Sunday, March 30, 2008

The Mile-High Club  

My son's visit is over, and I just got back from dropping him off. It was one hell of a trip, but I'm in bed as we speak and too exhausted to do it justice now. 

Check back for the full scoop shortly.

Thursday, March 27, 2008

The Return Home Stretch  

My son's Spring Break visit is nearing the tail end, and this is usually when things start to fall apart.

It doesn't fall apart in a negative way (though I suppose there's no other way to mean it) but more in the sense that everyone knows time is growing short and there's an underlying stress to the final hours because we know they're the final hours before he goes back to his other home and we won't see each other for at least another three months.

Sometimes longer.

My wife and I know when the time's drawing near, my son knows it, and we all sort of ignore the elephant in the room and try to enjoy what we've got while the clock counts down.

It doesn't help that going from double-income, no-kids to having a freewheeling six-year old full-time is hell on the biorhythms and daily routine (for everyone) and it's bitter irony that the end of these visits is when we're trying to hang on the hardest, yet we're all starting to wear down and need a break -- and a more permanent solution.

He may be six and not have a lot of say now, but I think it's pretty clear for anyone to see that he'd be better off with my wife and I... I'm hoping that when he gets a few more years under his belt, he'll agree and we can finally leave all these instantly-changing schedules, flights back and forth, and painfully endless stretches of time between visits behind.

Monday, March 24, 2008

Microsoft Customer Service... Again.  

I went on a rant about the crappy customer service I got from Microsoft before, and I'm sad to report I gotta do it again.

If you own a 360 and subscribe to the online Live service, you might have noticed that once you enter a credit card number, you can't remove it.

It's true everything but the last four digits for each entry are masked, but still... Anyone who's had even the most limited online transaction experience knows that a user's information and profile are almost universally able to be edited at will by said consumer.

I recently lost a debit card and had it replaced, so I had to enter new information in order to maintain my subscription. While I was fiddling with this, I noticed that my 360 had a log of my three previous debit/credit cards, all of which are now invalid. After fruitlessly searching through all available menus, I was amazed that there just wasn't any way to remove the old info.

Calling in to customer service (I'm sure you can guess where this is going) the not-helpful, not-friendly rep informed me that it was impossible to remove old data. I immediately called bullshit on this, and asked to speak to a supervisor. After doing so, the rep said "Oh, well, we can remove it for you but it takes 30 days and you need to provide the full account numbers for the cards you want to remove."

These accounts have been closed and inactive for months, the cards themselves cut up and trashed since I don't know when. I wasn't about to go diving through boxes of old papers and files looking for defunct account numbers, so I asked for a supervisor again.

"Oh, all right... we can do it without the account numbers..."

Of course you can, I thought to myself.

"But you'll still need to talk to a supervisor."

So, exactly what I'd just asked for twice, then?

...Over twenty minutes later, no supervisor had answered and I had given up my cause as lost in phone-hold hell. Surprised? Not really.

I'm not a Microsoft hater. I love my 360... it's by far my console of choice, and I happily buy extras and download new items to the hard drive every week. I'm a good customer, and I remained so even after the Red Rings struck my console, sidelining me from gaming for over a month -- but there's only so much I can stand, and the phone reps and overall customer service are driving me up a wall.

Microsoft... you're really getting a lot right with the 360 as far as I'm concerned, but (pardon my french) this subpar customer service shit's gotta go.

Saturday, March 22, 2008

Endless Ocean  

Addendum to the last post:

"More Than A Feeling" by Boston is also on my son's cool songs list. Seeing as I already had that album, I couldn't be happier.

Games: Spent the last day or two playing Endless Ocean on the Wii. There have been a few low-stress ocean-exploring games over the years, but this is by far the best of them. It's not perfect by any means, but there's something appealing about swimming in the deep, not worried about collecting pieces of magical artifacts, how many lifepacks I have left, or whether I should be looking for cover to shield myself from sniper fire.

The thing that makes this the best one of the aquatic bunch is that it comes closest to giving a satisfying level of realism thanks to the visuals. I wouldn't call myself a graphics whore at all, but the last few games of this sort I tried failed miserably by reducing fish to jaggy red triangles and a whole lot of blue confusion that failed to give the sense of, oh, you know... being underwater.

