Monday, July 7, 2008

Complication Frustration

It seems like, at least for me, the older I get the less I want to deal with frustations that come from complexity. Things that take me from my drone-like motion through the day seem to really agitate me anymore.

Like today - Brighthouse was supposed to be coming out to install Digital Phone for the house, since my current voip provider is closing it's doors sometime this month. Thing is, I really don't have a cable jack in the house, and was willing to spend their $20 on having someone else do it. The guy comes out to do the install today, and tells my wife that it's "Impossible" to do, I'd have to get an electrician or something.

That tells me it's not "impossible", but it's going to require more work than he's willing to do, or can charge back to Brighthouse for. So now I have a new hassle of running the cable myself and dealing with all the quirkiness of doing the cable run.

Personally, I think it's a matter of "boulders, rocks, pebbles and sand in the jar" type of deal. I already know I've got more than I can do, and how I fill my available time with things to do is a big part of that. Frustration comes in when I can't spend the time they way I want to, which is constantly. Seems that whenever one thing that I really need to get taken care of is done, I have 15 other things that crop up.

On that thought, I really should get an email out about the flooring upstairs, see what I'm going to do with that frustration.

Monday, June 30, 2008

Cisco LIVE!

Last week I got exposed to the big, gigantic bowl of Kool Aide known as "Cisco Live!". This is the rebranding of their "Networkers" convention that they've done now 19 times. After feeling like I've been drinking from a firehose, I will say I came away with more of an idea of the vision from Cisco than I think I've ever had from the company. Maybe it's just bad local representation (as in Sales force) or just great representation by their competition down here, but I've had a very jaded view of Cisco for a very long time. Three distinct things caught my attention during the week though -

  • Cross Market Leadership: They aren't just the "best of breed" in one thing - they are competitive in so many different areas that they really interconnect and intersect their IP. That's not saying that the product in the end is the best, and I'm still turned off on the "one stop shop" since the old days of Lucent/Nortel beating folks up. That said, it's still impressive that they have leading market share (top 2/3) in over 20 products.

  • Trying new ideas on themselves first: John Chamber's keynote talked at length about how Cisco has evolved over the last 8 years to bring about a new corporate structure that is based on collaboration instead of hierachy. Granted some of the hierachy still exists, but from the presentation given a lot of the middle management is distributed. Think "Bit Torrent vs FTP" in design structure, and while the metaphor might break down shortly after that, the mental image seems to be similar.

  • IPv6 - they seem to have put a lot of effort into implementing IPv6 today. They show where and why folks will be moving to it, and the concept of the issues that Cable MSO's are having is probably the first place where wide-spread IPv6 will be needed. All the work that's been done on tunneling v6 through v4 is going to be important very soon, too.
That said, I came away with a lot of brain food for the next few months. I need to start trying to blog more, and actually do blogs during events instead of afterwards, to try to get more of my thoughts down to review later.. but that will come with modivation and time.

Wednesday, June 11, 2008

Why Metallica STILL sucks

In July of 2003, the Orlando Weekly posted an article about Why Metallica Still Sucks. It was a really well done piece of journalism, with a jade against Metallica. A band that was literally on top of the world in 1992, now personally I consider them a joke. They probably have some of the most recognizable metal in the business, and inspired a generation of bands. Thing is - their trademark vocal sounds have been lost to aging, and their trademark is now to be anti-fan.

They used to be the band that encouraged folks to tape their live performances and share it with their fans, now they ask journalists to not report on how bad their new album is. I found the following the most disturbing, though:
Metallica's management and PR team knew who the (anonymous) writer of the piece was, as they invited him; if they chose to do so, they could probably make his livelihood more difficult to earn in the future.
That is beyond disturbing - the fact that a company was pressured by "you'll never work in the business again" in the age of the Internet is still a sad, sick reality is just preposterous. There was no NDA signed, and the product was obviously not ready to be commented on per se. This turned from a possible win PR-wise by Metallica into what should be a complete nightmare.

After the flop of that "St. Anger" was, I don't know how much more "music" (if you can call what St. Anger was really music) we'll see from them. They shouldn't have to produce more music, they keep whoring out the old hits to their fans over and over again. At least they have that pension plan to blow on booze and whores.

Tuesday, May 27, 2008

Technology Demos

Personally, I love the concept of a technology demo. It shows what could be done with a product or an idea. It's a proof of concept. What I find amazing is the fact that Nintendo has turned these into a profit margin. It seems that they have decided to push the envelope not with high quality, well designed games that have folks really re-thinking how they play, but with gimicks and technology demos of what could be done.

