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GeekyDad Blog

It's the end of the world...and I feel fine. (Or how consumerism marches on.)

So, we're now living in the "new world" I suppose, since yesterday marked the end of the world as we knew it. Not feeling much different. As a matter of fact, the end of the world didn't stop consumerism one iota. The desperate dash to buy more "stuff" continued on with fierce ambition, and I'm ready for the holiday to be history.

In the wake of a mass-shooting tragedy (and the tragedy of the media using the tragedy as a vehicle for yet more media consumption), as well as a myriad of other imminent concerns in the world, the focus is still sharply on getting enough crap to put under a tree.

I know, every year someone has to Scrooge all over Christmas, but really, does it not feel dirty to you yet? Is it that easy to forget about the needs of the many so that the avarice of the few can battle it out over a Doc McStuffin doll?

I love waking up in the morning and seeing what my wife put in my stocking, and I love seeing my kids' enjoyment when they check their stockings and open their gifts. And I don't blame anybody (we're all in this together, after all) for the nastiness that accompanies the holidays. But I'll be good God damned if I won't shout at the devil. The holidays are mostly a decadent orgy of consumption, and the bad has long been outweighing the good of this literally pagan holiday (no, Jesus wasn't born in the winter -- check your Bibles -- nor would he trample old ladies to get to a toy). Jesus wasn't a bully. Jesus wasn't greedy. Jesus wasn't blasse. And I don't think he would want anything to do with Christmas.

Happy End of the World!

New family member

Earlier this year, as we were readying to move, our poor little Filly boy -- our ferret -- became sickly, and shortly after the move in May, he passed away. We still all get emotional whenever talking about him, as he was a joyous part of our family. And he will always be celebrated here in our house.

Yesterday, though, we invited a new member into our family, Bandit, a little Boston terrier given to us by one of my wife's co-workers. Just in the one day he's been here, he's been a real joy. We estimate him to be about 8-months old, and he has been having some bathroom issues, but it's all good. He's taken to us immediately and is incredibly affectionate.

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My poor wife was up with him for a good bit of the night last night, though, as he was wimpering and standing by the back door as though he wanted to go out. He did that a few times last night, and I'm supposing it was home sickness. But we're gonna give him lots of love, lots of treats, and basically spoil the heck out of him 'cause, you know, YOLO.

:D

Creating Your Own Hype?

Yeah, I'm specifically referring to Wii U. Every time someone posts something related to their excitement about this system, I make an effort to review its features, and still I can't find anything about it that excites me personally. Meh...

It's got a touch screen? Mhmm...

It's kinda like a tablet...but you're tethered to the actual console. So, more limitations on my ability to game than an iDevice? Oh yeah, sign me up.

More recycled Mario textures from a handheld system a generation old...in HD -- woot!

Awkwardly sized controller -- only one of them included with the machine and probably expensive as hell to replace? Original-XBox redux but amplified in size and awkwardness.

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Ubisoft once again there early pandering to Nintendo with ridiculous gaming concepts that are impossible to take seriously?

I get to play three- and four-year-old games in pretty much the same quality as 360/PS3 (unless you believe the nonsense spewing forth from the mouth of Reggie)? Yippie!

A new Mii gimmick?

A bonfire for my money? Now we're talking!

Hopefully my negativity isn't coming off too subtle. I really see no need for this system. Sure, it's necessary for Nintendo to continue along their path of Caligula-like market imperlialism, but is it really worthy of the modern gamer? The hype for this system, of which there seems to be little, comes off as forced to me -- folks desperately trying to convince themselves of the system's relevance. I simply can't see it. It feels like gross stagnation to me.

The madness is almost over

Worked 12 hours yesterday, and it was especially crazy for my store because two managers were let go and I was left to train new employees whose first day was...yesterday (Black Friday). We got through it okay, though, with really only one irate customer who was not able to return an item (due to no returns on Black Friday).

