Monday, July 30

taken to the limit

i had a first tonight... at least i think it's a first.

i ran out of gas on the way home.

now, i've taken cars to the limit before, pushing the line past E just to see how far i could go, but i always made it to a gas station safely. the problem with owning the moped i do (besides the fact that they're totally not cool - well, anywhere else other than Hawaii that is, and they're still not "cool" here, they're just acceptable) is that there's no indication of how much gas you've got left other than when you're low, a light comes on.

i've pushed my moped to what i thought was the limit before, driving at least 15-20 miles past the point when the light comes on (my bike only goes maybe 100-125 miles on a full tank i think) but i've always been able to make it to a gas station - just like my experiences with cars. well i don't know what it was about this tank but yes, tonight, on my way home - i ran out of gas.

funny thing is, i was actually going to stop at a gas station on the way home, and when i ran out i was about 4 blocks away. i pushed the light too far.

what happened? well i noticed that i lost a little bit of juice and was like "oh man, i'm outta gas" but thought maybe i could make it the next few blocks. nope. not 5 seconds after i felt the change, the moped just stopped and i coasted to the side of the road. luckily i was already in the right lane so i just pulled over and pulled my moped up onto the side walk... the humiliating part was walking my bike the 4 blocks to the gas station.

good thing about running out of gas on a moped in Honolulu? well, you're going pretty slow already since you're on a moped, so coming to a stop is less dangerous, and being that this is Honolulu, there are gas stations every few blocks.

however, i've learned my lesson: don't push your luck once the gas light comes on. don't push it TOO far (i totally know this is going to happen again).

- kawitchate

album of the year - 2005

look, i like music. a lot.

that said, with so much music by so many bands, some bands fall through the cracks for a while. just recently i started taking a trip through my ipod, checking to see what bands i used to listen to quite a bit and then looking them up on the internet to see what else they've been up to lately.

one such band, dredg, was a favorite of mine back in college - i had their first two albums and listened to them quite often. i forgot about them i think because they're, ah, in a category all by themselves (closest description might be "ambient progressive alternative"), a very mellow, often depressing sound... a kind of music i haven't been listening to lately (been listening to mostly hardcore punk).

i was surprised to see that they had an album come out in 2005 - Catch Without Arms - that i missed, so i searched it out and downloaded it, but didn't expect much. see, when i've got an album or two of a band that pretty much sounds the same, i expect their next offering to sound similar, and the offering after that to sound the same... and i'm not cool with that. i like bands that evolve. but i gave Catch Without Arms a chance.

the verdict? album of the year... well, album of the year - 2005.

did they evolve? ...not really. but the album struck a chord with me for some reason - their other albums struck the same chord, but not as much as this one has. as with their other records, the entire thing is a journey, with songs bleeding into one another, and is best experienced in one sitting.


this only happens maybe once or twice a year where i like something so much i can't stop listening to it, but usually it's only for a week or two. this has been going on for 2 weeks now, and it's showing no signs of stopping anytime soon. i manage to sneak in at least two or three playthroughs of the album a night.

i'm addicted. and i can't exactly explain why.

funny side note: i accidentally started playing the album with the last song first when i first loaded it up, and somehow it just MADE SENSE. now when i load the album up i always make sure to put the last track first... then have the album end on the same song. it completes the circle better than i think they did. and i did it by mistake.

dredg. Catch Without Arms. excellent album. i'll tell you when i finally move on from it... maybe by my birthday?

- kawitchate

Sunday, July 29

my love / hate relationship with R*

well last week i posted about my favorite developer Rockstar and why they are my favorite developer - GTAIV having a live, populated city, and their reaction letter to all the Manhunt 2 haters. THIS week they came out with 2 more news tidbits, one that makes me take pause and another that fills me with glee.

first, more GTAIV news.

one of the higher-ups at R* came out and said that the PS3 and Xbox 360 versions of GTAIV will be "identical" but that if you want the "complete experience" you should buy the 360 version because it will be having exclusive downloadable "episodes" next year.

now, this is the content that MS paid R* $50 million for, of course they're going to say you need to buy the 360 version. what upsets me is the trend this might lead to - developers holding out on a "complete experience" just to sell it to us later in the form of downloadable content. i mean what's the reason these episodes can't make it to release? if they aren't done, why don't you push back the release date?

downloadable content should be extra stuff, not something to get the "complete experience." i'm shelling out $60 for a game, i expect the complete experience out of the box.

i'm also a little confused because i thought there was a story like a month or two ago where R* was praising the PS3 processing power, speaking specifically about GTAIV, and so i figured that it'd look/run better on the PS3.

i wanted to buy the PS3 version because i'm pissed at MS right now because my box broke after 6 months of ownership - has nothing to do with fanboyism. however, if both versions are indeed identical, i may go with the 360 version just so that i can have the option of maybe downloading the downloadable content if it's cool.

why R*, why?

and second, R* announced a new IP coming exclusively to the PS3. this is in addition to L.A. Noire (think Chinatown) which is already exclusive to the PS3 coming out next year. they touted the power of the PS3, the fact that you can count on every PS3 owner having a hard drive, and the capacity of the blu ray discs as being some of the reasons why they're going with PS3 - and maybe as a "we're sorry" to them as well for GTAIV.

i'm excited because my love for R* isn't only for GTA - i really enjoyed Bully (which i played and beat just a few months ago), the Midnight Club series, and Manhunt (for the idea if not the execution). oh, and L.A. Noire looks like it'll kick ass.

R* - i love you. i hate you.

- kawitchate

emulate this

to preface: i skipped out on purchasing an original Xbox because 1) my friend i lived with had one so i could get my fill of the Halos, and 2) there really weren't all that many games i wanted to play on it. by the time i was thinking of buying one - when i didn't live with my friend anymore - the 360 was already out so i waited and bought that last Christmas.

so now i'm going through playing the Xbox games that i missed - Fable, KotOR, Crimson Skies, Jade Empire, Panzer Dragoon Orta, the Halos, etc. - and emulation has been good with Crimson Skies, the Halos, and a few others... but DAMN is it bad with Fable!

you would think that MS would put forth the effort to have a good emulator for their only (?) first party (well, produced by) RPG, but nope. it's horrible!

everything is fine if i'm walking in a straight line and not turning the camera much, but once i start to run, turn the camera, or get in battle, the frame rate drops like a mo-fo. and heaven forbid if i get into battle AND start moving the camera... wow. i've actually thought i crashed the game - or my 360 broke again - more than a few times.

and the loading... jesus. i mean maybe it was bad in the original, but i don't see how it could have been THIS bad.

put another minus in the Microsoft column. this is exactly the reason why i bought a PS3 before they got rid of the emulator chip inside and went to emulation software for their games...

- kawitchate

Wednesday, July 25

crazy-good summer TV continues with Mad Men

well i posted last night that i was going to try and tune in to Mad Men, a new show that AMC (the makers) claim is the highest rated new show of the summer, and so i tried tuning in, and i succeeded, and it was good.

the show is about an ad agency in the late 50s / early 60s and basically it tackles the issues of the day: sexual harassment and dominance on the part of the men, and sexual submissiveness on the part of the ladies... everyone's cheating on everyone, you've got a clearly closeted homosexual (which i'm sure will be the focus of a future episode), a few independent women ("feminists" if you will; it will be the juxtaposition of these women and those that are submissive that'll run throughout the show), a main character that's checked out on life because life checked out on him (he was in WWII, and hell, just being in the ad agency can disconnect a man), and everyone, EVERYONE smokes and drinks.

i make it all sound like a little MUCH, but really it's handled well, with a subtlety not often seen in television. the whole show had a sense of sadness over it, a veil, but it made it feel really safe... i don't know how to describe it. maybe it's because it is also a very beautiful show, with the time period in question fully realized.

if i were to fault the show with anything it would be that it feels like they're taking all the social issues of the day and blowing them up a little bit - i mean what are the chances that a bunch of people that work at an ad agency and a few people they're close to outside of work would embody all the social issues of the day? like the homosexual character, he seemed a little forced (maybe he shouldn't have played it so obviously gay, it would have been nice to find out as a reveal later)... and other things. but i'm willing to overlook this small fault because otherwise the show is spot-on.

i think i would like this show even if it weren't set when it is because it's about the ad business, and i've always been interested in advertising. hell, i even RELATE to the show in a way because the video game industry moves just as fast as the ad industry, is just as creative as the ad industry - is just as much in the business of "selling the masses happiness" as the ad industry is. and maybe i'm a little disconnected myself. :)

that said, i think the setting is PERFECT for a show like this, because the fakeness of advertising, the masks, the layers - it really mirrors the changing landscape of the late 50s / early 60s.

my last complaint is the "reveal" at the end of the pilot having to do with the main character. i won't say what it was, but here's what i liked about him: he was disconnected from the war, from being in the ad agency, a man alone searching for something but not expecting to find it - he was basically a Hemingway hero. now with the reveal... it just adds a lot more layers to the character and how i feel about him.

but i guess layers aren't necessarily a bad thing. hell, the show itself is layers upon layers and i absolutely love it.

