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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.


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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 wiriting 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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12:30 AM on 05.12.2015  

Titannel's Talks: AMA, Woo!.

Oh, didn't see you there.

Hi, I'm Titannel. You might remember me from such blog posts as "The Process: Part One", "5 Songs That Need To Be In Rock Band 4", and "Remembering Bullet Proof Software."

I also own a Game Boy Kiosk.

Anyway, since I am actually a robot that runs on the endorphins that are released when people pay attention to me and verbally discuss my written work in my presence*, I figured I'd stock up on reserve power and do an AMA.

Feel free to ask me anying.

Anything.

Even that stuff.

Well, maybe not that stuff.

Eh, screw it. Fire away!

*this is the most false thing I have ever typed in my entire life.


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11:15 AM on 05.09.2015  

The Process: Finale: The Wake [NVGR]

Final part of the story. Let me know what you think of it as a whole! -Titannel

Leah had planned the funeral completely, with Dana's input from her mother's will. The wake took place in Fort Myers, Florida, in a small funeral home near the police department where Dana’s mother worked. Everything was exactly to Leah and Dana’s specifications, save for a single difference: Dana’s mother, Corey Hollett, was a police officer, and a decorated one at that. The chief of police for her precinct demanded that the wake be an open-casket one, with Corey in full uniform. The latter part wasn't a huge concern for Dana, but the former was.

The light emitted from the overcast sky was unnatural. Dana Gear stood in the funeral home courtyard, far away from the door to the building itself. She made no attempt to go in.

Dana stood with Adam Greyloch, who made the trip from Pinnacle City after Dana told him the plans.

“You’ll need to come in eventually.” Adam said to Dana, who was smoking a cigarette.
“I’ll go in when I’m ready.” Dana said.
“You need to do this.”
“I didn’t want it to be open casket, Adam.”
“It gives you closure.”
“The only thing it will give me is a goddamn nightmare. I don’t want that to be my last memory of her.”
“I’m going to go back in. Come in when you are able.”

Adam left Dana in the courtyard and walked into the building. Dana threw her spent cigarette to the ground and lit another with her back to the funeral home.

Dana continued to stand there. Every so often, she would try to get to the door, but her body prevented her from doing so. A cold chill ran through her spine.

Dana was so distressed she didn’t seem to notice the man standing behind her.

“What brand do you smoke?” the man asked.

Dana nearly jumped. She turned around to look at the man addressing her. He was in his mid-40s, wearing a navy blue dress shirt and black dress pants. A pair of red sunglasses stuck out from his shirt pocket. His hair should have been graying, but it was jet black.

Dana hesitated.

“Sapphire 99s.” she said.
“Unfiltered. Impressive.” The man said. “My dad used to smoke like that. He was up to three packs a day before he died.”
“Jesus. That man must have loved his cigarettes.”
“If he had redeemed his Marlboro miles, they probably would have built a statue in his honor.”

“How is everything going inside?” Dana asked.

“Haven't gone in yet. The two-dozen cop cars outside are kind of intimidating."
“The chief practically demanded that she be dressed in uniform.”
“I could imagine. It’s hard to refuse something like that.”
“I’m pissed at them. They’re acting like they’ve supported me and my mom forever. The police chief fucking fired her after she got cancer. Fuck him. I‘ll kick him in the head if I can.”
“That's awful."
“I have nothing now. She was it. I never knew my father. No family, no future…”
“Oh, come on. That can’t be true.”
“Oh, it is. Trust me.”
“You know, I think this conversation would go a little better if you told me your name.”

Dana cleared her throat.

“My name is Dana. I’m Corey’s daughter.”
“Dana Hollett. It’s a lovely name.”
“It’s ‘Gear’, actually. Dana Gear. My mother gave me my father’s last name. I don't really know why.”
“I see.”
“What about you?”
“I met Corey at a Radiohead concert in 1995."
"That's... Well, that's interesting."

Dana finished her cigarette and lit another.

"You should probably head in soon." The man said.
"I... I can't." Dana said.
"Why not?"
"Because it's an open-casket. The cops demanded that, too. I can't stand to see my mother like that."
"You won't get another chance to see her at all."
"I can't have that be my last memory of her. I want to remember her alive."
"You still do."
"If I go in there, that image will haunt me."
"Only if you let it."

Dana took a drag of her cigarette.

"I want to remember the woman who taught me how to defend myself in a fight. Or the woman who nearly threw my high school principal across his office for threatening to suspend me for wearing a leather jacket to school." Dana said.

"A leather jacket? Really" The man asked.
"They had this fucked-up idea that people who wore leather jackets were in a gang, or something. My mom changed that." Dana said.
"Seems like your mother was a hell of a woman."
"She was."
"I've got a hypothetical question to ask you, Dana."
"Go ahead."
"If you were in that casket, where would your mother be?"

Dana stood in silence for about 15 seconds. She began to tear up.

