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JT Murphy's blog

10:45 PM on 04.30.2014

10 things you didn't know about JT Murphy

So, I'm really only doing this because Conor wants to make this old Cblog fad a thing again, and I'm totally in favor of this. So here goes.

1. There's actually way more than 10 things you don't know about me, because I tend to drift in and out of Dtoid, and have been doing so over the past five years. In fact, the last two times Dtoiders have seen me in person at all have been between tours of duty as a MAGFest media volunteer. I kinda want to change this- I wound up working a long Saturday last year for what turned out to be not that much actual recorded material, and I wish I'd spent more of that day partying instead. As for the site itself, I tried my hand at building a few features on the C-Blogs a few years ago, but it never really took off for me.

2. I'm a radio guy and I always will be. I've interned for three different radio stations in the Philadelphia area and spent three years working for one- Wired 96.5 in Philadelphia. While I'd like to find some way back into the industry, ever shrinking as it is, I'd be fine if I did nothing more than my own work. I currently run the 24/7 music stream at, as well as host my own Friday show (Explosivo!, 8 PM Eastern, more details at full of video game music, chiptune, interviews and other stuff. This is my third attempt at a regular program, and this one's intentionally less rigid in format than my last two attempts, WNES and The Blue Shell Manifesto. Both of those were fun but required way more work than they were worth, and I ended up missing show dates way too often. So I dropped all of the excess work, and I'm letting this one just grow in whatever direction it feels like.

3. I still keep in touch with some Dtoiders and ex-Dtoiders, but not as often as I could. Tino, ArcticFox, Conor, Apathy, plus there's Gabriel Gutierrez who I initially met through Dtoid and who I now know as the MAGFest Indie Game Showcase director, as well as a developer in his own right. I've also had the pleasure of meeting Senisan, ZombiePlatypus, Diverse, Antwhan, DJKirsch, Sam Gobbldigook, and plenty of others- I can't recall everyone's handles at the moment.

4. I'm still stuck in the same house I grew up in. There's a few reasons- self-esteem issues making it hard to excel at work, pursuing careers in industries with way less potential for advancement than I realized, and, luckily, getting along with my family really well. However, situations like mine are gradually getting more common, and while I spent a number of years feeling really guilty about it, I'm bringing this up now because there's someone younger than me in a similar situation who feels like total shit that they might be turning into a stereotype, and reading this might help them feel a little less alone.

5. I've been a wrestling fan since I was 14, and these past two months for WWE have been a golden age to me. I haven't been this excited to watch Monday Night Raw since the night they bought WCW, and I have never in my life seen this company make this much of an effort to bring up a new class of performers. The network is one hell of a deal, and I've been using it to catch up on the WCW and ECW stuff I missed in the late 90's. 

6. I've been roleplaying in one form or another for well over a decade. D&D, Cyberpunk 2020, Old World Of Darkness, Dagorhir, wrestling E-feds, even the old-school AOL Red Dragon Inn chats. I've touched on a lot of different parts of the roleplaying world, and at the moment, I'm involved in more individual games (a brand-new D&D campaign, a major role in a long-running Vampire game, and over a year of service in an E-fed) than I've ever been.

7. I've been following the video game cover/remix scene for over five years now. Favorite acts: Mega Ran, brentalfloss, The Megas, This Place Is Haunted, The Adventures Of Duane & BrandO, Random Encounter, the Oneups, DJ Cutman, and from OCRemix, Sir Jordanius, Jillian Aversa, and Joshua Morse. I've also followed chiptune as well- some of my favorites there are Anamanaguchi, George & Jonathan, the J. Arthur Keenes Band, and all the members of Cheap Dinosaurs, both as a unit and their solo acts. Just outside these genres, I also like Adam WarRock and My Parents Favorite Music.

8. I freaking love conventions and I wish I could go to more. A good chunk of my life in general revolves around MAGFest. Otakon, when I can get there, is practically a religious experience for me. PAX East has been way too much of a financial stretch for me recently, but I'll find a way to get back to Boston one of these years. Also, I don't think I've been to a full-on NARP since 2010. That needs to freaking change.

9. Video game streaming has taken over a large chunk of my viewing habits, to the point where I can count the actual current shows I keep track of on one hand (Archer, Rick & Morty, Doctor Who, Space Dandy. Yep, four.) I enjoy seeing streamers interact with chatters, I enjoy watching high-level fighting game play, I enjoy seeing bizarre creations in WWE 2K14, and I enjoy watching speedrunners tare ass through the likes of Mario 64 and Super Meat Boy. I'm gradually working on getting into the game myself, but I'm not the sort of person who can dedicate long hours every day to just playing games, so the standard blunt-force-trauma approach to building an audience is out. So, I'm working on quality over quantity- good production values, distinct events and goals, a dedicated timeslot, and as much viewer participation as I can cram in.

10. It's only recently that I've become even remotely comfortable divulging most of this stuff on a public forum. But this past year, I've been noticing more and more gray hairs starting to poke through, and each one represents one less fuck I need to give. So there ya go. 

Also, Conor is a really fucking awesome person.   read

5:17 PM on 06.07.2013

Saturday night streaming: Smooth McGroove, Mega Ran, Xbone complaining and more!

Hello, Dtoiders! I'm back with more radio goodness.

Tomorrow night on the 8bitX Radio Network, I'm putting together a six-hour supershow, and I'd love for the Destructoid community to join in!

7:00 PM: I'll be talking to YouTube a capella master Smooth McGroove about his rise to internet fame!

8:00 PM: I'm bringing in Mike Maulbeck of Code Avarice, to recap the story of his Stream Greenlight debacle and the overwhelming voter response!

9:00 PM: I'm grabbing some guests and opening the Skype lines! Two other 8bitX hosts will be joining me for an E3 preview that will most likely turn into an Xbox One bitchfest, and we'll be taking callers!

Other guests and events:
Josh Edington of The World Is Square will be drinking beers and embarking on his very first playthrough of Super Metroid. We'll be calling him to find out if he learned how to make Metroid crawl.

Careless of Random Encounter will be dropping by to provide updates on new projects from both him and his band!

