Monday, March 31, 2008

A great value

Did anyone else know the PlayStation 3 can play Avi and MPG files? This is an amazing concept to me. Burn them onto a data disk and play them on the PS3. Simply amazing.

Its really useful if you make short movies and don't want to go through the trouble of making a DVD. The PS3 just rose quite a bit in my estimation.

Saturday, March 29, 2008

Gadrock Gamers throws downt the guantlet

Our new friends, the Gadrock Gamers have thrown down the gauntlet.

Hey all, just wanted to post this little bloggy with some news and tidbits about the next event and general "goings on" of GG.

Things are looking spectacular so far, its really shaping up to be a fairly large event.

I talked to a guy, named Dan Whisenhunt, he writes a column/blog for the Anniston Star called "Pushing Buttons" its a blog about video games of course. He stumbled across my spamming of the next GG event in the Al.com forums and c/p’d it to his blog. So that’s great, we’ve got a few friends from Anniston now. I hope the two guys he wants to attend the SSBB tournament show. Sadly we’ll have to put the Anniston and Centre guys in their places. :)


Really hate I can't make it April 12, in all seriousness. I would probably get my butt handed to me, as I'm not quite where I'd like to be, skill-wise. But I think Dietrich could give 'em a run for their money, provided he's not working or doing something else that day.

Rivalries are fun, though. I'd like to schedule a tourney here in Anniston and invite them. That'd be fun.

column

There's no sense in repeating today's column here- its basically a repeat of things I've already said. I'm working on wedding planning stuff today with Katrina. The new PS3 update makes me want a PSP very, very badly.

And in the world of comic book video games, it seems the fanboys aren't happy with the upcoming "Hulk" video game.


Joystiq- Throwing Ultimate Destruction's havoc-wreaking formula to the wind, the adaptation will apparently focus on our favorite lesser-known pastimes of the green meanie: moving very slowly, getting repeatedly knocked over, and being stomped on by robots. If this trailer is any indication of what we can expect from the final product, we think we'd rather spend $60 to have Lou Ferrigno pummel us for a few hours. It would be much less painful, and he could probably use the cash.


Couldn't find a decent YouTube video of the game trailer, but here's one from the upcoming movie...


And for the record, I liked Ang Lee's Hulk with Eric Bana, thanks much.

Friday, March 28, 2008

Sony update 2.20

So last night I was attempting to play "Call of Duty 4" with my friend Creg when I get a message I need a system update. Normally, these don't take very long. But this one took for ever, so much so that we had to watch Tennessee lose (sweet) and play a few rounds of "Brawl."

Apparently this update adds more features to your Blu-Ray player. I know PS3 owners are happy they were left holding a nice piece of machinery when the dust settled on the format war. It also adds more connectivity with the PSP.

Here are some of the features of the patch reported on the PlayStation blog.

* The ability to copy PS3 Music and Photo playlists to a PSP system. We introduced the ability to create Music and Photo playlists on the PS3 in firmware update v2.0. Now you can easily export your playlists to your PSP.
* You can now play DivX and WMV format files that are over 2 GB. In addition, you can now display subtitles when viewing DivX files.
* Resume Play - begin playing a DVD or BD disc from the point where you previously stopped it, even if you eject the disc and insert a different movie or game.
* Use your PSP as a remote control to play back your music files on your PS3 without turning on your TV.
* The Internet browser now displays some web pages faster. In addition [Save Target] has been added as an option under file. This option lets you save a file that is linked to a web page to your PS3 hard drive or storage media.

Thursday, March 27, 2008

Yoinked from Al.com forums

I found this on the Al.com Anniston Forum.

I'll be on my honeymoon that day- but Dietrich or Pittman- any of you care to go represent the "Pushing Buttons" team?

That's right!
Gadrock Gamers powered by Replays Gameware is hosting a video game event in Rainbow City, AL (Near Gadsden, AL)

When: Saturday April 12th from 4 PM - 11/12 PM

Where: Coffee Vine Cafe (In the corner of the Rainbow Plaza)3225 Rainbow DriveRainbow City, AL 35906

Meetup: FREE! Come in anytime with your games/consoles and play casually with others while drinking some great coffee! We've got a fairly large supply of TV's to play on.

Tournaments: Two will be held. They are $7 each to enter

Prizes include: CASH, Replays Gift Certficiates, Free food from Applebee's of Gadsden, Free coffee from Coffee Vine, Store credit to Collector's Paradise Comic Books and Full Throttle Wrestling DVD's.

No one leaves empty handed from a tournament!Every person who enters a tournament gets a free coupon from Replays Gameware for 2 FREE CD Polishing/Repair. A value of over 8 bucks and your CD!

Tournament ONE: "Replays Rewind Tournament"

Nintendo 64 - Goldeneye 007Starting at 5 PM

Tournament Format:

12 or less participants: 1v1 Round Robin Format13 or more participants: 1v1 Single Elimination w/ Seeding (Preliminary Round 4 Person Muliplayer to determind seeds)

Tournament TWO:

Wii: Super Smash Bros. BrawlStarting at 7 PM

Tournament Format:

5 Lives Stock12 or less participants: 1v1 Round Robin Format13 or more participants: 1v1 Double Elimination w/ Seeding (Preliminary Round 4 Person Brawl to determine seeds)

Rules:Random Select StageItems: Only Final Smash and Assist Trophies (Set on LOW)

Control: Any way you want to. But you must bring your own Classic Controller or WIRELESS Gamecube Controller (Or you can borrow from someone)

Add us to your myspace friends to keep up to date w/ news

Check that out here.

email: gadrockgamers@gmail.com

call: 205-470-9667

Thanks

Jason R. Coleman

Legal battle over Warcraft 'bot'

The makers of World of Warcraft are locked in a legal battle with a firm that has produced a tool to automate many actions in the virtual world.

