Forgetting That Things are Supposed to Be Fun

6 06 2010

I have a bad habit of giving myself assignments that I know I won’t be able to keep up with.

When I originally started this blog, I did it with the intention of posting a new post for every calendar day of 2010. I would miss a post here or there, making up for in within hours.

That was, at least, until I started to get busy. Coming home from work and crashing onto my bed led to me missing days at a time. These days turned into a month.

I made an effort to catch up, posting things that I’ve written on other sites and making sad excuses. I didn’t really catch up.

What happened after reminded my of Uncharted 2: Among Thieves. Let me explain.

I managed to make it to the end of Uncharted 2, right to the fight with the final boss. The lighting engine in my TV broke and I used it as an excuse to take an Uncharted hiatus.

Every time I would put in a different game, I could feel the ghost of Nathan Drake haunting me. His stay in purgatory I imposed on him caused me to feel an unnecessary guilt every time I played anything other than Uncharted 2.

That’s what happened to this blog. I knew that the amount of posts I needed to write in order to catch the “post a day” quota was becoming insurmountable. Not to mention, in order to keep with a stylistic theme, I also needed to find a picture to go with the story.

Well, no more. If I make my quota of 365 posts by the end of the year – then so be it. If not, we’ll all live and go on with our lives. The deadline has been counter-productive. If ignoring it can lead to some productivity, I’ll embrace it.

What can you expect on here now is posts about whatever happens to be on my mind – whenever they happen to come up. It’ll probably still be quite often though. No worries about word counts. No worries about the date of the posting. Just uninhibited me.

Hope you like it.

(I did beat Uncharted 2, by the way.)





Day Fourty-Six – Oh, Vancouver

15 02 2010

Canada has finally won Gold on home soil, taking the pressure off most other athletes to break a sad streak.

That’s the highlight of the events so far. Everything else hasn’t been so rosy.

I want to enjoy the Olympics, though the broadcasters make it anything but easy.

Things clearly went beyond awful for the Games when a young Georgian Olympian died during a trial run. What’s disgusting about that entire ordeal is the media’s willingness to show the entire tragedy on the Evening News. The CTV News anchor went as far to say that it’s “necessary to show the footage in order to tell the story”.

That couldn’t be farther from the truth. People don’t need to see a young man running into a poll in order to visualize it. Still, whether to spike ratings or simply satisfy a morbid curiosity, the footage was shown all over the place. I’ve managed to avoid it, knowing that it’s something I definitely do not want to see, and I don’t feel that I know any less than those who have seen it. It was a tragic event and out of respect for the family and fellow Olympians, the footage should have remained in the archives and not broadcast around the globe.

Less tragic, but still upsetting is the coverage of the Games thus far. The “Olympic Consortium” of networks seems to be dropping the ball in the coverage of the games. Whether it’s watching the MuchMusic crew do body-shots or “drop your shorts for beer” on live, national television, I couldn’t have been more embarrassed for my generation.

Aside from that, the Games themselves have been extremely hard to follow. The guide on my Rogers box lists five events taking place anywhere between 6pm and 2am. There’s no indication to what’s a live event and what’s pre-recorded. Nor any indication to what I may be missing on other networks. I’m made to guess what’s happening and when it happened.

My TSN app, which I love, on my iPhone has been pushing me to download the CTV Vancouver Olympics app. I did, hoping it would help me follow the goings on at the Olympics. Sadly, it’s completely useless. It tells me what events are coming up for the day, but not any information on when or on what network. There’s no medal count, either, which you would believe to be the first thing you’d have on an Olympic app.

I’ve been forced to “gear up” for the Olympics for the past 3 years and now that it’s here, I couldn’t be more disappointed. I’m really trying to get excited, but it’s hard when I have to guess what’s on and what’s live. Plus, watching the same three commercials every fifteen minutes really doesn’t help matters.

I wish the Canadian Olympians luck, but the Canadian broadcasters really need to get their shit together.





Day Twenty-Eight – Over-Hype

28 01 2010

Yesterday, the iPad was unleashed amid days of rumours and hearsay.

