Friday, February 27, 2009

Things That Need To Go Away # 01

Today's Item: People who shout "Fake!" or "Photoshopped" on the Internet.    

Once upon a time, someone decided to fake a picture and upload it to the internet. Someone else spotted this fake and decided to call Shenanigans…and there was much rejoicing.

Today, however, crying 'fake' seems to be the sole domain of complete and total idiots… and these idiots come in a number of different varieties:

  1. The habitual-irrational idiot.

This is the guy who calls fake on everything for absolutely no reason. He'll accuse you of photoshopping your vacation pictures and accuse you of faking the video of your kid coming last at his school sports day. Everything's a conspiracy and there's no such thing as an un-doctored image on the internet. It doesn't matter how mundane or normal the picture is, even if it's just a snap of your dog asleep in front of the fireplace, he'll insist it's a fake.

He never wonders why someone would fake a picture of their grandma opening a present at Christmas, but he'll sure as hell call you on it, because he's just way cleverer than you and nothing gets by him.

  1. The expert idiot.

This guy not only points out fakes, he explains his CSI-like techniques for spotting the forgeries. He is also almost certainly talking directly out of his asshole. Not only is your picture fake, he points out that it's an obvious fake because 'some of the pixels look wrong'. In his mind, he's an expert because he knows how to add a lens flare and drop shadow with the 8 year old copy of Photoshop Elements that came with his digital camera. In reality he knows less about photo manipulation than a fifteenth century milliner. This, of course, does not stop him posting lengthy diatribes on how (perfectly genuine) images and videos have been 'faked'.

  1. The 'How do you not fall down more?' idiot.

Remember that time you videotaped your cat and dubbed on a funny voice because you were really, really bored? This guy called you on it. He saw what you where trying to fool the world into believing your kitty-cat could talk and he blew that shit wide open. Not only did he point out that cats can't really talk, he pointed out that the cat's mouth didn't sync up with the words. Then, just to show his total superiority over you, he laughed at how you tried to fool everyone with such an obvious fake. You really are stupid, you know? Talking cats? As if!


The sad thing is I really wish I was joking about that last one. Last year I was messing with After Effects and made this video of my own head exploding. I posted it to youtube as well and someone there called me out on it. I put up a video so fake that it wouldn't fool a five year old, explained I was just messing about with after effects in the description and someone still felt the need to call me on it and acted as if I was actually trying to get away with something.

What tipped you off, asshole? The way I not only managed to make my head explode through sheer force of will, but managed to upload and post video of it afterwards?

This concludes this episode of "Things that need to go away". Stay tuned for our next exciting installment.

Wednesday, February 25, 2009

Submitted for your consideration…

It's Sunny's Birthday today, and with money being so tight again, I decided to do something for her that she'd really appreciate. After she went to be bed this morning, I decided to completely straighten up the kitchen.

So I'd just finished up my second sinkful of dishes when my mind drifted back to a school assembly I'd attended back in my primary-school days. I don't think I was much older than eight or nine.

The memory plays like a faded old movie. I think it was near Christmas, but it could also have been the middle of Summer. The memory is like a tiny remote island. I don't remember anything else about that day, what I was doing five minutes before the assembly or five minutes after it ended. If all my memories are a jigsaw puzzle, this piece's edges don't match up to anything else. The only thing I do remember is sitting on the hard wooden floor of my school's assembly hall/gym and getting completely swept away by the story my teacher was telling. I remember thinking how awesome it was that she was half-reading, half acting it out.

I couldn't tell you the day, month or even what year this memory is from, but I remember the story as clearly as if I'd heard it yesterday.

I suddenly felt something hairy brush past my feet as Buddy buried his head in the trash bag and before I knew it, Webcomics Weekly flooded back into my ears as I became aware of my iPod again. Kris Straub said something that made me chuckle out loud, proving to me again he's one of the funniest (and most under-rated) people in webcomics. I give Buddy a disapproving look and tell him to get out of the kitchen. He does, happily… he's already snagged the half-eaten sandwich from the top of the bag.

I shake my head. It's strange. That memory has been plaguing me for three whole days for absolutely no reason. I can be watching TV, sitting at my drawing desk, cooking dinner or playing the Xbox and suddenly that memory comes back so vividly I can almost smell that weird mix of poster-paints, wood polish and crayons that all primary schools seem to share. I've no idea where it's coming from or why.

I empty the sink and throw in the cups and glasses that I always leave to the end because I hate doing them, and turn on the hot tap to find the water is only luke warm…one of the downsides of letting the dishes pile up and only having a twenty gallon hot water heater. I decide to leave it for twenty minutes or so, pick up my cup of British tea, and my eyes fall on a box on the dining table.

