Friday, March 30, 2007

Puzzle Quest: Challenge of the Warlords

Review of the Game
Fantastic game. There are four classes and four portraits for each class (two girls and two guys each). You collect items and equipment which affect how the game plays. The game is simple: a puzzle board wherein you move one piece at a time up, down, left or right and try to make a vertical or horizontal row of three or more of a kind. Each colored gem represents a kind of Mana (magic) that you can use for different spells that you have. Some are direct damage (skulls) instead of Mana, others are gold and experience point gems.

So, you can set whether or not you have a time limit to make a turn, the difficulty of your opponent, and go to town. You can buy a mount, capture prisoners and make spells - but only if you have the right buildings built in your citadel - you'll need stables and dungeons and mage towers for those activities. Plus you can have companions, apparently, but I haven't gotten there.

Leveling up seems fast with my Paladin (they get bonus XP) and good with all other classes.

The thing that troubles me is that console games are now coming out with BUGS, not just your minor glitches, but fucking obvious ones like "The game crashes after a match" which is rare, but taken in total across the Internet, folks talk about it, and it happened to me once.

Buried in the 2nd page of a thread on DS version bugs in "Puzzle Quest: Challenge of the Warlords" I posted this:

We're getting off-topic with the ROM morality debate; however, everyone please clarify if you are using a ROM or a Cartridge, because there can be issues with some games (Ultimate Spiderman loves to play poorly with MOD cards).

I am using a ROM (forget the dump team) and a G6 Lite MOD card with a Passcard 3.

Bugs I have found:

  1. Crash after Victory Bug: (Multiplayer Local Ad-Hoc game) Upon my daughter, Maria de Guadalupe, beating me, her NDS went black and crashed. Upon reloading, we couldn't tell if it had saved her progress or not before it crashed.
  2. Spell List Bug: The spell list you see is not the one you are trying to click on ... I was playing with my 10 year-old again and noticed I had a new spell after my level up, so I clicked "HELP" and tapped on the new spell, but nothing happened for it or the 2nd to the bottom spell. Clicking on my upper spells told me the stats to my daughter's spells, not mine. I eventually figured out that, while I was seeing my spells, the game thought I was tapping on the Spell List that wasn't there, namely, her spell list, not mine. To see mine, I had to switch to her spell list and then click where my spell would be, even though she had less spells this worked.

Bugs In Total:

  1. Something about leveling up while mounted.
  2. Restarting multiple times makes the gems randomize themselves.
  3. AI seems to get really lucky as to what falls down - I have noticed this too, but I don't think it's a bug - I think it is the game's way of making sure the AI has mana to give it a chance against the power of the human difference engine (brain). I tend to plan my moves out 2 to 3 turns if I can, so I can get something better than just the gems I'm moving. The computer does this too, but sometimes it seems more due to what drops after they make a move, rather than how the existing pieces fall.
  4. ...
Summary about Puzzle Quest: Warlords
This is the first game I have really super liked on the Nintendo DS since Castlevania: Portrait of Ruin, which I beat recently (most folks beat the game at level 35, I beat it at level 65 - Dracula can't be brute forced, but being his match helps).

Yu-Gi-Oh on the NDS

I liked Yu-Gi-Oh: Nightmare Troubadour, but the cards were blurry and worst, you could only sort all 1,148 card types in your inventory by one criteria, and filter by one other criteria, which made creating decks by reading the cards in the game impossible.

So I tried Yu-Gi-Oh: Spirit Summoner. That version had much better card textures (not blurry) and you could filter by any combination of filters you wanted (say, all trap/spell cards of a given color), which was glorious.

Unfortunately, the new music is hideous and you can't turn it off, and the control system for using the cards has changed so that everything involves one extra click, and all of the buttons are now tiny. You have to click on a card, then click a tiny button (one of two) to sway what you want to do with it. Before, this was one step.

So Yu-Gi-Oh didn't kill Yu-Gi-Oh, the sequel did. It was so much better (creating decks, which is essential to play the game), but so much worse (music and a control system that kills interest in the game).

Thursday, March 29, 2007

Sony, Microsoft have Barred the Gates

Sony and Microsoft have effectively barred the gates from people buying their consoles, because they have tauted the HDTV capabilities so much, the average consumer thinks he needs an HDTV (a whole new expense factor) in order to enjoy an XBOX 360 or PS3.

As an employee at a video game store, I get questions asking about the graphical differences between the current and next-gen consoles occasionally.

Every once in awhile, a customer will try and "confirm" with me that you can't tell the difference between current and next-gen games without an HD television.

It comes in different forms but it is a perception among some uneducated casual gamers that you need an HDTV to enjoy the 360 or PS3. They're wrong of course but it is something that has been created amongst some because of all the "HD" marketing of the 360 and PS3.

[source] Around 30% of the TV owning populace have some form of HDTV now, which is not a lot. I know that one thing that has occured to me is that if I got a PS3 or XBOX 360 I would have to hook it up to an LCD computer screen, because there's no way I'm paying thousands more for something else that doesn't last as long as a computer LCD display, or a $2,000 LCD TV. And I'm not sure PS3's hook up to computer LCD's...

The Wii, meanwhile, has stayed accessible - possibly too much. Many Obsessive / Hardcore Gamers view it with distain, but others are jumping in.

What are Hardcore and Casual Gamers?

Folks assume that the hardcore is all that matters, or that the hardcore is all that can support the videogame industry, but the changing market tells us this isn't so, as well as some basic math and common sense. Avid moviegoers do not outnumber casual moviegoers, nor can our numbers save movies we love (Serenity) compared to the all powerful might of the masses. This same truth of human nature (obsessives versus casuals) is true in gaming.

