Wednesday, August 29

on The Kill Point - Season 1

the second of my five summer shows had its season finale this past Sunday and i just caught the episode tonight. did it finish as good as it started, or did it fizzle and die like John from Cincinnati?

i'm happy to report that, while it might not have finished as strong as it started, it did have a pretty satisfying ending.

to refresh your memories, this is the show about a bank robbery turned hostage situation. most episodes dealt with the robbers trying out a new plan to get out of the bank. when the planning or negotiations weren't happening, the show got quiet and would focus on the hostages, the robbers, or the police - without getting too melodramatic. it was a pretty good blend of action and drama.

the length was pretty perfect as well. with a show about a botched bank robbery they knew they couldn't stretch it out too long or they would simply run out of things to write about, so they kept it to 8 episodes. you know, if anything the last episode felt a little rushed... i wouldn't have minded if they took it to 10. BUT, a tad too short is better than way, way too long (Mr. Cincinnati).

the story of the robbers is also pretty good. it's a platoon of men following their sarge in because they feel their country owes them. however, not all is well with the platoon and once the hostage situation begins the team starts to unravel. it reminded me a bit of The Shield actually - you're watching these men that do mostly bad things, and you should really probably hate them, but you can't because they also do good things. in fact, when bad things happen to them you feel bad for them. however, you have to keep reminding yourself that they are both shows about the unraveling of a team. for Vic it started with the act he did at the end of the first episode. for the robbers here it happened when they stepped foot into that bank. excellent scenarios. i like my writing with shades of gray.

HOWEVER, one spot the show faltered is in how they painted the characters. everyone should have shades of gray, but unfortunately only the robbers did. the robbers and hostages were all painted in a rather sympathetic light, but then the SWAT team and negotiators were painted in a negative light. they TRIED to keep it impartial but in the end they just couldn't help it. maybe the actors didn't help either, as i really disliked the main SWAT lady, the SWAT member that was waiting to breech, and the sniper. i think it was partially the lines given to them but also their bad acting.

another spot where the show would falter is in the technicalities. it suffered from some sloppy writing. without going into too much detail my least favorite mistake the writers made is to overuse a bug SWAT planted in the bank and then mistakenly have it work OUTSIDE THE RANGE THEY PREVIOUSLY SAID IT WOULD WORK. what, you didn't think we'd remember?

as you can see by the title of this post, this was the end of what the creators are saying is Season 1. without giving too much away, i'll just say that another season of The Kill Point wouldn't sit well with me. the hostage situation was resolved, and so either you focus on the robbers in a new season, or you focus on the police team who are brought into another hostage situation. both situations pose a problem. these actors/characters worked pretty well together, but apart they wouldn't be as interesting - especially the police team. i guess you could focus on the hostages but wow the show would be way different.

so i think i'm going to take my Season 1 of The Kill Point and just enjoy that. it had a great blend of action and drama, pretty good acting (robbers yes, police no), a great story about a team unraveling, and some pretty cool twists and turns that kept you guessing.

i'd say it's worth a viewing.

- kawitchate

on The Hoax

saw 2 movies on the flights to and from Wisconsin. one was Spider-Man 3, which i previously saw when it first came out. i'm happy to report that it holds up to a second viewing... in fact, i was even more forgiving of the end sequence than i was initially (probably because i knew what was coming). Spider-Man 3 - a great movie.

the other movie i saw was The Hoax. it came out last year, stars Richard Gere as the author in the 70s that tried to claim he was writing the autobiography of Howard Hughes - with Howard's help of course. the whole thing turns out to be, well, a hoax of course, but even though you know the end it's still quite a trip.

Richard Gere's acting was magnificent, and i'm not normally a fan. however, Alfred Molina as his comedic sidekick stole the show. everyone else did pretty good as well.

the movie is directed by Lasse Hallstrom - who directed other great movies like What's Eating Gilbert Grape, The Cider House Rules, Chocolate, and The Shipping News - and it shows. under the direction of almost anyone else this movie would have taken a "dark" turn (think A Beautiful Mind) later in the movie... and it might have been interesting to SEE what someone else would have done with the source material... but i think it's even MORE interesting to see what Lasse did, because he took the road less traveled.

The Hoax. if you're a fan of Lasse Hallstrom's work, it's definitely worth a viewing. if you have no idea WHO Lasse Hallstrom is, it's still worth a viewing. it's not your typical Hallstrom movie but you can feel his presence, no doubt.

