Sunday, August 30, 2009

Shatter, Boitano, and Lead Hazards

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Games: Just wrapped up Shatter on PSN. I’m in the middle of the review as I write this, but I will say that it's a fabulous little project and certainly one of the more desirable downloads on the service.
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It's basically Breakout or Arkanoid taken three or four levels higher thanks to razor-sharp graphics, game design that actually has strategy, layering, and nuance, and some absolutely kick-ass music. Seriously, those tunes are pumpin’. Recommended!
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TV: I loves me some Food Network, and I have to say that I'm diggin’ their latest show, What Would Brian Boitano Make? Starring the Olympic figure skater made even more famous by the infamous South Park ditty, he displays a highly irreverent sense of humor with an unorthodox, off-kilter style of production very similar to Alton Brown’s Good Eats.
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I cracked up several times during the first episode, and clearly Boitano has no problem making fun of himself. His recipes look great (although perhaps a tad too fatty for my taste) and he certainly knows how to entertain, even off the ice. Also Recommended!
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Misc: The wife and I have been looking for a new place to live recently. We really love the house we're in now, but the rent is going up and we already feel like we're paying more than we really want to. As a consequence, we're pulling up stakes but have been trying to stay in the immediate area. This is the first time either one of us has lived in a place where we have all necessary amenities within walking distance, and we've established a number of services (doctors, dentists, etc.) that we want to keep patronizing without having to drive across town.
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Last week, we did an intense grid-style search of the area, writing down phone numbers and calling every place that had a ‘For Rent’ sign in the window. We located a likely prospect almost immediately, went in and looked around the same day, and we both had decided that it was going to be a good thing. Afterwards, we gave notice to the current landlord and started making transition plans… we thought everything had been taken care of.
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Today when we went in to pick up the keys and sign the lease, one of the forms requiring a signature was a lead-based paint disclosure. It wouldn't have been a big deal since you usually find those required in a lot of older buildings, except for the fact that this particular one stated very clearly that the buildings had tested positive for lead. When I asked the leasing agent what had been done about the lead, she didn't have any information. I asked to see contaminant reports, or any paperwork the management might have had about abatement specialists coming in and cleaning the place up. She didn't have any, and wasn't able to produce any cogent responses.
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Granted, she told us up front that she wasn't the regular person in charge of the leasing paperwork, but alarms started going off in our heads and we had major second thoughts about our choice. With one young son in the house now and another that visits three times a year, the potential for lead exposure is nothing we want to gamble with, and doubly so if we ever decide to have another baby… instead of moving furniture in the afternoon like we had planned, we did another search and started calling more apartments.
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It wasn't exactly the way we had meant to spend the day and last-minute scrambling is never fun, but I think we have something workable and lead-free now… we'll see.
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Thursday, August 27, 2009

Star Wars: the Force Unleashed - Tatooine DLC

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Games: Just completed the new Tatooine DLC for Star Wars: the Force Unleashed on 360. As my co-podcaster Tim Spaeth so eloquently put it, it's another piece of ‘stealth DLC’ arriving with no forewarning or fanfare, much like Mass Effect’s Pinnacle Station. However, unlike Pinnacle Station, this add-on is pretty sweet.
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Starting out, the mission assumes that the player became the Emperor's new disciple at the end of TFU proper. (This was only one of two possible endings.) Seeing main character Starkiller as a desiccated metallic husk consumed by the dark side was a bit of a shock, but still pretty cool, regardless.
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Landing on Luke Skywalker’s home planet of Tatooine, Starkiller is after R2D2 and C3PO… as you might remember from the first Star Wars film, they have the blueprints to the Death Star and the Empire is eager to have them back.
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It's great to return to such a familiar locale, and the developers included the majority of elements that players would want to see. Jawas, a destructive trip through Jabba’s palace, a Rancor, Boba Fett, and a memorable (yet canon-breaking) showdown with Obi Wan at Mos Eisley spaceport. Without a doubt, this is one of the best, most exciting missions available for Force Unleashed.
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The only downside to Tatooine is that the asking price of $10 is a little absurd considering that the mission (start to finish) is only 30-45 minutes long, and all of the Achievements can be earned in the very first playthrough.
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Don't get me wrong -- I enjoyed it immensely and the content is still quite attractive in terms of graphics and presentation, but there's no way it's worth $10. At half the price, I'd be recommending this to everyone on the Internet. As it stands, it's really good… just not a very good value.
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Wednesday, August 26, 2009

