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I would like to share two of my interests with you: I like to surf the web of Inter and I like awesome, useless, and overpriced crap. Adding a third interest, writing, and I would like to share the awesome, useless, and overpriced crap I find on the web of Inter.

I am a big fan of Rapture. After playing BioShock, I was hooked. The story was sweet, the game was creepy enough to give me a chill but still let me sleep at night, and I love shooters. After catching a rather big wave, I decided to ride out the Take Two Interactive Google search and see where it got me: The Take-Two Interactive store. There was, you know, the usual games and guides and stuff like that. But then I saw it: a Sinclair Solutions Syringe Pen.

Seeing as gamers also tend to be rather large collectors (I recently read Funktastic's Expertise on Collecting blog and I know quite a few swag-hungry gamers in my workplace as well), I figured I share this pretty nifty find. It's a bit pricey, but what useless crap isn't?

Along with this sweet pen, the Take-Two Interactive store has some nifty special offers - mostly posters, though. There's an artbook for you artists out there, and also a pretty cool PS3 skin. Though, the syringe pen is definitely the most awesome crap on there.

CNBC just posted an article entitled "Game Publishers Fight Back Against Used Games." Used game retailers and game developers and publishers have been bickering about who gets what in a used game transaction, but the measures some of these companies are taking to ensure more new game sales are starting to get ridiculous and overly taxing on the consumer.

Ubisoft's new DRM for PC games is ridiculous. PC game piracy is, unfortunately, very rampant in the industry. However, forcing every PC gamer that wants to play a Ubisoft game to have and maintain an internet connection is a bad mistake on Ubisoft's part. Yes - probably 9 out of 10 people who own a PC and want to play games will also have an online connection. However, that one person who doesn't have internet is now out of luck. What about those people who are in between homes and have not yet set up their internet? Or, what if there's a problem with a consumer's ISP and they aren't connected? LAN parties are now also screwed, unless of course every PC at the LAN party is connected (which doesn't always happen).

Anyone who was an avid Half-Life player back in the day will remember the WON system. They will also remember the frustrating switch to Steam and how Steam was not functional for almost a week because it got overloaded (not entirely unlike what happened to Xbox LIVE last Christmas season). One of the large criticisms of Steam when it first came out was that it lacked an Offline Mode. Ubisoft needs to re-read this little chapter in video game history and understand that tying the functionality of a game to an online service will not be a sustainable way to combat piracy. Well, it will fight piracy for sure, but it will also do more to push away consumers who would love to fork over cash for games... you know, until they find out that unless they have an established internet connection, that game is really just a fancy paperweight.

Sony has their own plan. The PSP Go, the all digital handheld, is a good concept idea, but they should've waited for the PSP 2 as re-releasing this 4th iteration of the PSP cut out all of the current PSP owners by not offering them a way to turn their hard media into the digital media the PSP Go uses. That was the first mistake.

Sony also has implemented a way to lock out features of games that you will need to pay extra for if you purchase the game used. For instance, the new SOCOM: Fireteam Bravo 3 on the PSP, will require online activation to use all of the features. Now, if you buy this game brand new, the activation is free. If you buy the game used, you have to spend another $20 to activate the on-line play feature, among others.

The only system I have seen that I agree with is EA's system. When purchasing a new copy of, say, Mass Effect 2, Dante's Inferno, or DA: Origins, you get a code that gets you DLC for free. Obviously, buying the game used will force consumers to pay extra for those DLC packs. This lets people who don't have the money to buy games used and still get to play and experience the game, but also gives people who have the money to buy it new and get some free stuff.

I understand the game publishers and developers looking to make more money, but they are going to great lengths to make a few extra bucks, and it's not going to work because it's going to punish the consumers in the end. However, I did some research on EA's earnings and they are still making quite a lot of money.

By doing some quick research on EA's earnings, I found that EA's gross profit from 2006 was roughly $1.93 million. In 2009 (we still have another month - their fiscal year ends March 31, 2010), their gross profit is $1.86 million - and they have yet to release Battlefield Bad Company 2. I see a pretty stable company, to be honest. I am no financial genius, but from what I see, in the past 4 years, they have done a pretty swell job developing and publishing popular games that grossed them a solid amount of cash.