But, many of our sales are ongoing today, so we've still got some work ahead of us. It's been a crazy couple of weeks, as the two other managers who helped run the store ran the store into the ground. Now, it's up to me and a lady they sent from another store to get things back on track in the midst of the holiday maelstrom.

I'll admit, though, a good part of me really enjoys the excitement and challenge, though at the end of each shift it's hard to think straight.

Hope y'all had a nice Thanks Giving and no one got trampled to death.

-GD

iPhone nabs of the week

Yes, I got Angry Birds Star Wars! :P

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I've played so many of these games already, including Angry Birds Space and the offshoot, Bad Piggies. This is easily my favorite, though. Star Wars and Angry Birds go together like French fries and catsup. It's good stuff. They did a great job with not just the level design but also the design of the birds. A Luke Skywalker bird can cut through stuff with his light saber. Han shoots obstacles, and Obi Wan can force push huge mounds of debris. I've only just finished the Hoth system, but I'm having a ball with it.

And Namco is having a sale on pretty much all of their iOS games, so picked up both Pac-man CE and Time Crisis 2nd Strike. Pac-man CE is great in the sense that it's an enhanced version of the console game, but I can't say I've found a control option that works all that great.

Time Crisis, on the other hand, is such a great game to have on your phone. It's really, really cheesy, but it play really well. It's a tough game, and since you have to play it one straight shot through, it's not necessarily the perfect design for portable gaming. But still, for $2, it's a wonderful novelty -- lots of fun.

Also got LostWinds 2 for free the other day. Haven't messed with it yet, but it's probably my favorite Wii game to date, so I'm very glad to have a portable version of that as well. Haven't had time to really touch RE6 in a week or two, but I intend to get back to my Professional run asap.

Later

Die, holidays, die!

Welcome to my Scrooge McDuck blog. Ugh...I hate the ******* holidays -- hate 'em! I'm a family man, sentimental, and damned down-to-earth. I love the idea of being with family, eating lots of great food, and all that. But the "world," during the holidays, fights against itself through consumerism, and the entire season usually feels like one giant **** sandwich of hate, frustration, loathing, and more hate. And of course after the holiday is over, we all get to enjoy a settling feeling of guilt, regret, and impotency.

With the freelance work slowing down, I took a supervisor position at a local retail outlet. I generally enjoy the work and love talking to people. Unfortunately, at this time of year, you're thrown to the lions with no meat to offer other than yourself. So, it's been a steady build up of stress. Luckily, I know it's all an illusion, one that, in the grand scheme of things, can't hurt me. My love for my family, however, and a desire to be a responsible dad force me to play the game. I like games...

But there are those games that make you want to pull your hair out at times, and the holiday season is like one of those games. There are some great moments, many twists and turns, and usually some good loot to be had. I just wish God would overhaul some of the level design, you know what I mean?

:P

Your favorite works by creators you loathe?

I recently got into the iOS version of a popular Fantasy Flight game called Elder Sign (Elder Sign: Omens for iOS). It's a table-top game with a myriad of cards, representing investigators, adventures, and items, as well as various types of tokens. Your outcomes during adventure play are determined using dice, but there's a whole lot of strategy involved.

The entire thing is based on Lovecraft mythology, something I previously only had a passing knowledge of. I knew he was an inspiration for Stephen King and the creator of the Cthulhu mythos. But the more I dug around, the less I liked what I was learning about the actual author, namely he was a big fat racist (well, he wasn't actually overweight, but you get the gist). Though he was wed to a Jewish woman, he was an outspoken racist who seemed to believe that people of color were trash.

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Now, it's easy to say, well, that shouldn't affect your appreciation of his work if the writing itself is good, but I think it's understandable that anyone would be concerned about, at the very least, being subconsciously influenced by such a destructive personality trait -- that was my initial response.

But the Call of Cthulhu mythology is undeniably alluring, with its noir settings and absolutely dreadful creatures and outcomes. The Elder Sign game is addictive beyond belief, and I must admit, I'm now quite curious to delve into some of Lovecraft's novels. It's an interesting quandry, but one I don't think can be so easily dismissed.

