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Titannel's blog

8:31 PM on 08.17.2015

So I may be a little little bit infrequent on the Cblogs in the near future. I just started working at Best Buy! Woohoo! Employment! I'm totally gonna buy a Xbox One and then not play it 'cause of all of the holiday shopping season craziness!


3:10 PM on 08.14.2015

Quick posts? Man, the future is here! DTOID is pretty awesome right this second! BTW I own this: [img][/img]


11:24 PM on 08.11.2015

Gaming & The Mall: A Brief Essay/Retrospective

When i was a kid, nothing was quite as awesome as the local mall. Everyone remembers the local shopping mall, I'm sure, since in the 1980s and 1990s it was an epicenter of culture that it just isn't today. Back then, if you needed something, be it tools, shoes, appliances, or consumer electronics, chances are that you went to the mall to get it, and it always seemed like an event.

What was my local mall? Well, it was and still is the Edison Mall, located in scenic Fort Myers, Florida.

I used to go there with my dad during the summer, when school was out and I was bored at home. See, I was an only child, so I got bored too damn easily. My mom worked full-time, so during the summer my dad and I would find stuff to do to get out of the house. Our routine would usually begin early in the morning, with breakfast at a local Mel's Diner or IHOP. We usually got to the mall around 10 or 11 AM, where we made sure to park at Sears, one of the anchor stores in this particular mall.

Sears itself is still a neat store, since a lot of the layout hasn't really changed in 20 years. Sure, the TVs have all been upgraded and the fashions they are selling are up to date, but a lot of the layout is pretty much the same as it was years ago. In some ways, it's a quaint look back into the past. The one thing that has changed is the location of the video games.

Sears used to have an amazing little section for selling video games. It was basically a jewelry counter, but it was filled with games. They also had awesome kiosks with SNES consoles in them, as well as Nintendo Power kiosks that played game trailers so you could see what the hot new games were.

I remember getting the NES versions of Tetris and Dr. Mario when I was just an infant. I don't think I was even able to walk at that point. I just remember my dad buying them for me. If I was in the store I could probably point out where the purchase was made.

To this day, I still prefer the NES version of Tetris to the Game Boy version, mostly due to the fact that you could see the screen on the NES version. The Game Boy version, like nearly every other game on the system, suffers from the fact that the LCD screen is not great. That's more or less a universal issue with the Game Boy, however. The best solution to this is to either play on a Game Boy Advance, a Super Game Boy, or get a Game Boy Kiosk. But that's impossible, of course. The NES version of Tetris is fundamentally identical to the Game Boy version, except there isn't any multiplayer (like anyone used a Game Boy link cable before Pokemon...), and that iconic Tetris theme isn't in the game, for some reason. Still, there is a reason why I test every NES I come across with Tetris. It's good. And addictive.

Dr. Mario is a fantastic game, but it wasn't me who played this the most in my household. That honor belonged to my mother. My mom didn't play too many video games, but she was a hell of a lot more willing than my dad was in the grand scheme of things. It's odd, because while my dad was the big fan of tech products and gadgets, he didn't much care for video games. My mom actually played a little bit. She was by no means a gamer, but every few months, she'd pop in Dr. Mario and six hours would pass in an instant. I think she liked it because, as a banker, my mom could appreciate a game where you had to think as opposed to something with mindless violence, like Double Dragon or Contra.

The same sort of thing happened when I got my Super Puzzle Fighter II Turbo machine, but that's a story for another time.

I also remember getting Mario's Time Machine from that particular Sears. I don't know the circumstances of why my dad bought me the game, I just knew that he did. There wasn't necessarily a reason for it, of course; My dad loved me so much that he probably would have bought the entire case of games for me if he could have found a way to pay for it all.

Mario's Time Machine was a new Mario game in a time when new Mario games didn't seem like they were just around the corner. Much to my disappointment, the game is, unfortunately, an educational game. Mario's Time Machine made by one of my favorite companies, The Software Toolworks. They are, sadly, defunct today, but back in the 1990s, The Software Toolworks was pumping out educational software as if their lives depended on it, which was probably fairly close to the truth. They are also responsible for such gems as Mario Is Missing and the Miracle Piano Teaching System. Now, I don't hate the fact that TST primarily made educational games, since I really do believe that we need educational video games: Games are an amazing tool for both teaching and learning, and creating such titles with the intent to enhance someone's knowledge about a particular subject is a noble endeavour indeed.

It's just, uh... Well, it's Mario we're talking about, here. Mario wasn't created to educate people. Mario was created as a video game character. Shoehorning in educational elements to the Mario world just made a game that isn't any fun to play. In Mario's Time Machine, your main task is, essentially, to travel to particular time periods, fill in the blanks on a bunch of middle school homework assignments about particular historical periods, and return important relics to their proper time periods. It barely teaches history, and the few real game-ish parts of the title are not that fun to experience. If you're looking for a game to educate, games like Odell Lake, Math BlasterNumber Munchers and Oregon Trail have definitely aged better.

It's a cool idea, though. I think Nintendo should visit this particular idea in the future: Think of how awesome it would be to see Mario travel through the various stages of his history! You could have a huge team-up at the end, with Marios from SMB, 2, 3, World, RPG, 64, Sunshine, Galaxy, 3D World, etc... teaming up to fight multiple Bowsers in one huge showdown! Think Sonic Generations, but with Mario. And have it actually be good.


Sorry 'bout that. That last paragraph sounded like a letter to Nintendo Power, or something. No matter.

