Ahead of the Curve

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With the last of the Time Trotters riding off to the welcoming sunset of unemployment, I'm doing my best to stay ahead of the trend. On Monday I'll be starting up at my new gig, months of Call of Duty-filled joblessness finally coming to a close.

And while I will always remember the fall of 2007 as an enjoyable old mess of new video games, Boston life, and a roller coaster of job hunting, 2008 is looking to be pretty sweet.

Where will I be working, you ask? As a quick attempt at cross-site promotion, I encourage everybody to visit my internet blournal, DoofyCrap.com. Tomorrow I'll write about my rad new place of business over there. A quick hint: it perfectly combines so many of my interests it's scary. Not too many suspects to pick from, I bet some of you can figure it out in a hurry.

Best of luck to Ryan, and see you all at Doofy HQ!

- Rich

PS: If somebody at GameSpot Live wouldn't mind publishing the ol' Time Trotters to the site, I would greatly appreciate it. Too much of too many people's hard work in that baby to see it hidden away forever! I'm not asking for fanfare or anything, just put it up all sly-like to the Shaolin Style gamespace. My extended family (and of course the GameSpot faithful) would love to see it, thanks!

DoofyCrap.com

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Hey y'all!

As is becoming the fashion around here, my internet words and thoughts have a new home. A little place I like to call DoofyCrap.com. I'm going to try and keep it structured with a general theme of internet doofiness. Stop on by, leave some comments, and check out the raddest Portal-themed Christmas present of all time.

I'll be updating the site daily, at least until I get a job.

See you there!

-Rich

Jeff GameSpot

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Once upon a time, I heard Jeff Gerstmann introduce himself as "Jeff GameSpot." A simple slip of the tongue that occurred off-camera, yet will forever be preserved in my mind as a symbol of the man's love and dedication to this web site, his co-workers, and the trusting audience we shared.


Jeff (and Tim) Will Rock Again

We will probably never learn all of the facts that led to the "why" of his departure, but the timing of the "how" is egregious enough to warrant such an amazing uproar. Right after the big review push is over, just before the warm and fuzzy holiday break, and with no chance for a friendly send-off episode or two. It all feels mean, and sad.


Voiced by Jeff

Part of me wishes I was still there, but I'm positive there are plenty of my friends saying the things I would like to be saying in those inevitable managerial explanation sessions. Jeff will be fine, yet I sympathize greatly with those left with the difficult choice of "kicking" (following one's moral compass out the door) or "sticking" (paying that San Francisco rent in a tough economy).


Run!

That said, I can speak from personal experience that there is no better time for a gaming fan to be unemployed, and if anybody wants to join me for some therapeutic Call of Duty, I'll see you online.

-Rich


Chute Out!

Don't You Just Love a Bargain?

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I'm paraphrasing, but once upon a time a wise-ish man said "Only the jobless will have enough time to play all of 2007's great new games!" Well the onslaught has barely begun and I shall emphatically declare said statement untrue. My 360 and I have been working overtime through two runs of the pretty-much-what-I-expected-it-to-be Halo 3 (once on normal difficulty by myself, a second co-op playthrough on legendary with World Famous Ben Coello), a second completion (yes, all of it) of the always-addictive Puzzle Quest, and a too-brief evening with the Portals, yet the games keep coming!

Sprinkled throughout all of this, I have been inching my way through BioShock. The combination of a beautiful environment that demands study of every nook, cranny, and object with haunting sound, creepy lighting tricks, and an abundance of needle usage... let's just say that game is taking me forever. I would like to blame this crawl of time on my desire to explore through and gaze upon every corner of Rapture, but I'll admit to pausing the game for twenty minutes here and there for a much-needed cooling down period. That game makes me tense, like all the time!

I'll get through it soon, though, I have to. November's looming and a whole mess of games (and birthday presents) are coming with it. I'm almost upset that Call of Duty 4 is getting here first. Coello and I spent over 24 hours each just playing the beta, how will we ever put down the retail version? And horror of horrors, what will happen when I get a job?

