July 27, 2001

Black & White.




Perhaps I'm too "Wow-happy", but Wow.

I've done a lot of recent postulation (for some reason) about art, and the concept of art. By some definitions, all creative expression is art. This would mean that any song by any artist is art. Okay, so this is generally bunk - few people would label "Bootylicious" by Destiny's Child art by mistake, but the same could not necessarily be said for "Stan" by Eminem. To some, movies like The Ends of the Day (or any other period piece starring Anthony Hopkins) are art, whereas others get the same impressions from the original Star Wars series or even Robocop. Art museums have always had the standard fare - a painting by this guy, a sculpture by that guy. Recently art museums around the country have started to run exhibits which have come under fire for less than ideal (read: old, traditional and boring) art exhibits. On a recent trip to Dallas, I went with my wife and in-laws to see the Dallas Museum of Art where one of the exhibits on its way was on dinner plates over the years. The Museum of Modern Art Houston recently was host to a traveling exhibit showing the art of Star Wars. The neigh sayers say that this isn't art, but rather that it's a general dumbing down of expectations for the masses. I disagree - while The Phantom Menace is questionable, without a doubt the original Star Wars trilogy has a majestic look and feel to the spacecraft and the design aesthetics of the items in it. You don't get the impression that these are people off of the street in the 1970's, this is a whole different universe. As for the dinner plates, I think it's an interesting concept - to see what people chose to stick under their food for the last several thousand years. If you don't think there's something to how your plates look, you're obviously an unmarried man.

The simple fact is that any form of entertainment grows and evolves over the years, and eventually is taken seriously - the form itself hasn't truly "arrived" until it evolves to the point wherein it can be considered a work of art. The Printed Book has attained this - in fact has done so for some time. War and Peace (which makes a great gag to have on the back of your toilet, BTW) is art, as is Gone with the Wind (a more contemporary example). Stephen King is arguable, as is anyone who's ever written Science Fiction (Douglas Adams). The Motion Picture has achieved artform status - nearly half of Speilberg's repertoire (Schindler's List, Empire of the Sun) falls into this category, as does films by Scorcese and Disney (early Disney). Music has achieved this - the formats change and vary enough to not categorize it in a package. Beethoven has his symphonies, and Lennon has his Sgt. Pepper's (and no, I still don't like the Beatles). Television is inching its way to art, but for every episode of The West Wing that nears perfection, there are far too many That's My Bushes out there.

Which leaves the Video Game. Some say the video game will never achieve status as a form of high art so long as it has the name "game" in its title, which of course gives rise to the terms like "Interactive Entertainment". There's not even a unanimous decision on how it will be referred to ("Videogame"? "Video Game"? "video game"?, etc.), though a change of nomenclature hasn't hurt other forms of entertainment ("picture show" to "talkie" to "movie" to "motion picture"). The main factor, of course is time - each form of entertainment which has achieved artform status has done so with the course of time. This explains why forms like Books and Music are so established, and why Television (with its scant 60 years) is less so. In 2002 we will have the 30th anniversary of Pong, for all intents and purposes the first commercially successful Video Game, which gave birth to the industry. However, being borne of the digital revolution and therefore subject to Moore's Law (processors/power double every 18 months, thereby growing exponentially) the Video Game is much further along three decades in than other forms of entertainment.

All forms of art go through persecution, and Video Games are no exception. We're probably in the thick of it right now - I would say that since Columbine is two years old now that we're on the down slopes of it, but all it takes is another psychotic white teenager with a personal death wish, a small arsenal of dubious origin, and a desire for posthumous fame to make us climb up an even higher hill. But in reality, no art form is ever truly beyond persecution. Michaelangelo's David is sill taboo for the yougins, Salinger's Catcher in the Rye is still a tricky spot for high schools due to its usage of a certain colorful word (and the fact that it's the choice reading material for your better assassins), and Hitman: Code 47 is just plain asking for it. Persecution is fine - you have just as much right to want me not to do something as I have to do it, within reason (so long as no one else gets hurt), but the fear comes with the authority figures. As soon as congress wants to pass laws related to the movie industry, the ratings system came into place - this is so effective the popular misconception is that it carries the force of law. As soon as music comes into question, the "parental advisory" sticker comes into view, and Video Games have the ESRB - which is now being treated like movie ratings at places like Wal-Mart and K-Mart which, to me, is a good thing.

But alas, would you believe I have been working on this exact post for a month now? Yes, the original date is June 26. Pretty sad. On the one hand, I wanted to hurry up and post something concerning Black & White, and on the other hand I wanted to get some stuff off my chest concerning art. In the last month, however, B&W fell victim to another kind of persecution - criticism over its content and the path by which it took. By content, what I mean to say is that there are a number of people who are turned off by the concept - that it's not the traditional kind of "God" game, or that they're used to more violent affairs. I came by my copy because a cousin-in-law didn't like the game. That's fine, some people won't like it - that's to be expected. However, one of the sad facts concerning B&W is that it needed bug fixes out of the box. This was addressed in a couple of patches - first a "beta" patch, then an official one. This would not have been so bad, were it not for the fact that Lionhead, the game studio, promised the date of the patch multiple times and was unable to deliver. In addition, they have a number of features being added to the game, but the timetable of some of them relied on the patch getting released - as the patch was delayed, so were the updates.

This kind of persecution - relentless criticism for imperfection - is almost completely unique to the PC gaming venue. The possibility of modifying the original code to fix bugs through a patch has become a double edged sword. The patch, in many people's opinion, has become a crutch - the game can ship on time and sell many copies, then the developer can release the patch and effectively buy more time. Consequently you have the id Software's of the world whose insistence that a game will be released "when it's done" becomes more a matter of "just before Christmas" while "when it's patched" becomes just after the new year. By this same logic, however, Half-Life, which keeps coming out with new patches and gameplay features, hasn't been completed in the last three years. The simple fact is that being a PC gamer is all about patience - suffer through product delays and the need to patch your existing software and you will be treated to gaming experiences impossible elsewhere. If you want to constantly tinker with your automobile, buy a hot rod and shut up about having to fix or changing it. If you want to get from point A to point B with as little BS as possible, buy a standard car. I think you see where I'm going.

The final point of all of this drivel is that after all the hype and hysteria and after all the persecution and "ironing out", the Video Game - whatever they call it by then - will eventually achieve the status of a legitimate art form. Much in the same way that many people looked at the better works of Palblo Picasso or listened to Exile on Main Street and asked, "what the hell is this crap?", this is the self same reaction that Black & White received from a large number of people. Tastes are one thing - if it's not your thing then it's not your thing - but I can't help but wonder how many people merely turned off to it because it was too different. The game System Shock was largely ignored when it was released due to its proximity and being the opposite of the game Doom, the aforementioned Exile had the misfortune of following Sticky Fingers, and I can't help but wonder how many people were disillusioned when Unbreakable turned out to be nothing like The Sixth Sense. However, Lionhead lucked out in that a number of people have purchased Black & White (though since most places have a Draconian policy concerning taking back software, this may not mean anything - witness the million people who purchased E.T. for the Atari 2600), and there is enough enthusiasm on the developer's end to not only come out with the obligatory sequels and add-on packs, but to spin off a Black & White Studios from Lionhead, so the future looks bright for our odd little game.

And that's a good thing because; love it or hate it, Black & White, and the games like it, are the best hope we have to help progress the Video Game to a legitimate art form.


On the topic of more frequent updates, I am considering upgrading this site to Blogger.

June 18, 2001

There are people who are young. There are people who are old. Then there are people who are really old. Then there are people who are really really old. I'm not sure if I'm young or old, but before I get started, let me say that I'm not insinuating that I'm really old.

Even if I'm not old, the item I found out today makes me feel old: the Commodore 64 computer was announced 19 years ago this week. Jeez. That means I was like 5 when it was announced. I don't remember when I got one, but I do remember my parents getting me one for Christmas. I recall that that year I told them (or Santa, either one) I wanted one, and then a few weeks before Christmas changed my mind - I had heard about these things called "video cameras". Wow, make your own TV shows? Kickass! So I asked for one, knowing nothing about the truth about Santa Claus or the concept of prior notice in the Christmas shopping season, to say nothing of cost (remember, this was back when the simplest camcorders cost like $2000). I remember thinking that my prior obsession, the Commodore 64, was rather lame in comparison to what I had in mind now, and how bad that would suck if I got that instead. Yeah, I was a spoiled brat.

