Sunday, December 31, 2006

Site Changes

I've upgraded to the new Blogger, which the executive bunnies at Blogger HQ assure me is totally not full of bugs.

As a result, there are some small site changes. The most obvious one is that Blogger 2.0 (or whatever the heck they're calling it) supports tags natively, so the completely half-assed system I've been using until now will go by the wayside and be replaced by the new things you'll see at the bottom of this post. Converting the old posts will take a while, so stay tuned.

If you notice anything broken about the site let me know so I can fix it.

Not Dead

Pardon the lack of updates (again). I'm in Perth, and the hotel I'm staying at has the slowest internet ever. I think they employ carrier pigeons to ferry my data packets back and forth across the Pacific.

But at least I actually have internet access now. Having lots of fun here; if you're in Perth and haven't seen me yet it's because I don't have your number. If you want to get in contact with me you can obtain my contact details from one of a number of people including Wuffie, Ju, or Jocelyn. I'm flying out the morning of the 5th so you're running out of time.

With any luck I'll be posting semi-regularly over the next few days. Keep clicking refresh.

Monday, December 18, 2006

Lack of Inspiration

Haven't felt like blogging the last couple of days. I'm sure I'll feel up to it soon, though.

Once again, I'm flying out for Perth on Wednesday 20 December, and will be in Perth until 5 January.

While I'm waiting for inspiration to strike my fingers, does anyone have anything cool they'd like to direct my attention to on the web? Matt has me playing this thing, which is cool and all, I guess. (*sigh*)

Saturday, December 16, 2006

Dr Robotnik's Mean Bean Machine Post-Mortem

Dr Robotnik's Mean Bean Machine has a strange history. On the surface, it's a spin-off of Sega's Sonic the Hedgehog franchise. Dr Robotnik, the villain of the Sonic series, has a penchant for turning adorable widdle animals into hedgehog-killing robots. In Bean Machine, he's turned his mind to robotising the population of Beantown, who are (as the name suggests) anthropomorphic beans. It's up to you, as (presumably) Sonic, or, I don't know, some guy, to stop Robotnik's evil plan by manipulating falling sets of beans so as to combine beans of the same colour in a vertical playing field. In reality though, the Mean Bean Machine is actually just a re-skinned version of the Japanese hit Puyo Puyo, freshened up for sale to a western market.

Mean Bean Machine came out in 1993 for the Sega Megadrive (Genesis for you non-Australians), with accompanying ports on the Master System and Game Gear. The Megadrive version has also just been released for the Wii Virtual Console, and as a result I've now played through the game and finished it for the second time in 14 years.

The game's mostly just a Tetrisoid. Beans drop in pairs of two, in a range of colours. You have to stack them to connect same-coloured beans in sets of four, which can be in straight lines, square blocks, or arrangements that go round corners. Making a set of four beans clears them from the playfield, allowing everything resting above them to drop further down into the bean well. These dropping blocks can trigger further four-bean combinations, and so forth. If the beans reach the top of the playing field the game ends.

You can play the game in an "exercise mode", which sees you simply continuing to clear beans as the drops get faster and faster, much like traditional Tetris. This is fine, but the real meat of the game is in the two competitive modes - Scenario (you vs the computer) and Two Player (which as the name suggests pits you against another real person). In either of these modes, clearing more than four beans on a single drop results in the excess beans migrating to your opponent's playing field as un-coloured "refugee" beans, which can interfere with carefully planned combos and brings them closer to reaching the deadly top of the screen. Setting up the necessary combos to bomb your opponent is absolutely necessary to victory, but it can be deliciously difficult when your opponent is doing the same thing to you.

The Scenario Mode puts you into a series of 13 such matches of increasing difficulty, culminating in a showdown with Robotnik. Each match is against one of Robotnik's robots, who all have a different "personality", evinced by some cheesy character art and pun-filled dialogue. Winning a match rewards you with a password which you can use to resume play from that level. Getting through all 13 matches should take no more than a few hours, although there's a difficulty setting squirreled away in the options menu that you can turn up to increase the game's longevity.

Graphically the game looks like it could have been an 8-bit Master System title instead of the allegedly 16-bit offering that it is, but the star here is the gameplay so you won't be bothered. The sound is also very average for the era but does the job of not annoying you while you're playing. It's safe to say that you won't walk away humming any of the musical score.

Dr Robotnik's Mean Bean Machine is one of the better early Tetrisoid games, and players of all ages and skill levels would likely get some fun from it. The content of the game is short-lived but thoroughly enjoyable while it lasts. As a download from the Wii Virtual Console it's attractive but it's hard to recommend unless you've already bought and gotten tired of the vastly superior Columns (also available on the Virtual Console at exactly the same price).

