July 2009 Archives

youwon.jpgI've been following the Pepsi Rock Band deal for a month now. It has been phenomenal. The code caps are pretty much only found on those ripoff 20oz bottles. Those range in price from $1.25 to $1.50. Up until this week, every code I used became a song DLC instant winner. Every one.

Now, Rock Band songs cost $2. So the deal there is pretty obvious. $1.35 for soda and a song.

Even better is that if you choose a song for Rock Band on Wii, you just get a 200 point gift card code. Which you may or may not use on Rock Band songs at your leisure. Best deal on Wii points EVER. Essentially you're buying Wii points at about a 30% discount, plus free soda. Have I been over this before? I think I have.

Anyway, it seems the caps are no longer always instant winners. So far this week, I've been averaging a win on only every other cap. Which has completely destroyed the promotion's cost effectiveness. $2.70 for soda and a song, while still more or less acceptable in the grand scheme of things, just doesn't work for me. That's a song at normal price and 70 cents for 20 oz of Pepsi.

I was winning every time until I got to 30 wins. Ever since then, it's been sketchy. My guess is that these caps are finally becoming commonplace across the country. The promotion started in the beginning of June, but I know we didn't notice the caps locally until the end of the month. So as these caps roll out, more and more people are playing and the odds of winning one of the daily DLC songs is dropping.

I have another theory (not about brontosauri) about how the codes are distributed. They say they only give out 5000 songs per day. I'm guessing their system is programmed to hand out winners across the entire 24 hour period (although I don't know how they handle this across time zones). Since the system has no idea how many entries it will get in a day, it is possible that your odds of winning increase at the end of the day... as the system does its math and figures out "Oh crap, I haven't created enough winners to make sure I get to 5000 today." But who knows. Just a theory.

Now that it is no longer a sure thing, I am done buying Pepsi. But I did post this on the office soda machine:

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I have already been handed 15-20 caps, which just goes to show that even if work sucks, the people are still awesome.

Before the odds starting dropping, I got up to over 3000 Wii/DSi points and five or six actual songs for Rock Band PS3. Even collecting castoff caps, I expect that avalanche to wind down considerably.

Thanks to a surprise Amazon Gold Box Lightning Deal, I just picked up Wii Music for the price it should have been back in October 2008. $20. Apparently, Amazon usually sells Wii Music for $30, and the Lightning Deal knocked it down another $10.

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I know I went on the record as saying that Wii Music Will Suck. (Go check an Aeropodcast; I know I said it.) But I also went on the record as saying I would get it and forgive its sins if the price was right (likely on that very same podcast.)

Nine months on, I think Wii Music was very likely the right game at the wrong time. And the wrong price. It's the right game in that it leverages Nintendo's Great Mii Society and fits in wonderfully with the brand. It is probably very accessible. Clark will probably dig it. It will probably be very interesting. And if I knew anybody else who owned it, I would enjoy trading Mii music video remixes.

October 2008 was the wrong time for two reasons. First, it arrived right on the tail end of the big battle between Rock Band 2 and Guitar Hero World Tour. THAT'S where the music game genre was happening, and as soon as people realized that Wii Music was not anything resembling that, they were out of there.

The second reason is that Wii Music was not a big enough title to carry Nintendo through the holiday season. Pairing it with Animal Crossing: City Folk was not even enough. Nintendo took hard lumps on that last fall.

Note that Wii Sports Resort just came out this week (in the slot where 2008 brought us the underselling Warioland: Shake It). Nintendo did not hold Wii Sports Resort for Holiday 2009, even though they could reasonably have expected massive sales for it for Christmas. But two consecutive years of Wii ____ silly Mii games for the holiday would be suicide in the enthusiast press. They're going to have enough of a fight pushing New Super Mario Bros Wii without it sounding like another half-assed rehash (even if it is not.)

Then there's the $50 price tag. I will be very surprised if I feel I can come back here in a week and tell you that Wii Music would have been worth $50. And I bought Endless Ocean for $30, remember.

I'm sure Nintendo was disappointed in Wii Music's sales. It sold up to 1 million by the end of 2008 in America, and has since almost completely flatlined. IE, it had a huge jump for Christmas sales and then died on the vine. Meanwhile, Wii Fit is about to hit 9 million sold in the US, with very steady sales. That graph keeps going up. Earlier this year, I saw some last-ditch minute-long commercials for Wii Music, airing on Sprout, I believe. So Nintendo threw some additional ad money at it... but to no results. Wii Music is a flop.

Well, gang, $20 is my break point on this one. Although most reviews were entirely confused or dismissive about Wii Music, I did read a few encouraging remarks from some writers I respect. So maybe I'll find something in it after all. I'll gladly enjoy it as a $20 game. And I'll wager that it will still suck as a $50 game.

On the same Amazon order, I picked up the Wonder Woman animated movie on blu-ray for $16 and the brand new Green Lantern blu-ray for $20. I don't know why I don't always buy stuff through Amazon. Except, of course, that it's not as much fun.

Hung out for the entire Zack Snyder live Watchmen viewing last night. This was in effect a simulcast of Zack Snyder (he, uh, directed the movie) doing a community viewing at Comic Con. Being a long movie, it ran until 3:45am my time. All it was, was a chat. You could submit questions via Warner Bros' BD-Live website, and he was taking questions from the Comic Con audience as well. There was no live video or anything like that. They didn't even pause/rewind the film, even though they had the power to do so. The BD-Live viewing was open to tens of thousands of people. I have no idea how many actually participated, but I can say that on my PS3 I saw no laggy interruption of any kind. The movie played, and Zack Synder cursed and rambled in text over top it.

The login screen sort of makes it look like the only participants are me and Zack. I sent him a friend request.

The 12:30am start time was delayed at least ten minutes as Comic Con got its act together. During the preshow, those of us at home were treated to warnings that the moderator controls all of the playback functions, and that they could pause the movie at any time in case Mr. Snyder needed to pee. (Which did happen, but they did not bother to pause.)

For my first question, I asked why the blu-ray Director's Cut digital copy is actually for the standard version instead. 'Cause that's bullshit. And furthermore, the box makes no indication of this. Why would you buy a Director's Cut that promises a digital copy, and then be okay with that digital copy being the standard cut? I have already fired off a nastygram to Warners about this. If their tech support still runs anything like the Speed Racer blu-ray fight, I'll have months of emails to sort this out.

My second submited question: How will the Black Freighter material be woven in to Ultimate Edition? Is there even more footage shot to transition from movie to animation, or just Lucas-style cheesy wipes?

So as not to keep you in suspense: they did not answer any of my questions.

The chat window can get sort of large and cover some of the screen:

What is annoying is that this is a letterboxed film, right? So how about if the entire film moves top or bottom, closing the dead space and making room for the chat window? There's no design need to have the two overlap. I suspect the underlying video display tech here makes this kind of obvious fix impossible.

Straight off, Zack announced that he has nothing to say about Alan Moore. Mr. Moore's decisions are his own; Zack has no idea if he has seen the film or likes the film or anything. So no questions about Alan Moore. And yeah, Moore would not be mentioned for the entirety of the chat.

The first viewer question was about the Comedian's penis sculpture, visible in the very first scene.

There was plenty of casual swearing from Zack. I'm sure he was getting transcribed, because there was a lot of nonsensical rambling. Probably plenty of cases where somebody in the room was talking to him, and the typist just blindly entered it all in. There are lots of questions from people who have not read the comic, because they keep saying things like "Was that in the comic?" This is always the bitter pill comics fans have to swallow where our works are re-packaged and delivered to the mainstream. I always wonder why people will line up and drop $10 to see Iron Man in theaters or $30 for the DVD set of Heroes, but never ever pick up a $3 comic book or $15 trade. Then I remember that everyone is lazy.

On the other hand, there were many questions along the lines of "Why did you change this tiny little detail from the book that means nothing to anybody but me."

Zack noted that he gave the Sally Jupiter Tijuana Bible prop to Kevin Smith as a present!