Although it beats out the competition easily, there's still a hell of a lot of room for improvement, though. The Wii is the weakest console in terms of power by a mile when compared to the 360 or PS3, and in a simple game like this where it's all about being there, more horses under the hood could have really turned this from a pretty-good game into an unbelievable experience.

That said, I basically enjoyed it from start to finish and recommend it to open-minded gamers as long as you can score it for cheap. I have more to say on it, but I'm cooking up a full review, so look for a link here soon.

Thursday, March 20, 2008

The Classics Rock Again  

...So the other day when I asked my six-year-old son what game he wanted to play for our designated videogame time, he launched into an impromptu air guitar session and started listing all of his favorite songs from Guitar Hero, which he has a copy of at his other house.

"Slow Ride" - by Foghat, from 1975

"Barracuda" - by Heart, from 1977
"Message In A Bottle" - by The Police, from 1979

"Hit Me With Your Best Shot" - by Pat Benatar, from 1980

...And these are just a few.

I got a copy of Guitar Hero when it first came out and I thought it was fun, but i didn't go ga-ga over it, and honestly, it beat the hell out of my hands and wrists. After a week or two of fruitlessly rubbing the pain away from my extremities (which have already taken way more than their fair share of abuse over the years) I was fine with packing it up and moving on.

...Of course, it promptly became bigger than The Beatles, who were already bigger than Jesus, but that phenomenon just sort of slid by me while I was busy playing other things.

Now that my son's old enough to actually play the game, it's amazing to me that he runs around the house and hums all these old tunes. Not only does he like these tracks, he thinks they actually rock (and so do I, really) and he's even asked to listen to the original CDs.

It just blows me away that a current form of technological entertaiment can give new life and perhaps even inspire new generations of fans for music that's decades old, and under any other circumstance would be looked at as a parent's embarrassingly lame record collection.


...What's a record?

Well, a long, long time ago...

Monday, March 17, 2008

The First Day  

Today was the first full day of my son's Spring Break visit, Age 6... comic hilarity and zany hijinks ensued. It's interesting how certain features of the re-acclimatization and re-settling-in process shift and change over time, some issues disappearing while others come to the fore with each year he grows.

Going from a double-income, no-kids lifestyle to conscientious parenting in the space of a day is a big change, and no matter how many times we go through it, there's always a new twist or spin to tackle. If I had a choice, my son would be with us everyday and he'd be a regular, integrated part of the "Washington Family". Sadly, that's not an option at the present time and the reality is a series of short reunions interrupted by months of distance.

Even though the current situation is a tragedy in many ways, I can say that despite it all, just having these little slices of parenthood are a wonderful gift, and I'm glad that I have my wife to share them with.

That said, exhaustion is starting to set in right about now, so if you'll excuse me... ; )

Saturday, March 15, 2008

A Twofer  

Games: Just finished Professor Layton and the Curious Village on DS. The art was great, the music was excellent and overall the presentation was utterly charming… There’s a refined, very Francais Triplets of Belleville thing going on. There was a hefty disconnect between the puzzles and how they related to the characters and story, but it was hard not to like the game, regardless.

…It made me feel like a COMPLETE retard, though. I aced most of the 3D and logic puzzles, but the math and other types had me flummoxed most of the time. I don't think I’ve ever used an FAQ as often as I did for this game. It was somewhat humbling.

Humbling or not, Layton is a thumbs up for sure, but I’d like to see better integration of story and puzzles, and to have some choices and action that weren't necessarily puzzle-related. A little role-playing or a more active hand in solving the mystery of the village would have knocked this one out of the park. Not gonna review it, BUT IF I DID... I’d say a 7.5 probably, although there’s so much puzzlicious content that an 8 might be warranted.

In a rare two-fer, I also wrapped up Metroid Prime 3: Corruption on the Wii. I have a review forthcoming for this one, and I’ll post the link when it goes up on GC. To tide you over for now: it started good, and ended according to the worn-out formula. Even at around twelve hours, it was too long, as well.


Books: Finished off Brian Keene's The Rising last night, though I have to admit that I was a little nervous to read it right before going to bed. It's extremely rare that a book can generate a true feeling of tension for me, but this one did. As I neared the end of the story, I literally could not turn the pages fast enough. I'm planning on getting the sequel when I hit the bookstore this coming week, and I'm hoping that there’s a continuation of this book's final chapter.

