And the gamers will rise up, and save us from the Large Hadron Collider

September 9, 2008


Hey god. So, I know I’m not the greatest dude ever. And you know this, also. I’m no biblical Job. If you threw trials and tribulations at me, I’d be very “frakk you, god!” and run the other way. I’m all about the short, narrow road. And I recognize this. I cheat to get ahead, I occasionally lie to make things easier for me, and I never ever look both ways before I cross the street. I really just don’t take good care of myself. I’m not a good influence.

I’m really just not a good role model. I mean, I’m a good person and all that. I donate to charity when I can, I try to help people on the side of the road. One time I even blocked a bunch of traffic in a busy intersection so that a family of ducks could cross the road safely. I’m pretty respectful of the planet. Seriously, I love your work.

But now I have a favor to ask, and I’m hoping you can find room in that galaxy-sized heart of yours to grant me just this one tiny break. I may not deserve it, but it would be really cool of you to spare my life over the next few weeks.

I’m sure you’ve heard of the Large Hadron Collider. Heck, I bet you’re part of one of the lawsuits against it (which I’m in complete support of). And I’m here to tell you that this machine will be the death of me.

You know my luck, god. If the planet gets covered in tiny black holes, I’m sure something terrible will happen to me. And I know… there’s only “little theoretical evidence” that the planet will be slowly eaten away from the inside out, but come on! “Little theoretical evidence” scares me. Sure, I’ve spent the majority of my life thus far preparing for an apocalypse… Fallout, Fallout 2, I’ve been studying up on Fallout 3. I’ve got a nuclear fallout covered. Half Life, Half Life 2, Episode 1 and 2, and all the spin-off games from Half Life 1 have taught me time after time what to do if an underground research-facility unleashes a terrible force upon the earth. Gordan Freeman is my hero. But I don’t want to have to be a Gordan Freeman. I don’t want to have to save the world. But if it comes to that… who is going to step up? Gamers, that’s who. We know how this shit hits the fan. We’ve got our crowbars at the ready and our HEV suits all charged up. So when/if it comes down to it, I’ll be your man. I’ll help save mankind, alongside my fellow nerds. We will fight to save this planet from the certain doom that the Hadron Collider will bring to us all.

But please… please save my life first. I can’t spend the rest of my days fighting off headcrabs and killing zombies FTW if the first thing that happens to me is I get sucked into a tiny black hole or struck by lightning or killed by radiation.


Summer of Arcade? Absolutely yes. Plus, the Grimm games

August 16, 2008
Play the Grimm episodes for free the first 24 hours after they are released!

Play the Grimm episodes for free the first 24 hours after they are released!

Braid, Geometry Wars 2, Bionic Commando, Galaga Legions, Castle Crashers… the lineup on Xbox Live Arcade this summer has been just insanely awesome. I find my Gamefly games getting shrugged off in favor of putting in another couple of hours of Geometry Wars – and I wonder “Yikes, am I ever going to find time to play retail games again?”

I’ve also been playing the Grimm games on Gametap, which I highly recommend! They’re fantasticly colourful, the animations are great, and the gameplay is so simple that it’s easy to play through an entire episode (takes under an hour) without even noticing the passing time. You can play the entire game with only your mouse, or only your keyboard, or a combination of both, but all three control schemes work equally well. It’s the type of game that has you leaning your head on one hand, slouched in your computer chair with bloodshot eyes and a horrible backache. But hey, that means the game is pretty good, right? Plus, when each new episode comes out (weekly), it is free to play for the first 24 hours! So even non-paying Gametap users can experience these great episodes. Check them out on, download the free Gametap player and support this awesome example of how episodic gaming should be done.

What I’m playing this weekend: Geometry Wars Retro Evolved 2 (I just can’t quit…), Alone in the Dark, Burnout Paradise, Sega Superstars Tennis, Prince of Persia: The Sands of Time, and Braid. I’m hoping that I’ll like Alone in the Dark, because I’ve heard such mixed reviews for the game, and I was really looking forward to it. Also, the Braid official website says not to use a walkthrough, but I just don’t know how I’m going to get some of these puzzle pieces without one…

Check out my half-decent Geometry Wars scores, and add me on Live! I need more people on my leaderboards to be playing Geo Wars so they can push me to boost my scores!