- kawitchate

on shipping issues

living on an island has its ups and downs. up - the weather is always almost near-perfect and the lifestyle here is a little more laid back. down - there isn't always things that i want that are easily accessible here so i need to buy them online and have them shipped here.

now, i've had quite a few things shipped to me since i've been here - quite a few video games, my repaired Xbox 360, my new PS3, etc. - but lately my luck with shipping has not been so good.

case #1: i ordered an HDMI cable for my PS3 at the end of July. it shipped no problem, and actually made it to my island (according to online tracking) - however, it was never delivered because the post office claims that they couldn't find my address. so they returned it to sender. then THEY took their sweet ass time sending it BACK and so they shipped it sometime last week and i'm STILL waiting to get it. and this time the online tracking isn't working, so who knows what's up.

case #2: i preordered a video game - BioShock - a couple of months ago and it just was released last week Tuesday. the tracking says it shipped out Wednesday, but there has been NO update to the tracking of the package online since. again, it's being sent via USPS like the cable above, so maybe the USPS has a problem. at any rate, i'm really itching to get this game, as everyone is talking about how good it is.

case #3: ordered some contacts a month back, they arrived promptly later that week. fast forward a few weeks and i take a closer look at what they sent me - wrong prescription. now, this isn't EXACTLY a shipping issue except for the fact that i now have to sort this out with the people on the other side of the transaction and THEN have to wait for them to ship me out new ones... when i really need them NOW!

island life. a blessing. a curse.

i blame the USPS.

- kawitchate

back from hiatus

hello. it's been a while.

main reason: i was away on a business trip that doubled as a personal trip (seeing as the business i had was in my home state, Wisconsin). we had day-long pow-wows all week long last week trying to hammer out some writing issues in the game. good news? i think the trip was successful - and even if it turns out it wasn't, it was sure successful on a personal level. it was really nice seeing friends and family again, if only for a little while.

however, i have been back since Saturday and still i waited to post until tonight. why? simply put, i haven't really had much to say! but if i start letting these postings slip i'll get so far behind i'll never want to start up again. so - it's posting time!

again, thanks to all my friends and family that welcomed me home with open arms. i hope my next visit is non-work related (and yet is paid by my company again somehow - that part was nice).

- kawitchate

Friday, August 17

on the Fall 2007 schedule

well, most my summer shows are still going strong, but i'm already being teased with my fall shows... and, while it seems like only yesterday that they went on hiatus, the majority of them start in just a little over a month. here's what i'll be watching:

- Prison Break Season 3
- Heroes Season 2
- K-Ville Season 1
- Journeyman Season 1

- House Season 4
- Law and Order: SVU Season... uh... 100?

- South Park Season 11 Part 2
- Life Season 1

- My Name is Earl Season 3
- 30 Rock Season 2
- The Office Season 4
- Scrubs Season... 6?
- It's Always Sunny in Philadelphia Season 3
- Drawn Together Season 4



- Family Guy Season... 5?
- American Dad Season... 4?
- Curb Your Enthusiasm Season... 6?

and coming Mid-season:
- 24 Season 7
- New Amsterdam Season 1
- The Shield Season 7
- Ashes to Ashes Season 1

as you see, there are quite a few Season 1s that i'm checking out. most of these i could drop at anytime if i don't like them, but from the previews i've seen, i'm interested enough to check them out. here's why:

- K-Ville is about a cop duo down in New Orleans after Katrina trying to keep the peace. it looks a little like The Shield but tamer, and with a different setting. what really got me was the main black actor - he was on The Shield Season 4, and he was AWESOME. what might ruin it? i don't like the white actor, and the storytelling could get a little melodramatic.

- Journeyman is about a dude supposedly time traveling. that's all i know and that's all i NEED to know. you simply mention "time travel" and i'm on board.

- Life is about a detective wrongly accused and goes to jail for a crime he didn't commit. well, things get turned around and now he's out, and back to being a detective. i took a look at the talent involved in front of and behind the camera and i figured it was worth a look.

- New Amsterdam is about a detective in New York that doesn't age? that premise alone has me intrigued. however, Fox pushed it back to mid-season when it was supposed to air this fall, so i wonder if there's something wrong with it, like maybe it didn't test well...

- Ashes to Ashes is the spinoff series from Life on Mars, which is one of my favorite shows of all time. it's supposed to be a little more hammy, but i just HAVE to see the gang from the 70s make the transition to the 80s.

what shows am i most looking forward to? Prison Break, Heroes, Journeyman, House, The Office, 24, The Shield, and Ashes to Ashes.

here's to a great Fall 07 (and Winter/Spring 08).

- kawitchate

Wednesday, August 15

on preorders

you may have noticed on my looooooong sidebar that i have a section for preordered video games. these are games i've already paid for so that when they come out i'm shipped a copy. you may also notice that the list has been growing.

now, those of you that know me know that i'm usually a spendthrift when it comes to buying anything, especially entertainment - DVDs, CDs, video games, etc. oh sure i'll buy stuff, but i'll usually wait to find it used or on sale. why then have i changed my habits?

well, i haven't really. every game up there i've saved at least $5-15 on, so i'm still getting my deals. and as to why i'm buying them now, when i have so much to play already? well, i want to lock in my deal, but also i've decided that i want to buy first-hand video games to support the developers and producers as much as i can from this point forward. since i'm a developer now it seems only appropriate.

secondhand, or used, video games aren't making the developers or producers any money, just the store that bought it back from someone and is reselling it. i was fine with this when i was supporting my local store back in my hometown, but now that my only main outlet for used video games is Gamestop, i'd much rather throw my support the developer's way.

but man am i going to have a lot to play in the coming months...

