Tuesday, December 20, 2011

Vomitron: No NES For The Wicked Review


Anything is possible. When I first heard some of the Vomitron NES covers in a youtube video and later on their myspace page over 2 years ago, I was stunned to learn that there were no plans to formally release them as an album. Nobody knew why, whether it was licensing, a lack of money, or the right label to do it, but Peter Rutcho, the musical virtuoso behind the name, was sure: the covers were a side project for fun that wouldnt ever be released.

But here we are now in 2011 and No NES For The Wicked sits in a CD jewel case right next to me, a shining example, physical proof that truly anything is possible, including the formal release of what is quite surely the greatest set of covers in the history of videogame music.

The album starts off with a sample of what sounds like someone trying to insert a NES cart and then seeing the infamous blinking screen, and the erupting stream of profanity. Surely any true old school gaming fan has experienced this moment. What was once the sqawky, 8bit buzzing coming out of your old tube TV, the opening strains of Contra have never sounded this good before. What follows is what can only be described as a massive wall of sound, compressed beyond the bounds of normalcy in an attempt to possibly end the loudness wars. The guitars arent just big, they are epic, in the same way that a Metallica or AC/DC album just explodes with distortion.

I never finished Blaster Master, but the inclusion of its soundtrack in this collection certainly confirms its classic status. While I would have probably preferred to hear the Dr Willy theme song from MegaMan 2, this track surprised me and Im glad it was included, having never heard it before. The Legend of Zelda 1 and 2 are fantastic - while I heard these both on myspace, hearing the increased fidelity available from an uncompressed 16bit 44.1khz audio CD really lets these tracks shine. Nintendo never could have dreamed of the Zelda 1 dungeon music sounding so frightening.

The album is great up until this section - and then you hear Ninja Gaiden Acts 1-3 for the very first time ever - these were never available online, and you realize that the finished album isnt just great - its fucking unbelievable. Every single tiny little nuance and transition part is represented. As a musician, I can only imagine the amount of time and effort that went into making this not only work, but flow so beautifully. Sitting there with his guitar or keyboard in hand and ear pressed the the audio output of his SDTV, Rutcho not only was faithful to the original music, he has elevated it to an entirely new level of greatness that I never could have imagined.

The sound design in the keyboard and guitar work is absolutely impeccable. How Rutcho was able the discern the slightest variations in the output of the NES sound chip and extrapolate the perfect tone and timbre for every different instrument and part is inspiring. He could have easily gone with a single buzzy square wave and a simple doubled guitar part, and it would have been effective, but listening to Double Dragon you hear a representation of the original music thats uncanny in how faithful it is to the original textures while being of much higher fidelity. The drum programming is also outstanding. Ninja Gaiden Acts IV-VI and the finale, Castlevainia, are stunning examples of what a single human being is capable of with the maximum amount of dedication, passion, and skill.

When writing about something of such high quality, its easy to just devolve into an endless sea of superlatives, yet writing anything more subtle seems like Im selling this album short. Ive listened to a fair number of chiptune tracks and NES cover bands, but Vomitron has ruined me, scarred me - for life.

Rating: 10/10 - Flawless Victory

Vomitron - "No NES For The Wicked" - Previewr by vomitron665

www.vomitron665.com

Friday, December 9, 2011

How to Win at The Game of Ebay


Ive been on ebay almost since the beginning, I think I started in '98 or '99, and Ive had at least 5 different accounts. Over this time span, I have bought and sold tens of thousands of dollars in items. A lot of music equipment, collectibles, gaming stuff, watches, computers - whatever had some value. In this time period I have learned a lot, and here Im going to share with you some of the best tips on maximizing your return on everyones favorite auction site - whether you are buying or selling.

BUYING

Let me just start off with the #1 most important tip - sniping. Just like in Halo and Gears, if you are a good sniper, you are going to go far. What is sniping? Its waiting until the very last possible moment to put in a bid. Now, why would you do this, when ebay allows you to proxy bid and will bid for you automatically? It has to do with human psychology, but basically, if early on in the auction you bid several times and send the item value up close to its maximum final value, it has the effect of making others compete with you to win the item. People want to win - they dont want to be outbid, and that final 5-15% extra that they will pay to outbid you really adds up over the course of dozens of auctions.

So you have two options, one wait by your computer until the auction ends and bid with 5 seconds left, or number two, using a sniping service. This is basically like having James Bond 007 on your team in Halo. Sure, you could attempt to snipe yourself, but you might hesitate at the last moment, miss the bid, forget, or bid too early. Its best to leave these things to the pros - and in this case that pro is a 100% free sniping service called Gixen. What they do is take your ebay information and item numbers, and automatically bid for you with just a few seconds left. Never buy an item without using Gixen, because you may end up paying much, much more than you would have otherwise.

OK, so now you are using Gixen, but how do you know how much to bid? This part of the game is all research based. What you do is enter your item # on ebay, and then select from the left column Show Only "choose more" and select COMPLETED LISTINGS. By doing this you will only see auctions which have already finished, the ones with green numbers are completed sales which you will base your research on. For example, a completed listings search for "korg microsampler" reveals that they have sold from $200-$350 - a huge range! You want to base your bid at the bottom of the completed listings range. In this case, a bid of $220-230 looks like you would be getting the best of it for a used model. You have to factor in shipping costs, because some sellers will charge significantly more than others.



So you enter in your bid in Gixen, then wait. Its very likely that you will be outbid, before Gixen is even able to enter your snipe bid, but dont despair. Ebay is all a numbers game. If you consistently target the same item and put in a good bid, a certain % of the time, maybe 20-30% of the time, you will take down the auction for a great price. Its very little work to save a lot of money. So for every 5 snipes you enter, expect to win the item for what you want to pay. Once you get a feel for how the system works, you will be taking down great deals in no time.

There are so many little tricks and tips I could list here but I dont want this post to go on forever, so I may break it up into two parts, but let me at least mention a few more buying tips. You have a better chance of winning items that end on a weekday afternoon, or early evening, because people often cant bid from work or while they are stuck in traffic. Sometimes, you will see an item for a great buy it now price. If its very close to your target price, it may be worth pulling the trigger. But if there is an option to MAKE OFFER next to BUY IT NOW, always, let me repeat, ALWAYS attempt to make an offer first. You can often catch a seller desperate to turn a quick sale and get a price 10-30% less than the posted buy it now price.