"Right next to it." Dana said.
"Seems like she wouldn't have minded if she saw you like that."
"Nothing really fazed her, so, no. Probably not."
"You don't have to go in there. But I'm sure you'll miss out on a lot if you don't."
"You think?"
"It's not a tomb in there or anything like that."
"I know that."
"Judging by the half mile line of cars along the sidewalk and the cops redirecting traffic at the light, I'd say there are a lot of people here to see your mom one last time."

Dana took another drag.

"I'd bet a bunch of those people are here to get a glimpse of Leah Arcast, too." Dana said.
"Wait, Leah Arcast is here?" The man asked.
"Yep."
"We are talking about the woman from Repeat Defender, right?"
"Yeah. She actually helped me put this together. I live with her daughter, Edith."
"That definitely explains the bouncer at the front door."
"Yeah. Leah's been running her father's company for the better part of 15 years, now. Seems like the USA network keeps re-running her show, though."

The man took a look at Dana, who was a little more relaxed than before.

"I'm sure you have people to see in there." The man said.
"Yeah, I guess I do." Dana said.
"Just give it a shot. What can happen?"
"Nightmares."
"You'd need to do a lot more than pay your respects at a funeral before that'll happen."
"I guess."
"Plus, there are probably a hundred people in there. If you aren't confortable, they'll be there to talk with, too."
"I didn't think of it that way."

Adam Greyloch came out from the funeral home building. He made his way to the courtyard where Dana and the man were talking. Dana put out her cigarette as Adam approached.

“How’s it going?” Adam asked.
“I... I think I’m ready to go in.” Dana said.
“That’s good to hear.” Adam said.

As Dana began to walk to the door of the funeral home, she stopped and turned around.

 “Thanks for talking to me. I feel a lot better now. A whole lot better.” Dana went to the unknown man and gave him a hug.

The man reached into his front shirt pocket to retrieve the sunglasses that had been placed there.

“Make sure your mother gets these.” The man said as he passed the sunglasses to Dana.
“Are they hers?” Dana asked.
“She left them at my apartment. I never got the chance to give them back.” The man said.
“I’ll make sure she has them.” Dana said.
"Good." The man said.
"Aren't you going to go in?" Dana asked.

The man looked at Adam and looked around the courtyard.

"I'll be inside in a minute." The man said.

Dana made her way into the funeral home, passing through two large double doors into a crowd of dozens of people.

Adam stood in the courtyard with the unknown man. He smiled, proceeded to shake the man's hand.

“God dammit, Colin. You could have called.” Adam said.


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7:47 PM on 05.04.2015  

Scenes From A Leather Recliner: Star Wars Edition!

May The 4th Be With You!

Today's a fun day. It's the one day where I have an excuse to marathon through everything from my favorite intellectual property. What have I been doing today?

Well, I've been playing Star Wars video games, of course!

Star Wars: Knights of The Old Republic.

I started off playing through Star Wars: Knights of The Old Republic. This game is pretty damn good, as I've stated before. The learning curve is pretty rough, though. You really need to brute force through the first planet of the game, then it gets a lot easier to actually play the game the way you want.

Currently, I'm playing through Manaan, which honestly was my favorite part of the game. Manaan itself is just so... peaceful. So serene. That is, until you go underwater and have to fight sharks and insane scientists - 20,000 Leagues Under Citadel Station, if you will.

I don't really intend to play KOTOR 2, though. That one wasn't great.

Star Wars: Jedi Knight: Jedi Academy.

Ahh, Jedi Academy. GOOD GOD, I played this game like crazy back in the day.

The single player campaign was alright. You played as a padawan who managed to construct a lightsaber without Jedi training, and you went through various missions mowing down Stormtroopers, Reborn Dark Jedi, and eventually you got to use a double-bladed saber or two lightsabers at once. It was pretty fun. The Jedi Knight series is best known for being the one that introduced us to Kyle Katarn, Star Wars' resident Chuck Norris. Sadly, Kyle is reduced to the role of a supporting character in this game, but there is one level where you fight alongside him.

"Don't you mean "'He fights alongside you'?"

No, I don't. He's Kyle Effing Katarn. Even though he's non-canon right now in the new post-Lucas Star Wars continuity, I hope the bring Katarn back for a movie or project. He's too awesome to just leave aside somewhere.

Anyway, the single player for Jedi Academy is alright, but most people really care about the multiplayer, as it's a whole lot better than any other Jedi Knight game's multiplayer. The thing that made it awesome were the tons of clans out there: A lot of groups made their own "Jedi Academies" and trained "padawans" to fight other clans. These guys took things seriously. There was even a Sith group called The Revelation. Any time you saw a player with a {R} tag, you knew they were gonna wreck your shit badly. Hail.

Also, the ::JEDI:: clan was super xenophobic and used (still uses?) their own mods for their server for hardcore roleplay. Not just "Jedi in training stuff, but the other kind of hardcore roleplay, too. I wish I still had the logs of it, because they'd type some pretty disgusting stuff if they even thought you were a woman on their servers. They were kind of awful to be around 'cause the members were fairly arrogant and their policies were fairly Orwellian for a friggin' PC game. They also banned people regularly if they didn't go with the "rules" of the server. So, uh, to hell with the ::JEDI:: clan.