Somebody asked if he intended to make Adrian Veidt similar to Steve Jobs. Zack was sort of taken aback by that, but did admit that Adrian wears a turtleneck in one scene.

David Hayter (screenwriter and longtime voice of Solid Snake) visited the set once. "That scared me," Zack said with no explanation why... unless Hayter dropped some serious CQC on him, I guess.

For legal reasons, in the riot scene with the costume effigy-burning, they could not use the Superman symbol on the suit. It is rather an H, which Zack said stands for "Hydrogen Man," like the symbol on Doc Manhattan's forehead.

Zack pointed out that, on an airplane, the phrase "pity fuck" becomes "pity score." There was a couple questions about what the studios wanted to censor or edit. WB has a no-smoking policy, so Zack had to fight hard to get the Comedian to keep his cigar. And in the process, Laurie lost her bong cigarette thing... which, as one viewer pointed out, makes her look pretty stupid when she hits the "fire" button in the Owlship. (Zack claimed to not know where the Owlship prop ended up, by the way.)

Viewer: "Were you afraid people would be confused by the Doc origin flashback sequence?"
Zack Snyder: "Not if they were paying attention. Yeah, but no one turns into a giant robot and bashes the shit out of each other, I guess, so it is kind of a problem."
Take that, Michael Bay!

There was one "wish my brother a happy birthday" and one "ask my girlfriend to marry me." Imagine being proposed to ad hoc by a live chat with a quasi-famous director. The proposal happened during the ultra-romantic bit of Li'l Rorshach biting off some kid's cheek.

During the impotence scene: "a lot of my friends were confused as to why he didn't fuck her in the first place." Movies are wasted on people. Just wasted.

And, as expected, Bubastis made the movie entirely for fan service. There was some chatter from people who wanted some explanation of her presence (although it's not like you get much in the book: just Adrian doing some fun bioengineering), but Zack said he liked how it turned out with her being a bizarre mystery. He also said that PETA came after him during production, and he had to tell them Bubastis was entirely CG. Not sure if that was a joke or not, since how would PETA even have heard about Bubastis during production... and what possible assumptions would they have made, that he was dying tigers blue or something? But it certainly fits with PETA's fringe hype efforts.

After is was done, everybody thanked everybody over the closing credits, and Zack could not believe how many people made it to the end (particularly on the East Coast.) It was interesting to have live director chat during playback, especially during a movie that I feel I know so well.

Watchmen: Movie Live Weblog

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watchmen-smiley.jpgOK, time to watch Watchmen Director's Cut. I'm not particularly enthused about starting a three hour movie at 1am, but I kinda have to. I'm going to be in the live-from-ComicCon Watchmen viewing with director Zack Snyder tonight, and I don't want my first viewing of the film to be continually interrupted by some dork explaining how they mo-capped Doc Manhattan. Obviously I'm more or less a big fan of the source material, having read the graphic novel and supplementary materials over and over again. I've heard plenty of good things about the movie, but never got around to seeing it in theaters.

As the movie rolls, I'm going to just quickly type reactions. I have no idea what is new for the Director's Cut. Spoilers, of course.

1:15am - Before the movie, there's the BD-Live setup. I already have a Warner Blu account, so it's no big deal. Nothing much to do here except have the disc update my Facebook wall, which is pretty ridiculous.
1:20am - Movie starts.
1:23am - Pat Buchanan, ha! I love the lookalike actors recreating 1985 America.
1:23am - Comedian's apartment is full of awesomely tacky 1970s bachelorhood paraphrenalia. A man past his prime but still holding on to the last good years. Hustler mags, a Silk Spectre pin-up poster, and a classically terrible giant statue of a penis.
1:27am - Whoa, Batman comic cameo.
1:28am - Silhouette! She's a great little sidenote to the Minutemen story. Jeez, is this is most incredible opening credit sequence or what? Just beautiful. And full of exposition.
1:30am - Comedian shot JFK!
1:31am - More great celebs... Truman Capote, Andy Warhol, David Bowie, Mick Jagger. Hilarious.
1:32am - Screenplay by Solid Snake.
1:35am - Rorshach seems to be lacking his purple pants. Commence fanboy outrage.
1:38am - Hollis Mason on Nixon: "To think i voted for that prick 5 times!" Dan looks great. Nice casting.
1:41am - No sugar cubes (ronch, ronch), but we do get Rorshach eating beans! And the "human bean juice" line.
1:43am - "Watchmen," meh. As far as I remember, the word "watchmen" is never actually used in the book as a team name. Seems unnecessary to force it into the movie. Great Rorshach line: "You quit." He sort of yells it, which is not how I have always heard that in my head, but I love it.
1:45am - Holy crap, those toys are from one of the comic interstitials. Those original twelve comic issues must have been great for fleshing out this movie.
1:46am - Ozymandius has totally weird hair.
1:50am - Doc Manhattan's voice seems a little too soft.
1:52am - It's good to know that even in this alternate world, 99 Luftballoons still happened.
1:53am - It just hit me: Dan's hair is doing 1985 era Chevy Chase.
1:56am - And that's the end of issue 1. Almost 40 minutes for one book. Kind of a shame the other 11 issues will not get the same amount of screenplay. I have to say, this has, thus far, been spot on.
1:56am - Highly obvious Twin Towers placement.
1:58am - The tijuana bible! Nice. That's always been one of favorite creepy real-world touches of the story. "Say baby, this is tops."
2:01am - Hooded fucking Justice!
2:02am - I've always loved the rain scene at Comedian's funeral. Adrian has someone to hold an umbrella for him, shlub Dan just gets soaked, and Mr. Perfect doesn't even get wet.
2:07am - No Captain Metropolis at the famous map meeting. Making a very obvious play here to position Ozy as the bad guy. It was certainly a bit more subtle in the original to see a thoughtful Ozymandius pondering the remnants of the map as Cap stands there helpless. Loved Dan's line: "Let's agree to no drinking at meetings."
2:13am - More brilliant casting... Max Headroom as Moloch. We do not see enough Matt Frewer these days.
2:17am - One of the greatest lines in the book: "That ain't the kind of cancer I got."
2:19am - The Pagliacchi joke ends issue 2.
2:21am - Note "Antarctica" on Doc's comm screen with Ozy.
2:24am - Cut to Doc holding a bra like it's some new species on insect! You may think that wasn't in the book, but it was.
2:25am - Geez, even the bit where Doc adjusts his blue glow for TV made it in!
2:26am - Hey, it's the news vendor and the comic kid!
2:28am - Yikes, that's some crazy arm-breaking and neck-knifing.
2:35am - "Wally Weaver" is such a great Golden Age sidekick name.
2:39am - That was a rather gruesome explosion.
2:41am - Holy crap, the origin of Doctor Manhattan montage feels verbatim. Unbelievable. It's going to be work to go back and find what they didn't put in.
2:45am - WTF is that room with the grass carpet and ping-pong table?
2:49am - In case you thought military generals in alt-1985 were not all colossal douchebags: "That's not so bad."
2:50am - So that's where all of Rorshach's purple went... Adrian's suits.
2:52am - Ozymandius vs Chrysler!
2:54am - So that's what a bullet through a calf looks like. And also fingers. Yeesh.
2:56am - Whoa, porn mag breasts. I get it: Chess was a slimeball.
3:00am - The psychiatrist! Yay! I doubt we'll get the subplot with his wife, right?
3:08am - Cleaver to the head... that's not as originally written. I've come to the theory that since Watchmen the Comic was shocking and dramatically violent as presented to the world of comics in 1985, so Watchmen the Film must be purposefully trying to be shocking and dramatically violent for the world of film in 2009.
3:16am - Casting Big Figure as a little person makes him seem like less of a weirdo supervillain. Great scene. Rorshach's puns directed towards BF and his goons always crack me up.
3:17am - Ye gods, the nude nuke dream! I don't know which viewer will end up more astonished: the person who read the book first, or the person who reads the book after.
3:20am - Hey, it's been a while since we've had any cheesy 80s music.
3:22am - There are so many obvious numbers in this movie. On doors, rooms, taxis... is somebody trying to tell us something. (Forgot to mention that early door number scene where 3001 becomes 300, good one Zack.)
3:23am - There we go, music.
3:26am - Yep, that was a long sex scene. Dan and Laurie's actual consummation took a page or two in the book, and then she lit up that crazy bong cigarette thing. No bong in the movie.
3:26am - The Wilhelm makes it into the prison riot scene.
3:33am - Rorshach is a short little bugger, isn't he? Laurie has to look down to yell at him.
3:35am - Tales of the Black Freighter... on discount now at better retailers.
3:38am - RIP Hollis Mason. As a lovable Golden Ager, I have always likened him to the Jay Garrick Flash, so I hate watching him die like that. Great job working in his villain flashbacks. Beautiful.
3:40am - Such a great job casting people who look like they stepped out of the comic! Must point out that Rorshach does not pull Nite Owl off of the topknot in the original.
3:44am - Doc Manhattan does "Who's on First" with Laurie.
3:46am - Of course the smartest man on the planet in 1985 would have a Mac.
3:48am - Whoop... I guess here's where we finally start diverging from the original story. Pretty amazing that it took two hours and twenty minutes for the first truly substantial change (not including minor stuff like combining three Moloch scenes into two.)
3:49am - Bubastis! And no explanation as to how or what she is!
3:53am - So basically Doc makes Laurie watch the movie thus far.
3:56am - The Mars smiley!
3:58am - Snow Gear Nite Owl! Aw, no snow segues, though.
4:00am - Hurm. Does anybody really know what Adrian's plan is?
4:06am - The vendor and the boy turn into the smiley blood spot. That's the end of issue 11.
4:08am - Aw, Bubastis. Only in our lives for a scant ten minutes.
4:13am - Rorshach's cute farewell to Dan: he makes his r/r logo on his face.
4:15am - And then he made it again in the snow. Sort of.
4:17am - New ending for Dan... in the original, he does not witness Rorshach's exit and goes to hump Laurie.
4:19am - Now Laurie has wing-shaped earrings. It must be love.
4:21am - Milennium billboard! Oh, and NOW we get the electric car. Can't help but think that Veidt Enterprises is going to grow even richer off city re-construction contracts.

