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Malik (5/7/07)  

Another update, another thing to be sad about as a console user. In the case of the 360, the Spring update, which is due out soon, will impose some restrictions on downloading content. In particular, the content meant only for specific regions will be handled with some sort of update that prevents people from being able to generate dummy accounts to download international content that is not available for their region.

While Microsoft may claim that these issues are also being handled by them trying to make international content truly universal and available in as many regions as possible, I don't see this as being the case. A lot of content, from day one, has been limited by region. This has not changed as the 360 has aged, and it will not change. While movies and television video downloads will remain primarily trapped in the US, due to licensing restrictions, it's the other content I care about. I'm talking about game demos, game trailers, and the such.

This will not really change much with time, since many trailers and demos will not come to any area that the game is not intended for release in. However, with a different approach, Microsoft should instead track where content is being downloaded to and maybe use that info as a basis for informing content owners of where there is interest for their product and where interest may be enough to generate sales...thus encouraging developers and publishers to consider more international releases of games.

Sadly, that would be a smart idea, and thus it will not happen. Despite how many international games are becoming more loved by various regions of the world, limited releases still remain. It simply will not shift patterns as long as the same ideas remain universal. These "universal" concepts are primarily that sequels are a safe bet, and that (at least in the US) gamers don't want to try anything new when another sequel could be crammed down our throats.

Anyway, I think I'm falling back into not playing games. I have been so busy lately that I've played little other than some Zuma and Bejeweled in the last few days. I want to give OOO/Oblivion on the PC a real chance, but it just requires too much time, and time is something I'm running quite short of. Between family visits, working on the weekends, and trying to get my mother's PC running (nothing like a PC about 8 years past it's prime being used to install anything and everything the owner can find...start>programs>giant mess of menus), I simply have no time for anything it seems.

I should be able to get in some game time soon. However, I'm thinking that until TV shows hit re-runs, my few minutes of freedom each night will be dominated by Lost, Heroes, and a few other select shows.


Malik (5/8/07)  

One thing I did this weekend that I didn't touch upon yesterday was seeing Spider-Man 3. I'm still a bit unsure of what to say. The move did keep me entertained, but it also kept me happy like a can of soda would. I was happy to go through with it, but in the end, all of the joy came from empty calories.

The movie introduced (at least for movie audiences) many new characters and re-defined many older ones. We were introduced to Sandman, Spider-Man in the black suit, Eddie Brock, Venom, Gwen Stacey, and Harry Osbourne as the Goblin. Introducing this many characters, while retelling the back story of Uncle Ben's death and how it ties into Peter Parker is a lot of information to take in. So, while we did get a moderate amount of plot in relevance to this, we didn't get a total plot, since the movie was kept to around 2 hours.

Warning: Some Slight Spoilers Below

Some of the simple stuff they overlooked involved things like why the Sandman was how he was. In other words, he stole and became a convict in order to save his daughter, who was sick. What was she sick with? Is it terminal and he's trying to make her final moments more comfortable? Is she going to die without treatment and he's the only one who could help her by finding money for some surgery? Is she still going to live, but with a lower quality of life, without any treatment? How urgent is his quest for cash?

Harry Osbourne's butler let him in on what happened to his father (first movie). He also let Harry know that he had some sort of forensic science background, since he could determine that the blades that killed him was from his own glider. He also had this information since the first movie and sat on it. Why? Why did he not speak up when he saw the first signs that Harry was turning into a psychopath in the second movie?

Spider-Man has his Spidey Senses, right? Well, why was he hit by a spit ball in his college science class? If his spidey senses were working, then why did he not know what has coming and move out of the way? The only explanation is that he's going through his advanced mutation disease to set up the fourth movie...or more likely, the writers simply forgot the material they were writing for the script.

What was the point of introducing Gwen? She came along and had enough of a role to be jilted by Peter as he tried to use her as bait to enrage MJ. It makes no sense at all to include such a pivotal Spider-Man character if she's going to be used for such a waste of potential and material. Plus, some of the movie was used to introduce her and this time could have been used to tie of all of the plot material in a more tidy way.

My biggest pet peeve with this movie, and Spider-Man 2, is that he wears a mask to conceal his identity, but he never freakin' has it on. During any action scene, while Peter Parker is being Spider-Man in plain sight, he will always take his mask off or have it removed (or destroyed). I think it's time for Peter Parker to make the mask out of something that can resist damage (like the rest of his suit...which is usually in far better condition than his mask when a battle ends) and to keep it on his damned face. The second movie had a whole train of people learn his identity, and I doubt anyone in NY doesn't know who he is after the final battle of the new movie. Which leads me to wondering why it has not been printed by a publication who'd pay good money to get the scoop of "Who is Spider-Man?"

Also, why did they use Venom in this movie? Wouldn't it had been easier to set up the black suit in this movie, and then stop at Brock's transformation? Then the fourth movie (which you know there will be) could have been an all out brawl of epic proportions as Spider-Man and Venom battle. That would have been a perfect match, instead of this rushed forcing of Venom...who wasn't even introduced until about 60-70% through this movie.