Thanks to tons of mods and the fact that Jedi Outcast and Jedi Academy are now open-source, the game still lives on! You can totally play the game today without issue, thanks to Steam. Be advised, you'll need a few mods to make the game a bit more enjoyable. JA+ is a common one, as are custom maps. Some of them are really, really well done.

Star Wars: Episode III: Revenge Of The Sith (GBA).

The Star Wars: Episode III game on the Game Boy Advance was really good. It's pretty amazing that a game directly based on a movie is anything other than garbage, but this one is really good. It's basically an old-school beat 'em up in the style of the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles games, but with a bit of a level-up system. It's awesome. You can play as Obi-Wan or Anakin, and the storyline differs slightly for each.

The Nintendo DS version of this game is actually a little better, because it contains some cool 3D space combat segments. They're fun to mess around in, and they break up the flow of gameplay in a good way. It was really neat to see those N64-esque graphics on the DS back then, and it's still kind of neat now.

Star Wars: Droidworks.

This is a game that a lot of you may have played in elementary or middle school. I know I did.

Star Wars Droid Works was actually based on the Sith engine, which was the game engine used for Star Wars: Dark Forces II: Jedi Knight. This is a game where you must complete puzzles by building different sorts of droids to accomplish certain tasks. One level requires you to build a droid with legs, one may need a droid with treads. You need to follow the guidelines for each level and complete it with the correct sort of droid. Or, you could just go nuts and make something dumb.

We usually did the latter in school.

It's always fun to go back to these old edutainment games, because a lot have held up better than others. Droidworks is probably better left to nostalgia, though. There isn't much to do outside of the base game, and it's not like there's any sort of modding scene for it. That would be really cool if there was, though. It's nice to get an educational game that is more about actual gameplay than, say, blowing up garbage by solving math equations, or listening to a fuzzy blue alien sing a rock song about rhyming words.

10 points to anyone who gets either of those references.


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12:56 PM on 05.03.2015  

Short Story: The Process: Part Two: The Meeting. [NVGR]

This is the second part of the story. Upvoted and comments are appreciated. Just like always.

That band is a real band, by the way

“Dana Gear?” The woman said.
“Yes. That’s me.” Dana said.

The woman rushed towards Dana and embraced her. Dana stared blankly over the woman’s shoulder.

“My name is Leah Arcast.” said the woman, “And I’m sorry we had to meet like this.”
“It’s fine.” Dana said. “I’ve got the certificate right here.”
“Alright.” Leah said. “Come into my office. We'll get this worked out.”

Dana followed Leah into her office, which wasn't too far from the elevator. Leah used a key card to unlock the door from the outside.

"It's not much, but it's what I need." Leah said.
"I would have expected you to be on a higher floor." Dana said.
"I figured I could run a company on the 10th floor just as effectively as on the 50th." Leah said.

Inside the office, Leah sat down at a large mahogany desk. Dana sat down at one of the chairs on the other side and handed the death certificate to Leah.

“How old was your mother, Dana?” Leah asked.
“44.” Dana said.
“It says here that the cause of death was a… Pulmonary embolism?” Leah said.

Dana covered her mouth and made a throat-clearing noise.

“Sorry.” Leah said.
“You’re fine.” Dana said. “It’s just… It was sudden.”
“I’m sorry, Dana.”

Dana took a deep breath.

“Yeah. Embolism. But it was due to breast cancer.” Dana said.
“I see.” Leah said. “Her medical bills must have been very high.”
“Fucking astronomical.” Dana said. “Sorry. But they were.”
“It’s alright.” Leah said.
“That’s part of the reason I’m here. I don’t really have any family I can go to.” Dana said.
“You haven’t got any relatives?” Leah asked.
“My mother didn’t keep in touch with her family.” Dana said, “They kind of abandoned her after she got pregnant.”

Leah looked at Dana, who was staring at the death certificate on the desk..

“So. You’ve got no one.” Leah said.
“Not a soul.” Dana said. “I’m kind of at an impasse, here.”
“Well, I’m willing to help.”
“Your daughter was gracious enough to get me into this meeting.” Dana said.
“Edith always talks about you, Dana.” Leah said. “Says you’re the best roommate she’s ever had.”
“I'm glad.” Dana said.

Leah pointed to a framed poster on the wall of her office. It was a black-and-white photo of two women and three men. The only visible face on the poster belonged to a young blonde woman. The one un-obscured women was in the foreground and the rest were in the back.

“See that poster over there?” Leah asked.
“Yeah. What’s so special about it?” Dana asked.
“They were a band called “Edith,” from Boston, Massachusetts. My hometown.” Leah said.
“Ah. I assume that’s where you got your daughter’s name from?” Dana said.
“Yep.” Leah said. “I saw that band play at the a bar when I was in college. I decided that night that my daughter needed that name. It's a shame that my ex-husband didn't share the feeling.”

