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5:11 AM on 09.14.2012

Conventions: Baby Steps

I've never been to a big con. Hell, I've never been to a con. Chance wanted me to change continents arount the time I was old enough to get into that stuff. Now I live in Poland, successfully blocked from all the fun. Anything in North Aremica is out of the question. gamescom might be doable, but being a high schooler sure doesn't make it easy.

So there I was, stuck in my suburban house, wishing I had gone to something back in Toronto. Could'a, should'a, would'a. Oh well. Whineing wouldn't fill the void. I tried solving this by joining the fighting game community. But after a meetup and a tournament, I didn't feel any closer than before (although that might have been caused by the fact that I suck). So I climed back into my rut, wothought much to do.

By this point, I was in Europe for two and a half years. School wasn't causing any trouble, so I spent most of my time enjoying the MGS collection (which of course, came out hare a few months later than in America). Life was it's usual spring self, when my mom walked in, making me fumble for the power button (probably). That aside, she told me something about an article in the local news paper that might interest me. I didn't make much of it at first, but I did end up asking her for the paper a little later. And when I got it, I lost my shit.

In a corner of a random page of a paper read by an incredibly small amount of people, was a very short preview of an event. And event catered to nerds, geeks, fans of fantasy and sci-fi. The kind of convention I was waition for. It's name was Brwikon. And it was going to be epic.

The next month flew by. School came to a grinding halt (the graduationg classes had the baccalauriat), and I had only ont thing in mind. I planned out how to make the three days work (it started on Friday, so I had to get there after school without wasting any time). I memorized the schedule, knowing exactly where to be, and when. I even convinced one of my friends to check it out. I was hyped.

And then the day came. I went to bed early. I spent all day in a vegetable state. I had just one subject in mind. I got home as fast as I can. Luckily, my mom was already here, so I was going to get a lift. I filled my bad with all of the needed equipment, and set off.

The trip took about fifteen minutes. Everything was going fine. But I suddenly got a weird feeling. That feeling you get when the thing you were waiting for is right around the corner. It got to me that the whole thing took place in a school, not a convention hall. It could easily the saddest few hours I will ever spend. There might be no one there. There might be nothing worth doing. It might suck.

But as we pulled into the parking lot, my concerns were blown away. All school grounds were now con grounds. A few medieval tents were set up in front. The doors were open, the entrance blocked by volunteers selling passes. The entry fee was 5 zlote. I said by to my mom (I was under aged at the time, so I sill needed an official permit), and went in. And...

It really didn't seem that special. There were some benches in the middle to use as a resting place. A few board game stores set up some tables and were displaying their overpriced goods. The classrooms were re-purposed for contests, tournaments and panels. The walls were decorated with paintings of superheroes. There wan't more that one hundred people in here. Fortune didn't give me a big, established convention. It gave me something better. It gave me a convention that just came to be.

I had a blast. Brwikon was easily the most fan-related fun I had this year. There was always something going on. Be it a panel with Jakub Ćwiek (a polish author, [url=""]FIND HIM[/url]), a building a tower of dice or a Carcasonne tournament, there was never a dull moment. Hell Friday was topped off by a fire show. The organizers really hit the sweet spots.

Saturday and Sunday were even crazier. Panels, tournaments and contests all day, along with board game rentals for those, who just wanted to play. And to go along with it, a whole lot of prizes that winners could buy. I managed to rack up a few tokens, but I got the on the last event, so not much was bought (it was an Arkham Horror trivia contest I won, getting 40% of the questions right :D ). Despite this, all the tournaments were an absolute blast. And the whole thing was crowned with a choreographed fight scene based on The Witcher . E-P-I-C.

The con was also a great way to meet the community. Sure, you don't keep up with everyone you met, but it was still great to see how many people the the same interests as you. I got my own set of groupies for a while (who I taught a bunch of zombie facts, which led to the being shining stars during the Zombie Survival panel). I fell out of the Carcasonne tournament because I went after some random guy instead of concentrating on doing good. It turned out he graduated from my school and lives a stone toss away from me. Heck, I had a game of Arkham with five strangers, which was some of the most fun I had with that game.

Now, a few months later, I'm still remembering in detail how the whole thing went down. Maybe fully developed cons give higher quality, but they don't give such a sense of family. PAX and Comic Con might give great interviews, panels and announcements. But they don't have that feeling a friendly meetup has.

Now this was just the first one. There's no guarantee that it'll come back (although the organizers have said otherwise). And if it does, it'll have to expand. This year was just the birth. Now comes the metamorphosis. Hopefully it'll survive. And I'll make sure to be around to see it grow.   read

10:33 AM on 09.01.2011

Proof that Nintendo hates pigs

Pigs have always been one of the most polarizing animals out there. For some, they are an ample replacement for a dog. For others, they are nothing but a source of food. For Nintendo, they are the scum of the word we know today.

