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StromileSwiftee Blog

Five Most Intriguing Movie Characters

As I was sitting back enjoying the 2000 version of Shaft, watching and chuckling at the performance of Jeffrey Wright as "Peoples" Hernandez, I thought… "Who are some of the coolest movie characters who weren't necessarily the stars of the movie that stole the show?" Well as you already know Peoples definitely made my list as I came up with four other characters that you have to check for in their respective movie. Here goes:

  • 5) "Peoples" Hernandez (Jeffrey Wright, Shaft [2000]) – Peoples is the neighborhood Drug Kingpin who aligns himself with a defendant in Shaft's investigation. Peoples is based on the eccentric Tony Montana, with his own sense of charisma, ruthlessness and one-liners. As he is schooling his latest employee in his "business procedures", Peoples commences to taking a dump during the process…this guy is so hardcore he even shanks himself… LOL. Check him out!
  • 4) Lt. Col. Danny McKnight (Tom Sizemore, Blackhawk Down [2001]) – While Blackhawk Down was a serious depiction of the Army Rangers conflict in Mogadishu, McKnight's fearlessness (whether based on the actual officer or just Sizemore's spin on the character) was admirable and at times made you chuckle. McKnight was in command of the convoy responsible for returning captured prisoners back to base. While his convoy suffered several losses, he kept them motivated and moving even at the expense of himself. Once he returned the prisoners to camp, he jumps immediately back into his vehicle and heads back into the firefight to provide support. Typical of McKnight is him introducing himself to an soldier who is in cover, while he is out in the open, in the middle of a firefight, with bullets landing all around him!
  • 3) Doc Holliday (Val Kilmer, Tombstone [1993]) – If I had to pick one person to stand by my side in ANY fight, Doc Holliday is my man! A Wild West gunslinger, Doc stood side by side with Wyatt Earp as he tried to maintain law in Tombstone, AZ during the late 1800s. Doc had a penchant for alcohol and death, especially since he was dealing with a bout of tuberculosis that had his health in decline. What wasn't in decline was his reputation, he was known for being a fierce gunslinger and those familiar with him believed it. Never one to back down from a fight, even when he could barely stand, Doc was good with the gun and slick with the tongue!
  • 2) Mickey O'Neil (Brad Pitt, Snatch [2000]) – Ahhh the Pikey! If you blink you won't get one word Mickey O'Neil is saying. Don't feel bad because neither did Turkish and Tommy and they have to go back to their murderous mob boss and give updates on him. This gypsy got involved with bare knuckle fights just to get his "ma" a new caravan; they thought he was a dumb, incoherent, drunk. They were right two outta three!
  • 1) Roger 'Verbal' Kint (Kevin Spacey, The Usual Suspects [1995]) – Where they get this lame from? That's the question you ask yourself when introduced to Verbal Kint. Verbal is a part of a criminal crew assembled to pull off a major heist, but has physical disabilities. Huh!?!??! You know he's going to be the downfall of the crew when the cops start asking questions. I say he's lame, not because of his physical disabilities, but Verbal is weak mentally… he doesn't have the toughness to be a criminal, but hey I wasn't the one to assemble the team. There will be no links to Verbal, to find out why he's my number one most intriguing movie character of all time, you have to watch the movie. If you have never seen it before I suggest you set aside about two hours for an enjoyable ride!

Pay to Play is Dangerous Territory

The latest talk in the gaming world is "pay to play." The talk has surfaced due to a recent article on a website. To make a long story short, an analyst quoted in the article claims that in order for the gaming industry to be more profitable, they must start charging for multiplayer. His argument was "12 million consumers are playing Call of Duty: Modern Warfare 2 for an average of 10 hours per week…has sucked the available time away from what otherwise would be spent playing newly purchased games". I guess the analyst hasn't looked at the sales of games released since then. If a game is good, gamers buy it, as shows. Games like God of War 3, Red Dead Redemption, Splinter Cell, Super Mario Galaxy 2, all released after MW2, have good sales. When you compare June 2010's slump to last year's sales, down from $625 million to $531 million, yea, dollars are down, but if you compare the quality of games released, last year's games released during June were considered better.