Dana stared at the poster for about a minute.

"I never did get to thank you for helping Edith when my ex-husband tracked her down in Fort Myers." Leah said.
"It was nothing."
"I read the police reports, Dana. That was an ordeal I could never have dealt with."
"He broke into our apartment. Didn't even know who he was. All I heard was Edith yelling."
"It's good you were home at the time."
"He never laid a hand on her. I didn't let him."
"I'm very grateful for that."

“So. Dana.” Leah said.
“Yes?” Dana said.
“How are you planning to pay for the funeral costs?”
“At this point, I’m starting to think that a loan shark is worth it.” Dana said.
“That bad, huh?” Leah asked.
“I don’t have a dime to my name.” Dana said. “The insurance company is giving me trouble because my last name isn’t ‘Hollett‘, and any saved cash was used for medical bills.”
“I see.” Leah said. “Well, what were you hoping to do?”
“A wake and a funeral.” Dana said. “My mom had the details put in her will.”
“Alright.” Leah said. “Done and done.”
“Huh?” Dana said.
“I’ll cover the expenses.” Leah said.
“I was just hoping for a loan.” Dana said.
“Well, I’ll do you one better.” Leah said. “It’ll be taken care of.”
“You really don’t need to-” Dana was cut off.
“I may not need to, but I want to.” Leah said.
“I’m… I’m going to find a way to repay you.” Dana said.
“Don’t even think about it.” Leah said.
"I... I have to. This is going to cost something like $10,000." Dana said.
"Dana, consider this a 'thank you' for helping my daughter." Leah said.

Leah got up from her desk. As she walked to the door of her office, Dana jumped from her chair and gave Leah a hug.

“This means the world to me. Thank you.” Dana said.
“It’s no trouble at all.” Leah said. “Now, we need to make some phone calls. Let’s grab some lunch first. Then we can come back to this office.”

Leah opened the door to her office and walked with Dana to the elevator.

Three days passed.


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4:05 PM on 05.02.2015  

Short Story: The Process: Part One: The Arrival. [NVGR]

This is the first part of a story I wrote in college. I'm breaking it into parts for the sake of the story's length. Be sure to let me know what you think!

The sky over Pinnacle City, California was a deep blue. No clouds in sight. Dana Gear was getting some important business done. Adam Greyloch, one of Dana's few friends in the city, offered her a ride to her destination.

Dana pulled on the passenger-side door handle, to no avail. Adam unlocked the door from the inside.

“Make sure you‘ve got a seatbelt on.” Adam said.
“Mind if I smoke a cigarette?” Dana asked.
“If you think it’ll get you through it.” Adam said.
“Huh?” Dana asked, lighting an unfiltered cigarette.
“Never mind.” Adam started the car and got out of the partially-blocked intersection.

“Arcast Tech is about five miles to the north of us.” Adam said.
“What do they do there, anyway?” Dana asked.
“Everything. Arcast does everything.” Adam said.
“Like?”
“Consumer tech, military contracts. The works. Your father and I used to work there, back when my wife and I were still dating.”
“Yeah. I was wondering about that.”
“What?”
“You’ve never told me what my father did for a living.”
“Colin and I worked for Arcast, testing their products.”
“So, you were lab rats?”
“You could say that.”
“What was he like, Adam?’
“Your father?”
“Yeah. What was he like?”
“Honestly, he was a lot like you. I guess that makes sense.”
“How so?”
“He didn’t take any lip from anyone. And I worried about him a lot.”
“For?’
“He had a habit of leaving the city every week or so. He told me a few times that he was flying out to Chicago every week.”
“Any idea why?”
“He told me he was meeting a therapist.”
“In Chicago?”
“Yeah. I didn’t buy it."

Adam pulled into the Arcast Technologies parking lot. He parked in a reserved space near the front of the building. The sheer size of the Arcast Tech  building took Dana by surprise as she got out of Adam’s car.

Adam pointed to the automatic doors, leading into the building.

“I’m going to need another cigarette.” Dana said.
“If you must. I’ve got to meet my wife in her office. I'll be here when you're done.” Adam said.

Adam walked away and entered the building while Dana stood at Adam’s car and lit another cigarette. Dana held the match between her thumb and index finger until the flame got to the bottom of the matchstick. Dana didn’t flinch as she calmly tossed the burned-through match to the ground.

After finishing her cigarette, Dana walked into the Arcast Tech building. The white walls and metal-colored furnishings hurt Dana’s eyes. She slowly walked to the reception counter.

“Hello. Welcome to Arcast Technologies. How may I help you?” A nearby receptionist said.
“Yeah. A friend of mine came in here… He doesn’t seem to be around.” Dana said.
“Sorry about that. Are you waiting on your friend?” The receptionist asked.
“Nor really. I’m here to see Leah Arcast.”
“I’m sorry, but Ms. Arcast’s schedule is full today-”
“I have an appointment.”
“Oh. Your name?”
“Dana Gear.”