As a writer, I had nothing but respect and even awe for how effectively Keene set up his main character in the very first chapter. However, as the book went on, I was trying to imagine the author’s thought process and predict where he'd go with the events. When I got to the end… well, I'm not going to spoil it for any of you who may read the book, but I will say that the writer in me had a very sneaking suspicion that things were going to end the way they did, although the reader in me hoped otherwise.

Overall, The Rising was an excellent read and I plan on picking up at least a few more volumes of Keene’s work in the very near future. Recommended.

Life: My son arrives tomorrow for his spring vacation visit, and the wife and I couldn't be more excited… literally counting the minutes, we are. He’s a great little boy and we’re gonna have us some good times.

Disclaimer: My posts may be a little less frequent while he’s here, so if you wonder why the updates aren’t coming as often as they usually do... there you go.

Friday, March 14, 2008

The Console War is OVER  

After a long, hard-fought battle, the console war is finally over…

The first casualty was my GameCube -- retired months ago after exhausting every title in its pathetically weak library. The only reason it remained on my active shelf for so long was that many of the titles stubbornly refused to drop in price and I was too chintzy to pony up. Even so, it was the sickest and had been culled. Not much meat on those bones.

With the GameCube out of the picture, it was a long, slow war of attrition between the Xbox and PlayStation 2, each battling to be the last man standing. Although the Xbox gave everything it had and even rallied in the 11th hour with a few unexpectedly enjoyable titles, it never really had a chance.

Sealing its fate, the wife and I finished the last game we had for the Xbox:

Lego Star Wars II. (Whimper, not a bang.)

With that game completed and on a shelf, there’s no longer any reason to have the Xbox unit out, so I’m packing it up and getting it ready for the deep freeze… it will likely never be seen again until the day when I set up a game museum for research purposes or I pass it on to the next generation of game players in my family, whichever comes first.

After taps played and we said a few words in the Xbox’s memory, light refreshments were served. All in attendance dispersed soon after the bologna triangles ran out.

With all opposition now laid to rest, I confidently proclaim the clear winner of last generation’s console war to be the PS2. Its library was just too huge and too diverse for either of the other boxes to call its dominance into question, and I expect it to maintain its active position beside the current big three (PS3/360/Wii) for the foreseeable future – I have a thick stack of untouched PS2 discs waiting, and there are still some worthwhile titles yet to come down the pipe.

Congratulations, Sony… Enjoy your victory. The outcome might not be the same next time.

Thursday, March 13, 2008

Reviews Are Up  

Just a quick update for today before the wife and I get in some much-needed quality time, in an entirely serious, non-ironic sense.

Between the crazy work week and the impending arrival of my son for his Spring Break visit (yay!!!) we're counting down the hours of peace and quiet we have left before things turn into total madness. A martini for the lady, and a Roy Rogers for the gentleman?
Hmm... perhaps.

Games: My latest reviews just went up at GC, you can check out Culdcept Saga here and Mass Effect's new download expansion, Bring Down the Sky here.

Books: Thanks again to Ann Aguirre for her excellent interview, peep it in the previous entry if you haven't already.

Currently in my hands is The Rising, by Brian Keene. Amazingly, this book about zombies taking over the world manages to find a new spin on familiar material, and I'm digging it. Only about a third of the way through so far, but he's crafted some great scenes and the first chapter was nothing short of amazing -- truly touching stuff, especially for those of you who know what it feels like to have been on the losing end of a custody battle. It's not good times, and he captures the essence of this profound sadness more perfectly than I thought would have been possible.

Behind Infernal Eyes: The work continues...

Tuesday, March 11, 2008

A few words with Ann Aguirre  

Continuing the coverage…

I was so impressed with Ann Aguirre’s Grimspace (see the two previous posts) that I tracked down her website and got in touch with her yesterday. Open and approachable, she took time out of her busy schedule and graciously agreed to a brief interview which I’m now thrilled to present in its entirety…

BG: To start things off, Grimspace is listed and categorized as "romantic Sci-fi". After reading it, I'd be more inclined to simply call it "a great book". Countless sci-fi novels over the years have had romantic elements and female protagonists, yet the "romantic sci-fi" label is relatively new. What are your feelings on the label?

AA: Thanks for calling it a great book! However, they have to shelve it somewhere. It goes in SF&F, so it's nothing more than a marketing angle. The label is designed to appeal to women, and to communicate that there's a romantic element alongside the action / adventure aspect. Since women can be shy about trying out a SF novel because they think it's always about killer robots, I'm fine with calling my books "romantic science fiction."

