Wednesday, July 31, 2013

Review: Rise of the Triad (2013)

NOTE: Review copy very generously provided by my friends at Evolve PR. This has not changed, nor will it ever change what I think of this or any other game.

Well, the new Rise of the Triad from Apogee Software (yes, THAT Apogee Software) and Interceptor Entertainment is the kind of game I have been waiting a very long time for: A return to the glorious first person shooter (or FPS for short) days of maze-like designs, the mouse & keyboard are a control option as well as the default on PCs, and very well-designed, but extremely difficult progression.  This is my kind of game by far.

I used to play games like Duke Nukem 3D, Shadow Warrior, Quake III: Arena, and Unreal Tournament till the cows came home, so this is a glorious, glorious return to form for me.  Turns out I suck at the genre now. Hard.  But I haven't played games like this in a very long time, since the first Unreal Tournament and Quake III, as it turns out.  The fact that these people made a twitch-based FPS game like this on the PC, designed in the old-school style, is a major selling point.

Another selling point is its story, which hasn't changed all that much since the original Rise of the Triad in 1995, except now that the titular Triad is essentially a terrorist organization along the lines of Al Qaeda.

In Rise of the Triad 2013, you are a member of an elite force called HUNT, which stands for the High-Rish United Nations Taskforce, that has been sent to perform reconnaissance on San Nicolas Island, about a rogue organization known only as The Triad.  As you go through the game, you discover some nasty secrets within San Nicolas Island because they are so nice as to blow up the boat you used as your entry to San Nicolas Island, so ya might as well figure out what they're up to, right?

The story of the game is wonderful, but man, this game is unbelievably hard.  That is not meant as a complaint, but as a compliment.  I got lost quite a lot as I tried to make my way through this game in order to bring you this review, so I finally decided it was probably time to quit just long enough to write up this review and get me some sleep.

So while I tried to get some ludicrous multiplayer going on, I couldn't find any games. However, this provided the perfect opportunity to test out some of the... more bizarre weapons.  I didn't get to try any of the magical weapons, but I did get to try out Dog Mode (yes, Dog Mode.  It's just as ludicrous as it sounds) and the various strange explosive weapons.  Once people get this game and go online, this game is going to get crazy ludicrous, so I hope to see at least some of you lunatics online!


  • DRM-free from Apogee's own store as well as from
  • Only $14.99 for all that glorious goodness
  • You can actually play this game OFFLINE!  Like, if you have junky internet, you can play this game totally offline if you want because the game is TOTALLY DRM-FREE!
  • The Internet infrastructure doesn't use Steamworks!  Hooray!
  • The multiplayer works across all portions of the PC world, so Steam players, GOG players, and everyone in between can all play each other.  This. Is. So. Cool.
  • A crazy amount of advanced options before you even start up the game
  • Plus you get great options once you get in-game, including TotalBiscuit's favorite option, the FOV slider!
  • The controller option is just that: An option for people that are more comfortable with a controller.  They did not design the game with a controller in mind, and it shows.


  • The game sometimes moves TOO fast, and 120 frames per second is much too quick at really chaotic moments in-game, even for yours truly. 
  • The console is a interesting piece of work, and I am intrigued enough to continue playing with it.
  • Multiplayer was sparse, but this was the night before release that I tried to hop on and there are some things you have to do to get it to go sometimes.

VERDICT: I give Rise of the Triad (2013) a 10 out of 10.  There is absolutely nothing quite like an old-school FPS to get your heart racing and your blood pumping, so I am thrilled that this game is finally out for people to play.  If you want to play a great old school style FPS game on a PC, this is the game for you.

Tuesday, July 30, 2013

How Reviews Will Work

I am going to start putting up reviews here on the blog as I get to them.  They may be video games, DVD box sets, or what have you, but I am going to start putting up reviews regardless.

As such, I want to go over, at least briefly, how these reviews will work.  I'll give as much information as I can, give some pros and cons, and put out a verdict with a review score.  I have decided upon a 10 point scale where when I put a .x (where x is a number between 0 and 9), it essentially translates to a 100-point scale if you multiply the number by 10.

Also, if I receive a review copy of any kind from a PR firm or other company, I will mention that, as well as adding in a disclaimer that it does not and will never change my opinion about it, so that I am the most upfront and honest with you, my readers, about that.

Finally, I believe that even when you do get review copies of items, you have to be up front and honest with your audience about what you receive for free, because that's just good journalistic best practices.  I know I am talking a lot about journalism, but I feel very strongly about this, and as I move on into writing reviews for the blog, this is going to be my guiding philosophy moving forward because it's the right thing to do.

Friday, July 26, 2013

As The Steam/GOG Turns #4: The Day Late But Not A Dollar Short Edition

Welcome back to As The Steam/GOG Turns, the continuing story of two competing digital distribution services that compete for everyone's attention.  This week is firing on all cylinders once again, so let's get moving on the releases, first GOG and then Steam!

On the GOG front, our first release this week is Amnesia: The Dark Descent.  For those who love them some horror games, this is one to pick up, no matter whether it's on sale or what.  However if you do not like these kinds of games, don't buy this game.

Next up is a game called Ittle Dew, which is a console-style RPG with cartoony graphics.  This game looks amazingly fun, but I will more than likely wait till the price drops below $10 on a sale myself, because $15 might be a bit too much to pay for a game like this.

Next is a game called InFlux, a nice puzzle game.  I stink at these sorts of games so I probably won't pick it up till it's below $5 on sale.

Finally, but by no means leastly, is the Double Fine game Brutal Legend!  If you like Double Fine AND Jack Black, get this game right now.  If you're like me and like only one or the other, wait till it goes on sale for like $5 or less.

Now, on to Steam. This week's releases are really the calm after the humongous storm that was the Steam Summer Sale.  I only got two games, The Cave (which was a very generous gift from Joe Mastroianni of the Upper Memory Block Podcast) and Ticket To Ride Complete Edition, which is really 5 games for the price of one because it includes the base version of the board game Ticket To Ride, as well as DLC campaigns for Ticket To Ride Europe, Ticket To Ride Legendary Asia, Ticket To Ride Switzerland and Ticket To Ride USA 1910.  Whew!

Anywho, this week's releases are sparse at best.  First is the prepurchase of Lost Planet 3 from Capcom.  I don't care much for these types of games, so I will skip it.

Second is a game called Shadowrun Returns, which looks like a lot of fun but I will definitely pick that one up on sale.  If you like these sorts of games, pick it up if you must.  And it's $19.99 so you really have no excuse if you have the money.

And finally is a game called Citadels, which if the title and the gameplay contained within are correct, looks like a nice strategy game I can sink my teeth into.  I will pick this one up on sale because $35.99 is very expensive for a game like this.

As far as what I am playing, I haven't played much of anything this week because of how crazy my week has been personally, but once things return to semi-normalcy next week I should be able to give you all a whole bunch of games that I've been playing.  So look forward to that!  And until next time, the Steam/GOG ever turns...

Whew... Crazy week...

Well, today I am finally, finally home after a crazy 17-18 hours.

Yesterday I went down to Asheville (takes 3-5 hours depending upon traffic and which way you go) and went to eat at The Lobster Trap and then to take in a Heart concert for the very first time at the Biltmore Estate!  First, I gotta talk about Lobster Trap.  I had a salad with a cranberry vinaigrette salad dressing and a lobster bisque but the bisque was nothing special whatsoever, and neither was my cranberry vinaigrette.

Also, pro tip: If you go to Asheville at any point around the time Bele Chere happens, just find a parking garage that is nowhere close to the main Bele Chere action and use your legs and walk, because parking anywhere near the Bele Chere area in downtown Asheville is a pain in the butt you just don't need.

I've been a huge fan of Heart for years and years, and I've seen 'em twice before, and they were a spectacular live band even the last two times I saw them.  But last night, holy cow they were on FIRE.  Started off with Barracuda, ended with their cover of Led Zeppelin's Misty Mountain Hop, and every single song in between were all absolute winners.

Plus, the concert venue could not be more picturesque.  You had the Blue Ridge Mountains in the background, and you had one side of the Biltmore Estate behind you.  It could not have been a better venue.  Getting into the parking area was a bear, but getting out was a total breeze.  Kudos to the entire Biltmore Estate team for what was quite possibly the most incredible concert I've been to in a very long time.

Monday, July 22, 2013

Finally back online

Well I finally am back online after my DSL router flaked out.  It's interesting, what you do when you are offline.  I've been kind of going crazy in the last hour or two catching up on what I've missed in the last couple of days (which was quite alot with the royal baby, the crazy stuff in other places, etc.)

It's weird, really, how you realize in the event of a full Internet outage just how lucky you really are.  I do realize how lucky I am now, but I did not realize just how much of my iPhone usage was totally dependent upon the Internet, and a 2GB data plan is rarely enough for that.