Last week my wife bought Wii Fit. My overall impression is actually positive for the product, but right now I want to focus in on and be really critical of what it is - it's a technology demo. The "trainers" are horridly underdone - and I don't just mean the graphics, which are bad in almost every way. They aren't animated for the most part, heck their lips don't even move, and the backgrounds look like they are from a PSOne, not a current generation console. The balance board is sometimes slow to respond, and the software could do more to determine how well you are doing with the pose, but it doesn't seem to. It also is horrid for motivation. The first thing it does is it weighs you, and figures out your BMI. It claims that around 22 is "optimal", and tells you that while doing the tests, but it's also records that as borderline obese (you figure that one out). During the tests it asks if you easily trip while walking, or if you have problems standing up. Overall I'd say that the overall tone is "demeaning". I'd guess that at least 2 out of 10 households that play this are going to bring it back to gamestop as used within 6 weeks because they aren't having any positive effects from it, and the self image of their child (or themselves) is horridly impacted.

Down to the workouts. The yoga is good, and you do feel some good initial burn from it. The pushup-plank pose really gives me a chest workout so far. My big gripe here is that you can't configure a 10 or 15 minute workout and just go through the poses. To do 10 minutes of working out takes a good 5 minutes of downtime between poses to go through their stupid slow talking and menus. There is very little to help folks trying to learn on what they should do, like don't work out the same muscle group every day, but try to break it up (legs one day, chest/arms the next). The mini-games are good, but they are mini-games, and everything requires unlocking. Whoever came up with the idea of unlocking basic fitness routines should pretty much be shot.

Maybe someone will take the balance board idea and come up with a really solid workout routine around it, one that's can become almost a personal trainer for folks. The concept is there, the technology demo I'm sure will sell well. Now maybe a real top-notch studio will do the actual work. Maybe they can get a sponsor of a real fitness guru to go through the workouts, and then you can get a varied and healthy workout. Hasn't happened yet on the Wii, though. Then again, maybe it'll need to be mimicked by the other two systems to be taken seriously...

Thursday, May 8, 2008


I'm not 100% sure if I should feel as relieved and happy as I do right now, over something as trivial as what I did this week. The "adversity" was something normally I'd just roll my eyes about, honestly. I decided instead of spending over $1,000 on a new PC system this year as a reward from a good bonus check and the new stimulus program, that I'd try to just get what I really need to push my existing system for another year or so. So I bought a new case, some additional fans and CPU heat sink, and a new hard drive. What I figured is that if I could overclock my existing A64 3000+ a fair amount, as well as re-install the OS and put it in a case I didn't loathe, that it could easily do what I wanted it for another year - namely do some media serving to my 360, and play World of Warcraft.

So I picked up a new CoolerMaster case, which I adore so far btw, a nice CPU heatsink, and a 500gig 7200RPM SATA drive. My existing copy of XP has been on this rig since 2005, and is installed on a 120g UDMA133 IDE drive. So I figured by putting a fresh copy of XP on a new drive, I'd be golden. I had a copy of XP MCE 2005 I picked up a while back, so I figured I could play around with Media Center to the 360 while I was at re-installing so after putting the new hardware together I started there. Got everything installed, and as far as I could tell, everything was running fine. Try to load up WoW, and the frame rates would drop off. Spent literally days fiddling with it, but always came back to if I launched up the copy of XP on the IDE drive, it ran fine. Tried new drivers, old drivers, drivers that I had on my IDE drive still... always came back to bad frame rates.

So last night, after reading more tips of things to play around with on the official WoW boards, I decide one last time to wipe the drivers and try using the latest and greatest from nVidia. I noticed that I may have downloaded the nForce motherboard drivers from the wrong place, as my old nForce3 is listed in their "legacy" driver section, so I get those instead. I re-download a fresh copy of the newest Forceware drivers as well. After a few bumps in the road, needless to say the Ethernet chip on the motherboard overall is a very unhappy camper in this setup anymore, I get the system back up and launching into WoW. And the frame rates are solid. They aren't perfect mind you, I get 20-40fps on average in most zones including the most notoriously lagging ones, and the UI doesn't slow down so I'm not typing and waiting to see what I type.

And so, I'm happy. Simple pleasures I guess, but it's nice to take a mountain that you know you can climb and make it to the top.

Friday, May 2, 2008


So, after having my 360 for almost a year now, I have amassed a pretty decent collection of games. The one thing that I've noticed, is that a large majority of them are rated "M" (for Mature). When you look at the commercials on TV for games, most of them state "Rated 'M' for Mature" in the commercial, while they are showing cool graphics and/or cutscenes. The question to me doesn't become are we creating a society where women are beaten and children are killing chilren - we've had that for decades now. The question is what are we glorifying to our kids throughout ALL of society.

Now, I'm not saying I will buy GTA IV or whatever, but I really have reservations with Glenn Beck's comments that it is creating a better killer. I think the research was solid, the facts pretty straight, but the premise was failing. Because GTA makes you press a button on a controller and watch in third person the reaction, instead of making you fire a realistic weapon in first person, I'm not sure I can buy into his strangely anti-military, right wing fear of Big Brother concept that video gaming is making our kids to be killers. Better tacticians, maybe.

Whether we want to believe it or not, video gaming really is more of a litmus test of our society than an actual change mechanic. How many of the top selling games that come out each month are inappropriate for someone 8-14? How many movies are PG-13 or higher? How many of the "glamorous" TV shows are TV-MA? How many books on the shelf are to the literary level of a street worker, and become NYTimes best sellers or whatever?

