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8:02 PM on 12.11.2011

The not so philosophical discussion about screen shots

This blog posting was inspired by the interview of Duncan Harris and follow-up discussion. I guess a screen shot photographer is the best way to define him.

Now Harris doesnít do the traditional screen shots that devs push out for game trailers/releases/promos/etc. nor what 99.5% of us do when we take a screenshot in a game using Fraps. Yes I made up that percentage but Iím probably not that far off.

He fudges with the game to get those images.

He tweaks the filters, adds modifications, and pushes the product to its limits in order to capture the image that he is trying to achieve. Admittedly so, it causes the games to crash a whole bunch. Iím betting his computer screams at him every time he does this with Skyrim. I know mine would.

Theyíre all interesting pieces in their own rights. Itís a new level of digital art using content that already exists in the game and spinning it to capture a moment. I know a few people might argue that itís plagiarism since he is not directly making the image from scratch, but there was this movement called Pop Art that would state otherwise.

We can get into a giant debate of what is and isnít art, but thatís not what I want to do with this post. What I wanted to talk about was this quote he made in the article and the ensuing responses:

"I think what it boils down to is that there's just an awful lot of dumb shit in videogames."

Which he later updated on his website: ďI did say there was a lot of Ďdumb shití in them, and I should probably revise that to say thereís an awful lot of dumb shit in them.Ē

He made a photo journalistic response to the comments using Super Mario Galaxy to clear up 3 misconceptions. Mostly I wanted to focus on comments that he doesnít like video games and why work with a medium that he doesnít enjoy, based on the quotes above.

Part of his process and philosophy is to explore a game from a photographerís point of view. And you know what? I have to agree. There is a lot of shit in video games, if you want to film or photograph something. And I donít just mean the bloom and brown obsession with FPS. Too much frickiní brown these days.

What I mean is the content in the game that distracts you from admiring the world your character is standing in. There is a lot of really neat stuff that goes on in the background that most people are never aware of. You get spammed with the story or a war zone and are expected to move forward to whatever the ultimate goal is that you ignore the things happening around you. Not saying that itís intentional, but what games program us to do from the moment we hit the Start button.

One thing that I learned many years ago when I first started in film studies are that there are two processes we always need to be aware of: to capture the image as it happens and to create a story around it. Thatís what Harris does with his pieces, including manipulating the scene to get to the concept he wants to tell. Itís not about the game but the image.

To get to those points in the game where there is an image worth being saved you have to wade through a lot of crap. From that perspective, I understand where Harris is coming from. Neither of us hates games. Iíll probably play them even on my deathbed. Itís a part of my life and a hobby I canít imagine giving up. But getting from point A to point G to grab an image is taxing on the mind when you realize how much stuff there is to wade through to get there. A lot of it is shit, yes. Shit to the mind of a photographer, not a gamer.

I take a lot of screen shots. A lot. A lot lot lot. I have 50+ gigís worth saved up of images from years of gaming (theyíve been compressed to save space but Iím sure itís twice that much). A number of them are random, funny times with my friends. Conversations that we look back on and have a laugh. But most are scenic moments in the game where I have to stop and snap an image. When you remove the noise of the game, take out the chat boxes, build up the filters, play with the settings, you find something truly magical that you may have never seen before because of the clutter.

Iím an avid defender of gaming scenery and removing the noise. There are so many amazing images in games these days that get blocked out by walls of text, conversations, and cut scenes that you miss out on all of the cool things going on.

Chat bubbles for example. I hate chat bubbles.

This has been a big debate on the Star Wars: Old Republic forums. For a very brief time in early beta, they had chat bubbles and no way to turn them off. It pissed me off beyond all belief because it completely took away from the stunning artwork that makes up the Star Wars Universe.

Before I get flamed, not every MMO uses chat bubbles. Some have never had that function (see FFXI) since its inception and theyíre still going quite strong. You donít need a chat bubble to play an MMO. Iíve seen this as a common argument ďevery MMO has chat bubbles so this should too,Ē but thatís a rant for another day.