Wii SD Card Issues

So here's another small issue with the Wii that I wasn't expecting. I finally got an SD card for the system today and promptly backed everything up out of system memory and onto the card. Then I discover - you can't save directly to the SD card from within games, nor can games read save files on the SD card. Likewise, while you can copy downloaded Virtual Console games to and from the card, you can't play them from the card. The SD card is apparently for backup and transport only - anything you want to use has to be "installed" on system memory first.

It's a bit disappointing, but system memory is comparitively huge compared to memory cards of the past, so it's not too big a problem.

Friday, December 15, 2006

New Virtual Console Titles

For those Australians who haven't checked the Wii Shop today, you'll find the following additional Virtual Console titles available for download:
* Gunstar Heroes
* Ristar
* Pinball
* Columns
* Dr Robotnik's Mean Bean Machine
* Urban Champion

Which is awesome. (I'm playing the Bean Machine right now.) But it's still really disappointing that you have to play these games exactly as they were originally released. That's right - you can't even save your game to the hard drive. I'm playing Bean Machine and (can you believe it) writing down passwords. It's positively medieval.

Wiimote Battery Life

Hey, is anyone else out there finding that Twilight Princess drains the Wiimote battery a lot faster than titles like Rayman or Wii Sports? I don't know whether it's the nunchuk use, or the amount of sound that comes out of the controller, or just that I'm playing for longer periods, but it seems like Zelda is really chewing through the batteries.

By the way, for those who are caring, I've just finished the chase sequence/jousting fight that happens after you learn sumo, spent some time rushing round the village to ascertain the fate of the character involved in that sequence (happy results!) and am now about to tackle Death Mountain. Lots of fun.

I'm glad I've played Ocarina of Time though, as it seems like the game's assuming I have a lot of the Ocarina legacy skills, and is developing them all to their next logical extensions. For example, horse riding is the same as Ocarina - but with more depth. The boomerang is the same as Ocarina - but with more depth. Et cetera. Plus it's cool to see a heap of the Ocarina musical cues being worked back into the game (most notably Epona's Theme).

UPDATE: I'm not the only one blogging on battery life. Curmudgeon Gamer has something to say, too. 35 hours a remote seemed reasonable based on the drain I saw back when I was playing Sports and Rayman, but 15 is much more on the mark for what I've been getting out of Zelda.

Wednesday, December 13, 2006

Dragon Quest IX Exclusive To DS

Ever since Sony took a right turn onto Arrogant Lane and started proceeding down the lonely path to Bizarre Business Decision Village, I've been predicting that certain third party developers weren't going to be too excited about accompanying them on their pointless egocentric sidequest. In particular, I've been anticipating that Square-Enix were going to start getting out of bed with the PlayStation 3 to prevent it taking their valuable franchises in new and unprofitable directions.

(Don't make me dig up the posts; I'm tired and I have a head cold.)

So it comes as no surprise to me that Squeenix have announced that the next full-fledged Dragon Quest title (Dragon Quest IX) will be a Nintendo DS exclusive. Actually, it should come as no suprise to anyone that Square's second-best-selling series will be appearing on the world's best-selling console, but there it is.

If you're not Japanese, you might not grasp the significance, but Dragon Quest sells well enough over there to give Square's own Final Fantasy franchise a run for its money. It's effectively like saying Final Fantasy XIV will be coming only to the Wii. It's a big coup for Nintendo and a real kick in the nuts to Sony.

Full story via Gamespot.

UPDATE: Oh, and the Sydney Morning Herald (that bastion of accurate reporting and journalistic integrity) says it'll be taking advantage of the DS wireless to have multiplayer, allowing you to "embark on adventures with real friends" in what my imagination fervently hopes will be a throwback to Secret of Mana.

RIP Gamecube

Today in the United States will see the release of the Gamecube version of The Legend of Zelda: The Twilight Princess.

This is the last game that will ever be released for the Gamecube. The console's lifespan is now officially over.

Cheers for a lot of good times, Cubey.

Tuesday, December 12, 2006

The Name Explained


See, when I named this blog The Dust Forms Words, what I thought I was referring to was the way that meaning can arise from apparently random interactions in complex systems, which seemed to go well with a gaming blog. But I've just been digging through some very old writing journal files in the depths of my hard drive, and it turns out that I was instead remembering the phrase from the following scrap of poetry that I wrote some many years ago:

Coming late to mortality
I found I had no friends there.
These desperate happy people
burn their bonfires, and I
like a ragged moth,
stalk their edges.

I have half a lifetime

The dust forms words;
our fingertips trace their secret names
and all of them are Sorrow.
Which I suppose just goes to show how one can't trust one's memory.

Twilight Princess First Impressions

I've just made my way through to the first save point in Legend of Zelda: Twilight Princess for the Wii, and while it's kind of great with a lot of strong points, can I just say that if I wanted to play Shadow of the Colossus I would be playing Shadow of the motherfucking Colossus?

