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Wootex Blog

Do you like Nintendo 64? Do you like podcasts?

Well if the criteria in the title applies to you, you might enjoy the podcast "Ultra 64." In it, my friend Steve and I play through every game on the Nintendo 64. Each episode features one game or a couple within the same series or theme. We have thirteen episodes so far and I think our show is constantly improving, check it out!


Wootex talks about The Adventures of Tintin

The comic book series, The Adventures of Tintin has been an absolutely integral part of my life. I've read each book many times over as well as biographies and history of Herge', the series creator. The books are, in my opinion, awesome.

Its been many years in the making, but now there is a big budget Tintin movie released in the United States (directed by Steven Spielberg no less). Aptly titled The Adventures of Tintin, the movie claims to be based on the book Secret of the Unicorn, but it borrows heavily from The Crab with the Golden Claw as well. The dialogue sticks out as being a bit corny but the story itself is well written as it nicely mixes content from the books with some new scenes for the movie. This helps the movie stand on its own without feeling like a straight retelling of the book.

The Secret of the Unicorn was finished in 1943 and a lot has changed since then. Audiences are jaded so an epic sea battle, flying a plane through a storm, and tracking pirate gold doesn't can't quite carry a film like it did the books. Even if the content of the movie doesn't completely stand out, the animation does.

The Adventures of Tintin is done with a motion capture animation that is nothing short of phenomenal. The characters simultaneously look animated and real and it captures the Herge animation style without being derivate. The animation is the reason to see The Adventures of Tintin. As a side not, I saw the movie in 2D and 3D. 3D does pretty much nothing aside from cost more and make you wear irritating glasses.

For fans of the Tintin brand, the movie satisfies and is pretty much all I could ask for in a Tintin movie. If you like animated movies with some frantic and slapstick action (think Pirates of the Caribbean), the movie fits that bill well. The movie succeeds as a fun, animated film and does justice to Tintin, which is enough for me.

Unsung greats of gaming, part 16: Def Jam: Fight for New York

Author's note: This is part of a series of blogsin which Gabuex and I highlight games thatyou may have missed but are nonetheless awesome. Most of them are written by Gabu. The blogs, not the games (as far as I know).

Previous edition: Blazing Dragons

He's got the whole world in his hands.

It's time to take it to the streets. It's time to throw away everything you've been taught about human decency and/or dignitary and focus all your energy on smashing your opponent's head with a car door. Why do we do this? Because we thugs, and this is what thugs do.

Honestly, I have no idea why any of the characters in this game choose to live the way that they do, or for that matter, I don't know how they manage to keep living at all. The brutal hits that these people inflict on one another would be sure to cause death to most people. Or at least serious brain damage… which I suppose branches nicely into my next point.

Sometimes, a bar tab gets a bit out of hand.

Def Jam: Fight for New York is a dumb game, really dumb. It is openly a game about nothing more than angry people beating the crap out of each other; not to save the world from an outworld invasion, not to win a tournament to avenge their family, nope, these dudes just beat each other up so they can get money to buy bling. I hope that massive gold chain is worth a massive brain hemmorage.

The game features a huge quantity of real life rappers with refind names like "Fat Joe" and "Sitcky FIngaz"(sometimes as characters, mostly just as themselves) fighting for control of an underground street fighting league, it's clear that this "street fighting league" is a metaphor for all the problems we must control in our every day life. Or maybe not.

Don't let your opponent miss the train. Or more accurately, don't let the train miss your opponent.

So, this game was pretty well received by critics and I'm guessing it sold pretty well, so why am I listing it as an unsung great? Well, because if your tastes are at all like mine (tasteful), you probably stayed far away from this game.

Fight for New York is about wrestling and rap music, two things that I am not only not a fan of, but things that I actively dislike. Somehow, though, against all odds, this game just clicked for me. I bought this game used as a Christmas present for my brother who likes rap. I figured I'd try it before I gave it to him. After playing it for days, when Christmas came around I was pretty sad to give the game up. I had to go buy a copy for myself.

I find something funny about this adolescent street fighting club fantasy being played out by millionaire rappers. Whereas I find the extreme machismo in professional wrestling a bit frightening, the wacky premise of Def Jam, and the bizzare taunts gives the game a pretty lighthearted feel. Or maybe thats just me and my own desensitization.