I think another concern is, are the other folks into his writings interested solely because of the horror tales, or are they in agreement with his racist views? It's impossible for me not to wonder when encountering folks who are raving fans of Lovecraftian lore.

The guy's been dead for close to a century now, but it seems his horror has lived on in more ways than one. Is there a writer/game maker/artist that has presented you with a similar challenge philosophically?

The Young and the Resident Evil

So, I have been playing tons of Resident Evil 6 -- tons. I had a dream last night with Ada Wong in it. I have Resident Evil on the brain.

Anyhoo, it occurred to me as I was finishing up Ada's campaign that the reason I love this series so much -- in spite of its many zigs and zags, both gameplay-wise and quality-wise -- is because, well, it's a soap opera. It started out that way pretty much and it's the only real constant with this series.

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Most of you are probably too young to remember, but General Hospital back in the late 70s had a lot of similar tropes and craziness -- stuff so over-the-top, it blasted that show to the top of the daytime-drama charts for a good long while. Luke & Laura eventually found themselves wrapped up in some of the most unbelievable circumstances, and the folks behind the scenes were the question never truly answered and the reason you kept watching the show.

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Resident Evil has become like that over the years, and though the gameplay has changed drastically from game to game, the underlying theme remains the same: "Who done it. why are they doing it, and please, please don't ever tell me!"

Resident Evil 6 was a disappointing game for me in many ways, and yet I'm still chugging away at it. That isn't to say that the story and characters are the only thing keeping me coming back. The game has design problems galore, but it's still very much my kinda game. That being said, the universe Capcom have created will keep me coming back with each new iteration, though they stumbled pretty hard with this one. I just love the experience of waiting to see what's going to unfold and never truly being given an answer. In some weird way, it's the exact kind of satisfaction I want out of a Resident Evil game. And though Capcom may have fallen short in terms of pacing and gameplay, they still managed to keep me rapt.

Resident Evil 6 Complete

Well, the main stories are complete, but I'm far from finished with the game. I've got trophies to hunt, skills to acquire, and medals to earn, not to mention ample time to spend with Mercs.

I tried to do a reader review for GS, but the formatting makes it one huge wall of text, and no one wants to read that. So below, I'm going to copy and paste my review here. But before I do, I just want to riff on one particular thought...

Resident Evil 6 -- with all that it does new in terms of controls and camera -- is, I believe, more old-school Resident Evil than I think some folks are either willing to admit or realize. Of course, the horror element is gone, but many of the same uber-quirky mechanics have been unearthed from the past and inserted into this game. If you play Ada's campaign, you'll see what I'm talking about.

Unfortunately, it's things most of us never wanted to see return. Ah well, it is what it is. In any case, here's my review of RE6 after clocking in roughly 33 hours:

___________________________________________________________

Resident Evil 6 Review

Man, did this game turn out a whole lot differently than I (and many like me) thought it would. When the first trailers hit earlier this year, the appearance of Leon and the darker tone promised a return to the Resident Evil roots -- you know, survival horror and all that? For better or worse, thats not really what we get here at all. Well, there are hints and whiffs of intensity, but most of that is born from frustration with some seriously flawed game design. In any event, the game has managed to grow on me in spite of major disappointment.

I'd rather not bore you with the game's premise. You can look all that up on your own if you're not already versed on the setting(s) of Resident Evil 6 (RE6). You'll play through three main campaigns -- Leon and Helena, Chris and Piers, and Jake (Weskers son) and Sherry (you know, the kid from RE2) -- plus (the worst kept secret in gaming history) Ada's campaign, unlocked after completing the other three stories.

There's a lot of game here for sure, though Mercenaries out of the box is pretty paltry, with a mere three maps (without pre-order content) to choose from. I think it took me roughly 25 hours to complete the first three campaigns, and Ada's, though much shorter than the others, is packed with a lot of interesting gameplay devices and sequences.