Pay to play will not increase publisher's profits; if anything, they will fall. Gamers on Xbox already pay monthly fees, and there's talk of a premium PlayStation membership, so what makes publishers think gamers will toss more money at them? Gamers are being hijacked by Activision for overpriced maps, now toss in pay to play, and they expect no backlash? Should this happen, I very seriously doubt there will be 12 million MW2 players chalking up cash just to play. 12 million multiplied by $60 or 2 million multiplied by $60 and $20 for pay to play? Which one sounds like the better profit?

It has been said that this model will not be adopted by Activision, but you have to believe they are giving it some consideration. Instead of listening to analysts, they should start listening to gamers. Analysts don't buy games.

EA Sports Strikes Again!

Up to their old tricks again... EA Sports, the masters at hook and crook, have charged gamers who have spent the MSRP of $59.99 for Madden '10 an additional $10 just for the ability to play the online franchise with friends.

Why? Since when did they start charging for online playing? Was there a charge for NHL '09's online leagues? Or even NCAA Football 10's online dynasty? Just another example of them trying to milk their cash cow at the expense of gamers. I'll assume that they did not want to charge for NHL since gamers could switch over to NHL 2K9, (although not as good as their game) and alienate them. And NCAA Football is no where near as popular as Madden so not too much money to make there either.

It is understandable that EA is trying to make money and be profitable, but nickel and diming your consumers only because you are the only NFL licensed football game in town is lame. Had there been a NFL 2K9 there is absolutely NO WAY this would have been done. I have never played ESPN 2K5 by 2K Sports, but to this day people rave how great it was/is, and how the latest editions of Madden do not compare.

This is why exclusivity sucks... the gamers pay the price for lame efforts by gaming companies, instead of them putting their best foot forward.

"Instead of improving that this year, let's make them wait until next year's edition so they will buy it and have something to look forward to."

That appears to be EA's motto. Not only do they appear to be doing that, but they are charging gamers for features that are normally free. Hopefully their exclusive licensing rights will be up soon and gamers can return to a healthy gaming competition of gaming companies putting out their best product for gamers to enjoy at a fair cost.

Their new motto should be: "If it's in the game, we'll sell it to you next year!"

Fire Stan Van Gundy!!!

I usually reserve this blog for videogame issues, but I have to get this off my chest. Just finished watching Game 1 of the NBA playoff series between the Boston Celtics and the Orlando Magic. Orlando won the game 95-90 after blowing a 28 point lead. In the series Orlando should be the favorite due to the Celtics losing their Hall of Fame worthy forward Kevin Garnett for playoffs. Orlando's superstar center Dwight Howard finished with 16pts. (6-12 field goals) 22 rebounds and 3 blocks.

Orlando Head Coach Stan Van Gundy, along with others, must go!!!

Here goes... Orlando center Dwight Howard is considered by many to be the best at his position in the NBA. The Celtics have no one talented enough to consistently challenge him; starting center Kendrick Perkins is the lone man trusted with that task. Should Orlando constantly feed Howard the ball in the post he should score consistently on Perkins as well as get him in foul trouble sending him to the bench with the Celtics having virtually NO ONE after him to guard Howard. Next in line would be 6'8" Glenn 'Big Baby' Davis... by the way Howard is 6'11" with extraordinary leaping ability. There's no way Howard should have only had 12 field goal attempts! Every offensive possession down the floor for Orlando should have gone into the post to Howard with him scoring or dishing off for an easy assist.

This is Van Gundy's fault... as the coach he calls the plays and should have firmly instructed his players to feed the ball to Howard! Me, Magic Johnson, Julius Erving and that old guy from that T-Mobile 'Old School' commercial could have won that game easily by going to your 'bread and butter' Dwight Howard all game long. Picture Shaquille O'Neal, Hakeem Olajuwon or David Robinson only getting 12 shot attempts per game... not going to happen!

His teammates deserve blame too. Rashard Lewis is a 6'9" shooting guard masquerading as a power forward who's only moves are shoot and try to shoot. His only ambition is to get himself going offensively jacking up three pointers like he's at the All-Star game competition. I love fellow Queens native Rafer 'Skip to My Lou' Alston, but he's not realizing the need to feed the post either and I expect more from the playground legend. Skip would be great on this team as the point guard on the second unit.