I mean, there's only so many times an untalkative rustic protagonist can ride a horse over an ancient bleakly-lit decaying stone bridge, you know? And clearly I'm going to be doing a lot of that, because the game's been heavily pimping me its horse-wrangling techniques long before it's given me a weapon or shown me the combat controls. *Sigh.*

Red Steel Impressions

Among the titles I purchased when I bought my Wii was Red Steel. I did this despite my own better judgement, despite the numerous negative reviews, and despite the unappealing box cover. I did it because it was the only Wii launch title available in my local store which wasn't aggressively family friendly.

I think a lot of other people are going to buy it for the same reason, and they're going to feel just as traumatised by the sheer hideousness of this game as I was.

Red Steel casts you as an American bodyguard named Scott. In a plot ripped straight from the intro to any late 80s arcade game, your girlfriend has been kidnapped and it's up to you to run and gun your way through an army of implausible enemies in order to get her back.

The game's presented as a first-person shooter. You use the Wiimote in the same way you'd used a mouse on a PC - to aim, to look around, and to shoot. My first reaction to trying out this control scheme was that you could make a pretty decent shooting game along these lines.

Red Steel is not that game.

The game feels lazy on almost every level. Other than the basic point and shoot functionality (which is fine), the rest of the controls are unintuitive and annoying. You'll be shaking the nunchuck around like an epileptic as you try to open doors, pick up guns, and change firearms on the fly. Zooming in (which you'll frequently need to do) is accomplished by making a skewering motion towards the TV with the Wiimote, which (trust me) gets old real fast.

The graphics feature some nice lighting effects but are otherwise appalling, packed with horribly pixellated textures and a legion of enemies who all look exactly the same. Key items in the environment (including ammo, enemies, and some aspects of terrain) are outlined with shades of bright white and yellow that make them look like they're the victims of bad greenscreen special effects.

The plot is painfully shallow and the majority of characters speak with exaggerated Japanese accents. Some of the plot is rendered through comic-book style hand-drawn cutscenes which could be generously described as "in the tradition of" Max Payne. However, what was an effective and deliberate stylistic choice in Max Payne here feels like Ubisoft were just too lazy to do a real cutscene.

I can't talk about how bad this game is without mentioning the menu system, which should probably be listed somewhere in a book on how NOT to design a user interface. Just getting into a game will require mousing over a variety of non-intuitive and fairly random neon-signs, reading their (often unhelpful) mouseover text, and then dragging and dropping them onto a big billboard. The best that can be said for the whole appalling menu experience is that it's consistent with the rest of the game.

The game coding isn't exactly rock solid either. Hit models for enemies are way off - sometimes you'll hit an enemy even when you're nowhere near them, while at other times nothing less than a direct shot to their head or chest will do the job.

I've played less than two hours into the game, and I'm giving up. It's going back to the game rack, and probably never coming back down. Ubisoft's nun-punching kitten-beating development antics have left a bad taste in my mouth, and really, in a world already packed with top-notch first-person shooting games, why on Earth would you waste time playing one as mediocre as Red Steel?

Monday, December 11, 2006

Lego Star Wars II Post-Mortem

Lego Star Wars II for the PlayStation 2 is packed with style, innovation, and great gameplay, and yet it just isn't as good a game as its predecessor.

I've actually had this one sitting next to my laptop for a while, begging me to post-mortem it so it can go back to its home on my game rack. Somehow I've just never gotten around to putting up the post - probably because I've already had the chance to vent about some of its problems.

For those unfamiliar with the series, Lego Star Wars is a fairly simple game concept - it's Star Wars, done entirely with Lego, formatted as a platforming-action videogame. The original title, which covered the plot of the three prequel movies, was an absolutely wonderful moment in gaming. It had intuitive controls, family-friendly difficulty, a great sliding scale of objectives, and more charm and humour than you could poke a lightsaber at.

If it had one problem, it was a lack of length. From one corner of the interblog to the other, players were unanimous in criticising the game for its overall shortage of content, best exemplified by the fact you could finish everything the game had to offer within a single day. Even I took a shot at the game (amidst an otherwise glowing review), although I did refrain from using the phrase "I've found longer games growing on food I left behind the couch."

When it came to creating Lego Star Wars 2, it should not be said that Traveller's Tales was deaf to criticism.

Let me say this straight up - Lego Star Wars 2 is about three times as long as the original Lego Star Wars. That's not to say it has more content. It's roughly on a par with the first game. No, it's just going to take you three times as long to get through it.

There are a lot of fine things that have succeeded by taking roughly thirty seconds of gold and stretching them out over inanely lengthy periods. The sport of cricket is one. The entire wrestling career of Triple H is another. Robert Jordan's The Wheel of Time is a third. Lego Star Wars 2 is sadly not one of those things.

