Wednesday, November 28, 2007

Technical Difficulties

Last night I intended to write a new post in between sessions of Guitar Hero III. Luckily (or not) my laptop wasn't wirelessly communicating with my router. Usually they have a spat for about ten minutes every evening but they're right back talking like old friends. But last night my laptop as in the "doghouse" and I couldn't get online. So, more GH3 for me. I beat Medium and have transcended to hard. You would think that with four skill levels the differences would be minor, but they are not. Adding another button each level is a huge spike in difficulty. However, trying to go for 5 stars on all songs does help subconsciously prep you for harder levels. Kind of like the "wax on, wax off" of plastic guitar prop playing. I even played a song on expert and I beat it, bearly.

I haven't talked much about anime and manga since I started this. After getting addicted to anime watching Star Blazers, Voltron, Battle Of The Planets, Tranzor Z, and (my personal favorite) ROBOTECH, I wanted more. Being an unemployed junior high and high school student I needed a quick fix of something Japanese and manga was just hitting the comic book store shelves. Akira, Area 88, Mai: The Psychic Girl, Legend Of Kamui, and Xenon all became parts of my obsession with Japanese story telling. My love affair with manga lasted many years until I could afford anime tapes, then DVDs, and sadly I haven't looked back. There are many good titles I have never even read and some I never finished. One such title is Parasyte, Kiseijuu in Japanese.

Parasyte is a story of an insidious alien takeover of people on Earth. The parasites quietly landed on Earth and began taking over people by eating their heads and assume control of the body. Not like zombies, but with a taste for the flesh of the species they inhabit. The main character is wearing earphones when he is attacked and the parasite merges with his hand. They both become strange friends and begin to hunt down all other parasite-infected humans. The original English translations have been out of print and even harder to find on eBay. Del Rey Publishing just bought the license to reissue it and it is for sale once again. The art style is unique and a great horror story , with elements of The Thing, Terminator 2, and lots of original style. Very visual even though it was never adapted to anime. A Live Action movie has been reported, with a release time somewhere in 2008.

On with my video game musings. #88 is the Star Wars arcade game. The original wire-frame Death Star attacking arcade game. As far as I remember it is the first first-person perspective game of the whole franchise, and you attack the Death Star, with the voices from the movie talking you through it. Released when Return Of The Jedi hit theaters, in 1983, this was the only thing I ever wanted to do, fly an X-Wing, destroy TIE-Fighters, and blow up the Death Star. Even Obi-Wan tells you, after the Death Star is reduced to wire-frame debris, "the Force will be with you always." This is a great game for anyone who grew up with the Holy Trilogy. And after you blew up the Death Star, you got to do it all over again, with a harder Death Star. By the third time through the trench is filled with obstacles akin to the Second Death Star. If I owned arcade games this would be on top of my wish list with Star Castle, TRON, and Tempest.

#86 is Perfect Dark. The company that brought you (and me) GoldenEye made another perfect FPS. The single player "story mode" was intelligently written, with plenty of surprises, and made you (and me, as well) want to keep playing 'til the bitter end. A point I've mentioned before in this genre is about the amount of killing. Some games become a work in tedium to kill everything to move on. Moving from fight to fight never gets boring with Perfect Dark and walks the line from movie plot story telling to FPS moments, never over-doing one or the other. Then comes the multi-player, as deep as the single player game. With so many options, even giants like Halo pale by comparison to GoldenEye, Perfect Dark, and Time Splitters multi-player. Why doesn't Halo have bots? Why doesn't Halo have random weapons? All I can say is Laptop Gun. Throw it on the ground and it becomes a machine gun auto-turret. And to top it off, you didn't need a Dual Shock to play it, just an N64 controller with one analog stick. Perfect Dark Zero is another matter. Don't confuse the two.

#81 is Space Invaders. A game so simple, the reason I loved it as a child is the same reason everyone still loves it and the genre it started. I could go on about how it started the overhead and side-scrolling shooters of the 90s. Its not only the precursor to classics such as Xevious and Zaxxon but it was the first game you played as a "survival mode." It's strange to think about but there wasn't a name for "playing as long s you can on one quarter." All arcade did this, and Space Invaders was the first to track a high score (and have music). For those that may not know, Survival Mode is just a term for holding out in a game as long as possible until the bitter end. Trek fans would refer to this as the Kobayashi Maru test. As a child I played this and Radar Scope little realizing they were Japanese. I apparently had no choice but to fall for all things Japanese even from an early age. The most import thing I can say about this game is the psychology of the people (Japanese) who invented it back in '78. There were whole arcades in Japan that only had Space Invaders. This is an un-winnable game about holding the line until you are stomped on. Sure, you have a couple extra lives and some bases to hide behind but it won't help. Sooner or later it'll be time to pay the piper. This is a game created by a country that lost a war and a people who are shamed by the loss. This may sound mean, but we won the war and invented Space War and Pong using oscilloscope circuits from ICBM targeting computers of the 60s. I don't think it would have occurred to us to make a game you lose, until Pong started making money in bars, and the Japanese sucked all our quarters out of our pockets and into the Space Invaders coil slot.

Look at the early games of the Atari 2600. Air-Sea Battle, Combat, Circus Atari, Football, Maze Craze, Indy 500, and (one of my favorites) Adventure. All these games either pit one player against each other or gives you a goal to achieve. Sure you could die, every conflict has losers, but you weren't guaranteed to lose. Play well enough and you win every time. Asteroids and Missile Command, both Atari games and seminal works themselves, still were created after Space Invaders. And to nitpick, Asteroids is you against Mother Nature (uhhh... Mother Space) with a little space ship thrown in to shake things up. Missile Command is the American version of the Space Invaders mindset, and certainly points out it's cold war origins.

I love the Terminator franchise, but I only like the third movie. Nothing really against it but Rise Of The Machines wasn't exactly on the caliber of T1 or T2. Not only do we have a Terminator TV series in the works, with River from Firefly as a Terminator, that ignores the third movie, but there is news now of a fourth offering to the theater gods. Terminator Salvation: The Future Begins hopefully will finally show us a complete future when John Connor totally kicks SkyNets ass. The whole reason for the first movie is that John Conner, and humanity, beats the AI and returns the Earth to flesh-based intelligence. Not even Neo in the Matrix could do that after three movies, and John Connor is pre-destined to win. And who is John this time around? Christian Bale, someone used to fighting for humanity in the future. Picture Reign Of Fire with a leader like Maximus from Gladiator killing Androids, Robots, AI Tanks, AI drop ships, and whatever else SkyNet has. It better be that cool. Sadly James Cameron is once again not attached to the project, but at least he's helping NASA out with the Mars program if he's going to waste my time not making movies. So it looks like we have two (2) different Terminator Time Lines to follow. Along with Back To The Future and Bill & Ted, this 80s movie helped define the current trend in pre-determination, time travel plots. Watch the new Time Machine movie to see what pre-destiny does to the original plot. See you next broadcast.

