Monday, February 28, 2005

Is the Xbox safe now?

I got my Xbox replacement cable today and just look at the thing! Talk about playing it ultra safe.

I kid you not, there are warning stickers on three sides of this thing (the forth surface just has standard voltage info.). Here's a close up of the main sticker.

I'm starting to think the danger of explosion was far greater than initially reported. So, maybe you should get one too, you know, just in case.

Friday, February 25, 2005

Going back to my roots


For the past few weeks, I’ve tinkered with many ideas that I’ve wanted to indulge whenever time allowed. Two of those are in decent enough shape to unveil now. They are what I would call in beta form so they make change as they evolve. The first one is a The Gamestylist, where I dole out advice on revamping tired franchises, resurrecting forgotten classics, and even repositioning a company's entire product line.

The other is far more niche, but something fun that I hope will hit a cord with some folks (I know you’re out there!). It’s Costume GET!, the weblog that discusses the finer points of videogame character costumes. The feeling of doing these are similar to my fanzine days. Enjoy!

With the imminent launch of the PSP, the sure fury and amount of DS bashing is reaching ridiculous levels. I agree the amount of must have games is paltry. Nonetheless, I’ve been playing my DS fairly regularly ever since I got mine at launch, mostly GBA titles of course. The upshots being; I find the DS a bit easier on the hands over prolonged gaming sessions, the screen is brighter than the GBA SP, and I get stereo sound out of the speakers without headphones. The ability to play GBA games may not be the strongest argument for the DS, but I’d say it’s the same as watching ripped movies or viewing pics on the PSP. Neither are the unit’s main function, but they’re handy and useful.

Speaking of the PSP, I’m fairly sure I will pick up Namco Museum for it whenever it appears on these shores. I think these games are best on the road and having perfect portable emulation is a damn fine treat.

Frosty alerted me to this trailer and since he hasn’t posted it on his blog, I’m going to do it. The robots movements are super cool, they have that realistic “I’m huge and don’t move well” animation down. The retro look and music also give me goose bumps.

The above picture is one taken from a site that has all kinds of user mods for the Shuffle although many are just Photoshop mock-ups.

I copped these two links from Insert Credit, but they were too cool not to. The first make me actually want to play games on a (gasp) cell phone. That Rumble Roses pinball game has my name written all over it, but holy cripes Chaos Breaker looks like the shit! The other link is to my favorite of the flash Metal Gear Solid 3 movies Konami somewhat hid on their site. DO NOT watch this unless you have beaten the game. Go to Insert Credit for the rest. Posted by Hello

Tuesday, February 22, 2005

Hyped to fight

It's been a long time since an unreleased game has occupied my thoughts the way Tekken 5 has. Silly things like who I’m going to beat the game with first and which controller/ arcade stick to use. Maybe because I’m not inundated with other games for work or perhaps it was an email from EB letting me know they might have the game Thursday instead of Friday. Nothing like an earlier than expected release to get the excitement flowing.

It’s been almost two weeks since I broke the chains of chapstick dependence and I’m feeling like the ban is about to get tossed. I mean, one stick of chapstick for me lasts 2-3 months. I apply maybe once a day, twice at the most. That’s like $1.50 or so per stick. I think I can afford $6 per year on lip care. I’ve read some folks who slather on the balm every hour on the hour. I’ll revisit going cold turkey if that sort of use materializes.

All that extra willpower won’t go to waste though. Post holidays, I packed maybe 5 pounds more than I would have liked. Not bad by itself, but that's in addition to the 5 pounds I already was trying to get rid of. My initial focus is a 3 month program to try to convert that fat into pure muscle and then go heavy cardio to work off any left over flab. We’ll see how that works out. Actually, I should start at the beginning of the story, which is around the time I was kicking lip balm to the curb. I actually got rid of those extra 5 pounds over one week with a lot of walking across the street and light jogging. Then Kimi got sick and our regular jog was gone. Of course those five pounds came back and I kicked myself because I knew better. Every time I kept my weight down for any sustained period of time, it was thanks to diligent weight training. So, it’s back to more regular weight workouts. Hope that didn’t put you to sleep. At least you have a tip for the day, anyone out there looking to drop some pounds will be more successful with resistance training.

Thursday, February 17, 2005

Living room time bomb

Apparently, there is a risk for older Xbox system requiring a replacement power cable. Get one here.

This is one of those news items that could have altered the course of my career choices had I read it years ago. Shinto priests have got it made.

Damn I am itching for some Tekken 5.

Wednesday, February 16, 2005

Fighting and journalism


I should have a link soon for another kooky idea I've been hatching. More later.