The game proceeds largely as the first one did. Upon starting the game, you'll be plonked down in a central mission hub (in this case the Mos Eisley Cantina), and tasked to make your way through the plot of the three original Star Wars films using a variety of little Lego characters. You can do these in a fairly non-linear fashion - once you complete the first level, you can jump straight to Empire Strikes Back or Return of the Jedi without having to complete A New Hope. Completing levels involves running, jumping and shooting your way around a variety of generic platforming levels, which are themed after particular segments of the movies.

Each level can be completed in both Story Mode and Free Play. Story Mode is a straight run through the level using the appropriate characters as assigned by the game. You'll play as (for example) Luke as he returns from the Jundland Wastes to the Lars Homestead. Generally you're followed around by an entourage of other characters, such as Obi-Wan, R2D2 or C3PO. You can change to any other character in your entourage on the fly. In addition, a second player can help you out by controlling a character.

In Free Play mode you have access to a much wider range of characters, chosen from a pool that you've unlocked. Various characters have different abilities, so you'll want a good selection of powers at your command. For instance, Obi-Wan and other Jedi can move Lego bricks through the power of the force, while R2D2 can open certain locks and hover horizontally for short distances. Many bonus sections of levels can't be reached in Story Mode, requiring you to return in Free Play with special characters to find all the secrets.

Each level has a set of 10 minikit canisters to find. Uncovering all ten (which usually requires playing in Free Mode) rewards you by putting a Star Wars-themed Lego vehicle on display at the Cantina, and by showering you with Lego studs (which are the game's currency). Each level also has a stud-collection target - finding that many Lego studs within a level rewards you with the status of "True Jedi". That's not all - there's also a red power brick on each level which unlocks a cheat or power-up for purchase at the cantina shop.

Each target you meet in the game will reward you with a Gold Lego Brick. These can be assembled back at the Cantina into a range of doorways which give access to bonus levels. None of these bonus levels are very interesting, with the exception of a short reasonably fun area themed after classic non-Star Wars Lego.

All that unlocking may sound like a blast, but it's really not. For example, you'll need to obtain the functionally identical True Jedi status on both Story and Free Play mode, which is every bit as tedious as it sounds. The canisters and power bricks are placed poorly, with the design philosophy apparently being to deceive and defeat the player, rather than reward them for creative exploration. You'll probably end up turning quickly to an FAQ to get them all, unlike in the first game where this goal was reasonably achievable without external aids. The fun in Lego Star Wars 2 lasts almost exactly the same length of time as it did on the franchise's first outing - it's just that this time when the fun's over the game is still going.

The level designs are mostly broken this time around too. Rather than promoting fast-paced see-what-happens gameplay in the tradition of the first game, there's an emphasis on solving finicky problems, backtracking, and getting killed a lot. As an example, you'll often need to disguise yourself as a stormtrooper to open certain door locks. This is accomplished by obtaining a stormtrooper helmet from a dispenser located somewhere on the level. Once you have the helmet, you have to get back to the lock while still wearing the helmet. The catch is, if you take any damage whatsoever, the helmet falls off, requiring you to walk back to the dispenser.

These sections are intensely aggravating. There's one bit like this on the Death Star which involves a lift which will have you wanting to apply fruit peelers to the faces of the game's developers. The result is uneven pacing, inordinately frustrating punishment for very small failures, and game segments which are less a challenge of your skill than they are of your patience.

What makes it all worse, of course, is the fact that many of the levels have unending waves of enemies, which just keep coming at you. Sometimes you can shut off these enemy attacks by closing doors or pulling switches, but more often you just can't. Strangely, the earlier levels are plagued by this problems more than the later levels, so if you perservere you may find your experience improving.

The game as a whole feels like something that's been created by many hands, rather than by a single guiding intellect. Certain levels are clearly designed by totally different minds than the ones that precede them. Courses of action that are encouraged in one area will be brutally punished in the next.

In all this game-bashing, I need to say that this is still a very good game. It's a top-shelf platformer that's a highly recommended buy if you're a fan of Star Wars, Lego, or just the genre as a whole. Each of the game's characters looks cute and highly true to the source material. Levels are punctuated by laugh-out-loud humorous cutscenes, with the little Lego characters engaging in a range of Jedi slapstick. The controls are reasonably tight, and there's a lot of fun to be had.

It's just that it's not as good a game as what came before it. What was cute, clever and fun the first time round is now mainstream, homogenised and mixed up with an extra-big helping of annoying. It's likely a lot of people who are choosing which of the games to buy will go with this one just because it's based on the better movies, but if you're a gamer of taste then play the original.

Saturday, December 09, 2006

Dear Stalker

Can the following individual please step forward:

* The person from Melbourne on an iinet account who reached my blog by googling my RL name? I'm probably the person you're looking for, I just don't know who you are.

Also, if you're that person from Illinois on Illinois Century Network who keeps googling "The Dust Forms Words", feel free to add me to your blogroll or favourites list to facilitate your visits in future!