So, this is the end of this one, because I don't want to dilly-dally too long on a blog post to let you all know what happened and why I didn't put up a weekend writing post yesterday.

Friday, July 19, 2013

Why Do I Continually Touch A Nerve On Social Media?

I have to say, one of the coolest things about social media is, at times, I tend to touch a serious nerve.  Sometimes it's just what I say, sometimes it's the way I say it, but most times I have no idea what is going to touch a nerve on social media, and I definitely have no idea what's going to REALLY touch a nerve on social media.

For instance, I participate in Team Yu's Shenmue Tweetathon on the 3rd of every month, where you tweet to @sega and @sega_official on Twitter and say something that includes the hashtag #GiveYuTheShenmueLicense.  What's funny is every single time I participate, I get at least 5-10 retweets.

And then yesterday I tweeted to Linda Gray (@Linda_Gray) on Twitter after the Emmy nominations went out and I said the following:
"@Linda_Gray Even tho the Academy snubbed you for your peerless performance in JR’s Masterpiece, you always have the Emmy Award in our hearts"
Somehow I got 1 reply, 5 favorites, and 10 retweets from that one tweet above.  Don't know how or why that happens, maybe I said the right thing at the right time or something but I seriously have no idea how that worked out.

And what's even weirder than that?  About 5 hours ago, Linda Gray herself tweeted this:
"Thank you all who were cheering me on for the Emmy nomination. It was very appreciated! Happy that you enjoyed the performance ❤"
Whoa... was that an acknowledgment of... gulp... me?!?! Well, me and everyone else who showed their appreciation even though she was totally snubbed, but I'll just go on pretending she responded to me specifically with that one.

And then today I made a comment on how I and a friend of mine, YouTube user SlimKirby would dearly love to have the Adventures of Lolo series be revived and that seems to have touched a similar nerve.

I'm so unbelievably happy to have a chance to make an impact, even a small one, from the comfort of my computer that it isn't even funny.  I am so thankful for my social media friends, and even those whom I follow that don't do two-way conversations on Twitter/Facebook/etc. because they don't have that understanding yet.

Rumor: Possibility of a 3DS eShop update forthcoming?

Today GoNintendo reported (via NeoGAF) that apparently someone caught Nintendo redhanded in testing an eShop update for the 3DS that includes Wii U software being viewable in the 3DS eShop. Whether that means that Virtual Console games will finally be cross buy-compatible, who knows.

However, I do say "supposedly" because there are a few things that SCREAM "fake" to me. First, is how blurry and out of focus it is.  I can barely see anything, and it kinda makes me... dizzy to say the very least.  Second, the shaky cam.  Frankly, the fact that this guy didn't have a tripod for your camera/camcorder/whatever isn't very good.  And he even says he used his phone in the NeoGAF thread linked above.

And lastly, even though it *looks* legitimate that Nintendo would have put live code into the eShop for testing purposes, I cannot even begin to see how this is real. Yet, that is.  But that doesn't mean that he or she mocked up a new eShop interface with Wii U games included, blurred it out, and took "incriminating evidence" on video and passed it off as real when it was really wishful thinking.  I have to be skeptical about this until I actually see it in action on my 3DS XL.

I dunno, maybe this will come with that "StreetPass Relay" update in a couple of weeks, because I have been unbelievably critical of Nintendo and their incompetence with regard to digital storefronts in the past.  Maybe this will also be the mythical NNID/Miiverse update that Emily Rogers was talking about on Twitter, who knows.  It would definitely make sense, especially because of how fast and furious games are going to be coming out after Mario & Luigi: Dream Team drops on August 11th. If I know Nintendo, I know that they don't want anybody to have even the slightest bit of downtime to snag a huge system update like this when there all of these great games to play on the 3DS.  Maybe that's just me, though.

Thursday, July 18, 2013

As The Steam/GOG Turns #3: As the Steam Summer Sale Winds Down, GOG's releases get paltrier

Welcome back to As The Steam/GOG Turns, the continuing story of two competing digital distribution services that compete for everyone's attention.  This is basically a wimpy week for releases because of Comic Con, so I'm just going to detail the GOG releases with a little backstory from me and leave it there.  Sorry about the short notice you guys.

Okay, okay, I admit it: I was a humongous real time strategy gamer back in the day.  I played everything from Warcraft 1 and 2 to Star Wars Galactic Battlegrounds.  It was about the time of Star Wars Galactic Battlegrounds that I decided to not play that many RTS games after that because they were all getting really same-y for my tastes and it just felt like it was putting new coats of paint on the same, tired formulas.

Now, however, I'm considering getting back into the RTS genre because of the upcoming Divinity: Dragon Commander from Larian Studios because they are putting some new, unique spins into what frankly became an old, tired genre to me.

However, I totally missed the first game on the release docket this week for whatever reason, and that game is called Tzar: The Burden of the Crown.  I might totally get into this one because it's got a historical setting and because it should be different enough to make me reconsider that decision I made all those years ago.  And for $5.99, it's really a no-brainer, sale or not.

The second and final game this week is The Settlers IV: Gold Edition.  If you like the The Settlers series, then I say go for it, but for a lot of people (myself included), $9.99 is just too much to get a game like this if it is not on sale.  Sorry, but while it's $10, I feel that game has to be really playable to get to that $10 threshold, or be able to offer insane value for said $10.

And until next time, the Steam/GOG ever turns...

SDCC 2013: What am I Excited For?

Okay, now that my Nintendo columns are out the door, let's talk COMIC CON!  Today is the start of 4 glorious days of comics, pop culture, and more crazy nerd stuff than you can shake a Bat'leth at.

So, what exactly am I excited for this year?  Here's what I think you need to watch, and watch closely:

1) ElfQuest.  Even in 2013, the 35th anniversary of the first publication of ElfQuest, things are starting to heat up, and heat up quickly.  From the rights to all movies and TV shows being in the hands of the two masterminds behind ElfQuest: A Fan Imagining, to the recent announcements of not only a new ElfQuest Adventure Game from Cheeky Dingo Entertainment, but also the return of ElfQuest to print (and now e-print) through Dark Horse Comics, the 35th Anniversary Panel tomorrow night WILL be one to watch.  Cannot wait to see all the great new announcements.

2) Capcom.  Today Capcom is holding (or has already held) a "World of Capcom" panel, and a wrapup will be forthcoming later tonight if possible.  There are more than likely going to be surprises, so watch this space.

3) Major DVD and/or Blu-Ray announcements.  This is a nerd's fantasy, to see announcements of nerdy properties that are FINALLY making their way to DVD/Blu-Ray, or even new cartoon DVDs, so this is a space that you had better be watching.  I'm hearing tell of the 1960s Batman TV series finally making its way to DVD, but ya never know.

4) Comics, Comic Book Movies, and Comic Book Videogames, oh my!  The Comic Con was mainly a comics convention before all the pop culture/nerd culture people showed up, so any comics news that comes out is totally gravy.

5) Agents. Of. SHIELD.  The new ABC series, Agents of SHIELD, is going to have a MAJOR presence at this year's Comic Con and for very good reason.  I am so excited for this follow-on to last year's amazing (and amazingly successful) Marvel's The Avengers movie that it is no longer funny.

6) More amazing than I can detail in one post.  Oh well, wrapups of each day's announcements will be forthcoming, even though I am living on the East Coast and am not at SDCC this year.

Wrapping Up Nintendo #1: Mini does not mean minuscule, and Oh My Giygas

Nintendo today executed a sneak attack on our wallets.  A Nintendo Direct Mini was produced for both Europe and North America, and these Wrapping Up Nintendo columns will primarily focus on the North American versions, so apologies to any European readers.

Today's Nintendo Direct Mini started with Bill Trinen, from the Nintendo Treehouse, shaking a fruit tree, Animal Crossing-style, and eating a fruit before detailing some stuff about upcoming new releases for both 3DS and Wii U.

First up, a roundup of Animal Crossing: New Leaf and the Nintendo 3DS Image Share.

Next, Bill confirmed that the StreetPass Relay feature is coming in a few weeks to the 29,000+ Nintendo Zone locations across North America.  YAY!

And then they talked up the 4 new StreetPass Mii Plaza games as of last week in North America: Mii Force, Flower Town, Warrior's Way, and Monster Manor.  All 4 games are available for $4.99 each, or you can get all of them at once for $14.99.

Then the upcoming Mario & Luigi: Dream Team was detailed. Lotsa humor, this game looks very funny, cannot wait till August 11th!

Then the new Shin Megami Tensei IV was talked about with regard to the amazing new special deal for $30 eShop credit if you already have Fire Emblem Awakening (hot dog!).  Now if only I can find the game...

Then he recapped what has come forth for 3DS in the past year, and talked about what's ahead.  First, Mario & Luigi Dream Team hits August 11th, then Pokemon X and Pokemon Y on October 12th, and The Legend of Zelfa A Link Between Worlds and Mario Party 3DS have both been confirmed for release this November.