Along the same lines, are you concerned at all that some potential readers may be put off by Grimspace's categorization?

Not really. Most of them won't even hear about it, and will see it in the SF&F section along with all the other books. If it looks cool, they'll try it out. Once they're hooked, it won't matter what genre it's shelved in.

Grimspace moves along at a breakneck pace and maintains a high level of energy all the way through. As I was reading, it felt like the kind of dramatic ride I take when watching the Star Wars films (the good ones, anyway) play out onscreen. Was the pace intentional, and were there any structural influences from film, sci-fi or otherwise?

The pacing was intentional. I balanced between emotional / relationship arc and action-driven plot. I didn't pattern it after anything structurally, however. I just wrote it. I wanted to take readers on a wild ride, and leave them feeling like they'd been thoroughly entertained when they were done with the book. I did want to invoke the attachment that springs up in really fantastic TV and film SF projects, however. There's a reason people become die-hard fans of such series, and I wanted to see if I could achieve that same effect in books by making the writing very snappy and visual.

An unusually large (to me, anyway) number of characters seemingly meet their makers over the course of Jax's adventure. Were you ever concerned that you were giving too many the axe and cutting off future possibilities?

Not really. There are always prequels! *g* But seriously, I killed the number of people who had to go to make the story work. As countless people will tell you, I never give any thought to anything. Over-thinking will kill a book for me.

With regard to the writing process, you've been quoted in other places as saying that your usual habit is to get down 3000 words a day, to which I bow deeply and tip my hat. Out of curiosity, do you find that you scrap a lot, or do you end up with mostly solid stuff the first time around? More specifically, do you know where you're going before you write?

I actually tend to err on the minimalist side. If my target length is 90K, then I will usually wind up around 80K. I let it sit for a couple weeks, and then I go back through it, fixing obvious mistakes, spackling plot holes and the like. My agent reads it and gives me notes; I repeat the process. My editor reads it and gives me notes; I repeat the process. Then it goes through copy edits, wherein I go through it a final time. During all the polishing, I'll add 10-15K to the book, fleshing out, elaborating, adding to scenes or writing new ones.

So yeah, pretty much everything I write is usable. I seldom cut chunks of a book to make it work. If revisions are proposed, I might rewrite a few scenes inside the manuscript, but I don't really go through cutting extraneous material. Since I write lean, I end up needing more detail. I assume the reader knows stuff that's in my head and then my editor is like, "Ok, we need to see X in order to understand Y." So I make that happen.

I don't plot or outline. I generally have a starting point in mind and an ending point, but I don't know what the heck will happen in getting from point A to point B. It's a lovely adventure.

Do you envision the Jax books as an indefinite series, or do you have an end point in mind for the books, or the character herself?

I have enough plot for at least six books, possibly more, depending on the way certain story arcs play out. I don't have an end point in mind because I don't know what happens to Jax. When I do know, I suppose that'll mark her swan song.

What can you tell me about Wanderlust (Jax book 2) and your upcoming Corine Solomon series? Also, with juggling two series simultaneously, do you have your writing hands full, or are you working on other projects as well?

Well, here's the blurb for Wanderlust:


Sirantha Jax doesn't take chances... she jumps at them…

Sirantha Jax is a "Jumper," a woman who possesses the unique genetic makeup needed to navigate faster than light ships through grimspace. Jax has worked for Farwan Corporation her entire career. But now the word's out that the Corp deliberately crashed a passenger ship, and their stranglehold on intergalactic commerce has crumbled—which means that Jax is out of a job.
She's also broke, due to being declared dead a little prematurely. So when the government asks her to head up a vital diplomatic mission, Jax takes it. Her mandate: journey to the planet Ithiss-Tor and convince them to join the Conglomerate.

But Jax's payday is light years away. First, she'll have to contend with Syndicate criminals, a stormy relationship with her pilot, man-eating aliens, and her own grimspace-weakened body. She'll be lucky just to make it to Ithiss-Tor alive...


It comes out in September. My copy editor said it's better than the first book, impossible to put down. It has some fine writing, fun banter, and plenty of action.

My Corine Solomon series is urban fantasy with a twist. There are no werewolves, no vampires, no fairies. Just human beings, ritual magic, and Powers Above & Below. I'll never write anything without a relationship arc, so it has a romantic thread as well, but Corine's love life won't be settled in the first book.