Then Christmas morning came and I opened my biggest present to reveal a Commodore 64 computer. I instantly forgot about that video camera concept and fell in love with the box of this thing. Then I opened it up, had my dad hook it up to the TV (since I had no idea how) and started messing with it. There was no turning back. I sat there and played some of the games my folks bought for me, including Fort Apocalypse, which my dad and I played endlessly over the years with our crappy joysticks.

It was a different time to be sure. The C64 hooked up to a television set, not a monitor. Granted, Commodore did make a monitor for it, which was basically a small TV. I still have the monitor - and it still puts out a kickass pucture (probably related to the fact that I didn't use it for many years). Programming languages were built into the system, and programs were printed out as listings in magazines. For a science fair project one year I wrote a program which played Tic-Tac-Toe - and won every time. I got a honorable mention. The conditions at the cafeteria were such that the disk drive refused to work after that.

Now I see projects to run Linux and X-Windows on the Dreamcast, along with efforts to get Linux to run on things like the PSX, PS2 and X-Box. There's actually a small amount of "hype" surrouding the notion that the PSX could be turned into a "low cost, low powered" computer. How bizarre - it's like we've come full circle. Toy machines like early game consoles gave birth to toy computers like the C64 and Apple ][. These computers gave way to "real" computers like the PC and Macintosh, whose barrier to entry costwise in the games market led to the rise of consoles. But now consoles show signs of convergence, like the DC browsing the web and the use of keyboards and mice to play games. It's almost like what people really want (or seem to want) is a computer with all the functionality, but that plays games and hooks up to a TV, which is exactly what they had back in the day of the C64. In light of all of this, perhaps Microsoft's XBox has more of a chance - if it becomes the new PCJr. and that's what people really want, then they win.

June 4, 2001

I figured I was a damn genius. "Hey, I know, I'll just email myself my saved game files from my VMU memory card! Then I can erase them from my VMU! Why didn't SEGA tell us about this? Why don't more people do this? Why not? Oh, it's probably because I'm so much smarter than everyone else!"

Well I did this and I did get it to work. However, I discovered that the real reason people usually don't do this has nothing to do with people being unintelligent, not does it have anything to do with SEGA being greedy jerks and wanting to keep people buying memory cards. No, the reason people generally don't do this is because IT'S MIND-NUMBINGLY TEDIOUS!!!

To start, something I discovered just prior to doing this whole bit was the fact that the DC's browser only knows how to interpret emails it sent. Basically, I used the DC's browser to attach a file to an email message. I then forwarded that message back to the account I checked with my DC and it worked. However, if I conjured up a new email on my PC with the same file, it wouldn't work - it would display the attached file as text (gibberish, basically). What this means is that I have to keep these exact emails on my system. There is a rather bizarre method of making the files such that they can be downloaded from a web page, but it's even more bizarre and tedious.

This wouldn't be such a big deal, except for the fact that it's kinda spooky that I could lose my saved games if my email file got corrupted in Outlook. For redundancy's sake, I sent a CC: to a hotmail account. And even all of this wouldn't be a big deal, except for the fact that the emailing process doesn't always work. After ramming my head into a wall several times, I basically discovered that the Web Browser's email system is HTML based off of the disc, and after sending out a few emails, the files become corrupt. When they show up on my end, they're screwed up. The only way to fix it is to reboot the browser. Lame. It took me 2.5 hours to back up approximately 1MB spread out over 2 cards.

So then I formatted one of my cards with GT2 running under bleemcast!, and I'm wondering - a standard PSX card has 15 "blocks" - does a VMU formatted as a PSX card also have 15 "blocks", or does it have more? I dunno - but what is cool is that in the Dreamcast BIOS it shows the VMU as having no blocks free and with a giant "b!" over the card.

But alas, not all is good in bleemland - they announced that Metal Gear Solid, in the opinon of many the single best PSX game of all time, will be the next bleempak. However, they're not 100% sure if they can afford to put it out without further retailer support. bleem has turned their website into a fighting force, with contact links to all of the major retailers out there and links to the DOJ to report Sony for antitrust. Do your part and go to www.bleem.com and send lots of nice emails to the retailers and the feds to let them know you want bleemcast! in their stores.

Oh, and PSXEmu.com uncovered a flash movie on the bleem site which would indicate that Tekken 3 might be bleempak #3. What a cool time to be alive.

June 1, 2001

Oops. It would appear I never actually finished my post/rant from May 29th, but I was going to summarize (at length) that it looks like what many figured was impossible has happened - that Microsoft, "this year's Sony", may have fumbled the ball by doing a by-the-numbers job of console development, and Nintendo, "this year's Travolta", may be the comeback kid. I personally think this would rock, since I'm a complete Nintendo whore.

At any rate, I finally got Gran Turismo 2 so I can play with bleemcast!. Just for a sense of perspective, I popped it into my PS2 and turned any enhancements off. I played it and gawked at it's assified graphics. I'm one of the rare few who never owned a PSX. I opted for a N64 (believing at the time that you had to have one or the other, not both). After playing stuff like Soul Calibur and Shenmue on the Dreamcast (and SSX on the PS2) N64 graphics look rather lowsy, so when I see what the PSX looks like it's hard to believe that people settled for this. Then I smack myself and remember how great I thought Mega Man 2 or Super Mario Bros. 3 looked like on the NES, or the fact that The Legend of Zelda looks like hammered ass but is still hella fun to play.

So, back to GT2. After playing it for shock value on the PS2 I fired it up on bleemcast!. You have to go a bit to see something in 3-D, but when I saw the car, I was pretty impressed. When I played the game, I was also pretty impressed, but I saw what pretty much all the reviewers agree upon - it takes GT2 and makes it a great game that looks great as well, but you can't make a silk purse out of a sow's ear. Several glitches are in this game, and not bugs - just things that the PSX can't handle. The models of the cars have "seams" in them in places at times, and I'm sure with the low PSX resolution, no one cared. Now with 640x480 graphics, it's pretty glaring. Plus, there's this thing my friend Jimmy pointed out, which I now know as "frame interpolation" - basically, when you have a smaller resolution (and a smaller framerate) when you do things like scripted camera movements or motion of models, the positions in space which look correct to the eye. When you then have increased resolution or framerate, these movements look "jerky" to the eye. A game engine like Quake 3 Arena uses frame interpolation, basically fillin in the gaps. If you have an extra frame between positions A and B, make that position (A+B)/2, halfway in between. Since this would have to be done with the game's executable code, it doesn't exist in GT2 since the designers never intended the game to be on any other platform. It's also outside the realm of what bleemcast!'s scope is.

This makes me wonder - we all know Sony hates emulation, but what do the game designers think? Polyphony Digital, the developer behind the Sony-published GT2 must like it on one hand since it sells more games this way (side story: my first attempt to buy GT2 at Babbage's - which won't sell bleemcast! BTW - was foiled by the fact that this Babbage's was out of GT2, "because of all the bleem people"). But on the other hand, they're basically being told "your game looked like shit - here, we fixed it". For that matter, anything they wanted to "hide", like flaws or limitations of the original hardware, are plain for all to see.

The achilles heel of bleemcast! is in how it handles memory cards. According to bleem!, LLC, there's no choice in the matter - I'm not sure if that's entirely true, but in any event bleemcast! requires a dedicated memory card, to be formatted by the game itself. Meaning you either have to buy a new memory card or sacrifice one of your exisitng ones. Since I don't see myself being able to buy a new card anytime soon, I figured I might could consolodate my cards (2) into one. However, there's too much I want to keep, so I did some research. As it turns out, with the latest web browser, PlanetWeb 2.6, you can email game saves. I emailed one to my PC and tried to make it downloadable from my personal web server to no avail. I had read that merely emailing them back didn't work - that the files were changed somehow. After messing with this for a few hours I tried to do this anyway, and it worked. So, I'm going to be backing up my VMU saves to my PC - I don't know why this isn't better documented, unless Sega just wants to sell more memory cards. The only place this doesn't wotk is with certian games, like Soul Calibur, Phantasy Star Online or other Sega branded games, as these saves have flags which keep the web browser and BIOS refuse to copy them or email them. With PSO I can understand, but why Typing of the Dead?

