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JeffreyX Blog

What a Gamer Packs When He Has to Babysit His Business During a Hurricane

So, as some of you may have noticed, I manage a restaurant in the Times Square area of New York City. And, as you all I hope are aware, we have a MAJOR hurricane heading our way. New Yorkers aren't used to this, but growing up on the Florida coast has made me acutely aware of what we face. That being said, the executive powers that be of my company have informed us senior managers that we have to try to get in to our restaurants and weather the storm there to do damage control. We are not happy.

After much consideration, I have come up with my survival kit for the storm. A survival kit that only a gamer can truly appreciate.

First, for the hours of just sitting there and waiting for whatever occurs, I am, of course, packing my PSP. What games will I be taking? Well I will be taking the games that I can most lose myself in: Final Fantasy IV: The Complete Collection, Persona, and Crisis Core Final Fantasy VII (which I still didn't finish). Also on my list is Infected which was one of my early PSP faves. (Mad fun, yo!) I'll also be playing my ModNation Racers and Little Big Planet that I downloaded as part of the free games in the PSN hacking saga. I will also be sporting my new 3DS and Ocarina of Time 3D.

Now, I know you all will appreciate this... If and when we lose power, I have the ultimate piece of gaming gear to use instead of a flashlight when we are stumbling around in the dark: my night vision goggles that came with my CoD MW2 Prestige Edition. Finally I will find a real use for them! (I am kind of hoping for power failure just for that reason. LOL)

And for some light reading, I have some issues of Game Informer and some manga to catch up on.

All this, with a few bottles of Jameson Irish Whiskey, and I am set.

Say a prayer for me. If you don't see any online activity from me, you'll know why. Until after the storm...

PS: Please, fellow gamers, show daddy some love and vote for an elder gamer (me) for The Tester Season 3.

A New Neighborhood Watch: Thoughts on PSN, Online Security, and What We Can Do

In our "enlightened" society, if someone smashes a car window and steals the bag left on the car seat, even if it was in plain sight, we go after the perpetrator of that act, not the victim. Not the car manufacturer who made the breakable window.

In our society, if someone invades your home and steals your personal possessions, we go after the invader, even if the door was left unlocked or the window opened. Sure, the home owner may have been careless, but the criminal is the one who invaded that private space and stole one's private property.

If a bank is robbed we go after the bank robbers, not the security guards or systems that were disabled or circumvented.

No matter how many precautions we may or may not take, criminals are going to find away to circumvent them. No matter how many locks we put on a door, the persistent criminal will find a way in.

So, then, why are we, as a society, so ready to pounce on Sony and their Playstation Network, when they were the ones who were invaded. Yes, they held our private information, and yes, we who are part of PSN are victims, but Sony and PSN are not the criminals, the black hat hackers are.

Already there are cries of lawsuits and litigation against Sony and PSN. It's sad that we live in such a litigious society that will sue anything at the drop of a hat. (Just look at all the ads on late-night television.) But, should that be where our collective focus lies? If anything, we should be focusing our energies on rooting out these online thieves. In neighborhoods across the our country we have formed neighborhood watch programs to curtail crimes in our neighborhoods. I propose we do the same in our online communities, and report suspicious activities and be more vigilant. If we, as an online community, collectively spend one percent of the time we spend surfing the internet or playing online games on observing and reporting suspicious or malicious online activity, I guarantee you that a great deal of online identity theft can be curtailed. Yes, this may not prevent what happened to the PSN, but maybe a white hat hacker might stumble upon a ring of those criminals. We do this in our real world communities, now it's time to do it in our online ones.

A Classic Revisited: Panzer Dragoon Orta

One of the many benefits of not trading in my old games (sorry, Gamestop!) is that I have a wonderful collection of games from systems of the past that I can revisit and enjoy.

So let's go back to January 2003. I admit I did not get the original Xbox on its release. I was a PS2 fanboy, and at the time had a few problems with Microsoft. (I still think there is something dark with that company. Hello, Lawnmower Man! ) So, in January 2003, I succumbed and brought home that huge, heavy box. With it I took home my first Xbox games: Halo, which was just over a year old; MechAssault, and I'm still waiting for a 360 version or sequel to this; and Panzer Dragoon Orta, which was a new release.