To Steam, or not to Steam…

August 4, 2008
The Steam client in its full view and mini collapsed view.

The Steam client in its full view and mini collapsed view.

A little while ago my friend Scott sent me a message over Facebook detailing his opinion on Valve’s Steam client. It ended up being a pretty good conversation so I figured I’d post it here. Obviously, I am a huge fan of Valve, Steam, and everything related to either of them, so my opinion is a little biased. Take it as you will.

Scott: Steam is the dumbest thing ever.
I pay money for a game, but no, I have to download this other useless program and make an account. If I was a poor gamer without internet, I would be screwed. Thanks for caring, Valve.
If I’m not connected to the internet but there’s an update available for my game, I can’t play until I get it updated. Great.
I want to install HL2: Episode One. I have the disc in my freaking drive right now, but no. I have to DOWNLOAD the game, which will take over an hour longer than installing it from the disc. This is why software exists. This is why I bought it.
But no. Valve is all, “Hey, you like our game. Great! but before you play, you have to bend over backwards while we rape you! Thanks for your money!”
I’d complain to someone else but I don’t know of anyone else who would understand… If I bought the console version of the Orange Box, would I still have to go through this crap? Did you have these problems?

Me: I love Steam. I think it’s one of the greatest things to happen to PC gaming in 10 years. If not the single greatest.

1) It has more or less eliminated Piracy for Valve’s games. And the more games that are released on Steam are seeing the same results.

2) There’s no DRM bullshit. Example – Mass Effect PC can only be installed 3 times. Period. It checks online every time you install it with a certain serial code, and then you’re done. Even if you have four computers, you are S.O.L.. Three times, and that’s it. If you want to protect your $50 investment in the game, then you just have to let the 6gig installation sit on your hard drive for ever and ever and ever and ever. Bioshock was the same way, but they changed some things up and made a few people happy. I still hate DRM. And right now, it’s pretty much a)Steam or b)DRM. You could say that Steam is the lesser of the two evils, but I personally love steam, so I wouldn’t say it’s evil. You can install and reinstall games any time you want, with no penalty. Right now I have a bunch of games I own uninstalled to save space. Also, When Mass Effect PC first came out, you had to re-validate your install online every 10 days, without fail.

3) Steam is a WONDERFUL way for indie developers to get their games out. Steam takes only an extremely small percentage from every sale, so indie devs can actually make some money from their game, whereas services like XBLA pretty much rapes anyone who tries to make a game. This leaves room in the arena for only bigshot publishers who can afford to advertise the hell out of their cheap games so that they can still make a buck, even if the game sucks.

4) You can log into Steam anywhere. If you came over to my apartment, you could log into Steam. Then you could download Team Fortress 2 (which I don’t have), and you could play the game as yourself. You would have all the achievements unlocked that you earned on your computer at home. You could log into HL2 and pick up where you left off at home. All your save-games transfer over.

5) Steam is a social community, much like Xbox Live. As a matter of fact, Steam has a much larger feature-set than the PSN (Playstation Network) of the PS3. It’s still a few steps behind Xbox Live (anytime cross-game voice chat being a key thing not available), but it definitely rivals Xbox Live any day of the week. You’ve got groups, clans, forums, achievements, and in-game chats. There’s even the Steam Menu (shift+tab) that you can access any time! The PS3 is JUST NOW getting in-game XMB on July 2nd. That’s something that has been available in Xbox Live for years.

Lastly – Steam is free. You don’t have to pay anything to use the service. I love it! I have even added my non-Steam games into the My Games tab inside Steam, just so I can launch them from there.

Digital Distribution is the way of the future, without a doubt. PC gaming is dieing, and the only way to revive it is to be a step ahead of console gaming. Right now Digital Distribution is that step. You can buy Xbox Games and download them from XBL. You can purchase PS1 games from the PSN. You can buy classic games from the Wii Shop channel. You can buy mini-games from the WiiWare channel. You can buy Arcade games from XBLA. You can get smaller games like fLOW and Pain and Super Stardust HD from the PSN.
iTunes is making FORTUNES off of their new movie rental service. Netflix is getting so much business out of their over-the-internet movie streaming on the website that they are releasing set-top boxes for TV’s to stream Netflix movies off of the internet.

