Open Design

Open Design This is a cool little project by Wolfgang Baur. Baur is a veteran designer of D&D adventures and this project follows in that vein. The idea is that we, the public, contribute donations to help craft and adventure that contains the elements we want. General patronage costs $30, a bit expensive but might be worth it for the experience. If that’s too much for, and you’re sobbing over the loss of Dungeon and Dragon magazines than you may want to check out Kobold Quarterly. Kobold Quarterly is another of Wolfgang’s projects, an open design web ‘zine. For $12/year you get art, design articles, interviews from industry pros and creative community members, and to add incentive for the more creative minded people Wolfgang says: “If the circulation reaches 1,000 subscribers, I’ll open the pages to submissions from all subscribers.” Pretty cool stuff.

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PS3 has *gasp* games!?

Check out Gametrailers and one might find some links to gameplay footage from actual PS3 games.  While Lair (due in July) seems to be the earliest release most of the other games are targeted for the holiday (except maybe Warhawk) and, I can taste the bile in my mouth as I say this, actually look good.  I am particularly intrigued by three titles: 1.) “Drake: Uncharted Territory” which looks like some sort of delicious fusion between Tomb Raider and Beyond Good and Evil, 2.) “Folklore,” and action rpg with stylized graphics (ooohhh pretty colors!) that someone how involves ripping the souls or spirits out of enemies, and 3.) “Eye of Judgement,” which is a card battling system for the PS3.  You read that right, you use a specialized mat and lay down cards (ala some sort of CCG deck thing) to someone spells, monsters, etc. to battle your opponent.  My inner geek shivers in glee at this thought….my outer geek too.

I know what you’re saying:  “But Mike $600!?”  To which I would respond that with developers like Ubisoft (amongst others) calling for a price drop and the rapidly dropping sales figures since launch and Sony, come November, may be forced to take action.  Or as a friend, and gamestop employee,  informed the price of used PC dropped to $500.  I haven’t confirmed this yet, niether websites for EB or Gamestop have listings for used PS3s, but even a used PS3 at, say $550 is worth considering.  Why?  Enter the B&N and its 15% discount.  Sure it doesn’t work on new consoles but it does work on used ones.  A used PS3 at the $500 pricepoint turns into a more palpatable $425 and even at say $550 still comes down to aroun $470, prices that are extraordinarily competitive with the $475 X-Box 360 7337 system.
Right now, thanks to its game library, the 360 has my vote.  A vote that is solidly locked thanks to the Microsoft exclusive Bioware games.  But, if the PS3 somehow manages to draw more developers (their current lineup is like a ghost town) and gets a competive price point that may change.  It was easy, post-December, to feel like the opening shots of the “next-gen” console war were a bit a of bust.  However I think this December will be the real make or break decider for the M$ (does using linux let me use that?) and Sony.  Notice I don’t include Nintendo in that.  I love Nintendo, I love the Wii, but it isn’t competing in the “next-gen” race….at least was we have known it (graphics and processing versus how we think and play).  Nintendo’s biggest enemy at this point is Nintendo.  Alright, enough rambling.  Go check out some PS3 vids, and if someone is actually reading, post some comments.

Ocean County Roads….

Fun day over in Seaside, despite that shit ass weather.  Hangin’ with the ‘po crew.  Lotsa laughs, lotsa eats.  I did get lost on the way there though, thanks to Google Maps (and my poor abilities at multitasking map reading and driving) which split 549 into two roads…oops.  Best part is that while my friend’s house has a Seaside Heights zip code it’s actually in Dover and a much easier drive down the GSP than the crazy county roads the actual address sent me down.  First time the Google Maps has let me down…for shame.  Unfortunately I didn’t realize this error on *sigh* my part, until after I had shelled out some dough for a frickin’ map.  I feel I should also shovel some blame on Verizon Broadband its intermittent connection loss over the last 72 hours.

