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12:37 PM on 12.15.2010

Eleven-eleven-eleven!

Let me guess. The year after next, the biggest games will be coming out on 12-12-12. And then 1-3-13.   read


10:11 PM on 02.11.2010

On games as Army recruitment tools

The Army Experience Center (AEC) is a recruiting station for the US Army located in a mall in Philadelphia. The center—unlike the depressing and drab storefront recruiting stations often found in suburban strip malls—is shiny, comfy, and filled with Xbox 360s and gaming PCs.

The AEC was featured in a segment on the PBS program, "Frontline: digital nation", showcasing its use of video games to attract teenagers, who hopefully later join the Army.

[embed]163420:27360[/embed]

Frontline also focused on the pickets against the AEC, under the mantra "War is not a game". Protesters interviewed accused the Army of using violent video games to deceive teenagers into thinking war is fun.

Now, I have my own bones to pick with Army recruitment practices, but I want to talk about why the protesters are wrong. I think they are simply making video games the scapegoat, once again.

Also, war IS most certainly a game. That's why it translates so well into video games. Let's look at the roster of video games that the AEC offers:

Halo 3
Call of Duty 4
Call of Duty 5
Gears of War 2
Rainbow Six: Vegas 2
GRAW 2
Madden NFL '09
America's Army
World of Warcraft

All of these are war games. Yes, even Madden. Football is a war simulator. Most of these are ESRB "Mature" titles, i.e. 17+ years of age, but the Frontline video shows 14 year olds playing CoD, so whatever.

An Army recruitment center isn't going to put a veteran missing a limb manning a recruitment center. Taco Bell isn't going to show a depressed fat guy sadly snarfing 7-layer burritos. Microsoft isn't going to report the real statistics about Xbox 360 repair rates. This is marketing. Marketing is an industry of lies.

But what's most important is that these games are popular and free to play at the AEC. They get kids in the door and keep them coming back. Video games are fun. That's why the protesters want the place shut down. They think their kids are too stupid to not realize what being in the Army really means. What they don't realize is that if their kids are that stupid, they're doomed anyway.

I think it's summed up well by Maj. Larry F. Dillard, Jr. at the end of the clip: "I think [the protesters] are terrified that it'll work."

POSTSCRIPT: What really worries me.

Army of Griefers.   read


9:52 AM on 11.03.2009

Productive procrastination, or L4D yourself (in 32 easy steps!)


(A picture of my cat teabagging my roommate's cat)

Instead of working, I decided to redo my Steam userpic to duplicate the style of the in-game NPC portraits in Left 4 Dead. You can also see it as my D-toid icon. Here's how I did it. I don't have numbers or anything, I just needed something to do to take my mind off work for a while, so I just twiddled the sliders until it looked right.

I took a side-lit portrait in my macbook's Photobooth and pulled it into Photoshop.

I cropped to a square image with similar proportions to the L4D portraits.

Then converted it to grayscale, then converted it back to RGB (so I could apply filters).

Adjusted brightness/contrast to wash it out a bit and then enhance the shadows.

I copied the original layer twice, for the filters.

Applied the Poster Edges filter to one layer to outline the shadows and contours.

Then applied the Watercolor filter to the other layer to flatten out the skin tones.

Adjusted the opacity of the filtered layers until it looked right.

Made a new layer to create the vignetting effect with a black feathered brush, sized to about 10% of the width of the image.

Applied the photo filter (Image -> Adjustments) to adjust the overall color to approximate the greenish-sepia tint to the original L4D portraits.

Finally, reduce the image size to about 120x120 (the actual portrait is about 80x80), and Steam/L4D will resize it once you set it as your Steam userpic.   read


5:49 PM on 11.02.2009

Prince of... Persia??

I am really tired of Hollywood putting white actors in brownface to portray brown people. You'd think there'd be no shortage of actual Persian actors who could portray the Prince. I guess they used that dagger to send us back to the 1950s.

Yes, I understand that a video game movie requires a name star to draw people to the box office, especially one as expensive as Prince of Persia: Sands of Time, but seriously.

Also, they cast Farah badly.   read


12:59 PM on 10.20.2009

A. (wait). Down. A. (wait). Down. Down. A. (wait). repeat x240.

So I got my 360 back yesterday. It looks like they're repairing them now instead of just sending out another console.

Because Microsoft completely ignored my first repair service call to them and their website was broken, they actually sent me a coffin via UPS next day air, and all subsequent ships were also next-day air. So while it took a week for me to get MS to actually acknowledge my repair request, it only took a week to send the console out and get it back.

It took me 20 seconds to put some pants on to answer the door, and by that time, the UPS driver had already written out the "We Missed You" infonotice, stuck it to my front door, and was walking down the stoop. I managed to call him back. At least this time I didn't have to chase the dude around the block to his next delivery to get my Xbox back.

First thing I notice: the 360 is so loud compared to the PS3 Slim.

Then began the arduous task of redownloading all my DLC so I can assign the licenses to the new console ID.

