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Best Game Developer's Conference Ever

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This GDC was by far the most interesting that I have ever (virtually) attended. There were still a few yawn-inspiring panels, but there were also a dozen retrospectives by key developers for some of the most noteworthy games of all time. If you haven't been following the coverage, following is a consolidated list of the most interesting entries, with links.

  • Nintendo President and CEO Satoru Iwata (Balloon Fight, EarthBound, Kirby) - What, you didn't know he was a former programmer?
  • Toru Iwatani (Pac-Man, yes, THAT Pac-Man) - Never made any money beyond his salary for Pac-Man; just another employee. Now he's a college professor.
  • David Braben (Elite) - You may have never heard of it, but Elite was obscenely popular in PC Game circles in the mid-80's. It was way ahead of its time, and you should read up on it if you're interested in game history and development.
  • Cliff Bleszinski (Jazz Jackrabbit, Unreal) - "Cliffy B" seems like a guy that loves every minute of doing what he's doing, and nowhere else at GDC will you find the quote, "glory hole simulator."
  • Jordan Mechner (Prince of Persia) - Rotoscope work had been few and far between prior to Prince of Persia, which looked absolutely amazing from an animation standpoint at its launch as a result. His story of its development is fascinating.
  • Peter Molyneux (Populous, Black & White, Fable) - Molyneux is a tool, but he's made some pretty amazing games. The original Fable underdelivered based on what he promised, but was still a great game in its own right. His insight into the development of Populous - one of my favorite titles growing up - is interesting, as he took a programming challenge and turned it into a game mechanic.
  • John Romero (Commander Keen, Wolfenstein 3D, Doom, Hexen, and Tom Hall (Rise of the Triad, Terminal Velocity, Duke Nukem 3D, Commander Keen, Deus Ex) - This retrospective on Doom seems terribly short; I would have thought there'd be a bit more meat to a game that was defining at the time.
  • Mark Cerny (Marble Madness, Kid Chameleon, Crash Bandicoot, Spyro) - "...he and his brother set out to do a 3D, real-time, first-person shooter role-playing game that would use vector art and hidden-line wireframe graphics. Seeing as it was still 1977, the project was wildly ambitious and never got off the ground." So he made a game about Marbles.
  • Ed Boon (Mortal Kombat) - Sure, he's made tons of Mortal Kombat titles, but I'm still holding out hope for a Smash TV sequel. This was mostly an advertisement for the latest in the sequel, but still enjoyable, if only for the brief insight into his take on DLC.
  • Yu Suzuki (After Burner, Out Run, Hang On, Virtua Fighter, Shenmue) - Suzuki is a tremendously optimistic, positive person, and it's really encouraging to hear him talk about how having Virtua Fighter picked up as its own brand was a good thing, among other notes.
  • Tom Chilton (World of Warcraft) - It's tough to imagine now, but Blizzard was terrified of screwing up Azeroth, and this is an interesting piece primarily for gamers that have played World of Warcraft at some point.
  • Tommy Refenes (Super Meat Boy) - His retrospective is every bit as irreverent as Super Meat Boy, which I personally found sophomoric but which most folks will love.

Editorial - Sometimes it's okay to be stupid

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Croteam has made only one game that matters to U.S. gamers: Serious Sam. Make no mistake, Serious Sam is stupid, stupid, stupid. You run around and kill stuff, usually harpies, headless suicide bombers, skeleton things, weirdo aliens, and other bizarre creatures. They come at you in hundreds, and your job is to shoot them en masse. The game is dumb; dumb and unusually satisfying! You would think that after killing your thousandth demon-like creature that it'd get repetitive, but it doesn't. You dole out punishment with a zen-like efficiency that leaves you with a sense of accomplishment and inner calm. Oh, and you save the world. The only thing missing is Shia LaBeouf.

[video=cHZnljut5bsEuzHY]

A perfect example of cIassic Serious Sam gameplay. Highly intellectual stuff.

