Malik  (7/30/04)

Today I have some issues a bit more in touch with the thinking of geeks in other words, I present you all with a little of everything today.  By everything, I mean things from great games being hit by stupid decisions to crappy hardware to financial and perspective problems with some of our favorites.  Anyway, I have no need to drag on with a long into when what matters is only a few lines away.  I'm Malik and these are my Bitchings.

I Don't Like the Time Waste In Real Life... 

There are many things in real life that just waste my time...don't worry, this is geek related, so bear with me a second...I don't like to take the time each night to hunt down some food, but if I don't I starve, and that's never good. I don't like to waste time on fueling up my car, but I have to do that or I'd only have driven about 100 miles in my entire life before my car would be dead. I don't like to take the time to decorate my home or to clean up the place, but if I didn't do that some, I would have been hard pressed to hang out with people playing games (who would want to hang out in my place is there were sacks of trash everywhere?). So, when I get down to playing video games, I like to have some fun that is not in any way connected to other words, I don't like my games to mimic the life I'm temporarily escaping with my geek pastimes. 

So, my point is that when it comes down to it, the worst move a game can have is one which requires the player to do these crappy activities to pass the game. When I first played Brave Fencer Musashi (an old school PSX Zelda clone by Square), I had fun for about 30 minutes before Square's Musashi (which is a travesty to the memory of the actual Miyamoto Musashi, who was one of the most dedicated samurai to have ever lived and a brilliant military tactician who came up with the two sword fighting style that we all know and love from samurai movies) needed some I got him a drink, and then he wanted food. So, I spent the last of my money to buy him some grub, and then he (like any person who just gorged themselves) got the middle of a battle. I fell asleep mid-combat, and woke up with a major loss of HP. After the 10th time doing this crap, I turned off the Playstation, ejected the disk, put it in it's case, and sold the bitch. 

Then there was the first title in the Dark Cloud series. This game also required the drinking of water in a way that goes beyond just refilling HP, like in Prince of Persia. If you keep you HP up, but you don't drink, your HP starts to fall and then you end guessed it...dead! So, you have to waste a good deal of your money (which is hard to come by in the first 2 chapters) just buying repair items (you weapons had HP...I won't even go off on that bullshit right now...) and water. Then, every 15 or so minutes, you'd be out of water and in desperate need of money to prevent your death by dehydration (I know in real life I can go longer than 15 minutes without water...I guess the heroes of Musashi and Dark Cloud are just really not cut out for the adventuring life with they fondness of dehydrating). 

So, now we have what could be the best game ever made just a few months down the road. Yes, I'm talking GTA:SA. So, when I was checking out the news on SA, I came across an interesting story on It seems that Carl Johnson (SA's protagonist) needs to eat to live. On top of keeping his life points (the heart bar) full, he will have to eat to live. The game will warn you from time to time that Carl's in need of some food. So, you then will have to stop your criminal fun in order to find a food cart or a fast food joint to grab a bite to eat. However, it goes deeper than that. 

If you don't eat food when you're hungry, you start to waste away. This includes you appearance changing into that which resembles a refuge from a famine struck third world country in gangsta fashions. Also, you will start to pack the punch of a pissed off boy band other words, you will lose your muscles and start to shift into a total wuss. This means that while you're trying to punch someone or move a heavy object, you will be rendered useless. On the opposite side of the spectrum, you can even overeat. If you do so, you will start to balloon up like Fat Albert and, in turn, you will become slow and lethargic. Either way, you will have to take some time to keep your meal intake balanced unless you want the game to become a little on the impossible side. 

The worst part of this news is that it means you will be wasting a good deal of time, as you explore the city, trying to remember where the food joints are. Plus, if this goes how I'm thinking, you will be wasting far too much money at the start of the game on food as you take time to learn the city...time in which Carl is getting hungry. In the long run of things, for people who play GTA:SA like I've played the previous GTAs (slow and relaxed, in order to find all the fun glitches and diversions, like the unique jumps or the draw bridge of doom that makes cars literally fly above the city streets on GTA3...), you are going to have a lot of extra time wasted just keeping Carl fit and trim. 


Realism is sometimes a fun thing in video games. I mean what would a racing game be without some level of realism (even arcade style racers), or a sports game that's not realistic (I mean look at the realistic Madden vs. some of Microsoft's offerings and you'll understand). However, realism should have it's limits. I mean Madden doesn't require you to budget you traveling expenses and keeping track of the more rambunctious players who may miss a practice or two unless you keep them on a leash. You also don't have to buy food for each player. 

So, why does GTA want to ruin a perfect thing by giving us a little too much realism in a game that is based on a blending of the unrealistic and comic? There is no reason to do this, since it would only cause issues for the players who want a leisurely activity from GTA and not a "Sim-Thug" experience. 

