Sunday, December 26, 2010
Monday, December 20, 2010
Friday, December 17, 2010
In gaming circles people like to talk about pixels, gigahertz, graphics card memory, vertical sync, frames per second, texture quality, anistropic filtering, anti aliasing, motion blur - because technology is what enables the art form of video games to connect with the human soul. Look at the early adventure games - the only way to tell a narrative at that point in the history of game development was to provide text and a static VGA color image consisting of 320 horizontal lines of pixels and 200 vertical ones. A series of primitive monaural bleeps and bloops were the accompanying chatter in this primordial era of our hobby, and gaming was done almost always done in a social setting - standing up at an arcade.
Yet these early games had charms beyond the visual or audible which proved irresistable to the denizens of 1980 and eventually evolved to become one of America's favorite pastimes. We are now at a crossroads (actually we may have been here for a few years, its one of those extra large crossroads) where video games have evolved to a point of startling similarity to real life. This facial animation technology trailer from L.A. Noir is just demonstrating the latest paradigm shift in an ever advancing quest for virtual reality.
What you see in this trailer shatters -- absolutely obliterates anything that has ever come before it in terms of how lifelike the characters look when they are speaking and reacting to speech. Its a game changer. Mass Effect, Uncharted 2, Enslaved and Starcraft 2 all feature top notch facial animation, but this technology is leaps and bounds beyond what we saw there. It is the future, and to be honest this is what I expected from Half Life 3 - not from a relatively new studio, even if it is a Rockstar backed production. Its going to be tough for Gabe and the team at Valve to top this.
Make sure you are watching in 720P fullscreen.
Tuesday, December 7, 2010
A truly free press — one unfettered by concerns of nationalism — is apparently a terrifying problem for elected governments and tyrannies alike.
It shouldn’t be.
In the past week, after publishing secret U.S. diplomatic cables, secret-spilling site WikiLeaks has been hit with denial-of-service attacks on its servers by unknown parties; its backup hosting provider, Amazon, booted WikiLeaks off its hosting service; and PayPal has suspended its donation-collecting account, damaging WikiLeaks’ ability to raise funds. MasterCard announced Monday it was blocking credit card payments to WikiLeaks, saying the site was engaged in illegal activities, despite the fact it has never been charged with a crime.
Meanwhile, U.S. politicians have ramped up the rhetoric against the nonprofit, calling for the arrest and prosecution and even assassination of its most visible spokesman, Julian Assange. Questions about whether current laws are adequate to prosecute him have prompted lawmakers to propose amending the espionage statute to bring Assange to heel or even to declare WikiLeaks a terrorist organization.
WikiLeaks is not perfect. Nevertheless, it’s time to make a clear statement about the value of the site and take sides:
WikiLeaks stands to improve our democracy, not weaken it.
The greatest threat we face right now from Wikileaks is not the information it has spilled and may spill in the future, but the reactionary response to it that’s building in the United States that promises to repudiate the rule of law and our free speech traditions, if left unchecked.
Secrecy is routinely posited as a critical component for effective governance, a premise that’s so widely accepted that even some journalists, whose job is to reveal the secret workings of governments, have declared WikiLeaks’ efforts to be out of bounds.
Transparency, and its value, look very different inside the corridors of power than outside. On the campaign trail, Barack Obama vowed to roll back the secrecy apparatus that had been dramatically expanded under his predecessor, but his administration has largely abandoned those promises and instead doubled-down on secrecy.
One of the core complaints against WikiLeaks is a lack of accountability. It has set up shop in multiple countries with liberal press protections in an apparent bid to stand above the law. It owes allegiance to no one government, and its interests do not align neatly with authorities’. Compare this, for example, to what happened when the U.S. government pressured The New York Times in 2004 to drop its story about warrantless wiretapping on grounds that it would harm national security. The paper withheld the story for a year-and-a-half.
WikiLeaks’ role is not the same as the press’s, since it does not always endeavor to vet information prior to publication. But it operates within what one might call the media ecosystem, feeding publications with original documents that are found nowhere else and insulating them against pressures from governments seeking to suppress information.
Instead of encouraging online service providers to blacklist sites and writing new espionage laws that would further criminalize the publication of government secrets, we should regard WikiLeaks as subject to the same first amendment rights that protect The New York Times. And as a society, we should embrace the site as an expression of the fundamental freedom that is at the core of our Bill of Rights, not react like Chinese corporations that are happy to censor information on behalf of their government to curry favor.
WikiLeaks does not automatically bring radical transparency in its wake. Sites like WikiLeaks work because sources, more often than not pricked by conscience, come forward with information in the public interest. WikiLeaks is a distributor of this information, if an extraordinarily prolific one. It helps guarantee the information won’t be hidden by editors and publishers who are afraid of lawsuits or the government.
