Thursday, August 31, 2006

Silent Hill vs Resident Evil

[Computer Gaming]

Largely due to the fact we're seeing the Silent Hill movie tonight, a friend and I just booted up the original Silent Hill for the PlayStation for a trip down memory lane. As a result, I've now played the opening minutes of the original Silent Hill and the original Resident Evil in the same week.

It's a comparison that does no favours for Resident Evil. One uses the game design to create atmosphere and tension, and the other uses the game design to make you steer like a truck and conserve ink like it was more valuable than gold.

Again, how did Resident Evil ever become the icon that it is? I'm baffled.

Wednesday, August 30, 2006

PlayStation 3 - The Methuselah of Consoles

[News] [Computer Gaming]

Gamespot is reporting an interview with Sony Computer Entertainment of American president Kaz Hirai. During the course of the interview, Mr Hirai says some things that are... a little hard to swallow. In fact, a lesser man might call them outright lies. Please find me a lesser man, so that I can induce him to do that for me.

First, Hirai suggests that the high price point of the PS3 is justified because unlike the 360 and the Wii, it will have a 10-year lifespan. Quote: "We're not going to ask the consumers to suddenly buy another PlayStation console in five years' time and basically have their investment go by the wayside."

So, what, Microsoft and Nintendo are going to release a new console in five years, and Sony are just going to say, "Keep buying the PS3 - it's still good"?

Hirai goes on to warn us not to expect to ever see a PS3 without the hideously expensive Blu-ray player embedded in it. Quote: "Our decision to include the Blu-ray player from day one in all of our PlayStation 3s was the right decision and, quite honestly, the only decision we can make. " I might have thought that there was another decision they could have made - to NOT - but then, who am I to argue to with Kaz Hirai"?

Hirai also comments on the worrying fact that the PS3 is still not actually in production, and says, "We are going to make every effort possible to make sure that we get as many units out into the market in the major territories as well as some of the smaller territories that we're launching in." So although "worldwide launch" may theoretically include Australia, if you're living Down Under don't count on getting your hands on the hardware until 2007 unless you're really, really lucky.

Lastly, when asked about the PS3 launch lineup, Hirai comments that they won't have that locked down and ready to announce until "three to four weeks before launch". If launch day is 17 November, then that means that they should be ready to announce the launch lineup.... right in the middle of Tokyo Game Show! Huzzah!

Tuesday, August 29, 2006

Resident Evil: Deadly Silence Post-Mortem (1)

[Now Experiencing] [Computer Gaming]

When the grotesque corpses of the past rise from their graves and shamble horrifically back into the midst of civilisation, we tend to refer to them as "zombies". Unless, of course, we're Capcom, in which case we call it Resident Evil: Deadly Silence and retail it as a premium-price DS game.

This is not an in-depth review of Resident Evil DS. In fact, it's a lot closer to a review of the original Resident Evil.

When you boot up Resident Evil DS, you'll find it comes in three flavours. Option number one is called the "Rebirth" mode, and it's essentially a remix of the original PlayStation Resident Evil. All the original content is there (including hideously acted live action cutscenes and atrocious voice-overs), except Capcom has turned the zombie knob up to 11, and given you the extra ammo and health items necessary to dispense with this newly engorged horde of the dead. There's also new puzzles (in addition to the old ones), plus occasionally when you open a door you'll be treated to a first-person knife-fight minigame that requires you to stab at things with your DS stylus. For some reason.

I really can't speak much to the Rebirth mode. I haven't played it yet.

The third option (no, I didn't miss number two, we're coming back to it) is multi-card play, which is a fancy-pants way of saying "multiplayer". There's a versus mode, and a co-operative mode. You can't play the whole original game co-operative style, just certain sections that have been specially designed as co-operative missions. Each player needs their own copy of the game.

It sounds like a ton of fun, but again, I haven't played that yet.

Why haven't I played these two options? The answer is, because I'm a Resident Evil virgin. Well, almost. I have this horrible traumatic memory of trying to play whichever one of the series starts near a wrecked tanker, and being eaten by zombies again and again in the opening seconds of the game (*shudder*) but beyond that when it's been time to choose a horror franchise, I've been a Silent Hill man all the way.

But to learn and grow we must face our zombie-themed fears. So as the rest of the world began to rave about the wonder that is Dead Rising, I sat myself down in my 360-less house and commenced to play through Resident Evil DS's "Classic" mode. Which is to say, a straight, near-perfect port of the original PlayStation game.

Let me say this. I now understand exactly why Resident Evil is such a cult hit, and at the same time I cannot believe that this game ever warranted a sequel. There must have been some magic about being there at the dawn of a genre, because this game has more problems than a wet cat in a room full of electrified dobermans.

Okay, the plot's pretty simple. Playing as either Jill Valentine or Chris Redfield, you're a member of S.T.A.R.S., a squad of some kind of government super-soldier-cop-things. A team of your buddies has gone missing in the vicinity of Raccoon City, and it's your job to go find them. Unfortunately, shortly after you deploy in (for some reason) a cornfield, your squad is attacked by a kind of zombie-velociraptor thing, and gets split up. You and some of your friends make it to a nearby mansion, which looks comparitively safe next to Velociraptor Children of the Corn, but unfortunately it turns out to be full of humans and animals that have been turned into brain-eating monstrosities by a biological weapon called the T-virus.

Moving from room to room, solving simple puzzles and stocking up ammunition and medicine, your job is to find any survivors of the S.T.A.R.S. teams, uncover the secret of the T-virus, and ultimately live to tell your story.

It's a pretty decent premise. It's in the execution where things get hairy.

First up is the save system. You can only save your game at a typewriter. Which is annoying, but fair enough - we're all used to save points. It gets worse, however. Each and every time you save you have to use up an Ink Ribbon, a type of item you find during your travels. There are maybe a maximum of 35 to 40 Ink Ribbons in the game, total. For me, this turned out to be more than enough to make it through the game, but I can't really think of any good reason for this nauseating game mechanic.

Next up are the controls. The game uses fixed camera angles, which do a reasonable job of adding some tension to an otherwise fairly predictable game. Your character's movement, though, isn't relative to your position on the screen, but rather relative to which way you're facing. Pressing up moves you in the direction you're looking, and left and right turn you around. In other words, you steer like a truck. It's frustrating, but you eventually get used to it. It never feels natural, though, and in some rooms with particularly odd camera schemes it's just downright aggravating.

The third strike is the inventory. As Jill, you have eight inventory slots. As Chris, you have six. One slot will go to storing your collection of ink ribbons. Another will be your current weapon. A third will be spare ammo, and a fourth is usually some medicine. For the first half of the game you're likely to be carrying around at least one key, as well. That leaves you with, at most, one to three spots free for picking up what you see. Most rooms contain at least one thing worth picking up - some have as many as four.

