Monday, December 29, 2008

The Wii Keeps Selling and We Don't Care

Another million Wii's sold, and another million suckers consumers will be taking home the most pointless console of the century.

People can point to the incredible amount of units sold by the Nintendo all they like. They can assume the sales mean the console doesn't suck. They would all be wrong.

Let's be clear for a moment. Over a million sold doesn't mean over a million satisfied. Once the novelty of the system wears thin, people will recognize the Wii for what it is:

A $250 dust collector.

My proof? Well, my girlfriend, of course. Falling into the hype of the Nintendo Wii and how well they sell, my girlfriend went out and bought the console the second Best Buy had it in stock.

The next few days were a series of giggles and "Oh! That's so cute!" until it eventually dwindled down to the disconnected pile of nothingness that it is on her shelf.

Sure, creating a few Mii characters is a blast. Wii Sports is a really fun way to pass some time, and Mario Kart is great. But it all gets old. Especially when the console is on a shelf between a Playstation 3 and and XBox 360.

I'm not impressed with shovelware. I'm not going to drop my jaw in amazement every time my virtual character moves on screen in accordance with my hand motions. It doesn't matter.

In the end, I had a console that was fun for about an hour when a friend or two came over and wanted to see what the big idea was about. Mario Kart got some laughs for an hour, and proved to be exciting and challenging for newcomers to the Wii.

But when it wore off, the general consensus was, "Okay, enough of this. Pop in Call of Duty."

So cut it out, fanboys. Stop trying to pretend that the Wii belongs in the same breath as a next-gen console. You're not on Nintendo's marketing team, and you receive no percentage of the profits. It shouldn't matter how well the console sells.

How happii does it reallii make you?

Okay, you can continue
Thursday, November 20, 2008

The NXE is Like So The Greatest + 50 Other Fanboyish Statements

There appears to be a trend-a-brewing here. I'm the Xbox 360 good cop, while Angel is the Xbox 360 bad cop (and vice versa for the PS3).

I couldn't disagree more with my Bear Bryant-esque avatar friend. Netflix, while not terribly prolific in content, has enough there to satiate.

Another bright point is the GUI, or interface, which is remarkably sleek and efficient, yet incredibly fast to operate.

Furthermore, while the avatars, as of this moment serve no function, from a business standpoint, they makes perfect sense.

Last night, while laying in bed, I was showing off my latest nerd obsession, learning that not everyone is interested in the ability to install games to the hard drive, I noticed my girlfriend become increasingly interested in making her own avatar.

My girls only interest in playing Xbox comes from her penchant to kicking my ass on Hexic 2. Seriously, she beats the shit out of me. This was enough of a step in the right direction for the casual gamer in her to show some interest, which is all Microsoft is asking.

People was $200+ on the Wii, which only gets a substantial amount of use when there are upwards of five or six people around, because it is inherently a party console. The reasonings for the purchase are justified by the promise of unproven fun and simplicity in doing so.

That being said, this is Microsoft's way, albeit a pathetic one, of luring in some more sales. You can hate them all you want, the only purpose they serve as of now are characters in: Uno, A Kingdom for Keflings, Scene It: BOS, Hardwood Spades/Hearts, and Bomberman Live.

In most of those games, they only serve the purpose of supplying a game character you can connect with, which is something we often complain about as gamers. Is it a cheap fix for publishers with bad character development schemes? Sure it is.

Bottom line is, all of the positives cancel out the one negative of avatars. That being said, I must adjourn to kicking some Keflings.

Okay, you can continue

Microsoft unveiled their new XBox Experience yesterday, and outside of Netflix, it's really just the Nintendo Wii in 1080P.

To put it simply... I don't like it. I installed everything. I messed around with the avatar and created a silly little representation of myself. But it was nauseating. I wish it was optional.

This isn't indicative of what I want from my gaming experience.

I'm 25 years old. I have no children and I live alone. I like playing shooters and sports' games at obnoxious volumes. I don't want a little waving character representing me. My gamer picture was just fine.

Less was more.

And the Netflix thing is a sham. It sounded cool, but where are the good titles?