And then the discussion turned to Wii U, and their focus will be there till the end of this mini Nintendo Direct.

First, Pikmin 3 is coming to Wii U on August 4th.  To say this is a much-anticipated game by Wii U owners (of which I am not one... yet) is the understatement of the century.  Bingo Battle was detailed, and this weekend's GameStop Pikmin 3 event was also detailed later in the broadcast.

Then, the next big Wii U exclusive, The Wonderful 101, had a new trailer for the highly anticipated collaboration between Nintendo and Platinum Games.  This looks gooooooooood.  Unfortunately it comes out the same week as GTA V, so there's that.

The next games coming after Wonderful 101 are: The Legend of Zelda: The Wind Waker HD, Wii Party U, Sonic: Lost World, Disney's Planes, Donkey Kong Country: Tropical Freeze, and Super Mario 3D World, all before the end of the year.

Then he detailed the multiplatform games coming to Wii U that have Wii U-exclusive features, like Rayman Legends, Just Dance 2014,  Watch_Dogs, and Assassin's Creed IV: Black Flag from Ubisoft, Batman: Arkham Origins from WB Interactive Entertainment, Skylanders SWAP Force from Activision, and Disney Infinity from Disney Interactive Studios.  All of them have exclusive features to the Wii U version, and along with the games Scribblenauts Unmasked, Splinter Cell: Blacklist, and Deus Ex: Human Revolution Director's Cut are ALL coming to the Wii U this year.

Additionally there are great new eShop games for Wii U: First, Cloudberry Kingdom from Ubisoft launches August 1st.  Second, DuckTales: Remastered from Capcom is coming August 13th to the Wii U, PC, and PSN.  And finally, Spin The Bottle: Bumpee's Party, which looks unbelievably weird, launches in August.

Finally, a surprise announcement: Earthbound, the SNES classic RPG, finally, finally, FINALLY is rereleased starting... today.  Yes, today.  You didn't think I put Oh My Giygas in the title for show, did you?

Anyways, it's finally out, for $9.99, AND if you remember when the original Earthbound rereleased Nintendo included a truly extensive strategy guide with the game.  Well, they have actually done the impossible and digitized the strategy guide, AND it is optimized for the Wii U GamePad so you can get help while you're playing, if you are so inclined.  Too bad they can't put the old scratch-&-sniff cards up on Club Nintendo as a reward you can buy with coins.

This is the sole reason that I wanted to buy a Wii U.  Now that it is finally out... maybe I can get one for the purposes of being able to review Wii U games on the blog.  You never know.

So, until the next Nintendo Direct, please stay safe out there, especially during this current heat wave we're experiencing on the East Coast of the US, and play all the games!

Wrapping Up Nintendo #0: Introduction

Welcome to a brand-new, more occasional column, exclusive to this blog: Wrapping Up Nintendo.  This will give wrap-ups of the announcements made at Nintendo Direct events, as well as my thoughts on what was announced.

Many times it'll come with a day or so's notice, but other times (such as with today's announcements, coming up quite soon), it will just pop up.

For those times a Nintendo Direct does come with a day or so's notice, I will write a "Waiting For Nintendo" introductory column as well as a followup post detailing my predictions for that Nintendo Direct.

So, what was talked about today?  Watch this space.

Monday, July 15, 2013

Holy cow, this came from absolutely NOWHERE

A preface: Just to let you all know, I almost didn't have a post today until I saw this come across my eyes and my kid at heart went absolutely bonkers.  Thank you, Carmen Sandiego, for the fact that I actually have a post today.

Today, a rather unique tip came across my eyeballs.  PBS's Tumblr page (I did not know they had a Tumblr page until just today) put up the below picture with the caption:

Where in the world did this come from?

Stay tuned for something awesome!

Update!!! We have one clue for you — this is not about new episodes, but will be appreciated by any 90s kid. Stay tuned!

Of course, the 90s kid in me is daring to hope that the old episodes of the Where In The World is Carmen Sandiego? game show are coming back.  Although given the supposed rights issues involved with the people involved with making the game show, that might prove impossible.  Oh well... here's the theme song to the 90s cartoon and the Rockapella theme for the game show.

90s Cartoon Theme:

Game Show Videos courtesy of

And before I go, I gotta say this, because I have always wanted to say it: DO IT ROCKAPELLA!!

Sunday, July 14, 2013

Weekend Writing #2: Abbreviated Edition

This weekend hasn't been technically good in terms of writing, so here's a Weekend Writing for you, responding to several news stories that have come up and give my thoughts on a few things I did earlier this week:

First, I want to respond to news of the untimely and sad death of Cory Monteith.  For those who did not know who he was, he was Finn Hudson on Glee, and did several guest shots on shows like The Simpsons, The Cleveland Show, et al.  Addiction is a slow, painful process that sometimes results in relapses, and Cory Monteith knew that better than anyone in Hollywood.  While the details thus far have been quite scant, the response, both on Twitter and elsewhere, has been overwhelmingly in support of what Cory was *trying* to do.  I send my deepest, most heartfelt condolences and love and light to the entire cast and crew of Glee, both past and present, along with Monteith's family at this difficult time.

Second, I want to bring to the light something I heard about only today.  And that is that Barbara Robinson, who wrote the classic kids book "The Best Christmas Pageant Ever" passed away this past week at the age of 85. Anyone under the age of 30 more than likely read the book as part of a class in school (as I did).  This was one of, if not the most hilarious kids book I ever read in school.  The idea of a family of kids that were totally rotten making the pageant really interesting was probably why it worked so well as a book.  Apparently she wrote a couple more books but not anything to the level of Best Christmas Pageant Ever, so she will always be remembered as the author of the funniest kids book I ever read.  I extend my deepest condolences to Ms. Robinson's family.

Third, I want to respond to the "aggressive hiring" for the iWatch rumors.  I am (admittedly) an Apple guy, as most of my computer equipment save for my desktop PC is all Apple gear, and I would absolutely wear an iWatch (certainly better than Google Glasses... yeesh)!  However, why would you aggressively hire people for a product that is supposedly a year away?  Isn't aggressive hiring for a product that's coming quite soon a better idea?  And this sounds SO cool, sort of like a Dick Tracy watch (for those that actually REMEMBER Dick Tracy), but functionally we have no idea where the iWatch is supposed to fit in the Apple-centric lifestyle.  So, I guess only time will tell on that one.

And finally, some of my thoughts on 2 separate things this past week.

First, I went to go see The Lone Ranger on Wednesday.

WRITER'S NOTE: If you do NOT want to be spoiled about the movie The Lone Ranger, please skip the next paragraph.  That is all.

I had a basically free movie ticket to go see this movie, and I will say that when the opening said "San Francisco, 1933", I was a bit concerned, and I wondered if I hadn't made a huge mistake.  But, I kept an open mind (even when it depicted The Lone Ranger and Tonto robbing a bank), and after the movie truly got going, the movie just got better and better and better.

What was even better, at the very end you hear that iconic Lone Ranger theme (aka The William Tell Overture), so you start cheering the Lone Ranger on, and eventually you leave the movie theatre on a humongous high note.  At least, that's how it happened to me, and it is a criminally underrated movie, and the underdog feel-good movie this summer.  So go see it!

Second, 7 Eleven Day was this past week (July 11th, or 7-11).  Basically the idea is that you go to your local 7-Eleven store (if you happen to have any in your area) and get yourself a free small Slurpee of your choosing.  I'll be honest, this was my first 7 Eleven Day and I wasn't quite sure what to expect, but you cannot look a free small Slurpee in the mouth, so if you have a 7 Eleven near you and you didn't take advantage this year, please do so next year.  This is literally a cool freebie that not everyone knows about.

Friday, July 12, 2013

"Great, kid! Don't get cocky!"

I've memorized the first Star Wars film's most memorable lines, mainly so I could eventually pull one of them out for a blog post.

That line could very, very easily be spoken to Google right about now.  They have not only an army of loyal Fandroids that leap to their defense whenever they decide to be stupid, but they themselves tend to leap to their own defense when they do something stupid.

So, here's what Google's done so far that has not made any friends among the non-Fandroids that know about Google: 1) Shut down Google Reader as of July 1st, destroying the way we look at RSS and the Web in the process, 2) They've come up with the most ridiculous idea for wearable computing I've ever seen in Google Glass, and 3) They made a gigantic mistake by allowing Google+'s "+1s" to be publicly viewable BY DEFAULT in anyone's Google+ News Feed.  Who decided that ridiculously dumb outcome?

Maybe it's just me, but Google has really gotten cocky recently.  Their actions of late are a huge middle finger to anyone who cares about security, privacy, and usability on the Internet.  Their Android "security" is a joke, they don't give a flip if you +1 something, then it shows up on someone else's Google+ feed, and then that person culls you from their circles.  And don't get me started on how much they've already destroyed the Web with the recent killing off of Google Reader.

