Angry Robot

Robot Sounds 15

It’s all about Halo and the three new maps released this week! D, Toku and Nadine drool, analyze, and lament!

Angry Robot Sounds 15

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March of the Space Marines

Today’s all about the Legendary Map Pack, and I refuse to acknowledge there could be any other gaming news. Since we’re such halo whores, we’ll be trying the new (ish) maps out and putting up a special halo-only podcast later tonight. Unless we get really caught up playing the new maps, in which case it might be up tomorrow morning.

For Adults Only – Sexy Adults

“Adults Only” is the NC-17 of the games industry, the label slapped on explicit material that dooms it to obscurity through lack of distribution. It’s what Grand Theft Auto: San Andreas got knocked with when the Hot Coffee code was discovered. Well, as parenting website What They Play discovers, only 23 games have ever received the rating – out of 15,000 reviewed by the ESRB. They go on to ‘collect’ ‘information’ about the games, as it’s all in the name of scientific research after all, and totally not titillating linkbait or anything.

So what gets a game an AO rating?

Seriously, what does a violent game have to do to get banned around here? Yes, the last bullet point refers to the infamous Thrill Kill – actually never released – and other than that, all the other games are AO because of sexual content. In fact, several of them aren’t even games – for some reason, a handful of DVDs got the rating as well. Oh, and GTA is the only console game on the list other than Indigo Prophecy, but for the director’s cut, which was only released in North America as a download.

I think it would be wrong if I didn’t close with some Thrill Kill footage. Y’know, for research purposes.

Lost Odyssey: A Gateway RPG

A few months ago I was talking about how playing Lost Odyssey would explode my brain in super nova like proportions. What was is that Treebeard said? Oh yeah, don’t be hasty. Don’t be hasty indeed! The opposite of what I assumed would happen occurred. I have been changed. Deeply and into the very core of the gamer that I am. Where once I bore disdain for menus and equipping and unequipping skills and items, now I can’t get enough of them! For you see, Lost Odyssey brought me back into the world of RPGs. And it can do the same thing for you, if you only let it.

Back when I popped disc one into the ol’sex machine 360 I clawed my eyes out in frustration at the epic opening that took fifty-two minutes to finally get through the credits. It was horrendous. For someone like me, any opening that takes more than ten minutes is absolute torture. The Gears of War opening is like my perfect start to a game. Now, I am no stranger to the world of turn-based RPGs or their anime storytelling roots. No no, I just hadn’t the taste for them since oh…1993. The last Final Fantasy I played was Mystic Quest and that was on the SNES and very low-impact considering how far RPGs have come. So after that I said goodbye to Final Fantasy of any kind and welcomed action-adventure styled role playing into my life with A Link to the Past and subsequent Hyrule Adventures. I dabbled in Golden Sun on the GBA and was aggravated by things like roaming battles and constant village detective work. I wanted to be fighting and figuring out puzzles, not speaking to every single bloody villager to find all the secret treasures and powers. Boring, said I. Annoying, said I.

The loss of turn-based fighting in my life was a happy one, and eventually my displeasure at that genre turned into a malicious disdain. I scoffed at the enjoyment others would derive from such long winded stories. Sure, they had by far the most extensive and satisfying cinematics, but there were also cliched characters I couldn’t stand and merry bands of annoying characters I wanted to hit in the face. I told you I was malicious.

So when D explained the game a bit I was horrified. I couldn’t play this game! I couldn’t stand skill setting and reading moral stories via power point (you recover memories in text form during much of the game). So D bet me twenty bucks I couldn’t finish the game. And so it began. Out of spite and full of bile I intended to finish what I had started. I went into it looking in every barrel or pot, I spoke with everyone I met. I was going to do this by the books.

The typical plot (as Toku had told me) of “magic energy coming into the world and bad things start happening” was present. The metaphor for Technology vs. Natural Order was in full effect and I do admire it, but “moral heavy” could describe Lost Odyssey with ease. The basic story of Lost Odyssey is that you are part of a group of immortals that have lost their memories of their immortal lives. They are all pawns in a game of power that spans an entire world and they must reclaim their memories in order to find their true purpose and stop the evil threat. I’m not going into specifics because I don’t want to spoil anything, and there is a lot to spoil, the game is huge. Again though, I admire the ideas and philosophies the main story and sub-stories express. If Japanese RPGs do one thing well it’s nailing the human condition and characteristics of a variety of personality types.