The receptionist looked up from her computer.

“What was that?” The receptionist said.
“My name. It’s Dana Gear.”
“Would you be related to Colin Gear, by any chance?”
"He's my father."
"Colin was one of our best employees. We haven't seen him since he left for, uh..."

The receptionist thought for a moment.

"Come to think of it, I don't quite know where he went." She said.
"Never met him. Wouldn't know."

The receptionist gave a puzzled look.

"But you said that-" she was interrupted.
"It's a long story. A little much to get into here. Is Ms. Arcast ready?" Dana asked.
"I'll check." The receptionist said.

The receptionist pressed a three-button combination on her desk phone. Dana could hear the ringing dial tone from her place in front of the receptionist’s desk.

“Ms. Arcast? I have a young woman named Dana Gear here to see you. Alright. I’ll send her up.” The receptionist hung up the phone.

“Take the elevator to the 10th floor.” The receptionist said.
“Thanks.” Dana said.
“Thank you, Ms. Gear.”
“Please, don’t call me that. 'Dana' is fine.” Dana said as she walked towards the nearby elevator.

Dana entered the elevator and pressed the “10” button. As the doors closed, Dana took a piece of paper from her jacket pocket. It was a death certificate for a woman named Corey Hollett. Dana sighed as she looked at the various details on the paper.

The elevator doors opened to the 10th floor. In the hallway stood a woman with short blonde hair who was wearing a grey business-style dress.


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1:45 PM on 05.01.2015  

Titannel's Talks: 10 Things I Enjoy.

So, uh, it seems like Destructoid exploded the other day. That's unfortunate. Negativity all around. Kinda awful.

I have enough negativity in my life. Between job hunting, a poor diet, a lousy sleep schedule, and a metric ton of writer's block, I don't really have more room for stuff that I hate. To load up a little positivity in this very negative space, here are a few things that I really like a whole big lot.

1.

Strider.

I loved the first Strider game when I played it in arcades when I was a kid. I loved playing as Strider in Marvel Vs. Capcom (paired with War Machine or Captain Commando, usually). Strider 2 is one of my favorite PS1 games ever.

Strider is friggin' boss.

2.

Guster.

One of my favorite bands right now, and they just released a new album! It's a little different from their previous albums, but it's really good. Very modern. Very easy to listen to non-stop. I'm gonna try to get a copy of the vinyl next time I'm at Barnes & Noble, as a friend mentioned they might have it. Fingers crossed.

3.

Writing.

I've been meaning to put more of my writing online for a while, now. The link above is to part one of a short story I wrote in college. I had originally intended to post it here, but the Blogs were all "Nuh-uh. White screen." so I couldn't post it. On to my regular blog it goes. And that's pretty much the last of my promotion for my actual blog for the future.

The story itself is a little personal, but the events are completely fictional. Kind of heavy, too. Fair warning. If you've read my stories I've posted here, you'll know what to expect.

4.

Good Humor Bars.

So I pretty much love these things. Always have. They're a pain to find without tracking down an ice cream truck, but when I do...

Paychecks have been used to buy these. Lots of them.

Ever want me to go commit some sort of robbery? Need a world leader assassinated? Do you HATE the squirrels that keep getting into your storm drains? Just give me a pallet of Good Humor Bars packed in dry ice as payment for my services, and by the next morning the deed will be done.

5.

Mega Man X3.

Along with Kirby Super Star, this is probably one of my favorite Super Nintendo games. It's not too different from the other Mega Man X games on the system, but that isn't really a problem - All of them are excellent! This one gets an edge for a couple of reasons:

- You can play as Zero! Granted, he's only available for normal stages, and if he dies ONCE he's inaccessible and you automatically get the bad ending, but still! Zero! It's awesome!

- Neon Tiger's stage music is literally lifted from a Guns 'N Roses song.

- Most importantly, I used to rent this game every week at Blockbuster until I beat it. And then, I rented it again. And again. I may as well have kept the game and paid the full price for it, because that would have been cheaper.

Today, a NTSC cart of Mega Man X3 goes for a very high price: $200, give or take. I'm still floored that I own one, and I'm never giving it up. Ever.

6.

Peanut M&Ms.

Fun fact: if you put a bowl of these in front of me, I will eat every single one. Back a dump truck full of 'em up to my apartment, and I'll literally stay there forever, shoveling candy into my face that will have been sitting in the hot Florida sun for a long while. I will regret nothing.

7.

White German Shepherds.

I had two dogs growing up: A black-and-tan German Shepherd named Bridget, and a White German Shepherd named Seamus. The picture above is just an image I found on Google, but rest assured, Seamus totally looked like that. That's the thing about White Shepherds. They look the same.

Not racist, I swear.