Yes, we ALL know the brilliance of Halo and what followed with that series. And every battlemech gamer knows the greatness that was MechAssault, but people that remember the Panzer Dragoon series from Sega Saturn know the brilliance of the Xbox chapter of this breathtakingly beautiful action shooter, Panzer Dragoon Orta.

Well over seven years after its release this is still a game I enjoy picking up and playing. In this game, you play as Orta, who is rescued from the prison of an evil empire by her loyal companion, a dragon of sorts. Orta and her dragonmare then set out to fight off the empire's evil forces The world that this game is set in now reminds me of a high tech world from the Pandora universe. (I can't help but wonder if James Cameron played this game. Some of the dragons look surprisingly similar to Pandora's flying creatures.) The characters even have their own language, which I thought was a great idea because it lends to the authenticity of the world while not leading to awkward translations and voice syncing. As with any game from the Sega oeuvre, the graphics were amazing. And guess what? They still are. Beautiful, lush, detailed environments that, in my mind, are a hallmark of Sega games and Sega's developer, Smilebit Studios. As for the gameplay: fast paced, exciting, with controls that are intuitive and responsive. While somewhat of a aerial combat rail shooter, you not be bothered by the linearity. Its momentum naturally propels you forward, offering one of the most satisfying experiences to come from the original Xbox and the venerable Sega Saturn.

Don't have your original Xbox? No worries: you can play it on the 360. Everyone needs to do themselves a favor and find a good used copy of this game. You'll thank me for the recommendation. Oh, and if anyone in a position to do so is out there, can we get a current gen chapter of this series?

A Brief Review - Final Fantasy XIII Demo

Okay, folks, it's official, I have been moved to tears! I just finished my first run of the Final Fantasy XIII demo that is packaged with the Japanese import of FF VII Advent Children Complete. OMFG! The opening movie was amazing! Now for the game demo itself...

I wish I knew Japanese, because the trial, logically since it is an import, is in Japanese, but that did not hinder any aspect of it. Starting off with a cut scene of a war battle, you start off playing one of the female protagonists, Lightning. She, and her partner, battle their way through destroyed pathways in this war-torn city. Let me tell you, the graphics on this are going to be the best thing on ANY system. And the combat system, although I don't know Japanese, was easy to pick up. It was familiar, yet new and innovative. It played great on my PS3 with no noticable problems, no drop in frame rate. And, like any game in the series, you go through battling, finding treasure and gil, while uncovering more of the story. I was so happy that it retains the feel of the Final Fantasy series (particularly VII, VIII, and X) while still seeming fresh and new.

Midway through the demo, you switch to the character of Snow, and do more of the same. His combat technique is more hand-to-hand, and he packs a wallop! You'll see familiar character designs: there is an obvious Yuna clone and a Wakka clone that brought a smile to my face.

That being said, I'll be playing this trial over and over 'til I come home with the actual game.
Do yourself a favor and find a copy of this import. You'll laugh, you'll cry, it's better than Cats!

Call Of Duty 4 - The Best Yet

I should preface this a little. Generally, as far as first person shooters go, I go for the games like the Unreals, the Halo series, the Doom series, and all the Quakes. I never really was able to get into war shooters. And how many WW I & II games can people endure? The more modern game, Battlefield II I enjoyed. But they are generally not my thing. Then came the first Call of Duty. I still play it occasionally on my PC. Infinity Ward raised the bar on a genre. Since then, nothing has really grabbed me except for the more sci-fi shooter types. I realize that in the FPS genre of games, comparing sci-fi shooters and war shooters is liking comparing apples to oranges. But one thing the former had over the latter in most cases were games with more intense and tense action, and (except for the arena type games) they generally had a storyline that gave the games momentum. War games for me had been bland, with the feel of a bad history class, and as far as gameplay was concerned: they all played alike.

Now let me preface this review further: I recently got back from working out of town for two months. I did take my 360, PSP, and DS with me, but didn't have much time to play, not to mention the abysmal internet connections were I was. So I have been dying to get back into some hardcore gaming. And, prior to my leaving NYC I had just finished playing the beta of Call Of Duty 4 on the 360.

