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Malik (8/8/05)  

First off, since I am a fan of this column, Gamespot has a new issue of Rumor Control. I especially have to point out the Jack Thompson part. 

It seems that the attorney that all gamers hate so much is getting some death threats. At least that's what he's telling the people (which would be the major media outlets and the senators that share his view of the world being a better place sans games). It seems that of the (I imagine) hundreds of thousands of emails he receives a year, some of them have included death threats of a sort. I don't doubt this. I mean, despite being a clam and level-headed geek, I know there are, like with any vocal group, a large number of angry and stupid geeks. Let's face it; when there is a vocal group within a subset of people, the vocal ones tend to usually be of the insane and stupid as f#@$ side of things. So, I doubt these threats are entirely made up by Mr. Thompson. In fact, if you ever want a good idea of how stupid some geeks are in dealing with the nature of this attorney, just check out some GTA:SA message boards (like at and see for yourself what people are sending him in email. 

The thing I have to say on all of this is simple; if you feel that people are wronging you, whether or not this feeling is completely imaginary (Jack Thompson is not, in his actions, "wronging you" as much as he is often times bending the truth and making a mockery of both the game industry and the legal profession), you need to either do nothing or act with a level-headed thought process. Instead of saying something as stupid as "U R teh gay!!11!!!11", try explaining your perspective. Instead of saying "U B fragged from gun!11!!11", try to simply say that you have a problem with his behavior and that he should stop being a two-faced lying ass. It's really not too complex. Simply use some effort in your letter writing, or shut the f#$% up. 

The only thing writing a threat, or an implied threat, will accomplish is that it will build sympathy for this weasel, and it will place you in a position of being arrested for being a freakin' psycho (which is what you're being if you do send death threats to someone). It's not that hard to do...that is, to be calm and rational. After all, this jerk is not being calm or rational, so it's a lot easier to best him in a battle of words. However, beyond being clam and rational, you need to realize that you cannot win. It's a sad truth, but it is the truth. 

Jack Thompson doesn't need to listen to you. That's true. He has support of people who don't know the game industry (beyond being a maker of "murder sims"). He also doesn't seem to listen to people (from the interviews I've read of him not answering the questions he has been asked and instead answering questions he was never asked). Let's face it now. Until either the geek world is seen in a better light or until Jack decides to just retire and leave us all alone (that one won't happen soon), we have no option other than acting calmly, remaining sensible, and not drawing the ire of controversy by flying off the handle. 

For example; I live in an apartment building that is about to break a few (three or more) laws in the next few months in regards to every single tenant. This is not cool. One thing they are doing involves moving us from our leased units to a temporary unit for about 3 weeks. I could've acted stupid like some of these geeks and gone completely insane in yelling "U B teh lamezor!!11!! I kill U!!!11!!". I could have. That would make me a psycho. However, I decided to write the management a letter explaining how this is not right, it's a big inconvienience, and it's not going to be tolerated in the long term ("I doubt I will renew my lease with your company when I have been put through such a major hassle with no real consideration of my many years of trying to be a good neighbor and tenant in this complex"). I ended up having a good discussion with these people. Clam thinking worked out for the best. If I flew off and made vague threats, I would instead probably get locked up for doing so. 

Anyway, the lesson here is simple. Jack Thompson can't be beaten. He has as much right to exist as we have the right to be geeks. He won't listen. In fact, few authoritative people will. So, my solution, which is simple, is to simply show the world, as only we can, that gamers are a diverse crowd that have as many sane and rational people as any other group. 

Anyway, on a side note, that's far less serious, I finally went ahead and entered the HD era. I can't believe how freakin' sweet Burnout 3 is on the XBox with some HD action. Now I just need to deal with the hassle of getting an HD box from Comcast. Anyway, I feel the need to play with HD (and probably some of the old beta test that I can't talk about). 


Malik (8/9/05)  

I finally have the first major steps in my HD conversion done. That would mean I have the cable hooked up through a good cable box and the XBox is running through the HD cable kit (from Microsoft). I now only have to think about getting my DVD player hooked up correctly (which won't be until the thing arrives in the mail)...nothing like the sadness of the loss of a loved electronic. 