Overall, wow. The movie is nearly identical to the book until the very end. It sucks that something like that should seem like a Major Accomplishment, but that's the way comic book movies usually go: dumbed down for the masses. I'm looking forward to the Zack Snyder chat tonight. I wonder if he will address the question I submitted about making a sequel.

Postscript: buying this blu-ray was a day's ordeal. Best Buy was running a deal where if you bought ANY version of Watchmen, you could get the Watchmen Motion Comic or Tales of the Black Freighter for only $5. The motion comic is pretty bad (or at least, having a guy do the female voices makes it unsalvagable), so I opted for Black Freighter. First I asked if the $5 deal applied to the Black Freighter blu-ray. I figured it did not, but I thought I'd ask. No, only on DVD, but it took three employees to come up with that answer.

Then I trot off to look for the Black Freighter DVD, and all I can find is some stupid Collector's Edition with the DVD inside a metal tin. Whatever. The ad says Black Freighter is normally $19.99, and this Collector's Edition is priced $19.99, so I head up to buy the two disks. The Collector's Edition does not ring up under the deal, and another pair of employees are tasked to tell me why I can't get this for $5.

The short version is: because the system won't scan it that way. There will be no price adjusting. One employee runs to get me the Motion Comic, which is priced at $24.99. That one scans for $5, so they're willing to sell me that instead.

We walk out with nothing. We drive half an hour to a second Best Buy (remember, I have one night in which to watch this movie, since I won't be able to see in Saturday morning when Clark is awake... and Friday is a podcast night!) This Best Buy had plenty of DVD Black Freighters. Too many, in fact.

I try the blu-ray question. I actually hit customer service with three possible Black Freighters: normal DVD, collector's DVD, and the blu-ray. The confused clerk consults the flyer and randomly determines that the normal DVD is the one on the $5 deal. I'm sure he's correct, but the methodology does not exactly inspire me with confidence.

To complicate matters, this store has the normal DVD priced at $39.99, which would have been an insane price back in March. The Collector's Edition is $19.99. The blu-ray is $24.99.

But the normal DVD does indeed scan up properly, so I end up with Director's Cut blu-ray and Black Freighter DVD for $30.

The Week in Links

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NOBY NOBY BOY - small Katamari cousin world (YouTube)
Here's a small Katamari world we found in Noby Noby Boy. That game has the most miserable camera controls on the planet.

33 Months Of Motion Control, The Wii's Hidden Struggle (Kotaku)
Wow, talk about a great analysis. This is exactly what I've been on about when it comes to motion controls in gaming. The Wii hype seemed to predict a bold future of motion control, but to date most of it has been moderate or just plain bad.

Pay Walls (Daring Fireball)
Gruber comments on a recent editorial suggesting that all of the major newspaper outlets decide as one to turn off all free news websites and put all content behind a subscription barrier.

They should go ahead and do that. That'll help get the TV news industry back up on its feet.

GOOGLE JUST GOT A LITTLE MORE 'SUPER' (DC Source)
To celebrate Comic Con (and other reasons), the Google logo was turned into some Jim Lee superhero artwork. Which, come on, looks like crap at such a small size. Fail.

Wednesday Comics (Dave Ex Machina)
When the first issue of Wednesday Comics came out, I picked it up and Josh did not. When I told him that each issue devotes only a single page to each of the fifteen or more stories, he was gobsmacked. It really is a bizarre experiment, and reading only one page a week can be offputting (depending on the page; to date, Neil Gaiman's Metamorpho story has had two weeks with only ONE PANEL). I like breezing through it and seeing all the huge artwork, but the Prince Valiant / Mark Trail effect of serialized comics is sometimes grotesquely apparent: all too often, nothing happens.

Batman: Arkham Asylum pre-order nets exclusive Challenge Map (Joystiq)
Oh, of course it will be through GameStop. I already have a preorder in with them for Beatles: Rock Band (three free DLC songs). Now I have to go back in for this Batman map (Batman vs. skeletons(?)) and also the new Ratchet and Clank (exclusive world).

Professor Layton's (unofficial) Twitter (Twitter via Joystiq)
Some superfan has been doing a really great job of twittering as Professor Layton.

PlayStation Network Video Content Update (PlayStation Blog)
The first 16 minutes of the new animated Green Lantern movie are up for preview on your PS3. The actual movie is out next week. Hal says "What the hell" five minutes in, thus justifying that PG-13 rating. (Clark says "Why him say what the hell" immediately after, thus reminding me to cough loudly during that line when we next watch it.)

Interesting pacing. Hal gets the ring before opening credits roll, and then is whisked to Oa one scene later. So there's absolutely no hand-wringing "I have this power and what am I going to do with it" drama, like what was carried through an hour plus of New Frontier.

The iPhone entry.

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Here's your obligatory "I banged this out on my new iPhone" entry.

I'm using the Movable Type iPhone plugin, which has a nice chibi interface, but lacks some MT standards. Doesn't have an image uploader, for example. Still, it is worlds away from the non-functional Sidekick. And I suppose I could always use the regular interface anyway.

The iPhone not having native WiFi calling is going to be a huge problem. We have no ATT service at home. Right now I'm looking at one bar. You know, the little unusable one. Several times today I noticed it dropping off entirely. I wonder if WiFi calling can happen in a future firmware update, or if users will get screwed with a 3GS2 model at some point. So we're looking at Skype and iCall and whatever other WiFi apps could make this happen. Seems like incoming calls are the real sticky issue.

Rhonda and I have been installing and organizing apps like crazy. So far, I've made the sole purchase, I Love Katamari, and everything else has been free junk. I am moderately amused by the demo version of Metal Gear Solid Touch.

All in all, though, the world of iPhone games is a ghetto. Anybody who has one of these instead of a DS, particularly for kids, is living in denial. Not that the iPhone couldn't maybe someday get a reliable library of real hit games, but right now it's sort of like the Wii... way too much cash-in garbage that is just cheap dev work following the money train. Of course, the Wii has the strength of Nintendo behind it so you know you are getting AAA games from them (and selected key third parties)... Apple's iPhone just has the market share. It's nice that iPhone games are cheap - compared to $20-30 on DS and $40-50 on Wii - but you get what you pay for.

