March 2010 Archives

And that's my first effort at WarioWare DIY. Clark came up with the idea after we played a few rounds of DIY Showcase on the Wii. He wanted to tap mummies from behind coffin lids. So I set it up that you have to tap to remove the lids, revealing sleeping mummies. Then you have to tap to wake them up, and they give you a jaunty wave and start bouncing in place.

Playtesting proved that it was too easy, so I added a dust cloud (using the very last of my allotted graphic points) to block the tapping. If you tap the dust, you lose instantly.

I also added sprites for some tomb creatures, a scorpion, a spider and a snake. The first two are tied to the mummies; they wander onscreen only after you awaken a mummy. The snake animates only when both mummies are up. I drew the entire thing from scratch. I tried to make the music sound Egyptian.

Nintendo has not yet started any of the Design Challenges, but when they do perhaps they'll have a category suitable for Tomb for Two's submission. That seems to be the only way to get non-friends to see your work, enter it in a contest. This is not LittleBigPlanet.

The way DIY handles programming is pretty freaking cool. You end up crafting lots of little sentences of triggers and actions. One thing I need to figure out is how to randomize things. I know it's possible since plenty of the built-in games do it, but there doesn't seem to be any mega-easy command for making objects appear randomly from a pool of potential sprites. Luckily, you can examine the structure of any premade game to see how it works.

The tutorial was incredibly long. While it certainly explained stuff, there was a lot of ancillary dialogue between Wario and Penny that made some sections longer than it needed to be. Wario is also weirdly out of character during these scenes. I would guess it took me over an hour to get through all three tutorials. Creating Tomb for Two took about two hours.

Yeah, the games are 100% tap only. No d-pad, no stylus dragging, no buttons. Between that and the lack of camera support, it seems like a DIY2 would be a worthy direct sequel.

We uploaded Tomb for Two from the DS to the Wii tonight (although Clark prefers it on the DS), and I assume from there it can be shared with Wii Friends who also own DIY Showcase. The documentation is not particularly clear on the topic of sharing, and this is not the sort of thing I trust Nintendo to carry out to expectations (can you imagine if LBP allowed level sharing to friends only?) The game repeatedly scans your Address Book to locate friends who also have it, so it seems pretty likely that I'd be able to send microgames out with a click. Showcase is 800 points and isn't even 100 blocks of Wii storage. Has plenty microgames of its own to boot, plus the ability to download new games for free.

I think Clark has plans for an entire series of Egypt-themed levels.

And I'm already in with Gamestop.

This was a battle between them and Amazon, really. The Game Crazy preorder is another crap Brady Games "mini guide," which amounts to "a summarized manual of controls, a partial world map, plus ten tips the internet already knows." Yeah, no.

Target and Walmart slug it out with gift cards, and Rockstar's t-shirt is for dedicated "I'm supporting the mothership (and also there are no stores near my house)" fans only.

Best Buy's super-horse is intriguing. If I got that AND a $10 gift card, I'd consider it.

But Amazon and Gamestop have the real chewy stuff. Gamestop has some kind of "increased dead eye regeneration" that follows along with an exclusive costume. According to the website, it sounds like a real bitch to unlock, even though it's a preorder bonus. The Gamestop edition also has "exclusive" packaging, whoopee.

Amazon has the Golden Guns pack, which enhances your in-game fame. A good idea - side quests open faster - but I'm not a fan of holding an ugly glowing golden shiny nerd gun. Might actually be more useful than the dead eye whosis, though.

Amazon also floats you a $10 gift card, but you're not going to get that until the game shows up... and then not even until ten days after. Which means I won't be able to use that $10 on my Amazon preorder for ModNation Racers which is due only a few days after Red Dead Redemption ships. I don't shop on Amazon THAT much that I would have immediate plans for a free $10. Not that I would let it go to waste.

What puts Gamestop over the edge is that their version comes with a game soundtrack. And I won't have to pay extra for launch day delivery.

Now I have another robot call to look forward to, from Aerith or Edith or whatever they call the Gamestop phone girl.

B&W Sunday Scan: Onomatopoeia

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As I was cleaning up some old junk, I found these comic photocopies that I had hanging up in my college dorm room(s). They're probably all from Critters #50 (1990), but I'm too lazy to go double-check that. Either way, Critters #50 was an awesome issue.

Because these comics are so great, I'm going to queue up a bunch of them to auto-publish on Sundays. Enjoy!

Scott Shaw! based this on a Todd Rungren song. Shaw! even worked in plenty of cameos from his old indie comic stories, like You-All Gibbon and Pointer X. Toxin. Scott Shaw!'s artwork should be classified as one of mankind's greatest treasures.

The Week in Links

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guy gardner(green lantern) vs sinestro (YouTube)
Custom sprite battle!