You can't drop inventory items on the ground - the only place you can leave them is in a storage chest, of which there are only two in the first half of the game. The inventory of these chests is effectively unlimited, and all chests are linked, so you can put stuff in in one room and take it out in another. But that still means that you're going to be doing a LOT of backtracking to drop off loot every time you find a stash of medicine or ammo. Not to mention when you find a puzzle or locked door and realise that the key item to open it is way back in your horde.

For all its horrible, horrible faults, though, Resident Evil still remains a fun game. There's something about the backtracking, restricted saves, and clunky controls that makes the whole procedure feel very methodical and satisfying. I don't know why that is, but even now, after making my first laboured journey to the game's ending, I half-feel like I want to go back and do it all again.

The plot is filled in over the course of the game by means of badly-acted cutscenes and text-heavy "file notes". Unlike the surreal and vague plots of the Silent Hill series, Resident Evil seems to have a definite and understandable story, which helps make the game's long backtracking moments at least feel purposeful.

Theoretically, Resident Evil is survival horror, but really it's just survival. This is far and away the least scary game in the genre I have ever played. There is nothing spooky to be seen, the monsters aren't particularly grotesque, and the few times that enemies "leap out at you" would be a lot more effective if the movement of zombies was given more to actually leaping, and less to slowly and unmenacingly shambling. Today's run-of-the-mill first person shooter typically does a better job of conveying suspense than anything in this ageing classic.

Graphically, the game is a perfect port of the PlayStation original. Bear in mind that the PlayStation didn't look as good as you remember it looking, and that Resident Evil wasn't the best looking PlayStation game in the first place, and you'll understand when I say that the visuals here are perfectly adequate to the demands of the gameplay without ever being attractive or atmospheric.

The sound is awful. The music, on the rare occasions that there's any music at all, is standard B-movie fare, with no real character or style. The sounds of weapons firing are suitably satisfying, but missing an enemy sounds largely the same as hitting one. Monsters shuffle around with sound effects ranging from "wet dough scraping on wood" through to "mouldy bread scraping on metal", and make uninspired and rather dull roars when they eventually decide to charge at you. The voice acting is on a whole plane by itself, though, being so hideously inappropriately bad that it goes through annoying and out the far side into being deeply memorable (for all the wrong reasons).

With all its faults, though, I'm really glad I've finally put my toe into the shallow murky pond of Resident Evil. Having finished the original game, I might give the Rebirth mode a try in the near future, or try out some of the sequels on the GameCube. And if you have some tolerance for frustrating mechanics, and you've never played the original game either, then getting Resident Evil: Deadly Silence for the Nintendo DS could be the start of a beautiful friendship.

Sunday, August 27, 2006

Wii Announce Date (Greg Correct Again)

[News] [Computer Gaming]

The number one question that I get asked by people, in terms of computer gaming, is "When will the Wii launch?" My answer is, "I don't know, but place your bets on early to mid November to match the PS3."

So that leads to the second most popular question, "When will we find out the launch day?" And as everyone who has asked me that question for the last fortnight will know, my unwavering answer has been, "I will place money on an announcement about a week before Tokyo Game Show - specifically, September the 14th." (If anyone wants to confirm that's my line, go nuts in the comments.)

So I take some small satisfaction in seeing Gamespot backing my play. Specifically, they're highlighting that Nintendo are holding a press event in New York on 14 September. I can't claim that I knew about that event before today, but in any case it looks like I'm going to be spot on the money.

I will now commence preparing for the "I Told You So" pose, as described on at least one earlier occasion.

Raging Boll

[News] [Computer Gaming] [Film]

Uwe Boll has named the five people he will be stepping into the ring with as part of his bizarre "Uwe vs Critics" boxing matches connected with the development of his upcoming movie adaptation of Postal. (No news yet on how he plans to make a movie worse than the turgidly hideous game itself, but it being Boll, I'm sure he'll manage.)

Boll will be squaring off with representatives of Something Awful, Cinecutre, Ain't It Cool News, Rue Morgue, and a fifth individual specified only as "website critic".

The event has been dubbed Raging Boll, apparently by Uwe himself, and if you're reading this news here then you should check your connection to the interweb, as this driftwood has washed up on a goodly number of foreign shores already before making its way here. Heck, don't take my word for, go and see what someone who passes for a "real games journalist" has to say.

Once again, thanks for stopping by to read my recycled industry news.

Deadwood - Season 2

[Now Experiencing] [TV]

I just watched the finale to the second season of Deadwood. It's good to see after a year of unremitting tragedy and misery that things ended on a thoroughly positive note (which is somehow inclusive of a hanging, a gutting, and a throat cutting in the final minutes of the episode).

That show has an amazing ensemble cast all round, though I have to wonder whether Timothy Olyphant (playing Sheriff Seth Bullock) has any more tools in his acting repertoire beyond "stoic" and "smouldering".

On a side note, for those who have both seen the show and also played either of the incarnations of Animal Crossing, does the character of Al Swearengen remind you at all of Tom Nook?

Friday, August 25, 2006

On Video Game Ratings

[Computer Gaming] [Politics]

Johnny Pi has a nice analogy for the current state of video game classification over at his blog Design Synthesis:
"We need to have an official ratings board for sports. Football, for example, would get a T for Teen due to its frequent violence and sexually suggestive content (tights, patting men on the ass, cheerleaders). The catch, though, is that if there was a particularly brutal play and, let's say, someone's helmet popped off - there was some blood on the field - then the ratings board would have to re-rate that particular game and the teams involved would get sued and the government would be up in arms over the shocking lack of regulation in the sports world. Hockey would be illegal. Also, soccer riots."

Wife Swap


Okay, admittedly these days I only watch the sort of TV that comes on discs, but still in the name of all that is holy, how did a TV series with the name Wife Swap get the green light? Did no one involved understand the connotations, or is that the point? It's apparently been going a couple of years, so once again I'm hideously behind the 8-ball.

And it seems they're actively soliciting people to be on the show, using a rather amusing email. Thanks to Kyoht on LJ for the tip-off.

The Silent Hill Song

[Computer Gaming] [Music]

I think Matt was looking for a copy of the bizarre "Silent Hill song" from the Silent Hill 3 UFO ending. He (and anyone else who wants to be deeply confused) can find it here, although sadly not in a format that can be easily saved to disk.

Thursday, August 24, 2006

Snakes On A Plane

[Now Experiencing] [Film]

I paid $8.50 for a ticket. My expectations were below zero. I got every last dollar's worth of enjoyment, and my expectations were wildly exceeded.

A group of us saw Snakes On A Plane tonight (including Matt, Julia, April, Lisa, Sharon, and some other people who don't have blogs and therefore aren't entitled to vote in federal elections). The cinema was mostly empty, despite it being Australian opening night, and the only other people there were another large group.

