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Wednesday, April 28, 2010

Dear Future Shop/Best Buy worker

Dear Future Shop/Best Buy worker:

I walk into a Future Shop or Best Buy, or any other store of that type. I start checking out whatever product, maybe I'm interested in something specifically, when you walk up, asking if I need any assistance. How nice.

I then ask about whatever product I've been looking at for the last few minutes, some specific features I need to know whether it can/can't do. You can't answer my question because you don't know.

I then ask more general questions about the product. You don't really know the answer, but you spew out some obvious bullshit that neither you nor I believe.

We then stand there awkwardly silent, because it's painfully obvious you know NOTHING about whatever product in question I am looking at. You probably haven't even SEEN the product before now.

Now I *get* that you can't know EVERY product in the store. If someone asks you what the difference is between the MX-3002 and the MX-2002, chances are slim that you're gonna know. It's somewhat understandable; this is a job, it's not your life.

But I also get the feeling that it could be almost ANY product in the store that happens to be your "blind spot". I want to ask, "What product DO you know about???"

It's really embarrassing (for you) when we're just standing there and it's obvious I know much more about the product than YOU do. At that point, you should just admit ignorance and leave me be, don't you think?

The problem is, you're not likely to find this open letter because it's on some sort of techy thing called the "internet"..... like who knows what that is. Have you ever touched a computer?

Maybe you should just go back to your coworkers who're more interested in huddling together gabbing like a bunch of highschoolers at recess.


Sunday, April 25, 2010

Wii Fit Plus cover model

So I keep seeing those WestJet ads where employees come on saying, "I'm a WestJet owner & this is my CAREantee..."

Is it just me, or is that first girl the SAME person as on the box art cover for Wii Fit Plus???

From screenshots from the commercial recorded on my Neuros II+:

Yeah I dunno. It's just bugging me... 'cause that's all I can think of when I keep seeing the WestJet ad..... and this is about the only place I can geek out about it that anyone could possibly get the reference between a Canadian TV ad & Wii Fit Plus....

I just bought Wii Fit Plus from Future Shop's 17 hour online sale. It's on for like $9.99, so may as well. With in store pickup, should be getting it soon.


Friday, April 23, 2010

Outdated gameplay mechanics that must DIE DIE DIE

There are 3 videogame mechanics that are completely outdated & cheap... it's astounding that they're still put into games nowadays because they represent the limitation of imagination and programming of videogames of the past.

Infinite respawning enemies - I can see how this mechanic was created, it's like basic programing: line 10 enemy spawns. Line 20 go to Line 10.... back when games were like a few kilobytes big it maybe makes sense to always have the same enemies come back once you went offscreen and back on. But once games got into the 3D level like Doom-- WHY does there need to be infinite enemies?? Sure there are a few exceptions where something is needed from an enemy so it has to always come back in case you messed up & killed it or didn't get it the first time. But for the vast majority of infinite enemies in games this is *not* the case. Games made today still have this cheap & unnecesary game mechanic.

Time limits - Yes I hate time limits. And yes there probably are some cases where time limits are needed for certain sections of a game. But it's used way too often to try to add "challenge" or "prolong gameplay" through forcing the player to repeat game sections over & over. Weak & lazy.

Protect the helpless [whatever] missions - I'd really like to track down whoever came up with this game mechanic & give them a good swift kick in the head. We've all played this; whether it's that helpless furry zurtogg or unarmed steamer ship... whatever it is, it has the same traits: it's completely useless, has little health, and does its' absolute damndest to get itself killed, despite your best efforts to fight off its attackers. What I want to know is, when was the last time you had FUN playing such missions? Ever??? So what does it matter that it made a game 1 hour longer if players *hated* playing through that extra hour?

What makes these mechanics broken is that at the core, they take the control of the game out of the players hands. In protect missions, you fail because of something else's health or whatever. Not because you didn't dodge the bullets but because something programmed to suck didn't.

It's obvious that game developers pull these hackneyed formulas off the shelf & plug them into a game to save time/effort, like maybe for movie tie-in games. It's way past time that they start to think of something new.