In terms of buying, you usually want to see sellers with 99-100% feedback with a score over 20, but you can also get some great deals targeting sellers with low or even zero feedback. If you do target an item from a seller with 0-10 feedback, or a seller with a few negatives, always contact the seller first via email, and ask as many questions as possible. You can usually get a good sense from how quickly they respond and how detailed their response is to whether they are likely to deliver your item as described and on time. Sometimes, its just a gamble but you have to think like a gambler to maximize your time on ebay. If you bid on something from a seller with zero feedback, the bid has an expected value which is lower than a bid on an item from a highly reputable seller.

Recently I took a gamble with a zero feedback seller on a vintage casio keyboard which I had seen sell from $120-300. The listing had no pictures and a very short, one line description. Sketchy looking, to say the least. I emailed the seller and got a good response, so I put a bid into Gixen of $85, and won the thing for $60+20 shipping. I got it in a slightly beat up box a week later and the keyboard was in great shape. This is an item I could easily take and relist on my perfect feedback account, with a detailed description and pictures, for $250. When I bid I figured about 25% of the time I would not receive the item or it would come damaged or not as described, but this happening one in four times is more than outweighed when I do get the item as described 75% of the time and am able to resell it for a lot more money.

I hope this post has been helpful to all you out there who use ebay, and if you are interested and I drink enough caffeinated beverages I will come back with a part 2 on selling.

Sunday, December 4, 2011

Most Expensive Car Crash Ever



8 Ferraris, a couple benzos, a lambo - 14 total! Everyone was OK. Holy shit!



SUPERCRASH

Monday, November 28, 2011

Sunday, November 20, 2011

Nascar Finale for the Ages


Tony Stewart won his third and by far most impressive Nascar Championship today. Im a casual Nascar fan at best but I dont think any true racing fan could deny the drama that Sundays race provided. Stewart - totally out of contention when the Chase for the Sprint Cup began months ago, proved all doubters wrong, winning 5 of the last 10 races, and beating the one man ahead of him in points in the last race of the season, where they finished first and second.

Carl Edwards and Stewart actually finished with the exact same number of points, but because Steward had won 5 races, he was awarded the Cup. It was an impressive display of racing ability, with Stewart coming from 40th place due to car damage to eventually take first with a risky fuel management strategy, even though Edwards started the race in pole position and lead for the majority of the race. He just couldnt hold off Stewart, who used aggression masterfully, passing other cars on the inside and outside as they raced around turns 3 and even 4 cars wide. Like I said before, I dont watch much Nascar, but I made sure to catch this race - and it was truly a classic.

If racing is relevant to your interests, make sure you watch the Tony Stewart vs Lewis Hamilton Seat Swap Special Race, where in June 2011 the drivers swapped Nascar and F1 cars to test their skills against each other. Its a 6 part series on youtube, the first part of which is presented here.

Tuesday, November 15, 2011

GT: Legend of Zelda: Skyward Sword Review


Cannot wait to play this game. All signs point to it being the greatest Zelda yet.

Sunday, November 13, 2011

LOL Worlds Hardest Game



Just a time waster flash game. Went straight to final level - took about 5mins.

I think the game took about as long to design as it does to finish. Grade: D-

The Worlds Hardest Game

Wednesday, November 2, 2011

GTA V Debut Trailer


Run CJ, run! At least Im pretty sure thats CJ from San Andreas running away from the cops towards the end of the trailer, probably going to meet Brucie flying in from Liberty City in that executive jet shown at the very end. At least, thats what Im hoping. As great as GTA IV was, I always felt it didnt quite live up to the vast, sprawling world of mini games, stunt flying, pot field flamethrowering, and BMX cop chases that was San Andreas. Dont get me wrong, GTA IV was amazing, one of the best written and highest "production value" video games ever made, but they spent so much on the story and world detail that they left a lot of the best gameplay features of San Andreas out. Now that Rockstar has had years to master the hardware, and plenty of time and money to develop the next iteration with hefty profits from Red Dead Redemption and L.A. Noir, anything less than the best GTA game ever made will be a disappointment.

Friday, October 28, 2011

Cards Win Game 6, Down to Last Strike Twice

One of the classic World Series games of all time was played last night. With the St. Louis Cardinals trailing by 2 headed into the bottom of the ninth, and the Texas Rangers one strike away from their first championship in franchise history, the Cards got a 2 run triple to tie the game and send it into extra innings. Not to be outdone, the Rangers immediately responded with a 2 run home run to take a 9-7 lead.

The crowd was silent in St Louis, as coming back from 2 runs down in the last frame is at best a 10-1 shot, and they had already captured lightning in a bottle once in the 9th inning. But destiny smiled upon the Cards, who would not fold, and once again down to their last strike in the bottom of the 10th, with Texas one pitch away from winning it all, managed to come off the mat and tie the game AGAIN. They held Texas at 9-9 for the next half inning, and when they took the field again, won the game with a majestic, epic walk off home run to dead center field to clinch a game 7 appearance.

The only comparison I can make is to the Mets in the 1999 NLCS, who just would not die, and this years Tampa Bay Rays. Tomorrow surely cant live up to what we saw tonight - but one thing is certain, we will finally see a champion emerge from a 7 game World Series for the ages.

Tuesday, October 25, 2011

GT Battlefield 3 Review


Is this is best multiplayer FPS game ever made? Only one way to find out...

Monday, October 17, 2011

Metal Gear Solid HD Collection - Gameplay



The 1080p 60FPS upgrade of Metal Gear Solid 2: Sons of Liberty (PS2), Metal Gear Solid 3: Snake Eater (PS2), and Metal Gear Solid: Peace Walker (PSP) is right around the corner, coming out on November 8th. I forgot to mention this collection as one of the titles I will definitely be purchasing this year. Its coming out on the Xbox 360 as well as PS3, and at this point Im not 100% which console I will be purchasing it for, but I will probably get the limited edition which comes with a nice 250 page art book. The game is epic like that.