It's filled with a bunch of bric-a-brac that Sunny got from her mother for her Birthday yesterday morning. A few bits and pieces and, Sunny's favorite, a whole stack of books from the local goodwill store. Taking a sip of tea, I reach in and pull out the top one. All the books are hardbacks and are missing dust jackets. I examine the spine of the one in my hand and see 'Reader's Digest Condensed Books' embossed in gold. I flip it open and one of the titles catches my eye.

There's just no fucking way…it couldn't be.

I open the book to page 198 and start skimming the story.


Sure, it seemed a little more sophisticated, and I didn't recognize the main character's name, but there was just no getting away from it. It was exactly the same story Mrs. Critchely had read and acted out in that assembly all those years ago. The story she told wasn't exactly the same as it was in the book…but it was exactly the story you'd end up with if you took the original and simplified it for an eight year old audience.

Three days ago, for no discernable reason, I found myself thinking of a story I was told two decades ago. I don't know why the memory popped back up after all this time and nothing specifically reminded me of it in the way a smell or sight or sound can stir up old memories. I'd never heard that story before or since.

Exactly what are the chances of that story turning up in a book Sunny got for her birthday?

Monday, February 23, 2009

Why can't I?

If you've read Sunny's blog today, you'll know that today we got a letter from the US Treasury informing us they'd made a mistake on last year's taxes.

Of course, when I first saw the letter, let's just say my underwear cost two dollars and a buck-fifty's worth was instantly eaten by my butthole. On top of the extra four hundred the Emergency Room doctors want from me, this was going to be the US Treasury saying that we owe them big time.

Then I saw that, amazingly, the mistake was in our favor. The IRS had forgotten to dot a few i's and cross a few t's and miraculously owed us a couple hundred bucks. Something that's VERY welcome right now to help keep those vampire doctors at bay.

Something bugged me about the letter, though. I read it a few times and realised it was the very flippant and matter-of-fact tone. They said they made a mistake, and it would be corrected in a couple of months or so. You know:

"Yeah, we made a mistake, we'll send you a check when we get around to it."

Now, I want you all to imagine something. I want you to imagine how the IRS would have reacted if the mistake had been in their favor. For a couple hundred dollars they'd have written a few threatening letters, then sent someone around to take my stuff...and they'd tack on all kinds of late fees and penalties. The other thing is it wouldn't matter if it was an honest mistake...they'd treat me like a criminal from day one.

It's the same with banks and all other kinds of financial institutions. Last year we went a dollar overdrawn on our bank account for less than 8 hours. An automatic payment went out, but Sunny's paycheck was deposited a few hours late. The fact we were overdrawn for less than 8 hours didn't stop my bank charging me forty dollars for the privalege.

So, my question is this...why can't I do exactly the same thing to them?

The way I see it is that the US Government has been in debt to me and my wife for well over a year. They took more money than was agreed upon from Sunny's paycheck and kept it for fourteen months.

So they owe us a couple hundred dollars...but why can't I demand a thousand dollars in penalities, another five hundred in miscelaneous fees and have all this set up so they'll have to pay thousands of dollars in legal fees to take me to court if they want to dispute it, which of course will mean them facing off against my TEAM of highly-trained lawyers, which their money paid for in the first place.

Seriously, how come banks and the government get to bend us over when we make a mistake or miss a payment, but when they do the same it's tough shit?

Tuesday, February 17, 2009

Mother fuckers.

Remember a couple months ago when I wrote about getting charged $850 for a throat swab and a ten dollar pill?

Turns out that $850 wasn't enough. Today I got another bill for $380 for the Doctor. Yeah, after getting charged almost a thousand dollars to have a nurse swab my throat, they decide the full 45 seconds the Doctor spent in the room with me cost $380.

For those keeping score that over twelve hundred dollars for a throat swab, a ten dollar pill and forty-five seconds with the doctor.

I don't say this lightly. I'm seriously considering moving back to England.

Monday, February 16, 2009

Fallout 3

I’ve been a major fan of the Fallout franchise since I played the first Fallout game back in 1997. Fallout was the game that made me fall in love with the RPG genre thanks to it’s depth, attention to detail and trademark mix of drama and dark humor.

So I had some serious reservations about Fallout 3. When such an iconic franchise is taken over by a completely new developer, especially so many years after the previous game’s release, bad things tend to happen.

For example, when it was announced that Fallout 3 would be first person rather than the usual top-down isometric view, Fallout ‘purists’ went nuts.

However, once I heard that Bethesda Softworks had taken over the license and they were using the same engine from Oblivion, I went from completely wary to cautious optimism with a little excitement thrown in for good measure.

I needn’t have worried. Fallout 3 is an absolute masterpiece.

Firstly, the drama and horror of the post-apocalyptic setting was still there, and so was the dark and slightly twisted sense of humor. There’s also amazing attention to detail that you might miss if you’ve never played the previous games. For example, something as small as a the design box of ‘mentats’ has exactly the same design as it did in the first game. Shortly after leaving the vault, I spotted something in a burned out gas station and instantly thought “Hey, that’s a Nuka-Cola Machine!”

