Wednesday, November 28, 2007

The Non-Response Response

You're familiar with the term non-denial denial? Well, I just coined a new term (I think). I may also be flogging a thoroughly dead horse, but I don't care. This is my goddamn blog, and if I want to bitch about something, I'm damn well going to. Especially because the alternative is making a post on the "official" Rock Band forums, which is a fucking wasteland of stupidity and fanboyism. So here goes.

Harmonix released (another) official response today regarding the PS3 guitar compatibility issue. Here it is:

Many of you have contacted us about the PS3 edition of Rock Band--from issues with guitar compatibility to frustration that stand-alone guitars and drums for Rock Band have not yet hit stores. Please know that these issues have our full attention. We are listening and we read everything that is posted here on our forums. We are committed to providing the best play experience possible and working hard to ensure that we solve these problems as soon as possible. We promise to keep you updated and, in the meantime, we thank you for your patience.

Let's break this down line by line.

"Many of you have contacted us about the PS3 edition of Rock Band--from issues with guitar compatibility to frustration that stand-alone guitars and drums for Rock Band have not yet hit stores."

There are only two issues that PS3 users are concerned about: guitar compatibility (i.e. the Les Paul working with Rock Band), and stand-alone instruments (most notably the guitar, but I guess if a PS3 user bought the disc-only version of the game, they might only be interested in the drums, and would want to buy them separately). So saying "from issue A to issue B" makes no sense when there's nothing in between issue A and issue B.

"Please know that these issues have our full attention."

Do they really? I would imagine that downloadable content has your full attention right now, given the weekly release schedule through the end of the year. Gotta get those dollars, G.

"We are listening and we read everything that is posted here on our forums."

Bullshit. At most, you skim. As I stated before, the official forums are teeming with idiots, you are not reading every piece of horseshit that dribbles from their mouths.

"We are committed to providing the best play experience possible and working hard to ensure that we solve these problems as soon as possible."

This is the part that most people seem to be having trouble with. It's my opinion that they think this line says, "We will patch Rock Band PS3 to work with the Les Paul and make stand-alone instruments available in time for Christmas." Sorry, assholes, but it doesn't say that. It doesn't say anything like that. By not doing a damn thing about the Les Paul and releasing stand-alone instruments in February 08, they're "solving these problems as soon as possible."

"We promise to keep you updated and, in the meantime, we thank you for your patience."

That's nice. I appreciate the update, and I will continue to have patience. Are you fucking kidding me? This isn't a response. It sets no timeframe, no strategy, no action-plan, and no expected results. It's completely devoid of any substance at all. It boils down to "We know you have complaints, we don't really care, just wait for February to pay us more money for the complete Rock Band experience. Until then, check out the microtransactions. kthxbai."

Jesus Christ almighty, this is ridiculous. This is the kind of shit that makes folks boycott companies, no matter how good the product (or parts of the product) may be.

Tuesday, November 27, 2007

More Game Notes

SMG - Still at 44 stars, no progress.

Assassin's Creed - I finished the campaign, and did everything except hunting down all the flags. I have no idea if you got something special for finding all the flags, but frankly I don't care. Collecting a bunch of pointless shit isn't why I play games. I play games to have fun, and Assassin's Creed had that in spades. I probably spent somewhere around 15-20 hours with it, and I was never bored or trying to rush to get through it. I took my time, got frustrated a few times because of seemingly impossible missions, but got through them with skill, not luck (which is required in far too many games, *cough* GTA *cough*), and thoroughly enjoyed nearly every minute.

Not only that, but once it was over (and yes, I even came back after the credits were over to get the last bits of story), I immediately wanted more. Not sure if Ubisoft is already working on a sequel (assuming it sold well enough, which I think it did), but I want it sooner rather than later. A wise man once said that great games overcome their flaws, and Assassin's Creed does just that.