Now, as publishers/developers keep bickering about not getting a cut of the used game sales by certain retailers, they are spending money and time in developing ways to make buying new games more lucrative. EA's system, like I described earlier, is one that I agree with. However, other companies are taking extreme measures for a problem that really doesn't seem to be that big of an impact. Used game retailers do very well in promoting the industry, after all, as gamers can use their old games to help buy themselves a new game.

Game publishers and developers will be digging their own grave if they keep pushing the issue. Without specialty retailers for video games, the industry will take a big hit. One of the reasons why the game industry hasn't suffered as much as other industries in this financial crisis is because consumers can use their old product as payment for new products. Cut that out and you are going to lose a lot of business. Making DRMs like Ubisoft will push willing consumers away. Making games a hassle to play will cut interest in the newer games.

I suggest holding onto your current consoles and maybe investing in a few retro systems, because if the current trend keeps on going, requiring stable internet connection for every game, then you're going to be longing for those game consoles where you can just plug it in, pop the cartridge in, and game.

Sincerely, I hope the game industry starts to think more about their consumer than their bottom line, because pushing this issue as they are now will only push the paying customers away, and even though the bottom line will look bigger at first, it will not be sustainable.

The future of the gaming industry looks bloody bleak. Stores have become so fed up with shovelware thanks to Nintendo's adamant marketing to the casual gamer that they are refusing to stock these garbage titles. The age of digital distribution for gaming is approaching, doing away with the physical ownership of one's games. Waving your arms around like a silly monkey to control games has become the industry trend, the mad dash to finish line to see who can make it work the best. And, videogames are the international scapegoat for all things evil. What's up with that, videogames?

I am most disappointed in Nintendo. Formerly a hardcore gamer powerhouse, Nintendo has become associated with flash minigames. Why spend $199 on a console to play games I can enjoy for free via my web browser? Oh, I can wave my arms around? Oh, neat! That's not to say that the Wii doesn't have its games... the New Super Mario Bros., Smash Bros., Mario Kart, Legend of Zelda: Twilight Princess (but wasn't that also on the GameCube??), Super Mario Galaxy, Wario Land, Mario Party 8... well, these games are all Nintendo games! The third party support for good games on the Wii is severely lacking which is not surprising due to the Wii's lack of technological innovation compared to its competitors.

To the core gamer, the future of Nintendo seems bleak. The recently announced Legend of Zelda is a glimmer of hope, although the fact that the Wii's graphics are comparable to the GameCube is rather sad. But, graphics aren't everything! I know that, but in this day and age, outdated graphics are no excuse. Technology moves quick, so please try to keep up! With the beautiful graphics of the PS3 at 1080p, having your maximum resolution at 480p is laughable.

Nintendo's hard marketing to the casual crowd has also opened the flood gates for developers to dump any and all ideas for games into the reality bin. Calvin Tucker's redneck games? Carnival games? Barnyard games? Are you kidding? It's garbage, full of garbage that will end up in the mystery dump along with the E.T. cartridges.

Sony also let loose their digital distribution machine. The PSPgo was unleashed to...a few sales here and there. However, the move by Sony signaled the newest venture that will undoubtedly take over: digital distribution. The medium has already consumed the music market and it is only a matter of time until it swallows the movie and game market as well. When high speed internet becomes the norm regardless of location, this move will make things easier. However, there are still a large number of people who are stuck in 1992 with their dial up modems and slow DSL. There's just not enough bandwidth to go around for games and movies of gigantic size to be downloaded. Mark my words, though, once this happens, kiss videogame stores goodbye.

Digital distribution is especially upsetting because I, personally, cannot for the life of me justify spending money on virtual property. Electronics can be wonky and you can easily lose that $60 game if your five year old cousin Larry likes to play with magnets. Sure, you can just download the game again, but if your internet is lacking, who wants to wait a day to download a 10gb game? I just want to play it! I tried rending a HD movie from the PSN. Yea, it was cheap. Yea, it took me 12 hours to download it. I wanted to watch it now, though.

There is also the issue of stores. All digital distribution will mean that videogame stores will cease to exist. As much as we all hate GameStop, it's still nice to be able to trade in unwanted games to help pay for new ones (am I really going to play Madden NFL 2010 once Madden NFL 2011 comes out?) and it is also nice to walk into such a store to find a used game cheap that you may want to play, but not dish out a lot of cash for a brand new copy. I picked up a used copy of Madden NFL 2009 for like $10 a few months ago. I'm not a big fan of football, but I like to occasionally throw the pigskin around, so this was a nice way to satisfy that urge. With all digital distribution, finding old treasures or cheap fixes will also cease to exist. Let's hope for frequent amazing Steam sales?

