Gamer’s Hangover News Report 12.15.03

Quasi-random thoughts:

Okay, so this bathroom thing was supposed to be done by Wednesday, right? *sigh* There was an unfortunate setback Tuesday night. It involved the only two operable sinks in the house, a borrowed pipe snake, and a plumber. Long story short, the tenuous link between the east side of the house (where the kitchen sunroom sinks are) and the west (where the main sewer pipe is) was clogged and professional help was necessary. As such no appreciable work was accomplished on the bathroom that evening.

I would like to give a shout out to the staff of Reddi Rooter here in beautiful, scenic Wichita. Their guys were quick, straightforward with the billing, and entirely too cheerful for working at 10 p.m. on a cold, snowy, and windy Tuesday night.

On the good side, finally took the leap and ordered DSL. The Links 2004 review is forthcoming, pending proper installation of said DSL and cashing in of my two free months of Xbox Live certificate.

Is there anything more pathetic in American politics right now than Al Gore? He’s gone from coming within a few morons in Florida from becoming President (I quote comedian Tim Wilson, “Gore was so worried about Florida, he should have been worried about Tennessee. What’s it say when your own folks won’t vote for your ass?”) to being Al Sharpton’s bitch. I could say he deserves it, if only for Earth in the Balance, (What’s it say when environmentalists laugh at your work, Al?) but he seems like a nice, straightforward enough guy for that. Get into the Political Science faculty at Tennessee, settle in and watch some good SEC football and some kick-ass women’s basketball. Do the odd commentary or Larry King spot, and just enjoy life.

The bathroom taunts me. The tile is all laid, but yours truly didn’t use enough adhesive on some of the floor tiles. So when we went to grout them on Thursday night (yes, Thursday) they were loose. Still, even with this minor setback, the bathroom is in better shape than when we started.

After the bathroom debacle and the Master’s crunch, my three goals for the weekend were: 1. Play and review Links 2004. 2. Play and review NCAA March Madness 2004. 3. Make Christmas cookies. I got some of each done, but also got cleaning of the house accomplished in there. It now looks largely like it did before the whole bathroom debacle started. Mind you, the bathroom debacle isn’t quite over yet.

“Secretary”. Messed up movie. That’s not to say I didn’t like it. What is it with James Spader and cinematic sexual deviants, anyway? We now have enough movies to make a trifecta: “Sex, Lies, and Videotape”, “Crash”, and “Secretary.” He’s going to have his own cult pretty soon.

NEWS
Credit everything to Gamedaily.com, just to be on the safe side.

Dammit. First Time I Read This I Thought It Said Race DRIVIN’
Codemasters, the people behind Colin McRae Rally 3, mind you, have announced “its most ambitious motor sports project to date.” That would be the game to be known as Race Driver 2: The Ultimate Racing Simulator. Of course it is. The game is scheduled for a Spring 2004 release on the Xbox and PC and seems to be legitimately ambitious; covering Street Racing, Stock Car, Grand Prix, Truck Racing, GT Sports Car Racing, Rally, Rally Cross, DTM (whatever that means), V8 Supercars, Global GT Lights (whatever THAT means), Formula Ford, Classic Car racing, and God knows what else. They will also continue using a cinematic plot, officially licensed tracks from FIFTY-TWO circuits, championships, and online play. Dayum.

Then again, these are the same people that did Colin McRae 3.

Mama Said, “Be Better Than Knockout Kings.”
Electronic Arts announced what we hope will be an apology to the boxing community: Fight Night 2004. Current Heavyweight Champion Roy Jones Jr. will do the shill work for the game. It’s on tap for the PS2 and the Xbox (who EA recently kissed and made up with) and will feature all the normal hyperbole that accompanies new game mechanics and revamped career modes. If you want the corporate line, try “features revolutionary new gameplay mechanics and a dramatic new-school attitude to immerse players like never before.” Chief among these is the “Total Punch Control” which is obviously the boxing equivalent of “Gamebreakers.” Of course, there’ll be a create-a-player option, career mode, and online pummeling (for the PS2 at least). Look for Fight Night 2004 in the spring.

Xbox Considering Pulling A Nintendo
I’m keeping this in its mailed in form from GameDaily.com. Comments following.
A job advertisement on Microsoft’s career page hints at the possibility of a new proprietary medium being developed for their next-generation console.
The ad says that the Xbox Team “is looking for a strong PM/Engineer to manage the design and development of the Xbox Game Disc for the next generation Xbox console.” It also stresses the importance of anti-piracy technology as one of the key issues in the development of the new discs for the next-generation console. Although it is possible that MS will simply try to incorporate some sophisticated anti-piracy features in the now standard DVD medium, it is probably easier for them to develop a proprietary format.
However, if MS decides to use a new proprietary disc, will the next-generation hardware be compatible with the previous generation’s games?
– Probably not. See also: Marksmanship. Foot.