My spite drove me, I judged the characters (particularly the comic relief Jansen) harshly. I would finish the game, but I would never let in into my heart! Then all of a sudden, after I spent half an hour picking flowers and collecting torches for a burial ceremony, I found myself hooked. I was picking flowers and all I wanted to do was get through it so I could get back into the battles and get my immortals powered up. When I told D and Toku about what I was doing in the game I spoke in the first person, I had accepted the characters into my mind as parts of myself. I was on an adventure, a mission. I had to find out what was going on and why it was happening. I even began to rely on Jansen to relieve me with his funny lines after tense situations. I also valued his skill in battle. I was changing. The spite vanished and all that remained was a sincere desire to continue the journey, to finish the fight.

I knew going in that the biggest challenge for me was the turn-based combat thing. As a FPS lover I had a clicky trigger finger that ached for rapid firing action. There is no rapid fire in turn-based combat. There is first round analysis, second round strategy based on first round results, and then just sticking with the chosen plan until the battle is over, with healing in each round for defense. I took to it quickly, I could relax in a huge battle while at the same time I felt a tension, an angsty prolonged worry that dissipated as soon as that victory screen popped up and I saw all that my team had achieved in the battle. Each time I felt confidence in my team grow, I was proud of them and how they worked together.

I wasn’t focused on the navigation of menus, which I had been worried about – they became second nature to me. After each battle I would heal those who needed healing and mana up my magic users effortlessly. You need to set skill links between your immortals and mortals, as well, so that your immortals can gain valuable attributes and resistances. I methodically assigned the defensive skills first, then offensive, then miscellaneous ones like stealing. I managed the skills throughout the team for balance and effectiveness. I never thought I could think like that, never thought I could get through all that information. For so long I was only concerned with how much ammo I had. In this game, worrying about how many items I had was a pittance, negligible. I had bigger fish to fry. Big, damned awesome fish.

The battles were unlike anything I had ever experienced. I knew that as I got further into the game the battles would get tougher and the bosses would be epic. My magic would increase and my attacks would get awesome. I wasn’t disappointed. It was when I was in the middle of a half an hour long boss battle that I knew I was addicted. Toku and our other roommate wanted to go to a movie and I totally bailed on them. “I have to finish this battle!” They called me lame. I didn’t care. I reveled in my victory and wanted more. Lots more.

The story progressed, more memories were recovered, my emotional investment grew. It was comforting to start up the game, fit into my menus and manage my different groups of characters. The music was invigorating as well as soothing, it moved me and motivated me. The cutscenes were striking, and sometimes lasted twenty minutes minus the few moments where I would move characters barely a few steps and another scene would start. There was fire, there was water, there was ice. All terrible in intensity. All begging me to stop the destruction of this world before it was too late. I pushed on, sometimes hours at a time before a save point would surface.

All my judgements, all my assumptions faded away. I was playing. I was experiencing an adventure. For all my talk of immersive storytelling I had never spent twenty minutes picking flowers, or spending ten minutes slowly walking through an ice storm simply to get to a save point with no battles whatsoever. That is immersive, that is experiencing an adventure.

Lost Odyssey has humbled me as a gamer. I had seen a light, through the mist as it were, and it brought me happiness. I didn’t see four discs anymore and groan at the long haul I was in for. Now, I saw a world I would enter and a story that I didn’t want to really end. I even slowed my playing to savour it just a little bit longer. Lost Odyssey is a game I can’t see myself replaying for a long, long time. Yet, the feelings I’ve had from playing it will stay with me forever.

Of that, I am certain.

A Day in the Park

I have a problem. I have a Halo addiction and I am told the first step is to admit I have a problem.

So… I’ve been drawing my ASS off… trying to get AS many comics done as I can before my life gets super busy (with an income, as a bonus!) I’ve been trying to come up with comics to do because there has been a shortage of games recently, but with the upcoming Grand Theft Auto 4 (or NAMBLA for those who love acronyms) and others I will soon be rolling in happiness again.

I’ve been craving Battlestar Galactica

but…I am too cheap to buy it. As a bonus though Nadine and I do have the Ark of Truth, which is admittedly not as COOL as Battlestar, but it’ll do…

Anyway, have a good one.

Lost as RPG

Here’s a veeeery interesting post from Matthew Baldwin that draws a parallel between the mounting mysteries in Lost and leveling in role playing games.

During each show you gain a little experience in the form of new information: about the island, the characters, or both; every four episodes or so you level up, as some (allegedly) major piece of the overall puzzle falls into place. After leveling up in a CRPG, you typically head to Ye Olde Flail ‘N’ Scented Candle Emporium, sell all your current equipment, and buy the improved weapons that your enhanced abilities now allow you to wield; likewise, after a revelatory LOST episode, fans chuck all their old theories into the dustbin and cook up new ones consistent with the revised facts. Then, having done so, each—the player of a CRPG, or the viewer of LOST—is handed a brand new quest, or puzzle, or plot plot. The ephemeral thrill of leveling vanishes, replaced by a longing to hit the next milestone. You never disembark from the treadmill, it just goes faster.