Bottom line, remove Van Gundy for a coach like Avery Johnson, someone who will ensure that the game plan is ran and will hold his players accountable for not playing defense. Trade away Lewis for a true power forward (someone Charles Oakley-like) and attain a playmaking point guard (Chris Paul may very well be available) and this could be a team that contends for many championships, doing something even the great Shaquille O'Neal couldn't do... bring the Larry O'Brien Championship trophy to Orlando.

NXE Avatars: Paying For Fashion

Paying for clothing is nothing new, matter of fact its an everyday common practice; don't pay and you're likely to get arrested for indecent exposure.

Lately there's been an uprising over the need to pay for fashion. If you're not aware this uprising is currently happening on XBox Live's NXE (New Xbox Experience). One of the biggest additions of NXE was the gamer avatar where you can customize your online appearance to look the way you want, similar to Nintendo's Miis. Now there's a lot of talk of how Microsoft is planning on charging gamers a fee to add to their avatar's wardrobe. If this is true, then just two words... bad idea!

It's accepted that XBL gamers pay monthly fee's to play online and those fee's make it so that Microsoft can provide certain services (whatever they may be) or pay for downloaded game content (multiplayer maps, additional missions, etc.) but gamers get tired of being 'nickel and dimed' over every download. Solution... here's an idea that's hopefully been tossed around.

You receive gamer points for unlocking achievements in 360 games, so why not use the gamer score as a bank account used to purchase avatar clothing. Besides showing off for others to see, what other use does the gamer score have? Some individuals have wondered what's so important about achievements? Using this system achievements have more meaning and the gamer puts in more time playing the Publisher's game to unlock that next achievement getting more points just to buy those 'new boots' for their avatar.

Or here's another suggestion... publishers can reward gamers for those really impressive achievements; for example Call of Duty 4's Mile High Club achievement. Give the gamer a Special Ops outfit with the avatar wearing a parachute, chute on the ground with COD 4 written on it; that let's everyone know where exactly the outfit came from giving the game more profile with others who see the avatar dressed this way. Or a COD 4 t-shirt for getting half the achievements in the game.

Companies gave away free gamerpics and themes as promotions for movies, TV shows and so on. Now this can be done in the form of clothing for NXE avatars. Punisher War Zone premiered today... give away Punisher t-shirts for avatars, many different ways of approaching this idea. Gamers love the avatars, but hate the idea of paying to clothe them... shucks I've grown tired of paying to clothe ME. Think I'm going to head down to the Salvation Army for second hand clothes after I finish writing this.

Left 4 Dead... More Co-op Fun

Certain gaming genres have been done over, and over again to the point of boredom. And once again we're back to the zombie genre and even though run-n-shoot isn't original either Left 4 Dead incorporates the latest gaming feature... online co-op play!

A lot of games get a lot of pre-release hype and never live up to expectations (see Legendary). I heard of L4D but thought just another pretender... but then the demo. :)

In this game you are literally running and shooting trying to keep yourself and teammates alive. And pending on which level you play on cooperation is essential! Normal is basically a walk in the park with players vying for the right to get the highest individual score. Advance should be the level most play on the get a good challenge, teamwork is very helpful and not a lot of room for 'going for self'. Now for the fun... Expert... if you dare separate yourself from your teammates you're dead! Even if you do stay with the pack chances of survival are slim, but none the less fun.

Watching your teammates back, rescuing and healing them makes for fun in a kamikaze environment. I'd hate to see what a real zombie takeover would be like... hopefully it wouldn't be like Left 4 Dead on Expert.

Finally MMO Reaches Sports Games

When I first imagined playing online I thought, "a cool idea would be to have sports leagues where the teams were made up of individual players who played a particular position." Example... in Madden each of the 11 positions on offense would be made up of 11 people playing online as a cohesive unit. Only problem with that is who in their right mind would want to spend at least an hour playing as an offensive lineman?