We as a society want to wage wars on so many things, but we spend way too little time wanting to spend time looking at our own self indulgence. Video games aren't the evil of the world, neither is TV or movies. A "Big Mac" isn't going to kill you. Having 37 of 'em in a month might, though.

Maybe if we'd spend more time diversifying ourselves, instead of indulging on the mental mush candy fed to us as a whole, we'd be a much different society. But then again, who ever said that the Enemy ever wanted us to be spiritually and mentally fed? It's like Hanzel and Gretel at a spiritual and cosmic level...

Wednesday, April 30, 2008

Job Abandonment

Going to be brief on this, mostly because it has me worked up enough to babble but not enough to really rant fully on. I really don't get why folks would want to abandon their job, and at least not do the right thing and at the very least email someone (HR, their boss, a friend in the company) that they are leaving.

By leaving with no notice, and leaving clues that folks have to figure out the person that is hurt the most in the end is really yourself. Friends you had can be put off that you just left, past employers wouldn't re-hire you or give out a good reference to a new job. When a new employer checks with HR at the old job, they'll find out you were terminated for job abandonment, and may pass over hiring you.

It definitely feels like to me that it must be a personality thing or something. Guess it's one of those neurosis I can be glad I don't have.

Friday, April 25, 2008

The problem with DRM

Okay, there is no one "problem with DRM", besides that it is DRM. The problem with DRM is that the way it exists is really worthless.

Let's take an example of a system that I think is awesome, but flawed - Amazon Unbox. The biggest issue with DRM is that it cannot handle exceptions that happen in real life. I personally have an unbox account, and I had it linked to a system where the HD is now longer viable, I cannot load the operating system such to "uninstall" my copy of unbox and release the license. Thus I have content that I cannot use on one of my allowed machines, because that machine is no longer viable.

The second is the thought of $1.99 for broadcast shows. Why in the world has no-one thought about adding in-show adds to these, and requiring you to re-download new adds every number of views to continue watching the shows? I mean, it's a great concept to be able to get the ultimate "on demand" for shows you like, but I'm not going to honestly pay $1.99 to watch something I can DVR technically for "free". If I really wanted to watch that old episode of Babylon 5, for example, I'd rather just buy the DVD and not have to deal with download DRM in the mix.

At some point the content providers need to find a better way to provide their content to bring about new revenue models, instead of trying to shove unproven and ineffective ways to bring folks to content down the consumers throat, while having the old models be painless and relatively simple to keep using.

Tuesday, April 15, 2008

Game Saves

Back when I first got my NES, Zelda had a battery in it, so you could save your game as you went through the adventure classic (somehow I never really have felt that the Legend of Zelda was a RPG). Since those early games, the concept of game saves has been important. Up until the release of theSegaCD, game data was saved on the cartridge itself. If you rented a game from the video store, you lost all your saves when you returned it. Also with age you run into the issue that you loose your save games when the battery eventually dies. With the SegaCD, internal storage appeared: This is great for the rental concept, but horrid for the worst case scenario that your system dies and you have to replace/repair it. Luckily my original SegaCD and Saturn both are still in great working condition!

The PS1, N64, DreamCast PS2, and GameCube all had the concept of memory cartridges. These are neat because you can manage your saves individually. The Dreamcast actually made your VMU into it's own gaming peripheral, allowing for mini-games on the device. While cool, these were typically expensive propositions that were an additional charge you had to get when buying the system. Yeah, the Dreamcast was a low $99 at one point, but you had to get a $20 VMU and a $50 game just to do anything with the system!

In today's generation storage is by default again on an internal platform. For the Wii this is much like it was for the Saturn of old - an internal flash drive. Enough storage for a few things, but not for extra content. The PS3 and the 360 both use the internal storage for gaming and multimedia as well as game saves, and add an extra bit of goodness called DRM (or Digital Rights Management). This means that your save game cannot be used by someone else that logs into your system, and vice versa. Now not only if your system's hard drive dies do you perhaps loose your saves (and purchased games!), but you cannot use your game saves as you wish with your friends per se. With the 360 there is a bit of reason for this, as there is an "achievement score" that could be "fluffed" by sharing game saves that had certain achievements either easily in grasp or completed for you. That said, is my gamerscore my "fun-o-meter"?

I'm wondering if there is a holy grail of game saves, and if there is if we'll ever see it? Ideally what I'd love to see is that DRM goes away on game consoles, and the USB ports on these systems are allowed to be used for copying of game saves. Although I'd assume that it's mostly a pipe dream.

Monday, April 14, 2008

Arcade Perfect

The Sega Saturn was released on "Saturnday" - May 11, 1995 - in the United States. The system was arguably the most powerful of the 32-bit generation. The sad thing is that this machine literally produced "Arcade Perfect" representations of some of the hottest games on the market, but in many respects was a complete failure. Personally I think Sega bought into the hype that everything had to be 3D, and allowed the system to get bogged down into a type of gaming that just couldn't be matched on the hardware. It was Sega's "Strike 2", after the failed genesis add-on "32x" was canceled quickly after release amid a torrent of bad hardware and limited software releases. Even with the release of what I consider, as well as many others, the best software for the system, Sega canceled the Saturn in 1998. Games such as Panzer Dragoon Saga, which I actually happen to have played at one point and I'm almost sorry I sold, showed the versatility of the system.