I think he’s right on with the precedents he sites: Twin Peaks and The X-Files. I guess it’s no surprise that these are two of my favourite shows, and that I seem to like the video games a little bit. Also, check out the post about the surprising amount of swears in Lost scripts. Holy. Fucking. Shit.

Brazil Bans Bully!

We were just talking about this type of thing in Robot Sounds 14. Always with the banning, always with the restrictions. You can have mega super violent movies on dvd and in theatres but you can’t have video games with pixelated, simulated violence.

It’s so weird that one person (Judge Flavio Rabello) can make such a huge decision for so many people. That just seems wrong somehow…

Tsk tsk, Brazil.

Play This Game: You Have To Burn The Rope

This game has been making the rounds the last little while and is super fun, super cute, and super addictive. Just burn the rope, and have fun!

The music is enthralling…to say the least!

Check out Crayon Runner while you’re there too just for giggles at the crayon-ness of it all.

Tested: FF7 Crisis Core – A New Beginning

Prequels CAN be interesting. But the idea of what comes before isn’t relegated to just movies. Video games can also be expanded on in this manner, and that is the idea behind Square’s latest FF installment… Final Fantasy: Crisis Core for the PSP.

For those not familiar, Crisis Core is a prequel to Square’s epic and most popular role playing game, Final Fantasy 7. In this game you take control of Zack to fight as a 1st class member of Soldier and act as mentor to Cloud, FF7’s main hero. The game features cameos from younger versions of FF7 characters, but what really makes the game shine is the way they connect this new game to a game they created 11 years ago. I remember playing FF7 and think that Cloud and Zack were the result of some kind of cloning experiment. They seemed so similar back then. But now smart storytelling in Crisis Core helps to give Zack’s character some much-needed dimension.

The combat system is also something new. Square seems like one of those companies that liked to hold on to the old turn based style of RPG play – after all, they built an empire out of it. Crisis Core shows that this sentiment is slowly changing. The game operates more like an action RPG with you controlling only Zack in a combat environment with free movement. Materia works much in the same way it did in FF7, but now there is also a new addition in the form of a lottery slot system called Digital Mind Wave. The DMW looks very much like a futuristic casino slot machine with key characters from the story rotating in three slots. Aligning these characters can initiate special attacks but they can also implement status changes like strength and health. Though this new system is different, it kinda becomes a double edge sword. Nobody likes to fight bosses based on the luck of a slot machine to get special attacks or summon magic.

Compared to previous Final Fantasy chapters, this game was surprisingly easy. I suspect they did this because of the casual gaming nature of the PSP audience, but for those familiar with the FF series this chapter will be a quick read.

Square’s venture into feature filmmaking with Final Fantasy 7: Advent Children can also be felt in this game. FMVs look like deleted scenes from the DVD, giving the game some great eye candy to match some great game play.

Fans of the series will find this a nice side story to Final Fantasy 7, and newbies to the series will find this a great place to jump on board and experience FF7 at its true beginning.

Kick Ass, Take Notes

Wow, note-taking has rocketed ahead a few decades while I was jotting down notes by actually typing like a sucka. I use an assorted hodegpodge of notetaking and organizational tools, because I’ve yet to find one that does everything, but mostly I use Backpack since it makes it easy to organize things by project. (However, I don’t necessarily recommend it since the $5/month plan I currently enjoy is no longer offered.)

Now I just became aware of a couple interesting, high tech note-taking tools. One is evernote. The big twist here is OCR, which I guess has advanced to ‘good enough’ status over the last few years. So with evernote, you can simply hold up a piece of paper to your computer’s iSight, or take a picture with your phone, and the image will be eaten by evernote and scanned for text. Then it will be searchable. I’ve tried it and it did okay with a page from Now Magazine, but I have a feeling it might choke on my handwriting, which is a cross between sanskrit and semaphore.

It has all the usual features, including tagging and emailing notes to yourself. It makes it easy to grab things off web pages. It also has a robust desktop version (both for PC and Mac) that syncs effortlessly with the cloud, something I wish backpack did without recourse to third party apps. Anyway if you want to give ‘er a shot, I have some invite codes I can send out.

The other, potentially more mind-blowing service is Jott. It’s all about voice recognition. So you sign up, register your phone number, and make note of the number you need to call (yes, it works in Canada). When you call and record a message, it converts it into text and emails it to you.