I wish Microsoft would fucking own up to the fact that every pre-Jasper 360 is going to fucking fail and streamline this process. There is no god damn reason I should have to sit there for half an hour and INDIVIDUALLY REDOWNLOAD MY 200 OR SO PIECES OF DLC. Those menus are so goddamn slow and I kept accidentally selecting "cancel". Why isn't there a "redownload all of your content in one go because we make shitty hardware" option?

I also came to the realization that I've spent several hundred dollars on DLC alone. Half of that for Rock Band.   read


3:59 PM on 10.17.2009

Revelations



Since my Xbox 360 is currently being resurrected in Pharr, Texas, I've been playing a lot more Playstation 3. I've been discovering things.

1. There's no way to have more than one PSN ID logged into a single console at once. So, if you want to play co-op Critter Crunch with your real-life friend on the second controller, only one of you gets trophies and in-game progress.

One of the central features of the Xbox is being able to have as many Live accounts signed in as controllers. Achievements pop for everyone. Why the hell Sony decided that this wasn't a good idea is beyond me.

2. It's easy to move save games from one PS3 to another. You just copy it onto a USB enabled storage device and plug it into the next console. That's fucking great.

3. Some games, like Demon's Souls, lock save games from being copied. They also lock save games to the HARDWARE, not the PSN ID. WTF. If your console dies, so do all of those saves.

4. Uncharted is just like the late-generation Tomb Raider games, except cleverer, but without real platforming.

5. Folding@home on Life w/ PS is pretty cool.

6. The PS3 locks up like a champion. Total and complete. On the Slim, your only recourse is to disconnect it from the power because there's no master switch at the back anymore.

7. The Ex-Ross Media Bar is a piece of shit and whoever had the idea should be crucified on a Xross.

8. The DualShock is an awful controller, ergonomically. The analog sticks are too close together, and the L2 and R2 buttons are heinous. The L3 and R3 buttons are far too easy to accidentally press, and the Start and Select buttons feel gross, since they're the only rubberized buttons on the controller. The only thing that the DualShock does right is the D-pad. That motherfucker is a joy and makes the 360 D-pad cry in shame.

9. Seriously, whoever designed those triggers should be crucified on the other side of the Xross. I used to wonder why all the games I played defaulted the "FIRE" button to R1, but after playing Killzone 2 with the trigger assigned to R2 for five minutes, I figured it out.

10. Speaking of Killzone 2: why do people think this game is worth arguing over whether it gets a 9 or a 10 from a review site? It's nothing special.   read


7:49 AM on 10.01.2009

God damn it. Not again.



My Xbox 360 Elite died again. I got a launch model in August of 2007 and it died with a single red light, no error code. They sent me back a Falcon, which ran fine until this morning, when I got an E74.

Of course, Microsoft's Xbox support site is broken. They don't remember that I sent it in once already, and I can't register a new console because the form leads to a blank page. I can't check my info because the link goes to a blank page. I can't call support because they're not open yet. Fun times.

At least this is only the second failure I've had. My friend has had 5.

Hahahahahaha. That just sounds absurd. "At least it's only the second failure of a $500 console!"

Jesus Christ.

It's not really even a consolation (heh) that I have a PS3 now since there are no fun games on it that I didn't already get for the Xbox.

Fuck Microsoft. Fuck Sony. Fuck UPS.   read


2:18 PM on 09.11.2009

Indigo Prophylactic



UPDATE: After reading your comments, I've decided I'm being too hard on the game, so I no longer recommend that people not play it. Do prepare to be WTF, though.

Do not play Indigo Prophecy/Fahrenheit. I know it's an old game and that most people who would have played it have already played it, but it's so bad, I think it deserves another warning.

I was looking forward to Quantic Dream's Heavy Rain until I played through Indigo Prophecy.

I'd previously seen my roommate play through the first chapter on his Xbox, and it looked intriguing enough that a couple of years later, I decided to buy it from the Xbox Originals market on my Xbox 360. The initial chapter, after a cutscene of a man murdering another man in a diner bathroom, drops you into the body of the murderer and tasks you with cleaning up and getting away before anyone finds you. It's tense and exciting and original.

I should've taken it as a sign that when I reached the end of that initial chapter, my Xbox red-ringed and died.

My replacement 360 arrived the day that Grand Theft Auto 4 came out (getting it involved chasing the UPS truck around the block, those ring-and-run bastards), so I forgot about Indigo Prophecy until last week, when some coverage of Heavy Rain sparked my interest. And hell, I spent ten bucks on it, so I may as well take care of it.

Incredulity struck during the scene where cops Tyler and Jeffrey play a game of one-on-one basketball to settle a debt. In and of itself, this wouldn't be ridiculous, but the game is named after the fact that the temperature is prominently displayed at the beginning of every scene. The game starts at 15 degrees Fahrenheit, and gets colder. By the time the basketball scene happens, it's 3 degrees. Jeffrey is wearing a basketball jersey and shorts.

There's another scene in Lucas Kane's apartment where he quicktime-fights an unseen force that literally throws every single object in the apartment at him. The couch, all the moving boxes, the washer, everything.