Kyle "Comeback" MacFarland of Big E Gaming will talk about the current state of the fighting game community going into one of the most pivotal EVO championships in FGC history.

8bitX Station Manager Will Strouse talked to Mega Ran earlier this week, I'll be playing this hour-long interview in two parts during the night.

I'll be giving away a few games on Steam through the night, including The Binding of Isaac, Atom Zombie Smasher, and Jamestown: Legend of the Lost Colony.

Want to join in? Details are right here on the Facebook event page:   read

5:38 PM on 06.07.2012

The Blue Shell Manifesto - E3 live podcast (Dtoiders welcome!)

Hey, Dtoiders. In about 5 hours, I'll be recording my music-and-game-news podcast, The Blue Shell Manifesto on I'll be talking all about E3 and all its news and conferences, and I'll be bringing in a bunch a guests to help me out, including Dtoid community members Jess "Ruckus" Brohard, Jon Bloodspray and ArcticFox, and I'll even open the lines to any other community members who want to join in the discussion!

On top of that, I'll be airing an interview with Brentalfloss, where he'll be talking about his new album, "Bits of Me", and giving his own thoughts on Nintendo's E3 conference!

On top of THAT, I'm also going to be giving away $20 on Steam to a random follower of my Facebook page ( sometime during the show- and if you're in the chat and listening when I do, the prize will be DOUBLED!

Be sure to tune in at 9 PM Eastern tonight on!   read

3:13 PM on 11.10.2011

WNES Videogame Radio - chipmusic and video game remixes every week!

In response to Dtoid's recent frontpaging of Kristi Kaufman's Noise Channel Radio, I figured it was a good time to make my own pitch to the Destructoid community.

Submitted for the approval of Dtoiders everywhere, this is WNES Videogame Radio.

Airing weekly on, WNES is a weekly internet broadcast featuring chipmusic, video game remixes, news, interviews, and glorious 8-bit nostalgia all packed into two solid hours! I've got Mega Ran, I've got Anamanaguchi, I've got the Protomen, I've got brentalfloss, the Oneups, Shael Riley, 8-Bit Duane, and lots more!

You'll hear all of the week's new chipmusic and video game covers right up front, and you'll get all the info about when and where your favorite acts are coming to your town. The chatroom is open, and Skype call-ins are welcome! I've already had a few Dtoiders (like Jon Bloodspray and AvianFlame) in the chat, and I'm looking forward to having more!

So far, I've interviewed musicians (Kirby's Dream Band and Blue of Hello, the Future!), promoters (MAGFest's Nick Marinelli and Jason Richardson of Philly's J1 Studios), pro gamers (tournament mainstays Dr. Chaos and Felax), and Jon St. John. If you want to hear a few of these for yourself, check out my YouTube page!

Tonight on WNES, it's military/FPS night, with lots of gung-ho game remixes and an interview with Stephen "ShanghaiSix" Machuga of! He'll be talking about Operation Supply Drop, which provides games and other entertainment to deployed servicemen! Drop on by, and chat or even call in about your favorite headshots, killstreaks, and midnight runs!

Tune in this and every week on Thursdays at 10 PM!

UPDATE: Podcast of this show is now available here!

(Now, for the disclaimer. Yeah, this post is pretty spammy. In my defense: I've been a Dtoider for years, longer than I've been plotting this project. Yeah, I'm using Destructoid web space to promote my stuff, but it's in the hopes I can make WNES another great part of the Dtoid community- I want to be able to plaster the green robot all over this thing, and I finally feel like the product's truly worthy of its notice. If that still isn't enough, then nothing is. I think I've earned this one.)   read

12:24 PM on 01.06.2011

The MAGFest 9 Primer: DJs and Chiptunes

THE MAGFEST CHIPTUNE SHOWCASE will be taking place all day Saturday, starting with a panel at 10:30 AM, and going into an 8-bit rave from 11:30 AM to about 3 PM. The following acts are slated to appear:

CHEAP DINOSAURS: Playing out of Philadelphia, PA, Cheap Dinosaurs is Dino Lionetti (formerly of Chromelodeon) and Bucky Todd on drums, with other musicians drifting in and out of the lineup
SOUNDS LIKE: The kind of nuanced, multilayered sounds that make beating up hordes of faceless mooks so goddamn memorable.


GEORGE & JONATHAN: The rising stars of the chipmusic scene, DC's George & Jonathan play jazzy, trippy rock using Studio Pixel's Cave Story soundboard.
SOUNDS LIKE: Sonic the Hedgehog, if he spent the early 90s going to clubs and raves instead of speeding through colorful landscapes.


ZEN ALBATROSS: Friend of Destructoid, all-star, Duke of New York, and deeply experimental chipmusic composer, Zen Albatross likes to bend squarewaves 'till they break.
SOUNDS LIKE: A Game Boy going to an S&M club.


NOTE!: Another member of the vast and varied Brooklyn chiptune scene, Note! loves heavy, steady beats laced with smooth melodies.
SOUNDS LIKE: Dance music, only the parts outside the "thump, thump, thump" are actually worth hearing.

(try as I might, I couldn't find a video for this one, so here's a link to Note!'s 8bitcollective page)

NOISEWAVES: A two-piece ensemble out of Michigan, these guys love to keep it slow and atmospheric.
SOUNDS LIKE: If Brian Eno were a video game composer.


WIZWARS: A staple of the west coast chipmusic scene, Wizwars is one of the more prolific lo-fi artists, with 12 solo releases, 3 split albums. Loves to experiment with various genres and styles in chipmusic form.
SOUNDS LIKE: If Action 52 had an awesome soundtrack.


INVERSE PHASE: AKA Brendan "Mr. MAGFest" Becker, Inverse Phase is dedicated to making 8-bit de-makes of pop music, with covers including Cee-Lo's "F*** You", U2's "New Year's Day", and Real Life's "Send Me An Angel".
SOUNDS LIKE: That song you're sure you heard before, NES-style.


ENSO & NO CARRIER: Visualists extraordinare, these two gentlemen will be painting the walls with elaborate, pixelated visions throughout the chiptune show.
LOOKS LIKE: Your NES game collection on an acid trip.




