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Friday, May 14, 2004
 
If you got girl problems I feel bad your you son, I got 99 problems but a bitch aint one.

When fall draws to a close, winter brings the promise of cold weather, warm fires, and holiday shopping madness. Businesses respond in kind and release all their big products into the wild and the consumer feeding frenzy begins. My industry is no different. About 6 months before all this madness the industry throws an enormous party called E3. Technically it's a "convention" where publishers and developers get to show off their upcoming holiday releases and future projects, but it's really more like a circus. Each company has it's own "ring" in the LA convention
center. Elaborate displays, thumping music, pulsing laser lights, and beautiful half-naked women, desperately try and grab the attention of the wide-eyed attendees as they wander through a maze of wonders. Every year the show gets bigger, louder and more naked. If you love games, it's pretty close to shangri-la (without all that boring "peaceful serenity").

While the daytime is full of headache-inducing digital media, the night time is all about nerds-gone-wild. Every night of the con some sort of company is throwing some sort of party at nearby theaters and clubs. This year, my E3 experience began at this stage of the game. I arrived in LA on Wednesday night - pretty much just in time to register for the convention before it closed at 6:00. I met up with my old high school buddy and good friend Marc and we hit the town. Marc's work-buddy, David Oh, joined forces with us at around 6:30 at the Fox skybox bar at the Staples Center where some company was hosting a part. The part was invite only and none of us were invited but that didn't matter to David Oh.

You see..Oh-face is an "LA boy" and if he wasn't on the guest-list of the VIP list...He felt he deserved to be. We spent good portions of the night floating to a couple different parties and watching David Oh arguing with various pass-checkers and security types. He'd pull out business cards, and even draw me into the ploys with comments like, "Do you know who this is?!" (pointing at me) This guy works for _SONY_, they make your magazine like 4 million dollars a year or something!" It didn't matter to David Oh that I was hardly responsible for that, and that (despite the "Sony" logo on my business card) I hardly looked the part of a corporate big-wig - sporting the shorts, T-shirt, and flip-flops look.

David Oh provided endless entertainment that night. When he wasn't facilitating our entrance to a VIP lounge, he was making B-lines for hookers, cocktail waitresses, and anyone else trim of torso, long of legs, and swollen of chest. His performance was topped off later in the hotel room where (surprise, surprise) he got to show off his projectile-vomit skills.

I realize that I am portraying David in a somewhat negative light, but honestly the guy is a solid fun fellah to hang with.

Aside from the Oh-show I got to hang with a lot of Marc's co-workers and talk to a lot of smart passionate gamers, about games. Good fun.









The next morning was the show itself. Before I get into the recaps of what looked good (where some of my readers may want to tune out to) I'll relay a couple of observations. 1) I like hot chicks as much as the next guy, but I find the sheer numbers of scantily clad strippers peddling games to be disturbing. I understand why companies do it...But it's still pretty shameless. The worst thing
about it is that it really does dehuamanize these women. I confided in Marc that by the end of the day I subconsciously felt like these women were there to be manipulated like all the other games on display. (don't worry, I didn't end up taking any girls for demo-play). But I'm fighting a losing battle there. Most convention-goers want more boobs not less. However a lot of these women are
hired to be hyper-enthusiastic "cheerleader types". The same type of girls that most of us gamers hated in high school. Now their up there hawking racing games imploring us to "make some noise!", and "give it up!". Throngs of oogling young men, respond with some restrained clapping. We all wish the booty-girl would just shut-up and stop spoon feeding us the false enthusiasm already.

2) If your gonna take a long time to demo a game please have some idea of what the fuck your doing!! I waited in line for Star Wars: Battlegrounds behind a guy who was using a sniper rifle like a goddamned shotgun and kept shooting his own vehicles...The same vehicles I was dying to see him jump in an drive. But nope...Every fuckin speeder bike sent this guy into some wierd blood-rage.
He musta plugged 100 sniper rounds into various speeder bikes and AT-STs before he finally gived up the controller to me.

okay. I will now commence with the recap. Those of you still reading who don't like games should stop here. None of this will be interesting to you. For the rest of you a disclaimer: This is hardly a complete look at everything on display. I'm really only gonna talk about the stuff that looked interesting to me, and I didn't even get to see a lot of stuff that was cool. Especially things like Doom III, Half-life 2, and the Nintendo Dual-Screen. Anyway....Here's what I saw (all screen shots were taken from IGN's site):

First things first. Sony's Playstation Portable (PSP) looks absosmurfly amazing. Some of the display units were playing DVD quality video while others were showing off titles like "Metal Gear Solid" and "Grand Turismo" that were practically PS2 quality in terms of visuals. With plenty of launch titles on the horizon I think the PSP is primed to be one of the must-have techno-gadgets
next year.