Mall culture has more or less gone away for us. It's kind of a shame, because so much of our real culture was derived from these giant shopping malls. They were always places to socialize as well as shop. You couldn't live a week without going to the mall in some capacity. That was always my go-to plan with my dad, because at the mall something was always happening. You never really had a boring day. And some of my fondest gaming memories were created at my local mall, since stores like Babbages, Electronics Boutique, and Sears were the purchase sites of some of my favorite games. I just felt like sharing a couple with you all.

And y'know what? On Thursday, I start working at that very mall. Fun stuff. Most mall jobs are considered high school work, but in this economy I'll take what I can get. If that means selling cameras and tablets in the mall, then I'll do it. One step at a time. I'll have that highrise penthouse apartment and the hot tub full of cognac soon enough. In the meantime, it'll be neat to walk into work on the same path where I used to walk for fun.


11:35 PM on 08.10.2015

A Personal Essay About The Nintendo 64.

I first saw the Nintendo 64 in-person at a friend’s house at the young age of six. They had managed to get one near the launch, and I was infinitely jealous, like any child would have been. It’s a very annoying feeling. Suddenly, everything I owned at that point wasn’t quite worth it - every toy, every piece of electronics that my parents bought for me, it was nothing. Now, I loved my older game consoles, of course, but no matter how many games I played on the Super Nintendo, the N64 was still beyond my reach, and that meant that I needed it more than I needed anything else in my then-short life.

Of course, I asked my parents for a Nintendo 64 within minutes of learning about it. I remember my mom saying that there was no way I could get one, since the N64’s launch of September ’96 was already a month after my birthday, and, of course, my parents bought me a ton of gifts for the momentous occasion. I responded to that perfectly valid argument with the classic retort of "B-but my friends all have it!"

My dad, hearing this, basically decided that no son of his would go without the latest and greatest thing, and thus he decided that I would get a Nintendo 64 the next day.

In a few ways, I think my dad was more excited than I was about the new console. He was always a fan of gadgets and technology. My dad was definitely a Columbia House subscriber, possibly for multiple ones from other record labels: His CD collection was always full of bands that he probably didn't actually listen to. The sheer fact that he had a collection of CDs back when CD players were still prohibitively expensive was enough to clue someone in. His love of technology definitely extended into video games, at least initially: he bought my mom a Nintendo Entertainment System back when they were still dating. From what I know, one of the barbacks at the bar my dad ran was ranting and raving about how awesome Super Mario Bros. was, and that got my dad interested. Oddly enough, this was where he drew the line with buying games and playing them himself, since he didn’t buy much else until I was born. He loved Duck Hunt, and he hated that bastard of a dog that mocked him whenever he screwed up. I think he would have gotten a kick out of the Duck Hunt Amiibo. But that was really it for him and games. My guess is that the game was fun enough that he didn't need to play anything else. Or maybe he didn't know the sheer amount of stuff you could buy for the NES.

In the long run, my dad didn’t necessarily care about video games on their own. He cared because I cared. Once I was born, the NES became mine, and we couldn't get the damn thing to work to save our lives. It eventually went into the hands of a childhood friend, who probably had the same problems with it as we did. I don't hold the NES in too high a regard nostalgically, since I was born in 1990 and we had so much trouble getting the thing to work. But still, the groundwork was laid for my future as a gamer as it was with countless others: with Super Mario Bros. But that isn't want this essay is about. I digress.

The next day, my parents got me up at 9 AM to go to Montgomery Ward to get a Nintendo 64. I don’t quite know why we went there to get it, but I’m sure it had something to do with my mom shopping around for the best prices. She always had a knack for finding sales, and just as much of a knack for refusing to buy things when they weren’t on sale. I know that if my mom had been mistaken and the Nintendo 64s were priced $5 higher than whatever catalog had listed prices, I probably wouldn’t have gone home with a console that day.

The game sections in older department stores always seemed better than the modern day. I'm sure there's a reason for it, like being a little kid with a hazy memory, but I'll be damned if I don't remember the Montgomery Ward electronics section being fantastic to gaze upon. They had televisions lined up on the walls, all tuned to play in-store demos to show off how awesome the televisions were. My dad and I stared at these sets for at least 10 straight minutes, looking at what was the bleeding edge of technology for late 1996. When walking through the video game section, the walls were lined with software for every console known to man at the time. Of course, my dad bought the everloving hell out of the last Nintendo 64 in the store. We had a choice of two games: Super Mario 64, or Pilotwings 64. I chose Mario 64, because I wasn’t an idiot.

Now, Pilotwings 64 was a great game. It just had the distinction of being the “other” launch title. As in, it was the one that people either bought second or not at all. Mario 64 was groundbreaking. Pilotwings was, essentially, a sports game, which eventually get relegated to bargain bins and dust-covered shelves. Remember the sports game rule, which I just made up on the spot at this very moment: If your sports game doesn't have "Mutant" or "Jam" in the title, it's probably not worth playing 20 years afterward and you can safely chuck it into the bin. Once again, I digress.

I remember booting up Mario 64 for the first time very distinctly. My dad had a lot of trouble hooking the console up because getting to the composite AV ports on the back of our rear-projection TV was such a back-breaking effort that I almost mean that in a literal sense.