Monday, November 26, 2007

'Tis Better To Play Silent Hill And Be Thought A Fool

Near the end of the year all sorts of Top 10, 50 and 100 lists start popping up. One of the more interesting ones comes from Wizard Magazine, the Top 50 fictional weapons of all time. A definitive geek list of must have side arms, melee weapons and magic devices from movies to comics to games. Some of them even have props made that you can buy, so it also makes a decent list of props. It's interesting to note that #8 is missing. I guess the weapons invisible and can't be spoken of. Lightsabers are so cool they made the list twice, as did Star Trek with the Phaser and a Sniper Rifle that fires rounds that beam in and out of people's rooms. Why the X-Ray gun from Perfect Dark didn't make I'll never know but it could fire through walls and the scope could pick out people instantly. Between the Star Trek Rifle and Eraser's Rail Gun I guess this weapon became redundant. A couple great classic sci-fi weapons appear, including the TRON's disc and the homing bullets from that chromed-out gun used in Runaway, that other sci-fi movie with Kirstie Alley. The movie was kind of a poor man's Blade Runner, surprisingly written and directed by Michael Crichton. It's a decent enough story but looks like a product of the 80's. Not quite an early Crichton classic like Andromeda Strain or West World. Maybe if the Terminator hadn't come out at the same time we'd remember this movie more. I have the movie poster of Runaway somewhere with Tom Selleck holding the special gun and it always bothered me that it was the bad guy's weapon and Mr. Selleck never fires it. BTW I "heart" 80s Spider Robots.

IGN also has top 100. Of course it's about video games and they are posting the list 10 at time for the rest of the month, damn them. I've only looked at the bottom 20 but I'd like to add my thoughts on their.. uhh... thoughts. 100 thru 98 I never played so I'll jump to number 97: Silent Hill 2. This game belongs higher on the list. I bought it for Xbox a number of years ago and it is everything the first game was and more. The story is more personal and the creatures are even scarier. Maybe its the next gen graphics (since the first game was on PSX) but almost every creature encounter was creepy. The game made you feel uneasy throughout and hit you like a wet brick when the Pyramid Head guy appeared. I almost crapped myself in the movie when Pyramid guy showed up, thanks to this game. He's not to be taken lightly. I never beat it but I left off near the end with some crazy cockroach things eating me or something. I hate the undead and look forward to killing a lot of the during the Zombie Apocalypse if it ever happens thanks to this game. I don't even like nurses anymore, or mannequins, or armless zombies, or little children, or dogs, or static-playing radios, or undead pterodactyls, or my crazy ex-wife in a wheel-chair. No, wait, that was the first game, sorry. I still have issues from that one. And now I hear there's to be a Silent Hill 5?

#96 is Wave Race 64. As a release title it was the other reason to own an N64 back in the day. Water physics were never prettier before the N64 and Wave Race had it in spades. I bought the game during the waning years of the system, but that doesn't diminish the game play. When ever someone plays a game and there's a water fountain or a lake, invariably they try to "play" in it. I'm guilty of this and I can even remember the first time water "wow-ed" me in games. Super Mario 64 had incredible water surface reaction that was just fun to run around in and Ico's water was so reflective and beautiful it made the game even more realistic. But this was just a mild distraction to those games, in Wave Race 64 it was the whole point. You raced on wave runners and had to time your movements with the currents. Brilliant stuff. It actually added strategy to a racing title without the need for "Kart"-racing style offense/defense item collection. There was even stunt mode mini games to add playability, and it had enough reasons to keep playing it until a larger library formed for the N64. It's hard to find a game this good today and it's even available for download on the Wii.

#95 is Bionic Commando. Games used to have gimmicks that totally worked for them because the technology could really only let you do one good thing at a time. This gimmick was the bionic arm that let you move, collect and kill. The arcade was the most fun for me (I'm an old-schooler) but I rented the NES version back in the day and enjoyed it just as much. I don't ever remember being really good at it, but like Ghost & Goblins or Rush 'n' Attack, it was loads of fun. A new version of this now has gone beyond the rumor phase. Now its a serious game where the main character is so badass that his arm is shipped separately from himself. I know how he feels. I wasn't allowed to have Vera when I flew to and from Kuwait. For those that don't know Vera is my Army issue M-16/M-203 grenade launcher. Think Arnold's weapon of choice in the beginning of Predator. That thing's like something out of Aliens.

I never played #94-93 (Ultima VII) but I did play Ultima Exodus for NES which furthered my desire for RPGs on Consoles. Luckily I'm not the only one who loves turn based sword fights. #92 is Wip3Out or WipeOut 3 or W3p3O3t 3 or something with "three" in it. Defining racer for the PSX and showed high-speed polygon "Kart" racing at its finest. I say "Kart" because there were items to collect during the race to even the odds you fall behind. The AI was always a challenge, except on the slowest speeds, and learning to turn/drift/maneuver was half the fun/difficulty. The music perfectly fit as well. This franchise was so well done it has become a defining graphic powerhouse on new Sony systems, like WipeOut Fusion for PS2 and WipeOut Pure for PSP. I found the PSP version a little hard to control but it just takes getting used to. Where's the PS3 version? In the works, but PSP is waiting patiently for WipeOut Pulse next month. BTW nice Euro techno soundtrack.

I also never played 91 so you're just going to have to go to the website to see what I passed by. I did come across a reference to a new Street Fighter game in the works, creatively titles Street Fighter IV. It should probably be Street Fighter LXXVIII but who's counting. The visuals of the trailer are stunning but I wonder how much of that is game play. It sounds to be a 2D fighter but you've got my vote if they keep the visuals in the "Okami" style. Here's this weeks viral video called Italian Spiderman. Tomorrow I will talk of 90 thru 81. See you next broadcast.

Sunday, November 25, 2007

Life, From Lifelessness

Frankenstein is an iconic word. Thanks to the 1931 movie, and the less-than-stellar sequals, the name conjures a myth very different than what Mary Shelley intended in her book. The name itself is more synonymous with the "monster" than the mad scientist who created life. His first name Victor is meant as an irony. Much like Hammond in Jurassic Park, Victor Frankenstien went too far too fast before a moral compass could be brought to bear. Whereas the movie name became the creature's, the novel's name refers to Victor Frankenstein. After reading half the book this weekend I realize the book is about the downfall of the man and his family, paying a price for Victor's hubris. Surprisingly, the book starts in the arctic as a ship encounters Victor trapped and frozen while hunting his creature. The entire book, save the prologue, is written in first person as Victor tells another person (as if the reader is this other person) the tale of how he arrived in the arctic.

Interestingly enough the actual moment of the creature's birth is handled almost as an off-hand comment in a paragraph, much like he describes an incident with lightning in his youth. There was no drama, just an explanation leading to success. No Igor/Fritz, no assistants, no castles with lightning rods, and he's not even a Doctor. He is so terrified by his success he runs away and goes to bed while the "creature" wanders out of the house and disappears. This event continues to haunt Victor for years as his family is being murdered by something at their peaceful Swiss local. The language of the book is at least English, but somewhat like Jane Austin writing a horror story. The book is 198 pages and about 100 of them are used to describe the history of the Frankenstein family. This does create a fantastic background for the characters so their deaths become more devestating as the book progresses.