Oh, and none of this would be necessary if GT2 didn't have like 500 locked cars, making a memory card a neccesary evil.

Funny thing is, there's like a dozen Dreamcast racing games that look ten times better. Most of them amount to "make car go fast now". Something about GT2 just felt different. Then I looked at the Reference Manual and realized how much crap has gone into this one. That makes it pretty cool that GT3 is coming out soon - it's like the ultimate car simulator evolving (like how whatever id's FPS of the moment is is the ultimate FPS evolving). I plan on playing this one a lot, but I can't even begin to convey the irony of possessing so many Dreamcast titles, but playing a PSX game to its extent on it. Oh well, so I'm weird.

Oh well, I'm off but before I go, be sure to download and play Bejeweled on your PalmOS enabled device

May 29, 2001

What's the only thing worse than wasting CD-R's on an emulator for the Dreamcast which won't work? When you're down to your last 4 or 5. So screw it, until I see someone else get it to work I'm done with burning DC emulators. 

So picture this. You're Nintendo. In the late 1980's you single-handedly revived the dead video game industry. In 1989 your market share was 90% with your first system, the NES. With your second system the SNES, you still captured over half the 16-bit game market. Your handheld console, the Game Boy, is over 11 years old. However, in the 32/64-bit race you placed second. You're seen as a big bully with bean counters running the show, and since your new rival Sony, is seen as neato and friendly, everyone develops for them and almost no one develops for you.

Now notice how Sony is starting to look and act the same way you did when you started losing developers. Also notice how a software giant with deep pockets is starting to eye your market .In addition, you have this neat new system that can do lots of stuff, but because you feel that bragging about undemonstrated and unrealistic system power is hurting the industry, you announce modest capabilities - which gets you a lambasting in the press. What do you do?

First, you make one hell of a showing at E3. Be sure to help LucasArts whenever and however you can, so that they can make the best Star Wars game ever, Rogue Squadron 2, and make it playable at the show.

Next, you strip the unnecessary DVD playback capabilities from your game console. The PS2 showed us how useless a console is when you can't even feed it through your VCR. Besides, a dedicated DVD player is better anyway.

Then you announce that your console is coming three days sooner and $100 cheaper than that software giant's system.

Finally, you remind everyone one more time that you are Nintendo and if everyone wants their Zelda, Mario and Metroid fix then you're their man.

May 25, 2001

Alrightythen. Seems NameZero didn't take too kindly to my forwarding schnapple.com to this tripod page, so they cancelled my account. Well, not really - I can still log in, but schnapple.com no longer goes here, it goes to an "our member screwed up" page. They're more than happy to sell me the right to have the URL back with no ad frame for $30 a year, which I'll probably go ahead and fork over as soon as I can find $30 not already promised to someone else. In the meantime, http://go.to/schnapple.com/ will go here. I was almost paranoid that someone was going to buy Schnapple.com before I could, but then I realized that no one ever goes there. In any event, please don't buy it. Or if you do, forward it to here please.

No URL means no incentive to update, but now that I've gotten all settled into my jobby-job, I find I miss updating this page, so one way or another I'm back.

I would just love to tell you how cool bleem! for Dreamcast: Gran Turismo 2 is. I would delight in telling you how awesome my copy is. Problem is, while I have a copy of BC, I don't have GT2. Please see the aforementioned money woes. I'm getting a copy on Wednesday, come hell or high water. Yeah, I know I could just rent it from Blockbuster and copy it, but I want to disavow myself from game piracy. Well, Non-Dreamcast piracy anyway.

What is cool about bleem!, LLC, however, is that they always respond to my email, almost like they're not an amazingly bust company fighting like two or three Sony lawsuits. I wanted to buy BC from my local Babbage's, since I feel a bizarre loyalty to that store (I used to work there), but they kept pushing the date back. I email bleem! and ask them what's up with Babbage's Etc. and they tell me that while they have the BC discs in stock, they "weren't sure if they would make it to shelves", so I was best off buying from EBGames.com. Then it came out that Sony had "requested" that no one sell BC, so that's why Babbage's won't carry it, and even Electronics Boutique quit carrying it for a few days. Since Babbage's, Etc. is a big time chain, bleem! is now suing Sony. Good for them.

Anywho, more later (as always).

March 16, 2001

Well shit. NameZero got smarter and made their banner code better. So I got this page auto-forwarded to what page it really is. Problem now is that it now gives away the gag (that this page is on Tripod) and has 2 popup windows. Shit.


Oh well. I guess if I really had a problem with it, I could just pay money or something.

March 15, 2001

Stop what you're doing.

If you have:

  1. A Sega Dreamcast
  2. A CD-Burner (no, this isn't headed where you're expecting)
  3. Some Nintendo Entertainment System (NES) ROMs

Go here. This is the homepage for NesterDC, a port of Nester to the Dreamcast. Nester is a NES emu for Windows that has had the foresight to be open source and portable. The Dreamcast has had emulators before. DreamSNES is a port of SNES9X a SNES emulator - DreamSNES' only flaw is that it's not fast enough to be feasible yet. It didn't take long for someone (a warez group in fact) to figure out that the Sega Smash Pack, Volume 1 for the Dreamcast was in essence a Sega Genesis emulator and 10 ROMs, and equip it with a menu loader system. This went under the moniker "SegaGEN" - SegaGen is good, but it's rather hit or miss. When a game works, it works more or less flawlessly. When it doesn't - it doesn't. Period. The only real qualm is with the sound - it either sucks or doesn't exist.

This isn't to say NesterDC is perfect - the sound blows, and the menu interface could use some work. However, it runs NES games either at full speed or really damn close - close enough that, with the sound off (which speeds it up) you can fool yourself into thinking you're playing a NES on your TV. Well, except that it doesn't "stretch" the image to fit your screen like the NES did. It needs some work, but I was floored to be able to play Mega Man on my television this morning.

I used to be into NES emulation - really into it. I ran a site called "The Gray Area" - a Blue's News of the NES. It's gone now (though on a CD somewhere, I think). This is back when NESticle was king of the hill (still is, for the most part) and there were still NES ROMs to be released. I proposed an open source NES emulator called OpenNES, but no one took me up on the idea to code it (though I did get an interesting email from Mindrape, the guy who stole the NESticle source code). Instead we kept having attempts to code a NES emulator in QBasic. Baffling.

The games NESticle couldn't run could be run in fwNES, an emulator that had an unprecedented support for mappers (a somewhat abstract concept - the method in which a NES game "mapped" the NES' resources). fwNES' only problem then was that is was slow on computers at the time (but not so much now - it runs too fast on my system). fwNES has not been updated in more than 2.5 years, so it's probably safe to say that it's dead.

A year or so back an emulator called NESten came out. It's pretty good and it's Win32 native. What's really cool about it, though, is that it uses a plugin architecture (like I proposed in OpenNES) and the author has released the source code for the plugin .DLL files so that people can implement their own mappers, meaning that mapper support is no longer soley in the hands of the emulator author, nor does having them in the hands of the public force the emulator to be open source.

The other "big" NES emulator right now is Nester. Big because, while it doesn't have the features of NESten, it is open source. There have been other open source NES emulators, but most of them haven't been worth a damn. Nester seems pretty good in this respect. Nice to see the ideas I proposed (which probably weren't read) in OpenNES have more or less finally seen their way to implementation. Hopefully NES emulation will someday reach perfection. At the very least it needs some clarification - witness the five categories Zophar divies them into.

Oh, and I saw the new Denis Leary show The Job. It's an entertaining show, but I'm somewhat disappointed. Mainly in the respect that it's half an hour - I'm used to NYPD Blue. Hell, that's the problem - I was expecting NYPD Blue. Still, I'm a huge Leary fan and I'll keep watching in the hopes that it finds its spot - I just hope it does. The first episode just seemed like it was trying too hard.

March 5, 2001

I have committed a horrible sin.