- kawitchate

from hurricanes to earthquakes to tropical storms to tsunamis

living in the middle of the Pacific Ocean sure has been a trip this week!

first there was news Sunday that a hurricane was headed our way and that it was looking to be a pretty bad one. it wouldn't hit us directly but it would bring with it strong 100mph winds and torrential rain. it was said to hit Wednesday.

then there was news that an earthquake had hit miles off the coast of the big island of Hawaii Tuesday morning. magnitude of 5-something. the last earthquake to hit around that area was a 6-something magnitude and it managed to take out the power here on Oahu for over a day back in November. guess i lucked out, i didn't even feel this new one.

then the hurricane got downgraded to a tropical storm and headed more south of us than anticipated Wednesday. it turned out to be not that big of a deal, and we have had pretty much normal weather outside of a few gusty times during the past few days and a little chillier weather at night. 100mph winds and torrential rain my ass. our "hurricane" got so weak it actually got pushed off the front page for the newer, more hip hurricane/storm in the gulf headed toward Texas. ah well, fame is fleeting.

and NOW we've got a tsunami advisory (not a warning). this is in response to the 7.5 mag earthquake that struck Peru earlier today. i guess being stuck out in the middle of the Pacific like this we could get pretty much any aftershocks that come from any coastline. yay us. the tsunami advisory isn't really that serious, but it's just icing on the cake after this week.

- kawitchate

Tuesday, August 14

state of the human(oid)

i wrote last week on how i try to avoid recap posts but now i'm starting one. from time to time, when i don't have a lot to say about one thing but i've got enough little things to say i'll post it in a "state of the human(oid)" post, letting you all know what's what.

from last week:

- cell phone is still fine, but i haven't taken the kiddy gloves off yet when handling it. i treat it like a delicate princess.

- the cut on my finger is healed over, but now there's a chunk of skin missing. it's pretty cool actually, i wonder if it's going to leave a scar. neato!

- no update on the status of my missing USPS package with my HDMI cable inside. if i don't get it before i take off next week i'll be pretty upset.

- no update on my ticket. what can i say, i'm lazy. i plan to write a letter denying my guilt and sending it along before i take off next week.

new news:

- there's a freakin' HURRICANE coming my way! never thought i'd be saying that... but yes, i'm now living somewhere where a hurricane is a possibility, albeit a small one - everyone here keeps telling me they haven't had one in 10 years. anyway, it's not passing OVER us, but it is passing pretty close south of us, so we're due for heavy-duty winds and rain Wednesday. needless to say, i'm a bit worried about me on a moped, but i've been assured that if we have work, someone can give me a ride. actually, i'm worried about tomorrow as well - the winds and weather have already changed somewhat, and, while i can handle gusts on my moped, i don't like it (and i don't know how strong these'll be). and the funny thing about all this - i didn't even know we were going to get hit by a hurricane until my parents told me. my parents - in the midwest.

- if our island is still here next week, and if the airport is still fully operational, i am headed back home to Wisconsin - for work! i'll be there Tuesday AM until Saturday AM, hoping to hang with some WI fools one or two nights while i'm there. should be busy - but good - times.

- this week i'm trying to finish things. at work i'm trying to get a bunch of stuff done before i take off next week. at home i'm trying to finish off a few video games - Scarface for the PS2 and Fable for Xbox - before the onslaught of video games hits later this month. BioShock, Heavenly Sword, Eternal Sonata, and Halo 3 - all in the span of a month. i'm going to be bu-sy. oh, and i'm STILL trying to finish Babylon 5. i'm now on Season 5, Episode 3.

- not helping with my "trying to finish things" mentality, i've started playing a racing game. that's right, a racing game. Forza Motorsport 2 for the Xbox 360. it's... addicting. the last racing game i played was Colin McRae for the PSOne, and that was only casually. the last racing game i played heavily was probably Top Gear Rally for the N64 (now that's old school). what's so cool about Forza? the cars you win, the amount you can customize... i honestly don't know. all i know is i'm having fun.

this has been the state of the human(oid).