On my blog you said that you're a fan of BioWare's Mass Effect, the game I selected as my top pick of 2007 and one of only two '10' scores I've awarded in eight years, so you've obviously got superb taste. What's your relationship with videogames? Old-school player or recent convert? What are some of your favorite games and what consoles do you prefer? Any online games activity?

Yes, I do have superb taste! *g* I guess you'd have to call me old school. My first game was Zork; I played it on my neighbor's computer as a kid. I eventually moved up to the Eye of the Beholder games (woo, graphics!) but I didn't own my own computer until after I was out of college. I loved the Baldur's Gate series, and still play both NWN (Neverwinter Nights)1 & 2. Planescape holds the record as being the only game to succeed in making me cry. My favorite games right now are probably (ranked in order): Mass Effect, NWN 2, KotOR (Knights of the Old Republic), Jade Empire, KotOR2. I prefer story over pure action, but I thought Mass Effect struck the perfect balance.

I prefer Xbox 360, mainly because it's hooked up to the giant HDtv, and I get to loll on the couch while trouncing the forces of darkness. I used to play MMOGs, but no longer. I found they suck too much of my time, and I heartily dislike being accountable to other people. If I'm wandering around the house, I want to be able to pause the game and make it wait on me.

Finally, if you had to pick between corn, wheat, or rice knowing that the two not chosen would disappear off the face of the earth forever, which one would you choose, and why?

I'm going to say rice. You can do a lot with it. I can live without bread or corn on the cob, but I don't think I can live without fried rice.

A carton of fried rice and many, many thanks to Ann for the words, and you can catch her at Omegacon happening in Alabama, March 14-16.

…Now click over to Amazon and buy her
book, if you know what’s good for ya.

Monday, March 10, 2008


Hate to blog and run, but it's been a hell of a day and I'm beat. Just a quickie tonight, but more tomorrow. For now...

A quick Books update: Grimspace finishes as good as it starts. Buy it.

Sunday, March 9, 2008

Earrings and Grimspace  

Got slammed with an out-of-the-blue ear infection yesterday morning.

I went to bed the night before feeling fine, and got up with a fire alarm ringing in my right ear. Besides the deafening ringing, there was a lot of pressure in there that made me feel light-headed and spacy all day. I drank a lot of water and took it easy for the most part, even going to bed at a disgustingly early hour.

Needless to say, I didn't get much of anything done yesterday or today for that matter, even though I'm feeling a little better now.

Books: On the plus side, I got a lot of reading done during my convalescence on the couch, and I'm quite glad to recommend Grimspace, by Ann Aguirre.

I tore through half the book in one sitting, very impressed with the strength of the opening and how quickly it drew me in. Telling the story of Sirantha Jax, a "jumper" who enables hyperspace leaps for FTL travel via the perks of having special DNA, the events of the book come fast and furious while accompanied by pleasantly generous doses of characterization that are both satisfying and conducive to the story.

The rest of the crew accompanying her form a rough rogues' gallery of likable faces, and there hasn't been a single page of dead space yet.

I haven't finished reading as of this posting, but based on the sheer strength of what I've seen so far, I've got no reservations at all about recommending it.

Now, back to the couch...

Saturday, March 8, 2008


BIE: I'd been stuck for a while at one plot point that I thought wasn't going to be a big deal, but ended up being fairly crucial to the entire trilogy. I had sort of glossed over it when the thought originally crossed my mind that I'd have to address it, but I skipped ahead and thought I'd just whip out a sentence or two and it would all stick together.

Of course, that was just completely wrong.

After kicking the dilemma around for a week or two and realizing that forward progress on Book Two was going to be basically impossible without filling the hole, I decided that today was going to be the day I'd resolve it.

Had to.

Can't say that every detail has been absolutely ironed out, but I think I came up with something during an afternoon jam session that fits the bill, and I think fits pretty nicely.

At this point, all I can say is... whew! That was a close one...

Thursday, March 6, 2008

Which America's Idol?  

So I'm not gonna talk about this a ton, but I do watch American Idol

I admit it.

I never thought I'd like it, but I got hooked on it last year when they were going through the bizarre freak-show auditions. Some of those people were so insane, so unbelievably grotesque... I just couldn't imagine that there were people like that walking around unsupervised, but there they were... on camera.