Design Diversions: 'A Modern Murder Simulator' (GameSetWatch)
Great article on GTA Vice City and the game's attitude towards violence.

Disney and Tolkien (Michael Barrier)
Tolkien hated Disney as early as 1937, when all Walt's name meant was mainly a pile of b&w shorts.

Twin Peaks: How Laura Palmer's death marked the rebirth of TV drama (Guardian)
After the initial fad rush, England was always more into Twin Peaks than we were.

Do The Metal Gear Dew (GameSetWatch)
Metal Gear Mountain Dew cans! Snaaaaaaaaake!

Miyamoto: Last Year, Nintendo Was Short On the Fun (Kotaku)
I say this and I get steamrolled. It is telling that Miyamoto himself allowed this during a year in which New Super Mario Bros Wii was released. Can you imagine Miyamoto giving the same quote in a year when a proper Mario or Zelda shipped?

there goes the neighborhood (Angry Asian Man)
Americanized Asian cliches meet Country Hayseed cliches! Angry Asian Man found a Berenstein Bears book where the family learns an important lesson about bigotry when pandas move in next door. The look on Papa Bear's face is hilariously terrible.

I forget what this conversation was about, but I like the internal monologue:

I usually never talk to the animals, which I have probably already mentioned. Blathers and Nook are the only ones I ever speak to.

And that is only out of necessity.

But on my birthday, I tried talking to everybody in hopes of getting some free presents. I struck out on that score, but I did trigger something I had never experienced in any Animal Crossing: the hide and seek game.

Alfonzo warped me to the Town Hall courtyard, where he laid down the rules. 15 minutes to find him and his two idiot friends. Here is the kind of fantastic hiding skills they exhibit:

For my trouble I got an Automatic Washer. I think I left it outside. It would be so hilarious if AC allowed furniture dropped outside to look like what it does inside. My yard would be a massive junk pile.

Just noticed that Midge moved to my town from Tony's. Again, I never talk to these guys.

I did achieve a personal AC goal, one that I had not even accomplished on my pre-Wii-memory-explosion save, that being PAYING OFF THE LAST LOAN.

Spoiler: after coming up with the 534,000 bells, you get a flag on your house. Pretty cool.

My fruit trees generate just under 200,000 bells per harvest (which takes me about an hour to lope through; this town needs some orchard automation), so now I can work on the landscape upgrades you get by donating to the town fund. Or I could dump it all in the bank and try to get my monthly interest up to worth-a-damn levels.

Eeeeew.

After heading to the secret door (Right of the stage. RIGHT of the stage.), our pals walked straight into a Conroy Bumpus trap! He thinks they're a bigfoot, but he's dim. The way out of this is to drop the pretense.

sadcaterpie.jpgIt has occurred to me that I neglected to include my Pokemon SoulSilver friend code in my last post. I guess the phrase "poke-ballsy" was too good of a finisher.

For that, I must post a SAD CATERPIE.

And now, the FC:

0088 4486 4222

Send me an email or post in comments if you want to friend up.

I'll add that I am only about four hours in, with just a single Gym Badge. My cyndaquil has already evolved into a quilava, and the rest of my standard team includes a gastly, a pidgey and that onix you get from trading with that kid in the second city. They are all in the low teens.

I've been giving them nicknames, at least the guys I feel I am going to rely on. Usually I would wait until they each earn the right. I like giving them really cheesy names related to their element type. My quilava is named Blaze, the pidgey is Feathrette, and the gastly goes by Reaver.

My best pokewalker day was a Saturday where we went shopping crazy. Over 6000 steps. Most average workdays I do about half that. I'm probably in danger of getting blood clots in my legs, like they warn you about on international flights.

I skipped Pokemon Platinum, but I am happy to see that SoulSilver fixes a lot of the interface weirdness that haunted Pokemon Pearl. Maybe Platinum did too, but I sort of doubt it.

I just recall being supremely miffed that Pearl would levy one interface in one situation and a second interface in another, almost identical situation. A lot of the game felt like Game Freak had built it before the DS showed up, and then had to scramble to hammer in a lot of touch screen tools. SoulSilver does a great job at refinement.

pokewalker-japan.jpg

If you've never touched a Pokemon game before (WTF?), it should go without saying that SoulSilver or HeartGold is the one to get if you happen to feel like buying one today. But of course; they're the newest releases. Here's what the new editions - even though officially they are holdover titles, remakes of ten year old Game Boy games - are doing right.

WiFi Multiplayer. It's not what you're thinking, or what you're hoping. But like a lot of Nintendo initiatives, it is unexpectedly neat. There is no way Nintendo is going to allow for unrestricted communication with strangers on a DS Pokemon game. The challenge is, therefore, to come up with meaningful human-to-human interactions that subtract the chat potential. Yes, there's battling over WiFi. But there is also this cute little amusement park, with minigames and polls and other silly Poke-themed time wasters that allow me a sanitized sort of communication with other players.