Jad (Face 396)

good morning SMS messages, inspirational good morning quotes, hot good morning love messages



1 There is no "A" in alphabets of numbers i.e. One,two,three etc... U have to wait till thous'A'nd . . ..! Moral Sucess requires PATIENCE. G'Mrng!

2 In life, don't focus on trying to make the right decision; instead work on making the decision right." Good Morning

3 " Life is like a flowing river of opportunities "Its upto you to stand up with a bucket or spoon.Good Morning.

4 Nobody ll ever remembr how yu look,how yu speak,wat yu did or anythin else.But the only thing they remembr s how yu made them feel.Gud mornin..Gud day

5 All mornings are like Paintings:-U need a little inspiration to get going,a little smile to brighten up & SMS from someone who cares to color ur day…GD MRNG....Hav a Nice Day..

6 If you learn only methods you'll be tied to your methods,But,if you learn principles,you can device your own methods.. hv a nice day.

7 The Breeze has awakened the Earth & the Sun has coloured our world. The birds have added melody to the morning & I hope I'm not late to wish U Gud Morning.

8 If u cry because the sun has gone out of your life,your tears will prevent you from seeing the stars To be upset over what you dont have is to waste what you do have GOOD MORNING . Have a nice day

9 The entry of moon..,earth smiles.The entry of flowers..,bees smile.The entry of rain..,trees smile..may the entry of my msgs make ur life smile..GM

10 Mithi neend Mithe khwaab Ho Gaya savera ab to jago janab Chand bhi chup gaya fir rat K intezar Me1 naya din shuru karo apni manzil ki talash Me.Gud Mrng

11 Believe where others doubt.Work where others refuse.Save where others waste.stay where others quit.DARE TO BE DIFFERENT!U'll always b a winner. Gud morning

12 When you run so fast to get somewhere,you miss the fun of getting there. Life is not a race, so take it slower. Hear the music before the song is over.GD MRNG

13 Everyone is good to us untill , we expect nothing from them..... And we are too good for them untill we fulfill their expectations.... Gud morning

14 When u face problems in life, don"t ask GOD to take them away.Ask Him to show His purpose- Ask ways how to live a daysearching his purpose for you. GOD BLESS And VERY BEST OF LUCK..

15 Hot tea with my COLD sms, Cold shower with my WARM sms, Spicy breakfast with my SWEET sms, & lovely morning with my GUD MORNING sms.


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Tuesday, August 25, 2009

good morning SMS messages, inspirational good morning quotes, hot good morning love messages

good morning SMS messages, inspirational good morning quotes, hot good morning love messages

1 There is no "A" in alphabets of numbers i.e. One,two,three etc... U have to wait till thous'A'nd . . ..! Moral Sucess requires PATIENCE. G'Mrng!

2 In life, don't focus on trying to make the right decision; instead work on making the decision right." Good Morning

3 " Life is like a flowing river of opportunities "Its upto you to stand up with a bucket or spoon.Good Morning.

4 Nobody ll ever remembr how yu look,how yu speak,wat yu did or anythin else.But the only thing they remembr s how yu made them feel.Gud mornin..Gud day

5 All mornings are like Paintings:-U need a little inspiration to get going,a little smile to brighten up & SMS from someone who cares to color ur day…GD MRNG....Hav a Nice Day..

6 If you learn only methods you'll be tied to your methods,But,if you learn principles,you can device your own methods.. hv a nice day.

7 The Breeze has awakened the Earth & the Sun has coloured our world. The birds have added melody to the morning & I hope I'm not late to wish U Gud Morning.