Tornado Outbreak

So I've been playing Tornado Outbreak a little bit...

Wow. This game just totally bites.

What a *SHIT* game! What the hell, Reviews on the Run???

Yes this game has a great core mechanic of playing as a tornado that gets bigger the more it sucks up. But the constraints coupled with the indecipherable story RUIN any momentum or fun that could be had with that awesome idea.

[pauses writing to watch the Canucks game]

So the game is basically this: you start as a small tornado, you have to collect a certain number of yellow fire-guys, then this device-thingy activates, and you have to jump into it, all before time runs out.

The story & characters... well I can't make heads or tails of it. Which usually isn't that important; look at Katamari-- but here, elements of the story play an important part of the gameplay. There are these little yellow fire-guys, and I can't tell if they're friends or enemies, but you need to bust things they hide in then hold down B which causes them to swirl around you-- you're still sucking them in but slower than normal-- you need to get as many little fire-guys swirling around you as possible before they are inevitably sucked in. If you have enough, you'll get a time bonus. The problem is, you get like a +7 second time bonus. Oh yay, 7 seconds! And you start with 3 minutes to finish the level. To find like 50 fire-guys & get into the device-thingy.

I hate time limits, they are one of worst outdated and cheap game mechanics in the history of video games. but I'm going to write a separate post about that. I can see the use of time limits in Tornado Outbreak to give it some challenge, but the time is so short that it wrecks the game; it doesn't matter how big the map is or how cool it is to grow larger and suck up buildings & whatnot, because you don't have the time to go very far away from the whatever-device that you have to jump into once you've got enough fire-guys.

Did I mention once you hold down the B and the fire-guys are swirling around you you slow right down? But as soon as you get a fire-guy you get a small speed boost, like a sprint for a second. So you have to get lucky enough to chain a bunch of fire-guy grabs together so that enough are swirling around you before they get sucked in. All to get your extra 7 seconds....

This crap game mechanic makes it so it barely even matters how large you grow because it doesn't make much difference how big you are-- all that matters is the number of fire-guys swirling around you. It's really stupid.

Maybe I just suck at this game, I've been trying to figure out how many fire-guys are needed to gain a significant time boost. I know 4 doesn't give you jack-squat. 10 will give you a bit, but how the hell does one string 10 together unless they are exactly beside each other??

Tornado Outbreak..... how the hell can anyone give this game a good rating? I will try it a little more & see if I can't make it work for me... I dunno.

Victor Lucas, what were you thinking???


Thursday, April 22, 2010

ModNation Racers demo

So like many others I'm sure, I got the code for the ModNation Racers demo. I am not a fan of making demos "exclusive"... I've posted about the 3 previous times Sony said I'd get an "exclusive UMD demo" for a game and never came through. Hell, I don't even like how they're making the demos only through the PSN. I loved the good ol' days when PSP demos could be downloaded freely & loaded on our memory sticks ourselves, not having to be registered or any of that crap. That's kinda the POINT of a demo, to gain as wide an audience as possible for the game. How come Sony can't get that???

Anyway, the latest, this ModNation Racers demo requires a code to get it. I'm assuming that the demo will eventually become available to anyone with a PSN account later on...

My problem is that I *know* Sony will find a way to screw me over with this.

Reading the instructions, it basically says to download it directly using the PSP. But my problems with that have already been outlined.

So I'm guessing this is how it will work out:

me: "Damn... I'm so excited for this demo!!!"

I log in to the PS Store using my PSP, enter the code exactly, jump through all of Sony's stupid hoops... then the connection times out, I get A Connection Error Has Occurred(0x8004810b) message & I lose whatever had been downloaded and I can't retry it again 'cause it's a stupid one-use-only code. I cry. Sony shrugs.

Well UP YOURS Sony, like I'm going to get my hopes up for this freebie-that-isn't-a-freebie only for you to screw me.

