Monday, July 30, 2007


I hit Big Lots and came away with Big Loot!

First let me say, these guys are poorly made. Some of them are recognizably KO's of G1 Autobots and Decepticons I recognize, such as Streetwise.

I Bought:

  • A set of 3 "Ultrabots" that combine for $3 each.
  • 2 sets of 2 construction "Quick-Change" robots for $1.50 a set.
  • 2 sets of 2 jet "Quick-Change" robots for $1.50 a set.
  • 2 sets of 2 police/rescue "Quick-Change" robots for $1.50 a set.
  • 1 set of 2 military "Quick-Change" robots (jeep & tank) for $1.50.
  • A set of 6 2/3rds sized Dinobot Knock-Offs for $6.
My son's collection has gone from 2 to 25 in $25.50 plus tax. Plus I won't cry if they break. My wife and I both had the idea that he'd only play with them when I'm around, otherwise he'll want mine because he always has access to his - plus that keeps down on the breaking.

My Collection:
I haven't bought anything new for me - I still have Classics Mirage, G1 Grimlock, Classics Grimlock, and the G1 Mail Order crew, Overdrive, Camshaft and Downshift.

Some of the Classics line looks good so I suppose I'll have to nab what I can before the Animated line comes out. The movie line is good but expensive; still, the ingenious transformations are impressive.

I want:
Thank God Almighty I am not a completist, just a favoritist. I want:
  • Classics Optimus Prime $20
  • DVD Optimus Prime $65-80
  • Encore Optimus Prime $50+
  • Encore Soundwave $50+
  • Encore Megatron $50+ - never had him as a kid, he was always on Cybertron in my alternate stories; Soundwave and Shockwave, later Galvatron commanded the forces on Earth.
  • Classics Starscream or any latest version that turns into a jet, not some Protoform.
  • Anyone who is cool and less than $15
Blasphemy of Blasphemies, I don't want Encore Starscream because, well, he's so stiff and immobile compared to the latest versions.

Obviously, these guys are overly expensive for a father of four - so in a pinch Classics Optimus Prime and Encore Optimus Prime are all I need. After that I'd go for either DVD Optimus Prime or Encore Soundwave... not sure.

Hasbro's website has a few remaining Classics they seem to want to push off the shelves. Lesser figures are desirable because they also cost less.

As an owner of TWO original Jetfires (I called him Starfire), I can't really get myself to like the Classics Jetfire.

There is an aspect of collecting that perplexes me - first is the desire to own all of a set when the cost, in total, is so high. I'm glad some people enjoy that immensely; I have four children.

I am wary of the fact that some impulses hit me and then leave; the difference between collecting Transformers and Electronics is that the former doesn't seem like a bad choice with age; I think. I only just got "Stumbling on Happiness" by Prof. Daniel Gilbert, and it was weird getting the book the day after the desire to re-try Transformers hit me.

Starting a New Generation the Right Way: Using the 1st Generation Cartoons

Thursday, July 26, 2007

Chore Wars: The Minions of Jose Francisco

Reading Penny-Arcade, I found a nifty Web game that lets you turn your family into Role-Playing Game (RPG) characters and household chores into "adventures" worth experience, gold and the occasional battle with a monster. "Chore Wars," it is called.

Since the default settings are private, I can't link you to our party, so I have enclosed a ZIP file that has the three main pages:

  1. Party - Shows our party, "The Minions of Jose Francisco." Celeste is Maria Alejandra. Mia is Maria, which is the nickname Jose Francisco calls her. Esteban is himself. Lord Soong is me, named after one of my more famous villains.
  2. Adventures - Shows all the possible adventures to undertake.
  3. Week - Shows what has happened this week.
I strongly recommend that any family group give it a try.

To make the rewards real I'm doing this:
Every paycheck allotting $50 to reward money. I'll take a look at what the kids have done and dole out the money based on how much experience they have earned.

Game Gold/Money will be useful for:
  • Trading game gold for US dollars, probably 100:1. So spending 100 gold gets you one real United States dollar.
  • Buying a day off, etc.
  • Spending the money in the pen & paper RPG portion of the game.
You will notice that I spend a lot of attention to items everyone can get. I'm a Dungeons & Dragons player and for years I've been waiting to introduce the kids to RPGs. Well every weekend they'll get to go on an adventure, just two hours long, and the items and stats (strength, dexterity, etcetera) they have will dictate what they can do. This should encourage them to look at the different chores and try to do them so they can get items not available otherwise.