Metal Gear is the defining franchise of the stealth action genre, with all due regards to Sam Fischer and Splinter Cell, because the singular artistic vision of Hideo Kojima has never been compromised in the history of the game's production. Say what you will about the convoluted plot and cutscenes which approached the length of short films by release of MGS4, the stealth gameplay in MGS remains unmatched. Im not sure how the series will fair with the future release of MGS: Rising sometime next year, what with the central character being Raiden and the gameplay focused around sword fighting, but as long as Kojima-san is at the helm, Im sure the title will be be a true Metal Gear game.

Wednesday, October 12, 2011

Sunday, October 9, 2011

Star Wars: The Old Republic: Beta Impressions



This is not footage I took, or even of the same class I was playing, but it should give you a basic idea of what the early part of Bioware's $100M MMO should be like. Now I know what you are thinking, $100M gets me this? Shouldnt it be, you know, a bit more impressive? Well I have to agree, it doesnt look like something that couldnt have been made 10 years ago in terms of the gameplay and overall presentation/design of the game. But unfortunately ALL MMOs are like this, they cant deviate too much from the baseline without alienating the base of players who pay to play them.

In terms of the graphical fidelity and performance, I think the game looks good but its not even remotely close to being stunning, in fact, its fairly dated looking. The walking and combat animations are passable, but weaker than The Force Unleashed. I actually like the anime Clone Wars stylized art design of TOR, and the game runs pretty smoothly on a decent dual core machine with a year old 512MB videocard, and the CGI cutscenes, of which there are plenty, are truly awesome - so those are the positives.

The negatives are many, starting with the bugs and glitches, which are abundant. I was able to totally break the game within a few hours, rendering a character unplayable by glitching into the geometry behind a building and ending up in an underwater soup, stuck in a swimming animation where I was unable to use my teleport ability. The quests seemed to work fairly well compared to the prehistoric game physics, but in general they were pretty boring and basic - just far too conventional - go fetch this, scan that, kill X number of these. I was just soloing most of the time and got up to around level 8. My main complaint is that the combat is pretty MMO-like and clunky (click mouse button, hit hotkey, repeat) and not in any way an improvement over KOTOR - but not any worse either.

That being said, its still addictive - I played till 6am and was entertained most of the time, even thought the whole thing was a bit bland feeling, it gives you that RPG itch where you want to see just one more ability, one more item, one more level. Also, the community aspect of it is great - I got stuck on one quest and almost quit when I realized there were 4-5 people in my area doing the same quest, so I just hit "Enter" and typed in "HOW DO YOU SCAN THE DROIDS?" and quickly got a response. Also, a guy randomly healed me a few times when I was down, and a couple times players would see me battling with a group of monsters way bigger and tougher than myself, and jump in to help once I got down to 20% health and started to flee.

Im going to buy the game, because every few years I try to get into a big new MMO and give the genre another shot, and furthermore, I did enjoy KOTOR 1 and 2 and Im a fan of the films, if not as much of a fan as I used to be. But I wont be paying for a year up front. The beta is good in that it has you rate the quality and "fun" of each quest and allows you to submit bug reports with screenshots from an in game menu, so I think they will improve the experience a bit in the 10 weeks they have before the game releases (its only a one weekend beta). But for $100M, they need to impress me a lot more if they want my $15 every month - Im talking space combat, awesome ground vehicles, balanced PvP, huge PvE siege raids, big bosses, and epic storytelling. Right now, Im not sure the game will deliver on any of those things. Only buying the finished product and getting up to a high level will tell. See you all on there December 20th.

Wednesday, October 5, 2011

Bing Blang Blaow



$50
>BANKWIRE
>ATM
>TITTIES

Saturday, October 1, 2011

Dark Souls - Digital S&M



I played a bit of Demons Souls and watched ubercrunch play through it on his PS3. It was one of the more painful experiences Ive ever had watching someone else play a game, and playing it myself wasnt exactly what I would call fun. The game didnt just kill you. It kicked you in the balls, spat on your face, and mocked you while wept. Apparently, the sequel Dark Souls, not only mocks you while you are weeping, it vivisects you with a rusty screwdriver, lets the vultures finish off your entrails, then rapes your corpse repeatedly and films it for your family to watch.

Its not just the difficulty, but the way the entire game is presented. It is sadistic by design. It is designed to break you mentally. The official IGN review refers FROM Software's unnatural desire to unleash the player into "harrowing spirals of despondency and self-pity." One hit kills. Permanent item loss. Curse effects which stack repeatedly - enough to ruin a gamesave. To say the least, the game isnt for everyone.

Apparently, its also a masterpiece for those who are brave enough to spend the requisite 60-100 hours of grinding and thousands of deaths necessary to reach the finish. As you might have guessed, I wont be one of those players. To those who will attempt the journey, I salute you.

You sick, sick masochistic fuckers.

Thursday, September 29, 2011

The Greatest Game - The Greatest Night

Baseball is such a beautiful game. 162 games is an absolute grind of a season for the players, but for the fans its an absolute delight, especially when it ends like it did last night. Wednesday, September 28th might very well go down as the greatest single day in baseball history. No less than four teams entered the day completely tied for wild card spots, one in each league. I knew it was going to be a special day to be a baseball fan, and cleared everything from my evening plans except being glued to the TV, but nothing could prepare me for what I was about to see.

Such was the drama, excitement, astonishment, and wonder of last nights games that I feel that such words really are almost meaningless in trying to describe it. This is coming from a hardcore Yankees fan, and the Yankees lost last night, in what I can only describe as the greatest single game comeback I have ever witnessed. But what made the comeback so incredible, so indelible, was that it completed a season long comeback by the Tampa Bay Devil Rays to capture the wild card spot which defied every law of logic and physics. At the beginning of September, the statistical geniuses at Baseball Prospectus rated Tampa's chances of winning the AL wild card at POINT ONE % (.1%): the Red Sox were a lock to win a playoff spot.