Nintendo, being the powerhouse gaming company it is, has also created a mad flux about motion controls. Project Natal and the Sony Wand are in the works to bring this wacky control scheme opportunity to the PS3 and Xbox 360 and I can't say I am excited. I am loathing this move. Will this open the flood gates for more shovelware? Will we see Willy Wonka's Candyland Minigames on the Xbox 360 in the future? Having one console drowning in a slew of shoddy games is enough, must we enable the filth to spread? The motion control madness is like a mad pestilence on the gaming industry. The only hope is that both Sony and Microsoft have acknowledge that these controls will not replace the normal controller.

Of course, video games are also the root of all evil. Germany and Australia are easy targets to show how ridiculous people are behaving in the wake of the videogame culture expanding. Even porn stars are dogging on videogames.

The future of the videogame industry is bleak. It's diminishing. Once the fad of the Wii has completely faded out and the other big dogs see that motion controls are a cheap gimmick, hopefully the industry will return to normal, quality games will be made, and the gaming companies will continue to churn out worthwhile experiences rather than barf worthy titles that you can physically buy.

P.S. I apologize for the lack of pictures.

3:28 PM on 01.05.2010

Ever fallen in love with a character from a book, movie, or game that you wanted to spend your life with? Well, this guy Sal (or Sal 9000 as he calls himself on the e-world) has definitely been crushing on his Nintendo DS. Though Sal 9000 is not the turd shown above, he does say that he has definitely has taken his girlfriend on vacation to resort beaches, so the depiction of a socially deprived young man above is not far from the truth.

Sal 9000 is rolling in the hay with his virtual girlfriend Nene in the (Japanese, of course) dating sim game "Love, Plus."

Since the point of this game is to enjoy your relationship (how?), the game never ends. Sal 9000 is ecstatic. What will Nene do as a widow, though, I wonder?

For a giggle read the full story here.

So, you've undoubtely heard this game's name somewhere in the past couple weeks and you've probably noticed its lower than normal-for-next-gen price point at $49.99. That low price point is usually a red flag when speaking about the quality of a game, but, there are always exceptions to the rule. Let me introduce you to one of these exceptions...

My initial draw to this game was the cute characters and that, like the traditional Sonic the Hedgehog, the enemies were actually captured and transformed animals that returned to their natural state upon administering some damage. The cute lil' foxies and bunnies! Awhhhh. Yea. I got suckered in by that. The story is actually pretty neat, however. An evil samurai lord has taken control of castles in this ninja world and is capturing helpless animals to turn them into mindless samurai evildoers, thus offsetting the balance of nature. All the ninjas that have been sent to investigate have vanished, and you are the last ninja left. So, your ninja master sets you out to restore the balance and find out what happened to your ninja compadres.

So, I started playing it expecting a shallow kid's game of just hack'n'slashin away at evil samurais. The beginning tutorial dragged on for a bit longer than I wanted it to, with a bit of some "run up here to talk to this guy," then "go here and find this guy," and then "go back to this dude," but I am glad I champed through it. The game revealed itself to be for a much bigger audience than children.

The action plays just like God of War. What? Did I read that right? Yes, you did. God of War. If you love God of War and need a game to hold you over until the double remastered pack comes out in November, or even waiting for God of War III in March, pick this game up now! The action is just like God of War and the boss fights utilize the same gameplay mechanic, so it is a treat to play, even though the graphics leave a bit to be desired. It looks like a well-made PS2 title and the environments are rather bland - textures are often just two or three different shades of a color.

Mini Ninjas utilizes magic spells - dubbed Kuji Magic in the game - to help you complete various objectives, but mostly just to save the precious forest animals or to take control of them using "Spirit Form." (And yes, Kuji is a real thing - read about it here if you are curious. And yes, I googled it because I was curious!) An old ninja master hid various scrolls that contained more spells throughout the world, so as you play you will run across Kuji Shrines where you can unlock new spells. You are given a "Detect Kuji Shrine" spell to help you locate these and casting this spell will summon three, for a lack of a better description, bird spirits who will fly to the nearest shrine, if there is one. Also, to activate the shrines, you have to donate an Anemone flower which you can always find hidden near the Kuji Shrines.

