Wednesday, March 29, 2006

This just in: Barry Bonds is a douchebag

Ok, so maybe this news isn't exactly hot off the presses, but Barry Bonds finally decided to sue the authors of Game of Shadows. That's right, lay the legal smackdown with that big-ass libel suit, Barry.

Oh wait, he's not suing for libel. He's suing because he claims the authors "illegally obtained grand jury testimony."

In other words, Barry's not denying shit. Instead, he's trying to make the book go away on a technicality. Way to prove your innocence, Barry.

And now Bud Selig has promised a full investigation into Bonds and others. I call bullshit on that, for the reasons I stated in my earlier post about this steroid fiasco. The only thing Bud would even consider doing is putting asterisks next to everyone's records during the "Steroid Era" but letting the records stand. And that, frankly, is insulting. It's insulting to the memories of baseball greats like Roger Maris and Babe Ruth, and a slap in the face to Willie Mays, and the greatest slugger of all time, Hammerin' Hank Aaron. As a fan, scratch that, former fan, of baseball, it fucking disgusts me.

Tuesday, March 28, 2006

More Oblivion Impressions

Played some more Oblivion over the weekend, and here's what I've discovered, both good and bad.

The good:

The world is huge. I'm really not the explorer type, as I'd rather be doing something than wandering around, but when I do get the chance to wander around, it's very cool. The developers could have taken the easy way out and populated the world with flat terrain, boring landmarks, and a few bits of foliage reused again and again. But they didn't. The terrain is incredibly varied from area to area, there are different types of trees and plants (the latter of which you can harvest and create all sorts of different potions with), and wild deer, boar, and other animals. The architecture inside cities is just amazing, too. The capital is the most spectacular, because it's obviously the richest city, but there are wonders to marvel at in other cities, too.

Quests are fun. Especially the guild quests. I'm a member of both the thieves guild and the assassin's guild, and both have provided me with excellent opportunities to wreak havoc. Stealing stuff? Killing people? And getting away with it? Brilliant.

It's an old school RPG. Epic. Spell-slinging and sword-slashing. Save the kingdom, all that good stuff.

The bad:

When you play within the game's rules, you can have a lot of fun. But those rules don't necessarily make sense. For example, I get a mission from the thieves guild to steal some wizard's staff. I do the deed, and realize that's one damn expensive staff. The guild just wanted it stolen to teach the guards a lesson, though, so I figure they don't need it, I'll just fence it and walk away with the cash. But wait: "You cannot remove quest items from your inventory." Who says? The game? I'm not playing a game, my name is Victor Jarvis, and I'm a no-good, filthy thief who looks out for number one. If I can steal it, I should be able to sell it, period.

The leveling system sucks ass. I don't even know why they have a level system, really. It's skill-based, levels are just unnecessarily tacked on. Whenever your skills increase so many times, you gain a level. And rather than have the NPCs and enemies in the game have a set level, they scale to you. The trouble with that is that if you have a skill you use a lot, but doesn't necessarily make you a better fighter (like sneaking), you'll gain levels too quickly and get your ass kicked in most fights. There's an arena in the capital city where you can fight, but due to the level scaling, I'm stuck at the second tier of fighters. I'm level 4, but my combat skills are still around level 1, and I'm fighting combatants who are level 3, 4 or higher with combat skills to match. Can't be done.

Psychic guards. This is part of the "radiant AI" that was so hyped, but really turned out to be bullshit. The guards are so sensitive as to know if you attack or kill someone inside their own house, with no one else around. Apparently, the mark "calls out" and the guards hear it from more than 100 feet away, and come running to arrest you. And god help you if you have stolen property on your person, because the guards always know what you've stolen, whether anyone saw you take it or not. Merchants can somehow sense hot property, too, and they won't buy it. You can only sell stolen goods to a fence, if you're a member of the thieves guild. How do the merchants and guards know what's stolen and what isn't? How the hell should I know? Maybe everyone in Oblivion writes their full name, date of birth, and address on every single piece of their property in indelible ink. Or maybe the developers decided radiant AI was too hard to code, and just made it cheating AI.