While I'm here, a hearty thanks to whoever tagged The Citizen Kane of Games on Blinkbits, and to whoever put some of my Wii posts up on (which I suspect was Brinstar, judging from the links I'm seeing).

December Carnival of Gamers

My post The Death of Boardgames (and its follow-up) made it into this month's Carnival of Gamers, hosted over at MMOG Nation. Huzzah.

Although (at least right now) I'm listed as The Dust Forms Worlds. Which, y'know, it does. I guess.

Friday, December 08, 2006

Upcoming Game Releases - Australia

More to remind myself than anything else, here's forthcoming game releases over the next few months in Australia that look interesting.

Dec 12 - Myst (PSP)
The frustrating, shallow, and visually attractive point-n-click puzzler finds a natural home on Sony's frustrating, shallow and visually attractive handheld.

Jan 12 - Lost Planet: Extreme Condition (X360)
The Halo-esque first person shooter I got to try out at TGS. I don't own a 360 but this game's come closer to persuading me than anything yet.

Jan 17 - World of Warcraft: The Burning Crusade (PC)
Blizzard's MMOG expansion is probably going to sell considerably better than most full fledged games.

Feb 8 - Rule of Rose (PS2)
Despite all the mediocre reviews it's gotten, I still want to play this disturbing survival horror populated by evil 1930s teen and pre-teen girls. Can't believe that the OFLC let this one slip past, but I guess their loss is Australia's gain.

Feb 8 - Contact (DS)
It's what all the cool kids in the blogging circle seem to be playing, so I'm dying to try it to maintain my guru-like position at the top of the interweb's totem pole.

Feb 22 - EA Replay (PSP)
EA Replay is an anthology collection, but what an anthology collection! Ultima VII, Syndicate, all the Road Rash games, both Jungle and Desert Strike, Virtual Pinball, Mutant League Football, Budokan and the original Wing Commander. I'm almost willing to forgive EA their many sins just because of this collection. Almost.

To the best of my knowledge there's still no Australian release date for Final Fantasy XII (PS2), Metal Gear Solid Portable Ops (PSP), Elite Beat Agents (DS) or Elebits (Wii). Anyone care to tell me differently?

Thursday, December 07, 2006

Wii First Impressions

It's time for babbly barely coherent late-night fanboi ranting. As mentioned earlier, I got my Wii today, and spent most of the day trying it out with friends.

It represents a number of firsts for me:

* First time I've bought a non-handheld console on launch day.
* First time I've spent nearly a thousand dollars on a new console, games and accessories without feeling the slightest hint of buyer's remorse after getting it home
* First time I've been able to just hang out for hours with a console operating system without feeling the need to fire up a game or "play something".

If you happen to have a Wii, it's well worth making the effort to get it connected to the internet. For those who invested in the USB Wi-Fi dongle for the DS, it's a pretty simple process, as the Wii can connect through the exact same peripheral. Otherwise it's going to involve setting up wireless access points or waiting for the forthcoming release of the LAN adapater.

I'm happy to report that the Virtual Console shop does actually sell more games in Australia than previously reported. I've secured copies of both Golden Axe and F-Zero from its pixellated clutches, and they're just as much fun as I remember. Both are a little overpriced, coming out to about $12 AUD each. (Bear in mind that Golden Axe represents a grand total of 40 minutes of play from beginning to end.)

Making your little virtual avatar, or Mii, is great fun, and it's even better if you have a ton of friends around to get in on the process. My Mii Plaza is now populated by little virtual facsimiles of most of the people I know. These little hooligans become the playable characters in Wii Sports and Wii Play. Miis you're not using appear in the background and in crowds. I don't know of any third party software using them yet, and it's a little hard to see how you would outside of chatroom avatars, but I hope they don't get completely ignored by forthcoming releases.

The Wii uses friend codes, much like the DS, as a measure to stop random strangers stalking children and suchlike, but they're implemented a lot better than on the DS. Instead of having a unique code for each game, you get a global code for the system. Swapping friend codes with someone (which can only take place outside the Wii environment) will allow you to exchange mail, send your Miis visiting their console, and (presumably) eventually allow you to select that person as a preferred opponent in multiplayer titles. As the Wii is ideally always left on, there's a lot of scope for interaction with your friends list to take place here. I've already received a ton of Miis from the household of Wuffie in Perth. (Damn you, miniature Karlski, why are you always bowling in the lane next to me?)

You can get so involved in sending mail and playing with Miis that you can forget to play any games entirely. Which says something about how friendly, engaging and easy to use the Wii interface is. It really feels like Nintendo telepathically read all my subconscious disappointments with the PSP and made me a little white console to cheer me up.