However, all of the campaigns are a mishmash of good, bad, and seriously ugly gameplay. Leon's campaign starts out feeling a bit like Left 4 Dead and ends up stuck in a Kane & Lynch rut toward the end. Chris and Piers go for a decidedly more Gears of War approach, and though there are some excellent boss moments, their campaign too is rife with technical and design issues. Jake's story, though not exempt from a few poor design decisions, somehow manages to feel like the most cohesive and complete action game of the three.

All three of the campaigns have some wonderful high points, as well as moments that make you want to pull your hair out. Most of the moment-to-moment gameplay is quite satisfying, but the cheap deaths are overdone -- way overdone. The quick-time events (QTEs) are a huge source of frustration throughout the entire experience, particularly one that requires you to jiggle the left stick to the point where it feels like its going to tear off your controller. Other QTEs are actually kind of fun, but the mechanic should have been used more sparingly.

Far too often, these QTEs come at you when you least expect them, or there's simply no indication as to what you're meant do next. Sure, there was a taste of this even back in RE4, but the developers of this game seem to have misinterpreted the intent of these devices.

It's also frustrating, especially in Mercenaries mode, when you're supposedly locked into a coup de grace animation and a zombie/enemy manages to get up and walk away. This happens a lot, and it can make getting high scores in Mercs the wrong kind of challenge, as well as holding onto ammo in the campaigns particularly difficult.

Mainly, it's the schizophrenic pacing and lack of identity that make RE6 such a disappointing experience. There are almost no puzzles in the main game, and the ones that are present are pretty much solved for you by a waypoint indicator that constantly stays onscreen. Ada's second chapter is probably the best we get in terms of not having our hand held the whole time, but even here you're forced to replay a large chunk of game you previously played in Leon's campaign.

In spite of my many complaints -- and I do have many other things I could nitpick -- the package as a whole is still quite loveable. I love being able to play almost the entire game with another player in a style that isn't as restrictive as it was in RE5 (much of the touch-and-go gameplay feels like Left 4 Dead, focused more on cooperative travel, rather than dramatic sequences). I love that the partner A.I. in this game is actually helpful and doesnt suck your inventory dry. I love the new mechanics and the camera system, even though they felt completely foreign to me at first. And I love how challenging the Mercenaries mode is, since there are so many new things to learn and relearn -- many animations can now be broken (purposely) by enemy attacks.

It's a shame, though, Capcom still feel the need to try and gouge us by holding back many of the Mercs maps we already know exist in hopes of selling them to us later down the road as DLC. Had the main game been better, perhaps I wouldn't feel cheated. But three maps in a $60 package that doesn't even include a printed instruction manual (that's right, and there isn't even one in-game -- you have to go online and download a PDF if you want complete gameplay instructions) is not cool at all. Capcom have been getting worse and worse about this sort of thing over the last four or five years, and it reeks especially badly in this case because the game itself isnt up to their otherwise high standards.

As a sort of aside, Ada's campaign is perhaps the ideal example of what this game represents. It's all over the place in terms of gameplay and design. One minute you're required to use stealth to make your way through a level, and the next you're stuck in these old-style, fixed-camera scenes that are finicky beyond belief. They threw out storage containers and safe rooms -- things that made sense -- and kept out-of-date gameplay mechanics most of us can agree have no place in a modern adventure. Yet, Ada's second chapter is perhaps the most enjoyable segment of the entire game. Again, RE6 just flails all over the place when it comes to quality.

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(A scene from one of the best chapters in the game.)

Though it may have lost a sense of direction, one thing Resident Evil hasn't lost is its sense of humor. There are some great Easter eggs to experience and lots of fantastic music that stews together with the rest of the game in an oddly endearing way. The dialogue can be cheesy, hammy, and the plot devices spammy, but there are almost as many memorable lines of dialogue here as there ever were in past numbered RE games.

Visually, the game is extremely attractive and runs totally smooth. I can't think of a single moment when I experienced slowdown. There are, of course, going to be lag issues when playing online, but matchmaking does a fairly decent job showing you which players are viable options to hook up with. RE6 has amazing lighting, superb set pieces, and loads of environmental detail.

