Wednesday, November 16, 2011

Kinect Me To Who's In Charge

No, I'm not Skyrimming. Elder Scrolls can go clean my oven for all I care with all its... first-personish. Yes, that's my only gripe with it and its enough for me to never even want to touch it.

Instead, let me tell you about my misadventures with Kinect.

As most people in the modern world, I live in an apartment. Apartments have the idiosyncrasy of not being very spacious. Mine escapes not the norm (ugh, I've been playing way too much Tactics Ogre). Still, we heard that ME3 was taking advantage of Kinect's built-in voice recognition to issue commands to party members and go through dialog. "What fun", I replied and so I put my foot down and stated that by next year I was getting a Kinect. I ended getting one on my birthday, last September.

Now, if you're anything like me you probably got excited when first word of the Wii came out. The prospect of physically interacting with your games beyond your thumbs and possibly chin (I get lazy sometimes) was wondrously innovative to my pseudo-laywoman's mind and we quickly jumped on the hype bandwagon. In fact, there's even a video of Mike in the line at Toys"R"Us at launch day after an incident at a different store involving a pre-order, a complaints book and the Police. What followed (not that particular launch day but in videogaming history) was a series of disappointing releases and half-hearted attempts by other companies to stake their claim in that same niche market. For a long time I was verily unimpressed.

Like nothing had ever happened and like nothing had been learned, we were overjoyed, excited, psyched even, when news of this one project Natal reached our little corner of the world. Remarkably, this had very little to do with "Natal" being directly translated to "Christmas" and more with the fact that someone had picked up on the idea first proposed by the Wii and expanded on it to something that didn't require a hand-held accessory. We had had our share of holes in walls with the Wiimote. Nintendo had been stupid but Microsoft now had the possibility of picking up where they left off and actually put out title that post-12 years old players would actually want to play. And the technology in the info releases they were making seemed pretty groundbreaking and we felt like we were living in the future. We may not have flying cars but the survival and prosperity of the human race was assured if our gaming consoles could talk back to us. But we should've known. Peter Moulineaux has fooled and tricked us so many times before. Why, oh why didn't we see it?

So, ok. The Kinect wasn't all it was cracked up to be. But it's not that bad either. Like, Yahtzee (at least I think it was him) said: no matter in how many different ways you can interact physically with a game if you don't have a corresponding physical feedback, what's the point? Still, the motion capture is pretty decent and it's terrible fun watching myself as a stick figure during the calibration process. It has its faults, though. The biggest one, and the one I blame for their failure to connect (HA, see what I did there?) with the far east market is the amount of space it requires to work properly.

We set the thing up and my cat jumped at it when it started bobbing up and down, trying to determine where the floor was. It had to see the floor so we couldn't gain a few precious inches by moving it a bit further back, closer to the wall. When calibration time came we had to move the couch back until it touched the dining table. Then we had to push the dining table back and the couch with it. Then we decided to move the couch out of the frame entirely to the side and STILL had to play the "restricted" version of games and demos. The Kinect needs a LOT of space to see you. So, before I even consider if I want to play something with it I have to consider if I feel like rearranging furniture and if the downstairs neighbors would be cool with that at whatever hour it happens to be.

But, you know, the motion sensor thing is neat, and cute but not at all the main reason I bought it. We proceeded to calibrate the thing's voice recognition and, at first, all was fine. We giggled like school girls when the screen filled with my achievements after we blurted out "Xbox, Achievements."

But, after we connected to Xbox Live, the thing went deaf. No matter how much we hollered out for it using our many different accents and tones, it wouldn't respond. We discovered then that voice activation did not work in our native language. But that's ok because we're sufficiently proficient with English, in my humble opinion, to issue simple commands. Turns out it decided it wasn't available in our geographical area, regardless of our language skills. So we decided to switch our settings to the UK because it's still in the same time zone and we were fairly sure it would raise no issues with the English the English speak. But no, as soon as we connect to Xbox Live it realizes the trick we're pulling and wags its finger at us reprovingly.

My only hope is that this issue exists only on the Xbox dashboard because if it persists in games... well... There goes my entire reason for wanting it, eh? Then I'll just be stuck with a pretty expensive, bobbing, dust magnet of a cyclops in front of my TV for no good reason.