Well leave it to EA Sports to give it the first shot.... slap shot that is!!! Just downloaded the demo for NHL 09 and tried its Be A Pro Mode. I must say I plan on picking this one up and that's hard for me to say, 'cuz I've soured on EA for the past couple of years (Including Madden 09 which I just gave away to my little cousin for cleaning up my room... that's another story). I have to admit the game play was good, but the thought of a massively multiplayer online sports game where your character levels up based on how you play is too good to pass up even if its EA at the helm. This concept is even going into NBA Live 09 as well.

So what about the glory hogs who hope to own the online record for career goals scored making it so that everyone playing is attempting to fly down the ice and score solo? EA is making it so that your character develops according to the things you do, so along with scoring you'll get credit for passing, playing defense, checking, winning face offs and even being a good goalie, if you choose to do so. The best way to look at it is like this... on a typical sports team not everyone is going to get paid to score, becoming effective at doing the things that help your team to win will get you recognition.

I haven't enjoyed a hockey game since NHL '95 on Sega Genesis, hopefully this will be the next innovating game. I was never a fan of first person shooters or MMO's until I played Call of Duty 4, now I can't stop playing. Well hopefully turning 'Albeon Jackson' into the next great online hockey legend will be just as fun as it was getting to level 10 prestige in COD4.

See ya at the Hall of Fame induction! Move over Gretzky!

Poor Customer Service= Bye Bye!!!

In business there's one thing that can certainly destroy a company... PCS... Poor Customer Service! Infuriating customers with either poor service, poor or defective products has caused businesses to payout millions in settlements or go bankrupt. Consumers become tired of dealing with the same retread problems and look else where for the service they expect.

Now to the reason of my rant... Red Ring of Death.... TWO TIMES!!! Third time sending my 360 in for repairs, the second time was in regards to the refurbished system they sent back stopped playing games (not officially RRoD according to Microsoft). Each time I was able to experience the pleasure of talking to their Customer Service department in India (oops... I meant "Cleveland"... that's where "George" told me he was at). Outsourcing jobs at its best (Where's Lou Dobbs when you need him)... fine if they want to send out jobs to other countries, no problem. Especially if it results in them saving money so they can invest it in putting out a better quality product. But no, repair the original console, send it out to the next 'sap' and let them get RRoD all over again so they can send it in for repair, get another refurbished console and continue the cycle.

Oh yea, back to the India part... so I call XBox Live customer service and I get read this sermon that "Melissa" is clearly reading off a cue card. "What's your name?... Can I call you (insert your first name)... Now is your console doing this while its plugged in? What about when the power is on?... Ok you have to send your console in for repairs. Can I put you on hold for two minutes? (In the event you ever have to call... I PROMISE YOU THEY WILL TELL YOU TWO MINUTES AND YOU WILL HOLD FOR AT LEAST 15!) So I ask to speak to a supervisor so I can ask why they continually send me defective systems... after holding for "two minutes", "Melissa" returns with another cue card that explains how the XBox 360's 700 parts at times malfunction resulting in system failure, causing the need for it to be sent in for repair.

I'm sure most people are aware that Microsoft realized this problem and updated the newer consoles so that RRoD isn't common (I guess by changing some of those 700 parts). Question... in order to keep your customer's happy, why not send them a 'new console', thereby showing some sort of attempt to retain them as a valued customer. It's unfortunate, but when people have good experiences they don't share them as often as the bad ones... as this is clearly a bad one.

Maybe Microsoft's standpoint is 'Well, it's either us or Sony where else are they gonna go?'... Well I've made my decision... I think I'll give Sony a shot. It's not that I'm a fanboy... because the only thing I ever cared about was good games and that was how I made my decision about which console I would buy. Hell, I was still going to get a PS3, but until the price dropped significantly... there really wasn't anything on PS3 that I wanted to play that I couldn't play on 360, so there was no need for 2 systems now. But the problem is, I can't even play the games I have now because my 360 decides to crap out every so often and I have to be inconvenienced by sending it in for at least 3 weeks for repair and then getting a complimentary 30 day XBox Live Gold card. So much for those 360 exclusives that brought me over to Microsoft... Gears of War (good... no complaints), Halo 3 (a bit overrated personally), Crackdown (I enjoyed, but will shed no tears if I couldn't play the sequel), Mass Effect (Most likely coming over to PS3), Marvel Online (effectively cancelled for some 'back of the comic store' MMO) and Fable 2 (which might not live up to the hype, sorta like Fable).