For almost a year before this device was announced, people have been salavating for it. According to some, this device would bring the end of all suffering in the world. I would change how we eat, breathe and think. The world change from the very instance it was announced and we would never be able to go back.

Then it was released and people realized it’s like a big iPhone and not much else.

That didn’t stop Apple from continuing the hype.

The most over-hyped product since the last time Apple announced something.

You need to watch the video in order to understand how over-hyped this product is.

Don’t get me wrong, it’s neat. I’ll probably shell out the $499 for one like everyone else when it becomes available. Though I doubt I will sit there in awe of how many things it can do.

To me, the iPad is just repacking what I already have available to me. I’m typing this on my HP laptop right now. With the iPad, I can do that on-screen! Neat-o!

What they don’t mention is the cumbersome Safari browser I’ll need to use. I’m not a fan of it on the iPhone, I doubt I’ll love it on the iPad.

But wait, they say that it’ll revolutionize email and make it fun. Except I hate their mail application on the iPhone, which pretty much strips everything I’ve become accustomed to on my Gmail account so that I can swipe my emails away rather than click delete.

I can watch movies on it. That’s new. I think I’ve watched 2-3 movies on my laptop in about 7 years. If I’m anywhere near a TV, I’m opting for that.

Don’t get me wrong. There are things that are good about the iPad as well, I just don’t think it’ll change my life the way the video would have me believe.

Gaming, for example, should be a step up from the iPhone. It loses the portability that having a game library in my pocket brings, but it’ll make gameplay itself more enjoyable. The “yoke” based games, such as top-seller Call of Duty: World at War: Zombies should be a lot easier to handle now that my thumbs won’t take up 40% of the screen.

Those poor souls that spent $300+ on a Kindle must be kicking themselves now. eBook readers are neat, but they only have one real function. Now you essentially have a netbook that feels like an eBook reader.

At the end of the day, the iPad is a cool product. I’m just a little upset with the over-hype. It’s good, not earth-shattering.

I got enough over-hype with Avatar.





Day Twenty-Six – Trophy Unlocked

26 01 2010

There was a time when I wasn’t playing video games very much. I just got, as my brothers and I have coined, “video gamed-out”. Everything began to feel pointless. I would beat game after game and get no sense of satisfaction from the exchange. I played so many games beginning to end that eventually, I just stopped all together.

I was enjoying the new-found free time I had. I started reading books. I was writing a bit. I had time to go to the gym and get a workout in. Then, like Michael Corleone, I got pulled back in.

The elusive Platinum trophy really means nothing, but provides a rush like no other when obtained.

The Xbox 360, created by Microsoft, caught my attention as the first console to usher in the HD era. That was enough to draw me in, with its seductive and colourful visuals. What made me stay was an odd sound and on-screen acknowledgement of my progress called achievements. In reality, I’ve done nothing but played a video game to kill time as I always had, but now I had something to show for it. A list of all the games I’ve completed.

Were it not for my enmity towards the Xbox 360 as a console, my gamerscore would be a triumph of sorts. However, gamerscore was not enough to convince me to pay for the ability to play online or to bear with the faulty console. I moved on to the Playstation 3, and for many months, my virtual successes once again felt hollow.

Game after game, I would wait for some type of acknowledgement in the form of a score. Sony eventually heard my silent prayers and created what they would call “Trophies”. Rather than a numerical value, the trophies were split between Bronze, Silver, Gold and Platinum. My sense of accomplishment renewed and my time again wasted, I would spend hours to get my fix and be acknowledged for my achievement.

The Playstation 3’s trophy system added another level to the ever addictive, yet useless system of rewards. A system of Levels. With each trophy, I would become closer to the next level. It is essentially a class system. These trophies were no longer achievements on their own, but a stepping stone towards the ultimate goal of classifying myself above my peers.

Now, as a Level 8 on the Playstation Network, I see look down upon those at their mere Level ‘s and Level 6s and realize that I’ve been out foxed by the video game consoles. The experience was nothing new, yet I was enamoured with a false sense of accomplishment from my very first trophy. I should feel cheated of my time and of my youth…

…but I am only a few trophies away from Level 9.