Seamus was a smart dog that did stupid things. He was super intelligent: He knew how to open doors, and he knew to check up on me at night when I slept because my mom always did. I slept on a couch at night. Seamus would walk over and move his paw across my face, which usually scratched me. I would freak out, and Seamus, knowing that I was still alive, would lick me on the forehead and proceed to lay down right across from me, staring. He barely got sleep. He used to sleep during the day by sticking his head underneath my parents' king-size bed, which had a decent clearance from floor to the bed itself. He would lay there and get his rest, usually whimpering every so often in the middle of what I'm going to assume was a dog dream. We'd always walk in and see Seamus asleep like that, like some kind of weird reversal of that scene in The Godfather, but with a dog instead of a horse.

If Seamus was eating out of the dog bowl, and our other dog Bridget came up to eat, Seamus would immediately back away and let Bridget eat. He was a gentle-dog.

Also, he would bite at gnats and mosquitos outside. We used to see him just chomping the air, and it took us a little bit to realize he was trying to bite at the bugs swarming around. Like I said: Seamus was a smart, caring dog. He just had some dumb moments.

Every time I see a white shepherd, I think of that amazing dog and it hurts me, but in a good way. If I ever become responsible enough to care for a pet, I'm getting a white shepherd.

8.

"Fail" Videos.

I think of it as the modern version of America's Funniest Home Videos, but from around the world and, thankfully, without Bob Saget.

These videos are pretty hilarious to watch with a group of people, and since it's on YouTube, you know you aren't going to be watching a montage of snuff films or people getting their limbs hacked off.

Sort of a guilty pleasure, yeah. But come on, these are fun to watch with a group of friends. Go ahead: next party you're at, load up one of these videos on their Apple TVs or their Samsung Galaxy Telemovisions. It's good fun.

9.

Alien Vs. Predator.

Oh, come on! This game is fantastic. And the only real way you can play it is in the arcades! One of the few great arcade games that hasn't been ported to a home system at all.

10.

You.

I wouldn't do this stuff without an awesome community around to actually read what I post. I don't do this for fame and fortune (though that'd be nice...), I do this because I want to share my thoughts and words with people across the world who probably have similar interests to me. In turn, I absorb in all of their word-stuffs and then we all pass the event horizon into the singularity, and become BEINGS OF PURE LIGHT.

Or, uh, we come out of it a little more entertained or informed than we were before. That's fine, too.

So, I'm gonna open this one up to the floor, 'cause it seems like we need it around here. What do you enjoy, video game-related or not?

Please, don't say Gardevoir.


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2:09 PM on 04.27.2015  

A Report From the Front Lines: Greninja Amiibo Pre-Ordering, Fort Myers, FL.

(the video above is not mine: it is from someone else. I didn't get a Greninja. Boo!)

So this is pretty much bullshit.

I got to Toys R Us pretty early. How early? 8 AM. This was the line that greeted me:

Well, this is a bit misleading. This was taken after I got in line, but I wanted a real shot of how many people were there at the time. Here is a shot of me actually in-line:

Yeah. Not a fun time at EIGHT IN THE GODDAMN MORNING. TWO HOURS BEFORE THEY OPENED. Apparently the Naples store had people there at midnight.

The point is not the length of the line, it's the fact that TRU really did something bad with this pre-order event. They used it to shill credit cards.

See, if you were willing to sign up for a TRU Credit Card, you got to skip the line and go into the store early! Not only that, but we're also dealing with limited stock, of course. One of the people in line was friends with an employee, and they allegedly said that they were only allowed 10 pre-orders. There were more than that in the line, of course.

Now, this may or may not be illegal. I'm not sure.

The sheer fact that TRU was willing to do this is pretty friggin' disgusting. It's taking advantage of the consumer, plain and simple. Notice that there are multiple kids in the line? What about them? Do you make them apply for a TRU Credit Card to skip the line? Do they miss out otherwise?

Then there's the rather obvious issue here: The supply for these is absolutely too low. You shouldn't need to pre-order these Amiibo to find them. Nintendo needs to get their heads out of their collective asses and MAKE MORE OF THESE GODDAMN THINGS.

And after all of the bullshit we had to endure with the Lucario, Rosalina, Shulk, Meta Knight, and the entirety of Wave 4 on the pre-order front, You'd think that Nintendo would prevent a shitstorm like this from happening again. But, alas, we've got at least one Toys R Us trying to get people to sign up for a credit card to pre-order Greninja. Note that this is also a pre-order. Nobody walked out of there with real product today.

A few of them definitely walked out with a high-fee credit card, though, and that kind of upsets me.


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12:16 AM on 04.27.2015  

Short Story: A Conversation at a Diner. [NVGR]

This is an introduction to a short story I wrote during college. Most of this intro was used to get me comfortable with writing dialogue, so forgive me if it's a little rough. I scrapped this intro when writing the story primarily because of length - my stories in college had to be a certain length and the story I was writing was way too long. I guess that's a good problem to have? Either way, enjoy the intro. Maybe I'll post the rest of the story later, if you all want to read it. Maybe.

- Titannel

Inside a diner in Pinnacle City, California, Dana Gear and Adam Greyloch sit across from each other. Dana stared into a breakfast menu while Adam did the same.