Log in to your Netflix accounts. I challenge you to find more than 100 things you really want to watch. And if you get close, I bet some of the better things will say "Not available on Xbox."

What? Why can't I watch The Tick? God, I feel robbed.

Now is the time for Sony to pounce! I know I'm not alone. I'm not the only adult that's annoyed with how his character stands and looks around.

If Sony wants to make a push at a competitive market, this is their chance. Don't fall into the family-friendly, casual gamer gimmick. Not all of us want to power up our consoles and see smiles and rainbows.

There's a reason I haven't played with the Nintendo Wii since the summer. It's simply too cute for my adult tastes. I only sit and giggle when my girlfriend is over.

I don't want the virtual-me looking around in an effeminate stance when I'm about to load up Gears of War 2. It's a ridiculous contrast.

I know Playstation Home is supposed to be similar with its own avatar experience, but at least it's not going to completely take over our systems.

Okay, you can continue
Thursday, October 9, 2008

The End of an Era: The Death of My 360

All my years of chuckling at people's misfortune with their 360 consoles have come to a dramatic end. My precious Xbox 360 is no more. Well, at least for the next 4 to 6 weeks.

It all started on Monday. I received Battlefield: Bad Company from and couldn't get beyond the first level. It wasn't because the game was immensely difficult, but because my console kept freezing during the cut scenes.

It was the first time my 360 had ever done anything of the sort, so I immediately blamed the game, reported a problem with GameFly, and sent it back.

But then it continued.

She was giving me problems last night when I wanted to play Madden. The game would freeze, lines would appear across my screen, and my controller would lock up. Eventually, I stood the console up vertically in an effort to provide her with more circulation.

Little did I know, that would be her last stand.

Early this afternoon, the vibrant green that once illuminated her face would leave her eyes for all eternity. And it would be replaced by nothing but Microsoft's demon red, blinking at me maliciously—taunting me, as if saying, "Love doesn't live here anymore."

After a series of about three re-boots and some miscellaneous troubleshooting tactics, I had to call the coroner at Microsoft.

My coffin will arrive in 3-to-5 business days.

What hurts most is that this 360 was purchased in January as a preemptive strike against the tyranny of faulty consoles!

I had been a proud Xbox owner since March of 2007. The first was a used system I found on eBay. And she was also a trooper.

But as 2008 approached, she seemed to be losing some steam. She would make too much noise when I turned her on. That's not supposed to be a bad thing, but in the world of technology it's an omen of death.

Since I was only the adoptive father of that 360, I figured I'd sell her to Gamestop for $150, and use that towards a replacement console. A new, and improved console. An Xbox that weighed less, and had more places to insert cables.

Damn, it's really way too easy to make this thing sound sexual.

Anyway, the new Xbox had an input to support an HDMI cable. And most importantly, a new 65nm Falcon chip that was supposed to prevent this very system failure.

Don't I feel stupid now.

Thank the Lord for my sleek, precious Playstation 3 and copy of Madden NFL 09. Sony better release Home fast if they want to make me completely forget that I own a 360.

Okay, you can continue
Saturday, September 13, 2008

Remember How Excited Team Play Got Me...?

It was very short lived.

Yet again, EA Sports (more specifically, EA Canada) dropped the ball on this one.

Check out the letter I posted on the EA Forums in an attempt to convey my feelings. They got me.

Dear Electronic Arts,

In your most recent blunder, you hurriedly pushed a product to retail and then queried your customers to be your own QA Testers. In my most recent job hunt, I became privy to the fact that you do, indeed, hire QA Testers at your Redwood City office, a mere 100 mile drive for me.

As a developer who is constantly dropping the ball on the proper testing and inspection of your product, I implore you, hire me. Obviously, you're looking for my help when it comes to the quality of your product. Why don't we just make this official and let's shovel some money in my direction, I figure if I have to let you know about every single mistake in your games, I might as well get paid for it.

Furthermore, on my gaming blog, I detailed a business model that would be perfect for you guys. I won't post a link, but if you're so curious as to what I'm thinking, then let me know.

