Monday, December 11, 2006

Time for some thrilling heroics.

Words on zee nets is that someone is thinking about a Firefly video game, a massively-multiplayer online deal. This is dumb. You want to make something good? Here's how you do it:

#1: The base ingredients. What do we know about the Firefly universe? Interstellar travel, psychics, cannibals, and legalized prostitution.

#2: The spices. Q1: What does Firefly feel like? A: Old West. Q2: What's fun about Firefly? A: The language, sharp-shooting, wild stunts with spaceships, Kaylee.

#3: Mix until smooth. So, what we want here is a workable plot line which fits in the 'verse but doesn't feature any of the main characters. E.g. -- playing as Luke Skywalker is lame, but playing as Kyle Katarn is awesome. We'll set this in the post-unification, pre-Serenity timeframe.

You play as a newly-recruited Alliance agent who is sent undercover to gather up a young woman from a far-flung dirthole planet. You book a seat on a civilian transport (NOT the Serenity) and head out. You have some adventures on the way there and get to know the crew.

Once you get to Dirtonia, you discover that the woman you have been sent to bring in is a Companion, and a psychic one at that -- which makes her wicked good at her job. The Alliance wants her for the River experiment. You, being a good guy, decide to go rogue.

The overall plot pits you against an Alliance bigwig who is oppressing a dusty planet known for harboring Browncoats during the war. You and your ragtag band of misfits (you end up Captain, due to some serendipity) free the locals from his reign, cleaning up the single-horsed town.

Gameplay switches back and forth between rpg-action and flight-sim (reavers are out there). You meet up with various lesser characters in your travels (e.g. the Serenity's original engine guy -- you know, blonde tattoo dude? -- is on your crew.) and hit some of the locations from the show. Lots of shooting, quipping, and Blue Sun cola.

Joss? Call me.

Tuesday, November 14, 2006


What the heck? Lehm. We all know where to go to get the quality stuff.

Friday, September 22, 2006

According to...

Add this to the litany of cautionary tales regarding the complete uselessness of the staff at videogame stores.

My dear old grandmother plays bridge regularly. She had a copy of Hoyle's Classic Games for her PC, with which she would practice her mad brizzidge skillz. The CD disappeared, and she needed to reinstall.

Now, one would think that if an old lady were to walk into a videogame specialty store with the case for an earlier version of a current title -- a title which was in stock at the store, no less -- and ask for help, she would leave with a newly purchased game. There, gentle reader, is where you would be wrong. Dear old Grandma was informed that they did not have the game and that she should leave with haste. I assume she was asked if she wanted to pre-order Madden '08.

On my recent visit to VT, a stop was made at the mall. Now, I'm not good for much, but finding videogames? Come on. I walked in, looked under "H", found the game, and purchased it. Clearly I have some kind of preternatural ability. What else could explain how I was able to make the game appear where none was there before? I certainly hope her bridge acumen improves, what with me foresaking my immortal soul and all.

Thursday, August 24, 2006

Old Bean

I promise this isn't really about videogames. I mean, a little, but not much.

The black and pink versions of the DS Lite are being released in the US quite soon. 'Onyx' and 'Coral Pink', I should say. Now, in Japan they called it 'Noble Pink'. Why the switch?

Does pink mean something other than 'feminine' in Japan? Is it associated with the nobility there, as blue and purple are to the anglosphere? Are Japanese more likely to respond well to concepts of nobility and class structure? Does Nintendo fear we will take up arms against their nobles and overthrow them, establishing 'Casteless Pink' and 'Merit-based Salmon' DSes?

Monday, August 7, 2006

A Stupid Commercial?

Esquire recently published an article about the fact that serious criticism on videogames does not exist. No incisive essays, no erudite articles, just "dude, looks like Star Wars: Jedi Knight: Jedi Outcast II: Jedi Academy* is gonna be sweet" stuff. As someone with experience reviewing games, I feel I must state the following: videogames are not art. They just ain't.
It takes a lot of artists to make one, and some of them can have truly brilliant imagery, but I have yet to see the game that's art. Artistically presented maybe.

In my (albeit limited) experience, professional criticism often takes one of two forms:

A) The secret decoder ring. "Here's what the artist/author/composer is trying to say, dimwit."