So there you have it. Is Oblivion fun? Definitely. Is it a good game? Yes. Does it belong on my Top 10 RPGs list? Possibly. Is it one of the best games of all time? I don't think so.

From what I've seen, the modding community is already hard at work on fixing shit that's severely broken, like the psychic guards and merchants, and the leveling system. And that's great. I just wish Bethesda had fixed that shit before they released the game.

Tuesday, March 21, 2006

Geek Heaven

Oh my god, I might go into a coma with so much good stuff today.

First, DVDs. South Park Season 7, Batman Beyond Season 1, Justice League Season 1, and Mind of Mencia Season 1. I'm not that into South Park anymore, but a lot of people are, so that's just icing. I picked up JLA and Mind of Mencia, thought seriously about Batman Beyond, but decided against it for now. I'm still only partway through the four sets of Batman: TAS I've got.

Second, games. Or rather, The game. The game that fanboys have been waiting for, since, oh, since the last one came out. I'm talking about Elder Scrolls IV: Oblivion for X360 and PC. I preordered the X360 version last week, but since I won't have an X360 to play it on until at least April 7, I'm unable to give you any info about that.

But, since Justin was so kind enough to drop by with a newly purchased copy of Oblivion for the PC, I got to check it out. And hot damn. The intro dungeon/sewer level was not that impressive, just rats and goblins and annoying NPC guards. It's basically the tutorial for how to play the game, and allows you to make decisions about what you want your character to be. Once I stepped outside, though, holy shit.

This is one of only a handful of games where you can look out at the world, and actually see the world. See that mountain over there? It's not just background, you can climb it. Over to your right, see those guard towers? They're in a city that you can go to, and sneak up into the towers and look out of them. Off the edge of that cliff, were you to survive the fall (or just carefully pick your way down), you could walk around in the valley below.

Having played for about 4 hours, and screwing around for 2 and a half of them (playing hunter with my bow on some deer, breaking into people's homes, taking their expensive wine and drinking their beer, knocking stuff off of important NPC's tables and shelves, stealing a horse and riding it to death, and killing innocent people when no one's looking), I haven't seen much of the actual game, and I'm still first level.

I'll have more on Oblivion when I get to play it again. For now, I think it's time to kick back and watch some Justice League.

Saturday, March 18, 2006

Wish I'd known about this 3 weeks ago

After all the bullshit looking for an Xbox I talked about in the last post, I decided to check in with the Xbox 360 tracker one more time. There's a whole shitload of online stores there, and most of them are out of stock at any given point in time. But I thought perhaps one of them might be taking orders, and then shipping them as they got them in.

And whaddya know? CompUSA was accepting orders, for bundles. But this was no shitty bundle, no, you can customize your bundle. First, you pick the base console. Well, no choice there, Premium all the way. Then, you choose a second controller. Again, no real choice there, gotta go with wireless. Then, you choose a game. I thought this was going to be the dealbreaker. But no, they list games other than the shitty launch titles. Specifically, they list Ghost Recon and Fight Night Round 3. So I chose Ghost Recon, because everyone's raving about it, and I figure I can pick up Fight Night used at Blockbuster in a few weeks. They suggest you take a Live accessory, too, and I almost threw in the 12 month Gold card, but that can wait. Finally, you choose an accessory. Since the Premium system comes complete with a wireless controller and play and charge kit, and I had already chosen a second wireless controller, I threw in a second play and charge kit.

I filled out my info, and got to the subtotal page. Free shipping, that's a plus. And it says "Your order will ship no later than Friday, April 7." Well hot shit! So not only do I get me a Premium system, complete with all the accessories I wanted and a quality game, but I get it only a week later than EBGameStopWare Etc. was going to get them, and I don't even have to put any money down or pay for shipping. Fucking A. I love the internet.

Monday, March 13, 2006

Xbox Update

So I went to the bank today, cause I got paid on Friday, and with my fat wad of cash, went happily off to Gamestop to reserve my Xbox for April 1.

Just one problem.

"We're not taking reservations anymore, it was just a small shipment."

Ok, we'll try Software Etc.

Same story.