Games Sorted by Score on Metacritic

  • Wii 9 bad, 28 okay, 8 good.
  • PS3 2 bad, 12 okay, 20 good.
  • XBOX 360 9 bad, 80 okay, 80 good. (Odd, same number good and okay, but I double checked, and that's accurate)
What These Figures Mean
I find it interesting that the XBOX 360 has racked up as many bad games (listed in Metacritic) in 16 months as the Wii has in 4, and that the PS3 (which has been out almost exactly as long as the Wii has) has 60% more good games than the Wii, and 22% of the Wii's bad games amount.

My theory is that game developers are having an easier time grappling with familiar (traditional) consoles, and that the casual games coming out for the Wii are ill received by hardcore gamers. Basically, developers are still figuring out how to use the Wii's control scheme to make fun game and nobody has made a Wii game that can keep the Hardcore Enthusiasts happy, except Nintendo with "Zelda: Twilight Princess."

Now the inevitable question comes... "If the Wii is doing so poorly with its games, why does it continue to sell so well?"

The Answer Is:
The answer isn't "People are stupid and they'll wake up soon and the Wii will die." The answer is "Because there are so many more casual gamers than hardcore gamers like to think, it really doesn't matter. They are legion, and they will crush you."

The Reason Behind The Answer Is:
Casual Gamers are those that buy 4-6 games a year on average. Hardcore Gamers are those that, as soon as they beat one game (which takes them little time), they buy another, and so they buy 12 or more games a year. If you buy this much, you are hardcore. If you would buy this much but you have to eat, you are hardcore. If that really seems like a waste of money, but you love a good game, you are casual. If you can spend 100 hours on one game you love, but you don't bother reading about every new game that comes out, you are casual. If you read exhaustively everything about games even if you don't own a system (or exclusively read about every game for "your" console), you are hardcore.

Wake up, my fellow Hardcore, we are only about 15% of the gamer population.

Hardcore Gamers versus Casual Gamers... Casual Wins:
Lets take 100 gamers. 15 are HARDCORE, and 85 are casual. Over the course of the year, assuming each HARDCORE gamer buys 12 games, and each casual gamer buys 5, what do we have?
  • 15 HARDCORE gamers out of 100 total gamers will buy 180 games in one year.
  • 85 casual gamers out of 100 total gamers will buy 425 games in one year.
  • HARDCORE gamers account for 34% of all games bought in one year. Casual gamers account for 66%.
The Myth that there are More Hardcore than Casual Gamers is a Lie Because:
Now, my math is fictional. I don't have the exact ratio of HARDCORE to casual gamers. But think of cars - some people are seriously freaked out about their cars. They buy chrome parts, wash them and take them to shows, read car magazines, collect car memorabilia and watch car shows. Most people just drive their cars, or love the one car they are in. What is their percentage versus the car enthusiasts?

Human nature stays constant over the course of our short lives - evolution takes longer. It follows that gamers show a similar trend of obsessive gamer and casual gamer as car lovers follow a similar trend of obsessive and casual car lover (versus people who, you know, drive something). Most people who love their cars don't subscribe to car magazines, let alone anything else.

Hardcore Gamers is a bad term, we are Obsessive Gamers:
We aren't hardcore, we are obsessive. That is what we do. Hardcore just sounds cool, and casual doesn't, hence my homo-italics. By definition, the obsessives of any product industry are not the majority, we are the overly vocal minority. Up until now (the Wii), most game systems have completely catered to the obsessive gamers, and now they have figured out that casual gamers make money too.

Does this spell DOOM for the obsessive gamer? Not really, because games casual gamers like, obsessive gamers also tend to like; however, an obsessive gamer needs deeper layers in a game to keep him busy and coming back for more, but both appreciate an approachable game.

Hardcore Gamers are really obsessive gamers, and Casual Gamers outnumber them. We are witnessing a changing market, and no matter what vitriole we spew out, it's going to keep changing. I hate to use the pun, but the revolution is here, and now that companies have seen money, it's not going to stop.

Wednesday, March 28, 2007

PS3 Dominates Folding@Home, but that doesn't mean what we think it does

The Folding@Home numbers (which show the PS3 as accounting for 2/3rd of all calculation power when it numbers 27,000 to almost 200,000 computers) imply a fallacy.

According to Folding@Home, GPUs account for the greatest amount of calculations (while CPUs are necessary for others). But the only GPUs supported are flagship tier ATI 1900XT & 1900XTX (presumably 1950XT as well), not Nvidia nor 1800XT's.

This makes the PlayStation 3 greatly weighted against the PC, because not only do they have seven Cell processors (GPUs, in Folding@Home's eyes), but most PC's don't have the required videocard to even try to take on the PS3.

This makes the PS3 seem to dominate computers, when the reality is that it's not an even playing field.

Tuesday, March 27, 2007

PS3 sales 165k in two days in UK - but what does that mean?

In two days, 165,000 PS3 units have been sold in Great Britain. Record breaking, they say. Kevin and I decided to test that theory, but seeing what happened in Japan on the first two days, both comparing the sales figures, population of the two countries, and number of games at the launch.

60,609,153 (UK) is 47% of 127,463,611 (JAP)
UK has almost half the population of Japan.

PS3 Hardware Sales:
81,639 (JAP PS3) is 49% of 165,000 (UK PS3)

Launch Titles:
However, the PS3 launched in the UK with 22 titles, and only 5 in Japan. 5 is 23% of 22.

There are two theories to this:

  1. The UK sales are a product of having more games, and this makes the UK sales figures less impressive.
  2. Same as the above; however, this shows that the PS3 still has hope if it just gets enough games, because games drove the UK sales.
Background Data:
UK sold about 51% more PS3's than Japan did in its two day launch window. In order to match the UK sales, Japanese gamers would have had to buy about 84,150 more PS3's; however, that doesn't take into account there are twice as many Japanese, just how much it would take to make each country's sale ratios equal.