"Late one night during a radioactive electrical storm in the skull-shaped lab of an evil scientist, an archive of old video games and music production software got mixed in with source code for antagonist robots. The accident overloaded countless robots, but one survived. This robot was different. His existence would not be bound to 8-bits. For he had a new weapon. It was more powerful than fire, stronger than wood, and more dangerous than snakes. It was music, and he took it to the streets."
~DJ Cutman's official backstory
SOUNDS LIKE: If your local dance club was more awesome.



Staring down DJ Cutman at the Videogame DJ Showdown late Thursday night is JamSpace devotee DJ Awesome, making his first official appearence at MAGFest, bringing a love of music and a jacked-up Atari 7800 into the DJ arena.

(no video to be found here, either. hopefully, we're all in for a surprise.)

A_RIVAL: (appearing during Saturday concerts)

The 8-bit Pimp himself, A_Rival mixes old-school hip-hop with old-school game sounds to become the freshest, illest white boy you've ever seen.
SOUNDS LIKE: Dr. Dre meets Dr. Mario.

[embed]190971:35211[/embed]   read

1:14 PM on 01.05.2011

The MAGFest 9 Primer: The Bands

Let's face it: there's going to be a metric crap-load of stuff going on at MAGFest 9 this year- and it can be tough to decide what's worth checking out. So, for the benefit of the Destructoid community (and my own audience, whom I've linked to these articles), allow me to give a little insight as to who's showing up and what's happening at this year's Music and Gaming Fesitval.

THE BANDS: MAGFest will feature 12 of the best musical acts in the video-game cover scene over three days of concerts! Here's a little more info about each one.

THURSDAY'S BANDS: (concerts start at 9:00 PM)

BIT BRIGADE: This Athens, GA band puts on a very special act: Master speedgamer Noah McCarthy takes on a classic NES game, and these guys play the musical accompaniment in real-time! They've done stints as "Megaband", "Contraband", and "Ninjaband"- who knows what they're going to perform at MAGFest?


RARE CANDY: An offshoot of Entertainment System (see Friday's bands), this band features none other than MAGFest concert head Dominic Cerquetti on lead keyboard. While similar to their mother band, Rare Candy is much more electronically driven and tends to make more daring musical choices in their arrangements.
LISTEN FOR: Their surf-rock rendition of the Final Fantasy 4 boss theme.


THE X HUNTERS: Brentalfloss once said it better than me: this band will bubble your crab, spark your mandrill, and boomer your kuwanger. It's all Mega Man X, all the time for these Philadelphia, PA rockers.
LISTEN FOR: How many different stage themes they can play in one medley.


FRIDAY'S BANDS: (concerts begin at 6:00 PM)

BRENTALFLOSS: (appearing in the JamSpace at 2:30 PM) New York's clown prince of video games, Brentalfloss' satirical "With Lyrics" videos have made him a Youtube sensation. He's done guest spots with Mega Ran, Video Games Live, the Megas, and many others- and was also the emcee at last year's Bit Gen.
LISTEN FOR: His newer stuff, including Zelda 2 and Halloween Kirby.


ENTERTAINMENT SYSTEM: Perhaps the best pure VGM band playing today. Entertainment System are also the chief organizers of the Bit Gen Gamer Fest, a summer concert in their hometown of Baltimore, MD, where many MAGFest bands also play. Their newest album, the Mario/Zelda tribute Rock n' Roll Cereal, is due for release in the next few weeks.
LISTEN FOR: Plenty of cuts from the new album- Mario and Zelda galore!


THE ONEUPS: This funk/jazz/fusion quintet out of Fayetteville, AR classes up whatever joint it's in. Headed by OverClocked Remixer and Bad Dudes frontman Mustin, Their complicated, inventive arrangements all seem to scream to doubters, "this is so music, you unimaginative jerks!" Their latest release, Super Mario Kart Album, is available now.
LISTEN FOR: All of it. Everything the Oneups play goes down smooth.


ARM CANNON: Overclocked Remixer and Bad Dudes member Danimal Cannon leads this Buffalo, NY group, which plays metal video game covers with splashes of jazz, reggae, and electronica. Their mascot, Pizzor, is a beast on the drum kit.
LISTEN FOR: Their Mega Man 3 medley, as well as the wrestling theme mashup "I'm A Real Sexy American Boy".


THE PROTOMEN: A ten-piece rock ensemble from Murfreesboro, TN that has written two concept albums based loosely on the Mega Man mythos. They'll be playing the entirety of their self-titled debut album on Friday, an electrified rock opera about robots, revenge, and oppression.
LISTEN FOR: "The Will Of One". Be sure to chant along. "We! Have! Con! Trol! We! Keep! You! Safe! We! Are! Your! Hope!"


THE MINIBOSSES: One of the original video game music bands, the Minibosses have been relatively dormant the release of their 2005 album, Brass. They played the first four MAGFests, but this is their first time back since 2006. They're considered a chief influence by many of the other bands performing this year.
LISTEN FOR: Ninja Gaiden, for starters. Other than that, they're sure to have some new tricks after this long of a layoff.


METROID METAL: This VGM supergroup includes Kirby of Temp Sound Solutions and Danimal Cannon of Armcannon. They met up several MAGFests ago, and after a mind-blowing JamSpace session, they went into business together as the ultimate Metroid tribute band.
LISTEN FOR: Brinstar, Tallon Overworld, Norfair... if you love Metroid, this is a can't-miss.


SATURDAY'S BANDS (concerts begin at 6:00 PM)

THE MEGAS: A rock band out of Los Angeles, CA that specializes in rearranging music from the Mega Man games and adding lyrics and story. Their first album, the Mega Man 2 chronicle Get Equipped, gave them their notoreity, they've continually teased that the follow-up Mega Man 3 album will be out at MAGFest.
LISTEN FOR: At the very least, "You've Sparked A War", the Spark Man theme, released as a single last summer.


POWERGLOVE: Currently the most successful VGM band, this spiked-shoulderpad crew mixes game tunes with melodic death metal. They've toured heavily with other metal acts such as HammerFall, Sonata Arctica, Mutiny Within, and DragonForce. They recently signed a deal with E1 Records, the largest independent record label in the U.S., joining a lineup that includes the likes of Black Label Society, the Wu-Tang Clan, and Stabbing Westward. Their first release with that label, Saturday Morning Apocalypse, is available now.
LISTEN FOR: "Mario Minor" and "Power, Wisdom, Courage".


THIS PLACE IS HAUNTED: This crew from New York, NY flirted with breaking up over the past year, but simply fired their drummer instead. Now they're back in business, ready to bring their intense, bass-driven game medleys to MAGFest 9. Outside of their video game albums, their 2006 rock release Ghosts In The Graveyard comes highly recommended.
LISTEN FOR: Their epic medleys, including Double Dragon and Sonic the Hedgehog.


YEAR 200X: This group of indie metal vets from Lansing, MI have been steadily growing since 2006. They're currently working on the follow-up to their 2008 debut album, We Are Error.
LISTEN FOR: Their soaring rendition of "The Moon" from Ducktales.


THE PROTOMEN: The Protomen return on Saturday to play the entirety of their second album, Act II: The Father Of Death, which sounds like what would happen if Dennis DeYoung recruited "Born To Run"-era Bruce Springsteen and the Electric Light Orchestra to help him make Kilroy Was Here.
LISTEN FOR: "Breaking Out", which wears its classic-rock influences proudly on its sleeve.


TOMORROW: Chiptune artists!
TUESDAY: Panels!
WEDNESDAY: The rest of the stuff!   read

8:26 AM on 08.29.2010

In response to Kauz: Not yet.

(the following started as a response to Andrew Kauz's exceedingly good, recently-promoted blog. Read it now:

"We can't tell our kids to do well in school and then fail to support them when they get home," Obama said. "You can't just contract out parenting. For our kids to excel, we have to accept our responsibility to help them learn. That means putting away the Xbox. Putting our kids to bed at a reasonable hour. It means attending those parent-teacher conferences and reading to our children and helping them with their homework."
~President Brack Obama, at a July 2009 NAACP speech.

“Children are playing a game that encourages them to have sex with prostitutes and then murder them... This is a silent epidemic of media desensitisation that teaches kids it’s okay to diss people because they are a woman, they’re a different colour or they’re from a different place.”
~Hillary Clinton, 2005, at a childcare symposium speech.

I'm sorry, Kauz. I can't fight with you on this one.

The television industry is firmly entrenched in American culture, as is the movie industry. Nothing short of massive social upheaval will ever loose these two juggernauts of modern entertainment from their thrones, no protest, no comittee, no act of congress could ever be potent enough to shut down the cameras for good. They're completely immune to the effects of criticism, from themselves or from anyone else. Neither the Chomskys nor the Bozells of the world have any real power to go after these titans of world media. Americans of all stripes and affiliations would dress themselves in copies of the First Amendment and take to the streets at even the mere hint of a crackdown.

But video games? There's an entirely different story.

In 1985, when the modern American gaming industry was born, the people who run our government and our media today had already left their childhoods far behind. When tasked to recall the phrase "video games", they're most likely to come up with some vague recollections of Pac-Man or Space Invaders, and will rarely fail to mention it in some dismissive, patronizing tone. You know, for kids. If they played video games at any point in their lives, they certianly don't indulge in such a pointless waste of time anymore, no sir. They're too busy doing important stuff to bother with them Worlds of Warcraft or Super Mario Men.

And that's the best we can hope for. They were happy to simply ignore us when we were kids. We're just playing with toys, after all, we'll grow up and watch sitcoms all night like responsible Americans. But, we didn't stop playing. We grew up, and our games grew up with us. When the blood hit the screen, their jaws hit the pavement. We're their babies! These are toys! How could they be so violent and corrupt?! These game companies are clearly trying to destroy our children! We've got to save them!!

That's been the rallying cry ever since. We all know what they think of us and the games we play. The fictional portrayals of gamers as overweight, pastrami-stained, pasty-faced shut-ins too busy arguing with their loser friends over their Faceyspaces to get out of the house and find a girlfriend. The endless stream of news stories about that Grand Theft Auto game in which you can run over hookers and cops without any Real Life Consequences, and pedophiles using Pictochat and Xbox Live to lure YOUR CHILDREN into a real-life game of Dig Dug. The unyielding exhortations of demagogues, congressmen, and the freaking president himself about how simply putting down the Xbox or the Ipod will magically transport you to a world where people are nice to each other, God loves everyone, and there aren't five job seekers for every one position created.

At best, the generation that runs the world misunderstands gamers. At worst, they hate us.

In 20 years, should nothing change, our generation will start to take control, and the concept of video gaming will be secured in the American landspace every bit as much as TV and movies. At that point, we can begin to take the swords to the industry. We can make all the criticisms we need, cut out all the dead wood, and demand a higher standard from the purveyors of the medium.

But not yet, dammit. We're too vulnerable. We're already besieged by our media and our governments. We can't give them the rope to hang us with. They'll most assuredly use it, so that we've got nothing better to do than watch Two And A Half Men every night and see Vampires Suck on the weekends. They're suffering too, and they'll sooner smash every controller on the planet than take even one look at their own issues.

So, we must endure. We must suffer gladly the things about this industry that piss us off, the Gamestops and the red rings and the wave upon wave of pandering. We have to. The gaming industry now presents a direct threat to old media, frightened parents, and the politicians thatcater to both. Any blade we stick ourselves with will be thoroughly salted and run straight through by these people without a moment's hesitation, in the hopes that somehow, we'll all wake up from our lives of visual junk food and watch some good, old, wholesome Desperate Housewives.

We have to be positive, even to the point of cloying. We have to defend our industry whenever we can, no matter how much it hurts. Now is the worst possible time for an overhaul of gaming morality. We even try it now, and everything we've loved and grown up with will end up crushed and rotting in a desert landfill.

Your points, Mr. Kauz, are all valid and worthy of greater investigation by everyone involved in the gaming business- players, critics, and developers alike. But, not yet. Not when a chink in our armor, any wavering in our insistence that video gaming is how we wish to spend our free time as responsible adults, can cause the whole thing to cave in.

The wolves are at the door. Now's no time to renovate.   read

10:03 PM on 03.31.2010

PAX East: Wins and fails

So by now, you get the gist of what happened at PAX East. Guys like Arctic Fox, Kauza and Analoge have already weighed in on the important stuff, so I’m just going to leave a few thoughts here.

Win: Monday Night Combat
One of the highlights of the expo hall, Mega Entertainment’s class-based shooter earned a lot of fans with its playable demo on the floor. Monday Night Combat is one impressive mashup of a game, combining the class-based team warfare of Team Fortress 2 with the game physics of Unreal Championship and the slick, corporate-sponsored backdrop of Smash TV and The Grid. My chief concern for this game is that heavy online play will lead to the discovery of game-breaking strategies- it took nine years to properly balance Team Fortress 2, and Uber Entertainment is planning on having Monday Night Combat up and running on Xbox Live Arcade before the year is out. Still, the demo was a solid, fast-paced bulletfest, and if the game comes anywhere close to realizing its potential, it’ll become the darling of Xbox Live.

Fail: Lack of cosplayers
Maybe it was the horrendous weather, but there weren’t as nearly wild costumes as I was hoping to see. What few that I saw were really good- but overall, I’m hoping to see a lot more familiar faces at PAX East 2011. I’ve got every intention of dressing up myself next year- I just don’t know who it’ll be yet. (I’d love to be Mordecai from Borderlands, if I can pull it off.)

Win: The Rock Band Lounge
Nicole and I spent hours and hours in this one place alone, and we could have hung out here for the whole con. Harmonix created the perfect party lounge for the perfect party game, with a shining stage, professional-level equipment, a black-lit, spacious décor, plenty of free swag and tag-able walls, tables, and countertops. It was exactly the kind of experience that, frankly, I was expecting out of…

Fail: Gamers Gone Wild
So, this was much ado about nothing. I waited in line for nearly an hour for this event at Lir, and what I got was simply a crowded basement packed with a smattering of gaming consoles- hardly the party I was prepared for. The Rock Band tournament was filled by the time I got inside, and the only real fun to be had was on the upper floor, which was VIPs only. Super, super lame.

They marveled at it. They shouted slogans at it. They begged for pictures of it. They wanted to know where to get one for themselves. In 2010, the Power Glove is still…

Win: Twitter and my Samsung Bonk
Twitter was once described as the tool we didn’t realize we needed until we had it. For me, this weekend proved it. Getting up-to-the-second updates about Dtoid’s goings-on kept me connected to the community, and a second-hand look into some parts of the con I can only dream about getting into. Honorable mention goes to my little Intensity cell phone, which, due to its wallpaper and text alert sound, I have lovingly dubbed the Samsung Bonk. As my makeshift camera and connection do the Dtoid community, it served me beautifully. And to think I was going to trade one in for a Blackberry- the keyboard on that thing would have given me some very inconvenient thumb cramps. Protip: If you have text messaging, you can get Twitter feeds. Text 40404 for more information.

Fail: Lines, Lines, Lines.
The last time I attended the Hynes Convention Center was for Anime Boston in 2008. The line for registration on both days stretched through the entire convention center and at one point had a maximum wait time of 10 hours – longer than the convention would be open for the day. I was a volunteer that year, and had the somber duty of telling people that there was simply no room at the inn. It was one of the most grating experiences I ever had to go through.

Between this experience and my time at PAX, I am now convinced that cons should stop trying to cram so many freaking people into the Hynes Convention Center. It’s a nice place. Its rooms and halls are attractive. Its accessibility to hotels and restaurants is exemplary. It’s generally a good place to put a convention of any kind. But, it’s small. It’s compact. It’s cramped. There was only so much room to put everyone and everything, and thus, there simply weren’t enough events and attractions to give 60,000 people everything they wanted.

That’s right. Sixty thousand people packed the cozy, 193,000 square-foot confines of the Hynes this weekend. It’s a miracle nobody was trampled. (In comparison, Otakon routinely gets 22,000 a year, and not only fills the 1,255,000 square-foot Baltimore Convention Center, but had to spill over into the nearby First Mariner Arena). This was a ludicrous amount of people to even begin to manage, and it showed all over the place. There were lines for waiting in lines. There were people turned away from the 8:30 concerts at 7:15. There was an hour-long wait to get your hands on a controller in the console freeplay room. I can appreciate that the clearly overworked staff were doing the best they could with the situation- and they did so with grace and good humor- but attempting to get anything or go anywhere in this overpacked convention involved a great deal of patience and fortitude.

This, of course, leads me right into…

PAX East attracted more than twice as many people as they planned for. In response, they’re moving to a place more than twice as big. The Boston Convention Center (516,000 square feet, since we’re keeping track) isn’t in the heart of the city like the Hynes, but the breathing room, the expanded selection of panels and events, and a game room that will hopefully challenge Otakon’s hangar-sized version will be more than worth it.

Fail: My ability to remember names and faces.
“Hey, JT!”
“Um… hey?”
“It’s me, Arctic Fox, we’ve met like twice already.”
“Oh! Heh… hi!”

“Hey, Samit!”
“I’m not Samit, he’s sitting right next to me.”
“Oh! Um, hiya, Samit.”

And so on. I’m getting better, I promise!

Win: The Destructoid Community
You guys turned a good time into a great time. I wouldn’t have had nearly half as much fun if I didn’t run into BunnyRabbit at the food court, or meet Arctic Fox at the expo, or watch Cataract hold court at Street Fighter 4. The highlight of my weekend- my whole weekend- was Saturday night, when about 50 of us descended upon an unsuspecting Uno Chicago Grill just off of the convention center for a night of beer and happiness. Dtoiders took over the entire lounge half of the restaurant, packing the place from front to back. It was a thing of absolute beauty. We met, we networked, we chatted about video games and nonsense, we made plans for the future. For the first time since signing up with this outfit, I truly felt like I was part of the community, and not just on the outside looking in. For that, I’m grateful to all of you guys.

I met a lot of fantastic people this weekend, and I’m almost afraid to try and name people out of the fear I might leave someone out. But, special thanks go to Arctic Fox, Jon Bloodspray, Funktastic, Adam Dork, Topher Cantler, Samit Sarkar, powerglove, DanlHaas, IcarusKills, Senisan, Cataract, CasualWeaponry, Necros, Zen Albatross, Tino, walkyourpath, Oh! The Humanity and especially BunnyRabbit2 for being so friendly and hospitable; to Greks224, Nick and Matt for being excellent roommates, and Gaping Maw for putting me in contact with Greks and making this whole trip possible. I’m happy to have met all of you, and I’m looking forward to spreading the Dtoid gospel to my friends back home.

Me with new Dtoid member Nanashi- AKA, my girlfriend, Nicole!   read

11:02 PM on 03.24.2010

Random thoughts, two nights before PAX.

- I'm nervous. I've always been kind of a wallflower at these Dtoid meetups, and if I'm going to make something out of Dtoid Penn, that really should change. If anything, the copious amounts of alcohol flowing at Gamers Gone Wild should really help with that. Of course, having an entire freaking lounge where I can whore the Rock Band microphone also helps.

This is going to be awesome.

-Speaking of which, here's my rough schedule for PAX:

5:45 AM - Train departs from Trenton.
11:00 AM - Train arrives in Boston, drop off stuff at hotel and beeline for the convention hall.
6:30 PM - Watching CTZ rock Paul Bellezza's world in the eating contest to end all eating contests!

Gods among men.

10:00 AM - Shake off possible hangover, depending on what's left of me after Protomen concert.
10:30 AM - Chiptune concert- coming out to see the mighty Zen Albatross make 8-bit sound boards his bitch.
11:00 AM - More general PAXness!
1:00 PM - Last I heard, this is when we're doing the picture thing. Hope Hamza brought enough shirts for the class.
6:30 PM - Heading over to Gamers Gone Wild early to recruit a band for the Rock Band competition. Probably going to be there the entire night.

11:00 AM - Last laughs at the con before heading home.
2:00 PM - Train leaves back to Trenton. Home in time for Wrestlemania.

- Cosplay: Looking forward to some mind-blowing costumes. I have the gear for a Travis Touchdown outfit myself, but I'm leaving it at home: in my current shape, I'd look like Travis' mid-life crisis. You know, after Sylvia divorces him for the third time because slicing people open just doesn't cause as many coins to fly out of their bisected corpses as it used to.

Besides, even Sylvia can't compete with these three.

- Blogging: It's a thing I should do again. I've written maybe three full articles by this point that I've thrown out. Part of this mess of ramblings is just a desperate attempt to put something out there before the next rotten round of second-guessing. On that note, here's an idea: MikeyTurvey does pictures on demand for the Dtoid community, and he is awesome for it. To help me break my writer's block (well, not so much a block as a gelatinous cube), perhaps I should open up a similar idea for articles or short stories. What say you, community? Ready to make me the blogging equivalent of A Night At The Improv?   read

6:05 PM on 02.23.2010

Things I learned at 8 on the Break

A diamond in the rough.

- So, the NARP didn’t happen quite as planned. Thanks to a Murphy’s-law-esque series of last-minute cancellations, the only members of the nascent Dtoid Penn group who showed up were myself and FunWithBonus. I admit I gambled with trying to set up a NARP this quickly, and it simply blew up in my face. There’ll be time to try a get-together again in the future (perhaps this weekend?) but for now, Dtoid Penn’s not off the ground just yet.

We have not yet begun to NARP.

- That being said, I still had a great time. 8 on the Break is a time-tested hangout and it shows. Its state-of-the-art dancing and fighting games contrast sharply with the wood-grain paneling, dark, non-functioning jukeboxes, and cheesy, neon-drenched storefront. It all looks like someone put a $5000 entertainment center in a $500-a-month apartment. It’s exhilarating and homey at the same time.
The game selection is less reminiscent of a typical arcade as it is the basement of your rich best friend. Not a single inch of floor space is given up to redemption garbage. Every game is fifty cents or lower, and everything here is either state-of-the-art and fully upgraded (In The Groove 2, DJ Max Technicha, Pump It Up Pro, Blazblue: Continuum Shift, Tekken 6) or a beloved classic (House of the Dead, DDR Extreme, SF3: Third Strike, the hundred-or-so options in the MAME cabinet). Or, it’s pinball.

FunWithBonus (right), with friends Koi and Jim, being awesome at pinball

- When I arrived at about 8 PM, I already found Dtoid pinball wizard and 22nd-ranked Pro-Am player Steve “FunWithBonus” Bowden and two of his friends, Jim and Koi, on a Star Trek: The Next Generation table. Since everyone else had bowed out of the NARP idea at this point, I introduced myself and spent the next few hours playing a few rounds with some of the best pinball players in the world.

When taken to a professional level, many games get modified, transformed, and stripped down to nearly unrecognizable versions of their original selves. Pro Super Smash Bros. rips away all the game’s character and charm to fight with pure game physics on a stark, barren platform. Pro Team Fortress 2 makes a precise, 6-on-6 war sim out of a Looney Tune. Pro Marvel vs. Capcom 2 is an incomprehensible whirlwind of precision strikes and dial-a-combos, with matches that functionally end as soon as the first player makes the first mistake.

Pinball, however, looks exactly the same no matter who’s playing it. There are no standard tricks or game-breaking exploits or self-imposed restrictions. The game is exactly the same no matter who’s at the flippers, and the mark of a professional is simple longevity. This is why, in spite of a sheer disparity of talent and experience, I had a great time playing pinball with Steve and his friends.

Friday night at the Break

- Tino, Keener, and Casualweaponry were around the arcade as well last Friday, and I briefly met them when I was at the pinball table. I would have loved to hang out with them more than I did, but I got caught up in my own bad habits- a local at the arcade approached me needing an emergency ride home, saying he didn’t live far. Now, I’m a total sucker for helping people out, so I figure, what the hell- it’s worth the 30-40 minutes I’d lose to give him a lift. That’s all it would have been, too- if the guy didn’t have a bad sense of direction. The 20-minute ride to his place turned into an hour-long excursion across North Jersey. Eventually, I did get the guy home and get back to the arcade, but by that time it was already 11 PM, and Tino and the others from Dtoid NY were already gone. Sorry I missed you guys- maybe someday I’ll learn better time management.

Next time, cheesesteaks on me.

- I spent the rest of the night exploring the arcade. I messed around on the MAME cabinet, clumsily trying to rekindle some old X-Men vs. Street Fighter magic. I revisited my dual-wielding ways in House of the Dead and got all the way to the second boss before being done in by those damned bats. I played a few rounds of my old obsession, Pump It Up, and for a few brief moments, I felt seven years younger and twenty pounds lighter. I even stopped by the Break’s high-fat, low-price snack bar for a darn fine cheesesteak, some RC Cola, and a few brief words with the owner and some of the locals. On top of everything else, the Break just struck me as a warm, friendly place to be.

I missed you too, Pumpy.

- 8 on the Break is the kind of hangout that every gamer deserves and everyone should visit. The locals are friendly and the place is always moving- the arcade was crawling with people from the time I arrived to the moment I left. I’m looking forward to going back, and I hope I can bring a few people next time. PA Dtoiders, I hope we can try this one again.

8 on the Break. Yeah.   read

10:53 AM on 12.11.2009

Listen up, maggots!

Sons of the shovel! Bearers of the mighty rocket launcher! Defenders of America! The time has come to FIGHT! There's a top-secret weapon out there with our names on it, and I swear to G.M. Chrysler I'll be three feet face-down in a swimming hole of haggis before I let those foul-mouthed, bagpipe-playing cyclopses get their grenade-spamming hands on it! If you love America more than your daily bowl of Lucky Charms, you will be right there with me, fighting the good fight!

You see, this war of ours reminds me of a story I once heard. There once was this soldier being chased by a hungry tiger. He pulled off an awesome rocket jump to get away from it, but he overshot, and found himself hanging from a branch on the edge of a cliff. The impact shook all of his weapons off of him. The one dirty, stinking tiger hunched over the top of the cliff. A second dirty, stinking tiger waited at the bottom, gnawing at his accoutrements. Then- he saw a strawberry hanging from a branch nearby. With no option to choose, he reached out to take the strawberry...

and it blew up in his goddamn face!

It wasn't a tasty fruit, it was a fruity bomb! That's how these Scotch people fight, son. They deceive. They use "angles" and "geometry" to kill their prey. They fight from afar, like cowards, each and every one of them hoping they don't have to stain their precious one eye with the sight of a man's liver disintegrating into a purple, gooey mess that they probably would find delicious with some nuts and a good whiskey.

No, we soldiers are cut from a different cloth! First, we have two eyes. That automatically makes us better at seeing things. Things like the jaundice-yellow, dinner-plate sized lone eyeball of a Demoman as the business end of a glowing rocket drills him where the sun don't shine! That's the second thing. We look at the things we kill! We don't just pop off a few caltrops and run away to go get even more drunk- no, we stay for the whole goddamn show! We pull the trigger, and we revel in the sight of the poor bastard as America pulls down his pants and spanks him with a high-explosive tank-piercing paddle!

There's a top-secret weapon out there waiting for us, boys, and whatever it is, it's too good for those skirt-wearing, Scotch-taping wannabes! So let's get out there, and go finish what that Loch Ness Monster started!





5:41 PM on 12.10.2009

Backlog Backlash: The Warriors

Backlogs. Everyone's got 'em, few dare to take them on. For the next few weeks/months/years, I'll be diving into the significant wad of games I've stockpiled over the years and surfacing with reviews, opinions, or whatever else comes to mind. Let's kick things off with a little Rockstar love.

The Game:
The Warriors
Microsoft Xbox (also released for PS2)
Rockstar Games
Released: October 2005
Purchased: 2009

The Gist:
Rockstar brings its trademark open-world gameplay to this video game adaption of the 1979 cult action flick, The Warriors. Nearly the entire cast of the movie returns for a fresh look at New York's armies of the night.

The Story:
Everyone has a handful of titles that stick in the back of their minds, ones that you always promise yourself you're going to buy, but never seem to want to pony up until it's way, way, out of date. This one made that list years ago, when Gamespot, then my game-review drug of choice, gave it a favorable rating, and when I saw this little green box marked down to $7.99 in a supermarket bin one day, I didn't think twice before snapping it up. Yet, it sat unplayed for months afterward, forsaken for nightly sessions of Team Fortress 2 and Guitar Hero 5 throughout the year. It was only one recent weekend, with my resolution to bust through as much of my backlog as possible before Christmas, that I sat down before my black-and-green behemoth and refused to get up until I'd painted the town red.

Here's how it went:
The Warriors started life as a stylish, exploitative action flick that only the 70's could have created. It features a dark, dirty pre-Giuliani New York overrun with dozens of colorful street gangs. I don't mean “colorful” as in “one gang wears red, the other wears blue”. I mean, “One gang dresses like mimes, the other dresses in baseball uniforms and Braveheart makeup.” Yeah, it's the 70's, alright.

Batter up.

In this sprawling mess of a city filled with young, identically-dressed street toughs, one man stands above them all. He's Cyrus, leader of the militant Gramercy Riffs, the single most respected man among the some 60,000 soldiers of the night. He's got a plan to unite every last one of them under his groovy fist, overrun the police, and plunge New York City into complete gang rule.

This is not his story.

I guess he couldn't dig it.

Nope, on the night Cyrus attempts his masterstroke, the inevitable happens, and that's where the plot kicks in. The Warriors, an small, ambitious unit from Coney Island, gets the blame for the murder. Their leader gets iced right away, and it's up to Swan, their second-in-command, to get the rest of the crew to the safety of their home turf. Along the way, they battle through skinheads, skater boys, hot chicks, and those baseball-and-Braveheart guys to get there, and pick up a romantic subplot or two along the way.

Again, 70's.

This is where the creativity ends. The Warriors- most of them, anyway- find their way home, and discover the true killers: the very least interesting gang that the writers could come up with. Like with Cyrus' assassination, we're robbed of a whole world of potential. There's a ton of ramifications that come with a city playing home to dozens of rivaling underground factions. Thankfully, Rockstar Games agreed with me, and built this 93-minute chase flick into a rough approximation of what it should have been: West Side Story and The Godfather thrown into a blender and drenched in neon.

It's on.

Rockstar's totally the right company to have undertaken this license. They'd already released two games in the GTA3 series and were well on their way to giving us San Andreas. That same world-building ethic they pioneered with that series- the dark humor, the sprawling urban playgrounds, the several days' worth of ambient voice acting- it's all there, as you start from three months before the movie to build the Warriors from a tiny upstart into the kings of Coney. Along the way, you'll engage in open warfare with all of the gangs the flick shamefully overlooked- the pimps, the kung-fu fighters, the hot-headed vatos, and yes, those wonderful killer mimes. The orginal cast of the movie returns to record hours upon hours of new dialogue, and while the characters aren't as enthralling as any you'll find in Rockstar's other titles, the sheer volume of the vocal work, both in the cut-scenes and in the action, grounds the absurd premise firmly in its own reality- another Rockstar trademark. (If there's one character worth remembering, it's the sultry, omniscient DJ, whose smooth, sarcasm-tinged nightly gang-war updates subtly blare through the Warrior's hideout- when they're not taunting you at the Game Over screen.)

Pat Floyd does a remarkable job filling in for Lynne Thigpen's mouth.

It's not quite GTA: Coney Island, however. Shooting and driving are out- very few characters in the Warriors' world pack heat, and the back-alley hideouts of New York's gangs don't lend themselves well to open-road mayhem. In its place, however, is an advanced fighting engine that produces as many organically awesome moments as any joyride through Liberty City. In addition to the basic punches and kicks you get in GTA, your Warriors get a slew of Double-Dragon inspired techniques- grapples, mounts, combinations, wall smashes, special moves, stealth knockouts, and a landscape littered with melee weapons- to use against the hordes of police and rival soldiers you'll come across.

Yer gonna die, clown!

The real fun, however, comes in that you never roll alone. At all times in the adventure, you'll have at least one Warrior covering your back, and in Rockstar's most miraculous feat, your AI-controlled partners are nearly always more useful than annoying. You get six orders to issue to your crew, all of which have their uses. This is where the real magic comes in. When you tell your boys to fight, they don't stop until every one else has stopped moving. When you tell them to scatter, they split up all over the entire neighborhood. When you tell them to follow, you get a legion marching to your every step. This is a game feature that would probably have been horribly broken if given tasked to any other game company, but Rockstar nails it perfectly.

They got your back, no matter what.

There's a lot that I liked about The Warriors, which makes its ending chapters a total letdown. The first three-quarters of the game serves as a direct prequel to the actual movie, with you guiding all nine main characters from a small-time Coney outfit to the baddest brawlers in New York. Make no mistake- the game makes you work your ass off to bring the Warriors to the top, from wiping your turf rivals clean out of existence to tagging your logo across an entire fleet of subway cars. It's a long and difficult road to the top, and it's all so frustrating when it all comes crashing down in the span of one elaborate cutscene.


Just as you bring the Warriors to all-city notoriety, the gameplay grinds to a halt to deliver a shot-by-shot reenactment of the beginning of the actual movie. This scene is breathtaking. It's one of the best uses of engine-rendered FMV of the entire last generation. The whiplash in the actual game experience, however, is palpable, and you're reminded of why most people never heard of the movie in the first place. Gone are most of the gangs you spent all those hours struggling to overcome, relegated to vague mentions and background appearances. Ridiculous side plots and extraneous characters are tacked on. Your own gang members are picked off, one by one, as you struggle to guide your troops back home. Remember Cleon, the gang founder? He doesn't live through the meeting. Ajax, your womanizing brawler, gets cuffed and hauled away out of the clear blue. Poor Fox did all that scouting in Chinatown just to kiss the grill of a speeding subway train. The final chapters are a near-perfect retelling of the movie, but when compared to the rich, nuanced world that Rockstar creates for New York's armies of the night, the movie plot is narrow, poorly-paced, and ultimately unsatisfying. The world Rockstar made for The Warriors, is, to be blunt, simply too good for the movie that spawned it.

The ending to both the game and the movie. Not pictured: Enemies driven before me, women lamenting.

There's a second major letdown, and this one's on Rockstar. When your sadly-reduced gang returns to HQ and the game returns to normal. I had been hoping since well into the single-player campaign for some kind of free-form gang warfare metagame, like in GTA: San Andreas, where you can take on all the other gangs in the city for control of turf. There's plenty of gangs left to fight, there's plenty of boroughs to conquer, and there's an engine versatile enough to make it happen, but Rockstar doesn't quite put two and two together and give your Warriors a chance to conquer the city like C.J.'s crew. Instead, your reward is “Armies of the Night”, a cute but pointless Double-Dragon-style minigame. There's also “rumble mode”, where you can take any of the game's gangs into a series of one-on-one challenges, but this, too feels tacked-on and unfulfilling. There's also a mode where you can play as the Baseball Furies, but unlocking it requires finishing the game on the hardest difficulty.

It's still not as bad as Street Brawl.

There's a lot of potential in this brew of killer mimes, baseball-playing maniacs, pavement-pounding pimps and preppy rollerskaters, and it could have made for a hellacious war, a great game all by itself. I wanted to wrest Chinatown from the Savage Huns. I wanted to drop the curtain on the Hi-Hats in Soho. I wanted to yank every Orphan out of their Tremont ratholes. I wanted to punk the Punks, bop the Boppers, bankrupt the Jones Street Boys, snuff out the the Satan's Mothers, and take on the Gramercy Riffs in a climactic showdown for the whole goddamn city. Sadly, this was not to be, and my time in the Warriors' world has come to a bittersweet conclusion.

The Warriors is a franchise that had been ripe for a video game adaptation since the NES days, and it's a shame that it took this long to get one. Judging from the more recent The Warriors: Street Brawl, however, perhaps it was only with the skeleton of Grand Theft Auto that it'd be anything worthwhile. If you like 70's schlock, open-world crime games, or beating up mimes, you'd do well to recruit this title into your collection.   read

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