But I'm not in this as a gaming device. It's got all my email, facebook, AIM, iTunes, GPS, photos, Twitter, Movable Type, and who knows what will come next. Any halfway decent games will be gravy. ($6 for Pac-Man?!?)

One of the biggest changes for me is actually having contacts. Since I never cared to get the Sidekick to sync, I never used Apple's Address Book. The ATT store took the contacts out of Rhonda's old phone, that list ended up synced with our Mac, and presto now I've got a contact list! We haven't quite figured out the intricacies of how we will coordinate syncing two iPhones across one Mac, but we're working on it. I'm not really a fan of multiple user logins, which I suspect is the way most multi-iPhone homes do it.

I've never entertained that many contacts anyway. Even my list on the Sidekick was barely above twenty, and that includes nonsense like "York TRU."

I love that you can screenshot anything. I love that iPhoto sees the iPhone as just another digital camera.

I don't love the auto-corrector, which has presented some patently absurd "fixes" to my words as I type them.

So far, the greatest iPhone moment was when I used the Maps app to show Clark the aerial view of our home. Then his daycare, then Grandma & Grandpa's, then DisneyWorld, and then downtown Seoul. (Checking out Korea was 100% his idea, by the way, and that made me so proud that he did that.) Sure, you can use Google Maps on the computer, but the flicky, pinchy touchscreen is killer. Clark was pointing and dragging, really getting into it.

What's great, and I know we've all heard this for two years now, is that the world of cell phones was a bullshit awful nightmare of incomprehensible UIs and scam-artist-quality schemes. Then Apple rode into town with zero cell phone experience and made it all better. I mean, how crazy is it that it took us this long to get voicemail that doesn't completely suck? And now everybody has some kind of iPhone knockoff, even if the visuals are just a shell positioned overtop the usual terrible menu structure. I'll always love Apple for stunts like that.

Fourhman.home has a busy week planned, but hopefully it's the kind of week that results in mad amounts of weblog entries. Not the kind of week where I forget I have a responsibility to The InterNet and slag off with a bunch of half-assed scans-and-photos entries.

First up is the Watchmens. I checked the weekend sales fliers and have determined that Best Buy is the way to go. Target has the Director's Cut blu-ray for $25.99. Best Buy has it for $24.99, plus you can get the Black Freighter DVD for only $5. That's probably about the limit for me with this film, and I say that as someone that has, to date, never seen more than a trailer. Sucks that I won't have Black Freighter on blu-ray, but whatever. I'm guessing Best Buy has an overflowing trash compactor of these in the back, hence the $5 burnoff sale.

Also, I got in on Warners' BD-Live Watchmen screening with Zack Snyder live from Comic Con. It's this Saturday at 9:30pm PST which is like 3am human time. I guess it will take the form of Zack Snyder text-chatting with me while the PS3 plays the film. Not sure. I hope it involves Zack stopping the movie at certain spots and popping up in an inset video window to explain where the giant squid went. That would be pretty impressive. BD-Live is sort of a technology in search of user interest right now, so this kind of thing could go a long way to convincing film fans to participate.

Little King's Story for Wii is out this week, perhaps even being shelved right now at better retailers across America. I of course will be getting it from Toys R Us, which may or may not know it has shipped.

It's going to be worth it... this week's Toys R Us sale includes a 15% off coupon on any video game. That coupon expires Saturday (the day BEFORE Wii Sports Resort comes out, you'll note). I also have a $10 off of $50 coupon, and a $40 gift card, so I'm going to end up with Little King's Story for free. Assuming TRU unpacks the game sometime before Saturday. I'll probably call around on Wednesday and see what's up.

Then there's the iPhones. Last weekend, Rhonda and I ordered a pair of matching 3GS models, and they could be in stock as early as tonight. My Sidekick II has been out-of-contract since 2005, so I am well ready for a new phone.

I'll miss the Sidekick. It was pretty much the most awesome phone around for quite a few years. (In fact, I STILL get rubes who see me using it and think it is a brand new device!) But as a locked-in system with limited support it was outclassed by the iPhone right away. I'll miss the Sidekick's cool hidden keyboard, but the iPhone's screen and huge support - not to mention the natural Mac integration - will more than make up for it.

Movable Type 4.0 doesn't work on my poor Sidekick, so I haven't even been able to post mobile weblog updates. That was a Big Deal for me when I bought the first Sidekick back in 2002, so I will be happy to regain that ability through the iPhone. I hear MT even has an iPhone-specific interface.

Rhonda, who has only ever had a bullshit phone, is supremely excited.

Also, Mike is in for a visit this week. I imagine we're in for our usual tour of the latest and greatest card and video games. Swords & Soldiers, Rock Band, Age of Booty and LittleBigPlanet top the multiplayer list... and I'll be interested in his opinion of Savage Moon and My Life as a Darklord since we both heavily enjoyed PixelJunk Monsters. I'll see if I can get him to play the Scavenger Hunt card game (he had a bad experience with it at Origins, so I am sadistically determined to uncover if the game does indeed have balance issues), but I doubt we'll get to much Vapor's Gambit. Might make our Gen Con 2010 reservations if we can focus.

Clark's Teen Titans artwork

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Yesterday morning Clark put crayon to paper for a series of Teen Titans drawings. He had been watching Season 4, so he used the DVD for partial reference.

Here's two of Cyborg.

Clark decided against drawing Cyborg's body, as it would have been "too hard."

Now one of Raven...

Those are not breasts. That's the thingies holding her hood and cape together. Clark tends to draw people with triangle shaped bodies.

Here's a trio of Beast Boy pics, who was clearly the star of the day.

BB is lower right. His bird form is at the top, and his dinosaur form is on the left. Note the black stripes on the dinosaur, which is an accurate detail he picked up on all by himself.

A second round of Beast Boy and bird was required.

This is probably my favorite, due to the crazed expression and the interesting page placement.

The Week in Links

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SOUR (Hibi no neiro) (YouTube)
This video from Japanese group SOUR was chiefly shot via webcam with actual fans of the band. It is utterly brilliant.

My MAD mentor: Terry Gilliam on Harvey Kurtzman (Telegraph)
Terry Gilliam once lived in Harvey Kurtzman's attic. This kind of unexpected celeb mixing never fails to impress me.

Tolkien Film Trilogy Rings False for His Heirs (Law.com)
The Tolkien heirs have yet to receive a cent from the New Line Cinema film trilogy. Frankly, that's bullshit. No wonder you never saw Christopher Tolkien doing any interviews or documentaries during those three-plus years of LOTR hype. To make matters worse, the Tolkien family could have the power to rescind the rights for New Line to make that on-again, off-again Hobbit film. So it becomes a lose-lose for everybody thanks to greedy suits at New Line and Warners.

'Battle Klaxon': Warhawk's Hidden Delights (GameSetWatch)
Nice breathless article on what makes Warhawk unique among similar shooter games.

Cats Do Control Humans, Study Finds (Yahoo News)
The headline is more interesting than the article. So when cats are hungry, humans find a specific range of hunger-meows particularly grating and will get the cats food. No kidding.

When Tech Gods Were Mortal Men (Gizmodo)
Gizmodo takes us back to 1979, for a look at the humdrum lives of Steve Jobs, Bill Gates, and the Google Guy. The Woz was in a Datsun commercial?

Ten points about Age of Booty.

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1. The original title was better.

IGN says that this game was first known as Plunder. Waaaaaay better name.

2. $10 is a little steep.

There's only 21 challenge maps, and half of those are not particularly challenging. I suppose you could try for online multiplayer or local multiplayer to feel that the $10 has been well spent, but I still sort of consider those bonus modes.