So remember how I sorta took the high-road with the "booth-babes"? I'm dive-bombing back into the low-road with these titles. First there's an updated version of the classic adventure title: "Leisure-suit Larry". I'm curious to try the new "Larry" out once it gets released. The demos that I saw didn't seem to have much of the same "adventure game" feel of exploration, but I think there's potential for this to be a good bit of ribald fun.

Along those same lines there's a game based on the Playboy Mansion. It's very Sims-like. You control the Heff, get him to score with models, run photo-shoots, lure celebs to your party, and publish a high quality magazine to expand your lusty empire with. I know, I know....It's terrible (terribly awesome!)

For a sim game with less kissing and more killing the game "Evil Genius" will do. Reminiscent of "Dungeon Keeper" you control a Dr.Evil like madman and build yourself the ultimate secret headquarters. From there you can hatch evil schemes of world domination while your minions and traps take care of any good-two-shoes types that might try to spoil your designs.

probably the most exciting looking sim game I saw was "The Movies". The player controls every aspect of running a movie studio and producing movies. The game begins in the 40's (so no CG for your first films). You add more buildings to the studio lot, keep actors from drinking and fucking themselves into oblivion (seriously), and you actually direct movies. You can write the dialogue, create the story, pick the genre, whatever you want. Plenty of download-able extra content is planned, and the game is supposed to be supported by a website that will allow you to upload your completed films to be judged by working directors for prizes. Neat!









In terms of action games there was plenty of cool stuff to look at. "Shadows of Rome" puts you in the role of a roman gladiator. It combines brutal hack and slash in the arena with some behind the scenes stealth action as you creep through the senate halls and stuff. Probably the best part is that during battles you can pump up the crowd by picking up the severed head or appendage of an enemy and holding it high in the air for all to see (hurrrahhhh!).

Rachet and Clank (called "Up your Arsenal") looks sweet. Continues in the tradition of the first 2 exceptional platform except this one includes a multiplayer option that is a blast(no pun intended)

"Prince of Persia" has "Pirates of the Caribbean"-influenced sequel due out soon that looks great. It has a more dynamic and unpredictable setting and a revamped combat engine that looks to improve on an already solid title.

"God of War" looks a lot like "Prince of Persia" in terms of look and gameplay. The main character has a few different tricks up his sleeve and in it's early stages looks like a lot of fun.









One of the most interesting games of the show was defenitly "Under The Skin". It's pure mayhem as you take control of an alien in human disguise. For some reason you run around the city stealing the ubiquitos "coins" from citizen utilizing all sorts of random tricks. You do this while attempting to remain undiscovered for what you really are while other aliens are competing against you in the "coin hunt".

The latest in the "Burnout" series was plenty of fun. Racing around great looking levels while the game rewards you for crashing into and eliminating othger racers.

For Mick's sake we checked out the new "Transformers" game. Unfortunately all we really saw was Optimus Prime running through some grass so we didn't get a good feel for the title. It had a pretty good "look" though....So that's something I guess.

"Viewtiful Joe" is back for a second round of 3d side scrolling madness, and was looking strong.









The X-men star in a 3rd person action game that looked really impressive as well. Players command the whole team as they do battle with classic X-Men villains in "X-Men: Legends"

Marc and I played a few rounds of an upcoming Mortal Combat game for old times sake. It's a fun little rental title but doesn't have any of the coolness that the Def Jam Vendetta sequel promises. "Def Jam: Fight for New York" boasts a bigger rapper-roster including the likes of Snoop Dog (or Snoopy Dog Dog if your papa Stup).

The Battlefield series is moving to consoles with "Battlefield: modern combat" but since I don't really go in for console shooters I was much more interested in the "Battlefield 2" preview movie showing on EA's big screen.

EA was also showcasing next years Madden...What can I say except for that the ultimate football game keeps getting better and better.