I've tried to use Android, really I have, but there are three things that just make me think twice about purchasing any more Android devices: First, the serious device fragmentation and the fact that you can't even upgrade your device to the latest Android OS without rooting your device. Second, the "vast customization options" that everybody and their mother crows about with regard to Android that are nowhere to be found, and worse I could not even find any documentation on.  And third, devices that are just UGLY as sin.  (Including, I wish I was kidding, a smartphone squished into a point-&-shoot camera from Samsung... my God that looks ugly...)

I dunno, maybe I'm either a 27-year-old Luddite, a wimp about "true" technology, or both, but I have not had any bad experiences at all with any Apple products, and my experiences with Microsoft products of recent haven't been exactly awful.

However, Google's products have been a lot more hit-or-miss in terms of how my experiences have been.  Google+ has largely been a positive experience, I had no trouble at all with Google Reader before they decided to terminate it, YouTube has been great (and has given me some of my favorite friends these days), and Gmail is okay-to-middling if they would only stop screwing around with the interface to "better integrate it with Google+", which is, frankly, painful at best.  Google can do integration rather well, but they cannot design a proper user interface to save their lives.  Design has nothing to do with how it LOOKS, but how it WORKS.

So, Google has a great-LOOKING operating system in Android... but how it works, I still have no idea how they put an OS that looks good but is functionally bare out there.  Also, Google still has not stepped up to the plate and offered free Android security apps so that you have NO EXCUSE not to run antiviruses, firewalls and other security apps on your phone or tablet... if you believe in doing that, which I do not.

Thursday, July 11, 2013

As the Steam/GOG Turns #2: Steam Summer Sale, No New Steam Games Till 7/22, and Dracula, oh my!

Welcome back to As The Steam/GOG Turns, the continuing story of two competing digital distribution services looking for our dollars.

This week, Steam just launched its Summer Sale today, so no new releases until July 22nd. Nearly two whole weeks.  And my wallet's already pulverized, so I'll just go over to the corner and cry a bit...

... Much better.  Okay, moving on, there are only 4 new releases this week on GOG, and half of them are point-&-click adventures!!

Those point-&-click adventures are the four games in the Dracula series, one release being Dracula Trilogy (which includes the first three games) and the other is Dracula 4 Shadow Of The Dragon.  My recommendation?  If you're reading this before 9:59 AM GMT on Sunday, July 14th, get these 4 games as soon as you can (because you can get all 4 games for $10 if you get them both before then).  But if you are reading this on Monday, July 15th or later, wait till they are inevitably put on sale

Onwards to Ring Runner: Flight Of The Sages, a space shooter/RPG hybrid. This looks interesting, so pick this up as soon as you can.

And finally this week, we have an old-school, pre-bullet-hell shmup called Humans Must Answer.  If you like the shmup genre, this is THE game to get this week, and get it for $6.66 while the getting is good.  If you are reading this on or after the 18th of July depending on your timezones, just wait till it goes on sale again.

This release week is fairly sparse, so until next time, the Steam/GOG ever turns.

Tuesday, July 9, 2013

Nintendo & Region Locking: My Take

Satoru Iwata has done it again.  He has gone and stuck his foot clearly in his mouth.  In the wake of BOTH Microsoft and Sony saying their next consoles would not have any region locking, and millions upon millions of Nintendo fans calling for Nintendo to follow suit, Iwata spewed what is, to be frank, one of the most idiotic things I have ever seen a gaming industry executive say in an IGN interview I refuse to link to.

It's worse than what now former Xbox guy Don Mattrick had to say at E3 when he essentially said that "if you don't have a good Internet connection, get a 360" before the Xbox One became the Xbox 180.  It's worse than Sony having exactly NOTHING but jabs at Microsoft at their E3 presser.

So, what exactly did Iwata say about this?  Here you go:

From some people’s perspective, it might seem like a kind of restriction. However, we hope people can appreciate the fact that we’re selling our products worldwide. There are many different regions around the world, and each region has its own cultural acceptance and legal restrictions, as well as different age ratings. There are always things that we’re required to do in each different region, which may go counter to the idea that players around the world want the freedom to play whatever they want.
…I hope that game fans can understand that the industry isn’t doing this solely out of business ego. There are some reasons behind it.
Is it just me, or is my "DANGER WILL ROBINSON!" corporate weasel-speak meter off the charts? First, no Iwata, you're wrong.  You do not sell worldwide.  You do not sell your products in mainland China, and you do not sell your products in every single location worldwide.  You sell in the following countries: Japan, the USA, Great Britain, the European Union, *maybe* Russia, and a couple of countries in South America. That's it.  That is not worldwide, sir.  Maybe to you it is, but that ain't worldwide to me.

And your games aren't exactly available in every single country in the world, either.  I still cannot get the Fire Emblem games prior to the GBA's launch in 2001 here in the States unless you get Intelligent Systems on the stick as far as providing remakes of the NES and SNES Fire Emblem games.

AND the DS, the predecessor to the 3DS, actually WAS region free.  But, there was rampant importing of various games and the sales went on a downward spiral as a result.  Plus region-free meant rampant piracy too, and apparently Nintendo won't have any of it.

The idea that Nintendo still region-locks the 3DS and the Wii U because of that corporate weasel speak is bunk.  Iwata, you're REALLY region-locking because of how much importing and piracy happened.  If the Pokemon X & Y GLOBAL LAUNCH in October actually works, it's because people actually wanted that back in the DS days and you never, ever, ever, ever delivered on that.

So, if I want a region-free console, I cannot be Nintendo-only because Nintendo will never, ever, ever deliver on that.  So, I guess I'm getting other consoles that are region free.  Your loss Nintendo.

Monday, July 8, 2013

And Now A Word About Animal Crossing: New Leaf Nearly A Month After Its Release

And now, I want to talk a little bit about Animal Crossing: New Leaf for the Nintendo 3DS.  The game came out nearly a month ago, and I want to talk a little bit, after a month or so has gone by, about what I like and don't like about the game.


  • Superb sound design
  • A really robust engine for making tons and tons of Bells, the in-game currency
  • No DLC micro transactions (This is actually a good thing, folks)
  • The Island is a fabulous mechanic that works really well in the game
  • A robust selection of tools you can use
  • Fun stores
  • A way to sell your items EVEN WHEN NOOK'S IS CLOSED! This is a HUGE improvement over previous games, and
  • You don't have to jump through hoops to eithre donate items to the museum OR to have your fossils assessed!  YEE HA!
  • Online and wireless connectivity features that actually make sense
  • Each animal in your town now has a custom house!  You don't realize just how samey their houses were in previous games until you play this game.
  • Really cool features (like QR codes) that make sense in the context of the hardware features of the 3DS.


  • Truly some of the most annoying moments in the entire game are when you have to sneak up to catch bugs.  The sneaking mechanic is kind of a pain in the butt when you cannot even use the D-Pad to sneak in that respect, and even then you might catch the bugs you want 50% of the time because of the weird arc that the net swings in.
  • Another problem with the bugs in this game: Some of them are unbelievably annoying to listen to, like the cicadas (really I just want them to SHUT UP ALREADY)
  • The fishing is also a painful mechanic as well but it's a LOT more precise than using the bug catching net.

What's Next From Night Dive Studios?

Night Dive Studios, the folks behind the rebirth of System Shock 2 from its years of purgatory, are planning a few new things behind the scenes that they cannot talk publicly about.  And for good reason!

From what they HAVE said publicly, however, they're creating a new game but also tracking down other games that, like System Shock 2, are plagued with thorny rights issues.

But, what other PC games could Night Dive be bringing back from the brink of purgatory and obscurity?  Let's take a look at six possibilities:

1) The No One Lives Forever series, which includes The Operative: No One Lives Forever, No One Lives Forever 2: A Spy In H.A.R.M.'s Way, and Contract J.A.C.K.  This series has become almost as notorious as System Shock 2 for its thorny rights issues that are continually hampering the series' rerelease for those that remember the series and those that were always curious about the series.  This is, to me, the most likely candidate for a glorious return to form courtesy of Night Dive.  Hopefully these thorny rights issues are less painful than System Shock 2's were.

2) The LucasArts titles that were not in the Star Wars series, like Monkey Island, Maniac Mansion, Day of the Tentacle, Sam & Max Hit The Road, etc.  Maybe even the late 90s PC FPS set in the old west called Outlaws could be included in this glorious rerelease of the rest of the LucasArts catalog.  Some of these games were already rereleased on Steam, including the Indiana Jones graphical adventure games, the first two Monkey Island games as Special Edition versions, Loom, and many more.  However, I have no idea what happened to the likes of Maniac Mansion, Day of the Tentacle, Full Throttle, Grim Fandango, and all the rest of those games, as they have never seen any kind of rerelease on Steam or GOG.