What happened is completely beyond imagination: Boston started losing games at a historic rate, and Tampa rapidly closed the gap with solid, winning play day after day. Last night, Tampa needed Boston to lose, and they had to win in order to secure a playoff spot. If both teams won or lost, they would play a one game playoff for the wild card spot. When the Yankees took a 7-0 lead vs Tampa, and Boston had their ace closer Jon Papelbon on the mound with the lead in the 9th innning against the lowly Baltimore Orioles, it seemed the cards had all fallen and destiny was set. But it was not to be. http://www.blogger.com/img/blank.gif

Not only did Papelbon blow the save, and lose the game to a walkoff hit, but Evan Longoria and Dan Johnson etched their names into the history books with one of the most clutch performances in the history of sports. Longoria hit a 3 run home run in the 8th inning to pull the Rays within one run of the mighty Yanks at 6-7, and Dan Johnson hit an absolutely insane pinch hit, bottom of the ninth, two out, two strike home run to tie the game and send it into extra innings. Longoria ended it in the 12th inning with a walkoff home run which barely scraped out of the stadium and completed the greatest comeback in baseball history. The plot of The Natural is more believable.

And I havent even talked about what happened in the National League. I dont think I can. Im too exhausted, too excited... This is why we watch sports, for moments like this. Moments that define an era, define a career, and help to define our lives.

Monday, September 26, 2011

Madeon - Pop Culture



39 tracks go into Ableton Live, and only comes out, a quarter note at a time.

Thursday, September 22, 2011

I got it

No internet yet. Time Warner Business Class is possibly the worst experience Ive ever had with any company ever. On the plus side, Ive found the Android Blogger app and this is the first test post using just my phone. Its a pretty cool app but I cant set the time to be 4:20 which is a major design failure in my opinion.

If everything goes perfectly, I will be back online Friday night. While Ive been offline I think about you guys all the time and all the great games and fun Ive been missing. Single player games are fine - Ive almost got every star in New Super Mario Bros Wii and I rolled a 2799 in 100 pin bowling. Started GTAIV again. Played about 100 matches of Starcraft 2 vs the AI. But online gaming is really what keeps me coming back, keeps me playing for more then an hour or two. Its been way too long, and at this point Im absolutely dying to get back.

The Train aint sitting on the sidelines for this game. WHOOOOO!


Thursday, September 15, 2011

Gears of War 3 Review


Next Tuesday can't come soon enough...

EDIT: The "DLC SUCKS AND HERE'S WHY" rant:

It appears that those responsible for Gears of War have taken a liking to the Mortal Kombat / Street Fighter / Blazblue strategy, selling mountains of downloadable crap like there's no tomorrow. Besides the usual slew of avatar dress-up fare (and there's a lot of it), they've gone buck wild in creating a HUGE variety of very expensive skins to dress up your weapons. These don't come cheap at $4 per pack, allowing you to paint your guns with flames, camo, lightening, or flowers among many other designs. If you really have the itch to collect 'em all and feel the need to buy the complete pack, it'll run you a whopping $40. That's right, $40 USD... for alternate weapon colors... FORTY F***ING DOLLARS.

I rest my case.

Saturday, September 10, 2011

Sine Mora







Sine Mora (シネモラ, shine mora) is a single-player diesel-punk shoot 'em up developed by Grasshopper Manufacture and Digital Reality. It is scheduled to be released on XBLA and PSN in January 2012. Aesthetically, this reminds me of Progear No Arashi, making this downloadable title pretty hard for me to resist.

CLICK ON THUMBNAILS BELOW TO ENLARGE













Monday, September 5, 2011

GT Dead Island Review



So Co-optimus gave it a 5/5, saying the graphics and combat are awesome, Eurogamer gave it a 6/10, saying the graphics and combat are crap, and the guys at Team Xbox gave it a 9/10. Apparently, the whole game is just designed to be played 4 player coop and take some 30 odd hours to finish, with also a new game + mode. If I had to guess, I would say Darth Mikal is probably gonna play this game for 200+ hours. Im certainly very interested, but also Gears is looming. What do you think?

Friday, August 19, 2011

Ken Block's Gymkhana 4: Hollywood



Ken Block takes his talents to Universal Studios in for a masterclass in drifting.

Wednesday, August 10, 2011

Shadow of the Colossus HD - Intro


One of the greatest games of all time has been remade for the PS3 in HD.

Tuesday, July 26, 2011

Glitchin Out



Im not sure how this happened, or how its even possible, but I guess after Microsoft glitched my gamertag out of existence a few years back, I shouldnt be surprised that I can no longer check or send messages on xbox.com. Furthermore, my yahoo mail account has become glitched in a similar fashion, in that I can sign in but it wont actually let me access the mail on the server. Im not sure if Blank or Bender sent me too many messages, but as of now I have no idea how to fix it as there is no correlation to the OS Im running, the computer Im using, or any password/login issue. At this point, being out of options Im going to have to ask Bender and Blank to undo whatever it is they did to my various accounts, and unleash Portal Cat as the digital protectorate of my domain.

Photobucket

Monday, July 18, 2011

Friday, July 15, 2011

GT: Ms Splosion Man Review


Its looks pretty fucking crazy. Im definitely getting it soon. Twisted Pixel FTW.

Wednesday, July 13, 2011

The Pharcyde - Passin Me By



Kanye West's favorite album of all time is The Pharcyde's 1991 debut album Bizarre Ride II. Its considered a seminal classic of jazz and groove influenced hiphop, at a time when gangster rap was dominant. The story behind the making of the album is that the producer and one of the founding members of the group, J-Swift, wrote 15 of the 16 tracks, using samples, drum machines, and his own bass and keyboard playing, only to get into a disagreement with the other group members and eventually get kicked out.

He received no credit or compensation for his work on the album. Although other opportunities arose following the success of Bizarre Ride II, such as a short lived deal with Tommy Boy, by the late 1990s J-Swift had lost his studio, and was homeless in L.A., begging change to buy crack. His story is the basis of the 2007 documentary "1 More Hit" which chronicles his descent from visionary hip hop producer to total destitution. Its a cautionary tale - no matter how talented or successful you are, if you let people take advantage of you - they will. And if you dont check your head - nobody else will.

Monday, July 11, 2011

A Message From GLaDOS about Burnout Crash


Ive been forwarded this message by Criterion about Burnout Crash - its from Portal's GLaDOS, who is apparently a fan:

"It was so nice if you to think of us when you were designing your new game! I am just delighted. My core heart processor units have become warm watching this video! Really, I couldnt possibly be more happy for you. All those years of work and crash-testing have finally paid off. Congrats Criterion, you're really making the game we at Aperture Science want to play - and hats off to you. Full salute! Burnout Crash looks so great, you could just quit right now and you would probably never be surpassed in the history of videogames. In fact, Criterion, just stop. Stop it right now! You are making the other developers look bad! Shame on you. Gain some sense of modesty, and then come back when you have a more humble product, one more fitting for our 5 second, twitterized attention spans. As it is right now, you're just spoiling us!"