So, I guess the real solution for this and other such games which are unrealistic but are trying to offer a deeper experience for their future incarnations is this; keep it fake. Add new features to keep us all happy, but don't make a good thing bad with expectations of realism. I don't like to baby sit, so I don't want to baby sit Carl Johnson and make sure he eats from a balanced diet containing all the parts of the food pyramid.

Sometimes It's Not Better Late Than Never 

Nokia is finally sending off their new pwN-Gage QD to retailers in the US. Once again, Nokia is looking to lose a good deal of money and face in another attempt at doing the totally stupid. 

So, first of all, the pwN-Gage failed horribly when it first came out, last year. It's a supposed game system or phone (who even knows...or cares?) that lacks everything needed to be successful as either a phone or a game system. The original was awkward to use as a phone (with the infamous had to hold the phone on it's side to use it as a phone). Not to mention that on the console side of things, the controls are incredibly unresponsive and not properly designed for use as a console (you use certain numbers of the keypad of the phone for action buttons, but not all of them), and the number of titles for this "system" are limited to a handful. 

So, now with Nokia's second attempt, they tried to fix some of the crappier features of the original. First off, the phone doesn't require side-talking (which, if anything, removes the most humorous and entertaining feature)...which gave the pwN-Gage it's nickname; "The Taco"; it can actually be held like a phone in the QD. They also fixed the insane method of changing out game carts. Originally, the battery had to be removed in order to change out games (there was a walkthrough on Nokia's web site that took about 5 minutes to go through in order to learn how to change games). Also, supposedly, you can now access a game with far less navigating through the various phone menus. So, they at least tried to improve some of their crappy mistakes...but only some... 

There are still only a handful of games that are usually of abandoned franchises (like Red Faction and Pandemonium) that couldn't work anymore on the real consoles. Or, you can always go for the titles that are on everything, like Tony Hawk...of course why go for the pwN-Gage for just this title when it's on every other system out there, along with all the T.H. clones. 

Then there's the same poorly designed controls. You still have a controller scheme that is not only awkward to use, but confusing to handle without staring at the buttons (and not at the screen). I also imagine, considering the quality of most cell phones, that the controls are most likely still unresponsive and clunky and would only really serve for puzzle games and games that move at a slow enough pace to not require accurate and quick button pushes. 

There's also the price of this phone, or game system, or newly designed taco...who even cares? The price is still around $200, unless you feel like signing away your soul to a phone service provider. If you feel like your soul is only taking up empty space, then you can go for a lower $100 price. Considering that there are responsive controls, several hundred game, and a far lower price, the GBA is still looking far more attractive. 

However, the real beef of my complaining comes down to the fact that the US is getting this thing now. The rest of the world has had, and ignored, the QD for more than a month before the US even got a chance to ignore the actual thing (and not just the press releases). Considering how poorly the original did in the US, does it make any sense to delay a release? I mean this technology is not getting any newer or more attractive as we get closer to the releases of some handhelds that will matter (the DS and the PSP). If anything, this delay has only allowed some more time for those who may have considered a QD (I would feel sorry for these people, but they should've learned after the original's flop) to decide to just wait an extra few months for the new Nintendo and Sony offerings. Like I said, this technology is not getting any fact, it's pretty much the exact same technology that made the original handheld, but with fewer features. 

The saddest part of all of this is how Nokia has marketed this abomination. While this device could serve as a diversion for a yuppie who wants a phone with some cool features to show off to their yuppie friends, Nokia has decided to, once again, market the pwN-Gage as a game system first, and a phone second. This is clearly seen with the ads you can find on TV either on channels devoted to gaming (like G4-TechTV) or during shows with a younger and more geekish audience (like cartoons, and shows with a prime demographic of teens). The ironic thing is that once this device fails, like it's predecessor, Nokia will start to talk back against anyone who calls it a failed console in order to say that it was really a phone all along. 


I keep coming to this every time Nokia decides to do the unthinkable...anyway, here it is; Nokia, along with all other companies that try to make really shortsighted journeys into a realm that they don't belong in, need to just stop and think about what the actual public image of their products will be both before and after they make their new product. For example, Nokia keeps trying to be optimistic and consider things only from a personal perspective, but all the signs point to the QD failing like so many other poorly planned systems. I mean as a phone it is only supported by T-Mobile, it has fewer games available than any other system in it's first 9 months, it has already burned the geek public with one horrid failing, and Nokia seems unsure of whether their product is even a phone or a game system first. It would be at this time that they should stop looking to their inventors and PR drones to give the final say on if this train wreck should be allowed onto store shelves, and instead they should look to both the experts and to geek opinions. 

