June 28, 2010

Classic Hilarity on Hulu

I'm watching things online maybe a little too much.  But when you put on amazing things, how could I not?

One recent addition I grew up with is Mystery Science Theater 3000.  There's only a few episodes on but they're fantastic.  If you like making fun of horrible, old sci fi and horror movies, you should check it out.

Check it out now!  Right here!

Need an idea of what you're in for?  This episode is a pretty good one to start with.

June 24, 2010

I am making some projects!

Who wants to join me on some side projects while I ONCE AGAIN wait for the power at my house to start up.

It's times like these that you're grateful for coffee shops with free wifi... that are across the street from the starbucks that has better seats and never made you sick.  Mmmm, internet theft.  

Sorry, what was I posting about again?  Yes!  Projects.  Well first, if you were a fan the 20 Sided Women Project and you live in the Chicago area, please like my idea on RPGChicago for a 20 Sided Women Group.  If enough people like it and want to come, I'm totally organizing it!

Second, if you are like me and contemplate writing your own game system of some sort, consider taking this course taught by Ian Schreiber over the internet.  It's about game balance concepts, hence the class is called Game Balance Concepts.  I think I may splurge and pay the $55 to get all the extra stuff and make a fantastic RPG experience.  Because I could SOOO get rich in the indie RPG scene... in 50 million years.  Want to take the course with me?

I hope to see you around supporting this stuff on the interwebs!

June 21, 2010

Stop making Mac owners look delusional: A break down of a crappy article

First of all, electricity is back.  I've survived the apocalypse!  Woot!

Second, via The Boyfriend's perusing of the Neogaf forums brought my attention to this thread about a Macworld article about E3.  I got pretty angry at it.  When stupidity's afoot, I get easily irritated.  I think I gave that article the finger for a full minute while The Boyfriend read it, just to have him turn around and laugh.

To do things a little differently, I'm going to highlight the part of the article I find particularly ignorant or stunningly idiotic before I give it a full assessment.  You can find the whole article here, but do you really want to read it without my witty critiques?

Alright, let's start out with something ridiculously nit-picky I noticed in the second paragraph.

"I walked the floor of E3 until my flip-flops broke in protest at the mediocrity. When your footwear is sounding off about the originality of your industry, you know you're in a tough place."

Uh, who wears flip-flops to an event where you're walking that way?  Shoes that are meant for casual use and not miles of walking for hours at a time?  An idiot, that's who. That was my impression of the author, Chris Holt, when I first read the article.

His impressions of Microsoft are pretty fair, though harsh, and then he moves on to Nintendo.

"If you want to buy Zelda's Wind Waker crossed with Twilight Princess, Nintendo would like to sell you that game. Nintendo is so willing to sell it, in fact, that its willing to put adult men in front of thousands of people and have them swat pretend swords for your amusement."

1) Did the guy ever play those other Zelda games? I don't think that combo is correct, especially if you know the series. Sure there is some rehashing, but windwaker? 2) God forbid there are people who use there IMAGINATION to pretend to be a badass fighter by using a game controller. Not like that hasn't happened in the history of gaming, ever. (P.S., it's almost the entire history of gaming)

"The saddest bunny that Nintendo pulled out of its hat was the trailer for a new Goldeneye 007 game. The reveal was met not by wowed enthusiasm, but instead with the sound of thousands of hands slapping a thousand foreheads."

As much as there was some hesitance to this game, I watched the Nintendo conference live and there were some genuinely excited people. Was he really there? Was he only surrounded by his "jaded" friends?

"On the show floor, I later played the new Goldeneye 007, and I can confirm that you still can't play first person shooters on the Wii..."

It was clarified that you could only play the new Goldeneye with the Classic Controller on showroom floor. I assume this guy isn't used to buttons and joysticks and basically all he wants to do is tilt his screen to be able to snipe people. Doesn't work that way.

"Sure, the 3DS has 3D graphics without glasses--but also without a sense of perspective. That is to say, Apple is eating their market and Nintendo's Reggie Fils-Aime is sitting in the white Buick with the devil as they go over the cliff, laughing, a la Thelma and Louise."

And this is where it's obvious this guy isn't aware of the real gaming industry. How is Apple steal from a market that it's not even competing in? More on that later, couple more quotes on this article and how it's written by an unobservant man.

"Sony at least knows that the casual gaming market is gone to them. Apple's SDK can't be beaten by conventional platforms or conventional weapons..."