Here is the correct way to experience Snakes On A Plane:

  • Every time a horrible product placement occurs, cheer loudly (look out for Red Bull, Mountain Dew, and the PlayStation 2).
  • When Samuel L Jackson first appears, shout "Muthafucka!"
  • When the plane first appears, shout "Plane!"
  • When the countdown to snakes appears, shout "3! 2! 1! Snakes!"
  • Cheer loudly whenever someone says a quoteworthy line.
  • Cheer even louder once Mr Jackson has had enough of the muthafuckin snakes on the muthafuckin plane.
  • Over the movie's climax, chant "Troy! Troy! Troy!" followed by cheering when Troy saves the day.
I'll thank Lisa for pointing out that as far as pacing, structure, plot, genre, and direction go, this movie could just as easily have been Zombies On A Plane, which would have been just as good a movie. No, really, watch it and tell us if we're wrong. At the very least, it would make a tasteful and believable sequel.

So, having considered every relevant aspect of the movie in the paragraphs above, I recommend Snakes On A Plane as fun for the whole family, assuming your family are amused by gratuitous nudity and people being bitten in the eyeballs by snakes.

More TGS News - Playable Sony

[News] [Events] [Computer Gaming]

(Via Gamespot)

The news has come down from Sony as to what will and won't be playable on the show floor at the Tokyo Game Show. Attendees at the convention (read: me) will be able to get our greasy gaijin hands on each and every one of the following titles:

PlayStation 3
Armored Core 4 (From Software)
Blade Storm Hyakunen Sensou (Koei)
Coded Arms Assault (Konami)
Devil May Cry 4 (Capcom)
The Eye of Judgment (Sony Computer Entertainment)
Fatal Inertia (Koei)
Formula One World Championship (working title) (Sony Computer Entertainment)
Genji (working title) (Sony Computer Entertainment)
"Gran Turismo" Series (Sony Computer Entertainment)
Heavenly Sword (Sony Computer Entertainment)
Lair (working title) (Sony Computer Entertainment)
Mahjong Taikai IV (Koei)
Minna no Golf 5 (working title) (Sony Computer Entertainment)
Mobile Suit Gundam: Target in Sight (Namco Bandai Games)
MotorStorm (Sony Computer Entertainment)
Railfan (Ongakukan)
Resistance: Fall of Man (Sony Computer Entertainment)
Ridge Racer 7 (Namco Bandai Games)
Warhawk (Sony Computer Entertainment)

Ace Combat X: Skies of Deception (Namco Bandai Games)
Boxers Road 2: The Real (Ertain)
Gundam Battle Royale (Namco Bandai Games)
Homestar Portable (supports GPS) (Sega)
Jan-Sangokumusou (Koei)
Jeanne D'Arc (Sony Computer Entertainment)
Metal Gear Solid: Bande Dessinee [released in the US as Metal Gear Solid: Digital Graphic Novel] (Konami)
Metal Gear Solid: Portable Ops (supports GPS) (Konami)
Minna no Golf-jou (supports GPS) (Sony Computer Entertainment)
Monster Hunter Portable 2nd (Capcom)
Navigation Software (working title, supports GPS) (Edia)
Ratchet and Clank Portable (working title) (Sony Computer Entertainment)
Sarugettchu Piposaru Racer (Sony Computer Entertainment)
Tales of the World Radiant Mythology (Namco Bandai Games)
Tenchi no Mon 2: Busouden (Sony Computer Entertainment)

Of note, in case you missed it in the list:
* Metal Gear Solid: Portable Ops (a handheld outing for Naked Snake in the style of the PS2 games, rather than the card-battling Acid series) will utilise a GPS function.
* Homestar Portable is not, to the best of my knowledge, in any way affiliated with Homestar Runner (sadly).
* Eye of Judgement will be playable. As this augmented-reality card battler makes use of a proprietary camera peripheral (NOT the Eye Toy) it means we'll be able to get a closer look at that camera as well.

This will also be, as far as I know, the first look at playable versions of Devil May Cry 4, Lair (next gen dragon-based shenanigans), Resistance: Fall of Man (apocalyptic first-person shooter from the makers of Spyro the Dragon), and Warhawk (much booed for claiming that a pre-rendered cutscene was in any way representative of the actual content of the game when it clearly wasn't).

Wednesday, August 23, 2006


[Computer Gaming] [Game Design]

Allow me to share some gems of game design wisdom from the mouth of Mario-creator Shigeru Miyamoto. These sacred utterances, when collected together, are known as "Miyamottos", and I hear in some isolated communities they bear a certain holy significance which cannot be committed to the written word.

1. "When you're on top, you get spoiled and surrounded by cheerleaders." (link)

2. "When I am a child, creating, I am not creating a game. I am in the game. The game is not for children, it is for me." (link)

3. "A delayed game is eventually good. A bad game is bad forever." (link)

Actually, reading through Miyamoto's interviews and so forth, I'm struck by this comment from E3 2004:
I'm very interested in games that change the way people play. [...] Games that are not only fun to play, but also look fun to play to people watching people playing them. (emphasis added)
I think that pretty much sums up Nintendo's impressive sales of the DS, and their very successful pre-release campaign going forward to the launch of the Wii. Really, when was the last time you saw someone else playing a game, and thought, "I have to try that"?

Now go play Dance Dance Miyamoto. You know you want to.

Date Formatting


Just paying for Japanese hotels and I notice they're asking me for the date in the format (yyyy/mm/dd). This makes total sense. File names that start with this date convention then display in date order when sorted numerically! Why doesn't everyone do things this way?

Is it wrong that I think about stuff like this?

Tuesday, August 22, 2006

Japan, Baby, Yeah!

[News] [Personal] [Events] [Computer Gaming]

Well, I've got accomodation booked now, so I'd damn well better be going to Japan to use it.

I'm planning to stay in a couple of hotels in the vicinity of Mihama-ku, in Chiba City (about an hour and a half south-east of Tokyo by bullet train) for the nights of 20 through to 24 September, during which I will be attending the Tokyo Game Show 2006.

The Friday day is for industry people only. Seeing as I'm going all the way to Japan, it would be a shame to miss out on a day full of games, so I'm sure you all out there will agree that The Dust Forms Words constitutes a gaming industry-related business which unfortunately is not yet turning a profit.

It's particularly important that I'm there on the Friday, because at 10 am on that morning Ken Kutaragi will be delivering the Sony keynote speech on "the next generation as created by the PS3", during which I will have the opportunity to hear first-hand (in Japanese?) about the magical mushroom dreams that Sony have for selling consoles made of solid gold to the gaming elite, who will be able to bask in the rich buttery light reflected from their PS3 hardware and enter a personal Nirvana uninterrupted by vibrating controllers or worthwhile launch day game releases.

The full list of exhibitors so far is here. As best I can make out, Nintendo has not as yet thrown their hat in, although Sony and Microsoft have predictably staked their turf. Nintendo does have a history of not participating in TGS, but on the other hand they broke that tradition last year, and this year they still have to announce the Wii release date, price point, and launch lineup before the holiday season. I can always hope for a last minute announcement of their participation (and the corresponding news that there'll be playable Wiis on the show floor).