The beauty of the thing is that it will play nice with other services. You could set it up with your secret Evernote email address and turn your random blatherings into a searchable archive. It will deal with wordpress, blogger &c, but sadly not textpattern or I’d totally be dialing in some posts.

Or – SPECIAL AWESOME ALERT, this works beautifully – you can set it up with your Google Calendar account, tell yourself “2pm tomorrow poutine-eating marathon”, and if you’ve got your SMS notifications all set up, google will text your hungry ass tomorrow and remind you. It’s like having a freaking secretary. Now I just need to get it to respond to the voice cue “Diane” and I’ll finally be living my fantasy of being Agent Cooper in Twin Peaks.

Cat Fight!!!!

I can’t help it… Buffy and Faith… Ripley and The Alien Queen… Beatrix “The Bride” Kiddo vs California Mountain Snake…

The girl fights of geekdom can bring some “Fatality” type viciousness…and that’s why THEY ROCK!!!!!!

So when a friend of mine passed me the link to this fanvid, I couldn’t help but be share the SMACKDOWN!

P.S. My money is on Tifa.

Robot Sounds 14

This week! Game violence and Stephen King! We chat about those topics and hear the perspective of special guest and horror novelist Brett Savory and listen to music from his band Diablo Red. Plus! There is lengthy thought exchange on Iron Man and The Hulk. Yes, that’s variety!

Angry Robot Sounds 14

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Attention AV Nerds!

Hey, this is pretty cool: TweakTV, a site with a database of ideal HDTV calibration settings. A lot of HDTVs come with bad factory default settings, often amping the colour to ludicrous levels so as to show off on the showroom floor. If your model is in TweakTV’s database, they’ll tell you how to adjust it to get a better picture.

In an ideal world, I’d test it out at home before posting this, but last time I checked we’re all still sweating it out in God-Emperor Cheney’s Heck House, so I’ll give myself a pass for now. I’ll update this later when I get a chance to AV-geek it out. (thanks Karim!)

WTF Wednesday: Creepy Pic…Meet Geek Lyric

So this was around last week but it is both hideous and fascinating. Egads does not even begin to express the horror. The creator also did a great job capturing the perverse side of our beloved Mario.

Also, I found the below while listening to filk songs. Yeah, I was listening to filk songs. I like fandom…

Anyway, I found this vid made by a fan of Tom Smith. The lyrics are crazy awesome! And what’s more awesome is that this guy wrote a song when Babylon 5 was over and it was crazy good and I still have it on my old laptop (currently stored in my mum’s basement where it will stay forever in shame…for it is a ThinkPad…ugh…). Moving on! This is messed up!

And this is Worm Quartet’s “Pac-Man Is Naked And So Should You”, which is…well, what is says…

Scrabble vs. Scrabulous: There Can Be Only One!

In North America anyway! Ha! Scrabble has launched their official version on Facebook but because of certain legal issues it can’t be played in the the States or Canada.

That’s hilarious!

I don’t Facebook myself but I know many who do and also play the much adored ripoff. I just think it’s funny that the “official” version of a game can’t be played in the hotspot of activity that started the whole desire to make an “official” version in the first place!

The iPhone in Canada – Only for Outlaws

And as Waylon Jennings says, ladies love outlaws. But is it worth it? I’ve been looking into this because I WANT IT BADLY, and I thought it worthwhile to share the fruits of my research.

The iPhone is not officially available here. Why? Glad you asked, Jimmy! Rogers is the only network that could carry the iPhone, as it’s a GSM device and only Rogers and subsidiary Fido are GSM in Canada. So odds are the negotiations between Apple and Rogers have stalled. The arrangements Apple wants are not typical in the industry; Rogers does not currently have an unlimited data plan and is probably reluctant to offer one.

The iPhone trademark in Canada is actually held by a different company, so that could be an issue too, although I find the Rogers explanation more convincing.

All that said, you can still get an iPhone and use it in Canada. You can go buy one in the US and then unlock it via software, or take it to be unlocked somewhere (I’m looking at you, Pacific Mall), or you can buy an unlocked iPhone off Craigslist – at about a hundred dollar premium. Once the phone is unlocked, a Rogers or Fido SIM card can be put into it and it will work perfectly (well, visual voicemail won’t work, but everything else will).


There are downsides, of course. First of all, you will have to use the phone on Rogers, and the data plans are truly fearsome. There are no unlimited data plans; the “unlimited” browsing plan doesn’t apply to the iPhone; the top data plan (as far as I could tell) costs $80 for 500 megabytes a month, which you could crack pretty easily depending on what you’re doing with it.