This leads to what I think will be one of the most important things for Fallout veterans. This game feels like Fallout, and the first person view adds a lot more than it subtracts. For example, if you want to, you can still fight based on action point and ‘point and click’ targeting…but in a top down view you can’t get chills down your spine when you look up at a partially wrecked Washington monument.

The art direction in the game is just absolutely epic. Despite the fact this game is based in an alternate timeline that has a lot in common with 1950’s sci-fi, it is entirely believable. In fact, if you wander around a post-nuclear Washington DC and don’t get a shiver in a couple of places, there’s something wrong with you.

As for the story, well, the main quest’s story is good, but the back-story, the incidental things you learn while exploring the world are absolutely amazing. As this is my third Fallout game, some of the revelations in it absolutely blew my mind. I won’t spoil any here for you, but let me just say that as deep and rich as you thought the Fallout universe was, it’s about to get a whole lot deeper.

There are only a few minor problems.

Firstly, after playing Oblivion, the Capital Wasteland just don’t seem all that big. You can walk from one end to the other in about twenty minutes. Don’t get me wrong, it’s more than big enough, it’s just after playing Oblivion, with its massive playing area, it can feel a little small.

Secondly, the main quest itself is kinda short. If you stick primarily to the main quest, expect to be done with your first playthrough in about fifteen to twenty hours, and when the main quest ends, the game ends.

However, I think I understand what Bethesda had in mind when they designed this game this way. At first I was disappointed at the shortness of the game and just plain annoyed that I couldn’t explore the wasteland with the main quest ended.

Basically, instead of finishing the main quest and then wandering around looking for side quests when you’re done, Bethesda wanted to encourage you to play through the game repeatedly with different characters. By leaving the main quest a little short, and spreading out the side-quests in areas you won’t always visit in the course of the main quest…it makes every playthrough significantly different and actually extends the life of the game.

For example, for the main quest, you reach a fork in the story where to progress you need to rescue some people in order to get access to a town. The town is run by slavers and you’re faced with multiple options. You can go in guns blazing and kill everyone, or you can work with the town and round up some slaves to trade for the people you need to rescue. Of course, even then you have a choice. You can march into another town and kidnap some innocent people from their beds, or you can go out and capture some murderous raiders and criminals instead.

Basically, in my first playthrough, the slaver settlement worked like a ‘dungeon’. It was just an area I had to fight through to reach an objective. If on my second playthrough I decided to play as a more thuggish, evil character, that same settlement could become my main base of operations, along with all the side quests, characters and facilities it offers.

Long story short, you can completely ignore the main quest and just roam the wasteland looking to do every sidequest, but I think you’ll get a lot more out of this game if you pick a role and stay true to it.

In closing, Fallout 3 is an absolute masterpiece that you’d be mad not to own.

It never stops…

One of the things I could always guarantee whenever I talked to my Mum on Skype was that for every hour we spent talking, at least 25 minutes of that would involve her talking at me about smoking.

My Mum is very anti-smoking. Despite the fact she smoked for almost 30 years herself, she now works as one of those 'quit smoking' counselors, and when she first caught me with a cigarette back when I was 15, she didn't sit me down at talk to me about the evils of smoking…she punched me in the face.

Anyway, I thought the weekly lectures were over when I finally quit smoking… but I was wrong. You see, instead of seeing me light a cigarette on the webcam and going into her usual lecture, she just changed tactics to where she'd ask me if I was still not smoking and when I told her I wasn't, she'd go into her usual lecture.

Then, over the past few weeks, the no-smoking lectures finally phased out. I was overjoyed.

Then today, I turn on the webcam and…

"Are you putting on weight?"

"No, my weight hasn't changed since you visited last October."

"Your face looks fatter."

I roll my eyes and take a sip of my coke.

"See? Coke! Full of sugar!" She then goes into a lecture about the dangers of being overweight. I'm pretty sure that it's going to become my new regular lecture from now on.

It's true what they say, if it's not one thing, it's your mother.

Saturday, February 14, 2009

Valentines Day Sucks

I really hate Valentine's Day. I always have.

When I was in my teens, if you'd asked me why I hated Valentine's Day, I'd have said:

"I hate Valentine's Day because it's an extremely crass Hallmark Holiday that is celebrated purely to guilt you into spending far too much money on poorly made crap You don't need a special day to tell someone you love them and you certainly don't need to buy overpriced trinkets to say it." At this point I'd snort with derision. "And quite frankly, anyone girl who judges me by how much I'll spend on her just isn't girlfriend material."

Now, that's what I'd have said, but what really meant was:

"I don't have a girlfriend and I hope everyone who does dies in a fire."

You see, up until recently, Valentines was basically 'Feel Like an Ugly Loser Day'. I, like Ralph Wiggum, was the kid in Elementary School who spent Valentines Day gluing glitter to construction paper only to have the girls I gave them to act like what I was giving out sparkly syphilis instead of a hand-made cards. At the end of the day, my little mailbox was always empty.