If UK has half the pop of Japan, and bought half more PS3's than Japan... then that would mean that Japan would have to by TWICE (100%) more PS3's to match the "Desiration Factor" of the PS3 in the UK. We aren't factoring in price, because while we think the UK PS3 is more expensive than the Japanese PS3 (British pound versus Japanese yen), we're not sure.

Europe World Population: source
Japan Population: source
Great Britain Population: source
Japan PS3 Sales in first 2 Days: source
Japan PS3 Launch Titles: source

One Man Understood What Market He Was In

Satoru Iwata is CEO of Nintendo of Japan, the mother company of Nintendo of America, and the lead behind the Wii.

What he said in a recent interview which named him one of the world's leading CEO's, was telling:

"We are not fighting against other companies—we are fighting against ignorance of video games."

The RIAA is guilty of more than suing American families, it is guilty of not understanding what market it is in.

"The RIAA is the "recording industry" and they represent the interests of the record labels who, while they may claim are in the music business, appear to believe they're really in the "music selling business" rather than (as they really are) the "music entertainment business." They believe their job is to distribute music, promote it, and get people to buy it. They make money by keeping that system closed and locked down. If they recognized they were really in the "entertaining people with music business" they should only be ecstatic about new technologies and services that make their job easier."

This is profound because there is a similar fallacy in the Gaming Industry has: that great graphics motivates gamers, rather than appeases them. This is why games come out early and buggy - because distributors think that once a game's graphic engine is done, that is all that is needed. If a game has crappy graphics, we are not pleased, but if the game is itself is not fun, all the graphics in the world won't save it.

The ignorance of the Gaming Industry is that they think are in the Videogame Graphics Market, not the Videogame Entertainment Market, which is their actual market as evidenced by the Nintendo Wii.

Understanding that their market is not limited to hardcore gamers with large pockets is costing not only Sony, but Microsoft.

Games Crossing Borders

Real Real Estate Agents sell Fake Property
Ummm, Coldwell Banker sets up to sell Second Life property. "Fascinating, Captain." as Spock would say.

Movies become Games, again
300 Director co-founds Movie-to-Videogame development company.

Lets not forget, World of Warcraft is being made into a movie.

Next Generation News

Sony PlayStation 3

Nintendo Wii
  • Wii has already passed 5 million mark in only 4 months - This puts the system at about half the install base of Microsoft's 360 in only 4 months.
  • Wii bowls over retirees - My personal take is something different; note that throughout the article, only WiiSports is mentioned, yet the media carefully points out:

    While those rivals focused on cutting-edge graphics and high-tech bells and whistles, Nintendo focused on making game play easier, more intuitive and more appealing to a mass market.

    That bet paid off.

    Clearly, the Wii is the media's favorite child, not the XBOX 360 or PS3, which are machines they cannot understand.
Nintendo DS
  • Heroes of Mana coming to the U.S. in Summer - it's a strategy game, not like Seiken Densetsu 3 or Secret of Mana (SD2) in the U.S.
  • The one intelligent thing said in the Bright and Shiny Future of the PSP is about its competition: "DS may be missing a few voice-overs and some more expansive game concepts, but it has wooed away from consoles the epic Dragon Quest IX -- the shock that gamers expressed at that news showed that millions still didn't know that handheld gaming is no longer just Pokemon and Tetris."

    Everything else said is moronic, right down to "
    Sales have tipped in Nintendo's favor, but those numbers aside," uhh... what?
  • Guild Wars 2: Notable? This one has a persistent world, and still no monthly payments. Presumably they are trying to solve the "pure instancing outside of towns" problems that make it difficult to socialize, but ArenaNet folks don't give a clear answer of how the new system solves it, other than to make what you do in instances affect other areas and players.
    • One item of interest is that the level cap will either be set at 100, or be removed altogether. I'd like to see the latter, at which point, I'd be interested to see how that works out.
    • "Events will also offer a way for players of different levels to keep interacting in the persistent world - which is crucial, since right now, ArenaNet is planning a very high [100-plus], or possibly no level cap" Good idea; I hope they implement it well.
    • My favorite might be "'Click to move' will be abandoned in favor of a more freedom-rich control scheme, including 'jumping, swimming, and sliding'."

    There's a thread on this at Guild Wars Guru.

Monday, March 26, 2007

Suing Innovation

This is what I was talking about earlier with the RIAA - the idea of using litigation to try to block a changing market. Protecting your investment, at that point, should really come down to "changing with the market and using existing power to make the transition easier and better than the little guys nipping at your heels," but nobody thinks to do that. That would be, you know, a risk - one which is actually lesser than obsoletion.

Friday, March 23, 2007

Ending the Wii is analogous to the Dreamcast debate

My words are in green. I am attempting to end the "The Wii is analogous to the Dreamcast" debate between myself and my very smart best male friend. Because this research represented an investment of my time, because my mind cannot keep track of factual details while his can, I didn't want to simply e-mail the work to him and have it be lost, so I present it here.

From Wikipedia:

Sixth generation

This era began with the launch of the Sega Dreamcast in November 1998 in Japan and September 1999 in the U.S.. However, the impending and much-hyped PlayStation 2 competed with the Dreamcast before it was even released;

This is something the Wii did not face, because the XBOX 360 had already come out and failed to wow gamers because it was more of the same - graphics. The old industry illusion that graphics, not content, sells games, which is why games get released before they are ready - they are released as soon as the graphics engine is done (Neverwinter Nights 1 & 2, countless other games).

Also, the Wii's controllers created enough buzz that, along with Sony's Ross Perot messages concerning the PS3 (faltering, changing, unclear), the Wii surmounted this issue that the Dreamcast faced.

this, combined with Sega's tarnished reputation among Saturn owners and third party developers limited its adoption.

Again, the Dreamcast released with hardly any games, and it was 9 months into its life before it even had as many games as the Wii.

For more, see the Dreamcast launch.