- kawitchate

on John from Cincinnati Season 1

so, the season/series (maybe) finale of John from Cincinnati aired last night, episode 10, and i thought i'd try and write a bit about it.

i've written about the show before. it's main focus is a family - and the people around them - in trouble and a mysterious man that enters their lives in what i think is an attempt to turn things around (or at least that's a byproduct of his presence).

the show was filled with vagaries, vagueness, religious overtones, alien undertones, technological babble, and anything and everything in between. the way people talked and acted, it was almost like listening to and watching a play - an over-the-top melodramatic play at that. it was thought provoking, conversation starting, and a journey at its best - pseudo-intellectual boring trite crap at its worst.

where did i fall? well i wavered from week to week, but in general the series started off strong and then petered out, bringing in and focusing on too many side characters and drawing out the main story way, way too long. if the show had been 6 or 8 episodes instead of 10, i think it would have been better for it - i mean there were entire episodes where NOTHING happened. and the season/series finale, where you think maybe a few things would be revealed? nothing. nada. zip. zilch.

so what is my final verdict?


i don't know.

this is one of the first times i've finished watching a show and not known what to feel. it's why i didn't jump online and write about it last night, why i'm struggling to write about it tonight. i've visited a few message boards out there trying to get some answers and the general consensus is that there ARE no answers, and i don't know how i feel about that. some say that it's because the writer was setting up for a second season (which now might be canceled i hear due to lackluster reviews and number of viewers) but my feeling is nothing would have been revealed anyway, because the show isn't about the reveal - it's about provoking thoughts, starting conversations... it's about the journey, not the destination. and i would be fine with that if they hadn't had those filler episodes where nothing happened, and if they would have at least thrown us a bone or two in the finale. SOMETHING.

what do i think happened? well it's funny because i think there's enough evidence the writers threw in there that could support almost any theory - Second Coming, alien invasion, robots and technology... my gut tells me it was about the Second Coming however. there were more religious overtones than anything.

John was Jesus/God come down to prepare for His Second Coming. He (or possibly Butchie, who would be Joseph here) impregnated Kai (Mary) and she will be the "mother of God" (as the very last line of the series stated), mother of the Second Coming. but then Sean figures into it somehow, as he was the main focus of most of the show - he died and rose again (fell for the first time), was missing and was found at Sea World (fell for the second time), and was taken by John and brought back (fell for the third time). if it comes in threes, it's got to be religion, right? John's message will be brought to the world through Cass's camera and also the new brand he brought to Stinkweed for the Yost family.

...or i might be way off.

if i had to do over again, i don't think i would have watched this show - by myself. this is a show that you need to watch with someone else, to bounce ideas off of one another, to communicate, to share thoughts, to journey together. as it was, i had a pretty good journey by myself, but it could have been much, much more.

- kawitchate

Thursday, August 9

on having a crappy week

i try to avoid these "recap" posts where i spout off on a bunch of different things, but there's no getting around it for this one. i haven't had one big post-worthy thing go wrong this week - no, it's been a bunch of little things.

first, last weekend i dropped my cell phone face-open on the floor and it shut off. it was then dead for a half of an hour, never booting up past the main screen until suddenly - it worked! it's been working fine this week so far but that half-hour of hell worrying about having to buy a new phone and being out of touch for a few days was enough to make me treat the phone now like it's made of glass or porcelain.

later that same night i managed to cut my finger pretty severely with a butter knife (yeah yeah, haha a butter knife - but man this thing was seriously sharp!). i was pretty close to going to the emergency room because it wouldn't stop bleeding after running it under water for 5 minutes, but i just decided to put a band-aid on it, hoping the applied pressure stopped it. it did, and it's healing now, but i've been wearing a cumbersome band-aid all week on my right pointer finger so my typing and mouse-clicking has been severely impaired.

even LATER that same night i noticed that the games i bought on my Xbox Live account weren't showing up on my main account (i had to purchase them on a sub account - long story - but it shouldn't matter where they're purchased from, they should show up on all accounts). turns out they hadn't been since i got the "new" 360, i had just never checked (told you i haven't been playing the thing that much). called support the next day and THANKFULLY the guy had a simple solution for me - i had to delete the games and download them again. once you pay for a game you can download it again and again. everything's fine now.

i made it through the rest of the weekend without incident. Monday and Tuesday were another story.

Monday i'm checking the status of a package that was supposed to be delivered late last week (a cable to hook up to my PS3 to my HDTV) and its status is "undeliverable." ??? later in the day they say "recipient moved with no forwarding address; returned to sender." WHAT?!?

so the last few days i've been back and forth with the USPS and the company i ordered the cable from and it indeed get shipped back but the company will send it back here for free. however, they can't change the address for legal reasons (i tried to have them send it to work so this doesn't happen again) so i'm praying they made a mistake when labeling the package because their records have my correct address and if something funky happened when they had the right address LAST time, what's to stop it from happening again?

i've lived here 5 months now and have had NO problems with packages or mail being delivered - unless the package is too large, at which point they leave a note saying i have to pick it up. they didn't do that this time, so something else happened.

i just want my cable. if it gets here when it should, it'll be 2 weeks late. IF.

and finally, the crappiest of all my stories.