Chat bubbles would have prevented me from capturing this:

To me, this is beautiful and represents so many things that I enjoy about Star Wars. Because I like exploring my gaming environment, this is something most people will probably never see in game or take the time out to try and find. I went around some buildings, into a corner, and did some crazy Mario-style jumping on ledges to get this. I saw it in the distance and wanted a closer look. Imagine that scene with chat bubbles that you canít turn off. Itíd be an endless stream of clutter like Navi pestering me until I keeled over in insanity.

I may not have the panache of Harris, but I understand where heís coming from. Part of my experience when playing a game is to take screen shots of the content as it is. There are already so many wonderful things happening in the background that there isnít a need for me to futz with it even more. Thatís my perspective at least. If you want to tweak the image to fit your vision, have at it. You donít have to be a gamer to appreciate the images within a game, nor do you have to be a photographer, videographer, filmmaker, artist, etc. But itís obvious to me that Harris does enjoy working with the medium that he has chosen, otherwise he wouldnít continue to spend so much time creating those pieces.   read

3:12 PM on 12.05.2011

Xenophilia: Quiz Nanairo Dreams ~

Yes itís a Japanese Dating game, but roll with it for a moment.

My interest in this game started with Marvel vs. Capcom: Clash of Super Heroes and a person named Saki Omokane (aka Saki Kanebo), an assist character. She wasnít playable but jumped in, kicked some ass, and disappeared in an instant. I knew who all of the Marvel and the Capcom characters were, except for this girl Saki. She seemed so cool and made some great combos with the others, so why didnít she get her own feature? MvC could have used more female characters as primary players. I wanted to know where she came from.

This was 1999-2000 and luckily, we had just received the internet in our household! I know, a world where the internet didnít exist for the general public. I remember those daysÖ

After days of searching I found the game Saki originally came from. A dating sim called Quiz Nanairo Dreams.

It goes something like this: You, an average, everyday male somewhere between the ages of 15-21, is smacked in the head by a falling fairy. She tells you that there is an evil source threatening to take over the world called the Devil King. To defeat him you must harness the power of 7 crystals hidden in the hearts of 7 young women that you have to befriend, and fight to the death in a trivia battle.

It was 1996. Letís give Capcom some credit here. XD It combined action, adventure, and platforming with trivia and dating simulation all into one ball. A number of websites still list the game as an ďactionĒ title.

Quiz Nanairo started as an arcade game in Japan for 1-2 players. Its popularity pushed it to release a console version for the Sega Saturn and PlayStation. Well enough to be a worthy footnote in the history of Capcom, but international sales were not in the cards. Bad play on words there. The last name of the female characters in the arcade version were all from candy card companies that helped sponsor the development of the game.

Me and my innocence of 15 didnít know what a dating sim was. AOL was not very helpful on the matter, even with parental controls on. >.> But the things AOL was presenting and what Capcom had on their website were totally different. It was clear that if I wanted to find out more I needed to know Japanese. The Capcom English equivalent of their website had no mention of Quiz Nanairo. I was determined to find out more about this game. I needed a copy.

ROMís online were still in their youth, and finding one for such a rare title as this was impossible. I was 19 going on 20 and in college when I finally got my hands on Quiz Nanairo. Three years later from my original quest. A friendís father took a lot of business trips to Japan as part of his work would bring home a game every time he went. He stumbled upon it and a small mom and pop shop that had a section of Saturn games in the corner of the store.

I pulled out my Saturn from its lightly dusty box, fiddled with the settings, and placed in the disc. It was trippy.

Between the fairy and the floating pink circle game board, with the music and the absurd trivia questions (What does red pepper taste like?), it was fun in the way that Katamai Damacy is awesome. Nothing like the dating simís AOL showed me. Thereís no nudity. No stripping of virtual women. No needless boobie jiggles, unless you count the fairy whacking you in the face causing the screen to shake-I donít.