Also, you will get no support from anyone, and if it stops working, you’ve got a very expensive brick. And it’s more than possible that future software upgrades will indeed brick the phone – it’s happened before.

Finally, there’s a decent chance a legit Rogers-version iPhone will be released in the coming months. There are currently rumours of a 3G iPhone coming in June to Rogers – not only would the data be much faster on such a model, it could very well come with a better data plan than your grey-market gadget would ever get. That would also mean your resell value would plummet.

Then again, rumours have been swirling for the past year that the Canadian iPhone release was imminent, and it has yet to happen. But I’d be surprised if it wasn’t released before Christmas this year, as that’s prime phone-selling season. Also, Apple wants to bring the iPhone to Japan around then, which would mean they’d have to make a CDMA model, which would mean Telus or Bell could grab the iPhone instead of Rogers.


So what should you do? Depends on what you want. Occasional Robot contributor Nigel wanted his phone and iPod to be one and the same, and didn’t care about the data stuff – so he got an iPhone and is thrilled with it. I’m more interested in the always-on rich net access, so I’m thinking of going with a Touch for the time being. If only HydroOne’s Toronto-wide WiFi network wasn’t such garbage, at $20 a month it would certainly put any Rogers data plan to shame. And if the legit Canuck iPhone is released, I can still sell the Touch or give it to my lady friend.

Maybe I’m just not an outlaw at heart.

Korg's DS Synth Pops Up Again

Sonic State filmed some video of the Korg DS-10 synth being demoed at Musik Messe 2008. This is a little more detailed than the initial video that went around. Looks pretty sweet.

Robot Watch: Yellow Drum Machine

When robots get out on teh webs, we might not notice them right away, but eventually our angry sensors flash and we investigate. Witness:

Is that not hells awesome or what? The site at large is definitely worth checking out. For example, here’s a robot that can apparently be made for $40, and he’s a feisty little bastard.

M is for Mature

Well… this week I was feeling particularly cranky, so I decided to make Eyeless Max so very wrong in so many ways. Any problems with that? Well… shaddup…

So I unburied Crackdown this week in order to play it with D…

We discovered a few wonderful things you can do with co-op mode:

A) Car Surfing: Evidently wind plays no factor in the Crackdown world because while your partner drives you can easily surf atop a vehicle like you are wearing magnetic boots… You can also target the gas tanks of passing cars and, if your firearms skill in high enough, explode cars with a single shot. This is REALLY handy for dealing with cars full of gang members without having to get out and get shot up.

B) Orb Collecting: This isn’t really anymore useful in two player mode, but the extra set of eyes never hurts… you both collected your own orbs so they can’t be stolen from you, which is also pretty neat.

c) Random Road Races: Well, it doesn’t really help progress you in the game… in fact, if anything the pedestrians you will in no doubt slaughter on the way will only HURT your skill…. but it’s so damn FUN!!!

That’s not alot…
but I’m sure D has a few to add…

Happy Monday: Fez Trailer!

My roomate showed this to me on the weekend. Adorable and super fun looking! Developed by Montréal based Kokoromi, Fez is a “2D game in a 3D world”. So far I believe it is just for PC but with all the buzz since the recent GDC, and the fact that it runs on Mircosoft’s XNA, it’s probably gonna bust out on Live as well.

Regardless of release, this game is a bright happy joy on a Monday morning and says look forward to the future and rotate your perspective!


Stop Uwe Boll Petition

So this article popped up on the weekend and basically states that a (likely joking) statement has been warped out of context to produce a petition for one million signatures to stop Mr. Boll from making video game movie adaptations.

Of course, he’ll never stop. He loves this stuff and people keep working with him because he makes action movies for dirt cheap. He’s magical that way. And one million signatures would probably convince him that if one million hated him, two million must love him….

Rickrolled by God

Or, The end of the Game Neverending.

By the morning of the second day it seemed like the world would last forever. It had ended before, of course, but now that it had started over we wanted it to stay.

What do you when the world starts over? You explore. You’ve got a map – it shows a bunch of connected hubs, most labeled only with question marks. You move around so that their names are revealed: San Poshio, Soso, Bentown. You poke around in each area, their identities rich despite the paucity of information: a quick description, a little icon. Often, jokes. Sometimes you find items within and collect them, wondering what they do.

An image of the interface circa 2003, from the GNE Museum (click for big):

You remember that you can make things. As you do so, your ‘make’ skill improves and you can make even more things. You can see that all things require ingredients before they can be made, and you click on the ingredient to discover where it might be sold or where it grows.

I have blue paper already, magically. Paper is the currency of this world, and blue paper is very valuable. It tells me it grows underwater. Well, I better find ‘underwater’ then and get my hands on some more. Time to move on.