Zack and Wiki: Quest for Barbaros' Treasure - At first blush, this is a kiddie game, with annoying anime trappings. Upon further inspection, it's a puzzle/adventure game with some great ideas, excellent use of the Wiimote, and a maddeningly difficult exercise in trial and error. I'm sure I've seen other games with as much unfulfilled promise as Zack and Wiki, but it's certainly the most recent example. Turning enemies into items that you can use to solve puzzles? Brilliant. Point and click adventuring with the Wiimote? Great. Gesturing with the Wiimote to turn keys, saw through logs, ring bells, and shovel snow, all completely intuitively and (for the most part) flawlessly? Fantastic. Dying for no reason, not knowing what the fuck to do with a limited number of items at your disposal, and restarting stages again and again because you made too many errors? Un-fucking-excusable.

Remember what I said about playing games to have fun? Zack and Wiki isn't fun. It's trial and error gameplay at it's best (worst?) with a bunch of bullshit anime conventions piled on for good measure. It could have been truly great, a must own title for the Wii, and maybe even started a new Nintendo flagship series. Instead, it's not even worth a rental, unless you like tearing your hair out.

Oh, and it's a perfect example of why you should never trust reviews. It currently sports an 8.7 among critics over at Metacritic, and an amazing 9.5 among users. I wouldn't wipe my ass with the manual.

Rock Band - I don't think I need to say anything else about Rock Band that I haven't already. If you have a 360 or a PS3 (or later this year, a PS2) and don't own Rock Band, there is something wrong with you.

Monday, November 26, 2007

Musings on Rock Band

3-player Rock Band is so much fun it should be illegal. I can only imagine that 4-player Rock Band must be like the second coming of Christ while eating Oreos and having an orgasm.

More band names:
Right of Way
Future Business Leaders of America (this would require the whole band to be dressed in suits, but with Rock Band's character customization tool, it's totally possible)
Hitler's Handgun

I named the band The Me Too's on Justin's suggestion. I love that name, because it's so perfect for a cover band.

Replacing the stock lyrics with your own made up lyrics is universal. Apparently I'm not the only one who sings "I've seen a million faces, and I've fucked em all" in Wanted Dead or Alive.

I think I might be starting to have trouble with my guitar. Star, excuse me, Overdrive wouldn't deploy during a couple songs last night, and then started working again. Weird. I hear that there's a 60 day warranty for broken instruments, though, so we'll see.

Saturday, November 24, 2007

Miscellaneous Notes

Got some things that have piled up over the holiday, so time to get em out.

First, I think I'm done with Thanksgiving. I went over to my uncle's house this year, which ordinarily wouldn't be so bad. He's cool, but everyone else there was awful. My cousins (his daughters) are both idiots: one of them is a recovering drug addict and active alcoholic, the other never shuts her stupid mouth. Their next door neighbors are morons, too. I've known both of them for quite a while, and seen them on numerous occasions, but the guy had no idea who I was, and introduced himself to me. He was drunk, of course. And his wife, Jesus Christ, she's a fucking alcoholic/drug addict/lunatic. She's on medication because she had a nervous breakdown and tried to kill herself, but her preferred method of medicating herself is a bottle of pineapple wine, which she tried her damnedest to get me to try ("It's good, it tastes like Kool-Aid!") and I politely refused. Not to mention that I was just trying to watch the football game, and they were all spouting racist bullshit and ignorant nonsense nonstop. Next time, when they invite me for Thanksgiving dinner, I think I'll be sick.

As far as gaming goes, it's been a nonstop binge of Rock Band and Assassin's Creed. Two-player is great, and I can't wait for Sunday night when we'll get the crew together and do some three-player. We actually got a four piece band together for one song today (me on bass, Justin on drums, and a singer and guitarist somewhere on the intertubes) and it was extremely cool. The online play lets you pick guitar or bass, even if you've just got the one guitar, so that's pretty cool. There's something about drumming that is base, and primal, and fucking rad. At this point, I'm perfectly willing to pay someone somewhere 60 bucks for a second guitar, but they're simply not available.

Finally, I watched Kung Fu Hustle tonight. The trailers were terrible, but after numerous recommendations I gave in. It's...hard to describe. It's a little bit of the old school kung fu flicks, a little bit of the new school wire fu flicks, a little bit of Road Runner cartoon, and a whole lot of WTF. All I can say is that if you have any interest in that at all, give it a rent.

Wednesday, November 21, 2007

Harmonix's Response

This is why I wasn't cautiously optimistic.