This television was huge. Really big. So big, in fact, that the people on it were pretty much life-sized. This television, now a relic of the 1990s, was the centerpiece of a home entertainment system. Forget your Laserdisc players or your high-end VCRs. Those are nothing without a sweet TV to back up the quality. This TV was certainly one of those. It made the colors pop on everything it showed; Watching a movie was less a time-waster and more of an event to behold. Add in a surround sound system and you would never have had to leave the house, except to drive down to the local Blockbuster to get yourself some more movies to sit in awe of. As a direct result, video games looked AMAZING on this beast of a TV. I distinctly remember playing Yoshi's Island on it and being amazed at the quality. The biggest problem with it was that all of the AV connections were in the back of the unit. Now, this is normal for most televisions, but this was no ordinary television. This was a window into entertainment bliss. And you would not believe how difficult it is to hook up a couple of small composite video cables to a giant grid of input ports. My dad hated this part of the process. It very well could have killed him, which was a very upsetting sight to see.

My dad, a man who said “Fuck you.” to doctors who said he would never walk again after having his spine crushed by a fuel tank in the Marine Corps, a man who threw his wheelchair out into a busy intersection of South Boston once he found out that he wasn’t completely paralyzed from the waist down, was more or less beaten by a poorly-placed AV port on the back of a television. Luckily he wasn’t hurt too badly. We solved this problem in the traditional way, by never hooking up the N64 to another television in the house ever again. A small AV splitter made future consoles easier to deal with when initially hooking them up, but that was a 5+ year afterthought.

Super Mario 64’s opening is what my dad loved the most about the game. Hearing the “It’s-a me, Mario!” voice clip must have been more amazing for him than it was for me. Yes, video games had voice before this. But Mario didn’t, at least not on a home console. That opening line paved the way for a truly next-generation experience that was a real step above what was capable on Nintendo’s other consoles.

The N64 controller took a lot of getting used to. I remember taking a while to get used to the fact that the analog stick controlled movement, not the D-pad. The whole experience as a whole was hard to get used to at first, because with the original Mario games the controls were super tight. They did exactly as you commanded them to, when you needed them to work. A death in Super Mario Bros. 3 or World would never be the fault of shoddy controls. Not so with 64. Time hasn't exactly been kind to Nintendo's leap into the third dimension, but at the time the game was groundbreaking. Yes, other games did 3D before Mario did, but did any other game do it quite so well? Not really. Not entirely. There is a reason why every game on the N64 seemed to be compared to Mario 64 - In that time, it was the gold standard. It still is, to an extent.

I don’t really play Mario 64 anymore. It’s still a great game, it’s just one that hasn’t aged as gracefully as other Mario games. I always think of my dad when I do find the time to play it, though. I get the same feeling with Banjo-Kazooie. See, my dad and I pre-ordered BK at Sears, back when they had an awesome video game department, because Sears had a whole section dedicated to games back then, which was away from the main electronics area. It was glorious. I got a Banjo plushie keychain as a pre-order gift, which I proudly displayed on my backpack on the first day of 3rd Grade. 

Looking at the Nintendo 64 kinda makes me wish that Montgomery Ward didn’t go bankrupt…


1:10 AM on 06.28.2015

Story: The DMV Situation.

Hey everyone. I'm absolutely floored that my Rare Replay post got promoted to the main site. Seriously. It's the best feeling in the world, and I really appreciate all of the praise and criticism that my post recieved. Needless to say, recognition like that from the awesome DTOID community is enough to make me want to write more.

That said, I gotta pay some bills, and I'm going to be focusing on job hunting for a little bit. I'll still be writing, but I'm hoping that with a decent paycheck coming in I'll be able to get more access to games and consoles to write about; After keeping a roof over my head and keeping my fridge stocked with Perrier and food, of course.

This is a sequel to The Android At The Edge of The Bar and The Android In Janet Blue's Apartment. Woohoo! Read 'em! Read this!

Enjoy. - Titannel

On a bench outside the Pinnacle City Department of Motor Vehicles, Colin Gear sat next to an Arcast Technologies Model-1 Android. He shuffled a small stack of note cards in an attempt to organize them.

"Alright, It's 11:55. Let's go through this again before Janet arrives." Colin said, "I want this to be flawless."

Colin cleared his throat.

"Alright... What is your name? First and last." Colin asked.

The android spoke without pause.

"My name is Norah Curtis."

Colin moved to the next page of his notes.

"And where are you from?" Colin asked.
"I am from Pinnacle City, California." Norah said.
"And what is your date of birth?"
"December 17th, 1990."
"What is the correct answer?"
"For you, it's December 17th, 1987. Janet changed it, remember? She said you looked older than 24."
"Ah! Yes. Janet did change that. I remember."
"Good. I'm starting over."

Colin began again.

"What is your name?" Colin asked.
"My name is Norah Curtis." Norah said.
"Where are you from?"
"Pinnacle City, California."
"And what is your date of birth?"
"December 17th, 1987."
"And your current occupation?"
"I am currently working as an account manager for Arcast Technologies."
"What is your current address?"
"2401 Blue Horizon Drive, Pinnacle City, California, 94102."
"Do you have another form of identification?"
"I have a Social Security card in my pocket."

Colin placed his notes into his shirt pocket and stood up, motioning for Norah to do so as well.

"Well? How was it?" Norah asked.
"Everything you said was complete and utter bullshit." Colin said.
"I don't understand." Norah said.
"Believe it or not, that's a good thing right now. Keep it up, and you'll have an ID in no time." Colin said.

After Colin finished speaking, a dark blue Ford Fusion pulled into a parking space in the DMV parking lot. Colin looked over. His girlfriend, Janet Blue, stepped out of the vehicle and walked towards Colin, locking her car with a keyless remote.

Norah made her way into the DMV building itself.

"How do you think she'll do?" Janet asked.
"No clue, Tron. No clue." Colin said.
"How long do you think she'll be in there?"
"Tron, it's the DMV. We'll be lucky if we see her before rush hour."