At least half the book is a philosophical treaty on human behavior as Mary Shelley is a proponent of nature-over-nurture. She supports the idea that humans are benign and learn to be corrupt and evil as the world, and others, mistreat them. This plays out with the "monster" as it is abused and turns evil, seeking revenge on Victor Frankenstein. This book was published in 1818, almost 200 years ago, and these ideas are still relevant today. Victor Frankenstein's focus of science is to re-animate dead matter and stop death. I recall Anakin wanting the same thing, and he became a "monster" (a bad ass dark Jedi monster). Scientists today are still working on the "fountain of youth." Many of the warnings and ideas are still seen today in sci-fi and pop culture. Trading Places is a comedy of nature-over-nurture. Like the start of the novel, The X Files Season 2 had a two-part mythology episode, "Colony" and "End Game," begining with Mulder in the arctic hunting an alien "bounty hunter" when he is discovered and brought back to health. There is much to the novel and I highly recommend it if you can stomach Victorian verbosity.

The new Battlestar Galactic TV Movie "Razor" aired last night. Having not really followed the series much past Season 1, I was a bit confused by the placement of the episode, as it is considered a "missing episode." It follows the "Pegasus" plot after Lee "Apollo" Adama is given command, but before it is destroyed when it rammed a Cylon BaseStar. There is much given to die-hard fans of the series that went right over my head for a while until things were spelled out. The guest star of the episode is Apollo's new XO, Kendra Shaw, as she helps tell stories in flashback to the events of Pegasus and Admiral Cain, the original CO played by Michelle Forbes (Ensign Ro of Next Generation fame). Once things started moving the story became riviting with Admiral Cain's "Captain Bligh"-inspired brutality to flashbacks of the first Cylon war when Apollo's father was a pilot. He had crashed on a Cylon planet at the end of the war and found a lab being used to make the first Cylon/Human hybrids that pre-date the "Human" Cylons of the present day. Of note is the Pegasus encounter (during the "current" time) with "old" Cylons from the first war that look like the Cylons from the 70s original show, which is just awesome to see, until they move, since the creators decided to make them CG rather than people in shiny chrome suits. WTF? Well, the Cylon Raiders looked awesome and the story ends with a mostly predictable bang, but the journey there is worth it. I've got to spend more time with this franchise. Razor comes out on DVD December 4th, and I'll be there.

The crazy British guy who seems to hate every video game made in his video reviews, except The Orange Box, managed to score a trip to America to visit Half-Life creator Valve. Instead of a scathing game review he posted his travelogue. There are some interesting insights into the gaming companies that others ought to follow before they create a plethora of crap for the new year. Valve is almost like The Borg. See you next broadcast.

Friday, November 23, 2007

We Have 3-D Movie Sign!

I love movies. I love going to the movies. I love watching movies. I love anticipating new movies. Its the closest thing to a holodeck we're going to have for some time. And now movie technology has taken a step up. We've dabbled in 3-D since the begining of motion pictures, with the height being in the 50s. Now, companies have finally started making 3-D movies (outside of IMAX documentaries) that look gorgeous and nothing more than a light-weight, polarized nerd-glasses. It's a good thing that theater is dark or we'd look stupid. Okay, more stupid. The first sets of movies being shown in 3-D are the CG movies, because they are already created in three-dimensional computer space and it's easy to flip the switch from flat to dimensional. Superman Returns doesn't count because only a small part of the movie was "converted" to 3-D. Beowulf (not the other CG "B" movie) is the next reason to leave the house. BTW, in previews for Bee Movie, why the hell are bees driving cars. I don't understand Disney.

I'm not sure how I feel about these motion-capture CG/almost-real movies. They are almost so real why don't they just make a real movie. It could look like Lord Of The Rings or the Prequel Trilogy or something. The movie didn't quite sell me in the first few minutes, but then the Grendal hit the fan and the movie had my attention. From the beginning, which had way more naked men than I like in my movies (CG or not), Beowulf looked good, but not outstanding, like watching video game cut scenes. By the end of the movie I thought things improved a hundred percent and the 3-D was extraordinary. Where the Polar Express failed, this movie had characters with emotions. I don't think I would have liked this movie normally but the 3-D was stunning, and somehow felt right, even though some scenes were obviously designed for medium. I prefer my 3-D movies not to "frame" shots to impress me. I walk around in 3-D all the time so this tends to feel gimmicky.

Some of the previews were in 3-D as well, including the first fully live-action, digitally-filmed movie adaptation of "Journey To The Center Of The Earth." Once again the previes show nifty 3-D moments that looked staged, but James Cameron's name is attached somewhere in the credits so I hope that stuff is kept to a minimum. I'm a big fan of the "original" 1959 movie version, but I realise I haven't read the 19th century novel so I aquired it for later consumption. The new "Cloverfield" preview is also on the movie and it looks even better. A must see in less that two (2) months. Once I came home from the movie I felt compelled to watch the 13th Warrior and see the connections/differences between the two. All the key points of the original 10th Century plot are contained but the surrounding events are changed to fit the needs of Director. The big difference between the two is that one is a more realistic tale of Norsemen (and an Arab) dealing with an evil religious sect, and the other is a mythological monster tale of heroes trying to conquer man's mistakes and the consequences of said actions. The latter is closer to the epic poem, but diverges in the last parts.

Guitar Hero is still a constant challenge. I'm one song shy of beating Medium so I tried Hard and managed two songs. I highly recommend co-op mode, even if the other person has to use a controller. I think it's even a littl eeasier for new players to learn. I did learn that if the two (2) of you are on different difficulty levels the lowest one is the one thats counted when you complete all the songs. There are even different songs and set lists from the single player mode. No guitar-battles so the co-op is a quick way to get achievement points. In the week I've had it I've only unlocked 11 of the 59 achievements for a total of 100 (out of 1,000) points. This game is rough. Still looking forward to drumming on Rock Band next paycheck, or maybe I'll wait until X-Mas.

I went book shopping today, after Beowulf, and bought the aforementioned "Journey To The Center Of The Earth," as well as the original Frankenstein. I believe this to be the first Sci-Fi novel written, being published in 1818. We are almost 200 years since it was written and the best movie version is still the 1931 adaptation (or Young Frankenstein depending on your point of view). Brilliant in it's own right, but butchers the source material. I will start reading this book tonight and see if I can finish it before Monday. This story is so simple, in that man's creation becomes corrupt and evil, that plot points still resonate today, from The Terminator to Jurrasic Park to The Matrix. Once I watch the 1994 movie version I'll write a comparison. See you next broadcast.

Wednesday, November 21, 2007

The School Of Rock Band Conspiracy

With my extra time off today, due to being let out of work early, I immediately went home and played more Guitar Hero. Inspired thusly, I watched my DVD of School Of Rock, and I noticed a strange coincidence. A line from Jack Black explains to the children their new project is called... "insert dramatic pause" ...Rock Band. Why does this matter? A little game that came out yesterday called... Rock Band. Connecting the dots begins now.

