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Count Grishnack's blog

11:09 AM on 03.25.2010

The day the gaming died

Last night I threw up a cblog about how my 360 and Wii were stolen. The response from the community was ten times as heartening as I thought it would be. As of writing, there are 40 faps and twenty-something comments -- all of which were helpful/consoling -- which is way more than I thought a 100 word, hastily written post would get.

I decided to tell the full story here, not to garner sympathy or to complain, but to warn my fellow gamers that there are a lot of d-bags in the world and stolen game consoles can be a really easy source of cash. Also, it's fairly therapeutic to tell this story to people who understand, not the police who give me blank stares or the robots at Microsoft customer service.

So buckle up, I have a feeling this'll be a long one.

First, my Dtoid history so you know who the hell is writing this. I joined Dtoid in 2008, right around the time Monthly Musings was kicked off. I know this because I am pretty sure the first MM ever was Good Idea, Bad Idea and my entry made the front page. I remember getting an e-mail from Hamza -- who was/is someone who has the best job ever on the best site ever -- and being so amped they were going to front page something I wrote.

As I'm sure is the case with everyone reading this, I fell in love Dtoid quickly. Although I didn't cblog regularly, I always got up for MM (and yes, the chance to be front-page'd is a really good motivator) and ended up on the front page here and here. I began commenting regularly, playing FNF's with Dtoiders (ya'll showed me what's up in Left 4 Dead), joined in a few cblog memes (watching the 10 Things You Don't Know About... filling the blogs was a joy), and generally finding a great video game community to be a part of.

Anyway, enough about me. Let's get to the drama. I have lived in Providence, Rhode Island for about six months now. My apartment is in an OK neighborhood and my place had zero history of any sort of break-in. I am moving out of this place the 31st of this month, so my roommate put out an ad for someone to take my place. One person in particular (let's call him Bob) had checked out the place and proceeded to come back two times when my roommate wasn't around. One time, Bob walked past my window and pointed to the front door, telling me he knocked but no one answered. Strange, I thought. But whatever, people are weird.

Not to judge, but I think you qualify as weird.

Fast forward to the day of the break-in, Tuesday, March 23rd. I just got back from the gym at about 1:30 as my roommate was leaving for work. I was heating up some lunch and checking my e-mail. I check my inbox and see an e-mail from the magazine I work as part-time assistant editor.

They were letting me go.

They say it was part financial, part "performance-based," but either way, I was crushed. I had never been fired before and this was my first job in the journalism industry.

But I looked on the bright side. "Hey, now I can focus on Rhode Island. I won't have to commute. I never really liked the subject matter I was writing about." Things happen for a reason and all that.

A long shower was in order, so I jumped in. As I was getting changed, I hear rustling in my apartment. "Eh, probably our upstairs neighbors." But it gets louder, like "definitely in our living room" loud. I walk out and see a person. It was Bob.

I yell "What?!" in utter disbelief this guy had broken into our house. As he ran out the front door, I locked it behind him and peeked out to see if he jumps into a car or anything. Nothing.

I look over to my shelf that houses my consoles. Empty. No Wii. No 360. All the relevant cables, controllers, and game cases were gone. All less than one hour after I had been let go from my job.

I had to just laugh at how ridiculous a situation I was going through.

I called 911 and pretty much everyone I knew who was home at this hour to tell the tale. The police came by about two hours later, followed by the CSI people to attempt to get fingerprints. All in all, the theft was over $250, so it qualifies as larceny. Since I got a good look, along with a name and phone number, there's hope they'll catch him. But who knows.

But there were silver linings. Hilariously, he stole all my game cases -- but not my games. I keep those in a CD binder on my shelf, something he overlooked. Enjoy those empty cases, you rat bastard! I also thankfully, was not hurt. It sounds corny -- that these were just things and can be replaced -- but it's true. I don't know what would have happened if I chased him outside or the door he ran out through was harder to get open. Lastly, he (or whomever he sold it to) was foolish enough to use my XBL account when logging in last night. After changing my gamertag (from Count Gr1shnack to the ever-so-l337 Killa Eyes vF 7) using the 800 points I had sitting around and deleting my friends list, he popped in CoD MW2. Sigh.