More sequels from Capcom who showed off the upcoming installments of "Devil May Cry", "Onimusha", and one of my favorites, "Resident Evil" officially the "4th" in the series (although it's really more like the 6th or something) has a totally reworked control system that feels more fluid and intuitive. It still manages to be creepy as hell.

I saw one of the big X-box titles "Fable" in action and it didn't fail to impress. X-box seems to get a little stronger each year, I'm still not sure if I actually want to buy one, but at least it's got some competitive titles out there.

There were a few nice looking strategy titles that included "Rome: Total War", and a "Warhammer 40K" game that looked really fun.









There were a number of great Star Wars games on display this year as well. The MMORPG, Star Wars Galaxies has an expansion due out soon called "Jump to Lightspeed", that basically plays like the old "X-wing" and "tie-fighter" series. It might be enough to get me to re-activate my old account. I also really enjoyed the Battlefield-esque "Star Wars: Battlegrounds" (despite having to wait behind that total retard before I could play it). "Star Wars: Knights of the Old Republic" is also back to build upon their RPG masterpiece from last year.

I also played the hotly anticipated "Worlds of Warcraft", which looked solid. At the end of the day it's still a MMORPG, but those games are constantly improving, and the Warcraft world is rich and engrossing. I played a 3rd-level undead warlock (or something) I spawned at a crypt of sorts, summoned an imp an rolled around a haunted forest killing various beasties.









Lastly the Nintendo booth had a number of really interesting looking games. Topping my list was the GBA adapted "4 swords" Zelda game for the Game Cube. Some really innovative gameplay mechanics make up for the lack-luster graphics. There was another more "standard" Zelda Game shown though that had some incredible looking graphics, departing from the cartoony visual style that "Windwalker" established. Just as interesting was the Donky Kong game: "Jungle Beat" where the player controls DK by banging on a couple of bongo drums and occasionally clapping. It's incredibly fun in a sort of hyper-active 7-yearold way. Mario also has a new RPG out, the sequel to an N64 game "Paper Mario" which has a cool visula style ot it.









SO...If you are still reading thing...You are my new best friend! Nice work.

-B

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I'm working on a big E3 wrap-up post. But I'm also busy at work right now so hopefully I'll have it up by tonight. But it is coming.

-B

PS thanks for all the well wishes and sage-advice from the last post!

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Wednesday, May 12, 2004
 
Head like a hole - black as your soul.

First thing's first, here are your links for today:

inspirational

cliff notes

Canadian (requires real player

I saw two movies last weekend. I thought Mean Girls looked like a pretty typical teen comedy but it was actually pretty good. Not nearly so dark and bleak as "Heathers", but still pretty solid.

A sidenote - I just discovered that the guy who wrote "Heathers" (which I rather enjoyed) also wrote the following stinkers: "The Adventures of Ford Fairlane", "Hudson Hawk", and "Demolition Man".

Speaking of stinkers the other movie I saw this weekend was Van Helsing. I have to admit that I like the premise upon which this film is based. I mean it sounds like a lot of fun. A lot of classic Hollywood monsters and the man who hunts them. Sweet. Unfortunately this movie just runs a little too long - about 2 and half hours too long. (zing!)
It was really terrible. It felt like it was put together by two 7-year-olds constantly trying to one-up eachother.

On Sunday I turned 29. Next year I enter my thirties. You know those pathetic people who start to fear birthdays? They get depressed as time relentlessly marches on and youth gracelessly slips away from them?

I have a feeling I am destined to be one of those people.

I dislike getting slower, uglier, and more feeble (and I'm not sure I've got a lot of ground to lose in those areas :) ). On top of that I have always had an unnatural fear of dying. As a kid I would wake up in the middle of the night terrified by the thought of being dead. It's a fear that still can keep me sleepless every now and again.

Anyhow...regardless of the fact that I'm another year closer to my eventual demise, I had a great time with my friends over the weekend. We BBQ'd on Saturday at H-bombs house and played a bit of poker (I ended up just over even). On Sunday I visited with my family for a joint mother's day / birthday bonanza, followed by a great sushi dinner )compliments of H-bomb) at Nobu. All-in-all it was a fantastic weekend.

Now I'm off to E3. I'll only be going for a day this year but I'll be sure to report back my findings.

-B

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