Thursday, July 7, 2011

This Is Burnout Crash...



... and, no, I'm not kidding:

"I do believe Criterion's heart is in the right place, but having waited so long for another game bearing the Burnout name, I must say I wasn't expecting what Burnout Crash delivers. You'll hear comparisons to the original Grand Theft Auto with an explode button and Micro Machines with dynamite, but I hesitate to call this game Burnout." - Peter Eykemans of IGN.com

Sunday, July 3, 2011

Say Hello To The New Boss


Its no secret who has been the best player in Mens Tennis in 2011. Today was just the affirmation - the coronation if you will. There is no doubt about it: Novak Djokovic is the top player in the world, which he proved with an absolutely dominating performance Sunday against Rafa Nadal. To be honest, I thought the match would be a bit closer. Nadal didnt play a great match, and The Djoker, in his own words, played the best grass match of his entire life. In 2011, Rafa is 0-5 vs Novak and doesnt appear close to solving the riddle. For the Djoker, the only thing left to prove is if he is one of the all time greats.

Wednesday, June 29, 2011

Bronx Bombers Kicking Into High Gear

After another positively explosive night Tuesday against the Brewers, the New York Yankees head into tonights game as the best team in baseball. These are truly the Bronx Bombers of lore - they head into this evening's contest with 113 home runs hit - 20 more than Texas, and their runs scored/runs allowed differential is by far the best in baseball at +107. The next closest team, the Boston Red Sox, have a comparatively modest run differential of +80, but somehow the Yanks havent quite figured out how to beat the Bosox this year, with a paltry 1-8 record vs their archrivals. After a few years of cooling off, both teams are now very strong and it looks like this rivalry is heating up again. Look for a close pennant race in the AL East and big games between these two rivals going down the stretch in August in September. The Yankees have two key starting pitchers coming off the disabled list this week and next week, and Jeter will soon return to the lineup 100% healthy, and with players like Mark Teixeira absolutely on fire, I expect them to put up a very strong run over the next few months. This team is going to the World Series.

Thursday, June 23, 2011

Doublefine's Trenched Looks Great



This mech based tower defense game by Doublefine has gotten some nice reviews already, and the whole game can be played coop by up to 4 players over Xbox Live!

Sunday, June 19, 2011

Skyrim



It's been a long time since I've been overwhelming excited about a videogame. It's not often that a game's story, characters, mechanics, art direction or graphics lure me in enough to make a day-one purchase. Skyrim, though, has me flashing back to the awe that was Oblivion and the 130+ hours of my life that I willingly gave to it. Maybe it's the era, maybe the dragons, or maybe just the music, but something has me way too excited about spending $60 on November 11th.

Wednesday, June 8, 2011

Gears 3 Campaign Trailer



Epic gets an A+ for their choice of music for this trailer!

Sunday, June 5, 2011

Rock, Paper, Scissors in Mens Tennis


2011 French Open champ Raphael Nadal is ranked #1 in the world, but he cant beat the #2 ranked player. The #2 ranked player, Novak Djokovich, just lost in the semifinals to the #3 player, Roger Federer - who hasnt beat Nadal in a big spot in 5 years. Its a game of rock, paper, scissors which is going back and forth each tournament. The game of tennis is being played in an incredibly high level by these 3 players - had any of them played in another era they might have won 20 grand slams.

That sounds like an insane exaggeration, but does anyone really think Pistol Pete Sampras, John McEnroe, Jimmy Connors or Ivan Lendl in their prime could take even a set off either of these 3 guys right now? In the 1970s, 80s and 90s, let alone before then, players just were not hitting the ball as hard or with the same level of spin as players like Rafa, Fed, and The Djoker do now. The court has gotten smaller as a result. Could a counter puncher like early 1990s Michael Chang even crack the top 10 in todays game? I dont know, but its a great time to be a tennis fan.

Wednesday, June 1, 2011

Kebu - Analog Synth Madness


Crazy jams by a guy on an audio engineering forum I frequent, its 100% analog snyths & percussion, recorded to an old school cassette 4 track. Awesome!



This is a Roland Jupiter 6 analog synth being played through an oscilloscope, which provides a visualization of the waveform. I find it absolutely fascinating.

Wednesday, May 25, 2011

2011 NBA Playoffs Reaching New Heights



Ive been fairly disenchanted by the NBA for the past decade or so. While Im certain that the extremely low level of play by my hometown New York Knicks over this time period has been the main reason, the play around the league is often lackluster and lackadaisical outside of the postseason, which has been dominated by the L.A. Lakers, who won 5 championships in the past 10 years.

I watch some regular season games, and usually a fair number of playoff games, whether or not the Knicks are in it or not, which they havent been until 2011 (they were punched out in the first round and didnt play well). Pro basketball is my fourth favorite sport, behind tennis, the NFL, and MLB. And right now Im more excited about the NBA than I have been since I was in college in the last century - and the Knicks arent even in it. The level of play in the NBA this year is reaching new heights, and harkens back to the golden era of the 1980s NBA.

Its really been exemplified by this latest round of Division Finals. Every team has superstars, every team passes the ball and plays hard defense, every team shoots well and grabs rebounds, and the games have just been incredible. I dont even know who Im rooting for, but Im jumping out of my chair and shouting at the end of some of these games. After the Mavs closed it out tonight, its looking like they will play Miami in the NBA Finals. Its an amazing matchup that features some of the best players since the days of Magic, Michael and Larry. Dwayne Wade is one of the most clutch performers I have ever seen in any game or sport - look for him to be a determining factor when the game is one the line.

Monday, May 23, 2011

Epic Burnout 3 PS2 Mod - Bus Road Rage



Umopapisdnpuaq
found this cool PS2 mod floating around on youtube.