In case anybody is curious on that front, although Wikipedia thinks I'm a media consultant, in reality I have had some interviews with various interesting (and interested) employers, with more scheduled for the days ahead. Weekend before last, in fact, I found myself surrounded by cameras and lights once again - completely on accident! Fellow New Englanders will recognize the above title of this entry as the slogan for the legendary chain of retail majesty known as the Christmas Tree Shops. I think the best way to describe the CTS would be a regional amalgam of Target, Pier 1, and those specialty decoration stores that show up during various holidays - yet in this case open year-round. Or in a word: Awesome.

For as long as I can remember, New England television has been home to an unchanging formula of Christmas Tree Shops commercials: Cameras follow customers around a store as they candidly shop. The customers share their amazement over how cheap everything is, and after thirty seconds somebody says "Don't You Just Love a Bargain!" Watch this, then imagine my special lady and me in place of the women shown, with picture frames and clothes hangers instead of cast iron birds and porch laundry baskets.

It was a bizarre experience, and I have no idea if we'll even make the final cut. One can only hope? We were plenty fun and enthusiastic throughout, but slightly underdressed. The funniest part of the whole experience was when I tried telling the on-scene producers that I had been on camera several times before. "Some stuff on the internet," I explained. They just laughed like I was joking. Or five years old. Oh well.

I've got to get back to BioShock (so I can finally have time for the rest of the Orange Box), but I'll keep you posted on my job status/budding commercial career. Maybe next time I'll tell you the story about how it might be my fault that Jack Black is starring in Tim Schafer/Double Fine's new game (I apologize for nothing), or share a list of movies that I finally started to like after seeing them on TV for the 300th time (quick preview: the new Star Warses are still trash)!

Go Sox!

Rich

East COAST

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Hey Everybody!

In between all the cardboard boxes that need unpacking, particle board furniture that needs assembling, and Call of Duty 4 beta-ers that need sniping, I figured I should take a break and share some pictures from my recent journey eastward. My special lady requested I maintain her secret identity, so all you're getting is a bunch of me and a bunch of stories. Our first leg was a sprint to Colorado:

This is Rocky Mountain National Park in Estes, Colorado. It was wicked tall. The elevation didn't seem like that much of a problem... after a small period of adjustment. My uncle let me in on the secret to the small informational signs placed every 50 feet along our trail - they're there so you can pretend to be reading about plants and birds and wind and whatnot, while using that as an opporunity to gasp for breath. Estes Park was also home to the hotel from The Shining. Not that big a fan of the movie, but the hotel is surprisingly not-remote. There's a Starbucks right across the street from it. We spent several days in Colorado, before heading up through Wyoming to Montana and then...

Buffalo City Grille

Outside the Buffalo City Grille in Jamestown, North Dakota. This might have been our favorite stop on the whole trip. After learning the Holiday Inn along the highway was booked, we drove into downtown Jamestown and discovered a nice lil' area. We stayed in the Lewis and Clark Outpost Suite at the Gladstone Inn & Suites. I'm serious. The aforementioned Grille was awesome, best restaurant of the trip. While eating a giant rib eye steak, our dinner entertainment was provided by Jamestown's lonely youth cruising by in their fast and furious dodge neons and camaros, while at the next table the chamber of commerce tried to convince Honda reps from Japan that they should bring a dealership to town. And they should! In the above picture I am ecstatic as the train that runs between our hotel and the restaurant flattens several pennies we had left on the tracks. Pretty exciting, right? Yet Jamestown had more to offer us the next morning...

It's a Buffalo

The National Buffalo Museum! Home of the world's largest buffalo! Statue! And White Cloud, the world's only genetically confirmed albino buffalo! Apparently she gave birth to another albino buffalo a week or two ago and everything. We couldn't find her, so this all may be a lie. Don't get me wrong, Jamestown was way awesome, but we maybe spent three waking hours there. Four tops. Enough to buy a magnet and move on to South Dakota, southern Minnesota, and...