3. The DLC is mostly junk.

But it is free. I was sort of excited by the prospect of buying a $10 game late (Age of Booty was released in October of last year, or something like that) and snapping up a bunch of free DLC packs in one go. But the DLC is mainly free maps, which, given that you can make your own maps, is kinda dopey. Some of the free map packs came with minor game enhancements, which is nice. But it's a bit of a red herring to dangle TEN tiny DLC packs, when they could easily have been combined into one large formal game update.

4. The final challenge board is impossible.

Ugh. You've got five factions on the seas, including you. You have six cities, and you need to control four of them to win. Or just control the most when the time is up. Ties do not count as a win. The timer goes for 18 minutes. Most of the other four factions start with a better ship than you do; one of the factions has two ships. The enemy ships will not always attack the leader, which would be logical. It seems like they would rather come after my one city than make a play to stop the inevitable win of the other AI player who is at three cities. It is extremely frustrating, and I can't find any FAQs online with meaningful advice on beating this one. There are two Trophies on the line: one for beating the string of Hard challenges, and one for beating all the challenges.

5. The real-time board game angle is very cool.

This is what sold me on the game. It looks like a hex-based board game. Like, you know, Settlers. The game also refers to the power-ups as cards, which is entirely unnecessary but adds to the tabletop aesthetic. Obviously it visually recalls WizKids' lamented Pirates CMG, although it plays nothing like that.

6. Controls are easy, but the tutorial is poorly explained.

I don't even know if there was a tutorial, now that I think about it. It took me a couple boards to realize what the HUD was telling me (the icons show you how close you are to having enough resources to plan a ship/city upgrade). However, since the ships all attack automatically, your input is as simple as moving a cursor around and clicking on the hex where you want the ship to stop. The face buttons are used to activate upgrades and cards, and the shoulder buttons will let you optionally jump the camera around.

7. It briefly had a Platinum Trophy.

One of the patch updates added a Platinum Trophy, which Sony had said was forbidden on small-scale downloadable games. A further patch removed the Platinum.

8. The audio seems concentrated in one speaker.

For whatever reason, as soon as Age of Booty starts, the cheesy pirate music is mostly in the right-front speaker. There are no audio options to correct this.

9. The map maker is great.

If you want to make maps. It is very easy to forge your own board using all the tile types. Which, again, is very board game-esque. You have to dig to understand how the tiles interact which each other. Although they do not make it obvious when you are building your map, the interactions are rather clever. You'd think there would be an expansion pack for this, with new tile types.

10. During gameplay, the neutral ships and villages just pop in.

What's up with that? There's no graceful animate-in. They just POP on to the map. Villages should erect themselves on the tile, and I'm sure our disbelief could be suspended enough to allow those neutral merchant ships to somehow coalesce from thin air.

A key decision about Watchmen.

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So there's actually four ways for me to buy Watchmen on blu-ray. It's a film I haven't seen, and it's now irredeemably hype-destroyed, but I still kinda want it. Of course, I still don't have that Wonder Woman movie nor Venture Bros Season 3 on blu, so I'm behind in my current blu-ray purchase goals as it is.

But here's the lay of the Watchmen land:

You got your "End is Nigh: Complete Experience." This is a retail packaging of the two-part End is Nigh DLC video game... with the movie tacked on almost as an afterthought. The first End is Nigh game showed up on the PlayStation Store for $20 and was woefully bad. This set, branded as a PS3 game, will sell for $50. Which I guess is a deal if you figure the End is Nigh Part 2 is also worth $20 by itself. I know I don't.

I am assuming that the movie in this version will also be on blu-ray (wouldn't that be crap to pack in a DVD version!) and that it will be the normal theatrical cut.

The upside to this set is that both End is Nigh games have PlayStation Trophies. For playing a terrible game.

Incidentally, the 360 pack of End is Nigh will sell for $30 and does not include the movie.

Here's the Director's Cut. Now you have a three hour version of the film (half an hour more than the theatrical), plus the always-appreciated digital copy. Also a DVD of the theatrical cut. I know I said this before, but bundling a DVD, digital copy AND blu-ray is so super-smart, I grow weak at the thought of it. No games on this edition, though.

There's a crazy interactive director bullshit thing, but I doubt I'd ever want to sit through that. There is also some way to hook your Watchmen viewing up to your Facebook account via BD-Live. So be ready to HIDE / WATCHMEN come July 21st.

Will sell for $30 (or less), which is a very regular first-day-of-release blu-ray price.

Don't forget the Collectible Nonsense version of the Director's Cut: the Nite Owl Ship edition, which is an Amazon exclusive. Fans just call it Archie.

Amazon has this listed at $80, marked down from $120. Ugh. You get all the stuff from the Director's Cut edition, housed in an impossible-to-store sculpture.

While all of the above will be out by the end of the month, the ULTIMATE COLLECTOR'S EDITION is being held until December. This set - which apparently clocks in at five DVDs, or one blu-ray - features the Director's Cut spliced together with the animated Tales of the Black Freighter mini-movie. I will be very interested to see just how they get viewers in and out of the Black Freighter bits without it being jarring and weird.

No price noted yet; but the Director's Cut edition comes with an ad for $10 off the Ultimate once you sign your life away to watchmenmovieulimateeditionboxedsetcollectorsfeature.com or whatever. How obnoxious is that. You spend $30 on a movie and right away get told that a bigger version is coming out in six months and, oh, here's $10 off.

By the time this version comes out (a limited release, I might add), you'll be able to buy the Director's Cut for $20, so I would guess Ultimate debuts at $40. Which amounts to $30 if you still have the coupon. All in all, a bizarre situation.

The Ultimate version reportedly will not contain much of the bonus material found on the Director's Cut - and of course it will not include the PS3 games either - so it's not much of an Ultimate, is it. It will have the other Watchmen side-features that sold separately on blu-ray, Under the Hood, which came along with Black Freighter... and the complete Motion Comic. I've seen both of those releases for anywhere from $20 to $30, so boy does that suck if you already own them.

What will it be for me? Likely the Director's Cut, partially due to impatience on my part. Plus the Ultimate does not, at this writing, seem to come with a digital copy. If the Ultimate had packed in the PS3 games, I might have been tempted to stick it out.

I'll be scanning for any deals, of course. Target cycles through blu-ray sales constantly, and I imagine Best Buy will have some sort of stupid pack-in (a Rorshach mask? a bottle of Nostalgia? a Bubastis toy?) that might be intriguing.

Details are still scarce, but here's part of the Ghostbusters content we can anticipate arriving in LittleBigPlanet this week:

gb-lbpcostumes.jpg

Setting aside the usual LBP DLC disappointment that we will not be getting any levels as part of the no-doubt-$6 purchase, who the hell are those guys?

So, like, maybe Egon in front? 'Cause he's the only one who wore glasses? But since when is Egon the Ghostbuster front man?

Ray? Peter? I have no idea if they're even there. I guess this is clearly not an attempt to make the sackpeople look like the movie actors. Or even get close.

Except there's Winston in an afro. That's borderline pathetic. The black guy has to have an afro? That's the best Media Molecule can come up with?

That afro and the two identical hairpieces are already in the game, I'm fairly certain. Same with the specs. "Egon"'s hair looks new to me, but I could be wrong on that since I have not yet unlocked 100% of the items in the game. So it looks like the $2 Ghostbuster costume will be the beige jumper, plus the non-functioning Proton Pack and the little catcher box, whatever that was called. Skin and hair will be up to you to provide on your own (unless that adorable brown flip is also a Ghostbusters exclusive.)

MM already showed off a "Logo Ghost" costume, complete with the red circle-/ symbol. And a Japanese website stole the show with a Slimer hat costume (as if the sackperson's head is inside Slimer's mouth) and a Stay-Puft costume (which is probably just a hat and sailor ascot).

Not really sure why Ghostbusters is all-of-a-sudden a thing. (Hint: it's not.) But I'll be pretty okay with it fading out again.

UPDATE: The details are revealed... yes, that brown hair on Egon is part of the pack. Stay Puft has a cute marshmellow body. The accompanying stickers are a nice mix of cartoony images from the movie and CG renders from the game. Doesn't look like any sounds or building materials or functional items, which sucks.