I actually dated in my teens, but the planets never aligned and I never found myself with a girlfriend on Valentine's Day. Every year the ads would come on, the mushy movies would be on every channel and it felt like the world was gloating.

The thing is, right now I'm happily married to the best woman in the world, and I still hate Valentine's Day. The reason is a lot more simple.


Seriously. Despite the fact I'm happily married, I can't shake the whole 'Valentine's Sucks' thing.

Maybe there's a class or a special type of counseling I can go to or something.

Wednesday, February 11, 2009

Kodak ESP-3 Review

Finding that my stack of resumes was running out, and that the wallet-raper known as our printer was out of ink, rather than throw more money at Brother Inc, Sunny and I took the opportunity to upgrade.

For once this was actually a necessary and intelligent upgrade.

You see, ink for our current printer costs almost $80, but we discovered that for just ten dollars more we could get a Kodak ESP-3 all-in-one printer from the local Wally-World. The benefits of owning a Kodak photo printer are obvious, but what really grabbed my attention with the new Kodak line was the price of the ink. It costs just ten bucks for a black and white cartridge and fifteen for the color.

Basically, this printer pays for itself. We spent ten dollars more for this printer (that comes with ink) than we would for just ink cartridges alone on our old model…and the next time we run out, we'll be spending $25 instead of $80…which means we're $45 up on the deal after our first refill.

So the ink is dirt-cheap, but this begs the question…is the ESP-3 any good?

Well, we bought the most basic model from the new line of Kodak printers, but for $90, what you get for your money isn't exactly what I'd call basic.

What you get for your money is a fairly standard all-in-one printer than scans and copies but also has a built in CF/MS/XD/SD card reader and camera port. It has a lot of nice features like the ability to connect your camera directly to the printer, and the software comes with a number of nice presets such as the ability to scan a faded photo and have the software restore the color automatically.

However, what really jumped out at me was the print quality, which can only be described as outstanding. As long as the picture you're printing is at an appropriately high DPI, the print quality is absolutely indistinguishable from 'professional' prints. As a test, I also printed a jpeg of this Penny Arcade laser cell, partly because it has a wide range of tones, but mostly because I like it…and what came out of the printer was truly mind-boggling. The colors were reproduced absolutely perfectly and it looked professional. It looked like something I'd bought rather than something I'd printed myself. The quality was absolutely amazing

This is even more surprising because this printer also prints incredibly quickly, taking between twenty and thirty seconds for a borderless 8X10 photo-quality print.

One of the things I really like about this printer is that it also takes a lot of the frustration out of printing. The printer will automatically detect the size and type of paper that you're using, meaning that printing photos is a breeze. With my old printer I often wasted ink and paper trying to get the picture scaled right on the paper. With the ESP-3, it's a matter of clicking 'scale to fit', putting in the number of copies you want and setting it going.

It's not just the pictures either. After printing a copy of my resume I held it next to one of the copies from my old printer, and there was a very noticeable quality difference. The copies from the Kodak printer just looked sharper and crisper.

There are a few minor downsides, however.

The first is that this printer is pretty noisy. Obviously, I'm not talking about dot-matrix levels of noise, but its motor can be fairly loud.

Also, and this may just be down to a faulty cartridge or first power-up 'priming' but immediately upon installing, the ink monitor showed that both the color and ink cartridges were about 5/6ths full. Having said that, I've printed four borderless 8x10 photos and a huge stack of resumes since then, and the ink monitor hasn't moved.

However, those problems are a small price to pay for such an amazing printer. Not only is the quality amazing, but you'll actually find yourself using it more. With my old printer, I rarely printed photographs simply because it was so expensive to do so. With the cost of printer ink so high, for most people, printing was relegated to 'work only' applications. With this printer it's entirely possible to 'print for fun' simply because the associated costs are so much lower.

Tuesday, February 10, 2009

Clown Car

Sunny and I were doing a lot of driving around today, and at one point I found myself waiting in the car while she ran into a store on a quick errand.

As I was sitting there, listening to Adam and Joe on BBC6 Music, it pulled up along side me.

Let's just say The Fast and the Furious has a lot to answer for.

On the one hand, I can understand the appeal of modifying and souping up an ordinary road car, but some people just go way too far. They get to the point where their car looks absolutely ridiculous...but this time around, I'm not actually talking about a car...I'm talking about a truck.

It was a Dodge Ram. It's owner had decided to go for subtlety and had painted it bright scarlet with silver metallic flames painted down the sides. It stood on tires that looked like they came off a 747, only with gigantic chrome rims that were, of course, spinners.

Believe it or not, as bad as that sounds, that wasn't what made me laugh so hard that my Pepsi came out of my nose.

This gigantic monster-truck wannabe had a freaking spoiler.