Blizzard is suing Michael Donnelly, the creator of the MMO Glider program, which performs key tasks in the game automatically, such as fighting.

Both sides have submitted legal summaries to a court in Arizona.

Blizzard says Glide is a software bot which infringes the company's copyright and potentially damages the game.

In its legal submission to the court last week, the firm said: "Blizzard's designs expectations are frustrated, and resources are allocated unevenly, when bots are introduced into the WoW universe, because bots spend far more time in-game than an ordinary player would and consume resources the entire time."

'Infringed agreement'

Blizzard argued that Michael Donnelly's tool also infringed the End User License Agreement that all parties have to adhere to when playing the game.

More than 100,000 copies of the tool have been sold, according to Mr Donnelly. More than 10 million people around the world play Warcraft.

Mr Donnelly said the first time had had been aware of potential legal action over his program was when a lawyer from Vivendi games, which publishes Warcraft, and an "unnamed private investigator" appeared at his home.

In his legal submission, he detailed: "When they arrived, they presented Donnelly with a copy of a complaint that they indicated would be filed the next day in the US District Court for the Central District of California if Donnelly did not immediately agree to stop selling Glider and return all profits that he made from Glider sales."

"Blizzard's audacious threats offended Donnelly," according to the legal papers.

Mr Donnelly says his tool does not infringe Blizzard's copyright because no "copy" of the Warcraft game client software is ever made.

Blizzard has said the tool infringes copyright because it copies the game into RAM in order to avoid detection by anti-cheat software.

The two parties are now awaiting a summary judgement in the case.


Article from http://news.bbc.co.uk/2/hi/technology/7314353.stm

Pretty interesting debate.

Wednesday, March 26, 2008

Crisis Core out for PSP


In a rush of wedding planning madness I haven't had much time to play video games (other than the lingering World of Warcraft addiction) and I completely missed the March 25 PSP release of the new Final Fantasy VII spinoff, Crisis Core.

This one takes place before the events of FFVII and focuses on Zack Fair, the original owner of Cloud's infamous buster sword.

Of course, this means now in order to play the game I need to get a PSP. Oye! I hear they make pink ones now...hrmmmm :)

I'll leave you with this amazing trailer for the game. I can't wait to play it! One day! Haha. :)

Pushing Buttons: Honeymoon Edition

As some of you who read this blog may be aware, Katrina Junkin and I are getting married on April 5. That means starting April 2, we won't be posting for awhile (probably will resume April 14 or 15th- leaving a couple of columns in the can.)

Chris Pittman and John Dietrich, the other two men that are part of this four-person team, have courageously offered to step up. They've told me they'll do their best to keep the blog updated regularly while we're away.

Many thanks to them. It's going to be a nice vacation and, who knows, I may be able to sneak in a few minutes to play a game or two.

But I'm not counting on it. :)

Tuesday, March 25, 2008

More "Rainbow Six: Vegas 2" thoughts



Maybe I wasn't giving "Rainbow Six: Vegas 2" a chance. The first few months of playing "Call of Duty 4" I heard my clan members talk of nothing else but how great the first "RSV" was. But I wasn't buying it. So when my friend Kevin did buy the game, I was very skeptical.

But not being an old-timer in the world of first person shooters, I had to reeducate myself about what made "RSV" such a beloved game. People may not realize but it was this series, not "CoD" which popularized the leveling system. It made players feel rewarded for spending so much time interacting with a screen.

So give it props where props are due- and the new leveling system- known as A.C.E.S- rewards players in one of three categories based on how they play- and, unlike "CoD" you can level in any mode of play. That's a good move.

But, in the end, its just too slow and stealthy to satisfy me, a guy who is used to the run and gun thrills of "CoD." The online play is also a pain in the butt- I hate scrolling down a list and checking each game to see whehter I can play or not. That has to change. There's also the issue of radar- there really isn't any, making the game that much harder to play. I can't say I like it, but the hardcore purists are probably hoping it will weed out the FPS noobs (like myself) who don't enjoy extreme tactical situations. Mission accomplished.

The one thing that "RSV2" does better than "CoD" is the ability to hide. Leaning up against walls and peeking around the corner with your camera is really neat and it gives you some unique options you won't find in "CoD."

The character customization, while cool, didn't impress me. Should I wear the helmet with the goatee or leave it off, keep the buzz cutt? I don't really care, but I imagine the customization makes the game for some.

So if you like the "RSV" series, you'll probably love this- but if you've been spoiled on "CoD's" well-executed online play and are just as apt to pick up a Wii mote and play "Brawl" instead, you might not find much here. "RSV2" is a good shooter in a good series- but it just needs to grow on me some more.