Tuesday morning i'm getting a ride to the production office (not our office) with a coworker. we hit downtown and traffic is moving SLOW. while stopped at a stoplight, 2 police officers cross the street and my coworker says something about the amount of cops out. i agree. then they start looking right at me and walk over to the car, ask us to pull over. i realize (too late) that it's probably because of my seatbelt.

see, ever since i learned to buckle a seatbelt i've buckled it wrong when i'm in the passenger's seat - i put it UNDER my armpit, not over my shoulder like you're supposed to. later in life i've realized i do this and sometimes i catch myself and correct the mistake - maybe 50% of the time... that is, if i'm wearing a seatbelt at all (usually i do when i'm a passenger, as a courtesy to the driver, but not when i'm the driver).

so i quickly pull the seatbelt over my shoulder thinking he'll go "ok, that's what i wanted, thanks," like give me a warning or something. no, he still asked us to pull over. so we did, and he starts explaining how he HAS to give me a ticket because his chief told them to be on a lookout for ANYONE not wearing a seatbelt. i argue that i was, just improperly, and that i grew up doing it that way, maybe could i get away with a warning.

he said no.

i got a $92 ticket.

for wearing my seatbelt "improperly."

damn national "Click It or Ticket!" campaign.

it would be one thing if i wasn't wearing my seatbelt at all - then i think i'd buck up and pay. however, i WAS wearing it. so, needless to say, i'm fighting it - i just don't know how yet. first i'm going to ask my roommate (a cop) if he has any advice, maybe he'll just make it "go away." otherwise i have 2 options on the mail-in form - i can flat out deny the ticket, or admit i did it but with mitigating circumstances. i'm asking around to see which one is best.

this plays to a much larger issue - government control - that i don't like, and that's partly why i'm fighting it, but really i'm fighting it because they want me to pay $92 for wearing my seatbelt.

for the record, i don't think not wearing a seatbelt should be against the law, ESPECIALLY here - no motorcycle helmet law, and people can ride in the beds of pickup trucks. it's damn near hypocritical.

oh, and i'm against government regulating non-smoking bars and restaurants as well. let the free market take care of it. but that's a post for another time.

- kawitchate

Wednesday, August 8

Stranglehol-Y CRAP! stuff asplode everywhere!

just downloaded and played the 3 new demos on Xbox Live - Track n' Field, Eternal Sonata, and Stranglehold. impressions?

Track n' Field

i'm sick of Live Arcade games that give you NO demo time with the game. so i get to experience the dash and the long jump? wtf other events are there? would it have been so hard to let me play a round of each instead of making me do the long jump all 3 times? thankyouverymuch.

oh yeah, the game itself. it's Track n' Field! what more can i say? it's... ok.

Eternal Sonata

downloaded this back a few months ago off my Japanese account, but i was wondering if anything would be different with this version. nope! but that's not necessarily a bad thing.

i've been going back and forth on whether or not to pick this up on launch (or just get it used later), and after playing the demo again i'm placing my preorder very, very soon. lovely game. besides, if i wait i won't be getting it until early next year, as my dance card is full of other games that want to dance for the rest of this year.


finally got a taste of the game that i *think* was at one point supposed to be a 360 launch title, or at least was supposed to come out well over a year ago originally. is it good? yeah it's good. max payne 2.0. i like the "dive" button, slo-mo is used ALL the time (also pretty cool), tough to run out of ammo for your main guns (makes for lotsa shooting), and DAMN duz stuff asplode everywhere!

that's probably the most impressive thing, the almost fully destructable environment. sure in the quiet moments when you slide on a table and a watermelon EXPLODES next to you as you slide over it don't exactly make sense, but damn it looks cool in the middle of a gun fight.

most unimpressive? the cutscenes. somehow they managed to make the cutscenes look worse than the in-game action. how they did that, i do not know.

has this game moved to my must-buy list? there's just simply too much else coming out this fall. had it come out LAST fall, or even a few MONTHS ago i would have bought it, especially with that sweet PS3 deal with the blu-ray movie. as it stands now, i'll be looking for this next year used when the drought hits.

- kawitchate

Tuesday, August 7

on being a salaried game designer

sometimes i forget how totally cool my job can be.

take today for example. i had an "alarm malfunction" this morning - meaning that i either forgot to set it last night or i didn't wake up to it - and didn't get into work until 11am (i'm usually in at 9:30-9:45). the entire time i was getting ready for work i kept going back and forth on what excuse i would use for being late.

i get in and guess what? nobody even said a word.

ah, to be a salaried worker. hell, they know i work at home sometimes, and even if i didn't, they just figure i'll cover the missed hours by staying late - hell, i stay a half hour/hour late EVERY night... as long as i'm not missing meetings and keeping SOMEWHAT of a regular schedule (not doing this every week), i'm fine. so yay for being salaried.

and yay for being a game designer.