Let the ridiculousness of that marinade for a second, before I tell you exactly what it looked like, making your idea seem quite tasteful.

Ok, picture the truck I've just described. Now picture it with a scarlet and chrome park bench bolted to it's roof. I'm not exaggerating. The damn thing was easily two feet tall.

With things like this, it's not just the looks that get me. I mean, this guy was driving around obviously thinking he looks like 'The Shit', when in reality he just looked 'like shit'. However, he's fitted a spoiler to a fucking truck. The whole point of a spoiler is to provide downforce to improve grip and aerodynamics.

You see, putting a spoiler on a high-performance sportscar will improve the handling. His truck, especially with the 747 wheels, had all the aerodynamic qualities of a brick. Slapping a park bench on the roof isn't going to do a damn thing. Fair enough, most spoilers on road cars are there for looks rather than handling...but did I mention that this one looked like a park bench?

Seriously, it looked like the bastard offspring of a monster truck and fire engine that was wearing a chrome park bench for a hat.

Seriously, kids, when someone tries to sell you a spoiler that looks like a park bench, just say no.

I was reading some reviews at IGN last night when I stumbled across this little gem in a review for 'Lips', a Karaoke game:

"In fact, it's not really much of a game at all. It's far too easy to offer much enjoyment for hardcore gamers…
varying difficulty levels, career modes…Lips has none of these things"

In this context, that statement makes about as much sense as saying "Vampire Lesbian Bikini Beach Babes 3 just won't offer much enjoyment to the Over-50 Feminist Bible Group and Mensa Member."

Lips isn't aimed at hardcore gamers, in fact I'd go so far as to say it's not really aimed at what we'd traditionally think of as a 'gamer'. It's a game you pull out at parties so you can have a laugh with your friends. It's made as simple as possible so at your next family gathering you can hand the mic to your great Aunt Mabel and all those other people who've never touched a controller in their lives without having to explain what they have to do for twenty minutes.

Lips turns your Xbox into a karaoke machine. The idea of a 'hardcore gamer' buying Lips to play on his own so he can 'beat the game', get all the achievements and brag about it to his other gamer friends is laughable. What makes me laugh even more is that despite the fact that 'casual' games like Lips are becoming more and more common, reviewers seem to have no idea what to do with them when they land on their desks.

It's time for a quick history lesson.

Traditionally, the aim of console and game creators was to make the biggest, best, fastest and prettiest product. The gaming industry was for all intents and purposes an arms race between the major industry players. If your console was the most powerful, chances are it would be the most successful. However, the side effect of this 'arms race' is that as games got bigger and better, they also got a lot more complicated.

I think this can be seen easily just through the controllers. The Nintendo Entertainment System had a controller with two buttons and a D-Pad. The Super Nintendo had a D-Pad and six buttons…and today the Xbox 360 has a D-Pad, two thumb-sticks, four face buttons (Not counting the start, select and guide buttons), two triggers and two shoulder buttons.

Of course, it's not just the hardware. When you put a game like Mario next to a game like Mass Effect, we see that Mass Effect is exponentially more complicated.

However, it was Nintendo that threw a major wrench into the established way of doing things with the Wii.

You see, Nintendo almost went bankrupt thanks to the failure of the Gamecube, and they were going up against Microsoft and Sony in the current console cycle. Basically, Sony and Microsoft could afford to build bleeding edge consoles and could also afford to sell them at a big loss and make their money back later on the games. Nintendo simply couldn't afford to do that same thing.

So Nintendo did a very clever thing. They simply chose not to compete. Instead of trying to build a super-powerful next-gen console, they built a less powerful console and aimed it at people who don't actually think of themselves as gamers. Nintendo ignored horsepower and went back to basics, making games that are no more complicated to play or control that Pac Man or Space Invaders.

Basically 'traditional gaming' has a pretty high barrier to entry. The games themselves can be quite difficult, they have complex controls and expect a certain amount of 'prior knowledge' from the gamer. However, absolutely anyone can instantly understand how to play Tennis on the Wii when you show them that you swing the controller like a tennis racket.

So, what Nintendo did was open up a whole new demographic. A group of people who don't consider themselves to be 'gamers'. People who just want to turn on their consoles and be entertained until they turn them off. People who have no interests in global leader boards or spending hours and hours grinding away to unlock every hidden easter-egg. Basically people who look at their consoles in the same way I look at a scrabble board.

So, with that in mind, let's go back to that Lips review for a second:

"…even your score is fairly irrelevant. Sure, it's nice to see that I scored more than 3 million points singing R.E.M.'s "The One I Love," but it didn't really do anything, so what's the point, really? All 40 songs are available at the start, the various backgrounds and color schemes are all there from the get-go and there are no extras or secrets to be found. Doing well doesn't open up stages or skins or trophies or anything at all."