Of course, my house is so disciplined that the girls have to do all these things anyway - this is my way of trying to make it fun. So far the girls love it, but they are both scared of the computer, the Web browser, and the interface.

I digress...
One thing I love about my brother, Esteban, living with us is that he is very self-disciplined, grew up in a loving but strict household, and has had no children until now. That means that, as any new parent is, he's loving, but very hard. This is actually good for the girls because he's pushing them in school so much, and while it's hard work, and they tend to lose privileges with their Nintendo Wii, they are learning and their academic abilities are increasing. He is re-teaching them their entire grade (before summer vacation) in Spanish over the course of the summer, so while he's paired down the amount of work, it is still a lot to do; but Dulce and Maria are doing it and I'm so proud of them.

And what I love for Esteban is that he gets a chance to have kids too. They look up to him, they talk about him with me, and this morning when Jose Francisco stirred awake he said "TIO?" loudly before orienting himself. Tio means "Uncle."

Mom, please correct my grammar.

Tuesday, July 24, 2007

Single Player Games are Dying

While the post "Are single-player games doomed?" contradicts my post "Best of All, No Multiplayer", I think there are some important points and the overall the assertion that humans are social animals is undeniable.

"The entire video game industry’s history thus far has been an aberration. It has been a mutant monster only made possible by unconnected computers. People always play games together. All of you learned to play games with each other. When you were kids, you played tag, tea parties, cops and robbers, what have you. The single-player game is a strange mutant monster which has only existed for 21 years and is about to go away because it is unnatural and abnormal." - Ralph Koster

In short, I agree on the aspects of human nature, and that women are a smaller percentage of the typical gamer personality type, as evidenced anecdotally by my daughters. Games will become more social because people are social.

New PSP?

Amazingly, given the trouncing Sony has been getting, with even big names like Capcom bashing not only the PS3, but the PSP, they are putting out a new version of the PSP.

Monday, July 23, 2007

The Fate of AAC Direct / All American Computers

A fellow AAC Direct client found my blog and got in contact with me, so I have learned more about what happened to the fabled, ill-fated AAC Direct / All American Computers (AAC), owned and operated by Kyle Felstein.

The Downfall
In the closing months of AAC, when you purchased a computer, the money you paid wasn't spent on your parts, but the computer that had been built before it. AAC was using each new order to pay for the one before it - they were behind, but it was manageable for a time.

The hardware resellers, however, were not amused; their payments had to wait until the next computer was ordered at AAC. Because of this, they were reticent to send out new equipment to a buyer (AAC) who didn't pay them on time; this delay, in turn, prolonged the build of each computer, which made things worse for both AAC and the resellers expecting payment.

Some venture capitalists became a glimmer of hope; however, negotiations not only fell through, but because the LiquidXS the potential investors had ordered was two months overdue, they threatened to sue AAC for the bill.

The carpet was pulled out from under them rather rapidly after that.

The Fallout
I am not certain, nor was the customer, who had ordered a LiquidXS prior to my PureXS, but apparently Kyle's assets were liable for AAC's debt. This would include his car, his house, bad things. We speculated on that based on what rumors we've found on teh interwebs and a few forums.

A week or so prior to folding their store doors closed; gleaned from a local computer store mentioned in the comments of this blog.

Apparently my PureXS may have been one of the last complete computers built there, if not the last. I can't find anyone who had a full, successful build after mine, in which case I have a bit of a collector's item.

There was at least two computers that went out immediately after mine, and both were shipped incomplete - if debt collectors are after Kyle's personal assets, I'm sure everything in the building was seized. Since Kyle didn't have the parts needed to complete the order, he had the option of leaving it with the store to be seized or shipping it as it was to the customer.

Things went bad quickly after that; Kyle never had a chance to e-mail the customer what happened, so imagine his surprise. This created a bit of a stink online - as the customers couldn't reach anyone at AAC or find any way to contact Kyle.