Used to be, way back in the early 90's, Aerosmith was my all time favorite band. I had all of their old albums on cassette - these things went for like $4 - along with their new ones. When the era of the CD came into my life, I bought all of their old albums - again - on CD when they got re-released. Then I sold them all (at a loss) to people I knew so I could buy Box of Fire - a boxed set with all of their old albums, plus a bonus CD. I have purchased all of their latest albums on the first day.

In recent years Aerosmith has kinda fallen by the wayside. I still think they're great (even with that blasphemous Super Bowl appearance), but other groups have filled the four year gap that seems to separate Aerosmith albums. I've been spoiled by biannual releases by groups like GWAR and Metallica (though the latter of those two seem to enjoy unloading outtakes each year at Christmas). Groups like Tool can afford to wait four years or more - their albums seem to be better that way. Still, I'm an Aerosmith fan out of principle if not necessarily by practice.

Tomorrow, March 6th, their new album Just Push Play will be released. I, however, will not be purchasing it. This has nothing to do with loyalty or any commentary on my opinion on them - it's because I'm broke. Well, not really, but my financial situation won't be comfortable for a while (I'm hoping April). 

That's not the sin, however. The sin is that I have already listened to the album on CD. Yup - I've become the music industry's worst nightmare - I have the album on MP3 and have already burned off a copy. I'd love to know how exactly someone got a hold of the album early. I tried to not use my knowledge to obtain a copy, but money's tight and blank CD's are cheap.

I will repent, however. Come April I'm purchasing the album. And probably the Jaded CD single as well (Aerosmith is one of those groups I like to collect). This doesn't make it right, however. If there are enough "me"s in the world, then Just Push Play won't hit #1 on the charts this week. My April purchase won't make much difference in a month. And that's why the music industry is afraid - if the big fans won't pay, then who will?

Moving past all of that, it is kinda cool to listen to an album before it's released - even if it's just for a day.

Moving further, here's my nutshell review:

Just Press Play

Artists have a conundrum. If they make albums that all sound the same, then they grow stale, but if they change from album to album, then people wish they sounded more like the group they used to like.

In listening to Just Press Play, I kinda wish we had the good ol' Rock and Roll Aerosmith, like in "Rag Doll" or "Young Lust". Having said that, the album's not bad - I just wish they'd ditch the horn section from time to time.

The first ever Aerosmith produced Aerosmith album works - but it's a little too heavy on samples and other effects - record scratching should never find their way unto an Aerosmith CD. However upon first listen, it's entertaining.

As for the cover art, however, well Aerosmith's last three or so album covers have sucked - the worst being Get a Grip. This one has a robot Marilyn Monroe doing that blown-up dress maneuver. She looked too much like that computer animated Super Bowl commercial about canned food (look it up!). Some artists can afford to have crappy cover art (when the Rolling Stones do it's it's fine art), but Aerosmith needs to do some more work.

It's great to have the Bad Boys from Boston back, and if there's any justice in this Eminem/Britney Spears/Jennifer Lopez/(generic Boy Band) infected world, they'll kick ass and bring Rock and Roll back with them. We can only hope.

Oh, and a new issue of Total Movie came in the mail today - looks like they made it to four issues.

February 28, 2001


Ah, there. I feel better.

Imagine Publishing. This is the publishing company that gave us PC Gamer, Next Generation and Maximum PC, all great magazines. They gave us IGN.COM, a series of game websites so successful they spun off into their own separate company. They were really doing good, for a time there.

Then they announce that they will begin publishing The Official Dreamcast Magazine, complete with a GD-ROM with each issue with demos on it. While not the best mag, it was cool and entertaining and I have every issue. Then they announce Total Movie magazine, which will come with a DVD in each issue. Kick ass.

But then they announce that, after 12 or so issues ODCM will no longer carry a GD-ROM. That sucks, but I was almost willing to forgive it since it was Sega's idea. You know, Sega the one who just put the kibosh on their own console. Granted, this put me in a fix of sorts, since I had just renewed my subscription to a magazine whose main lure has just been removed.

Then, Imagine merges with Future Publishing. Okay, that's good - I suppose. But then Imagine/Future announces that they're gonna have to slash some magazines due to losses. ODCM is the first on the cutting block. I suppose it was inevitable, since it was only a matter of time before ODCM wouldn't have much more to say, it only made sense to cut them. 

But then the other shoe dropped. Total Movie got the axe. I don't know why. Perhaps making a DVD was more expensive than previously thought. Perhaps it made more sense to slash a new magazine (TM had only 3 issues) than an established title with many more subscribers. But still, I'm pissed. My ODCM balance will now go towards my Next Generation subscription, but I wonder where my Total Movie money is going? I'll know soon enough, I suppose.

Imagine is the same company that gave PC Accelerator the axe. I was kinda glad, believe it or not. That magazine was more about titties than games - not a bad idea, save for the fact that the women were rather skanky and nasty. Eeew. Funny thing is, they announce that all the PCXL subscribers have had their subscriptions turned into PC Gamer subscriptions (after that mag swallowed up PC Games), then Imagine announced that PC Gamer had 375,000 subscribers, making it the most popular games magazine in history. Well, at least that magazine's not going anywhere.

I used to think magazines went on forever, mainly because I never was interested in any ones that failed. Hell, I would go to my grandmother's house growing up and see bookshelves upon bookshelves of National Geographic, TV Guide has published over 2000 issues, and PC Magazine has been around for over 20 years. Oh well, part of getting older, I suppose.

In happier news, Raven announced today that they are working on an expansion pack for Star Trek Voyager: Elite Force. That's cool. What's especially cool, though, is that they're putting in what I alluded to earlier: a free-roaming mode wherein you can just wander about the ship and play with shit, in like 15 levels from the "actual" Voyager. So something good did come from the community today.

February 22, 2001

So when I get to work they hand me a computer to suffice until my new machine comes in. I knew I was in for it when it says "Gateway 2000" right next to the "Pentium (1) with MMX" logo. Actually, it's not bad and it's temporary, so no biggie, but it's running NT4 and it "Dr. Watsons" every time I try to fire up IE 5.5, so I run Netscape 4.7. Here's a question for Netscape users: HOW IN THE HELL DO YOU GUYS STILL USE NETSCAPE!!! I mean, I'm willing to chalk some of this up to "I'm just not used to it", but a LOT of pages just looked messed up in general - and it's obvious no one (who designs web pages) cares.

Anywho... more later.

February 18, 2001


Life... settling....

Updates...coming.... more often....

Dragon's Lair...on....Game Boy Color.........THUD!

(picks self up off floor)

Okayokayokayokay. I know It's cliché to say "sorry I haven't been updating but I've been sooooo busy" (especially since the majority of the potential audience doesn't care), but I think I've finally attained the point where I can get things down to a groove.

Yeppers, Dragon's Lair on Game Boy Color. I've played it - it's surprisingly not bad. I say that because, by modern gameplay standards, Dragon's Lair is bad. Accept it. I think I have the right to say that, since I do own the game on DVD. Not a DVD-ROM, either - the DVD Video version - playable on most DVD players (bizarre side note - Amazon lists this DVD as "Rated R, not for sale to persons under 18", even though the DVD is unrated and the game is "K-A" from the old ESRB system). Though a DVD remote is not the most ideal way to play this game, surprisingly the PS2's controllers are.

Yeah, I love Dragon's Lair, even though it is a bad game - much in the same way I love Rocky Horror Picture Show, even though it is a bad movie. We have "cult movies", why not "cult games"? I'm sure games like Battlecruiser 3000AD and SiN fall into that category.

My hard drive crashed. That's the bad news. The good news is that I got a 40GB one out of the equation. That's the good news. It's nice to have all the important games and mods installed installed simultaneously - though years back a 6GB hard drive alleviated this same problem. Oh well.

February 4, 2001

Oh sure, I take some time off from this website and Sega goes and quits on me! More later...

Well anywho, my sister's sister site (man that pun never gets old!) got a slight makeover from my wife. Amy went to the Brazos Valley Bridal Show and after each performance there was a line of people wanting her to sing at their wedding (which is what they figured she was there for). She politely turned down the first person to ask her and then my wife and I clued her in to the fact that this might not be the worst thing she could do on the side, so we re-did her page (still needs some work) to reflect that new status. Consequently, if you're going to get married somewhere in southeast Texas (think in the Houston-Dallas-San Antonio areas) in the next year and are interested in hiring Amy, head on over to her page and drop her a line.