Still..... I guess I may as well try it. Maybe it will end up in my download list and I could try again through Media Go or something. I dunno.


important features for a netbook

So I've owned the Toshiba NB 205 netbook for about 6 months now... and I've learned a few things about what's important in a netbook/laptop. Some of the things I knew already, and was part of my buying decision:

Good keyboard/track pad - You've really gotta make sure that these are going to be good for you. I think the trackpad is even more important than the keyboard, because people use the mouse for surfing the web the vast majority of the time. Keep that in mind. Make sure the trackpad is large enough, feels good, has good buttons & responsive.

Battery life - High on my list was having a netbook with an extended battery life, and man, that has to be one of the best decisions I made in choosing a netbook. Trust me, unless you are dead-set on purchasing a particular model of netbook that only has a 3-cell battery, DO NOT settle for an average 3-cell battery that will only give you 2-3 hours of life. That may sound ok when you think, "well, that's good enough for some evening work. It's not like I'm going to live on this thing..." but in the real-world experience, I find it ESSENTIAL to have at least 6 hours of battery life if not more. The more the better. Sometimes I am nerding it up all day on this thing, but usually it's a case of simply needing the battery power and not having the chance to recharge it. When I went to Vancouver for a few days, I didn't even bring my NB205 AC charger, because I figured the battery would last me a few days of light netbook use. I have to admit I was debating whether I should bring it or not (I wanted to pack light) but I wrote a few blog posts & did other things like check bus times, etc. in that time, so I had ample power for that limited use. I did bring my PSPgo AC charger 'cause let's face it, the PSPgo has a pathetic battery life-- just like a regular PSP without the extended battery, it has to be charged every night....

Now some important things that I learned only after owning a netbook:

If possible, don't settle for integrated graphics! Ok, I never expected any basic netbook to be a graphics powerhouse. But until my recent debacle trying to play games on my NB205 I hadn't realized how important it is to have some sort of half-decent GPU, like ION or something. I am currently in lust over the Dell Alienware m11x netbook, because of it's graphics capabilities.

Glow-in-the-dark or lit keyboard - Again, the Alienware m11x has this, and I never realized how important this feature is for someone like me, who uses my netbook at night in low-light situations. I really wish my keyboard lit up, that would be awesome.

There are other important factors to consider when buying a netbook, like size/weight, screen resolution (I would prefer at least 768 than the 600 I got in the NB205), screen gloss, USB ports, monitor output, etc... but these are just a few important observations from someone who's used one for awhile.


Sunday, April 18, 2010

couple Wii game pickups

I don't know what it is about the Superstore at Metrotown.... but it's one of my "lucky" stores. I usually find deals there whenever I can get over to Vancouver to check it out. I'm in Vancouver now, and I just got back from checking it out again-- I was hunting for a copy of Tornado Outbreak (Wii) after seeing the review on Reviews on the Run. What sold me is it's described as Katamari but with a tornado... and I *really* want a Katamari game on the Wii, but that's not happening anytime soon (if ever)

(video will be viewable in Canada after April 21, 2010)

I knew it was at Bestbuy, and it shows up in stock at my local"ish" one in Langford, for $20.00. Not a bad price... but I was hoping I'd be able to snag it for less. What a cheapskate I am, less than $20.00? What are the chances of that?

But my lucky Superstore pulled through for me again.... they had it for $9.98! I'm scanning the shelves of Wii shovelware thinking, "come on, like I'm really going to find it--hey waitasec. Seriously??" Damn I felt giddy.

I also bought Marble Saga Kororinpa for $9.98... really was on the fence about this one. I know it doesn't score very high reviews but I heard that the first half of the levels are fun, and it supports the Balance Board. I'm getting kind of desperate here, Nintendo..... but for $9.98, I figured what the hell, eh?

Plus Superstore is having a no-tax weekend! So I saved a couple more bucks. Nice. I love that Superstore, it's where I got Destroy All Humans! Big Willy Unleashed and I've never been able to find it for that price ($18.98) again.


