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Ryan Blog

Return of the Jack

I know it's not quite breaking news at this point, but Jellyvision's classic quiz-game series You Don't Know Jack has returned after a good seven year hiatus, and I find myself disproportionately excited about it. Right now it's only in beta, which means that you only get a single Dis or Dat question each day, which is only a fraction of a full session of YDKJ, but just enough to keep me thinking about the show incessantly. Even just that little taste has reminded me of how smart, funny, and incredibly engaging YDKJ can be.

I was a huge, obsessive fan of the old You Don't Know Jack Netshow, which provided a brand-spankin'-new set of questions twice a week back in '99, when it was something of a technological marvel. It disappeared when, like so many other ventures of the time, everyone realized that they had no idea how to make money off this cool thing. I assume that their new Internet-based YDKJ thing will function roughly the same as the old Netshow once it's up and running, though I hope it will let you play against live online opponents, something that was a total fantasy for Flash-based content back in the dial-up days. I'm happy to have it back in any form, really, but here's what Jellyvision really needs to do.

Bring You Don't Know Jack to the Wii. I suggested this already earlier this week on The HotSpot, but I wanted to reiterate.

Bring You Don't Know Jack to the Wii.

The well-known game-show format makes it the perfect casual group game, it's a better fit in the living room than it ever could be on its native PC platform, and the Wii remote is almost as close to an straight-up game-show buzzer that a video game controller has ever come. The PC game used to come on a single CD-ROM, and since it has maintained the same, simple text-and-audio interface, can you imagine how many questions they could cram onto a DVD? I get physically excited just thinking about it.

Separated at Birth

As is tradition, Microsoft kicked off this year's CES with its big keynote press conference, and in hopes that they'd show some sweet new Xbox 360 business, I decided to watch Microsoft's live video stream. And, as is tradition with the volume of goods and services being shown at CES, it was mostly boring. Even the crowd in the auditorium was hard-pressed to fill the dead air in the speakers' plentiful applause breaks, spiking the boring with some awkward.

Still, the Windows Live stuff is very exciting to me--I actually had a little fit when they showed the demo of a person using Vista and a person on their 360 playing Uno together. The Xbox 360 IPTV stuff sounds very exciting, but they didn't provide much hard detail about it, and without the accompanying announcement of an HDMI-enabled 360 with a 120GB drive, it just doesn't seem practical yet. Here's what really caught my eye, though.

What you're looking at here is a screenshot of Windows Media Center for Vista. Look at all familiar? If you're a PSP or PS3 owner, it definitely should.

Not only does Media Center bear a remarkable resemblance to Sony's Cross Media Bar design, it even whiffs lightly of Apple's Front Row interface.

For three companies who couldn't have more divergent styles and design ethics, it's a little unnerving that all of their media-access interfaces look so damn similar. Either everyone is running out of ideas, or this kind of layout is truly the best way to access your media. I'm not trying to call foul or place blame here, but their similarities are interesting. Thoughts?

And I can't remember the name of the third gang!

This guy has played a good deal of Saints Row, and has taken to capturing some of its more spectacular bugs on tape. Rather than just post some boring 15-minute YouTube clips with bad sound, he's used them to create a masterpiece.

Buggy Saints Row: The Musical

I'm loathe to call it machinima, but if that's what it is, it's one of the better pieces I've seen (though I have a confusing appreciation for this). Seriously, watch Buggy Saints Row and then paste it to everyone in your IM list before they do it to you.

A Firefly MMO Seems Like a Really Poor Idea.

So maybe I wasn't the hugest fan of certain choices made with Serenity, but that does little to tarnish my abiding affection for Firefly in general. That said, a Firefly MMO seems like a really poor idea.

The fundamental problem is who cares about the Firefly universe? The whole space-western angle made for some novel anachronisms, but that's not really why Firefly fans are Firefly fans. It was the characters and their stories that made Firefly great, and that's something that even the best MMOs have a hard time conveying.

My other question is, who's gonna actually play a Firefly MMO? They are costly to develop, and require a large number of long-term players for any measure of success. The Firefly fanbase may be fervent, but it's simply not big enough to support an MMO, if anything. The show itself lasted only 14 episodes and Serenity cost $39 million to produce, while only making $25 million. Do we see a pattern emerging?

I'll say it again: a Firefly MMO seems like a really poor idea. It will not serve the fans, and it will not make money for the publisher. If you want to appeal to Firefly fans, ditch this trendy MMO nonsense and go for a single-player experience that better serves the story and the characters. A basic action adventure format would be an obvious, easy choice, though Freelancer was basically Firefly but without all the cursing in Chinese. Hell, even a point-and-click graphical adventure would be a better fit, but a Firefly MMO seems like a really poor idea.