Pokewalker. Love it. The device itself is a very unobtrusive, non-clicky pedometer. You transfer one of your pokemon to it and assign it to a specific route (forest, beach, suburbs, etc). Every so many steps generates Watts. Watts are used to unlock new routes and generate "gifts" for HeartGold/SoulSilver. You can also spend Watts to attempt to catch pokemon or find items on the Pokewalker itself. While you're limited to keeping three captured critters and three items at a time, this is still a blatantly awesome way for me to play Pokemon all day long.

I would love to hear that Nintendo plans on using the Pokewalker in future games, but I seriously doubt it. Nintendo's long history of one night stand peripherals indicates to me that the 'walker will remain an oddity specific to HG/SS. (As an accessory, the Pokewalker could usher in another opportunity for a third-party gold rush of cases and skins... Walmart already has a bundle that includes a Pokewalker device jacket!)

And yeah, give it to your kids to wear. They simply take more steps in a day. In two hours Clark had a count three times as big as my entire nine hour workday.

On the down side, the Pokewalker will not accept eggs. At least, not the storyline-key egg that you get after beating the first Gym Leader. I'm inclined to think you can't walk with any eggs. That stinks. Hatching eggs with any expediency is a drudgery, and it would have been great to incubate them on the Pokewalker.

Oh. I have to complain about the Wii alert system. HeartGold and SoulSilver have implemented a means to get your Wii to notify you when an internet trade completes. Previously, in Diamond and Pearl, you just had to guess. You had to check in and cross your fingers, doing the whole long DS WiFi bootup process. Now, when the trade is done, your Wii will glow blue with promise.

Which wil be a great payoff after the bullshit you have to go through to get there.

Right on the main HG/SS menu is a choice to hook up your Wii to the game. Sounds great. The option explains how your Wii will receive alerts, callou callay. So you do it, you punch in your Wii system Friend Code (twice) and then the game states that a message has been sent to your Wii.

Except that it hasn't. You can wait a week and you won't get it. You'll never get it.

Not until you add wfc-mail@nintendo.com to your Wii Address Book. Apparently that is mentioned in the manual (who reads?), but it would have been STELLAR to include that info in the DS game itself.

But we're not done here. Even after you add that email and run through the steps again (Wii code twice), you still have to wait a bit for that initial message to arrive. This is important because that message contains a double-verification code that you must then input to HG/SS to complete the pairing.

Note this: if you decide that it is taking too long for the Wii message to hit (and it took about half an hour for me) and you cancel out of the DS menu at this point... then you have to start all over. Your verification code will not be accepted. You have to keep your DS on, sitting on the code entry screen, until your Wii gets the message. You can't trigger the message, turn off the DS, and then enter the code later. It all must be done at one shot. Every time you restart (and enter your Wii friend code again, twice) you generate a different return verification code.

To cap the whole stupid affair, after you finish the sync, you then must come up with a 4-digit pin number for HG/SS that is used to protect the Wii friend code. So if you trade back your game, your stored Wii friend code is hidden behind that pin.

I would have liked it better had Nintendo made the friend code super obvious, like spelled out with numerical Unown on the title screen... and then just shrugged and said "You really shouldn't trade this game back on the secondary market, unless you're okay with your Wii friend code being exposed to the kinds of douchebags that buy used Pokemon games. We sort of don't care about protecting consumers and retail locations that traffic in used games on the backs of our bottom line."

That would be poke-ballsy.

As I was cleaning up some old junk, I found these comic photocopies that I had hanging up in my college dorm room(s). They're probably all from Critters #50 (1990), but I'm too lazy to go double-check that. Either way, Critters #50 was an awesome issue.

Because these comics are so great, I'm going to queue up a bunch of them to auto-publish on Sundays. Enjoy!

Another single page from Sam and Max! They crack me up, little buddy.

The Week in Links

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Prinny the swimming cat (YouTube)
So is this cat jumping into the pool by itself? or is somebody tossing the poor beast in there?

Don't overlook the frightening hand-shaped basin at the end. Creepy!

What color is your hero? (Brainy Gamer)
Overview of a GDC talk, discussing the homogeny and insularity of video games, particularly as it pertains to race and gender issues. The question about Heavy Rain is spot-on... the game takes place in Philadelphia yet shows almost no African-Americans. I don't even recall see many in the game's ridiculously trafficked crowd scenes.

ECCC: Whack, Smack! "Darkwing Duck" is back (CBR)
Cool. Can we get a TaleSpin series too? And WTF does "Whack, Smack!" have to do with anything?