I’ve expressed my Tekken love before, but the impending release of part five next Friday has been getting me even more worked up than usual. I knew Tekken 1 would be hidden in the game as a bonus, but news just broke that 2 and 3 are also included albeit the arcade versions with none of the home port extras like Tekken bowl. I’m still not sure if this means these are “exact” arcade ports or just the arcade mode portion from the PlayStation games. Yeah, yeah, the arcade hardware that 1 – 3 ran on was basically the same as a PlayStation, but they did have more RAM to work with so there are some visual elements (however minor) that will be different if they are exact arcade ports. I did end up pre-ordering the game because they are offering a free art book with it if you do. Now, it’s not like I REALLY want the art book, but I’m picking up the game day one so I might as well sign up for the freebie.

Much like my moment of clarity in avoiding purchasing the Death by Degrees game, I also talked myself out of getting the Tekken 5 Limited edition with the Hori joystick and collector’s DVD case. The main reason being I already own one of the finest PlayStation joysticks ever made, the Namco arcade stick (pictured above). It has a heavy metal base, Japanese-style clicky stick, buttons raised just enough for prolonged comfort, and another metal case on top for extra support. It was sold in America as the Tekken 2 arcade stick and in Japan as a combo Soul Edge/Tekken stick. I actually won them from Namco in a Soul Edge/Blade tournament, but that is another story for another day. For the times when a stick is too cumbersome, the Nuby Street Fighter pads are among the best controllers of recent memory. They are basically just like the Saturn pads, but the body is a bit bulkier making them a little more comfortable to hold. With the mass discounting I’ve seen on these pads (something like $14.99, down from $29.99), there’s no reason you shouldn’t run out and get one. Of course you could just import these snazzy Saturn PS2 pads Sega just put out. $40 though, and that’s before tax and shipping, ouch.

Game journalism
There seems to always be some blog/forum chatter taking pot shots at pro game magazines and/or websites. Throwing around random and anonymous criticisms is a fixture of teh interweb. A recent entry on the TDMAKM blog and the subsequent talk back on the forums gives you an idea of the type of stuff being thrown around. There are valid points to be made on the subject to be sure, but I wanted to just focus on one for now; the perception of how one gets into the writing side of the industry. Someone on the thread claims that you have to know someone on the inside to have any shot at it. Is this true? I talked before about whether you would want to get in or not, but say you did. Who do you have to know? Here’s a quick rundown of what I can vouch for.

First, myself. I worked at a small, family run (not my family btw), non-corporate backed game shop. One day, the boss asked me to write a 1-page newsletter for the store listing new games and include a coupon. Well, I ran with it, produced a four-page deal complete with my drawings and short write-ups on the games. I liked doing it so much, I make a separate fanzine that was about 16 pages and sold it bi-weekly for $1 at the store and through local classifieds. Chris Gore, then Editor-in-Chief of Videogames magazine walked into the store and we struck up the usual customer/salesman conversation. After I handed him my fanzine and he paged through it, he told me who he was and that if he could keep the mag and get my phone number. I was pretty excited until I realized I totally trashed his magazine in the fanzine. Basically calling it the worst one out there and listing several reasons why. “Oh well, totally blew that chance” I thought. To my surprise, Chris called a week later and told me he agreed with many of my criticisms and wanted me to help make the mag better. I was working professionally (part time at first) another two weeks later. I went to work full time after college and so my tale began. No previous connections to anyone on the “inside”, unless you call working at a game store being on the inside.

Thinking back on everyone I’ve hired, the key element is that they had done work that proved they could do the job. The internet has made it so much easier, all it takes is someone setting up a web page or regularly contributing to a fan site to build up a body of work. Other than interns, there hasn’t been a case I’ve hired anyone cold, meaning no previous experience writing about games. The person either had done something similar on a personal web page or had done some pro work somewhere along the line. Does it give you an advantage if you know someone on the inside? It does guarantee your resume will get looked. Beyond that, it doesn’t get you that much more, at least in my experience. I can recall tons of times (thinking…thinking….I’d say about at least 50 that I can remember for sure) someone handed me the resume of “a friend”, but only once did it turn into an actual job. Posted by Hello

Friday, February 11, 2005

How much hardware do you have?

If you’ve been gaming for any length of time, the amount of hardware that you accumulate can be scary. I have been trying to reduce the clutter in the main closet, tallying items that can be tossed out and so forth. I’ve been told that if you haven’t used an item for a year or longer, you probably wouldn’t miss it. That rule of thumb works for some things, but it’s certainly not a great blanket rule. “I haven’t looked at my baby pictures for years, toss them!”

So anyway, I counted a little over 14 different gaming consoles in my possession and that’s not counting duplicates (for some reason I have two NES systems, bwuh?). This is EXACTLY why more people aren’t regular/lifelong gamers. You have to have so much hardware to continually play games. Granted, I could have shed more of these way back when, but there are so many games I want to have on hand, timeless classics if you will. Think of it in movie terms; would you get rid of older movies just because they are older? Of course not. Visually, most games don’t age well at all so it’s not a true apples to apples comparison.