My Initial Reluctance to Post My Findings
The initial reports came in badly worded English, slathered in vitriolic phrases. All I knew for sure (I checked) was that AAC was indeed dead; I wasn't about to publish what could have been slander without knowing what happened - it has taken this long for the picture to become clear.

The poor unlucky souls whose orders were after mine - they spent money and got an incomplete system back - at best. If I had known AAC was going under I would have gotten a Dell XPS; I wanted the support. Having the complete PureXS in my house, I have no regrets; I've seen Dell XPS's up close to compare the quality and performance and I can deal with one last computer I support, despite having four children.

To the people who were burned for hundreds or thousands of dollars, there is no amount of anger at the service rendered that is unjustified. I would tender to my fellow AAC clientele that it appears AAC tried to hold back the end; their last bid failed, and everyone suffered in the end.

[All My Blogs about AAC Direct / All American Computers]

Wednesday, July 18, 2007

A friend told me...

"Act always with the dignity you admire."

A Wii Review - Dragonball Z Budokai Tenkaichi 2

There are many Dragonball Z games, a number of which have never made it out of Japan, and a few who have never made it to the USA, though they hit Europe. The Wii's iteration is the same game as seen on the PS2 and GameCube, revamped for the Wii's controls.

The game features free-roaming combat with large areas. There are no visible walls, just a circular boundary that appears as a polygonal shield if you hit the edge of the playable area. All characters can fly, have long range attacks (some medium) and melee.

It's great fun to go back and forth between melee and ranged attacks. Some characters charge up their power (needed for ranged attacks) with melee combat, some regain it over time, others have to stand prone and charge up.

The basics of the game are easy as sin - everything maps to a button. The one catch is that the Wii controls are difficult and imprecise; it is better to use a GameCube gamepad. For example, in order to dash left, right, forward or backwards, you have to hold the "C" button on your nunchuck and jerk the nunchuck that direction. The problem is that sometimes the game will register the wrong direction (if you are imprecise in your movements, which, under the duress of a fight, happens) or register two movements and dash and immediately stop (if you jerk your hand left and then move it back to center position, which your mind naturally wants to do).

A guy who had the GameCube version told me at first glance that the Wii version was graphically superior, in what way I don't know, but it's interesting to me that even my children have switched from the Wii controllers to their old GameCube gamepads.

That said, Dragonball Z Budokai Tenkaichi 2 is the most fun we've had with a fighting game since King of Fighters 10th Anniversary, which wasn't that long ago (MAME). We also still play Super Smash Bros Melee, a GameCube game that works on the Wii. Prior to all of that, we sometimes played Soul Calibur II, but I didnt' like it, my kids did.

Tuesday, July 17, 2007

Console War: 120 million Wiis served

"Nintendo's market strategy of attracting the casual gaming audience is having continued success. According to figures released by ELSPA and Chart-Track at the beginning of this month, over a million Wii units were sold in the UK over the last half year. [The Wii] accounts for over 50% of the overall market share in hardware units including the PS3 and Xbox 360."

Nintendo President Satoru Iwata is so happy he thinks the Wii could outsell the PS2's 120 million consoles sold record.

What does this mean? This means that the Wii's transformation of what gaming is - is well underway. Just as Sony changed gaming forever by marketing games to the cool joe, the average jock, the Wii will have a similar or greater impact.

It also means that all this stuff you read from videogame "journalists", and I use the term loosely, wherein they deride the Wii or cast it in an ill light, unsure of what it means, portraying it as a family, silly affair, is complete and utter crap.

Sony is struggling to keep the PS3 from becoming the next Sega Saturn. The 60GB PS3 is already dead - they aren't making any more.

There are many people who may be so stubborn as to never get buy a Wii just because, well, it's a Wii, or it was made by Nintendo. I find that silly. I have no brand loyalty. I left Nintendo when the N64 came out and never looked back, not even for the NDS (I acquired two after my kids got their Wii). Gamers can ride the revolution now or - wait.