I'm actually thankful that they cut the quicktime sex scene.

The QTEs in this game are pointless. They are only there to nominally engage the player while the cut scene plays out. I understand that Prophecy is an "interactive movie", but there's a difference between being interactive and being perfunctory. You know that job George Jetson has at Spacely Sprockets where he just sits there and pushes a button all day? Yeah. Except in Prophecy, you have to play the first level of Simon dozens of times for each scene. It's just difficult enough that you can't pay attention to the cut scene, but boring enough that you try to pay attention to the cut scene and miss enough stick twiddles to fail the QTE. Rather than involving the user, Indigo Prophecy's QTEs serve to distract the user from how fucking awful it is as a movie.

As for the plot: (these aren't spoilers; these are warnings) Lucas Kane is possessed by an unseen force that uses his body to commit ritual Mayan sacrifices that allow the unseen force--later known as the Oracle--to see into the future. Somehow, Lucas is able to also see into the future in glimpses, at opportune moments and also is able to resist the further machinations of the Oracle. The Oracle himself is a servant of a conspiracy of powerful beings that control the world known as the Orange Clan. The Orange Clan want the Indigo Child (there are morons in real life who believe that their children are Indigos). The Indigo Child is autistic, named Jade, and lives in an orphanage. You learn all this from a figure named Agatha, to whom you are referred by your priest brother, Markus. She appears as an old lady in a wheelchair in a creepy house and she keeps crows as pets. Agatha is murdered by the Oracle before she can tell you what is going with you. In the fourth act, you learn that there is yet another conspiracy called the Purple Clan who are sentient AIs that arose from the internet in the 80s. They have resurrected Agatha's body and are using it to trick you into getting the Indigo Child for them. By the way, you have superpowers.

You also have to lead the investigation against yourself as Carla and Tyler, two cops who are assigned your case. You have to collect and analyze the evidence that you leave behind in order to catch yourself. This is not as stupid as it sounds. Carla is claustrophobic and in the best scene of the game, you have to master her phobia as you play Carla, trying to find a file in the archives. Tyler is a naive, offensive French stereotype of an American black man. He only listens to Motown and has a 70s swinger pad, even though he is the most faithful character in the game. Tyler has to play a fetch quest against a plain offensive French stereotype of a pan-Asian librarian.

Let's see. Back to Lucas: the Oracle tries to kill your brother, but you save him, so he decides to kill your ex girlfriend, Tiffany, instead. He ties her up at the top of a roller coaster in an abandoned amusement park (because what game is complete without an abandoned amusement park?). You fail to save her. She dies. You die, too. Luckily, the Purple Clan resurrect you so you can lead them to the Indigo Child. There is a ten minute quicktime battle scene with the Oracle, in which all the fight scenes from all the Matrix movies are reenacted.

You learn that you have the Chroma, which is some alien life force that gives you and the Oracle their superpowers.

Lucas tells his story to Carla. Instead of shooting him out of frustration and boredom, Carla falls in love with him. The temperature is -56 degrees Fahrenheit. That is cold enough to kill someone in just a few minutes. Carla makes a note that she can't see his breath. That is because Lucas is dead and is the same temperature as his surroundings, meaning ICE COLD.

You are introduced to yet another conspiracy, this time consisting of humans, called the Invisibles who also want the Indigo Child. They consist of homeless people and live in an abandoned subway station (because what game is complete without an abandoned subway station?). Carla makes love to your ICE COLD body in an abandoned subway car.

You and Carla take the Indigo Child to the source of the Chroma, which happens to be an alien artifact housed inside an abandoned military base (because what game is complete without an abandoned military base?). Lucas and Markus used to live on the military base when it wasn't abandoned. You know this because there are several infuriating flashback scenes where you control Lucas as a child and have to stealth your way around soldiers on this base. The base is called "Wishita".

For some reason, the artifact is still there. You battle the Oracle, then you battle the Purple Clan AI. The winner of these battles gets to place the Indigo Child in the Chroma source and learn the secret of the Universe. Jade apparently dies and is thrown away. In my playthrough, the Purple Clan beat me, though I don't know how. There is an epilogue scene in which the world continues to grow colder, you live with Carla and the Invisibles in the abandoned subway station, and fight the machines above ground. Carla's pregnant, and because she was pregnant when she was near the Chroma source, her child is the next Indigo Child.   read


12:45 PM on 08.19.2009

PS3 Slimux

So the PS3 Slim will lack the ability to install an alternate operating system.

Such a move from a rational company (not to say that Sony's rational) would indicate that they are taking a loss on each system sold and do not want to sell PS3s to the cluster-computing market, since that market doesn't buy their highly profitable games to recoup their losses.

It makes sense for Sony to try to deny the world cheap DIY cluster computing and make money selling the Cell to dedicated system builders. But then again, this is the company that broke compact discs trying to copy-protect them, so who knows.

I figure that there will be a firmware workaround available soon after the slim is released anyway.   read





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