To Brawl Player X29

Sorry I had to get off- (I haven't worked out how to send messages over the Wii yet.) You kicked my butt most of the night- but I had a lot of fun. Glad I finally found someone on my friends list who was playing.

Thanks for the good matches.

Monday, March 24, 2008

Now onto the FCC

The AP added some more meat to this story about the XM sirius merger.

AP- AWAITING FCC DECISION
The antitrust decision shifts the spotlight to the FCC, which must determine whether the XM-Sirius is in the public interest, and whether to enforce its 1997 order barring either satellite radio company from acquiring the other.

A source at the FCC said Chairman Kevin Martin has yet to make a proposal either approving or opposing the XM-Sirius combination, but has asked the agency's staff to draft documents for different possible outcomes.

This source said the FCC could be strongly influenced by the Justice Department decision. "I think it would be hard to go in the complete opposite direction," said the source.

Analysts at Stifel Nicolaus said the FCC could impose conditions, such as requiring the companies to adhere to promises (Sirius Chief Executive Mel Karmazin) made to Congress last year.

Karmazin promised lawmakers that a combined company would offer packages of channels that customers could pick on an "a la carte" basis, and that customers would be able to block adult channels and get a refund for those channels.

In addition, Stifel Nicolaus said, the FCC also may require Sirius and XM to promise that all existing satellite radios will continue to work after the companies are combined.


David Bank, an analyst with RBC Capital Markets, was optimistic about FCC approval. "Now it's past DOJ, and we feel pretty optimistic it will get through the FCC," he said.

The Justice Department's decision provoked immediate criticism from a key lawmaker in Congress, Senate antitrust subcommittee chairman Sen. Herb Kohl, a Wisconsin Democrat.

Kohl took the department to task for "failing to oppose numerous mergers which reduced competition in key industries, resulting in the Justice Department not bringing a single contested merger case in nearly four years."

"We urge that the FCC find the merger contrary to the public interest and exercise its authority to block it," Kohl said in a statement.

Sirius and XM said in a brief statement that they had received antitrust clearance and that their deal was still subject to FCC approval.

(Additional reporting by Diane Bartz; editing by Tim Dobbyn)


I can't imagine a scenario where these two would merge and make all of their customers buy new receivers- that would be a bad public relations move right off the bat. I like the ala carte programming idea, but I'd still like to have a variety of channels. You never know what you're in the mood for when it comes to music.

Now cable television on the other hand.....

Hell to the Yeah

XM/Sirius get approval for merger.

WASHINGTON (AP) - The Justice Department approved Sirius Satellite Radio's $5 billion buyout of rival XM Satellite Radio on Monday, saying the deal was unlikely to hurt competition or consumers.
The deal was approved despite opposition from consumer groups and an intense lobbying campaign by the land-based radio industry.

The buyout received shareholder approval in November. The companies said the merger will save hundreds of millions of dollars in operating costs—savings that will ultimately benefit their customers.


At the risk of sounding like a total hypocrite, I am completely in favor of this move. It means I'll receive both MLB and NFL broadcasts, in addition to college football, Howard Stern, all kinds of great music channels....etc.

I just hope the merger doesn't result in an increase in price because there will be no competition. I imagine as some channels are eliminated or merged, it would keep the costs pretty low.

But, on the whole, this is an awesome development...for me.

Games, games and more games.



Tried both "Devil May Cry 4" and "Rainbow Six: Vegas 2" and have some first impressions, which are always important.

"DMC4" makes me feel like an old old man- You crazy kids with your demon hunting half-demon characters, jumping around and shooting guns to heavy metal rock music. Will there be a church left standing at the end of this unholy rampage? I feel like scenes from this game should be on rotation at MTV.

"Rainbow" struck me as a very meat and potatoes kind of shooter. It moves a bit too slow for my taste, but my friend Kevin, who bought the game, says he likes the ability to lean up against walls and peek around corners, a feature lacking in "Call of Duty 4." (Of course, "CoD4" does have that nifty map. But I digress.)

I'll have to play it a little bit more before I render a final verdict. But so far it looks like a game people who play lots of "Call of Duty" might enjoy...until Infinity releases the new maps, that is.

Sunday, March 23, 2008

Scattered thoughts

First, on Super Smash Bros. Brawl:
• I've enjoyed the Subspace Emissary mode. I love the old-school side-scrolling feel and the new-school "I can get touched multiple times by enemies and not die" mechanic. One-hit kills by slow-moving foes are so overrated. The mode is also plenty challenging, as the enemies are all set to "ATTACK!! ATTACK!!" None of this movie nonsense where they go after you in sequence. They all come after you, all the time.
You also don't get to just use one or two characters ... you use them all. So you better be flexible and quick to learn. It's also a pretty quick way to unlock everyone. I've nearly beaten it, and the only characters I'm missing are Sonic and Toon Link.
• The characters seem a step slow to me in Brawl. Maybe I'm just not remembering Melee that well, but I recall those characters being much quicker. The Brawl ones don't react to my fingers/thoughts as well as I thought they would.
• The music is incredible, especially the option where you can select what plays. I haven't come close to unlocking all the songs, but I will.
• My favorite characters are Ike (who plays closest to my boy Roy from Melee), Meta Knight and Samus. The character I'm most effective with, though I always feel akward with him, is Solid Snake.