WikiLeaks has beaten back the attacks against it with the help of hundreds of mirror sites that will keep its content available, despite the best efforts of opponents. Blocking WikiLeaks, even if it were possible, could never be effective.
A government’s best and only defense against damaging spills is to act justly and fairly. By seeking to quell WikiLeaks, its U.S. political opponents are only priming the pump for more embarrassing revelations down the road.
by Evan Hansen - Editor-in-Chief of Wired.com
Thursday, December 2, 2010
The one film you need to see this year isnt The Social Network - its called Inside Job, and it provides a chilling account of the 2008 global economic meltdown.
Charlie Rose interview with director Charles Ferguson
Tuesday, November 30, 2010
Wednesday, November 24, 2010
By Bob Herbert
It was a half-century ago this month that John F. Kennedy won the presidency in a thrilling and heart-stoppingly close election against Richard Nixon. You’d probably be surprised at the number of Americans who are clueless about when Kennedy ran: “It was 1970, right?” “Wasn’t it in the ’40s, soon after the war?” Or whom he ran against: “Eisenhower?”
I’ve been surprised by the lack of media attention given to the golden anniversary of that pivotal campaign, one of the most celebrated of the entire post-World War II period. With Kennedy, the door to the great 1960s era opened a crack, and it would continue opening little by little until the Beatles flung it wide in 1964.
Kennedy’s great gift was his capacity to inspire. His message as he traveled the country was that Americans could do better, that great things were undeniably possible, that obstacles were challenges to be overcome with hard work and sacrifice.
I don’t think he would have known what to make of the America of today, where the messages coming from the smoldering ruins of public life are not just uninspiring, but demeaning: that we must hack away at the achievements of the past (Social Security, Medicare); that we cannot afford to rebuild the nation’s aging infrastructure or establish a first-class public school system for all children; that we cannot bring an end to debilitating warfare, or establish a new era of clean energy, or put millions of jobless and underemployed Americans back to work.
Kennedy declared that we would go to the moon. Chris Christie tells us that we are incapable of building a railroad tunnel beneath the Hudson River.
Whatever one thinks of the tragically short Kennedy administration, we’d do well to pay renewed attention to the lofty ideals and broad themes that Kennedy brought to the national stage. We’ve become so used to aiming low that mediocrity is seen as a step up. We need to be reminded of what is possible.
Kennedy accepted the Democratic nomination in a speech that he delivered before 80,000 people at the Los Angeles Memorial Coliseum on July 15, 1960. It became known as the New Frontier speech. The candidate spoke of an old era ending and said that “the old ways will not do.” He spoke of “a slippage in our intellectual and moral strength.” He said:
“The New Frontier of which I speak is not a set of promises; it is a set of challenges. It sums up not what I intend to offer the American people, but what I intend to ask of them. It appeals to their pride, not to their pocketbook. It holds out the promise of more sacrifice instead of more security.”
What Kennedy hoped to foster was a renewed sense of national purpose in which shared values were reinforced in an atmosphere of heightened civic participation and mutual sacrifice. That was the way, he said, “to get this country moving again.”
His voice was in sync with the spirit of the times. Americans were fired with the idea that they could improve their circumstances, right wrongs and do good. The Interstate Highway System, an Eisenhower initiative, was under way. The civil rights movement was in flower. And soon Kennedy would literally be reaching for the moon.
Self-interest and the bottom line had not yet become the be-all and end-all.
Kennedy the cold warrior was also the president who created the Peace Corps, which Ted Sorensen, who died just last month (and whose daughter Juliet was a Peace Corps volunteer), described as the epitome of Kennedy’s call for service and sacrifice. The life of the young men and women who joined the Peace Corps would not be easy, Kennedy said, but it would be “rich and satisfying.” The volunteers would live and work among the indigenous people in developing countries, eating their food, speaking their language and helping them “meet their urgent needs for skilled manpower.”
The response to this call for service was both robust and long-lasting. The Peace Corps was one of the great successes of Kennedy’s administration.
While the myriad issues facing the U.S. have changed and changed again since Kennedy’s time, the importance of being guided by the highest principles and ideals has not. We are now in a period in which cynicism is running rampant, and selfishness and greed have virtually smothered all other values. Simple fairness is not a fit topic for political discussion and no one dares even mention the poor.
The public seems fearful and cowed. People unworthy of high office are arrogantly on the march.
You can say whatever you’d like about the Kennedy era and the ’60s in general, but there was great energy in the population then, and a willingness to reach beyond one’s self.
Kennedy spoke in his acceptance speech of a choice “between national greatness and national decline.” That choice was never so stark as right now. There is still time to listen to a voice from half a century ago.