Day Twenty-Two – My Favorite iPhone Games of the Moment

22 01 2010

I wrote a couple of days ago about the iPhone stealing the handheld gaming market from the Nintendo DS. Here are three examples why I think they have a shot of dethroning the current king:

Super K.O. Boxing 2

Though it’s a pure rip-off of Super Punch Out!, it does so quite well. The gameplay mechanics are nearly identical to that game. Your left thumb controls your blocking and dodging. Your right thumb controls your punches, which include a low, high and super punch. Like I said, identical.

While a complete rip-off of Super Punch-Out, Super KO Boxing 2 is a really good rip-off.

The view is the same as Super Punch Out! as well. You stand behind KO Kid as the cartoon fighters stand directly in front of you. Just like Punch Out!, it’s a matter of finding out the patterns your opponents have. For example, in the first boss battle against Dynamo, you need to let him charge his super punch, dodge and hit him with a hook. Repeat until you get the TKO.

The characters are all very well done. They are animated superbly. They explode with life. The sound effects add to their life. 15 Cent’s chain rattles as he dances around your attempted blows. Dynamo’s lightening charge gives you fair enough warning that he’s about to discharge on your jaw.

Though it’s a clear rip-off of a game that already existed for years, it’s an excellent rip-off.

Dark Nebula: Episode One

This is the iPhone’s version of Super Monkey Ball, though they already have their own version of that as well. You control it using the accelerometer, tilting the playing field to move an orb through the playing field while avoiding the hazards all around.

Using the accelerometer, Dark Nebula is a challenging, fun game.

The music and graphics are good enough, but you don’t really notice when you’re trying to set the high score based on speed, damage taken and canisters collected, that resemble the ooze from TMNT2. The levels are easy at the beginning to get you used to it, but get pretty challenging in a hurry. There’s also different types of levels. I’ve only encountered the regular and the speed zones, but it changes often enough to keep me playing.

It offers Facebook integration, leaderboard and high scores between friends who also have the game. Lots of fun.

Puzzlings

This is an odd little puzzle game that puts the focus on winning clothing and dressing your Puzzling creature. You can take pictures of your Puzzling, which will be saved to your Photo Library on your phone/iPod.

The puzzle game itself is quite fun. The goal is to create sets, much like Tetris Attack/Puzzle League. You can rotate any set of pieces, from two to the entire playing fied, by dragging your finger around the pieces. They spin and you tap the screen to stop it. The goal is to fill your combo meter before it runs out. When it fills, you get four pieces of a circle which you need to assemble to finish the game.

This is the Puzzling monster I created and uploaded through my iPhone

There are eight levels with five stages in each. Three regular. One Challenge, which is an extended round, and one Puzzle, which limits the moves you can use to clear the puzzle.

Though the game is quite short, it’s a lot of fun. Trying to finish the puzzles and set higher scores is quite satisfying. The game is now available for free on the App Store, so it’s definitely worth playing.

Those are just three examples of great games on the iPhone. I’m excited to finally try Grand Theft Auto: Chinatown Wars after skipping it on the DS and PSP.

This is just the beginning of a great set of games for the iPhone.





Day Nineteen – A Gameboy Without Buttons

19 01 2010

I realize that referencing the defunct Gameboy isn’t the cool thing to do, but for my purposes, it works. The Nintendo Gameboy was the last handheld to completely dominate the market in my eyes. Yes, the Nintendo DS isn’t a failure by any means and remains dominant to this day.

The future of handheld gaming can do more than just play games.

I just think the market is shifting.

I recently got the Apple iPhone and after a couple months of using it, I can see it becoming the new handheld king.

Don’t get me wrong. The Nintendo DS is a far superior device for handheld gaming; it’s built with that in mind. Where the iPhone has an advantage is the same that the Playstation brand gave to DVD and Blu-ray. If I already have the phone, I may as well try a couple games on it.

My phone is always on me. My DS is not. It’s that simple. I’ll probably be spending a lot more time playing Flight Control on my phone than I would playing Brain Age on my DS. I can pull out my phone at any time when I’m bored and fire up a game. I need to plan to be bored in order to bring my DS.