Some thoughts on the comic book world:
• Marvel is gearing up with Secret Invasion (coming out April 2), which looks incredible. Skrulls (an alien race of shapeshifters) have invaded Earth, and Marvel's heroes must defeat them. Of course, which Marvel heroes are human and which are Skrulls has yet to be revealed. Oh, and the heroes will be going this one without the "God of Winning," Captain America. He's still dead.
• Meanwhile, Cap's series is still rolling and is among the best books out there. If you read only one book, you'd do well to pick up "Captain America."
• DC Comics replies with Final Crisis, which starts in May. Grant Morrison, one of the best writers, will be writing the main series. The basic premise is this: "The bad guys win, so what's THAT world like?" Morrison said DC's big three of Superman, Batman and Wonder Woman will be central.

Saturday, March 22, 2008

"Mario Party" DS


The "Mario Party" series is like playing a board game on steroids. The DS version does not differ much from other versions of the series. Players smack dice blocks, collect "hexes" to trip up or help other players and play a variety of mini games. I just spent the last 30 minutes gettng my plumber butt kicked by Peach, who has uncanny luck and timing for a computer controlled character. I haven't tried the multiplayer with Katrina's DS yet, but I bet its equally amusing.

The one thing this game lacks that most Nintendo games up to this point lack- online multiplayer. I can't say this enough.

Still haven't cracked open "Devil May Cry 4" yet. Looking forward to it.

Blurb on patch for "CoD4"


Many thanks again to Chris for letting me use his "MLB2k8" review this week. Between wedding planning and work, I've gotten a bit behind.

"Call of Duty 4" patch

This week, "Call of Duty 4" developer Infinity Ward released a large patch for its wildly popular first-person shooter.

My friend Kevin and I found it to be marginally better, but still lacking.

The patch controls host migration, which occurs when a host leaves a game, essentialy splitting everyone up, even if no one else wants it to stop.

Infinity Ward says the new patch will keep parties together when the host of the game quits. But it doesn't work as well as we thought it would. Hosts still prematurely end matches, though we've been able to keep our party together afterward.

Ideally, we'd like to find a way to continue the game uninterrupted with a new host. But we concede we aren't programming experts and don't know whether that's even possible.

On the other hand, the accuracy of the improved ACOG "(Advanced Combat Optical Gunsight") scope rules. The new kill cams are also a nice touch as is the much-needed "quick mute feature," which silences all the rubes who make rude, obnoxious and useless comments during a game.

Now all we need is some more battle maps. Can't wait until Infinity releases those.

Friday, March 21, 2008

Apologies


I apologize for the lack of posting this week and an apology in advance for this week's column- its some recycled material from blog posts with a little blurb at the end about the "CoD4" patch. Chris Pittman wrote a good review of "MLB2K8" that appeared on here a few posts back- made sense to put it in the column.

In other Easter related news, a San Fransisco is using a new add featuring a Jesus Mii


From
Joystiq.com

The fad of creating everyone's favorite non-secular celebrity in Nintendo's Mii Channel is far from new. What is new, however, is using the holy caricature in an advertisement for Easter services.

In a (successful [and adorable]) attempt to capitalize on the continued popularity of the Nintendo Wii, the Mission Bay Community Church in San Francisco has adorned their ads for holy week with the pint-sized Jesus Mii.

Tuesday, March 18, 2008

One of the great Sci-Fi authors dies


I really, really liked this guy's books. "Childhood's End" is a particular favorite.

Science fiction author Arthur C Clarke dies aged 90

FT- Science fiction writer Sir Arthur C Clarke has died aged 90 in his adopted home of Sri Lanka, it was confirmed tonight.

Clarke, who had battled debilitating post-polio syndrome since the 1960s and sometimes used a wheelchair, died at 1:30am after suffering breathing problems, his personal secretary Rohan De Silva said.

........

The visionary author of over 100 books, who predicted the existence of satellites, was most famous for his short story "The Sentinel," which was expanded into the novel on which Stanley Kubrick's "2001: A Space Odyssey" was based.

He was also credited with inventing the concept of communications satellites in 1945, decades before they became a reality.

Clarke was the last surviving member of what was sometimes known as the "Big Three" of science fiction alongside Robert A. Heinlein and Isaac Asimov.

"Devil May Cry 4"

Got my Gamefly e-mail confirming "Devil May Cry 4" is on its way to my house. Didn't get to play any games last night as I was pulling off the hat-trick for sleep- slept from 9 p.m. till 8:45 a.m., nursing a sore knee (like you cared.)

Apologies to Dietrich for not making ST. Patrick's day at The Office...I suck.

Monday, March 17, 2008

More reasons I love The Onion-

Wii Video Games Blamed For Rise In Effeminate Violence

WASHINGTON—Concerned parents are again blasting the Nintendo Wii for an incident of effeminate violence following a 13-year-old boy's limp-wristed attack on three of his classmates at a Cleveland-area middle school Tuesday.

The incident—the sixth of its kind in as many months—has left parents searching for answers and struggling to comprehend the dainty assault, which left the necks of two sweaters severely stretched out and countless fingers stubbed.

"These games are a prissy little menace to our society," said Linda Roberts, 35, a mother of three and founder of the group Parents Against Wii, which is suing Nintendo for $52 million in damages from two recent swattings. "One of these days, the red marks on our children's arms might not just go away after five minutes."


lol.