- kawitchate

Tuesday, July 24

and Damages makes four

what is going ON with all the crazy-good television that's on this summer? first there's a bunch of shows that returned that i'm not even watching like the 4400, Dead Zone, The Closer, Rescue Me etc. - but on top of THAT there's been new shows that are either refreshingly good or just plain blowing me away!

there never used to be "new" TV shows in the summer... and now there's too many!

first was John from Cincinnati. this show has managed to be brilliant, boring, and infuriating - sometimes in the same episode. i've written about it before, but the best way to sum this show up is that you can "see" the writing as you watch it - it's like a play. also, you know you're being played with, toyed with, and it's almost like an exercise (sometimes in patience) to try and figure things out. this week is episode 8 out of 10, and no word on future seasons. my hope is that they wrap everything up all nice and neat by the end of this season because honestly, i don't know if they have enough material for a second season - unless John visits another family...

next there was Burn Notice, a refreshing mix of action and comedy that has a dry, sarcastic main character and a pretty wild (compared to him) supporting cast around him, including of course the one and only Bruce Campbell. i'm not sure how long this first season is set to run (i believe this week is episode 5), nor if it's doing well enough to warrant another season, but as long as the formula remains fresh enough and the main character keeps learning little by little why he got burned, i'm on board for a few seasons.

just this past Sunday i started watching my third original series of the summer, The Kill Point. you can check the post i did on it just a few nights ago, but basically it's a bank robbery turned hostage situation from a bunch of different perspectives AND it's a nice character study, quieting down to focus on a number of the various characters from all sides. with the surprise ending of the pilot, i think that this series has enough for the planned 9 episodes, and i'll be glad if they end it at that.

and now - Damages.

they started advertising for this show on FX while The Shield was finishing up its season two months ago. series looked like it dealt with a team of lawyers going after a big-shot billionaire for screwing his employees out of money (i thought Erin Brockovich, i don't know) but with lots of dirty dealings, backhanded moves, and even possibly murder. out of the preview, what caught my eye?

Glenn Close.

i don't usually check out something based solely on an actor/actress alone, but Glenn Close playing a hard-ass is an exception to the rule. now i know she's been acting for a while, but i've never really had her in my "great actress" category - until i saw her on The Shield during Season 4 (probably my second favorite season of the show, mostly because of her). to see her in another FX show, looking like she's playing a hardball lawyer (on The Shield she played a pretty hard-ass captain)? oh hell yes sign me up.

the show? basically what i described above, what i got from the preview - except taken even further than i even thought possible. beside the two or three twists that happen throughout he episode, there are two major twists at the end of the episode (well, one's more of a reveal that you could sort of see coming, but the other was a TWIST) and wow... maybe i wasn't paying close attention but it really caught me off guard.

oh, and the story is told kind of in a flashback - well, the main character's future is playing out in front of our eyes as well as her past (6 month time difference) and, while a little gimmicky and often overused, it seems like it will work well with this series, where things aren't as they seem and, as Glenn herself said - trust no one.

to sum it up - great story, good presentation of said story, surprising twists, and excellent, EXCELLENT acting. i think this "season" (it's what FX called it in their promos) is 8 episodes, and that seems about right. and honestly, if there IS a second season of this... i couldn't think of what it would be. plus, getting Close and even Byrne (the main actress, also pretty good) back for a television show i think would be tough.

four really good, original shows this summer. not bad.

but wait! in researching Damages tonight online i came across ANOTHER show that just started last week on AMC called Mad Men - it's supposedly about an ad agency in the 60s, 13 hour-long episodes. it looks GOOD... going to catch a rerun of the first episode tomorrow hopefully and try to tune in Thursday night for the second one. oh, and there's a miniseries coming too! The Company on TNT about the CIA duing the Cold War. also looks good.

summer used to be about "going outside" and "playing" - now it's about watching TV. good TV.

- kawitchate

Monday, July 23

Rockstar for the win

i was reminded why Rockstar is my favorite video game developer this weekend when i read not one but TWO great news items regarding 2 upcoming releases, Manhunt 2 and Grand Theft Auto IV.

first there was a lot more info released in a German video game magazine regarding the new GTA IV. what's got me most excited? the people that wrote the magazine said that the city feels ALIVE:

"The streets and sidewalks are populated, people talk on their cellphones, smoke, entertain each other, make pictures etc etc. The Hot Dog vendor tries to get Niko to come to his stand by shouting at him."

i'm so sick of games that have huge cities that are devoid of life (Spider-Man 3, Rogue Galaxy) or there's people but they do either nothing or walk the same predetermined path (Saint's Row, Final Fantasy XII).

this, in addition to all the other cool info that came out of the article, is why i think that GTA IV will be my pick for game of the year - and that's saying something this holiday season, with all the AAA games coming out.

ok, so GTA is set to rock, and then Rockstar followed up with a knockout punch by responding to a story someone wrote about how giving their Manhunt 2 game an Adults Only rating was a GOOD thing. and the thing rocks so much i'm just going to repost it here:

Dear Mr. Fahey,

We are responding to the article Sick Filth?, in which you expressed support for the ban of Manhunt 2.

Although censorship makes you "deeply uncomfortable" and you found the ban’s rationale "a less comfortable topic", you agreed with the judgment of the British Board of Film Classification that no one - regardless of age or personal opinion - should be allowed to consider playing Manhunt 2.

We are still exploring our options for Manhunt 2, but how does banning our game support the industry or further the development of the medium? Unlike a heavy-handed editor or a critical review of a game, a ban is punishment for deviating from tradition.

A ban denies everyone the chance to consider, experience, or discuss the actual game. The only obvious victor is the status quo.

You seem to view banning Manhunt 2 as a way to protect the industry from scrutiny and unfair attacks. In fact, a ban is a triumph for the industry’s harshest critics, not an act of diplomacy.

A ban is only likely to encourage those who believe video games, already the most regulated medium in entertainment history, should be further restricted.

What about games make them deserve special treatment from the authorities? According to industry groups, the average games player is in his or her 30s, yet you support the widely held view that games are somehow a less sophisticated medium than cinema, only suitable for immature audiences.

In other words, although gamers can negotiate the boundaries between reality and fiction in other media, you believe we are incapable of navigating the same boundaries in videogames.

Yes, we have responsibilities as an industry, but as a creative industry, not as a pharmaceutical or weapons industry. Creative industries have always faced harsh political and legal criticism, and we know some of the movie industry’s more reactionary responses to scrutiny actually backfired.

We believe in a well-run ratings system. With the best rating system in history and the future of the industry and medium at stake, we don’t understand why it is necessary to effectively ban all games intended for players 18 and older.


Rockstar Games

wow, what a well-written, clear, concise argument. and it came from a video game developer?!? but i thought video games were just for kids!

kudos Rockstar. i'm behind you 100%.

- kawitchate

Sunday, July 22

John from Snooze-cinnati

if you've noticed, i don't often comment after just an episode of a series - usually i'll do a review of a season, or maybe a half-season - but i've got to say something after tonight's John from Cincinnati.

i was bored to tears.

the episode focused on Butchie and Sean working things out and Link and his place in his company... that was it. it felt like all the other characters were doing busy work just so they'd be in the episode - and speaking of being in an episode, where the hell did Bruce Greenwood go? he seemed like he was going to be a major player and here we are, 7 episodes in and he's been missing half the time, gone from entire EPISODES! very weird.

anyway, i came to the realization that this series really should have been shorter, maybe 8 episodes max. now, i'm hoping that they pull off something spectacular in the next 3 weeks before the series (season?) ends, but i can't help but feel that there's going to be another episode like this where everybody is floundering, not having anything to do.

here's to hoping i'm wrong.

- kawitchate

new show - The Kill Point

just last night i was asking for a movie that dealt with a group of people making a stand against another group, and here a day later a mini series comes along to fill the void. needless to say, it's better than the movie i watched last night, but that's not saying much. how good is it?

pretty darn good.

it starts with a bank robbery and turns into a standoff with the police, a hostage situation. the show reminds me of Dog Day's Afternoon, a great movie from the 70s about a bank robbery, but with MORE - more characters to follow, more going on behind the scenes... just MORE. of course, there had to be more, since this is a 9-episode series that takes place in one spot, over the course of a few days (i imagine).

the pilot was pretty much your typical bank robbery gone wrong and subsequent hostage negotiations - but this series focuses on a lot of characters and focuses on them very personally. there are a lot of quiet moments when decisions are being made, and it makes for a good character study series. oh, and the last 5 minutes? ...yeah, the typical bank robbery hostage situation story just turned into something more. and i'm excited.

that all said, here's my gripes:

- i can totally see through most of the "personality tics" that the writers gave some of the characters because they thought it would help to individualize them - the captain and his need for grammatical correctness, the old man that turned out to be gay, the newbie to SWAT and all the crap being given to him, the Paris Hilton-like socialite hostage, the higher-up and the captain disagreeing on every decision... it's all just a bit too much, and not well written.

