After how E3 seemed to be a let down for major game makers, both in
attendance and those skipping for a variety of reasons (many seem to
be from the show not including retailers who would be the ideal
target for game promotional concepts), it seems like a no-brainer
E3 may be on the move again for next year.
I can see the ESA's idea of keeping things a bit more casual to help
to promote an actual line up of games and not about promoting
pointless spectacles (like booth babes, having many non-game people
in attendance, and other tricks). With a potential move, the idea of
E3 needing to reach the right people is not being faced correctly.
It honestly doesn't matter where E3 is when the expo is not being
seen or handled correctly. It could be held in Fargo, North Dakota,
for all that the ESA cares. What matters is not where, but rather
In particular, I mean the "how" of "how to reach the right outlets
to get insights into how games will fare upon release and how to
improve ideas and concepts that are still in the conception stage?"
This is all that should matter to the ESA. If they keep doing what
they have been up to, which is attacking a symptom and not a
problem, E3 may become a non-event in only a few more years.
The real solution is for other shows to keep stepping up. Gen-Con,
PAX, GDC, and other shows need to continue their quest to fill in
for the void of what E3 was only 14 months ago. While PAX does a
good job of filling in the void of what E3 was never meant to be (a
show for the game players to be seduced by the game makers), not
enough places have stepped in to give a place for retailers and
publishers to scout out games in their infancy stage.
In fact, this year was not even the first recent overhaul of E3.
That was seen in 2006 when the ESA eliminated the idea of booth
babes being scantily clad. While I'm all for a gamer friendly show
filled with plenty of flesh and flash, I do like the idea of a
substantial E3. I like the idea of a show being covered by gaming
outlets that really tackles bringing a blend of hype to the market
(for the games, not the babes) and helping the less established
ideas to be accepted into the gaming cosmos.
Blah. It's like I said...give this type of constant overhaul another
couple of (or a few more) years and it will suffer and die. I've
seen it from other things, and E3 has proven that the ESA is not
some unstoppable machine of game hype. It's time for them to do
things right or to die a slow and painful death of non-attendance.
Not much to talk about for my weekend. Seattle lived up to the
stereotypes of being a solid wall of falling rain. This meant too
much of my time was spent stuck in various forms of traffic as
people freaked out at the idea of roads being wet and shiny.
I did see some of Overlord (360 version), a game I have ignored up
until now. I watched a friend play through the last few levels. I
didn't know he was about to beat the game, and he seemed surprised
by when the game ended. It's not that I don't like how the game
looks, but I think it's one I'll skip. It just gave me reminders of
the parts I didn't like about Pikmin (minus the timer). There seemed
to be too much micromanagement and too many frustrations from
controlling a bunch of peons. The concept seems strong, but the
controls seem like an annoyance in a lot of situations (especially
Anyway, from the couple of hours I watched, I can say that if you
like Pikmin, then Overlord is a great game for you. If Pikmin was
fun, but offered a few too many instances of micromanagement for
your tastes, then I'd probably skip the game or reserve it for a
Now to play some
Guitar Hero Encore. Street date? Toys R Us don't need no
stinking street date!
As I said at the
end of my post yesterday, I went to Toys R Us and got Guitar Hero
Encore early. True, I could have waited another day and went to Best
Buy or Fry's and got the game for $10 less, but I wanted a new game
and I wanted it now.
I spent what I
consider a small amount of time with GHE last night. I know I didn't
spend nearly the amount of time I did with GH2 when it first came my
way, but I still spent a fair amount of time with the game. Little
did I realize until I was putting down the game for the night that
my little amount of time amounted to nearly completing the whole
game. In other words, GHE is short. Very short.
While GH2 had
somewhere around 40 or so songs on the main game and another couple
of dozen bonus songs to unlock in the game's shop system, GHE is far
less filled with content. GHE covers 30 songs. I don't mean they are
all covers, since there are a few actual recordings of the original
artist in this game, but the content is limited to 30 songs. No
bonus songs to unlock, no massive track list, and no real reward for
What I mean by
that is that GHE feels, to me, like the downloadable content on the
360 version of GH2. It's not priced in the same proportions of price
to song as the past GH games. In fact, it's almost a rip off when
you consider that the game carries as MSRP of $50, like the past two
GH games, but for so many fewer songs. The game simply doesn't feel
worth it. Even if I waited for Best Buy or Fry's to get the game,
today, the game would still feel a bit overpriced at $40.
