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Malik (8/1/11)

I spent some time this weekend playing with the games I've acquired from various Steam sales. Between the usual sales that pop up every day for various games, the Humble Bundles, and the various holiday sales (like the recent large summer sale around the 4th of July), my Steam library is getting pretty insane. There are games I don't even remember ever purchasing, but sound fun enough when I'm going through a nice chunk of my great "undiscovered country" of a library.

I found a trend, however, that just makes me sad. When I play games, I have two ways of looking at a title. If it's a standard PC type of game, I use mouse and keyboard. This applies to FPS, strategy of any type, most third person games in a 3D environment, and puzzle games.

Of course, if it's an old-school style platformer, I prefer to leave the WASD controls at home and pick up a good gamepad. I've found, without a doubt, that my favorite PC game pad is the PS3 third party controllers that use USB dongles to connect to the system. Why? That same USB dongle will work on a Windows XP or 7 (I assume it also applies to Vista...but I am not putting that crap on my precious game machine) PC without much effort. In fact, my Logitech PS3 controller works on Windows 7 without doing anything beyond putting the dongle into my USB port and running with it. On Windows XP it took a bit more effort, but not much more than letting Windows find the correct drivers and then confirming them.

So, while playing a few titles on Steam (in particular Capsized and ARES), I saw a stupid trend in games. Some games are made around the Microsoft designed user-friendly programming language for the XBox Live Arcade (XMA or something like that). These games, including ARES and Capsized, are good looking old fashioned platformers with the basic 2D view (with some nice 3D visuals) and basic actions of moving, jumping, shooting, and maybe a bonus action or two (like a jetpack or throwing grenades). All simple enough to play with a PS3 controller. However, these XMA designed games have a huge fault on a PC...they will not recognize a PC gamepad if it's not a 360 controller. So, while I have a PS3 controller with four face buttons, a start and select (or forward and back) button, two analogue sticks, a D-pad, four shoulder buttons, and a special system menu button, it doesn't compare to a controller with the exact same buttons in the same identical layout...but a giant glowing system button instead of a small unobtrusive one.

So, when I'm trying to play these titles that are perfectly designed for dual-analogue sticks, I'm stuck with the awkward WASD and mouse layout. Why am I stuck with this forced controller scheme? Wouldn't you think any controller with the same layout as a 360 controller should work? Apparently not. Apparently you have to spend the money to enjoy these titles in their full glory. I say spend the money since if you are like me, you only have wireless controllers for any current console. With the PS3 third party controllers, this means you use a USB dongle. For the 360, you're stuck with first party controllers (well, if you got your controllers shortly after the 360 launched, like I did) that use Blue-Tooth to connect. Without buying either a wired USB 360 controller or buying a Blue-Tooth dongle or card, I'm left with just the PS3 Logitech controller.

Of course, these are ideal PC controllers from the abuse I've put them through. They were about $20 at Gamestop when I picked up my PS3 2.5 years back, which meets the cheapness factor I like in PC controllers. They also offer as many buttons as any other console based controllers. Also, by being Logitech, you know they will have massive support from the company and the community, which means they are functional.

I guess this simply is a great reminder in my eyes of why I still continue to look at PC games in a different light than I do console games. Console games you simply buy and play. PC games are always going to be something that amazes me each time it works with any level of playability. Between the various companies trying to control my games (Intel on the CPU, ASUS on the mo-bo, NVIDIA on the GPU, Logitech on the controller, HP on the keyboard, who-knows on the mouse, Kingston on the RAM, and so on) and the vast amount of different techniques used to program a single game, it's like asking for some magician to cast a spell to create some sort of golem out of inanimate parts that have no business working together.

Also, a final question; without their offensive captain (Hasselbeck) or their defensive captain (Tatupu...I'll miss him), who is the face of the Seahawks?


Malik (8/4/11)

The Sounders FC beat San Francisco (not that SF...the Panana team) in aggregate scoring in the first round of the CONCACAF tournament. The score was 1-0 at the end of regulation, tying the series, and a beautiful goal by Nate Jaqua in overtime made the Sounders FC the victors. Now, once again, they are heading to the group phase later this month. It's nice to see the consistency of the Sounders winning the US Open Cup each year (hopefully it continues this year...), and at least hitting the group phase of the CONCACAF tournament each year.