So I am jobless, games-less, and pretty bummed out. But I remain realistically hopeful the authorities will at least catch this scumbag, even if I never get my stuff back.

I will leave you with some lessons. One: be very wary of people you are showing your apartment to, especially when using craig's. We are 100% sure this person knew the layout of the place from seeing it, so be cautious. Two: when it comes to your games, I think it makes sense to have them displayed as I did. Empty cases on shelves, and a binder (either hidden or in a different location) housing your games. Yes, if the person knew this it would have made stealing all my games a lot easier, but it's more likely the games were in their respective cases. So he ended up short ten Wii games, twenty or so 360 games, and a host of PS2/PS1/Xbox games whose total value easily surpasses the cost of the consoles. Three: register your consoles or copy down serial numbers. I did neither of these and it's going to make recovering them pretty difficult to neigh impossible. For ten minutes of your time you can have a lot of peace of mind if your consoles ever get stolen, you can have a chance at tracking them down. Four: don't display consoles in a wide-open, easy to nab place. I think if I had some sort of glass-door entertainment center, they would have a chance at grabbing a fingerprint. As it was, my consoles were just on shelves right in the living room. A few simple measures would have made it harder on the jerk.

I guess I don't really know how to end this. I still have my DS (really digging into SMT: Strange Journey to take my mind off stuff) and will work to replace my consoles in the future. I am actually more bummed out about losing my gamerscore and XBLA games (I was right at the end of Megaman 9, fixing to beat it that day) than anything else.

But for now, I feel like a gamer without a country. And that's a weird feeling.

So here's a big middle-finger from me to you, Mr. Console thief. May you burn in hell.


7:27 PM on 03.24.2010

Help out a fellow Dtoider by catching a criminal (shortblog)

Hey. I am going to be brief here as time is of the essence. But my 360/Wii were stolen. The fool has signed into XBL and is on right now. He changed my gamertag from Count Gr1shnack (I may be on some Dtoider lists from some FNFs) to Killa Eyes vF 7.

I don't know what ya'll can do, but I figure it can't hurt to have more feelers out there.

Thanks.   read

2:37 PM on 06.19.2009

Duels of the Planeswalkers trial impressions (from a former MTG junkie)

Not too long ago, I was a huge Magic: The Gathering player. I frequented weekly tournaments, worked a job selling the cards/hosting tournaments in our store, reading sites about the game and generally obsessing about it. I wasn't a hardened player by any means, more casual, but I did play heavily and thought I was pretty good.

As such, hearing about the XBL version of the game (with a pricing scheme not fucking awful like MTG online) made me nostalgically happy. Being able to play a deep strategy game with my friends list for a relatively low (800 points) price? Sign me up.

So I downloaded and played through the trial (two matches against the A.I.) today to see if I would put my moon money where my mouth is. And in short, yes, I probably will.

*Warning, some possible MTG lingo follows*

To start off, Duels of the Planeswalkers lets you choose from either a green or red deck. The red is full of burn spells and cheap, quick creatures. The green has bigger dudes, pump spells, land fixing, and a splash of little guys. I quickly recognized the green deck was far superior (Troll Ascetic?!) and choose that.

The interface is very clean and easy to handle. RT zooms in on cards, the stick highlights cards, A is confirm, Y is switch phases -- it's all very intuitive. When you play a card, a small timer begins that allows the opponent to respond. You can stop the timer if you have an effect to play which is a good way to handle the constant back and forth of an MTG game and is a nice way to deal with the problem of the stack. Only once -- when I wanted to play a spell during blocking -- did I mis-click and get an unwanted result.

Things like not having to tap land (awesome!), icons denoting flying, trample, etc., pump spells appearing on the creatures power/toughness, are all great touches and make everything very easy for new players.

My biggest complaints were the lack of an "end of turn phase" (when many important spells/effects are played) and a generally very straight-forward A.I. and card pool. The A.I. is just plain not very good, constantly walking into simple traps and making questionable decisions. But obviously the best part of this game will be playing real people, so I won't hold that against it.

I think the full game -- with a nearly endless card pool (via DLC) and actual players to play against -- will be worth the 800 points. And if there were draft capabilities, dear God I may never get anything done again.   read

7:32 PM on 04.08.2009

Why everyone needs to STFU about the SotC film (shortishblog)

I am in your films, makin you angry.