Now you wouldn't know this just by looking at them. Their press releases show no sign of hostility towards them, and Reggie Fils-Aime looks like he himself if composed of pieces of the best pork on the market. Heck, with Tepig as a starter in the latest Pokemon games, you'd think that they're actually favoring the pink warriors of mud. But don't be fooled! This is just a quick and sloppy cover-up for years of expressed hate and insults, spread across multiple games.

Exhibit A: The Legend of Zelda: The Wind Waker

The Wind Waker was always a controversial game. The changes it made to Ocarina's formula made a giant uproar amongst Zelda fans. Be it the cel-shaded grafics or replacement of fields with an open body of water, controversy was the games closest friend. The series' status quo was brutally broken, sending thousands into insecurity. But one change struck me as curious. Very curious. So curious, I figured it had to be more than a coincidence.

What I'm talking about are of course the pigs. It's been a tradition in the series to have cuccos, Hyrule's equivalent of a chicken, running around random spots of the kingdom. What set them apart from other critters was the fact that if provoked, they called in their cucco friends and killed Link in just a few moments.

But the Great Bay seems to be deprived of the feathery spazes. Instead, Windfall Island, the main town in the game, has a few pigs running around one of it's beaches. These pigs are just like cuccos: hit them too many times and then have to put up with their wrath.

My question is: why? Why change the icon of hotheadedness to a small defenseless piglet? The system worked perfectly! Isn't one species of crazy psychopaths enough? Why degrade another noble animal? Why Pigs? They aren't renown for being agessive! I could have been anything else. But no. Nintendo's hate for pigs had to manifest itself here.

Exhibit B: Doshin the Giant

One very subtle example is the one found in Doshin the Giant. Originally on the Nintendo 64DD and then ported to the Gamecube, this particular game was not designed to ever be released out of Japan. Surprisingly, it did experience a sunrise in the western world; unfortunately, it was only made available in PAL regions.

The main goal is to help the indigenous villagers to build and expand by listening to their needs, protecting them from natural disasters and having them meet to set up new villages. It's essentially From Dust, just ten years older. Your reward for doing all of this is thanks from the villagers, represented by hearts that are stored around the edge of your screen. Once you get enough, you'll absorb them and grow ('cause you’re a giant). Oh, and every time you get one, you hear a nice soundbite.

Of course, such a game would get boring rather fast, so the developers threw in a curve-ball: press a button to become Jashin, the hate giant. Contrarily to Doshin, Jashin grows by stockpiling skulls, which are gained though destruction, murder, and other morally unsettling acts. Use the same slots as hearts, but start at the other side of the line. All of the same rules apply. But you will quickly be stricken by one thing: whenever you get one, you hear a pig snort. Seriously.

They had to choose pig snorts? They could have used a sad note. Or an evil laugh. But no. They had to use a pig snort. Once again I have to ask: why? A pig snort is definitely not what I hear when I do something bad, and I'd be surprised if anyone normal did hear it in that situation.

Obviously, someone at Nintendo has to have something against the lovable pork-chops to be. Why else would he associate them with evil deeds? And of course, since they published it, Nintendo fully endorses suck a depiction of pigs.

Exhibit C: Earthbound and Mother 3

Definitely the first thing that came to mind for most people, the Earthbound/Mother series is a monument to pig hate. While Earthbound Zero stays clear of the subject, its sequels are basically build on it.

Earthbound Basically starts with you meeting Porky, you next door neighbor (in the US version it was changed to Pokey, but don't be fooled!). You soon find out that Porky is the worst person on the planet, willingly helping Giygas, the games main antagonist, for vain reasons. He relentlessly lies to you, disregards his own brother, and even joins a crazy cult, blaming you for everything (while desperately wanting to be your friend). He's basically Cartman. And after getting his reward, he betrays the thing he was supposed to be helping.

But that wasn't the last we've seen of him. In Mother 3 the peaceful world the game starts of in get disrupted by the very same person (now a grown man, whose supposedly 10,000 years old, yet has the same attitude). And to make it even more extreme, everything he uses resembles a pig, or has pig elements. Airships? Look like pigs. Rejuvenation capsules? They have pig noses. Standard issue army uniform? Pig costume. I'm serious: it's referred to as the pigmask army. How could something like this get the Nintendo Seal of Approval?