Anyhow, between playable PS3s, and the respective offerings of Capcom, Koei, Square-Enix, Konami, and Namco, I should be a happy traveller.

Following the close of TGS I will be spending three nights in Tokyo itself (not as yet booked) two nights in Tokyo before catching an overnight flight arriving in Perth on 28 September in time for Fandomedia. I will back in Canberra on 3 October.

This is my first overseas trip, and I really have no idea what to expect from Japan. I'm still sorting out the intricacies of currency exchanges and making my mobile work overseas, so if anyone has suggestions of things I should think of before travelling or so forth they'd be well appreciated. I'm already doing this through a mish-mash of three different travel agents, and I have the unshakeable feeling something will go wrong and I'll end up sleeping on some raccoon-lined street in Kisarazu when I should be living the high life of consumer electronics and beautiful samurai ninja cat-girls.

Sunday, August 20, 2006

Trauma Center: Under The Knife Post-Mortem

[Now Experiencing] [Computer Gaming]

Pardon the pun.

It's been four months since I ordered my copy of Trauma Center from the United Kingdom. Four months that this shining gem of a game has sat, alone and unloved, on a games shelf in a country that didn't want it in a world it didn't make. Four long, soul-crushing months.

But now I have played it; and all that I can do is hug it and tell it nice things and hope that it some day forgives me and never leaves.

Trauma Center is a game for the Nintendo DS that casts you in the role of a rookie surgeon. The gameplay takes place over a linear series of missions. In each mission, you use a range of tools available to you to undertake an operation on a patient; if you have a steady hand, a good ability to prioritise, and quick reflexes, your patient will live. Let things get out of hand, and your patient (and your career) are in for a one-way trip to the morgue.

When I tell people Trauma Center is a game about surgery, the first question they always ask is, "Is it gross?" The answer is no. If you're able to watch a relatively non-graphic medical drama without qualms (like, say, Scrubs) then you'll be perfectly at home in the chest cavities of Trauma Center's patients.

As the story starts, you'll be taking on the persona of Dr Derek Stiles, a promising but somewhat immature surgeon. His career is potentially frustrated by a lack of focus and follow-through, until dedicated (and cute) Nurse Angie is partnered up with him in a series of life-or-death operations. Soon Derek discovers that he is in fact a descendant of the Greek god of healing, possessed of near-magical doctoring powers - which is good, because he also finds himself front and center when bio-terrorists unleash a series of terrifying parasitic diseases called GUILT. Only Derek has the skill necessary to stop GUILT and save innocent lives.

Your surgical abilities will be tested in an impressive variety of ways. One moment you'll be picking glass out of the skin of an injured motorcyclist; the next you'll be performing heart surgery at 30,000 feet during turbulence. Or even (in one memorable mission) using your surgical implements to defuse a bomb!

A lot of sites have dubbed Trauma Center a "puzzle game". This couldn't be further from the truth. It requires neither the forward planning of Lemmings or Exit, nor the spatial perception skills of something like Tetris or Meteos. This is a classic action game, pure and simple. The game at every turn pressures you to be faster, twitchier, and yet icy calm as you suture lacerations, laser tumours, and pump your victims patients full of more drugs than you can poke a scalpel at.

If that sounds like it might be hard, then you're on the right track. Trauma Center has at heart an old-school sensibility that sets a steep learning curve, a punishing difficulty, and a commensurate level of satisfaction accruing to victory. Wisely, no single operation requires more than ten minutes to complete (most take five or less) so failing rarely leaves you feeling too frustrated to immediately try again.

On the topic of difficulty, I should mention that what I found to be one of the hands-down hardest missions comes very close to the beginning of the game (I think mission seven-ish - it's the one with the bursting veins). If you're playing Trauma Center and you're stumped at this one, perservere! They get easier again when you're done!

Trauma Center makes clever use of the DS stylus. During the course of the game, you have a range of ten or so tools, which can be selected by tapping the stylus over the appropriate icon on the sides of the bottom screen. Using a tool involves performing a specific motion with the stylus. Using the needle and thread to suture requires running a zig-zag motion down the length of an incision. The scalpel demands long, straight lines. Antiseptic gel can be applied with rubbing motions.

The game demands a high level of precision in using these tools to save lives, and thankfully, the control scheme is up to it. Having finished the game, I've now inserted stitches in apocalyptically large quantities, and injected enough drugs to run international cartels out of business, and despite often having to repeat missions, I've never felt that my failures were in any way attributable to poor controls. (The exception is a somewhat squirrely magnifying tool, but thankfully it's forgotten about early on, and you never look back.)

The graphics of Trauma Center are unexceptional. Operations take place in an abstracted human interior - there's enough there to suggest blood, internal organs and so forth, but not so much as to distract you from the gameplay or make you squeamish. Plot sequences involve static anime character portraits, with text over still backgrounds. There's really not a jot more detail or animation than is needed to make the game work.

Sound is much the same. An overwrought melodramatic score plays behind the story screen. Operations (mostly) take place with only the bare minimum of music - enough to set a serious, focused tone and no more. The sound effects are a combination of swishy liquid sounds, mixed with slicing and zapping noises that would really be more at home in something like SoulCalibur or R-Type. Rather than detracting from the mood, these arcade-style touches really help the action feel satisfying, and make this feel like the sort of surgery game you might have fond memories of from the 80s. (Y'know, if there'd been surgery games in the 80s.)

I can't recommend Trauma Center highly enough. It's not for everyone - don't confuse it with those "casual games" you may have heard the DS has so many of. But if you like a challenge which is tough but always fair, and want a game which is well-designed, satisfying, and completely unique, then you really owe it to yourself to buy a copy.

If you're in Australia, you'll need to import one from another English speaking country (because to the best of my knowledge it wasn't released here). Pick up Phoenix Wright while you're at it (like I did) and you'll be a happy gamer.

Tag Line of the Year

[Computer Gaming]

Spotted on the back of Ultimate Fantastic Four Annual #2:

Super Monkey Ball Adventure
"In a Monkey Ball, no one can hear you scream."

That's really a pretty good description of my first and only experience with the Monkey Ball franchise, come to think of it.

Saturday, August 19, 2006

Rule of Rose

[Computer Gaming]

Somehow Rule of Rose had slipped under my radar until today. 1930s PS2 survival horror on board a living dirigible, detailing the story of a girl called Jennifer and her attempts to (a) survive, and (b) climb the social hierachy of a creepy group of evil vaguely-lesbian teenagers. And you have a pet dog.

I'm so there.
It looks kind of like Silent Hill meets Haunting Ground. Except, y'know, with extra helpings of creepy children and a dirigible. It's been out in Japan since last Christmas, and the West looks set to get it next month. Has anyone actually had any hands-on experience with this game?

Advance Wars Post-Mortem

[Now Experiencing] [Computer Gaming]

I'm a little late in coming to the Advance Wars party. Not only has the original GameBoy Advance game now passed into gaming history, but it has sequels on both the GBA and the DS which are similarly starting to show some age. Still, better late than never.