School Of Rock was made by Paramount Pictures, a subsidary of Viacom. Rock Band was produced by Harmonix, the original makers of Guitar Hero. Harmonix was recently purchased by MTV (you know, Music Television, the channel that only showed videos in the 80s) after they split from Red Octane, the makers of the official guitar peripherals. Neversoft picked up the Guitar Hero franchise and Rock Band becomes the true spiritual successor to the series. Why am I pointing any of this out? Because Viacom also owns MTV. So an off-hand piece of dialog from School Of Rock just happens to appear as the name of a video game about a rock band, both of which have connections to MTV. I don't believe in coincidence. I have a hunch that the game's name is a "tip of the hat" to the movie, since you can only truly appreciate the game as a group, not just solo.

Having more or less mastered Easy (getting 5 stars on all the songs) I moved on to Medium this week. There is a huge gap in difficulty here. Not only do you have to use four (4) Fret Buttons instead of three (3), but the on-screen fret board comes flying at you like a race track and chords are everywhere. Did any of the groups in the game ever think their greatest hits would cause tendonitis or carpel tunnel to Rock Fans immitating their moves with a plastic guitar? I curse Heart for that damn baseline in Baracuda. And Eric Clapton just wanted to make some riffs impossible just because he can do them for real. I'm betting it would be easier to play Black Magic Woman on a real guitar than with the game set to Expert.

I'm always thinking of the future and I wonder what advances in Rhythm Gaming will come of this. I don't expect DDR to mix with Karaoke Revolution, even though I think Milli Vanilli would put on a mean demo if Vanilli were still alive. In the next Rock Band (or clone to come out) I'd like to see a keyboard/synth. Even better if it is the "portable" one you wear like a guitar. Then we could really play Police tracks, or anything from the 80s. I'd also like the guitars weigh a little more, too.

Enough Rock for today. As a geek I love lists of things. I found a Sci-Fi site that maintains top 100, and sometimes 200, lists of TV shows, Movies, and Books. Just the kind of thing I think geeks ought to know. I would treat it as a "To Do" list of media to familiarize yourself with. Anyway, what geek doesn't like Sci-Fi. Watch lots of movies, eat lots of Turkey, have a happy Thanks Giving and see you next broadcast.

Tuesday, November 20, 2007

We Are Rubik, Resistance Is Futile

I continue my brave journey to discover myself through Guitar Hero. I've learned that as long as I activate a music track by imitating guitar play, I'm quite happy that I don't actually know how to play a real guitar. This is truth in gaming. I also don't have time to become a Space Marine, Cowboy, Mob Boss, Fighter Pilot, Plumber, MIT Theoretical Physicists, or John Madden. A game should be considered successful if you feel you've become something your not without the difficulty of attainment. Guitar Hero has this in spades. I even love the simple message, "Press any key to Rock." If the was meant to teach you how to play guitar it would be a more of a simulator than a game, like the difference between Gran Tourismo and Burn Out. Rock Band looks like a cross between the two. The review is in from IGN and they love it.

A new actor has been chosen for Star Trek XI. Sarek, Spock's father, will be played by Ben Cross. Yes, that Ben Cross, the one form Chariots Of Fire. If memory serves this makes the third actor to play Sarek, and (if he is in a flashback) the second actor to play him in a flashback. JJ Abrams was able to keep "Cloverfield" under wraps so well I hope he doesn't do the same to Trek. If he keeps feeding us tidpits that will make the year go by quicker. Less than two months until Cloverfield at least. I didn't see Blair Witch but I'll bring dramamine just in case.

Earlier this year I decided to learn how to solve a Rubik's Cube. I had learned as a child but forgotten so I wanted to try again, as I had never solved a cube without a book. Now we have the internet so I found a useful site and set to work. About a week later I'd memorized four (4) different patterns of movement and solved it within a couple inutes no matter how scrambled it was. I looked for a greater challenge and bought a Rubik's Revenge (4x4x4) and The Professor's Cube (5x5x5). The Revenge exploded on me while fixing it and I never figured out how to put it back together. I completed all the Professor's Cube but for two pieces that were out of position. I thought that was pretty good so I gave up on the project.

A month later, while on drill, I found myself on a bus to a weapons range with time to kill. I had my cube on me so I decided to spend the three hour trip teaching another soldier, who will go by the name "Scully." I enjoyed the challenge of teaching a Padawan of the Cube and the weekend continued until I was sure she had all the knowledge she needed. I had no idea what seed I had planted. This past weekend, several months since, I discovered that she had, in turn, been teaching someone new. Knowledge is infectious. BTW read how to solve The Professor's Cube before actually scrambling it. Just an FYI. See you next broadcast.

Make Mine Cloverfield

The secret JJ Abrams movie has a name. This is the name fans called it anyway so why not. It doesn't help to explain anything in the movie, but it makes the movie sound so clever there must be a connection, if only we were smart enough. It could, however, be just a random military code name. The new trailer is still intriguing without spilling the beans. Of interest is a silhouette of 2 CDC guys in environmental suits holding a screaming woman between, when she suddenly inflates.WTF?

This is just a quick message, now that I am free from my weekend responsibilities. However, I feel a little under the weather. Let out your inner guitar-playing Japanese-school girl and Press Any Button To Rock. See you next broadcast.

Friday, November 16, 2007

With Apologies To Slash

Dear Slash,

I am so sorry I beat you on battle mode during a session of Guitar Hero III. I was set on Easy, as my skills are still developing, but I got in a groove and somehow , mystically defeated you. This was unfair to you as you are a thousand times better than me. There is no way anyone should be allowed to defeat you on a guitar even on Easy. I had to cut your strings and overload your amp, in other words keep you from being heard. I meant no disrespect, I just couldn't unlock more songs without going through you. I did enjoy our time playing Welcome To The Jungle, but I’m still not worthy of licking the stage you tread upon. I will learn the harder modes and we’ll face off again where I expect a more realistic challenge.

yours truly, Fox

While playing GH3 last night (for about four hours straight) I encountered Slash. I expected him to be the end “boss” so I was surprised to see him pop his shaggy head up so early. I beat him in one go and I was upset. This is Slash. I don’t care the difficulty level, he should be impossible to beat. I think they should have written it so Slash acknowledges you have 1% of his right-hand little-finger’s talent and that’s not nothing. He then pats you on the back or gives you a towel (like the football player in the old Coke commercials) and then play continues. This is a small nitpick, but it would be like beating Jackie Chan in a game of Mortal Kombat.