But despite all of this, there was one moment that really strikes me as the pinnacle of pig hate is a very particular instance halfway through the game. When you enter a pigmask factory, you find a few dogs and a pig on reverse-treadmills used to power the facility. You can talk to them, and the game is actually nice enough to translate their woof woofs. But when you talk to the pig, guess what the translation of oink oink is. Give up? It's oink oink. This was the straw that broke the camel's back. Oink oink. I can't think of a bigger insult to something, than calling it the only non-sentient living being in the world. Who, except for a fanatical pig hater, would do such a thing? And what kind of company would release this fountain of discrimination upon the world?

Nintendo should be hiding in shame right now. In their constant efforts to make the world hate pigs they are only hurting themselves. Of course, the world will always be divided on the subject, but they are using methods that are probably banned by the Geneva convention. So do not be fooled! Do not let this propaganda affect your perception of what your dinner used to be!   read

1:05 PM on 07.18.2011

The thanks we should have given #2

Here we go again: scrubbing the annals of video game history to discover the origins of many of today's gameplay elements. Nintendo will once again be the star of the article, creating one of the greatest side objectives:


One of the main exclusives of the 360 in its early days, achievements added a new layer to the games, and boosting replayability. Metagaming has since creeped into the minds of multiple gamers, sometimes becoming a goal, rather than an addition. But where did this trend start?

The culprit: Super Mario Bros. Deluxe [1999,Gameboy Color]

Super Mario Bros. DX is one of the greatest games to grace the lovely Gameboy handheld. Composed of the original and a remix of Super Mario Bros., the lost levels, a challenge mode, scoreboards, a multiplayer racing mode, printable icons and fortune telling. And the album.

The album is a small addition accessible from the main menu, and like its name indicates, it's an album. At first it's empty, but slowly gains elements as you play the game. Surprisingly, it's not just for progressing further: most awards have a pretty unique requirement. Sounds familiar?

The easiest targets are the pictures you get for killing certain enemies. You get one for stomping a goomba or koopa, or throwing a fireball at a cheep cheep. Not enough? Another one is for finding the beanstalk, or even one for finishing a level with fireworks. While it's all debatable, those requirements have certain similarity with today's achievements. Get two double kills? Find all the collectibles? Looks the same to me.

Super Mario Bros. DX actually does achievements quite well. Although the game doesn't notify you while playing (eight-bit bleep-bloop would have been awesome), any new picture is marked "NEW", and they all have descriptions of the requirements. The pictures themselves are also notewotrhy: for the GBC, they may be some of the best art to grace the screen (which isn't saying much, but hey - at lest they put in the effort).

Today's achievements haven't strayed too far off the beaten path. The 360 perfected metagaming, adding a point value and taking the achievements outside of the game, but the concept has remained largely the same. Do something unique, and get your little reward.

Was SMBDX an inspiration for Microsoft? Who knows. In my opinion, it stayed in the back of someone's head, and when the time came, he remembered it, thinking he's brilliant. Oh well. MS would never admit to it.   read

1:19 PM on 06.25.2011

The thanks we should have given. #1

I've already delved into Nintendo's console innovation in hardware, along with what it actually means. But Nintendo is behind much more than just new console ideas: a lot of elements found throughout games today were first conceived by Miyamoto's peers (term used lightly). Some things are obvious, some are obscure, but all are relevant today.

So without further ado,

On disk DLC

Ahhh... up until online passes came to be, this was the best way for devs/publishers to give us the finger. Nothing pisses a sane human off more than having a part of his property locked away by a key the seller chose not include in the package. But who was first to come up with this devilish idea? Nintendo's golden boy studio, Game Freak.

Pokémon is one of the most recognizable franchises. An essential piece of each of Nintendo's handheld's library, it took RPGs and gave them to the masses. The simple mechanics, appealing graphics and and anime series used for promotion made sure the game became a grand success. Pokémon became an international phenomenon, and is still going strong today.

But Pokemon was built to annoy for the same reason it is appealing. The main goal in the games is to collect all of the imaginary creatures you can, in order to fill up your pokédex. Pretty good concept, except you can't really do this with what you get in the box. Main Pokémon games come out two at a time, one having tiny differences from the other one. With the exception of the recent Black and White, those differences were limited to certain Pokémon being exclusive to one version. The data for storage of those exclusives is present on both, meaning that players have unobtainable content on their cartridge. This content can only be obtained with the help of another purchasable item.

In it's defense, the whole beauty of Pokémon comes from this move. The games aren't really meant to be played alone: playing with other people is the true focus. If your friends have the other copy, you can trade the missing beasts at no penalty. Nevertheless, its the precursor to the real predecessor to on-disk unlockable content.

Nintendo took the exclusive Pokémon idea to another level. From the very start there has been at least one legendary that can't be caught in a regular cartridge: you had to reach out of the main series in order to bring them in. Since Mew wasn't ever made available in the first games (correct me is I'm wrong), we'll look at number 251, Celebi. Everyone knew that the Pokémon existed, but you couldn't get it in Gold, Silver or Crystal. What you had to do, is connect your GBA to a mobile phone in order to get the GS Ball. This would allow you to trigger an event which ends with you fighting (and potentially catching) Celebi.