So to the fanboys who swear by Microsoft and say 'stop complaining and just buy a PS3!'... you're missing the point. Sending your 360 in for the fourth, fifth or even eighth repair (yes I've actually saw a post that said eight times... I hope that was a lie) is equivalent to the guy who can't get a girl. He finally gets one and she constantly cheats on him... he takes her back because he's afraid of being alone or trying to find someone else and all she does is constantly milk him for whatever she wants. So fanboys the morale of the story is you keep letting a company get away with poor service they never change their ways; get up and leave and they start self evaluating and looking for ways to mend relations with their customers. In this instance there may not be many 'fish in the sea', but there damn sure is an alternative and her name is PS3!!!

April 29th 2008... What Does It Mean To You?

April 29, 2008... ask the average person about that date and they'll say, "The end of April?" April 29th will be one of two biggest sick days in the world due to the release of Grand Theft Auto IV (oh, the other... Madden '09 release date). The game that may have swung the PS2/Xbox console war in the favor of Sony, due to its exclusive release deal; that was the reason why I got PS2 instead of an Xbox and had that still been the case I'd have a PS3 instead of Xbox 360.

That original November 2007 release date doesn't seem that long ago now and hopefully the extra five months will have made the game worth the wait. I'll be at Best Buy to pick up my reserved copy and then get mysteriously sick later on that night and take two off from work due to GTAitus. I'll finally have something that moves Call of Duty 4 from out of my console tray for more than 15 minutes.

I'm very interested to see how multiplayer is going to work, I've read about some of the modes and hope they're something original besides the typical 'these 8 shooting at those 8'. But the meat and potatoes is going to be single player and I cant wait to see how the leader boards are going to work for different accomplishments.

My bags are packed and I'm on my way to Liberty City... see you on the 29th, I'll be the one causing all the commotion.

X-Box Live Issues

As of December 30, 2007 I officially realized there was a problem with X-Box Live. When I started experiencing even more problems than I usually did playing Call of Duty 4. I always seemed to have problems connecting to other games on CoD, thinking the problem exist with my connection and NAT settings (still don't know how to adjust that so that it works) but then when I couldn't get others to join my games I realized things had gotten worse.

After doing some checking around on the net, there's definitely something wrong on Microsoft's end. Gamer after gamer was posting XBL complaints regarding joining multiplayer games, to downloading videos, to creating gamertags. Some say this had been going on for 3 weeks but I noticed a change on December 25... that's right good ole Christmas day. Makes sense though... every kid and kid-at-heart had a 360 on their wish list, and it was apparent just playing CoD that day they got their wish. I noticed a lot of Level 1 players, checking out their rep and gamerscore you could tell they were new to XBL. Then when you add in the fact kids are out from school, others are off from work for the holidays its no surprise that XBL experienced problems with their servers.

I guess they underestimated the amount of traffic that would be generated on XBL and weren't prepared for it. Unfortunately things like this creates rumors left and right... one post I read claimed that Microsoft said they're working on the servers and wouldn't be back to 100% until February. If that's true, then that's unacceptable... but somehow I very seriously doubt that it is; taking into account that Microsoft is such a huge company that should have the technical resources to fix such a problem in less than 8 weeks. Some posters were upset and rightfully so, regarding paying for a service and not being able to enjoy it, especially those who just got their 360.

Well there's possibly a light at the end of the tunnel... how so? With Microsoft having problems with the server shows that XBL membership is growing and that's good for the company and gamers. Greater the possibility that they waive fees to play online only having to pay for movies, game content, etc. Especially with so many people being upset over the matter. Reminds me of the "Red Ring of Death" problem, everyone started complaining about defective 360's so Microsoft offered to fix them for free and extended the warranties to 3yrs. A similar resolution can come about over this problem as well; one thing for sure, Microsoft wants to be the king of the gaming world and you cant do that by making everyone mad at you.

So yea, it bites that I can't play CoD right now, but I'm sure it will be fixed and I'm looking forward to see how Microsoft is going to respond the problem.

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