The audio is powerful and perfectly matched with the gameplay and cutscenes onscreen, though you may never actually stop to think about it all that much. The orchestral scores are subtle and refined, and the sounds of bashing zombie skulls are, oh, so satisfying (yes, there are actual zombies in this particular Resident Evil game).

One other cool but somewhat disappointing feature is RE.net, a website designed specifically to interact with the game. In theory, you link your progress in the game to the website and earn RE points, which can be spent on virtual goods on the site. The selection ranges from new palette swaps for Mercs costumes, to dioramas and wallpapers. There are also regular online events where high-score players (though hackers have already invaded the leaderboards) can earn substantial winnings.

The site, in execution, is less than perfect, though. You constantly have to re-link your console account to your site account, and updates are incredibly slow. Its still a cool addition, though, and something that should pad the longevity of the game if they can iron out the technical issues.

Hopefully, Capcom will iron out the game's issues as well. There are supposed to be free updates that unlock a co-op option for Ada's campaign, but really, what we need right now is new, free Mercs content (Update: today Capcom announced a fix for the camera, which is due out in mid-December). I'll gladly pay for additional story DLC, but for what I paid, RE6 has yet to fully live up to its end of the bargain. I love it for what it is, but it disappoints me for what it isn't. It isn't a fully realized Resident Evil game; it isn't a good value for the money (don't let the length of the game fool you -- longer doesnt always equal better); and even as an action game, it isn't quite ready for primetime. RE6 holds on to archaic design whilst scrapping things from the series that actually worked. And in some places, RE6 even feels unfinished.

In this instance, Capcom is like a really busy parent that wanted so badly to please their child but is so out of touch with what that child wants, it gave them something it had almost no interest in. The effort is appreciated, but instead of trying to buy our love, why not simply listen to us. I'm far from ready to give up on this franchise, but this isn't a fully baked cake, thats for sure.

Score: 6.5

RE6 roughly eight hours in

Just finished Leon chapter 4, and with my noodling around with Mercs yesterday, I've probably clocked about eight hours in with the game. Loving it? Yeah...but more in the sense of someone who still loves their funny uncle who has run out of funny things to say.

The new mechanics and controls didn't take long to grow on me, and they serve the Mercenaries portion of the game amazingly well. Mercs is now a lot more challenging for me because there's so much I need to learn anew. The campaign is also surprisingly challenging for an RE vet, though there are a lot of cheap deaths. I'm not just talking about scripted stuff, either, though there were instances when scripted enemy grapples lopped off health -- not cool with that, really.

The puzzles are a complete embarrassment. Perhaps the worst element of this game is the waypoint marker that stays onscreen pretty much throughout the entire game. It basically solves the already flimsy puzzles for you and sucks the life out of exploration. RE4 got it perfect. It gave you a map with an indicator that led you in the right direction but didn't hold your hand through the actual puzzles. Of course, the early games had the most interesting puzzles, and RE6 should have just opted out altogether, since what's here is an insult.

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The bosses are decent, but not terribly challenging or interesting (gameplay-wise). The story during the early part of Leon's campaign -- the build up -- was excellent, but it seems to fall apart quickly toward the end, with terrible plot devices and dialogue.

So far, it doesn't sound all that great, does it? But I am actually enjoying the moment-to-moment gameplay -- the shooting, melee, scrounging around for loot and all that. And as perversely stupid as the story is, I can't help wanting to see where the hell it all winds up.

I've still got Chris and Jake's entire campaigns to go, and honestly, I'm looking forward to them. Leon's was supposed to be the closest thing to old-school RE we get with this game, but RE6 is probably better off without any of that because its design is so out of touch with survival horror. I've also watched a bit of Jake's campaign, and it looks the most polished in terms of gameplay design. That giant Nemesis-looking dude promises a much more interesting ride than Leon's story.

Don't get me wrong, Leon's campaign started out really enjoyable, but it's settled into a fairly shallow action romp right now. We'll see how it all wraps up, though...