What the fuck? Here I am, with my $400 and some dollars in hand (gotta figure for tax), ready to buy Microsoft's fucking product, and nowhere to spend it. They've got retailers online jacking the shit out of the price (sure, I can get a 360 Premium system from a reputable retailer...for $600), bundling it with shitty games no one wants, and resellers on eBay charging premiums of $100 or more, and ripping off buyers even more with inflated shipping prices. Plus, on eBay, you have to use Paypal, which sucks fat cock. I cancelled my Paypal account because I hate those Paypal fuckers.

So what are you going to do about folks like me, Microsoft? I want your product, and you have no way to get it to me. I doubt I'm alone in this. I refuse to believe there are that many people out there willing to pay outrageous premiums or settle for a Core system when the only real choice is Premium. More importantly, how the hell are the resellers on eBay getting their hands on systems? Who's fucking cock do I have to suck to get a goddamn Xbox?

You know what? Fuck it. Fuck the eBay gougers, fuck the online bundle-bastards, fuck the reserve list cock-smokers, and fuck the 360. I'm done. When there's a shitload of consoles on every single electronics store shelf across the country, and I don't have to play "find the X360" online or over the phone, then I might pick one up. Until then, I've got better things to spend my hard earned gaming dollars on. Shit I can actually see and buy today, not this smoke and mirror bullshit.

Wednesday, March 08, 2006

What's wrong with this picture?

Take a visit to this site. Notice anything out of the ordinary? I sure as hell do.

It's not that only a handful of stores have X360s in stock. That's actually a big jump from only 2 months ago, when none of the stores ever had X360s in stock.

It's that all the stock is bundles, and mostly core systems. Look, the core system is useless. I understand that Microsoft wanted to hit the $300 price point, that was important. A lot of parents are buying consoles for their children, and they don't bother to look at the real differences between the Core and the Premium system, they just know the Core is more affordable, so they get that one. It's a brilliant marketing move. But why is Microsoft shipping more Cores than Premium systems?

Out of 9 systems in stock at that site as of this writing, only 4 of them are premium systems. Looking at the history at the bottom of the page, 15 systems are listed, only 5 are premium.

Hasn't the demand for Core systems been satisfied? Or at least lessened to the point where you would obviously be satisfying more customers if you shipped a few more Premium systems?

Case in point, I called all of my local area stores this morning (even the ones in surrounding cities), and after a half-hour of phone calls, only one store had exactly one X360 in stock. And it was a Core.

Nobody wants the fucking Core, Microsoft! Your quality apps are finally starting to hit, and you're still shipping bullshit! And why are you allowing these stores to force customers into buying bundles with shitty launch title games? You'd move a lot more systems if the stores were actually selling systems, and not fucking overpriced bundles with shit people don't want, and don't need. It's a good damn thing the PS3 isn't hitting this Spring, because you're making a fucking mess of the X360 launch, Microsoft.

On the bright side, my local Gamestop/EB Games/Software Etc. monopoly store is taking reservations for an April 1 shipment of Premium systems. I'm going to reserve me an X360, and have my copy of Oblivion ready and waiting (March 21, glee).

Game of Shadows

If you follow sports at all (or even if you don't, if you happened to glance at ESPN, or Yahoo Sports, or the front page of the newspaper, or really any media outlet) you'd know that a book called "Game of Shadows" was recently announced that has some pretty damning allegations about Barry Bonds' steroid use. Here's what Barry had to say.

"I won't even look at it. For what? There's no need to. Everything they say in it is true."

Ok, so I added that last sentence. But come on, Barry. If it isn't true, wouldn't you at least want to look at it? Wouldn't you want to know what they said before leveling a huge libel suit at them? Wouldn't you want to be able to pick apart every allegation in detail, going through the list and denying each charge under media scrutiny? We know you don't like the media, but you've gotta protect yourself from this bullshit, right?

Unless every word of it is true. Then you can't deny it, because you'd be a liar. You can't sue, because you'd lose. You can't do anything but ignore it with a flippant remark as if it didn't exist, and refuse further comment. You can't do anything because you're already ruined in the court of public opinion. You cheated, Barry. And cheaters don't deserve their own reality show. They don't deserve to play Major League Baseball. They don't deserve to be the all-time season home run leader. They don't deserve to be #3 on the all-time career home runs list. And they sure as hell don't deserve to be considered for the Hall of Fame.