Saturday, November 20, 2010
LittleBigPlanet 2 hasnt been getting too much hype, but I think its really gonna be a mind blowing event for PS3 owners. The amount of customization has evolved to another level of insanity - this guy basically recreated the PS3 game Flower, replete with soothing musak, in a matter of days. Can you imagine what people are going to do with the release version after its been out for a year? Comes out Jan 2011.
Thursday, November 18, 2010
As some of you know Im experiencing one of my life downswings, where everything just goes to shit - including poker. Luckily, I have some awesome friends and family, and luckily, I dont really care much about money whether Ive got a lot or a little, like right now. I have some cash saved up to pay my rent and bills and stuff for a year, and some savings, and I have a couple other sources of income, so I should be ok. But I dont think Im going to be taking any trips to Vegas soon, which I was really looking forward to. Moreover, losing streaks are just disheartening - they kill your motivation to play.
When you choose poker as lifestyle, you have to take the good with the bad. So Im taking a little break from playing after running like crap in live games and bustoing my fulltilt account. I know Im a skilled player - listen, it takes a lot of skill to get all your money in drawing dead in Pot Limit Omaha - and variance is a huge factor in PLO, but still its time to reconsider why Im playing it (mostly to get better). So Im gonna take a break from PLO, and in the next week or two start grinding my roll back up playing my best game - Holdem - and hope for the best.
Tuesday, November 16, 2010
Ive replayed Portal again recently, and then watched a friend play through the whole thing for the first time, and I cant say the game ever ceases to amaze me. I really think its one of the most unique and compelling gameplay experiences of this or any other generation. To say that Im excited for the sequel, which offers a single player and coop experience which are each double the length of the original game, is an understatement. 2011 cant come soon enough.
Saturday, November 13, 2010
Thursday, November 11, 2010
If you havent heard of it yet, L.A. Noir is the debut game by Team Bondi, published by Rockstar. It is a detective game set in 1940s Los Angeles. The game looks, in a word, incredible. The level of detail that they have managed to achieve in the facial animation and lip syncing appears to be unprecedented.
Sunday, November 7, 2010
Certain XBL gamertags have recently received confidential invites to participate in a beta for Full House Poker, the details of which are still scant. We know that Microsoft cancelled 1 vs 100 and promised to bring back something bigger and better, and it looks like its taking the form of a live, primetime poker tournament where contestants compete for Microsoft Points and other prizes. It is rumored to have avatar and kinect support, as well as more than 100 players in a single tournament field, which means bigger prizes.
Does this herald a new age for online poker? Hardly, as its highly unlikely we will be able to play 24/7 "Heads Up for Rolls" in the near future, even if your roll will only be Microsoft points which cant be redeemed for cash. For now it looks like its going to be a nightly freeroll tournament for Xbox Live Gold members. But HU4mspRollz might be a possibility depending on how well Full House Poker does, and real money games could happen years down the road if legislation regarding online gambling in the US evolves. Right now, its illegal for US banks to process financial transactions for online gambling companies, making it very difficult for US players to deposit cash into their Full Tilt or Pokerstars accounts. However, it is legal for banks to process your payment for Microsoft points. Because points arent redeemable for cash, Microsoft can offer poker tournaments for prizes and point packages and it doesnt violate any US laws. As long as we are gambling for points, and not money, Microsoft and companies like Facebook are able to offer poker legally. If online gambling becomes regulated in the US, all this may change and there will be a huge flurry of new competition, but for the time being, its appears that Microsoft is holding the nuts and all XBL gold members get a chance to scoop a nice pot.
Tuesday, November 2, 2010
Saturday, October 30, 2010
Im pretty interested in this game, as its been described on internet forums as Gears of War on Crack. However, the fact that its single player only and doesnt go for more than 6-8 hours has held me back from buying it new. Im considering restarting my gamefly account just for this and a couple of others, like Enslaved and the new Castlevania. If any of you have played this game or its demo, post your thoughts.
Wednesday, October 27, 2010
Sunday, October 24, 2010
Ive seen most of the drifting videos on youtube, I have a couple of Japanese D1 Grand Prix DVDs, Ive seen the batshit crazy Arab guys, Ive watched some World Rally championships, but this video still blows the doors off my mind. Ken Block is truly a master of the drift, and an unbelievably sick driver. The drifts he does on the embankment and the 360 spins on the wet tarmac, all at very high speeds while maintaining total control, just cannot be fathomed by my pithy human brain. The rim sparking burnout out at the end of the video is the statement of a motorsport artist, and serves as the icing on the cake to one of the finest videos to grace this blog. The sound in this video is fantastic, make sure you turn the volume all the way up.