Your Friend in Jesus,

Okay, you can continue
Tuesday, September 9, 2008

The Evolution of Team Sports

Let me paint a scenario for you, and then you tell me how this sounds. You and a few of your friends sit down to play some Madden on Xbox Live and you all join into a game and take control of an entire team. Forget computer players, 11-on-11 smash-mouth football, at it's finest.

Does this sound far-fetched to you? Well, EA Canada has got quite the surprise for you.

This year's iteration of the NHL series, NHL 09, is due to hit stores any minute now, and with it comes a feature that hasn't been seen in the sports video game genre yet: 6-on-6 team play.

This means that you and five of your friends can all connect from around the country, and take control of a player on the ice in a legitimate virtual sports experience. You'll go on the ice, come off the ice, sit in the penalty box if you made a no-no, you'll experience, almost verbatim, what an NHL player would during a game.

The possibilities are endless.

This could be applied to all sports games, allow for people to take control of an entire team and let the onus fall on the player. Let's face it, you can only recreate the way a person reacts so well, there's bound to be inconsistencies and mistakes in trying to emulate human behavior, there's no getting around that.

One of the more prevalent problems with sports games today is a glaring problem with AI in video games. Allowing the player to take the ridicule from other gamers would help relieve a lot of pressure from game companies.

With Madden, offensive lineman fail to block defensive lineman and people like me hate it. By allowing humans the ability to control the offensive line, my disdain for the game would decrease ten-fold.

Let me be pissed at my friend who's playing left tackle, as opposed to game code that's telling my left tackle to react a certain way. You can trust me, EA, I promise I'll only take it out on some guy who's gamertag has 12 x's and something in Klingon.

So how about it people? Sound good to you?

Okay, you can continue
Sunday, September 7, 2008

Because Who Doesn't Love Achievements?

Who doesn't love the XBox 360 Achievement sound? It's addictive!

That little bloo-doop goes off, and YES! How many points did I get?

Achievements really are a fascinating thing. The points are a bragging right of sorts. I know when I put the gamercards on the site, I felt kind of inferior.

Here I am sitting with a measly 10,000 points while my buddy Dave seems to rack up 2,000 a week.

But how badly should I really feel?

It's easy to argue in favor of achievement points. The aforementioned bragging rights are certainly a plus. It can create an extra competition between friends to see who can get the most points out of a game.

They also keep gamers on their toes for different ways to approach problem-solving in a game to unlock the points.

But that's not good enough for me.

Going achievement hunting is a nice way to breathe life back into a game. But what happens when that life is sped through? What's the benefit when gamers aren't appreciating what a game is trying to do, and they stop absorbing what's being presented?

Gamers need to be reminded that these things aren't designed to be a race, or a chore. Restarting checkpoints because you failed to unlock an achievement shouldn't be the focus.

If we continue to focus on how to get 1000/1000 on a new game, I fear we're going to make another entertainment medium as disposable as new music is today.

We have people running through games simply for the points. With services like GameFly, gamers are getting games one day, unlocking points, and shipping them back the next. And they're playing games that were widely accepted as bad!

I'm talking about games with terrible reviews across the board that are receiving playing time just to boost a gamerscore. Everyone knows movie-based games are awful, yet people play King Kong for the easy points.

Developers don't need to be told that it's okay to continue making bad games as long as there are achievement points available.

I prefer to enjoy my games. I played Rainbow Six: Vegas for months when I first got my 360 without fully understanding the achievement system. There was no rabid pursuit of points, and no sense of obligation.

My gaming experience was pure pleasure.

Aside from that, a lot of achievements are simply annoying. There should be no sense of accomplishment with the time that was clearly wasted looking for 100 flags throughout Jerusalem in Assassin's Creed.

But I must confess—I am guilty. I beat the game, and continued roaming the open world to throw knives at guards.

All it did for me was turn the game into a job, though. There may have been things I wanted to do, or friends I could have played another game with. Instead, I wanted to get my 25 points for ridding Acre of repetitive thugs harassing civilians.

I hate to take away from what is definitely an innovative system. But I believe the developers need to make more challenging achievements.