Sunday, November 13, 2011

WTT: Most Memorable Internet Videos, Pt 2

Dramatic conclusion arrives dramatically.

5. MrWeebl; Dramatic Chipmunk

Kind of a cheat this one but I couldn't honestly decide between them. They're both so revolutionary. One writes songs that stick with you through thick and thin and the other is... adorable. Both of them brilliant.

4. Billy Mays - We Can Help

I didn't know who Billy Mays was, to be perfectly honest. But now I'm sad he's gone. And this video is the sole culprit. A brilliant piece of work that I have hummed for days on end.

3. Sparta

It was a craze that went around for a long time and still one of my all time favorites. This video (which I am not sure is the original one or just one of the many, MANY versions that feature the song) compiles several other viral videos that didn't make this list.

2. Buffalax

A genius at work, Buffalax took it upon himself to subtitle precious gems from the far east (Eastern Europe included) in English so we could all understand the true miracle the human race truly is. Buffalax's work was of such genius he made the media but, unfortunately, copyright is a bitch and I've lost track of him. Some of his followers have reposted his videos out there so the magic can live on.

1. Evan Mather

When I was a little girl I saw this movie set in space. It featured little green men with walking sticks and white plastic ones that shot lasers from their guns. I liked it but wasn't all that impressed. A few years later, during my first browsings of this new thing called the internet, I discovered the works of one Mr. Evan Mather and that movie gained a whole new dimension for me. Forget SW:TOR, Evan Mather's work was the pinnacle for StarWars in my youth and everything else since has paled in comparison.

That's it and that's all.

Saturday, November 12, 2011

WTT: Most Memorable Internet Videos, Pt 1

Over the course of this my simple existence there have been  few things that brought a tear to my eye and a pain to my gut. From laughing so hard. Others were just cool. All of them, found on what we here affectionately call the "Interwebs". Or maybe it's just me. In  no way do I think these movies are intrinsically good or bad. They just became popular/viral for whatever reason and I happened to be caught in the blastwave. By which I mean they are featured here by their relevance in my life and not necessarily in the grand scheme of things.

Notable Mentions: La Caida de Edgar, with its many, many remakes/remixes (not all of them good); Eh Marine, for the sheer amount of Portuguese remixes that surfaced. For the life of me I still don't get why; Failblog, for continuing to provide us with proof that there's always someone stupider and, finally, a warm recollection of the Sayonara Zetsubou Sensei opening. Never saw the anime, but I played that game a whole lot .

Without further ado:

10. Galacticmammoth

Featured not only because I myself was featured in two productions but because, truly, it's some of the most creative things I've ever seen done using a video game.

9. Boot To The Head

If I'm not horribly mistaken, this craze first started because of a sketch by The Frantics. The above is merely my favorite adaptation.

8. Sittin On Tha Toilet

Let's face it, we've all sung in the bathroom, be it in the shower or on the toilet. I, personally, have sung this little gem plenty on the toilet. And then laughed hysterically.

7. The Strangerhood

Years ago, when I was a young girl, I played The Sims. Shocking, yes? Especially if you ever read this blog before. This machinima was made by Rooster Teeth, the creators of the infamous RedvsBlue.

6. SunnyD and Rum

This is actually on my recurrent playlist whenever I go outside.

I'm in a hurry though but see you tomorrow!

Thursday, November 10, 2011

A Corpse and a PSP

That's what my last weekend came down to. It's a good thing I'd written all that in advance because my father-in-law's aunt passed away sometime between Friday and Saturday.

Now, I come from a very small family (count 2, including me) so I'd never dealt with death so hands-on. And I think I've watched way too many CSIs as I was under the impression it would take a while after she died before they put her in the ground. But they were having none of it and she was going down under on Sunday. And so it was that while I was taking a shower on Saturday I was informed that I would be making a round trip totaling around 450kms that same day (that's 280 miles give or take I think). Even though I'd never met the lady, you could say I was very upset that she died.