3) This next one is something of a nostalgic choice for me, and that is a bizarre game that was online-only before widespread broadband penetration: Tanarus.  What Tanarus was was a massively multiplayer online tank shooter game, which thankfully had an offline component so people like me who had very little if any broadband at the time could play.  I'd love to see Tanarus make a comeback somehow, but I think this one may need to be left in the past, given how reliant it was on online architectures of the late 90s.

4) The only RTS games other than Command & Conquer and Age of Empires that I want to see again and be able to make them work with barely any tweaking are the first two Warcraft games, Warcraft: Orcs & Humans and Warcraft II: Tides of Darkness.  Thankfully, this one will be a little bit easier to bring to the likes of Steam and GOG, even if Blizzard didn't totally acknowledge its past, which it doesn't, as they want people to think that Warcraft was ALWAYS an MMORPG, when the exact opposite is true.  In fact I would be very surprised if the first two Warcraft games eventually found their way back somehow.

5) Fifth on the list is a library that I am not at all sure who holds the rights to all of it anymore, and that is Epyx.  Apparently System 3 holds the rights to SOME of the Epyx titles like Impossible Mission and California Games, but I want to play all of the Epyx titles as they were originally, games like Summer Games, Winter Games, and almost everything in the Games series.  I would love to see a full-scale rerelease of the entire Epyx catalog to GOG that includes the originals, but maybe I'm crazy.

6) This final one isn't so much a game as a whole library with some of the thorniest rights issues of any of the games on this list: The GameTek library.  GameTek, for those of you too young to remember GameTek, was a publisher of many games for both PCs and consoles in the late 80s and early 90s that were based on game shows like Wheel of Fortune, Jeopardy, Double Dare, Family Feud, and that's just the game shows that aren't obscure to modern audiences.  They also made games based on Hollywood Squares, Press Your Luck, American Gladiators, Super Password, Classic Concentration, The Price Is Right, and Now You See It.  Plus they were the publishers of the rather painfully bad Super Street Fighter II Turbo PC port, so there's that.  Apparently according to Wikipedia (which is why I say apparently, as they don't tend to get that much right), Take Two got at least some of their assets in the late 90s right before they closed.  But, I personally would love to be able to buy the GameTek library legitimately again, even with the super thorny rights issues.
And after all of that, I hope that Night Dive has some amazing stuff up their sleeves.  We know they can do the impossible, because SS2 was THE impossible dream for rerelease on Steam and GOG for the longest time.

Sunday, July 7, 2013

Weekend Writing #1

Yeah, I don't write much on weekends.  Saturday is usually my gaming day and that takes a lot out of me, even if the RPG session wasn't nearly as intense as it was yesterday.  This will be the first in a series of "potpourri" type posts, so when you see Weekend Writing in the title, that's the signal that this isn't going to be about just one topic.

Today I played a bit more of Poker Night 2 from Telltale, both the iOS version (which is 99 cents now... not bad guys, not bad at all, especially considering it was $5 for a REALLY lazy iOS port starting out) and on my PC.  It's fun, if you consider wacky AI patterns and rather easy-to-spot tells "fun".  Still playing ONLY Texas Hold'Em, even though I've tried valiantly to play Omaha, the rules on how it works just elude me, unfortunately.

Some feedback for Telltale for future Poker Night games:

1) Have a nice selection of players to choose from, and randomize the table that The Player sits at so each playing is a different experience.

2) Have more games than just Texas Hold'Em and Omaha playable.  If you have to bring in some poker pros to help with playtesting (and help with the rather unfortunate AI), then I am okay with that.  Some suggestions of games for a hypothetical Poker Night 3 (some of which are not poker games but that is okay):
  • Baccarat chemin de fer (the game that James Bond played in the Ian Fleming novels, including the Casino Royale novel that was the very first James Bond literary adventure)
  • Blackjack (That would actually be fairly interesting...)
  • Five Card Stud
  • Seven Card Stud
  • Five Card Draw
  • H.O.R.S.E. (That's a game that blends Texas Hold'em, Omaha High-Low, Razz, Seven Card Stud, and Seven Card Stud Eight or Better)
3) More randomized conversations, although I think this issue will be rectified with randomizing the selection of players so no two games of Poker Night will ever be the same.

4) One big thing I'd like to see, even though this might not be looked kindly upon by many, is instead of winning items for games based wholly upon what platform you are playing on, you win free games.  For instance, if Tycho from Penny Arcade were to return for Poker Night 3 as one of your potential opponents, you could win one of the Penny Arcade On the Rain-Slick Precipice of Darkness games as your reward if you knocked him out (which might please some people).  Or if you smoked Claptrap in a game you could win a free copy of Borderlands 2 for your platform of choice if you haven't gotten it already.  And if you did, you could say "I don't want it, so convert it into some store credit to buy another game".

5) Make Guybrush Threepwood the new greeter at The Inventory.  Or put him in the game somehow, at any rate. I'd love to hear Dominic Armato be Guybrush again...

Changing gears, today I came upon something I do want to talk about, but definitely not in a full post: Optimization for mobile platforms.  I will not name names in terms of websites that still haven't done this, but this is getting annoying to me.  

If you are at all concerned about your website's presentation to the general public, even if you're like me and just writing posts on Blogger, you HAVE to be concerned about mobile optimization in your web design.  Most (but sadly still not all) Web platforms that people use, like Blogger, Wordpress, SquareSpace, et al., all have mobile optimization either built-in or as an option.  If you have mobile optimization, use it.  Please, I beg of you.

And one final note: I like a lot of retro gaming topics, and I think YouTube really does this topic well, so I'll give you three YouTube-based retro gaming shows that I enjoy and watch in case you're into that sort of thing:

Kimble Justice: This guy's based out of the UK, and he does a lot of stuff with the Sega Mega Drive, which was called that everywhere in the world, except for the US where it was called the Sega Genesis.  He's doing this really cool thing right now where he's going through the alphabet, from A to Z, and finding at least 2 licensed games from every letter of the alphabet to feature, one good and one bad!  Some of the games he's featured so far are more interesting games, rather than the most obvious ones, so I find what he's doing really interesting.  I found him whilst searching for, of all things, Sensible Soccer on YouTube one day, and he'd made a whole series of videos on Sensible Soccer.  That got me intrigued right away, so check him out!

Video Masters TV: This is one that I've been following for quite awhile, and the idea is that it is a show that covers all kinds of different topics, both old and new: TV shows, movies, comic books, video games, crazy stuff you can only find on the Internet, and the like.  The cast of characters have changed a teensy bit over the years, but the crazy amount of content each month has not.  Heck, they even interviewed Jon St. John, the voice of Duke Nukem himself, fully clothed in a hotel bed at Magfest one year, so you know they have to be cool (and probably a tiny bit crazy) to have done that!

Adam Koralik: His content mainly focuses on collecting older video game consoles and video games for said consoles, along with cleaning and restoration of older consoles, unboxing videos, pickup videos, and various videos on different gaming related topics.  Most of his stuff has to do with the Sega Dreamcast (and other Sega consoles for that matter), but even if you're a Nintendo fan, you will more than likely find something to enjoy on his channel.  If you like that and want more, come back and click here to go to his group's official website.

Friday, July 5, 2013

The Digital Revolution (Is No Longer Being Televised)

I have been writing an awful lot about video games recently, but today I want to talk about something that has really bugged me about the television, movie, and video game industries for a very long time now: The idea of digital media and the Internet revolutionizing the way we consume and create media, and the media companies having none of that and still being wedded to "the old ways" of doing business, making money, etc.

The Internet has really come into its own as a digital content hub in the last few years.  We can now buy music, movies, TV shows, and video and computer games online, with the click of a button.  Problem is, if you are (like me) interested in catalog titles from the likes of Disney, Warner Bros., et al, it is difficult if not impossible to get catalog titles in this digital age.  We have great DVDs and Blu-Rays, but the experience on iTunes, Google Play, Netflix, Hulu, etc. is not at all the same. Not even close.

Sometimes you can buy TV episodes the day after, sometimes you have to wait.  But wait, you say, wasn't the whole idea behind the likes of iTunes to provide that very same content you got on the TV networks the day after they aired?  Yes.  Problem is, however, that many content providers have not had their feet held to the fire to hold firm to that promise.

Even worse, movies, TV shows, and most video games still use debilitating DRM, or digital rights management, because the parties involved are all concerned about piracy "hurting sales" (when their anti-consumer, anti-piracy efforts have actually hurt them in their pocketbooks a lot worse than piracy ever did).  There are a few bright spots in the anti-DRM fight, such as (the anti-DRM store that is a Steam equivalent for PC titles), but these bright spots are only a small fraction of the industry's sales.

However, has one humongous thing going for it: Customer loyalty due to tremendous goodwill.  This is largely not quantifiable in the slightest, but I believe very strongly that the movie, television, and video game industries need to take such a page from, or even partner a lot more with  I use both and Steam, but I'd rather buy my games from GOG.