i was doing research on a game idea that i'm writing a pitch document for, and i found 2 games that have similar elements to them as our game. well, i read as much as i could online about them, but it's not the same as getting your hands on the real thing - and, truth be told, one of the games i've actually been wanting to play since it came out a few months ago. so what did i do? well i told my producer that i needed them for research and BOOM - she ordered them on amazon.

and it's good being a salaried game designer.

over the past 2 weeks it's been becoming apparent that we need a face-to-face pow-wow with the writers on our project to map out some more of the game. so we decided we'd step up and go to them, and guess who they decided to send? me, of course (and another designer on the production side). and where do the writers reside? that's right - Madison, WI. i'm getting a free trip back home to Wisconsin for 3 days. of course, i'll be busy for the majority of it, but it'll be good to at least get to see some friends for a short amount of time.

it's good being a salaried game designer. you can sleep in (by accident), get whatever games you need (for research), and get free trips (this time, back home). good times.

- kawitchate

Saturday, August 4

my July 31st deadline

as you probably already know, i'm in the middle of watching the entire Babylon 5 series (all 5 seasons) right now. when i initially started watching them over a couple of months ago, i set July 31st as the date i wanted to be done by because that's the date the new B5 movie came out on DVD. well, how did i do?

i didn't hit my deadline.

i'm currently stalled on episode 7 of season 4, right after the Shadow War. why do i say "stalled?" because, the last time i watched was last week, and honestly, i haven't felt the pull to watch an episode since... though i'm going to keep moving on tonight.

why? well i've been putting some thought into it and i think it's because almost the entire series had been leading up to the Shadow War up to this point, and now that it's come and gone, there's just this disconnect (even though i know what's coming next). this time around, i really felt the brevity of the Shadow War, really felt like there should have been more... but of course i know why there wasn't - the creators didn't know at this point if there would be a season 5 (ratings were good, but not great) and that meant trying to fit in all the key parts of 2 seasons into 1 - that's why there doesn't feel like there's any breathing room in season 4 (well, except after the Shadow War, where i am now, in between episodes), no wasted episodes.

well, i'm going to at least finish season 4 before i buy the new DVD to watch... i'm going to TRY and soldier through season 5, but as i've said before, it's my least favorite - mainly because they had to fit everything into season 4 to be safe, so season 5 feels tacked on somewhat.

72 hour-long episodes in just about 2 months. not bad work. not bad at all.

- kawitchate

Yakuza review

the first game in my PS3 - the first disc of any kind to go in my PS3 - and it's a PS2 game that i ended up finishing in the first play session. on the PS3. it's... ironic. or something. i knew i was close to the end, but i didn't think i was quite that close.

yes, i've beaten another game - Yakuza, for the PS2. here's my review.

i had wanted to get my hands on this game ever since i heard about it way back in 2005. it was an action adventure game with a semi-open world that took you into the heart of the Japanese crime organization, the Yakuza. now, being a fan of action adventure games with open worlds (semi-open or otherwise) AND being a huge fan of Japanese culture, this game practically SCREAMED "pick me up." so, after waiting for a price drop, i did. a year and a half though, it's a long time for expectations to build...

thankfully, in this case, the somewhat-high expectations hardly made a difference.

you play as Kazuma, an ex-Yakuza that's back from a 10-year stint in jail just as the shit is hitting the fan back home. you get caught up in a tale that is as big as involving the entire organization and as small as your circle of 3-4 friends that dissolved when you went to jail 10 years ago. it's a crime story, it's a Shakespearean story... it's an action story. there were twists (some you saw coming, some you didn't), there was death, and there was hope. it's a dark, adult story. pretty well written.

there are small side missions for you to do throughout the game as you travel through a semi-open city (that is just laden in everything Japanese contemporary, so beautiful), and then of course there's the main storyline. i clocked almost 20 hours of gameplay in on this game, which is pretty much perfect for an action adventure, and i could have played for maybe 5-10 more hours completing more side missions.

one note: to throw you right into this world, they throw around Japanese/Yakuza titles, terms, and names all OVER the place and, well, it's a lot to keep track of. while i found it quite refreshing, it might frustrate some people - i mean it even frustrated me once in a while, but usually it was more confusing than anything, but i'd eventually get it (and there's a dossier in the pause menu to help you out with some of the people).


- there is a load time going INTO combat and another load time getting OUT OF combat. FYI - combat is, oh, 25-50% of the game. so you're running around the city and you see a guy that wants to fight. load screen. approximately 5-10 seconds later the fight begins. fight over. load screen. 5 seconds later you're back in the city proper. it's my MAIN complaint about the game, the main one that kept it from being truly great.

- the game CAN get quite repetitive: run around, fight, cutscene, fight, run around, fight, cutscene... i could normally only play the game for 2-3 hours at a time before growing tired of it. the one thing that saved it overall is the side missions, but those could be frustrating in their own rite.