- as this is a series that takes place in one spot, i'm worried that in future episodes they're going to do flashbacks to the lives of all the characters before the robbery, a la Lost, and if they do that, i'm probably going to stop watching. now, the chances of lots of flashbacks is minimal because the show looks to run only 9 episodes total, but if it continues to move as FAST as it is, well we'll see what we see. i personally think flashback shows like Lost, shows that rely heavily on flashbacks, are boring. i want to see where you are NOW, be it on the island (Lost) or in the bank (The Kill Point). that said, flashbacks from time to time are ok... so is the "flashback episode..." but any more than that and i'm gone.

- i won't say why, but the series has the possibility of getting a little too political for my taste. so far it's been minimal, but the framework is there.

if the series really is only 9 episodes, i'm totally on board for that. if they take the series FURTHER, like into a second season / series, they'll have to give me a real good reason why. so far this looks to be a great mini series. oh, and it couldn't be on at a better time - 9pm on Sunday... right before John from Cincinnati. not bad.

- kawitchate

what do you think?

reading blogs has completely warped the way i read articles. i was reading an article in Game Informer magazine and after i was done reading it i was wondering where the comments were! i wanted to get people's opinions on what i just read, maybe even write a comment of my own... and then i was like "oh yeah, i'm reading a magazine."

the digital age - instant feedback, instant gratification. everyone's opinion counts... love it or hate it. used to hate it. now, apparently i love it.

- kawitchate

so there are a few hitches - or - jean claude, it's been a while

well, it turns out getting back a refurbished Xbox 360 brings along with it things that i have to deal with - right now i'm dealing with the fact that Halo 2 multiplayer maps that i downloaded previously aren't being recognized by my new system, which i find weird since the maps reside on my hard drive, which is separate from the system (when i sent the system in, i kept my hard drive here)... but whatever.

so since i'm in the midst of downloading the map packs again, i thought i'd write about the movie i watched tonight: Second in Command, starring Jean Claude Van Damme.

this movie, which came out last year, was i'm sure a straight-to-DVD release. it had its debut on cable tonight on the USA network and i happened to catch it. why did i watch? was it worth it? read on...

i just happened to be flipping through the channels looking for something to watch while eating supper when i came across this movie. why did i stop and keep watching? well that's hard to describe... in part, i've been wanting to watch a good action movie for a while, and also, the movie wasn't all that bad.

Jean Claude is a hardened marine that gets stationed at a US embassy in an unstable country. it's his first day on the job and the local militia strike at the country's president. the US (Jean Claude) gets involved and rescues the president from his palace, and the bulk of the movie then takes place in the embassy as the militia lays siege on it.

i've got to say, i like the idea of a "final stand" movie... of course, this was just a start, but if done well by someone else, it could be great. THIS movie kept me interested because it was pretty action-packed and it had the camera work of an episode of 24 - lots of quick zooms, shaky cameras, etc.

was the movie good? dear god no. but it was entertaining... and it was a step in the right direction. if a more talented screenwriter / director / actor would devote the time to one of these "final stand" movies, it would be great. as it was, it was ok.

finally, if you were to take an outside look at the movie, it was about a militia that wanted to bring the newly elected president of a newly democratic country to justice for the killing of innocents... and really, are there any good guys in this? it's got deep, DEEP shades of gray - but yet i didn't really see it while watching because of the way it was done - USA vs. bad guys. written / filmed differently, it might have been a lot more interesting. then again, "interesting" isn't as cool as "action-packed." :)

- kawitchate

Saturday, July 21

Rogue Galaxy impressions / ramblings / review

let me preface this post by saying that i don't often "beat" games. that said, when i put the effort forth to beat a game nowadays, it's got to be worth it, right?

well, i just beat Rogue Galaxy for the PS2 and here are my impressions (i'm not doing a full-on review, just rambling things off the top of my head):

- i thought i read somewhere that this game had 100+ hours of gameplay... well i clocked in at about 50 hours and even if i did all the side missions and extra stuff i think i'd only clock in at 75 hours max. now, was this a bad thing? no. taking into account the gameplay, story, etc. i think that 50 hours is just fine - i just remember 100 hours being tossed around and i expected a little more.

- speaking of expecting more, i expected to visit more planets (this same problem came up for me when playing Star Ocean: Till the End of Time). in a game that is called Rogue GALAXY, you'd expect to visit more than just 5 or 6 planets you visit over and over, am i right? Mass Effect for the 360, which comes out this fall, looks to be the first game to promise the galaxy and deliver (but we'll see).

- another big thing this game touted is that there are no load times going indoors to outdoors, and vice versa - once you're on a planet, there are no load times. while this was cool, i can't help but feel that they accomplished this by sacrificing something else... life. SO many of the planets felt like they were uninhabited, from the small jungle village to the bustling city. there weren't any people! ...or not enough for me, not enough to make it feel alive. this comment comes after just playing Final Fantasy XII, which i beat a month or so ago (impressions still to come), and the cities in it were bustling with life.

- going along with the above, the dungeons also were not only dead, but repetitive! the further i got in the game the more i could see how they would repeat level layouts just to make a dungeon longer! and man, the last 5-10 hours of the game is TOUGH to get through for this very reason... repetitive environments and dungeons that go on forever. i almost, ALMOST gave up right at the end - from where i thought i was going to have the final battle to where i actually DID have it, i had to go through a grueling 2-3 hour dungeon that repeated itself over and over... and for what? it just felt like stall tactics.

- i guess this happens in a lot of RPGs, but it stood out in this one... even though they eventually offered me 8 characters to make my 3-man party out of, i stuck with the same 3 people from practically the start of the game. what i DID like is that early in the game it forced you to partner up with certain characters because of the story, but then that got totally abandoned maybe 20 hours in. i think the game might have been better had they forced me to switch it up every once in a while.

- the three "main" characters of the game (featured on the box art) seemed a bit forced to me, or at least one of the characters did. the main character and the girl, they were fine, but the other hardened pirate, Zegram... i hardly played as him! reason being is that for half the story he does shady things and you're not sure who's side he's on... so why would i want him in my party? so i went with another character who, looking back, was probably weaker than Zegram in terms of combat. weirdness.

- this game features some of the more difficult combat i've experienced, or at least combat with a learning curve (i died twice in the first hour of playing this game). first, there's no magic, so my tried-and-true method of having a healer didn't work in this game. so what did i have to do? i had to use potions... a lot. a LOT a lot. seriously, i can't remember ever using this many potions in a game. for example, in a regular battle, it wouldn't be weird if i used an individual potion or three and then also a potion that healed all 3 members of my party. that's a LOT of potion usage.

- speaking of combat, i need to talk about the "special attacks" (can't remember what they're called in the game). now, when i play an RPG i more often than not use regular attacks and only rely on special attacks when i'm in a pinch, so naturally the special attacks were largely ignored by me in this game. however, in the last 10 hours of the game i started realizing that the special attacks are WAY unbalanced. now, there is a deterrent from always using a special attack in combat, as each character has a gauge (like a health bar, but for these attacks) and it depletes somewhat when you use a special attack. if you were to constantly use the special attacks, your gauge would be depleted completely after 5-10 battles, and there are, on average, 30 battles in between save points. however, there are potions you can take to refill your gauge, and late in the game you've got tons of them, so you could just fire off special attack after special attack and plow your way through battles. they try and stop this as well with the enemies that have shields, but just regular attack their shields away and then hit them with the special. where I ended up using the special attacks was in boss battles - and wow, WAY unbalanced. some of the bosses didn't even TOUCH me as i just fired away special attack after special attack. they really should have looked at this issue a bit more... i'm glad i didn't realize it until late in the game because it could have seriously made me stop playing.

- just as the special attacks are unbalanced, so is the money in the game. early in the game you're hurting for money - at one point i had to sell off items i didn't want to just to obtain weapons i needed to stand up to the bad guys at the time. but then you're just INUNDATED with money and you've got way more than you know what to do with because there just isn't that much to BUY in the game. i think at the end of the game i had over 700,000 in cash, and the most expensive items were only thousands, not even tens of thousands. oh, and this is after i experienced one of the better games that dealt with money, Final Fantasy XII, which had you sell off spoils from battle and walked a fine line of just having enough throughout the game. so yeah, Rogue Galaxy should have either held back on the money or gave me something to buy! some ultimate weapons, or alternate clothes - something!

- the story was average at best. see, i sign on to RPGs mainly for the story - well, either that or the combat system. Rogue Galaxy had a pretty good story, but not a GREAT story. the entire thing felt a bit too familiar and safe. however, there were a few characters that had interesting stories - Steve and what it meant to be "real," Kisala and her ultimate importance to the galaxy - and there was a lot of humor in the game, which was refreshing. however, the WAY it was told wasn't cool with me - basically it was all told in capping cutscenes, capping off the entering and exiting of a dungeon. while this wasn't ALWAYS the case, that's how it felt - i would grind away in a dungeon for 2 hours and be rewarded with 5 minutes of story... and played story at that. i don't know... it could have been so much more.