Sunday, October 17, 2010
Friday, October 15, 2010
Wednesday, October 13, 2010
Friday, October 8, 2010
Ive been thinking about this post for a while now, but I wasnt quite sure how to phrase it. In essence, life is short: the time we spend as humans is fleeting. Furthermore, life is hard. If not hard, well its certainly not easy. Theres no win button to fall back on. You just have to grind it out. And often, life really does feel like a grind.
I was talking to a friend and poker colleague the other night about life, and this is the kind of guy who does pretty well for himself. "Why cant I just have a good run of cards forever? Why do I always have to deal with suckouts and bad beats? Why do I have to fill out all this paperwork just to rent an apartment? Why does my phone/computer/car die every 18 months? Why doesnt this girl call me back? Why do I have to deal with idiots everyday of my life? Why is my apartment always a mess? Why arent I living in Vegas?"
In my view, as I told it to him, its two things really. First and foremost, the grass is always greener on the other side. No matter how well you do at your job, no matter how much money you make or how much personal success you achieve, you are always going to want more. Its very difficult to just appreciate what you do have, and very easy to appreciate what you dont have. Many people go through their entire lives this way, looking at the glass half full, looking at the green grass on the other side of the fence. Its easy to do that, and its easy to internalize all that negativity because theres a constant, neverending stream of bullshit you have to deal with on a day to day basis.
This is my second point: the bullshit in life never ends. You are always going to have to deal with something that for whatever reason, you would rather not have to deal with. There is always something. Some crap you have to do or some person you have to see, some place or event you have to goto and when its finally done, you realize there's something else you have to handle. I asked my Dad about it. He told me that while there was a great reduction in bullshit once you retire, it still never ends. So the first thing you have to realize and fully accept is that no, it never ends. You are going to be dealing with annoying things, minor and major ones, for the rest of your life. Life, in essence, is a series of annoyances punctuated by the occasional spell of pure happiness.
Which brings me to my main point: if you constantly focus on the negative aspects of life, the day to day bullshit of our modern existence, its likely that you will start to feel annoyed, hassled, burdened, and unhappy. You must resist this with every single ounce of your being. Its rare that we find ourselves in moments of pure, unadulterated happiness, usually its some moderate gradation of "not totally pissed at the world." When those great moments in your life come, you have to treasure them. In between, try not to focus on the constant negative aspects, and instead on the more minor enjoyable ones. A good meal. A pleasant conversation. A great game or interesting book. It doesnt have to be much. Just enough to draw your focus away from the incessant mundanity of day to day life.
Ive been thinking about this blog post ever since Raphael Nadal won the US Open. It was such a great moment, and being a huge Nadal fan I was overjoyed that Nadal had finally won every major title in pro tennis. He was now entering a conversation for not just one of the best players of his era, but one of the best players of all time. More recently, I was moved watched the performance of Roy Halladay in the National League Division Series, where in his first post-season appearance after 320 regular season starts, he pitched a no hitter - only the second in MLB postseaon history. "Doc Holliday," as he's known around the big leagues, has been one of my favorite players since I saw him dominate the Yankees in 1998 or 1999 at the old Yankee Stadium in The Bronx. Currently hes considered the best pitcher in MLB, a title he has held for roughly 8 years. Watching Halladay throw the no hitter was like watching Picasso paint the Mona Lisa in front of 50,000 screaming fans. It was true artistry, a type of sublime beauty rarely seen in sports.
But what prompted me to finally make this post was when the Nobel Peace Prize was handed out yesterday to Liu Xiaobo, a Chinese dissident whose non-violent struggle to promote human rights in China earned him 11 years in state prison. This is a man who believes so completely in the concept of fundamental human freedoms that he was willing to sacrifice his life for it. His actions, and those of others like him such as the Dalai Lama, Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., and Ghandi, among others, are the pillars upon which we advance our species out of the mudpit of humanity. Being awarded the Nobel Peace Prize is a triumphant victory for Mr. Xiaobo, the people of China, and all citizens of the world. Will China change its humanitarian ways? Will the United States cease to intiate military conflicts throughout the world? Will the Israelis and the Palestinians finally make a truce and declare peace? Probably not overnight, and possibly not anytime soon. However, moments like these can become a turning points in struggles which seem unwinnable. It all begins with an idea, and people who belive so deeply in it that they are willing to sacrifice themselves to achieve it.