- side missions were frustrating because you'd lose track of what you're doing for who, and so you'd normally check your journal inside the pause menu... except there IS no journal. all it says are the titles of the open missions you're on, and most of the titles are cryptic and/or involve names of people you can't keep straight. yeah. thanks.

- combat takes a little getting used to, especially since there is no "true" lock-on like us gamers are used to in 3D action games nowadays, and the camera can be a little wonky. eventually you learn that the dodge move is a friend of yours, so that if you find your "lock-on" is no longer locked on to who you want, you can dodge out of the way, shift the camera around, and lock on again.

- you're given lots of moves to do in combat, but i found myself sticking to pretty much one combo after i learned it.

- there were some camera issues in general, especially when fighting indoors.

- the voice acting takes a little getting used to (i.e. it's not that good). i heard that the Japanese version (which did much better in Japan, more on that later) had famous actors for the parts, so maybe they ran out of money when they were doing it in English, but whatever. it's no different from, say, a Capcom game.

now, with all that said, this game was VERY refreshing, and for that it earns high marks. i loved, LOVED the world, liked the story (both the larger story and then the more personal story right along side it), like the storytelling, and liked the characters. for its minor faults (and despite the damn load times), combat was quite fun and satisfying, and going around helping people with the side missions was also fun and satisfying.

i give it an 8.75 out of 10, with a margin of error of 0.50 (i could be convinced to go up or down 0.50 points if i heard compelling arguments). had there been no load times in and out of combat, had it been seamless, i would have easily given this a 9.25 or higher. it's just that refreshing of a game.

now, i said above that this game did really well in Japan - SO well in fact that SEGA released a sequel, Yakuza 2, a mere year later. and what's the status on the game coming state-side? there are rumors that it's coming this fall... but i wouldn't be surprised if we don't see it. there really wasn't much talk about Yakuza when it came out here, and i haven't heard of anyone else that's played it that i know, or on any of my sites, so i can safely assume it didn't do as well here. guess all i can do is hope for a US release. i'd really like to see what they do with a sequel (my gut tells me it'll be "more of the same," so i probably won't like it as much as the original, but i'd still like to play it), especially with where this story ended.

- kawitchate

Thursday, August 2

very tricky R* - or - trendspotting

of course, along with good news (Halo 3 online co-op) must come bad news.

Game of the Year 2007 just became Game of the Year 2008.

Rockstar announced today that Grand Theft Auto IV will NOT be coming out mid-October as promised (i think the October date's been set for a year and a half now) - it will in fact be pushed back to fiscal Q2 2008 (Feb 1st - April 30th).


this is pretty big news. in the past R* has laid down the date for their GTA games pretty early in advance and has consistently been able to hit the mark. however, lots of companies are constantly pushing their release dates back nowadays, especially in the early stages of this next-gen cycle of consoles.

the main reason? dealing with the next-gen hardware AND software. R* said they're having trouble getting a handle on the new platforms, and i think it's a big problem for a lot of developers...

hardware: the Xbox 360 is supposed to be fairly easy to program for, but it's still a new system so there are going to be hitches, the main one being that these huge next-gen games are supposed to fit on a normal DVD for the 360, which some developers have come out and said is too small for their games - the PS3 on the other hand is supposed to be pretty difficult to program for but has all the space in the world on its blu-ray discs. all that said, more than a few games come out on the 360 weeks or months before their counterparts do on the PS3.

along with the differences between the two (and the Wii) is the fact that games can't be ported as easily anymore. the Xbox, PS2, and Gamecube used to be a lot more similar in their internal makeup which would facilitate porting - now developers need a team on the 360 version of a game, and at least a mini-team of engineers on the PS3 version (or vice versa on the consoles), and the Wii versions almost always get their own team.

software: there's been grumblings in the industry that Epic's new Unreal engine - which has been licensed by like half the developers - is having it's own growing pains. Silicon Knights even went as far as to sue Epic for not delivering the product and support they said they would (something i forgot to post on, but here it is). i don't know who's side to take, but it's clear that there's issues with the engine.

just this WEEK Lair for the PS3 was delayed 2-3 weeks, and Blacksite: Area 51 was delayed a number of months! here's more games that have been plagued by delays:

- Assassin's Creed
- Mass Effect
- BioShock
- Turok
- Stranglehold
- The Darkness
- Unreal Tournament III
- Metal Gear Solid 4
- Too Human

and these are just some games that had announced earlier release dates and were then pushed back months, even years! i didn't even list other games that never set any release dates and are just taking forever to be developed...

will things get better? i think so - somewhat. games have never had the most reliable release dates, but it's just been REALLY bad lately because of the new hardware and new engines. after a studio gets a next-gen game under its belt, they'll be able to better plan for the next one. best practices ftw.

now, back to GTAIV. am i upset? not really... i would have been had i preordered it (which i almost did). i'm more shocked really than anything, shocked that R* moved back a firm date for a GTA game. however, i've got PLENTY to play this fall/winter, so one less game is actually welcome in terms of my time and my wallet... that is, unless MORE fall/winter releases start pushing their dates back...

it could happen - hell, it's already happened for a lot of the titles coming out this fall/winter.