8 If u cry because the sun has gone out of your life,your tears will prevent you from seeing the stars To be upset over what you dont have is to waste what you do have GOOD MORNING . Have a nice day

9 The entry of moon..,earth smiles.The entry of flowers..,bees smile.The entry of rain..,trees smile..may the entry of my msgs make ur life smile..GM

10 Mithi neend Mithe khwaab Ho Gaya savera ab to jago janab Chand bhi chup gaya fir rat K intezar Me1 naya din shuru karo apni manzil ki talash Me.Gud Mrng

11 Believe where others doubt.Work where others refuse.Save where others waste.stay where others quit.DARE TO BE DIFFERENT!U'll always b a winner. Gud morning

12 When you run so fast to get somewhere,you miss the fun of getting there. Life is not a race, so take it slower. Hear the music before the song is over.GD MRNG

13 Everyone is good to us untill , we expect nothing from them..... And we are too good for them untill we fulfill their expectations.... Gud morning

14 When u face problems in life, don"t ask GOD to take them away.Ask Him to show His purpose- Ask ways how to live a daysearching his purpose for you. GOD BLESS And VERY BEST OF LUCK..

15 Hot tea with my COLD sms, Cold shower with my WARM sms, Spicy breakfast with my SWEET sms, & lovely morning with my GUD MORNING sms.


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good morning sms quotes | good morning sms wishes | good morning thoughts sms with pictures

good morning sms quotes | good morning sms wishes | good morning thoughts sms with pictures
1 I never knew wat wonder a frnd can do..S,surely they can change things around u into smiles,sunshines n happiness.JUST T WAY U KEEP ON DOING.GM

2 WHAT is"DUA"?"D"-DIL se nikli hui awaz jo apko din bhar KHUSHI de."U"-UDASI aap k QAREEB se b na guzre."A"-Aap hamesha Khush rahen....Gud morning..

3 BEAUTIFUL people reflect GOD in their lives.They THINK HIS thoughts, SPEAK HIS Words & LOVE without end.Remain a Beautiful Person ALWAYS!Hav a gr8 day

4 Dust is dirty clean it.Past is painful forget it. Future is a dream don't touch it.Present is in our hands make the best of it.Good morning..

5 A DEEP THOUGHT :Those that are most slow in making PROMISE are the most FAITHFUL in the performance of it.Gud Mrng

6 Learn to write ur pains on the sand where winds of forgiveness can erase it away.. Carve ur joys on stone where even rain cannot erase it.GD MRNG

7 "We may not achieve everything tht we dream, butwe will not achieve anything unless we dream"Hope all ur dreams come trueG m

8 "Whn lot's of people start 2 love u,U may get confused whom 2 love,Just tel them i hate u,Every one wil get back but not the person who loves u truly.G'Mrng

9 Any1 can make mistakes,dat's y pencils hav erasers!No1 can walk alone,dat's y shadow moves along!nNo1 can stay alone,dat's y friendz come along!I.gud mrn

10 Meethi neend Meethe khwaab,Ho Gaya savera ab to jago janab.Chand bhi chup gaya fir rat K intezar Me,1 naya din shuru karo apni manzil ki talash Me.

11 A good plan for today is better than a great plan for tommorow. Look backward with satisfaction and look forward with confidence..G'Mrng!

12 24hrs make a lovely day, 7 days make a lovely week, 52 weeks make a lovely year & knowing a person like me will make ur life lovely. Have a lovely day n life

13 Aankho mein Aansu hai , phir bhi Labbo pe Muskaan hai..kyunki jeena toh har haal mein hai , toh hasne mein kya Nuksaan hai.SO KEEP SMILING GD MRNG

14 Nature has given u a face, but u have to provide the expression.. Be careful when u express, coz ur every expression will leave an impression.G'Mrng

15 Success Mantra: Watch your THOUGHTS when you are ALONEAndWatch your WORDS when you are in a CROWD...Happy Morning


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good morning quotes | good morning SMS | good morning pictures

good morning quotes | good morning SMS | good morning pictures
1 "Love ur self, roam with ur understanding, romance with dreams, get engaged with simplicity,marry genuineness, divorce the ego. Thats life..Gud morng

2 Experience makes one modified.Training makes one qualified.But, Involvment alone makes everyone Satisfied!So do all work with involvment.G'Mrng!