Then a more pressing concern hit me "what am I going to wear?" followed by a more urgent "does this mean I'm not finishing Star Ocean this weekend?" I had picked up The First Departure thinking of going through three of the installments of the series in one week but I am severely allergic to car rides. My stomach gets a bit upset and my sphincter tightens up whenever I travel at speeds exceeding 100kph (60 mph). When I was younger I'd refer to cars as big metallic beasts from hell, with their big eyes and fangs and smoldering behinds (read headlights, grill and tailpipes). Buses were something like overlords and trucks overfiends (yes, that's an Urotsukidoji reference). That fear hasn't subsided so it's safe to say it wasn't a pleasant ride that one, in the dark, on a highway. Anyways, this meant I wasn't going to be able to play at all over the ride there and back as I'd probably end up barfing inside their nicotine scarred Mercedes. We wouldn't want that.

I girded my loins, put on a black skirt, proper shoes, counted my blessings that I'd shaved my legs the previous day and steeled my mind for the ordeal ahead. Something refreshed my sullen spirit though. When we stopped at a gas station we got to see one of those kids that runs around a lot have his debut head-first encounter with technology as he tackled an automatic door before it had a chance to open. Good times.

We got there and before I knew it we were heading inside a fairly old church. Or chapel. I don't know these things. This place apparently dates back from 1565 but I was fairly not impressed as the temperature was a good ten degrees lower than in my beloved capital. On the drive there we'd learned that a friend of the deceased (which was close to turning 97) had also perished the same night (she was a week away from 100) so the church ended up hosting two bodies for two grieving families. I did my rounds, introducing myself, kissing a bunch of old ladies, feeling very much like the literal black sheep in the flock. At one point, trying to avoid melting my coat on a radiator I stood a bit too close to the casket and I felt the blood drain from my cheeks at the prospect of tipping it over and living the most embarrassing moment I would ever come to experience. It didn't happen though.

So there we stood and sat and chatted with hard-of-hearing old folk for a while, looking a bit glum and smiling sympathetically, the corpse with its white shroud over its face, hands contorted holding a rosary, me feeling more uncomfortable by the minute save for the heat from the radiators.

We finally departed from the religiously charged premises and had dinner and drove back. When I finally got in my own bed it was well past 1 AM but I still gave SO:TFD another go. I spent the following day in bed mentally recovering from my first brush with death and all the cold, gloominess and old-smell it entails. I ended up finishing the game and got started on The Second Evolution (which didn't turn out that well). But more on that some other time.

Sunday, November 6, 2011

Weekend Top Ten: Memorable Videogames, Pt 2

Oh my god it's the awesome conclusion of the awesomest thing ever to grace this blog!
Except for me pining over WAR. That was pretty popular.

5. Phoenix Wright: Ace Attorney

Ah, everyone's favorite defense attorney. I love the fact that in Nick's world being a defense attorney automatically means you fight for justice, truth and the innocent. I mean, how far of a leap is that from every American tv show today? And the cases all involve murders. And the client is always innocent!

Despite how bizarre the whole setting may be, Nick Wright has kept me up on many a night, eerie light shining through the sheets.

I'm not clear on how I came across the first game but since I did I've been a die-hard-get-all fan of the series. Together with OTO, it obliterated the bottom screen of my NDS and restored my faith in Nintendo, short lived as it was.

The biggest impact it had on me was that it brought back the girl gamer in me, with it's drama and nail-biting fade-outs. Soon after I went through all of them I came across Dragon Age and Mass Effect that kept that drama hungry flame burning.

I've written about this more substantially here so let's move on.

4. Front Mission 3

I can't really recall when I first played Front Mission 3 but I'm guessing it was a while ago as the game came out in the turn of the millennium.  That's some 12 years ago. God, don't you just feel old sometimes?

Getting back on track. I never was one for robots or tanks growing up which isn't surprising because I'm a girl. A moderately peaceful one at that. I was more into... dungeons? I must've picked the game up from one of my acquaintances' rooms be it boyfriend or no. Whatever it was it didn't take long for me to be completely hooked.

The fighting part and strategy of it was appealing and there was a management of the vehicles themselves that I enjoyed. But the most engaging part of it for me had to do with the fake interweb they stuffed in there. It had multiple websites with plenty of pages and passwords, viruses and things to "download".

It really showed that the developers had put a lot of time and effort to put out a game with an immersive world. It may not amount to much by today's standards but the game certainly earned a spot in my heart.  The graphics certainly don't seem to have aged well but back in the day, I played it so much I dreamed about it. Oh, shut up, it's happened to you too.

