job playing Ben Grimm. Beyond that, well, the move was pretty lackluster and formulaic. 

The worst part of the formula that FF followed was when it came to Johnny Storm. The movie, and this is not really a spoiler as much as a warning, plays out like this... 

First we're introduced to everyone in a mundane way (they are scientists). Then we're introduced (to the X-treme!!!111!!!11!) to Johnny Storm (as he kisses a hot chick who's speeding along a dirt road in a car as Johnny is speeding along side on his supped up motorcycle)!!!111!!! Then we see the cosmic rays and they get their powers in mundane ways ("hey, you're, I can stretch...oh, Ben is ugly...yawn). Then Johnny Storm becomes (to the X-treme!!!11!!111!!, mind you) The Human Torch (he is doing X-treme snowboarding as he explodes in flames!11!)!!!11!!!11 Then they adjust to being super powered...still mundane. Then The Human Torch goes X-treme!!!111!!!111!!! Complete with X-treme dirt bike action!!!11!!11!! Then some people talk, while Johnny Storm has some X-treme one-liners!!!11!!! Which, I must say, are painfully un-humorous. Then they fight Dr. Doom and get beaten senseless. Then The Human Torch goes X-treme on his ass!!!!111!!11 

That's the movie in a nutshell. If you like the tone of an ad for a truck rally (you know the ones...they usually include the day being shouted like, "SUNDAY! SUNDAY!! SUNDAY!!!!!!!"...think the Simpsons episode where they go to see Truck-a-saurus), then you're in luck for half the movie. If you like slow paced action (like the Seinfeld episode in which George is on a Rascal being chased by a bunch of seniors on Rascals...but without the humor), then half the movie is for you. Lastly, if you still think humor along the lines of (and this quote is not 100% right, but close enough) "Digital camera $250. Memory stick $65. The look on your face...priceless", then...well, one one hand the movie is for you, and on the other hand, you are an idiot. 

Anyway, it looks like this summer will be, for once, pwned by the forces of DC in the classic DC vs. Marvel battle. Batman Begins kicks some major ass (except for the lamer one-liners, but those are rare in BB, unlike how they are every other line in FF)...Fantastic Four is just weak and unfulfilled. 


Malik (7/14/05)  

Aparently, the "sex scandal of the century" has reached epic proportions. Yes, Hot-Coffee-Gate (or some other lame name) is ready to end civilization as we know it. This is it...we're all doomed to a future in which giant cyborgs battle the few remaining humans over the right to play GTA:SA and the right to...something or other. 

Yes, I am trying to exaggerate this whole thing, in much the same way as our vocal leaders have. I'm not just talking about Californian councilman (or whatever his title was again) Yee. I'm now talking, as you can find on Gamespot, about the "woman behind the man" (or some other lame name...I'm in the mood to help show how blown out of proportion this is by using way too complicated of names and nicknames). Yeah, Hillary Clinton is ready to take Rockstar to school by calling in a request for the FTC to tear Rockstar a new one. 

Before we get too excited one way ("yeah, now we'll be safe from children who play this game") or the other ("cough::bullshit::cough"), I think it'd be awesome to look at a couple of things. For one, by making a game different with a hack (and Rockstar's official word is now that "Hackers created the 'Hot Coffee' modification by disassembling and then combining, recompiling and altering the game's source code,"), are we supposed to say that the game itself deserves an additionally high rating? No, a rating is something that should be imposed on the actual game, and not on changes that the community at large has introduced. Hell, I bet someone could easily take Half-Life 2 (I chose this game due to the ease of modding the source) and make it into a giant sex simulator. It'd be a lame game, but I bet it could happen without too much effort. Would this warrant HL2 an AO rating? No, but it would for GTA:SA. No hypocrisy there. 

Secondly, the ESRB is a voluntary rating system. It is not a federally enforced program, nor is it federally controlled. No. It is something the game industry created to show that they were willing to take the first step in meeting Congress over demands that games were too unregulated. In fact, that's why a game rated M could be purchased by a minor (in some states) without any fines. The government is not in control of the ESRB. So, since when can the government call in the FTC to investigate something that they have chosen (all-be-it in good faith, which may look like it's been broken) to leave unregulated. That's like the government stepping in and forcing a ban on legal performance enhancers (like caffeine) in American sports. No, the ESRB is a private not-for-profit organization, and they are the ones who would have a right to step in on Rockstar, if Rockstar did the whole Hot Coffee thing (which looks rather doubtful). 

In all honesty, the real solution to this issue is quite simple. The American government needs to chill. It's that simple. While they chill, the ESRB and Australia's government (who has more authority on the product sold in their country than the American government has in the US) should do one simple step before flying off the handle; Determine if the code is present in the game, before applying the Hot Coffee mod. Is that really so hard? I don't think so. In fact, these groups should work with, and not just point fingers AT, Rockstar. Meanwhile, the popular media needs to stop putting their own spin on this situation (either that Rockstar is the devil, or that video games at large are the devil). Then we can let the situation resolve itself in a logical and sane way. 

Beyond that...why the f$#^ is Clinton so pissed about a game having sex in it? For one thing, I can think of plenty of games that have been sold in the US that feature nudity, sex, or both. Many of them have actually gotten away with M ratings. Hell, The Guy Game didn't even get this much flack for having kiddie porn (one of the sets of breasts in TGG belongs to someone who is not of age...yet, compared to GTA:SA, it got only a casual glance by the media). 