I did enjoy the movie more than I didn't. However, it's hard to overlook some of the obvious things that just don't make sense. Before Spider-Man goes any further down the dark path that Batman took, I just hope that they start to refine the material and scripts of future movies a bit more. Most of all, I really hope they don't bring in any of the Batman killing "let's bring in a side-kick" crap.


Malik (5/9/07)  

Spore is being delayed until Spring of 2008. In other words, Spore is becoming the latest in a long line of games that will feel like vaporware. I know Spore will eventually come along, but I wouldn't be surprised if it keeps getting delayed until the average Spore fan no longer cares...then it will be released.

This shouldn't come as much of a surprise since Will Wright is starting to become too much of a perfectionist for his own good. Spore is an ambitious project, and just like with games like Fable, it may be a bit too much for anyone to successfully pull off. In the end, I wouldn't be surprised if Spore gets the Molyneaux treatment. That is to say that it keeps being delayed until eventually the publisher pushes for a release, and the game arrives with only a fraction of the content originally envisioned by it's creator.

I'm starting to really get into the OOO mod of Oblivion. Especially now that I have Qarl's Texture Pack to enhance things a bit more. Without a doubt, BT Mod (the one that gives a interface unlike a 360 game), OOO (the one that corrects the difficulty and scaling enemies, while giving a lot of new material), and Qarl's are all must have mods for Oblivion. Without all of them, Oblivion, in it's vanilla mode, is just half a game. With these three mods, and a PC powerful enough to take advantage of them, Oblivion becomes a game unlike anything else.

I'm especially enjoying the scaled difficulty correction of OOO. Last night I decided to climb the northern mountains to find some fun side quests. Well, that would be no problem in vanilla Oblivion. In OOO, it becomes a challenge of knowing what your speed is, where to hide from animals (mountain lions are no longer possible for my level four character), and how to avoid detection by bandits (who have no problem unleashing a barrage of arrows, spells, and summons on your sorry ass). It's like taking everything I knew from Oblivion and saying it was really the alpha build or a teaser for the real OOO game.

When you toss in some other mods, like one to remove the all-knowing guards, living economy, and the Natural Environments add-ons, the game just keeps getting better. I currently have about 18 mods running, and the more I add, the happier I become with this game. A game I swore I'd never play again after beating the original on the 360 and finding that scaling enemies and loot made for a very bland experience.

In fact, that's the best part of OOO. By removing the poorly conceived scaling of the original, I now have a feeling like I am the potential hero of this land. No longer will I always be a little weaker than guards. No longer will I always be a decent fighter, but not the best. In OOO, I am starting as less than nothing, and I will eventually work my way up to becoming the best that every walked the land.


Malik (5/10/07)  

I really don't have that much to talk about today. I can go off about how much joy Oblivion is bringing to my life now that I am fully immersed in the wondrous world of mods. I can go off about how OOO, BT Mod, and Qarl's Texture Pack are the greatest thing to ever happen in the mod community (in my opinion, for any game). I can go off about how I'm now working on the mage guild quests and am trying to see how much of a difference I can make in my playing style now that the challenge is unbelievable (thanks to OOO) and how each wrong move cannot simply be negated via a simple step back.

I can also go off about Square Enix making their new announcements of some new games at their special little conference the other day. If this was about 10 years ago, I would be more than happy to have a complete geek-out at the thought of so many new Square Enix titles.

However, I've seen enough damage from SE in the last few years. Star Ocean 3 was bad. When you compare it to SO and SO2, it is hard to believe that SO3 could have turned out to be a simple game of how badly SE could mutate the perfection that was SO2. In fact, because of SO3 and how SE is now focusing on making the best games to reach multiple audiences, and not making games to please actual RPG fans (their supposed target audience), I cannot be happy about SE RPGs anymore. SO3, FFXI, FFXII, the spin off games for FFVII, FF Tactics Advance, Kingdom Hearts (all I can say is "camera"), FF:CC, and all of the Mana remakes and new games have all taught me a hard lesson; don't trust Square Enix for quality. They used to make the equivalent of a great movie like Pan's Labyrinth. Now, all they seem to make are the equivalent to a Nicholas Cage movie...all special effects and no plot.

Between the plots that border on being an emo fantasy, the fact that every character is now as one dimensional as those in FF1 (at least that game had an excuse due to it's time being so much less focused on plot and characters), and the damned innovations that gave us the junction system, the sphere grid, and the license board, I just cannot take anything from Square Enix. I do accept the Dragon Quest games, but that's only because it's something they try to keep nostalgic. Everything else that comes along tends to fail when compared to the Square and Eix licenses of the 1990's.