As you move your energy depletes – it can be replenished by consuming food and drink.

You consumed 5 burgers.

You also have mood and karma. You could pick up some snapdragons, say, and chose ‘contemplate’ from the item menu. This would raise your mood. And items can raise your karma too:

You dropped 1 funk.
energy +10 The funk gives you life! (everyone present)
mood +10 Someone dropped the funk and it disappeared in a puff of smoke. The funk makes you happy! (everyone present)
karma +5 Everybody loves the funk-dropper!

Yes, there are others present. Often you see them just passing through as fast as they can click to the next area. But other times you see them gathering, giving each other items. You can hear everything everyone says in your chat window, and people tend to be helpful. After all, they are happy the world exists.

The world is designed to make people happy. It’s designed to cultivate play. In the words of Stewart Butterfield:

The secret is, even though it’s called Game Neverending, it’s not really a game at all. It’s a social space designed to facilitate and enable play. The game-elements are there to provide both the constraints and the building blocks of interaction – since the thing you’ll notice about the kind of play I’m talking about above is that it is the kind of thing that goes on between people. Ludicorp was started because we imagine all kinds of social computing applications that we’d love to use and participate in, and no one else seems to be building them.

Well, they went on and built Flickr, which indeed embodies the principles Stewart’s talking about. Flickr took off, and the Game Neverending was shelved, back in aught-four, living on only as the file extension for some of Flickr’s pages: .gne. But the principles of social play infuse Flickr, and have made their way into almost every “Web 2.0” site ever since.

I played it back then, and always wished they’d bring it back. Equal parts text adventure, MMO and web surfing session, with a sense of humour right out of a Douglas Adams novel, there’s been little else like it since. And the previous and current incarnation of GNE was nothing compared to some of the developers’ goals for it: player item creation, map expansion, even governments. If only it would come back and flower into what it could be.

But nothing lasts forever.


On my travels I passed many a vacant house – remains of the last time the world existed, their occupants long moved on. People in the chat are saying that you can still buy them and that they’re a good place to dump your items. I stumble upon a real estate agency and check the listings – there are a few I could afford. After I collect a lot more blue paper.

I’m way remote on the map now. Through woods to ‘fire fields’. I find the underwater area and locate the stash of blue paper, one of many that appears as ‘God’ makes one of his periodic, automated announcements.

GOD: I have hidden another sheet of blue paper in a hub. Can you find it?

I’m not sure if I got my house on the first night, or the second day, but get it I did, eventually. By that time I had explored the entire map, made some contacts, made a whole lot of stuff. With the emphasis on making things, and little benefit in actually holding onto it, you wind up leaving little deposits of stuff everywhere for people to stumble upon. 50 donuts, say. Who could turn that down?

Getting the house was satisfying – even if it was only really a little icon and the words ‘living room’, ‘office’ and ‘entertainment room’. It was an idea in a game made of ideas – but it was mine.

And yet word came in the quickly-scrolling chat log that the world would end.

Some were upset, offering to pool money and buy the server to keep the world going. Others saw the beauty in the fleeting experience. Majick was just trying to get enough money to buy his house he had owned the last time around.

GOD: When you walk through a storm…

God was singing Sinatra. The countdown had begun.

Some, including myself, always the lurker, went to the Civic Center (the starting point of the game) and divested themselves of their belongings – you can’t take it with you, after all.

You dropped 1 inconceivably powerful breath mint.

I saw this go by in the chat log, and saved it:

It was indeed lovely. And for at least 3 or 4 of us, a very welcome respite from grief over recent deaths of people close to us (and no I am not kidding). Thank you, truly and deeply. This was a better tonic than almost anything else I could have imagined.

Many decided to meet in a secretive back room area. Avogadro announced he would spend “my last few moments at home with my fourteen cats and all the fish they need until GNE begins again.” Another lit out for the desert.

Then God posted this.

Me? I confess, I was experiencing this at work, and had to leave to engage in revenue-positive activities. When I returned, my browser window displayed the message The GNE is sleeping. With the little animated GIF of the infinity sign humming away.

It was a message of hope, perhaps, that God might deign to some day wake his creation, and thereby restore a singular game experience, a game-not-game, a thing of beauty in abstraction.

If He does, maybe I can get my house back.

UPDATE: There’s a video of the end here, and more stuff at the end of waxy’s post.

Sony's Blu-ray Enhanced Power!

With all the talk about Mircosoft’s situation in bowing to Sony regarding the 360’s Blu-ray impotence I was reminded of the below…

At around :50 seconds is how Sony must feel right about now.