3 The sweet smell of fragrance mrng going to blow in guidance of rising sun on the path of time to give the best start of ur day.so i wish u a good day

4 Best Thought:"the person who luv u most will trouble n irritate u the maximum,bt whn u drop a tear,he will fight wid the world to stop ur tears."gud mrng

5 Victory always starts in the head..It is a state of mind..It then spreads with such radiance n affirmation tht destiny can do nothing but obey.GMrng!

6 There are OnlyTwo people whocan Tell U the Truth About Urself..!"A Friend who has Lost his Temper and an Enemy Who starts Loving you". G'Mrng

7 If d Path is Beautiful ask wher it leads...But if the destination is beautiful dont ask hw is the path.Let us find our goal & keep walking....Gud Mrng

8 When Kids learn to walk, they keep falling; but to them its not failing, its learning.So there's nothing called failure. Evrythng is a Lesson.GooD MorninG

9 Life is cricket, Dont lose ur wicket,Try 2 get century,Never 4get ur boundry,Even if u r run out, Never become mood out,BeCOZ GOD Is 3rd umpire.good morning

10 Wen u thnk u hv no chance of gtng wat u wnt, u probably wont gt it. Bt if u believe in ur self, probably.. sooner or later, u will gt it..GM

11 Life will be pleasant if we are satisfied with what we have.But will be more thrilling if we make effort to achieve what we deserve..G'Mrng

12 Patience with others is Love,Patience with self is Hope,Patience with God is Faith.Celebrate this beautiful day ! Good Morning

13 DEW on ROSES are the TEARS of NIGHT to give way to the MORNING LIGHT.I keep them in my PALM,close my EYES & wish you a very special "GOOD MORNING".

14 Sara jaha hai jiski sharan me,Naman hai us prabhu k charan me,Bane hum us prabhu k charno ki dhul,Aao mil kar chadhaye shradha k ful.GM

15 A man is not finished... when he is defeated. He is finished when he QUITS. So never QUIT because winners never quit and quitters never Win.G'Mrng!

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Love Sms | Romantic Love Sms | Free Lovely Love Sms

1 If I get scared, wud u hold me tight? If I make a mistake, wud u make it right? If I built fire, wud u watch over d flames? If I say I Luv U, wud u feel d same?

2 Realize Things b4 its 2 late.Accept Things Rather Than Deny Them.Love People before u Loose Them..Life comes just once..THINK.

3 The best love quote ever heard- " i wil remember her not as the one who broke my heart, but as the one who taught me how to love".

4 Dont keep me in ur heart but keep me in ur brain..bcoz rehne ki jagah jitni khali-khali aur khuli ho rehne me utna maza aata hai:,

5 Lv is lk a cloud.. lv is lk a dream.. lv is 1 word and everythin in btwn.. lv is a fairytale cm true.. Coz I found lv when I found u.

6 You are my soul mate, my sweetheart, you are my dream come true, from now until the end of time I give my heart and soul to you.

7 When a person can find sorrows behind ur smile.Words behind ur silence.Love behind ur anger.That time,U can Trust the relationship.

8 While walking down d street, I heard an old man say "I've been in love wid d same woman 4 almost 50 years now." I was touched until I heard him say "I wish she knew."

9 Keep love in ur heart. A life without it is like a sunless garden when the flowers are dead.

10 LOVE is something beautiful,a desire,a feeling that one would like to catch.LOVE is the feeling that makes U feel alive.LOVE is something that may never go away.

11 I'm lukin 4 a word. I'm lukin 4 a whole new word. I'm lukin 4 a word. I'm lukin 4 a word dat nobody knows. I'm lukin 4 a word. I'm lukin 4 a word dat says...dat you are the best !