B) The petri dish. "Here are all of the religiosociopoliticaeconoclimatic factors kicking around in the spacetime locale in which the artist/author/composer worked. Put it all together, and how could he not end up writing this? Hmmm, dimwit?"

These approaches require that the author actually be saying something, whether he means to or not. I'm just not seeing it. When I sit around and talk about games, relevance never comes up. This is due mainly to the fact that it's not there.

I mean, come on. Let's give it a try.

"The major statement made by Tony Hawk Pro Skater 3 comes to its zenith when the audience unlocks Darth Maul as a playable character. At that precise moment in the play experience, expect to turn to your fellow aficionados and reverently gasp the syllables "skateboarding is totally fucking awesome". "

"In summary, after witnessing the stunning victory of Natalie Cook and Kerri Ann Pottharst at Sydney, Team Ninja's 2001-02 Japan had begun to taste the beauty of the occidental sport of volleyball, which, in combination with the new Xbox's hardware and man's enduring fascination with breasts, made a perfect world in which to develop Dead or Alive: Extreme Beach Volleyball."


* No really. That's an actual title.

Monday, July 31, 2006

Kinda boring, too

Looks like ma bookie Del is slowly working his way towards stardom, his likeness appearing in an ad for what appears to be for a videogame in which you point at the sky and say "Holy shit, it's the Christ!". Maybe you kill demons or something.

I normally eschew discussions of religion on B A Start, but here's what bugs me about the rapture. So, all the good people go to Heaven and everybody else stays of Earth, which has recently been transferred to new ownership. What kind of Heaven is it to watch loved ones suffer at the hands of Satan? I mean, you get up there, look around, and notice a few coworkers are missing. Doesn't that bug you a little when they hand you the harp, the knowledge that people you know will spend a thousand years being tortured? Or is that the kind of thinking that gets you kicked out. Either way, it just doesn't sound all that heavenly to me.

Monday, July 10, 2006

...Stays Together

Now that's what I am discussing. And to think, I didn't bring my DS to the hospital out of respect. How long before young Maeve gets a chance to blue shell the old man? Should Unkie Alex's christening gift be a Noble Pink DS lite?
Girls like pink, right? Do you buy gifts for christenings? I really have no idea how this all works.

Monday, June 26, 2006

Goo goo goo joob

Finally got around to picking up Brain Age for the DS, the software that claims to be a good daily regimen for keeping the grey matter in good shape. While it doesn't come out and say "prevents Alzheimer's" anywhere, that's certainly the idea. Three things:

1: It's actually quite fun. I wouldn't have thought doing 100 simple calculations as fast as possible would be enjoyable, but I guess I should have.

2: Nintendo's got to be laughing all the way to the five-story italian-plumber-shaped piggy-bank they keep their yen in. The game's selling as if it was hotcakes, and a whole new demographic has opened up. I mean, go to the site and look at the marketing. These people ain't playing Mario Tennis.

3: I'm discovering that a good alternate title could have been "Handwriting Age". O, Mrs. Robinson! Why did I not listen and learn decent handwriting from you? I live in shame.

Monday, May 29, 2006

Coming soon for PSP


Sunday, May 28, 2006


As I sat on my porch last night around 1 AM, the sound of some manner of wooden flute instrument floated down the street, its mournful tune a message too mysterious for modern ears to interpret.

A playful breeze kicked up, and cherry blossoms floated past. I followed their dancing flight with my eyes, and when I looked back, a figure could be seen down the road, slowly approaching with solemnity and intent. Was it man or demon? A grimacing mask hid his face, and great red robes adorned a giant frame.

The apparation told me he was called Yojimbo, and that I would die this day. I was to pay for my life of dissolution, which had dishonored the memory of my ancestors. When I asked who had sent him, he replied simply "my master".

I offered to pay him more than his wage, and he stood silent.

I told him I would leave, never to return to this place, and he stood silent.

I vowed to move to the honorable path of life, and still he stood silent.

The apparation would not be moved by words; the finishing couplet of this stanza was to be written in crimson. I leapt from the porch, unarmed and unarmored, and faced the one who would be my death. With a slow flourish, he unsheathed his sword, pausing for a moment before lunging.

A side-step and a twist saved me from the first blow, but the second grazed my arm as I took off my coat and began whipping it about. The cloth caught the sword just long enough for a disarming kick and a punch to the chin. A moment later, Yojimbo lay on the ground, staring up the length of his own blade.