So the internets have been ablaze with the news that the beloved PS2 title Shadow of the Colossus will be adapted to the big screen. This news has angered fans of the game beyond belief. Some commentators on this here site has some very interesting (see: blindly rage-filled) things to say about it, ranging from death threats to physical violence.

I ask, why the hell is this such a big freakin' deal?

Yes, the game is beloved. It has atmosphere, character and uniqueness coming out it's ass. I love the game, you love the game, anyone who's played it loves the game. And the film will almost certainly not 1/10 as good.

But the film -- no matter how shitty it could be (which is something else altogether. Isn't there a small chance it will be great?) -- will not change that in the least. I am reminded of the minor firestorm that came about when the Dante's Inferno was announced. Really, it does nothing to detract from the original. But the outrage at that project is nothing compared to what we have here.

Really folks, from The Inferno to the Watchmen and SotC films -- the creation of these tie-ins does not take away from how great the original is in the first place. If anything, it confirms to fans what they knew all along. "The *blank* was better."

One commentor said something to the effect of "unless it makes my copy of the game magically disappear, I don't care." I wish everyone else would have that mentality.

Plus, you're all going to go see it anyway.   read

3:08 PM on 04.05.2009

Dtoid comment of the week!

So week two of the Dtoid comment of the week proved much harder than week one. First off, I only found one comment I thought was clever/funny during the week (hence this being on Sunday instead of Friday) so I had to dig through and find some good ones today.

But hey, here they are. Oh, and MrSadistic won the popular vote and a million internet bucks for last week's comment:

re: GTA: Chinatown Wars gets Nintendo Power banned from school
MrSadistic: "It's because Asians are offensive."

Now on to this week.

RE: New games are better than sex, claim two thirds of men

Pime Taradox: "I prefer both at the same time. Something about shooting off a rocket launcher while the whole thing wraps up just feels right."


RE: EA says Wii MotionPlus has too much Plus and Matthew Razak as weekend editor

SantanaClaus89: "Matthew, why does your avatar look like you're waiting for a giant cock in your mouth?"


While this last one wasn't particularly funny, the way Corak eviscerated Lliinnkk made me smile.

RE: Ten obnoxiously cheap ways of extending a game's length

Coark: "Jim Sterling has a quite a reputation of bring out the assholes that visit this site. Unfortunatly you are the newest, welcome. I'm sure you'll receive a warm reception from the rest of the community as well as Mr. Sterling himself. This is nothing new to the community and your attempts to discredit him or just plain mock him, or call him names like "douchebag" will most likely fall on deaf ears as its all been said before and disproven shortly after. You can disagree with him no one will try to take that from you, but there is a way you can go about it where you don't like an internet asshole, which you just honored yourself with being a new one here. As people say here, "welcome...don't suck" I guess its too late for that last part huh?"   read

2:52 PM on 03.31.2009

Anthony Burch spotted on The Escapist (shortblog)

9:41 AM on 03.30.2009

Star Ocean: The Last Hope review

I have never played a game in the Star Ocean series. Depending on your viewpoint, that will either validate or invalidate everything you're about to read. That said, I've recently played Lost Odyssey and some of Mass Effect, I love Square Enix and have played nearly every Final Fantasy game.

I like RPGs as much, if not more than, many gamers. And I could not stand Star Ocean: The Last Hope, a prequel to series.

I shouldn't say “couldn't stand.” More like “had very little interest in.” And it's odd because SO:TLH does quite a few things very well. It just gets many of the crucial elements of what makes a good RPG horribly wrong.

The back story of SO:TLH is quite interesting. Earth has been devastated by nuclear war and pollution and man has turned to the stars in order to survive. But instead of being an interesting exploration of what we may have to do if Earth indeed goes south, players will soon forget what their original mission was in the first place in favor of typical RPG schlock.

Early on you will notice SO:TLH eschews the traditional medieval fantasy setting for one that is science fiction. The developers have cited Star Trek has a huge influence on the Star Ocean universe and it shows. While there are a number of alien races traversing the stars with our protagonist Edge Maverick (really) and company, there are also primitive civilizations you will come across who have no idea about black holes and star ships.