The thing is: It's okay to be stupid. It's okay to be the third expansion of the eighth sequel so long as the game is fun to play. Every title doesn't have to introduce revolutionary new gameplay. Sure, you can argue that Wolfenstein 3D, Doom, Goldeneye 007, Quake, and Halo and are all completely different games, but at the end of the day the goal is to look your enemy in the eye and blow it out the back of his (or her) head. Or shoot them in the back. Or the crotch (weirdo). Sometimes there's a bunch of plot, you have to acquire a keycard, pass a checkpoint, or destroy a particular asset; but in most first-person shooters you've still got to mow down your enemies be it with a sniper rifle, minigun, or OMGLZRBEAMS.

Unreal Tournament 3 isn't a whole hell of a lot different from Unreal Tournament unless you consider the loss of "double-jumping" revolutionary. Once you figure out how to move around and press the left and right mouse buttons to fire, you're combat-ready for the most part. Everything afterwards is refinement, skill, and eye-candy. But I love eye candy!

Sure they're basically the same, but which would you rather play?

When Epic Games inevitably releases its fourth Unreal Engine, followed closely by a new Unreal Tournament title to showcase its pretty, pretty ponies (not to mention milk my pocket), I'll be lined up for purchase because:

  • After 8 - 12 hours in my cubicle, it's fun to mindlessly exterminate my enemies
  • I like shiny new graphics.
  • I like Unreal Tournament
  • I'm good at its predecessors

Do not think I am referring only to FPS: The Command and Conquer series, The Sims, Marvel vs. Capcom, Gran Turismo, and all sorts of other genres aren't exactly breaking new ground, but I can still eke some enjoyment out of their new features, graphical updates, new songs, and other incremental improvements.

And to be quite frank, our wallets have spoken: We love stupid sequels. YOU love stupid sequels, and it's okay to love them, even the mediocre ones; you're in good company. After all, so long as you're having fun, what do you care what anyone else thinks?


-Disclosure-

Opinions and speculation of and by Bozanimal are his own and not those of Gamespot.com or its affiliates. Bozanimal is not a Gamespot employee, and is not affiliated with any gaming companies in any way.

Several links within this article may lead to external sites. Neither Bozanimal nor host Gamespot.com or affiliates are responsible for the content of those sites.

Gaming - Top 5 Most Anticipated Titles of 2011

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I do not buy a lot of games. The last game I purchased was Cataclysm, which doesn't really count because its purpose is to allow you to continue playing a game you already own. Prior to that was the Command & Conquer Saga, which includes all the C&C titles through Command & Conquer 3, and I'm just starting to get through Generals. Sure, I own lots of games, but they're old; in some cases really old. Further, I only own a PC and a Wii, the former of which covers my "hardcore" titles like FPS (first-person shooter) and RTS (real-time strategy) titles, and the latter of which I can play with my wife and possibly grab a platformer like Super Mario Galaxy.

Even still, I rarely purchase games - even awesome games - for a lot of reasons. Unquestionably the top is the excessive DRM (Digital Rights Management) that producers embed in most of the best titles available for PC, namely but not limited to Bioshock, Mass Effect (also why you'll notice Mass Effect 3 curiously absent), and Dead Space. As someone that prefers great original IPs (Intellectual Properties) over sequels, I've missed out on some top-notch titles.

That being said there are some awesome originals coming, some reboots, and one sequel in my top five this year, and for good reasons: You should keep an eye on them too.


Duke Nukem Forever

This game has been vaporware for over a decade, but the trailer looks to be chock full of all the goodies of the original: Guns, sex, violence, humor, and nudity. To be honest, all I'm hoping for is Serious Sam with virtual hotties. We can assume the trailer is showcasing the best aspects of the game, but the modified Unreal 2.5 Engine is showing signs of its age. Bah, who cares: It's got girls kissing! Tee hee!

[video=6286745]

On a side note, one of the more amusing aspects of Duke Nukem is that a mostly-finished trailer was shown back in the day (circa 2001) at the Electronics Entertainment Expo. It looks a lot like typical titles at the time; Goldeneye and Command & Conquer Renegade. One has to wonder what happened to this older iteration of the game.