I kept watching after that just to see what would happen and before we knew it, the wife and I became regular viewers. Sad but true.

With this year's "good" contestants being whittled down to the final 12 (out of the roughly 100,000 that auditioned) on tonight's episode, we were both particularly struck that one contestant was leaving not because he couldn't sing well enough, but because he was flamingly effeminate and likely destined to be a star on the drag queen circuit.

Danny Norriega has a great voice and is quite entertaining to watch; he's fabulous, he knows it, and he brings it. Unfortunately we were absolutely correct in guessing that he had gone as far as he was going to simply because America wouldn't embrace someone who's obviously homosexual. Based on talent alone, he deserved to make it to the final rounds but my money says that a thick swath of red states had an adverse reaction -- and now he's history. 

Being a white-ish, straight guy with a job, it's not like I'm speaking for alternative America here, but I'm all for acceptance and taking people for what they are. Or in this case, what they can do. I can't help but feel that there were more great performances ahead for Danny, and I'm disappointed that we won't get to see them. 

Maybe it'll all work out. Very few of Idol's "stars" go on to real fame, so maybe Danny's best shot is to go to the nearest metropolis, get some high heels and a sequined dress, and carve himself out a niche in some swanky cabaret instead of battling for the chance to make a weak pop record that will fizzle on the charts.

So long, Danny. If you come to Seattle, the wife and I will buy tickets.  

Wednesday, March 5, 2008

The porkballs do it every time...  

Stayed up way too late last night working on chapter 6 in Behind Infernal Eyes... It ended up coming along pretty well, but I'm dragging tonight and gonna have to turn in early.

Ordinarily I'd make myself power through and keep working, but after a deelishus lunch of grilled vietnamese pork balls and rice at Pho Cyclo, the nap monster snuck up and made me its bitch this afternoon. Anytime I fall asleep in my car (parked, of course) I take it to mean that I'm not getting enough sack time. Since tired time is usually not productive time, I'm making the sacrifice and heading to bed.

P.S., about those pork balls... Ever watch a cartoon like the Flintstones, Scooby-Doo or the Smurfs and notice that the people sometimes eat that brown mystery meat with a bone sticking through both ends of it? I always thought it looked so good on those cartoons, and these pork balls are the real-life equivalent of that cartoon grub.

P.P.S, finding a picture of that cartoon meat is nearly impossible. This lame picture of Beast-Man about to chow down was the best I could do. If anyone can send me a better one, I'd greatly appreciate it.

Tuesday, March 4, 2008

How NOT to do DLC  

Recently I wrote about Overlord for the Xbox 360 geting a new downloadable expansion for the singleplayer campaign called Raising Hell.

I didn’t think the game itself was any great shakes, but it was basically all right.

My wife enjoyed it quite a bit though, so I figured investing a few bucks and seeing what else the developers had to offer would be a good idea, especially since I’m pretty interested in downloadable content (DLC) enhancing games that would otherwise sit on a shelf and gather dust.

After giving Microsoft my money and downloading the file to my 360, I inserted the Overlord disk and went through the motions. Update, activate new content, yadda yadda yadda.

I started the game just to make sure that things were going to run fine and I was greeted by one of the main characters telling me to go investigate some resurgence of evil in the first level.

Everything good so far, I attempted to leave the main castle where the game usually boots up, I found that I could not exit.

I looked around the immediate rooms and saw nothing out of the ordinary and no information in any of the menus telling me what to do. I wandered around for a few moments before realizing that I was completely stuck.

Taking it to be a glitch, I restarted the console and went to the same steps only to arrive at the same problem – I had absolutely no idea how to access the new content I had just paid for, and to top it off, it seemed as though I was absolutely stuck unless I restarted and deactivated the download.

I could find no information on the developer’s website and I wasn’t going to register just to poke around in a futile attempt for a piece of relevant information that probably wasn’t there among the ads for their software and various other bits of info-clutter.

Skipping over to GameFAQs, some clever person had posted a thread about how to actually use the new DLC and scanning further on, I saw more than a handful of threads asking the very same question. I clearly wasn’t the only person who was confused about what exactly was going on with this.

It turns out that for some reason after installing the DLC, the game does not recognize whether the final boss has already been defeated, and requires the player to go back and re-defeat him before gaining access to the material that’s already been paid for.