- kawitchate

very tricky Bungie

i'm not sure whether to be upset or overjoyed at the news that came out earlier this week regarding my favorite multiplayer game of all time, Halo 3 - i think i'm somewhere in between (but leaning toward overjoyed with just a hint of cheezed-off).

remember, oh, a week or two back when i posted on Bungie coming out and saying they were probably not going to have online co-op for Halo 3, that maybe they'd be able to release a patch later that would allow for it? and how i ranted about games nowadays that have ANY sort of offline co-op had BETTER include online co-op?

well it turns out there IS going to be online co-op. for up to 4 freakin' players!

the first player, the one that forms the party, plays as Master Chief. any others that join him play as Brutes that are on the side of the Chief - at least for the majority of the game i guess (one of them is the Arbiter, who you played as half the time in Halo 2).

yeah, just out of the blue this week the news comes out of some showing of the game Bungie was doing in Amsterdam and they're like "oh yeah, the 4-player co-op, it's leading to all-new scenarios of gameplay and it's been fantastic!"


what the hell?!? you just publicly said a few weeks ago that you didn't even think you'd have online co-op ready for launch, and NOW all of the sudden it's there and it's for 4 players? uh, do you have an explanation for this? (for the record, i heard no explanation given).

so, while i'm happy - no, overjoyed - that they included NOT ONLY online co-op, but 4 freakin' player online co-op, the news is somewhat soured by the news a few weeks ago that there probably wasn't going to be any and then Bungie not offering up an explanation as to what happened in those magical weeks.

the news might further be soured by the fact that no one i know that will buy this game will buy it at the time of release... but i'm hoping for some online co-op maybe early next year?

i call Master Chief.

- kawitchate

Wednesday, August 1

PS3 and me

well, my PS3 arrived yesterday safe and sound. after purchasing it maybe 2 weeks ago, it shipped late last week and arrived Tuesday here - not bad. i was tracking the package as it went - started in Nevada, went East to Kentucky, then North to Ontario, and then to Honolulu. strangest trip i've ever seen a package take - it got further away with each step until the last!

anywho, didn't make a big deal out of it last night here on my blog because i didn't set it up. i know, i know - "you bought a $500 system and didn't set it up when you got it?" that's correct. 1) i don't have the correct cable to hook it up to my tv all nice (i'd have to unplug something else right now to plug it in), and 2) i'm still finishing a game on my PS2 and you can't transfer over save files to the PS3 unless you have this little device, which i should be borrowing from a friend of a friend this week.

even though i knew i'd have to play around with some wires in the back for now, i just had to set it up tonight - after all, there's things to sign up for and system updates to download. woohoo. how was the experience?


the cable i decided to use was the component cable i bought for my PS2 (actually meant for a PS3) a few months back that was supposed to make it look a bit better on my HDTV (it ended up just making the crappy picture sharper, not better per se). the reason i don't just use this cable with my PS3 from now on is because my TV only has one component outlet, and that's for my Xbox 360. i have an HDMI cable i ordered Sunday coming in the mail.

so i get everything plugged in and start it up. no picture. i turn it off, mess around with some of the cables, try again. still no picture. i think maybe it needs just a regular composite cable to get things started (the one it shipped with, same with the PS2), so i plug THAT in. picture.

i go through the registration of my PS3 and then turn it off to try the component cable again. more unplugging, plugging - no picture. i decide to put the composite cable back in. more unplugging, plugging - picture.

i realize there must be some setting INSIDE the PS3 that i have to tell it that i'll be using a component cord. so i find where that is, do what i think needs to be done, try it again (unplugging, plugging) - no picture. unplugging, plugging - picture.

i tried this more than a few times with various settings, but i could NOT get the component cord to work. i tested to see if it was the cord at fault by using it with my PS2 and it worked fine... so there's got to be something wrong internally with my PS3, some setting i have wrong.

anyway, it was quite the headache and after about 2 hours of playing around with all this i grew tired of it and didn't even get to start downloading any demos or games.

not a great start to this $500 powerhouse of a machine. i hope when i get the HDMI cable i'll be able to get IT to work.

off to play my PS2.

- kawitchate

island life

see, i knew things were expensive here in Hawaii since everything needs to be imported, but it didn't hit home until tonight, when i bought items i usually ignore at the store - milk, cereal, and eggs (usually i'm just buying frozen stuff, but this week i went all out).

milk - $6.50/gallon

cereal - $5-8/box

eggs - $4.50/dozen

most things have been maybe $1-2 more at most, but these prices are crazy! at these prices i might just keep buying frozen...

- kawitchate