The popularity of the GBA led to a rennaissance for old-school gaming. Over the course of its lifespan, the spritely little GameBoy Advance saw a wealth of 2D platformers, isometric RPGs, and turn-based strategy games. Much as the PC remains the home of the first-person shooter and the real-time strategy, the GBA staked out its corner of the genre-verse and defended it tooth and nail.

Advance Wars is regarded by many as the pinnacle of GBA turn-based strategy, and admittedly for some very good reasons. It is superbly balanced, with a fantastic interface, an excellently designed learning curve, and pretty much all the bells, whistles and extras that you could ask from a turn-based strategy.

It's just a shame it's not very engaging.

Advance Wars places you in the role of an "advisor" to the Orange Star army, who are, as best I can tell, the good guys of the piece. From this position, you're tasked with, effectively, commanding a range of near-future military units ranging from rocket infantry through to tanks and helicopters, as you strive to defeat the predictably named Blue Moon, Green Earth, Yellow Comet, and Black Hole armies.

You go about this task with the aid of a CO, one of a range of cartoony personalities ranging from the cute Nell through to the sniper-cowboy Grit or the bumbling dictator Olaf. These individuals not only serve as the voice of the game's tutorial sections, but also are key figures in the plot (such as it is) and also bestow upon you a special power which can be activated every six turns or so which will give you a fairly apocalyptic edge over your opponent for the duration of a single turn.

The units you command don't have a lot of detail to them. Every unit has 10 hit points. As a unit takes damage, its capacity to deal damage to others is commensurately decreased. There's a kind of extended rock/paper/scissors mentality to the units, with bombers good against tanks, tanks good against anti-air, and anti-air good against flying units, and so forth. Infantry aren't really good against anything, but they're the only units that can capture cities and factories, so they're an essential part of your army.

Advance Wars imports a lot of real-time strategy conventions, including bases from which you can produce more units, and an (annoying) fog-of-war effect that restricts your visibility on some maps. It also captures the quick and fluid feeling of a real-time-strategy, lending a certain vitality to what traditionally is a very slow and deliberate style of gaming.

As far as the mission to mission gameplay goes, it's faultless. Advance Wars is exceptionally well balanced and crafted, with each unit type feeling both unique and worthwhile. The interfaces are intuitive and well-explained. The course of battle is easy to understand, and further rendered by short animated (skippable) battles between units when they fight.

But it's really difficult to care about what's going on. The cartoony presentation of the game leaves you feeling that there's no real significance to the story that supposedly links the missions. You don't carry any units over from one battle to the next, and none of the named characters ever actually appear on the battlefield. With such a disconnect between the gameplay and the narrative, you don't become in any way invested in the ongoing course of the game, and pretty soon each map becomes just another battle to slog through, just the same as the last one.

The game pulls out all the stops in multiplayer, though. There's an option for direct cable matchups (for those of you who still have actual GBAs) which can be played either between two cartridges, or via game sharing. There's also, in the grand tradition of turn-based games throughout time, a hot-seat option for two players on the same GBA (or in my case, DS). You can design and save your own maps, or just choose from the ridiculously lengthy selection of scenarios included with the game.

There's also a War Room option, with a further selection of non-story missions to test your skills against, in case the lengthy narrative didn't sate your craving for combat. Your progress in each mission is ranked, and victory rewards you with "coins", that can be spent to unlock even more maps.

All in all, Advance Wars is a fantastic gameplay achievement - it's just a shame that there's no really compelling reason to play it. Definitely worth a look if you're a strategy fan, particularly if you've got a friend with the patience to play you in a hot seat game. But if you need story with your strategy, then pass this one by and pick up the excellent Fire Emblem or Final Fantasy Tactics.

Friday, August 18, 2006

Spiked Soul - Yunyu

[Now Experiencing] [Music]

My copy of Yunyu's fantastic first album Spiked Soul came in the mail today from Earshot Music (where it's apparently right now one of their top selling albums - congrats, Yunyu!).

It comes with an absolute swagload of bonus extras including a cloth bag, temporary tattoos, stickers, a DVD of the single "Lenore's Song", and an additional sampler CD to give away to a friend! (If anyone in Canberra wants to claim that, by the way, give me a yell.) Every album should come with all this stuff.

I still want a copy of Yunyu doing the theme from Serial Experiments Lain ("Duvet") which I heard her do at Conflux a couple of years back. It's important to have goals.

Oh, and on a side-note to all this audio-pimping, plans are afoot for me to attend this year's Tokyo Game Show (yes, at rather short notice). More to follow.

Thursday, August 17, 2006

PoPoLoCrois Post-Mortem

[Now Experiencing] [Computer Gaming]

Because Grant demanded it.

If you, like me, are a PSP owner with a love of good RPGs, you've probably been looking at the PSP game selection with something approaching despair. On one hand, you have Tales of Eternia, an unobjectionable port of a ageing PSOne game. And on the other, you have Untold Legends and its sequel, which can be largely summed up using the words "not completely awful". It's a state of affairs much like that of a starving man on a desert island who has to choose between eating lychees, bean curd, or his own severed foot.

So when you saw PoPoLoCrois come floating into your local game store's inventory, you may have, like me, made the mistake of purchasing it. Oh, how you will rue that terrible day.

Okay, maybe I'm exaggerating. PoPoLoCrois isn't the worst game ever made. It is neither an abomination that should never have been spawned, nor a crime against God, nature, and gamers everywhere. It even, dare I say it, caused me to hazard the occasional smile and moment of enjoyment.

Now I'm done with the good part. On to the bad.

The first warning sign about PoPoLoCrois should have been all those capital letters. When the ratio of uppercase to lowercase within a single word is higher than 1:2, you know something's up right there. And it's not just a logo embellishment - the game insists on using that bizarre abberration of spelling throughout the length of its insipid and uninspired story.

PSP PoPoLoCrois is apparently something of a remix of two quite popular PSOne games that were previously only released in Japan (called, unsurprisingly, PoPoLoCrois and PoPoLoCrois 2). Don't worry - you're not getting the full version of either game. Every last quest throughout each title has been shortened, dumbed down, and turned into little more than a fetch-and-carry trek across an eye-gougingly boring countryside. The two plots have been rammed end-to-end in a mind-boggingly crude way, and have had everything that may have made them good ripped from them with rusty hooks operated by brain-damaged lepers.

You may think, "At least it'll be a long game." And to be fair, it is. It's quite long. It's long in the sense that, at about the time you're weeping into your pillow and screaming, "Why won't it end? In the name of all that's holy, why won't it end?", you'll come to what appears to be the final boss fight - only to discover in eye-widening gut-clenching horror that you've merely completed the first story and have still to wade through another whole two major questlines, each individually longer than the entirety of what you've played so far. That dedication to packing content onto a tiny little UMD takes a special kind of genius - to be specific, the cat-stroking Bond-killing death-rays-from-space kind of genius.