- the love story was too reserved, but perhaps this is just a flaw of Japanese RPGs. it was obvious the two main characters liked each other, but there were only a few cutscenes that alluded to this. and the end?!?

- the end of this game was... satisfactory, but not perfect. after you beat the final boss (which takes a good deal of time, as there's 3 iterations of it), there's like a 15-minute cutscene with what happens and the end result? most everyone goes their own ways, but the 2 main characters? left up in the air! then you see the credits and THANK GOD there's another scene... then there's a voice-over that confirms what i'd hoped from the start... but you don't get to SEE it? you don't get to PLAY it? which leads me to my final point...

- after the game is over, you can go and do another long-ass dungeon and obtain some treasure you can't get anywhere else. however, this dungeon isn't story related at all. at the end of the game, a few of the characters are going to rescue another character from herself, and i guess they do because there's a voice-over saying yay we did it... but why couldn't the extra playable dungeon be you rescuing your fellow comrade? i don't know.

so i'm thinking i should have named this post "Rogue Galaxy complaints" but honestly, these are my feelings after playing it. from reading all that you'd think i hated the game right? well you're wrong.

i started this post off by saying that when i put the effort forth to beat a game nowadays, it's got to be worth it. Rogue Galaxy was worth it, have no fear. sure i've got my gripes with the game, but overall it was a pretty good RPG - as good as Level 5s last offering, Dragon Quest VIII? no. but still, pretty good.

if i had to rate it out of 10, i'd give it an 8, with a margin of error of 0.25 (i could go up or down 0.25 points if persuaded to from other people's opinions on the game).

- kawitchate

Thursday, July 19

welcome home

well, it's been 1 1/2 months since my Xbox 360 went kaput on me, but now it's back - well, it's not back, but another came to take its place - and in pretty good shape from what i can tell.

is it refurbished or new? this is the big question. then the secondary question is does it have any new hardware inside to prevent my problem - or any other major problems - from happening again.

can i tell a difference? well if anything the sides of the system seem to be a shinier gray than the dull gray that i remember - the new shiny gray doesn't match the duller gray of the hard drive either - but it's possible that i'm remembering wrong. also, the serial number starts with a 2 instead of a 3, so maybe i got an earlier version if they're starting the serial numbers with 1 and moving up as they go. finally, it might be a bit quieter, but it still runs as hot as it always did.

now to the package itself. opened it up and right on top was a letter:

"Dear Xbox Customer. So that you can get back to playing and enjoying your Xbox quicker, we have replaced your Xbox console with a replacement unit."

it goes on to talk about how the serial number on my new unit is obviously different from the one on my old one, so they did some administrative stuff regarding my warranty and the new serial number... it's all very vague so i'm going to be calling up support to see just what the status of my warranty is on this "new" console.

the letter concludes by apologizing for the inconvenience, that they wish to regain my trust, satisfaction, and "loyalty" (wow), and as an olive branch they sent along a 1-month Xbox Live gold membership card - which is good, because i was going to call support and ask for one.

and that's it.

here's the questions i have - most of which i doubt will ever get answers:

- just what exactly was wrong with my old console?

- what happened to my old console? was it so bad that they had to scrap it?

- is the console they sent me new? refurbished? in the letter they simply called it a "replacement" unit... what the hell does that mean?

- does this "new" (new to me) console have any new hardware inside it to help prevent either the problem that happened to me or the bag of problems that's happening to other 360s out there?

- what does all this mean for my warranty?

i doubt i'll ever find out what was wrong or what happened with my old console - or maybe i'll get an answer, but it'll be vague, like the letter - or if this "new" console has new parts in it... but i do hope to find out if this is a NEW console or a refurbished one. because see, this is what i'm worried about...

what if Microsoft hangs on to people's consoles that they can't fix right away, like mine, and then send me a refurbished one from a guy that had a problem they couldn't fix right away from a few months ago? and in a few months, some other guy is going to get MY old refurbished console... and it's just one whole cycle of refurbished consoles.

the problem is, what if i get a console from a guy that had a problem a few months ago but it turns out his console has yet ANOTHER problem wrong with it, so i'll have to send in the console again in another 6 months! then that console would have been refurbished twice and possibly sent back out AGAIN and somebody's getting a third-hand console!

it just doesn't seem right, but it does seem like good business... and i wouldn't put it past Microsoft.

my only hope is that if they ARE just passing off refurbished consoles to everyone and not scrapping any, that they do a complete and thorough check to make sure EVERYTHING is working, not just fixing the problem that was making it not work and then passing it off.

at any rate, welcome home 360. welcome home.

- kawitchate

and i'm reminded why you're the best

just hit the halfway mark in the 5-year arc of Babylon 5, and i was reminded of just how great a show it really was - probably the best space-based sci fi show i've ever seen (best sci fi show going to Quantum Leap of course).

90-some of the 110 episodes were penned by the series creator. how often does that happen with a television show? many of the lines are well-crafted, foreshadowing or echoing other lines or events. superbly written show. it pays to have a 5-year plan.

i'm watching the series over again (saw all 5 seasons and most of the movies 3-4 years ago) in preparation for the new B5 movie that's out at the end of this month. with the week-long vacation i took to Phoenix, i was starting to get behind, but if i keep along on this pace, i think i might make it.

and even if i don't make it all the way through, i'll make it through the good seasons (1-4). season 5 saw B5 under a new commander (one that couldn't act all that well), the departure of main characters, and way, WAY too much about the upcoming war with the telepaths (just bored me, don't know why). i'll try and watch season 5 again, but right now, here, in the heart of season 3... i don't see how it can get much better than this.

the last 4 episodes leading up to the midway point of the 5-year run saw major changes and B5 asserting itself like it never had before. in the final minutes of the first half of the series, 3 characters revealed their love for others, one other admitted he has a problem, and another admitted he's not as tough as he seems to be. other major players had important things happen to them as well in the 4 episodes leading up to the midway point - and all these things, ALL of them, lead these characters in new directions (or make you see them in a different light) for the second half of the series.

it kicked off the second half of the series. and i can't wait to see what happens next... well, you know, even though i already know. sort of. it HAS been a few years...

- kawitchate

no online co-op? in THIS day and age?!?

Bungie, how could you do this to me? for that matter, how can ANY of you companies do what Bungie did - or didn't do...

Bungie, how can you not have planned for online co-op for Halo 3? other companies, how can any game where co-op is expected NOT be online co-op in this day and age? The Simpsons, Spider-Man: Friend or Foe... i'm looking at the both of you. i would buy the both of you when you come out if only i could play cooperatively through you with someone online!

dear god, if Army of Two isn't online co-op, i'm not getting THAT game either!

and it's too bad to, because i want to buy you - all of you. Halo 3, yes i'm still buying you for the multiplayer - and the POSSIBILITY of a patch in the future that allows for online co-op (Bungie says they're exploring the idea) - but you're on thin ice.

from a interview with the face of Bungie, Frankie, that's appearing in the August issue of EGM -

Frankie: "I think the biggest problem for us for online co-op is that we have a situation where you can be in a Warthog with five troops, almost a mile away from the other player. That's a significant challenge."

me: then you don't freakin' design levels like that! you design with online co-op in mind!

Frankie: "And there's lots of design things you could do to prevent that from happening, but they would make it not feel like Halo anymore."

me: sounds like a cop-out. in fact, if you're too lazy to do your level design with online co-op in mind, i've come up with solutions that keep the 2 players within close proximity to one another - maybe they're attacked to one another via shackles... or they've got exploding collars on and if they stray too far from one another, they blow up... or hell, it's the future - if one gets too far away from the other, they just ZAP transport to the first player's side!

totally unforgivable.

i'll cross my fingers for the co-op patch... good thing the friends i'd play co-op with aren't getting Halo 3 right when it comes out. Bungie, you're on the clock.

and let this be a wake-up call to all you other companies... if you say "co-op" it had better be online. it's just expected in this day and age, that's all.

(oh, and Bungie's claim that "oh yeah we'll fix it with a patch" plays to my dislike of companies releasing a product and then saying "oh we'll just patch it," which essentially means they're releasing an unfinished product... but this is a topic for another time)

- kawitchate

Wednesday, July 18

you win this time Microsoft

well, just as Microsoft is going to win this fall in terms of AAA games offered, they have won today over Amazon in my book. a few posts ago i said that it was a race between Amazon and Microsoft to see who would send me my next-gen system first - Amazon with my brand-new PS3, or Microsoft with my repaired/refurbished/new Xbox 360.

surprisingly, Microsoft won.

even though i called Xbox Support just this past Sunday and they claimed to have no status update on my console since it arrived at the shop in Texas on the 27th of June, i received an automated call from UPS today saying that i'm to expect a package tomorrow. got the tracking number, looked it up online and sure enough - coming from Texas.

still, i lost over a month of my Xbox Live subscription by not having a working system with which to log on to it... so i'm considering calling again and hassling them for a free month.

will i get my same 360 back but repaired? will i get a refurbished 360? or will they send me a brand-new 360?

will there be any new hardware inside to prevent the "fundamental flaw" that people are saying the 360 has? maybe something to keep it from running so hot/overheating?

i'll be able to tell if i get a new console, as each one has a serial number on it and i know the number of mine... but can i find out what they did to the inside i wonder? maybe call support and see if they'll give me any info? maybe something's sent inside the package, like a printed out status report?

guess we'll find out tomorrow.