The release of the anticipated Playstation 2 in March 2000 in Japan and October 2000 in the U.S. meant that the Dreamcast no longer enjoyed its status as the sole next-generation console. The brand Sony had established with the original PlayStation was a major factor in their victory, both in terms of securing a consumer base and attracting third party developers;

Here the tables are reversed: Sony is becoming the Sega Saturn - the system that is too difficult to program for (cell processors on the PS3 and badly meshed dual cores on the Saturn), too expensive ($400 Saturn versus $300 PlayStation), while the Microsoft XBOX 360 is enjoying developer support, entrenched console sales over 16 months (which effect game sales) and great games (such as Gears of War).

the gradual increase in one tending to reinforce the other. The PlayStation 2 was able to play DVDs and was backwards-compatible with PlayStation games, which many say helped the former's sales. Any user considering buying a DVD player or PlayStation could view the PlayStation 2 as a cost-effective alternative, and the system effectively had a back catalogue available before it even went on sale. The Dreamcast competed with the PS2 for several months however eventually Sega's financial troubles left over from the Saturn's failure began to really show themselves and the Dreamcast was discontinued by the time the console war proper began.

Nintendo does not have this massive debt problem.

The Xbox, despite the formidable financial backing of Microsoft and despite being more powerful than the PlayStation 2, has failed to significantly threaten the Playstation 2's place as market leader.

Has this changed? Possibly? Of course the PS3 is dying and the XBOX 360 is growing strong. The Wii, basically, needs only to see more games mature.

However, it has attracted a sizeable fanbase in the United States and Europe and has become a recognisable brand amongst the mainstream. In Japan its sales are far poorer, possibly due to the physical size of the console, and Microsoft's inability to acquire many major Japanese developers for their franchises as exclusives for the platform (contrast with Microsoft's multi-million dollar acquisition of UK developer Rare). However, there is a niche fanbase, particularly as the online services for the console, " Xbox Live", offers more to users than Playstation 2's non-centralized online system and Nintendo GameCube's near total lack of online games.

Nintendo struggled with their own brand images, particularly the family-friendly one cultivated during the 1990s.

While this is still the case (in fact, submit that you still have an anti-Nintendo bias as much as I do concerning their childish games), Nintendo is spinning this old, unshakable image to say "We're for casual gamers, not these elite hardcore bastards who give you all a hard time." The latter is never said, but every time you see a Nintendo ad showing people playing together in the same room, they are proselytizing the exact opposite of traditional, anonymous, abusive online play.

The bottom line is their old image is keeping away many of the same kinds of gamers the Wii wasn't specifically designed for anyway, and at this point, Nintendo's only major error is placing too much weight on casual gamers, and not enough on the grazing herd.

Nintendo's franchises and long history in the industry are failing to give them an advantage against the Xbox and PlayStation 2 . However the GameCube's low price point and the release of The Legend of Zelda: Collector's Edition has kept it competitive. Nintendo GameCube is in second place in total console sales in Japan, and in a close third place in the United States and Europe.

World wide sales figures

  • Nintendo GameCube: 21.52 Million as of December 31, 2006 (Japan: 4.02, The Americas: 12.74, Other: 4.76)[5]
  • PlayStation 2: 115.36 Million shipped as of December 31, 2006 (Japan: 24.76, USA: 46.53, Europe: 44.07) [6]
  • Sega Dreamcast: 10.6 Million as of December 2004 (Japan: 2.30, Other: 8.30 )[3]
  • Xbox: more than 24 Million as of May 10, 2006[7]
The PlayStation 2 beat the Japanese school uniform miniskirts off of every other console and then savaged them mercilessly. Put together , every competing console only accounts for 48.65% of console hardware sales.

I submit that, like the SNES and Genesis days, this current war will not have a clear winner, but rather a market where two consoles will survive nicely, just as the Genesis and SNES did (see the History of Videogames Part 3 which details the SNES and Genesis battle) .

Sales as of March 2007:

Console Sales
Xbox 360 10,400,000
Wii 6,030,000
PS3 2,150,000

I'm not sure where they get these numbers, as VGcharts' worldwide graph conflicts.

Hopefully I have put to bed the comparison between the Sega Dreamcast and the Nintendo Wii. While the Dreamcast was considered "ahead of its time", this was more due to coming out between the window of the current generation and the next; the PS2's power overshadowed it.

The Wii may well be ahead of its time, but that is because of its controllers, and there is no game in town to threaten this - you can't wait and buy an XBOX 360 or a PS3 with controls like the Wii, and the SixAxis controller has met with as limited success as I first thought. The SixAxis is gimmicky, a Nunchuck and a Wii Remote put together is a different control scheme altogether.

Key points:
  • Wii has no impending (or existing) console attacking its intended market (casual gamers and people who can't afford pricey systems). This brings up an obvious counter-point as to how many games casual gamers and poor folks buy, but it shows that the Dreamcast and Wii are not like.
  • The Dreamcast was launched with next to no games, 4 months earlier than planned, the Wii was launched with a record-setting 17(?) games (as of records for this generation).
  • Brands are something the Dreamcast battled, but the Wii only has to fight it's own brand - literally, Nintendo's childishness, which has been spun as "games anyone can play," every commercial showing adults or families. The Wii, unlike the Dreamcast, is not facing an impossible behemoth; that enemy has slain itself (Sony), so it has a unique window of opportunity the Dreamcast never had.
  • The Wii can't be one-upped by hardware, while the Dreamcast was. The Wii is known to be less powerful, but it's got it's controllers and its price point, and this perception that filters through the New York Times to TV to word of mouth and blogs. The Dreamcast was never viral outside of the traditional hardcore.
If anything, the only relevant similarities I see between the Wii and the Dreamcast is that they are both less powerful than the Sony and Microsoft consoles, and it ends there.

Will EA abandon the Wii? No, because the Wii means money, and EA never leaves money. Why does the Wii mean money when the Dreamcast didn't? Because the trump factors the Dreamcast faced, and EA saw on the horizon, don't exist here.