When you take control of an animal - whether it's a boar, bear, rabbit, fox - your life meter goes to one heart so you can die rather easily. However, as an animal, the enemies will not detect you and you will be able to "sense" collectibles in the surrounding area, which makes it easier to find and 100% the level. Each level tracks how many Kuji Shrines there are, coins, Jizo Statues, caged animals you free, and plants you find, and by becoming an animal, each item in the world will start emitting smoke so you can spot them easily.

You can use the coins you find to buy weapons and recipes from temples that are scattered along your path. Weapons range from smoke bombs to caltrops that stop advancing enemies. The flowers you pick up as you go can be used to make healing potions, Ki potions (Ki is the energy your magic uses), and various other goodies - but you need to unlock the recipes for them before you can use them.

You will find your missing ninja friends on your journey and these ninja followers are usable by you. In essence, it works as if just equipping a different weapon. Only one ninja can be selected at a time (and only Hiro, the main ninja, can use Kuji Magic) and each ninja has a different weapon and a different special attack and it is possible to change out ninjas in the middle of a fight. They share each other's health, however, so if you have Futo selected and you get killed, you will restart the level or from your last checkpoint.

To add more depth to the game, as you go along killing evil samurais, you will gain experience points and eventually level up, adding more health bars, more Ki energy, speed, etc.

There is definitely more to this game than you'd expect looking at the cover - and it will definitely give core gamers such as yourselves an enjoyable run through. I would not mind seeing a Mini Ninjas 2 in the future where they hired actual artists and gave the game a much needed graphical overhaul, but as far as gameplay goes, this game gets everything right.

About 6 or so years ago while playing an incredibly boring game of WarHammer 40k with my brother and his friend, I was told about a game called Day of Defeat. My brother's friend showed us the game - the very first FPS I had seen since I played Doom 2 when I was only 7. I was amazed at how awesome and fun this game appeared to be and I told myself that I must have it. But, I had to get Half-Life first. Day of Defeat was a mod for this real, actual game I learned. So, after politely asking my parental unit for a ride to Babbage's (How I miss this store!), I picked up a copy of Half-Life and promptly said "screw you, download Day of Defeat!" And I did just that.

After the game was installed and I was sitting in my dining room on my laptop and my brother was across the table from me also playing, we decided to hit up a server together and see what fun awaited. Or not.

I kind of had an idea of what to do. There were flags scattered about the map that you had to capture by either running through them or sitting with a teammate like ducks in a pond, waiting a few seconds for the flag to turn your own color. And using weapons? Grenades? Aiming? I was slow to react, had no idea where enemies came from, how to differentiate from teammate and enemy. It was a mess, but I was having fun because this was something completely new to me and I had a buddy to experience this with. Had I been alone in this experience, it may not have turned out as well.

I went to bed, woke up the next day and proceeded to endure a 12-hour long Day of Defeat marathon. I played nonstop - save for eating and peeing - throughout the day, hopping from server to server. Slowly but surely I began to recognize a few maps and such. By the end of the day, at least I looked like I knew what I was doing. Improvement! Alas, the famed kill-death ratio that everyone in multiplayer FPS games brag about was just not happening for me. I was dying way more than I was killing and this would not change for a long time.

As my brother and his friends and I got to playing more and more, we made a clan. We got our very own ghetto-rigged server (thanks to me, of course!) and we started getting buddy-buddy with other clans we'd meet. This was only the beginning. We started to have scrimmages with these other clans. After my first scrimmage I was hooked. I rooted out the competitive community of this game - I don't remember how - but faster than I could blink I was knee deep in this competitive shit and I was sucking hard. Our clan joined a league. Our first match was a complete domination and not on our part. The rival team's leader told us "you guys are clearly not ready for competition."

These words kind of stung - we seemed to fare well playing on our server, kicking ass and taking names no problem. But now, we joined a league, and we didn't even know our ass from our dicks. So, determined, I managed to get my clan to practice and practice. I damn near turned my clan from a group of happy go lucky weekend gamers into hardcore fucktards who would sign on for hours every night just to go over maps, strategies, exercises. It got ridiculous, but, as I learned, in this upper echelon level of play, this is what players did. After a few weeks of this hardcore playing, my entire clan said "fuck this, I just want to have fun!" and quit. It appeared this level of play was not for everyone - there was a clear line between playing and competing and I learned that the hard way - at the expense of real and virtual relationships.