Also I found out that Bang Camaro’s debut CD should be out on iTunes now.  Sweet news for me as this rock/metal indie supergroup was the author by far my favorite bonus song on Guitar Hero 2, “Push Push (Lady Lightning).”  For those that don’t know that band is mostly made up of guys from Boston/NE indie groups and features a “chorus” of about 15 “lead vox,” according to their myspace page.  I wish they were playing some shows down here, in Philly or NYC, but alas the closest is in Bethlehem in August.  They were of course playing in Brooklyn this Friday but I was at home with a fever and unconscious by 11.

New Home!

OK, I’ve migrated may older blogger stuff to wordpress! Yay! Most of my recent blogs were on mysapce (boo!), but I’ve moved a number (the newest) over here. I’m waaaaaaay to lazy to go back and tag them with useful stuff so deal with it. Anyhoo, I’m hoping that wordpress (and my new fondness for xhtml and css) will aide me in keeping this thing (relatively) up to date, but we’ll see. Anyhoo, should have an actual post within the next day or so.

Damn the Moon!

So, a runner up to my fav video games list. Day of Defeat, the WW2 mod for Half-life/Half-life 2. Its game mode is similar to Battlefield 1942, you struggle to control map points, but unlike BF1942 the map points are typically captured in under a second. The maps are smaller so combined the quick capture turnover and a more “realistic” level of lethality matches are tense and fast. By “realistic” I mean that you can typically only take one, maybe two, shots before you bite it. In earlier iterations of the game (may have been waaaaaaaay back in the HL1 beta version) you could even bleed from shots (continous damage over time) and you’d have to stop and bandage your wounds. I’m not very good at the game and my score tends be something like 6 kills to about 24+ deaths, and maybe some points for capturing a map point. Oddly enough I still play and I still have fun.

I don’t know if I’ve ever mentioned John Allison’s fantastic webcomic Scary Go Round, but I really should. I’ve been reading it for about 2 years now and it never fails to amuse me. It is a bit off the wall, and certainly British, but a fun read none-the-less. Lest you be frightened off by the word “webcomic” it is an actual comic (has actual stories) rather than three panel vignettes made popular by the likes of Gabe an Tycho over at Penny Arcade. The quirky humor seen in the comic comes from endearing characters that have unique and entertaining personalities. And I’m in love with Shelly Winters, see below the picture for her “bio” from the cast section of the Scary Go Round website:

Shelley Winters
Loveable, slightly annoying ingenue. Likes things that are fun. Works as the mayor’s assistant. Has a funny way of talking. Accident prone. Became a zombie once. Has enemies in the world of the deep.

Pandora

Don’t know if anyone out there knows anything about the Music Genome Project, but a short little blurb about it can be found here. What does matter is that it gave birth to the neat little program called Pandora. Pandora uses the information garnered from the MGP and user input to create dynamic “radio” stations featuring bands with similar styles/sounds. As the system chooses new songs/artists you can click a thumbs up symbol to approve the song and have the program continue to search for similar sounding stuff or you can click the thumbs down, skip the song, and choose something else. Clicking on menu from a particular song gives you a number of options allowing you to create a new station from either the artist or the song, view why the song was chosen, view info on the band, the album or the song itself and of course with links to purchase the song/album. Did I mention that Pandora was free? Sure you can’t bring it with you on the go but sitting at your computer at home it can be a fun way to find new bands. There is a pretty decent user community and you can share your own stations, and listen to other people’s stations. Their artist/album database is pretty good and usually has samples of songs. Anyhoo, if you’re curious head on over to Pandora and check it out.

10 Games

Jeremiah’s earlier post got my thinkin’ on my favorite 10 video games. This list is entirely subject and while not every game on it will be the “best game ever” my experiences playing the games (and often the people I’m playing it with) make them stand out from the pack.