On top of having
few songs compared to past GH games, the content is also somewhat
lacking. The venues are the same as those seen in GH2. The little
tour screen you get when you finish a whole set is straight from
GH2. The characters may now have a little wardrobe change to match
the 80's feel of the songs, but they're the same guitar
players...not even including the new additions to GH2 that were seen
in the 360 version. You can buy new axes and sniks for them, but you
simply don't have the massive stream of content we have all come to
expect from GH games.
Sadly, the songs
don't help to justify this price difference. True, many more of the
songs from GHE fall into the recognizable category than past GH
games, but they still don't necessarily rock any harder. You are
even forced to sit through two set lists of the slowest and easiest
songs imaginable before you can start to play the songs that you
know you've been waiting for. Songs like Ballroom Blitz, Wrath
Child, Caught in a Mosh (finally some good Anthrax in a GH games),
and Radar Love (which has a horrible cover) all come in the second
half of the game. The first half is a bunch of the most mild and
sedate songs possible.
In fact, I know I
have not gotten much better at GH games in the last half year. I
play GH2 on the 360 from time to time and I have no problem
admitting that I'm a medium player. I suck when that mystical orange
button appears (in hard mode). I can five star many GH2 songs in
medium, but I still get four stars on some of them (like Psychobilly
Freakout). I can only get 100% perfect on a couple of songs, and
it's not something I can repeat. I simply have some clumsy fingers.
So, with playing
each song only once (and not playing all of the songs yet), I
already have about six or so 100% songs on medium on GHE. I say this
as a hint of the difficulty of this game. It's the easiest example
of GH I have ever played. It's not like the 1980's were only filled
with slow and simple songs, but rather Harmonix seemed to like to
chose songs that could earn this game the reputation of being the
beginner's GH game. I may finally be able to move up to hard, but
only because this version of GH is so damned easy.
Anyway, at it's
heart, GHE is a good game. However, in comparison to GH1 and GH2,
this game is seriously lacking. The controls are good (same exact
engine as GH2...down to the same visuals...), the songs include some
fun ones and some classic riffs of doom, and the game would be a
great addition to a gaming library...if only it did not follow GH2.
For GHE to come along now is like deciding that an opening act at a
concert and the headliner should swap places. You don't follow
something like GH1 and GH2 with GHE unless the price is discounted.
Maybe this is Harmonix's way of trying to show how hollow GH is
before they get Rock Band out later this year. Maybe it's an attempt
to lose GH some customer loyalty.
In the end, I can
only recommend GHE to two types of people. It's great for GH
obsessed individuals looking for another fix while waiting for GH3
and Rock Band. It's also ideal for those people who view the GH2 360
downloadable content to be fairly priced and a great deal (all one
of you who works at Activision and believes this to be true).
I'll still keep
playing GHE, and I'll finish all of the remaining songs tonight.
However, I see myself then quickly firing up my 360 and playing GH2
to fill the void until the next generation of guitar and rock games
come along this fall.
Because of all the
construction in the Seattle area, there are a lot of loose bits of
gravel on the highways. Well, when a car kicks up a rock, it
can go 70 MPH back at my car, also going 70 MPH (err...the speed
limit is 60...change that to 60 :P). The end result of this
velocity equation is...I need a new windshield and I f$#@ing hate
construction and all the bull shit it brings into my life.
On that happy
note, Malik is ready to bitch. Let's roll...
First off, I beat
all songs on medium at 5 stars on GHE last night. I have to say I'm
a bit disappointed. On one hand, there are only 30 songs. That's
really not much for a $50 MSRP. When you look at past GH games, this
is a very bad deal, and when you look at how many of the songs don't
pack a lot of punch (it's not until the third, of six, tiers that
you start to feel the need to rock out) compared to GH and
GH2...well...I like the game, but I don't see myself picking this
one when I'm in the mood for random GH fun. Maybe if I'm in the mood
for a little Turning Japanese, Police Truck, and Ballroom Blitz.
Otherwise, I see myself heading over to GH2 on the 360 (on the PS2
for multiplayer since I have but one 360 guitar).
disappointment was how easy medium was. I suck at hard (the fifth
fret button kills my brain), so medium is my cup of tea. I have yet
to beat all songs at 5 stars on medium in GH or GH2. On GHE, I
actually got five stars on all but one song on my first try. I even
got 100% on about six songs on my first try. The only song that gave
any challenge was Electric Eye (as performed by Judas
Priest)...which took four times to get up from four stars to the
fifth star. I am now feeling full and done with this game. I still
want to move on and become a hard player, and that's the only
advantage of GHE...it offers a good training platform to handle hard
songs for medium fans, versus the challenge of GH or GH2 in this
In the end, I see
why reviews seem to hover around a 7/10 for this game. While the
past two GH games were definitely awe inspiring events, GHE is what
it is; a game made by Harmonix to fulfill their contract with Red
Octane and Activision before heading off to work on Rock Band. The
game was a lot like a real rock album in that regard. Many artists
have made sub-par albums in order to fulfill contractual obligations
before working on their good stuff for their next
publisher/recording label. It's not that GHE is bad, but it fails to
meet the standards of GH2.
On a different
note, I have to talk about TV a little. I don't mean a particular
channel or a particular program. I'm talking about Comcast...one of
the most obvious faceless corporations in my home/life.
decided to imitate Microsoft. With time, Microsoft will offer a new
OS with a shiny new set of features and a shiny new looking UI (user
interface). Comcast decided recently that they were due for an
overhaul of the UI and appearance of their cable boxes. That was not
a bad move. The old system had some flaws. It looked good, but it
had some issues with responsiveness on some older boxes and some
issues with some menus being too far imbedded in other menus.
Well, I now have
Comcast's new UI on both of my cable boxes (a standard digital box
and a HD DVR). The old digital box is almost unusable now, and my
DVR is just a chore to use. I've lost my ability to channel surf
with the best of them. I lost my ability to turn off my brain for an
hour and know simple facts that require basic math (how far am I
into a certain show? No longer does Comcast tell me "Just Started",
"Started 5 minutes ago", "9 minutes left", or the like). I also lost
my idea of how to navigate my menus.
That was one of my
big new issues with this overhaul. The menus, which used to use
simple options like "more info" and "last" now are built around the
most pointless of picture based icons. What the hell is a triangle
like a "play icon" followed by a D? Apparently it's what used to be
a simple "on demand" option. What's a magnifying glass? I think it's
"info" or something like that. All the obvious text based cues have
been replaced with this dumbed down picture icon shit as if Comcast,
of all companies, is playing off the stereotype that TV viewers are
I also now have
the most clutter filled DVR menu imaginable. Instead of shows being
sorted by a combination of date recorded and all shows of the same
series being lumped together, I now have each episode taking up a
full slot on my DVR. What this means is that instead of having about
a dozen choices from my DVR (Metalocalypse, Planet Earth, Venture
Bros, etc), I now have a shit ton of clutter. I like to record and
keep Adult Swim shows, which are typically about 15 minutes long and
in SD...which makes it where I can record a lot of them. So, now my
menu is plagued by 12 instances of Venture Bros, 8 instances of
Metalocalypse, and so on.
To put it in
simpler terms, imagine if you could not have folders within you hard
drive, so that all files had to be in the root folder. Imagine how
cluttered that would be. Now imagine trying to find a single file in
However, the worst
change in all of this is that channel surfing is now a huge lag
filled pain in the ass. Previously, I could keep hitting channel
up/down or favorite repeatedly as the guide told me what I was
surfing through. The picture/reception would not come in for an
extra half second, but I didn't need the TV picture if I aimed to
just surf past G4 (which I only use for Ninja Warrior) showing an
episode of Cops. I could also slide past the History Channel when
they were having yet another episode of Hitler's Something or Other
instead of something fun. I could skip HBO when they were showing,
yet again, Star Wars Episode 3. This could just slide by me really
quickly as I got the guide telling me that I didn't want to stop and
wait for the signal to be received.
Now, the system
requires me to wait for the signal to be fully received before I can
flip channels again. So, in my professional channel surfing ways, I
now need about 2 minutes to flip through all of my
favorites...instead of about 15 seconds. I have to stop at each and
every single instance of every channel I've marked as my favorite.
Comcast seemed to have forgotten that even a person's favorite
channel can contain crap 75-95% of the time.