Just substitute Skeletor for Sony…

Tested: Dark Messiah of Might and Magic: Elements

On Easter weekend my young cousin and I settled in for a long haul of gaming. We cast aside Smash Bros. in favour of a game we both were curious about but hadn’t yet played, Dark Messiah of Might and Magic: Elements. This game came out last year on the PC, but we played the recently released Xbox 360 version. Now, when I spoke of this earlier there was not a little concern for the voice acting and overall writing of the game. That concern has not left me, instead, it has been thoroughly affirmed. Yet, all was not lost in the playing of this game and I did enjoy playing it, for the most part anyway.


You have the option of playing as a warrior, assassin, archer, or a mage. We chose archer and were fairly happy with the choice until about two hours in and we tried starting over again to change the class to warrior. Then a mishap with the save feature caused a loss of data so we reverted back to archer status after a waste of another hour. We soon found out, however, that being an archer wasn’t bad at all as our need for close combat diminished and our range of special bows increased. Also, further into the game you pick up hammers and can forge new weapons, including ones from different classes. We made ourselves a long sword and were set for good melee times after that.

In regards to that save mishap I mentioned, you’ve got the option to save at any point. I made the mistake of saving right after we were told to go a certain point in the city and I was on like a timer or something so I couldn’t get to that point before it would say I had failed the mission. Very annoying. We stopped saving after that and would save only at the beginning of each new chapter (this made for long sittings) and we would save in a different slot each time. Open saving has pluses sometimes, but not in this game. Too dangerous with the way they engineered the missions and you can totally screw up your game.


The combat in the game is intuitive and realistic. You block blows and wait for opponents to drop their guard to parry. It’s not all hack and slash with no precision, which I was very glad to see. Also, I was happily surprised when I beheaded a goblin with blood spraying and everything! For the most part though we stuck to long range shooting. A few good hits to the throat or head and most enemies drop. It was especially nice when fighting the undead since in close combat you have to impale them to keep them from coming back up, but a well aimed shot pops the head off and no more resurrecting undead menace! Necromancers are screechy lil’buggers, but aren’t they always?

The variety of foes is well balanced. You do take on one type of enemy in each area usually, like you don’t fight undead and goblins in the same room, but it doesn’t get annoying. Except when fighting spiders! I think the only spiders I’ve ever been able to tolerate in a game were the ones in EA’s LOTR games. The spiders here are so aggravating! They poison you for one thing, are a bitch to kill, and just keep coming! I hate spiders in games.

Chapter bosses vary from straight on kill them with your might or use your wit to turn the environment against them. Puzzles are littered throughout the game, especially when you’re deep in the heart of an island temple, but are basic and more akin to Zelda rather than Prince of Persia. One of the annoying things about the hints from your guides is that you’re already in a room pulling a lever when they say “Sareth, you should pull that lever on the far wall”. The timing is slightly off and this happened more than once. I guess the developers thought people would be looking around more or something, or just really need directions.

As any adventuring gamer can tell you though, looking for levers to pull and boxes to jump up on is second frakking nature! Alot of the more basic principles of dungeon crawling do not have to be spelled out so, but this brings me to an important point. I feel as though Dark Messiah of Might and Magic: Elements is an excellent primer for young gamers who haven’t had much experience with swords and sorcery. It’s like baby steps for a game such as Oblivion. Learning the tricks of the trade in a fairly short, linear adventure is important. If you’re unfamiliar with the genre, this game captures the feeling of a grand adventure in a nice, tight package that gives lots of gameplay variety but does not overwhelm.

As you progress through the chapters you level up and gain more skills. There are set skills for each class and common skills the higher you go. I was so pleased when we finally got Healing magic, because up to that point relying on potions alone was frustrating. Those damn spiders! Healing yourself is a much better alternative. And since archer class barely uses magic we had lots of mana to spare! You do pick up one time use spells as a non-mage, but we barely used them. The only spells we used were Heal and Trap, which is like a land mine you set up on certain types of flooring.


You do use your environment alot in terms of climbing, jumping, and combat. You have a rope bow, across all classes, that has unlimited arrows that will drop ropes if they are shot into wood. Fun times! You can also light your arrows on fire if there is a nearby flame, which is always appreciated. If you light something on fire it doesn’t burn up though unless it’s a goblin or monster. I was disappointed in the first level when I couldn’t burn a shabby hut down. It you can light an arrow you should be able to burn any thing. At least that’s my pyromaniac logic. There are also lots of spiked walls and open flames that you can kick your enemies into. Again with your guide telling you the obvious though. Sometimes I didn’t want to kick a goblin into a spiked wall but the guide won’t stop reminding me I can do it. Tsk tsk on that flaw. Tell me once and ne’er again!