Digital Distribution is the future. When Steam was first released, it was clunky. It was ugly. It had MAJOR bugs.
You think it’s annoying to install HL2:E1 now? I got HL2 when it was first released. I had dial up. And there were already a bunch of updates to HL2. Booooo… Steam was aweful. Fast-forward almost four years and now Steam is the grand-daddy of digital distribution.
Penny Arcade released PAA:E1:OtRsPoD to their own new digital distribution website – Greenhouse (, but soon realized that the only way they were really going to sell any copies was to sell it on Steam.

And also, hehe…. My internet connection tops out at around 1.5mb/s downloads, and it’s always that fast when I’m on Steam, so installing the updates or games is never much of a problem for me. I do love my Powerboost!

Scott: Okay okay, I understand points 1, 2, & 3, and they are good things, yes. Innovative. Point 4 sounds cool, but I have yet to try out. It sounds weird. When I left your house and logged off Steam, would my games just be wasting space on your hard drive?
I realize I’m being a little harsh. Steam has some cool stuff. There’s a promo going on where I can download Day of Defeat: Source for free during the next 14 hours. And I think I will.
My beef with it is that it’s required to play the games. Honestly, it is flat-out ridiculous that a separate client is needed to play. It’s not really even a client, just a community thing… and yeah, internet isn’t a problem for YOU, but when I wanna play up in my room, like a tried 30 minutes ago, the weak wireless i pick up is enough to log in and find out that TADA! I need to update the games. But it’s not strong enough to download anything larger than a webpage. So Steam either says, “the servers are too busy. Try later” or “This program is not ready for offline play.” Or something.
I’ll update later, I promise! Just let me play!
Nope. So I’m down here etherneting just to play a game and I get distracted by Facebook.

Sparknotes: Steam is cool, but it shouldn’t be required. It interferes with stuff.

Me: That’s all, folks! I think that in today’s age of internet-enabled games, a client like Steam is absolutely neccessary. We’ve got Xbox Live, PSN, the Wii’s feeble online (friend codes, game codes), so why are PC games held up to a different standard? But at the same time, I am a believer in free information flow and open source. So I can definately see where Scott is coming from. It would be nice if Steam was only optional.

What I’m currently playing: Zork! (yes, the first one, on DOS), Fallout (also the first one), and Civilization 4. Not to mention I’m still playing TONS of Geometry Wars 2 – working on my scores and trying to not suck so much. I’m also going through Serious Sam 2 (I forgot how funny this game is!) and going to try and make it to the Prince of Persia Sands of Time trilogy soon. I feel like the Prince deserves some attention – it’s been a while, and the new cell shaded game is looking pretty good.

Geometry Wars: Retro Evolved 2, and more…

August 2, 2008
Geometry Wars Retro Evolved 2 on "King" mode.

Geometry Wars Retro Evolved 2 on "King" mode.

Hard to believe it’s been six months since I’ve posted anything here, but alas, it has! I’ll be trying to update a lot more frequently from now on, with more focus on casual “what I’m playing” type entries than anything else. So please, check back regularly and let me know what you think. Also check out the new box on the right column with links to all my micro-blogging sites. Twitter is still my favorite, so gets the most attention. If you don’t have a Twitter account already, get signed up and start following me!

This summer has been one of the best ever for the games industry – with plenty of AAA titles like Battlefield: Bad Company, Soul Calibur 4, Guitar Hero: Aerosmith and On Tour being released during the usually slow hot months. Plus, hugely anticipated downloadable titles like Geometry Wars Retro Evolved 2, Pixeljunk Eden, Bionic Commando, Castle Crashers, and Siren: Bloodcurse keep things fresh with innovative pick-and-play game mechanics. And with PS3 games getting their trophies rolled out, the PSN is as alive as ever and quickly growing into a worthy competitor to Xbox Live.

Pixeljunk Eden multiplayer

Pixeljunk Eden multiplayer

And of course, not to be left out on all the action, Nintendo announced the Wii Motion Plus accessory at E3 this year, which will bring true 1:1 motion control to Wii games. By next year, we may finally see the end of waggle control!