There are two good reasons (for a gamer) to not get a Wii right now:

  1. Not enough games you like, depending on your favorite genre(s), such as Roll-Playing Games, First-Person Shooters, Basketball, Soccer, Tennis, Hokey, Strategy Games, etc. Name your must-have genre that is absent on the Wii, and you have a good reason.
  2. The best is on the horizon. Most gaming developers are playing catch-up, so if the plan is to wait until the menu becomes enticing, and you're well handled in the mean-time, then that makes sense.
There are some reasons it's not a good idea (for a gamer):
  1. If you miss out on a Wii deliberately, you are in effect, if this thing sells as many units as a PS2 one day, or even comes close, writing yourself off from a large portion of gaming history.
Did you "miss" the PS2? Anyone? I'm sorry, you're not a gamer if you did. You are a PC gamer, perhaps, or a Nintendo fan-boy, but you are not a gamer, which is a beast that consumes all things games, regardless of platform. No, if you avoid the Wii, just because you don't want one, now you are, in effect, a platformist - someone who holds on to beloved platforms. Many of us have done it. Anyone here who didn't buy an XBOX? Oh! Hands, they do go up! And yet somehow, PS2 fans have bought in to the XBOX 360, begrudgingly - they even write songs about their lament.

120 million? I'm no optimist (I'm a realist), but I can see why Iwata had the balls to say that the Wii could break that record. I just think he should have had Reggie say it.

If there are 80 million PS2 owners out there (I'm sure some folks bought 2 PS2's, I have no idea how many), the current generation hasn't made much of a dent in them, and therein lies the reasoning: the current game console generational war is bigger than folks imagined, because I'm willing to bet that there are a lot of Wii owners who never had a PS2. And folks - they aren't gamers.

And what of the people who avoid the Wii? If this thing outsells the PS2, can they say they're a gamer? Or a knight of some forgone era? We call them platformists. They're great knights. They stick to what they believe in, and if an image or a line doesn't fit them, they don't wear it. There are Nintendo fanboys as well as Nintendo Haters, they're both knights with different banners to wear. Microsoft is corruption, they don't have knights that hold aloft their cause, they have mercenaries who hold up their XBOX Live banner. No one believes Microsoft is out to make the world a better place, but Nintendo and Sony fanboys do believe that, roughly - whatever their respected camp gives them speaks to a need within them that jives with their internal structure of how things ought to be.

Gamers, by our nature, are promiscuous. If it's a game and it's good, we'll try it. We're gypsies, neither knight nor mercenary. We're ignoble, cheap, easy, and frowned upon by the old guard. Do you know what I'm describing? I'll give you a hint:

I'm not describing today's definition of gamers, I am describing what's coming.

Human nature demands that there will always be Knights (fanboys, loyalists, whatever) to a given market brand. Humans like to look at something (such as a label) and feel safe in our purchase of it. Sony used to thrive on this - people paid more to have the Sony name on their TV, it used to mean quality.

But if you stay in the game long enough you begin to realize: It's not about the console, it's about the games. Every gamer knows this, yet so few live it.

Wednesday, July 11, 2007

Wooo Steve is back!

My real-life friend who goes by the handle "Nightwind" is back! I was worried he had died of a staff infection or something - turns out his ISP had cut him off two days early and his local Library didn't give access to MSN, which had all his contacts saved in it. He's been working, he did have some medical problems but hasn't died from them yet ;)

I'm just very happy because I've been pestering our mutual friend TJ about him for almost a year, sending Steve's e-mail address periodic e-mails. If I'd known his address I would have snail mailed him.

At any rate, it made my day that's he's alive and well and back and missed me too.

Tuesday, July 10, 2007

Transformers (PC), Quick Review

Fantastic fun if you use a trainer to circumvent the ridiculously difficult gameplay and impossible mission timers.

Hidden underneath the impossible difficulty of Transformers is a free, open city (such as seen in the Grand Theft Auto [GTA] series) with fully destructible buildings, throw-able buses, police cars, billboard signs, and of course, climbing up buildings like a monster in Rampage (or a Transformer in the recent movie). It's wild fun to run amok or collect brightly colored cubes to unlock content. Like GTA, the missions suck donkey hair.