Quiz Nanairo was an action trivia game that incorporated some dating sim elements. You cross over the realm of a pink board that act as days of the week, and have a few months in order to befriend all of the girls with crystals in their hearts. Friend, not sleep with. Itís actually a pretty PG game when you think about it. The women have a wide arrange of personalities; Ezaki the fitness guru, Shalllote the introvert with robot servants, Sakuma the typical girl next girl, and Saki the teenage super heroine. When time is up, you battle it out with the Devil King who looks like a cross between the Wise Man from Nights: Into Dreams and the Sailor Moon villain. The more crystals you have collected the less questions you need to answer. Itís a game within a game: collect the crystals and trivia!

Saki seems too nice and sweet at first. Just a normal, teenage girl going to school. But one call from the Earth Defense Force and bam! She transforms in front of your eyes, with a big ass machine gun in hand. Where she stores it, I donít want to know. No wonder I liked her in Marvel vs. Capcom. She dazzles you with her wit and skill, runs off to save the world, and comes back minutes later as if everything is back to normal. So silly!

It was a cute, quirky game with random trivia, bright colors and sound, and a ridiculous story. But it left an impression on me. Saki became one of my wish list characters to cosplay because of this game. She transformed into more of a bad ass in the Tatsunoko vs. Capcom franchise. If you donít mind breaking a few things on your PSP or PS3, it was re-released through the Japanese PSN store a few months ago.

So thanks Marvel vs. Capcom for opening up a new world of gaming for me. Who knows what else it could have created if it were given a chance outside of Japan. Maybe we would all have a different perception on the dating sim genre then women with big boobs, short skits, and ditzy dialogue.   read

12:35 PM on 12.04.2011

How I Write a Review

After seeing this miserable attempt by GamePro to review The Old Republic, I went on a mini-rant. I understand that their staff is going through a tough year, with the closing of the magazine tomorrow, laying off a number of employees, and moving it to an internet gaming channel via PCWorld, but this was inexcusable. Iím not saying this as a Star Wars fan girl, but as a concerned gamer. It shows some insight into why the 22 year old magazine may have had a falling out with its customers.

They donít know how to review a game.

Iím not saying that I am an expert. Nor am I saying that there isnít an inherit bias when making game reviews. Does anyone remember that 100% objective review of Final Fantasy XIII on DToid last year? I still laugh about it because itís true. You canít remove bias and predisposition from a review. Thatís part of the review process. Youíre asking someone for their opinion about a product.

But there is a right way and a wrong way to review a game.

So Iím going to do something that might confused and bewilder the senses of the gaming crowd on DToid. I am going to post a review about Ubisoftís Imagine series games, in particular Imagine Fashion Designer to show what I feel is the right way to review a product.

I will not deny that I have personal opinions about this game and the entire Imagine catalog long before I tried to play. It feels like itís trying to bait young girls into gaming by fulfilling stereotypical female roles that society attempts to place on us.

So here are my rules: Play the game start to finish, look at the positive and negatives of the game, be honest about your point of view but be open to trying new things, donít be afraid to say that you like something (itís so easy to be the bad guy on the internet), take your time to formulate your review, and give a fair score.

Note: Games such as RPGís Iím not asking for 100% competition. Rather, finish the primary story and do pieces of the side-quests here and there. 100+ hours to review one game that will take someone 5 minutes to read is a little silly.


I can tell you why I dislike Imagine Fashion Designer, available on the Nintendo DS. Lack of variety. Ignore the fact that itís being marketed to little girls to get them to be something that the rest of the world expects from them. Men are fashion designers too. But what the game tries to promise in creativity it fails to delivery in opportunity. The game gives you preset designs: tops, dresses, pants, etc. You have some control over color and can create your own patterns within the preset designs, but youíre not making clothes with your stylus. Youíre not drawing them onto the paper doll body. Thatís what makes this game fall flat. Itís asking you to be creative and design whatever you wish, within the regulations of whatís be set up in the game. Even scores are based on how you dress your paper doll model. A shirt, pants, dress combo gives you a lower score then if you choose the dress and heels by themselves.

So whatís the stylus used for? To brush on make-up, nail polish, and add highlights to hair styles. Itís really more of a full-dress up game and not one solely focused on clothing designs.