Friday, May 20, 2011

Chronic's Guide to Takeout Food

As gamers, we tend not to focus on human necessities, like eating and sleeping. As a result of this single minded dedication to blipping, we eat a lot of takeout food, and a lot of snacks. With this in mind, here are some tips on how to handle your leftover takeout food.

-TWO HOURS is the maximum amount of time you want to leave something unrefrigerated. ONE single bacterium can turn into 64 at room temperature in 2 hours, and turn into 2 million in seven hours!

-If you arent going to eat something within 2 hours, throw it in the fridge or simply throw it out!

-You should plan on eating leftovers within 48 hours of putting them in the fridge. Refrigeration slows the growth of bacteria, but doesnt stop it. Items left in the fridge for 3 days or longer should be TOSSED OUT without hesitation.

-Make sure you safely reheat your food. Many of the containers that takeout food are served in are not microwave safe, or are made of types of plastic that may leak microscopic particles into your food if heated too greatly. Use a ceramic plate or bowl whenever possible.

Now You Know! And Knowing is Half The Battle!

Saturday, May 7, 2011

Burnout Crash Gameplay Reveal Trailer



Bender has discovered that Burnout Crash is NOT going to be the epic "Burnout 3 in HD" remake we had all hoped for. Instead, its going to basically be what you see above, but with "2011" particle effects, textures, and damage modeling. Why would you do this to us Criterion? It seems with each new Burnout game, I care less.

Wednesday, April 27, 2011

Sony's Epic PSN Security Fail


So it turns out the reason the PSN has been down for a week is it is being rebuilt from the ground up as the result of a hacker attack which compromised the account details of some 77 million PSN users. Apparently, the intrusion revealed fundamental flaws in the infrastructure of Sony's network, such that it had to be completely brought offline and redesigned. Its an epic failure which caps a seemingly endless series of blunders for Sony's troubled console, which has finally been generating some profits after years of lagging far behind Microsoft and Nintendo's offerings.

This is all right on the heels of Nintendo announcing that their successor to the Wii was in the works and will be playable at E3 this year, and that it would boast significantly more power than any current offering. If Sony wants to take the lead back in the next generation of consoles, they need to start repairing their brand and their image immediately. To compete with Nintendo and Microsoft, Sony's next console needs to be smaller, cheaper, faster, better, and then even if the developers work miracles with it, Sony might find it hard to sell units after so many debacles this generation. PSN and the whole online experience for the Playstation has so much potential because of its open nature - unlike Microsoft's closed off Xbox Live (let alone Nintendo's half assed efforts) - but the speed, quality, and security of Sony's online service needs a major overhaul if it wants to compete over the next 5-10 years.

Tuesday, April 26, 2011

Poker's Black Friday

So while I was offline I didnt have a chance to talk about poker's Black Friday, April 15th 2011, when the Dept of Justice effectively shut down the 3 biggest online poker operators in the US. All there is to say really is that it sucks. Even though I never had any huge scores online I was in the black on both sites, and it paid some bills here and there. But learning to play online was absolutely instrumental in my education as a poker player, because you get to see so quickly how certain adjustments you make to your game improve it, and your leaks become readily apparent as thousands of hand histories build up in your database in a matter of hours.

Ive been trying to improve at Pot Limit Omaha and mixed games playing online, and now that opportunity for rapid improvement is gone. Mixed games in casinos are rarely spread at stakes low enough to make learning the games affordable, and the speed of live play makes the learning process much slower. Im fairly weak at stud games like Razz and 7 Card Stud Eight or Better, and pretty much clueless about games like Badugi and 5 Card draw which arent even spread live, and given the evaporation of online poker for US players, its highly unlikely Im going to improve at them anytime soon. Thats really unfortunate as I feel like my growth as a player is being halted artificially.

So Im going to do what most American poker players are doing - just get back to old fashioned "sit at a table and stare the man across from you in the eye and guess whether he has it" poker. The NYC poker scene is pretty good and hopefully I will start motivating for more trips to Atlantic City. If any of you are looking for a game, shoot me a line :-)

Saturday, April 23, 2011

Shine On You Crazy Blade Runner



Early 1980s synthesizer nirvana. Headphones people. HEADPHONES.

Wednesday, April 20, 2011

Thursday, April 14, 2011

Outland



Finally, the Ikaruga of platformers is coming out on 4/26 for PSN and 4/27 for XBLA. My god this looks incredible.

Wednesday, April 13, 2011

Street Fighter X Tekken















Capcom has officially announced that Super Street Fighter IV Arcade Edition will be the end of the Street Fighter IV Series. So what are they working on? Besides being hard at work to bring us a revamped Street Fighter 3 Online Edition, their main project has been Street Fighter X(Cross) Tekken:



They are advertising "dozens of playable characters" including Ryu, Ken, Guile, Abel, and Chun-Li from Street Fighter as well as Kazuya, Nina, King, Marduk, and Bob from Tekken.

Similar to Marvel vs Capcom, you fight as a team of two and switch between characters at will. The controls will be a standard SF, 6-button layout, but they're saying that Tekken fighters can be used just as they were in the Tekken series, using its 4-button layout.

In addition to the online features from SSFIV, SFxT features "totally upgraded online functionality and some new surprises." Whatever the hell that means. It's estimated to be released May-ish 2012.

I have to say, I'm pretty excited that SFIV has been given it's last iteration. I am somewhat of a Capcom fanboy (although I didn't get into MVC3), but that doesn't mean I love their franchise-milking strategies. It'll be nice to see some new fighters in the SF universe, especially if their inclusion will be changing up the fighting mechanics.

Sunday, April 10, 2011

I'll Be Back...
























- Chronic

Thursday, April 7, 2011

SSFIV Arcade Edition



Chronic has stepped out for an uncertain number of days and asked me to keep the blog alive in the interim. I'll try not to sway too far from Chronic-related info, but sometimes I won't be able to help myself. Luckily, he likes Street Fighter almost as much as I do...

As many had guessed, the countless changes and additions that made it into the Japanese arcade release of Super Street Fighter IV are coming home to 360, PS3, and PC. Along with the addition of 4 characters and added features come an insane number of balancing tweaks, evening out the roster as a whole. AE is rumored to be released on June 7th for $15 on XBL and PSN. Also coming later in June is a complete disc version for those you don't yet have Street Fighter (or have a PC), but the price has not been announced.