The feel of the controllers really varies from game to game. Tennis, which is included in the Wii Sports pack-in game, is incredibly addictive and an absolutely perfect four-player introduction to the system. Rayman Raving Rabbids also delivers a fantastic experience from the unique Wiimote controllers. On the other hand, the boxing and gold components of Wii Sports are an exercise in pure frustration that could easily turn off new players. I guess it's like any controller - it's only as good as its software support.

Anywho, I'm going off to sleep now because I have a busy day tomorrow. If I'm up to it, I'll put up my impressions of Casino Royale in the morning. (Short version: just because it's probably the best Bond film ever doesn't mean it isn't full of disappointing pacing and story problems.)



I have a Wii. We have decided that the letter "i" must be substituted with the letter "o" whenever it appears in sets of two. So, I should say I have a Woo. I've created a ton of those little virtual avatars (Moos).

Nintendo has learned from its mistakes with the DS, and instead of each individual game having a unique Friend Code there's now a global one across the console. Mine is:

8712 4214 6924 1286

Friend me! I needs my little virtual people to go conquering! More details on my experience will follow once I don't have people right here in my living room wanting to wave the Woomote around in the air some more.

He Loves Bees

"Back in AI, the challenge was, hey, let’s build the game in such a way that your life just gets weird. The producers came back to me and said, what does that mean? I said, I want you to look at the web, and suddenly nothing quite makes sense anymore. And they said, well, we could do a little pop-up window. I said, what I want is, after you visit this website, your car only drives in reverse and none of your friends remember your name and suddenly your mom doesn’t speak English. And they kind of gave me this blank look and I said, yeah, I’ll settle for a pop-up window."
Yes, that's right, Gamasutra's interviewing Elan Lee, creator of ARGs such as The Beast, I Love Bees and Hex 168. Check it out now before they're erased from continuity, leaving nothing behind but a cryptic message encoded in the back of a cereal packet.

Wednesday, December 06, 2006

Tomorrow is Wii Launch Day Australia

As the post says, tomorrow is when the Wii hits store shelves in Australia. I called EB Games on Monday, who first told me that as they are the Nintendo-preferred supplier in Australia (whatever that means) there is absolutely no chance they will not be able to meet all their current pre-orders. Then they told me that, despite their earlier promises, they wouldn't be upgrading my pre-order to match the Toys 'R' Us deal, and that it was also now too late for me to take my business to Toys. I think there was demented gloating laughter involved. Screw you, EB.

In any case, does anyone feel like coming into Civic tomorrow morning from about 7 am to help me camp the console spawn? I probably don't need to actually line up, but dagnabbit I missed the 360 launch and I'm sure as heck not lining up for a PS3, so this is my one chance to fanboi over this generation of consoles. I'll bring snackages!

Console Lines

Did I mention how xkcd is awesome and I have all the shirts?

UPDATE: On the plus side, we're totally not in Japan, and there are unlikely to be 1,500 people in the line.

Tuesday, December 05, 2006

Canadian Film Festival at Electric Shadows

From this Thursday to Sunday at Electric Shadows you've got a chance to catch up on some alternative Canadian cinema. Sydney's Canadian Film Festival (which is just finishing its Sydney run) is bringing six of its films to Canberra, including:

* Bon Cop Bad Cop
* A Simple Curve
* Tales of the Rat Fink
* On the Trail of Igor Rizzi
* The Novena
* Midnight Movies

Matthieu Ravier was kind enough to send me advance screeners of some of the Festival's movies, although of the three films I received, only one is on show for Canberra viewers. It's a shame that Next: A Primer on Urban Painting and Sidekick aren't leaving Sydney, as those were both quite watchable despite some minor faults. Also missing from the tour lineup is Terry Gilliam's new film Tideland.

The only one of the six Canberra offerings I've seen is Midnight Movies, which purports to investigate the 70s phenomena of midnight cult movie screenings. It looks into El Topo, Night of the Living Dead, Pink Flamingos, Eraserhead, The Rocky Horror Picture Show and The Harder They Come, complete with relevant writers and directors musing over their movies. Unfortunately it's a little light on content and comes across as more of a fan tribute than a particularly noteworthy documentary. Still, if you've enjoyed any of those movies there's some good nostalgia to be had out of it.

After leaving Canberra the tour is showing in Melbourne from 14-20 December, and Adelaide between 5-20 January.

Electric Shadows is closing down soon so this is one of your last chances to be a part of Canberra history. More details on the movies and the tour can be found here.

New Daedalus Project Findings

Nick Yee's Daedalus Project has some new results up:

Dealing With Dilemmas
Nick finds that (surprisingly?) players over 35 are more lenient, accepting and open minded when it comes to class builds, team roles and rule enforcement.

Horde v Alliance in Battlegrounds
Looking at a range of mechanical and sociological factors behind the widely held WoW belief that the Horde have an edge in player vs player gameplay.

Interview with Shavaun Scott
Discussing issues of online gaming addiction with a qualified therapist.