That ad was a total fakeout to make you think you're getting distinct costumes for each Ghostbuster. You're not.

I wasn't really bothered by Cartoon Network fielding a bunch of kid-centric live action shows until I realized that lineup was supplanting the Friday night action shows that had become appointment television for me and Clark. They seemed to have timed it so that they're holding any new episodes of Batman: Brave and the Bold, Secret Saturdays, and Ben 10 for some future scheduling event... because at the moment, Clark's favorites seem to run only on Saturday mornings. Which is a nice throwback, I suppose, but in 2009 we're way beyond original cartoons being quarantined to the Saturday AM ghetto.

CN is getting demolished by the fan communities over the live action stuff, which gets more awkwardly hilarious by the day. Sure, the animation fansites are going ballistic about it, but even the network's official postings to YouTube are being fully lit up with angry comments. Apparently Cartoon Network had some classless music video posted with some douche singing about how Cartoon Network wasn't just for cartoons, and it was so thoroughly trashed in comments that they pulled it.

I found some ten year old promos on YouTube (not uploaded via official sources, naturally), and they reminded me just how much Cartoon Network has changed.

They used to do stuff like that all the time. Hundreds of spots leveraged old and new cartoons in silly and clever ways. Now, I'll be the first to argue that Cartoon Network should stay relevant to modern kids and not just run and re-run old Looney Tunes until doomsday... but even ten years ago they still knew how to combine both old and new with excellent results. Back then, new characters like the Powerpuff Girls and Cow & Chicken were thrown right alongside Fred Flintstone and Morocco Mole.

Even shows that fizzled on impact, like Sheep in the Big City, were pushed front and center in fancy "part of the family" promos.

This one is gorgeous. "My Best Friend Plank," from 2004 or so. And I never even cared for Ed, Edd & Eddy. What happened to the creative teams that had the time and skill for stuff like this? Some of the recent Chowder spots echoed this old vibe.

Here's one that the web is having a good ol' time resurrecting... a mid-to-late 90s promo where they pointed out how they don't run Jim Carrey movies.

These days, they do run Jim Carrey movies. And even sequels to Jim Carrey movies that do not feature Jim Carrey.

I guess these old spots reminded me how Cartoon Network used to voraciously identify itself. How their spots used to be technically amazing and inventive. How they used to be funny! I understand that the current fads in kids' TV are animated action shows and live action tween shows... but I do miss the mix of comedy and action CN used to enjoy.

And I don't think the new live direction would be half as annoying if the executives weren't trying to make a point out of obliterating animation entirely (with that tacky music video and the sudden upheaval of new animated product), all in the name of chasing Disney Channel and Nickelodeon. Not that there's anything wrong with those two channels; just that, you know, we already have them. Cartoon Network used to be different, and their promos used to protect and emphasize that.

And poor Boomerang! I don't think they've done a new Boomerang promo for five years. It's still the same old Boomeraction intro, Boomeroyalty spot, and old H-B toy bumps. If Boomerang received half the attention that glory days CN received - and if Boomerang was more widely found on cable services - perhaps animation fans wouldn't be as miffed.

The Week in Links

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Mindless Self Indulgence - Bitches (YouTube)
Josh brought this to my attention some weeks ago and I'm hard up for a movie embed this week so here you are. It's pretty sweet.

THE SUPERHERO COMIC OF THE SUMMER (Comic Book Resources)
Cool story about why DC's Wednesday Comics will be great. I'm in, but I'm predisposed to random character anthologies, unlike most.

And here's a page of pics of people enjoying Wednesday Comics, as sent to the DC Source weblog. One of them features one of our local comic shops!

Unhealthy Fixation on Jobs's Illness (NY Times via Daring Fireball)

"Farrah Fawcett invited everyone into her sickroom as she died of anal cancer and received the faux adoration of millions in return. But Steve Jobs doesn't want your love. He wants you to buy his stuff."

Aeropodcast #89: Michael Bay... Eject! (Aeropause)
This is terribly gauche to quote myself, but during the news item where we discuss the on-again off-again Warner Bros buyout of Midway, I quip "Well, there goes my hopes for seeing a crossover game between Mortal Kombat and the DC comics characters." You need to be a nerd in at least two disciplines to laugh at that one.

soyf*ckers anonymous (Passive Aggressive Notes)
A very funny vegetarian slam note (disclaimer: yes, I'm still a vegetarian.)

USB Mini Fridge (Play Asia)
How do I not own one of these yet! It's a USB-powered fridge, big enough for a single soda can!

Opinion: Can Murder And Games Meaningfully Meet? (GameSetWatch)
I'm linking to this because it name-checks a novel I read and enjoyed, Natsuo Kirino's "Out."

Safari with me (The Brainy Gamer)
A writeup on Sony's Afrika, with a bonus comment discussion about photography in video games! Yes, I will be getting Afrika.

Of course, it comes out around roughly the same time frame as Batman: Arkham Asylum, Beatles Rock Band, Scribblenauts and Katamari Forever. The Back to School zone will be expensive indeed.

OK, you're probably going to have been in 8th grade with me to appreciate this one.

My mom, probably concerned about the house caving in, has been cleaning out the attic. She has found all manner of items from my personal golden age, including boxes full of empty LEGO boxes. And my sticker book from elementary school. It was the '80s. We all had sticker books. I've been dutifully taking most of it home and putting it in our basement since we do not have an attic.

This week she presented me with a small box full of miscellaneous trinkets and weapons. It's the Toon Field Day box.

toonprops.jpg

Back before we all got driver's licenses, we were into role-playing games. While my core group of pals was originally into D&D, I kept getting the (then) new wave of modern RPGs with bizarre themes and tie-ins. GURPS, Ninja Turtles, etc. Although Ninja Turtles was probably the coolest one, the one I kept pushing on everybody was Steve Jackson Games' Toon. I had very indulgent friends.

It was 1988. Or so. The Looney Tunes revival was in full swing. Who Framed Roger Rabbit was a huge box office hit. Even the Disney Channel ran cartoons. That whole 1940s-era wacky, random, prankster smartass cartoons was back in, and in big. (And if memory serves, it would last until Warner Bros flogged it to death by the mid-90s.) The Toon Role-Playing Game let players act as these sort of indestructible cartoon characters, assisted by the usual RPG trappings of dice and charts and enemy NPCs to fight.

So I put together the "Toon Field Day." I planned out a complex outdoor scavenger hunt, with props and clues hidden all over my parent's acre yard. There were locations with pre-described enemy attacks, and we had to use our character skills and weapons to get through them. I drafted my sister to ride her bike in on cue and deliver a message to the group. I even mailed out invitations to the guys' home addresses. In effect, this was a LARP, some fifteen years before I ever heard the term.

I don't remember what the point was. Or if we even finished the game. I do recall my Dad later chuckling about watching us run all over the yard. This may have been one of the times when enthusiasm waned and after an hour everybody just wanted to head inside and play Odyssey. I'm sure I had a great time planning it all, at any rate. That was kind of where my head was at most of the time.

Anyway, the Field Day props went into a box shortly afterward and that box has been in my parent's attic for twenty years. And I mean ALL the props. Even the pencils we used are still in there, like it's some kind of shrine to a passel of dead role-playing children.

Toy gun, toy knife, keychain, a compass (the architectural kind, I'm sure that was a delicious pun), Magic 8-Ball, an empty soda bottle, even a stick I labelled as a divining rod. Oh yeah, everything has a label on it (since most of these were to be found during the course of the adventure) with some cartoony description. Several have "WAIT" written on them, meaning that the party was to make sure I was around to explain an event or attack, since I was the Game Master of the shebang.

But here's why I'm even bringing this up... the box had a smell to it. A smell more concerning than the usual mustiness you get with a box that has spent twenty years in an attic.

I think the culprit is the "Instant Water Pills - Just Add Water," which, once upon a time, were Tic-Tacs in a vending machine capsule. If you ate them, you'd get a buff to your Smarts skill. I guess nobody ate them since they were probably half-buried in a sandpile or something.

toongross1.jpg

Good lord. I suppose it is interesting that Tic-Tacs can hold their color after two decades.