I would very much rather buy my games from because I know for a fact that they will never put DRM on any of their games, their customer support team is top notch (can't say that about Steam because I've never used their customer support and do not plan on such), and they offer the same price on all games they offer, and they offer all their titles worldwide, with no regional restrictions, all things I feel very strongly about.

So, what are the television and movie and video game industries doing wrong as of right now?  And what, if anything, can they do to engender the kind of loyalty that has engendered amongst its users?

The movie industry still believes in slowly rolling out its movies across regions.  Most times nowadays every other nation in the world gets to see the latest movies BEFORE America, the home market for many of these movies.  Their catalog DVD sales have gone belly up, and new DVDs and Blu-Rays don't really get sales on a long-term basis because the MPAA has taken such a heavy anti-consumer stance against piracy that has actually hurt its legitimate consumers much more than it has hurt pirates.

Add on to that that Spielberg and Lucas said recently that the movie industry was on the brink of implosion, and you realize very quickly just how averse the movie industry is to making money.  I would argue that 99.9% of the "general audience" pictures, you know the ones with Owen Wilson, Ben Stiller, and those Judd Apatow movies that supposedly bring audiences in, would be so much better served as Internet-only movies. That way, they totally reel in their target audience (most of whom are really tech-savvy already), and those of us who think those movies sully the movie-going experience for everyone can avoid them like the plague, just like it always has been.

The TV industry is almost doing worse in this respect.  Cable and satellite subscriptions are slowly, steadily declining as more and more and more people can no longer afford the exorbitant rates that the cable and satellite companies charge for channels that NOBODY watches.  They are at least sort of embracing the Internet as a way to make some money off of cord-cutters like myself, but like the movie industry, they just seem horribly averse to making any money at all off the Internet.

I personally want to see subscription services that I can pay a certain amount of money a month for.  Like HBO Go, for instance.  I am voting with my wallet and not paying HBO any money at all until they give the people what it is that they want: HBO Go subscriptions without having to pay for exorbitantly expensive cable and satellite service.

The video game industry, thankfully, has done much better in this respect.  With the likes of providing video games with no DRM, and Microsoft doing a 180 on its proposed DRM policies on the Xbox One, DRM is less of a problem with video games.  It's still a huge problem with the likes of SimCity and Diablo III, don't get me wrong, but it is much less of an issue in the video game space than in either the movie or TV industries.

So, what exactly should be done to either combat or limit the scope of piracy?  Firstly, provide a service that is better by far than what the pirates offer. learned this lesson from the get-go, offering amazing bonuses with their games that you would otherwise not get from games on BitTorrent or similar networks.  Second, do not, do not, do not treat your customers like pirates, or numbers, or anything like that.  The more you treat your customers that way, the more they will not give you any money at all.

Thirdly, and perhaps most importantly, find a place like that will offer ALL of your content without the slightest hint of DRM.  No "Disney Movie Club" that is an totally unreasonable business model in the 21st century, no "Warner Archive Collection" on unreliable CD-Rs, no "instant streaming" a la Netflix, I want you people to understand that outside of Hollywood and other big cities, many of our Internet connections do not have a hint of reliability, and thus we cannot feasibly USE always-online DRM schemes, Netflix, and the like.

We want to have our content the way WE want to consume it.  Allow me to paint you a glorious (hypothetical) picture of what the future could be like for movies, TV shows, and video games, IF you big media types decide to play along.  These examples are set in a post-DRM Internet, where the scourge of DRM is but a distant memory, and people talk about the history of the Internet in school and shake their heads at the idea of locking down content in that fashion.

Let's say, for instance, that I want to buy the latest Disney Star Wars movie.  I download it from iTunes on my computer as a DRM-free MP4 file, the bonus features download as a separate ZIP file, and everything is groovy.  I can then show that movie on a large projector if I am a teacher, I can put it onto a device of my choosing as something I can watch on the plane (because most planes, even in the day and age where DRM is a distant memory, still have no prospects of Internet connectivity while in-flight unless you pay an exorbitant fee), and I can watch that movie how, where, and in what fashion I want.  No Internet connection is required EXCEPT to download the files.

Now for another example.  Let's say, for instance, that I love this TV show called "Whose Line Is It Anyway?" and it has been given a whole new lease on life. Let's say for the sake of this example that I missed last night's Whose Line for whatever reason and I want to watch it, but I am traveling that day and my prospects of having any sort of stable Web connection are slim at best.

I download it from a relatively new store to this type of content,, and download the DRM-free MP4 file.  I can then watch that episode while I am traveling, or when I get to my hotel room, where even in this day and age this hotel is charging exorbitant rates for a Web connection that is slow at best and sluggish at worst.  The fact of the matter is, I was able to watch this new episode of Whose Line without any stuttering, and the quality was top notch because it was playing from my device of choice.

And for my final example: Let's say that a new game comes out in the Monkey Island series.  The chances of that happening at the time I am writing this is slim at best.  Now, let's say that I happen to have this really cool new tablet type device that is an actual-facts computer, and said tablet device is the only full-fledged computer I'm going to have with me on my trip besides any of my other devices.

Now this example is a lot more exciting because I am buying this thing on, as I buy all games of this type anymore, and the purchase happens on my really swift new cellular Internet connection on this device, and I have a nice unlimited data plan on this device!  No longer do I need to contend with horrifically slow airport Wi-Fi, and the game downloads and installs itself automatically, with little to no interaction from me, as I sit at my gate, waiting to board the plane I'm taking for my cross-country flight home.

I get on the plane, and once I'm at cruising altitude over the continental US on my trip home, I start playing the new Monkey Island game I just bought at the gate.  And I happily play that new Monkey Island game all the time we're at cruising altitude.  And when I touch down at my home airport, I take the short drive home, and finish Monkey Island after I get home, unpack, and after I get myself into a comfy position.

This is a glorious future, but you big media types need to play along in order for this kind of glorious media future to become the reality we all live with each and every day.  I am very hopeful that as the media industry continues to embrace the Internet (albeit they need to do so a little bit quicker), that we creep ever so much closer to a reality that currently eludes us.

Thursday, July 4, 2013

As The Steam/GOG Turns #1: Sales, Final Fantasy, and Mortal Kombat, Oh My!

Hello everyone, and welcome to my new weekly column, As The Steam/GOG Turns, the continuing story of two competing digital distribution services that consistently have some pretty good releases!

But before I get to that, I want to recap a couple of recent releases and give you an idea of hwat I am going to be doing with this column, at least for the game release recaps.

First up is Leisure Suit Larry In The Land of the Lounge Lizards Reloaded, the remake of the first Leisure Suit Larry game that is more like the cel-shaded graphical style of later LSL games.  Plus Al Lowe, the original guy behind the game, is helping with the remake in some capacity.  The price is $19.99 on both GOG and Steam, and I think you are best off waiting for this one to go on sale.  $9.99 would've been perfect, so when it gets below that in a Steam sale, that's when you can snag this one.

Second is Rogue Legacy, from Cellar Door Games.  It's an independent game that is a side-scrolling Metroidvania-esque platformer with roguelike elements.  The idea is that you have a genealogy element, like the hero you use passes on certain traits to his or her heirs, such as hypergonadism (i.e. you have better knockback of enemies), dwarfism (i.e. you are smaller and thus harder to hit), and gigantism (i.e. you are huge and thusly a LOT easier to hit).  It is $14.99 from both GOG and Steam.  I would recommend the game as it gives off a lot of replay value and that classic "just one more run" feeling that I got from my 2012 game of the year, FTL: Faster Than Light.  This one is one that probably you can afford to pick it up on Steam or GOG, but if you are like me and want to support these amazing indie developers, I would probably recommend paying $15 on their website, giving them an additional tip if you desire, which then gives you a Steam key AND a DRM-free copy of the game, so you get the best of both worlds.

And now, on with As The Steam/GOG Turns...

This week, GOG ceded to Steam because they are still holding their #noDRM Summer Sale, the last day of which is today, July 4th.  They brought back all the prior bundle deals, so if you haven't picked anything else up, go ahead and do so.

However, there is one preorder release that has hit both Steam and GOG, and that is the brand-spanking-new Rise of the Triad game that is coming out at the end of this month.  Drool.  I love me some old-school FPS action (as I played Quake III and Unreal Tournament till the cows came home), and this is pretty much more of the same gaming goodness.  It's $14.99 for the preorder on both Steam AND GOG, plus no matter where you buy the preorder you get the original Rise of the Triad, along with Blake Stone: Aliens of Gold and Blake Stone: Planet Strike, so it is a total win-win situation.  I know where I'll be picking up my copy of the new ROTT from, so get going, soldier!

So, Steam this week has got a ton of awesome releases this week!