The good side of Imagine Fashion Designer is that it does allow for some minor growth in creativity. If you ignore the scoring system and let yourself go nuts with the options, you can come up with some really neat ideas. On that front I would support this game as a means of creative expression. The bad side, everything else. Youíre limited on whatís available in terms of what you can ďmakeĒ. Between the preset clothing designs, hair, make-up, shoes, accessories, really you can only be free in color choices. Some clothes can be cropped with a scissors tool, such as a long dress into a mini, but thatís about it. Itís misleading from what the game description claims to offer.

Here is how the game works: you are an aspiring female fashion designer that just moved to New York City (like all fashion designers do!). You complete missions to create new fashion lines using the preset designs and giving them new color and patterns. After each mission you collect new clothing pieces to use and unlock more missions. As you progress you can set up photo shoots, pick models, interact with photographers, and share ďfashion cardsĒ with your friends via Wi-Fi to show off your designs. Itís very much about ďin the life ofĒ where you try to live out this fantasy version of yourself as a designer. At one point you get a boyfriend who is a photographer and have the option to move in with him for more points. You rinse and repeat until you become the top fashion designer in NYC.

Itís very obvious from the design of the game and the marketing that this was meant for young girls. In their perspective, I could see an interest in the title. It allows you to express your creativity through clothing that you may not otherwise have. Surprising as it may seem, some public schools do have set uniforms. In that aspect, having this game is a nice creative outlet, even with its limited features.

As a whole, the game is lackluster. It doesnít provide the full range of options as expressed by their website or the game box. But I would recommend this to a young girl over the Imagine Babysitter and Mom games. Iíd rather promote young girls being creative in fashion then to have them sit at home and take care of children all day long.

4/10 on the review scale. Not creative enough to be worth a purchase, but if someone will let you borrow it for an hour or two you might come up with something unexpected.

Ok. Granted I did have a jab at the end about the Imagine series, but on the whole, itís not a bad review. Outright slamming a product doesnít work. Thus my sadness that GamePro is ending the way that it is, by taking a giant dump on TOR for reviewing its Beta for only a few hours of game play, barely making it off of the primary newbie planet. And itís why I have to question their legitimacy as reviewers, because that isnít something you do. Unless they intended to post that p.o.s. as a means of gaining attention, then they did a good job. :/ Not how I would want to go out.

But thatís just my opinion on what makes a good review work. *prepares for the flaming*

Minor Update: I guess what I'm trying to get at is while reviews are a nice way to base perception on a product, ultimately you won't know how you feel about a game until you pick it up and try it for yourself. Explore! Expand your gaming habits. Try new things. You might be surprised at what you find interesting.   read

4:00 PM on 11.28.2011

I donít trade in my games

This blog post was sparked by Kotakuís Weekend Talk Amongst Yourself. It was the leading featured comment, but got taken over by Portal socks. Yep. Those were some pretty cool socks.

If you donít want to read, the summary of the question by the poster was ďWhy is GameStop better then BestBuy for trade ins? Anyone moved from GameStop to BestBuy? Why do you stick with GameStop?Ē

All good questions.

First hand experience in the trade sales market, the purchase and sale of used video games can be tricky and varies from company to company. With other retailers such as and Gamefly moving in, GameStop will eventually lose its grip as the leader of used game sales. Even though it is the first place that comes to mind if someone were to ask me where to sell their used games, there are other options.

This isnít an ďI love GameStopĒ or ďI hate GameStopĒ post.

In fact, I donít think Iíll end up answering the questions posted earlier. I want to talk about the fact that I donít trade in my games.

Not only do I not trade or sell my games, I donít buy used products. It is not to make a statement against the sale of used games. In doing so I would be making a protest about the sale of all used products, and wouldnít have 90% of the books that I currently own in my library. Itís not because I have seen and handled customers that got bad game discs, or the wrong game, or someone didnít wipe the DS cartridge saved games clean before reselling the product (swear words are used a lot in naming characters). Itís not even a worry that I will be getting a bad copy of an item. I just donít like buying used games.