The game plays really well. It's not as fast as a twitch based 1on1 fighting game, but it is a lot faster than a clunky WWF wrestling game. The fighting system comes down to pretty simple matters of timing your counters or breaking out of a grab, but you need to anticipate, because you can't do both. It's pretty simple, but there is enough variety ofstyIes to make each character feel different. And the super moves are absolutly insane.

Def Jam: Fight for New York isn't the type of game that I usually play and maybe that's why I enjoy it so much. It's fun to play, has loads of content and is very entertaining.If your collection has a big do-rag-shaped gap that can only be filled by angry rappers beating that crap out of each other, then this is the best game to fill that gap.

A less than subtle way to voice his disapproval of the song choice

The sad world of pokemon

At this point, we've all been playing pokemon games for so long thatwe just take the implicit weird premise of the game for granted. But hey, sincewe have nothing else to do, we might as well have a little discussion.

1. This one is the most obvious, here's a game with the premise that you need to love and care for your pokemon. However, you store them in tiny little balls on your belt, in computer systems and you make them fight each other until they faint. Love and care indeed.

2. What the heck is wrong with the other trainers in this game? You will be walking along, minding your own buisness and a youngster will see you from far away. Everybody stops. He casually walks up to you from far away and tells you how nice and comfy his shorts are. With no further words spoken,it is time for a pokemon battle. How the talk of comfy shorts leads to a battle, I will never know.

3. I cannot think of a sadder more depressing existence than your character growing up in Pallet town. There are 3 buildings in the entire town. Your house has two rooms, your room upstairs where you sleep and the kitchen (where I'm assuming your mom sleeps).

And then there is your rival's house, your rival, the only kid your age in town whoseems to exist for no other reason thento belittle your sense of self worth and trying to turn his hot sister agaisnt you. Perhaps most depressing of all, we learn that its too dangerous for your character to even set foot an inch out of town because dangerous pokemon live in the tall grass. So, your character has spent their whole life in this tiny town, spending their time playing NES or getting taunted by their rival. Perhaps your mother has never even left the town either, as evidenced by the only thing she says to you before you leave home, a line with as much inherent characterization as any line by Shakespeare: "All Girls Leave Home Someday. It Said So On TV."

Do you have any bizzare or sad realizations into the world of Pokemon?

Man vs. Machine: Round 1... Don't Fight!

As you might have heard, a computer won a game of Jeopardy. It didn't just win, it absolutely steamrolled over the opposition, finishing with more than 3 times the score of the nearest competitor (none other than trivia super-stud Ken Jennings). See the below photo for the final scores of the computer "Watson" and its disheartened victims.

The technology behind Watson is certainly impressive. However, his victory on Jeopardy is mainly due to the buzzer. It's not like Ken Jennings and Brad Rutter didn't know the answers to the questions, Watson was just able to press the buzzer faster. I'm not sure exactly how it works, but I do know that if they wanted, IBM could program Watson to react faster than a human 99 percent of the time. Though the computer on Jeopardy was certainly novel, it didn't make for a very exciting match to watch.

I'll come back to that in a bit, but first I want to move from talking about cutting edge super computer technology into dated NES technology. Did you ever play "Battleship" for the NES? If not, here's a quick description: it was battleship the board game. However, I had a serious problem with the game (besides it sucking). When you placed your ships at the beginning of the game, the game itself would know where your ships were (because it needs to know what spaces to register as hits).

The problem with this is obvious. When the computer hits your ship, it feels like its cheating and if it misses, it just feels like it's going easy on you, neither outcome is very satisfying for the player (Asrepresented in the photo below).

This man knows how to cheat at battleship.

The interesting part is; every video game featuring some sort of A.I. has this problem (though most aren't as obvious about it as battleship). Because all of your actions run through the same game engine as the A.I. the developers could theoretically program the A.I. to beat every action you make (if you ever played the 1 player mode in Mortal Kombat games for Snes you've seen this firsthand).

Oh look, Jade killed me again... not fun.

Obviously, it's not very smart of designers to design A.I. that simply beats your actions because the player will eventually give up. However, players do want challenging A.I. When A.I. responds quickly and logically to a player's action, it makes the player all the more satisfied when they manage to "outsmart" the A.I. Artificial intelligence in games is a delicate balance.