Am I missing something? Was Apple presenting at E3? Did they unveil their second Pippin? The Pippin 2? Does it also have motion controls like everyone else?

"The three big console developers, previously unchallenged in their supremacy, have become complacent swine, out of touch with the modern gamer. They keep making games that they already made because they know they will sell, not because they will be challenging, creative, or fun."

Any corporation in a capitalist society is driven by the prospect of profit. To get mad at a company for chasing dollar signs is to be mad at a mud for being dirty: it's in their nature. Sure, over time you want a market to evolve, but if the consumers are eating up a classic formula, a company has no incentive to change. And might I add, the "newest" thing that Apple has recently come out with is a bigger iPod touch.

To give the guy credit, the gaming industry will not survive on rehashes, but at the same time Apple is nowhere near competing in the gaming world. I'm not even talking about it from a hardcore perspective, if you look at the casual games Apple's market is EXACTLY the same as the PCs. Even the phone games can be found on different phones. Also, no one is going to buy an iPhone for the games. Sure, there are fun games on it, but I can play most of those on other popular smart phones. Hell, most games I can play on ANY computer if we're talking Zuma/Dinner Dash/Any facebook game application.

The kind of casual gamers E3 was talking to are the ones who take time out of their day to relax with video games. This isn't something to play on the plane/train/carpool, this isn't something to do when your boss isn't watching. This is something fun you want to do after a long day, or during the weekend, with your friends over on a random hangout night, with your family when it's rainy, or even if you want to shed a couple pounds on your off time. It's an actual investment, it's not an afterthought.

I'm not saying Apple is wrong to invest in games as an afterthought. It works for their platforms. But there aren't a lot of Mac gamers for a reason: Apple doesn't make it easy to be a gamer. You can't upgrade your system, there aren't a lot of games you can play, except for some casual games that will take up your coffee break. You don't have an accessible network or community (until recently with Steam on Mac), you don't have an interface that promotes games that are slightly more complicated, you don't even have them really trying. It feels like their entrance into gaming was more accidental or peripheral than in the forefront of Apple's mind. And that's fine.

Lastly, I'm tired of my fellow Mac users acting as if Apple is perfect and does everything right. I'm sorry, but no.  This company, at least to what I see as a consumer, seems to be also running out of ideas.  I'm so afraid of what happens after Steve Jobs kicks the bucket with that company. The iPad wasn't revolutionary, the stuff they make isn't perfect, and for the love of God they weren't at E3 so they can't win E3 without being there. Sorry, Holt, you're overreaching.

June 19, 2010

Post-Apocalypse Practice.

I'm typing this in a school library because my part of town is out of power, and we don't know when it's going to come back.

One good thing, I am now intimately familiar with my dark street when the aliens take all the power plants out.  Also know good hiding spaces.

But unfortunately, there will be no hiding from the zombies.  If fiction tells me true, they can smell free food from miles away.

June 16, 2010

Why are the smurfs in 3D?

Okay, watch this video.

Why are the smurfs in CG?  This looks awful!

There are certain concepts that look better in 2D.  I still like regular cartoons.  They're still good looking. Sometimes you soil them if you try the style in CG.  The smurfs are such a case.

Another movie about blue people with different ways that's sure to disappoint me?  Nah, this time I think I'm going to skip it.

June 15, 2010

E3 Conference Impressions: Sony

Alright, the last one of the big 3, the one I was the least excited about watching yet still had some surprises up it's sleeve.  These guys have lost a lot of ground and status business-wise, but the next year may prove to be different.