The trickiest part of this next phase of “Project clean” is figuring out which items I’m keeping simply out of nostalgia or games I realistically will still play. Considering I have enough games released in 2004 to keep me busy for the rest of the year or longer, it’s going to be hard to argue keeping as many as I have.

It hasn’t been too hard to resist splurging on new game purchases until full time work is obtained. Nothing has come out recently that I need to have right now anyway. Next week though, WarioWare Touched will be purchased and Tekken 5 the week after that for sure. After some night sweats, I managed to avoid buying Death by Degrees. Yes, it’s obviously pretty crap, but Nina has been known to have her way. My dignity wins out this time.

Informal poll: How many consoles, home or portable do you have? Avergae number of games per system? Post in comments.

Wednesday, February 09, 2005

Addicted?


I've been off chapstick for two and a half days now. Debate rages whether it’s really addictive, but I just knew I had to stop. I carry it around everywhere and often apply it religiously before bed. My lips feel dryer for sure. This feeling should pass as withdrawal symptoms eventually do. Several years ago, I was absolutely addicted to nasal inhalers, which unlike lip balm, has clinically been proven to be habit forming. I would not be able to breathe at all without a squirt of inhaler every few hours. The addiction spanned roughly 11 years until I got help from a doctor who put me on some nasal medication, weaning me off it for good. If you must use them, follow the instructions on the bottle and discontinue use after three days no matter what. The doctor informed me I was fairly lucky, most patients don’t come to him till they’ve been on inhalers so long that the nasal damage is almost irreversible. I still get congested more often than a regular human due to the damage I suffered, but its not that bad.

I managed to pre-order a PSP sans bundle yesterday with no trouble at a local EB. That was nice.

After finishing Silent Hill 4, which was truly great (I just love the series), I’m hungry for some more horror. I stumbled across this collection of possible costumes to obtain for Fatal Frame 2 Director’s Cut for the Xbox and its got me interested in perhaps picking it up. I’m so predictable when it comes to cheap costume gimmicks. In fact, I need to play through SH4 again to unlock extra costumes in that game. Pathetic. (The above pic comes courtesy of this site. Thanks!)

Speaking of pathetic, I was quite the collector of Cy Girls figures and there’s a new one coming out in the form of Major Motoko Kusanagi from Ghost in the Shell (circa the Stand Alone Complex series). Cool Girl is simply what the Japanese version of Cy Girls is called. Neat, but a bit too pricey. Most likely it will be released domestically at a much more reasonable price.

Due to the mind-numbing amount of pre and post Super Bowl related hub bub, I haven’t bothered to comment on any of it. However, I will pass along this link for those wanting to see more of that odd Godaddy commercial lady, since you asked.

Last, but not least, is a neat browser toy that let’s you make pretty cool doodles. Have fun! Posted by Hello

Tuesday, February 08, 2005

Is the videogame industry right for you?

Or to put it more accurately, would I recommend a career in videogames. I’ll get to the other areas of the industry in a bit, but let’s focus on writing about them first. After a chat with Dom, he wrote some thoughts about where he stands on joining the ranks of videogame journalism full time. As he can attest, it can be a fairly tough nut to crack; after all, there are only so many professional magazines and web sites out there. And even if you make it, only a small percentage have a chance at running the show and make decent money. As Dom mentioned, the best he might hope for is a senior editor gig. In almost any other category where crafting words is your bread and butter, a senior editor position is gold. It takes years, perhaps decades before someone ascends to that rank or something equivalent. The difference between other industries and covering the games beat is that the latter is perceived as less valuable. Any kid with a love of games and high school degree could hack it right? Granted there have been “kids” like that running around in the early days, but the majority of editors I know are highly educated folks. The perception is still there and unfortunately the pay scale remains south of the norm. Don’t get things confused though, being a writer in any industry is no ticket to big bucks (unless you’re the writer of Desperate Housewives or are married to one of them). Is it any wonder that three friends, who I think are among the top writers in games, are no longer writing about games? It’s a damn shame.

So, is it still worth trying to write about games? Conditionally, the answer is yes. No matter how much you may think you love games, you have to really love them to play and write about them all the time. It can easily burn you out. Whenever a cherished hobby becomes your job, that’s always a danger. Of course just loving games isn’t enough. You have to write well, be able to function in an office environment, and manage your time wisely. Basically, every requisite of working in a professional capacity applies. You really do need a certain determination to do this job for the long haul. Writing about games in my original fanzine was something I just NEEDED to do and luckily it got me “discovered” allowing me to go pro.

