Nintendo DS – Very Nice

Nintendo DS

The final look of the Nintendo DS has been announced and pictures are out there. My, my, this is a pretty gaming machine. Nintendo really took to heart comments about the DS that they got from E3 and made the system sleeker and shiny, and made sure it had all it could need built in.

Now if only I could see what stylus based game play would be like. It sounds great but, really, what is it going to do for actually playing games? We’ll see.

Where’s the goods PC games?

I was pointed to this article on JoeUser.com from the creator of Galactic Civilizations and other stratagy games. It’s a typical blast of the PC gaming industry and it’s habits of releasing buggy, incomplete games, and then patching them later.

He goes into the history of his company, Stardock and how over the years they have lost out on so much in royalties from their publishers that this fear of “piracy” killing the industry is nowhere near correct. He envisions a future with more direct marketing via the internet and downloadable games available that are complete and don’t require a ton of patches to get right, but are done correct the first time out.

I’m torn with the idea of downloading newer games. While I do it currently and will in the future, I like the idea of a physical copy of a more major game purchase. I don’t mind having downloadable copies of puzzle games from say, Popcap, but if I were to want to get the latest Fallout, or Doom, I want a physical copy of all of the game. I want my CD there on the shelf or in a binder, and my key ready to go, instead of digging around or re-downloading the game and trying to find out where my e-mailed key was or if it still even is on the face of the earth.

And in a way, the CD’s represent my “library.” When I go over to someone’s house I find myself looking at their books on the shelf, and if they are a gamer, what games they have. That is one thing I like about console games, is that your library of games is there to see, and be commented on. “Oh, you have Metroid Prime? What did you think of the first person changes to the game?” I like having my gaming tastes being shown. You look at my games and you can see what I play.

Problem is, I like the idea of self publishing, and the way the internet can be a way around the retail racket. The way profit for the little guys can be had without selling their souls, and filling up landfills with oversized boxes that are just thrown away anyways. But it is always tempered with the fact that I would never want to give up my Fallout 2 manual and it’s humor, nor would I want a PDF of the Star Control 2 map that I have.

There is a balance somewhere, and I suppose the industry is going to find it, or at least it had better. The console is booming and knocking down the castle that PC gaming had for so many years. Where’s it going? Guess we’ll wait and see.

Linky linky

– Cnet has a great article on how the iPod is undermining Microsoft’s efforts at being the DRM king (DRM = Digital Rights Management). With iPods being the hip new accessory these days, people are complaining that the Microsoft encoded files included on some newer releases, won’t play on their iPod. When consumers speak, sometimes, just sometimes, the industry might listen. Not that having Apple as a DRM overlord is better than Microsoft though.

– From the design culture has nothing better to do dept.: a coffee mug with a key so you can prevent others from using your mug while you are away. Don’t you feel better now?

– Looks like the Windows XP Service Pack 2 will be late. Should we be suprised? It’s optomistic that Microsoft says its next generation of Windows will be out by 2007, but really, shouldn’t we fix what we’ve got before making new holes?

– You must go to Orisinal. This guy has a knack for flash games that are easy to play, wonderful to look at and cute without being “cute”. Play a few, worth the time.

About that article

I mentioned yesterday that an article in the Classic Gamer Magazine made me pause and think for a moment. It was titled “An Inside Joke” by Todd Deci. In it he details a situation similar to mine.

Being a gamer, and married, you want your significant other to enjoy at least part of your hobby with you and it always seems to be a struggle to find games that you can both play together. Todd talks of his experience playing the Game Boy Advance Wario Ware Inc. and loving it. When he heard that there was going to be a multi-player version coming out on the GameCube, he like me, thought it would be a great way to get his wife to play a game with him, and enjoy the ecclectic, fast pace game that Wario Ware is.

Sadly enough, the wife played for 30 minutes with him, got bored and wandered off to do other things. While I got my wife to play longer (before she went to play Zuma), I belive it was more because she was humoring me, rather than actually having a great time playing the game. This isn’t to say she didn’t like the game. Jess enjoyed many parts of the multi-player experience and some of the minigames, but the constant frustration of knowing what to do in any given game and losing when you don’t figure it out is always frustrating.

Todd makes the point in his article that Wario Ware is like a big “in joke” for gamers everywhere. The games are quick, but also intuitive if you’ve played games forever. When we see Mario at one end of the screen, and something speeding towards him, we know to press the button to jump to get out of the way. It’s ingrained, like riding a bike. So while someone who has played games for years and years will catch on to the mini-games quickly, casual gamers quite possibly just don’t have the background of hundreds of games, and clones and knockoffs that give them this sense of what the rule of the game may be.

So Jess will still play Wario Ware with me, but now that I’ve gotten her hooked on AstroPop I end up playing the game solo again. Really I don’t blame her, AstroPop is damn addicting and it makes more sense and lets you work up to the more difficult levels. Popcap has done an amazing job of killing hours and hours of both our time. I’m hoping to try and woo her into playing a game with me again with Super Smash Brothers Meele. You never know it just might work. We’ll see. We’ll see.