Janet sighed.

"I was kind of hoping that DMVs over here would be a little less crowded..." Janet said.
"Nope. Pinnacle is one of the worst cities for the DMV." Colin said.
"And we just let an android walk right in to make a real attempt to get a real ID." Janet said.
"Yeah. We did." Colin said.

Janet and Colin looked at each other for a moment.

"Shit." Colin said.
"What do you want me to do?" Janet asked.
"Just go sit in the car. I'll head inside to make sure everything goes well."
"And if it doesn't?"

Colin started walking towards the entrance to the DMV.

"Well, In that case, I hope Norah can improvise..." Colin said.


2:05 AM on 06.21.2015

I Want To Go To Mars: A Brief Essay on Virtual Reality.

Today, more than any other time, we are closer to the future than we ever have been.

That's not really true from a physical sense, of course. We can't go into the future because the goal posts are always moving. Our future will be the present, and then it will be the past. But we can't really live in the future.

With new tech from Oculus and Microsoft, however, we can sure as hell get pretty damn close to living that dream that was once very far-off:

Wait, not that dream.

Well, maybe...

Oh god, not that, either! Jesus Christ...

Close enough. You know what I mean.

The idea of virtual reality has been around since the mid-20th century, but practical application of the idea wasn't established until much later. Virtual reality was one of those technologies that was just too complex for the computers and game consoles to wrap their heads around. Atari established a department for VR tech, however that went under at the end of the Golden Age of video games, when the market crashed in 1983. Much later, Sega attempted to work on VR concepts with the Sega VR headset, but nothing really got off the ground with the project.

Nintendo tapped into the VR market in late 1995 with the Virtual Boy, and while the games on the system are fun, a lot of the technical limitations of the hardware held it back from being truly great - the machine only displayed the colors of red and black. Nintendo had experienced with making color images with the device by using green and blue LEDs in addition to the red ones that were already being used, but the LEDs combined with the stereoscopic 3D that the machine used proved to create unuseable images with full-color. Solely using red LEDs negated this effect. As a result, Virtual Boy games have a unique look, but you're likely to get a headache when looking at the system for long periods. The system itself wasn't quite true "virtual reality" anyway; Most of the games are standard video games that wouldn't have been out of place on a Game Boy or a Super Nintendo. Some were true to the concept, though, like Teleroboxer and Red Alarm.

I know these things. I've covered the Virtual Boy in the past.

After the colossal failure of the Virtual Boy console, the whole idea of virtual reality went on hold. We saw bits and pieces of ideas and mechanics that would fit well in a virtual reality setup, like Nintendo's Wii remote and 3DS motion controls, or Microsoft's Kinect sensor, but true VR bliss would not be had for a while.

The Oculus Rift is the forerunner in the new VR landscape, and their promotion and tech demos show why: This thing is astoundingly realistic, especially compared to VR of the past. One particular demo that developers have showcased at trade shows is a scenario where you must walk across a small wooden beam on the floor. Easy, right? Try strapping an Oculus to your face, where you're suddenly shown that your beam is actually a ledge, and if you fall, you will fall to your death in open air. You'd be amazed how many people freak out when they lose balance and experience vertigo with the headset on. The fact that a demo version of this headset can induce real fear in someone is pretty damn amazing.

Microsoft's HoloLens technology interested me significantly this year at E3. Yes, the camera with a direct feed into the headset is probably not what the final product will look like, but if it is anywhere near that, I can see a HoloLens changing the way we look at something as basic as a sparsely-decorated living room. A HoloLens and a good pair of headphones could eliminate the need for surround sound. Hell, a HoloLens might eliminate the need for a television.

With tech demos like these, I always like to keep in mind that they are just that: tech demos. As in, they aren't necessarily a representation of the final product. For all we know, half of those features could be dead in the water by launch time. That is definitely something to keep in mind.

However, I'm me. I'm a man who bought a Nintendo 3DS and every game available at launch simply because it was new and I needed it. I pre-ordered my Playstation 4 console within three hours of Sony's 2013 E3 Press Conference. This year, I pre-ordered Fallout 4 on PC just for the Pip-Boy. My point is, I am definitely no stranger to acting on impulse with new tech. And I'm sure, once the Oculus Rift releases, and once the Microsoft HoloLens stuff is on the market, I'm sure I'll take a little more than a cursory glance at the products themselves.

Honestly, I have no problem jumping on the VR bandwagon, because this stuff really seems like the wave of the future in a way that it never really has. There have always been limitations holding the tech back, but now we're at the point where the processing power and the resources needed to get the tech running are plentiful and soon to be commonplace. It's astounding.

I can't wait to go to Mars. Or maybe cyberspace...

Barring that, I'd settle to be able to watch Netflix in a virtual movie theater. That would be pretty nice.


11:56 PM on 06.15.2015

Story: A Beginner's Guide To Ending a Relationship.

Hey everyone. It's been a busy week or so. I was up in Massachusetts for a little over a week, and E3 is happening... It's rough. I think I need a bit of a break from the video games.

Here's a short story I wrote a while back. It's in second-person, which is really kind of tricky to get down. Think of it like a how-to guide, except not really because it's a story. This was a college assignment, by the way. I wouldn't have written something like this otherwise, but I'm kind of glad I did. - Titannel

Your girlfriend will take you to an office Christmas party. It's full of cops. You don't really like cops. But you'll forget about it for her, because despite the shorter hair, the badge on her chest and the gun at her hip, She's still essentially the same girl you met at that Radiohead concert in 1995, back when The Bends was the most avant-garde work they ever put out.