Now, on to the good stuff. Or rather the bad. The aforementioned Sega has stated that they will cease manufacturing of the Dreamcast, will start developing for other consoles, such as PlayStation 2 and Game Boy Advance, and will license out the DC technology for set top boxes and the like. Yep, Sega wins the "WTF?" award for 2001.

I say WTF because Sega just got done having their best Christmas ever, and Sony had a bummer of a PS2 launch. There are some 6 million DC consoles in the world, and they have hundreds of games on the plate. More bizarre is the fact that they have stated that they will support the DC until 2002, meaning that the official "death" is a year away. Now, how would you like to be one of the ones who had planned on releasing a DC game in Q4 2001?

One of their ideas is to incorporate DC technology into a PC expansion card. Creative Labs did this as part of their 3DO agreement in 1994 or so. They released the 3DO Blaster, which used a PC-Card and specific CD-ROM drive to make a PC a virtual 3DO system, using a VGA Overlay (pass through, basically). I would say this would be a neat idea, save for the fact that PC CD-ROM dives can't read DC discs. I'd love to see how they get around that one. Oh, and the 3DO Blaster sold badly.

Another idea is the set-top box. Daily Radar has already shown is the Mark II, a combo DC and TiVO-type unit with a 40GB hard drive. A neat idea, except for the fact that it has its controller ports in the back of the unit and it has no GD-ROM drive. Yep, the only games this guy can play are downloaded ones. Sure, I wanna download Shenmue III over the Internet and pay as I play. Lame.

The Dreamcast isn't technically dead, but it might as well be. This set-top box idea will never work, and they sound more committed to the PS2 and GBA than the console they got us all to buy. Still, better to not lose Sega as a developer - the Jet Grind Radios and Crazy Taxis of the world will not be lost.

But I think Sega is a wimp. Sure, I've never stuck my neck into the hardware market and lost millions, but I think they're pulling out too early. The DC had potential, and Sega doesn't even want to hang with the big boys anymore. What I feel most sorry for are the people who had to sell the DC to people in stores, saying "this won't be another Saturn". Oh, wait, that was me!

On the bright side, at least my PS2 will find more use at some point.

Finally, while I don't feel like working up a formal "Columns" section tonight, here's my first article on Schnapple.com, Book Roundup.

January 18, 2001

I embarked on a failed venture recently. One of my favorite sites is Home of the Underdogs. HOTU is a site that, for the most part, houses Abandonware (their "about" page tries to elaborate on what exactly HOTU does, but gets somewhat confusing and insists that it's not just Abandonware). Abandonware is software that either is no longer sold or manufactured by the publisher for various reasons: it didn't sell well, the game is dated, or the publisher has gone out of business. Abandonware is illegal, but it's rarely enforced, since the publisher usually doesn't care (they state on the site that they will pull down anything offensive to publishers or developers).

They had to pull down all ISDA members works, since that organization tends to enforce the copyright laws no matter what. This got me thinking: I should download all of these games, since this whole site might be gone someday. Great idea: just slap them all on a CD - lots of these games are like 23K (good old CGA).

Well, HOTU is organized such that mass downloading is difficult - you have to go like 3 pages deep to get to a download link. And they have a rather gestapo like set of rules concerning banning of multiple downloads (they don't allow it, basically), so Net Vampire comes in real handy. Still, it could be done with a bit of work. So I started to download all of them.

Problems arose when I realized it took me a couple of hours to get through the "A"'s. HOTU has close to 2,000 games to download. Still, with some work it could be done. Then after queuing up through the letter "C" and letting it run overnight, I awoke the next morning to realize that I had downloaded some 800MB of stuff. Ugh - this was gonna take a lot of CD's. Then I realized that I had no idea what most of these games were called - "a-spid.zip" could mean anything, so I devised a batch file with the help of Excel to generate directories for all of the games, so "a-spid.zip" goes in the Amazing Spiderman, The directory. Great - more work, but at least now I would know what the games were called.

Then the crushing blow hit me. HOTU is a very well organized site. For each game they have reviews and commentary. They have their database searchable by year, developer, publisher, etc. Having all of the games named and downloaded is nice and all, but without all of this information on the HOTU website, I'll probably never know which games I'm even interested in fiddling with - this isn't like NES emulation where you can just fire up a ROM image - these are vintage PC games requiring sometimes installation, configuration and tweaking - MoSlo, a system slowing utility, is sometimes required to run them. Merely downloading them en masse is a waste of time, and a big one at that. This is time I could be Quaking!

So I called off my quest (I had gotten through the "E"'s) and deleted most of what I downloaded, except for the games I know I'm interested in. Oh well, at least I can play Dark Seed again.

Oh, and here's something interesting. Majesco Sales is a bizarre little company. I'm not sure if they code their own games or just port them for other companies, or both. The Dreamcast versions of Rainbow Six and Rogue Spear are obviously ports, but I'm not sure if the DC versions of Q-Bert or Frogger 2 were done in-house (for Hasbro). I do know that their Game Boy Color versions of Pong and Frogger were done in-house (though technically adaptations of previous games, so Majesco doesn't exactly do original games).

Anywho, in addition to games, they like to make game systems. What I mean by that is they like to remake old systems. If you walk into a Wal-Mart and see a tiny Sega Genesis in a blueish box for $19.99 with the name "Genesis 3" on it, Majesco made that. They got the rights to it from Sega. They also made Frogger for the Genesis in 1998, officially the last new Genesis game ever made (part of that "Frogger on every console" idea - it was also on the SNES).

I had heard a while back that they were looking to re-introduce the Sega Game Gear and the Sega Saturn. The Saturn would cost around $50, and Majesco would be making new games for it (kinda having a console to itself there). Well, later I heard that both ideas had fallen though. Last week, though, Toys 'R Us started selling Majesco's remade Game Gear. You can get it from their web site (handled by amazon.com) as well. Looks like they re-released The Lion King as well. I see several other Game Gear games on amazon, but they're listed as not available.

I still own a Game Gear -  the special blue one (don't know why blue was special) that had The Lion King with it. It was cool, but it ate batteries for lunch. Plus, Sega ditched it shortly after for the Sega Nomad, a portable Genesis. That tanked when the Genesis died out (never really took off). Then Sega started to develop for the Neo Geo Pocket Color when Nintendo stated that they would not allow Sega to manufacture cables or code games to interface the GBC with the Dreamcast. As we all know, however, the NGPC also but the dust when the company SNK folded, leaving the lone Sonic game the only Sega entry on a non-Sega console. Now the speculation has always been that Sega would give in and make portable games on the GBC, if they were still interested at all. With the reintroduction of the Game Gear, however, I'm curious if Sega will develop new stuff for it instead. Sure, it has old Sega Master System hardware and will pale in comparison to Game Boy Advance, but at least Sega wouldn't have to work for Nintendo (unless Nintendo buys Sega, hehe).

At any rate, go pick up a Game Gear for $29.99 and find you some games. Any Toys 'R Us or Wal-Mart in the country has a bin somewhere with GG games for $5 each. While you're in Wal-Mart, go to the handheld games section (in the Toy Department) and pick up Mattel's Classic Football, a remake of the old Football game - right down to the 70's logo.

January 13, 2001

I have tried repeatedly to like the Beatles. Usually, when people are so uppity about some old group I can usually buy into what they're saying to some degree, but I have never been able to like the Beatles. Sure, occasionally I hear an old song of theirs and like it, but on the whole I can't listen to them. I knew a girl in High School - one of those "art kids" - who was obsessed with the Fab Four. Funny thing is, when I pointed out how shitty songs like "I Wanna Hold Your Hand" sound in a modern context she tried to pull me to later Beatles ("Yellow Submarine", et al) rather than the "skittle" songs of their early days. Hilarious.

In that vein, I am hooked on VH-1's "Top 100 of Whatever" lists. Gimmie five hours with a long list and I'm happy. For the Top 100 Artists of Hard Rock, I couldn't agree with Led Zeppelin as #1 more. For the Top 100 Songs of Rock and Roll, I'm all about "Can't Get No Satisfaction". The top TV Moments was very enlightening (I hadn't seen most of them). I couldn't care less about the top 100 Women (sorry) or Dance Songs, and I knew the top Artist was going to the Beatles, but I truly do have a problem with the Top 100 Albums of Rock and Roll.