Alright, watching this live while I'm typing this (and the last one to be honest) and I'm already forgetting parts of the presentation.  Sure, their speakers are better than the other two, but their presentations are not memorable to me.  It's very much a business proposal, and although there are a lot of fan favorites that are worth being excited about, the way it's being shown to the audience is not a way for me to remember what I am actually excited about.
One of the funniest things is going to the Sony presentation right after the Nintendo one, where they brag about 3d without glasses, and in the first video Sony asks the audience to put on their 3D glasses.  I can't vouch for how awesome the graphics were, because I wasn't there and they didn't bother mailing me glasses.  But the audience reception sounded good.  I don't think it'll catch one if everyone needs glasses to enjoy.  It's just one of those little things that seems annoying enough to prevent play.
Sony is doing with the Mov what I suggested Microsoft should do with the Kinect: make it their own and stepping away from where Wii dominates.  They even joke about how it's superior to Kinect because it has buttons, and how their games have vital features like arms and necks.  A good example of making the Mov different enough is the game Sorcery.  All you are is a dude with a wand and you're able to easily control a ton of stuff.  Also, the demos with the Mov didn't look over-rehearsed like Kinect did.  They don't have to prove too much--the tech they're using is almost identical to the Wii so we know it works and we now know people will buy motion games--they just have to make the games exciting and new.  Sorcery did that.  Heroes on the Move did as well.  Using the Mov for FPSs helps too, because Wii hasn't been super successful in that venture and Kinect hasn't proven you can shoot without a trigger yet.
Also, the speech about being a gamer, and taking pride in it, was hilarious.  Definitely was cheering along with the crowd on that one.
After that speech, however, it was just rambling of video game after videogame coming out for the system.  Sure, they have a ton of exclusives now, and they have great stuff out on the PSP as well (God of War is always a winner), but the data overload was WAY too much for me.  I couldn't deal with it.  Maybe it's because I watched all three conferences today, because the audiences loved the presentations. I think part of it was because a good number of people felt Microsoft had abandoned them, and seeing that Sony wasn't taking away their hardcore games made them extremely happy.  Sony didn't have to do much to make their gamers think everything was gold.  Meanwhile, here I am sitting at home trying to remember something that's worth typing, and my brains turning to mush as Jack Tretton appeals to his stockholders more than his gamers.
However, I am surprised they are the only one with a network interactive booth for their console fans.  Why hasn't anyone else though of something like this?  It's not that hard to do!  Well, when you're made of money, that is.
The end with Twisted Metal, although a lot of fun, just wasn't the way to end that conference unfortunately.  They should've ended it with something super new, like the last two.  Then again, they didn't know months in advance what the other two big guys were going to do.  Hindsight is 20/20.
Am I going to go out of my way to buy anything Sony showed today?  No.  My respect for them is still growing, but I'm not going to go out of my way to purchase their products.

In conclusion

I find myself impressed and bored at the same time.  Sony's business plan in impressive in the sense that they've stopped looking super pathetic and are basically sticking to games they know that they can do well.  However, the presentations of all the games, and the ad campaigns to go along with them (really?), left me bored.  I want some more excitement.  In fact, their presentation style has the same problem the Nintendo one from two years ago had: not exciting the customer base enough.  You have to know base is watching E3.  Treat them to remind them why they like your product.

E3 Conference Impressions: Nintendo

For part two of my conference impressions, I'm going to talk about a company that is near and dear to me.  I grew up with this company, and because it's console is the first one I ever saw, I will always have this company's back.  Basically I'm admitting some bias right now before anyone claims I am in the comments.


My overall impression is that Nintendo finally figured out what it was doing wrong the last two years it presented at E3.  Sure, they still made gobs of money, but no one wanted to watch their presentations.  Now I am very glad I caught it live, even if Miyamoto can't shoot arrows on command.
Once again, I don't think CEOs make the best presenters, but Nintendo is better at it than Microsoft.  Reggie at least can deliver lines without sounding completely like a robot, and the way Miyamoto was able to gracefully talk through his flub (I found it hilarious that he pulled a Steve Jobs and blamed wireless use in the audience to talk away the flub) and I stayed engaged.
Part of the reason that I was engaged was because there was some serious nerdgasm inducing stuff in that conference.  For those of you who missed it, they OPENED with Legend of Zelda.  That shows balls.  Announcing a new Zelda game is a big thing for Nintendo.  Not saving it for the very end meant that they knew they had this one.  Or at least they felt that way.  I did wait until the end to actually say they did it.
This Nintendo presentation was for all the gamers who've been Nintendo fans forever.  This was their way of saying "thanks for holding out, we got the goods" after all this time.  We can now look forward to new exciting titles of our old favorites: Kirby, Golden Sun, GoldenEye (HOLY SHIT), Metroid, Donkey Kong and Kid Icarus (GOD DAMN SERIOUSLY?).  Also, not an old game but so many of us are excited for Epic Mickey that getting just of taste of it made us super happy.  Some of these we knew were coming, and some of these we practically had to stop ourselves from wetting our chairs as we went WHAT THE FUCK in excitement, preferably not in a cubicle at work.  This is our reward for our patience.  And a lot of these games are helping Nintendo continue to do what they do well.
Kudos for them sticking to the Wiimote and not obviously sweating over the Kinect or the Mov.  That's good business face right there.  I believe they're already trying to develop something better for the future, but at the same time you don't want to make you anxiety obvious (kind of like Microsoft's presentation) so that people don't think you're only second best.  Nintendo had obviously been at the forefront of the interactive gaming market, and they're not going to let you think their balls have shrunk in that department.  Probably why this year the focus is the old favorites that the fans are going to drool over.
The big thing that I predicted was coming?  Nintendo 3DS.  I think the best idea is 3D without the friggin' annoying glasses.  That is pretty awesome.  And to see a lot of the old Nintendo games coming back to the platform because of the 3DS, including Metal Gear Solid and Resident Evil, makes me think that this is a worthy purchase.  The DS I have right now is the original brick.  I need an upgrade.  I will wait for the 3DS.
As a consumer, I'm pretty excited.  I'm going to go back to my Wii for Kirby and for Donkey Kong to relive my childhood.  To be honest I've kind of abandoned my Wii recently, with the PC being a sexier machine.  But the Wii is looking interesting again, so why not?  Waiting for the 3DS is going to be worth it too.  I like the idea of a 3D experience without a fashion accessory.  Good plan.
Reggie ending it with the ability to check out the 3DS and the Legend of Zelda game right in the theatre was an interesting strategy.  I was wondering if he was trying to get people to be late to the Sony presentation.  Sneaky, Reggie, very sneaky.  Also, I appreciate that it was a short presentation, or at least it didn't feel like it went on forever.  A little over an hour, and we've got everything we need to know.