There's a plot, of course, which should probably win an award for its craftsmanship in taking ideas from every fantasy epic ever and weaving them into an utterly unengaging pastiche of young princes, lost mothers, ancient demons, and dark kings. As you slog through the never-ending story of Pietro, nauseatingly cheeful heir to the kingdom of PoPoLoCrois, you'll be joined by a variety of two-dimensonal companions, such as Narcia (a forest fairy with a love of wimples), Gami Gami Devil (the self-professed most evil man in the world), and.... uh... White Knight (no, really, that's his name).

Even the most limpid RPG can occasionally be redeemed by really satisfying combat or an addictive levelling-up system, so it's a good thing that PoPoLoCrois doesn't have either of these, or it would be breaking an otherwise uninterrupted losing streak. Levelling up is of the straight "gain XP to get tougher" variety, with no meaningful chance for the player to direct this linear process. You also have skills, which behave in pretty much exactly the same way. Not that you'll be using them much, because, really, they're mostly kind of pointless.

Combat (of which there is a lot) devolves into a kind of turn-based strategy game, where you're theoretically supposed to move your characters around to gain some kind of tactical advantage. Unfortunately, most of the time, you'll just start each battle with your apocalyptic ranged area-effect attack, and watch the baddies drop dead before they can even launch into one of their poorly-animated rejoinders.

Speaking of animation and all things graphical, it's worth pointing out that PoPoLoCrois belongs to the old school isometric 2D school of design that you might remember well from your days playing Squaresoft games on your Super Nintendo. That's not a blot against the game - it suits the gameplay perfectly, and the graphical style has a really nice anime charm. What is a horrible brown stain on the game's underwear is the fact that despite this relatively undemanding visual aesthetic, the game's frame rate still drops regularly into the single digits, mostly while you're performing such high-processor-demand tasks as walking places, meeting enemies, or standing still.

Now, I'm sure all of the above sounds like exactly your cup of tea, and you're going to run out and buy the game this second. So it's worth mentioning that you'll only get to see any of the thrilling gameplay I've described during the odd second or two when the game isn't loading. The PSP already has a horrible reputation for sickeningly long load times when reading from the UMD, and PoPoLoCrois takes this unfortunate trend to entirely new levels. You'll face a good minute of loading just to get to the title screen. Then you've got loading your save file, booting the world, a good ten seconds of loading every time you enter a new area, and - get this - even more loading each and every time you're subjected to a random monster encounter. Which is, in such areas as random encounters occur in, roughly every three or four steps.

Oh, and in case you see this all as some sort of challenge, designed to seperate the casual chaff from the hardcore gaming wheat, then it's also of note that PoPoLoCrois is really, really easy. No, really. Even the boss fights. Really, really easy. Not hard - just long.

So in short, if you're a newcomer to RPGs, who absolutely must buy one for your PSP, no matter what the cost to your wallet, love life, and personal sanity, then I highly recommend PoPoLoCrois. Go nuts.

Wednesday, August 16, 2006

Second Seasons


Just picked up season 2 of Deadwood and of Battlestar Galactica on DVD. And I understand the second seasons of Lost and Carnivale are also about to debut in a purchasable format. Huzzah. Now if only I can see those last three episodes of season 2 new Doctor Who, I'll be set. It's a good time to be interested in genre second seasons, I guess.

Speaking of which, if you travelled back in time, say, five years, and found a sci-fi fan, and told them that the future of genre TV would consist largely of two westerns, a castaway medical-drama-meets-X-Files, and new, successful resurrections of Battlestar and Who, do you think they'd have believed you - or just punched you in the mouth?

Thursday, August 10, 2006

The Amazing Comic Collapse

[Site News] [Comics]

I've accepted the invitation of Phrancq over at Internal Collapse to join his newly started blog The Amazing Comic Collapse. I'm going to be providing comics news, reviews, and discussion on and off over there, providing that it starts to show some sort of a readership. I've already kicked things off with a review of Outsiders #39.

What does that mean for The Dust Forms Words? Well, probably I'm going to move my comics talk to Comic Collapse, so that means it won't turn up here, leaving this blog more dedicated to gaming and... all those other things I talk about that aren't comics.

I've never really had a sense whether people actually enjoy the comics talk I do here. One option would be to double post my entries to here and to Comic Collapse. If you've been appreciating seeing the occasional comic news appear from The Dust Forms Words, let me know and I'll keep the magic happening.

Lastly, we don't currently have an LJ feed available for Comic Collapse. Is there anyone out there who's interested in setting one up?

Wednesday, August 09, 2006

Game Reviews & Post-Mortems

Below are links to game reviews and post-mortems posted on The Dust Forms Words. Reviews occur when I talk about a game I'm still playing. Post-mortems are my thoughts on a game after I'm done playing it. I make no claim that any of the following are definitive reviews or particularly deep, but I can say that rabid monkeys will devour your family and loved ones unless you read each and every morsel of wisdom I have to offer.

Nintendo DS (DS)
Another Code (aka Trace Memory) [post-mortem]
Brain Training (aka Brain Age) [post-mortem]
Castlevania: Dawn of Sorrow [review]
Castlevania: Portrait of Ruin [post-mortem]
Cooking Mama [review]
Custom Robo Arena [post-mortem]
Dragon Quest IX [discussion]
Drawn to Life [review]
Elite Beat Agents [discussion] [review] [post-mortem]
Final Fantasy Fables: Chocobo Tales [post-mortem]
Jam Sessions [post-mortem]
Hotel Dusk: Room 215 [review]
Mario Kart DS [post-mortem]
Mario & Luigi: Partners in Time [post-mortem]
Metroid Prime Pinball [post-mortem]
Osu! Tatake! Ouendan! [discussion] [post-mortem]
Osu! Tatake! Ouendan! 2 [post-mortem]
Phoenix Wright: Justice For All [review] [post-mortem]
Professor Layton and the Curious Village [post-mortem]
Resident Evil: Deadly Silence ["classic mode" post-mortem]
Trauma Center: Under The Knife [post-mortem]

PlayStation Portable (PSP)
Capcom Classics Collection Remixed [post-mortem]
Grand Theft Auto: Liberty City Stories [post-mortem]
Loco Roco [post-mortem]
Mega Man: Powered Up [post-mortem]
Metal Gear Acid [post-mortem]
Metal Gear Acid 2 [post-mortem]
PoPoLoCrois [post-mortem]

PlayStation 2 (PS2)
Burnout Revenge [post-mortem]
Disgaea: Hour of Darkness [post-mortem]
Final Fantasy XII [review]
Gitaroo Man [review]
God of War [discussion]
Guitar Hero [review]
Guitar Hero II [review] [post-mortem]
Ico [review] [post-mortem]
Kingdom Hearts II [post-mortem]
Lego Star Wars [post-mortem]
Lego Star Wars II [post-mortem]
Obscure [post-mortem]
Okami [post-mortem]
Rule of Rose [discussion]
Samurai Warriors 2 [post-mortem]
Viewtiful Joe [post-mortem]
We Love Katamari [review]