SPOILER ALERT! The #1 Rock and Roll album, according to VH-1 is The Beatles' Revolver. Hwua? I've never even heard of that album. I figured Sergeant Pepper's or White Album or something. More blasphemous: Led Zeppelin's fourth untitled album isn't even on the list! Led Zeppelin, Led Zeppelin II and Physical Grafitti placed, but the album with freaking "Stairway to Heaven" on it isn't on the list! Worst of all is the number of artists and albums which are not Rock an Roll. Madonna, Michael Jackson, Public Enemy, Aretha Franklin, etc. These are not Rock and Roll artists. I'm not saying they're bad (well, not PE anyways) but they ain't no rock and roll. Call it the "Top 100 Albums" or add "Poplar Music" to it, but not Rock and Roll. I don't know what Rock is, but I know what it isn't.

Anywho, rant over. I'm working on a columns page.

January 10, 2001

I used to feel sorry for Raven. They started out in the promising old Amiga days, and they had to move over to PC development and 3D games in the wake of DOOM. They got chummy with id and got some help on their first PC game, Heretic. Heretic was cool - certainly much better than the majority of DOOM  clones out there. It was also somewhat refreshing - too often I would download a game demo and within minutes of playing I would form an unfavorable opinion. Heretic's demo, however, showed promise (you could glance down for starters). Still, it wasn't quite DOOM, so ultimately I was disappointed. Then came Hexen. This was a better game than Heretic, to be sure. It was something of a sequel. What of a sequel, I don't know (more later). So Hexen was decent and all, but by this point I was getting tired of DOOM and its brethren and was looking forward to something called Quake.

Quake came and went and got its engine licensed out to dozens of developers, and Raven unveiled Hexen II - more or less the only game using the original Quake engine's source code and while Raven no doubt made some modifications, they used little to no Quake II code - most developers postponed their titles to graft Quake II code into their game once that game was released. Hexen II fell victim to "good demo" syndrome. I played the demo and thought it was cool. I bought the game and was disappointed once I got past the demo's levels. Hexen II never really took off, despite efforts like Hexenworld - a port of Hexen II to the Quakeworld codebase.

Then Raven used the Quake II engine and belted out Heretic II. Odd, since I always thought Hexen II was like Heretic III, so Heretic II should have been Heretic IV. This got them a .plan lambasting from John "foot in mouth" Romero. Heretic II was good, but no Tomb Raider (it was a 3rd person game).

Oh, and somewhere along the line there was a game called Mageslayer which tried to be Gauntlet in 3-D. Did it better than Gauntlet Legends did, too.

So after Heretic II failed to light things up, I hear Raven was going to do a Star Trek game. Remember, there hasn't been a good Star Trek game in years. To make things worse, the game is for Star Trek: Voyager, which is the least popular Trek to date. Uh-oh. Also, they decided to do a game for mercenary for hire magazine Soldier of Fortune. Bigger uh-oh.

But then I attended Jake Simpson's talk at QuakeCon '99. One of the first things he told us in his British accent was that he was miffed that no one on the QC floor was playing a Raven game. Then he told us about Star Trek Voyager: Elite Force. Cool shit indeed - listening to a developer talk about his game. Then he showed us the Quake III engine game in action. I was floored. Not only did this look to break the Star Trek game curse, but it might be a Raven game that would sell! Also at QC I saw one of the most violent games ever. I found out it was Soldier of Fortune, running on the Quake II engine. Damn, two winners from Raven.

Both games were released to acclaim and high sales. I don't feel sorry for Raven anymore (I feel sorry for Ritual now - these guys not only witnessed their Heavy Metal 2000 tie-in movie get dumped to video, but they had to do one of those Blair Witch games).

To make a long story short (too late!), my wife bought me Elite Force for my birthday. Not only is it all that and a bag of chips, but it's one of the few games she is interested in playing. Now if only her system could hack it - holomatch!

Elite Force is interesting - it's kind of a "niche" game. Whereas a game like Q3A is trying to be the "be-all, end-all" Deathmatch game, Elite Force is more of a console type game - single player with some multiplayer thrown in. The source code and a level editor is available, just like for Q3A. However, while the Quake series of games have always inspired conversions (Star Wars Quake, Aliens Quake, even some Trek ones), trying to convert a "specific" game like Elite Force seems kinda silly. Converting a "generic" game like Q3A makes more sense. Consequently, the only kind of modification that makes sense would be a Trek inspired one. I've barely scraped the surface of the Elite Force community, but I've already seen some levels that are pretty good representations of starships (irony: Q3A was built to house more "open" levels, rather than the cramped confines of a spaceship).

This all leads me to an interesting question/proposition. Jake Simpson at QC said that, while a lot of the U.S.S. Voyager is mapped out, there is no blueprint for the vessel on file at Paramount. Reason? They don't want to paint themselves into a corner on the show. If they need a new room, they can just place one instead of being limited to a blueprint (those Trek blueprint books are put together after the ship is not used in the shows anymore and is usually done by studying old episodes). What I want to know is this: how complete is the Voyager ship in the game? I found this mod, which aims to make the ship into a free-wanderable vessel. My question/proposition is: how feasible is it that new missions can be made for this game? I would think it would be more feasible, at least from Raven's standpoint. I mean, this is a TV show that has been on for seven years - it should lead itself to mission packs, and more than a couple of them. You could reuse the maps that are on the ship - only new characters and planets would have to be created. I know that this sort of thing is possible, I just wonder if the end user can do it.

It would be the revival of a dead art - the single player modification. For that matter, the "map packs" so popular in the Quake and DOOM days could be taken to the next level. Whereas we were satisfied with the "Space Marine runs into more shit" premise of those level arrangements, Elite Force missions would conform themselves to a plot ("The Voyager ship and crew runs into more shit"). Repetitive, sure, but these same notions have fueled this universe for over 30 years. The only hitch I could forsee is the Voyager notion dying away once the show finishes its seven year run soon.

I'm going to grapple with this idea and tinker around with the concept in the coming days (damn, this is gonna crimp my ongoing Q3A plans) but in the meantime I'm gonna keep looking out for an old army Star Trek (original series) mod.

January 5, 2001

Okay, I'm taping over the Twilight Zone marathon. Damned SciFi Channel. Just when I was starting to like them, too.

Anywho, remember how I said that I don't do this page for profit? Well, looks like I probably wouldn't have even had a chance to. Seems that 2001 is the "put up or shut up" year, as the Gamecenter Alliance (which funds many sites through ad banners, like my sentimental favorite Stomped.com) is no more after February 1, 2001. For that matter, UGO is said to be scaling back payments to websites it has to do with, (perhaps including your-favorite-and-mine, Blue's News). 

Yeah, the World Wide Web began for all intents and purposes in earnest around 1995. That was the same year I went to college. I remember browsing it on my roommate Travis Arlitt's 486/50. My 486/20 (yes, they really did make them that slow) was too underpowered to connect to TAMUNet and run Netscape, so I transplanted my 14.4K modem to Travis' system (he still has it, btw). I was in an organization at Texas A&M called the Corps of Cadets. Picture a JROTC thingy. Now forget that, because it's nothing close. More to the point, I was in the Fightin' Texas Aggie Band, so I had plenty to do. I constructed a website for my outfit, B-Company, on Travis' computer using the limited HTML 2.0 and Notepad (it's probably still on Travis' hard drive, if his old system still exists), and while I saw the potential of this "Internet Thing", it still seemed like a pain in the ass to have to do this much to get a little web page up and going. For that matter, the only reason that little web site never saw the light of the Web is that I had no idea how to upload things to the Internet or for that matter that we had any personal space for this sort of thing to be uploaded to.

More importantly, however, was the fact that I wasn't too good at this "college plus anything else" thing. My grades have never put me in any danger of the Dean's list, and while part of me thinks my Corps/Band involvement had something to do with this, most of me knows I would be looking for a different scapegoat if I weren't involved in those aforementioned organizations. Consequently, while college kids around the world seemed to be starting the next Amazon.com or Napster, I sat idly by these last five and a half years and thought "I could be doing this!" I always figured that, if the market was right when I got out of College, I might look into something like this. Granted, I put that notion in the same pile that most of us place the "some day I'll drive one of those" idea we get when someone with a luxury car speeds past.