Even EA said they don't expect to outsell Nintendo's 1st Party line, but plan on being a healthy 2nd place (I read this on Gamasutra, I think, but I can't find the article).

We may be back to discussing the future impact of the Wii itself, but we can at least close the analogy between the Wii and the Dreamcast failure.

Thursday, March 22, 2007

Creativity Comes Easy

Reading an un-excellent blog attempting to talk about how Dungeons and Dragons relates to network engineers, I found one part interesting... the rest read like the guy was trying to impress his bosses by being geeky and using phrases like "forward-thinking." Gay, as we said in High School.

"Dungeons & Dragons, if you're not familiar with it, is a game where people tell a story and when there's a moment of indecision in the game, the players roll dice to determine what happens.

As ridiculous as this may seem - and I'll admit, it's pretty darn ridiculous - the use of dice and placing artificial limitations on the characters are the way that people help to improve the story. Because it's much harder for a group of people to get together and just tell the story without some sort of limitation.

Let's try a little thought experiment.

Tell a story right now. It can be about or on anything. It doesn't have to be a good story or even a long story. You don't even have to write it down."

I had no difficulty with this. My first impulse thought was "Oh, great! I can tell any story I want, I have many, and I can create something new, too..."
"Having difficulty?

Okay. Try telling a story about a talking dog and a troll that live together in a cave.

That's a little easier, isn't it?"

My next thought was "You just made (the task) - not interesting."

"The more limitations that are given - boundaries or obstacles - the more the brain works to be creative. You look to make the most of your boundaries; you look for ways to surpass the obstacles."

I thought this was interesting, that my mind gravitated towards a lack of obstacles, not clearly defined barriers. Clearly, I am too imaginative to be an engineer - put another way, just not the right mixture of intellect and creative thinking.

This tells me... that my brain doesn't work like (most or many) people do.

Tuesday, March 20, 2007

Various Consoles

Originally posted here.

I have a PSX, PS2, XBOX, Wii, GBA, GBA:SP, two NDS's, and a Wii in my house - these are not all mine per se (I have four children) but I play them all.

XBOX 360? Too many FPS games that require me to use my thumbs, not a mouse. Sorry, personal preference, I grew up with the original DOOM on 486 66MHz computers, and 386's and IBM XT's before that. Thumbs are not dexterous. Mice are. So are pointing devices like... the Wii has!

PS3? Far too expensive.

Wii? Perfect price (any higher would be too much) and my kids love it. The controllers are incredibly fun and make everything old seem new again, as the song goes. Still, I rarely play it. Why? Well I need RPG's, sandbox games, good FPS and games deeper than Rayman and Warioware. Zelda? After Oblivion, Neverwinter Nights, and Ocarina of Time, I just couldn't plod through another. Terrible music too. My 9yo daughter loves it.

NDS? I play this lots and lots. Only my computer sees more love. Why? Well it's had time to mature, I bought it after the Wii so it has tons of games I've never played before that are unlike games I've played in the past (a problem when you've been gaming constantly since the Atari 2600). My hope is the Wii will have the same happy ending.

GBA? Too hard to see.
GBA SP? Easy to see and hold, but there were never any games out for it that really seemed to hold me. For some reason the NDS breaks this rule.

XBOX & PS2 were great to have in their prime - I never had to care which system a game came out for.

PSX? I got this over the N64 because I saw the polygon specifications, the cartridge based format, and knew it just wasn't going to do as well. I loved my PSX, but the games are hard to go back to - 3d games are. Castlevania: Symphony of the Night is still fun, but that's not 3d.

Prior to that? I had a SNES late in it's life, NES all through it. I'm not into brand loyalty (used to love Squaresoft / Square / SquareEnix). Just so you know my tastes are games, not consoles. The Wii makes an exception due to its controllers.

Monday, March 19, 2007

Last Blade and Darkstalkers

More history on each than you can shake a stick at.

  • Last Blade - My favorites? Yuki (a girl with a polearm), Kojiroh Sanada (a slain Samurai's twin sister who pretends to be her late brother) and Hibiki Takane (a slain swordmaker's daughter).
  • Darkstalkers - My favorite? Morrigan the Succubus.
Two of my favorite 2d fighting games, I experienced Darkstalkers in arcades here in the States, but Last Blade I came across only while emulating the NEO GEO on my Pentium II 200MHz PC, and thereafter. Of the two, Last Blade is phenomenally superior, even to my beloved Samurai Shodown II.

The Internet is the Next Revolution?

Well duh, but this article goes on to list out the hows and whys based on good-old-fanshioned history lessons from past economic and social revolutions, such as the Industrial Revolution.

Weakling in Duck Sauce?

I am disappointed in the Penny Arcade crew's latest round of "Oops, we'll go ahead and bow to what everyone else wants" posts.

First, it was the implication that the PS3's downloadable game Flow offered as strong an argument (for motion sensitive controls) as anything Nintendo has made to date, which is stupid.

Now, it's bending over to some game developer who is taking reviews of his unready E3 demo personally.

They even go so far as to point out their last "Oh, wait, the PS3 is grand, we have to buy one ... look it has HOME!" as proof that they change their minds, but must present proof as they see it when they see it... indicating that the flame boys should stop flaming them for publishing the truth because maybe they'll change their minds.

STUPID! "If you want to tell people the truth, make them laugh, otherwise they'll kill you."
-Oscar Wilde

Wii Will Destwoy Joo!

The Nintendo DS and Wii, put together, are now dominating the competition. Even the PS2 is now outsold by the mighty Wii. All bow down to our Wiis!

See the NPD article on Gamasutra.

Straight from TotalVideoGames:

Nintendo Trumps Rivals (Again)
North American hardware sales for February show Wii and DS basking at the top of the table...