Points from the trailer:

Yang, Yun, Evil Ryu and Oni added to the roster
• This will be a DLC (Downloadable Content) release
• The console version will receive a "Supercharged online upgrade"
• Replay Channel has been enhanced, allowing you to send favorite replays to others
• The Elite Channel will let people view plays of players with a PP total of 3,000+
• A Replay Follower will be available, allowing you to track well known players
• Support for additional alternative costumes
• Character balancing tweaks from the Arcade Edition release
• Your chosen title is now shown in game, along with Battle and Player Points
• Versus Battles against regular SSFIV players will also be supported

Wednesday, April 6, 2011

Tutorial: How to make Hip Hop Hits



Takes the concept of a production "tutorial" to an entirely new level.

Sunday, April 3, 2011

New Burnout Game in Development




"The Australian Classification Board has rated a new Burnout title from
Electronic Arts.

First reported by Gamerbytes, the title is called Burnout Crash, and a search on social network website LinkedIn reveals it will be for Xbox 360 and Playstation 3.
Gamerbytes notes that typically only unannounced, downloadable titles are leaked early by ratings boards, not retail games. They also suggest Burnout Crash could be centered around Burnout 3 and Burnout Revenge's Crash Mode, which was missing from Burnout Paradise.

We've reached out to Electronic Arts for comment." -IGN.com

Bangai-O HD: Missile Fury - Weapons Trailer



I have absolutely no idea what is happening on the screen, but it looks amazing.

Thursday, March 31, 2011

Katy Perry - "E.T." (featuring Kanye West)



If you havent heard this song yet, stop what you are doing, plug in the headphones (yes go get them right now) and take a listen. The official video for this song was just released yesterday, but the lyrics video they did for it might be even better.

Wednesday, March 30, 2011

Battlefield 3: Fault Line Trailer


This was featured on IGN as footage which shows that BF3 can give the Call of Duty franchise a "run for its money," but Im not really sure I agree with that assessment. Call of Duty, to me, means an intense single player experience with multiplayer as an add on, while Battlefield I think of as primarily a multiplayer game - as it has always had dedicated servers. But the Battlefield games we get on consoles dont live up to their PC counterparts, whereas Call of Duty is essentially the same on all platforms. Battlefield Bad Company 2 is a very good game on the 360 - but its a great game on the PC, provided you have the proper hardware to run it. Will Battlefield 3 break the mold?

I dont think so, and I think its specifically for this reason I will be buying it on the PC. The current generation of consoles is lagging badly behind current gen PCs, because we have essentially skipped a generation. Due to the Great Recession, we wont even have a console to fit in between the 360 and whatever uber-monstrosity Microsoft is currently cooking up. Developers are shoehorning next gen concepts into consoles with 512MB of RAM. This isnt advisable or sustainable, but its where we are right now. Im sure BF3 will be great, but part of me thinks if it was made from the ground up for a 4 core processor rig with 4+gbRAM, a current gen video card, and a mandatory 10gb install, it could be a totally different game, not just a great one.

The Xbox's greatest strength isnt and never has been its technical prowess, which is finally being overshadowed by the PS3 with its built in HDD and Blu Ray, but rather Xbox Live. Its the defining feature of the console, and if developers are able to leverage digital downloads combined with a huge social network of gamers, the Xbox brand has unlimited potential in the future. As it stands, most of that potential remains untapped and companies like Zynga are primed to capitalize on if Microsoft falls asleep at the wheel. Call of Duty and Battlefield are brands that are both primed to make a big leap in the real next generation, the question is when will we get there and who will be first.

Thursday, March 24, 2011

The Loudness War And The Death of HiFi



Hifi
is dead. MP3s killed it, and the Loudness War has raped its corpse. For those of you who are really interested, I suggest reading the entire Wikipedia link on the history of compression and loudness in music. Suffice to say, the difference between a pop recording made in the 1980s or 1990s and today is so stark, that you can hear it with youtube audio quality on computer speakers. In the clip above, the levels of the tracks have been adjusted so that they have the same volume. Suffice to say without this adjustment, the 2004 version would sound much, much louder. But as you can hear, a hotter track doesnt sound better. Retaining the dynamics of the recording, and turning up the volume control on your stereo is better.

The irony is that this race towards increased perceived loudness was all in the name of allowing people to hear the music better: if they just added a bit more compression, you could hear the song better on your clock radio or while driving 70mph on the highway. Eventually a bit more compression became a shitload, to the point that now an entire generation of albums is being ruined by overcompression and distortion. If you listen to a recording made from the 1940s-1990s on a hifi system, it sounds incredible with a huge dynamic range. If you listen to a modern pop single on the same system, its sounds very flat and distorted in comparison, and you will be reaching for the volume control to turn it down.

The music industry is in dire straights. The last thing they need at this point in time is a radical drop in audio quality - but thats what we have gotten for roughly the last 10 years. People arent critical about what they listen to, as long as they can download it for free who cares if its distorted to shit and encoded at a low bit rate. People need to start buying music again, even if its only one song per week or one album per month, and consistently buy albums from artists and producers who have decided not to overcompress their album and leave the dynamics intact. This might mean forgoing the latest pop album for some jazz or an indie rock album, but your dollars talk much more loudly than words, so make sure they are heard.

Monday, March 21, 2011

Jefferson Airplane: White Rabbit

White Rabbit is a psychedelic rock/acid rock song from Jefferson Airplane's 1967 album Surrealistic Pillow. It was released as a single and became the band's second top ten success, peaking at #8 on the Billboard Hot 100. The song was ranked #483 on Rolling Stone's list of the 500 Greatest Songs of All Time. One of Grace Slick's earliest songs, written during either late 1965 or early 1966, it includes comparisons of the hallucinatory effects of psychedelic drugs, such as LSD and psilocybin mushrooms, with the imagery found in the fantasy works of Lewis Carroll: 1865's Alice's Adventures in Wonderland and its 1871 sequel Through the Looking-Glass.