Like I said, I now have a "good" cable box. In other words, I now pay for my cable box. With Comcast (for those who either aren't enlightened or haven't dealt with the hell of Comcast), you can get a free cable box (free loaned cable box, that is) with digital service. However, this antiquated piece of shit wouldn't do much good besides infuriating you. I spent three horrible years with mine. The free boxes are able to cause glitches and floating pixels on almost all digital channels, and they give you the joy of sound losses when used with On Demand programming. That's the best part. I love those ads for Comcast that say that ordering a movie On Demand (for $5 and 24 hours, I should add) is better than driving to Blockbuster (less than $5 and for up to a week) so you can feel extra ripped off when the sound cuts out on every punch line (for comedies) or one-liner (for action flicks). Brilliant. 

If you actually want to not feel ripped off for paying so much money, you could then upgrade to a more modern cable box. Of course you'll then feel ripped off for another reason, but it's better than...I don't know how to end that sentence. 

More importantly, however, is the effects of XBox on HD. For the most part, I've only spent my time dealing with Burnout 3. It's the only game I don't feel completely sick of, and that should be able to shine with 480i visuals. Well, I can't honestly say the visuals appear to be all the much better on HD versus standard definition. However, that's only from just looking at the game. You do realize it, however, when you are racing. All of a sudden, the races are feeling about 5 times easier and the controls feel about 100 times more responsive. It may sound absurd to attribute all of that to visuals, but now I know the truth...when you're going between 150 and 250 MPH and you are driving in the oncoming lane, it really matters. After all, with the HD you can see oncoming headlights from about two to three times further, instead of seeing the headlights after it's too late to do anything about it, I can now actually plan to not get into every possible accident. 

I still need to give some time with some other XBox games. I don't think it'll be enough to get me to start a new game of KOTOR or KOTOR2 (they are still too fresh in my mind). I definitely doubt I'd want to play another round of Jade Empire (the game was good...but any more and I'll have to start hating the game). However, I'm thinking some good old GTA may be the right way to go. Plus, the GTA games are always good for "another time through". 

Anyway, I don't really have anything important to talk about. There's no real news, once again. It's all the boring crap (except that Tales of Eternia Online is doing betas...but we probably will never see this game in the what does that matter). Plus, I've been trying to play Ratchet: Deadlocked Beta...can't talk about it, so...yeah...ummm...anyway... 


Malik (8/10/05)  

So, I am about done with Burnout 3. I have reached the point where I'm not having fun with the game again. I guess this leaves me with only playing the beta I'm in. Between that and the lack of game news (Rockstar has patched the Hot Coffee content on the PC, but that's not really worth more mention than a single blurb like this), it's getting hard to post. I mean, what is there to talk about in such a dull period as this? 

How about the "good" side of gaming? I saw in an article about Christian games, and I just felt like sharing this silliness. It's not silly that some companies are trying to market a more "wholesome" game. After all, it's not games that are a "bad" form of media. In fact, games are often called evil or corrupting, but they are sinply another form of media to be tacked on with movies, TV, books. It's only the truly out of touch with reality type of people who would call this media evil in and of itself. 

However, I can't help but feel that Christian game developers are maybe missing the point. They are trying to introduce their good and wholesome games to a larger market (and to tell the truth, there's no reason that we shouldn't find games of all types at EB, Best Buy, or wherever you get your games). However, they just don't seem to realize that what they often introduce to the market are just not fun. 

The truth behind what it takes to make a successful game always comes down to one thing. Square would have us believe it's visuals or wacky and lame as hell game play mechanics. Microsoft would lead us to believe it's online play. EA would want us to believe that it's releasing the same damned game every year, but with a slightly enhanced level of content (Madden, anyone?) for full price. In reality, it all comes down to one thing; as said in the article, "First the games must be fun". It is that simple. 

Actually, there is a second element to making a game successful. It's not making it visually equal to the major brand name games (visually, one could argue that Katamari Damacy sucked...but it sure is a great game and successful, despite this "flaw"). It's making the games match the current generation. For example, simplistic games along the lines of old-school arcade games (like Pac Man) just won't cut it anymore. Neither would trivia games. However, for some confusing and nonsensical reason, Crave Entertainment thinks that they are close to making some mainstream Christian games, despite the games including "Bible Games". What is Bible Games? Well, according to Kathy Bucklin of Crave; 

"Our game is called the Bible Games and it's coming out on the Game Box advance, Playstation 2 and Xbox," Bucklin said. "It's Bible trivia. The Playstation and Xbox game is a game show. So it's really just understanding Bible trivia and see what you know and hopefully learning a little too." 

This is why certain types of games are doomed to failure. What were the last few dozen game show style games? Can you even remember any? I doubt it. These games fail way too quickly to remember. If it wasn't for how bad The Guy Game was, and the lawsuits that followed, I doubt anyone would've caught notice of this game as it disappeared in the blink of an eye...and that was even before it was released. 