To me, the Saturn is one of those systems that wasn't given a fair enough chance to survive in the US. Panzer Dragoon Saga was technically released after the system was canceled in the US, and as such saw a very limited run. The various Capcom games that were released as "Arcade Perfect" in Japan never saw the light of day in the US at all. It's really a shame that it's considered a bad console, as it had a lot to offer. By all accounts it was a difficult system to program for, but the quality games that were made definitely were silky smooth on the system.

I finally found all my old games for the Saturn over the weekend, and got a chance to reconnect with "Bust a Move 2", "Marvel Superheros", "1942" and I attempted to get "Marvel vs StreetFighter" working, but it looks like my 4-in-1 cart needs to be replaced.

It's just an amazing system, with games that many never will know how good they ran in a home console, or how impressive it was to get that kind of system in the home.

Friday, April 11, 2008


The Sega Dreamcast was released on September 9, 1999. Sadly, this is a system I didn't get "Fully Involved" in until Phantasy Star Online was released in 2000. Shortly thereafter the system was canceled, and much like my Saturn collection, I picked things up on the secondary market.

Games like Sonic Adventure, NFL 2k, and PSO made this a great console that died well before it's time. To me the Dreamcast is much like the Wii, only it didn't have a gimick to help keep it afloat. The Dreamcast was very underpowered in comparision to the PS2 or GameCube. And with their partner for the project getting fully into the console scene with the XBOX, 4 consoles on the market was just too much for Sega to bear.

Also, issues arose with the copy protection on the box, and it was found out that every model produced could run non-signed games with relative ease. This was a big problem because of piracy, but it was also a major boon to the emulation and homebrew scene. Site such as DCEMU got their start as being a resource to learn about how to create and publish non-signed Dreamcast games.

Last night I finally decided to pull out ye' ole Dreamcast and fire it up. At first I tried out my copy of Daytona USA Championship Circuit. I will tell you that the feel for this game is non-existant: Basically even with the rumble pack in the unit, you cannot "feel" the games mechanics while driving. I only had a chance to play one other game before packing the unit up for the night, so I chose Marvel vs Capcom 2. Boy I've forgotten how much I miss those 2D fighters from Capcom. I happen to have a Saturn to Dreamcast controller adpater, so I used my Saturn arcade stick. The game was silky smooth and fun to play, but I'm going to have to find my import copy of Marvel vs Capcom for the Saturn and try it out soon enough to compare it for gameplay feel. For some reason it almost felt too smooth, and I still had a feeling of disconnect with the system.

Even with only the RGB inputs, the graphics were definitely nice. I tried out the VGA adapter that I have, but my TV wouldn't accept the video mode that the system was trying to use. Once I find more of my games, most of them are boxed up since we're hopefully moving in the near future, I'll have to get an S-Video cable and try out the system with that as well.

Tuesday, April 8, 2008

Camera Angles

It's been over 10 years since the advent of 3-dimensional gaming. Games like Tomb Raider "redefined gaming" back in the day. Since those times the concept of the camera angle has plagued me. I personally hated "Tomb Raider", because I could never get the camera where I felt that I had a good view of the obstacle and could work with it. These games were early in the genre of 3D gaming, so a little bit of that has to be allowed. Some experiments work, some do not.

Now that it's 2008, I would expect that "modern" games would have been able to take what works, and make it work better. But it seems that most of the games lately that I really enjoy end up being plauged by the "camera angle" monster. Games like Lego Star Wars - one of my current favorite games to play - is horrific with it. In Co-Op it can become frustrating enough to make you not want to play anymore at times, when you get locked in an area because your partner and you are running in opposite directions. Crackdown is a lot of fun, but every so often the camera moves to an impossible angle and trying to jump, move the camera, and position your guy so he lands on a 2" wide pipe so you can get through a rooftop race is.. frustrating (not to mention requires you to use extra appendages somehow).

In years before the birth of "3D gaming", the camera angle was generally fixed - you had top scrolling and side scrolling, or top down, or mostly top down views of the field, and they were relatively static. Sometimes the angle kinda sucked, but it was what it was, and you dealt with it. Now you have a roving camera that is following you, it dynamically changes what the field of vision looks like and how you are looking at an obstacle while you are trying to get around it. Sometimes just being "too close" to the focal point can make the rest of the field almost obscured to the player. Star Trek Legacy is plagued by this issue.

It seems that the 2D games came out of infancy rather quickly, and had AAA titles to the point where they were cliche. 3D games are still trying to find the camera angle to properly view what a AAA title can really be.

