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Ryan Blog

Of table tennis and hair ties

Since getting a copy of Rockstar Table Tennis this afternoon, I've been playing this game pretty much non-stop, and my nerves are totally shot from it. Before I retire for the evening, though, I'm going to try a little experiment. I've already racked up 225 gamerscore points in TabTen (props to Carrie for that one), and I'm going to see if I can get a few more while I'm asleep. There is an achievement for playing the offline game for 10+ hours, so I've started up a single-player exhibition match where there's no auto-serve function, which effectively means that there are two table tennis players standing there, eyeballing each other.

Like so.

The rub is that I've been lazy about investing in the Xbox 360 Charge & Play Kit, so my controller is straight up AA battery-powered at the moment, and if there's no input on a battery-powered controller for a few minutes, it automatically powers down. When that happens, the game pauses, which would prevent me from getting my filthy, ill-gotten points while I sleep. At first I was dreaming up plans of building a robot that could just tap the A button for me to keep the game going, but instead I opted to wrap one of my girlfriend's hair ties around my Xbox 360 controller to maintain the charade that I'm actually playing a game.

Like so.

Other aspiring point-junkies, take note--the band is wrapped in such a way that it's activating both the left analog stick and the right shoulder trigger at the same time. I originally tried just activating the analog stick, but the controller still powered down after 10 minutes or so. Of course, if I had a Charge & Play Kit, none of this would be a problem, since a plugged in 360 controller never powers down.

The only thing to do now is go to sleep and hope for the best. If this experiment works out, my next target will be the achievement for playing 10+ hours in the online mode. I think that one might actually be even easier, since I don't think a powered down controller would stop an online game, but it'll require the cooperation of another player willing to leave their Xbox 360 on overnight. Lucky for me, I'm pretty sure Jeff's game.

UPDATE: This didn't work. Rockstar's cleverer than I thought! As much as I'd like cheap points, I'd actually prefer it if the achievement points system were less exploitable, since that would give more value to your actual gamerscore. I find it encouraging that developers are becoming more serious about this business.

Selling me my childhood...again.

I'll admit it. I love being right. Who doesn't? When you're able to make some declaration and then watch as it unfolds as you predicted, there's this feeling like you're somehow cosmically tapped into the truth of the universe, or, you know, you're a really good guesser. That said, I'm both enthused and a bit sad that Lucas is finally releasing the original theatrical cuts of the original Star Wars trilogy.

My enthusiasm is for the obvious reasons. The Star Wars that I remember and the Star Wars that is deeply engrained in the collective pop culture psyche is not the Star Wars you see on store shelves--at least not in the US, anyway. Those savvy enough have been watching bootleg DVDs of the rare widescreen THX remastered Japanese Laserdisc versions of the original trilogy, but even those don't look as good as the real thing.

What makes me sad is that my prediction that Lucas would eventually release the original cuts was predicated on him being a ruthlessly greedy bastard, and he has stayed true to form. If you read the whole story, you'll see that you won't get to just buy the original trilogy in a fun little box set--oh no--each episode will come seperate, but each episode will be sold bundled with the godforsaken Special Edition version, and you'll have the privilege of paying roughly $30 for each of these bundles.

That's $90 for three movies, twice--basically, three movies I want, and three movies even they know I don't want. I mean, that's the whole reason they're releasing the original cuts, right? But they're so confident that I'm going to buy it anyway, they figured they could wring a couple more bucks out of my predictable ass. That's just crass!

So, here's the plan, and I encourage any of you other suckers to follow in kind. I will buy those discs come September, but I will also take the Special Editions and fry them in my microwave as a symbolic act. Symbolic of what, I have no idea, I just know that frying DVDs in microwaves is totally sweet, and those discs will be just as useful to me then as when they're still in working order.

I love Rayman.

Rayman 2 is one of the best video games ever. Not even ever made, just ever. I have very scientific-looking charts and graphs and statistics and one of those Jacob's Ladder things to back up this theory. When it came out in 1999, there was not a 3D platformer that oozed with more style, personality, and inventive platforming action, and six years later the only game to even contest its position is the amazing-in-its-own-way Psychonauts.

Michel Ancel, creator of Rayman and creative force behind Rayman 2, Beyond Good & Evil, and Peter Jackson's King Kong The Original Game Based On the Marketing Department's Needlessly Long-Winded Title, had minimal involvement in Rayman 3, but he's back on board for Rayman Raving Rabbids. This is very good news.

In the sole in-game screenshot released so far, Rayman is riding a giant spider while hunting down a pack of criminally insane rabbits. Also, he's got a pink afro. I could maybe do without the pink afro, but the crazy rabbits are totally right-on. Evil rabbits are exactly the kind of foil that Rayman needs. What really sells the whole thing for me, though, is this other promotional image that Ubisoft released.