The other thing I noticed was the "content page" and its increasing dominance. While Blue's did do some good - I watch it religiously for game news - other pages merely have stuff to browse. This would be great, except that the race to win sometimes outdoes the race to be any damn good. I like PlanetQuake (one word, not two), but PlanetDaikatana has never provided me with more than a good chuckle (I actually own Daikatana, btw), and I occasionally visit PlanetBlood, PlanetKingpin and PlanetDescent to find out if they still exist, and to be utterly shocked to find out that they still get updates! I mean, Doom still has lots of active websites, but that's in the wake of the Source Code's availability, plus it has some retro quality to it.

Imagine what it must feel like to be the first to set up and maintain the ultimate site on a particular computer game (and while I know that all of the previous examples are GameSpy sites, there's more where they came from), and keep maintaining that site for years before the game is actually released, only to discover that the game sucks ass. Then what do you do? While I've actually seen some sites close up shop to say "show's over, nothing to see here", others go on to adamantly claim that the game in question is good, and that the critics - all of them - are wrong. Some might actually believe that (and God bless them - some of these games need it), but others are just trying to prolong the magic needlessly. Meanwhile, visits have dried up and the ads aren't getting served.

So what do you do when you go to a web page and you see an ad banner? You probably do like I do - ignore it. That's not entirely true - I do notice them, but I will rarely click them (I close pop up windows before they even get a chance to load). I had a buddy at one point who adamantly refused to click any ad banner - even if he wanted to. He would open a new browser and find where that ad was headed and go there the hard way. I guess he thought he was "fighting the man" or that ad banners would go away someday if no one would click on them. While I think he was a little crazy in some regards (he was one of these who believe that if you don't use Microsoft products/technologies exclusively, you were deluding yourself), he may have his way eventually.

So now I'm out of college and, sure enough, the market is changing and in some ways, drying up. Dot-coms based on moronic notions like shipping dog food UPS have gone belly-up, and most of the "me, too"'s (of which I would have been one were I not in college) have gone elsewhere. For that matter, the investors in "Free(whatever).com" have had enough of "good ideas" and now want to see these things called "profits". So now we have the steady demise of the "ad networks", and with them me might have the demise of the content sites. Hopefully the networks will just wise up - no cheating, no thousand sites on Deer Hunter games, no 2 page articles spread out onto 12 pages with a "next" link at the bottom. Hopefully Penny Arcade will sell enough books and "WANG!" T-shirts to stay afloat. And hopefully the "let's just put up several pages of bullshit, post some ad banners and watch the money roll in" pages in this world will shrivel up and die.

Anywho, diatribe over. I'm turning 24 tomorrow. Have fun :)

January 1, 2001

I was a bit bummed to learn that the Twilight Zone marathon doesn't include all of the episodes, just a lot of them. There's 77 episodes in 42 hours, so some of these episodes are an hour long. I found this page which is extremely obsessive about anything and everything Twilight Zone. Turns out there are 156 episodes, so the 77 being shown in this marathon make up roughly half of them. I had always thought there were 79 episodes - I read that in a magazine somewhere, but perhaps they had it confused with Star Trek. Star Trek had 79 episodes (3 seasons) before NBC pulled the plug. The SciFi Channel plays 80, since they count the unaired (in the 1960's) pilot "The Cage" as an episode (though they place it last in the rotation).

To make things worse about this marathon, the episodes are played in no particular order and appear to be something of a smattering from the five seasons. Whereas Star Trek was cancelled at the end of its third season, Twilight Zone mainly ran out of steam. After its third season, Rod Sterling began teaching at a University. The fourth season was used as a mid-season replacement (thus it had less episodes) and expanded to an hour-long format. Even after the fifth season reinstatement of the half-hour format, the show had simply lost steam (Sterling's involvement was still limited). On the one hand, it doesn't really matter what order the episodes are in - there are no persistent plotlines or characters, so this less important than, say, having all of the Cheers episodes in order - but not having all of the episodes involved and in the proper order means that you can't look at the evolution of the show and pinpoint the moment of deterioration. In case you haven't guessed, I have the vast majority of the Cheers episodes on tape and you can pick the point at which, after Sam and Rebecca have decided that they're not going to "hook up" that the plotlines began to suffer - the series of episodes in which Sam and Rebecca decide to have a child (unmarried) is the lamest sequence in the run. Things perk up, ironically, once it became apparent that Season 11 would be the last.

So, I'm not sure if I want to try and start taping the Twilight Zone episodes I missed - not sure if I'm that ambitious. It would mean that I would have to figure out which episodes I'm missing (which I have already done) and figure out when they are coming on the air and tape them. I would at least like to think I have more important things to do. Perhaps I'll wait a while and just buy them all on DVD.

December 31, 2000

One of the Christmas presents I got was the Logitech iFeel MouseMan. Since I'm such a late adopter of optical mice, it's cool that I'm a relatively early adopter of force feedback mice. Unlike previous efforts (effort, actually), rather than trying to emulate the force feedback found existing in some games for joysticks, it uses proprietary methods. Consequently, games must be programmed to take advantage of it. MDK 2 does it quite well, I'm told, but Soldier of Fortune disappoints. Someone tinkered with the Quake (1) source code and made it compatible, and mods for games that use .DLL's (like Half-Life) are available as well. Additionally, it vibrates over hyperlinks and Windows items as per "schemes" (like "spongy" and "steel drum") I'm going to have to tinker around to see what schemata I enjoy best.

I'm taping the Twilight Zone marathon on the SciFi Channel - all 42 hours of it. Always did like that show. It'll take 7 tapes to do it, but compared to the 20 it took to get Star Trek's 80 episodes (like 4-5 months of dedicated nightly tapings) it's a breeze.

I assembled a page of Quake 3 ramblings. Also, I updated my Sister's...erm...sister site with info concerning a public singing appearance she'll be making in January.

I'm working on a forum and a page with columns and general ramblings.

Tired now. More later. Happy new year.

Oh, and there is a God... Wayne Brady is getting his own show next year. Maybe now people will remember his name.

December 23, 2000

Okay, to update: I have graduated. I did get that much done. Also, I got SSX for the PlayStation 2. Pretty cool. I don't think it's gonna change the world (Metal Gear Solid 2 will do that). One of these days I'll break down and buy a memory card.

For graduation, my wife got me a Handspring Visor, which was downright eerie, since I got her the exact same thing for Christmas. We exchanged Christmas presents yesterday (yeah, we were a little early) and she was thrilled to get hers (though she already knew what it was since it shared the same box size as the one she got me). Now I need to figure out the proper way to use the damn thing. First thing I did was to sync it with Outlook, and it filled my 2MB of memory with 800+ email messages. Looks like I'll need to get into better email deleting habits. However, it took me no time to fire up DREADling, a freaking FPS on PalmOS! Granted, it did lock my Visor up once, but there's three different types of reset, so no biggie. Not too practical, though. I prefer ChessGenius, though it means I'll actually have to learn how to play Chess.

For Christmas, my wife got me The Legend of Zelda: Majora's Mask. This one game in the one hour I got to play it, has more or less renewed my faith in Nintendo as a game developer, if not as a console manufacturer. Mask was developed by a team at Nintendo that did not have Shigeru Miyamoto in tow, and yet it completely kicks ass. My wife even got me the hard wrapped package that had the Collector's Edition in the Gold Cartridge and the cool but headache inducing lenticular label, and the strategy guide which I will try my damndest to use sparingly. I'll elaborate more on this game later, once I get a ways into it.

Finally, and this is the most important part of today's posting, I have made a special sub-page of sorts. This page is to showcase the singing talents of my sister, Amy Kidd. At http://amykidd.schnapple.com/, I have a brief description and the MP3 files of a demo tape put together by my sister this past summer. She has one hell of a singing voice, so do yourself a favor and check it out.