Roger Maris' single season home run record should be reinstated (because McGwire and Sosa cheated, too). Bonds should be removed from the all-time career home run list (as should McGwire, Sosa, and Rafael Palmeiro). And Bonds should not only be benched for the rest of his career, he should be banned from entry into the Hall of Fame forever. That's what the MLB Commissioner should do.

But he won't. No, Bud Selig cares too much about the future of baseball (that is, the financial future of baseball) to lay down such a judgement. Hell, the home run race between McGwire and Sosa, and then Bonds' run brought the people back to the parks. They forgot about that silly strike because the players were hitting the long ball! Who gives a shit if they cheated?

I give a shit. Bonds used to be my favorite player; I'd squeal with glee whenever he bashed another one out of the park. No more. Bonds? The Giants? Baseball? Who gives a shit.

Saturday, March 04, 2006

Geek Shelves

Inspired by a thread on SDN, I decided to bust out my digicam and snap some pics of my geek shelves. I couldn't get closeups that showed the full shelf, so I did some quick editing/combining in Photoshop. You can click on each pic for the full size version.

This is the main shelf on the wall above my computer desk. Here's a rundown from left to right. Top shelf: cheesy sword bookend, Die Hard Trilogy, The Last Boyscout, Striking Distance, Last Man Standing, The Fifth Element, The Sixth Sense, The Whole Nine Yards, Pulp Fiction, Clerks and Clerks X, Mallrats and Mallrats 10th Anniversary, Chasing Amy, Dogma, Jay and Silent Bob Strike Back, Drawing Flies, A Better Place, Stealing Harvard, Kissing a Fool, A Guy Thing, Batman Begins, Spider-Man 1 and 2, The Incredibles, X-Men 1 and 2, The Hulk, Daredevil, Hellboy, Punisher, The Matrix, Showgirls, Gia, National Lampoon's Christmas Vacation, Happy Gilmore, Spaceballs, and my A.A. Stagg High Delta Kings commemorative stein, Class of 2000.
Middle shelf: tassel from University of the Pacific, Class of 2004, Clerks/Chasing Amy - Two Screenplays by Kevin Smith, Buffy the Vampire Slayer Season 1-7, Angel Season 1-5, Playboy Playmate DVD Calendar Collection - The 90's, Aqua Teen Hunger Force Vol. 1 and 2, South Park Bigger, Longer, and Uncut, South Park Season 1-3, Family Guy Vol. 1 and 2, Greg the Bunny, Reno 911! Season 1, and Spike, Mike, Slackers and Dykes by John Pierson.
Bottom shelf: big binder filled with PC games, little binders filled with porn, PC games Space Rangers 2 (I wrote Space Empires 2 the first time, hehe) and Battlefield 2, backup copies of Firefly (ho man, if I didn't have these I'd go crazy, tell you why later), Rambo Collector's Pack, Chappelle's Show Season 1 and 2, Starsky and Hutch, The Big Lebowski, The Terminator, T2, Terminator 3, Ronin, A Fistful of Dollars, Dirty Harry, The Wild Bunch, and El Mariachi/Desperado Collector's Box.