Can o' corn

Is this heaven? No, it's just a cornfield. A cornfield full of awesome baseball playing ghosts! What you are gazing upon is the very spot from which Shoeless Joe Jackson emerged in the immortal film, Field of Dreams. Well, maybe not the exact spot. It's in the outfield, close enough. The baseball field created for the filming of the movie back in 1989 is still intact in Dyersville, Iowa. We stopped there, played some catch, quoted the movie... good times had by all. Here's a strange fact for ya: The infield, right field, and house are all owned by a mom and pop-type operation. Center and left field were owned by another farmer, who sold out to some investment group. Two different roads to the field, two different parking lots, and two different souvenir stands. Of course, the investment group's souvenir stand is indoors and air conditioned and full of nice stuff. Ma and pa, their place is a little more dusty, but it's got the charm and they have to pay more for upkeep! We bought some t-shirts from them, yet saw many people actually drive out of one parking lot and turn back down the other driveway to buy stuff from the bad guys. The driveways run parallel to each other and are maybe 10 feet apart. I'm serious. You know what they say: If you build it, people are dumb. Regardless, the field was an awful nice spot to play catch. Next stop:

The House on the Rock. Let's just say this place looked into our souls, and we blinked. Utterly fascinating/horrifying. If you are anywhere near Spring Green, Wisconsin, with many hours to kill and possess an iron will for crap, go there. Anybody else, just look at the web site. Or read American Gods by Neil Gaiman.

Burned out on middle america's doofy crap, we made one last stop in Chicago before high-tailing to the sunny shores of Cape Cod, Massachusetts. We stopped in scenic Batavia, New York, looking for a cheap hotel/motel for a night, only to find the entire town was booked solid by the bands featured in the Warped Tour. Yes, it's still going on. No, I didn't know that either. And after looking at their site, I'm pretty sure I don't know any of the bands. Wait, that's a lie. I think K-os was in an SSX soundtrack, and MC Chris once closed for Midnight Brown. I saw that. So yeah, we made it to Massachusetts and the front of our car looked like this:

Those all bugs. Gross, right? The whole front of the car looked like that. And in case you were wondering how my road beard turned out:

Not bad for 2-3 weeks. I forgot what it was like to not shave. It's nice. And oh yeah, neon's making a comeback. You heard it here first. That t-shirt is from the Dakota Drive-In, located in bee-ootiful Hankinson, North Dakota. I recommend the California burger.

So that's the trip! 4,200 miles of California to Nevada to Utah to Wyoming to Colorado to Wyoming to North Dakota to South Dakota to Minnesota to Iowa to Wisconsin to Illinois to Indiana to Ohio to Pennsylvania to New York to Massachusetts. I recommend that every should drive across the country at least once in their lives, it makes the whole place seem a lot smaller. Live and die by those blue signs on the highway at each exit, the ones proclaiming food and lodging options. Make the time to follow silly billboards. How else would one find the Mustard Museum in Mount Horeb, Wisconsin? Besides clicking on that link, I guess.

Not too much to share with y'all otherwise! Special lady is enjoying law school, and I'm periously close to falling behind all that is video games. Just finished The Darkness, it was solid. Tried playing BioShock, but after ten minutes my guy had already injected himself with needles 5 times, something I'm not too cool with. I'll get back to it one day when I'm feeling up to it. For the moment I'm too busy looking for a job and playing the Call of Duty 4 beta with Ben Coello. Maybe a little too much of the latter, and not enough of the former. Probably. And hey, how bad is that Halo 3 ad? I hear there's more than one, but I finally saw my first one last night during the Patriots game. Just a bunch of slow motion camera over what looked like a fan-made diorama-rama. I had to go online to figure out what the heck was going on. Neat idea, I guess, but just an awful ad.

Back to the boxes for me. I'd like to thank everybody once again for all the well-wishes you sent my way back in July. Hope you liked the pictures, and I'll see you around!

-Rich

wally

Bonus picture! Me with the giant animatronic Wally the Green Monster at Jordan's Furniture in Reading, Mass. Everybody from New England knows what I'm talking about. Everybody else, you don't know what you're missing...

Let'sGoReadSomeBooks!

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I'll write a more proper good-bye next week, but in case you missed tonight's closing of On the Spot... I am leaving GameSpot and rolling back east. Thanks for all of the well-wishes, I hear you guys broke a chat room or two.

More later!

Rich

Bad(der) Words

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Once upon a time, I was hoping to get my special lady Majesco's DS game full of New York Times crossword puzzles for her birthday. Unfortunately, the birthday came and went before the game hit shelves, so she got Cooking Mama for the Wii instead. It's.... ok.