I can't help but think of how much joy Square and Enix would both give me in the past. This was when these companies did not whore out every intellectual property they owned to make as much money off of as little work as they could do. If Square Enix wants to return to what I view as their glory days, it's time for them to try some new things. For one, drop all of the Final Fantasy spin off games. We don't need five different takes on FFXIII when it comes out. We don't need a dozen new Chocobo Dungeon and Chocobo Tales games. We don't need Mana and Star Ocean games to come along when they have forgotten what made these games so fun the first time around. We also don't need any more remakes of old games in the FF line (some remakes of DQ games for the DS or GBA would be sweet for the US...since we missed out on the real translations of DQ5 and DQ6).

What we need from Square Enix is some new games along the innovative lines of the first Actraiser (one of the best Enix games ever made), Soul Blazer (my other top pick from Enix on the SNES), Xenogears (they may not have the Monolith team, but they have the license still...second thought, SE leave Xenogears alone since you'd probably skull f#@$ that property into oblivion), and the classic feel of FF found in the first six games and number nine. Sadly, I don't hold any faith in SE coming to their senses (except for DQ9 on the DS...but that's a special case, and I'll probably be disappointed in the end anyway). It's time for Square Enix to show us all that they can come along with a few great games instead of a constant flood of games that only leave most RPG fanatics feeling lost and nostalgic for the past.

Maybe I'm old...or maybe I'm just feeling old. However, Square Enix just keeps leaving me thing about "the good old days". least Namco leaves me happy with games like the Tales series, and at least Sakaguchi will bring us his Mistwalker titles.


Malik (5/11/07)  

I'm happy to see that Saint's Row will officially get a sequel. Also, it's nice to see that it will come to both the PS3 and the 360. I may be alone in this, or at least it feels that way at times, but I thought Saint's Row was one of the better GTA rip-offs to come along in recent years. For one thing, the original game was fun from the first mission to the last. Also, the game did bring some fun new ideas to the genre, with the garage that can actually store multiple vehicles without hassle, the ability to customize cars and not worry too much about bashing them up (since you can repair a destroyed vehicle at a garage), and the first GTA style rip-off game to give an easy to use aiming system (of course, Crackdown now has the rights to call their shooting and targeting engine the best...for now).

Most of all, the ending to Saint's Row really leaves one wanting a chance to play more. It wasn't the ending style we saw with all of the GTA endings (shallow and quick and without full resolution of issues), especially since it didn't leave the game open ended. When SR ended, it ended with authority. However, in doing so, it only left the player wanting more.

I also like to see that it's another game breaking cross platform rules. It is time, with this generation, to kiss many platform exclusive games goodbye. The PS3 and 360, at their core, are both nearly identical for gaming. True, the 360 doesn't force a HDD, which is still a mistake, but since FFXI did get around this, I hope that Microsoft will start allowing more publishers to put "HDD required" stickers and labels on their 360 games. Afterall, if you don't have the HDD and you own a 360, then you either can't save and shouldn't be playing, or you are running off of a memory card and you were ripped off.

True, the PS3 does have Blu-ray for storage. However, I don't see this playing much of a role for this generation. By the time that the full capacity of a Blu-ray is used, then it will be another generation or two down the road. For now, the ability of developers to properly compress data is staggering and amazing. Also, if a single DVD is not enough, we can always go back to what we previously have done with games...get off our lazy asses and swap disks. It's not that hard, and if a game like FFIX (or let's say FFVII, since that seems to be the more popular choice and not as personal) could be as amazing as it was and on multiple disks, then the idea of keeping games to a single disk is just a lame excuse for fanboy-ism.

Well, I'm still playing Oblivion/OOO on the PC. In fact, I'm only now starting to get back into the mentality of the game. For this play through, I decided to go the smart way...Breton. My first time through the game, I was a Dark Elf with a focus on magic and stealth. I wanted to keep my focus about the same (since combat with a stealth mage is as easy as using a stealthy shot with a poison covered much more exciting than using a sword or axe) for this play through, but I wanted to be more free with magic. Since magic is easy to max out on Oblivion, as it only reaches twice your intelligence (and stats are all capped at 100), and it's even somewhat limited with OOO, I wanted to make a more potent mage. Breton with the apprentice birth sign seemed the way to go.

Last night I finally got back into the right mindset for this type of character. I other words, I stole a lot of pointless shit to sell off to buy lock picks. Once I had a nice selection of picks, I hit the best money making places in the game (at least the safest ones that don't have OOO raping my sad corpse every few minutes); I call them fighter guilds. Nothing like the equipment in locked cases in the guilds. Also, there's nothing like a mage based thief on a quest for loot.

Just like my first time through the game, I haven't touched the main quest any after exiting the sewers. It just doesn't seem right. The game offers so many great side quests, and the main quest just feels a bit empty and worthless in comparison. So, I'm not doing the mage guild recommendations, as I occasionally do a little for the thief guild. I figure, with the revamped difficulty of OOO, I'll go through one guild until the challenge is too much to bear, then I hit the others until I'm good for the first one again (or too weak to continue any others).

I'd love to keep going on about my OOO fun, but I have things to do, games to play, and (as I write this at 8 AM) work to ignore and hide from until the work week is officially over.


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