In essence, this is like a downloadable unlock key. The script to fight Celebi is in your game, but not the ability to get the GS ball. It got better with time, and today it comes down to just connecting to the internet. There are no evil publishers demanding 10$ (on 30 zł) for a 50 kB file you need to play stuff that's on the disk you already own. But it did pave the way for them.

Long shot? Maybe. Since MvC3 dlc and the GS Ball are not the same thing, you can always deny any relation. But the similarities are large enough to link the two things, and maybe say that one was a pioneer for the other.   read

1:30 AM on 06.10.2011

This waggle...

As we all know, Nintendo spent the last few years making their consoles gimmicky. This gave us the Nintendo DS, 3DS, Wii and now, the Wii U. They portray them as the "future of gaming", and "unique experiences", and we eat it up (although we don't approve of it). The truth is, the gimmicks also serve another reason: DRM.

Nintendo's consoles are always first to get hacked. The security on them is laughable at best, and Big N's games are free on the interwebs faster than you can say their title. But their not really worth it (form a theoretical point of view). Unlike other, "standard" game consoles, you can't just map the buttons to your keyboard and get the same gameplay experience.

Lets start with the Nintendo 64. The big story here was an analog stick that permitted movement on a three-dimensional plain. A landmark in the history of video games, it's present on all current consoles, in some way, shape or form (and it's the first thing Sony copied from Nintendo). Now, emulating it with nothing but a keyboard is impossible: there is no possible way to get 360 degrees of rotation with 4 arrow buttons. You can buy a USB controller, but that was a hassle.
Please remember that the N64 came out over ten years ago, so look at the paragraph from that perspective.


The Nintendo DS posed other emulation problems. While two screens can be done, everything else will be ineffective. Just thinking of trying to play a touch-only game with a mouse triggers a warning light. Maybe I'm incompetent, but Phantom Hourglass would have been impossible to play. Metroid Prime Hunters and The World Ends With You would be just as spoiled. Brain Training and Ninja Gaiden, which require the system to be on it's side, demanded more from emulators. The aforementioned Phantom Hourglass had two brilliant instances: the one where you made a fool of yourself screaming into the mic, and the one where you have to close your DS to stamp something on your map. I'm pretty sure this was much harder to do on an emulator.

The Wii was even better. Waggle should have been hard to emulate, since the Wii remote is capable of more than a mouse. For example, WarioWare has microgames that require the remote to be twisted, which just can't be done on a PC. Emulation was inconvenient. Thankfully for hackers, most games worth emulating don't use it in any humane form, so conventional emulation methods were enough.

The 3DS retains the measures from the DS, adding a 3D screen. Since it's hardware based, the screen is impossible to recreate on a computer. All games can be played 2D, but it defeats the purpose of playing on a 3DS. The cameras may also limit the use of emulators, as well as street pass. Computers won't really recreate it, cutting out more content from the pirate.

So there, the truth about Nintendo's "Innovation". We get fun (?) gimmicks in place of DRM. Maybe I'm crazy, maybe I'm looking for conspiracy theories, but that's my explanation for Nintendo's actions.   read

6:02 AM on 06.05.2011

Cafe's pack in game should be....

With the screen on Nintendo's next console imminent, a lot of people are already shaking their heads at it. They already consider it to be a fad, and won't give it a second thought. But please do think about it. This is a possibility for great gameplay opportunities, as long as it's done right. Nintendo really has an opportunity to do what they failed to do for two generations and SEGA failed before them.

All they need is a game, that like Wii Sports, will show the console's hook at its best. While there are many possibilities, there is already a game, that if remade and packed in, will give a great picture of the machine.

Four swords was one of the funnest multiplayer experiences gaming can offer. With online, it's possible to cut out the individual screens, since every one is playing on their own TV, but the game would not have the same feel. Four Swords Adventure had a great aura around itself if you managed to set it up properly. Which brings us to it's shortcoming: it one the most expensive games to play. Getting a GameCube, four GBAs and four cables could really strain someone's wallet. You could invite people who had GBAs and cables, but it limited the spectrum of people you could invite.
Project cafe eliminates the required handheld and cable (which was very hard to find), since a controller does everything. If an HD remake could be packed in, people would get a great incentive to buy it, and see what can be done.

Of course, there are other games that made a great use of the GBA-GC. Pac-Man vs. is arguably better that Four Swords, and Christal Chronicles was very good in it's own right, but since they are third party games, it would be unlikely to be packed in.   read

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