"If a third party game controller is based on open standards, then it should work with Rock Band as well. If certain controllers do not work with Rock Band, questions about those controllers should be directed to the peripheral manufacturer."

Uh huh. While you're passing the buck, all us PS3 owners are stuck with a three piece band until at least February 08, when your sorry asses decide to start selling individual guitars, probably for 70 bucks apiece.

Besides, I call bullshit on that "open standards" line. In fact, look at this quote: "Guitar controllers are like any other standard game controllers--the controller sends a signal back to the game depending on the buttons you push." Your words, Harmonix, not mine.

You know what the GH3 Les Paul does when I'm in Rock Band and I connect it? Rock Band recognizes it as a standard game controller, but not a guitar. You know what that means, Harmonix? That means your game is not based on open standards. If it were, you could play it with any controller, included a standard game controller. Thanks for telling us you're all a bunch of liars and mother fuckers. Now I know why you inked a deal with EA, because that's their modus operandi: sell us a broken/incomplete game and when we complain, point the finger elsewhere. Fuck that, and fuck you.

Tuesday, November 20, 2007

Rock Band In The House

There are a lot of things I could say about Rock Band right now, but I only want to focus on one. The game is available either as a standalone disc for 60 bucks, or bundled with a guitar, drum kit, and mic for $170. Since the primary focus of Rock Band is to have an entire band, that means you need a second guitar for the bassist. The only way to get said guitar would be to either buy another $170 bundle (which is ridiculous), or use one of the guitars from GH3, assuming it's compatible.

Here's an excerpt from a Q&A session with a Rock Band PR rep a little more than a month ago.

Q: What about the bass? Do we need to buy it separately?
A: The Fender Stratocaster Rock Band guitar will function as both the lead guitar as well as bass. In terms of getting another guitar to play either guitar or bass, consumers can either use another Rock Band guitar or use another guitar controller as Harmonix has an open platform philosophy and their games will be compatible with third-party controllers that conform to the various platform controller standards.

As clarification, here's another one.

Q: For the Ps3 version, the guitar from Guitar Hero III won't be compatible with Rock Band. True?

A: Harmonix has an open platform philosophy and their games will be compatible with third-party controllers that conform to the various platform controller standards.

According to the interwebs, the 360 GH3 guitar and Rock Band work together just fine, no problems. I tried to get my PS3 GH3 controller to play with Rock Band, and guess what happened?

If you said, "It didn't fucking work," you'd be absolutely right.

I'd really like to play the part of the cautiously optimistic person and say that Harmonix is hard at work on a patch right now that will allow the PS3 GH3 controller to be used with Rock Band, but I don't think that's the case. Why should Harmonix bother to make a competitor's product work with theirs? Because that's what they said? Fuck, people say a lot of things. Because that's the only way to play with a full band until at least February of 2008? Fuck, go buy another bundle, it's only 170 bucks. Because a consumer can't return a game once it's been opened? Fuck, quit whining, that helps protect you from the effects of piracy.

I propose they retitle the game: Rock Band*

The asterisk says: "Except for the bassist. Who needs a bassist anyway? They're just guys who aren't good enough to play lead guitar."

Monday, November 19, 2007

Rock Band Band Names

As we all know (or anyone who reads this blog does, anyway), Rock Band hits the streets tomorrow. I still haven't settled on a band name, but these are my top 5, in no particular order.

Defenestration Nation - Defenestration is, by far, my favorite word in the English language. It literally means to throw someone or something through a window.

Gaseous Assassination - Or, in more simple terms, an SBD.

The Freudian Slits - You see what this one does? That's why I like it.

Injured Reserve - A sports term, which I enjoy. This blog's called Unnecessary Roughness, after all.

Broken Lawn Chair - If you've seen Dr. Tran, you know where this one comes from. I thought about Hickory Smoked Horse Buttholes, but that's a bit too in-jokey.

I could always use one of the names from the GH games (Breaking the Girl and Abominable Mailman are definitely two very good names and I like them a lot), but I don't want to repeat myself if I can help it.