First and foremost, Mortal Kombat Komplete Edition, the ultimate version of the hit 2011 game that rebooted the Mortal Kombat franchise, has finally, finally, finally made it to the PC.  This franchise is well-known for its gruesome fatalities, its roster of characters, and some of the most over the top fighting action you will ever see.  Mortal Kombat is the main reason we now have ESRB ratings on our game boxes, and this franchise has gotten a breath of fresh air.  The Komplete Edition even adds 4 new Kombatants, Rain, Skarlet, Kenshi, and guest Kombatant Freddy Krueger (yes, THAT Freddy Krueger, the Nightmare on Elm Street himself), 15 Klassic Mortal Kombat skins, and 3 Klassic Fatalities.  it's $29.99, and while I am in full support of paying full price for this game (and I think I am going to pay full price for the game to support fighting games on PC), I am afraid I may have to recommend waiting till it goes on sale.

Secondly is a game that was (amazingly) released on PC back in 1997 but got a revamping of sorts last year and every single fan said, in essence, "No Steam, no sale", and now they get their wish: Final Fantasy VII is now on Steam!!  This new version of FF VII boasts achievements, Cloud Saves (the punnage is amazing, as Cloud Strife is the hero of FFVII), a Character Booster feature so you can get through a difficult section with ease (glad they put that in), and it works on all modern PC operating systems.  I'm not sure if the SecuROM that was in place on the Square Enix Store version is still in place, but ya never know with these things.  $11.99 gets this game on a modern platform.  Great value, because the original PS1 version goes for way more than that on eBay.  This is recommended to buy now and not wait till a Steam sale.

Finally in the releases, I will take the opportunity to detail what is on Free Weekend on Steam this holiday weekend. Free Weekends are usually a game that is available to the public for free for the weekend and is pretty much on sale for the same time at a steep discount.  Usually this is more than likely going to be a separate post, but because this is the July 4th holiday weekend,  the Free Weekend title is already online: Sonic and All-Stars Racing Transformed.  Some of us already have this title (such as myself), so this one is a non-issue for me.  I can't wait to give this game a whirl, because I like Mario Kart-style racing games, and Sega and Sumo Digital almost always get the game's speed and pacing exactly right.

Now, what have I been playing of recent?  I mentioned in my introductory post yesterday that I've been playing the Poker Night games from Telltale. 

First, let me talk about Poker Night at the Inventory.  The game is interesting to say the very least, where you play Texas Hold-Em poker at a secretive club founded about the time of Prohibition called The Inventory.  Your opponents are Max, the rabbity-thing from the Sam & Max games, the Heavy Weapons Guy from Team Fortress 2, Strong Bad from Homestar Runner, and Tycho Brahe from Penny Arcade.  The game is hysterically funny (and please, if you are not sensitive to the profanity, turn it on.  The language filter is on by default for whatever reason), but the AI is godawful.  Even Tycho's geek humor cannot save this from the "Only-buy-it-on-Steam-sale-for-75%-off" bin.  Only good for maybe a couple hours, if that.

Next I will give my impressions of Poker Night 2.  This one is really good, the AI is much improved over the prior game (although that wasn't that hard to do...), and there are 2 different games you can select from in this one: You can play Hold-Em, as I am continuing to do, or you can play Omaha, which while it does have an element of luck, it is a game that has a mich higher skill ceiling than Texas Hold-Em.  Your opponents in this one are Ash Williams of Evil Dead fame, Brock Samson from the Venture Bros. cartoon on Adult Swim, Claptrap from the Borderlands games, and Sam (the detective dog from the Sam & Max games).  Your dealer this time is gLADOS from Portal.  How fun!  I love this one very much, and I totally lucked out last night as I was playing because I landed a 4 of a kind (the best hand you can possibly have in poker) against Brock Samson, and he was all-in so I summarily knocked him out.  That was amazing, let me just say.  $4.99 is a "impulse-buy-no-need0-for-it-to-go-on-sale" game and it is amazing.

That's all I'm playing right now, so I'll see you next week on As The Steam/GOG Turns.

Wednesday, July 3, 2013

As the Steam/GOG Turns (Intro to a New Column)

I've been playing a lot of PC games of recent.  From the first Poker Night (Poker Night at the Inventory), to its sequel, Poker Night 2, and many other fabulous PC games, I am actually finding that PC gaming is becoming my main source of gaming anymore.

So, to that end, I'm debuting a brand-new column that will be exclusive to this blog portfolio: As The Steam/GOG Turns.  It's a new idea that is taking the GOG release wrapups I did before and expanding them to include Steam as well.  It'll talk about what exactly the releases are about, give a price tag, and maybe talk a little bit about whether a game looks to be worth it or not at the price tag they're asking, or whether it's better to wait till it goes on sale.  Plus I'll give a rundown on games I am playing at the moment that are available on Steam or GOG and maybe give a recommendation or whatever depending on what I'm playing.

Tomorrow will be when I do my full write up because there is some major teasing on Twitter about something fairly epic going down tomorrow on, so I want to cover it in my first-ever As The Steam/GOG Turns column.  See ya then!

Tuesday, July 2, 2013

"Goodbye, 1up Galaxy!"

Before I get going on what I am about to say here, I want to say that the title is based on a game in the Commander Keen series, and therefore this title is apropos.

Today marks the end of one of the most productive periods in my young writing career: The first ever legitimate website I have worked for, 1upGalaxy, is no longer, being morphed into my friend the co-founder's website, and many of the posts have evaporated.

It was about this time last year that I heard about a new website for gamers that was starting up called 1up Galaxy.  I was one of the very first guys to write for the site, and I gradually became the most prolific writer on the site.  Eventually, I became the only writer on the site before it was folded this afternoon.

In the time that I worked on the site, I went through a very difficult period wherein I had to contend with greatly increased stress levels, a large productive period where I found my calling as a writer, found some of the amazing people that I now call my friends, and I even reconnected with two friends I had totally lost touch with for 20 years. 

I find, even now, that the short time I got to work on a legit website as a writer was absolutely invaluable to me.  I am forever grateful to my friends Van (known on YouTube as FiyahKitteh), Slim (SlimKirby), Scooter (PraisedScooter), and all the people I got to work with.  I'm sad that it had to end, but I feel very strongly that we all had to go our separate ways because of my newfound ambition in terms of my writing career.

Also, some of the features I started on 1up Galaxy, including Nintendo Direct recaps and release week recaps, will in fact come over to this site.  There will no longer be any of my old articles coming over to the site, and in fact I will try to post twice every day, sometimes more if I get inspired to write, really it just depends on the day.  I hope you come with me on what is frankly the biggest writing adventure of my life, and I am happy to have you, my readers, along for the ride that I was not expecting to have, especially not this soon.

EXCLUSIVE ADVANCE REVIEW: Sounds Like You by Kirby Krackle

July 2, 2013.  Today is a date that forever shall live in infamy for me, as it was the day I got to listen to an exclusive livestream of the new album from nerd rock pioneers Kirby Krackle.

Nerd rock pioneers Kirby Krackle hail from Seattle, Washington.  Other musical acts that have come from Seattle include Pearl Jam and Heart, as well as a myriad of others.  The album comes out next week, and I'm one of Kirby Krackle's biggest fans, so this is a huge treat for me.  Thank you again Kyle and Jim for the opportunity to review your work before the rest of the world.

The new album Sounds Like You starts off with the song Parachute, which reminds me a lot of Superman and Lois Lane and how he's almost always her parachute.  (On that subject, I love that the new Man of Steel movie actually gave Lois Lane something to do for once.)

The second track is "Set Your Phasers to Sexy" which I think is about a nerdy, comic book-reading guy like myself getting attracted to a female nerd.  One thing I love about this song is how it has some really cool vocal stuff and one amazing guitar solo that sounds like Neil Giraldo guested on the album.

Third up is Cozy Pants O'Clock, which I think has a Crosby, Stills, & Nash Southern Cross vibe, and this song is about how amazing it is to lounge around in cozy pants.  For me, if I had my way, Cozy Pants O'Clock would be all day, every day.  I do not think that I am alone in this.

Fourth is 140 Characters, and it is about falling in love with someone over social media.  I can identify with this only to a certain point, but it's one of the few songs that have any sort of soft rock on the album.  I miss the ukuleles, so this one will have to do until KK releases their next album.

Fifth is One More Episode, which was released earlier last year as a single.  As a refresher course, it's about those TV on DVD sets and how you tend to marathon those late into the night.  I can identify with the song, but for me, it was the Star Wars prequels that I decided (very stupidly I may add) to marathon one night after they released on Blu-Ray.  I tried valiantly to watch all three but the lengthy run times of the movies meant that I skipped large portions of the second and third movies. (That was when my opinion on Episode I changed, knowing what I know now about how awful Episode II was and how Episode III was better than Episode II but went way too far in the wrong direction for me.)

Sixth is Grandma's House, which is about (wait for it) going to Grandma's house.  I fondly remember getting to go to both of my grandmothers' houses, but for me, I was a lot closer to my maternal grandmother than I was to my paternal grandmother.  Unfortunately, they both are no longer on this Earth, but I still think of them every day.