Friday, March 14, 2008

This is what I get for not paying attention

More "Call of Duty 4" maps on the way. Yeah.

From PlayStation.com

February 4, 2008
By Ryan Geddes
Courtesy of
Print New downloadable multiplayer maps are on the way for Call of Duty 4: Modern Warfare, Activision and Infinity Ward announced today.



The maps, Call of Duty 4's first wave of downloadable content, are in the works for both the Xbox 360 and PlayStation 3 versions of the game and are scheduled for release in the spring. No mention was made of potential PC versions of the maps.



"We're excited about the new maps, and the added gameplay variety, and we can't wait to wrap things up and get online with everyone," said Infinity Ward community manager Robert Bowling.



Infinity Ward hasn't said what environments we should expect to see in the new map set, only that they will "thrust gamers into a hot zone of added combat across a variety of intense multiplayer locales."





©2008-02-04, IGN Entertainment, Inc. All Rights Reserved

Saturday's Column

'Brawl' has split personality

It's finally here.

"Super Smash Brothers Brawl," the Nintendo Wii installment of this highly popular series, hit the shelves this week after months of delays.

The game pits a vast array of mostly stock Nintendo characters against one another in a manner not unlike many other fighting games. The fights take place on levels which are themselves references to many Nintendo games. In this installment, Nintendo included Solid Snake from the "Metal Gear Solid Series" and Sonic the Hedgehog, two character cameos from other developers.

The unique combat system of "Brawl," which allows up to four players at once, is fast-paced and full of booby traps. On the one hand, "Brawl" is a self-referential homage; on the other, it's a drunken knife fight.

The year 2008 finds "Brawl" well, with great new characters and — gasp — an online feature. For most game fans (Nintendo loyalists in particular), the possibility of playing "Smash Brothers" online was like watching the sky open up and having God say to us, "Yeah, I like you guys."

But playing "Brawl" online left me wanting. The online play can be very laggy at times — and that's when it works. It did not work at all the first few nights. I received constant error messages, which referred me back to the Nintendo Web site.

Among the list of reasons for the problem: server trouble. After reading about similar experiences using these newfangled Internet tubes, I concluded that Nintendo obviously didn't plan for this.

The most asinine part of Nintendo's online experience is the use of "Brawl codes." Before you can seek out and play with your friends online, you must register their 12-digit friend code and vice versa.

The only time I want to remember a long strand of numbers is when a government check is involved. All the time I spent manually typing in each stupid little number was time I could've spent playing the game. Nintendo should find a way to streamline this process. Allowing a copy-and-paste function on the numbers or registration through Nintendo.com via e-mail would be nice.

That said, there are several basic modes in "Brawl." The first is the four-player slugfest, which is always fun. There's also the "classic" single-player story mode, which I highly recommend for new players. It will put you through the paces of single and then multiplayer battles.

There's also the "Subspace Emissary" side-scrolling adventure. It uses the same combat mechanics as the brawl game and slaps them over a story which makes little or no sense. It does look pretty, and it gives you an excuse to train with lots of different characters. Sit back, push buttons and look at the pretty pictures.

The non-online portions of "Brawl" get five buttons out of five. I'm taking a wait-and-see approach before I make a decision on playing more "Brawl" online, however.

Thursday, March 13, 2008

Inventor of the Internet says "semantic Web" could replace Google.

Admittedly, much of this is way over my head. But this graph sums up the jist of the story.

The semantic web is the term used by the computer and internet industry to describe the next phase of the web's development, and essentially involves building web-based connectivity into any piece of data — not just a web page — so that it can "communicate" with other information.

Whereas the existing web is a collection of pages with links between them that Google and other search engines help the user to navigate, the "semantic web" will enable direct connectivity between much more low-level pieces of information — a written street address and a map, for instance — which in turn will give rise to new services.

"Using the semantic web, you can build applications that are much more powerful than anything on the regular web," Mr Berners-Lee said. "Imagine if two completely separate things — your bank statements and your calendar — spoke the same language and could share information with one another. You could drag one on top of the other and a whole bunch of dots would appear showing you when you spent your money.

Tuesday, March 11, 2008

"Smash Brothers Brawl" lag issues

For the most part, the non-online part, "Brawl" is an amazing game. But the online play is lah-ha-ha-ghee. Sometimes Nintendo really makes me wonder. It's as if they assumed no one would want to try out this new-fangled online feature of a game the company has delayed over and over and over.

I hope the company is fixing its servers- it may also be the case that they have to restrict online play to certain levels- haven't heard that for sure, but that was what they had to do with lag issues on graphic-intensive courses on Mario Kart DS, I believe.

In other, "I can't believe this relates to video games" news, New York Gov. Eliot Spitzer, a frequent critic of sex in video games, is the subject of an investigation into a prostitution ring, according to the New York Times.

Here's a post on the subject from a Web site with a column called "Gaming Today."

GAMING TODAY- Ironically, Spitzer came out against the video game industry in 2006 calling for governmental regulation of media content to protect America’s children from excessive sex and violence in games.