Now to the review: OMG! The beta was nice. It looked brilliant, and the three maps and limited game types we had during the beta were more than satisfying. So, on the road I was chomping at the bit to get home and pick up Call of Duty 4. When I came back to NYC, I rewarded myself with some retail therapy: the purchase of a beautiful new PlayStation 3 and COD4 for it. I had played the beta on my 360, and it was amazing in that machine. The graphics were so photorealistic, I just had to see what it would do on the PS3. Well, I chose well. Damn! There were points in the game where the action looked so real that it pulled me in. But, I'm getting ahead of myself.

First, this is, as the title states: Modern Warfare. Infinity Ward got it right. We were ready to get away from the historic shooters. And they delivered a single player campaign, that although short, has a tense, taught action-filled well paced story told from several perspectives. The story, combined with the stellar graphics on the PS3 alone were enough to keep me on the edge of my seat, sucking me deeper into each mission. Holding my breath, listening careful for tell tale footsteps or the sound of someone reloading, scrambling for cover when the enemy has me pinned. Factor in some incredible weaponry with impressive firepower, the ability to pick-up and swap weapons, reloading times that are not unrealistically short or arduously long and being able to call in airstrikes and you have some incredible action-packed gameplay. As for the story, the prologue starts you off with a raid and escape from a ship. It's a nice warm-up to the real action, and what follows is nothing short of breathtaking. From Middle Eastern cities to regions of the former Soviet Union you'll play as different soldiers along the way, whose paths cross and lead into each other offering various perspectives in a story revolving around trade in weapons grade plutonium and the nuclear crisis that ensues. As for production value, this one packs in everything a blockbuster movie does - a lavish, yet atmospheric score and sound design, and well done voice acting. It is so well paced, with action that is unrelenting and even nerve-racking, that I will totally forgive it shortness. Try playing it on veteran mode or hardcore and that short story becomes much longer as you replay and replay certain parts. Finishing the game unlocks a totally replayable arcade mode, and collecting intel (there are 30 of them) will unlock some cheats. Just the single player was worth my $59.

Now on to the multiplayer. I mean, that's why we by these type of games. right? Right. Well, friends, if you haven't tried it, I just don't want to talk to you until you do. It's that damn good. The maps are thoughtfully laid out. They look real. They have depth, and they are pretty vast. There is always cover to duck behind. Some levels have grass and vegetation to crawl through. Sniping points are attainable, and with the new kill cam where once you've been killed, you see your death through your assassin's sights, so camping on a good sniping spot is dangerous. (Campers really chapped my ass in other games!) The multiplayer game types are familiar, and the more objective driven ones have a fresh feel to them, although we've done them before. In multiplayer, there are some interesting tactical moves you can open as you play. For instance, get three consecutive kills without dying enables a UAV radar, and seven consecutive kills will give you helicopter support. As you start the multiplayer, you have a few clsses to chose from, each with it's own weapons and perks. As you advance in rank and level, you open up more as well as new perks. These "perks" are an ingenious and satisfying upgrade system. They are anything from deep impact, which allows for deeper bullet penetration to juggernaut which allows you to sprint further, to last stand, where upon being dealt a fatal shot, you pull out your pistol in an effort to take 'em with you. Oh, and I almost forgot - those grenades being lobbed way, they can be tossed back with a pull on a trigger. Loving it.

All in all, this ranks among my top games of 2007, and one of the best shooters of all time. Look for me on my PS3. I'll be up for a match.

I'm back from Vegas!