This might not have been a big deal except for two things:

1> Fighting the boss is a pain in the ass, and if I’ve already earned the achievements for beating the game and watched the credits roll, it shouldn’t be a difficult thing to detect whether or not I’ve already done so.

2> If the developers knew that re-defeating a boss that I didn’t even know was made active again was going to be required to actually use the new content they sold me, why the hell didn’t they bother to tell me how to get to the new bits in the first place?

Codemasters, if you’re reading this… you cocked your DLC up, royally. I shouldn’t have to repeat parts of the game I’ve already finished to get to something I’ve just paid for. Furthermore, I shouldn’t have to go to GameFAQs to actually figure out how the content works or where it went when I downloaded it.

Get it straight, people. This isn’t rocket science. If you're going to sell me a product, I expect that it will come with the necessary instructions on its use, at the very least. What you did with this Overlord DLC was exactly the wrong way to do it, and you’ve turned what should have been a quick and enjoyable fee-for-goods exchange into a headache and an annoyance.

Good show.

Monday, March 3, 2008

Nothin' Much  

Nothin' much today... just recovering from a weekend that was blown to hell with multiple work calls between the wife and myself, and we didn't really get the downtime we were looking for. Our internal melatonin levels must now be way off or something, because for some odd reason it felt like it was 10AM all day until about 6PM... when it started to feel more like 3AM. 

But enough rambling, here's some more rambling:

Games: Finished my review of No More Heroes today. Spent a little extra time on it since it's not really the style I usually write in, but I think it's okay. You folks can be the judge once it goes up.

Besides that, I finally started Metroid Prime 3: Corruption on the Wii. This was the only game I had left to try in terms of examining the various Wii control setups and now that I've put a few hours into it, I can say with confidence that the Wiimote doesn't do a damn thing a standard controller doesn't except give me major arm strain and the hassle of trying to hit the crosskey, + and - buttons on a unit that wasn't designed to have them actually see use in real-life gameplay.   

Seriously people, let's just all admit it... the Wiimote may have been a neat idea, but there isn't a single game on the Wii that wouldn't be at least as good or better with a regular controller. (And for those of you who love swinging the damn thing around just for the "fun" of it, more power to you, and the short bus loads on the north corner of the campus.)

Anyway, Metroid's controls are completely irritating. With "looking" mapped to the Wiimote, every time I scratch my nose or shrug my shoulders, the camera view goes all screwy. Toss in using the lame buttons to activate "scan" mode and the pause menu, and you've got the best possible control setup on an inferior controller. I'm supposed to think this is a great advantage and an improvement in playing this game... why?

Film: Watched Stardust with the wife tonight. Hadn't heard much except that it was positioned as the next "Princess Bride", but let me tell you... After watching it, all I can say is that although the film may have had aspirations of being a new fantasy classic, it sure ain't. A meandering, nonsensical plot, miscast actors, and a severe lack of charm or wit added up to a boring, unimpressive, dreary and self-important embarrassment that is quite possibly Robert DeNiro's worst performance ever. And yes, I did see those Ben Stiller films.

...And WOW, does Claire Danes have one major case of man-face. She's supposed to be some dreamy celestial princess? A nagging, bony transvestite, more like it. 

Saturday, March 1, 2008

Pinch Hitters  

I had a completely different post prepped and ready to go for today but, as usual, life tossed a monkey wrench into the works and it’s going to have to be postponed until another day.

…So, Plan B.

Games: Finished the Wii’s No More Heroes today. A truly bizarre title from any angle, I plan on cobbling together a review that’s as unconventional as the game itself is. In a nutshell, NMH tells the fervently nihilistic story of Travis Touchdown, a socially inept otaku who buys a real, working light saber online and then proceeds to become the top-ranked assassin in the world.

It’s adult, it’s deranged, and there’s more than a lot wrong with it… but at the same time, there are certain rays of brilliance that are impossible to deny. I’m still sort of kicking around a few ideas, but when the final piece is done I’ll link to it here.

Comics: I haven’t done a comics rundown in a while, so I thought it would be good grist for today's mill.

Ghost Rider: Still crap, but the book just got a new writer and this writer seems to be aware of its craptastic status. I’m hoping that they will get off of the completely insipid angel/devil storyline they’ve been on for the last arc and get back to some grittier stuff.