Life is short. We are only here on earth for a little while before our molecules and atoms decide to disippate back into the void. What should we do with our time here? When the tasks at hand seem annoying or overwhelming how does one proceed? Why cant we all just be happy all the time? These arent simple questions and there are no easy answers. The short version is that you simply have to focus yourself on the positive aspects of life which make you and those around you happy. Work is a bitch, dealing with your family can be hard, theres never enough free time to do all the things you want to. It never ends. But you can mitigate the hardship, you can reduce the bullshit, by not focusing on it. Get past it as best you can, even though it might not always be pretty. But Im here to tell you all that its worth it. Those few moments in life when everything crystalizes, everything comes together, and all the negative stuff seems a million miles away, those moments are worth it. They are few and far between, and sometimes they might be more subtle than the examples I have given, but they are worth it. Life is short, life certainly isnt easy, but it has moments which make it all worth the effort. Make the most of it, and enjoy it while it lasts.
Monday, October 4, 2010
So theres this PC game called Minecraft thats not even finished yet, not even into Beta yet, it looks like it runs on an N64, its made by a single guy with limited time and resources, and yet somehow, against all odds, its taking the PC gaming world by storm. A longtime poster on the IGN PC forum called it "the best pure game in over a decade." The game, which costs 10 Euros, sold so many copies on a single day in September that Paypal froze the developer's account, claiming "suspicious activity" and freezing almost $1M in assets and transactions.
The game is best described as a giant Lego set with monsters. It starts out as a building game, then turns into a mix of survival horror and tower defense with a whole bunch of crafting and exploration thrown in. The world is randomly generated each playthrough, the size of which is over 8 times the surface of the earth, and has day and night cycles, with weather planned for the future. The game has multiplayer, but its all still in Alpha, which means it has some bugs and oddities. But already, the game has a legendary reputation. People are calling in sick to work to play it, people are turning away from Starcraft 2, Civ 5 and Reach to play it, people are making entire cities, with roller coasters and river raft rides, people are designing life size algorithmic logic units in it, people are making TNT bombs as tall as skyscrapers and blowing mile deep holes in the blocky, pixelated earth - and crashing the servers for a couple hours with them. There is a rumor its going to come out on Steam eventually, but the price is probably going to go up to $20.
Wednesday, September 29, 2010
The first in a 3 part Crunchy Blog series on Ken Block's spectacular, amazing, preposterous, sublime, virtuoso stunt drift driving - also known as Gymkhana (jim-KA-na). If you guys think Ken shredding on this abandoned airfield is impressive, wait until you see videos 2 and 3. This is merely the warmup lap.
Friday, September 24, 2010
Tuesday, September 21, 2010
This video, wow, where do I even begin? It operates on more levels than an elevator and a Japanese RPG combined. First and foremost, I find the song and video to be completely hilarious - not to take anything away from ICP, but they take this music stuff seriously, this isnt some sketch comedy album. These guys have made millions of dollars with their music, and they have thousands of fans from around the world. Most of all, I am entertained by this video. They are entertainers, I am entertained: great success. Do I think that ICP make great music? Well, yes and no. Obviously, the people who bought the albums think its great and Im happy for them that they can enjoy the music in different ways than I can. Unfortunately for me, I cant enjoy it as purely music - I mean, is there even a melody? In terms of musical content, this registers on about the same level as closing a car door or sharpening a pencil - but couldnt you say the same thing about Brian Eno?
This song, "Miracles," has less melodic and rhythmic depth than a shampoo commercial - its literally a default demo beat for a drum machine played on a continuous loop. The lyrics are truly genius, although the guys cant rap for shit and their idea of rhyming is creative at best. There are many people who would argue that Insane Clown Posse are one of the worst musical acts in the history of the profession. I refute these arguments, and take the position that Insane Clown Posse are legitimate, talented artists with a unique vision which I happen to not share completely yet find totally hilarious: this isnt audiophile lie down on the carpet and turn the speakers up music, this isnt put on the headphones and bop to the beat inside your head music, this is get another can of cheap light beer and pass the joint music - and theres a time and a place for that, and I respect it. I mean, how the fuck do magnets work, really?
Friday, September 17, 2010
Saturday, September 11, 2010
Dead Space 2 was a game that I really didnt think needed a sequel. The original game was awesome in all its gory glory and had a great ending that seemed to be conclusive. If you havent played it, I really think its one of the must play solo experiences of this generation - especially if you like a good scare, and its available for download on the XBL marketplace. When they announced the sequel, my reaction was the same as when I heard about Bioshock 2 (and most sequels): they're gonna remake the same game and cash in again. When I saw this trailer, my opinion changed and now Im pumped for the game - from what I can tell its essentially Left 4 Dead Space, and thats a concept I can get on board with. Also of note, this music in this trailer is made by Mogwai - one of my favorite bands.