12 Love is the greatest feeling, Love is like a play, Love is what I feel for you,Each and every day, Love is like a smile, Love is like a song, Love is a great emotion,That keeps us going strong, I love you with my heart, My body and my soul,I love the way I keep loving, Like a love I cant control,So remember when your eyes meet mine, I love you with all my heart,And I have poured my entire soul into you, Right from the very start.

13 What is a flower without the sun, what is the earth without the sky. What am I without you, that is why I tell you .. I love you

14 A bird prposed white rose.Ros said wen i'turn red,i'll luv u.D bird cuts his body n poured blood on roseNw rose luvs d bird,bt bird's no more.THAT LOVE

15 Let d world stop turning, Let d sun stop burning, Let dem tell me love's not worth going through. If it all falls apart, I will know deep in my heart, The only dream dat mattered had come true, In dis life I was loved by U

Pinnacle Station: No Sizzle, No Steak

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Games: So, out of my ten-year career reviewing games professionally, I've only awarded two perfect ‘10’ scores. I’m no math whiz, but if you average that out, I'm pretty sure that's one for every five years. My gist? I don't hand them out lightly.
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One of the games to which I gave top marks was BioWare’s Mass Effect. Encapsulating basically everything I love about videogames, action, and sci-fi all in one complete package, I blew through the game and devoured every last tasty morsel. Couldn't get enough. Although it's true all good things come to an end, thanks to the implementation of DLC, good things can keep going for a little longer. More Mass Effect? Yes, please.
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The first piece of DLC, Bring Down The Sky, was short and felt a little cobbled together, but it was basically another chunk of what I was looking for. A few quick missions, some dialogue and choices to make, and another opportunity to put my own Comander Shepard through her paces. It wasn't mindblowing, but it was good enough. Besides, BioWare had promised at least two pieces of DLC before the launch of Mass Effect 2. I still had (minimum) one more to look forward to, and surely, that one would be a home run, right?
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Not so much.
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After months of total silence on the final add-on, it appeared on Xbox Live today with absolutely no fanfare or forewarning. Catching me completely by surprise, I drove home at the first opportunity, breathlessly queued it up for download, and was… absolutely disappointed.
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Titled Pinnacle Station, the new content is a tiny base that Shepard can enter. There are no new alien races that I noticed, no moral choices, or even any quests to undertake. No tasks, no jobs, no missions… essentially, Pinnacle Station is a bunch of combat-driven time trials that players can enter and attempt to rank on a leaderboard. That's it.
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Although there are four or five types of trials, they all boil down to being something that feels completely out of place and inappropriate for a story-driven RPG like Mass Effect. Time trials? Really? After all these months of waiting and looking forward to getting back into one of what I consider one of the best games of the last decade, the best BioWare came up with was time trials?
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Adding insult to injury, the content is quite buggy. At one point, my character became unable to move and I was basically reduced to an immobile gun turret. At another, the game simply froze. The framerate itself is somewhat choppy, as well. I put around fifteen or twenty minutes into the game, and then shut it off in disgust.
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I think it's pretty clear that I hold Mass Effect in the highest possible regard, having nothing but the utmost respect and affection for it, but I need to be honest when I say that Pinnacle Station is not only a complete waste of money, it's an insult to Mass Effect itself. I can't imagine why this shoddy cash-in was even released at all, except for a quick infusion of income from all the suckers like me who bought it on faith. Honestly, I'd have much rather BioWare not released it at all, or at the very least, been more straightforward and open with regard to what the content was.
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Pinnacle Station: massive, epic fail. Not recommended, even for hardcore Mass Effect fans.
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Darren (Face 395)