I tried tearing myself away from the game but I kept unlocking classic songs. I couldn't go to bed without trying Paranoid from Black Sabbath or The Seeker from The Who. The need to pound on the fret buttons and strum away is infectious. I’m not ready to go online yet, but once I beat Normal I’ll give it a try. I actually managed to play through two songs on Normal. Now you have to use four fret buttons, which is a quantum leap from Easy’s use of three buttons. Every time I think I’m doing good I play a Normal song at reset my expectations. So far my favorites have been Barracuda, Pride And Joy, and La Grange. I did notice there are achievements from playing the game with the standard X360 controller, but I don’t see how that’s possible. Maybe I’ll give that a try this weekend, too.

This weekend I must spend with the Army so there won’t be any posts until Monday. At least with all the driving I have to do I can listen to Rock and imagine playing it. Its awesome to leave one ob in daylight and drive to my next, arriving at night. I looked for the comet and its debris field, which reports are saying is large than the sun, but to no avail. The area I was in was too bright and cloudy. Maybe tomorrow night. See you next broadcast.

Thursday, November 15, 2007

Say Uncle

It took the grapevine some time but I finally got word that Gandy just celebrated another first Uncle Day with a new nephew. Uncle Day being the day one becomes an Uncle. it's even possible to become an Uncle more tha once. Congradulations, Gandy, on your repeat Uncle-ing. You have now become the "cool" adult relative that isn't your nephews parents. Good for you. It's been a long time in coming but you've earned it, again.

My race for the 15K Gamescore just came to a crashing halt. I own Guitar Hero III. The need for achievements has been replaced with a need to Rock Out (on Easy, anyway). Playing the game is like interacting with the music. You're not exactly playing each note but you're enabling the guitar to keep playing (on Easy, anyway). My brief foray on Hard with Foghat netted me 4% completed before I was booed and booted off stage (or 96% failed if your cup is half empty). I did manage to score one achievement, probably the easiest achievement in the game. After playing about 5 songs on Easy, I tried my luck on Normal (Foghat once again) and blew it after about 40%. I've got a lot of learning to do. Barracuda has become my favorite (on Easy). If anyone has no idea what I'm talking about watch the Guitar Hero episode of South Park. This segment from the beginning explains everything. I'm even writing this early in the evening so I can go back and play until I pass out. BTW a rum and coke goes well with the game (on Easy).

Growing up as a child I had two great loves (okay three if you count video games), Star Wars and LEGOs. Like the man who invented the peanut butter cup, these are two great tastes that taste great together. Thus LEGO Star Wars is born as a video game. I missed the first iteration (the prequel trilogy), and I own the Holy Trilogy version, I just haven't played it yet. Since I'll be putting all gaming aside indefinately save Guitar Hero III (and Rock Band) I'm going to holfd out for LEGO Star Wars: The Complete Saga and save myself the trouble of loading two discs. The producers/developers of the game have found an excellent balance of humor and respect for the source material. Of course Traveller's Tales, the makers of all the LEGO insert movie franchise, knows not insult the fans so there are lots of hidden extras to find in the game, not to mention 160 PLAYABLE CHARACTERS to acquire. I'll bet that's an Achievement.

As a child/teenager of the 80s all things from that decade attract me like a bug zapper. One of those things happens to be GhostBusters. Apparently the Atari 2600 game wasn't good enough, now we'll get a next gen console excursion. Gameinformer has the same idea I do, this will be awesome. And a trip down memory lane. Which reminds me of all the awesome 80s tracks from Guitar Hero III. Carry on "axe weilders" for tonight we dine on Rock. And for those about to Rock, We Salute You. See you next broadcast.

A "Myst" Is As Good As A "Portal"

Let's knock Star Trek out of the way. It's been a week of filming for ST XI and the only news we get so far is casting choices. Kirk's dad, George, will be played by a 24 years old Chris Hemsworth. He ain't played in anything I heard of except the TV show "Martial Law", where he played a kid. This makes Kirk's father younger than Kirk. Presumable Kirk's mom will be cast around this age, and can explain why Spock's mom is so young. Odds are we're getting flashbacks, ruining my idea for Kirk's Enterprise launch ceremony. So if we get a Spock that looks the age of Leonard Nimoy, then Spock is in the TNG era (remember, Spock has been hanging out with the Romulans since season 5 of TNG). If this isn't a Flashback oriented movie then maybe, like ST: Generations, its being told in two parts across two generations. And, a new bad guy has been chosen, the lucky actor being Clifton Collins Jr. He is possibly better know by geeks as a voice in GTA: San Andreas (Cesar Vialpando, you sister's boyfriend) and The Replacement Killers. Check out imdb to see what else he's done.

BioWare's new brainchild, Mass Effect, is nearing release and I found new footage, here and here. This reminds me of Gears of War, which took some time to get used to having played much Halo in my past. I love the look of the worlds and technology but I'm not into the squad thing, as much. I like my FPS or TPS solo so I can be the hero. Plus your teammates rarely do you any favors, and more often than not, flag your fire then yell at you for shooting them. I like how Half-Life 2 dealt with this be not letting you shot anyone but the enemy. Mass Effect isn't GTA, so there's no excuse why games still let you shoot your teammates when that doesn't alter or effect the story in any way (and usually breaks the "reality" of the game). I especially hated in Colony Wars when you shot your wingman, you were suddenly targeted as the enemy and everyone fires at you. It's not my fault my wingman is between me and my enemy when all sorts of things are shooting at me from every direction. So why punish me for being unable to tell my environment from digital mush. WTF?

Portal, of Orange Box fame, has had many more interesting words aimed at it. Portal, as I've mentioned before, is brilliant. To further my thoughts on this game I want to explain why "who you are" makes this game good. Whoever you are in life, when you play Portal, that is who you are. Sure, when you can actually see yourself you are a girl trapped in a puzzle, but she doesn't talk, act, or do anything that isn't you. So, basically, she's your avatar. Of course there are limits to what you can do, that's called gameplay. It's a simulation of what you would do in the same situation. I might have cried a little bit first, then moved on with the puzzle, but the point is you aren't pretending to be a bounty hunter or plumber or something that's integral to the universe. This reminds me of Myst. You are you in Myst too. Whereas Myst was a still-life puzzle game, your mind filled in the blanks. It even made the moments of action that much more impressive. For some reason when Myst made the jump to full 3-D interactive it lost some charm, and lots of fans. Portal certainly works where Myst failed without you needing to be a member of mensa. It took me many 6-packs of Zima to even get half of Myst's puzzles. I never even bothered with the sequels.

Watching Attack Of The Show (AOTS) today they mentioned an internet TV viewing site called Miro. I don't know enough about it yet to report on it, but give me time. Also, what happens when video game geeks are in charge of halftime during a football game? This video from YouTube is the answer. Tomorrow Guitar Hero III will be mine if I can find a copy for X360. Best Buy was sold out today, as is their website. I'll persevere. Then I can get this guitar "Itch" out of me so I can get Rock Band next week. I'm excited to try World Tour. Dibs on drums. See you next broadcast.