Wednesday, March 9, 2011

Unreal 4 Engine Tech Demo


Epic isnt calling this the Unreal 4 Engine yet because it isnt finished - but thats what this is, giving us a glance of what in-game graphics quality for the next generation of consoles might be like. Seeing as though we are almost going to completely skip a generation if the next Xbox doesnt come out until 2013-2014, the leap in fidelity we are going to see will be unparalelled in the history of console gaming. We are going to go from a 640-720P native games running at 25-30 FPS to 1080P native games running at 60fps with textures and lighting that will be almost photorealistic. This tech demo is really just a glimpse of whats possible, it really only hints at whats to come in the next 3-4 years. The Blade Runner inspired art direction of the demo is pretty cool, maybe Epic should consider developing this into its own IP, rather than making a next gen sequel to Bulletstorm or Jazz Jackrabbit.

Friday, March 4, 2011

Why Casual Games Arent Worth Playing


And Why We Play Them Anyway

Imagine that you are invited to the house of an out of state friend for a weekend of entertainment. You wont be playing any games or sports - only watching them. You show up Friday night and he tells you that you are going to watch some of the best card players in the world play in his basement, and that you will be picking what games they play. You have two choices: they can play a rotation of Go Fish, War, and Solitaire, or they can play a rotation of Poker, Bridge, and Gin. What do you want to watch?

Its a rehtorical question to anyone with a remote familiarity with any of the card games in question. Of course, it would be ridiculous to turn War or Go Fish into a spectator sport - the games require little to no skill to play other than a basic understanding of the rules, and the outcome is largely determined on the luck of the draw. The real question which you should pose to your friend isnt, "why would anyone ever want to watch someone play Go Fish?" Its, "why would someone ever play Go Fish in the first place?"

It turns out, there are usually simple answers to simple questions. Go Fish doesnt require any chips like Poker, it doesnt require complex score keeping like Gin, and it doesnt take an entire afternoon just to learn the basics, like Bridge. It is the essence of a simple card game - all you need is a deck of cards and another player (or in the case of Solitaire, just a deck of cards). However, its greatest feature, that its incredibly easy to learn and play, is also its greatest flaw: the game becomes tiresome and repititious after only 20 minutes of play. There is no subtlety. "Do you have any 3s?" There is no artistry. "Go Fish."


So this is my question to you reader: if a game isnt interesting enough that you would want to watch someone who is good at it play, why would you play that game yourself? Can you imagine seeing yourself watching replays of Farmville or Angry Birds? Ive been thinking quite a bit on the subject of game complexity, difficulty, and player skill, and Ive come to realize that while Angry Birds might be fine as a diversion for while you are sitting on a crowded subway car for a twenty minute commute, at its essence its just that - a diversion - and nothing more; the digital equivalent of Solitaire.


I was recently reading an article, on Gamespot of all places, where they summarized some comments that Starcraft 2 lead designer Dustin Browder recently gave in regards to choices Blizzard made in the development of its most recent RTS game. Essentially, Browder states he didnt understand the goal of Starcraft 2 when he arrived at Blizzard in 2005. He was looking at the vast numbers of units and special features RTS games like Supreme Commander and Dawn of War had, and didnt see Blizzard's product plans competing in those areas. Then it was all explained to him: this game wasnt really designed to cater to the widest possible audience. It was being built mostly for the E-Sports community in Korea, where not only was the original Starcraft the most popular game complete with pro leagues, but that there was a large broadcast market where the games were shown live in Korea and to spectators around the world. Starcraft 2 would not be built to compete with other RTS games or be sold to gamers who want to play on their Xbox 360 or PS3 with a simplified control scheme. It would be built to be played by professionals, and it had to be entertaining enough in motion, it had to be watchable enough, to be broadcast throughout the nation of Korea as its national sport.


Another great example of game designers specifically excluding a large portion of their potential buying audience as the expense of making a near perfectly designed game is Arc System Works' Hardcorps Uprising, recently released on XBLA. A masterclass of run-n-gun game design, HC:U has received mixed reviews from mass market websites and publications and high praise from specialty press and websites like the SHMUPs Forum. I took particular exception to one review from 1up.com, always notable for their erratic review scores, which graded HC:U a C-. The reason given for the low score, primarily that the game was too damn hard, reflects a malaise that has fallen over games journalism: unqualified opinions. Im a decent enough writer (as is Matt Clark). Give me a copy of Final Fantasy XIII and let me (force me to) play through it and sure, I will have an opinion about it. Opinions are like assholes - everybody has one. But it wont be a qualified opinion - as in, the opinion of someone who has played and regularly plays Japanese style RPGs and understands the history and legacy of the genre, and furthermore, enjoys playing games in that genre and is competent at playing them. I would probably give the game a C-, with the main complaint being that the game is too damn long. Ahem.


Finally, Id like to note that even Nintendo, derided over the past 5 years for popularizing casual gaming with its Wii, floating on an endless sea of 3rd party shovelware, has finally put its foot down. At the 2011 Game Developers Conference, Nintendo president Satoru Iwata said "The majority of people here are creating games for social and mobile," Iwata added. "I fear our business is dividing, and that threatens the employment for those of us who make games for a living." Let me translate that for you: "We at Nintendo aspire to make works of art, like Super Mario Galaxy 2. You make throwaway digital toys which might entertain a 2 year old for 15 minutes, and are threatening the medium itself by turning people on to cheap tricks."


After a great session of gaming, there is a feeling of accomplishment. You havent done anything really, other than advance a bit in some fantastical digital world, but you feel as though you have completed part of a journey. You feel satisfied. After playing Angry Birds for 20 minutes, I feel nothing - emptyness. Time has passed, and now Im where I need to be and can move on to other things. My attention has been diverted from reality but I wouldnt remotely entertain the notion of watching a replay of what I had just done. Contrast that to a great session of Halo, Street Fighter, or Starcraft - the first thing you think is "wow, Im going to go save that replay. That moment of pure awesomeness needs to be saved for posterity."

Gaming is like a lot of other things - the more you put in, the more you get out. You can be the greatest composer in the world, but if I give you a kazoo, a triangle, and a bass drum, we probably wont have Carnegie Hall worthy performance even with the best musicians. Now if I gave you a piano, an upright bass and a percussion set, you can create subtlety, depth, length, dynamics - the possibilities become endless and in turn, so does our fascination.

Tuesday, February 15, 2011

Hard Corps: Uprising


Konami's new Contra game comes out tomorrow on XBLA. MD, we are rocking this!