Tuesday, September 7, 2010
In a twist of fate only possible through the internet, a news clip about an attempted rape featuring a man from the projects of Hunstville Ala. was reworked into a song by a group of musicians in Brooklyn, who then uploaded the song onto youtube and iTunes and are now sharing the profits with the man and his family - enough money that the family is now going to move out of the projects. The song actually hit the Billboard Top 100 in August and has sold over 91,000 copies on iTunes.
Sunday, September 5, 2010
Sure, we've all played Gears of War 2 online or some other cold hearted bitch of a game which just slaps you down no matter how much love you show for it. We've all died at that one point in Ninja Gaiden or God of War where you really dont want to die - for the 30th time. We've all raged. But there are some people who take it to another level - they take rage as a form of art or entertainment. Chozo is one of those people.
The first minute or so, yeah, its pretty abrasive. But then it starts to take on a lyrical quality about halfway through, and has a couple hilarious moments like @ 0:50-1:15, and later on when one of the guys on his team asks him to call for medic - and a truly a classic moment in Team Fortress 2 gaming occurs. There are already mods made for TF2 and L4D2 using his voice samples. Whats next for Chozo? I think he should do voicework for games or anime, he clearly has some talent. Can you imagine being his roomate?
Wednesday, September 1, 2010
Pretty epic Zerg vs Terran match by two very high level players. I recommend watching the complete match (4 videos) in 1080P quality in fullscreen mode. The HD Starcraft announcer guy gets pretty excited although to his credit he knows the game very well and does provide good commentary. Watch the match closely and read the chat between the two players regarding game balance - in light of the final results it certainly makes for an interesting discussion.
Sunday, August 29, 2010
Im very interested in this game, its gotten good reviews and Im ready to buy it. There's only one problem: it doesnt have online coop - yet. Its being added via a patch "sometime in September." Right now the game, which is designed for coop play, is only playable with 2 people in local coop. While its great that the game features local coop, not shipping with online coop is a deal breaker for me: it means the game is unfinished.
Microsoft simply rushed the game out so it could be part of its Summer of Arcade promotion. On principle, I refuse to buy unfinished games which come with a "promise patch" to add features or fix horrible bugs in the future. No, Im not paying full price for a game thats 80% complete, because whats next, paying for a game thats 70% finished, or 60%? Do you see the problem with setting a precedent of paying for unfinished games? Publishers like Square Enix, once you give them inch, they take a mile. Ill buy the game, but only once its complete.
Tuesday, August 24, 2010
The Behemoth is one of those developers whose games I get legitimately pumped up for. Dan Paladin, the chief artist and visionary behind the company, has a unique design style that you will either love or hate. This will be the company's 3rd game, and judging from this trailer alone, it certainly has the potential to be their best.
Friday, August 20, 2010
Torchlight is pretty damn fun if you ever got into Diablo or similar dungeon crawling lootem ups. The graphics settings even have a netbook mode! Adding coop and multiplayer to such a solid formula has some serious potential. If it debuts at the same $20 price that the original did, its going to be an instant buy for me next April.
Wednesday, August 18, 2010
Not the greatest trailer, but it makes the point: this is the game that lets you create your own game. Like no, really make your own game - replete with cinematics, various camera angles, characters, dialogue, music, everything. The original LBP was one of the most ambitious games I ever played. The fact that it all worked so brilliantly online with community level sharing and rating resulted in me being so sucked into different peoples custom creations that I actually never even finished the developer created levels. They just sort of seemed like afterthought, really just a way to show players the ropes of the game and get them interested in creating. If fact, I was so interested in playing other peoples levels that I never ended up making my own. Mark my words, I wont make the same mistake twice with LittleBigPlanet 2.
Saturday, August 14, 2010
Rapture in the Sky? Im not even sure what to make of the trailer. Clouds of roses are cool and all, but how are they going to tie this into the underwater universe of the first two Bioshock games? Is it just an attempt to cash in on the Bioshock name, or will this actually be worth playing? Personally I would rather see Irrational Games move forward with a new IP rather than churn out Bioshock sequels every other year.
Monday, August 9, 2010
Simply put, Starcraft 2 is the best Real Time Strategy game Ive ever played. It sets the bar for the entire RTS genre and easily surpasses its peers in nearly every respect. There are other great RTS games, and saying that Starcraft 2 is better than them isnt my way of trying to diminish their greatness. Im just saying that as good as they are, this game has set the bar higher.