Spitzer- Like all parents, I know it is increasingly difficult to protect our children from negative influences… we have learned that when self-regulation fails, government must step in… we must do more to protect our children from excessive sex and violence in the media…

Media content has gotten more graphic, more violent and more sex-based… Currently, nothing under New York State law prohibits a fourteen-year old from walking into a video store and buying… a game like ‘Grand Theft Auto,’ which rewards a player for stealing cars and beating people up. Children can even simulate having sex with a prostitute…


Tisk, tisk

Monday, March 10, 2008

Brawl codes

Add me and I'll add ya back.

Since Nintendo apparently equates fun with remembering long strands of numbers, I decided to make a place where people who want to enter their friends codes can swap digits, so to speak.

Enter your friend code (not your Wii code!) for "Super Smash Bros. Brawl."

Mine is 4811-6650-7789

Leave your code on the comment section, please.

Edit: I've added everyone I've gotten so far. A couple of you put in the wrong number, so if I haven't added you yet, that's why.

Is there anyone I mistakenly left out?

Can't wait


Today, my editor, Ben Cunningham, went about his afternoon routine, thinking he could read my story (from, you know, my real job as the education reporter) later in the afternoon. But I bugged him a bit; could you read it sooner?

The reason: I decided to pick up a copy of "Brawl" at Circuit City, thinking my Wii may be one of the ones affected by the dirty lens issue. I told Dietrich he could buy mine when it came from Wal-Mart so I could go ahead and pick up my copy.

"So, let me get this straight," Ben said. "You want to get off early so you can go home and play a video game?"

..........................................................................

But as people who already own a copy know, "Super Smash Brothers Brawl" isn't just any game; it's THE game. I just spent the last few hours gathering my bearings and beating the living bejeezus out of Donkey Kong. I seriously Pwned that Monkey, (but, of course, the computer setting was set to puny.)

The online play will need some work- I haven't been able to connect all night but hopefully that will change.

My first impressions are impressive- this is a seriously fun game. My PS3 is giving my Wii doubtful looks- my copy of "Call of Duty" privately wonders if it can gather dust sitting in a duffel bag.

Will they ever see me again?

Oh how sweet "Smash Bros." is.....

"Smash Bros. Brawl" may require some Wii-clean

Tragedy struck the gaming community this week- after two-years of anticipation for "Smash Bros. Brawl" Joystiq.com is reporitng that some of the Wii's won't play this information-packed disk because- the lens isn't clean enough!


The post is down, but I'll link it as soon as I can. As well-traveled as my Nintendo Wii is, I worry I'll be lumped into this category, too!

What a scandal.

Update- here's the info from Joystiq.com

Nintendo has swiftly replied with a North American repair form, explaining that the double-layer disc can only be read by a squeaky-clean disc drive lens. They implore you not to try to clean said lens on your own, and to send in your crudely adhered Gamecubes to Nintendo HQ for a thorough purging. We're sure they'll get your newly spruced console back to you in a timely manner -- which will likely offer little consolation to a Nintyfan scorned.

Sunday, March 9, 2008

Cool LA times op-ed that ran in today's paper

Douse the online flamers
By Andrew Keen
Special to the Los Angeles Times



The cartoon isn't as amusing as it once was. "On the Internet, nobody knows you're a dog," one Web-surfing canine barked to another in that 1993 classic from the New Yorker. Back then, of course, at the innocent dawn of the Internet Age, the idea that we might all be anonymous on the Web promised infinite intellectual freedom. Unfortunately, however, that promise hasn't been realized. Today, too many anonymous Internet users are posting hateful content about their neighbors, classmates and co-workers; today, online media is an increasingly shadowy, vertiginous environment in which it is becoming harder and harder to know other people's real identities.

Those of us who have been flamed by faceless critics in online discussion groups are intimately familiar with the problem. This isn't illegal, of course, because online speech — anonymous or otherwise — is protected by both the First Amendment and by the Supreme Court's much-cited 1995 McIntyre vs. Ohio Elections Commission ruling protecting anonymous speech. But is today's law adequately protecting us? What happens, for example, when anonymous Internet critics go beyond rude and irremediably blacken the reputations of innocent citizens or cause them harm? Should there be legal consequences?

The most notorious case is certainly the cyber-bullying of Megan Meier, a 13-year-old girl from a St. Louis suburb. In 2006, Meier, a troubled, overweight adolescent, became embroiled in an intense, six-week online friendship with "Josh Evans" on MySpace. After "Josh" turned against Megan and posted a comment that, "The world would be a better place without you," the girl hung herself. Later, when it became clear that the fictitious Josh Evans was Lori Drew, a 47-year-old neighbor and mother of a girl with whom Megan Meier had argued, there were calls for a criminal prosecution. But the St. Charles County Sheriff's Department didn't charge Drew; its spokesman said that what she did "might've been rude, it might've been immature, but it wasn't illegal."

Fortunately, the Meier suicide is making officials get more serious about holding anonymous Internet users accountable. In Los Angeles, federal prosecutors reportedly were exploring whether they could charge Drew with defrauding Beverly Hills-based MySpace. In Missouri, the St. Charles County Board of Aldermen passed a law making Internet harassment a misdemeanor punishable by a fine as much as $500 and 90 days in jail. And a Missouri state representative introduced legislation that could criminalize online harassment and fraud.