I've been playing some DSware titles lately. In a bid to find some more use of my 3DS, I decided to try out the DSware that was out of my reach when I only had my original DS (or a borrowed DS Lite). The main target of my DSware experiment is the RPG genre, which is also the smallest genre. I also did try Cave Story, since it's highly regarded...but I just don't see why when it's a neat little adventure platform game, but doesn't exactly bring a wow factor.

Legends of Exidia is the current target of my RPG DSware playing. This is a game that has been less than highly regarded in reviews, and I just don't understand why. Yes, it doesn't bring anything new to the table, but it's a simple little $8 game with a classic Zelda/Secret of Mana style engine. It does involve some QTE sections, but when did having a few of those become a bad thing. I mean if Senmue and Resident Evil 4 (both highly regarded games) can use QTE for a bulk of the game, then why can't a $8 DSware title use them a few times? Yes, it also has escort missions, but they have to be some of the simplest and most enjoyable escort quests I've ever seen in any video game. They are not pure pain and unyielding difficulty like so many in the past have been (see games like X-Wing on the PC for a example of bas escort missions).

In the end, Exidia is a simple and fun game with a core of button mashing...but with a leveling system that ensures you will never get bored as you watch you abilities expand (more combos when button mashing) or new spells replacing you old spells. It may be a button mashing dungeon crawl in a sense, but it's one that is still fun if you are able to enjoy classic adventure RPGs like Beyond Oasis, Illusion of Gaia, or the Mana games.

On a side note, I keep seeing more and more about the 3DS being a "failure" now that Nintendo has a huge price drop in the immediate future (about a week from now). I just don't see it. I do see that too many gamers seem to see that 3D is a gimmick (true enough), but the 3DS is not based only on this one feature. The games are smoother, and the abilities of the system are changed versus the DS. The little 3DS carries more horses under the hood, so to speak. Plus, the use of the tilt sensors, the idea of integrating the cameras more fluidly (since not all DS systems had cameras, but all 3DS will have them), and the visuals are greatly improved, even without the 3D turned on (you can turn it off for a's not a forced requirement). Hell, what other game system, besides a computer, can you name right now that can both open a web browser and a note pad, and still keep the game you're currently playing active? By the way, I don't count phones of any type as "game systems".

The 3DS, from what I can see, is coming along as well as the DS did when it launched, in terms of enjoyment. When the DS launched, it also had almost nothing worth playing on the system for almost a year. I should know...I spent a year with an almost unused launch DS wondering why I bought the damned thing. Then again, this is how a console launch always looks; one bad year before the developers really start to hit their stride and release games that don't just rely on bad gimmick ideas (touch was abused on the DS at launch, and 3D is abused with the 3DS).

The only real problems I see with the 3DS so far are actually really minor. The DS launched in November, making it an ideal Christmas gift for the kids. The 3DS launched in March...which makes it not a gift purchase for around eight months into its life span. The DS launched during a good economy and this helped justify the price for what amounts to basically a fancy toy. The economy is now in the crapper, so a 3DS looks like an extravagance. Also, the 3DS was overpriced for what it had. However, I think Nintendo could have done fine with just a price cut to $200. Of course, they will need to wait, no matter the price change, until November to start seeing if this thing can really find an audience. There's a reason most of the instant success consoles (SNES, PS2, 360, Wii, Gamecube, PS3...just to name a few) come out between September and December. It's all about the holiday sales inflating the bottom line. It's also why some of the shakier launches can be tracked to offseason releases (like the 3DS and the Sega Saturn). It couldn't have hurt Nintendo to wait, especially since the eStore, web browser, and Netflix were all unavailable for the first couple months of the 3DS life.

Of course, I think Nintendo probably rushed a release a little prematurely to try to garner an established audience before the Sony Vita came along. While this could help Nintendo, it can also hurt if the launch is perceived (incorrectly, I should add) as a "failure". In all reality, the only difference between this launch and any other console launch is coming down to timing. The economy sucks, March is not a holiday shopping or gift buying month, and people are starting to get tired of 3D (which is seen as required on the 3DS, even if it's not).