This makes me want to track down that reviewer and say just one word:


This game is designed so the next time your friends or family are over and you've all had a few beers, you can slap the disc into your console and have a laugh. The score doesn't 'do anything' in game terms, because it's only there so you can gloat when you score higher than anyone else in the room. All forty songs are available from the start because the point of this game is to sing the songs for fun. Not grind away, singing the same song (that you don't actually like) over and over just so you can unlock the next one. There are no extras, secrets, trophies or skins because when you're in a room full of drunk-ass family-members, you don't want to be dicking around with difficulty settings, or making sure you're playing on the right profile so your progression doesn't get messed up, or have to explain to great-aunt dolly that she can't sing Great Balls of Fire because it's not been unlocked yet…and the song keeps stopping halfway through because she sounds like a tortured armadillo and is 'failing'.

Think about it. If you go to an actual karaoke bar, you sing just for the sheer hell of it. That's what this game is all about. The fun comes from playing, not from beating it.

As I said at the beginning of this post, judging games like Lips by traditional standards is like giving a go-kart a bad review because there's no trunk space or room for kids in the back. It's meant to be shallow because it's a party game designed to appeal to people who've never played a videogame before. Lips is a karaoke machine that gives you a score at the end of the song…and that's exactly what it's meant to be.

Monday, February 09, 2009


Ok, this was something I just couldn't resist commenting on.

For some reason, this generation of games consoles has created the biggest 'fanboy war' I've ever seen. As for what's causing it, I'm pretty sure that it comes down to nothing more than price.

Basically, back in the 90's you could buy a Nintendo or a Sega for around a hundred dollars each, meaning it wasn't completely outside of the realms of possibility that you might own both. However, at the beginning of this console cycle, kids had a hard enough time convincing their parents to part with anywhere from five to eight hundred dollars for one console, never mind shelling out for all three. Even someone like me, a lifelong gamer, has a hard time justifying the need for all three consoles when back at release I could have got a decent used car for the same price.

Anyway, here's all you need to know about the fanboys. There isn't a single one of them that wouldn't snap your hand off at the wrist if you offered them the console they don't own for free. Basically, the same guy whose Xbox Live gamertag is 'Kill Playstation!!!", the same guy who spends eight hours a day filling forums with posts about how the PS3 is about as desirable as a sack full of sloppy dogshit would wade through a lake of hip-deep pus for a free PS3.

However, until they can actually afford that console, they need to believe that the one they own is superior in every way, and that the other guy's console is a piece of crap that only a lunatic would own.

Unfortunately, this leads to stupidity and lunacy on a massive scale.

For example, Killzone 2 came out recently for the PS3, and it pretty much set the internet on fire.

To cast this in sharp relief, the G4 forums exploded over Adam Sessler's review of Killzone 2 with people calling Sessler biased, even going so far as to accuse him of taking bribes from Microsoft to give Killzone 2 a bad review…and here's the kicker…he awarded Killzone a 5 out of 5 rating! That's right. The Sony fanboys went ballistic at a game reviewer who gave their game a perfect score.

That's the fanboy mindset. A normal person hearing a reviewer mention that a game doesn't have co-op multiplayer will hear that and think "Hmm, that's informative and something that, as a consumer, I might want to know." A fanboy hears that same thing and decides Microsoft has paid off the reviewer to discourage people from buying an obviously perfect game.

Unfortunately, the fanboy war was made worse by the PS3 having such a crappy launch. It came out over a year after the Xbox360, cost almost twice as much…and there's been very little in the way of games that justify the price difference. So basically, the Sony fanboys put all their eggs in the Killzone basket. If the game was perfect, it justified their decision.

Oh, and before I get accused of being biased myself, when it comes to fanboys, the 360 crowd are just as bad.

You see, I haven't played Killzone 2, so I can't comment on the quality of the game…but for every rabid Sony fanboy calling Killzone the world's most perfect game and 'unleashing the fury' on any reviewer with the sheer audacity to give it less than a perfect score (or in Sessler's case, a perfect score but a review that consisted of more than mindless praise)…there's a 360 fanboy calling Killzone a pile of shit that isn't even worth a one out of ten.

To all these people, I suggest one course of action.

Grow the fuck up.

I mean, you've bought a piece of consumer electronics, not joined an army. You know what? I own a 360, but I'd love a PS3. I've bought a number of 360 exclusives, and you know what? I didn't feel the need to ignore all their faults and proclaim them perfect just to piss off PS3 owners. (For example, I thought Fable 2 was average). I can look at games like Little Big Planet and think "That looks really cool" instead of spending the day on the forum going into detail about how a critically acclaimed best-selling game that I've never played is actually a big pile of shit because it's not coming out for my console…Oh, and the very real possibility of my console getting the red ring of death and turning into a paperweight? Yeah, that's a fucking problem, not an example of how good Microsoft customer support is because they'll replace it at no charge.