Undeterred, I check back on the game's official page every now and then to see if an official release date has been announced (GamEBstop's listing it as May 15th). No dates to be found over there, but one can spot the ESRB rating in the lower-right hand corner, which would indicate the game is ready for sale. And thus the reason for this entry!

You see, New York Times Crosswords for the DS is rated T for Teen. It's a game of 1,000 crossword puzzles. That's it. It appears somewhere within these hundreds of word games are "Drug Reference, Mild Language, (and) Mild Suggestive Themes."

Again, these are crossword puzzles. Taken from the New York Times.

Think of it what you will. Personally, I blame Will Shortz. That dude's been pushing his wordier simulators on America's children for too long.

 

Edit: I just had to rename this post. Apparently I used the title "Bad Words " a while back. I'm glad to see what Jeff and I were so concerned about back then never came to pass. Phew. 

Level Cap

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"They" say with every end, there's a new beginning. If that's the case, I'm in for a lot of beginnings.  My video game accomplishments of the last few days include:

- winning the Stanley Cup in NHL 07, after playing over 100 games completely, between the regular season and the playoffs. Go Bruins!

- beat God of War II

- beat Puzzle Quest

- completed my long-running co-op game of Gears of War with Time Trotters: The Animated Series animator Ben Coello

What's a guy to do for an encore to all of that? I'd say "Watch the Red Sox!!!!!" but thanks to Major League Baseball being a bunch of jerks, I can't get the Extra Innings package anymore. I guess I'll just play a bunch of MLB 2K7 instead, but we all know that just isn't the same. I guess it's time to reacquaint myself with the Wii, and get back on whatever-the-name-of-my-horse-is in Zelda.  I've still just barely started with that game, but it'll tide me over until Super Paper Mario gets here next week.

And of course, I'll keep playing Puzzle Quest, but I've almost run out of things to do!  I've hit the game's level cap of 50, and killed the head bad guy Lord Bane, and completed all of the side quests...  I guess I'll just have to siege the land and make every denizen pay homage to my knight's greatness, or something.  It is the game I've played more than any other over the last couple weeks, and it's hiiiiiighly addictive. I recommend it to everybody who likes puzzle games, or levelling up in any manner, or feeding sandstone to ogres, or anybody who just needs something fun to play on a portable system.  I especially appreciate how I can easily play the game while riding a bike at the gym, or walking to work.  The gameplay doesn't constantly need input or attention, so you can pause to grab some water or look both ways before crossing the street, which is nice.  Other notes about this amazing game:

- if you haven't heard, the PSP version has a bug where the companions you pick up on your quest don't actually do anything for you in a fight.  Having completed the PSP version, I can say I didn't miss them at all.  It would have been nice to have their assistance early on, but I quickly levelled up and never felt their absence.

- Strangely enough, I never bought anything. All of my money went towards my citadel, which lets you capture monsters, research spells, train mounts, and pay for ability upgrades.  The stores in the game didn't see a cent of my hard-earned gold, due to the game's item crafting. You can collect runes all over the darn place, and combine them in various ways to make your own weapons, armor, boots, cloaks, books, helmets, all that.  Very early on, I was crafting items with bonuses far greater than anything available to me in a store, and never looked back. Oh well?

- More multiplayer options would be nice, as would more opportunities to play variations of the game's version of Bejeweled.  My favorite aspect of Puzzle Quest was capturing monsters, which would require you to clear a set board with only one or two possible solutions. There just isn't enough of it, I need more! 

But yeah, Puzzle Quest is awesome. Like the Red Sox.  I'll write something about God of War II soon, I promise!  Until then, Coello and I need a new co-op game on the Xbox 360, anybody got anything that isn't Gears of War or Rainbow Six Vegas? Thanks!

My Type of Level Grind

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I can't believe I haven't written anything since November. Sorry folks! I've been kind of caught up in a level grind. Two of them, in fact. Despite the allure of my shiny new DS Lite, some recent game purchases like Lost Planet and Wario Ware, and that little game called Zelda that I haven't even started yet (not to mention that other little game called Zelda that I've never played, but just bought for eight bucks), I find myself playing the same, addictive game again and again. I team up with a blood-thirsty squad of fellow combatants, equipped in the sleekest of gear, slaughtering all who stand in our way, gaining experience points and leveling up at a rapid rate.