Links to random nerd crap

– Over at The Ur-Quan Masters, you can find the latest in the remix packages for the music of the game Star Control 2. Some of the original composers of the music for the game, and others, have taken it upon themselves to update the memorable tunes to the 21st century. This just released third pack is not as strong as the first two but still more that worth the download.

George R. R. Martin, author of “The Song of Ice and Fire” series of books, has updated his site with progress on the fourth book in the series, A Feast for Crows. To sum it up, “When it’s done.”

– When you see that a cell phone blows up in a girl’s pocket, it’s kind of interesting. But when you recognize the phone as the one your wife uses, you ask her never to put it in her back pocket, ever.

– I’ve decided to start experimenting with Firefox, the open source browser. After putting it off for ages, I’m going to start using it and then eventually convert my family over to it. As much fun as it is to keep spyware and other malware off my parents computer, I think this might be a much better solution in the long run. Much.

The Perils of Rosella

Feeling a wave of nostalgia after the fact that Sierra is being ?downsized,? I went and looked through old folders of older games that I hadn?t played in a while. King?s Quest IV: The Perils of Rosella, the game that consumed me for months and months of my childhood, said play me and I obliged willingly.

I remember seeing an early screenshot for King?s Quest 4 in an old computer games magazine, and I knew I was going to be hooked. After experiencing the King?s Quest I, Space Quest I and II and such, I knew that this new amazingly colored and detailed game had to be mine! It was on the top of my Christmas list in 1989, and my parents put up with my constant stream of information about Sierra On-Line and the amazing new game they had. Just look at these pictures on the back of the box!!

When I got it for Christmas that year, the family was visiting my grandparents (who owned a Mac) and so I poured over each and every page of each and every insert. Just biding my time until I could arrive back at home and pop disk 1 of 9 into the A: drive and type the ?sierra? to get things rolling. 9 disks. This game was huge! Our home computer didn?t have a hard drive, just two handy 5.25? drives with a good old 640k of ram. MS Dos 3.2 and GEM desktop if I wanted to draw with the painting program.

The game?s opening with King Graham looking old and gray, getting sick and Rosella (his Daughter) going off on an adventure to save him. The plot was great back then and now ends up just a little simplistic and cute. Skip past it all and Rosella stands on a beach, alone. Waves lap up on the shore. This was heaven and it was only beginning. I soon discovered the problem of having a 9 disk game with no hard drive. Walk one screen, ?Please insert Disk 4?, walk two screens north, ?Please insert Disk 2?. You get used to it quickly, and the excitement of playing disk that had never entered your drive until that request before was great. You were making progress into unknown territory.

I spent months traveling around the land, talking to the natives, getting fishing poles, and true to a Sierra game, dying constantly while climbing circular stairs. My friends soon had their own ?copies? of the game and we gave each other hints, and exalted over new areas and puzzles as we made it further in the game. My sister would join me in the quest, offering help and advice, but mostly watching me die by the hands of the troll, or the blind witches. Eventually it all came to an end with my father saved, and the family happy again. The ending of the game never really mattered to me, but it was more the experience of the game that stuck with me. From there I continued my Sierra love affair with Space Quest and Manhunter: New York.

Sad as it is to admit, I wrote fan letters to Roberta Williams when I was a kid. Twice. I received letters back from her both times. As a kid, having your game designer idol write you a personal letter back was thrilling, and I had the envy of my peers. I was even thanked for my game design ideas, and told they preferred to use their own in-house ideas, rather than those from their fans.

When replaying it this weekend, it was amazing to see how quickly the typing and the interface of walking around came back to me. It was like it never left. I remembered where things were and where I had to use them, and where random little things lay. I also quickly remembered to save often and really save in a few different save files. The game will let you get to places without the items you need to get out of them, and end up in a dead end. I really only forgot one piece (giving the book to the minstrel) but all of the other puzzles came back to me like I had never left the game.

The thing that surprised me was the lack of sound and music. Sierra helped to pioneer sound cards for the industry, just like ID did for video cards with Quake. Kings Quest 4 doesn?t really seem to show it so much. There just was a lack of ambient noises (aside from opening a door or getting a point) and music was severely limited. Maybe it was still early in the days of the AdLib card (ohh how I drooled for one of those, and ended up getting a Sound Blaster Pro a couple of years later), but the music was just a slightly upgraded version of the PC speaker sound. Maybe the MT-32 sound would blow me away, but I don?t think they hit their stride with the music till King?s Quest 5 and onward for full use of sound cards.

Go find it, play it, ignore the dated graphics and the lack of a mouse interface. Save often and play it. You?ll feel all warm and fuzzy if you like adventure games. One of the finest in a series that died in its later incarnations. It?s the pinnacle that was all downhill from there.

Distractions from work

Since work is insanely boring from time to time, you need distractions. Quick ones, that are easy to close fast as well. Also it has to have a score so you can compete against your co-workers. Enter Copter.

It’s not new to the interweb, but it’s fun, and fairly addicting (“Just one more run”). My top score has been 1,345. Beat it. Let me know.