But what I really want to talk about today is why $10 downloadable games like Geo Wars 2 and Pixeljunk Eden are able to capture my attention for hours and hours at a time, while many $60 games that take millions of dollars to create can barely keep me in front of the TV. What keeps people coming back to the first Geometry Wars, three years later? And what has me itching to go play the sequel, even right now? It’s the fun factor, and it’s how the developers use it in their game. I remember one of the Bungie studios employees talking about this in an interview for the Halo 2 collectors disc. He said that with Halo, they took 30 seconds of fun, and just recreated and repeated it throughout the entire game.

I think its the same concept with games like Eden and Geo Wars. The developers come up with an awesome idea, capitalize on it, and create 30 seconds of fun out it. Then if they can manage to repeat that over and over again, and keep it interesting, they’ve got a great game. Sure, 70 hour RPG’s are a whole different world and can’t really be applied to this sort of thing, but when was the last time you played through an RPG a second time? Yes, there are exceptions such as Mass Effect, Fable, and FFVII, but most of the time games that take many hours to beat are only worth a single play through. And it’s because instead of creating a single really-fun instance and repeating it, they spread out less-addicting moments through the game and put hours of side-quests and level-grinding in between.

It makes me wonder if these two very different types of games can ever be merged, or switch roles. Can a game like Geometry Wars ever warrant a $60 price tag? (and yes, I know about Galaxies, but it wasn’t the AAA blockbuster I have in mind) And is the XBLA or PSN capable of putting out a quality epic-scale game like Mass Effect or FFXIII without demanding an enormous chunk of your hard drive and/or your wallet?

With current-generation hardware finally starting to be taken advantage of (think Halo 3’s multiplayer or Little Big Planet’s user-generated content), the lines between genres are merging, but the line between casual games and “hardcore” games is getting bigger and bigger while the fanboys bicker. I suppose only time will tell how things are going to evolve, but at the moment I am happy to see games like Geometry Wars Retro Evolved 2 and Pixeljunk Eden be so successfull.

What I’ll be playing this weekend: Geometry Wars Retro Evolved 2, Pixeljunk Eden, Devil May Cry 4. I’m also going to be getting some PC time in with Civilization 4 (is it bad that this will be my first time playing a Civilization game?) and going oldschool with the Descent series so I can bust out my flightstick. Reading up on Jumpgate: Evolution news has gotten me nastolgic for some old-school space flight sims!

Review: Rez HD

January 30, 2008


Having played the Dreamcast and PS2 version of Tetsuya Mizuguchi’s Rez, I’ve been eagerly awaiting the Xbox Live Arcade version of the game, Rez HD, since it was announced back in September ‘07. The game was finally released today, and I couldn’t be happier.

While the original Dreamcast version will cost you about $50 on eBay, and the PS2 version running at least $30, the Live Arcade version is only 800 Microsoft Points, or $10 – an absolute steal!


Hopefully you’ve figured out that the “HD” in Rez HD means that the game has undergone a visual face lift. It now runs in full 720p with 5.1 surround sound. The game looks absolutely fantastic, and plays equally as well. The controls are very simple – use the left analog stick to target your enemies, and hold down the A button to lock on to up to eight at once, Panzer Dragoon style. You can not technically move your character, but you will notice yourself moving around slightly depending on where you’re aiming the target reticle.

All of the Mizuguchi goodness from the previous iterations from the game are present, Tetsuya himself was quoted saying that the game was “100% the same game” as the original. But to top things off and please even the most hardcore, there is an option to play the original game exactly as it appeared on the Dreamcast. This does not have to be unlocked, and is available right from the main menu. However, with the gameplay exactly intact, the HD version is the way to go when it comes to reliving this sensory euphoria all over again. Unique to the Xbox version is the capability to have three trance vibrators running at the same time.

A “trance vibrator” is what they called the extra peripheral that came with the special edition of the PS2 version of Rez, released only in Japan. This was a USB-device that was essentially a souped-up rumble pack, capable of rumbling much stronger than the Duelshock. The trance vibrator thumps along with the beat of the music to appeal to your sense of touch, while the game overwhelms your sense of sight and sound with its beautiful vector-visuals and trance music. Mizuguchi has stated that he did not originally intend for the trance vibrator to ever be used for any sexual reasons, but ever since Game Girl Advance’s story about how she used the device, the internet can’t seem to think of anything else whenever Rez gets mentioned.