Simon Dark: Still hasn’t taken off yet, but the last page of issue five seems to suggest that big events are on the way. I like the visuals, but the story is frankly, quite boring so far… I’ll give it one or two more before quitting if things don’t improve.

Terror, Inc.: Now, this is pretty interesting. I recapped the story about a constantly-decomposing warrior in modern times working as a mercenary in a previous post, but as I was flipping through the pages of issue two, I noticed that this particular character had been created by Dan Chichester, Margaret Clark, and Klaus Janson. I did not know this previously, and had no knowledge of it when I originally picked up the first issue. I just sort of saw the book on the shelf and it caught my eye for some reason…

I’m a huge Chichester fan from his work on some past Marvel titles, especially some of the smaller niche books that basically failed at retail and died a quick death. Janson is extremely well-known in comic circles, and although I’m not familiar with Clark, I’m sure she’s somebody special, too.

In any event, I found it completely fascinating that I picked this particular book out of a shelf of several hundred and two creators that I love had a hand in it. It made me start to wonder if there was some sort of subliminal recognition going on that drew me to the book in the first place… maybe it’s one of those mysterious powers of the brain that scientists need to hurry up and start studying.

Anyway, it’s cool book.

Fables TPB 3: Storybook Love: After being turned on to Fables by Nightdreamer, I was very glad to see that the books are regularly kept in stock by my local comic shop owner. He’s a pretty cool guy and when we were discussing this series, he mentioned that most people like the first TPB (trade paperback, a collection of single issues) but that they love the second. I sort of found the opposite to be true, but now that I’ve gotten to number three, I think this one trumps both of the earlier books. I was a little hesitant to buy into the concept of Fables in the first place (basically, a giant mix of fairytale characters exist together in New York) but I have to say that it’s definitely quality work.

Death Note 3: Last but not least, another book that Nightdreamer suggested, and it was a good one. I’ve been out of anime/manga circles for several years, but this story has definitely get me coming back for more even though it does have some of the same silliness and outlandish elements that Japanese creators don’t seem to blink twice at. Evidently, the series has become quite popular and even has an animated series which has been receiving raves. If any of you have other manga recommendations that are at least as good if not better than this, drop me a line.

Have We Met?  

I've been kind of scattered today… various events in the week combined with waking up in the morning and feeling exhausted to have caught up with me, and a mid-day nap taken out of necessity pretty much destroyed the rest of my afternoon. Of course, it’s well past midnight at the time I write this, and I'm w-i-d-e awake and feeling productive now.

Go figure.

Anyway, a random sort of idea that has occurred to me a couple times in the past few weeks is that there seemed to be a finite number of types of people in the world. I don't mean personality types, but that there are actually a specific number of variations in the types of combinations of physical appearance/personality that can naturally occur.

For example, my work has taken me to high schools recently, and although I graduated more than a decade ago, it seems to me that the people who are in school now are carbon copies of the people that I went to school with back then. The same social classes, the same sorts of styles… the jocks still look like the jocks, the outcasts still look like the outcasts, and so on. These people seem to be living the exact same school experience that I had, and probably the same one that generations had before me.

Going further, I'll be walking down the street and I’ll see someone who has a strong facial resemblance to somebody I've already met. Most often, their taste in clothing will be similar and I'm quite tempted to somehow try to find out if the personalities also follow the same track. I wouldn't be at all surprised to find out that they do.

The phrase ‘there’s nothing new under the sun’ seems to ring especially true in this regard and as much as we all like to think that we are individuals carving out our own path in life, the cynic (and quasi-naturalist) in me wants to call bullshit on that.

My dog, Bacon, is a Boston terrier. If you had asked me a few months ago, I would have said that he had a distinct personality with lots of weird little quirks that only he had. However, I've seen quite a few other Bostons in my neighborhood, and not only do they look almost exactly alike in physical appearance, I've seen a lot of my dog’s traits mirrored in these other animals. My conclusion? These terriers are hardly individuals, but little more than clones acting out their preprogrammed behaviors for our amusement.

Taking it to the next level, who's to say that we're all not clones ourselves, just with a greater number of possible phenotypes? It's entirely likely that each one of us is doing the exact same sort of preprogrammed behaviors and thinking the same sort of thoughts -- even living the same sorts of lives -- that our progenitors did.

It'd kinda take all the fun out of getting that tongue ring to be a rebel if you knew that the same thing had been done by your earlier copies all throughout humanity's history, wouldn't it?