Anyway, I know that the right solution (and I don't like to sound so immodest, but my solution would be the right one) will not be used. The "news story" will continue to be blown out of proportion, Rockstar will continue to get free publicity from the people who are trying to stop them, the government will continue to try to step beyond it's authority, and I'd bet my money on Rockstar being innocent of making Hot Coffee. Sadly, this will not end for a long time, unless people are willing to work together and not just to fly off on their own little crusades. 

On a different note, I aim to have a review up and running sometime in the next week and a half. I ordered the Japanese version of Katamari 2 and it should be here in the next couple of days. Once it's here, I know I'll blast through it in no time...and then I'll play through again...and then again. I also found a nifty no-mod solution for import games on the slim PS2. I'm not 100% on how well it works, but it looks promising...a lot like the spring in the lid solution to the PSX. I'll have more news on both the import and the ability to play imports locally in a couple of days. 


Malik (7/15/05)  

I find this whole thing so damned funny. It all started with a far more minor infraction (as in, this is not illegal) than something like the underage breasts being bared in The Guy Game, it has escalated to realms no longer fathomable to the average (and logical) gamer. 

So, Hillary Clinton has thrown in her two cents about GTA:SA's "Hot Coffee", and I love her response. The humor starts when you remember that this is the one who taught us that "it takes a village" to raise a child, because we shouldn't do the obvious and trust parents to raise their children. So, what does she think about her interpretation of the ESRB "failing" parents (in reality, I feel I must say, the ESRB knew nothing about any of this crap when they rated the game, and thus you can't blame them...the blame either falls onto Rockstar, which I'm more doubtful of, or some people who made the mods, which would not count towards a game's rating anyway)? 

"No wonder these games are falling into the hands of our children and no wonder so many parents feel everyday like they are fighting this battle with their hands tied behind their backs," Clinton said. "We need to do better. We need to do everything we can to make sure that parents have a line of defense against violent and graphic video games and other content that go against the values they are trying to instill in their children." 

Yeah...ummm...I have a good idea to help these parents who have their "hands tied". How about they remove the ropes that bind them, since the parents are the ones who installed the ropes to begin with. How to stop letting your child get things that you feel are inappropriate for them is quite easy in many cases; step up to your role as a parent. If you're child is buying a game that is not something you feel they should have, set some rules into place. After all, you are legally their guardian until they turn 18 (or divorce you). So, legally, it is your responsibility to protect and guide them. On top of that, ask yourself a question of, "where is little Billy getting the $50+ to buy GTA:SA?" A simple equation of too much money being given to kids (or kids earning too much money) with absolutely no supervision is a bad thing. It doesn't take a f#%&ing takes one or two good parents to raise a child. 

Well, at least I can agree, to some extent, to one fact that's almost being said. There is no reason that ratings should not be upheld by retailers. After all, kids can still get the M games if their parents/guardians/whatever still feel that the game is appropriate for them. It's not like enforcing ratings and buying-age-limits is going to prevent games from getting into the hands of kids. It will just ensure some level of the parents taking some responsibility, which I'm always in favor of (as someone who had very responsible and reasonable parents, I know that this solution works, as long as the parents aren't f#%&ing nuts). 

Anyway, there were a couple of responses to Clinton. Just read that link at Gamespot...the top is full of bull shit. It's from everyone's (sarcasm coming) favorite censorship fanatic; Jack Thompson. The top of this article is all about his crusade to prevent games from being sold (the wrong response to this issue) instead of just asking for some responsibility. However, the bottom of the article has a nice response from Doug Lowenstein (president of the ESA...the dudes who run the ESRB). For Jack Thompson decided to constantly bash Lowenstein for he "criminal, fraudulent excesses". Strange, considering that if this one mod was never made for GTA:SA, this shit would all be on the down-low, and that the game publisher and developer is not responsible for mods created by third parties after the game is rated and released...and never should be. 

Anyway, Lowenstein, in an amazing show of calm-headed control (it's amazinf since he's being bashed on all sides for something he can't have been responsible for) said this; 

"Retailers should not sell Mature games to minors, parents should watch what their kids watch, and parents should and can rely on the ESRB ratings to make the right choices for their families," he said. "We hope that after further reflection and dialogue, Senator Clinton will abandon the bill and work cooperatively with industry and others to ensure that parents take advantage of the effective tools on the market to regulate the games their kids play." 

Awesome. That's all I can say about what Lowenstein said. There is nothing like someone being assaulted on all sides and still coming forward to say that the name calling and angry words should be put down in favor of a cooperative effort by all parties to work for a united solution. Plus, to say the truth that games should be regulated, but not censored or banned, is brilliant. 

Anyway, this whole situation will undoubtedly continue for a long time. This will probably go on for a good many months. It could go away in a matter of a week or so, but that would require people to "work cooperatively"...which is the last thing that Congress and Jack Thompson would ever do. At least, in between the inane ramblings, these hostile sides are providing us all with a few good laughs. 

Anyway, I don't have much to say since I am just playing Tales of Symphonia still while waiting for Katarmari 2...which I hope shows up soon. Anyway, I'm out for a relaxing weekend. Later. 

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