What games am I talking about here? The elite competition for Starcraft 2 in the RTS genre comes from the following games: Company of Heroes, Supreme Commander, Sins of a Solar Empire, Warhammer 40k: Dawn of War II, Warcraft 3, Age of Empires 3, and Command & Conquer Red Alert 3. Thats basically it. Below these games there is another class of very good RTS games which include World in Conflict, LOTR: BFME, Halo Wars, as well as other C&C games and older or more obscure titles like Rise of Nations. Each of these games has its nuances and unique qualities which makes them worth buying and worth playing. Depending on your taste, a game like Starcraft set in the future out in space may not appeal to you as much as something like Age of Empires. But its all window dressing for the core play mechanics. And even if you strip away the sci-fi the setting, the amazing graphics, the story, the layers and layers of production polish and all of battle.net, Starcraft 2 still eclipses all other games in the RTS genre simply based on the quality, depth, and balance of its gameplay.
Which hasnt changed much in over 12 years. Thats not to say that Blizzard didnt tweak anything with Starcraft 2 compared to its predecessor, but the resulting game is very similar to the original at first glance. Only if you played the original quite a fair bit will you notice how many changes and updates Blizzard has made to the formula, while maintaining the same overall look and feel. The game is easier to play, first and foremost, and you dont have to be some 300apm hotkey hotshot to enjoy the game and even play competitively. Using hotkeys and shortcuts will certainly speed up your play, but it isnt nearly as necessary as it was with the original game.
The graphics are probably the first thing most people will notice. This is one of the finest looking PC games to come along in quite some time. The cutscenes and in-game dialogue look positively phenomenal, right up there with Uncharted 2 as the very best I have ever seen. The gameplay itself is a technological marvel, as you can have hundreds upon hundreds of units on the screen all with rockets and lasers ablaze without suffering from the dreaded slowdown - and the whole thing looks amazing. There are some really nice looking RTS games out there too, but Blizzard has just outdone themselves with the combination of quality and performance you get in Starcraft 2. My system isnt nearly state of the art (core2 duo @ 3.2ghz 2GB RAM and a 512mb 3750 ati card) and it runs the game at a rock solid 30fps+ with all settings on HIGH, no matter what kind of crazy shit is happening on screen. Its incredible.
The main complaints that I have about the game are rather minimal. First and foremost, I suck at it. The game is hard simply by nature of the fact that A) RTS games are hard and B) Starcraft 2 is one of the deepest and most complex RTS games. But, I suck at chess, and many other games that are truly great but where extremely high level play is unattainable for all but the most passionately committed. I once posted an article from another blog called Insomnia about game complexity and depth, and the writer made an interesting observation:
It is indeed even possible to measure the absolute complexity of a game (and therefore its depth, and therefore the degree of skillful play that it allows) by simply measuring the maximum distance between the best and worst possible players. In our coin toss game that distance is zero. The best and worst possible players are forced to play exactly the same way (press the button; make a random guess), so that it is impossible for us to even distinguish them. In the most complex games yet made, Civilization, say, or Marvel vs. Capcom, or Supreme Commander, that distance is so great that the best player always towers above the worst like an invincible, untouchable god.
The lesson here is that you can enjoy a great, extremely deep and complex game like Chess or Starcraft 2 without ever becoming very good at it. Dont be discouraged by the complexity of the game - embrace it. You will become a better gamer because of it. Consider it a challenge and your incremental improvements will be very rewarding. The key is to always play someone - either a human opponent or a bot or an AI - who is slightly better than you. This is how you get better. If you play weaker opponents you will rarely have to correct your play to beat them, and making small corrections and improvements in each game results in wholesale changes over time. Battle.net, Blizzard's online service, has a full slew of matchmaking features which pit you against opponents at or slightly above your skill level. The system works perfectly as far as I can tell, and if you dont feel up for playing people its always a blast to play against the AI either by yourself or coop with a friend.
The single player campaign lasts 15-20 hours and is produced with a quality that has never before been seen in the RTS genre. I was initially concerned that Starcraft 2 would not ship with a Zerg and Protoss campaign, with Blizzard instead opting to make those DLC - werent we getting shorted? The answer is a resounding no. The Terran campaing is longer than the campaigns of all 3 races from the original game combined. Plus there are special challenge missions, secret missions, hallucinatory crytal meth missions (seriously), and more achievements than I have ever seen in any game before in my enitre life. The amount of single player content outside of battle.net is staggering and easily worth $60 alone.
I know a lot of the people who read this blog dont play RTS games and probably dont care about Starcraft 2 or PC gaming in general, and while I respect those people and their gaming choices, I almost feel bad for them because they are really missing out one of the best games of the year - if not all time. You just have to be up for the challenge (and your PC does also). Blizzard has created a masterpiece in Starcraft 2, its a game where everything just comes together - the technology, the story, the online features - to create something truly special that only happens a few times in a generation. While no game is perfect, Starcraft 2 is epic on a scale few games have ever reached.