Online free speech fundamentalists, no doubt, would cite the McIntyre ruling in any defense. Yet that was a ruling focusing on anonymous "political speech"; Justice John Paul Stevens' opinion for the court cited the example of the Federalist Papers, originally published under pseudonyms, as proof that anonymity represents a "shield from the tyranny of the majority" and is, therefore, vital to a free society. But such a defense doesn't work for cases like the Meier suicide, in which the anonymous speech was anything but political.

The Web 2.0 revolution in self-published content is making the already tangled legal debate around anonymity even harder to unravel. Take, for example, the case of Dr. Lisa Krinsky, president of SFBC International, a Miami-based drug development company. In 2005, Krinsky's professional and personal reputation was so vilified by anonymous critics on Yahoo message boards that she pursued a lawsuit (Krinsky vs. Doe) to subpoena the real names of 10 of her online tormentors.

Or take the case of a couple of female Yale Law School students whose reputations have been eternally sullied on an online bulletin board called AutoAdmit by "Sleazy Z," "hitlerhitlerhitler," "The Ayatollah of Rock-n-Rollah" and others. Having been publicly accused of lesbianism with the dean of admissions at Yale Law School, possessing "large false breasts" and indulging in exhibitionistic group sex, the two women filed an amended complaint (Doe vs. Ciolli) in U.S. District Court in Connecticut against the operator of AutoAdmit to reveal the identities of the anonymous critics and take down their libelous posts.

It is troubling that judges in both cases have failed to rule in favor of these victims of anonymous defamation. In the Krinsky case, a California appeals court ruled last month that her accusers had a First Amendment right to speak their minds. Although Doe vs. Ciolli (filed in June 2007) has yet to be ruled on, the plaintiffs had to drop Anthony Ciolli, the law student in charge of AutoAdmit, from the suit. This is because the law treats Web sites differently from traditional publishers in terms of their liability for libelous content. In Section 230 of the 1996 Communications Decency Act, Congress granted Web sites and Internet service providers immunity from liability for content posted by third parties. So a paper-and-ink newspaper can be sued for publishing a libelous letter from a reader, but, under Section 230, Web bulletin boards like AutoAdmit have no legal responsibility for the published content of their users. Thus the students are now pursuing the identities of their defamers independently of AutoAdmit — a near impossible task given the sophistication of today's software for disguising online identity.

All three of these cases indicate that the U.S. Supreme Court soon might need to rethink the civic value of anonymous speech in the digital age. Today, when cowardly anonymity is souring Internet discourse, it really is hard to understand how anonymous speech is vital to a free society. That New Yorker cartoon remains true: On the Internet, nobody knows you're a dog. But it is the responsibility of all of us — parents, citizens and lawmakers — to ensure that contemporary Web users don't behave like antisocial canines. And one way to achieve this is by introducing more legislation to punish anonymous sadists whose online lies are intended to wreck the reputations and mental health of innocent Americans.

Andrew Keen is the author of "The Cult of the Amateur."

Friday, March 7, 2008

Swing for the fences with MLB2K8


I picked up "MLB2K8" for the Xbox 360 this week, and so far I have mixed feelings about it.

My favorite aspect of the game is the pitching. Many baseball games use a 3 click meter, but "2K8" requires only the right thumbstick. You simply move the stick in a certain pattern to throw the pitch. The system took me awhile to understand, but it feels so much more rewarding than the old meter style.

Batting also takes advantage of the right thumbstick. You simply press back on the stick as the pitcher releases the ball and release for a contact hit or press forward for a power swing. I have yet to get the timing down with the “swing stick.” It does feel more natural than hitting a button to swing, I must say.

"2K8's" visuals could definitely use a shot of HGH. The game does not even look as good as last years version, which I attribute to the developer shooting for a solid framerate. Unfortunately the game still runs like a slideshow at some points. Thankfully it mainly chugs during cutscenes or inning transitions.

I have only encountered one bug in five or so games, but it's a big one. A friend was trying to throw me out while advancing to second on a wild pitch during a head-to-head game. He picks up the ball with his catcher and proceeds to hurl it THROUGH the wall behind home plate. At this point the only thing we can do to continue the game is for my runner to score... all the way from first base.

The innovative hitting and pitching are a breath of fresh air to the baseball video experience, but developer "2k8" needs to get a framerate patch out as soon as possible. If not, this game is headed to the minor leagues.

Column for this week, with edits for clarity and the columnist cut

Age Life Ratio

Every day, millions of adults mingle with teens and pre-teens online because of a mutual interest: video games.

Games such as "Call of Duty 4," which has a live voice-chat function, are rated M for mature. But parents must have an internal blind spot when it comes to buying these games for their children.

The other day, my brother and I were playing an online headquarters match on "Call of Duty 4." One of his friends recently obtained the "gold cross" status, which means he's played the game to the point where he can't level up anymore. We were on a team with some young know-it-all who camped out in one spot the whole game, shooting people who stumbled into his line of fire.

This young one, seeing our friend's rank, started making fun of his "kill-death ratio." Put simply, this measures how many people you kill versus how many times you die. Some players, like body builders who kiss their biceps while staring into a mirror, are obsessed with this.

My brother spoke up: "You know there's more to playing this than killing people. See, we're losing because you could've been capturing the headquarters this whole time instead of camping on the edge of the map. But, you know, at least your kill-death ratio looks good."