3. The Sims 

I hate loving The Sims. It's so mainstream. Hipsters look down on me and plebeian girls can relate because they've dabbled.

Long story short, I once played SimCity 3000 A LOT. After that, instead of making the logical leap to SimCity 4, I instead opted for something where I had a more directed approach and were things could mate.

I played the first and all the expansions and helped make EA the beast it is today. And then the second and most of the expansions and the beast got a bit more frightening. And then I borrowed the third and was pushing the beast's tentacles out my window. Along with sports franchises, The Sims must be one of the most successful EA ones. They sure did throw lots of star studded launch parties.

I like to think I have since grown past my mania, even though I still pick them up from time to time for reminiscing purposes. And to continue my plan of spreading the "green skin" gene through an entire neighborhood. Muahaha. Also, I like how some critters go around the world pointing their life away or spend their days riding the refrigerator door like a weird bipedal horse.

2. Warhammer Online: Age of Reckoning 

Strictly speaking, not the very first MMORPG I've ever played but certainly the one I've invested the most time, money, sweat, laughter and tears in. It was also the game that got me into blogging. If that is a good or bad thing remains to be voted upon.

I didn't get into it because I wanted to. No, as usual, Mike was angling to have someone to play with so he bought it for me. Obviously it backfired and he not only had to buy me a computer that would actually run the game but he also ended up paying for many of my subscriptions.

Still, we had wonderful times playing it and made what I like to call friends. Together we came to love being on the top of the scenario scoreboards and to hate the likes of Crimson and Red Guard.

But the game had its faults and you can't very well love a dead horse. Well, you can, but it's awkward. We lead it to water but we couldn't make it drink so now here we stand, our pockets picked by all the horseshoes we've invested on. Why oh why didn't you drink, WAR? Why?

Anyways, I guess WAR became the standard of MMOs for me. I have a hard time feeling compelled to play anything with other people if I can't kill them in a fast-paced battle among 300 other players at one point. I guess time will tell. 

1. Final Fantasy Tactics

Easily one of the best games out there and certainly my all-time favorite turn-based strategy RPG. I first finished it on the PS and have since acquired two copies for the PSP.

I've unlocked everything there is to unlock I think, and I've come up with exploits left and right without resorting to Gamefaqs.

The story is quite good, the music is brilliant and the gameplay addictive. I play it once in a while to fill that "equip things" need I get.

Although I adore the first FFT I could never respect the second installment of the series. Dreams and a picture book world just don't hold a candle to the continent at war that the first let me play in. I don't want to play with toddlers having dreams and "putting things to sleep" by stroking foes' heads long enough. Or am I thinking HKO?

The game set the standard for entertainment and replayability value for games since and as such deserves more of an exaltation and a more thorough exploration but I'll leave that for another post. 

Aaaaand that's that. I'm sure I forgot about something that should be up there. I'll probably wake up tomorrow screaming the name of some game that should be up here and then curse my addled brain.

Saturday, November 5, 2011

Weekend Top Ten: Memorable Videogames, Pt 1

As every countdown, this one will start high and work it's way down, lest it become some weird countup. Who ever heard of that, heh?

But first I'd like to take a moment to mention a few games that, although epically spectacular did not make the cut.

Constructor, for what it taught me about landlords; Masters of Orion 2, for teaching me about aliens and the importance of scientific investigation; Harvest Moon, for what I learned about growing crops, brushing cows and romancing farm girls; Shadow of Memories, for being the most elusive game in the history of the industry (maybe not really but I wants it!). Ok, enough with that.

So, from least influential to most, here are the games that had most to do with my taste in games, my reluctance to pursue a career and the nimbleness of my thumbs.

10. Command&Conquer: Red Alert

Spewing out villagers, building huts, leveling civilizations on elephant back and cruising around on a sports car. Age of Empires had all of this to offer. And I sure did play a lot of that. But then I turned my attention to Red Alert.

I still have a few loose pages of the manual in a drawer somewhere which is amazing considering I never read it and that I have misplaced the cd itself ages ago. Which is a damn shame because I really would like to give it another whirl. I remember having finished the allied campaign but have the recollection that the red part of the game, although more exciting, presented an added level of difficulty for me.