In conclusion

Nintendo is learning from its previous E3 mistakes and is getting gamers excited for its products.  There is still stuff for the casual people, but the hardcore fans were rewarded today for their patience.  Nintendo is doing what they know they're good at and aren't breaking a sweat.  Considering their ridiculous profit margin, they have no reason to for a while.

E3 Conference Impressions: Microsoft

I'm now officially underemployed again so I have time to actually watch and respond to the conferences that came out in the last 2 days.  I mainly care about the big 3 console producers: Microsoft, Nintendo, and Sony.  I'm watching all three today in one way or another, so I'm going to tell you all what I think.

I realized in the middle of typing this it may be too long, so I'm going to do 3 posts, probably all in the same day.  With that, the first conference I am talking about is


They could've taken better advantage of being the first present of the big 3, other than boring me for two hours.  First of all, their presenters suck.  They vary from monotone voice, to obviously reading a teleprompter, to looking like the guy who tries to lure preteens to the back of his van.  Seriously the guy presenting Kinetic games looked more than one kind of sketchy with his jogging jacket, huge sunglasses, and 5 o'clock shadow.  I personally thing CEOs can be some of the worst presenters for their products, because they're not inherently salesmen.  Sure, they have to create a viable product, but they' not salesmen.
Considering there was a controversy last year about the natal not reading dark skinned people, they definitely made sure a couple dark skinned people did the demonstations.  Makes me wonder how they improved the technologly--if they actually did.  I'm only cynical because it felt like every presentation was obviously rehearsed.  The way people delivered lines, and the way that people went out of their way to explore the space with the kinect products, I can't help but be cautious of the product's actual performance.
The first part with the actual "hardcore" games was decent, but all stuff we were expecting.  They announced all that stuff last year, and the fans want more games that they know they'll love.  Instead, the majority of the Microsoft conference was how they are responding to the Wii.  And you can see by a lot of the games announced for Kinect that they are Wii games without the controller: Kinectimals, Kinect Adventure, Yourshape, that dance game I totally forgot the name of...
I am not trying to dis Microsoft, because I do like a lot of the games they offer, not a lot of the exclusives per se but they have a lot of games that I first experienced on their platform.  When I was purely a Nintendo fangirl I thought they were part of the money machine (which they are) but I've come to respect them and what they've done to continue having a gaming console be an entertainment system.  But a lot of Kinect is a direct response to one single competitor, and I don't think that's a good way to please the public.  This includes the casual gamers new to the market, or the hardcore gamers who've been button mashing and mastering for years.
The hardcore gamer in me (which to be honest, is a very recent part of my life) thinks Microsoft can suck it.  That part of me feels abandoned.  The casual gamer in me is intrigued, but already has a Wii, so doesn't need to buy Kinect to get that experience.  So, I'm in a position not to care about the one product they pushed the most.  Can I have more Gears of War, preferably on my PC?  No?  Why do I care?
Random realization:  Whatever the hell happened to the Milo project?
The new xbox has an interesting look, but for some reason it reminded me of a black maxi pad.  Just the way it bends in.  Sorry if that ruined it for a few of you.  Also, I congratulate Microsoft on the most obvious bribery ploy ever.  I'm not mad at them for it, but it's super obvious.