While slow jazz music plays in the background, your girlfriend will tell you that she's got some bad news. A bullet grazed her right hip last night. She's not hurt, but the chief wants her to get out of the field for a while. They want your girlfriend to take a desk job. She will ask you for your opinion. Say that you'd be glad to make money without being at risk to be killed. She will respond with two words.

"Fuck it."

Your girlfriend will order two screwdrivers from the bar. One with vanilla vodka, the other with Ketel One. The latter is yours. Be sure to order another after the first one is done. Your girlfriend will have a few more drinks, most of them involving ever-increasing amounts of whiskey. You will keep up her pace. It has never been too hard.

The next morning, your bed will be destroyed, and clothes will be scattered around your bedroom. Most importantly, you will feel like you've been hit by a truck. Well, that's not accurate, as getting hit by a truck feels quite different, but it's the only thing you can think of that describes the hangover that you feel.

Clean the room up while you call your girlfriend. She won't answer. Leave a message with the dispatch officer.

A week will pass. You'll wonder why your girlfriend hasn't contacted you. Later, a voicemail message will be left on your phone, from your girlfriend. It'll sound something like this:

"Asshole! You are a goddamn asshole! I sincerely fucking regret every hour I spent with you, you fucking jerk! If I ever see you again, I will fucking kill you, and you can fucking count on that!"

You won't understand why she is mad, and it'll hurt. After sitting at the bar for a few hours, you will come to the conclusion that something must have happened at the Christmas party. Either way, it'll be time to do what you always do when something like this happens. You should go to Walgreens to get a Whitman's sampler and a bottle of wine, but you should leave the wine at the counter and swap it for a card. Your girlfriend always loved getting those when  you were first going out. Maybe another can help.

On the way to her apartment, you take the highway to beat traffic. A person driving a large truck will decide to pull up alongisde you.

When the paramedics pull you out of the wreckage, you probably won't be able to feel your right arm. You sure as hell won't be able to hear a sound, save your girlfriend, screaming at the top of her lungs. It sounds like "Jesus fucking Christ! What the fuck happened!?"

But you can't know for sure, since it'll all bleed together after a while.


2:17 PM on 05.30.2015

A Report From The Front Lines: Amiibo, Wave 4 Release.

The night of May 28th was a bad night to be out in Fort Myers, Florida. There was a fire on the northwest side of town, which ensured that the night air was not only full of fog, but was also full of smoke in addition to the smell of burning wood that made everyone crave barbeque in a weird, morbid way. You couldn't see the streetlights in front of you on the main road. Someone needed to plug in the expansion pack so we could have got some goddamn high-resolution in this town.

My first stop was Wal-Mart. They only had two Amiibo: Pac-Man, and Charizard. Or, as the employee said, "The Yellow Ball and the Lizard Guy." Who doesn't know who Pac-Man is? Really? Eh, whatever. It was a late night. The last thing the employee probably wanted to do was carve open a box of plastic toys for people. After that ordeal, it was off to bed, 'cause I had to get up early in the morning.

I got up at 6:15 AM yesterday. I don't normally do this willingly. Usually it involves a lot of "Ugh" and "Goddammit", but today I was ready. I cleaned up, put on my Destructoid T-Shirt and hurtled down to Target. This was the site that greeted me:

From left to right, that was their place in line. The two in front had actually been there since around 3 AM, apparently. That takes some goddamn dedication. Props to them.

A line quickly formed, of course. I was 5th in line. About 10 other people showed up, give or take. Most of the employees had no idea why we were standing in line. The few that did were unaware that there was going to be a line for Amiibo.

Oh, but there was. I was going to get a Jigglypuff even if it severely inconvenienced me.

Most everyone in line was going for Jigglypuff, but others were gunning for Robin & Lucina. I have those two coming in the mail, so I'm good on that front. All I wanted was a Jigglypuff. Oh, and a Silver Mario. I forgot about that one until someone in line mentioned it was going to be available.

When the doors opened, we all walked single-file to the Electronis department. They let us in one at a time, and limited our purchases to two per guest. I didn't have a problem with this, but a lot of other people certainly did. A few people in line were complaining of the policy, because it meant that they couldn't get a Jigglypuff if they were getting Robin & Lucina, or they could only get Robin and not Lucina if they wanted a Jigglypuff. This screwed a lot of people over, but I can understand why they were doing it. They ran out of Jigglypuffs a little after 8:15, as far as I know. Stock-wise, they had about 30, according to Brickseek, but that may not be entirely accurate.

After that, most people at the store headed right to Toys R Us. I didn't care about my place in line there, for reasons I will explain below. Instead, I went to IHOP.

Literally everything comes with a side of pancakes: My beverage, my entree, my friggin' check...

Toys R Us was packed.

Alright, this wasn't the full line. Here's the front:

Someone in the line didn't want to be photographed, as you can see. One dude is flipping the bird at me, because of course he is. I think it's too funny to leave out.

The people in line were all really cool. It was an absolute blast talking with them, as they are some dedicated video game fans with a love of little plastic figures, just like I am.

Now, I know that I made a pretty big deal about Toys R Us' tactics in my last Front Lines post, but today was a different story. One of the people in line had the foresight to talk to someone in the store, and he was spreading the word that they had approximately 70 Greninja Amiibo to sell. This is pretty crazy, since I'm pretty sure that Toys R Us' previous exclusive Amiibo, Lucario, only sold about 70 total, judging how hard it is for people to find one of those things. One store, 70 Amiibo? Of an exclusive? I didn't hold my breath. I wasn't buying it.