Where do I begin? Well, for the last two months I have been in Las Vegas, opening a new restaurant. For those who don't know, I am in management with Hawaiian Tropic Zone, a rather high tech restaurant featuring cuisine by celebrity chef David Burke served by beautiful Hawaiian Tropic ladies. In a nutshell, my job entailed me basically writing the book on the restaurant, i.e.: all of the training materials for each position, as well as assisting with the hiring, and heading up the training of the front-of-the-house staff. I put in a lot of long hours on this project, so I had very little time to enjoy Vegas. (Honestly, I prefer New York, and I am glad to be home.) It was a rewarding experience altogether, and I made some new friends in the process. Although the hours were long (averaging 12 hours a day/6 days a week) I did manage to get out every once in a while, and the geek in me came through. Yes, good people, I went to the Star Trek Experience! (Yes I did hit the casinos and shows - you can't spit without hitting one of those!) I was like a kid at Christmas. They had two cool simulations: The Borg Invasion and The Klingon Encounter. I was impressed. Actually, I was grinning from ear to ear during them!

Knowing that I was in for some long hard hours of work, I did pack with me my therapy: video games. I took my 360, DS, and PSP with me. Now, you would think that with all the glam and glitz of Vegas their internet services would be up to par. I beg to differ. All throughout Vegas, businesses, hotels, and residences had internet providers that frequently went down. As well, while evryone had high-speed, which wasn't that fast at all, their broadband was too narrow to be called broad. The first hotel I stayed at (The Planet Hollywood Resort and Casino) charges $12 a day for internet access! The other hotel I was in had free high speed, but it was just a step up from dial-up. Bottom line: my 360 functionality was severely compromised. Forget about playing Halo 3 where you need to have an open NAT. I really couldn't enjoy any online game that needed broadband or high speed. Then, because the bandwidth wasn't broad enough, I couldn't access many half the XBox live features: videos, movies, etc. This really pissed me off. I realize that evolving technology in games and systems makes more demands on ISPs and their technology, but this is also making a lot of features inaccessable to part of the country, and even the world. It made me appreciate what I have taken for granted in New York.

I did get some quality time in with my 360. I finished the Shivering Isles expansion for Elder Scrolls: Oblivion. I have to say that was probably the best expansion I have ever played on a game. I also downloaded the latest from the Live Arcade: Mutant Storm Empire and Battlestar Galactica. I have been a huge fan of Mutant Storm since it came out on the original Xbox Live Arcade. This one is pure joy.

Now, while I was away several titles came out that I have been looking forward to, and I picked them up yesterday, first thing. My first day back in NYC: Resident Evil: Umbrella Chronicles, Mass Effect, and Call of Duty 4. I played the COD4 beta on 360, but I got this version for my new console purchase - my brand new PS3. Yes, folks, I finally did it. Well, let me rephrase that - I could finally afford it! OMG! COD4 looks brilliant on it. I can't wait for more titles to come out that would show off what the PS3 can do!

That's all for now. Gonna catch up on some gaming. See you online!

I'm back!

So, I was going to post a long-ass blog about what I've been doing since my last post. But, to spare you the tedium, and me the typing, I decided not. Anyhoooo...

What have I been doing? Well I shot two films, as actor. One an indy feature that I am actually very excited about called Mongoose in which I play the director of a show that won't come together despite his best intentions as the same negative spiral occurs with the relationships of the central characters. It is a very provocative piece, written and directed by Aldo Mora-Blanco. It was a very difficult and rewarding experience. Especially challenging was that this piece was basically non-scripted, the dialog being improvised, within the context of the events and drama of the story's through-line.

Then there was Enchanted, a Disney film starring Susan Sarandon, Pat Dempsey, Amy Adams, James Marsden, and Tim Spall. It'll be released November 2007. Great concept. It was just a pain-in-the-ass. Glad it's over. Will be interested to see the final product. By the way, I love Susan, James, and Tim! They were great to see work.

Trying to finish two scripts that I've been writing. Can't rush perfection, LOL.

And as far as gaming goes, well I finally got my 360! And a widescreen HDTV to go with it! The games I got for it: Elder Scrolls IV: Oblivion, Quake 4, Perfect Dark Zero, and Chromehounds. For the PS2 I picked up Final Fantasy VII: Dirge of Cerberus Here are my opinions:

XBox 360: Okay, even though I am all about Sony, I have to say: I love my 360! What a machine. And it looks and performs great with my HD setiings at 1080 on my new HDTV. One thing that Microsoft has truly excelled at is their online network, XBox Live. My only criticism is the concept of purchasing points for the XBox Live Marketplace downloads. Why purchase points? Why not just purchase the damn downloads with good old USD? Why create a different currency of sorts. It just seems rather ridiculous.