Look in the mirror, you gigantic smack-tards. When you accuse reviewers of bias and under the table deals when they give the game you like a perfect score, you must realize how downright batshit-crazy you look.

Whether you've bought a 360, a PS3, a Wii, a Mac, iPod or Zune…you haven't joined a 'community'. There's no 'Us vs. Them'…you've just bought a gadget, and as with all gadgets, the one you have is going to be better in some ways and worse in others than the competing gadget.

Sunday, February 08, 2009


Sunny snores. She snores regularly, consistently and very, very loudly, but after four years of marriage, I thought I'd finally found a solution to the problem.

You see, it's not so much the actual noise that keeps me awake. As anyone who's married to a snorer will tell you, the worst part is when they snore for a while and then stop…because you find yourself lying there awake, just waiting for the next snore. Then, when you've finally convinced yourself that they've finally stopped for the night and you start to drift off, they start snoring again.

Wash, rinse and repeat.

Well, my solution was simple. When I get into bed I take my iPod with me, and listen to a podcast or some soft music while I fall asleep. Because the sound is constant and drowns out Sunny's snoring, I have no problem getting to sleep.

The only problem is that Sunny decided, out of the blue, after me listening to my iPod in bed for well over a month, that the sound from my headphones is keeping her awake. So Sunny takes immediate action. She gets her iPod and listens to that to drown out my iPod.

I thought we'd come up with the perfect solution. We both get to sleep in the same bed without disturbing each other.

Then, last night when I was lying in bed, I was just starting to drift off when I suddenly felt the bed start to move like there was a mini earth-tremor. I pulled out my headphones and opened my eyes, straining to discover the cause of the disturbance. It sounded like Sunny was muttering under her breath and she was moving like she was having a mini-seizure. Obviously startled, I leant over, gently shook her and asked her if she was okay. Her head whipped around and the first words out of her mouth were an annoyed "What did you wake me up for?"

She was asleep again in a matter seconds, so I figured she was just dreaming…but two minutes later she started again. I'm actually starting to get a little worried at this point, so I strained my ears to try to hear what she was muttering…and I couldn't believe my ears.

She was singing along to the music and dancing in her sleep.

I laughed to myself and just thought it was funny…until I took a heel to the shin from one particularly acrobatic dance move, and then realized it's almost impossible to sleep when the person next to you is making the whole bed shake. Of course, when I asked her about it the next day she denied all knowledge and insists I was either dreaming or I'm making the whole thing up.

So Sunny snores, so I wear and iPod to drown her out. She doesn't like my iPod, so listens to her own to drown out mine…out but sings and dances in her sleep.

Long story short, I have the whole snoring thing sorted…anyone know any good cures for sleep dancing?

Friday, February 06, 2009

Dead Writing.

Well, six months after buying it, I finally beat Dead Rising. It didn't take me six months because it was particularly difficult, it was just that after getting about halfway through, I decided it wasn't very good and went onto something else.

Later on I realized that there wasn't really anything wrong with Dead Rising, the problem was that it just wasn't the game I was expecting. I bought Dead Rising expecting a deep, free-form sandbox game and instead, I got a pretty linear, much shallower game with sandbox 'components'.

However, when I started playing Dead Rising based on what it is rather than what I thought it should be, I found myself having a lot of fun.

There's one problem left, however. The ending to this Dead Rising is absolutely terrible…and I checked online and found, with horror, that I did indeed get the 'best' ending.

Warning, Spoilers ahead.

The first ending or 'false' ending wasn't actually all that bad. After surviving three days in the mall, rescuing a bunch of people, thwarting the bad-guy's master plan and getting past the special forces soldiers sent to cover up the whole thing…you get to the helipad only to see the helicopter crash into the ground because a zombie stowaway attacks the pilot. Frank (the character you control) drops to his knees in defeat as the Helicopter crashes in a fireball and the zombie horde slowly closes in around him.

Sure, it's an ending that lends itself to film rather than a game but it's still a fairly good ending and lends itself to a sequel. It's your basic common-or-garden cliffhanger.

But, after the credits roll, you get to go into 'overtime' mode…which unfortunately plays like the writing was suddenly taken over by four hundred separate people who weren't allowed to discuss the story with each other or even see eachother's work.

Firstly, you're given the news that you've been infected with zombie-ism and need to collect a bunch of stuff from around the special forces-infested mall so your sexy Hispanic love-interest can whip you up a cure and stop you from turning into a zombie.

That would make perfect sense, except for the fact that less than an hour of game-time ago, the mall was completely and totally deserted. The Special Forces had arrived, eradicated all the zombies and then left... Suddenly they're all back with no explanation. Also a little weird is that Isabella has suddenly changed from the hot 'peasant-girl' love interest to a Nobel-Prize winning chemist...also with no explanation.