It's possible that I put the Tic-Tacs in Slime (boy, remember THAT junk), but I really do not remember mixing Tic-Tacs and Slime.

toongross2.jpg

I have GOT to throw that away. Seriously.

Happy 21st anniversary, Toon Field Day.

I just finished my EA Sports Active custom workout for the night, so I am cooling off by letting Folding@Home run on the PS3 as I bang out a weblog entry. Folding is playing through my imported MP3s... currently that Monkees Greatest Hits album that ends with those three hilariously bad reunion tour songs.

By the way, the lyric is "disappointment haunted all my dreams." I always thought it was "hardened on my dreams."

I took a giant step last night and purchased some actual media for the PS3. As I've said before, I am not down with the $2 standard for downloadable single episodes, whether it be on the PlayStation Store or iTunes. $10 for movies I'm more cool with, as that can actually be a deal when compared to a new DVD release. The TV thing is a rip.

Now that I have a vastly improved storage drive, I was all over the PS Store looking for something that would be great to have forever stored on the PS3. This is all going to seem really silly in about five years when ALL of our TV shows and movies are stored digitally in PS3-esque devices. But today, it is a battle of value vs. convenience vs. price vs. entertainment as I ponder each downloadable offering.

Not to mention the SD vs HD quantification. If I really like something, and I can get it in high-def, that's going to be where I go.

So as far as a PS Store purchase goes, I'm looking for an item that:

- Is sufficiently rewatchable enough that I will likely view it multiple times, thus justifying having it take up space on the PS3 HD. This means it should be something Clark would dig. Also that it should probably be good.

- Is not going to make me feel like I let myself get ripped off. As great as it would be to have Season 1 of Batman: Brave and the Bold a click away from LittleBigPlanet, $2 an episode will end up being more expensive than the inevitable DVD release. Or even the blu-ray release, fingers crossed. And those will come with bonus features.

- Is perhaps something sort of hard to find? That would be a nice get.

Oh, and before one of you wags points out all the wonderful illegal sites you illegally download from in an illegal fashion: I'm not doing that. And not just because it's illegal, but because it's a dick move.

UNBELIEVABLY, I found something: the three-part Read Or Die anime. Adult Swim ran it as one single movie some time ago and I recall liking it. I liked it enough that I picked up the four manga volumes as well.

At $2 an "episode," that amounts to a rarish movie for $6. Which I'm guessing is cheaper than what Suncoast "Ripoff" Video would charge for it. And since this is the only anime featuring Yomiko Readman, it's not like I still have another hundred episodes to collect, shades of Naruto or whatever. (A sequel anime series was produced, but I gather it is about a different set of characters.) 90 minutes and I'm done.

So there we are.

sadpsnclown.jpgYeah, really.

I noticed that PS3TrophyCard.com was blaming Sony for their service being down, so your PSN account trophy cards were not updating with Trophies from newer games. For example, my card was not showing my Trophies from The Last Guy or Ghostbusters. Under normal circumstances, you tell PS3TrophyCard your PSN username (never your password) and you get a handsome jpg of your current Trophy count, including your most recent acquisitions and a very nice background image of the last game you played. The service is free, as long as you do not mind manually forcing a refresh of the data. If you pay them (which I would never do), the refresh happens automatically.

But the site was down, and they seemed the slightest bit torked off about it. So I threw up a little item on Aeropause. I thought it was fair enough... I pointed out that PS3TrophyCard was finger pointing, and I lamented Sony not having this service in the first place. The article must have fallen into some serious Sony fan circles, because within a day it attracted a heap of vitriolic comments from angry PS3 defenders.

One of them decided I must be a Microsoft fanboy, which is pretty damned hilarious. I have previously been attacked on Aeropause for being a Sony fanboy, which just goes to show how perception is everything. Say something negative about Company X = Company X's fanboys swarm to murder you. Doesn't matter what you may have said previously.

My take on PS3TrophyCard is that it is a pretty shady deal to begin with (particularly their monthly fee option), and Sony has every right to shut them down, whether directly or by continually optimizing their code to stay one step ahead. Sony has not (to my knowledge) made PSN data available under an open API, so who knows what tricks PS3TrophyCard has to go through to parse the info.

But my larger point - and I guess I didn't make this clear - is that there is a sizable community out there that WANTS this feature badly enough that they are willing to go to a random third party to get it. So it is all fine and dandy for Sony to make this un-approved version go away... but it sure would be great if they had some official alternative. If Sony's "Portable ID" was worth a tinker's cuss, I'd use that and never have considered going to PS3TrophyCard.com. But here's all you get with Sony of America's Portable ID:

Boy, is that worth it! My name, avatar and custom message! That is so pathetic that I'd rather they didn't even offer it at all. It's a joke. And Sony pretends like it's some kind of great boon, trumpeting how you can "display your PlayStation Network portable ID on forums and social networking sites." The worst thing is, I've seen losers who DO use this negligible bit of code.

For some time, I've been hoping that Sony would enhance the Portable ID... but time keeps on ticking by with no improvement. They added an online Trophy page, but it's just for you to see when you are on the PSN website. So I can check my Trophies while I am at work, but I can't get them in some kind of handy embeddable format that I could put on fourhman.com, Facebook, Twitter or wherever else. Meanwhile, 360 partisan Joe Haygood has his Twitter page automatically reporting what games he is playing... which, I confess, I find fascinating most of the time.

Many of the Aeropause comments call me out for even wanting a service like this. It "doesn't matter," "who cares," "why would you want that," etc. Which is a pretty classic fanboy play: decide that a feature the competition has is irredeemably stupid. Sony and Microsoft fans both made part-time jobs out of bashing the Wii's motion control, and suddenly both camps are dizzy with anticipation of how their chosen flag will now do motion control right. Why, one day you'll be able to play Halo with a controller AND throw grenades by moving your arm!

Lambasting the Trophy card concept rings especially hollow once you realize that Sony Europe DOES have a service nearly identical to PS3TrophyCard.com. American users can use it as well, but it's not like Sony America has a big sign up pointing us towards SCEE should we be interested in such a thing. You have to already be an insider to be aware that Europe has a feature that America does not. And why doesn't SCEA have it anyway? What's the holdup?

I won't bother feeding the trolls and responding to all the (mostly nameless) commenters who came after me. I replied to the guy who called me an MS fanboy simply because that was too delicious a morsel after the public drubbing I went through when I came out against Project Natal during E3.

That same guy also tossed out the "you call yourself a journalist" line, which although I did not address, I do find very intriguing. Like Kotaku, Joystiq and who knows how many others, Aeropause is primarily a weblog, not a pure news service like what IGN used to be. (That's not a dig; I just rarely visit IGN so I don't know how "journalisty" they remain.) Kotaku posts are full of opinions, mistakes, typos, bias, swear words, and honest impressions because they, like Aeropause, are just a bunch of writers who see gaming news/events/pressers and comment on them. I do not believe they would purposefully mislead readers and neither would I. That's about the only old school journalism you're likely to get: Don't lie.

Example: my opinion is that Natal is follow-the-leader raw technology revealed solely as a marketing coup, and that once again Microsoft has done a 180 (pun intended) on their core fans by delivering copycat casual features instead of something new and original. I would express that view in an Aeropause column, or in a sly sarcastic dig, but I would never take to the web with a "news" item with intentionally forged quotes or manufactured info to make Natal look bad. The former would be fine because, on a weblog, everything contains a personal editorial element. The latter is wrong, well, everywhere.

Perhaps any website that is not just "some guy's weblog" is somehow beholden to a CNN level of journalistic integrity (whatever that means). Particularly if you as a reader feel slighted in some way and want to tear down the writers.

Note I said "writers," not "reporters." There is a difference.

But, anything for traffic, right? I'm sure my PS3TrophyCard article surged in pageviews, which hopefully exposes Aeropause.com to new readers who will stick around.

Usually, though, you want new people to come to your site for a good story, not because they're pissed off about something.