Then we have the media shelf I got recently because my wall shelves were overflowing. The shelves are staggered, but I'll treat each set of shelves as one continuous shelf. Top shelf: Lego Star Destroyer, Lego Millenium Falcon, Lego Y-wing, PS2 games Onimusha, SSX, Maximo, Metal Gear Solid 2, Devil May Cry, Midnight Club, Gran Turismo 3, Kengo Master of Bushido, Grand Theft Auto 3, GTA Vice City, GTA San Andreas, WWE Smackdown Just Bring It, Smackdown Shut Your Mouth, and Smackdown Here Comes the Pain.
Second shelf: PS2 games Mark of Kri, Jak and Daxter, Jak II, Jak 3, Kingdom Hearts, and Guitar Hero, Xbox games Halo, MGS2 Substance, Dead to Rights, Indiana Jones and the Emperor's Tomb, Max Payne, Max Payne 2, Hitman 2, Manhunt, Sega GT 2002/Jet Set Radio Future, Blitz the League, and Crimson Skies, Gamecube games Resident Evil, WWE Wrestlemania X8, Madden 2002, Metal Gear Solid Twin Snakes, Star Fox Adventures, Pikmin, Super Smash Bros Melee, Metroid Prime, Legend of Zelda Ocarina of Time, and Legend of Zelda Wind Waker.
Third shelf: Batman the Animated Series Vol 1-4, Superman the Animated Series Vol 1 and 2, Teen Titans Season 1, bootlegged Spider-Man the Animated Series Complete, bootlegged The Tick Complete Animated Series, bootlegged X-Men Complete Animated Series, Spawn the Ultimate Collection, Gargoyles Season 1, Star Wars Clone Wars Vol. 1 and 2, Star Wars Episode 1-3, shitty bootleg Star Wars Episode 4-6, and high-quality bootleg Star Wars Episode 4-6 in white sleeves.
Fourth shelf: Harry Potter 1-3, Lord of the Rings Trilogy, Escape from New York, Pitch Black, Serenity (joy!), War of the Worlds (1953 version), Heavy Metal/Heavy Metal 2000 Box set, space for my Firefly Complete Series Box (currently on loan to my sister, who is taking for fucking ever to watch it), deodorant, case for my bling, and my alarm clock.
You can see a little bit of what's on the fifth shelf in this pic, but it's clearer in the next one.

Fifth shelf: Lego AT-AT, Lego Troop Carrier or some shit from Episode 3, Lego Droid Carrier or some shit from Episode 1, The Light Fantastic, Equal Rites, Mort, Sourcery, Reaper Man, Small Gods, Lords and Ladies, Men at Arms, Soul Music, and Feet of Clay all by Terry Pratchett.
Sixth shelf: Harry Potter 1-5 by J.K. Rowling, Irrational Exuberance by Robert J. Schiller, I, Robot by Isaac Asimov, Interesting Times, Maskerade, and Hogfather all by Terry Pratchett, and the Lord of the Rings Collection by J.R.R. Tolkien.
Seventh shelf: V for Vendetta by Alan Moore and David Lloyd, Fray by Joss Whedon, Tales of the Slayers and Tales of the Vampires by Joss Whedon et al, Seven Seasons of Buffy and Five Seasons of Angel edited by Glenn Yeffeth, Finding Serenity edited by Jane Espenson, The Divine Comedy by Dante Alighieri, The Ultimate Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy by Douglas Adams, a spot for The Colour of Magic (which I'm currently re-reading), Wyrd Sisters, and Moving Pictures all by Terry Pratchett, The Sin City Collection 1-7 2nd Edition by Frank Miller, Jingo, The Last Continent, and Carpe Jugulum all by Terry Pratchett.

There you have it. I've got a drawer with porn in it, too, but that's not so much geeky as it is disconcerting to Christians, fundies, and repressed people everywhere.

Thursday, March 02, 2006

Online gaming: Niche Market?

I'm not talking about MMOs, here, that's obviously not a niche market, but regular, run of the mill, online PC games. Whether it be a shooter, strategy, or RPG, isn't it usually more fun online, with other people? Maybe not with random people, who are usually dicks, but playing strategy games like Civ 4, or RPGs like NWN are way more fun with friends than with the single player game. Even non-online multiplayer, like over LAN, is more fun than single player in a lot of games.

But apparently, I'm in the minority of PC gamers. I've been having so much fun with Civ 4, I thought I might give Galactic Civilations II a try. Until I noticed that there's no multiplayer. Not even hotseat. WTF? So I checked a thread on the main site's board titled "Multiplayer in expansion." It was a user created poll asking if people wanted multiplayer to be added in an expansion. Out of 33 replies, about 3 people wanted online multiplayer, and 10 or 12 wanted LAN or hotseat multiplayer. The rest were adamantly against any sort of multiplayer.

What? Why? That doesn't make any sense to me. How can playing against the AI be more fun (after a certain point) than playing with other humans? And why would you prefer hotseat/LAN play when you could have internet play? Then you can play with your friends no matter where they are, and you don't have to lug your rig anywhere. How bad of a shut-in do you have to be where even online human interaction is a bit too invasive for you? Christ.