If I were to use metrics, this game flip flops between a solid "8" and a solid "5". Every mission where the trainer works (cancels out nigh-impossible timers or makes defeating 10 Decepticons in 2 minutes doable with 1 hit kills) is good, mindless fun. Every mission where the trainer doesn't affect the clock, or can't combat the task at hand (speed out of a tunnel before it blows up a-la Return of the Jedi's Deathstar death throes, do it 6 times in one mission), inspires me to yell unpleasant words at my 32" TV.

Unfortunately, by default (without a trainer), Transformers: The Game doesn't let you do enough of what you really want to do -

  1. run around, battling Decepticons
  2. saving the day
  3. possibly as a team with more than one Autobot.
The first two options are in the game, but hidden behind implausable time limits that are automatically set to "Expert." To get them right, you cannot make an error. Hit a barrier while you're racing in car form? Transform into a robot, move the stick left to turn your heading a bit, and transform again and hit the gas and the boost, because you don't have time to back up, turn, and go. That is stupidly difficult.

Still, the game has good graphics, shadows, effects, and the environment is highly reactive. In each "city" area, you can earn bonus content by making a super long drift, drive fast without being interrupted, throwing something high, high into the sky for maximum air time, etcetera (5 achievements total, I can't recall them all). Melee attacks and using heavy or light ranged weaponry are separate, blocking is easy - these things are fun.

Aside from the insane difficulty of the missions, there are only three things wrong with this game:
  1. The camera isn't smart, but doesn't get in your way. Controlling it yourself when you're in robot mode works fine, but it'd be nice if it auto-snapped better. There's a setting for sensitivity and I haven't tried "maximum," just "low" (default), and "medium."
  2. The automatic "lock on" is jumpy. You need to keep the target fairly close to your reticule, and that's difficult when you're not in a flight simulator, but a driving simulator. Robot mode isn't so much of an issue.
  3. The sound effects don't understand what should be loud and what should be - nearly inaudible or not played at all (that seems to be the range). I've had plenty of car crashes where I barely hear a thing beyond my own engine.
All in all, I am surprised at the quality of this game - Traveler's Tales really put some love into it. I'm having great fun with it, as are my brother and my kids.

Overlord, Full Review

Fun game hindered by its control scheme; running amok with goblins in town, collecting slave women & being evil is fun.

Overlord is a 3rd person 3d action-adventure game with RPG elements set in a fantasy world.

It's notable features are controlling a small horde of goblins (up to four kinds, each set with special abilities), rebuilding your Dark Tower, customizing your gear, and choosing to do benevolent or malevolent acts, which ultimately affects how much content you see and the ending.

Stylistically, the game looks like Fable 2 might if released today. Rolling hills, some narrow paths, townspeople wandering about; counter to Fable, Overlords areas usually loop back to one central point and are much larger, letting you traverse the world easily. Other areas are more open, and some complicated enough to get lost in (explorers rejoice).

The game starts becoming un-fun once you find yourself battling the control scheme more than the actual game. The control scheme worked fine until the creators equated difficulty handling the key/button combinations with game difficulty.

For example, you can't create control groups with your minions, nor easily separate a certain number of goblins from their color group. This would be fine unless there weren't sequences where controlling disparate groups are required in the middle of a boss fight, with little margin for error. To move a group set to guard a banner, you have to aim at the banner and target lock it (if something else targetable is nearby, you might lock onto that instead), holding the target button, you then can sweep that group around like the rest of your horde. This is trickier than it sounds once you add in the fact that you are currently being attacked by a boss.

However, the majority of the game isn't filled with such instances.

There are puzzles which flip between testing your understanding of how to use your minions to solve the puzzle, and your ability to control them well enough to do it (example: boiling hot geysers that erupt and having to navigate your goblins through their timed sequences - it's obvious what to do, it took me far too long to actually get it right, and that's annoying).

There isn't much reason to play the game through again unless you like playing from both "good" and "bad" angles, the first of which is made difficult by your goblins defaulting to doing bad things whenever they can.

Rampaging though town, collecting slave girls, making the populace tremble at your presence and looting everything that your goblins can loot doesn't get old. (Unfortunately the slave girls are a single mission and they just mill about your throne saying the same catch phrases.)