When you add in
that the on screen mini-guide now can only cover three channels at a
time (instead of four), it starts to feel like pretty new visuals
mattered far more than functionality. Also, when you consider how
damned slow Comcast is to adopt additional HD channels (and how one
HD channel worth of bandwidth was wasted with the Golf Channel, of
all channels...not FSN which has a wider appeal for sports fans), it
just makes me feel a little extra rage as I deal with their insanely
So, for myself, I
am proposing two things I shall do. The first, which I already did,
is ask Comcast support why the f#@$ I'm paying for this shit (the
loss of functionality to my system, the lack of HD support, and the
high bill to round it out). I'm curious to see what they say in
response to my inquiry. The second part is that Velveeta and I are
now shopping around for TV providers, since Congress will never get
off their fat asses and pass a bill to eliminate cable monopolies
(which has, supposedly, been in the works for over a decade but is
always shot down...GIVE ME A FREAKIN' CHOICE!).
Anyway, I just
needed to vent. TV is not a major part of my life (except when it's
used to display some gaming or some Seahawks or Mariners games), but
when I am in the mood to watch, I want to watch and enjoy. I don't
want to f#@$ing deal with some lame bullshit system that is pretty
and pretty slow when I had a system only a week/day ago (my DVR
changed last night and my digital box changed last week) that was
ideal and user friendly. At least give me the choice to use the
supposedly antiquated system before forcing bull shit on me. I can
opt to skip out on new Windows version until it's up to par,
required, or deemed useless (like Windows ME), but I have to take
the Comcast equivalent of Windows ME without any choice.
I wonder what one
of the dish based services are up to...
I also wonder why
Comcast, when they updated by UI, decided to set Jerry Springer, The
Daily Show, The Today Show, and a random block of music videos on
MTV2 as set recordings...and why was it so damned hard to get rid of
I tried to help my
parents out with some more of that modern technology. Around a week
ago, I was helping them setup and get used to a world that included
terms like HD, plasma, and digital. Yesterday, I was teaching them
about the joys of WiFi. They had a router and a desire to get it
running, as well as to let their Wii get on the internet.
In the end, I had
forgotten a couple of important facts. The first being how picky the
Wii is for it's WiFi support (like the almost required use of
channels 1 and 11, and how a good amount of routers fail to be
recognized by the Wii). There simply are a lot of routers and a lot
of settings that can send a Wii into an offline hell. The router I
was setting up, luckily, worked with the Wii...at first. We were
able to find the router, download some updates (since their Wii had
never seen an update in it's life), and think everything was cool.
Then we tried the shop channel...and had the system hang. So we
tried the weather and news channels...and watched it hang.
minutes later, and a lot of patience gone, we got the forecast for
Seattle. Then we tried the news channel...and the Wii failed. I
tried entering the error codes into the
support site and...well...let's just say that the last thing I
want to see from Nintendo's support for something as routine as a
Wii being put online is that the error code is not recognized. It
was their support system and their console, so they should know
every damned error code.
Some time later,
we finally got the Wii to see the news channel. So we had two of the
basic three; news and weather, but no shop. No matter what we did,
the shop eluded us. Sometimes we'd error code with the code for the
system timing out, and other times we'd simply hang for however long
it would take for someone to hard power off the system.
On the bright
side, I think I figured out a possible solution...I never checked
the router's default firewall settings. So, the internet tubes may
just be a firewall away. Since the shop channel uses more security
and encryption than the weather or news channels (due to
credit/debit card usage), this would make sense. On the other hand,
it could just be that Airlink 101 is not the right router brand for
the Wii (despite how they make a good solid product for cheap).
The other bit of
good news from this was that when I returned home, later in the day,
I decided to try the shop channel (to make sure it was
online...which could've been another possible problem). The channel
was up, so I'm back to the firewall idea as the only last resort in
my arsenal of WiFi network wizardry. However, while on the channel,
I decided to download Kirby's Dream Course.
KDC was always one
of my favorite games as a kid. It was one of the most enjoyable
takes on minigolf that the SNES, or even the world, has witnessed.
For those who have not tried this game, it's almost a required SNES
game. The controls are based around basic minigolf rules (putting
your brains out...well, Kirby's brains).
The twist is how
you need to hit every enemy placed on the course. Once you hit the
second to last enemy, the final one turns into the hole. If you hit
a dude with a power, then you get control of that power, to use once
per stroke, until you find a new power. These are all standard Kirby
powers (umbrella to slow your fall with some control, rock to
suddenly stop or fall, destructive powers to kill foes, wheel to
speed across water hazards and to speed up, etc). You also have the
challenge of each stroke costing you one point of life (with four
max life points). You regain one at the end of each hole, and a hole
in one will net you a 1-up.