Monday, August 24, 2009

NyxQuest, Dragon Age Limited, and Too-Early DLC

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Books: When I'm writing, I notice that I often don't read anything. I've asked a few other authors if they have the same habit, and I seem to be the only one who does… I'm not sure why I do it exactly, but it seems like getting into someone else's words just clogs up my own process. That said, I don't have anything on either DS or PSP at the moment, so when I have downtime at work, I’ve started chipping away at the huge stack of books I keep meaning to get around to.
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I have at least ten or twelve “really good ones” that I've been waiting to crack, but lately I've found that it's impossible to really dig into any of them. Even authors that are usually my ‘go-to’ people have failed to hook me, and I'm starting to wonder whether I need to find some new authors or whether I need to just put reading books on hold until I finish writing the one I’m working on now. It's a little frustrating to be constantly disappointed in book after book, so maybe a break is called for.
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I guess I can always start knitting.
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Games: Started NyxQuest: Kindred Spirits on WiiWare yesterday. I only had time to get two or three levels into it, but I was really liking what I saw. The art style is very minimal and clean, and the mechanics are immediately accessible.
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Basically, you take control of a winged girl and navigate puzzle-ish levels on a 2D plane. The jumping/flapping/gliding works well, and the formula is enriched by using the Wiimote to manipulate certain objects in the environment. In certain sections, you’re controlling the girl with the left stick and a button, and moving stone blocks with the Wiimote pointer and a trigger. It's a little like the old ‘rub your stomach and pat your head’ routine, but in a good way.
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I look forward to spending more time with it.
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Games: I was poking around and trying to find out more information about the super-ultra-uber-deluxe edition of Dragon Age that someone had told me about… a quick check reveals that the contents were allegedly:
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Tin Case, Bonus DVD, CLOTH MAP, three extra pieces of in-game quasi-DLC, a bonus quest and character, and a suit of armor FOR USE IN MASS EFFECT 2.
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When I actually made an inquiry at GameStop, I was informed that this particular limited edition sold out in approximately 48 hours, and that no more pre-orders for it were available. I'm sincerely hoping that the person on the phone was mistaken, but I have a sinking feeling that he probably wasn't… if anyone can confirm that this particular package is available anywhere, please drop me a line!

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*Hold the phone... Thanks to @ThiefofHearts for the tipoff that it's still at Amazon. Order yours now before it's gone!!!
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Games: Finally, a bit on DLC. (That’s downloaded content, BTW.)
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I'm noticing more and more that companies are announcing planned DLC before their games are even released. Don't get me wrong, I'm actually a big fan of DLC, but only when it's properly implemented. I absolutely don't understand how a developer can plan to have DLC before people have a chance to play the actual game and give any feedback on what they've created.
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I mean, the developers can have an idea of what they think the players might want more of, but they can't know for sure until the game actually hits. Wouldn't a developer want to create a piece of DLC that actually addresses the desires of their target audience? At the very least, it seems as though any DLC should remedy problem issues that players might bring up.
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give me more money!!
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Besides that, there's no getting around the issue of perceived appropriateness. The general feeling is that when DLC is announced or even hits at the same time a retail release does, it's that the developer has purposely held back content in order to bilk the public out of more dollars -- and honestly, how could anyone not think that? Things like the extra Vs mode in RE5, or the extra character suits/colors in SFIV were almost universally considered things that should have been included with an allegedly ‘complete’ game, and Capcom took a certain amount of heat for the moves. It's not just Capcom, though. More and more publishers are cooking up plans for DLC, while at the same time trying to convince the public that their retail product is as rich and fully-fleshed as a consumer could rightfully expect.
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a good reason to slow it down on DLC
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Sorry, but we're just not buying it.
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Although DLC is now a permanent fixture in the game's development landscape, the way I see it is that DLC should only be used as a way to genuinely enhance a game after said game has proven that it has an audience, and after the audience has had a chance to react to the original product. Not only will this feedback be instrumental in crafting truly desirable download additions, it will also calm fears players may have about being taken for a ride.
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DLC announced two months after a game hits retail gets players excited, and gives them a reason to dig their already-beaten disc back out. More adventures, more guns… it's great. DLC announced two months before a game hits retail makes players think that they're not going to be buying a complete experience when they pony up their cash at the counter.
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Whether it's true or not is beside the point… a huge factor in any DLC is perception, and at the moment, it seems as though publishers don't think players are paying attention.
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They're wrong.
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It's Evolution Baby



Mother Nature is probably quaking in her snake skin boots. This looks a little different for something for me to be involved in but I just finished collaborating on an entry for E4's E Stings competition. Again created with Stephen Wake, this pretty much outlines Darwin's Origin of Species as we understand it.