[video=2761751]


Rage

I've been watching this since 2007 but, to be honest, I'm not really sure what Rage is about. I do know it's a FPS (first-person shooter) with some vehicle sequences in a Mad Max looking environment (when is the kid with the boomerang going to pop up?), but what I'm really going on is John Carmack and the idtech5 engine. The man has the Midas touch in gaming, and whatever is going on here has to be good at the least. The idtech5 engine also looks to be an impressive step forward graphically, allowing for some very, very impressive visuals, which is saying a lot considering how amazing are the latest Unreal engine and CryEngine 3 engine graphics.

I'm also secretly hoping that he'll get Rage over and done with and revive the Commander Keen series.

[video=6299656]


Alice: Madness Returns

I admit it: I am a sucker for surreal fantasy environments. Mirrormask, Pan's Labyrinth, Coraline, Stardust; it doesn't matter if it's good or bad, if it has a heavily atmospheric and potentially magical environment, I'm in. American McGee made Alice into a Goth's delight back in 2000. The game was decent, but the visuals and art direction were fantastic. The trailer and stills for the upcoming revival look to be every bit as wonderfully twisted as the original.

[video=6299095]


The Legend of Zelda: Skyward Sword

It is with some trepidation that I await the latest adventure of Link. The last title left me with a bad taste in my mouth as puzzles often gave way to chores of "collect x of y objects" mini quests. Those sub-tasks might have been more forgivable if not for the awful motion-controls shoehorned into the Wii version.

Whining aside, I have high hopes for my favorite gaming franchise. The visuals of The Wind Waker were by far my personal favorite in the series. The return to some degree of cel shading, but applied to a more adult Link, is welcome. The extensive puzzles, great stories, and epic boss fights have me eagerly awaiting further details.

[video=6266142]


Dead Island

Dead Island is a complete wildcard for me, not being a huge zombie horror gamer simply because zombie horror has been done to death, re-risen, killed again, sown back up and risen- *cough*

Anyway, developer Techland only really has Call of Juarez as a release worth mention under its belt, and publisher Deep Silver has a very mixed lineup of titles that include the "Let's Play" series for Nintendo. So why do I care?

The trailer is, quite simply, amazing; it's that good. Maybe this was a completely freakish alignment of the stars in favor of Dead Island, but it was interesting enough to have me dedicating some time to monitoring Techland. Even if it is just a zombie game, if the storytelling is anywhere near as good as the trailer, we're going to have a gem in our hands by year-end.

[video=6299756]



But where the heck is...

[video=6285902]

Batman Arkham City - Its predecessor used SecuROM and Disk Check for DRM, so I expect the sequel to be the same.

Gears of War 3 - As a XBox 360 exclusive, it's not possible for me to play. I would probably really, really enjoy GoW; it's got everything I like in an FPS.

Mass Effect 3 - The prior versions used SecuROM for DRM, so I expect the sequel to be the same.

Mortal Kombat and Marvel vs. Capcom 3 - To be honest, when it comes to fighters I'm just pooped out. I was playing the original Street Fighter 2 and its predecessors all the way through Marvel vs. Capcom 2 in the arcade back when playing in an arcade was relevant, and playing at home just isn't the same for me, even online. As much as I lust for the feelings I got playing the original Samurai Shodown and Mortal Kombat 2 in the arcade, they just lost that magic somewhere along the way. It's sad to admit because I still have most of the specials, supers, and finishing moves memorized - even the Babalities and Friendships - but it's true.