In conclusion

I think Microsoft has to stop responding to its competitors directly.  By making Kinect so obviously a Wii competitor, it isn't making it's own market to dominate.  It will always be fighting with a company it's trying to "catch up" with.  What they should do is make Kinect different from Nintendo and Sony.  Maybe immersive FPS?  I don't know, but it's their job to figure that out, and it's my job to reward that company with a purchase when they do.

June 6, 2010

Blog I Support: Octopod Adventures

Through the infamous proptart I have occasionally been able to see a friend that I don't keep up with enough.  She's hilarious, nerdy, and one of the most creative people I know.  And she has a blog that I just found out about.

Though she's known by many names,  she simply goes by "m" on Octopod Adventures.  Why should you keep up with it?  Because how many times do you get to see adorable doodles of slugs?

There's more of this on her blog.  So go!  Enjoy it!  It's made of magic.  

I'm serious.  MAGIC.

June 4, 2010

Congrats, Patrick Stewart

For those of you who don't know yet, Patrick Stewart was knighted this week!

You can read more about it here.

Patrick Stewart is more than just the Captain of the Enterprise, but he is a versatile stage actor who continues to inspire generations, including some of my fell Vassar peoples.  May he continue be recognized for his talents for a long time.

June 2, 2010

Lathe of Heaven by Ursla K. LeGuin

My mother, from when she was a homemaker, has a huge collection of sci-fi books she read while raising me and my brother.  I've been meaning to dig into them more, and other than a couple Asmiov stories didn't read a lot of them.  Due to me being on the train a lot, I decided to pick up one on a whim, so I chose Lathe of Heaven.

First of all, I had yet to read a female sci-fi author, and it was really refreshing.  A lot of the old sci-fi is masculine in their story-telling devices and you can tell.  That doesn't mean that male writers are better or worse than female writers, there's just a notable difference.  To be honest, when I write fiction it's a bit more masculine because I've been inspired by a lot of male writers (Tennesse Williams is my favorite playwright, I consider Oscar Wilde a god amongst men) and I'm sure it shows.  But LeGuin is feminine in the way that show shows the characters to the reader.  She's not just fantastic at showing their emotional state in a way that doesn't get repetitive, but showing who they are by how they show themselves to the world, it's beautiful.  Her metaphors and adjectives are in a really good balance, something you don't really appreciate without looking back at it.  Also, trying to be an effective writer make you really appreciate the talent involved in maintaining that balance.

By now you all should know that I am a huge character motivation person, and the focus of three characters had a great flow, and each chapter had a great focus on them.  George was perceived by everyone, including himself, as a simple dumb man.  If you read the book, you realize he's ridiculously wise beyond his years, even beyond being human in some respects.  When he tries to get help with his condition--dreaming things into reality with horrific consequences--his doctor Haber uses the opportunity to change the world for "the better".  George hires lawyer Heather to help and the both stay ridiculously connected to each other, and as Heather sees how George changes the world she becomes invested in helping him for his sake.  The changing of perspective between the characters shows their evolution through the book in a compelling way.  Seeing who stays the same throughout the universe that is constantly changing in history, and who changes, is extremely important to understand the moral problem of playing God.

LeGuin in many ways was ahead of her time.  In 1971 she wrote about interracial relationships with honesty, she wrote about peoples emotions in a way that many wanna-be authors wish to imitate today, and her take on George's unintended "solutions" were honest about humanity's flaws.  Sure she wasn't changing the literary world, but she was helping it progress.  I wish I could see the world through her eyes, because it must be truly inspiring.

The world she builds shows how sci-fi can be like a fantasy world without going all "elf-dwarf-orc" on you.  George's changes bring about some extremely bizarre things, that are fantastic to visualize in your head.  It was one of those books I did want to see a movie version, but I'm scared that the producers would not get the point of half of the decisions LeGuin made and why they are important.  Well, apparently two movies already exist, but I think I'm going to avoid them.  I'm always afraid of how directors and producers manipulate the text.

If you like sci-fi books with heavy questions and fantastic situations, I suggest picking up Lathe of Heaven.  And I will have to pick up another LeGuin book off my mother's bookshelf.