While you can be "good", the game offers more to the "bad" player. It's difficult to keep your goblins from doing evil acts while moving about a city, or coming across a lonely shepherd and his sheep, so you'll find yourself reloading to keep your "good" status. Evil is definitely better, by design of the game.

Mixing up what goblins you bring changes the difficulty of your quests - coming across a horde of zombies (about 30-40 individuals) is difficult without "melee specialist" brown goblins up front and "fire throwing" red goblins in back. Green goblins can stealth at a guard marker you set and leap and pounce on any enemies that come near, surprising them. Blue goblins can resurrect fallen goblins, but die too quickly even when making a corpse run.

If this sounds appealing, buy the game. If not, try the demo, but be aware that the un-fun sequences are later in the game.
[original version]

Monday, July 09, 2007

My Cadaver is Worth $4,240.00

$4240.00The Cadaver Calculator - Find out how much your body is worth. From Mingle2 - Free Online Dating
I'm not sure I need to say much more than that.

Overlord - Review

Try out Overlord. It's rather fun to run your minions (small horde of goblins) amok. Make sure to do bad things, it's more fun - you see more content.

The game starts becoming un-fun once you find yourself battling the control scheme more than the actual game. The control scheme worked fine until the creators equated difficulty handling the key/button combinations with game difficulty.

That said, it looks like Fable only with better shadows and wider, more open areas that all loop back and cross link (so you can wander a bit and, yes, get lost). If not wider, certainly the paths are more numerous and the areas 5-7x larger than the typical Fable one.

You get to customize your Dark Tower, enhance your gear, but I'm right at the point where that is starting to matter so I haven't explored this much other than to create a nifty sword by sacrificing a butt-load of goblins.

As I said before - the last chapter's end was more about me fumbling with buttons (as my brother and I have been trading off on a GamePad) than fighting the game itself. Keyboards help (I can select each group more easily) but you can't create or select Control Groups ala RTS, so splitting your forces becomes problematic; couple this with a few boss sequences where you have to - quickly and accurately - and that you have to target a battle banner to get that group to move by looking at them and centering your view on them - and that's pretty much stupid. I've had to do this only twice, however - once on a boss, and once while navigating boiling hot geysers.

I complain more loudly than the amount of content should proportionally show - evidenced by the fact that I played this game all weekend when I had the chance, or watched my brother, Esteban, play.

Open-Sourcing / Crowdsourcing Journalism: Why that's a stupid idea

Referring to the article, "Open-Source Journalism: It's a Lot Tougher Than You Think". I joined Assignment Zero, and read the laments of Open-Source Journalism.

I'm an INTJ, so it is in my nature to identify problems in a system.

The problem with Crowdsourcing or Open-Sourcing Journalism (I use the terms interchangeably here, and some do not - one is member based, you're a member before the story starts, the other can imply wikis) is this:

  • The article states that Crowdsourcing can be a way of watchdogging local politicians and interests that the media at large is reticent to investigate. I see two problems with this.
    1. There is the issue of "people not getting paid" for what they do. A select few will doggedly pursue the hobby, others will dabble in it and most will try and give up. I work in an Elections Office, I've seen a number of parties try to deal with "volunteers" who did volunteer, are in the same party, but obviously don't care to do real work. Hence why we pay our Poll-Workers - it's not much, but it takes "volunteer" out of the equation. The human mind just works differently when it's paid. The article mentions this problem, but obviously can't go into great detail.
    2. Foremost, lets assume Crowdsouring worked. Lets assume 30% of USA cities had some kind of cohesive group that "watchdogged" their local government (good) and special interests (also good). This would continue to be good anytime there was a scandal, nepotism or something juicy, but how well would it work the 20th time some city said some developer was stonewalling them? In other words: There's a reason the current news that floats to the top is the current news that floats to the top. Humans don't want news they have to do anything about - they want news they can see and digest and feel secure in.
To expand upon this insight, first given to me by my friend Dove, take child abductions: Horrible! Horrendous! We feel for the parents! We hate the child murderers and rapists! But we don't have to do anything. We probably feel we keep our kids safe. We don't feel negligent (and if we should, have excuses built up already).