Tuesday, November 13, 2007

Dancing With Smurfy Metaphores

Ace Combat 6 carries a long tradition, from its roots in PS1 (or PSX if you prefer) on up to the current generation of consoles, for fantastic gamepley. The presentation is very realistic and you almost forget the arcade handling. There is no point it should feel realistic to fly into combat with 190 missiles to use against 20 bandits. Yet, the game is so believable you don't care that your weapons reappear after a few seconds. You even have unlimited guns. This is all to let you feel like you're Maverick from Top Gun. Some missions are rediculous, like flying against 20 bandits, flying through tunnels, and attacking sky carriers. Yeah. Then there's the in flight dialog. There is so much radio chatter you tend to filter it out because you know what's going on. It does serve the purpose of fleshing out the battles knowing that other people are counting on you. Where the game gets on my nerves are the cut-scene movies. In between missions you are treated to the ongoing drama of a couple people on the ground. For the most part its entertaining and it helps the story feel more epic, until the English dubbed dialog begins. I wish the option to hear this in Japanese was available. And most of the dialog surrounds the metaphore, "Dancing With The Angels." It's Ace Combat's version of "Smurf". It goes from meaning "flight" to "see you later" to "go screw yourself." Uggh. I would like to point out that the dub of the radio chatter is perfectly fine. Just ignore the 20% of the game you don't play, anyway.

I am becoming more obsessed with Guitar Hero III. By weeks end (aka Payday) I will own one. I've been researching the music of the game and not only are there over 70 songs available (not to mention downloadable content) but they are based on the original masters, unlike the first two. I realized the addictive quality of this game is the simplification of musical talent. This turns the ability to play guitar into an arcade twitchy experience that makes you feel like a "rock star." And the difficulty level lets you set the "realism," metaphorically like the difference between Ridge Race to Grand Turismo. The highest setting, while not enough to teach you guitar, at least feels like an accomplishment of the grandest gaming order, and one probably gets an appreciation of the real talent. And now with Rock Band on the horizon I may have to go back to GameStop and pre-order a copy. The super-copy with all the instruments. It's been a lifelong dream I developed this past week to be the best drummer I can. Look out Neil Peart and Dave Grohl, Fox is on the virtual drum kit playing your songs.

"Back in the day," when gaming was simpler, we had a choice, Street Fighter 2 or Mortal Kombat. Those are two separate camps. You could claim to like both, but its a lire. You either like one or the other. It's okay to sneek into the other camp and play a couple games, but you are loyal to one (or none) but not both. What differentiates the two? The controls. The graphics are a close second, but what makes or breaks your first impression are the controls. Every fighting game since has copied on or the other, sometimes both at the same time. I "heart" Mortal Kombat. I found it easier and the more realistic character animation just made it more entertaining. Which is odd, because Street Fighter looks like you're playing anime. And don't forget Fatalities (Friendships & Animalities) which SF2 didn't have. Hah. I could never play SF2 for the controls. For a brief, nostalgic look at some of my favorite fatalities see this movie from I want Mortal Kombat: Armageddon but I understand it doesn't work on the 360. I'll have to do more research.

Back to one of my favorite topics, Star Wars. Many talented fans love Star Wars and one guy made a movie poster representing All 6 movies. Since we already have two LEGO Star Wars games covering Prequel and Holy Trilogy, what will the new game do that the others haven't? On that note I want more Rogue Squadron or Jedi Starfighter games. I just want to fly around and shoot stuff in the Star Wars universe, and I want it to look as good as Ace Combat 6. The makers of the greatest Star Wars RPG are looking for writing talent. As soon as I figure out what they want, I am so there. Smurf you next broadcast.

That's No Book, That's A Space Station

Someone at work today asked me why Star Wars was my favorite movie. My quick response, because I've thought this through before, was that it encapsulates my childhood. I was a child at the right place, at the right time. This person also asked if I thought any other movie in the future might replace it, and I stated an emphatic no. Then I dwelled on the moment to try to Divine what movie of the future might sway me to say, "this is the greatest movie ever told." This future movie would have to absorb me so completely that the "4th wall" no longer existed, and that I would have some part to play in the outcome. And, I'm pretty sure, it would be a sci-fi epic. In other words, a movie fed directly to my brain that I play, not unlike how the Matrix feed is inputted to Neo, Trinity, and Morpheus. I'm not asking for an immersive video game, like the anime .hack//SIGN, but a fusion of movie and gaming that is not technically either but something greater than it's whole. I suppose a Holodeck is a good a description as any. Look, predicting the future is hard.

Let's dig a little deeper. Why Star Wars? As a child (as well as adult) I tended to throw myself fully in to things. With Star Wars I wanted to be a part of the Rebels, and I could be with action figures, comics books, and cartoons. If you wanted to explore the Star Wars universe beyond the boarders of the film screen you could do so on your own terms, as deep as you wanted the Rabbit Hole to go. When Shadows Of The Empire (SOTE) was released for the N64 I spent hours hunting AT-ATs and exploring Echo-Base. Now I could see what the characters saw on my own. That is the experience Lucas is making for us, sometimes successful, sometimes not. (I wanted to like Masters Of Teras Kasi but it just wasn't all there). Even today, with rumors of 3-D Star Wars still floating around, we continue to see books and comic books on store shelves. Case in point, "Death Star" by Michael Reaves & Steve Perry. Reaves & Perry previously collaborated on the MedStar duology and Perry wrote the novel for SOTE.

I purchased Death Star today and began reading after a quick (hour or so) game of Halo 3 on Legendary that reminds me, this Veterans' Day, of crawling up a beach, inch by bloody inch, towards a Nazi machinegun nest. That's Legendary alright. But, I digress. Death Star is set in my favorite era, the third era (according to the sleeve) called Classic. The others are Sith, Prequel, New Republic, New Jedi Order, and Legacy. This universe is expanding by the minute. You can start 5,000 years before the Battle of Yavin (BOY) and end a little more than 100 years after the Battle Of Endor (BOE). That's a universe. Classic covers a decade before BOY and a handful of years after BOE. One of my criteria for reading a Star Wars book is, "what is it's relevance to the universe?" In the future I would like to breakdown this question with the many books I've read but today I'm just talking about Death Star. If you want to skip the book and just build a Death Star, submit your DS Plans to the Maw Installation after going through the design process at the Lethal Alliance site.

mild SPOILER WARNING ahead! Set a few years (maybe 3) before Star Wars, Death Star's first 50 pages are an ensemble piece as characters from all over the Empire are introduced. Tarkin is present as is Darth Vader, and I am very happy to read about recognizable Holy Trilogy characters. There is even a Doctor from the MedStar series (set during the Clone Wars) still kicking around. Some of the characters are slaves, guards, bartenders, gunners, pilots, etc. This is getting to the heart of the question posed in Clerk's by Randal about what kind of people are present during the construction of a Death Star. The reason I'm reading this is for the Death Star, one of the most awesome concepts in sci-fi since Gort. The book also handles continuity well be referencing all sorts of books like The Jedi Academy Trilogy and the aforementioned MedStar series, with a touch of Teras Kasi thrown in. There's even a mention of "Stop Loss," a current term in the military that keeps you in the service as long as you are needed, regardless of your contract. Stop Loss hit many of the people in my unit when we went to Iraq. There's even some mild political allegory in here, ignorable if that isn't your thing. SPOILER WARNING! The most interesting thing I've read so far has been about Vader. He reflects on the fact that Yoda is still alive and could pose a threat, and he hasn't felt the death of Obi-Wan, something he is certain he'd notice. That answers a couple of long standing questions I've had. This book just payed for itself. SPOILER WARNING over!