GDC 10: the [REDACTED] board game (Destructoid)
OK, so this Train board game sort of has a mindfuck of a surprise built into it... but by now everybody knows about it. I'd probably love to own it and spring it on people, except that after one play, I'm not sure it would stand for another go.

And Then I Read: THE ROCKETEER New Edition (Todd Klein)
Nice comparison of two different printing of the same book, showing what a difference a good re-coloring makes.

450 Words on Why Japan is Pretty Good (Peter Payne)
A bit of a response to the Tim Rogers article from the other week.

Ore. lawsuit claims Boy Scouts sex abuse coverup (Yahoo News)
Once again, the desire for an organization to present a clean, wholesome, community-first brand image gets in the way of stopping scumbags from doing terrible things. See also: your church, your high school, your government, your police force.

Analysis: Soren Johnson On Playing The Odds (GameSetWatch)
I like reading articles about luck and odds in games. Like this one!

Obviously construction guys need to be in your house during the workday, so for the duration we had to lock up the cats every day before we left for our respective offices. We stashed them in the current computer room (Clark's FUTURE ROOM, woo wooooo wooo) along with food, water and litter pans. We would spring them when we got home, but we still had to keep them out of the basement for the duration. This was mightily confusing to them.

Since they were making use of suddenly-upstairs litter, I was a little worried that they would re-train themselves to piss in Clark's room even after the litter was gone... especially since one of them (damn I wish I knew which one) occasionally misses the litter box and piddles on the floor nearby. If you know cats, you know that sometimes they can focus on one area and claim that as a public urinal just because they happened to accidentally mark it, even if it does not appeal to their post-piss digging instinct.

Here you can see some drywall going up, and how they boxed out the ugly pipe pillars. The general idea is that, one day, some future big-ass TV is going to sit between those pillars. I had the guys run two cable outlets (one for TV, one for computer) and string up speaker wire for surround sound. S-M-R-T!

Luckily, I can report both cats re-adjusted to heading back downstairs perfectly... even though now they have to stalk down a more-enclosed stairway and saunter through a finished basement to get to the shameful, unfinished side that still houses their litter. It was a near thing; the weeks of construction (and shut-up cat door) made them very skittish about going downstairs again. I had to coax them up and down for a few nights to get them re-acclimated.

And now, the revised blueprint:

Again, not to scale. We're ending up with a nice big awesome room, a strip of storage and cat litter by the sump pump, and plenty more storage available in the HVAC wing. The area under the stairs houses all our holiday stuff. The contractors even moved one of the old lights under there, since we have can lights and sconces in the new room (on dimmers!)

No drop ceiling. We went for whatever it's called that isn't a drop ceiling.

More drywall. This is about the time we were starting to dread having to paint this whopper. Especially the non-drop ceiling. We gladly tacked painting on to the end of the construction bill.

During the drywall phase, they put up plastic sheeting up over the empty door frame. Clark thought the plastic curtain door was amazing, and he was sorely disappointed when the actual wooden door showed up.

These were pretty exciting times, because we would get home from work every night and be astonished at the new stuff. "They boxed the window!" "They made the stair trim match the rest of the house!" "There's a doorknob!"

Here's the painting in process. Most of the room is that coffee color. It is a bit lighter now.

This room is not included in the original heating plan, because both the contractor and the original builder doubted our unit should be pushed to heat an additional room of that size. So we opted for electric baseboard heaters that we can keep off when they are not needed.

There are eight can lights in the ceiling, but the contractor noted that they could not get them in the area behind the pillars thanks to the pre-existing heating ductwork. He suggested sconces, and I suggested putting them on the reverse side of the pillar (rather than the wall) for a dramatic look. See, dramatic.

Standing in the unfinished side, you can see the sconces in action.

At some point, we'll probably have to install a kitty door. Until then, we'll have to keep it cracked open for the cats.

Next time: carpet and furniture!

Clark at 5

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I can't let March slip past without acknowledging Clark's fifth birthday. We recently had a dentist appointment and were informed that his two bottom front teeth are loose (by now one of which is precipitously shaky.) Rhonda and I were caught completely off guard by this, and it's still a little unsettling to think that by summer he will have one of those charming broken-mouthed kid smiles.

We find Egyptian themes in unlikely places.

The hype for Iron Man 2 has invaded. The pose was entirely his doing.

He would always play with this Batman action figure box at Target (you can squeeze the bad guy's legs and abuse a stretchy Plastic Man), so it became a birthday gift. Pretty much the best Plastic Man figure ever, that's for sure. But not one that I imagine will hold up in the long term.

The construction of the basement room was a great fascination last month.

At 5, his entry and exit on the grocery store car-cart is starting to get awkward. We soldier on, of course.