Now take this: On the local news - Colorado Rock Company is building a plant not to EPA specifications and stonewalling everyone. Their pollution will affect where you live and studies have shown it causes cancer, but it's inconclusive enough to sue anyone. People don't like that kind of news, but paradoxically, it's the kind of news that matters to them most.

So Crowdsourcing is a wonderful ideal - but will enough people write about it for it to become valid? Wikiality's Magic 8-Ball says "Yes." Will people care, once it becomes mainstream? Human Nature says "Not likely."

An Example of How Invention and Products Should Work way of an example of the antithesis. I've long held that patents should last 5-10 years, depending on whether the product is of digital or physical medium, respectively. The best way to keep inventing is to keep having pressure to invent - this is why we saw so much research coming out of World War II. It took us 30 years to piece it all together and perfect the work started there (and perfecting that work extends to modern times).

But in the world of big business, lobbyists have helped set up laws that stifle competition, that server the business interest, not other businesses or the people. That's rather stupid.

Take this article, for example:

[Source: If You're So Concerned About Piracy, Don't 'Invent' A Cheap, Easily Imitated Product - Techdirt]

Certainly anybody with patents, copyrights or other intellectual property has every right to enforce them, or at least try to. But a point we've made is that it often makes more sense for a business not to waste resources trying to enforce its IP rights and shut down its competition, and instead to focus on continual improvement and innovation. The WSJ's got a piece detailing a small company's fight to keep companies from selling cheap imitations of its product -- "a plastic cage that looks like a Wiffle ball and prevents bras from getting tangled in the spin cycle" called the BraBaby. The company of ten employees' boss apparently spends countless hours online and in Asia tacking down makers of the knockoff products, and from the sound of things, he's having little success, despite his patents and trademarks. So, with all that effort in mind, what's the point? If your invention is a cheap piece of plastic that's easy to copy, clearly you're going to have a problem dealing with imitators and knockoffs should it become successful. If you're a small company making such a product, trying to clamp down on those imitations is, as the article makes clear, going to be a long and difficult practice that stands little chance of success, so your resources would be better devoted to improving your product and staying ahead of your rivals. Contrast the approach of the company behind the BraBaby to that a maker of a similar product, the BraBall. That company holds a patent for its product that predates the BraBaby, but an exec says it doesn't plan to sue, instead, it's "competing on quality." If the only way you can succeed in the market is by keeping your competitors out of it, whatever advantage you have is fleeting. To remain successful, you need to continually have the best product, not the only product. And how does chasing the makers of knockoff goods to the far ends of the earth help you make a better product?

I make this post so I have something to refer to when I bring this up again.

Friday, July 06, 2007

Why Japanese Hate First-Person Shooters and Westerners Hate Dating Sims

A friend of mine came up with a good answer to an earlier post:

This brings up a great question... why do Japanese people dislike First Person Shooters, and conversely, why do most North Americans hate (dating) Simulation Games? I'm struggling to think of what aspect of Japanese games makes them uncomfortable with FPS (too in their face?), or Westerners and dating sims (too lamer/loser?). I have no idea.

My friend's response:
Ooooh! Good question!

Mind if I speculate?

Personally I believe (from the experience of knowing a few Eastern gamers that have floated through the Gamer's Club I'm part of) that Americans, actually western gamers in general, love immersion. The good ol' "two hands on the control, giving everything to the game" type of attention. We, myself included, like to see ourselves as part of the game world, rather than as spectators or advisers from outside the screen.

FPS games and "American-style RPGs" cater to this need more easily than the more distant and social-oriented Dating Sims (Look at Japanese Dating culture and you figure this one out), 3rd Person Action Games, and RTSs.

Eastern Gamers typically make and play games that are less direct when engaging the "self" of our imaginations, though (as we all know) they are definitely NOT less difficult. More social situations from a 3rd person standpoint, more planned decision making, less split-second confrontation (unless we are talking about startle scenes in a horror game). They like our RTSs for example, but never really got the hang of HALO. (Not that I did either...but that's another topic.) The most recent Japanese fellow that has joined the club loves Warhammer 40k: Dark Crusade, Age Of Empires3, Empire Earth, and Titan Quest. However when it came time to play Team Fortress Classic, Unreal Tournament 2004, Battlefield 2, or Call of Duty he was clueless. It took some time, but now he ranks fairly consistently in the upper mid tier of the club in FPSs and seems to get a real kick out of playing them.