That is, I wasn't buying it until I saw a Toys R Us employee handing out tickets to everyone in line. Yes, everyone. If you got a ticket, you got a Greninja. And everyone in line got a ticket.

This was pretty awesome. It solves at least a small facet of the problem with Amiibos right now: The fact that you can't get these things in stores outside of the most common ones. Toys R Us had enough Greninjas to spare, it seems. A friend of mine walked in on her lunch break and was able to get one without issue, two hours after they opened. I am concerned that they won't be getting any more Greninja after this huge initial shipment, but it's a step in the right direction.

As for inside the store? Well, when the store opened its doors, we all walked single-file down to the electronics department, where they had Amiibos arranged on a table. They had 2 each of Robin and Lucina, Plenty of Greninjas, and a good supply of everything else. They even had five or six Marths, that were immediately snapped up, of course. Still, six Marth Amiibos in one place. Better than what it was before.

I did indeed take a photo of the inside of TRU, but since there is an issue with privacy in a place of business (that and the photos are very blurry), I'm not going to post them. But know that the whole thing was a madhouse. There was a single-file line, which was good, but people were jumping around to look at the Amiibos on the table, people were holding on to their stuff to dear life. The staff was friendly and they expedited the checkout process so the line would move. Awesome stuff. I walked out of the Toys R Us R-Zone with a shiny, new Silver Mario, which went to the owner of 8-Bit Hall of Fame, a local video game store.

But Titannel, didn't you go to Toys R Us to get Greninja?

Indeed, I did. I definitely got a Greninja. However, in the interest of full disclosure, I must admit that I was given one for free from the manager of the Toys R Us. I do not know why this was done, and I don't know if it will ever happen again (nor do I expect it to). My best guess is that one of the employees or a manager heard me talking about the craziness from the Greninja pre-order event, and they knew I was a fan (and a regular customer to the store for numerous other things, as well). Either way, this was really nice of the store manager, and I appreciate it immensely.

This Amiibo hunt was fairly painless for me. Hell, I went back to TRU with a friend and he was able to get a Grenina himself, and that was significantly later in the day (I didn't buy another, because that would have been a hell of a dick move to that awesome manager). Most everyone came out with what they wanted, and that's a far cry from what happened at Gamestop during pre-orders, or at TRU during their Greninja Pre-orders.

Unlike Chris Carter's experience, the Amiibo scene in Southwest Florida was pretty pleasant. Yeah, Robin and Lucina were scarce, but at least people actually had a chance to buy them due to store limits. I actually saw them in-person, which is more than I can say for King DeDeDe (which Gamestop never got in for me) or Meta Knight (which I had to buy from Best Buy's website, site-unseen, back in December to even get a chance at it).

Oh, and I picked up Splatoon at Gamestop. Gonna play that like crazy soon enough. They had plenty of Amiibos, too.


10:46 PM on 05.26.2015

Short Story: The Android In Janet Blue's Apartment.

(This is a sequel to this story. Read it first. And be sure to comment on this one. I like feedback, and I also need it. Woo!)

(Sci-Fi is hard to write. That is mostly why I don't do it.)

The android made a loud screeching sound as the vocal replicator was installed in her expansion bay, located in the back of her neck. Sitting in her office chair, Janet turned the android around.

"Well? How is the voicebox working?" Janet asked.

The android blinked, and spoke.

"L'expansion a été installé correctement." said the android.

Janet turned the android around.

"Whoops. Wrong dip switch configuration..." Janet said.

Janet took out the vocal replicator and turned to her documentation, a portrait-style CRT monitor with a rainbow-colored Apple logo in the left corner of the monitor bezel. She double-checked the dip switch on the small circuit board that made up most of the vocal replicator part, made the necessary adjustments, and loaded it back into the android.

After another round of screeching, the android spoke.

"It seems the chip is working properly." the android said.
"Good. That solves that." Janet said.
"I appreciate the work you have done, Ms. Blue." the android said.
"Think nothing of it. I'm kind of amazed that you were even put into production." Janet said.
"What do you mean?" the android asked.

Janet showed the android a newspaper article on the same table as the monitor with the documentation.

"I saw you - well, your model, at a consumer electronics show last fall."
"Those are... Those are me."
"Sort of. Most likely they were non-functional prototypes."
"That picture is... hard to comprehend.."
"It's fascinating that you don't... well, that you don't really talk like a robot."
"That is because I am not, strictly speaking,  a robot in the science-fiction sense."

Janet looked at the android.

"No... No you aren't." Janet said.

Janet got up off of her office chair and headed to her bedroom. The android stayed in place where she was.

"I just did my laundry. I think I have some spare clothes you can wear. It's infinitely better than the dress..." Janet yelled from across the apartment.

When she came back, Janet handed the android a grey athletic t-shirt, a pair of dark blue jeans, and a pair of black Converse high-tops.

"Here. Put these on."
"The dress isn't subtle, I assume."
"About as subtle as a fireworks display."

After putting the clothing on, the android stood in the same spot she was in before.

"You can move around, you know." Janet said.
"I didn't want to interfere with anything." the android said.
"Any other person would find it hard to stand that still for that long."
"I don't get tired in the traditional sense."
"What about battery power?"
"According to the documentation, I run on a solar fuel cell."
"That doesn't sound remotely plausible."
"I was created by Arcast Technologies in their experimental wing."
"Alright, fair enough."

Janet checked the monitor with the android's documentation for a minute and promptly shut off the monitor.