Wednesday, March 12, 2008

Whining gets you free stuff

I started thinking about this a few weeks ago, when the article about the guy that sent his xbox to be repaired and lost all his signatures and custom artwork on it. I had been talking about how complaining on the Internet has become the easiest way possible to get free stuff in the real world. In the example of the guy that sent back his xbox - would you trust a semi-valuable non-replaceable item to a huge box-shop? The 360 repair technique is a difficult thing, because of how semi-unique the condition is currently. I've had plenty of irreplaceable items such as signed books, baseball cards and photographs over time.

If he wanted to continue to use his 360 instead of having to replace it and make the other case a complete collector's item that he left on a shelf, he was going to have to send it in for repair. That isn't to say that any level of risk would be associated with it. The folks that do the repair aren't going to really be looking at what the note said that he sent with it, or really any promises that were made. I wouldn't be surprised if that case isn't sitting off to the side where someone replaced it with a stock case because they liked the artwork.

And we get to the current news that Bungie is going to do "something special" for this guy because he lost the signatures and case, and happened to whine about it on the Interwebs. Everyone feels good. How many folks do you think are going to do something special to their xbox now before they send it off in hopes of getting something cool and free?

Now we get to where this one gets interesting to me personally - I blogged months ago about how I felt that the Live Search Club service was really just a scam, because I got tagged as being a cheater on the service. I chalked up the experience as a growing opportunity and went on my merry way. I still believe that Microsoft could save themselves millions by just requiring that the players pay S&H for the products that they win. It would keep the folks just looking for a fast buck from trying to cheat as much, and it would help to speed up the processing time for the requests. That said, I relegated that I was not going to see any of the rewards that I had signed up for.

Then last week, out of the blue, I get a package from Microsoft. Much to my surprise, it was a copy of Kameo: Elements of Power from Live Search Club. Taking as a win that I actually got something from the time and effort spent on the service, I'm relatively pleased. The next day, I end up getting "Project Gotham Racing 3" in the mail from Live Search Club. Now, I was supposed to get these rewards in mid-October, and it was early December that I was told I was getting nothing. Now it's March and I mysteriously get 2 rewards, after a spike in my blog shows that people were sure interested in my "Club Live Scam" blog entry. While I didn't get everything, I sure can't complain about getting something at this point.

And, I can claim myself as one of the masses that whined on the Internet and got free stuff.

Monday, March 10, 2008

Uneducated Parents

There are at least 2 or 3 different things I want to post up about right now, and at least one of them I was planning on writing on this morning, but this one took the cake for me.

This mother is upset because she didn't do any work on her part to make sure her kids were playing safely on the Internet, and is now angry at Microsoft's Live service.
"Jennifer says the damage to her children from this incident has already been done... And she has banned her children from using X-Box Live to protect them from becoming prey to online predators."
This is just obscenely idiotic on the part of the parent. They failed to do their job, trusting it to a large corporation blindly, and are upset enough to fly off the handle. If the kids had burned themselves on the stove, would they blame GE? I'm guessing the answer is yes.

The "best response" that this parent could do is use this opportunity as a learning experience and a chance to teach her children. Yes, they got to see someone's "naughty bits", and I'd assume they were male instead of female naughty bits. They'll see 'em again sometime. They didn't get contacted to meet somewhere, they didn't get harmed. To me it would be a good way to introduce them about how important it is to be careful with what they say and do online, and how to act. It also would be a good learning experience for her to go out online, or offline for that matter, and research how to keep her kids safe on the Internet. It's not the nice happy playland full of only fuzzy animals, there are terrors that lurk there. The terrors have lurked on the Interwebs much longer than the ideals of fuzzy little woodland creatures in a nice garden.

Taking a step back, and I don't think at any point I'm going to defend not only what she did in reaction nor what she did beforehand, but the article never says what ages the kids were playing, or what games they had been playing. My kids have non-live enabled accounts on my 360, and they play on those accounts. That said, at some point I'm sure they are going to be interested in having live accounts created, or something equivalent to that. I'm sure at some point the "picto-chat" feature in the DS will become an issue when we're traveling, or once they have their own email addresses that they will get something they really shouldn't. As a Father, and generically as a parent, my role is to protect my children. This extends to while we are at parks, around the house, and now online. There are monsters out there looking to exploit them, and it's not going to go away just because they can't use their 360 online anymore. The best I can hope for is to protect them while they are young, and educate them along the way so that they can make good educated decisions for themselves as they grow up.

Not just take their toys away because I'm scared of the boogie man coming around.

Tuesday, March 4, 2008

Too Much of a good thing?