Author: Jon Wilcox | Date Added: 16/03/2007
As the turnaround of fortunes that began with the release of Nintendo DS continues with Wii, February hardware sales figures in North America have been released showing Nintendo's two formats topping the chart. Not only that, but the figures have shown that sales of Wii (335,000 units) almost topped the sales of Xbox 360 and PlayStation 3 combined (228,000 and 127,000 units respectively).

Sales figures for DS stood at 485,000 units for February, easily beating the 176,000 PSPs sold last month, with Nintendo throwing in the extraordinary stat that their two platforms represented 54% of hardware sales in that month. Ten of the top twenty titles in North America have also been exclusive to Nintendo's systems.

"We're gratified that the explosive appeal of Wii, in terms of both new players and new ways to play, has created unprecedented demand, substantially beyond supply," says Reggie Fils-Aime, President, Nintendo of America. "But we also understand that there are hundreds of thousands of consumers still waiting to get their hands on the system so we continue to both ship more units to retail every week and work non-stop to build capacity."

It is moments like this I am proud to own a Nintendo DS, and have a Wii, at home.

Or see a more thorough article on 1up, or the slashdot article, or the original article, near a I can tell.

Wednesday, March 14, 2007

Stream of Consciousness about my Family

My wife always says I'm a good father, but I rarely feel like I'm good - just adequate. This is a conversation I had with my friend over Instant Messenger.

David Beoulve: Question bud...

Telnarius: Sure.

David Beoulve: Okay, by my logic... I'm not athletic...

Telnarius: Ok..Dave does no pushups

David Beoulve: I rarely play many activity games with the baby boy. I chase my daughters around and tickle them. I'll throw balls for him.

Actually, that'd be accurate. (I don't do push-ups.)

Telnarius: Ok..Dave is into light activities.

David Beoulve: _I_ don't feel like I'm the greatest father but Alay thinks I'm fine. I can get angry, but I don't punish them angry.

Yes, light but vigorous activities.

Telnarius: where's the question?

David Beoulve: Why does she think I'm a better father than I do? My daughters I consider biased. I can make them cry by being too sharp with them, but I always try to realize on the days I do that, in the moment I do that, and then sit down and talk or hold them - but just the fact that that can happen makes me feel validated that I'm not that great, just passable. Thing that disagrees with that notion is well - the girls are happy, work hard, smile a lot, and are well behaved.

Telnarius: Because you actually spend time with your kids.

David Beoulve: But of course, they're the most interesting thing in my house. That and my lovely Latina.

Telnarius: Does it have to be more than that?

David Beoulve: Oh, so…

But I mean... I feel like spending time with them is just what everyone should do. I feel like because my 2nd daughter (Dulce) is so quiet, I don't talk with her much, but I do spend time with her and she seems to think that's fine...

Telnarius: Just because something might seem small to you, doesn't mean that it is.

David Beoulve: my 9yo (Maria), if I just sat down next to her and didn't talk, that'd be a crime to her.

Telnarius: You spend time being a husband and a father.

David Beoulve: Heh well to be honest, it's butt-kick fun.

Telnarius: It never has to be said more than that.

David Beoulve: (nods)

I feel a little guilty that Alejandrita and Dulce don't show up in my blogs more, but that's what they're like - very laid back. Alejandrita may be an extrovert, but the only time you'd know it is when we have company and my older two retreat and she runs into the center of the living room.

Dulce is very personal. By that I mean, she can just sit with you and be. Maria Alejandra (my wife) is like that (although she's so well educated she can also talk for hours).

It's actually kind of strange, because - you wouldn't think sitting together each doing something, maybe not the same thing, was being together. I also love cuddles, and Dulce specializes in that. I never have to nap alone. Something warm and breathing puts its head on one of my shoulders, if not both of the younger two.

The older one (Maria) does as well, but I think that's partly because she loves her old man, and partly because she's got to claim territory. I've told her, of all of my children, she is the most like Jose Francisco - she was just - born a girl.

But she won't butt in on her younger sisters. She shares.

Jose Francisco, MAYBE he'll lie on my shoulder if his business is going to sleep and he's got a bottle and he wants to get to the business of going to sleep.

But he seems to prefer his mom or his oldest sister to me. No disloyalty felt, I just really think he is a man's boy... I can't teach him this stuff - I'm VERY emotional and empathic. He was just born this way. "I love you dad. Over there." He'll hug me when I come home and want to be picked up, and then he wants out of my lap and runs to go get something.

That's just... Jose Francisco. I wouldn't want him different. He demonstrates his love differently.

Telnarius: By head-butting you in the crotch ;)

David Beoulve: Not yet, but certainly in my head, and also punching me in the upper lip. He's 23 months old, and can do a child's punch. He's not really a child yet as much as a toddler.


And then at 3 years old... he Piledrives Dave ;)

David Beoulve:
Well one can only hope, however unfortunate that'd be for me. He sure loves a challenge, though. We found him jumping on our bed just yesterday, and he climbed to the top bunk bed last week.

Does this post have a point? Maybe, if you can catch it.

Maria Alejandra is sick today, poor dear

Maria Alejandra is sick. I asked her three times if she wanted me to stay home and watch kids for her, but there are two problems:

  1. Maria Alejandra is a Mexican girl, and they don't like to stop working. At least the good ones don't.
  2. Our children are so well behaved that you can leave them to manage themselves for a day.
Bleh. I should have made a command decision to stay home and care for the kids; even being well behaved, the boy is "muy Latino" and Alay worries about him. His sisters are good at corralling him. Sometimes I have to remind him who "Pack Leader" is, but whenever I do he'll fuss (he gets embarrassed when I scold him) a moment and then do what I told him to without further objections.

I think that's fairly behaved, for a baby boy. I want him to listen to me and his mother when he's a teenager. I worry about the fussing part - what will that be like when he's a teenager? But Alay assures me that all of her brothers were like this, it's genetic, and all but one brother out of 6 listen to dad today, and they're grown.