Is there something wrong with that?

Iíd think that there would be a pretty good reason behind my logic, but I couldnít think of one. On the rare occasion I will see a New game being sold for less then a Used one. And we all have scratched discs that work just fine on our systems. Itís not about the number of thumb prints or the number of saves on a DS cartridge. I just donít like buying a used copy.

It is an odd circumstance, isnít it?

On top of which, I donít sell any games that I have purchased. Even the Guitar Hero for the DS, which I really dislike and have thought about selling on several occasions. But there it sits on my shelf next to GTA Chinatown Wars and My Japanese Coach. My only reasoning for this is that the buyback rate can really suck.

Used game sales are based on supply, demand, and regional interest. Again this varies from company to company, but this is one perspective that I've worked with for over 3 years. Some of the newer releases with broad appeal such as Madden or other sports titles tend to have a flat rate for buying and selling across the board. Other, much rarer, games like Xenosaga 3 can sell for $20 in one state and $30 in another. It depends on what the demand is, and stores do get feedback from their sales associates to figure out what people are looking for. A lot of GameStopís foot traffic is at physical store locations. Even with a website, it doesnít generate as much revenue as a local store. Thatís also why selection from one GameStop store to another can vary. I have a store that is 5 minutes from my home that is wall to wall filled with used game titles, and one rinky-dink little basket of new games. Another store about 20 minutes away it is the exact opposite. The walls and content are catered to what sells in that area. Yes, your purchase does influence the products availability.

Being in that line of work, I already know what to expect when I try to sell my game back. Not much. And the only way to get the best value is to take the store credit option. Did you know that everyone, BestBuy, GS, Gamefly, Amazon, etc. will give you less money if you ask for the cash equivalent? They want you to spend that money in their stores so they will offer you a store credit or store gift card. They donít want you to walk out with cash to spend at a competitor. You could argue that they got your used game for free; youíre just getting a slight discount on something else youíre buying in the store.

I understand consumer loyalty. But things of this nature make me shake my head and not want to deal with the system. I will probably never play Guitar Hero for the DS again, but I donít want to be sucked into the madness of used game sales to get something just as equally crappy in return.

I think this just turned into one giant rambling piece. Unintended. Though I do want to do a for/against post about used game sales in the near future. There are so many articles about it as of late, it's always an interesting topic to debate about. Particularly with gaming dev's trying to combat used game sales.

So am I crazy for not buying into it all? Or do I have a valid reason somewhere in this mess of text for not being a used game buyer and seller?   read

10:38 AM on 11.20.2011

Force Spam

The NDA has been lifted! Iíve been waiting for 355 days to say this:

I am a full-time tester for the Star Wars Old Republic beta.

Whew! You donít know how good it feels to say that. Iíve been keeping my mouth shut from the moment I received the e-mail that I would be testing the game, because I knew of the backlash from friends and family.

For 355 days Iíve only been allowed to say the following:

1.) There is currently a beta for TOR.
2.) I am currently in beta testing for TOR.

Thatís it! Anything else and they could have thrown the ban-hammer at me. Iíve seen it! Itís not pretty. >.> However in fear of perpetual harassment by all who I know, I kept it to myself. But now, now with it being opened up for general weekend testing and all of my friends and family getting in to play, I am free to profess my love, and hate, for TOR.

Of all of the MMOís that I have tested in the past, this is the only one where Iíve been so tight-lipped. There has been so much hype and interest surrounding this game for years that the last thing I wanted to be was the person that spoiled it.

Odd, right?

Loads of people have been posting videos, screenshots, and job details for months since beta began. But I didnít want to be one of them. Not for fear of being caught, but to hold onto some sense of purity in the joy of experiencing a game for the first time. I didnít want to be the one that ruined the surprise of the game for another. Even for myself there are still aspects in TOR that I have yet to see to keep something new for me at launch.