Now that I've described what I've observed, here's my theory:

I think the real answer is more closely tied to the social generalizations of our cultures than some would like.

In short, we are just playing to our stereotypes because those are the ones we are used to, comfortable with, and in a way (deep within our unconscious) wish to perpetuate.

We all have the ability to branch out and enjoy other things, it's just that the games that most closely reinforce how we and others view ourselves are the ones we are more drawn to play. :P

Funny thing to me is that our game tastes evolved this way, it wasn't until the advent of proper FPS and console RPG games that our tastes divided. Granted...between Galaga and Centipede there wasn't nearly as much variety. :P

I think he's pretty much hit the nail on the head. The core issue is how our given cultures are used to identifying with the world around us.

I also find it insightful that gamers, as people normally do in other situations, can broaden their horizons. I have had that experience with many of the strange games I've played on my (black not pink) Nintendo DS, and when I've tried out dating sims, which usually makes me want to undress Maria Alejandra.

XBOX 360: Microsoft finally agrees - it sucks balls.

Microsoft has allocated over one billion dollars to extend all XBOX 360's warranties by 3 years, because so many of the machines are going bad.

The glitches, and the bad publicity, could weigh the company down as it claws for market share in the highly competitive console market. In May, the Xbox 360 ranked No. 2 in unit sales behind Nintendo's Wii, but still beat out Sony's Playstation 3, according to data from NPD Group.

Recall the failure rate of these things?

Bach said the company made some manufacturing and production changes that he expects will reduce Xbox 360 hardware lockups, but he declined to identify the problems or say which others might remain. Microsoft said it will record a charge of up to $1.15 billion for its fourth fiscal quarter, which ended June 30, to cover the additional costs associated with the warranty extension.

I'd love to know what gamers can expect to go wrong...

Matt Rosoff, an analyst at the independent research group Directions on Microsoft, estimates that Microsoft's entertainment and devices division has lost more than $6 billion since 2002.

Microsoft has written down larger amounts in the past - more than $10 billion in the late 1990s related to investments in telecommunications companies, and more than $5 billion related to antitrust issues - but a $1 billion write-down for one division in one quarter is significant.

"It suggests the problem is pretty widespread," Rosoff said.

I'm sure Microsoft is making this public before E3 so that it can focus on other news during E3, just as when Nintendo revealed that Project Revolution's name was the Penis, I mean the Wii. Honestly I've gotten used to that name - you can't make penis jokes when your 2 year-old says "Wii?" But I digress.

Tuesday, July 03, 2007

First Person Shooters hated in Japan, just as Japanese (Dating) Simulation Games do poorly in the West. Why?

Do you think that [Nintendo hired Western developers] because first-person shooters are kind of a Western thing? Because as I understand it, Japanese gamers are not as enamored of first-person shooters as Westerners are.

Yeah, first-person shooters or first-person adventure games don't do well at all in Japan.

Do the Metroid Prime [FPS] games do well over there?

Not necessarily. It has nothing to do with the I.P. or the franchise, it's just that this style of game isn't popular. It sells well, as far as the genre is concerned, but it's like how traditional Japanese simulation games aren't that popular over here. So it would only make sense to have a Western developer work on a first-person game.


This brings up a great question... why do Japanese people dislike First Person Shooters, and conversely, why do most North Americans hate (dating) Simulation Games? I'm struggling to think of what aspect of Japanese games makes them uncomfortable with FPS (too in their face?), or Westerners and dating sims (too lamer/loser?). I have no idea.

PS3, XBOX 360 news

Sony corporate director Masanao Maeda said concerning the PS3 "Name brand, price and software are what count; since it's getting difficult to make software availability a differentiating factor, superior marketing and pricing strategy will be the key for Sony."

I think that's stupid. Price, Price, software, and then name brand are what count. Price has always "counted." Price is what kept the XBOX 360 from becoming the new, dominant force before Nintendo's Wii ever arrived. Price is what signaled the death knell of the PS3. Price is why you go to cheap doctors or don't get the best attorney or don't send you children to private school.

Price, mutherfricker, is the reason.