And now, five fun facts:

- Clark almost always asks for his own bag when we're shopping. We try to dissuade him on this for environmental reasons. At the grocery store produce section, he usually gets a twisty to play with as we shop.
- On certain Fridays, Clark can bring in movies to share with his daycare class. So far, he has brought in The Brave Little Toaster, DuckTales: The Movie, and The Hobbit (1977).
- In the last year, not only has Clark enjoyed his first DisneyWorld trip, but also his first high school musical, first corn maze, first AHL hockey game... and saw his first actual mummy.
- Although he has repeatedly watched classic Speed Racer, Pee Wee's Playhouse and the 1980s Dungeons & Dragons cartoon, I can't get him to take an interest in TaleSpin, Who Framed Roger Rabbit, the Muppets, or the 1980s Wind in the Willows show. And I only recently got him to watch Wallace & Gromit, after a long period of rebuff. Entirely on his own, he has cultivated a liking for SpongeBob and Yo Gabba Gabba.
- About the naughtiest that he gets is when he decides he is going to be slow and inattentive, usually when we're in a hurry for some reason. Or when he tries to bargain with us to get his (usually absurd) way. Clark has never been a screamer, a toy destroyer, or a violent kid.

Rhonda and I are just so proud of who he has become. We know he will make an excellent big brother.

We're close to completing our basement renovation. Here's the first wave of pictures.

This is the view from the bottom of the steps, just as we were starting to empty out the area in advance of the contractors coming in to start building. The plan is for a full bedroom shuffle. Caitie gets Clark's room. Clark gets the current spare room (which is full of card games, books and the iMac). And the basement becomes the new place for card games, books and the iMac.

Guess I should draw you a map, a so-not-to-scale one.

Up until now, the basement has been mainly overflow storage, with a big Joe-space off to one side. With my comics and computer parts over by the AC unit, I had sort of an office area down there. Of course, I never used it, because the exposed cat litter area and general basement unpleasantness (too cold for 9 months out of the year!) made it dusty and uncomfortable. But if I needed a length of ethernet, that's where it was.

We decided to leave the southern strip unfinished, from the sump pump to the AC. That sump pump HAS to stay super-accessible, because whenever we get heavy rain, I like to keep an eye on it and make sure we're shifting water properly. Our house is at the bottom of a hill, so our land takes on much of the neighborhood runoff. We were starting to get leaks on the wall by the cat litter zone.

Note that our basement has no egress, which sucks. Legally, we're not allowed to turn it into a bedroom since there's NO WAY OUT. So the chief hurdle for making a living, awesome basement room revolves around getting decent-sized furniture down there!

Also, no bathroom stuff was planned for this renovation. Sorry.

That picture shows the "office" area in the distance.

One really smart angle to our basement design is that all of the obnoxious basement necessities were stuck on the south side. That entire northern region is free of PVC pipes, electrical boxes and whatever else.

The contractor said to move as much stuff out of the basement as possible. We moved just about everything upstairs, except for most of the office zone (comics are smegging heavy.) He warned us that it would get dusty, and that was an understatement.

Let me tell you something about cat vomit on concrete: you can't clean it up. Sure, you can scoop up the solid material, the undigested cat food filler bleached of artificial colors by feline stomach acid and bloated with wetness. And you can toss the matted fur clogs, turds of hair still rounded like a kitty esophagus. But the accompanying liquid? That shit stains the concrete forever. Our basement floor was like Memory Lane for cat puke.

That was another big reason why we needed a basement room. You can actually clean vomit off of carpet.

Here is the view (standing near my beloved sump pump), just before construction began. We probably should have moved more stuff upstairs, but we filled the dining room and most of the playroom with basement junk... a good portion of which was stuff that we hated, which explained why it has been dumped in the basement for most of our marriage.

Our contractor said two weeks to finish the room, not including painting or carpet. The carpet we have to get somebody else to do, and we said we would paint the room ourselves.

Two weeks later, when he offered to paint the room for X dollars more, we jumped at it like hobos for a wine bottle.

Here's the nice stairway landing they put in. You might also notice the cool 45-degree angle bump-out they built around the hot water heater, so we could still store stuff under the stairs without having to inch around the thing. The contractors noticed that we have 45-degree angle elements on the other floors, so they came up with that as a cool solution that fit the rest of the house. That, friends, is the kind of contractor you want.

When the insulation went up, the entire room felt 50% smaller and we were all sad.

But what made us sadder was Snowmageddon 2010, which seriously delayed our construction. Thanks to the stupid weather - and us adding in the paint job at the end - the total build time was more like three weeks plus.

More photos to come... wherein I answer the question "But where are the cats?"

As I was cleaning up some old junk, I found these comic photocopies that I had hanging up in my college dorm room(s). They're probably all from Critters #50 (1990), but I'm too lazy to go double-check that. Either way, Critters #50 was an awesome issue.