So, I was reading an article about the Ratings of Publishers (link), and there is a quote in it that really got me thinking -

Should both of these publisher deals go forward (Activision-Blizzard and EA-Take Two), the result would be two huge publishers who collectively publish over 250 console and handheld games every 12 months, a significant percentage of the market in any given year.
250 titles in a year? And that's just two of the publishers in the business right now! The question is really starting to become "how many games will you really play in a 12-month period?" Now, understandably, I won't play 250 different games in 2008. I probably bought more games in 2007 than I should have, which isn't unusual when I get new game systems. I bought games I don't play, because my kids play them, so that adds some. But how many games really can be put out by the industry each year that are worth playing? It's pretty historic that outside of the "ultra-classic games" like the original Super Mario Brothers or Sonic the Hedgehog - and I mean the 1991 and 1992 releases - people don't flock to buy "bargain" games. So how many various titles can you really expect to be bought in a calendar year per person. If you look at the software "take rate" per console, I think you get a pretty clear understanding of "not that freaking many" - Microsoft boasts that the 360 has a somewhere around 7 titles per console sitting on a shelf. So, people who bought the 360 have bought on average 3 titles per year since the console's release. That includes such "AAA" titles as Halo3, Gears of War, Rainbow 6 Vegas, Rock Band, Guitar Hero 2 and 3, Rainbow Six Vegas, Project Gotham 3 and 4, Forza 2, Mass Effect, BioShock, Call of Duty 2, 3, and 4, along with others that I could spend an hour listing off. I listed 15 titles that I would consider the "hot games" for just 1 system, many of which came out in the last 12 months.

You have to add in that currently there are at least 6 unique systems to consider (PC, 360, PS3, Wii, DS, PSP). So let's do quick math - figure on the top end that the average for all systems is at least 5 each per year. That gets us to 30 titles bought per "complete family unit" - meaning if a family had all 6 systems that they would have bought around 30 games in a year. That's a lot of games to play through, especially if they are all long-playing games like RPG's which can be expected to have 100+ hours to playtime. Then realize that Activision, Vivendi (aka Blizzard),
EA and Take Two pumped out a combined 250 titles last year alone. That's a lot of games to put out on shelves to be considered for purchase. And that's just 4 of the major publishers, of which there are nearly 70 unique publishers out there.

It all comes down to - how many games can you really play in a year, I mean really? And how many gamers go back 1+ year to get "platinum hits" or spend the time to replay that really awesome game from 2-3 years ago? Replay value is gone, because we have so many other games out there to vie for our attention.

I think I need to dig out my Dreamcast soon... or maybe my Saturn.

Tuesday, February 19, 2008

Internet Security Police State

It seems weird to me how much in the Internet has changed, for many people, over the past 10 years. It used to be that the end user was considered an innocent victim on the Internet, and that the network had to protect them against the attacks that they would find themselves under on an almost daily basis. What's happened, however, is that the average computer that the end user uses has become as much a part of the attacker's life as it is a part of the end user's life. Security used to be relatively easy - you keep the attackers out at your main entrance points, whether you call it your upstream peers or drains or "tubes"... okay - most actual professionals would never call it tubes. Now you have to take the security stand that every end user device is a zombie of a larger evil foe somewhere in the ether, and you need to protect yourself against everyone. It's sad that if you don't take this stance you are not only endangering your customers, but yourself to being subjected to denial of service attacks, or worse.

That said, now this great free open area to express new ideas and new concepts is quickly turning into a police state. Providers are frantically attempting to protect themselves, as well as their customers. The cost of this protection? Freedom on the 'web. Then here comes the US Government trying to make sure that the Internet stays "free" by the push of legislation for "net neutrality", the strong-arm tactic to say that internet providers should not restrict, limit, or prioritize the traffic coming into a cusotmers machine. So the attacker in the eastern block who has is zombie army trained on you, sending thousands of packets attempting to find a weakness in your defenses, is actually be helped by the federal government. Why? Because your best line of defense would be a Service Provider that could stand up and take actions to block the attacks for you.

Many providers have blocked ICMP for nearly a decade now. Since this is restricting information on the internet, would they have to open this up? Can you filter attacks before the attack's destination to mitigate effects?

I fear a landmark court case in the next 5 years where a major hacking organization somehow is able to sue because their packets are being blocked by a firewall not at the destination site. Until there are wholesale changes to how information is shared on the internet, it should be considered an inherently hostile environment. I know it's a cliche to say "just because I'm paranoid doesn't mean someone isn't out to get me". But man, it's true.

Friday, February 15, 2008

It Prints money...

This is going to be a rant outside of my normal, probably cross-linking to various comics that I feel are appropriate for the commentary if I feel I need to. Several of the gaming web-comics (go figure I read web comics about the game industry) have been using the phrase "it prints money" the last few weeks. That is a very interesting comment, and one that I think speaks volumes to the consumer brainwashing in this country.

Take this article from gamespot about a new Guitar Hero game - Guitar Hero: Aerosmith. I'm a huge Aerosmith fan, and have been for a quite a while now. Rockin' Rollercoaster is that much better because it has Aerosmith music playing as you are twirling through darkness. I've been to their concerts, I buy their albums. But this is taking it a stretch. To have an entire game in the "Guitar Hero" genre dedicated to Aerosmith is the epitome of exploitation of a franchise, and it's fan-base, to me. And I'm talking Aerosmith as much as Guitar Hero. In today's day and age there really isn't a reason to put out a disc like this. Rock Band has shown with a smaller customer base a take rate on Download Content of almost 3:1 versus the GH3 franchise. Why is that?