Star Wars: The Old Republic (MMORPG) - I am a huge Star Wars fan and World of Warcraft player - a pretty typical geek - so this deserves a little explanation. For one, I have been unable to find anything truly revolutionary in SW:TOR from a traditional MMORPG outside the lore. While it'd be great to hit the "one" button to melee with my light saber instead of my sword, or dogfight in Tie Fighters, I can already do those things in other titles that I currently own (Dark Forces II, Tie Fighter). Further, I am already heavily invested in World of Warcraft; if I want to go back to a Tank/Heal/DPS format with professions and all the other MMORPG stuff that Bioware will be reproducing, I would just go back to World of Warcraft. MMORPGs also require a lot of refinement on an ongoing basis: Blizzard continues to balance cIasses and adjust abilities - sometimes daily - almost eight years since its introduction. I expect SW:TOR to require a ton of balancing and patching after its initial release, and its heavy similarity to a game I already love and in which I am already vested has me shrugging at the newest video game in the Star Wars universe. I am happy to wait as long as it takes for Dark Forces III.

infamous 2 - As a PS3 exclusive, it's not possible for me to play; looks great, though.

The Last Guardian - As a PS3 exclusive, it's not possible for me to play. This is one I would probably really enjoy, though.

Uncharted 3: Drake's Deception - As a PS3 exclusive, it's not possible for me to play. The trailer makes me want to dig up Tomb Raider, though.

Triplets - Better with age

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The first two years of child rearing suck, particularly with multiples. That might not make print in most publications, but there really is no better term: It sucks. I am at a complete loss as to why parents of a single child would elect to have more. Certainly singleton moms (the term we parents of multiples use to describe normal one-at-a-timers) have it easier by comparison, but everyone still experiences lost sleep, panic over their every sniffle, and anger over their children's obstinance, particularly in getting them to eat. Gestation is stressful both on the mind and body of the mother, and brutal to the wallet and time of both parents. You will fight with the person you care about most in the world. You will no longer be able to enjoy certain hobbies and past-times. So why do people keep having kids?

[video=JnNllmP55bMPvTXW]

Because sometime after they hit two they evolve like a Pokémon. They cannot breath fire or blast their opponents with high-pressure water cannons (thank God), but they are more effective communicators. They are better able to describe their aches and pains, so you can treat them more effectively. You know what makes them laugh. You chase them and, sometimes, vice-versa. You can play games; real games, like hide-and-seek. They start pooping in a toilet instead of their pants. They will play by themselves so you can get some things done around your hovel. You have an excuse to jump in the ball pit again; this time without anyone asking you to leave the premises. You can even (occasionally) leave them with loved ones for short periods of time in an attempt to reconnect with your spouse (or meet a new one depending on how those first two years went).

[video=cnY1xjSs5bMPvTXX]

This is not to say that things get easy - they don't - but life does get better, and much, much more rewarding.

Gaming - World of Warcraft Account Suspended

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I have gone ahead and logged out of World of Warcraft for a bit. It was not due to addiction, the prodding of my spouse, or my desire to cut costs:

  • I want to focus on other priorities
  • Cataclysm has been disappointing

It's almost like Deathwing is mocking me

Other priorities
My wife, kids, house, mortgage, holidays, job, and other chores and appointments of my life were not a major issue when it came to World of Warcraft. It was all of those things and my recent need to obtain licensing with FINRA in accordance with compliance requirements at my place of business. I have been putting it off for too long, not wanting to take the tests again. I took them nearly ten years ago and passed, but the licenses expired after my prior employer refused to renew them. Now something has to give to find the time to study for my Series 7, 66, 51, and 24. In addition to being required for my current job, they make me significantly more marketable in the financial markets in the event I have to go job hunting for any reason.

Cataclysm is disappointingly awesome
The entire game has become much more "grindy" feeling despite its storied history of being exactly that. Log in once you've hit the level cap and you will likely run twenty daily quests for reputation with various factions, level up your professions, farm for gear...it might be the same old formula, but somehow it became more tired even as it has became more polished.

The quests are better, the world more beautiful, the interface more intuitive, and the cIass changes more interesting: But underneath it all the formulas are the same. Tank, heal, and/or deal damage, farm rep/professions/gear, raid for more gear, enchant/gem/kit your gear; it's all just so many chores that began to feel more Harvest Moon than Dungeon Siege.

It is also significantly more time-consuming as a damage-dealing cIass to run dungeons with random people, one of the activities I most enjoyed in the prior expansion.