Not the most incisive stuff to come out of the Daedalus Project but still an interesting read. As usual these findings arrived in my inbox accompanied by an instruction to continue pimping the site to friends. It's a data collection and analysis program relating to issues around massively multiplayer online game (MMOG) play patterns, beliefs, and demographics, operated by Nick out of Stanford University. It's already turned out some fascinating stuff. If you are a current player of any MMOG (especially World of Warcraft) you should definitely go take the surveys. And if you've done them before - well, there's some new ones up.

Go here to take the surveys.

The Last Supper

Via Wonderland:

My attention has been drawn to Nerdy Shirts, which is yet another faceless internet business manned by killer robots which produces humorous geek-themed shirts. Funny clothing and cute models: what's not to like?

On a warm summer evening in 1981, Mr. Ghost agreed to go out to dinner with his long time friend and business associate. It wasn't until his friend ordered a giant white ball that he knew something was awry. Disastrously awry.

Also this:

Monday, December 04, 2006

Australia Wii Virtual Console Launch Titles

Following is a complete list of the classic games that will be available for download in Australia via the Wii Virtual Console when the system hits stores on Thursday.

* Donkey Kong
* Mario Bros
* Wario's Woods.

And... that's all. Note that there's no "Super" next to "Mario Bros" either. Let me know if you actually feel like paying money for any of those titles so I can laugh at you and question your masculinity. Plus this little gem:
The TurboGrafx system never made it to Australia and New Zealand, and those countries will again not receive TurboGrafx games.
Sorry, what? And that makes sense how? I guess with all the Sony bashing, Nintendo were feeling lonely and left out.

You know what's NOT on that list, that other countries are already able to download and play? Warning: those subject to bouts of demented sobbing and teeth gnashing may wish to look away.

* Bomberman 93
* The Legend of Zelda
* F-Zero
* SimCity
* Super Mario 64
* Altered Beast
* Sonic the Hedgehog
* Ecco the Dolphin
* Golden Axe

Again, in case it's not clear, Australia will NOT be getting those games at launch. That sound you can hear is the squeaky laugh of Ecco the Dolphin as he taunts you while fighting time-travelling underwater aliens.

All of this is via Go Nintendo, and I don't really have any experience with how reliable they are prior to today, so for all I know they could be lying through their snaggly inbred little teeth, but it sounds true, and really, isn't that what's important? They're sourcing it from Nintendo World Report, a fairly obnoxious site that uses popups (visit at your own risk).

Thanks to Curmudgeon Gamer for the heads-up.

UPDATE: This turned out to all be horrible puppy-kicking lies, except for the bit about TurboGrafx games. The launch lineup was actually quite decent and it expanded quickly over December. This is the last time I trust Go Nintendo for my news. Pfah, I spit upon their graves.

Sunday, December 03, 2006

50 Most Significant Sci-Fi Novels Meme

Via Cap'n Oblivious:

Below is Time's most significant SF novels between 1953-2006.

The meme part of this works like so: Bold the ones you have read, strike through the ones you read and hated, italicize those that are seriously overrated, and put a star next to the ones you love.

Dust Forms Words note: The original meme used italics for "started but never finished", but because I don't do that with books ever I've replaced it with something more relevant.

1. The Lord of the Rings, J.R.R. Tolkien
2. The Foundation Trilogy, Isaac Asimov
3. Dune, Frank Herbert *
4. Stranger in a Strange Land, Robert A. Heinlein
5. A Wizard of Earthsea, Ursula K. Le Guin
6. Neuromancer, William Gibson
7. Childhood's End, Arthur C. Clarke
8. Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep?, Philip K. Dick *
9. The Mists of Avalon, Marion Zimmer Bradley
10. Fahrenheit 451, Ray Bradbury
11. The Book of the New Sun, Gene Wolfe
12. A Canticle for Leibowitz, Walter M. Miller, Jr.
13. The Caves of Steel, Isaac Asimov
14. Children of the Atom, Wilmar Shiras
15. Cities in Flight, James Blish *
16. The Colour of Magic, Terry Pratchett
17. Dangerous Visions, edited by Harlan Ellison
18. Deathbird Stories, Harlan Ellison
19. The Demolished Man, Alfred Bester *
20. Dhalgren, Samuel R. Delany
21. Dragonflight, Anne McCaffrey
22. Ender's Game, Orson Scott Card
23. The First Chronicles of Thomas Covenant the Unbeliever, Stephen R. Donaldson
24. The Forever War, Joe Haldeman *
25. Gateway, Frederik Pohl
26. Harry Potter and the Philosopher's Stone, J.K. Rowling
27. The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy, Douglas Adams
28. I Am Legend, Richard Matheson *
29. Interview with the Vampire, Anne Rice
30. The Left Hand of Darkness, Ursula K. Le Guin
31. Little, Big, John Crowley
32. Lord of Light, Roger Zelazny
33. The Man in the High Castle, Philip K. Dick
34. Mission of Gravity, Hal Clement
35. More Than Human, Theodore Sturgeon
36. The Rediscovery of Man, Cordwainer Smith
37. On the Beach, Nevil Shute
38. Rendezvous with Rama, Arthur C. Clarke
39. Ringworld, Larry Niven
40. Rogue Moon, Algis Budrys
41. The Silmarillion, J.R.R. Tolkien
42. Slaughterhouse-5, Kurt Vonnegut
43. Snow Crash, Neal Stephenson *
44. Stand on Zanzibar, John Brunner *
45. The Stars My Destination, Alfred Bester *
46. Starship Trooper, Robert A. Heinlein
47. Stormbringer, Michael Moorcock
48. The Sword of Shannara, Terry Brooks
49. Timescape, Gregory Benford
50. To Your Scattered Bodies Go, Philip Jose Farmer