But while the world is varied and intriguing, it is also incredibly narrow for a game spanning three discs. Edge will only come across a handful of planets during his journey, and almost all the “aliens” are distinctly humanoid. The Cardianons, for example, just have elf ears and a quiet disposition. While the Featherfolk (of which there is only one) have feathered wings. The game would have lost little if instead of planets, these were countries. There is just so little history, personality and back story to these supposed alien species it's hard to care. It's sad an opportunity to create some interesting and striking characters was lost.

And this is not just visually. Nearly all the characters' personalities are forgettable, with a number of them blending together. Do we really need three cute female support characters who are goofy/absent-minded? Edge and lead female Reimi are typical RPG fare. He's a reluctant leader, burdened by sudden responsibility. She is a childhood friend who has stuck by his side no matter what. The relationships in the game are either shallow, transparent, superficial or some combination thereof.

But hey, this is a JRPG, a genre steeped in tradition and tropes. And SO:TLH wouldn't be so bad if it's message wasn't so damn sappy. The overarching theme is “friendship above all” and you will meet nearly all the characters in the game by conveniently becoming fast friends.

It goes like this: Go to new planet. Find a new buddy to help. Stop some faceless evil. Convince new person to become best friends forever. That is exactly how you will recruit nearly every new party member. And many of the cut scenes are filled with lines like, “We did it because that's what friends do!” It's annoying, childish, and repetitive. It was clear after the first few hours that friends are important, so why force it every single time I meet someone new?

In most RPGs you have to stop some evil from destroying the universe. This game is, ultimately, no different. I say ultimately because for the first two discs, it's unclear exactly what you're doing on all these planets. Yeah, there are these spirits possessing things and making general mischief, but the sole reason you move from planet to planet is simply because one of your party members/an NPC says so.

I don't know if the game would have been better if the player knew what they were up against from the beginning, chasing evil from planet to planet, but fighting enemies in what boils down to odd jobs is just awful.

How you do these odd jobs is at least entertaining. Combat is real time, with you piloting any one of your characters at any one time. Players control movement, attack, magic and item usage all in real time – with the ability to pause and set up actions between multiple characters. Special attacks or magic can be mapped to the triggers, with the ability to chain them later in the game.

With ranged attacks, magic, specials, chain combos and multiple enemies, it can all feel very chaotic. There were many times when I was unsure who was attacking who – the screen blurred by flashes of light. After a while, I figured out getting in close with a melee character and spamming either specials or regular attacks while my A.I. teammates did whatever worked just fine.

One wrinkle in combat is blindside attacks. Requiring timing and patience, blindsides allow characters to evade attacks and end up behind an enemy, ready to strike. These are integral during boss battles and against tougher enemies. This made close-quarter combat less tedious and is a nice feature.

In the end, the game's combat system suffers from lack of control. The other three characters in your party are A.I. controlled and leave much to be desired. They either wantonly waste MP by using magic to their hearts content or run around not doing their relegated job – fighters casting Heal, for example. There are very crude commands you can set (stay out of trouble, don't use MP), but they are very limiting and imprecise.

I rarely felt the need to switch out of Edge's shoes, happy to let the A.I. do there thing while I melee'd the hell out of every enemy in the game. Plus, the A.I. can't blindside, so I obviously had to do it when that was the only path to victory. The A.I. does sometimes nail enemies on their elemental weaknesses though, so there's that.

What SO:TLH does get right are a lot of the little things. The item creation system is unbelievably deep, almost intimidatingly so. Each character has an innate item creation ability (smithery, cooking, etc.) to create recipes with. But they can't do it alone. In groups of up to three, the characters put their heads together to come up with a recipe from which and item can be created. Oh, and the ingredients can be super hard to find – some requiring another skill (mining, harvesting) in order to obtain them.

I'm annoying as hell, 'kay?

Graphically, the game is an achievement. Character models emote in gorgeous cut scenes, while combat between varied and wild looking enemies in numerous environments gives players a lot to look at. Skill building is also handled well, with individual as well as party experience that can be spent by anyone, allowing for quite a bit of customization.