As we already knew, a computer can be programmed to react faster than a player, and as Watson on Jeopardy proved, now a computer can outsmart a player too. We have not yet seen a "Watson" or "Deep Blue" beat the world's best Starcraft player (though I'm sure there could easily be one).

So, I guess the point of this blog is just to give you some things to think about. Here's a final thought, despite the common terminology that we play video games "against" a computer, in reality, we and the computer are both trying to achieve the same thing: a satisfying experience for the player; sometimes that involves the computer winning, sometime losing. If the computer was actually trying to beat us, we would have all given up playing games a long time ago.

Video game related words that you may choose to read

If you know anything about the internet, you know that is precariously low on content. In fact, I hear that the authorities are looking to close down the internet due to a lack of content.

So, in the hopes of saving the internet, I have provided 3 pieces of new content (4 counting this blog) that may be read by a willing readership (that's you). The content is as follows:

A review of that loveable SNES game "Toys"

A review of the ever-popular SNES port of "Spectre"

A review of the obscure yet somewhat decent PC game "Diablo 2: Lord of Destruction"

So there you go. Since I'm sure you were all mere seconds away from going out and buying "Toys" for SNES, I've just saved you valuable cents.

A brief thought on the preciousness of life

I've noticed that many games feature the protagonist finding journals, notes, letters or audiologs on corpses. Often these logs will dictate the final few days/moments of the unfortunate soul (including a keypad combination for a nearby door). I was just playing Gears of War 2, and in order to make the game more emotional and to really immerse the player in the horror of this made up situation, the note writers make sure to state something about how they finally understand the preciousness of life and if they get home they will cherish every day.

There is no way to make me feel worse about sitting around playing video games for the past four hours than to bring up the preciousness of life.

My job application to Double Fine

Well, I've graduated from college and I'm trying to get a job. It's harrowing to say the least. The job search process had led me through despair, frustration, anger, lunch,frustration again, then pie. Always end with pie. Anyway I figured I'd have a little fun with my cover letter. I figured Double Fine (the game company behind Psychonauts and Brutal Legend) would have a good sense of humor (even their job page is hilarous). I figured I'd share the letter with you guys, since it doesn't look like I got any sort of job. Back to the search.

Dear Double Fine,

As everyone knows, the universe maintains a constant state of equilibrium: yin and yang, night and day, Jedi and Sith. As is also common knowledge, if this equilibrium is thrown out of balance, the very shoestrings of the universe tie themselves together and the cosmos pratfalls itself into a humorous yet calamitous multiplanar disaster.

So, it is within this most serious of contexts that I warn you, Double Fine, appointed protectors of the cosmos, of an imminent threat to this equilibrium and thus our universal well-being. A few months ago, I, Woody Ciskowski, graduated from college and am now out in the real world. Perhaps most ominous of all is the fact that I graduated with a degree in Creative Writing (blood dripping font). This means that my crowded mental storehouses of ideas, brainchildren, and flashes of insight are no longer safely contained within the sheltering walls of academia. With ideas as creative and potent as mine floating around directionless, it is only a matter of time before they rise into the atmosphere, upset the universal equilibrium, and gradually engulf the world into a state of entropy.

Of course, for legal reasons, I can't tell you any of my specific ideas, but believe me; they are winners. One of them involves Nathan Hale. I know that the highly creative people and work environment at Double Fine is the ideal way to fully focus and take advantage of my potent prose for profit production, rather than extensive extermination. You must hire me as a writer. It doesn't have to be on the games themselves. I'd love to write and edit web presence/ promotional content. You hear me, love it. I've attached a resume so you can see my passion for both video games and writing. I think it's obvious that within the context of intergalactic peril, outdated concepts like "experience" or "games shipped" seem a lot less important.

Double Fine, I know that you want to be remembered as the company that creates awesome games like Psychonauts and Brütal Legend; not as the company that didn't hire Woody Ciskowski and thus destroyed the cosmic balance. I guarantee the preservation of our own and all adjoining universes for as long as I am working for you, and, how many applicants have the balls to say that.

I will expect a call from Mr. Tim Schafer* within the hour to welcome me to the new position that has been created for me. If you would like some other writing samples from me beyond this brilliant letter, I would be happy to email them to you.

Both me and the universe thank you,

William "Woody" Ciskowski

*I would like to make Mr. Schafer aware, if he is not already, that the first suggestion my word processor gives for correct spelling of his last name is "Cockchafer".