Nintendo has been putting on these Apple-style airs about the Wii name, and all you've been hearing is icy marketing language about how the name works across different markets and creates synergy and a bunch of other meaningless, nonsensical garbage that just makes people hate the name more. This marks the first time that anyone actually involved with the Wii has acknowledged and celebrated how ridiculous the name is.

Anyway. Rayman Raving Rabbids is now high on the list of games I want to play at E3.

Funny headline, sad reality.

Take-Two killed Indie Built.

The Indie Built name never really resonated much with the general game-buying public, and I personally didn't much care for most of the stuff they did. The multimedia pastiche that was Amped 3, however, made me a big believer. I've never seen a game with such a unique and engaging voice, and those punks at Neversoft could learn a thing or two about storytelling from Amped 3.

The only silver lining I can salvage from all this is the possibility that Take-Two was holding back Indie Built, and that the team is already regrouping and working on something deemed too crazy by its former corporate masters.

ET for the 2600 is terrible.

We were tossing around some of our favorite game-related videos when Justin found this little gem on Kotaku. Despite how gut-wrenchingly bad ET for the 2600 is, the indie popsters in Wintergreen were able to turn it into something fun.

Matt Rorie is a total indie rock snob and summarily shunned the whole effort, but I found the video endearing and the song light and catchy. Sometimes that's just what you need on a Friday afternoon.

I invite you to watch and decide for yourself.

Monday morning points update.

Though it wasn't quite the three-day points bender I went on last weekend, my 360 was still plenty warm from constant use this weekend. In an effort to both clear out my back catalog of 360 games and to revisit games I didn't really play in HD the first time 'round, I started in on PGR3 on Friday night, and even though that session was cut short by a midnight showing of probably the most haggard print of The Princess Bride in current circulation (much love to The Clay, but damn, you guys should've mentioned the quality of your print in the newsletter!), I was still quickly reminded of how beautiful that game looks and how great it plays.

The lion's share of Saturday was spent eating dim sum and looking at art, but by Saturday I had still prodigiously finished the career mode in PGR3 on Silver. I'm still enjoying the online play, and I really like how it's integrated into the overall career mode, though once I snag the Celebrity achievement for appearing on Gotham TV, I'll probably be done with it.

I put up a big fight during our GOTY 2005 meetings over the soundtrack in PGR3, and I would like to rescind everything I said. That soundtrack absolutely sings, and the choices made in each genre it covers consistently appeal to my sensibilities. Like everyone else, I was thoroughly frustrated by how quietly the music plays, and I eventually had to plug my iPod into the 360 just to get some loud background music. I was pleasantly surprised when the game continued popping up song and artist information, even though it was playing off my iPod. More 360 games should do that.

After a few hours of PGR3 online Sunday morning, I switched over to Condemned, partially because I knew it was about four hours long and had some easy points, but mostly because I wanted to get it out of my GameFly queue. I actually put off playing Condemned for a while because I finished the first two chapters around launch, and the game just totally freaked my bean. I'm a bit of a pansy in that way--Resident Evil 4 is a game I can only play during daylight hours. I really wanted to like Condemned, but I had already gotten my fill of Monolith's spooky tricks playing F.E.A.R., and at about the halfway point I just got bored of the whole "grimy room plus crazy hobo" dynamic. Of course I did both endings, but wtfffffff is the point of having alternate endings if they aren't actually alternate?

With Condemned behind me, Sunday night saw me staring down copies of DOA4 and Full Auto, not really wanting to play either, when I finally did the inevitable and put Oblivion into my 360. I actually bought Oblivion the weekend it came out and played through the tutorial snap-quick, but stopped shortly after that, knowing full well it would consume me once it really got rolling.

There's already a serious amount of editorial out there about how rude this game is, so I'm not even going to mess with it, because you should already know what's up by now. It's reminding me why I fell in love with WoW the first time through, but with really fleshed-out, interesting characters instead of some jack-ass from Skokie, IL pretending to be some mythical chick. That's right. I totally just called out Skokie. What's up?

Which puts my current points tally at 11,803. Thanks to GRAW for that goofy-ass 3 points on the end.

Revenge points update.

Before coming in to work this morning, I finally perfected the last Grand Prix event in Burnout Revenge. This puts me at 95% completion in the single-player game, with a handful of area-specific challenges and signature takedowns representing that last 5%. Worst part of all this is that I left the house this morning with 10,998 points, and being just two points short of 11,000 is making me a little crazy.