Pretentious, opinionated language

Games, technology, music, silliness. Oh and ninjas. Lots of ninjas.

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Location: Oslo, Norway

I am Andreas. Day time programmer and technical consultant. Night time musician and game developer.

Friday, December 30, 2005

Some game recommendations

King Kong (xbox, x360, ps2, gc)
Gunstar Super Heroes (gba)
Castlevania Dawn of Sorrow (ds)
Meteos (ds)
Burnout Legends (psp)
Mario Kart DS (ds obviously)

I know a bunch of these aren't recent, but they are just about devouring my time these days. It's nice to see the idea of a highscore hasnt been lost yet. Driving games have this inherently what
with the whole best lap thing, but action games have a tendency of losing it. Back in the deezy you'd be scored by the number of enemies you destroyed. Recent games rather score you by the skill with which you complete the section. King Kong scores you by number of shots vs number of hits vs number of kills, which makes you want to return to chapters after completion just to see how much better you can do. It's a tiny thing that makes a game last longer.

Meteos owns my sleep. I DREAM of this game. I had my time with Lumines, but Meteos... I think it somehow actually restructures your neurons in the shape of colored blocks arranged in sets of 3, so when they fire off they'll take other neurons with them and form combos. Every single morning, when i'm dozing, the image of dragging blocks into rows to turn them into rocket engines is like right in front of my eyes. It's uncanny. Haven't had this kind of weird obsession since Chu Chu Rocket on my Dreamcast.

Both Gunstar Super Heroes and Dawn of Sorrow really nail the sidescroller formula. You've got 2 buttons for about a dozen actions. Gunstar Heroes in particular has an uppercut, a flying kick, a jump, a drop kick, a drill kick and a sliding kick mapped to the A-button alone, and it never feels like too much. I wasnt part of the Sega Genesis days, what with the Sparkster games and the Gunstar Heroes whatnot, but i can totally see what it's all about. GSH is everything i wanted Astro Boy to be. Whatever Treasure was on when they did Astro Boy, it's all out of their system now. Total raditude.

Burnout Legends, as much as the PSP pisses me off, is really a lot of fun multiplayer. I remember being pissed off about the splitscreen demolishing the gameplay on my xbox, but handheld, networked, its glitch free and a ton of fun. At work it's grown to be a matter of honor. I'm ALMOST at the top of the ladder right now ;D

Mario Kart DS is a rockstar of a game. This is no "handheld version of a mario kart game". It's a legitimate evolution of the mario kart franchise. A true sequel. It fixes what i didnt like about double dash, and as awkward as it has been getting online to work (since i live in Norway and whatnot), when it does work it's got a really strange feeling to it.
My friend code should you care:

025830
821539

Thursday, December 22, 2005

40 year old virgin

It's a good movie, really. Actually it's pretty awesome, fantastically clever writing for what it is (being a crude grown up American Pie). It really nails The Guy as well, which is wonderful to see. Recommended to the max.

I need to say it has a weird outcome though.. I have issues with this guy giving up pretty much everything that makes him him, just to have sex. Sex isn't worth loss of personality thanks much. Not now, not ever, was never, won't ever be. The one part of the movie that drops into TRUE immaturity is the bit where finally having sex is some kind of serendipitous epiphany that changes everything. Without getting overly intricate, being a male virgin is about insecurities, and that is all. The epiphany is about realising the stupidity of that insecurity over something as superfluous as a fuck.

The film closes on a philsophical nerve that pretty much reduces the Andy character into a big happy nothing for a moment of simple release, and it frustrated me.

Then again, it's a movie that starts out with a guy trying to take a leak with a hardon. Perhaps philosophy isn't what its all about ;)

Tuesday, December 20, 2005

Kong!

Saw King Kong yesterday. Meh.

It really hurts to say this. I really like Peter Jackson's work, he has an excellent eye for entertainment, and when he nails it he nails it. King Kong the game was bad ass. I was totally stoked to see the movie after that short but dense experience. King Kong the movie however is almost an exact opposite of the game. The game takes the best parts of the film, makes them even denser, and then plays that out over what is essentially a fairly short game. The movie takes maybe 45 minutes of awesome footage and spreads that out over more than 3 hours, interleaving it with melodrama and slowmo shots.

There are outstanding scenes in King Kong the movie, but there's just so much dead time it's easy to forget all about them. Both me and my girl were totally stoked to see it, and both left the theatre tired and a little put off.