Because these comics are so great, I'm going to queue up a bunch of them to auto-publish on Sundays. Enjoy!

Ty Templeton had a bizarre experience at a McDonald's. Sometimes comics just write themselves!

The Week in Links

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The Beast File: Google (HUNGRY BEAST) (YouTube)
Although I don't particularly care about the Googlopoly message here (isn't that what companies do?) and I'm not especially amused by the trick ending... I do love the overall look and style of the animation.

Miss. school prom off after lesbian's date request (Yahoo News)
My search to find another reason to hate Mississippi has struck gold again.

Girl Recognizes Lego Star Wars Minifigs by Sucking on Them (Gizmodo)
I haven't watched the video... but WOW, what a headline.

No Limits: J. Michael Straczynski on Superman, Wonder Woman (DC Source)
I'm not a big JMS fan, but I did like this crook-catching anecdote.

Wii Gun Involved In 3-Year-Old Shooting Is Amazingly Lifelike (Kotaku)
A terrible story, and another low bar for America's gun-owning obsession.

"Superjail!" Season 1: Making Regular Jail Look Like Disneyland (Toon Zone)
I do like this show. Ten 11-minute episodes is just not enough.

Chiquita Banana Brand Refresh (design:related via Hivelogic)
Great cool new stickers on yo' bananas. The font they used, Pussycat, was once a fourhman.com staple.

I wish somebody had invented foursquare thirty years ago, because I love knowing stats about my life. I love that something is tracking that information. There is not a day that I drive down the Interstate that I don't wonder if this would happen to be the 10,000th time I've done that. This is probably why I disdain arbitrary, state-sponsored holidays like St. Patrick's Day... I'm busy enough neurotically wondering about my own highly-personalized milestones.

Some time ago our credit card bill started giving a recap of our spending, breaking out restaurants, groceries, etc. I find that fascinating.

Here's what three weeks of foursquare says about my traveling habits:

Nice even distribution. Except for Wednesday. Guess I don't go runnin' around much on Wednesdays.

foursquare provides other stats, like the average number of checkins per day and the percentage of all-new locations. The real kicker, however, is the badges.

If foursquare can be said to be a game at all, those badges are the victory points. I don't know how you get half of them (and some I will never get, like the badge for checking in a dozen times in Brooklyn), but I do like when I randomly uncover one.

Then there is when you are awarded the title of Mayor for a given location. I currently hold 8 mayorships, most of which are at locations that I registered. So it's not like there's a local army of foursquare users in hot competition. Still, certain common businesses like stores and gas stations are regularly in dispute.

The high-minded goal of foursquare is to encourage people to see the world. Go to places maybe you have routinely overlooked. Break out of comfortable shopping ruts. I'm sure in bigger cities this angle is better explored, since there are more stores that have glommed on to the service (businesses can add coupons or suggestions related to their location... if you are near a tip, your app will alert you.) Most locations around here are blissfully unaware of foursquare. Last weekend I added a high school, for christ's sake. Don't these kids have iPhones?

It is pretty easy to trick foursquare, unfortunately, so there is a portion of honor system involved. The app has let me checkin to locations two miles down the road. It even let me checkin at Josh's house twenty minutes away, simply because I was looking at his online profile. So there's some tech issues that threaten the integrity of the game. The iPhone app was really crashy too, but they just put out an update that may address some of that.

Although there is something to be said for foursquare not being too granularly accurate. Snarky websites like pleaserobme.com and Twitter bots have already started collecting peoples' public foursquare notifications, presenting the notion that these people could be burgled or stalked or otherwise harmed. Which, although it makes for great alarmist material for luddites, it does not strike me as particularly valuable information from a professional thief standpoint. Number one, you can't quite trust the app (or the people) in the first place. Number two, just because I left home does not mean the house is empty. And number freaking three, most people have jobs. And all people sleep. That's when homes are robbed. Not on vague and potentially inaccurate weblog posts about people maybe being at Pizza Hut. Anyway, notifications can be made private; you don't have to broadcast to Facebook and Twitter... even if your feeds go only to people you think you know.

Me, I just like that I know how many times I have been to Target. And which Targets.

Not nearly as filthy as it sounds.

Yes, I have an entire bin for Pokemon plushies.

And Neopets, but don't tell the Pokemon that.

I discovered a lot of board games that I forgot I had. In fact, that would make a moderately entertaining weblog entry. This bin has a selection of games covering at least 25 years, from The Three Stooges VCR Game through Travel Cluedo to Lord of the Rings Trivia. Never played Bootleggers.

And that's where Vapor's Gambit rests, folks.

Remember when Magic tried to branch out into family games themed to the M:tG world? I didn't either, until I saw that Earthquake game again for the first time in ten years.

Killer Bunnies, if you haven't picked up on my website's ongoing anti-Killer Bunnies sub-theme, is supremely terrible.