Why is there a need for a new "Mario Party" game every 12-18 months? Why do we need to be incessantly pushed on with a new Madden each year, that the value of plummets faster than the value of your new car as you drive it off the lot. I know this is a shock for many of the rabid gamers out there, but Microsoft really did do a lot of things right with the xbox and the 360. The concept of episodic content is becoming a reality now for console gamers, because they have a massive storage device on the unit. XBL and PSN (xbox live and playstation network) are competing because Microsoft starting using a hard drive to be able to use for content. Now the push needs to be on to stop having episodic content be delivered by a disc, but rather by digital download. And if they want to press a disc with the update and put it in GameStop for $10 as well, even better!

The need for gamers today to wake up and realize that they need to spend their money wisely on games that aren't just a rehash with one new widget every 12-18 months should be on the rise. I don't see it happening right now, rather I see a new breed of gamer getting inducted in the "exploitation of the consumer" plight that we've had for ages.

Hopefully the tide is turning...

for reference on how I feel the gaming companies think about their consumers, here is the Penny Arcade that fortells of the impending pillage of the Guitar Hero franchise:

Thursday, February 14, 2008

Crackdown review

At the behest of one of my best friends, I picked up the 360 game "CrackDown" last weekend. I had an additional 25% off coupon for used games at GameStop, and figured it was a good cheap title, worth giving a shot. This has to be the most under-rated "Platinum Hits" game that I've played in recent memory. I remember the "bleh" reviews it got, and the demo really doesn't give the game much of a chance to see just how much fun it is.

The aspect of the game is this - you are a super agent that is tasked with cleaning up Metropolis , er Pacific City, of the crime that fills the streets. As you go through the game, you not only can advance what weapons you have by taking them away from the bad guys, but your skills increase. Each skill requires a different set of tactics - Jumping, Driving, Strength, Explosives and Firearms. Some tactics, such as sniping from way up high to folks down low, give you bonuses to multiple skills at once.

The game truly shines when one of two things happen - you spend 800msp to get the expansion pack for it, or you get about 2/3 of the way through it and really start getting good weapons and your skills are high. The expansion probably isn't quite worth 800msp (or about $10), but it does add a lot of nice gameplay from what I can see.

One of the truly unique aspects of the game is that you can co-op the game, but not be forced to even play together! Thus you can be in completely different parts of the game world, and just be using the game as a way to chat with the other players, and ask for assistance at varying points.

The graphics are a bit on the "cartoony" side, but the engine is rather smooth. I've managed to get the game world to the point where it slows down from time to time, but in general even with lots of explosions and enemies everywhere the game run nicely. There are some control issues, especially while jumping, where I don't feel like I'm doing a great job of controlling the character, but they are minimal. And driving with a control pad is just not my favoritest thing in the universe, but I do okay with it.

Overall I would give this game at least a B+ for the first time through, with enough attainable extras in the achievements to really have fun with it. They set side things like climbing to the top of the main tower, a dizzying height, and then jumping off it safely to the ground, as a challenge to the player. They added a mind number amount of jump and drive challenges to the game for added bonus, and collection orbs all over the place. It does contain swear words, and some pretty graphic violence, body juggling honestly was fun to unlock, but nothing that a Teen really couldn't get over. This is a case where I think the M rating probably isn't justified, save for maybe the language that the NPC's spit out every now and again.

Tuesday, February 12, 2008

Every so often I get into feelings where I remember specific poems or songs. Today this one is just clearly in my mind...

The Road Not Taken - Robert Frost

TWO roads diverged in a yellow wood,
And sorry I could not travel both
And be one traveler, long I stood
And looked down one as far as I could
To where it bent in the undergrowth; 5

Then took the other, as just as fair,
And having perhaps the better claim,
Because it was grassy and wanted wear;
Though as for that the passing there
Had worn them really about the same, 10

And both that morning equally lay
In leaves no step had trodden black.
Oh, I kept the first for another day!
Yet knowing how way leads on to way,
I doubted if I should ever come back. 15

I shall be telling this with a sigh
Somewhere ages and ages hence:
Two roads diverged in a wood, and I—
I took the one less traveled by,
And that has made all the difference.

Tuesday, February 5, 2008

Fighting Technology

To say I'm a gadget geek is probably the understatement of the century. I love to play with new technology. The fact that it took nearly 5 years for me to finally break down and get a PDA phone is absolutely amazing. Of course, in the course of the last decade I've had 5 different PDA's - the original Palm Pilot, Palm III, Palm V, Palm Tungsten T, and a HP iPaq. None of them have been perfect, but the biggest problem with being a gadget geek is carry space. I'm not one that wants to carry a "man purse" around, but at one point to satisfy my various gadget geekiness I would have had to have a space for my PDA, a cell phone, a PSP, and an iPod. I would have looked like Luke after keeping the Stormtrooper utility belt...

So, I finally caught up with the SmartPhone age, and my phone isn't just my phone anymore. What I've found, as I find every time I get into my gadget geek mode, is that technology never quite works the way I really want it to. My first goal was to replace my phone and pda into a single device. That accomplishment went pretty flawlessly with the Samgsung SCH-i760 that I purchased. It's a really nice device, and everything I've actually gotten to work has done so with a high level of quality. The device feels nice on the hand, doesn't feel "plastic", connects to email easily and navigates nicely. So goal 1 is complete, 1 device removed from batman's utility belt.