The film's screenplay suffers immensely. Whenever there is not spectacle, and Naomi Watts has to say more than "Aieeee!", the writing falls flat. It speaks volumes that the best lines of the film are by Kong (who emotes more effectively than anyone in the cast). It doesnt help that the film CONSUMES characters. It creates a bunch, introduces them deftly, then completely discards them with no fanfare. The now infamous spider-pit scene (made far better by its restraint in the soundtrack department, THAT caught my eye more than any bugs) has a couple of guys croak that i didnt even realise were there. The most moving death of that entire scene is the guy that simply fell down and died. It doesnt help that the movie spends 2 hours acquainting you with the Venture's crew, only to forget about them completely once the movie goes back to New York (literally. They are never mentioned again). A potentially interesting plot point, capitalized on in the game, is the Skull Island natives, who make for a sinister presence throughout the game. In the movie, after an intense introduction, they are again completely forgotten and never discussed.

It's not a crap movie by any standard, and as a spectacle, well you probably won't ever see t-rexes get curbed in any other movie to come. It's just so long. It's hard to accept its campy creature-feature nature when it spends so much time with its characters delivering flat lines. There aren't even any memorable one-liners here, which leads me to believe the Ring trilogy and its lovely dialogue was far more Tolkien's work than the screenwriters have given credit for.

Final verdict? Hard to say. Disappointed? Kind of. Impressed? Very. Funny how that juxtaposition works out isn't it.

The thoughts i left the theatre with were basically these:

  1. There is no blood in the film at all, in spite of all the carnage.
  2. Cool ape, shame about the unrealistic girl. When are movies like this just going to understand that they're CG cartoons and that greenscreening people into them are what ruins the suspension of disbelief? We've flipped the coin, rear-projection effects looked fake and the people looked real. Now the people look fake and the CGI looks real. Strange stuff.
  3. What's up with the boring deaths? On a scale of 1-10 on the entertaining movie death scale, falling off cliffs, getting crushed and being swatted aside are all low ones, and that's pretty much 90% of the deaths in the film right there! Come on Peter, there better be more interesting footage on the DVD...

Monday, December 19, 2005

My final verdict on the PSP

It's taken me a while, and it's been pretty tough. On one hand, i adore being able to play Burnout on the go. I adore the screen, which is just beautiful. The weight of it is comfortable. In the end however, using a PSP hurts.

The controls are terrible. Just terrible. I felt less pain using a NES controller (remember that brick, with the hard angled corners cutting into your hands?). I actually felt more comfortable using the black and white buttons on the first terrible incarnation of the Xbox controller.

The analog stick does things to my long-fingered hands i have a hard time figuring out. It really just hurts my hands a lot. The angle my wrist is at, the angle my elbow is at. The way i have to cradle the PSP to still maintain a grip of the analog stick. It works for the first few minutes, but a 20 minute Burnout multiplayer tournament just wreaks havoc on my wrist. I have more wrist pains now than i have had ever since i first started using a keyboard. How's that for carpal tunnel syndrome.

Before you give me the fanboy stamp, let me remind you i own this thing, and have paid for 4 games for it. I really gave it a long, hard go. I feel wowed at one moment. But then i return to my DS for another Mario Kart race, or another game of Meteos, and i realise just how fucked up Sony's take on the handheld really is.

The DS *DOMINATES* the PSP in the usability stakes. Better dpad by far. Better analog control with the touch screen (really!). The face buttons suffer a bit because of their tiny surface area, but they still feel more responsive. Perhaps it is because i just spent more time with it? I don't know. I DO know that the DS hasn't hurt my hands, not once. Nothing akin to the screwdriver-through-the-wrist-and-thumb treatment the PSP puts me through.

It's a frustrating conclusion to reach. For one, it means i probably bought my last PSP game, at least until Rockman Rockman is out, or a game that effectively uses the terrible dpad well in some way. It's pretty wack that a dpad-controller racer somehow plays more elegantly than an analog-enabled one, and that just speaks volumes of the inadequacies of the PSP.

My final, bombastic conclusion? The PSP is a complete failure as a handheld gaming device. It might fare better as a portable movie viewer kajigger if you're willing to overlook the ghosting. A gaming device that won't let you play games without cramps and anguish is a poor design by default. I'm sure it works fine for some people, but for me, it just doesnt, and i dont have weird crinkled tentacled hands. I have gamer hands. I've been playing games since i was very very small indeed. That Sony failed to do extensive enough testing of their initial design just speaks to their lack of understanding for the format.

Cool screen, shit controls. REAL shit controls.

The funniest thing, and the most provocative, is the total lack of criticism people display for this designer brick. Friends go "When are the good PSP games coming around?". I tell them "Get a DS, it's got tons and is cheaper, the PSP is agony incarnate". What do i get? "Are you selling yours?"