Tempted as I was to remove the mask and see the face of my tormentor, I hesitated. Yojimbo had shown me honor; how was I to repay him? A strong wind blew in with the suddenness of a storm, bearing with it the recorder's melody. I turned to see the player, but saw only the darkened street. I looked back to the ground, and Yojimbo was gone.

Saturday, April 29, 2006

Further Adventures of Alex in DS Wonderland

So far, I've tried most of the features of the DS once each. I've used the touch-pad. I've played a match of Mario Kart online. I've played it against a friend locally. I've played a multiplayer match with a single cartridge. After today, there's only a few left.

Swung by Gamecrazy, a walled-off subset of Hollywood Video that serves as a mini game store. I went there in search of a DS Download Station, a place alleged to give me the power and authority to download a demo through the very air. A huge young fellow with the pasty complexion, soul patch, and horn-rimmed glasses stereotypical of gamers informed me that there was no station, per se, no glossy plastic box to point my DS at, but rather the entire store would yield a positive result. He entreated me to "download away".

I complied. True Swing Golf. Decent game, but it's no Tiger Woods. Either way, the Download Station idea is a valid one. It combines the wireless tech and community feeling that Nintendo are clearly focusing on in a simple way. And considering what a cheapass I am, I'm sure to be using it quite often.

Tuesday, April 18, 2006

Starry Night

Allow me to say the following: FInally. Sure to drive you crazy after a few minutes, the Mega Man Effect has been available for Mac "users" for some time now.

How can this have happened? How can modernity developed to point where homegrown apps are made for Macs before PCs, or as I still find myself calling them, "IBM clones"?

Friday, April 14, 2006

Like Diddy Kong

On Tuesday night, six men met in a darkened room to compete for glory. The fundraiser was a success in that it actually took place, the tech stuff all worked, people had a good time, and decent money was raised. It was a failure in that only seven people showed, but rumor has it the first iteration of an event like this is always poorly attended. I have many ideas for next time, so we'll see if I can't make this something a little bigger. If you're interested, my man Del has some pics up of the event -- well, the set-up for the event, anyway.

In addition to the many fine folks who donated prizes, Bungie sent a box full of knick-knacks. I ended up with this little red dude as part of my 2nd place prize. Now Rooster* lives in my office, and I'm just not sure what to do with him. I feel he needs to be on display, both to up my geek cred (a necessity, since I dress like a management stooge and have to work with the IT guys) and to advertise for the next event. But where, and doing what? I am accepting suggestions.

*10 B A Start points to anyone who can guess why I named him that.

Tuesday, March 21, 2006

On the Fly

Damn it, Nintendo. You came frighteningly close to changing the world.
Why? "Why?" I ask you. Why could you not go the extra step? You make the DS. You give it a touch screen and some decent processing power. You wave that special wand of yours, the one that has "The Breaker of Ground" etched down the side, and bless the thing with wireless connectivity.

Visions of people on subways having pick-up games of Mario Basketball during their commutes, of people at coffee-shops wi-fiing it up to race against their friends in Budapest, Lima, and Des Moines, of heply-dressed urban teens walking down clean sidewalks with your machines in their long hands flickered in your eyes. A gaming revolution.

As what I assume must have been a throw-away feature, you toss in Pictochat, the software that sets up local chatroom so kids can IM each other during recess. And here's where you flub it up. You can now compose messages on your handheld device, but the wi-fi doesn't work for it. Users can't IM each other over the internet. I can type up an email, but can't send it to anyone.

I've done a decent amount of composition on PDAs. It's great -- you can get a few lines down wherever you are. My PDA went all fritzy recently and had to be sent to the Heaven of Broken Electronics That An Unmarried Geek Would Keep In a Box Somewhere But A Married Geek Throws Away. And here I am with a handheld electronic device with a primitive word processor on it, and damned if I want to keep what I write. One half as expensive as a PDA, and which runs games with great awesomeness. I'm not even asking that you put a calendar etc. in there (which of course you should). Just unlock the stuff you've already got.

Fie on you, Nintendo.

Saturday, March 11, 2006


Dear videogame creators:

Please create more situations in which players on the same team can physically interact. Of note: in X-men Legends, where, for example, Storm can pick up characters and fly him around. This adds a new element to a game, and not just a co-operative play element. It gives the players opportunity to bug the hell out of each other.