"What do you remember before being in that bar?" Janet asked.
"Nothing. I was activated by the bar owner." the android said.
"But... You know where you were made."
"It is in my documentation, and I was programmed to know this."
"That's so... Well, that's amazing."

Janet looked at the android, who continued to stand in the same place.

"Before I got the vocal part installed, you wrote that you left the bar because of mistreatment by the owner. That's fascinating. Seems like you have some degree of free will." Janet said.

"Perhaps." the android said.
"And yet you don't even have a name of your own." Janet said.
"I am an Arcast Technologies Model-1 Android Unit." the android said
"Yes, I know that. But you don't have a name." Janet said.
"I do not, no." the android said.

Janet reached into her pocket and took out her wallet. Inside, next to her ID was a picture of Janet kissing her boyfriend.

"See, my name is Janet Blue. I was born in Boulder, Colorado, but I moved to Chicago to work. My boyfriend calls me by a nickname: "Tron", because I have seen that movie more times than I can count. It's what made me into a programmer, and, during part of college and grad school, an engineer. That is who I am."

Janet put away her wallet as the android spoke:

"How do you choose a name?" the android asked.
"Well, anything, really." Janet said.

The android broke from her standing position to turn around to face the windows of Janet's apartment. Outside, ads and billboards dotted the skyline.

"I think I've decided." the android said.
"That quickly?" Janet asked.
"Yes." the android said.
"Great! Let's hear it!" Janet said.

The android walked slowly to the slightly-open window directly in front of her, and spoke clearly.


7:37 AM on 05.24.2015

A Brief Teaser of My Trip to Disney World...

So, last week I had the pleasure of going to Walt Disney World to the first Star Wars Weekend of the year. What is Star Wars Weekend? Essentially, it's Disney's way of celebrating the awesomeness that is Star Wars by having tons of special events in the Disney Hollywood Studios park. Actors come around for autographs and parade appearances (though I didn't get any autographs or photos of the parade because those slots fill up FAST), they sell exclusive merchandise, and, of course, you do all of this in the awesomeness that is Walt Disney World, where it is physically impossible to avoid having fun.

I didn't spend all my time at Hollywood Studios, however. I spent the final day of my trip in Epcot, where I came across this sign.

I don't know if anyone's made this connection before, but, uh, when you see it, you'll shit bricks:


A full, image-heavy account of my super-awesome and super-expensive weekend is coming soon.


4:37 PM on 05.14.2015

Remembering Konami.

Konami is dead. Well, it may as well be.

Like my other posts about dead companies, here is a brief retrospective on the once-great video game company that was Konami.

Konami started making machines for video arcades in Japan in the early 1970s. They began making actual arcade games in the early 1980s, with titles like Frogger and Scramble. They jumped into the home video game market with releases on the MSX and the Nintendo Famicom, which, after a redesign, was known as the Nintendo Entertainment System in the US.

To get around Nintendo's policy of limiting the amount of games that developers can publish on the NES, Konami established a shell company called Ultra Games. That title is probably one you'e seen a lot of, since the original Ninja Turtles game was an Ultra release, as was the NES version of Metal Gear. They abandoned this practice by the time of the Super Nintendo's release. The games that were released under that banner are now essentially treated as regular Konami releases, more or less. Just a little interesting bit of trivia.

One of the Best. Damn. Games. Ever. Turtles In Time is a game that I can keep going back to on a consistent basis. The gameplay is basically flawless, and the visuals are basically taken directly from the source material of the 1987 cartoon. The four turtles play a little bit differently, as they have different weapons that do different things. Dontatello is slow, but he has a long reach, for instance. Michaelangelo is fast but his weapon has a super-short range. Each turtle plays differently, and everyone has a favorite. I usually went with Raphael, because sais are badass.

Good luck finding a copy of this game for a decent price, though. Nostalgia is a powerful thing.

Yeah, yeah. Castlevania is awesome. But everyone played that one, and everyone has talked about it to death. This game is a relatively obscure one. Legends was actually the earliest game in the Castlevania timeline until Lament of Innocence came out, so that's pretty cool. You play as Sonia Belmont, the first of the Belmont clan to take on Dracula. The game itself is fairly slow-paced, but that is to be expected since it is on the Game Boy - fast-paced games on that crazy blurry screen just should not be done (it helps if you have access to a Game Boy Kiosk like the ones they had in Toys R Us back in the day. But that's crazy talk).

This game wasn't too popular with fans or with the people behind the Castlevania lore, because it's now apparently non-canon. I don't really know why, but for some reason it didn't fit with the lore of the series in the long run. It's a shame, because that means that a lot of people will probably pass this one up. Don't. It's really nice.

It's pretty nice that this game got a re-release on PSN and Xbox Live, because otherwise the only way to track it down was by finding one of the machines shown above (there was also a 4-player variant, but come on, this one is better).

The game is a pretty standard beat 'em up, as Konami was good at making those types of games. You had a really impressive roster to pick from, made up of late-80s-early-90s X-Men: Wolverine (in his awesome brown costume), Cyclops (nobody likes Cyclops), Nightcrawler (Awesome), Colossus (Pretty good), Storm (insert swordfish reference here), and Dazzler (disco sucks).

The game itself was in widescreen, which is pretty impressive since older arcade monitors are generally 4:3 CRTs. How did they accomplish a widescreen effect? They used two monitors. One was normally-placed, and the other was actually placed inside the cabinet with a mirror in the place where the monitor would have been. The mirror reflects the backwards image the other monitor displays, thus creating a widescreen image. Other games that did this were Ninja Warriors, Tecmo Bowl, and maybe Cadash. Maybe.