- kawitchate

Tuesday, July 17

too much music?

i'm a connoisseur of music.

back in the 80s, when tapes and records were the dominant form of music, my parents help me buy at least 50 cassettes and 50 records - not much, but hey, i was a kid and when i really wanted to listen to music i just turned on the radio.

back in the 90s, when CDs reigned supreme for me, i had somewhere between 350 and 400 of them, all bought and paid for.

now, with digital music the dominant form, i count in terms of how many songs i have - which, on my ipod, happens to be 9050. this is not the TOTAL number of songs i have, as i've got at least another 1000 waiting on my computer, but we'll go with the number on my ipod for now.

some have told me that 9050 songs is too many songs. how can i possibly listen to and appreciate them all? i just have them to have them, right?

wrong. i just like music.

however, it's times like this when i feel that yes, maybe i do have a few too many songs.

last week i went on a downloading spree and picked up albums from artists that i hadn't looked up in a few years. one of these was a favorite of mine back in the 90s, Better than Ezra.

they put out an album a few years ago that i thought i either totally missed or just wasn't interested in buying - see, for me, if a band doesn't evolve their sound in 3 records or less i'm usually not going to go buying a 4th, 5th, or 6th record... it all just ends up sounding the same.

anyway, i downloaded this latest Better than Ezra album and just got around to listening to it tonight and guess what?

i can't tell if i already own it or not.

unfortunately my ipod isn't here for me to check (left it at work) so i can't simply eliminate the doubt, but here's the gist of it: the album sounds familiar and i know at least one of the songs on it (i found myself singing along). now, this familiar sound could just be the fact that i own 3-4 Better than Ezra albums already and the song i knew was a single... or it could mean that i already have this album.

either way, it might mean i've got too much music.

- kawitchate

buyer's remorse?

as you know, i bit the bullet yesterday and purchased myself a PS3. while i don't regret the decision - and if i don't yet, i don't think i will - as with any large purchase, i mull over it long after i've made it.

today brings reports of even cheaper PS3s that might be coming out at the end of the year. again however, it's not clear whether or not these new machines will have the emotion engine inside them - the 80GB will not, but now there is talk of a 40GB PS3 to replace the 20GB that is now sold out.

also today i got into work and found that my work had just purchased a 60GB PS3 over the weekend as i did - of course they purchased it at a local store, so we had it to play with today.

my initial impressions? not so hot.

- it comes with 1 SIXAXIS controller and 1 USB recharge cable. you can plug the controller into your PS3 while its on and recharge the batteries in the controller - HOWEVER, the USB recharge cable provided is really, really short. also i learned that any new SIXAXIS controller you buy does NOT come with another USB recharge cable. lame.

- it does NOT come with an HDMI cable. so the PS3, this blu-ray powerhouse of a machine, doesn't come with the appropriate cable with which to hook it up to your TV to see the picture quality in all its glory?!? unbelievable. a component cable? nope. an S-Video cable?!? nope. it comes with a puny composite cable. wow.

- i'm buying the PS3 in part to play PS2 and PS1 games on it, but in order for my PS3 to read the save files from games i've played previously that are saved on memory cards i have to buy a $15 peripheral... again, wow.

- while i like the sleek look of the menu system inside the PS3, i have to say that what i saw of the PSNetwork and the PSStore is pretty pathetic compared to Xbox Live. now i know that Sony's new to the online community space, so i'll give them some time to catch up, but wow it's lame.

- time it takes from out-of-box to actually getting online and being able to download games and demos is atrocious. there's at least 2 system updates that take a little while, and then the steps you have to go through to create a PSNetwork account... well there are a lot of 'em. and they're annoying.

- number of PSNetwork "Arcade" games (i don't know what they're called really) is pretty small considering that the system has been out for 9 months now. Xbox Live Arcade puts out 1-2 games a week on average... PSN looks like maybe 1 every 3 weeks.

- PSN games don't all have demos. in fact, only a few of them do. Xbox Live Arcade games all have demos. pretty lame.

- downloading a 1GB demo took longer than on the 360... i'd say almost twice as long. but maybe the connection was slower today, who knows.

- after downloading a game or demo, you have to then take the next step of installing it. this hasn't been a huge deal so far, as the install time is less than 30 seconds, but it's just an extra step that the 360 doesn't have.

what AM i happy with? wifi out of the box (Xbox 360 you have to pay for a $100 add-on to get wifi) and the SIXAXIS controller is pretty light and neat (though i'm not sure about the raised L2 and R2 buttons). also, as i said, i like the sleek menu system within the PS3 itself.

as i said, i don't regret anything. and despite my bitching above, i don't believe i will.

- kawitchate

Monday, July 16

i don't know Butchie instead

John from Cincinnati.

just finished watching the 6th episode of 10 that aired tonight. the reason i haven't posted on this series yet - and maybe why i still shouldn't be posting on it now - is because i don't know what to say. but it's like... i want to say SOMETHING. the show really lends itself to discussion - mainly because there are things that happen in it that don't make sense... at least they don't yet... and i'm betting that when all is said and done in 4 more weeks, not everything WILL make sense.

at least i hope not.

this is one show i don't want to know exactly what's going on.

i guess the main question is "who is John from Cincinnati?" and what is he doing in the lives of these people? what's the point?

for me there were always only 2 possibilities - John is an alien (they first thought he might have come from Mexico, which would allude to him being an "illegal alien," a clever play on what he really was) or John is the Son of God (John from Cincinnati, J.C., Jesus Christ).

after tonight's episode and all his talk about "the word" and his "father," i'm really leaning toward him being the Son of God.

so is this a Second Coming tale? why has God sent down his only Son to help out in the lives of these people? he's sure saved the lives of a few of the characters in pretty dramatic fashion... what is it all leading to?

what's really got me hooked (and what might turn others off) is the way everyone talks... i've said this before about other movies or shows, but in John from Cincinnati you can almost SEE the dialogue as it's being spoken. it sounds very much like a play... and i've been thinking lately that maybe it's a morality play, or a take on a morality play - where the main character is humanity, and the supporting cast are personifications of attributes, virtues, or vices.

who knows. all i know is that it's a fun ride.

tonight's episode, with John appearing to everyone at the cookout, preaching to them, and other characters showing up even though they weren't physically there... and the spiral staircase (which has to mean something... something's spiraling out of control?)... i first thought it was just showing that there are moments when things are calm in life, when everything comes together, and everything is perfect, just for a moment (there has been so much tragedy and will most likely be more tragedy to come, a moment to catch one's breath is welcome) - but THEN it came to me:

maybe it was the Last Supper.

- kawitchate

Sunday, July 15

so i bit

i couldn't resist. i had to do it.

i'm now the proud (?) owner of a PS3.

or at least i've put down the money, now all they have to do is ship it to me. estimated ship date is the end of the month, which i don't mind really since i'm not buying it to play any games on yet - well, PS2 games, but no PS3 games until August/September.

the deciding factors:

- $100 price drop, or liquidation of the 60GB models

- once the 60GB models are sold out, the new 80GB models will not include the emotion chip which is hardware that lets you play PS2 and PS1 games on your PS3 with relative ease

- Microsoft is pissing me off - my 360 broke after just 6 months of casual use and now i'm going to be without it for what looks like 2 months or more

- i'm not buying a Wii as i originally thought i would - no games i want to play on it, the control scheme isn't for me, and i don't want to support Nintendo right now just based on principle (what i feel they're doing to the game industry)

i went with the specific Amazon deal i went with because:

- free Sony-brand Blu-Ray remote (a $25 value)

- free Blu-Ray movie, Resident Evil: Apocalypse ($20 value)

- mail-in for 5 free Blu-Ray movies, from a list of so-so titles. i'll be picking up Blazing Saddles, Underworld Evolution, Babel, Hart's War, and Pearl Harbor or Chicken Little (i can't decide which... i heard Pearl Harbor is just awful, but it might look nice in Blu-Ray, while Chicken Little would probably be funny)

- ordered from Amazon, so free shipping and no tax

grand total of $500.

i'm going to see if i can resell some of the Blu-Rays i get for free. it might be tough since the market will be saturated with them from others that do this deal and want to get rid of them, but maybe i have an advantage since i'm out here in Hawaii, maybe i can resell them locally, recoup a bit of the cost for the system itself.

what am i going to do with the PS3 when it gets here since there's no PS3 games i want to play on it out at the moment? well there are plenty of game demos on the PlayStation Network (similar to Xbox Live for the 360) and there are even a few downloadable games i want as well - Calling all Cars, flOw, Stardust, etc.

otherwise i'm going to be playing my PS2 games on there, and hopefully they'll look a little better than they do on my HDTV right now. i heard there's some upscaling that the PS3 does, but we'll see... i'm not holding my breath.

now it's a race to see which console i receive in the mail first - my refurbished/replacement Xbox 360, or my brand-new PS3.

my money's on the PS3. i have more faith in Amazon than i do Microsoft.