I... cannot say. I know how to raise little girls; I'm still learning with the boy. I love them all.

1:6 now 4:7 (My wins versus Maria's)

Well I beat Maria (my 9yo daughter) twice at lunch yesterday playing Yu-Gi-Oh Nightmare Troubadour for the Nintendo DS, then once more when I got home before trying to make my own deck (rather than use a tournament winning recipe deck from teh Interwebs). The new deck sucks so much! The only thing that competes with its suck is ... Maria's new deck! I won one game, she won the other.

She had no counter-spell cards, no cards that could kill my spells, and neither did I. I did have, however, a deck full of creatures with effects, and a number of permanent spells. Once that worked out for me, the other time we had a long, protracted game because she couldn't break down my spells and I'd locked her into only being able to attack with one creature at a time. She won that one eventually. Bad decks.

So, I couldn't resist - I ordered Yu-Gi-Oh! Spirit Summoner, as the Japanese version has English built in. I'll let y'all know how that is later.

Tuesday, March 13, 2007

A Disquieting Event

Am I less of a man if my 9yo daughter outsmarts me at a collectable card game? Six out of seven times?

Maria de Guadalupe and I have been playing Yu-Gi-Oh! Nightmare Troubadour (for the Nintendo DS); troubadour means "poet," and I'm not sure what a nightmare poet is.

How Yu-Gi-Oh Plays
Yu-Gi-Oh, for the uninitiated, allows you to either summon monsters, use spells, or set traps. Alternatively, you can also summon monsters that require you unsummon, or tribute, existing monsters you've placed on the table, or fuse together powerful monsters into an even larger monstrosity of doom. Tie in the traps which vary from making your life difficult to altering the playing field, and spells, and you have an interesting game, despite the child-like Anime that the game is famous for.

Nintendo DS Variant
On our Nintendo DS's, we each have a copy of the game (stupidly, Wi-Fi play over the Internet is unsupported, which doesn't effect us) and found a savegame on the 'net that gave us virtually every card available in the game. This saved us from plodding through the single-player grind and allowed us to immediately get to the fun parts: pitting our decks and strategies against one another.

May the Smackage Commence
The very first game we played, we each used a "Generated" deck of cards, because the starter deck sounded - lame. Maria won. We tried again, and she won. Then I found a deck recipe on the Internet and tried using that, and she built her own deck, and she won. Then I found a tournament winning deck recipe on teh Interwebs, only I only found the first half of the deck, so I filled it out with my own monster selections, and she won, and then I found the second half of the same tournament winning deck (duh, scroll down to the next post), and used that, and I beat her quickly! I thought "Aha! I have it. Now she'll have to make a new deck." Then I played her again using the same deck, and she won. This morning, we played one more time, and she won.

Limping, and One Example Game
At this point, I plan on trolling the tournament winning deck recipes just to see what good cards are out there and putting together my own deck, because Maria is slaughtering me.

My spells really messed her up last night, and I got her down to 2,500 health (from 8,000) and my health was 11,000 because I had a healing fairy out (she kept killing the poor little things, and I kept drawing another and summoning it). Finally she brought out a big, bad dragon, and then another, in two turns, and slaughtered me. I died in 3 turns to 3,000 and 2,000 damage combined each round. My extra health made killing me a road-bump, for all it mattered.

How She Does It
I asked her how she came up with her deck, since there are over 1,000 available cards, and she said "I just sat down and read them. What do you think I was doing yesterday? (while I was at work)"

Well. Homeschool. But I forget she does have time to herself aside from that.

Friday, March 09, 2007

Raise them Fighting

At Westside park my 9yo daughter, Maria, was playing tag with some other girls and a boy joined them. I thought it odd but just watched. What I didn't know was that he was shoving the girls when he "tagged" them because he thought it was fun, but wasn't doing it to Maria, who was an inch taller than him. She saw a little white girl asking him to stop (the black girl in the group defended herself) so Maria told him "You shove her again I'm going to shove you."

She related this to me immediately afterwards. I asked her what he said in response, she said "He didn't say anything." I asked her what he did after that, she said "Well he didn't push her again."

Later she was playing on the slides and running around, and these black boys were playing catch football amidst the kids on the gym equipment. I thought they liked running around an obstacle course. Actually, they thought it was funny to shoulder other kids as they ran by.

One of them hit Maria in the back of her right shoulder as he ran by and she instinctively elbowed him in the gut, just pure reflex. She said the boy spun around, gave her this wide eyed expression, and then ran off. None of the boys bumped into her after that.

I've had her elbow me in the gut before (I grabbed her from behind when she was trying to run to her baby brother, who had just fallen, and I thought she was running from the tickle fight me and my three daughters were having), and it made me sit down for a moment. She kept trying to apologize when that happened, and I kept praising her.

Moral of the story is to make sure our kids grow up fighting - for their grades, for what they want to achieve, and against people who would do them harm, verbally or otherwise.

What the "DS" in Nintendo DS really means

Some say Nintendo DS means "Dual Screen," others say "Developer System," but considering the way Japanese companies love to advertise things in Ingrish, here's a plausible Nintendo of Japan advertisement, focusing on the DS's touch screen and hit title, Nintendogs:

Nintendo DS
Feels so nice
Doggy Style

The whole joke comes from Kotaku, though they say "Dog's Style" instead of "Doggy Style" which makes less sense.

Thursday, March 08, 2007

Sonic Rush (Nintendo DS)

Sonic Rush for the NDS is good. It's the only good Sonic game I have seen outside of the original 3 on the Sega Genesis over a decade ago.

Basically, it's a Sonic game with updated graphics that uses both screens - sometimes you're on the top screen and sometimes the bottom and both display the game world. It confuses me, but I was never good at Sonic.