Thanks go out to EmpTass for letting me play Crack Hero III with the Crackpipe peripheral that seems suspiciously like an air guitar. I can't think of anything but rockin' out now, so I intend to get it by the end of the week. I'm also still interested in Rock Band as a drummer if I can get a couple peeps who want to join me on Guitars, bass or otherwise. South Park this week was priceless. Completely up-to-date on the Guitar Hero obsessions, as well as Heroin Hero and Rehab Hero. A must see. Next best thing to the Warcraft episode. Keep your blasters charged, your Wookiee fed and see you next broadcast.

Sunday, November 11, 2007

Reading "Death Star" Is Fundamental

I have a theory. Many may call it an opinion, but I don't like using that term. To me, the term opinion feels like a stance that only I hold and I've drawn a line in the sand to defy all on the other side. What others would term "opinion" I use "theory," because I feel its a truth I haven't been able to prove to myself that others understand. My theory is this. Everything Patrick Stewart utters sounds cool. While watching Family Guy Season 5 Episode 14 "No Meals On Wheels" Peter wonders what it would be like if he traded vocal cords with Patrick Stewart. In his thought he walks up to Louise and says (with PS's voice doing the dub), "Hey, Louise. I spent the afternoon making a list of famous Armenians: Eric Bogosian, Andre Agassi, Jerry "The Shark" Tarkanian. That is all." Thus proving my theory that everything Patrick Stewart says is cool. In the Cartoon Network Adult Swim airing of this episode Mr. Stewart's line is totally different, something about messing up a toilet after sex.

Last blog I talked about getting together with an old friend. One thing I failed to mention was his Star Wars room. He has converted a large rec room (larger than my living room/dining room combo) into a Star Wars museum. When I get some images I will show them in a future blog. Each area of the room is a theme; Autographed pictures on a wall, glass case for lightsabers, graded original action figures, large 12-inch figures, etc, etc. If Star Wars has a smell its in that room. So, I apologise to EmpTass for not mentioning his pride and joy earlier. I should say secondary pride and joy because his real pride and joy is his wife a son, right EmpTass? And I thank his wife and son for letting me borrow him for the evening.

I used to read Star Wars books whenever they were released. After the Prequel Trilogy was released we had even more novels to choose from in different eras. My favorite era to read about is the post-Return Of The Jedi era. I was less than satisfied with many Prequel-era books so I stopped reading them altogether, with the exception of the Jedi Apprentice books as I'm a fan of the Qui-Gon/Obi-Wan duo. I know I'm not giving many good books in the series a chance so I'm going to jump back in with "Death Star." Author Michael Reaves gives an interview to the Washington Post. Of note is his inspiration from "Clerks," which I theorize has the best Star Wars reference ever in movie. On the weight of these few tidbits I'm going to give this book a chance. For those that haven't read any of the books I found some of them to be as equal in character and plot to the Original (or Holy) Trilogy. The books I enjoyed the most were The X-Wing series (the quadrilogy and the follow up trilogy), The Timothy Zahn trilogy, The Black Fleet Crisis, Darksaber, The Jedi Academy Trilogy, the Han Solo trilogy, and the three anthology books supporting the background characters of each of the three movies. That is where I would start reading if you haven't already. All these books, and many more, all fit a larger tapestry of storytelling called the "Expanded Universe". All Lucas approved (until he feels like contradicting things in a movie), the stories blend seamlessly with the movies, TV shows, other books, short stories, comic books, radio plays and video games. This site is a comprehensive timeline of stories I've used in the past to keep track all the elements.

"13,000" mocks me from a distance. Only a month and a half left in the year and I still desire a 15,000 GameScore by years end. I am 55 points from 13,000 and I feel like A-Rod trying for 500, its taking me forever. Which is about the only thing I have in common with A-Rod since I don't get paid millions to wiff at-bats during the post season. Ace Combat 6, as beautiful a game as can be, is like trying to squeeze a rock for water. Those achievements are just locked in there and the online community doesn't even know how to unlock everything. Impressive for a game that's been out for almost a month and they haven't figured everything out yet. If I can't get another 400 points in the next week I'm switching to Guitar Hero III or Call Of Duty 4 or something easier. No original Franchises for me, I'm all about sequels. I hope Assassin's Creed can save me from sequel-itis. Halo 3 gives us the ability to design battlegrounds to play in with an option called The Forge. Someone decided to take The Forge to whole new levels by proposing to his future wife during a Halo game. Oh Yeah, giggidy giggidy. On an unrelated note, I was watching Code Monkeys and, God help me, I thought it was funny. I need help, soon. See you next broadcast.

How You Doing, You Old Pirate?

Years ago I had a job I would equate to Kevin Smith's "Clerks." Everyone should have one of these jobs. My "Clerks" job was at an Arcade. And not just any job wandering the isles trading cash for tokens but a real high-end specialty. I helped run (and then manage) the Laser-Tag inspired game of Q-Zar. At this job I met and worked with a variety of people that meant a lot to me. Some of these people I still stay in contact with even though we haven't worked together in over a decade. These people I worked with helped me move up the working ladder until I am where I am, today. And I helped them when I could. Q-Zar might have been a "Clerks" job, but the people there became a sort of family and many of us are still looking out for each other. I've gone on to do a lot of different things since then, including some active duty time with the Army, but I had the opportunity to get together with an old friend this weekend and party like it was 1999. Geek style 1999, that is.

My buddy, who shall be known as EmpTass, introduced me to Guitar Hero III. As I've written before I've been worried this is a franchise I need to spend some dough on just to find out I suck at it. After playing two (2) songs (on easy I should add) I was hooked. We moved on to hard, then super-ultra-hard, and I still felt compelled to keep trying. We both decided that the hardest setting should just tell you to plug a real Electric Guitar in to your console. I have no idea what I was worried about, this game is great, and I didn't feel stupid playing air-guitar. As many a reviewer has pointed out the music selection is excellent. It's the actual songs and not a coverband or anything. If a soundtrack ever comes out for GH3 it will be mine.

We used to play many a CCG (Collectible Card Game) from Magic to Star Wars (the best), and a handful of lesser titles, that never made it big, in between. As I've mentioned before, World Of Warcraft's lineage started as a PC game and bloomed from there to many different aspects; novels, RPGs, comics, CCG, and MMORPG. WOW is the best selling aspect of Warcraft, probably since the original RTS. It also is probably the most successful online game since EverQuest. I just can't push myself the extra yard to start a new videogame addiction, because I know it will chew me up and spit me out and in the end. I'll have the greatest female elf character in the history of the internet, but I'll be broke, jobless, car-less, house-less, Xbox-less and by this point mind-less. However I'm willing to stick my big toe in the water and try other parts of the franchise. And I stuck my big toe in the CCG.