Before The Guy Game, the last game show video game I can remember is probably Chef's Luv Shack, the South Park game that was even worse than the South Park FPS. I guess there was also the Mary Kate and Ashley Olsen game to "celebrate" them turning 16. It was basically a trivia game, and it was basically unnoticed, except by a few game columnists who had to use it as an example of how low video games have sunk. 

No, if Christian game developers want a piece of this multi-billion dollar industry (beyond their less than 1% they currently get), the answer is to give people what they want. This doesn't mean that these middle-aged executives should make games that they would, it means giving the average gamer something they'd want. For a portable system, make an addictive puzzle game and it doesn't matter what theme it is. It will sell. If it's for a console, make a platformer. That's the beauty of platformers...they sell well no matter what the theme is, and they don't need to be any more or less violent than any other game. Mario usually kept it low on violence, and Conker kept it hardcore. So, a Christian game could easily take the high ground (Christian games don't need to be completely free of just means the limited violence shown needs to have content to back it up. For example, the PC had Catechumen. It was a Christian FPS in which you played (it's been a while, so my memory is a little fuzzy...also, the game was horrible, but only because of it's production values, not the theme) a priest who needs to stop invading demons. You used a variety of weapons, but no blood or gore was to be seen, to stop the demons and save your fellow Christians. It was a very bad game, but it actually showed that Christian games could go beyond trivia and having "to follow Jesus and pick up little crosses for points,". 

Anyway, I don't know why I went off about this today. Actually, it was probably because I had nothing else to talk about, and I love rooting for the underdog. For example, Nintendo is bombing left and right, but I can't help but plan to purchase a Revolution since I know it will have fun games. In the same way, I know Christian games could be great if the developers behind them stopped thinking like "Christian game developers" and just started to think like "game developers" who happened to use Christian themes in their products. 

I also think it'd be cool if other religions could be brought to the masses in games. However, that probably won't happen. After all, it tends to be the Christians who are so afraid of not converting enough followers (I am Christian, I will, this is not me bashing some other faith, it's simply me saying that I have a problem with this aspect of my own faith) that they have to reinvent new methods for conversions. It's part of what makes people cringe at the thought of Christian Missionaries (like with the image of them that was shown on the Starvin' Marvin in Space episode of South Park). 

Anyway, I tire of this, and want to do more of the beta, so I'll poof. 


Malik (8/11/05)  

Leave it to Nintendo to once again show the world how to use the DS properly. Mario and Luigi 2 sounds like it's shaping up to be a great example of how the dual screen technology should be used. In this sequel (of sorts) to the GBA game, the top screen is used to keep an eye on the younger versions of Mario and Luigi, while the bottom screen shows the older and more recognized brothers. I'm not sure what this will imply according to the older brothers being on the touch screen, but it sounds interesting, none-the-less. 

In fact, it's more than interesting. It's Nintendo showing us all, once again, that the dual screen ability of the DS doesn't mean the screens have to be used directly in tandem. With games like Spiderman, which used the touch screen as garbage, or Zoo Keeper, which used the top screen as filler, we saw how not to use both screens at once. I think the idea behind M&L2 is exactly what the DS is made for. By having both sets of characters on different screens, it means you also no longer have the typical more-characters-than-you-can-handle RPG issue..."why can't I play as the more interesting pair?". 

I just wish more companies could use this level of creativity with the DS. However, it's also a sad sign of why Nintendo has such poor third party support. While Nintendo developed their innovative technology, they forgot that only they will have a clear idea of how to use it to it's fullest. While companies like Namco and Activision are making games for 5 or so platforms, Nintendo is more focused, for obvious reasons, on only the "innovative" ones. That's the double edged blade of innovation...only the innovator will fully understand why the technology exists to begin with. 

Speaking of both handhelds and innovation, Sony has some additional big plans for the PSP. It sounds like, while the web browser of 2.0 seemed like a big enough addition to the PSP firmware, things may soon go beyond the typical with the PSP. There is the possibility of email, for one, but it may not be limited to standard email. It sounds like Izumi Kawanishi (one of the Sony Computer Entertainment big-wigs) is wanting to try to somehow get voice and video involved in the package when email comes to the PSP. 