December 7, 2000

Emulation news site Zophar's Domain has posted a news story that, suspiciously, I haven't found anywhere else (though I did just submit it to Slashdot. Apparently some ambitious (or bored) individual has ported Linux (not sure which distribution) to the Dreamcast. Screenshots (taken with a digital camera) can be seen here, here, here and here. You can download the kernel from this FTP site. Oh, and if you're ambitious enough to want to attempt to create a DC CD-R to run this, you'll need to follow the instructions on this page. Now, I haven't tested anything to check the validity of this so this could be all an elaborate hoax (these screenshots don't give any real indication that the Dreamcast in the shot actually has anything to do with what is on the TV). Imagine - the console famous for emblazoning the Windows CE logo running Linux! Granted, I'm not sure - outside of the tech demo nature of it all - how useful this is, but it's still neat in theory. Perhaps if someone out there could check it out to see if it's real or not...

December 6, 2000

Got the PlayStation 2. Got no games still. Until I get a job after I graduate from College (~1.5 weeks) I really can't say for certain when I'll have the "money to spare" since new jobs have this nasty habit of not kicking in money-wise for a few weeks. Joy.

At any rate, when I can buy a game, SSX is the one I'm gonna get. Not that I'm hugely big on Snowboarding Games or anything, but it looks cool, plus I don't care about football.

In the meantime, here's my impressions. The DVD playback is lots better than my APEX AD600-A, but it's still not as good as my DVD Encore from Creative Labs is. Oh well. Haven't tried any "problem" DVD's (Terminator 2: Ultimate Edition, The Abyss Special Edition) but I'll probably rent one soon. I might use it as my primary DVD player, except for that whole "Macrovision" thing. I don't know what I'll do about working around that - I'll probably just rig a second switch on the way to the TV, but man it's a pain. Can't gripe, though - were it not for Macrovision I surely would copy these things.

I could attest to the "texture smoothing" bit the PS2 does if I had ever played PSX games extensively - don't expect Bleem! though - these games are still elegantly crappy looking (the two demo discs I have, that is).

Ironically, what I really find myself wanting to do is get Intellevision Classics and fire that up (or even better - the Atari 2600 disc) - now that's an abuse of technology!

Aesthetically, I was surprised - this thing is a lot smaller than I thought it would be. It's like 12-13 inches long (wide, whatever). It's smaller than my Sony VCR. Somehow I thought this thing would be standard DVD/CD player/component width (which would make sense - it's skinny, it's black, it turns off in the back - it's a piece of stereo equipment!) but nope - it looks pretty small on top of my APEX player (its temporary home). 

There's a piece of equipment calling itself the "horizontal stand". There's a "vertical stand" - a blue wedge dealie which holds the thing up and keeps it from falling over when it's on it's edge, but this "horizontal stand" is for looks only - it has no chance of falling over in its normal position. But I get the thing out of the box and all hooked up and I realize - it looks naked without the stand - kinda like a "racing stripe". So I'll probably get one. Yep - I'm a sucker.

Remember back in the Nintendo 64's heyday (yes, it did have one) when people griped about games costing $60 and $70, due to the cartridge format? Well when I buy SSX, I'll pay $50 or less. That's all. Nothing else. Unless, of course, I want to save my game. In which case I'll have to fork over $35. That brings the TCO of this game to $85. Progress!

"But you can use the card for multiple games!" true - so over the long term I will save money. Except for those game that take up the whole card (NFL 2K on the Dreamcast comes to mind). Plus, the PS2 DVD cases have a slot for a card, so they're encouraging you to get a lot of memory cards. It's akin to the "our console is cheaper!*" *but it doesn't come with a game notion that became the norm a while back.

All I know is to hell with the parents - I want a damn demo disc, not a flier to send in for one (which is what I got). When the parents of America griped to Sony that anything they put on the PSX demo disc was too violent, Sony decided to wash their hands of the demo disc pack-in idea. Bastards.

Anywho, something else with the PS2 bit I think is funny is the whole memory card management concept. I don't remember how many bytes was on a PSX memory card, but let's say it was 30K. Well, Sony divided this up into 2K "blocks" (15 per card) so that they could just say how many blocks a game took up, and save the user from having to do math or worry with base 2 numbers. On the back of a PS2 game, however, is a measurement in kilobytes. So now you have to just figure out or remember how much memory you have left. Can't decide if this is good or bad...

December 1, 2000

No time to update. Been busy with school and job hunting and yadda yadda yadda.

At any rate, barring a major incident, today is the day I finally get a PlayStation 2. I would have had one on launch day (had it pre ordered and all) but finances prohibited me. Actually, I wouldn't even be able to get one now had it not been for the fact that my parents kicked me a graduation wad (yes, I am spoiled). I guess I had better graduate, then.

As for availability - it helps that when you quit a retail software store you don't sever ties. Tee hee.

Having said all that, I don't plan to get any games for the system just yet. Main reason is that I have a ton of homework to do (next week is the last week of school, and then finals) and I don't need the distractions. Just the idea of my PS2 with its blue LED humming and playing all the DVD's that my APEX AD-600A can't play too well (like anything from Total Movie magazine - plays fine just with bad artifacts, or anything with Seamless Branching) and maybe popping in a PSX demo disc. The PS2 comes with no demo disc, and why is that? I mean, it could. Of course, I guess I just answered my own question. You place a demo disc in a system to help sell it. Sony's not trying to sell the PS2 - the PS2 sells itself.

Yep, Sony did everything they could to bung this one up. They scaled back the shipment. They had no first party launch titles. They even lost developers (like Oddworld Inhabitants) and exclusive properties (like Crash Bandicoot). To top it off they launched what was essentially a DVD player with PSX/PS2 capabilities built in (but so that you don't forget that it's a game machine they make you control the DVD's with a Dual Shock controller or make remotes unintuitive). And yet they had a better launch day than Dreamcast did - 500,000 units sold (all of them) as opposed to 9/9/99's 400,000 units.

I guess they figured it might look bad to have a million units out there and not all one million sell. It's a kick to Sega's groin that Sony had a better launch day despite scaled back production. Actually, I don't know what the real reason is - I really believe it might be as simple as difficulties producing the Emotion Engine chip - but it does all seem suspicious and convenient. 

There's a guy at the office who said "hey man, have you seen the PlayStation 2? Madden 2001 looks awesome!" Looks awesome. Nevermind that NFL2K1 has better play (or so I am told - not a football guy myself). Nevermind that the graphics are only marginally better than Dreamcast. Nevermind that Dreamcast has been around for over a year, and has lots more titles, and is actually available this Christmas. Madden 2001 looks awesome. That's the reason the Dreamcast will go down - Sony has the masses going for it. 

Granted, I'm fueling the fire. I'm part of the reason that that particular unnamed software store will be out of PS2's by the end of the day (I stiffed someone out of getting their pre-ordered unit today, no doubt). I have a slew of Dreamcast games, but I'll probably play the hell out of SSX (the only game I see worth buying immediately). Hell, I'll probably plop down for a PSX (PSOne) game or two.

Am I addicted? Perhaps. No, definitely. But anyway, I never owned a Saturn or a PSX and I'm getting a PS2 today. I'm gonna fire it up, play a few games (next week) and sit back to watch the console wars. Me and the other 700,000 people who were lucky enough to get their paws on a PS2.

September 20, 2000

Obee Kaybee. I finally got off of my duff and made this page. Well, sorta. Yeah it's hideous and such - but I did it for free. I don't intend on making money off of this site (if I move it to a better server it's gonna be out of pocket) - not because I believe that "commercial sites are evil" or some crap like that - mainly that I don't want this to turn into a Job that encompasses too much. I love Blue's News as much as the next gamer, but it seems like they cover so much stuff there now that I couldn't give a damn about.

Anywho, I plan on putting something here worth reading at some point, but in the meantime, here's a Lame FAQ. Actually, since few people have seen this page, it' more like "Anticipated Questions" rather than "Frequently Asked".

Why is this page so ugly?
No time to make a pretty one. I'll elaborate more on why as the time comes. Don't worry - a better one is coming.

Why is this page actually hosted on Tripod.com?
They're free. I'll probably move it later. I used NameZero.com to register the domain and it redirects you to this page. Later I'll work on a more elegant solution.

So what's the point of this page?
A home for all my ramblings and rantings. Mainly on the video game community. Kinda like Penny Arcade, without the graphics or comics.

I hate that pop up ad.
So do I. If you have any suggestions, email me.