There is more to be said, but that covers the basics in a short span. A break is needed, is all, at least for a couple months.

Editorial - Kinect DOA Revisited

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I wanted to review my doom and gloom forecast for the Kinect to see how well Microsoft has been doing in the wake of reported Black Friday sales.

What we know

  • 2,500,000 units sold thus far
  • Another 2,500,000 units projected to sell by year-end
  • Retail price is $150
  • Hardware costs of ~$56/unit
  • Marketing campaign budget of $500,000,000

If 5 million units sell by year-end that would be $750 million in gross sales excluding new XBox360 unit sales (we cannot within reason make an estimate of profitability from bundle sales with current info). Less hardware costs of ~$56/unit, that brings us to an estimated $470 million in net. Less their marketing budget Microsoft is in the hole for about ($30 million) at year-end. This seems pretty good, in my opinion.

What we DON'T know

  • Retail costs (Gamestop, Best Buy, and Amazon's cut)
  • Distribution costs (Shipping from the manufacturer, trucking to various retailers, etc.)
  • Development costs
  • Software developer support costs
  • Original software development and marketing (retail packaging, boxing, print, etc; may be built into the marketing budget)

Kinect doing better than expected

Given available information - and we don't know a lot - Microsoft actually seems to be in pretty good shape. Hitting that five million units by year-end 2010 target would appear to offset most of their hardware and marketing costs, and put them in a good position to reach profitability on the Kinect in 2011. I am surprised given all the reasons I mentioned that folks - not just a few, but millions - are dropping $150 on a luxury item that has so many pre-existing requirements (Xbox 360, space to operate, games to play), but the holidays are a time of generosity, making the surprise a happy one for many gamers, I'm sure!

Good luck to Microsoft!


-Disclosure-

Opinions and speculation of and by Bozanimal are his own and not those of Gamespot.com or its affiliates. Bozanimal is not a Gamespot employee, and is not affiliated with any gaming companies in any way.

Several links within this article may lead to external sites. Neither Bozanimal nor host Gamespot.com or affiliates are responsible for the content of those sites.

XBox 360 Kinect: Dead On Arrival?

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"Kinect will launch with a wide variety of games which support accessible, easy-to-pick-up motion sensor games for the whole family." -Gamespot, Kinect Launch Center

Make no mistake, Microsoft wants a piece of the Wii crowd bad. Even the player avatars in "Kinect Adventures" look like a cross between Miis and the art styIe of The Incredibles. That's understandable considering the success of the Wii system and its peripherals.

However, the Kinect has a lot of challenges to overcome:

The Wii Exists - Microsoft is late to the field of motion-sensitive gaming. Families interested in a console that the whole family can enjoy together and gamers interested in motion-sensitive gaming have already adopted the Wii at this point. It's been four years since its launch, after all, and it included its motion-sensitive controls with its system. At best Microsoft can hope to benefit from families that already own an XBox 360 without a Wii that want to play motion-sensitive games, but not buy another console. For $150, though, you can almost buy a new Wii, which brings us to...

Cost - Kinect is $150 bundled with the minigame compilation Kinect Adventures. For anyone that can afford to drop $200 to $300 or more for the console itself, this might not seem like a huge outlay. But the Kinect's closest relative is probably Wii Fit, which retails at half the price at $75 now. In absolute terms it's not exactly peanuts either. For the same price a gamer could buy three brand new games, two collector's editions of mainstream titles, or a half-dozen or more used games. It also buys a little over 700 diapers. Just saying.

Lack of titles - There are a little over a dozen titles that will support Kinect in the coming months, most of which also offer controller support. If you played The Legend of Zelda: The Twilight Princess or - Horror! - owned a U-Force, you know how awkward shoe-horning motion controls into a game can be. I doubt that Kinect support is the first priority for developers of Child of Eden and Forza Motorsport 4. The launch titles for Kinect are mostly underwhelming, and that a game designed for children, Kinectimals, has received the most praise is particularly telling.