The game I'm talking about is of course NHL 07 for the Xbox 360. Seriously, the game has experience points, but I'm not exactly sure how they work. In what some might call a regression to my pre-GameSpot days, I cannot pull myself away from a sports game, and more specifically my Boston Bruins dynasty. Playing every single game of a season on the default "pro" difficulty (with no resetting) can be time-consuming, yet the B's are 42-5-0-0 and I've got 40+ games to go. And by turning off line changes and making a couple of savvy trades (it's easy to mortgage your future if you're only playing with one line, for one season) Jarome Iginla, Marc Savard, and Rich Gallup are the top three scorers in the league. Marty Turco is a beast in net, and the Bruins are well on their way to their first Stanley Cup in decades.

Sure some players are demanding trades, and thanks to the game's limited player editor I have red hair, who cares? Gimme the Cup! I'll admit the game has gotten easy at this point, and the moments that annoy me are beginning to equal the moments I enjoy, but until my quest is complete (hopefully by the end of the month), I can't see myself playing too much else. Sorry, Wolf-Link, you'll have to wait.

This one-track obsession wouldn't normally be a problem, as my DS Lite and PSP could be providing me with hours of varied gameplay during my daily commute, but I'm afraid that time is being taken up as well. You may have heard me mention it on the HotSpot, and not to sound like Paul Harvey or anything, but Snakes on a Sudoku has changed my life. Kinda.  Here's a picture, Amazon-permitting:



You see, it's like regular Sudoku, of which I used to be a fan, and makes it interesting.  Gives it variation.  Gives it life!  I have never seen the movie from which the book claims its cheap tie-in, but after receiving it as a gift from my sister, I have been unable to escape its snake-y charm.  I used to read books on the train, or play the occasional game of Lumines or Brain Age. No more! Twisty lines of numbers fill my dreams.

It's a fun/sad existence being a Snakes on a Sudoku junkie, but one that I know must stop, as the stack of books piling up next to my desk will attest to.  Fortunately, much like my NHL 07 dynasty, an end is in sight.  I am currently on puzzle #161 of 170, and I hope to rid my bag of any and all snake references this Febtober.  Wish me luck!

And hey, I have to mention the craziness going on with the Trivia Robot and his new friend, the Mr. Games 1X. They're doing a pretty good job of teasing you guys about our next big project, and I can't wait to hear your reactions when it finally hits the site. It's something I've wanted to do all my life, and I hope you like it! ....When it finally gets here.  Which will be soon, honest!


This... Is... Jeopardy!

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You may have read about my recent trip to LA to see my best friend from high school almost appear on Jeopardy. Although I couldn't stick around for his actual appearance during the second day of shooting, the wait is over. Ryan's show airs tonight, check your local listings! (My boy's wicked smaht, but I'm not allowed to say if he wins)

You can catch Ryan's official promotional video here, he's the one that's actively avoiding any sort of emotional expression. Although he smiles in real life, when it comes time for competition Ryan transforms into a murderous cyborg. It's a neat trick. Leads to a lot of broken PlayStation and Genesis controllers, though...

After you're done watching all of the amazingly nerdy contestant videos, you can also read an equally amazing interview Ryan did with our hometown newspaper, the Keene Sentinel. I'm the guy he mentions as "My friend saw one of the guys from 'Office Space'!!!!" The Keene Sentinel, poorly-written-hard-hitting-human-interest stories since 1799.

Regardless, tune in and I'll pass on your feedback to Ryan!

In other news, I tried getting a Wii again on Sunday as there were rumors Best Buys would be back in stock. When we arrived at the store about 15 minutes after opening, the first thing I saw was a lone folding chair 30 feet away from the entrance, and a mountain of fast food wrappers overflowing from a nearby trash can. People camped out again! Good for them, I guess, as they cleared the store out. I'm still Wii-less, but at least I impulse-bought a grip of $7.50 DVDs. Viva Pinata, the game that was supposed to tide me over until I got a Wii, is quickly becoming everything I didn't want it to be, and may be getting it's own entry later this week. Stupid "doughnut of life"....