Nintendo Wii (Wii)
Eledees (aka Elebits) [post-mortem]
Excite Truck [review] [post-mortem]
House of the Dead 2 & 3 Return [post-mortem]
Legend of Zelda: Twilight Princess [discussion]
Mario Strikers Charged Football [review]
No More Heroes [post-mortem]
Rayman Raving Rabbids [post-mortem]
Red Steel [review]
Super Smash Bros Brawl [discussion] [post-mortem]
Zack & Wiki: Quest for Barbaros' Treasure [post-mortem]

Nintendo Wii Virtual Console (Wii VC)
Dr Robotnik's Mean Bean Machine [post-mortem]
Paper Mario [review]
Shining In The Darkness [post-mortem]

XBox 360 (360)
Amped 3 [post-mortem]
Bioshock [post-mortem]
The Darkness [post-mortem]
Dead Rising [review]
DefJam Icon [review]
Devil May Cry 4 [post-mortem]
Eternal Sonata [review]
Halo 3 [review]
Mass Effect [post-mortem]
Scene It? Lights, Camera, Action [post-mortem]
The Simpsons Game [review]
Viva Pinata [review]

XBox Live Arcade (Live)
Battlestar Galactica [review]
Doom [review]
Geometry Wars [review]
Space Giraffe [discussion]
Zuma [review]

XBox (original)
Fuzion Frenzy [post-mortem]

Nintendo GameCube (GC)
Gauntlet: Dark Legacy [discussion] [post-mortem]

Personal Computer (PC)
Bioshock [post-mortem]
Daikatana [discussion]
Half-Life 2 [discussion] [post-mortem]
Half-Life 2: Episode One [discussion]
Loom [post-mortem]
Sam & Max Season 1 [post-mortem]
Sins Of A Solar Empire [review]
The Elder Scrolls III: Morrowind [discussion]
The Movies [post-mortem]
The Political Machine [post-mortem]
The Ship [discussion]
Ultima Trilogy [discussion]

GameBoy Advance (GBA)
Advance Wars [post-mortem]
Castlevania: Harmony of Dissonance [post-mortem]
Castlevania: Aria of Sorrow [post-mortem]
Tales of Phantasia [review] [post-mortem]
The Legend of Zelda: A Link To The Past [review]

Nintendo 64 (N64)
Paper Mario [review]

Sega Megadrive / Genesis (Genesis)
Dr Robotnik's Mean Bean Machine [post-mortem]
Shining In The Darkness [post-mortem]

Sega Master System (SMS)
Phantasy Star [discussion]

Grand Theft Auto: Liberty City Stories Post-Mortem

[Now Experiencing] [Computer Gaming]

There comes a time for all of us when we have to admit that we're just not going to be bothered finishing the last few levels of a game. For me, and for GTA: Liberty City Stories on the PSP, that day is now. And thus, it's time for a post-mortem.

I'll start by saying this: GTA: Liberty City Stories is, hands down, the best game available for the PSP today. Easily. There's really no competition.

If you've played a Grand Theft Auto game before, you probably have a good idea what you're in for in the PSP installment. And if you haven't... sweet Jeebers, what have you been doing with your life?

The Grand Theft Auto format sees you freely wandering through a fairly immense 3D rendered city. You have pretty much free reign to explore, find secret areas and power-ups, take on missions, hijack cars, drive around, kill pedestrians, gang members, or police, engage in car chases, drive boats, go nuts with a rocket launcher, pull off stunt jumps, or whatever else takes your fancy. It's a sandboxy kind of half-sim, half-action game that is an absolute ton of fun. It's been aped by almost every developer to some extent or another over the last few years, and for good reason, but GTA still remains the king of its format by simply continuing to be deeper, larger, and better designed than anything in the competition.

Liberty City Stories operates as a prequel to the PS2's GTA III, taking place in Liberty City and featuring Tony Cipriani as the protagonist. The game takes its city design directly from GTA III, with nearly identical street layout and buildings, with only very minor changes relating to the game being set slightly earlier in time. The missions, bonuses, and radio chatter are all new, though.

It's a fantastic technical achievement on developer Rockstar's part that the game looks, feels, and plays almost exactly the same as the PS2 installments in the series. In fact, in some respects, the graphics are actually better than GTA III, thanks to some clever graphical shortcuts mostly involving motion blurring. All the styles of gameplay from GTA III are present, including a range of "plot" missions, side missions, races, time trials, car collection, and the ubiquitous "R3 missions" (although of course the PSP doesn't have an R3 button) which see you driving ambulances, fire trucks, taxis, police cars, and pizza delivery bikes around to make hard cash and upgrade your abilities.

Liberty City Stories also throws in some new elements that weren't present in GTA III. Some, such as the ability to change outfits, and the presence of motorcycles, are developments from later in the franchise that you may already be familiar with. Others, such as the Trashmaster R3 missions, the ability to work as a car or bike salesman, and some optional rail-shooting side-missions, are brand new to Grand Theft Auto. It's notable, though, that Liberty City Stories, unlike its console cousins, has no flyable vehicles or airborne missions (though that won't stop you from taking down plenty of police-operated helicopters from the ground!).

I've mentioned that the game looks great. It also sounds great, or at least as great as any GTA ever has, with a totally appropriate range of sound effects, sound cues, and pedestrian chatter that really fills out the city with a sense of cohesiveness and place. The radio stations from past GTA games also return, although they fall a little flat this time around - the range and quality of the music on offer is poor, and the total amount of radio available to listen to is completely inadequate for a game of this length and depth. By about two thirds of the way through the main plot I'd started turning the radio off more often than not.

All the main characters are professionally voiced, both for cutscenes and for throwaway lines during missions. Sadly, veterans such as Kyle Maclachlan and Michael Madsen don't return to reprise their roles from GTA III, but you won't notice, as the quality of the acting is about as good as you can ask for given the quirky and expletive-laced dialogue the game is fond of. (Watch out for a cameo by Wil Wheaton on the chat radio station!)

The controls are possibly where the game falls down a little. The PSP's single nub-like analogue joystick is a poor substitute for the PS2's twin analogues, and it took me a long time to get the hang of driving smoothy at high speeds without spinning out every time I tried to change lanes. What's more, like most action games on the PSP that use the analogue, playing for long periods results in some nasty cramps through your left hand (though I suppose this is less Rockstar's fault and more Sony's). Luckily, once you adjust, you can play with a fair degree of precision, and I don't recall being frustrated by missions because of the controls more than I was by the mission design.

Speaking of mission design, the quality of the missions throughout the game varies dramatically. Nothing in Liberty City Stories approaches the cinematic thrill of some of the best missions from San Andreas, but by and large they're of appropriate lengths, appropriate difficulties, and seem meaningful. One in particular, "Karmageddon", where you drive a firetruck around aiming for as much damage to other vehicles as possible within a time limit, is so fun that I suspect it'll make a return in GTA IV or Vice City Stories. (The developers obviously realised that, as it's one of the few missions in the game that you can replay again and again after finishing it.)