Many CCGs try emulating Magic for its resource generating aspects but never seem to get out of its shadow to become something unique. Usually I, and my friends, would describe a game as "just like Magic except..." This is the first CCG (I know the box says TCG, I just like CCG) I've played in a long time that starts like Magic but becomes its own entity pretty quickly after the first couple rounds. I think this is a huge accomplishment since the field is glutted with Pokemons and Yugiohs and strange hybrids that didn't last a month. First off, the starter comes in a big clamshell box that could hold a Betamax tape with plenty of room for your cards, not to mention great artwork. The rules themselves are easy to learn but it takes some time to master. There have been a couple expansions to WOW and a new way to play that seems more like an RPG than a CCG. This is known as a Raid. The Raid Master controls an epically large creature of some sort and the rest of the players (3 to 5 are recommended) face the RM. This now begs the question, at least in my mind, could the WOW paper & pen RPG also retain aspects of the card game to make them both playable.

Halo has made an interesting transition from FPS of the year to tabletop figure game. EmpTass and I tested the game's robustness and here is what we learned. You need dice to play. The box says it comes with dice. There were no dice in the two boxes I bought. We ended up using dice from a Disney board game. They were happy dice not in the vein of hyperactive Halo Slayer tabletop simulation. We read the rules on the fly as we played and some things made sense; putting down spawn points first, no fighting first round, line of site rules, grenades can hurt everybody. Other things were a little off; re-spawning dead characters, missing with grenades, upgrading figures to "swap weapons", the turn in general. It seems easy at first. You put five (5) figures on your side, spawned from a point, worth 400 total points or less, but no single figure can be over 150 points, which are the rare figures. How the hell am I supposed to play with them if their not on the field. You can only re-spawn the dead. WTF? During your turn you can upgrade (or add 25 points to the value of) a figure in play, until it matches the value of the figure in "reserve", then swap them in play keeping track of any damage. I couldn't pin down a reference during your turn but I think you are supposed to move one person at a time (or re-spawn or "weapon swap") then its the next persons turn. This became a little tedious as I had to remember who I already moved, but overall it worked. You play on a collectible grid map that comes with each set. I have two (2) now and they look exactly the same. With a little rules tweaking, this game could be loads of fun. Maybe I just misunderstood stuff.
BTW this game is part of the Clix line of gaming figures, so one can imagine the possibilities of mixing Halo with AvP (my personal favorite teamup idea) or Marvel Superheros against the Halo's Covenant.

Playing Magic after so many years feels like putting on a comfortable pair of sneakers. Well, maybe if your sneakers had new abilities you never heard of like Flash and Deathtouch. Its been a long time since I played, and with new terms for new card abilities I thought WOTC defined terms on the card. EmpTass and I were left scratching our heads at some terms and just decided to ignore what we couldn't figure out. The Lorwyn set is like any other "Starter" expansion of Magic, it can be played alone or mixed with all the other sets. The only groundbreaking idea in Lorwyn is the Plainwalker. I don't have one so we could playtest one, I just like the idea. It creates a second persona on your side that fights with you, has special abilities that influence the game, and is different from the usual summoned monsters and magic. I can't wait to get one. It's like the character card you get in the WOW CCG. Weirdest idea of the set has to be "changelings," an ability that makes any creature all creature types at once. This could radically change deck creation. I need more cards to test out these things.

Much gaming was had over pizza and soda. It really felt like my old college days. I would like to learn more about the Clix line of figure games and mix and match different franchises (Hellboy and Master Chief vs. Aliens and The Flood) just to make new plots. I would like to see better maps though. Now I want a game that combines guitar playing with an online mode, while moving figures on a board and playing cards, all in one. See you next broadcast.

Saturday, November 10, 2007

Set Your Phasers On... BluRay?

Some geek out there found a way to combine his love of the BluRay-firing PS3 with his love of Star Trek. Watch the video on this blog page to see how easy it is to field-strip a PS3 and a toy Phaser (vintage 2260s). Pretty. Someone finally found a use for a PS3. Even the Borg didn't have a blue eye laser, all they had were the red ones. Does this mean the Borg found BluRay to be inferior? Hmmmm. And speaking of weird Star Trek mixes, Winona Ryder has been cast as Spock's mother, Amanda Grayson (is this Dick Grayson's great grand daughter?).

It's Friday once again, and after staying late at work, I rushed to my comicbook shop to try to get n a sealed, draft game of Lorwyn, Magic's newest expansion. Sadly, like last week, no one showed up on this rainy, crappy evening. I chatted with the owner and bought some Iron Man comics, boosters of the new 10th Edition Magic Core Set, another pack of Halo figures. Visiting old friend EmpTas this weekend, maybe we can playtest said Halo game. We had a discussion about the Warhammer 40K RPG, since he hadn't heard of it. So for any doubters here's the homepage of the 40K RPG do out in 2008. Also in the near future is the 4th Edition Dungeons & Dragons guides, which I will be picking up for old times sake. I don't have time to play D&D, but I just love the book design.

Another RPG of the time I used to play was the West End Game's Star Wars RPG. At the time of the late 80's to early 90's it was so important to the Star Wars landscape of storytelling, the expansions sets themselves became the background material for many early Expanded Universe authors, like Timothy Zahn. Since then Wizards Of The Coast (WOTC) has developed their own and a new tech/resource manual for Starships is due out in December. I'm a sucker for books about Starships.
WOTC is also releasing a new campaign only available online, called Dawn Of Defieance. Their idea is to give out 10 different adventures for players that create a larger story, set between Episode III and Star Wars, and to progress your characters from Level 1 to 20. I think the resources that the internet brings to paper & dice RPGs is impressive, and I just wish in my youth we had such connections available. And, once again, with a new Star Wars video game on the horizon, figures for the collectible game are being developed, with a release date of November 16 for the Force Unleashed.

Now that I've finished Half-Life 2: Episode 2 I'm cast adrift in the plot. I have no idea when the next one comes out. All I have is the pending rescue of Judith from the Combine. I've come too far in this world not to be caught in the drama of the characters. Even Alyx's pet robot Dog is a great character (see picture above). He reminds me of Bumblebee. The only recourse until the next Episode is the RTS in development. Already a couple boards are available for download, but I'll wait for a console version. I've never been a fan of Real Time Strategy, being a Turn-Based fan from my Final Fantasy days. Starcraft has been the closest PC game to get me interested, but one day I'll take a gander and learn why they are so popular. Hopefully that game will be the Half-Life RTS. BTW, i just couldn't stay away from Halo 3 and I've been itching to beat Legendary. I encountered my Chokepoint pretty early on the 2nd level and it took me an hour (and much swearing) to clear it. I like the fact the AI adapts to strategies, so you need to be on your toes. 2 levels down 7 more to go. Ugh. Still working on Ace Combat 6. See you next broadcast.