To harp on the point one last time...bad launch titles are a fact of life for a geek. If you're the first in the pool, you have to expect a slow and boring start. I dare the people who currently call the 3DS launch a failure due to no good games to name what console had a great launch library. I've been through too many console launches to remember them all, and I know not a one of them kept me happy until at least a few months had passed. The PS2 is considered on of the best consoles of all time, but look at it's launch library and tell me what was amazing. I enjoyed SSX...but that was it...for around 12 months...12 long months. Can someone actually say the PS2 launch Madden (worst Madden I had played up to that point), Fantavision, or any of the other "amazing" launch titles were not total crap?

I'm not trying to sound like a Nintendo cheerleader. I quite frankly am pissed off about this price drop since I basically got screwed out of $80 in the name of Nintendo making a mistake and am going to get crap like Ice Climbers and Balloon Fight as compensation. I also have not been happy with a Nintendo non-portable console since the SNES (Wii-U will not be a likely addition to my home...a home that has almost every consoles released since the NES came along). However, I am also not a fan of hating for the sake of having anonymity on the internet and a false sense of entitlement ("Nintendo owes me"). If you're going to hate on something, at least keep it in perspective and say the DS, PS2, PSP, XBox, 360, PS3, Wii, Gamecube, and so on all had a bad launch as well. Also, the same will be true quite soon for the Vita.


Malik (8/5/11)

When I got an email a week or so ago about the Humble Bundle 3, I knew I had to pick it up. On one hand, the first Humble Bundle (I missed number 2...but there's good news in that...) was amazing. I mean I got some really good games, especially World of Goo, could name whatever price I wanted, and I could feel good in knowing I've donated to a good charity or two while supporting the last bastion of innovative games (indy developers).

Being of a charity mind as of late, I was more than happy to submit a hefty donation, with a good chunk going to the charities (I'm a fan, in particular, of Child's Play) while still seeing a fair price going to the developers. That's one part of the Humble Bundles I especially enjoy; you can determine how your money is given by selecting what cut goes to the developers, the charities, and to the Humble Bundle itself (which does require server space, bandwidth, and all that good stuff).

The Humble Bundle 3 just keeps blowing me away with each new announcement. It started as five games, of which Cogs and Crayon Physics Deluxe were already on my radar for acquisition the next time Steam had a good sale on them. I already had VVVVVV due to such a crazy Steam sale, And Yet It Moves looked interesting, and Hammerfight looks like it might be worth at least a play or two. Then came news that Steel Storm was added. Of course any added game is automatically available for people who already bought/donated for the bundle.

A few days later another email came along from the Humble Bundle. This time saying that all who paid above the average donation would receive the Humble Bundle 2 games for free. This meant some great titles like Machinarium are now included with the entire package, and the game count is now up to 11.

Today I get yet another Humble Bundle email saying that Atom Zombie Smasher is now part of the Humble Bundle 3. That would be number 12. Well, it's 12 if you're good enough to donate above the average donation, otherwise it's 7. Either!

I'm just pointing this out today for a few reasons. Firstly, it's not too late to get in on the Humble Bundle 3 and donate some money to a good cause. I mean what better cause can there be to give to charity and it developers who are making some truly amazing and unique games?

Secondly, the addition of the Humble Bundle 2 games is a great reminder that giving is good. True, it's a bad economic atmosphere right now and giving is not as easy as it once was. However, if you can give to good causes, good thing will come your way. At least that's how I have felt about the whole nature of charity...and the Humble Bundle people seem to be making that all so clear.

Lastly, I get a lot of repeat emails. In other words, I have certain companies and organizations that send me a ton of email and most go right to the trash. I mean I use Amazon to buy a good amount of things, but I don't need to see their sales on items they think I might be interested in. Usually, if I'm interested in something, and really plan to buy it, I bought it already. Also, if I buy a used hard to find game off the Amazon Marketplace, like when I bought Lunar: Eternal Blue Complete for $80, I don't want Amazon telling me I could see it back to Amazon for an amazing $2 in Amazon credit. However, with the Humble Bundle, I'm happy to see a group that emails me a lot and always gives me something good to read. My usual email routine is to immediately send about 90% of my inbox to the trash, and it's nice to see that an email from something that is not a friend or family member can be worth checking out.


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