- kawitchate

i pissed off the xbox 360 support guy - or - i hate microsoft

there's 2 things to cover in this post. first, something funny that happened when i called Xbox support. THEN, some ranting on how long i will now have to wait to get my 360 back...

ok, so when you call Xbox support, there's one of those canned voices that answers - "hey! my name is Dave (or whatever) and i'm here to help you out." what i've always found funny about the guy is that he's got this real attitude, like "hey, i'm hip just like you gamers calling up are." but that's just a general funny...

i was trying to navigate through the menus to check on my console repair status, answering the questions he asked, like "what can i help you with today?" and because i was impatient i kept answering him while he was still talking, so he would come back at me with "could you repeat that?" and i would, and he usually would get it then.

but THEN i came to a menu where he didn't understand what i said twice and ran through a list of what i could say in addition to the corresponding numbers i could press on my phone and MAN was he surly! his whole attitude changed, it was hilarious!

so i pissed off the canned Xbox support guy. good times.

now, why i hate microsoft.

as you well know, my Xbox 360 console broke over a month ago, right around the time the Halo 3 beta was ending... so basically the beginning of June. here's the timeline:

- called Xbox support to report the problem Sunday June 17th and they say they'll send a box for me to pack up the 360 in and send to them.

- i receive the box that Thursday, pack up the console and ship it off to them Friday the 22nd. they say the turnaround is 2 weeks, but since i'm in Hawaii and it's going to the mainland i figure i'll give them 3.

- they received the box at their repair facility in Texas on Wednesday the 27th.

- it's now Sunday the 15th of July and there is no status update since the 27th (that they received it and are working on it). because of the new extended warranty that was announced on the 3rd of this month, support has been receiving an unusually high number of repair requests and say that repairs will now take 4-6 weeks.

i might not have my 360 back until August. and that's bullshit.

why am i upset?

first off, a console that's 6 months old shouldn't be breaking. i've owned a lot of consoles and the only others i've had trouble with were the original NES (of course, having to blow on the cartridge and in the system) and the PS2, which thankfully i was able to go in and fix myself. both problems happened years after purchase, probably 3 years or more.

second, i've got games i want to play, and games coming out starting in August that i'm going to need the 360 for as well... of course, i do have games for other systems to play to keep me busy, but it still sucks. i'm going to have these new games i want to play but a backed up catalog that also needs to be played - ones i SHOULD be playing right now.

third, i'm paying for Xbox Live time when i can't even use it! i bought a year's subscription and i'm only going to get to use 10 months of it since my 360 looks to be out of commission for a total of 2 months. unbelievable.

so, i'm hoping that my console got in right before the glut of 360s with their red rings of death came in, and that maybe when i call next weekend they'll tell me some good news. all i can say is that if this goes past July into August, i'm going to be one upset gamer.

another minus in the Microsoft column. PS3, here i come?

still haven't decided yet. i've got 2 1/2 hours more for the Amazon deal...

- kawitchate

Friday, July 13


i've got a fever - and the only cure... is more Sony.

i posted yesterday about how Sony had me on a roller coaster ride right? well there were more ups and downs today as well.

first a Sony rep came out and said that last night's claim of the 60GB models disappearing after they're all sold was false, that production would continue on them. good news for me.

then a few hours later, ANOTHER Sony rep (this would be the third Sony rep to comment on it so far) said no, wait, the first story, that's the right one. the 60GB model was reduced in price essentially to liquidate it, and once it's all gone, it's gone for good. it will be replaced by the 80GB model and after the 60GBs are gone, only THEN will we let the consumer know what our next console deal is.


so i've got some serious thinking to do. do i buy a PS3 now with the price cut but with no games (won't be any games i want for at least a month or two) or do i wait and hope there's another deal around the holidays?

one thing that i didn't touch on last night (maybe because i didn't know at the time, i can't remember) is the fact that the 60GB models have an "emotion engine" inside them that allows backwards compatibility with PS1 and PS2 games - almost 90% of all the titles from 2 generations of PlayStations are able to be played on the PS3.

with the new 80GB model - and most likely for every model after it - the emotion engine is gone to save on some of the cost of production. in its place will be software emulation sort of like Xbox 360 does with their backwards compatibility - thing is, it will NEVER cover anywhere near 90% of all the past games AND it won't cover what it does as well as the emotion engine does.

and i need my backwards compatibility.

why? because i hope to get rid of my PS2 for good once i have my PS3. who needs all these consoles lying around - i don't have the room! plus i've got something special in mind for my PS2 and it involves me getting rid of it... so i NEED my near-perfect backwards compatibility.

last night i said that the 60GB model might be sold out as early as the end of the month. new reports say that's a little exaggerated, saying that the 60GB will be around for at least a few more months.

HOWEVER, in comes Amazon.

see, when the $100 price drop (or liquidation as i now think of it as) happened earlier this week, all the major players - Best Buy, Circuit City, Amazon, etc. - started having deals on it. and Amazon's deal is the sweetest. i'd get the PS3 console, a $25 Sony blu-ray player remote for the PS3, and a free blu-ray movie (sadly the movie is Resident Evil 2, but oh well) AND no tax no shipping for $500.

PLUS, there's a deal out there where if you buy a PS3 (from any place, not only Amazon) you get 5 free blu-ray discs (you have to pick from a list, and the list isn't SUPER great, but there's a few on there that are winners).

problem? the Amazon deal ends this Sunday.

now, i could take my chance with it and hope that there's a better deal in the next month or two... but there probably won't be. a $25 first-party remote and a free blu-ray disc isn't so bad. and with the 5 other blu-rays i'll be getting, maybe i'll try to resell the discs somewhere else, recoup some of the $500 i spent on a console that there's no games out (yet) to buy for it.

my PS3 will be a future investment.

i'm trying to further convince myself i need it because i'm in the gaming business and thus should have all the platforms... well, excluding the Wii (for now - i'll get it eventually). i'm even breaking down and getting a PSP this holiday season. reason? the games are finally there... and while the games aren't there quite yet for the PS3, i think i need to jump on this for the emotion engine and the savings.

i'm such a fanboy. damn you Sony.

- kawitchate

why the roller coaster ride Sony?

with Sony it's been a roller coaster ride as of late.

they produced perhaps my favorite system of all time, the PS2. the reason it's so great? it had the games to back it up.

then they move on to the PS3. they're planning for a 10-year life cycle, took a step sideways with the cell processor (in terms of how programmers would know how to use it - a single processor when computers are using duals and quads now, which is what programmers know how to program for), had a high price point, and didn't have the games to warrant a purchase.

this week? a $100 price cut AND plenty of games to back it up this holiday season. however, with the price cut of the 60GB model, Sony was quick to point out that they are putting out an 80GB model with a game included for $600 - back up to the original price.

just tonight? the latest news is that once the 60GB models sell out in America (which is supposed to be by the end of the month), the remaining 60GBs are going to Europe and elsewhere while WE get stuck with the 80GB, $600 model!!! what the hell?!?

tell me it isn't so, Sony. i had such faith in you...

if it's true, i've seriously got some thinking to do. do i purchase the 60GB for $500 right now or wait until the holidays - which is when i was planning on picking a 60GB, $500 one up - and just hope that the 60GBs are still being sold or some OTHER deal is taking place that brings the price down?

- kawitchate

gaming capital of the world this is not

i'm good here in Hawaii, designing away on my mostly educational video games, but i can't help but think how much cooler it would have been to be here 5 years ago when Square and Konami were both still in town.

see, the game industry, like most entertainment industries, is all about networking. it's who you know. sadly, there's not much opportunity for networking out here now, with all the big companies gone and only a few smaller companies left in their wake.

however, there is a silver lining. every day i learn of more and more contacts the people i work with have in the industry. just my producer alone knows people at LucasArts (a dream company to work for), Konami, Pixar... and today i learned he knows someone at Mistwalker - the company behind Blue Dragon... the company with the man that started the Final Fantasy games way back when as the head. unbelievable.

so, Hawaii is nice enough. i still wish i were in more of a gaming capital though... Vancouver, San Francisco, SoCal, Seattle... well, maybe one of these days. it's all about getting your foot in the door, and thankfully i got that.

- kawitchate

Thursday, July 12

feeling G4saken

not 24 hours after i posted on how i was glad to be watching G4 again (at least for the time being), their lackluster coverage has left me wanting more.