The 6-player cabinet is friggin' huge, and it's a hell of a fun time to get people to jump into a 6-player game. It's even more fun to hear Magneto say that he is the master of "magnet."

Fun fact: the roster for this game was chosen because it was the same as the pilot for an X-Men animated series, dubbed "Pryde of the X-Men." In that, Wolverine was inexplicably Australian (he's actually Canadian). Also, there is a long-standing rumor that there are variants of the X-Men arcade game where Colossus is replaced with Beast, Dazzler is replaced with Jubilee, and Nightcrawler is replaced with Gambit. Never seen it. I'm guessing that someone just half-remembered the game and mixed in their memory of the animated series. Guess that's another one for the nuts at the Glitch In The Matrix subreddit...

Once again, you've played Metal Gear Solid. To hell with that. Everyone's talked about those games.

Metal Gear 2 was originally released on the MSX, which is a computer system that only came out in Japan and southeast asia. It was made by Microsoff. Yes, really. Microsoft. Granted, it was the Japan division, but Microsoft still technically had a hand in the gaming industry way before the Xbox was devised. The MSX wasn't primarily a game machine, but it definitely had a lot of support from companies like HAL Laboratories, Square, Enix, and, of course, Konami. The Metal Gear series first found form on this platform.

This is the sequel to Metal Gear, which was the Outer Haven incident described in later games. The biggest changes to the game come in the form of a smarter enemy: they could see you with a real field of view, and they could hear your movement. They could also move to other screens, so you couldn't fake them out if you got caught. Codec/radio conversations were also dynamic and not tied to what room you were in, but what was going on at the time and what your objective was.

Put simply, this game is basically Metal Gear Solid in 2D, even moreso than the Game Boy Color Metal Gear Solid game. Makes sense, right? It's just kind of crazy that the only real jump that Metal Gear Solid gave to the series were basically aesthetic things like modern visuals, voice acting and cutscenes. The core gameplay was already there, and it worked well.

Once again, good luck playing the original version of this game. Go and import a MSX, I dare you. If you really want to play the original Metal Gear games, they are available on the second disc of Metal Gear Solid 3: Subsistance on the Playstation 2. They might be available on the HD Collection, but I don't know for sure since I didn't buy that version of the MGS games.

So, in the end, what happened to Konami?

They slowly but surely became out of touch with their roots. They're now focusing on mobile games, and planning on promoting a "Pay as you play" model for these games, along with selling "features" in aiddition to selling in-game items. This is pretty disgusting, since any sort of company switch like that just shows that they don't really care about the games that they make anymore, and they just want to make a quick buck with utter disregard for the quality of their work.

So, honestly? They're basically dead to me. That's a shame, because they've obviously done good work in the past.


12:10 AM on 05.13.2015

The Process: Music That Inspired The Story. [NVGR]

I tend to listen to music a lot when I write, as you'd expect, and a lot of the music can bleed into the writing. It's just as much of an inspiration as any number of other things.

The music that I'm posting here may not necessarily have had a direct influence on the story itself (some did, especially the first three!), but they are a good start at getting into my head and see where I was at when writing and polishing "The Process."

O Positive was a rock band from Boston, Massachusetts, that has one hell of a cult following established since their breakup in the early 1990s. Their first EP, Only Breathing, contained the introductory track "With You", a song that is about dealing with a loved one who is going through drug addiction and rehabilitation. That part isn't reflected in the story (nor do I want it to be: drugs are bad, kids), but one of the lines from the song definitely is.

Feeder's track "Whooey" is an interesting one. The track got its name from the "Woo-hoo" non-word sounds made during the chorus, while the vocals made the statement that "we're just floating by..." I sort of fell in love with a line from the first verse.

Nada Surf's "The Plan" is a great track from a band that became successful due to a fluke hit in the mid-to-late 1990s. Most of their stuff sounds nothing like their hit "Popular", though that isn't a bad thing. "The Plan" comes from the same album as that single, High/Low. It's a song that I can relate too a little too much, as it's a song about a desire to leave your hometown, and the restlessness that occurs when you can't do so. I used a little bit of this song's lyrics in the title of another story I wrote, called "Hardwired", but that's for another time. A line in the chorus is used in the third part of "The Process", mostly due to the visceral edge that it had.

"Leave", at its core, is about dealing with the death of a loved one. More importantly, it's about dealing with their presence around you and the intrusion they can be on your life when all you want to do is move on from a dark time in your life. The lyrics in the bridge are particularly chilling:

    Apparitions still won't leave me alone / It's as if you've never left
    How am I supposed to remember you / If you won't let me forget?

You can sort of see why I'd choose this song as an influence.

This one isn't a direct influence, but it's just something that I was listening to at the time for some of it. It's, uh, well, it's definitely an Elliott Smith song.

I've always thought of this as the music that Arcast Technologies would play over their speakers. It's calming, it has a bit of a retro vibe to it, and there's a bit of irony in the lyrics that people could pick up on if it were being played in a huge tech company's lobby. I'm a huge sucker for Stereolab, too. It's like a band traveled from the 1960s to the 1990s.

The third part of "The Process" was originally called "Outside", named after this song because it was what I was listening to at the time, as well as being a pretty generic title and description of the story. The song itself doesn't have much to do with the story, but I've always imagined it as the exit music for the story itself. Kind of an end credits sort of thing.


As a last note: that band mentioned in the story? That is a real band. Here's one of their songs, on the SoundCloud page for the band The Vivs, which you could sort of consider the spiritual successor to Edith, as the same woman is writing the songs and most of the original members are still in the band. Just putting this here in case you were curious about that.



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