Sunday, November 18, 2007

Assassin's Creed (PS3) Impressions

No, I'm not done with SMG. I've got something like 44 stars, so only 16 more until I can "finish" the game, and then I can see if I want to go for getting the other 60. Assassin's Creed is just one of those games that I had to check out.

Turns out, it's fucking amazing. Is there some framerate stutter? Sure, but it's really only noticeable when you're looking for it. Is there some pop-in and texture replacement? Yes, but see above. Is the big spoiler surprise story twist really all that important? I think so, and it's damn interesting, and I'm sure as hell not going to ruin it here (I know the game lets you in on the secret not 5 minutes in, but goddammit, I fucking hate spoilers no matter where they are).

The real question is: is it a good game? My answer: Fuck yeah. Free-running around huge cities, scaling walls like Spider-Man, trampling guards while on horseback, and slitting evil sons of bitches throats is as much fun as it sounds. So far I've assassinated only one high-profile target of 9 in the game, so my opinion could change. As of now it's definitely worth the price I paid to rent it.

Thursday, November 15, 2007

Gaming Overload

I put in some more time with Super Mario Galaxy. I've played for around 2 hours now, and the only thing I have to complain about is the camera. It's controllable in some spots, not in others, and has screwed me over on more than one occasion. Games have been in 3D for what, a decade? Get the fucking camera under control. That's inexcusable. The rest of the game is incredibly, amazingly, wet-your-pants fantastic, so it all evens out. SMG is pretty much a must own game for the Wii.

Speaking of must own games, is it the 20th yet? Jesus Christ, the closer it gets the longer it seems to take.

Finally, it seems like I've only scratched the surface of kick-ass games this fall/winter, even though my list of conquests isn't short: Civ 4, GH 80s, Bioshock, Jam Sessions, skate, NWN2, GH3, Ratchet and Clank, and Super Mario Galaxy. That still leaves Stranglehold, Metroid Prime 3, Phoenix Wright 3, Jericho, Phantom Hourglass, The Witcher, Manhunt 2, Crysis, Assassin's Creed, Uncharted, Rock Band, and Haze. I think I should get the rental pass thing from Blockbuster, because it'll end up being much cheaper than buying everything on that list. Goddamn.

Tuesday, November 13, 2007

Toys R Us R Assholes

Toys R Us is running a promotion this week. If you buy Super Mario Galaxy from their brick and mortar store, you get a $25 gift card. Great deal, right? No one ever thinks of buying games from Toys R Us (or at least, I don't), so that's a great way not only to get people in, but to ensure that they come back at least once. The ad circular stated SMG would be available "In Stores Tuesday by 5 pm" even though every other store in town stated they would have SMG by 2 pm on Tuesday. Whatever, what's 3 hours, right?

Since I had today off, I decided to give them a call right after they opened. They may have gotten it in early, and as such, I could play all day. No such luck, the guy told me it would probably be in early afternoon. No worries.

I called back at 12:30, still no dice. This time, a lady told me they would get it "between 1:30 and 5, but probably closer to 5 because it's being delivered by FedEx." When FedEx delivers to me, it's almost always first thing in the morning. But whatever, she must know what she's talking about.

At 3:30, I try again. Still not there. By this time, I could walk into Circuit City or Best Buy or Wal-Mart or any other fucking store on the planet and pick up SMG no problem, and be playing in 20 minutes. I wouldn't have a $25 gift card, though.

By 4:45, I'm going crazy and call back again. This time, a guy answers the phone, "Thank you for calling Toys R Us, we haven't gotten Super Mario Galaxy in yet, this is Bill, how may I help you?" I decide to go down to Circuit City, since they're running a special on games under 20 bucks and I still need to get something for my niece for Christmas.

After finding a couple of games I think she'd like and eyeing the stack of Super Mario Galaxy boxes in the glass case, I call Toys R Us one last time. It's now 5:30. The operator answers and I ask for video games. He says, "Is this about Super Mario Galaxy?" I respond in the affirmative. He says, "We didn't get it in."