See more entries on the E4 website.




Saturday, August 22, 2009

Sidetracked by Trials HD

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Games: I had originally intended to write about Avalon Code tonight, but before I get to that I have to discuss Trials HD. (Here’s my review, in case you're interested.)
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Anyway, never in a million years would I have predicted that I would have become as obsessed with this game as I have, but it's been dominating my life for the last few days.
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Reminding me a lot of an updated Excitebike early on, I knocked out the first few clusters of levels pretty quickly. I didn't get gold medals on all of them, but I did well enough to satisfy my own personal sense of achievement. Moving up, the Hard level was indeed hard. When I got to Extreme, I couldn't believe it.
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Now, I'm totally fine with games presenting challenge, but there are just certain lines that shouldn't be crossed. Certain places that a good game should never go. At some point, the developer needs to take a step back and say “you know what, this is just too much. Let's scale this down.”
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The Extreme levels require such an incredibly high level of finesse and precision that I'm sure an overwhelmingly large majority of people who download the game will never complete them.
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(And I can already hear the ‘core response: it's okay to have a level of difficulty that crushes most players!! I might agree under certain circumstances, but not in this case.)
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A big issue I have with the Extreme level is that the game’s challenge hinges on its physics. In general, I think the physics are spot-on and implemented extremely well, but these last few sections demand near-flawless execution. With the way physics engines are implemented in games these days, this equates to infinitely fidgety, over-sensitive situations that require an almost inhuman level of micro-adjusting to get through. Operating on a level this intense, videogame physics just get squirrely.
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In the Inferno II level (the game’s last) I was stuck on one particular set of jumps that took close to 2,500 attempts before I finally got a handle on them. I can't remember the last time, if ever, I spent that much time on getting past a barrier in a game. Honestly, I was getting stressed and agitated, and my wife was becoming concerned for my mental health.
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Why didn't I quit? It was probably a combination of sheer pigheadedness and determination on my part. That said, the developers clearly spent a lot of time and effort in crafting their game. Despite my annoyance, don't get me wrong—Trials HD is a great title that’s got a lot going for it, and it's easy to see all of the thought and craftsmanship that went into it. I guess I didn't want my fond memories of the early stages to be permanently tainted by the bitter taste of unconquered Extreme.
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In any event, that bleeding ulcer I cultivated finally paid off when I completed the last of the Extremes today. I was on the verge of delirium when something just clicked and I was able to tap into some unknown in a reserve and push through to that beautiful, beautiful finish line.
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Rather than a sense of victory or completion, what I mostly felt was just a sense of “thank god I don't have to do that again.” It's not really how I like to end most games, but considering that I ended it at all, I'll take it.
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Wednesday, August 19, 2009

Andy (Face 392)

Gamezebo, Epicenter Podcast, and DL games

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Games: First off, a quick shout-out to Gamezebo.com. For those of you who like to dip into the “casual” scene, they've got a pretty good thing going on over here. Even better, it's run by my friend and former GameCritics associate, Erin Bell. Nothing but good things to say about that lady. Go check them out, and tell them that Drinking Coffeecola sent you.
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Games: Head over to GameCritics and check out the podcast we did with Bryan Jury of Epicenter Studios.
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He’s a really candid straight-shooter behind the recent Real Heroes: Firefighter for the Wii, and he’s got a lot of interesting things to say about getting his game (and studio) off the ground. There is definitely no PR filter happening there.
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Games: It’s been a great summer for download-only titles. I'm still beating my head against the wall (in a good way… I think) trying to finish the Extreme level of missions in Trials HD, and I've spent a few hours with Shadow Complex over the last couple of days.
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Shadow Complex - Xbox Live Arcade
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I'm doing the official review for GC so I won't spoil the whole thing here, but I will say that it's a very well-produced, well-thought-out title that does credit to its forebears. Perhaps not the end-all, be-all that some are making it out to be, but it's certainly one of the best Live Arcade games released so far, and I'm enjoying it. Besides those, ‘Splosion Man was a fantastic little game, and there are at least three or four WiiWare joints I haven't even had time to get to yet.
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If you haven't started checking out some of the smaller DL games yet, you're missing out.
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That's it for now... it's bedtime.
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Sunday, August 16, 2009