"I can't decide. I never can." Dana said.
"Take your time." Adam said. "Leah doesn't get to work until later, since she stays later at night. My wife Allison is already there."
"What does your wife do there?" Dana asked.
"Aly's the head of Arcast Technologies' R&D." Adam said.
"Huh. Neat."
"Yeah. She's got a private office and everything. It's definitely a better gig than working in the cubicles."
"I can imagine. I worked in a call center for a little bit. Hated it."

Just then, a waitress came by with a pot of coffee.

"Either of you want any coffee?" the waitress asked.
"Black." Dana said, her face still buried in the menu.
"None for me, thanks," Adam said, "But I'll take a diet soda."

The waitress took off without saying a word.

Dana looked up from her menu.

"Did you decide on something?" Adam asked.
"Maybe." Dana said. "I was kind of wondering if it was cool to smoke in here."
"It should be fine. This city's one of the only parts of the state where it's allowed."

Immediately after Adam finished his sentence, Dana retrieved a Zippo lighter and a pack of Sapphire-99 cigarettes from her jacket pocket.

"Thank God." Dana said as she took a drag.
"Whatever works." Adam said.

Dana began looking at her menu again. The waitress returned with Dana's coffee and Adam's soda a few minutes later.

"What'll it be?" the waitress asked.
"Eggs benedict." Dana answered.
"And you?" the waitress turned to Adam.
"I'll have a vegetarian omlette." Adam answered.
"It'll be a few minutes." the waitress said as she picked up Adam and Dana's menus and walked away.

"So." Adam said.
"Mhm." Dana took a sip of her coffee, cigarette still in hand.
"Don't burn yourself." Adam said.
"The coffee's not hot enough for that." Dana said.
"I wasn't talking about that." Adam said, pointing to the cigarette between Dana's fingers.
"Oh. That, too. I'll be fine."
"Not in the long run."
"I started smoking when I was 15, Adam. Don't worry."
"And you're 22 now, right?"
"Yeah. I've had that argument every other day for seven years. I'll manage."
"I'll keep quiet."
"Thanks."
"No problem."

Dana looked around the diner for a second. It was fairly empty.

"Y'know, something's been bugging me, Adam."
"What's that?"
"The hell kind of name is 'Greyloch', anyway?"

Adam laughed.

"A name given to my great-grandparents when they came over here."
"What's the original?"
"Y'know, I'm not sure. I figure that's why the immigration officials changed it."

Dana took a look around the diner as she sipped her coffee.

"There aren't too many people here." Dana said.
"It's a Wednesday." Adam said. "People are on their way to work."
"I figured."
"Speaking of which, Dana."
"Yeah?"
"Leah gets into her office at around 11 AM. We probably could have waited a little bit."
"I wanted to be sure we got there."
"You're stressing yourself out. Meeting with Leah isn't going to be a stressful thing."
"I needed to be sure, Adam."
"Alright. No problem."

Dana sat and drank her coffee. After a few minutes, she took another long drag of her cigarette and tossed the remaining part it into her now-empty coffee cup.

Another waitress came over to re-fill Dana's cup, but Dana pulled it away before the waitress could pour.

"I'll need a clean cup." Dana said. "This one's gonna be an ashtray."


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4:16 AM on 04.18.2015  

Scenes From A Leather Recliner: Common Cold Edition!

Remember this post?

You do?

Liar!

Anyway, I've been sick. It's annoying - A whole week of my life, gone! I had to miss out on a job fair on Thursday because I was too congested to speak properly. I've started my days the same way: putting two tabs of Airborne into an empty glass, filling the glass with ice, and then filling the glass with water. After 10 minutes or so, I've got a glass of fizzy vitamin solution that I can use to down a couple of DayQuil, or NyQuil if I need more sleep. Airborne is palatable, more than Alka-Seltzer, but I'm certain that because I can drink it, that is proof that it doesn't actually work. 

What to do when your life has become a blur of NyQuil and effervescent tablets?

Why, video games, of course! You play video games to make yourself forget that you hate yourself for being sick and you hate everyone else for not being sick. So, I collapsed onto my sweet electric reclining couch and got to work. What have I been playing?

Mortal Kombat X.

I have always been a bit of a sucker for the Mortal Kombat games, ever since I figured out how to actually play them. It's a wonder how much more fun a game gets when you can actually pull off special moves. Pictures above is an image from a website. In said image is my favorite character, Ermac, who was the best ninja from the original games.

Why Ermac? He was red. Red is badass.

MKX is really fun. It's awesome to see the new designs of all of these old characters and the new characters themselves. I think I'm having the most fun with Ermac and Sub-Zero, but I always love those guys, so it goes without saying. Cassie Cage is growing on me, too, if only for her amazing "Selfie" fatality. Speaking of which,  the fatalities in this game are absolutely BRUTAL. I'm betting the staff does the Tom & Jerry style of brainstorming, where they each try to top each other with a pitch for a potential fatality until they realize they can't go that far with one of them, and then they go ahead and do it.