While the sarcasm was appreciated, wouldn't it be better if we didn't have to deal with Internet trolls like young know-it-all? Adults playing these games shouldn't have to navigate these relationships.

Thankfully, there will be no quest for harmonious common ground, no attempt at understanding or mentoring the young'uns. Infinity Ward will soon release a massive downloadable patch for "CoD" on the PlayStation 3. (It's already out on Xbox 360.) It will allow you to simply mute the little punks.

The other night, I talked about the patch with some other online "CoD" players.

"Wow," one person in the game lobby said. "I'm going to mute everyone under 18."

Bomberman Land

Another of the Nintendo Wii's more endearing qualities is the ability to download old games. One of my first purchases was "Bomberman 93" for the now-defunct TurboGrafx-16. "Bomberman Land," the latest in the series, reminds me of an essential truth about video games: Sometimes you can't improve upon a classic.

The story mode of "Bomberman Land" is a collection of mini-games where you don't really blow anything up. I ignored it, got some friends together, and dove into the battle mode. It's not all that different from "Bomberman 93." Players drop bombs to blow up tiles in a large maze, collecting items that enhance their bomb blasts while killing off other players. Last Bomberman standing wins.

What would've made this game much sweeter, however, is the ability to play anyone around the world via the Internet. I know very few people my age who would take time out of their day to play this. Once again, Nintendo has missed a chance to embrace the Internet. Don't ask me why.

I give "Bomberman Land" three buttons out of five.

This is the sweetest thing I've heard all day

Courtesy of an e-mail forwarded by Katrina


.....

Your Current Shipment(s)

.....

Super Smash Bros. Brawl WiiWill arrive between Tuesday, 03/18/08, and
Thursday, 03/20/08.


Hell to the yeah.

Thursday, March 6, 2008

"Marvel Ultimate Alliance" for the PS2

Went out and tried to snag a copy of "Ultimate Alliance" for the PS3 to see how it compares to the Wii version- only to discover Movie Gallery in J-Ville has a really dinged up copy. So we bought the PS2 version instead.

While the controls handle much better than the Wii version, the game is essentially the same. Another dungeon crawl using multiple characters. Dietrich liked it and I think he'll have some nice things to say; I was indifferent.

Column this week on age difference in gaming and "Bomberman Land."

Wednesday, March 5, 2008

Dungeons & Dragons Creator Dies


Dungeons & Drago-Creator Dies at 69

By EMILY FREDRIX

MILWAUKEE (AP) —
Gary Gygax, who co-created the fantasy game Dungeons & Dragons and helped start the role-playing phenomenon, died Tuesday morning at his home in Lake Geneva. He was 69.

He had been suffering from health problems for several years, including an abdominal aneurysm, said his wife, Gail Gygax.

Gygax and Dave Arneson developed Dungeons & Dragons in 1974 using medieval characters and mythical creatures. The game known for its oddly shaped dice became a hit, particularly among teenage boys, and eventually was turned into video games, books and movies.

Gygax always enjoyed hearing from the game's legion of devoted fans, many of whom would stop by the family's home in Lake Geneva, about 55 miles southwest of Milwaukee, his wife said. Despite his declining health, he hosted weekly games of Dungeons & Dragons as recently as January, she said.

"It really meant a lot to him to hear from people from over the years about how he helped them become a doctor, a lawyer, a policeman, what he gave them," Gygax said. "He really enjoyed that."

Dungeons & Dragons players create fictional characters and carry out their adventures with the help of complicated rules. The quintessential geek pastime, it spawned a wealth of copycat games and later inspired a whole genre of computer games that's still growing in popularity.

Funeral arrangements are pending. Besides his wife, Gygax is survived by six children.

Tuesday, March 4, 2008

Who needs "Wii fit"?

On days like this, when it becomes so cold so quickly, I am likely not to venture outside once getting home from work. But I've got a wedding coming up in a month and I need to exercise every minute I can. Enter "Dance Dance Revolution: Hottest Party" for the Wii.

After 45 minutes of stomping around like a dinosaur on this thing, I've sweat more than I ever do at the gym (which may tell me something about the quality of my work outs.) The only down side is I think one of my arrows is malfunctioning- even when I hit the thing dead on, it still doesn't register in the game. So I have to stomp even harder, to the point where my neighbors think I've taken up line dancing.

Dietrich told me he got "Bully" for the Wii, so I can't wait to check that out, too.

Monday, March 3, 2008

"Bomberman Land" & Friends

After a few hours of playing "Bomberman Land" for the Wii last night, I came to the inescapable conclusion- The Story Mode on this thing is worthless. Or, as John Dietrich put it, don't you think a game called "Bomberman" would have a story involving, oh I don't know, blowing stuff up?

But the Battlemodes, which tweak but do not overproduce a time-tested formula, are where this game really shines. If this were a $30 purchase it might find its way into my gameshelf- but I can't see spending $50 for a game with such a lousy story mode component.

Now if I can just find a fourth player---it'll be sunny afternoons after school lets out all over again...

Saturday, March 1, 2008

"Bomberman Land"

Got done fooling with this game's pointless story mode and went straight into the battle modes. "Bomberman Land" has some great battle modes. It's like Hudson Soft's answer to "tic-tac-toe."

I found I fared pretty well at the crown battle mode.