But the minuses outweigh the pluses. Voice acting can be atrocious more often than not, especially concerning Edge. There were times during cut scenes when I actually cringed at what was said it was so ham fisted. He actually tells the final boss to “Bring it on!” Speaking of cut scenes, there are plenty of them. And they're long – many of them pushing past the 15-20 minute mark and some going over half an hour. And while the combat is fun, it is also not very challenging. I only died a handful of times – with an actual difficult fight appearing only after over the twenty-hour mark.

Star Ocean: The Last Hope is more ammo for people who cannot stand RPGs. Except for turn-based, random battles (which I was pining for after disc one), nearly every awful trapping the genre is criticized for is present. Sappy story, cookie-cutter characters, long cut scenes – it's all here.

The worst part? I actually like those things and I couldn't stand this game.   read

3:23 PM on 03.27.2009

Dtoid comment of the week! 3/23-3/27

An underrated part of the Dtoid community is the wealth of hilarious comments users post. This is my way of highlighting those and giving back to the community. These are comments I find clever, witty, funny, pithy and various other synonyms. If you see any I may have missed (there are a shit ton of posts/comments), send me a message with the story and who said what.

Pictured: Your average Dtoid commentor.

So here it is. The first edition of the Dtod Comment of the Week. I've got three nominees, which I hope all who comment will vote on so next week we can have a winner.

Enough poppycock, on to the comments.

re: Fallout 3's 'The Pitt' is broken as buggery, claim gamers



re: Wanted: Weapons of Fate producer disses the Wii big time

Dr Milkdad: "Protip: don't produce Wanted: Weapons of Fate, then proceed to poke fun of anything game related."


re: GTA: Chinatown Wars gets Nintendo Power banned from school

MrSadistic: "It's because Asians are offensive."   read

2:55 PM on 03.24.2009

Dtoid comment of the week coming (shortblog)

So many other blogs do the whole comment of the week thing and I figured, "Hey, I have a ton of time and read Dtoid all day anyway, why don't I do it?" So I'm going to.

The first one is slated for Friday, with comments from yesterday to then. If you see any funny/clever/pithy comments that are worth reading, send em my way, as I'll surely miss a bunch.

Thanks for the help in advance and keep the good comments coming.   read

12:35 PM on 03.07.2009

15 ways drinks/drinking and video games are alike


...can cause you to break things

...are better with friends

...can sometimes get to ridiculous levels of competition

...are expensive habits

...have good relationships with junk food

...make certain types of people cry

...make you wonder where the time went

...can be used to escape from our boring lives

...are conducive to storytelling

...can be very, very macho or very, very effeminate

...can cause us to become out of shape

...cause certain people to scream obscenities/racial slurs/generally be jerks

...bring people together   read

11:31 AM on 02.25.2009

The Mt. Rushmore of video games

I am a big sports fan. Sports and video games (oddly, not sports games) take up a ton of my free time. Lately, ESPN has been running with this idea of a Mt. Rushmore of sports – basically, the four most influential faces of sports.

I think you can see where this is going.

Like this, but geekier.

I plan on making this a three-part feature. Part two featuring more nominees and the final eight, and part three with the final four. Here are my initial candidates for the Mt. Rushmore of video games:

Mario (Mario series) – No doubt he makes it on. The only slam dunk candidate. His influence spans nearly the entire existence of games and he's featured in so many classic titles it's crazy. Hell, he'd make it on the one-of-each music/literature/games/film Mt. Rushmore he's so popular.

Link (Legend of Zelda series) – Link is a Mario with less titles under his belt, and to some, that's a good thing. The original NES Legend of Zelda practically invented “open-ended” games, while Ocarina of Time is hailed as one of the greatest games ever made. A very strong candidate indeed.

Solid Snake (Metal Gear series) – Although he may not have a the hefty pedigree as the previous two, Snake is iconic for his uniqueness. While his NES title was not as highly played, Metal Gear Solid for the PS is one the best games ever and offered gameplay that was completely different: stealth. As his games blur the line between film and game more and more, he has to be recognized for moving the medium forward.

Sonic the Hedgehog (Sonic series) – People forget due to his recent struggles, but Sonic challenged Mario at the height of his reign. Sonic the Hedgehog and its sequel are wonderful games that offer a sense of speed never before seen in any game, much less a platformer. His X-treme attitude proved to be a mistake once the 90s ended, but he is still widely-loved nonetheless. Please make a great game for him this generation!