If 1000/1000 is the very best, then the difficulty it takes to achieve such a score should reflect that. It shouldn't be something that's easily attainable by simply playing through the game.

All for a bloo-doop.

Okay, you can continue
Sunday, August 31, 2008

Can Microsoft Stop Racists on Xbox Live?

I'm no stranger to Internet tough-talk. I've dealt with it for years, and have even been an Internet-argument starter myself. It's fun.

My skin is tough, my self-esteem is high, and my confidence in the quality of humanity is severely jaded. I don't mind being insulted or made fun of in an open community when it's relevant. I do mind when it's unnecessarily turned into a racial issue.

The most accurate glimpses into human nature can be found in YouTube comments, message board postings, and chat room discussions. The Internet isn't real life, but it's safe to say that real thoughts come out when people can't really see you.

Normally, I can dismiss the negativity if I'm not in a position to end it. If I can't moderate something, I'll simply shrug it off and move on.

But if I said I wasn't just a little bit bothered by a racially-charged tirade, I'd be lying.

It's unfortunate because I should know better.

It shouldn't be my problem that the bass in my voice and New Yawk accent force people into letting their insecurities show. It's not my fault that someone harbors such a deep resentment for all that is unfamiliar that they feel compelled to target my nationality while pwning no0bz.

There are extremes I go through when I'm confronted with racism during a game.

One aspect of my personality wants to lash out and escalate the if anything will ever happen. Other times, I simply locate the user's gamertag, and Mute/Block the user.

Then there are the times when the hatred is so random, unjustified, and intense that I'm left clicking through my 360 dashboard in vain.

Microsoft doesn't offer an option to file a report against racism. They give you harassment, but that generalization doesn't fully capture the gravity of being called a nigger.

Making fun of someone for sucking at the game, having a high voice, or costing your team a round is not an equivalent to racism. It's not the same harassment. Reporting such misconduct shouldn't be absent from Xbox Live.

I don't pay $50 per year to be called a 'nigger' every time I speak during a game. And while Microsoft can't dictate the personalities of their subscribers, the company should initiate policies that accurately reflect the different levels of harassment on their servers.

Microsoft has no issues processing my payments for using their service; but when I expect the service to work for me, the effort clearly isn't being reciprocated.

I understand that it's virtually impossible to moderate all interactions in a massive community. Every member can't be disciplined accordingly. But Microsoft shouldn't plead ignorance and hope it goes away.

This issue took me to a point where I refused to play Tom Clancy's Rainbow Six: Vegas 2 because that community attracted some of the least sensible and most volatile Klan members with an XBox Live account. After spending $60 on a game, that really shouldn't be part of my experience.

In the spirit of honesty and full disclosure, I've been called all sorts of things on the Playstation Network, too. Sony's network isn't racism free, either. However, I've always appreciated the "you get what you pay for" philosophy. The PSN is open to anyone with an email account, so I couldn't reasonably expect Sony to enforce their Terms of Service.

It appears as if Microsoft is content with sweeping this problem under the rug, accepting it as a futile battle, and chalking it up as a point for the bad guys.

There needs to be an end, or a better effort made to establish a reasonable balance. I don't play games online to segregate the community and play strictly with 'my own kind.'

I only want to be assured that my involvement in an on-going conversation will be respected, and not met with a barrage of racially-motivated attacks.


Establish a force of gaming moderators to police the community.

Moderators can be selected after applying online. The ideal candidate will be someone whose account is in great standing, plays at least 15 hours a week, meets a particular age requirement, and has an honest commitment to enforcing the terms of service for the sake of quality gaming.

I wish I could count the times my teammates would sit in silence as one ignorant user ruined the experience entirely. The presence of an anonymous moderator would be the best way to keep everyone honest, and make sure time on XBL is spent playing together and not debating skin color.

Giving a moderator the authority to suspend a user's account for twelve hours, one day, one week, and eventually resulting in complete banishment may help rid the community of the rampant hate mongering.

The only people I've ever known to be punished on Xbox Live were those who cheated the gamerscore system.