The ambulance and firetruck missions, notably frustrating in past GTA games, seemed to me a lot easier in Liberty City Stories, although it may just be that I'm well practiced at them now. However, some of the end game missions are not as well done, featuring timers that aren't well explained, multiple stages to the mission, and long lengths, making replaying them after a failure a significant chore. There's also a fair few moments where the plot falls apart, leaving you wondering why you're bothering to do the missions assigned to you and what, precisely, you're going to get out of it. And it's worth mentioning that the third of Liberty City's three islands is just as poorly laid out and frustrating to navigate as it was in GTA III, making the final missions of the game that much more irritating. Myself, I never finished the last four missions. Maybe some day.

Whatever sins the game may have, it makes up for by including, for the first time since GTA 2, a multiplayer mode. You can play wirelessly against other friends who have copies of the game in a variety of game types including deathmatch, king of the hill, and a kind of "capture the flag" variant involving limousines. I've had the chance to play these with two or three players, and they're a ton of fun, that I can only assume gets even better with more competitors. Sadly, there's no option to play over the internet, so you'll have to actually find other people with a copy of the game in real life. It's worth noting that although Liberty City Stories was ported to the PS2 as a budget release, the console version is completely missing this multiplayer option.

All in all, Grand Theft Auto: Liberty City Stories is one of those games that's almost good enough to justify your PSP purchase all by itself, and if you already own the handheld, you should definitely have a copy of this on your shelf.

Monday, August 07, 2006

Keyword Roundup - August

[News] [Personal] [Site News]

Okay, I'm back from Continuum, which was a pretty decent convention. Lots of fun had by all. On another front, it looks like Lily will be in her own house by this time next week, so there may be some sort of house re-warming or something following that.

Jess has pictures of people from a recent party. If you were at that party, you might want to check them out. Much like vampires, I don't resolve properly on film. Enter at your own peril.

My wonderful StatCounter continues to inform me of the keywords people are using to reach this site. Some of them have quite obviously come to the wrong place, but I'll try to help out as best I can.

"scanner darkly actual epilogue"
Philip K Dick's fantastic novel A Scanner Darkly, recently released as a rotoscoped feature length movie directed by Richard Linklater, is an excellent book that anyone should read. However, it didn't even feature an epilogue of any sort, let alone an "actual epilogue". You may be talking about Phil Dick's rather moving Author's Note, which appears at the end of my edition (buy your own copy - it's still in copyright). Alternatively, if that doesn't do it for you, Dick's last novel Valis forms a very effective coda to A Scanner Darkly, dealing with many of the same themes with the same semi-autobiographical tone.

"dragon drool science wizardry"
This has got to be a reference to the Wizardry game series, right? I hate those things. Can anyone help out? On a related note, apparently Komodo dragons drool like crazy. Also, an old Chinese name for ambergris, lung sien hiang, means "dragon's spittle perfume" and refers to a belief that ambergris was the drool of dragons. (That sounds doubtful, but it make a good anecdote.)

"last alex the kid symbols sequence in miracle world"
Sun, waves, moon, star, sun, moon, waves, fish, star, fish. That annoyed the crap out of me, too.

"yassai mossai mp3"
Sorry, still looking for that one. Let me know if you find it. Yassai mossai! Yassai mossai! Sore sore! Sore sore! Ahem. With any luck my trip to Japan next year will take in Kiserazu province, so that should be awesome.

"super columbine high massacre rpg walkthrough"
Look, if you need a walkthrough for that game then you're taking it way too seriously. Lighten up. *sigh* But if you MUST have the goods, it looks like this page might help.

"gentlemen, to evil"

"lumines shrinking"
No, it's not. Don't worry. If you're bothered by this problem, try to avoid exposing your PSP on cold days.

I hope this has been helpful. Stand by for more awesome content totally not at all cribbed from my stats site in weeks to come!

Wednesday, August 02, 2006

Portable Playable Identity

[Computer Gaming] [Game Design]

Something of a parting shot, before I sign off for the weekend. Duncan at Ghosts In The Game has an absolutely fantastic post about save states and gamer profiles, which winds up with the suggestion that memory cards/profiles should be tied to controllers. If you're playing regularly at a friend's place on their console, you buy your own controller for, what, $35-45 AUD and suddenly you have an investment in that console, and your identity is tied to it. You can take that controller anywhere, and have all your records, pre-sets, IDs et cetera appear on the host machine. Now, when you have the money for your own console, you're not going to take notice that the competition is suddenly extremely cheap - you're going to pony up for the brand you've already invested in.

Definitely something that left me saying, "That should have been my idea!"

Read Duncan's full post here.

BTW: I realise that controllers go for something more like $20 AUD unless they have bells and whistles, whereas memory cards are $60-80 AUD, or more for a decent PSP memory stick, but I'm figuring this hyptothetical profile controller will have to cost more than the old models, but could be still be relatively cheap because now it's the gateway to hooking people on the console proper. You have to spend money to make money, or somesuch.

Off To Continuum!

[News] [Personal] [Conventions]

I'm flying out to Melbourne tomorrow morning to attend the Continuum sci-fi and fantasy convention. I get back Monday afternoon. In the meantime, it's unlikely that I'll be blogging unless my room comes with a particularly cheap wireless broadband.

If you happen to be at Continuum, I'll be appearing on Must See Media at 6pm on Sunday, wherein the books, comics, film and TV that you are required by law to see before you die will be discussed. I'm sharing the bench at that one with Mitch, Terry Frost, and Benjamin McKenzie. I'll also be appearing at the bar, room parties, and anywhere that people with portable gaming devices gather, but sadly none of those things are actually scheduled on the program.

By the way, I'm hearing news for those who care that next year's Conflux is officially in production, and you can expect it to take place in a Canberra near you over the cusp of September/October next year. Memberships, to the best of my knowledge, are not yet on sale, but it surely won't be long.

Take care, everyone, and enjoy the weekend.

Tuesday, August 01, 2006

The Last Great E3

[News] [Computer Gaming] [Game Design]

Gamasutra has word that this year's E3 (which occurred earlier this year) will be the last time that the famous game industry show will feature its near-mythical trade-floor setup. Next year E3 will be a small, targeted event consisting of "higher quality, more personal dialogue with the worldwide media, developers, retailers and other key industry audiences".

Furthermore, it will take place in July, not May, and will have only around 5,000 attendees - a drop of around 240% a percentage that my brain has temporarily prevented me from correctly calculating. More news from Gamespot here.

Which makes me all the happier that I'm planning to visit the Tokyo Game Show next year - if E3 gets smaller, TGS can only get bigger, right?

UPDATE: The answer is "yes". Giant Japanese otaku frenzy ahoy! (link)