33 out of 50. I don't do too badly, there. Actually, it's entirely possible I've read Childhood's End and/or Caves of Steel and completely forgotten it. For some reason a lot of Asimov and Clarke just goes in one eyeball and out the other. I think it's something about those horrible 70s pulp covers that so many editions of their work are saddleed with. And I've read one-third of the first Foundation trilogy, so do I get a third of a point there?

I have to say I can't completely agree with a list that includes Lord of Light and The Silmarillion and leaves out The Shining, I Robot and Flowers for Algernon, but I guess that's not the point of the meme.

Next post will be actual content, I promise.

Saturday, December 02, 2006

PS3 Backwards Compatibility and My Game Library

You've probably heard by now about the PS3 backwards compatibility problems. I thought I'd take a look at my game library and see exactly what difficulties I might have accessing my extensive back catalogue on Sony's new baby. The results are a bit depressing, although it's not as bad as I thought. Anecdotally I hear the biggest losers are those with a large number of anthology or retro gaming titles. Or, apparently, owners of PS1 Final Fantasy games.

Burnout 3: Takedown
When the user selects LOAD PROFILE, the following text appears: "Saved game data on memory card (PS2) in MEMORY CARD slot 1 appears to be corrupt. Please delete the corrupt data using the console's browser."
Throughout gameplay, vehicle engine sound effects play overlapped by static audio distortion.
Devil May Cry 3: Dante's Awakening
Throughout gameplay, when the user's character opens a door, the "warping" sound effect plays overlapped by a static noise.
When the user selects Driving Games, Car Chases, or High Scores from the Main menu, and the subsequent menu screen appears, certain menu options do not appear, and/or portions of the menu option text do not appear.
Final Fantasy Anthology
On the Final Fantasy V Disc (Disc 1), when the user’s character progresses to the first save point, and selects SAVE from the Game Menu, a black transition screen appears and the title hangs.
Final Fantasy Chronicles
Throughout gameplay of the Final Fantasy IV Disc, various graphics randomly drop out and/or flicker.
Final Fantasy IX
Throughout gameplay and FMA's, when the user’s character walks up or down on screen and the camera pans up or down to follow the movement, four transparent horizontal lines appear across the screen.
Final Fantasy Origins
Throughout gameplay of Final Fantasy II, when the user encounters a random battle, and the battle transition screen appears, the brightness level is adjusted.
Final Fantasy VII
On Disc 1, when the first battle begins at the Mako Reactor, a flashing black square appears around the user’s character's pointer.
Final Fantasy VIII
Throughout gameplay, when the user's party encounters a random enemy in the "world map", and the “pre-battle” transition screen appears, approximately 40 - 60% of the “pre-battle” transition screen appears black, and the remaining portion of the screen appears corrupted.
Guilty Gear X2
On the Guilty Gear X2 Title screen, with a PS3 connected to a CRT television, and the PS3 using composite out, multiple vertical lines appear flickering throughout the screen.
Throughout gameplay and FMA's, the screen flickers.
Metal Gear Solid 3: Subsistence
During gameplay, with 1 PS3 user hosting a Team Deathmatch Game Type, and 5 other users as clients, the host is randomly disconnected, and is unable to reconnect
Metal Gear Solid 3: Subsistence (Limited Edition)
Throughout the title, with the PS3 using HDMI out, the screen appears divided horizontally, and both of the divided portions of the screen display out of sync from one another.
Prince of Persia: Warrior Within
When the user completes the first level, an FMV plays, and a black screen appears, a random audio track plays for approximately 1 second and the screen flashes.
Resident Evil: Outbreak
The title is unable to perform intended HDD functionality.
Silent Hill
Throughout gameplay, when the user’s character shoots an enemy, a medium pitched tone plays.
Tekken 5
In TIME ATTACK mode when Xiaou is selected as player, the title does not recognize controller input when the user progresses to STAGE 6. (Fixed with system software update.)

You can check your collection (one at a time) by going here.