The story! Some spoilers below!

The game opens with an impressive cinematic of a heavily armed warrior standing over a well holding what appears to be a glowing blue dragon’s skull. He throws it down the hole and suddenly the floor and the well give way until he is left standing on a outcropping precipice, ala LOTR:RoTK. A horned demon lady thing leaps up and goes into the warrior and then a huge, fiery super big daddy evil demon leaps up and touches the head of the warrior. Yeah, if you’re already thinking what I was thinking when I saw that you’d be right. The plot of this game is fairly predictable, but we’ll get to that, because it’s not negative by any means. It’s just predictable.

You play Sareth, a young apprentice to the Wizard Phenrig. Phenrig wants you to go retrieve a crystal for him but he’ll guide you through the how to of it while talking in your head. That’s where all my troubles with the writing and voice acting began. Phenrig is kinda…creepy. Not in a scary way but like in a creepy guy at the grocery store who’s petting lettuce kind of way. When you’re learning how to throw and move objects Phenrig goes on about “In life objects can be conquered”. Then when you throw a box he’s all like “You’re beginning to like this aren’t you” in a very suggestive and odd tone. So that was the tip off to me that this was going to be an odd sort of ride voice-acting wise. Sareth himself has a typically bland hero voice.

You get the relic and bring it back to your master who praises you and says your father would be proud. Apparently, you have no idea who your father is but as the game progresses hints are dropped and you get the distinct impression your daddy is a big bad. Really the whole point of the game is that your daddy is a big bad frakking demon and there are certain forces who want him free and certain forces who want him imprisoned for eternity. Phenrig sends you off on your journey with the sorcerous Xana as your guide, she travels in your head and there is seemingly no end to her jabbering. I really wouldn’t mind her so much if, again, the voice acting was better. Then the great “let’s go get the relic” chase begins!

Rival wizards, a pretty young lady, a crazy demon lady, and lots o’baddies await you as you follow orders dutifully while having nightmarish recollections of past events when you sleep. You also have visions of future events, all nasty and uncomfortable. The game does have different endings depending on choices you make in the last few chapters of the game. Unfortunately, save from a few variations on the ending cinematic and script each ending looks the same and doesn’t really pack that much emotional impact. Meh, what can you do? At least it’s not just plain ol’good and evil.

In Summation!

I compare this game to Red Sonja vs. Conan, the films not books. Red Sonja is Dark Messiah_ and Conan is Oblivion. I loved both films, both were attempting to take the audience into a world filled with adventure and wonder. Where Conan and Oblivion delivered classic moments that stay in the mind and heart for a lifetime, Red Sonja and Dark Messiah tried very hard to deliver a few good times. And both do succeed. In Red Sonja the budget was smaller, the story was shorter, but oh the battle with the mechanical monster in the reservoir was awesome! Dark Messiah is a shorter game, with a predictable but eventful story with solid action and pace.

I hated the spiders, the voices rubbed me the wrong way, but beheading orcs and sniping with arrows was a great experience. I dislike shooting from afar in most games so this was a change up for me that I enjoyed. It’s not a great game, no it is not, but it’s a good game. Gamespot had given a rating of 3.5 and I just do not agree at all. It may not be the best thing, in fact, it fits more with games from a few years ago, but there’s a story there and it’s quick and easy to play through. The environments are nice and bigger than at first glance. You really do feel like you’re exploring a temple when you’re searching for that relic.

As for my dislike of the voice acting. The script isn’t that bad, but when a line is delivered poorly it just pulls you out of the game so fast it’s like severe lag. The Deutsche version sounds way_ better, way more natural. I don’t know why the English version doesn’t work for me but again, Red Sonja had wooden acting as well. My B-movie comparison holds fast!

All in all this is a good game for beginners in the realm of swords and action adventure. It’s not complex, and I know that is the main criticism coming from elsewhere, but not every game gas to be complex and in-depth role playing wise. Sometimes you just want a watered down version, sometimes that is just what the doctor ordered.

Wii Force: Unleashed Controls

Nintendo Fanboy had this yesterday. Dunno if it’s real or not but it looks plausible. I was talking to my sexy lady friend last night about it and he said (yeah I call him a sexy lady) he wasn’t going to buy the Wii version. I said I wanted both a Wii version and a PS3 version (for the super graphics) or a 360 version because I want to play the story through with the big boy consoles and just try the Wii controls. I don’t want to rent it though, yeah yeah I’m silly, but I just feel that sometimes I’d like to throw in the ol’Wii version for some Force Power Workout Action!

I’m not even kidding. Cardio via Lightsaber is a beautiful thing.