Here's some fairly recent acquisitions, a bin packed with video gaming paraphernalia. At bottom right is a stack of Game Boy instruction manuals. Right beside it is all my PlayStation Underground disks.

We just need to set up the carpeting appointment (and the cable outlet hookups), and then our new basement room is done. We're filling it with existing furniture so our little expense train comes to a temporary stop. We have already moved the Mappy down there... and shifting coin-op units down stairs is not their intended use. They were intended to sit on a ground floor dive and con kids out of quarters. Given that the basement has no egress other than those stairs, it seems highly probably that, should we ever move, the new owners will receive a free Mappy. That, or we'll have to install a service elevator. Which would be pretty badass.

During the basement renovation, I was able to sort a lot of my junk. Toys, games, books, music all re-boxed and re-stacked on the unfinished side of the basement. We bought a bunch of transparent bins to help me organize, and I was amused to note how things look when smashed up against the side of a clear plastic box. These, then, are those pictures.

I once had a Lego city sprawled over a regulation-size ping pong table. Today those Lego bricks fit inside two plastic bins.

Seemed like more than that when I was a kid.

I think I have a complete collection of Food Fighters toys. Beat that! This box also has a bag of Dragon Ball toys, plus all my Ninja Turtles figs.

Super-hero action figures. There's Penguin from the Legends of the Dark Knight line. The Thing from the early 90s Marvel Heroes. Animated Two-Face. Thanos from the Fantastic Four cartoon. Aquaman as the middle of a Cyclops / Invisible Woman sandwich. And, of course, Fairchild from Gen13. I think that one was a mail-order.

I would have thought I had more Star Wars stuff than this. These toys are mainly from the Power of the Force line, which, for me, lasted from the Special Edition through The Phantom Killed The Franchise Menace. This box also has my few Gundam models and Simpsons figures.

This box is mostly filled with accessories, like the Kyle Rayner Power Battery and Iceman's cheap ice sled (or was that Blizzard's?) As I packed the other figure boxes, I had to dump some guys in here, like Earthworm Jim. There's a Dexter's Lab robot right behind him. And I think the orange shape is Nova's base (like, Frankie Raye Herald Nova, not stupid helmet Spider-Man D-cast Nova).

As I was cleaning up some old junk, I found these comic photocopies that I had hanging up in my college dorm room(s). They're probably all from Critters #50 (1990), but I'm too lazy to go double-check that. Either way, Critters #50 was an awesome issue.

Because these comics are so great, I'm going to queue up a bunch of them to auto-publish on Sundays. Enjoy!

Another Sam and Max adventure, one that I am not going to hold for the holidays.

The Week in Links

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No More Heroes 2 - Fast Money Trick (YouTube)
Great trick to big money in one of the No More Heroes 2 8-bit minigames. I noticed this potential when I played, but I hated the minigames so hard that I did not bother to investigate.

Japan: It's Not Funny Anymore (Kotaku)
A highly worthy half-hour read of life in Japan, from Tim Rogers' grumpy perspective.

Portal updated with extended ending (Joystiq)
That's a pretty great idea for a short, updateable game like Portal: issue an update that slightly adds to the ending, to whip up some excitement for the sequel.

Charging fees for Hulu comes with its own problems (Yahoo News)
Obvious headline is obvious.

Attention Is the Real Resource (Daring Fireball)
Here's one I'll be socking away for some future argument at my workplace.

Heavy Rain (Dubious Quality)
Bill Harris expects to mock Heavy Rain and walks away impressed. "There are no 'trap the beaver and use him to turn a mechanical wheel to raise a rope that unlocks the jail cell' puzzles."

The Book Nobody's Been Waiting For (Cartoon Brew)
Man did I laugh at the capsule "review" for this book about Filmation.

heavyrain-madison.jpg

Heavy Rain is about choices. Odd choices. Sometimes odd choices from the developer. It is a strange little game, the kind of release that really doesn't deserve the massive hype Sony threw at it... because most people simply are not going to want to play it. It is a polarizing game, because it is not exactly a game. At least, not as we think of them. Heavy Rain is closer to "game" than, perhaps, Noby Noby Boy, but it still veers far afield of most.

I'll confess that I really did not have much interest in this one, until I played the demo. And even after that, Heavy Rain did not become a instant purchase. I could have waited for a price drop. The main reason I picked it up last weekend was because everybody else already is playing it and the game is so unfortunately spoiler-prone. It's a murder mystery, and despite the user having a major hand in how the plot unfolds, I gather that there's pretty much one solution to the mystery.

Which, of course, is ruined up and down the internet. In fact, I'm maybe a third of the way through the game and I think I had the final twist spoiled for me by some dick on an unrelated message board two weeks ago. So that's great.