I'm sorry guys, you know who you are, but STILL wanting a PSP after its monumental failures and STILL ignoring the raditude of the DS, AT THE SAME TIME as you diss the industry's disregard for gameplay over better graphics; I couldn't do a better job of invalidating your opinion. It's frustrating. Please, play games on an expensive brick, youll doom us all.

Anyone got ideas to turn my opinion around? Ways to hold the thing and effectively use the analog stick without cramping up? Fixes for the horror-pad? I'm all ears.

Thursday, December 15, 2005

hmmm




Happy slapping..?

This UK happy slapping bullshit sounds so stupid i'm having a hard time believing there are fucktards out there capable of coming up with it. Apparently it's a very real thing, which leads me, once again, to point to the UK as the pinnacle of irony. For a place that used to ship criminal elements to Australia, you'd think it was the other way around. I felt safer in Brooklyn in the middle of the night than i did daytime in London. It is also the one place i have never once seen a native girl i found remotely attractive. Just thought i'd mention that while i'm panning an entire country ;)

What's up with the UK? Idiot kids, ugly girls and terrible music.
Someone save them!

PSP first impression

As a super cool gesture, everyone at work got a PSP for christmas. I wouldn't have gotten one otherwise, since Sony pricing in norway is prohibitively high (we're talking $90 USD for a PSP game), but now that i have the hardware there's really no excuse not to get involved.

I've previously stated that i totally dig the DS. I've also stated that i'm not a fan of the PSP. Now that i've spent extended time with it, i'm slightly warmer, but the hardware has a few very serious issues that are directly detrimental to gameplay. These issues are so severe, i expect Sony to adress them in a future update to the PSP, hopefully soon.

First of all, analog control on the PSP is clever but awkward and not as smooth as it needs to be, leading to oversteer in Burnout and Wipeout. A LOT of oversteer, even after lots of practise.

Actually it leeds to oversteer in everything not expecting you to ram hard in a direction. It needs a larger range of movement sorely, and a surface with more friction. It's tempting to tape something to the analog pad to make my thumb stick better.

Second, the analog pad is placed so low on the device (lower left corner) that there are two choices for operating it: Keeping your wrists to the sides of the device, letting you "push" the pad with your thumb rather than drag it, and thus forcing you to keep the device at arm's length for it to be comfy (making the gorgeous screen super tiny), or holding it like a joypad, bending your thumb painfully to reach down.
Either way, something suffers, be it the gameplay, your eyes or your thumb.

The worst offender by far is the dpad. I'm in NO way adverse to the PS/PS2 dual shock style digital pad, which i have considered the best dpad on the market for fighting games for a long long time. On the PS2, the dpad is placed in such a way as to hide the majority of the pad under a plastic covering, leaving the four cardinal directions protuding from the controller, giving an impression of 4 buttons rather than one rocker.

The PSP mimics this design, but the dpad's profile is very low, making the impression of 4 buttons more of a reality. Hitting diagonals becomes a huge issue, even with my pancake thumbs. Simple things like scrolling the map diagonally in Metal Gear Acid becomes an exercise, because you have to place the knuckle on left and the tip of the thumb on up. You can't just rock between directions. So far i haven't faced this issue full on, because most games tend to support the analog pad and the pad is at the very least servicable, but for every action that requires digital motion there's a moment of arrgh.

When i first realised this issue it was with disbelief. I have no idea how Sony could jump for an unconventional control device like the analog pad (which is more like a sliding plate) without putting proper care into designing their dpad solution. For a developer of a system known for its bad ass fighting games, how on earth are Sony expecting a Tekken or Soul Calibur to work on a handheld that can't even scroll a static map diagonally without causing anguish?

Capcom are pretty aware of the issue, and probably have been ever since Darkstalkers chronicles.
It's a solution,
but i'd rather have a PSP sans problem.

There's a ton of good to be said for the PSP's hardware, but something is seriously wrong when the control input mechanisms of a games console from a seasoned developer are so completely and utterly overlooked.. Perhaps i'm jaded, owning every Gameboy system to date and the DS, but i love the games i own for my PSP (especially Burnout Legends, which is just amazing multiplayer), and being denied their full awesomeness because someone at Sony failed to do their homework is less than outstanding.

So Sony, fix your controls, THEN try justifying a $90 game price for me, because right now every single purchase actually makes me feel stupid.

Tuesday, December 06, 2005

A day of great shame

This marks the end of a 15 year lucky streak. I have bought my first defective game cartridge.

I'm not sure if i should be as shocked as i am, but i have, as said, bought *masses* of games for the past 15 years, and not once have i encountered a game defective to the point where i have to return it. Nintendogs gets the dubious honor of being the first.