It's time to tackle something a little more serious, Microsoft.

Okay, you can continue
Saturday, August 30, 2008

When Good Games Get Ruined

It's happened to all of us. We can be sitting there with our controller in hand, undecided as to whether or not we're truly enjoying our gaming experience, and BOOM! We get sucker punched in the most ridiculous and unjustified fashion one could ever imagine.

Sometimes it's not too bad. We can still play the game, mainly because we've invested so much of our time into completing the hero's quest. And other times, it's so aggravating that the game ends up right back in its packaging as we contemplate ways to finagle GameStop into giving us our money back.

I understand that the purpose of most gaming is to escape reality and suspend disbelief as you control a character that can do virtually anything. But for some reason, developers have a tendency to lose their minds and kick up the obnoxious meter to unexpected levels.

The first game that comes to mind in this instance is Uncharted: Drake's Fortune for the PS3.

This game was INCREDIBLE! Drake was a sarcastic, charismatic hero that could figure out ancient puzzles, jet ski around exploding barrels, scale crumbling walls, and eliminate an army of mercenaries without flinching.

Naughty Dog made a beautiful game that had me calling for my girlfriend's attention every few minutes as she sat at the computer. I don't know how many times I shouted, "Baby! Look at this!" I know she understood my excitement.

Then it happened. I had a feeling it was going to happen because the story foreshadowed it for a while. But I wanted to ignore it.

Around seven hours into the story, the creatures started crawling out from the depths of the caves. Not satisfied with these human-like crawlers/demons dwelling beneath the surface, the fortune I had been seeking was cursed as well. My riches have killed Nazis, pirates and all classes of treasure hunters for centuries. YAWN!

Now, not only am I being chased by creatures that have no discretion and kill anyone in their way, but I still have to deal with mercenaries that don't care about the new bad guys as they keep trying to kill me! I would have figured they'd be just as desperate to escape the island as I was.

I have no problem suspending disbelief. But when this game spent so many hours rooting itself in reality beforehand, I couldn't appreciate the game's transition from National Treasure to The Mummy.

However, I did still enjoy the game. Graphically, the game is top-notch. The voice-acting is well-executed, and the story surrounding that one ridiculous plot development is very good. I certainly recommend it.

Sorry for the spoiler.

And then there's Metal Gear Solid 4: Guns of the Patriots. The supernatural elements in this series are no surprise to me, so I have no real problems with that aspect of the game. I expected it.

What I do have problems with is that I have a gadget man that can make an invisible robot that will tag along with me anywhere I go, climb rocks, and crawl through tight spaces—but for some reason I can't get a damn scope on my assault rifle.

Apparently my $60 for the game wasn't good enough! No. Now I have to manage my 'Drebin Points' in the game, and purchase accessories to customize guns I collected off the bodies of the bad guys.

Don't play God with me, Konami! Making me sit through installations and mid-action cut scenes for 30 minutes of dialogue didn't feel a little gratuitous to you in the development stage? Now you want to thinly veil your aspirations for godliness with choices to customize my weaponry?

You devilish corporation, you.

I paid to play a game, and if judgment calls were in order then I would have preferred if they were integrated into the story and not my arsenal!

How about your experiences? Which games have absolutely aggravated you? Was it the terrible camera angles that were used, or was it awful dialogue coming from a hero you actually want to see die?

Let me know.

Okay, you can continue
Friday, August 29, 2008

Rock Band DLC 8/29

As reported by Xbox 360 Fanboy, the replacement track pack for the epic failure that was Rush's "Moving Pictures" album has hit the Xbox Live Marketplace and Playstation Store today. Hit the jump for the low-down on what to expect.

Coming at us are three songs from Locksley's 2007 album "Don't Make Me Wait."

  • "Don't Make Me Wait" 80MSP/$1.00
  • "She Does" 80MSP/$1.00
  • "All Over Again" 80MSP/$1.00

Of course, as a track pack, all songs can be purchased together for 240MSP/$3.00

So what's the verdict my fellow gamers? Does this make up for the technical failures?

Okay, you can continue