Wednesday, August 4, 2010
I played a little bit of this last night and I have to say its quite fun. Its pretty different from the single player games in that there isnt a story or a leveling up system, and instead you just collect gold and loot from chests and monsters to upgrade your gear slowly but surely. Its a game thats going to take some grinding to complete. Also - its really, really not meant to be played by yourself, as in, you will just die over and over. The bosses have a ridiculous amount of health and require teamwork to take down effectively. Its a new spin on an old formula and although the game isnt meant for casual players or people unfamiliar with the franchise, personally Im loving it.
Saturday, July 31, 2010
Thursday, July 29, 2010
Monday, July 26, 2010
Wednesday, July 21, 2010
Your taste in music needs work - even if its already very good. You need to buy more new music, and explore new horizons. Im not saying that to any one person who reads this blog, Im saying it to everyone, because its true - and it applies to me as well.
Listening to music is extremely difficult. Anyone who tells you otherwise isnt really listening. Sure they may "hear" the music thats playing in the background, but they arent listening to it.
Truly listening to music, as an activity, has pretty much died off. Nowadays, people just throw on some MP3s while they surf the web, play some games, do work around the house, or exercise.
But how many of us really dedicate time not only to truly listening to music, but listening to new music or music which we dont think we like?
The answer is very very few. What was once an activity for the whole family in the 1960s, 70s and 80s has morphed into a pursuit for elitists and freaks - musicologists and audiophiles.
How many of us have an exhaustive collection of punk, rockabilly, jazz, hip hop, trance, dub, metal, funk, classic rock, bubblegum pop, classical, avante garde, blues, modern rock, reggae, world music, classic rap, and country - let alone the dozens of other genres I didnt list? None of us - and its shameful, and its simply because we are lazy.
You think music type X sucks? No, you suck, because you are too lazy and too closeminded to open your brain to trying something which is radically different.
You dont want to put in the effort to retrain your brain to like country music, or rap, or bubblegum pop, or whatever it is that you find unlistenable.
Im not saying that everything ever recorded is great. Im simply saying that for each genre, there are great artists and great albums, and if you cant appreciate them, its simply because you are either genetically defective, or you arent trying hard enough.
So stop making excuses and stop listening to the same thing over and over. To paraphrase the great George Clinton, Free your mind, And Your Ears Will Follow.
Monday, July 19, 2010
So after over a decade of waiting, Starcraft 2 is finally coming out next week. The beta test formally came to an end today, and having played it a fair amount I have to say Im excited for the full release. I think Blizzard is making a mistake by not launching the game on the 360 and PS3 at the same time as the PC version, but they have their own way of doing things and if the game is as successful as anticipated then even the Wii will probably see a port. Between this game and Civilization 5 coming out later this year, and The Old Republic next year, I have to say Im excited at the possibility of getting back into PC gaming. As you can see from my Steam card on the right, I havent been playing much at all lately, mostly just indie games and coin-op MAME stuff. Starcraft 2 has a great chance of being the game that finally pulls me away from my 360 for a while. Halo Wars is a great game, but Starcraft is a sport.
Saturday, July 17, 2010
Capcom has announced a "revolution in classic gaming" - MegaMan Universe. There are no real details about the game so far, but we know that its not a continuation of the 8 bit series. Is it a MegaMan MMO? LittleBigMegaMan with user created levels? Who knows. After the last two games in the series, its clear that the people at Capcom know what they are doing with this franchise, and personally I cant wait to see what this new iteration actually is, hopefully sooner rather than later.
Wednesday, July 14, 2010
Monday, July 12, 2010
This year one of my good poker buddies is playing in the WSOP Main Event, and believe it or not 97 year old Jack Ury is playing in it as well again in 2010. Thats the true beauty of poker - anyone can play it, and its a game you play for life. If you play basketball or football into your late 30s, you'd be considered lucky. Baseball players start to lose a step in their mid 30s, although some can play into their 40s, unlike other major sports. There are professional pool players in their 50s and 60s. Some folks can play games like tennis or Halo well into their 70s. For highly complex games like Chess or Bridge, the upper limit for competent play might be your late 80s. But poker is such a simple game, and requires no real physical effort other than sitting at the table, that there is no age limit. Something tells me I might not make it quite to the century mark, but but if I do, rest assured I will still be playing poker.
Friday, July 9, 2010
Sunday, July 4, 2010
Friday, July 2, 2010
It appears GLaDOS is still alive, how about the "readership" of this blog? I know you guys are out there lurking, you dont have to comment much just a one sentence quip will suffice to let me know if you find a post interesting. Ive been trying to post more, but its hard to get motivated to actually write, so its been mostly videos lately, and pretty random ones at that. Im still trying to get MD to create a new blog header. You guys have any ideas? Im thinking something along the lines of, CrunchyBlog 2.0 A completely random assortment of videos, game reviews, news, politics and poker.