[video=6283069]

  • Kinect Adventures - GS N/A - This is the Kinect's Wii Sports; it looks okay, though plugging holes in an underwater elevator does not hold the same appeal to me as bowling and the golf equivalent of lawn darts. The fact that Wii Sports was great and highly accessible practically sold the console, which otherwise might have been dismissed as a gimmick.
  • Kinectimals - GS 7.5 - If you have difficulty imagining a more annoying avatar than Jar Jar Binks or Scrappy Doo, then look no further than Kinectimals' Bumble. After ten seconds of hearing his on-screen banter in Gamespot's video preview of Kinect I wanted to strangle a kitten, but then, I have aggression issues. To be sure, my kids would probably love this game, as did many Gamespot staffers, but I am not sure the pre-teen demographic is going to move Kinects off the shelves. Kevin VanOrd really enjoys it, so I question my initial impression.
  • Kinect Joyride - GS N/A - I love racing games, and Kinect Joyride looks like no exception. You can see in the Gamespot video, however, just how awkward driving a car without a steering wheel can be; I'll stick to my wheel or controller for the time being.
  • Kinect Sports - GS 7.5 - There is no golf in this package. Whenever I discuss the Wii with white-collar players - business executives in the finance world - they inevitably bring up the golfing aspect of the Wii. The included Soccer and Table Tennis might move units overseas, but in the States we love Football, Baseball, Basketball, Hockey, and Golf. It might be a good game, but will it move Kinect units?
  • Your Shape Fitness Evolved (Ubisoft) - GS N/A - The best part of this game was watching Kevin VanOrd Hula Hoop, which simultaneously made me love and never want to play the game. Ever. Kevin says, "As a fat person I wanna say this is one of those things that makes you feel fatter when you do it." Expect a few people to pick it up with noble ambitions to get in shape, only to drop it like a Thighmaster a few months later.
  • Dance Central - GS 8.5 - As a huge DDR fan, this actually looked really fun, and I have nothing critical to say. If the Kinect actually achieves its sales goals, I am convinced it will be due to this title alone. Further, watching the GS staff play - particularly Ricardo's FreestyIe - was fantastic. It also made me really want a job at Gamespot.

Buggy Hardware - It was recently discovered that the Kinect hardware has more difficulty detecting the face of dark-skinned faces (Source). From a public relations standpoint it is certainly not helpful, but this type of issue is usually resolved through either a hardware fix or a software patch. This does have the potential of blowing up if the problem turns out to be widespread or it gets picked up in the general media, but the idea that Microsoft or the hardware itself are somehow racist is preposterous.

Also, note that one of the Gamespot editors noted some minor lag in detecting player movement, though he believed it was more likely coding than an actual hardware issue.

A Bad Economy - Never underestimate the economy. Video games themselves are expensive, and peripherals are always a tougher sell than software. Unfortunately, games are not selling well (Source), and it seems likely to be a tough holiday season for the gaming industry unless employment numbers improve in the next month.

Aging Hardware - The XBox 360 wasn't exactly released yesterday: The customer base for the current generation of consoles is relatively established at this point. New systems continue to be sold, but it is unlikely (at best) that those sales are coming from people who have just discovered the system, and even less likely that folks are going to buy a new system because they've fallen in love with Kinect. The Kinect needs to be adopted by current XBox 360 owners to really succeed. In my experience that means it needs a solid, hardcore title with the visibility of a Halo or Call of Duty.

Lack of tactile feedback - The Wii and PS3 implementations of motion controls have physical controllers that provide a certain amount of feedback when you hit a pothole or get shot. That subtle feedback fools our senses to some degree. Anyone that had an N64 controller with a Rumble Pack will tell you, they always changed its batteries. Not as big a deal for dance games, but potentially a big deal for racing, shooters, and hand-to-hand combat titles.

Kinect requires space - Kinect requires a minimum of six feet between you and the sensors, and eight feet for two players. This immediately excludes many gamers that are perhaps stuck in a dorm room or similar situations with limited space.