I found this item solicited in the latest Previews/Game Trade Magazine.

chiller-zombie.jpg

Yep, that's an odd Billy Jean / Thriller mashup zombie mini. Note that this issue no doubt went to print weeks ago, and this mini went into production probably months ago.

I wonder if Previews will pull this item entirely, or increase the price? I could see it going either way.

Incidentally, I see a lot of people playing minis games at Origins every year, but I never see anybody using all the joke figures that come out. Like this suddenly-insensitive Dead Michael, or the three-headed ogre with the faces of Moe, Larry and Curly. Is "parody mini" just a sub-genre of a sub-genre, directed at collectors... or do some minis gamers actually work these into their little lead armies?

The new Ghostbusters game has some serious problems. Confusing saves, a mediocre rehash of a story, and a bizarre team AI mechanic. The PS3 release has a few issues specific to that version. But it gets a couple things so nicely right that I can't slag it completely. I may write up a formal review for Aeropause, but until then, here's some quick blasts that will probably keep you from paying full price. Happily, the game supports the XMB screenshot feature... so here we go.

The firehouse is great. It is bigger than necessary (you never really DO anything at the firehouse), which makes it one of the parts of the game where you can tell the developers took the time for some great thematic detailing.

There's a Q-Bert machine... but unfortunately it is unplayable. Would have been a nice gimme to actually include the ROM, but Q-Bert is one of those arcade classics that both Sony and Microsoft have on sale, so it's obvious why Ghostbusters would not be allowed to hand it out for free.

The facial animation is fantastic. There is a great deal of effort put into having the characters act like the real-life actors. Like Bill Murray's raised eyebrow there. This and the voice acting MAKE the game. It is great hearing these actors get back into these characters. I've always been a big Dan Aykroyd fan, so I love getting to hang with him again. It's been too long.

The only rough spot in the voice work is that Murray has a few too many lines that he tries to deliver in a hushed, confidential tone... and that just doesn't work as presented. Instead of seeming conspiratorial - the way it would be shot and edited in a real movie - it sounds like he wasn't quite in the right voice booth. That aside, after all these recent years of Bill Murray very purposefully not taking on smartass roles like his work in Stripes and Ghostbusters, it is a joy to hear him slip back into that cocky delivery.

But here's a problem. The game wants to rest on the laurels of the first movie way too much. Slimer escapes and goes right back to that hotel. You're back in the library after that old woman, and the card catalog freaks out as you walk by. The Stay Puft Marshmellow Man stomps through NYC again. It is lazy pandering and any efforts to explain WHY this all seems so familiar comes too late in the game and is way too convenient and simplistic.

If they wanted to revisit the classic beats of the movie, why not just do an adaptation, instead of pretending this is something new.

Which brings up another point of contention: the hype train keeps calling this Ghostbusters 3. It is not. There are still plans for a third Ghostbusters movie and when that comes out, THAT will be Ghostbusters 3. This game's continuity will be ignored in any future feature films (and that's probably a fine thing since nothing particularly new or inventive occurs during the game). And even though the game states "written by Dan Aykroyd and Harold Ramis", in a ToyFare interview Ramis himself reveals that the script was written by the game developers and they were only asked in to help polish it up.

I also have a problem with the game's signature macguffin that you are a nameless new recruit who has been hired to test out Egon's new experimental ghostbusting equipment... and then it turns out that the other guys all have the same equipment anyway.

The first time I played the level from that left screenshot, the tanker truck you see there was invisible. You just saw the stream of gas flowing out of nowhere. That's the only random vanishing I saw throughout the game, but still, that's a pretty obvious and obnoxious bug. At the time, I did not know about the game supporting screenshotting, so I did not snap a pic of it.

Occasionally, your AI teammates will go do something stupid while they wait for you to flush out baddies or trigger scripted events. On the right, Ray was mindlessly sliming a lamp post and I think he would have been happy to do that forever.

In one of the game's all-new sections, you have to investigate a haunted museum, which contained ghosts from the Civil War and ancient Egypt. The museum display cases repeated like crazy, but the few elements in them were done well. In Egypt, they had canopic jars, which I thought was a nice touch.

This game brought to you by Doritos. Everywhere.

Alyssa Milano is the voice of the game's female lead. It would have been nice if they could have used her likeness as well, instead of the average-looking female CG model they went with.

On the right is an example of one of the game's biggest problems: the stupid team resurrection mechanic. If one of the 'Busters goes down, you can go over and bring him back to life via kneeling. (If you don't, eventually he'll pop back up on his own.) When you die, you're expected to wait for one of them to wander over and bring you back to life.

But when you're all in the middle of a huge ghost firefight in a large arena, the odds are far greater that the other guys will just die, thus ending the level. And just to make sure things are really frustrating, you can't pan the camera around to see if anybody is getting close to you. You're locked into that downward view, waiting for an AI dude to find you. Although I sort of dig the team-building vibe here, it is beyond stupid to be stuck looking at your near-dead body and reliant on some knucklehead computer characters. Drop the faux resurrection and just give me a longer life bar.

But hey, here's that famed library bug (which is, I believe, EXCLUSIVE to the PS3 version). What happens is you and the team enter the lower levels of the library... which should be very familiar if you've seen the first movie.

Once you get a few steps in, the ghost effects take over. What is supposed to happen is you see the books and paper flying around and the bookcases slamming into each other.

What happens instead is that the game's visuals slow down to a freeze, and there's nothing you can do. You can't even hit the PS button to quit. But the audio is still playing, so if you hang out and try to walk forward (even though you can't see yourself move), the game will snap back before too long.

It may also help to point the camera at the ceiling as you walk into this scene, so the game doesn't have to render the apparently difficult animation of sliding bookcases.

There's no excuse for a game shipping with this kind of massive bug in it. (In level three!) Between the library glitch, the stupid healing thing, and a seriously useless save feature (You get one save slot. ONE. And even though you can replay earlier missions, you do not get to maintain your earned weaponry level.), there's no way this game is worth $60. No way.

The Week in Links

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Luke Jackson: Goodbye London (YouTube)
I quite like this video that Cartoon Brew pushed earlier in the week.

It's a Secret to Everybody (Back of the Cereal Box)
You know that lengthy video game name etymology article that went 'round the circuit the other week? Well, it totally linked to my Mappy site.

Weekly Webcomic Wrapup is back from the dead (Joystiq)
Wow, I no idea how many hacks were out there doing complete rips on Penny Arcade until I clicked through this gaming webcomic article. Seriously gang, go find your own art style.

Logo Study: AQUAMAN Part 1 (kleinletters.com)
Oooo, another great logo study. This time's it's almost seventy years worth of Aquaman logos! I love reading these.

Trippy Spongebob MTV IDs from Pepper Melon (Cartoon Brew)
Wow, these are some seriously great SpongeBob commercials.

the styrofoam cup king (Angry Asian Man)
Dude etches beautiful works of art into styrofoam cups and then sells them for $200 each. He also does bananas.

In Defense Of The Classic Controller (Kotaku)
Leigh Alexander with a brilliant article about why controllers are good for gaming.

Nightmare Spectacles (Post-Modern Barney)
This is really cool. Dorian found a 1943 comic that featured an adult African-American character that wasn't a disgusting racist stereotype. The important thing is to remember that racist caricatures were very terribly common in the first generation of comics, so finding one from the Golden Age that manages to treat a minority like an actual human being is quite a coup. Black, Asian, Native American... minority groups endured a lot of awful bullshit for at least thirty years of American comics. Whoever did this comic was ahead of his time.

The game Clark made.

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foldie.jpg

I had mentioned that Clark sort of invented a dice game while we were in Ohio. He dictated it to Rhonda and made her write it down on hotel stationery. All you need is one single six-sided die. I'm going to do my best to present the rules as he said them. Here's how you play.

You roll the die and consult the following chart.

"If you get 5, that's the right answer."

"1 is the rules."

"2 is the game."

"6 is different."

"3 is not hard."

"4, you turn on the light."

I think he has an unclear setup phase if you're supposed to begin the game with the lights off, but I'm sure we can work this out in the betatest.

My advice to you is, roll a lot of 5's.

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