Wednesday, April 14, 2010

Driver 76

So this morning, I thought, "what the heck" and bought Driver 76 off the PlayStation Store. For $9.99 (plus PST + GST) it was worth it. I think of my PSPgo as a "Greatest Hits" kind of PSP; that I'd load it only with my most favourite PSP games... but then there's the other side of me that's only interested in getting good CHEAP & AFFORDABLE games off the PS Store. The prices have come down on some of them, though they're still more expensive than what can be found at retail. Like the recent permanent price drop of Jak & Daxter on the PS Store-- from $30.00 to $20.00... not bad. but The Source has it clearance priced at $14.96 right now. Even the really impressive price drop of Loco Roco 2 to $7.99.. a few days ago I bought it for $0.96 at The Source.... yes, 96 cents. Sure I already have the game but that's practically free. May as well buy one to give away or whatever.... but again, these are clearance prices and aren't typical. I'd be lucky to find any stock.

I have to admit, Driver 76 is pretty fun. It didn't get very good reviews, and it's not a mind-blowing game, but I think it looks pretty good. The cutscenes are done in a 1970's comic book style, with the Ben-Day dots colouring, it's a very fun & cheesy presentation-- the whole game is basically a '70;s exploitation film or something, and the music is great if you like '70's rock.... I just played a mission with Bowie's Suffragette City playing in the background... that's friggin' awesome.

I don't really get the complaints about lack of other cars or people, I find there's quite a bit of both-- you can keep running over people one after another for a few blocks-- and it's not too crowded so you can cut loose & gun the engine for some straight stretches.

There are some problems. The audio is clipped and too compressed; there's stuttering for some of the music. The notoriously long load times are still here in the digital version... there's 2 kinds of loading screens... and sometimes the game will completely freeze for about 5 seconds while the loading disc icon flashes. Sheesh. The loading process could've been more streamlined. And the game seems short, the main missions can be completed very quickly. There are a lot of side missions though.

So far it's an overall enjoyable game & worth the sale price.


Sunday, April 11, 2010

PS Store downloading service

So I did manage to download the PS1 game Nuclear Strike from the PS Store. I disconnected my wireless router and hooked up direct to my modem.

I don't know why the PSN Downloader won't work with my router. Like I said, it's so picky about downloading. Sony & PlayStation is so overly paranoid about having to offer content over download-- they don't want any downloaded games to be stored on a customer's PC, they want it to go direct from their server to the PSP-- they seem to be scared that somehow content is going to be pirated that way.... which is completely moronic. Think about it-- it's easy to tell what files comprise a game if you really want to know. The PSP is too open of a system that it can't completely hide files on the memory stick. But what does it even matter during the connection/downloading phase?

They think that if a download connection flickers in some small way, that the customer is doing something shady. But all the game content is tied to a user's account anyway, so why should it matter if a download is going slower at some point or whatever. Doesn't automatically mean we're somehow doing something nefarious... that kind of assumption doesn't even make sense.

Then there's trying to download games to the PSP directly over wi-fi. Even under best-case conditions it's notably slower, but I wonder how many people can even get it to complete before timing out. It's a great idea on paper. In real-world practical terms, it's useless if it doesn't even work.

Sony could make their download servers extra forgiving considering we've PAID FOR the content we're downloading. I download lots of stuff from free sites that handle downloading much better that the crap PS Store, that don't give me nearly as many problems with downloading as the PS Store does.

So yeah, the PS Store for PSP is simply a broken experience, and this is YEARS after it's been rolled out now. There's NO EXCUSE for such a craptastic experience. Who's in charge of this division of PlayStation, anybody? Or do they shuffle off bits of it to whoever's not busy at the time with their own division or whatever?

And don't even get me started on the lack of games on the PS Store... that's a whole 'nother issue.... Sony can't force third party companies to make their games available on PSN. But Sony *CAN* make their download service not suck complete balls. They *CAN* make it Mac-compatible... they could do all this stuff.... if they wanted to.

Stop being such a complete ass, Sony PlayStation Network division.


Saturday, April 10, 2010

0x8004810b error

As predicted, the Playstation Store has decided to stop working on me again.

This morning I decided to buy a PS1 game, Nuclear Strike. Paid $6.69 (including tax)-- which of course the PS Store took just fine-- but when I tried to download it through Media Go with my PSPgo connected to my PC, it gets about 2/3 the way downloaded and gives me this message:

A connection error has occurred.