Tinfoil Hat On
Say what you will about Microsoft, the firm has made its mistakes, but it employs some of the most brilliant people in the world, and is unquestioningly successful in a variety of markets. Unfortunately, when you put all those bright people in a room they can do stupid things. Just ask Agent K:

"A person is smart. People are dumb, panicky, dangerous animals and you know it."

In this case, though, I do not think Microsoft is being stupid. The money they have sunk into development of Kinect - the technology - will pay dividends down the road if they play their cards right. To this end, I believe they have made a tactical error in deploying Kinect during the current generation of consoles, but have strategically set the stage to dominate the next generation of consoles if they play their cards right.

For additional thoughts on the Kinect from the Gamespot Editors, visit this link.


-Disclosure-

Opinions and speculation of and by Bozanimal are his own and not those of Gamespot.com or its affiliates. Bozanimal is not a Gamespot employee, and is not affiliated with any gaming companies in any way.

Several links within this article may lead to external sites. Neither Bozanimal nor host Gamespot.com or affiliates are responsible for the content of those sites.

Triplets: Two years, six months on

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Most parents will tell you that the time flies by when you have kids. "They grow up so fast!" For me it has been just the opposite: The days are long, and usually very, very difficult. This is not to say life with three two-and-a-half year olds is not rewarding, because it is, but that I do not miss the passing days as does the typical singleton parent. I do not miss the time when they were learning to walk. I do not miss the sleepless nights, endless spit-ups, intolerable wailing from being sick, the trials of getting them in-and-out of the minivan, the strain on our marriage, and everything else that goes along with being a parent of three kids the same age.

Shortly after coming home from the hospital

As I said, it keeps getting better. They became fun the day they turned two. I'm not sure who flicked the switch, but where we once had three little things that consumed and complained incoherently, now we have three interactive, often warm, interesting little people. They're still an often unbearable burden - particularly for my wife - but at least we can play together rather than playing at them. We ask where it hurts, and they answer. We ask if they need to potty, and they tell us. We ask what happened when they are crying, and they let us know. We tell them we're going to the park, and they get excited. They love diggers, animals, planes, trains, Diego, family, friends, food, and just about everything else you could think of, and that joy rubs off.

A little less than a year old

At the end of each day I am happy that they are finally in their beds and I get some quiet time. I particularly enjoy Wednesday nights, which have been reserved as "date night" with my wife. The time still doesn't "go by so fast," and I do not miss any day before the one that I'm in, but that's a good thing. Now, instead, I look forward to every day ahead of me, because it just keeps getting better.

Recently, in downtown Boston

Humor - For the love of Leia

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It is difficult to imagine a more impressive costume than the one worn by Carrie Fisher during her brief tenure as slave to Jabba the Hut. By that I mean it made a serious impression on anyone who saw Fisher in it.

Fisher and her stunt-double on Jabba's sail barge

Princess Leia Organa was arguably a sex symbol even before Return of the Jedi, but if there had ever been any doubt, stripping her to what amounted to a bikini (if that) immortalized her. Pre-pubescent boys everywhere who had never even thought about girls as anything more than icky-cootie faces suddenly decided that there was nothing cooler than cooties. In fact, it was time to give more thought to cooties, and just how awesome cooties might be. In the future those boys would search Thinkgeek.com for slave costumes in the sizes of their wives (and subsequently swear them to secrecy). Their wives would secretly love having a slave Leia costume.

Meanwhile, every generation of man and woman who watched Star Wars thereafter has been equally awestruck by the power of the costume. Indeed, one might argue that Fisher's costume holds significantly more power than The Force. Certainly the costume was able to play a mind trick on many, many young women attending Comic-Con this year to the appreciation of every single man (and likely more than a few women) in attendance.

Comic-Con had its Leia fans

How Return of the Jedi ever got a PG rating is beyond my ability to comprehend, but God bless the Motion Picture Association of America on that one.

Correction: Comic-Con had MANY Leia fans


Index of Humor Entries