Seventh is Take You Out Tonight, which is about taking a girl on a date.  I'm not certain from whose perspective the song is being sung, but it sure sounds like a song that talks about Spidey and Mary Jane Watson...

Eighth is Cosplay Queen, which talks about the relationships that tend to spring up like weeds in the cosplay world.  It's really cool to finally have a song that celebrates cosplay.  I like the acoustic sound of the song, because of how few acoustic songs are on the album.  (Also, I laughed at the She-Ra reference.)

Ninth is Taco Night.  I think it is about... wait for it... Taco Night.  Like the night that everyone eats tacos.  I think this is a great song.  Makes me want Taco Bell too, which is not necessarily a bad thing.

Tenth is The Same Thing, and I think it it is about how we are all the same as humans, and that our rights cannot be inequal.  I love that, and I believe that nerd culture is a lot more inclusive than general society as a whole.  It's a pretty big deal that the general public is less inclusive of gays, etc. than us nerds are.

Eleventh is Web Slinger / Hope Bringer, which KK released as a single last fall.  It is about Peter Parker, also known as Spider-Man (and I don't care what Marvel does with the Webbed Wonder, they made a HUGE mistake with how they handled the end of the 700-issue run of Amazing Spider Man).

Twelfth is Moisture Farm, about the hero of the real Star Wars movies, Luke Skywalker.  I thought that this song was amazing, mainly because I am such an Original Trilogy nerd.

Thirteenth is North of the Wall, and it is the obligatory Game of Thrones song every self-respecting nerd rocker has to have.  It is also one of the most plugged-in songs KK has ever made, and because it is so plugged-in, I can barely understand the lyrics.  No offense intended but I think the instruments could have been taken down a notch and it would have helped the intelligibility of the lyrics.

As far as a wrap-up and rating goes: I absolutely loved this album!  I give the album a 4.9 out of 5, and I took 0.1 off for North of the Wall's lyrics barely being intelligible.  It comes highly recommended by yours truly, and Sounds Like You comes out July 9th.

Monday, July 1, 2013

The Pinball Arcade: What It Is And Why You Should Care

For those of you who've been around the block more than a few times, you may well have heard of The Pinball Arcade from Farsight Studios.  But what is it, and why should you care?

Before I explain what exactly it is, I need to talk a bit about my love for pinball.  I've seen more pinballs than you could ever possibly imagine, moreso the more recent Stern pinballs (like The Simpsons Pinball Party) than anything else.  Pinball, for me, is the sort of game I absolutely love: Easy to pick up and play, but difficult to master.

Now, The Pinball Arcade's goal and mission is to recreate some of the most legendary real life pinball tables in a digital form that can be played by anyone, regardless of the skill level or the platform you play it on.  The Pinball Arcade pinballs are NOT like the Zen Pinballs of the world in that every single pinball table in The Pinball Arcade is a real life pinball machine.  If you've seen that pinball at, say, the Pinball Hall of Fame in Las Vegas, Nevada, then you will (eventually) see that pinball in The Pinball Arcade if it isn't there already.

But, you ask me, why on Earth should I care about a digital facsimile of real pinball?  What is in it for me?  The idea of a digital facsimile of real pinball is really cool for me.  If you've ever played games like "Kirby's Pinball Land" (and I know I have), you know that some of the things you can do in that game are NOT things you can do on real pinball tables.  Even Zen Pinball (and the Marvel pinball game) on platforms like the 3DS are guilty of this in certain instances.  But what's in it for you?  If you like pinballs like Star Trek: The Next Generation (yeah, they made a pinball of that) or Twilight Zone, or even Medieval Madness, or Elvira and the Party Monsters, or Scared Stiff, or even Bride of Pinbot, you are going to go absolutely ape for this game.

Currently, it's on the Xbox 360 (in a very deprecated state courtesy of Crave Entertainment going bankrupt, but there should be news on this front soon), Playstation 3, Playstation Vita, Mac, iPhone, iPad, and Android, and coming soon to Steam, Wii U, Ouya, and the Playstation 4.

Kirby Krackle: Rock & Roll with a Twist

I know what you’re thinking.  “Wait, what?  A post about a band called Kirby Krackle?”  Bear with me folks, and allow me to explain.  Kirby Krackle is a nerd rock band that hails from Seattle, Washington (home of such amazing musical acts as Heart, Pearl Jam, and Soundgarden), and is a duo, Kyle Stevens and Jim Demonakis, the latter of whom runs Emerald City Comic Con.
Also, you would think the band itself was named after the videogame character Kirby (the pink puffball), but there’s actually a comic book reference in the name. There was a guy who worked with Stan Lee at Marvel Comics back when Spider-Man, the X-Men, and Fantastic Four and the major Marvel properties we all know and love were just beginning to be created by the name of Jack Kirby, and that is where the Kirby in Kirby Krackle came from.

But that’s enough background.  Why would you want to listen to Kirby Krackle (or KK for short)?  Well, first of all they’ve referenced a bunch of videogames in their songs!  That’s why you’re here, right?  So, I am detailing (in one post) all the video game references, both general and specific, in all the Kirby Krackle songs released to date, along with a couple of other songs you might want to check out, though they are not technically a video game band per se.

For instance, on their self-titled debut album, KK have two songs that reference videogames specifically: Back to the Beginning references Mario Kart, and Teabagged references Halo (which might be a tad obvious to some of you).  Also, there are two songs that reference videogames generally. “Up, Up, Down, Down” references the Konami Code... except that they slip up and instead of the Konami Code ending in “B, A”, they end the Konami Code in “Select, Start”... but that is the only video game reference in that entire song, because it’s... not what you’d consider a happy song, let me just say that.  The other one is “Naked Wii”... which is exactly what you think it’s about, you dirty-minded freak.

Then, on their second album, “E For Everyone” (which is itself a video game reference to the ESRB rating system), they have songs based on Fallout 3 (Vault 101) and Mega Man (Take it From Me).
Then they came out with their most recent full-length studio album, “Super Powered Love”, last year.  The only video game-referring song on there is “In Another Castle”, which has the rather impressive contrast of Mario fretting over (who else?) Princess Peach in the original Super Mario Bros. and a really cutesy, upbeat-sounding ukulele backing track.

However, if you just got all those songs, you wouldn’t get the flavor of the sheer variety that Kirby Krackle offers in the stuff it references in their various songs.  So, here are a few you should check out:
  • “Ring Capacity” is a Green Lantern ditty that is amazingly catchy with the Green Lantern Oath as the bridge... AWESOME! (from the album “E for Everyone”)
  • “Take On Me” is actually one of the better covers I’ve heard of this 80s classic from one-hit wonder a-ha. (from the album “Live in Seattle”)
  • “One More Episode” is a song that talks about all those TV-on-DVD box sets and watching all the episodes contained within till the break of dawn (released as its own single, “One More Episode”)
  • “Web-Slinger/Hope-Bringer” is a single that came out this past summer when the movie “Amazing Spider-Man” came out in movie theatres everywhere, and it’s about Spider-Man and the dichotomy he often seems to face about how he can be Spider-Man and still have the time to work, go to school, and/or have a girlfriend. (released as its own single)
  • “Roll Over” is a song about general debauchery at the Bar at the End of the World, (which is a reference to Neil Gaiman’s Sandman), and the chorus is to the tune of the nursery song of the same name. (from “E for Everyone”)
  • “Dusty Cartridges & Long Boxes” is the closest KK have ever come to writing a full-blown geek love song. (from “E for Everyone”)
  • “Baby It’s Cold Outside (Hoth Version)” is a song that KK released for free this last holiday season that takes a Christmas song that has been done to death and give it a nicely fun Star Wars spin, some role reversal, and some much-needed freshness that many versions have lacked.  They did that song with The Doubleclicks, a female-fronted nerd rock group.
So, if you like what you’ve seen in this post, you can check out their website,, and it’ll take you to their iTunes and Amazon MP3 pages, as well as their Bandcamp page!  So, check them out for me, would you please?

The Perils of Techies

I guess the title could become a modern day adventure serial along the lines of the old Perils of Pauline serials from the olden days of cinema.

But yeah, I realize that, as a techie, we have our own first world problems (I think the hashtag for that on Twitter is #NerdWorldProblems), so maybe my troubles with tech won't seem so bad in comparison. 

For a few years now I have had an Apple MacBook Pro laptop that has, for the most part, served me very well.  Very well indeed.  But last night, after I set this new portfolio site up, I noticed that my battery levels were going down, and on top of that I wasn't charging at all, even though I was plugged into a power outlet. 

So, I did some tests (staying up a wee bit later than I should have to do it), realized my power adapter was probably pretty borked, and went to bed. Got up this morning, same problem.  Did a few more tests and got my serial number from my MBP and called AppleCare, only to find out to my great chagrin that I no longer was covered under AppleCare, which had served me quite well up until this point.

So, that is my current situation.  The Perils of Techies, indeed.