Goal 2 should be just as simple - replace the iPod. Now, I have more than 12 gigs worth of music on my iPod, so I already know that I won't be 100% replacing the device. That said, I took a real hard look at my music usage and realized that a 4gig card would at least work for the time being, although an 8gig card would have been nice. Still, a 4gig card is about $50 over at Best Buy, so I go that route. What I found over the course of a day is that (from what I can gather) most WM6 devices currently cannot read the "MicroSDHC" standard by default. Luckily some blokes on the interwebs have come up with a patch that makes it work. Took a bit of work to get the file onto the phone, but once it was installed and I rebooted, voila! 4gig storage card works. I've put music to it, and it works well. Goal 2 (mostly) completed.

Goal 3 was to replace the PSP. Now I sold my PSP a while ago because I just didn't use it - it was the last thing that was just too much to carry around. Once I got the 4gig card installed technically I was done with this goal, but here's where the hitch really came in. Most of my video is on my Vista Home Premium machine - I use Windows Media Center to push videos to my 360, and it does an admirable job at that. So now I need to sync up my phone to Vista so I can transfer the videos. After 2 days of spare time used towards it, I think I'm almost as close to getting that to work as I was before I bought the device. Things just don't work right - the driver updates take 45 minutes or more to install. Once my PDA is connected I get "error" on the screen with no explanation of what happened. Trying to uninstall the PDA's device driver from the control panel greets me with a 12 hour "uninstalling" window.

So now I fight technology to do the geeky things I really want to do. It's the same fight I had with the iPod and the PSP, and the PDA over the years, just with a new device. There is a part of me that relishes the challenge, and a part of me that really gets discouraged that technology is never "all that and a bag of chips" for me - I always want things that do more than the designers intended, and end up finding the seedier side of the device.

It's what I'm good at.

Monday, January 28, 2008


It was today in history - January 28, 1986, that the Space Shuttle Challenger was lost during lift-off. I can still remember the day, where I was, what I was doing.

I grew up on the "Space Coast" of Florida. Just 30 minutes from the Kennedy Space Center. When I was growing up the school board made it a ritual that when the shuttle got past the final hold we'd have an impromptu "fire drill" so the whole school would go outside and watch. 51-L was different: the schools weren't allowed to do the fire drill routine anymore, and Challenger was the first shuttle that we didn't go outside to watch.. until someone who was outside came back in a panic because it had blown up. I personally couldn't believe it, didn't want to believe it. I went through my entire time in Jr. High without seeing the shuttle fly again, and it wasn't until my sophmore year in high school that they launched again. It was years that redefined who I was, and what I was passionate about. But at that next launch, there was a fire drill...

It's said that the Challenger mishap was a prime example of the "Abilene Paradox", interesting read on all the things that created the perfect storm of mishap.

Wednesday, January 23, 2008

10 years

I can't believe it's taken me almost a week to post this up. Last Thursday was our 10th wedding anniversary. Definitely a milestone. 17 Jan, 1998 was one of the most stressful and delightful days in my life. I can hardly believe it's been 10 years since that day. It was the eye in the storm for me, in the middle of a job where I was working entirely too hard, trying to figure out how to manage, and then how to be a good husband.

Things haven't been smooth, nothing gone "according to plan", but we manage to survive and to love each other. And that's what it all about.

Tuesday, January 15, 2008

Keeping promises

It's one of those things that you don't think about all that much, but when I do I personally put a large value on the keeping of promises. I attempt to not make promises that I either cannot or will not keep.

So, a couple of weekends ago I came into a conflict - I put aside money each month to re-up our Disney passes, and not time for renewal was wanning. We are supposed to be moving to South Carolina, and spending almost $1400 on Annual Passes to a theme park in Florida sounds awefully foolish. We're going to be short on money because of the current housing crisis, too. Heck, we were supposed to be up there already for all intents and purposes, but the financial aspects just haven't been where it makes sense to go.

One thing I had promised myself, and in proxy my kids, was that if we were going to start getting the passes again it wasn't going to be a 1 year deal; That is, I promised myself that as long as we lived in Florida I would do everything in my power to continue getting the passes. I set up a CD and put money away each month to cover the costs. I budgeted correctly for it, and had the money in hand.

That money could have gone towards a lot of things we need right now, but that would have been as bad as lying to the kids to their face. I knew what that money was for, and we haven't moved yet. Two showings in six months has a way of changing your mind on the risks you'll take leaving a house.

The question always comes down to - when given the tempatation to not keep your promise and do what "makes more sense" at the time, do you cave.. or do you go through with the promise even if it's not the best idea? I'm sure that in the years since that God has looked down at the earth and pondered another flood, but that rainbow is our assurance of his love for us even if "every inclination of his heart is evil from childhood."

Sometimes the best decision isn't the most sensible one, it's the one that shows true character.