So you spend a while running around the mall, dodging Special Forces troops and Zombies while gathering the supplies you need. When you finally get everything and take it to Isabella, she gives you the news that it's not really a cure. Apparently you're still going to turn into a zombie, only now you have anywhere from a week to a year before you change instead of 24 hours. Your reaction to this leads to a massive leap in logic which, in turn, leads Isabella to conclude that there's another plot to spread zombies all over the world. That plot won't get dealt with in this game though, so all that should be left to do is escape the mall and that's it, right?

Well…Not exactly.

It appears the people at Capcom are not only unaware that it's entirely possible to end a game without a gigantic boss-fight, they're also unaware that it's a really bad idea to end a good, story-driven game with a completely pointless boss fight against a previously unknown, one-dimensional cardboard-cutout badguy that feels like he's been shoe-horned into the game purely to give you a Boss to fight.

I can almost hear the meeting at Capcom:

"And that's the end of the game."

"What? No Boss fight?"

"Of course not, a boss fight wouldn't fit into the storyline and this really isn't that sort of game."

"Pffft, fuck that! You've GOT to have a boss-fight at the end or it's not a proper game. Put one in with lots of machine guns, missiles, lasers….oh, and a tank."

"But Sir, the player's spent the entire game fighting zombies with improvised weapons! Don't you think that going from fighting zombies with two-by-fours and coathangers to using high-end military hardware against a computerized tank will be a little jarring for the player? Not to mention…"

"Oh, oh, oh! And after the big fight with the lasers and the machine guns, the player has to fight someone hand to hand."

"But…it'll ruin the game!"

"Fuck you! I'm the boss! Do it or you're fired."

You see, up until this point the main bad guy actually had some depth and complexity. He was definitely the big-bad, but you could identify and sympathize with him. Sure, he unleashed an undead horde, but he did so out of a twisted sense of justice and revenge. When you take him out, you're glad he's gone, but you also understand him and feel sorry for him...and there's a real heart-wrenching moment when you have to tell Isabella (who just happens to be his sister) that he's dead.

Basically, the game ends narratively and emotionally when Carlito is killed and Frank and Isabella leave the mall. When you're standing on top of a military jeep, firing a machine gun at a tank that's firing missiles, lasers and miniature helicopters with machine guns on them at you, it feels completely out of place from a gameplay standpoint, and also completely superfluous story-wise.

Did I mention that after you take out the tank, you have to fight the tank's driver on top of his half-wrecked tank.

Why? Who thought this was a good idea? I've beaten the big bad guy already, all the plot points have been resolved. Why am I forced into a boss battle for it's own sake? It just feels ridiculous to have this climactic set-piece battle against a guy who's name you don't even know.

Basically, it's like Luke destroying the Death Star, celebrating on Endor...and then there being a half-hour sequence where some random Imperial Officer chases Luke around with a bit of wood until Luke shoots him.

Then, the end cutscene takes this train-wreck and somehow manages to make it even worse.

You've killed the tank driver, what do you do? Do you get in the tank and drive it to safety? Do you at least attempt to rescue Isabella, the woman who's saved your life three or four times, who's trapped on top of the wrecked jeep you fought the tank in?

No, you drop to your knees and scream at the sky for no reason. Fade to black.

So, firstly, I've just been forced to fight a cardboard bad guy because some asshole thinks a game can't end without a boos-fight...and then I'm supposed to accept an emotional reaction from my character that makes no sense whatsoever.

So far Frank's spent three days in a zombie infested mall, watched a ton of innocent people die, killed the big bad guy, saw his escape helicopter crash, been told he's going to turn into a zombie, found himself a cure, carried Isabella through a zombie infested cave, blown up a tank...but then decides to give up because he's killed a stranger. He gives up, despite the fact he's within spitting distance of safety...oh yeah, and has access to a fully-working tank.

I mean, seriously, why? Frank obviously has a thing for Isabella, so I can imagine him reacting badly if he was forced to kill Carlito in front of her, or if he'd just had to watch her die.. If the bad guy had turned out to be an ally who turned traitor on him, I can see that kind of reaction. If you'd defeated the bad guy but found yourself in a situation with no chance of surival, sure…the ending would work.

Instead, you just killed 'Stock Bad-Guy No. 4' and there's a handful of zombies around you…and you have a tank. Great place to give up for no reason.

But wait, it gets worse.

After the credits roll, some text comes up that says Frank managed to escape and stop the cover-up.


Firstly we're given a shoe-horned in, badly written ending that makes little sense and follows a boss fight that was there for absolutely no reason…and then they destroy the one thing that was halfway decent about it…the cliff-hanger ending.

What I really want to know is why they ended the game with Frank and Isabella in such a precarious position if they were going to tell you they survived anyway. Why not, you know, show them escaping.

Again, that's like Star Wars ending with the X-wings approaching the Death Star, luke getting hit...and then the credits rolling...but then after the credits, some text comes up that says "Luke survived the attack on the Death Star, and like, totally blew it up.

Long story short, compromised story for gameplay and basically ruined both.