- way too many technical errors... wrong clips playing, clips not playing at all, mics not working, camera miscues... it's like they're an amateur crew! totally unprofessional.

- half the people doing interviews suck balls at interviewing. either they're uninteresting, ask the wrong questions, or are just completely unintelligible.

- quit going to Stickam for viewer reactions. the people you get are completely uninteresting. OR, if you are going to keep going to Stickam, ask one question and then move on to someone else. these 15-year-olds only have one thing to say and when you move on to your third question they're like "uh, i don't know, i just think it's going to be cool." bah.

- stop going to commercials so damn much!

- try to focus! they jump from game to game, spending MAYBE 5 minutes on it (usually more like 2-3 minutes) and there's no cohesion. why not visit an entire company's booth, check out all the games they have to offer at once? why not just take us out on the floor, give us a tour of the place? ugh.

anywho, i could go on, but it's pointless. i keep watching, so i don't really have the right to complain. one more night of E3 baby! any more surprises left? doesn't really seem like there will be... after the big press conferences the news has been pretty sparse, coming only from journalists that get to actually play the games. biggest news from today i think was the unveiling of the new Star Wars: The Force Unleashed trailer... though it didn't really happen at E3, rather it happened on ET - that's Entertainment Tonight. weird.

- kawitchate

Wednesday, July 11

random E3 notes

- sick of game journalists that keep saying that they're "so tired" from all the running around and partying. suck it up and shut up! otherwise i'll be happy to take over for you next year.

- Assassin's Creed('s producer, Jade Raymond) still looks hawt.

- interview Morgan Webb had with Stan Lee in which she asked him about Spidey: Friend or Foe was priceless. first, he name-dropped Activision like 3 times right off the bat. THEN he didn't even know the correct title of the game. and FINALLY, in a generational gap moment, Morgan asked him about the co-op and he thought she was talking about some agreement between tenants. just priceless.

- Peter Moore playing Rock Band at the MS conference was hilarious. "let's pump it up to 11!" how about you just try not to fail out (happened twice) and/or not pause the damn game (also happened). lol!

- crickets to the announcement of the Halo 3 Collector's Edition 360 Console - and rightfully so. we don't need all these special edition consoles. didn't they learn after seeing that the Core system didn't sell nearly as well as the Premium, and that the 20GB PS3 did so poorly that Sony dropped it completely? just give me a damn console that's uniform all over. if you want to offer us color choices, be my guest. and if you don't agree with me there, how about this - stop focusing on SE consoles and just give me my damn 65nm processor so the 360s stop overheating and cost less to produce!

- despite some questionable animations in places, Kane &Lynch: Dead Men has made it to my list of must-haves, if only for the cinematic presentation in the gameplay and the fact that you're playing a crime drama! freakin' sweet.

- Spidey: Friend or Foe is OFF my list of must-haves after seeing and hearing about gameplay. it's a beat-'em-up for kids, with no online co-op. i'm itching for a good Spidey game, especially after Spidey 3 was so bad... but this doesn't look to be it. i'll keep my fingers crossed for Ultimate Spider-Man 2.

- Unreal Tournament III is now on my list of must-haves because it looks phenomenal and you'll be able to play player mod maps on PS3. 'nuff said.

- Call of Duty 4: Modern Warfare is now on my list. it's been creeping up the past month or so with all the teaser trailers they've been putting out, but now that i saw an actual demo of the game, it's a must-have.

- cautiously excited for Too Human, Infamous, and Killzone 2. none of these are out this year, so i will wait to see more trailers for them in the coming months before i get too excited.

- Nintendo has lost me. i'm completely turned off - no, rather i'm completely unaffected - by any and all of the main Nintendo franchises now (Mario, Zelda, Metroid, Smash Bros., Mario Kart, etc.) and i really worry about how the Wii is becoming a casual gaming machine... the implications that has for the market as a whole. don't get me wrong, there's still a small part of me that is tickled when i see Nintendo franchise games, and i probably will still get a Wii with some of the games - including the casual games - but based on what happened to me with my Gamecube, i doubt i'll play much of any of them. it all just worries me, this casual system for "everyone." and it's leaving me unimpressed.

- Sony has me on board for the PS3. they had me at "price drop" and then just kept showing me the exclusive games: Metal Gear Solid 4, Final Fantasy XIII and XIII Versus (i'm assuming), Heavenly Sword, Folklore, Unreal Tournament III (exclusive for a while), Killzone 2, Infamous, Uncharted: Drake's Fortune, Lair, Warhawk, Home, LittleBigPlanet, Pain, White Knight Story... and with these first generation games looking as good as they do, i'm SUPER excited for second and third generation PS3 games.

- i'm still on board with Xbox 360 even though i'm very put off by the fact that mine failed after only 6 months of casual use. the sheer fact is, MS has got some pretty sweet exclusives themselves - Mass Effect, Bioshock, Too Human, Halo 3, Eternal Sonata... and i'm sure i'm forgetting a few. also, for some reason, in my mind every time i see a game that's being developed for PS3 and 360, i automatically gravitate to the 360 version unless i hear the developer talk about how they made it with the PS3 in mind. sure, right now maybe i'm doing it because i don't have a PS3 yet, but what happens when i get one (which will be soon, see above)? what then? i'll tell you what - if my 360 breaks AGAIN i'm going to permanently make mine Sony.

- kawitchate

evan alRIGHTy - or - movies i saw on vacation

i really haven't been watching a lot of movies the last 4 months, been mostly in a TV mood. well i got to check out a few movies on vacation that i've been wanting to see but not DYING to see. here's some impressions:

- The Last Mimzy - this was the free movie on the flight to Phoenix, and i was still up when they showed it, so i decided to tune in. i remember seeing the early trailers for this movie and then i have no idea when they even released it - i guess maybe it didn't do that well. i thought it looked interesting at the time... after viewing it, i'm not sure what i think about it.

the trailers showed a LOT of what happens in the movie, and the big reveal of what's going on wasn't enough of a surprise, even though it was a pretty cool premise. i think the story was just told wrong... i liked the story, but it was bad storytelling.

also, it seemed to try to cater to kids and adults, but got lost somewhere in the middle. never was too sure about the inclusion of the hippie couple, and when Homeland Security got involved it just was a little too... real? i don't know.

i think what could have helped the storytelling was if we got a bit of the other side of the story peppered in to what the children were experiencing, even if we didn't know what was going on at the time - then we as an audience could have looked back at those little windows into the overall story and been like "oh, i get it now!"

- Ghost Rider - again, i was interested to see this, but really only because it did so well at the box office and didn't seem to be getting terrible reviews. MY review? it was terrible. the special effects were wasted on such non-story and horrible acting. bad all around... and not really even bad in a good way, like a bad B-movie (which is what i was hoping for).

- Grandma's Boy - an overexaggerated look at a video game company; more specifically, its testers. it's got a similar raunchy style to it that Code Monkeys (which i just wrote about) has, but it doesn't have nearly the amount of inside jokes. however, the raunch is just raunchy enough for some good laughs.

- The BeastMaster - i missed this movie growing up, and when i saw it on late nite Sci Fi Channel i knew i had to tune in. it's like Conan-lite, but not necessarily in a bad way. it was cheesy, but fun. if anything it ran a little long... and had weird pacing too - when he met up with his allies was a little late in the movie, and he defeats HIS main nemesis 30 minutes before the end of the movie, and then there's another battle with a whole other enemy! to be honest, i don't even know who the last battle was against! oh well, it was fun.

- Evan Almighty - the short of it is that i liked this movie a lot, maybe even more than i thought i would. however, i did have a few reservations.

first i thought Steve Carell was almost wasted in this part as he wasn't allowed to be his zany funny and wasn't allowed to be completely serious either. he just... was. they tried to give him character - oh he does funny dances, he's focused on his career not his family, he's doesn't like germs - but it was all surface stuff.

second was the flood.

in the predecessor, Bruce Almighty, that character got the power of God and it was a personal journey - sure he would do things that others would see, but in the end no one knew it was him, and no one knew it was God.

HERE we've got Evan building an arc and the entire world is watching - which is fine if the flood doesn't come... and i'm not ruining anything i don't think by saying that there is a flood of sorts that does come (the trailers are showing it, so i'm not ruining it) and the world takes notice - it has to! there was just a man that did what Noah did and then there's a flood... this is way beyond a personal journey, everybody saw it! they know it was Evan, and they know it was God... well, maybe not God, as there's a possibility he could be explained out of it... but everyone knows it was Evan!

and they don't touch on that at all. it's just a dangler that's left at the end... a pretty big one in my opinion. that's why Bruce Almighty is way better and this is more of a fun ride with a good message, but maybe not the best movie ever.

...and there you have it. if i had friends here to see movies with there's plenty in the theaters i'd like to see right now - Live Free or Die Hard, Transformers, Harry Potter 5. however, they'll probably have to wait until they're out on DVD and i'm home for Christmas or something.