More than email, however, are the thoughts he had on Internet play. Since the PSP can handle both infrastructure and ad-hoc wireless modes at the same time, it sounds like he's wanting some game developers to consider this as a new approach to expanding their games. I'm not 100% sure on what he'd expect out of this package, but it could be quite interesting. With this two-level network approach, one could have downloadable maps (or other content) for a game, and while playing a local ad-hoc game, the players without the add-on could be downloading it from the net. I could think of a few other ideas, but the point of them would elude me (like one player on the Internet, to serve as a portal, for the other players who are on ad-hoc...but then why wouldn't everyone in that game be online, since the ad-hoc range is usually quite limited). 

Anyway, it sounds like Sony and Nintendo may be in an interesting battle of innovation. Considering how both companies have many of the same technologies to work with, we could either see something that is truly amazing and reaches far into the future of gaming...or we could always see a bunch of crap (like how 90% of DS games have used touch and dual screens) that only makes us stop and wonder why this is happening. 

Anyway, not much else to talk about...D&D Online is entering alpha testing and it is still open. Beyond that, I am just too caught up in my HDTV conversion to spend any time with games lately...nothing like a jungle of 14 components into one TV (and the TV, cable box, and DVD player being swapped out) to cause hours of confusion. Yippee..... 


Malik (8/12/05)  

Today is starting off nice and crappy. I hope this will be posted tonight, but I'm not 100% on this (so, when you see this, if it's not Friday afternoon still, then this is why...). My Internet got teh gay this morning before I left for my day job. I'm not sure the cause, since I had a few too many variables at once. Pretty much, I discovered the lamest feature of Comcast's DVR cable box; when you turn off power to it (via the soft power off of the remote), the extra AC outlet on the box also turns off. So, as I struggled to learn why my new TV had suddenly lost the ability to power on, I unplugged a random AC adapter from a surge protector to try the TV in it. The TV worked, and then I saw the cable box was off (which it doesn't look like it is from a casual glance), so I plugged the TV back into the box and powered it on. The TV came back to life, and I realized the thing I randomly unplugged from the surge protector was my router. 

Well, when I turned on my PC, I noticed that AIM was dead, and Outlook wouldn't connect to my email server. So, I played around as much as one could before leaving for work, and I couldn't get Internet access back up and running. Well, I tried to access the router (which worked), and I tried to re-initialize the router. The only thing is that I don't know if Internet was down before I unplugged the router or if it went down when the router was unplugged. I hate these types of issues. If I knew the status before unplugging the router, I'd be golden (either I'd bitch at Comcast or I'd tear apart the router)...but with no knowledge, I'm stuck with a good deal of work to figure out what's wrong before I can post this. Blah. 

Anyway, there are rumors going around that Microsoft will finally officially announce the 360 next week. This means we'll have details on the price of the system, what will be included with it, the actual release date, and what the cost of launch titles will be (please don't say they will actually be $60, Microsoft). As I said, this is just being rumored right now, but it's sounding pretty real, and Microsoft is well overdue for sending us this info. 

There are also way too many rumors about the price and HDD of the 360. The main ones being that the HDD will be sold separately, or that two 360 packages will be available; one with the HDD and more expensive, and one without and cheaper. I can already tell you, with a 99.9% certainty of what will happen with "next week's" announcement. Microsoft will announce a retail price between $300 and $350. This will include the HDD. There will also only be one package of 360 available. Why do I say this? Microsoft makes a ton of money from Windows and Office (it's their primary source of income). Plus, Microsoft will now require (this is fact) third party accessory manufacturers to pay Microsoft for each peripheral made for the 360. So, money-wise, MS is set. So, once again, they will take a loss on the 360, and it won't matter a damned bit to them. 

What matters is crushing Sony and Nintendo. That's part of why the 360 is being aggressively marketed (wait until after the announcement, and I'm sure you'll see more 360 ads than fast food ads on TV). If Microsoft can crush their competition (it won't happen this generation...Sony will do fine, but Nintendo will be slaughtered), then in the following generations they can afford to charge a more reasonable price (as it, to make some profit, eventually). Until then, MS just wants to make consumers happy, to take a more dominant role in the console world. The best way to do this is to offer a lot of stuff, and to do it for a lower price. 

As for the different packages of stuff one could get their 360 isn't going to happen. The main reason is that MS has already said in the past that we will see one package. Also, if there is anything we've learned from retailers offering bundle packages, it's that the consumer hates to have either no choice, or a choice of not enough and paying more. This would only earn MS some more hatred from the geeks. 

Anyway, while you won't see this until it's working, I need to stop this and work on the Internet situation. I really hope that it just comes back on, on it's own...then I know my equipment is good and it's just Comcast f$#@ing up as usual. 

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