The image of those charging Rottweilers and sparkly Tesla coils are still fresh in my mind though and after my recent dabbling in Starcraft the gash in my heart ripped by our separation stung and I scavenged for the game high and low. No luck.

C&C:RA changed me to believe that communism isn't that bad. It's actually kind of fun! Wait a minute, what am I saying? I'm not American, I never had a problem with communists. They through some serious parties.

9. Mass Effect 

After KOTOR came Mass Effect and what a massive effect it had. Mostly it had people confused between "affect" and "effect" almost as much as "your" and "you're".

The only reason why it's not higher up on my list is because it's too recent for me to know what I've learned from it or how it's changed me. One thing I can say though: I'm a FemShep groupie. MaleShep just seems a bit stiff at times. Oh, no she didn't...

Bioware has most certainly catered to both male and female audiences with its recent releases. They're disguising dating games under a lot of firing and magic and things flying in space or riding on horseback. I'm loving it.

The dating possibilities alone make the game lend itself to multiple playthroughs. Without even noticing it I had become quite adept at shooting things. Imagine my surprise, when all I wanted was to bang a different chick/alien that time around. I guess maybe males go about it the other way around or at least have that excuse to see the make out scenes.
8. Dungeon Keeper

"Your creatures are annoyed. You cannot pay them." It amazes/scares me how many Dungeon Keeper lines I still remember. I must have played that game more than I realize.

"Your creatures are falling in battle." I remember it was one of those games my mother bought for me for some reason. She had to work a lot so maybe it was simply to keep me entertained. By 97, when the game was released, I was about 12 which is, without a doubt, the best time to get a game about managing a dungeon filled with demonic creatures. It taught me a lot about organization and resource management and I'm not even kidding.

"Your gold reserves are running low." I never did play the second DK and, even though I heard say they were like spiritual successors, I never really did like Populous or Black&White. Dungeon Keeper was it for me. I lived to see those Imps dancing at the walls to fortify them while my leathery yellow hand hung close by to slap them as needed.

"The Lord of the Land approaches!"

7. Broken Sword 

Many of my friends, male and older, rave about so-called "point&click" games like Secret of Monkey Island, Day of the Tentacle or The Dig. I'm sorry. I was just too young for that. And without a computer. And a girl. So it's mostly understandable that I missed out on what they call the Golden Age of point&click.

But I had my crack at Broken Sword. I'll never forget the first time I watched that intro, with the Parisian rooftops and the ballon and the absurdly low framerate my crappy computer could chug out. Good times.

With the first... come to think of it, with all of the games of the saga, I learned patience. In the first one, there was s place where you had to find the one stop on a brick wall atop a haystack where you had to stick something. Took me a few years to realize my game hadn't bugged out. The second one I had to wait to even purchase it. I'm still waiting to finish the third one as I seem to have misplaced my copy of the first CD.

Good game, though. Too bad it's taking me over 10 years to finish all of them. And maybe it's just me forgetting the plot (which I did) but I'm not sure if there are any broken swords in the games at all.
6. Theme Hospital

And here we are again, amid projectile vomiting balloon heads and snipe practicing on rats. There's not much more I can say about Theme Hospital than what I've already said.

It was a time in my life where I played a lot of strategy games, apparently. I wonder what that says about me. I was playing Theme Park around this time as well, although my computer wasn't as agreeable with that one.

Theme Hospital made me aware of the subtleties of the english accent. Especially in the word "warning" in the phrase "Warning! The hospital administrator is cheating! Warning! A cheat is in the hospital." Yeah, I heard that a lot.

If interested, check back tomorrow for the top five. Wow, that was so E! Entertainment of me, to cut you off before the top 5. For shame.

Thursday, November 3, 2011

Scheduled Posts For a Laid Back Lifestyle

Going to write up a few scheduled posts in the form of countdowns. Just because I'm a housewife sitting at the computer with a cat on her lap after her husband has gone off to bed.

Also I'd like to have a reference for the future of what I thought had really made an impact on my life circa Christmas 2011. I'm sure my opinions will change in time, as they have before. I just feel like keeping track.

These lists/opinions will range from music, games, books... whatever I may be more into at any particular week.

See you then.