When you have extra 360 controllers turned on, you can enter the options menu and enable them as trance vibrators. While playing, I liked to either set an extra controller on my stomach/lap while playing, or place it in between my feet on the floor. The vibrations aren’t a distraction, like some people may think, but instead only immerse you even deeper into the gameplay.

Lots of unlockables, Live leaderboards, and the unique trance vibrator support make this a must-have title on the Xbox 360, especially if you’re one of the sad souls who has never played it before. It’s less than a third of the price you’ll find it anywhere else, and it’s better. Sit down with a friend, let them hold a trance-vibrator, and take turns experiencing true synesthesia. Even if you play this game by yourself though (it is only single player, after all), you won’t be dissapointed. You’ll see why lots of gamers consider Mizuguchi’s masterpiece an almost religious experience – especially after you beat the final area of the game.

Geometry Wars may be old, but you know you still play it

January 29, 2008


After playing Geometry Wars for about an hour tonight, I found my thoughts drifting away from the game to escape the monotony of the first few minutes of play.

Why are these green squares after me? What did I do to them? Does my character have a back story? Actually, what the hell even is my character? Am I in space? Am I in a Geometry teacher’s nightmare?


If Geometry Wars has you thinking about the souls of the shapes you’re blasting to hell heaven, then you’re probably looking for your next fix of Bizarre’s masterpiece everywhere you go. Have Windows Vista? Buy Geometry Wars from MSN games and play on your PC, or even take your Vista-powered laptop with you on the go.

Looking for a different Geometry Wars experience? Try Grid Wars 2, easily the most popular and arguably the best Geometry Wars clone. It’s fast, it’s pretty, and it’s free. Not close enough to the original for you? Then try Grid Assault, an almost exact recreation of GW. However, you can only play for six minutes because the creator stopped development to relieve legal pressure from Bizarre.

If you want a whole different experience, but something with familiar controls and a simple premise, check out Mono, a strikingly unoriginal game by the developers own admittance. Mono is a blend of Ikaruga’s color-swapping gameplay with GW’s destroy-everything-that-moves gameplay that has you trying to change the color of the entire game arena from white to black, or from black to white.

All three of these games are completely free, and can be played with a duel-analog controller, a la Geometry Wars. Heck, you can even play with a USB 360 controller if you want to. So try them out – give them a download and see if you like any of them better than their inspiration! You may be pleasantly surprised.

Gaming with energy, when you want something healthy

January 28, 2008



It’s after midnight, but you just started the raid. You’re tired, but you know if you drink one more Red Bull, you’re going to crash and burn in an hour or so, much to the dismay of your fellow guild members. Sound familiar? Maybe you’re at a LAN party, dawn is breaking and you’re hungry again, but can’t stomach the idea of one more piece of pizza. As ridiculous as it may sound, there are better ways for gamers to get energy than eating greasy foods that play hell with controllers and keyboards, and drinking energy drinks that give us terrible caffeine headaches!

Here’s three great foods that aren’t nearly as bad for you as pizza and coke, but will work a hell of a lot better at giving you the energy you need, long after the sun’s gone down.

Fruit and Nuts

Oranges, apples, cherries, berries, kiwis and raisins – fruit has a lot of vitamin B and C. Nuts and even some fruits have a lot of fiber, and when your body is getting vitamins and fiber, your blood sugar levels stay stable and you’re able to produce energy more efficiently. Never had dried limes before? They’re delicious.

Beef Jerky

Fact: beef and chicken contain a lot of protein. This protein contains something called tyrosine, which is an amino acid that helps your brain produce all sorts of things to enhance mental function. Jerky is easy to pick up at 24-hour gas stations or supermarkets, unlike pizza. Also, mental function is commonly considered a good thing, and will keep you on top of your game. If you’re feeling particularly healthy, pick up some USDA organic jerky.


Ok, so it’s not the easiest snack to find, and it’s not exactly traditional here in America, but you can’t ignore the health benefits, let alone the energy boost you’ll get after snacking on some. Seaweed has a broad range of vitamins and minerals, and containts two of the B-vitamins your body uses to make energy. My favorite are these seaweed-wrapped rice crackers – crispy and delicious! And if you’re not keen on buying snacks off of the internet, try a local Asian market, they’re sure to have several varieties.