This is a two-pronged post. On one end i'm terribly sad that i have got a game that is defective, but on the other the reason i'm so sad is because said defective game is so blisteringly good!

I'm not sure i'd call it a game really. The manual describes it as an interactive entertainment experience, and i think that sums it up very nicely. At its core, it is a puppy simulator with some pretty cool technology in its linings, and i don't know what else there is to say about it. You start out buying a puppy, and the game nudges you into teaching it tricks, personalizing it and having it give you feedback of the sort i can't remember ever getting from a game. I am not a dog person in the least. Dogs to me are high maintenance clowns or high maintenance poop machines. I'm also a fairly jaded gamer, and most of my favorite games are what you'd call "hard core", such as Ninja Gaiden and Mars Matrix. Nintendogs does something to me though.. For the first while i was just tapping away at this screen thinking to myself "this is kind of creepy. They're trying to make me feel empathy for a bunch of polygons that respond to my voice". Then the hours just went by. Suddenly i find myself grinning stupidly to myself, putting my shiba inu through dog shows and grinning like a kid at christmas eve when she learned to play fetch with a frisbee. Nintendogs is a game of discovery, bizarrely enough. Not in the sense you'd think, but more of a discovery of yourself and what kind of person you are. Once you get over the hurdle of the voice recognition and learn how to make phrases it understands quickly, it's hard not to fall in love with the little puppies.

Another discovery is that the game pretty much completely excludes regular input methods. The interface is based around the stylus and the microphone, and that's about all there is. Not ONCE did i miss a button, and it felt.. Liberating? I don't know. Once i thought Nintendo were completely off the heezy with the DS, but so far this year, it's outrocked the PSP in every single way i can imagine. Please, any fecking developer on the PSP, make ONE game that can make me as giddy as Nintendogs did. You can throw polys around all you want, the DS has proven that interaction and play is what makes a game good. Screw the term gameplay, games are toys wether you like it or not, and Nintendo is the only hardware developer out there that still makes consoles that are toys. If you're "too old" for that, you don't deserve the yummy goodness that is Nintendogs.

Then again, Nintendogs refuses to save my games after i've taught any puppy more than 2 tricks. Saving the game corrupts the save data and forces the game to reformat on boot. *Heartwrenching*. I fall in love with it, then it kicks me in the balls, not once but four times in a row. I can replicate the error without fail every single time now, and it's really making my heart bleed. Here's hoping i can get it swapped.. Sigh..

Thank god its not my DS, or i'd feel seriously afraid for my Castlevania and Mario kart saves O_o

Saturday, December 03, 2005

IGN's POP3 review

If you're excited about Prince of Persia: The two thrones, don't read
IGN's review. They summarize that it's great, and thats all you should
need to know. The review is littered with spoilers, which has made be
pretty damn furious right now. Thanks a lot IGN.

Friday, December 02, 2005

ICANN are apparently idiots

http://www.theregister.com/2005/12/01/icann_kills_xxx/

.xxx domains are postponed. AGAIN. There is no good reason on this planet for this to be so.

Some people say ICANN are postponing it because they've been pressured by US conservatives, which means one of two things:

  • ICANN are lapdogs to a government who wants to keep porn integrated with society in the tightest and most audacious way imaginable. Who are idiots.
  • ICANN are idiots.
As it is, porn sites sit side by side with mathworld.wolfram.com, imdb.com and wikipedia.com. There is literally no distinction between horse dong galleries and quantum mechanics research.
Here are some slight fringe benefits to .xxx domains:

  1. Improved browser and OS based parental control
  2. Improved search filters to stay on subject. Nothing more annoying than searching for "building a chair out of pyrewood" and getting midget sex. God knows i search for chairbuilding tutorials every four days or so.
  3. Improved marketing possibilities for the porn industry. They will no longer have to infringe on "decent" searches to get hits, which again will improve their public image as a niche market.
Just the parental control is good enough an argument imho: The porn, while a mainstay of the web and part of what drives technology forwards (the porn industry are first in line to use new tech for some reason, and that's where the money is), needs to be filtered out. There is no reason a 12 year old looking up a school subject or whatever needs to be assaulted by some of the stuff online, and proper filtering/parental control is something the web *needs sorely* and has needed since it started.

To postpone .xxx is counterproductive to the continued evolution of the net and it is diminishing the common value of the web. It's that simple.

*update*
A third option is that ICANN are actually pressured by rogue elements of the porn industry who want to maintain the current search engine anarchy where porn sits side by side with whatever. I'm sure they get a few extra hits out of it, but i'd be damned surprised if the majority of people will bother filtering out .xxx domains in the first place. Hmmm.