It sounds silly doesnít it? Especially with the floodgates now open. But there is a part of me that feels like a kid when it comes to a new game. That first time opening the box. The smell of the cardboard box or the plastic case. The shiny disc inside (or in my case a cartridge for a number of years). The game manual with its crisp, new pages. And that moment of putting the game into the system and seeing the first images; itís just magical.

I would hate to be that person that took away that feeling for someone who has been eagerly waiting for TOR.

For those who may think that Iím nuts, itís totally possible to be oblivious about this game if you put a little bit of effort into it. The job that Iím playing at launch is Imperial Agent and Iíve been able to keep myself completely out of any conversations regarding the story-line so that I can experience it at the gameís release. For 355 days. It wasnít difficult, really.

And while I may be posting up a bunch of spoilers on my Geek Spot full-blown blog, Iím headlining everything with a bold warning, and providing enough spacing to keep images and text out of sight for those who may not want to read it.

One month to go until release. I hope Iím not the one to spoil your fun.   read

9:57 AM on 11.15.2011

Entry #1. Or EA, the Fox News of PR.

My first entry here on DToid will not be one that many people will agree with. But that's ok. I don't enjoy intentionally causing trouble. Yet I didn't want another "Hay guyz! I are new! I am coolz like youz!" But a "hello, and this is my first post" this is. So what the heck am I going to talk about?

After reading about EA forums bans are still locking out customers from their games, I went on a rant. Well, more like my EA hate ramblings. I get one every now and then. As a former employee of a customer service center for a large gaming retailer, we harbor a lot of distrust, angst, and hatred for all things EA.

Crap like this is why I really dislike EA.

I never posted why I despise EA as much as I do.

The long and short of it. I'm a Sims fan and support the creative mind that is Will Wright. So when Sims 3 was released, of course I bought it. My computer exceeded the requirements, but the game would only last 5 minutes before freezing or causing a blue screen. A lot of going back and forth with EA's "support" led to no resolution. The last response I received from them still blamed me and my computer for being the reason for the game not working. Roughly 4 months later I'd say they finally caved in an offered me another of their products that was direct download from their website. I got a $19.99 game for a $79.99 product (collector's edition of course) that I can never play. Thanks EA. Glad you were worthless.

The game I picked was the Spore add-on. That was a mistake.

Let's see that was 2009, and my new computer with much better specs still can't play Sims 3. I'm not the only one. There are thousands who encounter the same issue as me and we rant about it on the Sims forums under EA's thumb. It seems to enjoy eating up every ounce of processing power on your computer. No rhyme or reason. It just does on certain computers and not on others. Last time I attempted to play, it blew out my heatsync, causing a long no computer stint while it was being repaired. A big middle finger to EA all around.

The other reason for my hate is due to my old job. We dealt with EA. A lot. They have a really bad habit of playing "blame the retailer." Remember that sale on Steam for Crysis and a bunch of the product keys weren't working? EA kept sending people back to Steam for either new keys or to blame them for the issue, when really it was just EA not activating any of them.

In my personal experience, anything that had to deal with a pre-order bonus from EA (Warhammer Online comes to mind) or a beta experience (...just about everything that comes from EA on this one) they always screw up. Either they provide us with codes that they never activate, only gave us 100 codes to feed hundreds of thousands of customers, or give us codes that are never valid (typically due to an incorrect number/letter sequence-that the codes were right if you just jumbled everything and eventually deciphered the code). Imagine sitting for months on end, day in and day out, hearing phone calls and reading e-mails about "My code for Warhammer doesn't work!" "My code for this beta isn't active!" "EA said you all have to give me a new code!"

Not just a few days. Months.

You get jaded very fast when you know you and your coworkers have no control over EA's whims.

Since the Sims 3, I haven't purchased an EA product. Go me. Though I am caving in for SW:TOR. And ONLY SW:TOR. I still see BioWare as the primary holder of the title. EA is just a means of publicity and distribution.

So back to the main topic EA is a bunch of dicks. I'm of the position that they really are a corporate money-making machine and have thrown all concerns about customers out the window a long time ago. So enjoy the continued hate bashing!

To read more excerpts, please visit my blog The Geek Spot.   read

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