So not only was their ad a blatant lie, but they wasted my whole fucking day off when I could have been playing Super Mario Galaxy. Here's the silver lining, or karma, if you will. While the cashier was ringing up my games, he answered a call. His side of the conversation went like this: "Thanks for calling Circuit City, this is the software department. Yep, we've got plenty of them. It's $50." I don't doubt that he was talking to a disgruntled Toys R Us customer asking about Super Mario Galaxy.

Oh, and first impressions of SMG: Novel. Interesting. Tricky camera. Can't wait to play more.

Something That I Don't Understand

There are a lot of things that I don't understand, but here's the latest one. Why is it that when people are talking about bad movies or movies they didn't like, they'll sometimes say that they "fell asleep"? Did they really fall asleep while watching the film? Was it past their bedtime or something? Maybe they're just not getting enough sleep at night. I can honestly say I've never fallen asleep while watching a movie.

Maybe it's a figure of speech, and what they really mean is that it was boring. If that's the case, then why not just say the movie was boring? Why invent a completely bullshit reason for not liking a movie? I don't think that's it, anyway.

I think there are really people out there who get so little sleep at night that they just fall asleep while watching movies. Let's hope they get someone to drive them home. Or professional help. Maybe both.

Monday, November 12, 2007

30 Days of Night

I saw this flick last night, and I enjoyed it. I had never read the source comics, so I totally didn't see the ending coming. Good stuff. The only thing I could have done without was the lady two rows back going, "Ugh!" every time something even remotely violent happened. Seriously, don't go see a horror film if you can't handle it. Besides, it wasn't even that bad until near the end. Then, maybe, yeah, you might want to look away or something. But vampires feeding? People getting their heads taken off off-camera? Don't be such a fucking pansy.

My recommendation: if you like vampires, horror, snow, and/or Josh Hartnett, go see 30 Days of Night.

Sunday, November 11, 2007

Old Games < New Games

I went down to GameCrazy today and traded in 29 of my old games and got $95 in store credit. Put that together with the 55 bucks I got from friends for 6 other games I pawned off on them (because they're awesome, thanks, guys!), and I've almost got Rock Band completely paid for. I still need to find out if GameCrazy will take my Xbox (since I no longer have any games for it, it's completely useless to me), but I'll probably be looking at another 20-40 bucks for that.

The only thing that pisses me off is that they wouldn't put down a reservation for me. "The system's taken the maximum reservations we can put in." Bullshit. They're going to get roughly a fuckton of copies. Alls I can say is that they better not pull some EBGameStopware, Etc. shit and tell me they can't sell me a copy the day it comes out because I don't have a reservation. I'll be wicked pissed if that happens.

Quick Hit: Ratchet and Clank Future - Tools of Destruction (PS3)

I rented this game last week, since all the Ratchet and Clank games have been great. Tools of Destruction is no exception. It looks fantastic, plays exactly like you'd expect it to, and is laugh out loud funny.

The only bad thing I have to say about it is that it's relatively short. If you're one of those people that absolutely have to do and unlock everything, it has replay value, but otherwise one and done is 10-15 hours of gameplay. Because of that, I don't think it's worth $60 of your hard-earned money, but it's definitely worth a rental or two (if you can't finish it off in a week, like I did).

That said, it's definitely the most fun I've had with my PS3 so far.

Saturday, November 10, 2007

No, I Don't Want A Strategy Guide

There's a reason I don't patronize EBGameStopware, Etc. anymore. Mostly, it's because of a number of their idiotic corporate polices. When I saw they were running a trade-in special for Rock Band and offering an additional 30% on any trade-in value towards the reservation of the bundle, I knew I had to jump on it.

Oh, how I wish I had never seen that ad.

First off, I recently bought two GH3 bundles (because they aren't selling individual guitars yet, those mother fuckers) for the PS3. This left me with an extra, brand new, never opened copy of GH3. I said to myself, "Hey, I'll just trade this shit in, along with a bunch of my old PS2, Xbox, and Gamecube games I never play anymore or ever will again, get an additional 30% on all of it, and I should be able to get Rock Band on the cheap!" Oh, the naivety boggles.