Gordon Freeman (Half-Life series) – While the FPS genre was still young, Half-Life pushed it to places no one thought possible and that many games in the genre today have yet to surpass. While he is a silent protagonist, we never leave his perspective during the sweeping narratives. His everyman status makes him all the more appealing.

The straight piece (Tetris) – It may be the most widely played game ever and the straight piece is it's poster child. With nary a word of even human form, the straight piece is a beacon of comfort in an otherwise chaotic world.

Ryu (Street Fighter series) – He is the face of one of the grandfathers of a beloved genre – the 2D fighter. A badass through and through, he spoke softly and carried a big Dragon Punch. It seems he may have been hanging out with A-Rod as of late, but hey, there's no performance enhancing testing when it comes to mountain faces.

Megaman (Megaman series) – The blue bomber is nearly as popular as Mario and Link, but he remains a relic of times gone by. Megaman 9 was a huge success, but his jump to anything but 8-bit greatness leaves a little to be desired as far as his candidacy is concerned. There are some kids who have never played a Megaman game. I doubt there are any who have never played Mario or Zelda game.

Black mage (Final Fantasy series) – Deciding who to represent this venerable RPG series was tough. Do you go with Cloud, the protagonist of FFVII – hailed by many as the best of the series? Maybe Cid, a character who (in name, at least) has appeared in nearly every installment of the series? A chocobo? Ultimately it came down to recognizability and the black mage has got it. The floppy hat, the glowing eyes and an appearance in some form or another in a vast majority of the series gets him the spot.

Master Chief (Halo series) – He may be younger than the other noms, but his influence is clear. His debut on the Xbox pushed FPS' in a much more epic and cinematic direction. It also popularized the two-stick control scheme seen in nearly every console FPS to date. Millions and millions of gamers have taken him to Xbox Live, and while he may be another quiet space marine, he draws a lot of water.

[Authors note: Stay tuned for part two, featuring the rest of the candidates. Also, feel free to nominate your own candidates in the comments. Full disclosure: This also appears on my Examiner page, which you should totally visit.]   read

3:43 PM on 02.05.2009

Halo Wars demo impressions

So the Halo Wars demo hit today with very little fanfare. I had no idea it was even dropping until turning on my 360 today.

So, how does this console RTS play?

The RTS may never be right on the console, and it seems as though Halo Wars isn't going to change that much. The "revolutionary" control scheme they developed is very shallow and somewhat clunky. Right stick controls the camera and left stick moves your cursor. A selects a unit, X sends it moving or commands it to attack, and Y is a special attack. Left and right bumper selects either all units or all "local" units. Really, that is it. The controls make it difficult to select two fronts or a certain unit type and makes combat a "select all, attack" affair. Not very strategic.

Resource management is very bare bones, as the game's focus is combat. You really only need one type of resource (some nondescript crates) and a few reactors to build nearly everything in the game. A few supply buildings and you're set. Some of the bigger units require three reactors, but it is very, very simple to manage.

Since resource management is minimal, the game's combat has to be fun. And it is. Controlling units from the Halo universe in large-scale battles is fun and a sight to behold. The special attacks - such as the Warthog ram or infantry grenades - are pretty awesome and the leader abilities - such as the Prophet of Regret's cleansing beam - are a sight to behold. But, as it does in all RTS' - combat boils down to rock, paper, scissors.

The demo also was not very difficult. After researching a few simple technologies (of which I hope there are a lot more in the final build) and building a few of each unit I was able to easily overwhelm the second level of the demo. Since there was very little resource collection, I felt the victory was a little hollow and unearned.

There is a tutorial - basic and advanced - that explained the controls well. But the demo levels seemed like an extension of that tutorial, as the game holds your hand most of the time with arrows showing you your next objective or NPC voice overs telling you what to do.

I was surprised that the Halo Wars demo was out today, and thus, had little expectations. I was not blown away, and don't think this is the game that will make the console RTS a force in gaming. I dabbled in Civ: Rev and felt that was a much better title. I will not be buying this unless it comes to light that the game is a lot a deeper than this demo.   read

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