I soldiered on, however, and found my home amongst gamers who were veterans at competing and, due to my addictive nature, spent 8+ hours a night playing Day of Defeat with this team. It was no longer a clan, it was a team. This was a whole new world and boy, did I learn a lot. On the unusual times I would hop on a public server and play with the normal day to day players, it was like stealing candy from a baby. Playing in the competitive environment of these hardcore kids forced you to know so much about the game that you literally could pwn inexperienced players with your eyes closed.

And, it was an awkward feeling that just a year ago, that awful awful player that was just getting WRECKED... well that was me. And I didn't understand why I was getting wrecked back then, and now, I didn't understand why I was able to wreck other players. I didn't feel any different - just felt more comfortable. Playing the game, moving around with WASD, flicking my mouse around - it was like second nature. I moved around the maps like I had millions of times before. I knew all the camping spots, how to bounce grenades perfectly, how to time the other team moving from their spawn at the beginning of a match. It was a piece of cake.

This also happened in college. My roommate and I became fascinated with WarCraft 3. We both picked up the battle chest and played online. We sucked. We played versus each other in hopes to practice, but I always lost and he always won, and there was no progressing playing the same opponent over and over. I didn't have the patience. I played my roomate mostly just for fun, something to do. But he, he was insistent. He wanted to go on Battle.net and wreck faces. He began downloading replays, whipping out a notebook and taking notes. Build orders, etc, was all being written down. How to micromanage. What units were good vs. other units? What to do if your opponent does this. I got lucky - I did none of the legwork. My roomate did that all for me. He even took notes on what I did wrong by watching replays of me getting destroyed. Then we met this other kid, an old school StarCraft player who definitely knew how to micro, but did not know the WarCraft universe at all. We decided to hop on the 3v3 ladder. Within a week, we were top 25. It was an amazing feeling to have accomplished that - after playing the game for 6 months.

But, I had to look at how we got there. We played the game some 6 hours a day. At the cafeteria we talked strategies. We tried strategies out. We regrouped, watched replays, read forum posts on strategies, etc., and we just immersed ourselves in this universe. Nothing else mattered (except school... and getting drunk).

But what of it? I have, since first competing in Day of Defeat, participated in numerous competitive environments for videogames: Day of Defeat, Counter-Strike, Day of Defeat: Source, Counter-Strike: Source, WarCraft 3: TFT, Company of Heroes, and DotA. Each game came with an incredible learning curve to play at the level demanded to actually enjoy competing - but this should not change.

The "Barrier of Difficulty," the almighty learning curve, is definitely justified. The fact that some people will just be plain god-awful at certain types of games is definitely a reasonable fact and a reasonable reason (lol) that these barriers of difficulty should just chill and have a beer. Every game you play will have different levels of opponents, and these opponents will have different reasons and intentions in playing the game.

Steep learning curves all depend on your opponent in the case of multiplayer games. If you suck at playing an FPS in single player mode and you are on the easiest difficulty setting - my best guess is that you suck at the game because you don't play that genre very often and that is the reason you suck hard dick. Playing video games requires trained motor skills along with knowing the game and if you don't exercise those skills, you won't do well. And, sucking at a game will discourage you partaking in that game, which in turn will make you play less of that genre of game.

These "barriers of difficulty" should not be viewed as flaws to a game - but just part of the game. It's like playing soccer - should the fact that you are bad at soccer be a reason for soccer officials to ease up on the rules to make it more accessible? No, people are amazing at soccer because they practice it. They immerse themselves in it. The same goes for video games. The difficulty - especially in multiplayer online games - definitely makes the game superbly interesting. Mostly because watching someone who knows the ins and outs of a certain game play is one of the greatest things ever. It's like watching Tony Hawk in real life pulling off wicked tricks (I know he did the 900 forever ago, but back then that was like holy crap!)

This same goes for videogames - people who are in love with a game so much and chose to immerse themselves in them deserve being as good as they are. Making games accessible so random newbs can still win while playing veterans is just dumb and discourages players from investing time in the game.

My $.02