I call up my local EBGameStopware, Etc. and ask them how much I can get in trade for a copy of GH3 for the PS3. I'm expecting him to say about 30 bucks, because that's reasonable. Hell, they'd turn around and sell it for $55 or so. Since it's still in the wrap, they could technically sell it for $60. Half price is more than reasonable, right? The guy checks in his computer, and responds, "You get $20 for the game." Stunned, I don't even think to ask him about the other games on my list.

About a week passes, and after trying unsuccessfully to offload GH3 on, I decide to give the store another call. I've got a big list of games, but there's 4 stores in my area, so I figure I'll ask each store about a quarter of the games on the list, since the prices would all be the same.

The first store I call into asks me to hold immediately, and promptly hangs up on me. I figure she's new and doesn't understand how the phone works.

At the next store, I say I'm checking on trade values for some PS2 games. The guy says they're swamped right now, and would rather I come down in person if I've got a bunch of games to check values on. I'm not sure how adding to the overall number of customers in the store would somehow make him less busy, but whatever. I move on to the next store.

I try a different tack. This time, I ask about trade values on Xbox games. The guy responds, "We don't give trade-in prices over the phone." I ask why not. "I've gotta check the condition of the games." Excuse me? How about I worry about the condition of the games, and you just give me the fucking quotes? If, when I come down in person after receiving said quotes and you find the condition of my games unsatisfactory, then you can decide not to take them. Jesus Christ, this is like pulling teeth.

Having little hope, I try the last store. When I ask about trade-in values, he asks about how many games I'm checking on. I tell him 5, even though I have a list of about 30. He says, "I'd have to ask you to hold for a while, we've got a line. You could try us back in a half hour, we should be good then." At least he was nice about it, but I didn't call back. Chances are, someone else would answer and tell me I had to come down in person.

Here's the thing: Let's say I decide to come down in person, with a fucking duffel bag full of 30 games. Then what? You're telling me that one of your monkeys are going to run every one of them through the computer, check the condition of each, and give me a quote? It would be much easier and quicker to do it over the phone, so I can decide ahead of time which games I want to bring down and which aren't worth setting on fire, then you can do all the checking you want and give me my money. That's the logical thing to do, that's what makes sense.

Just for kicks, I tried checking at GameCrazy, which is a chain of used game stores attached to some Hollywood Video stores. They were busy too, and I asked the guy about Xbox trade values. He asked me to hold. I waited about 5 minutes, the guy came back and asked which Xbox games I was checking on. I just said Halo and Halo 2, and he gave me the quotes. Easy peasy, chicken cheesy. I'm thinking of skipping EBGameStopware, Etc. completely and just going to GameCrazy. It seems like they've got their shit together.

Thursday, November 08, 2007

New Attorney General

I usually don't talk about politics on this blog because I fucking hate politics and politicians. But I can't let this pass.

Michael Mukasey is the new attorney general of the US. This is the same guy that said he doesn't know enough about waterboarding to determine if it's torture or not. Hey, Mukasey, have you ever heard of the internet? Look it up, asshole.

So the Senate confirmed him by a 53-40 vote. That's a pretty narrow margin. Clearly, there were concerns. They had to "confirm Michael Mukasey as the next attorney general or...leave the Department of Justice without a real leader for the next 14 months." Or at least, that's what Dianne Feinstein of California said. Because it was definitely a black or white decision: confirm this guy or not have any AG! Holy shit! Hey, Dianne, guess who I'm not voting for in the next election? Dumb whores, that's who.

Coming back to the torture discussion, Arlen Specter of Pennsylvania apologized for Mukasey, saying, "He felt that he could not make that pronouncement without placing people at risk to be sued or perhaps even criminally prosecuted." Heaven forbid people be sued or criminally prosecuted for FUCKING TORTURING PEOPLE. Has the whole world gone crazy? Am I the only one who gives a shit about what's right and wrong? Torture is torture and if you don't know what is and what isn't torture, you really shouldn't be the goddamn attorney general!

Not only that, but who the hell is this guy? I've never heard of this douchebag. He's a judge, but I've never heard his name mentioned in any high-profile cases. I know! Let's use the internet to look him up!

Ah, there it is. This guy's presided over terrorist trials. That's why he was being considered for the AG job. Because when it comes to terrorism, we have to do what's necessary. Even if that includes torture!

See why I fucking hate politics?