Jock, Dancer, Sincere Fudgehog Enthusiast

He might have seen his "career" revitalized by the most recent season of Dancing with the Stars, but that doesn't mean Mario Lopez is above making public appearances to endorse a game that glorifies the trapping, forcible breeding, trafficking, and inevitable mutilation of papier-mâché-based animals. Watch in a sublime mix of awe, pity, and abject horror as A.C. Slater gets busy at The World's Biggest Pinata Party, which was held by Microsoft over the weekend on the Santa Monica Pier.

In the words of Jessie Spano, "I'm so excited! I'm so excited! I'm so...scared!" I actually couldn't tell you what happens beyond the first five seconds of this video, because every time I try to watch it, I actually black out. There's something about pomade and line-dancing that causes my cerebral cortex to just seize up.

What I really like, though, is this totally sincere, off-the-cuff remark that was actually made by Lopez, as referenced in this morning's press release from Microsoft about the event:

“Starting with some basic tools that allow you to create a thriving piñata paradise that is teeming with wild and wonderful little piñata animals and is uniquely your own is incredibly entertaining and really quite satisfying.”

When my children ask me where cynicism comes from, I'll just point to a framed copy of this press release, which will be hung over the mantle.

Please Don't Wake Me

I had a dream over the Thanksgiving break that it was announced that Amped 4 was in development. When I woke up and realized it was all a dream, it broke my heart.

No Love for the Dark Side

So, LucasArts and Ubisoft have teamed up to make a new Star Wars game for the PSP and DS. My question is, who, outside of socially awkward Star Wars geeks who eat their own scabs, gives half a damn about Twi'lek Rianna Saren, the Jedi knight around whom Star Wars: Lethal Alliance revolves? She's straight-up b-team.

At the end of Episode III, all I wanted to know is what sort of nastiness does Darth Vader get up to in the years preceding the original trilogy? He's a big mopey heartbroken wuss at the end of Revenge of the Sith, but by the beginning of Star Wars he's this stone-cold badass that's known the galaxy over for choking dudes with his brain and exploding planets. Where's the game that explores how he earns that reputation of unmitigated brutality?

The keepers of the Star Wars mythos want you to believe that it's all about the struggle between good and evil in the hearts of men, but outside of Knights of the Old Republic, the dark side is rarely explored. Why the hell would I want to be a third-string Jedi that inevitably gets exterminated when I could be the dark lord of the Sith responsible for bringing the galaxy to its knees?

The Trauma of Buying Games

There are the occasional freebies, and there's a certain amount of access granted by the job here at GameSpot, but generally speaking, when we want games, we gotta go out to the stores to buy them for ourselves, just like everyone else. Though the tastes of the editorial staff are usually pretty divergent, once in a while the stars align and everyone gets excited about the same game. Such was the case for Dead Rising, which just about everyone decided they needed to have on launch day, including myself.

I actually had the foresight to preorder the game through the Friday prior. However, looking at my order on Tuesday, launch day, I saw that the status had changed from Preordered to Backordered. I call customer service, and sure enough, didn't have enough copies to immediately fill my preorder, leaving me to cancel my order and look elsewhere.

I called the nearby EB Games on Powell, though all I got from that was a snotty clerk chiding me for not preordering it. Which is a massive crock anyways, since Carrie Gouskos did preorder Dead Rising from that EB Games, but when she showed up to claim her copy on Tuesday, they said they didn't have enough copies of the game to fill her preorder. Pretty despicable. Isn't the point of a preorder that you're guaranteed a copy of the game upon its release? Carrie is talking about filing a complaint with the Better Business Bureau, seeing how this is now the FOURTH TIME IN A ROW that the EB Games on Powell has been unable to fulfill her preorder. I've always gotten nothing but crummy service there anyways, so I'll support her cause by boycotting that store.

I called the brick & mortar Best Buy in SF around noon, and they weren't sure if they were even getting the game that day, and told me to call back around 3:00. I didn't even bother calling the Virgin Megastore or CompUSA, because they never have games in stock on the day they launch. After more phone calls and a late-day online order for in-store pickup, I finally managed to get myself a copy of Dead Rising on the day it was released. With a similar level of perseverance, I believe most of the other editors were able to do the same.

My question is, why is buying video games such a ridiculous process? Film distributors are able to release movies across the entire nation on the same day. If I go into a halfway reputable DVD or music retailer on a Tuesday, I can be all but guaranteed to be greeted by shelves filled with that week's new releases. But somehow, video game distributors are unable to consistently hit their release dates with enough stock to meet the demand, which I frankly find a little bit embarrassing. It almost seems like these companies are *daring* you to try and buy their games.

Canceling E3 was a big step in the maturation of this business, the next step is to start delivering the product like you actually care about your customers.

Calling All Nielsen Families!

My roommate Brian Malow is a stand-up comic by trade, and tonight marks his first national TV appearance, which is a pretty huge deal for him.

SO! If you're the type of person that's up real late, or you've got a TiVo, I strongly encourage you to catch tonight's (Thursday, August 10th) episode of The Late Late Show with Craig Ferguson. You'll find it on CBS after Letterman.

Do it for the children! And for the guy that pays the other half of my rent!