Tried it again, same thing. Then I tried the PSPgo over wi-fi to download it directly. It gets about 2%, then the download time goes UP & up and finally connection times out.

The Playstation Store is like one of those vending machines that eats your quarters... only instead of quarters it eats your anywhere from $5.00 to $40.00+ or whatever.....

Here's the thing. Notice on my downloads list that the last time I downloaded any games from the PS Store was late December 2009. That was just before I got a wireless router.... so that may be the problem. But I can't understand why the Playstation Network Downloader is so picky about connections, seemingly dropping them at the SLIGHTEST hint of any slowdown.

I've tried setting my PSPgo time using the internet. Didn't help.

I've checked my firewall settings on my PC, and they haven't changed-- all the PSN Downloader & Media Go content should have full access. My wireless router doesn't have any settings to adjust, basically it just works-- I've had little-to-no problems with it since hooking it up, and my PC isn't connected wirelessly, it's hardwired to the router & the router to the modem. So there shouldn't be any problems with downloading through my PC since it isn't even wireless.

The next step may be to connect my modem back up to my PC directly, but I really don't want to do that. What a pain, just to download crap from the PS Store??? Also, I suspect that it won't help anyway. I have a sinking feeling that now that I've gotten connection errors, my connection is poisoned... I dunno. I always get the feeling that the PS Store holds a grudge.

The bottom line is it just shouldn't be like this. Every time I buy and download something from the PS Store, I'm walking on eggshells, *praying* that it'll work. It's not a good feeling to be going, "pleaseworkpleaseworkpleasepleasework" while a PSP game that I bought is downloading.

People keep saying that downloads/digitial distribution is the future of gaming. I keep wanting to punch them in the face. This is not how the future of game/content delivery should be like. My last post about this was over a year ago, and Sony has fixed ONE issue that I brought up (being able to pay an exact amount-- if it's over $5.00...) the other issues like lack of any HELP/SUPPORT service/feature... is *STILL* missing.

The Playstation Store is simply broken. I suppose it's good that it only ate my $6.69, and not a full game price.

It's content downloaded via a high-speed internet connection. Why can't they just make it WORK???


Thursday, April 8, 2010

SensMe™ 1.50

So SensMe™ as updated on March 31, 2010! Hey, nobody told me....

SensMe™ 1.50 has a few notable upgrades, as listed at the Sensme™ site:



SensMe™ channels version 1.50 has been released.

  • In addition to music tracks that are transferred using "Media Go", music tracks that are transferred to a PSP™ system using a PlayStation®3 system or a music management application other than "Media Go" are now also categorized into channels.

  • You can now add music tracks to a block list so that they do not play.

  • You can now activate or deactivate the [Dynamic Normalizer] feature.

I love that it now sorts tracks into channels WITHOUT having to use the cumbersome Media Go®. My collection is made up of a lot of random music; I like 1-2 songs from this band/performer, 1-2 songs from that band/performer, etc. When I had to use Media Go® to transfer that music to my PSPs, it would put them in their own album/artist folders, making a bunch of folders with 1-2 songs in them... annoying. So I just didn't bother with it & I had a lot of empty channels simply because I didn't use Media Go® for my music transfers.

I updated my PSPgo's SensMe™ through wi-fi, which is handy. Once I started up SensMe™ 1.50, it began sorting my tracks into channels in the background while playing the current music. I paused the song, I'm not sure if they sorting went faster that way or not though. I have about 188 songs on my PSPgo, and it took awhile to sort through those. I shudder to think how many songs I have on my other PSPs... it's a lot more that what I have on my PSPgo.....

But it's great to have all my SensMe™ channels filled with music now instead of mostly being empty!

The block list is another handy feature. One thing that bugged me about SensMe™ is that it would load all audio files-- including podcasts-- that it found in its "newly added" channel. But it doesn't read from memory stick, so that's where I put my podcasts to keep them out of SensMe™. Now you can choose to block any tracks from SensMe™ if you want. The only thing I've heard that once they're blocked, they may not be able to be unblocked? Not sure, I may have to experiment with that.