- kawitchate

i never G4got

ah G4. it's been a long time.

i remember lazy summer days after college, tuning in for some X-Play, maybe a little Cheat or Icons, and watching from 6-7 CST for some Attack of the Show.

that was 2 years ago.

i've tried watching you recently, but your SpikeTV mimicry just turns me off. i mean come on, Cops?!? and AotS has a totally different format with different hosts (except Kevin, he's still cool) - and i don't like. but i'm back - for the time being.

why am i back? well first i was drawn in by their rather extensive E3 coverage. i'm getting a lot of E3 coverage from the internets while at work, but there's just something about seeing it live, seeing games demoed live that is just that much cooler. so i've been tuning in for 2-3 hours the past 2 nights and will continue to do so for the next 2. their coverage is good, but not great. i was really pissed at the poor commercial placement during the MS press conference. oh well.

i'm also back on G4 right now because a new show just debuted tonight that's not too bad - it's called Code Monkeys. it's about life in a crazy whacked-out video game company, and it's all done in an 8-bit art style. the humor is raunchy and relies pretty heavily on video game knowledge, but it's good - again, just like the E3 coverage though, it's good, not GREAT. it's rarely laugh-out-loud funny and more haha i get it funny. worth a viewing if you're into video games. i'll stick around for a few more episodes... lord knows nothing else new is on.

but i can download Code Monkeys i'm sure... so once the G4 E3 coverage is done, i'm done once again with G4. sorry guys. maybe you should focus on the video games more and less on being SpikeTV jr.

- kawitchate

and 1AM makes 24

...that's 24 hours.

as in i've been up for 24 hours now.

it's been a long day.

today i returned from my week-long vacation. there was an early shuttle to the airport, a few hours of waiting at the airport, a 6-hour flight, several hours of work in the afternoon, unpacking, vegging out, and catching up with everything that's happened in the last week.

it's been a long day.

my vacation was wonderful. i don't think i've had such a relaxing vacation in quite a long time - usually my vacations are filled with things to do, people to see. this one was all about the vegging. i went on the computer once, and it was only for maybe 15 minutes - compare that to the 8+ hours i'm on the computer for work every day and then the 2-4 hours i'm on when i get home. it was nice.

of course, now there's the catching up. there's a lot that's happened - mostly in the world of video games of course - that i want to chime in on, but am just too tired at the moment. thankfully i didn't miss E3 this week, so i can be commenting on that as it happens... well, except for the Microsoft keynote that i watched (twice) tonight. that can wait until tomorrow.

i also saw some movies on my vacation that are good for a post or two, so that will alleviate the movie review drought i've got going on here. two words: Ghost Rider.

and of course, i managed to get some video game time in while i was on vacation. tried Marvel Ultimate Alliance for the 360 for the first time, as well as Children of Mana and Trauma Center for the DS, and i'll probably post on those as well.

what was the point of this post? to let you know i'm back, and there'll be plenty of posts to follow. so stay tuned.

- kawitchate

Tuesday, July 3


yes, i'm headed back to Arizona. i've been away far too long. i think the last time i was there was 3 years ago, the summer before the last year of college... after that i was busy the following summer trying to get a job, and then when THAT fell through i went up to Vancouver for another year of professional schooling, so that shot another summer... and here we are, 3 years later.

or maybe i'm remembering it completely wrong and it hasn't been that long - or it's been longer. either way, i know i haven't seen my Arizona buddies in a long, long time.

the game company i ended up at may be small, but they sure know how to compensate their employees (oh, and the responsibility i have as a junior designer is CRAZY - totally more than i expected, another plus). i get 1 1/2 days of vacation time EVERY FREAKIN' MONTH. that means, in just the 4 short months i've been there, i've racked up 6 vacation days already! sure they cap it at 2 weeks accumulated for juniors, but that's fine with me.

so i'm using 3-4 of them on this trip (never really officially said how many i was taking, or how many i was going to make up in overtime, we'll see when i get back). headed down tomorrow afternoon, should arrive in Phoenix around midnight. then i'm staying at Bill and Aspen's (friends i met in college) house for the majority of the time, and also seeing my grandma toward the end of the trip. i'll be back here in paradise almost exactly a week from when i left - next tuesday afternoon.

suffice to say, i won't be online much, or at all... probably just to check emails. it's a VACATION, so i'm not bringing my cumbersome laptop. i'll have my celly if you want to ring me, but otherwise i'll be incommunicado. no posts to the blog - which is sad, because i was hoping to do at least a post a day. oh well, new rule: i'll try and do a post a day when i'm not on vacation.

see you all on the flip side. if you'll excuse me, i've got some more work i need to finish before i leave tomorrow...

- kawitchate

Monday, July 2

ipod you amaze me

as you can see from what i'm listening to right now, i've got my ipod shuffling through my entire library of music (9050 songs) and funny things happen when shuffle is on.

the song i was just listening to was the battle theme from Final Fantasy VII. guess what song i'm NOW listening to, just one song later? "Those Who Fight Further (FFVII battle theme)" as performed by the Black Mages. yes, essentially the same song but one was MIDI and the other is with instruments.

out of 9049 other songs to choose from, and my ipod picked the same song, just a different rendition of it. ipod ftw.

- kawitchate

give me space, i'll fill it

so i purchased a 320GB external hard drive when i got here (Hawaii) a few months ago because my laptop only has a lame 60GB of space and i love downloading things - tv shows, old movies, music... you know, things. i got tired of downloading and then burning a DVD of stuff (i've got about 50 4.7GB DVDs of shows and movies), knew i wasn't going to be getting a new PC for quite a while with a pimp hard drive, so i took the next logical step and got an external.

guess what? i've filled it up already. to be fair, part of the drive is taken up by backup stuff (like 35GB of music and a few gigs of pictures) but still... wow.

so what did i do this weekend? well, by happenstance CompUSA was having a really nice sale on a 500GB external (are they going out of business? because they have crazy sales every few weeks) and so i bought it.

let the downloading resume. let's see how long it takes me to fill THIS one.

- kawitchate

Sunday, July 1

look around you

i love me some British television. granted, i don't like ALL British television, but i do like quite a bit of it - The Office, Life on Mars, Spaced, Extras - and now there's another one to add to the list: Look Around You. i just got done watching the first series and wow... good stuff. spot on.

the show mimics 1970s and 80s educational videos, teaching the viewer about topics such as "maths," "germs," and even "ghosts." a lot of the show is nonsense, but it's just hilarious. perhaps my favorite was learning that calcium has a sister element, i-calcium, or "intelligent calcium." that's right - sentient calcium. the experiment they do on it... oh man. you just have to see it.

oh, i also liked learning that germs came from Germany. a little part inside me always secretly knew.

Look Around You is perfect for youtube, as the episodes in this series (except for the pilot) are all 9 minutes long - short enough to sneak in a viewing at work.

series 2 of this wonder of a show awaits. in it, they abandoned the 9-minute format and went to the standard 30 minute format. also i've read that they ditched the narrator (one of the funniest parts of the show imho) and went with 4 presenters and guests. i'll let you know what i think of the change when i'm done watching them.

as for series 1 of Look Around You - kudos.

- kawitchate

i like a lot of stuff

more stuff running along the right side of my blog...

first is the "recently watched" section, where i'll write down movies i've seen as of late - theatrical release or on tv. why is that section so small right now when my "favorite movies" section is so long (which would lead you to believe that i like movies)? well i haven't been watching movies lately. other than the 2 film-crazed years i was down in Arizona (paying for 1 movie at the theater, then sneaking into a second... all by my lonesome - oh, and the 60+ tapes/dvds i watched in a semester) i really don't like watching movies by myself. they're more of a social thing for me - head over to someone's house and watch a movie, or head down to the theater with friends. plus, i've been watching so much downloaded tv that i don't have time for movies right now.

second is the "favorite songs" section, which is a work in progress justs like my favorite albums section. i'm listing songs here that MOVE me... it might end up being a really long list, i don't know, but i won't double up on songs from any favorite albums (because obviously, if it's a favorite album of mine, they're all favorite songs of mine).

this will all be on the test. study up.

- kawitchate

my "favorite music"

on the right side there of my blog i've got my favorite music listed, but this is a bit of a misnomer. to be honest, if i were to list my favorite music, it would be longer than my favorite movies section (which itself could be longer). i'm a huge fan of music of any kind - EXCEPT today's country, today's rap, and today's pop, but once in a while something out of one of those categories surprises me (usually the "today's pop" category).

the "favorite music" section on my page is for music that is and has been my favorite for a few years now (except for the 80s pop, which i've always loved) OR music that i've been listening to as of late.

i would really like to make a "favorite albums" section, but that would take quite a bit of effort, as i have over 300 cds and 9050 mp3s in my ipod... with at least 500 more waiting until i purchase another ipod so they'll fit (i'm out of space on my 40GB).

when i get around to that, maybe i'll make a "favorite" section for various genres of music - like "favorite alternative," or "favorite hardcore punk." again, it'll take some effort but i'm interested myself so i think it'll happen.


- kawitchate