10) Chu Chu Rocket (Dreamcast)
The goal? Get the mice (chu chus) to the rockets by placing arrows on a grid while avoiding hungry cats. Silly? Yes. Japanese? Very yes. Insanely entertaining? Hell yeah. There are few games that can top the manic insanity of four player Chu Chu Rocket. Not much can top John Engel’s frantic “Stop catting me!” as cat after cat devoured his helpless Chu Chus. This game would a perfect addition to Virtual Console. Check out the crazy japanese commercial:

9) Mario Tennis (Nintendo 64): Late night Mario Tennis ring shot matches probably kept the ‘rents up a bit late. I remember frantic screaming during 50+ ring volleys that would make or break the match. The GC version got a little too much with “super shots” and lost some of the simple pong like fun that the original title catpured. Classic fun. No good videos.

8.) Perfect Dark (Nintendo 64): Sure it had its problems, slowdown even with the expansion memory, but for stat tracking and sheer customability few titles touched PD. From the homebrewed “Against all odds” to n-bomb matches PD kept us occupied for quite some time. Not to mentioned the continuation of “Tower.” Stat tracking rocked in this game and there wasn’t much it didn’t record. In pure variety this game never really got stale.

7.) Goldeneye (Nintendo 64): Well, how could I not mention Goldeneye? Even Perfect Dark didn’t completely replace it. The varied skill levels of my friends gave birth to “Tower.” Played in Complex the number of kills didn’t matter but the win went to whoever had the designated “tower” at the end of the match, kudos to anyone who could also get the “victory view” at the end of the match. Goldeneye and PD gave birth to ever iconic “ca-caw” which, also according to John Engel if I’m not mistaken, was the sound a vulture makes.

6.) Mario Kart 64 (Nintendo 64): From racing to battle mode we had a lot of fun with this game. Double Dash (on the GameCube) is close a close second to this version but, of course, lacks the nostalgia to put it over the top.

5.)WCW/WWF games by THQ/AKI (Nintendo 64): This includes WCW vs. NWO, WCW Revenge, WWF No Mercy, and WWF Wrestlemania 2000. On those occaisons when we would order pay-per-view wrestling the “boring” matches would be replaced by our own courtesy of these games. Controls were simple, fun, and easy to learn. Matches were long and could swing any way. Good times.

4.) Baldur’s Gate II + Throne of Bhaal (PC): I don’t think I’ve wasted as much time any other game as I did on Baldur’s Gate. I would sit in class and daydream about the game, there hasn’t been an RPG yet that has come close to being as involved. Sure I enjoyed the new Bioware titles, but this one sticks with me to this day. Minsc put it best: “Adventure, excitement, and steel on steel. The stuff of legends! Right, Boo!?

3.) Duke Nukem 3D (PC): I remember playing modem to modem deathmatch with this game. One on one duels in the streets of LA, and God help any strippers that got in the crossfire. I admonish 3dRealms almost daily for fumbling a next-gen sequel to this game. While I wouldn’t have wanted a rush job the horrible joke of WID (when it’s done, the release date for Duke Nukem Forever) was a bit too far in the opposite direction. Fast furious, no thought, FPS action with over the top violence and cheesy sexual innuendo was the hallmark of this game. Duke is a charicature of an action hero from the muscle shirt to the T2 stlye shades and there was absolutely no reason to take him seriously. Damn fun game.

2.) Mario Party (Nintendo 64): We wore holes…in our hands. Seriously. Ripped open our flesh playing this game. For some of us it was both hands. Sure they later offered a glove, but gloves were for sissies. Who knew fishing for treasure could be so damned painful.

1.) Interstate ’76 (PC): This is, beyond a shadow of a doubt, my favorite game of all time. The year is 1976. The place is Texas. And you? Your an auto-vigilante. You drive a muscle car tricked out with guns and armor, your goal is get gas, to survive, and to avenge your sister’s murder. This game oozed atmosphere, from the main character’s name (Groove Champion) to your poetry spouting mentor Taurus. It had a great soundtrack and had both an involved single player game and great multiplayer action. Activision blew it with the sequel, Interstate ’82, and seamingly gave up after that. But, given the sucess of Full Auto, I maintain some small hope that this franchise will be resurrected. Because I love this game you get 2 videos: