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John B's blog

9:34 AM on 12.22.2008

A real 8-Bit Christmas Greeting

I really am fed up with the attitude by Destructoid's writers that the 8-bit generation of games started with and is restricted to the NES and similar consoles. The 8-bit generation started long before that.

So, here is a real 8-bit Christmas greeting.


Yes, it was really meant as an advertisement (perhaps the first real viral video for computers?) as you'll see at the very end, but you don't get more 8-bit than this.

To those who remember this from the 80s, enjoy the nostalgia -- and chuckle at the last segment.   read

10:03 AM on 12.04.2008

Wii game deals at Amazon today

I guess that I should not be surprised that DToid and other sites hype when Amazon has an XB360 or PS3 "Gold Box" day. (Hey, I'm not complaining. That's when I got the latest Ratchet and Clank for 1/2 price, which made me an R&C addict.)

But today, 4 December, Amazon is offering a Wii game "Gold Box" day. Currently, Star Wars: The Force Unleashed is available for the day at $25.98. I haven't been able to figure out all of the games, but it looks like Guitar Hero: World Tour might be the last one at 6 PM Pacific and there's a Mario game at 2:00 PM Pacific.

I know that there's a ton of Wii-hate on DToid, which probably explains why they refused to mention today's sale, but if you're like me and have no shame in having the little white box next to the more powerful PS3/XB360 and you want to pick up some deals, you might want to check out Amazon's Gold Box for today.

(As I write this Disney's Sing It bundle is the offer. Uh ... right ... I think we'll all pass on this one.)   read

10:04 AM on 11.14.2008

Grow up, fanboys!

Adam Sessler says it all.


Sadly, this kind of rampant fanboyism is in full bloom on Dtoid. Whether it's the narrow-minded hatred of the Wii or the mindless masturbatory ramblings of how awesome {enter console here} is, the stupidity and arrogance of the console fanboys, whether for or against a particular console, are palpable.

Enough. Grow up. Or to put it in terms that everyone should understand: STFUAJPG.   read

11:22 AM on 09.25.2008

Just admit that you hate your customers.

I am no fan of class action lawsuits for the most part. No matter which side ends up gaining the judge's favor, the only winners in CA lawsuits are the lawyers. They get millions of dollars for their services while the people that they're supposedly representing get a pittance in restitution, if any at all.

But people should realize that the CA lawsuit against Electronic Arts, if fought properly, could set a very important precedent when it comes to consumers' rights. The biggest right is, of course, that we should be allowed to do with any game what we wish as long as what we do does not deprive the company of any revenue. That includes:

* not requiring the CD to be in the drive just to play the damned game
* not needing to report to some mothership under the auspices that we're potential criminals instead of potential customers
* being able to install the game anywhere we want at any time that we want as long as only one copy is in use at any one time
* being able to install a game even if the company that released it goes belly up

SecuROM eliminates one or more these, depending on how it's implemented, and it's time that people realize SecuROM is a threat to more than just legitimate and legal usage of software that we purchase.

SecuROM (just like StarForce) is a rootkit. Period. It is no less of a rootkit than was StarForce, and it needs to be dealt with in the same manner as StarForce - with complete elimination from all games. In order to play any game, SecuROM must be installed at an administrative level and has even more power than those who have administrative rights on their own PC. That is an incredibly dangerous situation.

Here's an interesting example of such a situation that got almost no press at all.

Reports started to surface a few months ago of system problems that were totally unrelated to any game or application. For no apparent reason, users started to report that Windows Explorer would crash and Dr. Watson would report a critical error whenever someone right-clicked on a file. Additionally, the deletion of files was now prohibited. Yes, even deleting a useless text file was denied by the system. Obviously, just attempting to use Windows Explorer – even if it was the only thing running – should have nothing to do with any kind of copy protection for a game, right?

What could possibly cause Windows to deny me the right to delete files that I created or no longer needed? More than that, why could I no longer right-click on a file when that was never a problem before?

Before anyone accuses this of being hear-say, I was one of the people affected (or rather “infected”) by this problem.

I wasted many hours running virus scanners and anti-spyware programs to find out what was going on. Of course, running those made no sense because I have a very good virus scanner and I have been a staunch advocate of “safe computing” for years. There's no way that it could have been something that I clicked on or downloaded.

Finally, I realized that the only major change that I had done in the past few days was to allow Neverwinter Nights 2 to upgrade to v1.13. With that realization, I used Windows' System Restore to roll back my PC to just before I did the NWN2 upgrade. After the roll back, I was once again able to delete and right-click on files with no problems.

As a test, I let NWN2 upgrade itself back to v1.13. As soon as it finished, I went into Windows Explorer. Crash, burn, and don't-you-even-think-about-deleting-a-file!

As it turns out, the 1.13 upgrade also included a SecuROM upgrade. The official NWN2 forums included messages from several people who were suffering from the same kind of system contamination. It turns out that owners of Mass Effect also reported the same problems. The issue was finally acknowledged by Obsidian and a fix was made available on the SecuROM web site.

So, let's review.

After the installation of the new SecuROM had finished, people were unable to delete files from their hard drive. Regardless of the fact that NWN2 was not running and that the files in question had nothing to do with NWN2 or any other piece of software that has copy protection, the SecuROM update prevented people from doing with their computer what they normally do. After running the fix, everything was back to normal, such as it is.

There were no apologies and no explanations from SecuROM or Obsidian - just the continuing expectation that paying customers are supposed to have to deal with this ongoing punishment. The most disturbing fact about this is that even as an administrator-level user, SecuROM still had the ability to deny access to certain parts of the operating system.

So, tell me again how SecuROM isn't a rootkit. And while you're at it, tell me why I should be forced to tolerate this for those times when I want to show my support for the developers of a game that I really like.

And yet while all of this is going on, the pirates who couldn't care less about the company or developers continue to play the same games with no SecuROM infections, no reduction in their bank accounts for such headaches, and no guilt.

I'm starting to agree with their philosophy.   read

9:34 AM on 09.01.2008

No longer thrilled about "Max Payne" movie

I have been a Max Payne fan since the first video game came out. Remedy released a demo that included the first level, and I was totally hooked. Then the game came out and I had to pick my jaw off the floor the entire time -- the darkness of the noir feeling to the design, the graphics which were outstanding for the time, the comic-book (sorry ... graphic novel) feeling to the cutscenes, everything about the game was incredible. It was one of the first FPSs that actually compelled me to go back and play it again almost as soon as I had finished it.

Max Payne 2 was a pre-order as soon as the pre-order was available, and it didn't miss a beat. The same feeling, the same quality of the level design, and same richness of the story of were all there, making me long for a third installment of the game.

So, when I heard that a Max Payne movie is coming out and that it isn't directed by Uwe Boll, I was skeptical but I hoped more than anything else that it would follow true to the feel and direction of the games. I even thought that Marky Mark could do a good job in the role.

With respect to story and empathy for Max, the strength of the games come from Max's personal struggles -- first, the death of this wife and child, then relationship with and death of Mona (which started with the death of yet another innocent woman, as Max himself points out at the start of the second game.) They could have just ported the first game over to a movie and it would have been great because the game has all of the elements of an action movie -- but with more story. *cough*

I now think that the movie is going to suck.

Oh, sure. It might do well on its own, but I think that this movie is going to seriously piss off fans of the video game. The full trailer is over at IESB (link below). After seeing it, I think I want to hurl.

Instead of having a movie based on Max's internal struggles, he now has become the New York noir version of Van Helsing, fighting off what appear to be a horde of Valkyries. As far as the trailer is concerned, the movie has become a modern day, supernatural, gun fest, combining Van Helsing, The Matrix, and Sin City. Once again, the movie appears to be a clear indication that Hollywood has become a bastion of non-creativity where the preference is to replace rich storylines with a bunch of cockamamie CGI effects in an attempt to make the eye candy replace the lack of story.

In fact, the only thing that even bears any resemblance to the story line of the original game is that in the movie he is fighting valkyries but in the video game he fought the distributor of the drug Valkyr. I honestly hope that whoever wrote the screenplay to this movie didn't actually think that we're so stupid that we would accept that as a viable link between the game and the movie. Oh, wait. These valkyries killed his family and partner. Yes, that will be enough to link with the game, too, right? Not.

This is not the personal, tormented Max Payne from the videogames. In fact, I don't know what this is. It seems to be more like Max Payne: Pissed-Off Supernatural Crime Fighter. But I do know one thing: based on what I've seen of this trailer, this will not be getting my dollars at the box office.   read

11:09 PM on 08.02.2008

Let Best Buy install your Wii game!

This isn't the first time I've seen this, but while at a local Best Buy to purchase Boom Blox for the Wii I saw this and had to chuckle.

Of course, there's nothing to install with the Wii, unless Best Buy considers the save game file to be an installation. I hope that Best buy doesn't expect people to pay every time they want to play the game. (Yeah, I know, this was just someone being careless with storage boxes, but it still made me chuckle.)

On a separate note, if you own a Wii but you don't own No More Heroes and Okami, you're an idiotic fool.   read

6:34 PM on 06.22.2008

Problems with Wii "Rock Band" already

I can only hope that this is an isolated incident. After all, there is no way that anyone can expect every item that comes off an assembly line to be in perfect condition. But unfortunately my kicker/bass drum pedal is not working. The rest of the drums are working fine, but the kick pedal - alas! - was flatlined right out of the box. Although this is not definitive, I also connected a multimeter to the plug and pressed the pedal several times HARD with no change on the meter at all. sigh I've already created a hardware/warranty incident with EA.

So, I don't know who else has bought this for the Wii; but considering the widely-reported issues with other Rock Band hardware, I can't say that this whole thing comes as a surprise to me.

The game itself is pretty good, though. I like some of the features that Guitar Hero III doesn't have, such as the solo points for certain songs and the bonus points for perfect solo play in other songs. Some of the songs are ... well, I'm not going to comment about that because I still have a significant number of songs to go through. I would love to say how much better the drums are when compared to Guitar Hero III (yes, that's a joke), but right now the drums are just about on par.

So, I figured that I would give everyone else a head's up to this in case this because a second wave of EA hardware problems.   read

10:18 PM on 06.13.2008

Stop it with centralized logins for PC gaming!

For several years, my nephew and a friend in North Carolina have been hooking up for multiplayer PC gaming every Friday (or when necessary Saturday) night. It's just us as a team against "The Bots" [TM]. We've been playing Ghost Recon for years, but we've recently gone to Rainbow Six: Vegas. Ubi, unfortunately, has decided that even though the game is only two or three years old they apparently do not need to maintain their login servers -- or else they completely underestimated the crush of their infrastructure when R6V2 was released.

Here is what we've been experiencing with Rainbow Six: Vegas, thanks to the stupidity of Ubisoft...

Servers down - 9:43 PM EDT.
Servers down - 10:32 PM EDT.
Servers down - 11:03 PM EDT.
Servers down - 12:05 AM EDT.

...and that's just tonight.

The main problem? Ubi has decided to implement a centralized login. They are forcing us to do multiplayer through their servers. (The Ghost Recon and Rainbow Six series allowed direct connection to any server just by specifying the IP address.)

What's worse, they don't use a once-and-done authentication. You have to maintain a connection with the login server. So, even if you have a clean connection to the PC on which the game is hosted, everyone gets kicked off the game if the connection with the login server is lost!

By having such pathetic servers (or network infrastructure) that can't handle the crush of Friday night gaming, Ubi is effectively denying us the services for which we paid when we bought the game. When I last checked, not rendering services after a payment has been made is by definition fraud. Lots of software companies have gotten into trouble for this kind of crap in the past. Apparently, Ubi is trying to get on that list.

Sure, one might argue that the servers are up most of the time and that it's only during peak times that the problems are there. That's fine, but as someone who has been working in the high-end IT/networking industry for almost 15 years (nothing to do with Windows or PCs, thank God) I will tell you that the whole idea is to have enough capacity for peak network and server usage while balancing those resources during non-peak times. Apparently, Ubi has no clue (or does not care) about proper network and server infrastructures. Did no one learn from Microsoft's XBox Live debacle in December?

I understand that Ubi is most likely putting most of its resources to newer games; however, R6V is only - what? - two, maybe three, years old? It is well within a normal development lifecycle for the average computer program and is still sold both on-line and in stores. People are still buying it. So, this is not "unsupportable" software.

I also understand the need to connect to a central server if you want to communicate with whatever servers just happen to be out there. Having a central location where public servers can be indexed is a good thing. But when you know exactly where you want to connect to, forcing a centralized connection is completely useless and creates an unnecessary point of failure. In this case, it has been a point of failure time and time and time and time again.

And I can appreciate why it would be a way to try to hold off piracy. But if that's the case, validate the damned CD key, then let the players alone. What the hell is the use of maintaining a connection? Can CD keys suddenly change during gameplay? That would be a first for me.

To add salt to the open wound, they've designed the game so that VPN solutions like OpenVPN or GIT won't work! So, we can't use a VPN to simulate a LAN connection, which does not require a centralized login.

There is no excuse why I have not been able to maintain a connection to Ubi's login servers every Friday night for the past two months. When you know that you want to connect directly to the game server at IP address, forcing a centralized login is totally unnecessary.

Enough is enough. Stop the forced, centralized logins for PC gaming!   read

11:11 AM on 03.09.2008

Just bought a third Wii -- WTF?

Maybe it's the luck o' me (mostly) Irish blood, but I went down to Best Buy to get Super Smash Brothers Brawl this morning, not realizing that they actually opened an hour later. It was cold (about 40F/4C), but it was sunny, it was a Sunday morning, and I didn't want to drive home just to drive back 1/2 hour later. There were only a few people in line, so I did something I never did before -- I actually waited in line for the store to open.

I was chatting with people, talking about how Vista takes up 670 MB of RAM just to get to the f*cking desktop and talking about the Wii and how I managed to buy two of them. Mostly, this was because I do my shopping during lunch during the week. Most people do their Wii shopping during evenings and weekends -- which is when everybody else is looking for one. By shopping during the week, I've had the opportunity to buy a Wii FIVE times in the past year.

The woman in front of me was looking for a Wii for her ""mentally challenged" daughter. (Why the f*ck are people unable to just use the word "retarded"? There's NOTHING wrong with that word, for crying out loud.) So we were talking about how to use it, what kinds of games are available, what the nunchuck is used for, and so forth.

Next thing I know, a guy from Best Buy is handing out pieces of paper. The store wasn't open yet, so I figured that it was a sales flyer of some kind. Turns out that it was voucher #23 for a new Wii! I know people who have been looking for one, so I figured that I'd grab one for them as long as I was there. (No, this is NOT going on eBay.)

So, today I walked out with a third Wii, Super Smash Brothers Brawl, No More Heroes, an extra Classic Controller, and a $10 gift card that I got for buying SSBB and an additional game. It just goes to show that there are Wiis out there to be bought as long as you don't go looking for one when everyone else is looking. Get your ass out of bed on Sunday morning and get your ass out to the stores at lunch instead of at night. You'll find one.

There are worse ways to spend a Sunday morning -- like sitting in church.   read

12:02 AM on 03.08.2008

Not my Turning Point gaming rig

Unless this is really a random winner, I don't see much chance of winning because my system is already beefy.

- Athlon X2 5200+
- 2 GB RAM
- GeForce 8800GTS w/ 640 MB RAM
- Freaking huge Rosewill RCX-Z3 CPU cooler
- Sound Blaster X-Fi audio

Of course, my PC is defended from n00bs by the Killer Rabbit of Caerbannog, which I defeated with the Kind-of-Holy Fishing Rod of St. Syzifuss. Gromit is on standby in case the rabbit needs some assistance.


4:27 PM on 02.15.2008

Toys R Us admits screwup on GH3 Wii guitars

Just got this e-mail.

[i]We are reaching out to you today regarding your recent order for the "Guitar Hero III Les Paul Wireless", for Nintendo Wii, order number xxxxxxxx. We are contacting you to let you know that there was a technical error while processing your order and as a result, your order was canceled. If you have not yet received a cancellation email, you should be shortly.

We apologize for any inconvenience this may cause and want to extend our apologies that we cannot systematically reinstate your order. We would like however, to let you know that the item is currently online, and available for pre-sale purchase. This is an extremely popular item, and inventory will go quickly, so if you are still interested in ordering the item, we encourage you to visit the site at this time, to place your order.

In the event that you have any questions, please feel free to contact us at 1-800-ToysRUs. Our online customer service team is available 24 hours a day, seven days a week, and would be more than happy to assist you!

Thank you for selecting as your shopping destination! We look forward to serving you in the future!

ToyRus & BabiesRus Customer Service[/i]

So, the how about doing the right thing and REVERSING THE CANCELLATION?! Idiots.   read

6:57 PM on 02.12.2008

Toys R Us cancels Les Paul orders for the Wii

God freakin' damn it! I pre-ordered the standalone Les Paul guitar for the Wii version og Guitar Hero III, and they just canceled my order. The item is now listed as not being available for ordering on-line. I just got the following e-mail:

[b]Dear Valued Customer,

We are reaching out to you today to let you know that the item(s) you
ordered is still in a backorder status. Since we do not anticipate
receiving additional inventory from our vendors your order will be
canceled. You should be receiving an email shortly confirming the
cancellation of your order. We apologize for any inconvenience this may
cause you.

We would like to invite you to check our website periodically as we are
constantly updating inventory and adding new products. If you are
interested in placing a new order, for a different item, please feel
free to do so online or call us at 1-800-ToysRUs. An online customer
service specialist will be more than happy to assist you and can take
your order over the phone!

We value your business and look forward to serving you in the future.

Sincerely, Customer Service[/b]

I guess the upside is that the full item is still available on-line for only $10 more. Considering that Activision actually expects us to return our defective, monaural game disc so that we won't be able to play for the game for who-knows-how-long while they correct their f*ck up, maybe paying the extra $10 is worth it so that we can still play while we await the replacement CD.   read

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