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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."
"Wrong."
"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.

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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.

  read


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.

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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.

  read


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.

  read


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:

Welp.

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

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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 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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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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