Beyond that, the
game does allow for some trick shots. You can hook or slice, you can
add top spin or back spin, and you can also pop your ball into the
air. Combining these can get you a few extra moves. For example, a
top spin on an air shot can net you enough bounce on your first
contact with the ground that you may be able to skim across the top
of a water hazard. Use an umbrella or rock power with an air shot
and you can find an easier way to pinpoint the hole.
It's a simple
game. However, that's the beauty of it, and why it has aged so well
since it's SNES days. Also, since it's light on controls, it fits
well with either the classic controller or the GCN pad. Anyway, it's
one of the few games from my nostalgic thoughts that I actually can
feel, after playing it, that the cost of admission is well worth the
It was five years
ago, to this day, that I faced what I consider the most excruciating
of all possible events...but one that, while being almost
intolerable, offered one of life's best rewards. I think of it like
a rite of passage that requires patience and tolerance of people who
don't understand the nature of a tradition. All in order to give a
good series of events to follow. In other words, happy anniversary
Velveeta! Five years of good times, and plenty more to come.
Moral of this
story; Weddings suck (for the wedding party) but marriage is good.
Back to the
subjects at hand (geek things), I watched the Japanese original of
Dark Water last night. To paraphrase the comic book guy from the
Simpsons (which is in theaters today), "worth Japanese horror movie
ever!" I don't even know what the f#@$ I was watching, but I know
that it had the worst setup for a horror movie that I ever saw.
Here's a hint...the ghost is haunting her old home, in the typical
Japanese horror movie way, but not because she was murdered. It's
not because she had been neglected or abused. No...here's a lame as
shit spoiler; she drowned on her own because she (a six year old
girl) decided to climb to the top of a water tower and then fell in
after she dropped her bag into the open top of the water tower. The
I also went out
and got Beyond the Sword last night. This is the newest expansion
for Civ4. Awesome game, and the expansion does bring in some needed
civilizations, like the Babylonians, Ethiopia, Sumerians, Native
Americans (like all Native American tribes should be lumped under
one civilization rules by Sitting Bull), and...well, there are 10
new civilizations and 6 new leaders for old civilizations. There are
also some new techs, some new wonders, and a larger emphasis on
spies and corporations (a new feature like a late game religion).
My favorite new
feature is being able to decide what religion you founded when you
discover a religion granting technology. This is awesome since there
are no new religions. So, if you found religions from your
civilization, you can decide something like this for the theology of
First Islam. You
people believe that Jesus was a prophet, but who was Jesus. Hundreds
of years later, you found Christianity. You've now decided that this
prophet must be a messiah...way after His time on Earth...like
thousands of years after. He was the messiah of...some people...but
who? Then you found Judaism a few hundred years later. They are
people who have a "short" history and believe all that the
Christians do, but they decide, for some weird reason, to reject
Jesus as a savior.
I love that
scenario as an example since it obviously shows one flaw of this new
system. Ok...two flaws. The first being that you can make total
non-sense and it shows that religions don't mean anything in the
game, in terms of history or rationale of why they exist. Secondly,
it shows that Civ4 needs new religions for this type of thing to
happen. What about Zoroastrianism, which has a large following? What
about Greek/Roman Mythology, which was once powerful and fits under
polytheism? What about the pagan beliefs of northern European
barbarians? Shinto belief is and was strong in Japan. I could go on
for a while (I took a few too many theology classes in college).
The expansion does
play pretty soundly, with only a few minor issues. The largest issue
for me, besides the religion problem, is that the game's new
material manifests late in the game, and I have not yet reached that
far on my first couple of BtS games. I had to quit one when I could
have sworn the game sent swarms of barbarians against me, and none
against the AI opponents (making me go from more powerful to almost
dead in about 75 turns). I'm now playing a good game of one player
and epic proportions.
The only new thing
I've really dealt with is random events. You'll sometimes be told of
a special problem or event, and you will either gain or lose things
depending on the event. If you get the right event, you'll even have
a choice of how to handle the issue. For example, you have a
champion in the coliseum. Do you want to give him easy opponents to
gain a little gold and some extra culture from the coliseum, or do
you burn him out quickly, getting a lot of gold but no culture
I need more time
to really test BtS...but I'd say it's worth the price of admission
($30) for me, so far...but that's mainly because I'm a Civ4 fanatic.
Time to celebrate
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