As for what I’ll do next, many have advised me to go into other areas like public relations or game development. There’s more growth there, a tad more security, and certainly a whole lot more money they say. Game development is very exciting, but also very scary. With all the consolidation going down in the industry, I doubt there’s more security in one place over another no matter what you do. Well, I’m leaving the options as open as possible until shrinking finances force my hand. I have high hopes that the future of game journalism is bright. New forms of coverage will not only emerge, but also actually be successful. The internet changed the landscape just a few years ago, but there are still many different ways to cover games in this medium. Maybe I’m too much of an optimist?

Monday, February 07, 2005

The right tools


I mentioned in one of the first posts on this blog that I started drawing again. This photo was taken around that time when some sorting out of materials was going on. Pictured are the core tools I use for penciling and inking. I haven't been able to keep pace with new doodles, but hopefully posting this will give me a kick in the pants.

I've been also giving some thought to my recent conversation with Dom. More on that soon.Posted by Hello

Rent so you don't buy?


If you're a big StarFox fan, would you wait till Assault went on sale or would you go rent it now at Blockbuster? Other companies have experimented with the "rent only before official release" promotion and, to my knowledge, all have lead to lackluster sales. Now, with a title that should have lasting multiplayer appeal as Assault is boasted to have, the gamble may pay off. Some early review scores are out, and the verdicts are pretty lackluster. So maybe this is a good way to convince skeptical buyers to at least check it out. Let the public decide so to speak.

I'm going to stores this week to try and snag a PSP pre-order sans bundle. Wish me luck. I will update if there are promising results.

Thursday, February 03, 2005

The limited editions are coming


Places like Gamestop have long thrown in shirts and calendars to boost pre-orders, but the trend of publishers getting in on the act is starting to grow. Limited editions for PC games used to be the only exception, but the console side is catching. The recent Halo 2 LE was the most noteworthy example and its strong sales are probably responsible for encouraging the other kids. Is this a good thing? For the most part, yes, as long as there’s something very cool about the LE that is catered to the fans and the price is right. A quick rundown of those that do it right, and those that don’t:

Great
-
Just announced today is the Tekken 5 LE, which comes with the game, a custom Hori joystick, and a special six-disc case to hold all the previous Tekken games, all for $99. If you pre-order it with certain retailers, you also get a snazzy art book. $99 is a bit steep, but it seems fairly reasonable to me as a Tekken fan. Hori sticks are top notch and I still have every Tekken game, so a case that will house all of them is really slick. Pictured above is the Tekken 4 stick, NOT the new one announced. I haven't found any pics of that one yet.

-
I consider the various Working Designs releases as the gold standard for offering the most bang for the buck. Unfortunately, WD is saddled with not being able to land top quality games to lavish their attention on.

- Any LE that Blizzard puts out is worth picking up. Just awesome.

Good
- The Halo 2 LE has a cool metallic case and bonus DVD for just $5 more than the standard edition. Very nice.

Good and bad
- Competing extras. If you pre-ordered Resident Evil 4 from EB, you got a special behind the scenes DVD. Doing the same from Gamestop yielded a special tin case and limited card (although the tin did have a fat, unattractive “Gamestop” logo plastered on it). It makes no sense to buy two copies of the game just to get both extras. That tough on the fans for sure.

Sucks
- I’ve griped about the Half-Life 2 LE before and it’s worth mentioning again, it was total crap. At least the one you bought in a store. Getting the game on DVD, a lousy shirt, and snippets of the guide and art book do not warrant $30 extra. Bah!



For those interested in the Shanna post, here are a ton of preview pages to get you going.

Wednesday, February 02, 2005

She-devil!


I should be wrapped up with another project today so I'm thinking a trip to the comics shop might be in order. Despite her tasty attire, I'm not nomarlly a fan of Shanna the She-devil. Mega-talent Frank Cho writes and draws her new series so that means I'm in for sure.

I'm finally playing through Silent Hill 4 and man is it freaking me out. I think I'm about halfway through.

So Gamestop and EB have begun taking online pre-orders for the PSP and, as expected, are offering them in ridiculous bundles only. I've heard you can order the system by itself only if you physically go into a store, but have yet to confirm this on my own. Any do that?

On a slightly depressing note, the release date for the Dave Chapelle show season 2 DVD is now May 24th, pushed back from an initial, but never really official Feb 8th date.

Tuesday, February 01, 2005

Shuffle alternative


For my current needs, it seems like a very small MP3 player would be quite handy. I've journeyed to the Apple store and fondled the Shuffle quite a bit, but I really want some sort of screen and ability to customize my tracks. It seems the web favorite is the SanDisk 1GB MP3 player shown above. It goes for roughly the same price, had loads more features, and is only slightly larger than the Shuffle. We'll see.Posted by Hello