Kotal Kahn can get bent.

Point Blank 1, 2, and 3.

I picked up these games at my usual local game store. There are other ones in my area, but 8-Bit is pretty much the best around. If you're ever in Southwest Florida, you need to check out 8-Bit Hall of Fame. And that's the most amount of third-party advertising I'll ever do for this blog. Plus, I'm not sure if it is possible to make money in online casinos anyway.

Point Blank was a light gun series that was basically non-violent. Sure, you're still using a gun and shooting things, but you're doing it more in a shooting gallery format than other titles. The Point Blank games make use of Namco's GunCon peripheral for the Playstation 1, which was also used for Time Crisis as well as a few other games on the PS1 and PS2. The GunCon is basically a big, grey gun with red bits. How it stayed those colors without an orange barrel is beyond me, since US gun laws prohibit sales of realistic looking toy guns without something like a neon orange barrel. Eh, I guess the red was enough. Either way, my GunCon is accurate enough, and the Point Blank games are absurd fun, especially since my copy of Time Crisis doesn't want to work for whatever reason.

Those puppets scare the hell out of me, though.

Star Wars: Knights Of The Old Republic

Not gonna lie. The new trailer for Episode VII has me hyped. The only way I could get more hyped is if I could take a ton of amphetamines before going to the premiere in Hollywood and sit front-row next to Mark Hamill and Carrie Fisher while Flavor Flav narrated the opening crawl.

I've decided to channel that excitement into playing some Star Wars games. I'm starting with my favorite: Knights of The Old Republic.

This game is really fun. The original Xbox version of this is also really expensive for an original Xbox game. Most of them are worthless, but KOTOR is up there, along with KOTOR II, which is actually more expensive. I've seen a few other Star Wars games get like that, too. Jedi Academy is rare as hell since Activision had to quit printing the game after they lost the license, and Star Wars: Battlefront II runs for something crazy like $60, but that one might just be popular rather than rare. The point is, people love their Star Wars, and they'll probably love it now more than ever.

KOTOR is a very fun Western RPG. If you've never played it, think Dragon Age. It's the closest I can think of to it, since the Old Republic MMO plays more like, well, an MMO.

I'm not going to get into the plot that much, but suffice to say it's really good. This game came out around the time that Episode II hit theaters, and to say that KOTOR is better is a complete understatement. It's kind of sad, really. KOTOR made a better Star Wars experience than one of the actual movies. It's part of the reason why I'm not too concerned with JJ Abrams rejecting George Lucas' treatments for the new trilogy: A lot of Lucas' ideas weren't very good without someone to filter them, and Lucas is deathly afraid of anyone messing with his work. Hell, the only reason KOTOR exists in the first place is because Lucas wanted Bioware to make something that wouldn't interfere with his movie, and by going to the past Bioware could tell a better, creatively-free story.

That said, this game is hard. Really hard. It's obscene as to how difficult the first section of the game actually is if you play as anything other than a soldier. The game really picks up steam after you've left Taris, but that's about two hours into the game, sadly. That's my only real complaint. Taris sucks.

The sequel, done by Obsidian, was, uh... It wasn't that great. It's got a decidedly different tone to it, and a lot of the content that was supposed to be in the game was not.

If you actually want to play KOTOR, it is available on Steam, and it goes on sale fairly frequently. It is also available on iOS, and that version is really nice. Kind of a long game to play on a tablet, but the sheer fact that it exists is kind of awesome.

I'm still sick, by the way. I just feel a good bit better. Right now, it's about 5:17 AM where I'm at right now, and I feel like getting some donuts and a cup of coffee. I think I'll do that.

I don't get a donut craving often, but when I do, I prefer Dos Equi- I, uh, get a lot of them. Like, a lot.

And maybe I'll play more Mortal Kombat, too. PSN ID is SixWayShot.


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2:59 AM on 04.15.2015  

Update: Post-Megacon Edition!

I tried to make it a goal to write a blog post every day in April. That didn't work out quite the way I intended, but no matter.

Somehow, after I got back on Saturday evening and after hanging out with friends on Sunday, I got sick. I don't know how or why, but I currently hate everything because my body suddenly hates me back.

It hurts, and I hurt. I am in agony and it cannot be stopped.

I had intended to post a Megacon haul post at some point on Sunday or Monday, but that did not happen. Still working on it, though. I might need to resort to using internet images as opposed to my real ones, because I can't get my camera to take a decent shot when I am sick.

In other news, I picked up Mortal Kombat X on Tuesday. It's really nice. Johnny Cage is kind of a tool, but he's been like that forever so he gets a pass. If you wanna fight me (or if ya just wanna be bestest friends), my Playstation Network ID is SixWayShot.

That name was established back during Everquest, where I killed six bandits with one blast. Paladins were fun in EQ. I kind of hate that you can't change PSN IDs, because mine would totally be "Titannel" if we lived in a perfect world of sunshine and rainbows.

Fast track to Failtoid, here I come!


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