Elder Scrolls IV: Oblivion: This game will ultimately end up being in my top ten games of all time. The depth of gameplay is great, as well it's open-ended non-linear structure. And the graphics? This is at this point the best of the four 360 games I own. The attention to detail is meticulous and rich. So much so I have found myself just tooling around looking at things. One time I just stopped and watched the sunset and the stars come out in the night sky. OMFG! Beautiful!

Quake 4: I do really enjoy this title. It can be a very exciting game to play. The visuals are sweet as well, but there are some damn annoying graphical glitches that include slow-down, tearing, stuttering, and freezing. What's the deal folks? Also, it's online component is weak. Not a very good lobby and hub. I guess Halo 2 spoiled me on that note. It definitely plays better on PC. Over all, it is a good game, but the graphical issues and weak online system do detract from it.

Perfect Dark Zero: Haven't gotten that deep into yet, so I'll offer more later, but... So far it's graphically beautiful, and the controlls are easy. The story isn't grabbing me yet, and the story is kinda lost in co-op mode. We'll see. At this point the original Perfect Dark for the N64 was much better, or that just may be fond memories of an inovative game.

Chromehounds: I wanted a mech game for my 360. And, I count on Microsoft Game Studios to deliver mech games. I'm enjoying this one, but I really miss my MechAssault titles. For some reason, the boys at MS don't seem to think that these should be backward compatible titles. I disagree, and I hope that they come up with a patch so I can play my MechAssault games on the 360, Until then, Chromehounds is just a substitute. I expected more from this game. I'm not that far into it, but it's just not grabbing me yet, but I'll keep playing it. Don't get me wrong, it is a very good game. Newbs may find the learning curve a bit steep, experienced mech players will have an easier time of it.

Final Fantasy VII: Dirge of Cerberus: There's been a lot of negative reviews of this game. The problem is, everyone associates the FF series with rpg's, as they should, when this is an action/adventure title more than anything else. There's very little inovative about it. It's main appeal is the added storyline in the saga that is FFVII. It's set three years after the events of FFVII and follows the story of Vincent Valentine. I was disappointed with the graphics. I was hoping to get graphics at least on par with FF X. Instead it looks rather run-of-the-mill. The cut-scenes are, however, brilliant. Taken as such, that it is an action game and not an rpg, and with the story of Vincent Valentine, this is a fun, ejoyable game that is a welcome addition to my FF collection. I just can't wait until my (pre-ordered) FF XII comes out. Until then this and FF XI online will satisfy me.


Please read and pay respect. To the Homebrew Computer Club.

Friday I turned 41. I don't feel or look 41, so I will deny it for awhile. (I'm allowed.) But, as we do when we reach these milestones, we reflect. Another milestone occurred this weekend. It is the 30th anniversary of the Homebrew Computer Club. This was the group of geeks that brought about the evolution and revolution of computing as we know it. This is where Steven Jobs met Steve Wozniak. We should stop and pay respect to this group of people.

Let's reflect. When I was a kid the arcades were filled with pinball machines, and I was a pinball wizard. Many of these great machines were made by companies we've come to associate with video games (Midway and Atari come to mind). Television didn't have remote controls yet. And calculators? Many were still using slide rules. My father, being a gadget nut to rival James Bond, and my grandfather, a scientist, were both tech geeks. I remember when my father brought home a little invention that would replace his slide rule: a calculator. It was a Texas Instruments. Mind you, this was the early 70's. It cost him, at that time, $300. That's about the equivalent of $1,000 now. A few years later my home was host to a new invention: the VCR, made by (drumroll please) Sony. It was the Betamax, and it had a cute little remote conrol on a cord. That behemoth was over $1,000. My friends and their parents would stop by so my father could proudly show off this new piece of home technology. The first thing he recorded on it was a movie (Woody Allen's "Sleeper") taped from another new thing: cable television and HBO. When HBO launched, they showed only two movies a night, with a total of about twelve titles a month.
And the revolution had started. While these new technologies were coming into the home, the Homebrew guys were busy in their garages in Silicon Valley laying the foundation for the first PCs. At home my new toys were made by Atari and Coleco (I was a pong champ!), and at the arcades new machines came in, effectively killing my allowance. I ruled at Asteroids, Galaxian, and Tempest. Then, at home, was the first PC: A TRS-80. Made by the Tandy Corporation and sold through Radio Shack, it took BASIC programming, and their went my afternoons after school. My best friend and I spent hours pushing the limits of that machine. Not long after I had a Commodore 64, complete with magnetic tape storage. Then came that marvelous piece of PC perfection: The Apple! Homebrew's Jobs and Wozniak and had done it!

