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CliffHicks Blog

Odama - from great to profanity in 6 hours

0-30 minutes: "Okay, this is cool. I like the pinball mechanics, I can tilt the table as much as I want... the guys seem to mostly be listening to me, so that's entertaining. I like the flavor of the game, even if this advisor of mine is a bit of a sycophant. But hey, so far, so good."

30-60 minutes: "Ha ha! Take that, you horrible little men! Feel the wrath of my mighty, Odama! I shall crush you! I have smote you there! Smiting is occuring! I have an angry wrath! Let none stand in the way of the bell! I shall conquer all of this land!"

1-2 hours: "Bloody hell, this looks complicated. Three rivers, two keys, two locked doors, a pulley, some ladders and they have a whole mess of troops. This does not look good. Not good indeed."

2-3 hours: "Okay, this mission is just stupid hard. I smack the ball too hard and it hits the floodgate and I end up drowning half my own men. Several of my guys keep dying for no particular reason. On top of all of that, they have the memory of a gnat!"

3-4 hours: "Even the advisor's making fun of me, I've tried this mission so many times! It's only mission three! What's the learning curve on this, a brick wall?! There's just too much going on at any one moment! Grrr... I'm gonna get through this!"

4-5 hours: "Ha ha! I beat it! I am unstoppable! I am ruthless! I am... boss fight? Erp."

5:00-5:30 hours: "Oh you've gotta be ****ing kidding me. No ****ing way. I only have the troops I brought with me from the last one! And the boss has his own flippers! And an endless number of troops! **** it, I'm going to at least beat this first boss before I return it to the office library. I'm going to!"

5:30-5:45 hours: "Oh come on, die die die! I'm almost there! Just push through! Get the ****ing bell through the ****ing gate! **** ********* *****-****** **** ** **** ***** *** ***** ******* **** ***** *** **** *** *** *****!!!"

5:45-6:00 hours: "Okay. I give. You win. I surrender."


Dave (head of the library): "How was it?"
Cliff: "Don't ask. My throat's sore from swearing."

Nintendo whatnow?

Okay, now I'm totally lost... what the hell is Nintendo doing?! They're actually going to call this thing the Wii?! Tell me this is a hoax. Tell me this is some terrible practical joke. Tell me Nintendo hasn't completely gone off the deep end and thrown its common sense to the wolves to be devoured randomly. Tell me I am still sleeping in my bed and this is one long, poorly constructed fever dream. Some madman has snuck into my house in the middle of the night and stolen my brain and replaced it with, I don't know, an ipod and a microphone, or something.


Nintendo, it's not too late. Somewhere inside of me, a little piece of my soul is breaking. You can't do this to us. Go back to the Revolution... please, for the love of God, and your own personal safety... you cannot, CAN NOT, call this thing... the Wii.


Edit: All I can think of every time I see this name is this video. I warn you, though, it has profanity (and has been around the internet for a long, long time).

Silent Hill flick - my thoughts

So I saw Silent Hill on Friday night and I feel as both a gamer and an ex-movie critic, it's my duty to tell you what I thought about the whole thing. Now, let me preface all of this with a few caveats -- I absolutely loved "Brotherhood of the Wolf," the last film from Christophe Gans (who directed Silent Hill), but I'd also seen quite a few bad reviews of the movie when we set foot in the theater, so I figured I'd approach it with an open mind.

The short and skinny for those of you who don't want to read the long-form of my opinion is that this is the best game-to-movie translation yet and while the film isn't flawless by any stretch of the imagination, it is an excellent piece of art-house horror-psych cinema. For those who can't bear to read prolonged thoughts and discussion, I give it a B+, so you can go away. For the rest of you, read on...

There are a lot of things that could've gone wrong with the Silent Hill movie. It could've been too unclear or too overexplained; it could've been filmed poorly or too inaccessibly; it could've been made only for fans of the game or it could've been forced into being too accessible. In the end, it's mostly none of these things. What it ends up being is a good translation of the Silent Hill vibe and story concepts with some minor flaws.