I mean Billy Pidgeon, a market analyst with Zelos Group could point out that, when asked about the if the N-Gage would be a working member of the Nokia product line in 6 months, "Yes. A year from now, it may not be.". A console or game system of any type that is not able to survive for longer than 6 months is not a good option for any company to take on. I mean look at the shortest lived systems that had truly succeeded...I think they fall in the 4 year range rather than the 6 month range. Any past game system that had been around for less than 3 or 4 years only turned into a financial black hole and a horrible stain on the manufacturer's permanent record (who, after Sega's 32X, Sega CD, or Saturn, still had a perfect image of Sega as the gaming powerhouse of the Genesis days? I sure as hell didn't). 

Plain and simple...the delay in the re-release of a failed system, that has undergone mainly just cosmetic changes since it's first failed incarnation, is about the most ill fated decision a company like Nokia can do. I just feel sorry for the 5000 people in the US who bought the first pwN-Gage and the following 2500 who will buy the QD...geeks tend to have far more limited incomes than most other groups, and to see someone like Nokia both stealing the money of hard working geeks and then to only lose it themselves as their invention fails (which in turn makes the geek money wasted as the system goes down and the geeks cannot find anymore use for their redesigned tacos) makes me feel torn between wanting to cry and to vomit...actually, I think the vomit part wins. 

It's Like Newer Math 

So, back a few decades ago, a new thing was derived called "new math". Basically, it was a new system for math that made as much sense as many other products with "new" in the title (like New Coke in the 80's). So, it was dropped, and the world returned to normality. However, the financial and business world did not learn their lessons, and thus it stretches into the business end of geek issues. 

It was reported that Sony's PS2 section has lost money in the previous quarter, due mainly to the lower number of PS2 consoles that have shipped between April and June of 2004 when compared to the same time period of 2003. Am I the only one who understands why and can see the bigger picture? 

Ok, I'll explain. Firstly, Sony's game division has, overall, turned massive profits since the installation of the original Playstation in the 90's. However, this is never looked at. Also, I can guarantee that Sony will be gaining money after the release of the PSP (which I still have mixed feelings about) and once again after the release of the PS3 (or whatever they call their next console in the Playstation family). Yet, this news of a loss for the last quarter is, no doubt, going to be used as fire in the console wars between Microsoft, Nintendo, and Sony...sadly, Sony has a losing case here since people prefer ignorance over insight...but, I'll try to help as much as I can. 

The PS2, which has been around for more years than any other active console, is nearing market saturation. In other words, almost everyone who wants a PS2 has a PS2. So, can we be surprised that sales are down? No. If the sales are down and there are more PS2s in the world than XBs and GCNs (put together), it is not a sign that Sony is losing an uphill battle for fact, it means Sony has won, and will continue to win in this generation. Should we expect, when the PS2 is in more homes than XBs or GCNs, that it has failed when it fails to make money for a year or so at the end of it's shelf life? No, again. The real money is in software (of which, Sony had a profit in their software sales...not enough to counter the hardware loss, but still a nice profit). 

In the long run, when a game system is on the market, it can only turn a profit for so long before everyone has the system and new ones sell at a much decreased pace. However, this wont stop certain outlets from emphasizing the fact as they push their console of choice (like fanboys...and like how I know if anyone watches Pulse, the G4 news show, they will push this point in a way that makes it sound like Sony is a sinking ship and it's time to jump over to Microsoft...since they do have a nice MS bias). Yet, when the profits for the hardware stops and a new system is in the works, it's not a bad sign by any means. In fact, it means the console succeeded if a new version could be considered profitable enough to be developed (development costs are not cheap). 


This type of news, when it is used to make a certain product seem like it's doomed, is the equivalent of tabloid news to the geek world. Unfortunately, people are taught, by the media, to look at a smaller picture of things and not to realize the full depth of comparing the latest news with all the news about a product... 

For example, if you consider that Nokia has an amazing new reinvented design for the QD that will make the pwN-Gage fun and exciting, then you might want a pwN-Gage...until you consider that there are no games, the first one sold about 5000 units in the US, and there is a complete lack of cohesion between Nokia and the third party game studios. Then you will have the bigger picture and realize that Nokia is screwed (but they did screw themselves). This same long term research is needed before one considers news of a loss of sales for a console as a bad thing. 

As Rury from Nadesico would say; Idiots.


Well, I have to say I personally was hit pretty hard by the news on GTA:SA.  I mean any game in which I've had to worry about food I have lost interest in, previously, due to that very feature.  On the other hand, the pwN-Gage used to be good at least for a laugh, but now the whole situation is getting as sad as the FF franchise.  Most of all, while the Sony stuff doesn't directly effect me in any tangible way, I am sick of how certain facets of news are presented to make it sound like one side of the console war is losing horribly after it has (for the most part) already won.  This news isn't going to change my game buying decisions, but it's just annoying to see the stupidity present itself when a certain winning team is presented as losing...I mean Sony may lose in the short run, but they've already won and they will keep on winning in their future endeavors.  So, like I always say, if you don't like something I've said, or you want to let me know you agree, you can contact me, or you can hit the forums.