Respect. A moment of silence is now in order.

A couple of years later, on the Apple IIc, I played my first PC game: Wizardry, a D&D-style rpg. Along with that came my coffee addiction.

In the office place, computers were HUGE (physically) devices that were little more than word processors, and some of the better ones built data bases. (By the way, prior to this, most data storage was done via keypunch where data was enterred and stored on cardboard cards with hundreds of holes representing bits of information punched into them.) Floppy were "floppy" and 10 inches across. Then 7 inches, then 5 inches... And in Silicon Valley, transistors (that had just replaced vacuum tubes) were giving way to micro-processors and silicon chips. Computing speeds were increasing exponentially along side RAM size. Tron was in the movie theaters, and CD and laser discs came into being. (The first laser disc game: Dragon's Lair!) Macs spun off of Apple, and IBMs started making it into the homes.

And on the heels of all this progress, something called the world-wide web came into being, and surfing had a new meaning. Nintendo became the new toy, and an OS called Windows started making waves.

Again, let's pay respect.

Now, here I sit at my PC that does things faster than I EVER would have thought possible 20 years ago, with the world at my fingers. Earlier I did my banking and bill-paying (and some shopping) right here. Now, I'm about to get online with a game and join hundreds of others on a virtual playing field with graphics approaching a realism that I only dreamt about as a teenager with my TRS-80 and Atari. (And then, it was still science-fiction.) Oh, and of course I'll be TiVo-ing my shows so I don't miss them.

None of this would have been if it wasn't for the work of some geeks in California. Thanks guys! And, cheers!


MMOs, SotC, Jak X, and Me

Okay, as I previosly mentioned, I played the City of Villains beta. Over it. Started off cool. Really nice character customization. Nice level designs. It felt like I was in a 3D comic book. Nice music score. Very little lag. But, that was it. I found it a rather empty experience. Pointless. Missions were bland. Is there any story or throughline? I don't know. It definitely wasn't apparant.

Now I have become a major fan of the MMO games. When they are done right, they are very good, but many are pointless exercises of random slaying in an effort to level up. I've been trying a lot of these MMO's lately, and very few really offer a compelling experience. I guess FF XI has me spoiled. I am enjoying Evercrack II. After all the hype I finally tried it out. (I got a demo of it at the Digital Life convention.) I see the addiction. I also tried out Star Wars Galaxies. I would have enjoyed it more if there wasn't heinous lag times. I played Phantasy Star Online: Blue Burst. It looked really nice, but again, it left me kind of empty.

To me, an MMO needs to offer several things: Good character customization, good graphics, massive maps and levels, and, most importantly, a reason to be. I want a MMO's where the goals and reasons to progress are apparant. I want to do more than just level up. I want an adventure and a sense of discovery that can be done solo and/or shared with a party.
That said, it's back to the FF XI for me, with a little Anarchy Online and Evercrack thrown in for variety.

OOOO... I also finished Shadow of the Colossus. Wow! Beautiful. Sublime. Get it! Enough said. And, I finally bought Jak X Combat Racing. I was a beta tester for that one, and I thoroughly enjoyed it. I have always enjoyed the Jak family of games, and this one is a nice addition and a fun experience online.

So, back to the games! Been playing a lot lately while I'm bashing my head against my desk trying to develop these screenplays I'm working on.

City of Villains beta

I will be starting the City of Villains beta this afternoon. Anyone else out there participating? Let me know, maybe be we can hook up online together for it.
(Damn! that was one long download!)
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