So far SensMe™ 1.50 seems to be a nice upgrade to the software.


Tuesday, April 6, 2010

Monster Hunter and other games

So... I've been really into Monster Hunter Freedom (PSP) the last little while. I really shouldn't-- it's frustrating, slow and the camera controls are broken..... but for some reason it is very compelling. It's so satisfying to take down a monster after tracking it & doing work to prepare for it.... there are a lot of good things going for the game.

In fact, I'm really getting psyched up for the release of Monster Hunter Tri (Wii) and I may just pick that up on day 1!

I tried out Pikmin (Wii) a bit last week... maybe it's my short attention span, but the learning curve is a bit steep. I'm determined to try to figure out RTS games like this, so I will put some more time into it when I can, to see if it's enjoyable.

I've also been playing a lot of Wii Sports Resort the last couple days. I never really played it much since I bought it, so this is the first time I've spent a lot of time with it. I'm sad to see that some of the new games, like Frisbee Golf, are *broken*. That's simply unacceptable for a Nintendo-first party franchise like Wii Sports. When we're talking about a simplistic experience meant to appeal to everybody, broken mini-games should NEVER make it to the finished game. Really Nintendo should be ashamed of themselves for that.

When it comes to PSP I'm in a funny gamespace right now. I find myself turning down UMD deals, in the vain hope that the PS Store would have as good a deal (yeah right) or that they'd even have the game at all (good luck)... so I haven't been buying PSP games at all. It feels like I shouldn't even bother continuing to buy PSP games because even Sony has given up on the system, and shows nothing but naked, obvious contempt for PSP owners like me. Is it wrong to think that? I still use my PSPgo daily, but I've been hardly been using my PSP-2001 until I started up Monster Hunter Freedom. But when Sony keeps saying to me, "we really don't care about you PSP owner at all." over and over and over, it wears me down.

I know things will change once the new Ace Combat game comes out, I will snatch that up probably day 1.

Not sure if I mentioned I bought The Conduit last week? haven't tried it yet.

Oh yeah, I also got Red Steel 2 last week, during a 1 day sale at EB games-- $40.00 for game & Motion+. Haven't played it yet. I needed a 2nd Motion+, so it is sort of a good deal, though that goes against my previous post about Ubi games. I may be kicking myself later this year when Red Steel 2 inevitably drops in price.... but yeah I needed the Motion+ anyway....


Thursday, April 1, 2010

Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles Smash-Up

Whew... need a breather typing that title out.... ok, yeah so I picked up Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles Smash-Up last week at Future Shop for $9.99... only last night did I finally get a chance to play it.

Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles Smash-Up is a 2-D style fighting game. At first when I started playing it, it seemed very "meh". I was using only the Wii remote turned sideways, and that was not good. Then I tried the Wii remote + nunchuk and that was better... this game needs to be played using an analogue stick. So finally I used my Wavebird GameCube controller and that seems to be the best controller setup of the 3. The game can also be played using the Wii Classic Controller.

So my initial impressions of the game were not all that good, it's basically a button-mashing-spaz-fest. Fights are fast & furious, ending in probably about a minute or 2. But after playing it some more, it has grown on me. The campaign is short; there simply aren't very many playable characters: the 4 TMNTs, Splinter, Casey & April (April can fight??) and there are a few different modes & some minigames, but not a lot of content overall.

I am a big fan of the original TMNT comics... included with this game is a mini-comic produced by the regular creative team... they also provided the cut-scene art, and while I don't mind it, I'm not sure the casual TMNT fan who only knows the cartoons would be too impressed. But they do use the voice-actors from the cartoons (as far as I can tell) and that's kind of cool.

There are basically 2 attack buttons, a grab button (do we really need a separate button for grab?) and a block button, and while the actions can be button mashed, the combos & move set are surprisingly complicated.

But playing this game gets me all wired up. Maybe it's the nature of fighting games but after all the button mashing & frantic gameplay, I'm left all jangly-feeling-- like I just drank 5 cups of coffee or something.

Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles Smash-Up is fun in short bursts, but there's not a lot to it.


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