If you've played the Silent Hill games, you'll probably get a lot more mileage out of the movie than other people. When the ash-babies show up, you'll start tweaking. When you first see Pyramid Head, you'll get excited in a very nerve wracking way. You'll recognize camera angles and textures, locations and scenes. Amazingly enough, there is so much of the game in this movie that whole sections of the town feel like 3D lept to life. There are some things that I would have liked to have seen from the games that didn't appear, but hey, we can hope for a sequel.

If you haven't played Silent Hill, you may find some of the story a bit convoluted, and it may take a bit of time to digest. Part of the problem I think many people are having with the movie is they went in expecting one thing and got something else. Fans of the Silent Hill games know that the series doesn't pride itself on "jump" moments. Silent Hill has never been about monsters jumping out of the closet -- it's been about that horrible sound coming from the closet that you just have to open anyway. It's not about something grabbing you from behind on the shoulder, it's about the thing shambling towards you that you can't seem to find a way away from. Silent Hill has always been about getting under the skin, and the movie accomplishes this admirably.

The look and feel of the film are definitely the stars of the show.  When they finally get to the town of Silent Hill, and that dense fog envelops everything, gamers will rejoice. And when that first siren hits, and the walls turn to black plastic and rusty corrigated metal, a chill will run their spines, just like it did mine.  Each new location evokes memories in those who've played the games. "No, don't go in there! I remember what happened in there! You don't wanna go there!" I kept thinking to myself. The more of the Silent Hill games you've played, the more you'll be doing this.

It should be said, however, I have a few problems with the movie. First and foremost, some of the dialogue is flat out bad, even for horror dialogue. There are a couple of lines that the audience laughed at, and while I was annoyed by them laughing, I have to concede that some of them were just awful. Thankfully this is confined to about 4-5 lines, which can mostly be glossed over. More importantly, however, the first 15 minutes of the movie could probably have been cut without much loss. The entire setup is a lot more forced than it is in the game, and since much of the movie was taken from the first game, having it open like the first game did (i.e. right post car-crash) would've been fine. Also, the religious element is played up much more in the movie than it was in the games, and while it was a good change to go that angle, it's a bit browbeating after the third or fourth heavy-handed reference.

Unlike most people I've talked to, I didn't have any problem with the ending. Perhaps there's a little too much explaining going on in the last act of the movie, right before the slightly cryptic ending (which will come as no real shocker to anyone who finished the first game), and maybe it's that contrast of a lot of information to very little that sort of sets people off, but I was okay with it, if not pleased with it.

On the whole, Silent Hill is the most original and yet most faithful video game adaptation we've seen yet on the silver screen. The things I liked about the videogame were there, and the things that needed to be added or changed to make it more cinematic were mostly done with a deft hand. Despite its minor flaws, it seems like audiences are positively responding to the majority of the film (although everyone laughs at that one bad, bad line -- which is fair) and I hope it does well enough to merit a second one.

C&C3 thoughts from an ex-WW person

So, some of you know that I spent about 18 months working in the house that Kane built, Westwood Studios. Because of this, the news that there's a C&C3 coming fills me with a cautious excitement. I'd always been a big fan of the Command & Conquer games, so when I was offered the opportunity to go work for them in 2001, I lept at the chance. And I had a good 18-months working out in Las Vegas, even when the new project I was working on was cancelled. In the end, the closure of that project was just the final nail in the coffin to assure me that I needed to move back to the Bay area. I enjoyed the area and the people far too much to stay away.

Since then, I've been waiting for another C&C game in the Tiberium franchise, and I'm glad to see one is coming. What details they've announced sound great (and some of the ideas suggested at here, at least plotwise, had been kicking around at Westwood for years) and I'm pleased to hear that Kane will return. I can only hope, however, that they've gotten Joe Kucan back to be Kane, because anyone else would simply be faking it. Back when I worked at Westwood, Joe, myself, the online director Ted, our two audio geniuses Paul and Dwight, and our unstoppable German Thilo, would play poker at lunch. It was, honestly, the most enjoyable lunch time I'd ever had, and I think fondly about those days and those guys regularly. It was a great period of time. Now, of all of those guys, Joe is the only one I really don't know what he's up to these days. Ted's gone to work at Petroglyph with many of the other ex-Westwood guys doing Star Wars: Empire At War, Paul and Dwight landed at Insomnaic Games and have been doing Ratchet & Clank games, Thilo is working over at EALA these days... but Joe's sort of dropped out of the limelight.