But that's why I had to pick it up, so that I have some chance at experiencing the game before all the secrets are turned loose. As you can imagine, it's hard work avoiding it right now. Stupid articles about Heavy Rain are scattered across the entire enthusiast sphere, and idiot assholes are willing to wreck the game for others even when nobody is talking about the game.

It's just sort of rare that a game balances this much on mystery. It's rare that a game tries to have this much plot. Even if you discount the odd plot contrivances, the sometimes-screwy voice acting, and the likelihood of insomniac, tight-jeans-wearing, over-friendly brunettes named Madison.

You know, I'm not going to trash the game over voice acting. I find it terrible that, in an artform rife with lame voice acting, cliche characterizations and simplistic storylines, that poor Heavy Rain is the game that gets crucified for it. Really. It's not that bad. It's bad enough that you have to wonder what Quantic Dream was thinking in letting certain voices and dialogue bits break the illusion, but it's not going to drag a solid game down into the Don't Play category. (If you plain and simple don't like the concept of a game based entirely on QTE cutscenes, that's more than enough to keep you away.) For whatever reason, half the cast mispronounces the word "origami." Seeing as the plot revolves around the media-dubbed "Origami Killer," you hear that one quite a bit. The Fox Mulder guy says "anything" weird. Like, "enithin." Which must be some dialect somewhere, although I'm not clear whether it's the character's dialect or the voice actor's dialect.

The game starts so slow that you'd think it was attempting to be a realistic Animal Crossing. In the first scene, you get opt to guide lead character Ethan through the exciting adventure of brushing his teeth, followed by working on his architectural drawing project. I'm not put off by a game simulating banality, but I can see why some people would be instantly bored. If you're expecting a constant barrage of Quick-Time Events along the lines of the fight cutscenes in Resident Evil 4, set to a exploding backdrop fresh out of 24 Season 7, you're going to have to wait that one out.

The reason for the slow start is obvious to me: it's to force you to connect to the lives of the characters, by living them before the water breaks. It's paced very much like a novel in that regard. Again, I can see how the attention-deficit gamer community would chafe at that, as we're conditioned to expect instant, unrelenting action.

Once things start swinging, the more harried QTE scenes (like, when you're not brushing your teeth) can be exceptionally involving. As an example, there's a bit where one of the characters is caught in a convenience store holdup. With a delicate touch on the controller - buttons and analog stick - you can try to sneak around the store in an attempt to get the drop on the robber. One aisle has spilled potato chips on the floor; can't go that way or the man with the gun will hear the crunch. Have to hold steady on the stick, or you'll walk too fast and make more noise. Then you brush against a box and it falls... a QTE button press catches it, then a slow push on the stick will silently replace it.

Turns out, I was too fast on the replace and made noise. Suddenly the robber whirls around and has his gun on me. Although the bottle in my hand betrays my blunt instrument intentions, I manage to sweet-talk the guy out of the store without incident. This part is all done by navigating through dialogue options. I imagine a more aggressive player may have found a path to actually clobbering the guy, or lunging for him, but I found the peaceful option.

I held my breath during most of that scene, and that is Heavy Rain at its best. (Another early wow: Underwear girl's first "level.")

At its worst, you're stuck walking around a room trying to get your character to point at the right thing you want to do. And for all the immersion of the setting and graphics and music, watching a virtual person pull Cirque tricks in a living room is enough to remind you that you're playing a game. I half think it would have been better to run the movement as Suda 51 did in Killer 7: on rails. At least a Killer 7 style would maintain the illusion of the game being a movie by virtue of the characters not looking stupid whenever precision movement is required. Or, you know, do movement the way every other game does, solely via the left analog stick. For a reason I can't fathom, you walk by holding down R2 and the use the stick to suggest a turn. It's easily the worst part of Heavy Rain.

I don't know if I can play this game a second time and generate a different path. I know I mentioned this when I played GTAIV, but I want to play in the way I feel the character would act (or, failing that, how I would act.) Like, when I decided between killing Playboy X and Dwayne in GTAIV, I chose to kill Playboy because I felt that's what Niko would have done. Eventually I did cheat on an old save and kill Dwayne just to see what would happen, and I hated it. It did not seem right, was not true to Niko. Went right back to the "correct" save.

Maybe on play #2 I'll stop that box from attracting the robber's attention, but as far as character decisions go - particularly in dialogue trees - I'll wager I already have locked on how I think these characters should act, based on what I glean from the non-interactive portions.

One thing I especially like is that the game does not make you feel like you FAILED, at any point. In most games, you know when you've made a bad decision. Either you die and the game ends, or somebody else dies and the game ends. I have had at least one part where I just don't know if I did the right thing (but wow, what a moment it was, acting on pure instinct!), and the game just keeps on truckin'. It continues to unfold.

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