The prime example is the fastball special, a move in which Colossus picks Wolverine up and hurls him towards the enemy. This ability was meant to be used for attack, but is far more entertaining when used for multiplayer annoyance. Bored with saving civilian mutants from Sentinels? Why not chase Wolverine around and throw him against things? The verbal ping-pong game of "get-back-here-you-little" versus "would-you-stop-it" adds new interactivity. Colossus getting out of hand? Take Jean airborne and try to catch Colossus, creating a game of dog-and-cat-and-mouse. Great fun for all players.

Sunday, March 5, 2006

For relaxing times...

Too much? I don't think so. Can you imagine living in a culture where videogames were so prevalent that this commerical would make sense to enough people to merit airtime? I can. I would call it the United Republic of B A Start readers.

Tuesday, February 21, 2006


Her Worshipfulness muddled through the weekend a weakened state. Wrapped in a cocoon of archaic blanket, she sat in the Playstation room coughing and watching me play X-men: Legends, the poor dear. She held up well, with one exception: every time Emma Frost appeared, she wheezed insults at the screen, making some very bold statements about her promiscuity. You see, HW had read that Emma broke up the long-standing relationship between Cyclops and Jean Grey, and this was simply more than she could forgive.

Damn Marvel -- soap operas with superpowers. You just don't have these problems with the JLA.

Saturday, February 18, 2006


Picked up X-Men: Legends for the Xbox last night. In addition to my normal goals for a game -- relaxation, escapism, 100% completion, the passing of time -- a new purpose drives me with this title: don't use Wolverine. Frickin' Wolverine. Why is this guy such a big deal? He can heal? He has metal grafted to his skeleton, which he shouldn't need, since he can heal? Please. If you're going to give me the choice between a clawed canuck and someone who can control the frickin' weather, there should be no surprise who I'm going with.

Wednesday, February 15, 2006


From the unfortunately named Been trying to post it since yesterday, but am apparently too stupid.

Thursday, February 2, 2006

And Eager to Please

Somebody's made a game simulating how much it sucks to work at Kinko's. I played for about five minutes before Her Worshipfulness made me stop because I was screaming at the customers when they walked out of the store just as I found their damn jobs.

Saturday, January 28, 2006

Lip the mast!

Re: the Blades of Steel "It's a pass" post.

Here's a lil' app that plays NES sounds.

Here's a file with the sounds from Blades of Steel.

#15 is the sound in question.
#42 is Garv's crowd sound.

Friday, January 27, 2006


In the comments on my last post, fellow Merrimackian John Koontz brings up a debate that has raged since 'a night with the guys' meant Hires root beer, Cool Ranch Doritos (before they were 'cooler ranch'), persisent NES play, and the ritualistic abuse of younger brothers: just what is the announcer saying in Blades of Steel? 'With the pass?' 'Press the pass?' 'It's a pass'?

A trip over to Gamefaqs didn't answer the question. A quick googling wasn't enough to get the job done either. Wikipedia says it's 'hits the pass', but not definitively enough for me to buy it. Anybody? Anybody want the crown of "King Videogame Hockey Geek"?

Sunday, January 8, 2006

Control freak

Having 3 systems hooked up to the TV at any given time (and two others at the ready) makes for one big ugly pile of controllers* in the converted entertainment center that holds the lot. When arranged neatly, the appearance is somewhere between sleeping scarabs and a tightly-packed hangar of alien spaceships -- either metaphor lending the image of small, highly active things caught in a moment of rest. I'd like to free that space for yet another system, but what to do with the birds nest?

The best I can come up with as of yet is some kind of trundle-board which would stay under the couch. Pull out the drawer and choose your weapon. Ideally it would have the gray egg-foam stuff spies and assassins line their briefcases with.

*4 N64, 2 Atari, 4 PS2, 3 Xbox. Pristine Atari paddles and horribly scarred NES controllers in the basement, waiting to be recalled into active duty. I gave my lightgun away, idiot that I am.

Sunday, January 1, 2006

Kills for the Cure?

I got the go-ahead for the employee videogame tourney. I need some help coming up with a name for the event. Best I've come up with so far is "Extra Life". Anybody?