Trials HD and Messed-Up Demos

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Games: I would never have guessed it, but I've been completely addicted to Trials HD on the Xbox 360 this week. One of the spotlight Summer Arcade releases, it's basically an updated version of the venerable NES classic Excitebike hopped up on stupidiculous amounts of steroids.
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1985
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I'm not a fan of games that feature timed runs as a core part of gameplay, and I'm not usually a fan of games that emphasize an extremely high degree of technical precision, but in spite of those preferences, I got hooked immediately and I've been putting an unusual amount of time into it every night.
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2009
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It's a little hard to describe why it's so compulsive, but I think a large part is that the game throws down the gauntlet quickly and it's hard to resist the challenge since the developers have absolutely nailed the physics and designed tracks with devious skill. Your brain thinks it can do it, and your hands feel like capable, so when the bike wrecks for the 147th time, you have no choice but to try again and get it right.
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The peerlessly brilliant choice of allowing players to restart instantaneously after a crash (without any load time) is an absolute game-saver. If there was even one second of buzzkill loading, the frustration level would quickly spike and turn me off. However, since the game is totally calibrated to let you try again and again (and again and again) without keeping you waiting, it's hard to stop.
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Trials HD is totally recommended, and FYI, you can only attempt a track for up to 30 minutes or a total of 500 crashes. I'm speaking from experience.
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(I also downloaded NyxQuest: Kindred Spirits and Swords & Soldiers on WiiWare, but haven't had a chance to get to them yet. If anyone's got feedback or words of wisdom, send ‘em in.)
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Games: I've said this before and I'll say it again, any developer that puts out a demo that makes it multiplayer-only is immediately on my bad side. What do I mean? Well, in this particular case, it’s two different things.
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The first thing that gets under my skin is when a demo requires a second player. So far, the only company guilty of this is Capcom. Last time I checked, their fighting games did include AI, so why is it impossible for a single player to try a demo before purchase?
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demo fail
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I couldn't play the remake of Super Street Fighter, and now I can't give Marvel vs Capcom 2 a whirl either. Quite honestly, I very well may have picked up both of these titles if I had been able to try them, but it's insulting and stupid to me that Capcom won't allow it unless I have a second living, breathing person with me. No sale.
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The second thing is when a developer releases a demo for a game that features a hefty singleplayer mode, yet only lets the multi out to be sampled. The recent revamp of Bionic Commando did this, and paid a serious price. Players were thrown into a deathmatch-type situation without any instruction on how the game was to be played, and it was an instant turnoff to most, myself included. (Ironically, the singleplayer mode was superb.) Initial backlash to the demo was so strong that it's commonly assumed that it played a large part in why so many people stayed away.
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Now, Naughty Dog has announced that they will only be releasing a multiplayer-only demo for Uncharted 2: Among Thieves.
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demo fail?
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They stated that the logic behind such a decision was that it's difficult to get a player involved in the story and to place them in the action when the singleplayer mode is effectively an hours-long movie. Instead, they choose to show off the graphics and gunplay in a “shoot everybody” mode which likely won't contain any of the Indiana Jones-ish adventure or exploration elements that I'm guessing most people are coming to the game for.
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I realize that creating good demos takes away development time from the game itself, but seriously people… it's not a difficult concept. Start a demo with a quick rundown of the controls, give players a very easy, illustrative section typical of the bulk of gameplay that they can breeze through a couple times, and end with COMING SOON. That's it. That's all we really want.
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I realize that I'm not a developer (and I invite them to write in and educate me if I'm way off base) but I fail to see how demo after demo crashes and burns -- hurting retail sales in the process -- when the winning formula is so simple.
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Thursday, August 13, 2009

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Lacey (Face 387)