I did some poking and found Joe had done a few semi-cryptic shoutouts on the internet, as he was known to do. (You think he's weird in print, you should've heard some of the things that came out of his mouth in the office -- he had me in stitches a great many times.) And the hard part is that Joe was laid off from Westwood Studios during a dramatic cutback that basically signalled the beginning of the end for Westwood. The good times were gone, and all that was left was the hard truth -- Westwood was living on borrowed time.

There are a lot of reasons you could say the studio failed, but I wouldn't even begin to want to speculate on it. If some of the things I saw printed on the internet are true, Joe may harbor a lot of resentment to EA (the people who bought out Westwood) and I don't blame him. He put in a lot of hard work and got the short end of the stick. EA drove a lot of people to the brink of madness, not just once but several times. Some of the people who've gone back to EA say it's changed, but as the expression goes, once bitten...

All that said, I hope they do get Joe to come back and reprise his role as Kane. It wouldn't be Kane without Joe. And Joe, if you're reading this, ask for a truckload of money. You've earned it. From one of your former colleagues and still one of your fans (and hopefully still at least a little bit your friend) , I hope this finds you well.

iPods in vending machines...

Not joking... So what's next? Laptops? Cars? I expect dating services may get to this point, too. Fill out a questionairre, swipe your credit card and out pops the perfect person for you. Of course, cloning technology isn't up to that point yet... but soon....

But I have to agree with the article... where's the kiosk to actually get you MUSIC for it? Because otherwise, what's the point...

Black plague vs. Tomb Raider demo...

So I've spent almost all of the last two days sleeping with this black plague that I contracted while in Indianapolis (or my little brother brought it to me when he was out visiting...) so that's why I've been behind on getting things done -- I've actually been deathly sick. After sleeping until noon, though, I woke up and found out the Tomb Raider Legend demo is out for my 360, so she's downloading now and will entertain me before I go back to napping...

Starcraft: Ghost ... fighting Duke Nukem Forever...

Okay, now I'm all for holding games back for quality, but we are now officially bordering on ridiculous here. Starcraft: Ghost has been postponed indefinitely, maybe being moved to next-gen systems, maybe being canned altogether.

Good GOD people, what are you doing out there? Ghost has changed development hands twice, been in development since the beginning of time and may not, in fact, even be real. Nova and Duke Nukem are busy slugging it out to see who's more vaporware.

The shame is that what I saw at E3 last year had potential. I wasn't totally sold, but it was an intriguing start. We can hope that this isn't a cancellation notice and they're simply moving to 360/PS3/Rev development, but at this point, I'd say anyone who claims to actually know what's going on is also trying to sell you beachfront property in the Florida everglades and a bridge in Brooklyn.

No PS3 this year for the US looking likely

Even more news about how the PS3 is experiencing delays.

At this point, if it makes this year, I think we'd all be shocked. No real games displayed, no final hardware, people in development companies JUST getting final dev kits, hardware delays, high expense problems... is this thing ever going to ship?

I'm sure it's going to be a solid system, as Sony would be a fool not to have something rock solid built to get into a console war, but the delays are getting something crazy. At this rate, I think we're looking at a November launch for Japan and a February launch for the US. Mind you, this is pure speculation on my part - I don't know any more than any of you.

But this news is disheartening. The "spring" launch may be Spring 2007, and by then, Microsoft will have a whole year lead. This console war is going to be an odd one, Mr. Grinch... very odd indeed.

The Outfit = Arathi Basin?

So I've been playing The Outfit demo a little bit... and it's... Arathi Basin? Or Battlegrounds? I mean, don't get me wrong -- the experience is okay, if somewhat unremarkable, but haven't we played this games a dozen different ways in a dozen different other settings? I dunno... I'll give it a few more multiplayer experiences, but so far, I'm not that impressed.