Maria de Guadalupe loves it; I told her it got good reviews but was hammered for being too hard -
when I described specific details of the difficulty she dismissed it saying she'd already been through that and it wasn't much of a problem. She went on to tell me that she'd beaten five bosses (and their zones) that morning. I realized that she's a better sonic player than the average reviewer.

The game came out in 2005; better late than never.

Monday, March 05, 2007

Nintendo DS: As good as the numbers indicate

The Nintendo DS is really as much fun as the sales figures indicate, but what's more is how games are changing - more on that after the statistics:

Handheld Game System Sales Figures

  • Game Boy Advance: 78.86 million as of December 31, 2006 (Japan: 16.64, The Americas: 40.70, Other: 21.52) including Game Boy Advance SP: 41.33 million as of December 31, 2006 (Japan: 6.50, The Americas: 23.06, Other: 11.78) and Game Boy Micro: 2.40 million as of December 31, 2006 (Japan: 0.60, The Americas: 0.96, Other: 0.85
  • Nintendo DS: 35.61 million as of December 31, 2006 (Japan: 14.43, The Americas: 10.18, Other: 11.00)[5] including Nintendo DS Lite: 17.33 million as of December 31, 2006 (Japan: 7.89, The Americas: 4.84, Other: 4.60
  • PlayStation Portable: 24.70 million shipped as of December 31, 2006 (Japan: 6.23, USA: 9.58, Europe: 8.89)
What's Changing in Games

I've noticed that I vastly prefer to sit anywhere I want and get my Castlevania: Portrait of Ruin on to sitting in a room where I'm separated from everyone and everything else. Even if I do want to be alone, I can be alone anywhere I want - on the couch, in a bed, in a chair, in the bathroom, it's really odd. It's like when you first buy a Tablet PC and realize "Hey, I can use this anywhere, even while standing up."

Interface Makes a Difference: While I've not run into this as much yet, because my 9yo keeps the G6 Lite "Mod Card" in use the most (and all I have is Castlevania), the stylus does mix things up, and make things more fun - done well.

Suck Exists, but Doesn't Rule: Sucky games are plentiful, but not dominant; I've used Metacritic to the extreme and then Maria and I review our games independantly.

Maria likes several games that got poor or terrible Metacritic scores:
  • The Sims 2, Pets (which got a 48 or something atrocious). It's repetative and, I think, deserves its horrible score - but the repetition and bad interface woes just don't make my 9yo wink compared to ... well nothing. She has nothing to compare it to. I chalk this up to "She likes the content" and "she hasn't developed a pallet yet." It could also be that content is more important to her, not how accessible or well presented it is.
  • Lost in Blue, in which you're a shipwrecked boy on an island alone with a girl trying to find water, food, rest and shelter or you die - immediately. Every minute is an hour. I tried playing and died in 10 minutes. She likes this game. The rate at which time passes is torture to me - let me wander, give me a chance!
The greatest thing for me, though, is playing things which are unlike things I've played before, or having freedom (mobility) whilst playing things I have (Castlevania).

At any rate, that's my update. Fun stuff.

Friday, March 02, 2007

Are We Gamers Hypercritical?

I found this post interesting; it concerns how we gamers are hypercritical of the Wii, deservedly so, but also there's a larger picture. Here's my response:

I have four children (3 girls, 1 baby boy) and a wife who's an anthropologist, not a gamer, and all of them play the Wii.

While the Wii is taking it's time getting the games I'm interested in, my family plays it daily (though I enforce a time limit).

The truth is we gamers ARE hypercritical. It's the first time we've seen a console focused on something that's NOT US, and we're unsure how to react to it. The Sony Playstation introduced ads that were targeted at people who WEREN'T US, and we've learned to live with that change.

Now, we're going to have to get used to living with casual gamers too, and that our wants and desires aren't the only thing in the world, however valid they are for ourselves.

Case in point? I don't play the Wii much, except with my children. I use my computer instead.

Thursday, March 01, 2007

Hotel Dusk: Room 215

I ran into the one thing that isn't good in Hotel Dusk for the Nintendo DS - wandering around not knowing who to talk to next. Admittedly, it's partly my fault, I came out of my room and heard someone whistle, like they just saw a dame, but saw no one. I walked up and down the hall and no one popped out of their rooms, so I went downstairs, found no one, and tried every door. Then I came upstairs and did the same thing until I found, at the end of the hall I started in, the utility room which hid the bellhop who was oogling a girly mag.

So next time the game drops me clues I'll be sure to, at the very least, stay on the same floor.

My suitcase key broke and I need some wire to unlock it; there's a lone coathanger in my room but it's the kind that's permanently attached to the hanger. There's a cute, asian/american mute girl downstairs and a prissy princess upstairs, the dour owner, the hard working, gossiping cook/cleaning lady, the bellhop who was a pick pocket I arrested several times back in New York, the lonely little girl who thinks she's going to find her mom and her paranoid father and the author who seems interested in... Room 215 perhaps?

As I've said before, you get two lines of questions and never get to go back to whichever one you didn't pick, so you can miss out on a lot of dialogue if you aren't carefully thinking "What do I not know, what should be implicit and I shouldn't waste time asking?"

The interesting thing about Hotel Dusk is twofold:

  1. I only partly get the feeling I'm playing the game, because I can't wander and do anything; the game gives me several options for each section of a chapter, but really I'm just reading what unfolds. Granted, how I converse with people affects how much I'm understanding the story.
  2. You can't role-play in this game - you are Kyle Hyde. I tried that, picking nicer answers, and I had to restart the game (to the point just after the intro) early on. You have to become the ex-cop/detective, and be willing to press on people when need be, or go easy.
Another minor quibble? I have this notepad in the game that Kyle stores all kinds of stuff in, as he seems obsessive compulsive about keeping notes; however, I only have 3 pages of "whatever I want to scribble with the NDS Stylus," which isn't much and fills up quickly. Somehow, keeping all of my notes in game seems appealing to me, as if I'm only fulfilling the game's design to make me part of it.