At this current moment, the last advantage the DS has is the games. However, that looks like it can change very soon. The #1 game on the App Store since its release last year is Call of Duty: Nazi Zombies. This is a game that could have been on the DS.

Today “could have been” isn’t even relevant, Grand Theft Auto: Chinatown Wars was released for the iPhone as well. According to Touch Arcade, it’s pretty much the same game you can find on the DS – at a third of the price.

This is only the beginning for the iPhone and iPod Touch in the gaming realm. The one thing they’ll need to avoid is becoming like the Atari. They need a system to limit the amount of crapware that becomes available on a daily basis. Though the quality will come through, the poorly made games will find there way around as well and creates a danger of defining what the new handheld era will become.

Before I got my iPhone, I didn’t think that a device that’s primarily a iPod and a phone could bring any threat to the handheld market. Now that I have had some time with the device, I’ve been converted.

In a matter of a few short years, I expect to see the iPhone, or similar devices, to be the only handheld gaming devices on the market. Multi-purpose is the future of technology and gaming is no different.

I hope your thumbs are ready.





Day Eleven – 3D is a Gimmick!

11 01 2010

Chalk up another issue I have with Avatar. technically, it hasn’t really done anything directly, but it seems like being a successful 3D movie has opened the door for everyone to try their hand at it.

I realize 3D televisions and media players have been in development for years. It only makes sense to make TVs 3D at some point, otherwise the Blu-ray/DVD marked can’t get any of that Avatar cash. Not to mention the countless animated children’s movies, but now they are plans to show the FIFA World Cup in 3D. And that’s just the beginning, as the World Cup will help launch ESPN 3D.

Has everyone forgotten 3D is just a gimmick?

All This Money Wasted on 3D Tech Could Be Used to Upgrade the Broadcasts We're Already Equipped to Receive, Rather Than Another Gimmick

It’s neat. That’s about it. There is no benefit to watching a sport in 3D. You get absolutely no new information when the sport pops out of the screen. A film could use it to draw focus, not only to part of the screen, but the field of vision. A sport doesn’t have this benefit. Everything on-screen at any time is as important as the next thing. That’s the #1 reason people get dizzy at the movies, they don’t know how to focus on what the film-maker wants them to.

3D still hasn’t mastered quick movement. Avatar probably did the best job of avoiding the blur when the camera would pan, but it didn’t correct the issue entirely. I don’t see how a cameraman who can rarely keep the action on screen will be able to move without causing world-wide motion-sickness.

I should worry too much. I doubt I’ll watch the World Cup, but I definitely won’t in 3D considering they won’t reach Canada by then.

That doesn’t mean I’m safe, though. Sony seems to be really excited to jump into 3D gaming. They have a couple demos running at CES already. Why do I need to see my game in 3D? Will having my gun in Call of Duty directly in front of me have any affect on the way I play? I highly doubt it.

3D is a parlour trick. It’s not really 3D. You can’t see around the things popping out from the screen. All 3D does is add a layer of depth that is there anyway, it just makes it “pop”.

To be fair, I enjoy 3D in limited amounts. It’s fun for the odd occasion, but it’s beginning to look like it’s going to attempt a take over. A take-over that will fail. People aren’t that excited about 3D. The group that saw Avatar, much like the ones that saw Titanic, are the same group of people over and over again. I had a friend who saw Titanic eight times in theatres. I saw The Dark Knight three times last year.

Yet, I only bought one copy of The Dark Knight on Blu-ray. The same goes for the Avatar fans. They’ll only buy one TV. Only one copy of the Blu-ray in 3D. Only one pair of goofy glasses to sit in front of their new high-tech TV. Not multiple, like a movie ticket.

People have barely made the transition to HD and now they’re expecting a jump to 3D so soon? My brothers and I had to force the issue with our parents and bought them a flat-screen. They still don’t watch the HD channels, though. They can’t be bothered. Now you want them to put on glasses?

I can’t wait for this to crash and burn so these companies can worry more about providing quality content rather that more gimmicks.