Kiwi Government Blinks — The War Has Begun
Mailed in again, because I can’t improve on absurdity:
Rockstar Games’ Manhunt for the PlayStation 2 is the first videogame to be banned by the Office of Film and Literature Classification in New Zealand.
According to the Sydney Morning Herald, Chief censor Bill Hastings has decided to ban Manhunt because of its excessive, and often gruesome violence. “It’s a game where the only thing you do is kill everybody you see,” he said. “It gets worse. Not only do you have to kill everybody you see, you can choose to kill ‘mild,’ ‘medium’ or ‘hot’.”
He added: “The only way you can accommodate the game’s images is by an attitudinal shift. You have to at least acquiesce in these murders and possibly tolerate, or even move towards enjoying them, which is injurious to the public good.”
– Gird yourselves, video game faithful. The legal precedent has been set.

See Above. Also, “Irony.”
Again. Mail. Absurd. Also late.
British Prime Minister Tony Blair today offered his backing and thanks to the UK computer and video games industry as the Entertainment Software Charity (ESC) launched a five year plan to extend its support of Education through the Government’s Academies Programme.
Prime Minister Tony Blair thanked the U.K game industry for helping the economy. “I would like to thank the computer and video games industry for the contribution they make to the British economy which is immense and important.”
The ESC is re-branding the public face of its fund raising to: “Schools – Building the Future through Games and Popular Culture.” They also confirmed support for the Government’s Specialist Schools initiative, with eight schools receiving a combined grant of £277,000 in late 2003 and early 2004. The grants mean that the schools will be able to receive a further £4.9 million from central Government over the next four years.

THERE IS NO MACINTOSH
Halo is now available on Mac.

Okay, there’s some other stuff. The Mac users get some enhancements, such as 16 player support, “better graphics”, new vehicles in multiplayer, new weapons, new maps, etc. Plus the Mac vs. PC war can begin in earnest as Mac users will be able to take on PC users in several individual and team games. Choose sides now. For team names I suggest Gog and Magog.

CALLING PAUL CHAPLIN

For the non-MSTies in the crowd, Paul Chaplin was a writer on MST3K, and was the only one to actively write sports-related comments. Given that the majority of my ire goes to ESPN Gamer, I only thought it appropriate to name this segment after him.

No Tom or Crow this week. It’s a pretty short article (surprise?) and I’ve decided to call on the expertise of my friend, KU AND K-State alum, and fellow sports freak Cris Ary here.

Community service

Cory: The Darryl Strawberry Story!

By Darren Gladstone

Cris: Wong using a pseudonym now?

ESPN.com

Cory: The world-wide leader in sports game review butchering.

Shaming your buddies is gratifying and all, but being the best football gamer in the whole damn world? Now there’s a goal worth watching muscles atrophy for.

Cris: I don’t watch my muscles atrophy for anything but the love.
Cory: Seeing my body cannibalize it’s own muscle tissue is satisfying enough for me. I’d do it even if I didn’t get paid for it.
Cris: You don’t.
Cory: Exactly.

Services like Sony’s 989 Sports Online and Microsoft’s Xbox Sports Network (XSN) are taking networked competition one step further, introducing leaderboards, stat tracking, and whole communities of people ready to beat each other senseless in hopes of walking away with the title.

Cory: What title? Best Recluse 2003?
Cris: Are we still bitter about our Madden 2004 experiences?

Given that deciding which is right for you can be trickier than finding a vegan bistro at Giants Stadium,”¦

Cory: HA!”¦.heh”¦..eh.
Cris: I wonder how many hackneyed jokes he’s going to make in this column.
Cory: Probably not as many as the number of clichés he’ll invoke.
Cris: Whatdya say? Shot for clichés and chug for bad jokes?
Cory: You’re on. Let me get my Cherry Coke.

“¦we’ve graciously pitted the contenders together to see which is truly MVP material:

Cris: Should I call shot on that?
Cory: Nah. Give him a grace period.

Signing Up

Cory: *40’s newsreel announcer* All across the country, young men are signing up to join the war effort “¦ against tyranny, injustice, and bad web articles!
Cris: *ditto* Industry! Creating a better world!

989: The biggest draw here is for all you cheapskates out there.

Cris: *raises hand enthusiastically*

As the unofficial sports line for the PlayStation 2 (Sony fronts their bills), 989’s broadband showdowns won’t cost a single shekel.

Cory: Oy vey.

The account configuration process itself is fairly painless too, presuming joystick jocks can actually remember their password.

Cris: SHOT!! Dumb jock cliché.

XSN: Consider the exercise idiot-proof — hey, we survived it.

Cory: DAMMIT!! He’s pre-empting my comments!
Cris: That one was a gimmie anyway. Wait for the money shot, champ.

Your GamerTag ties everything together. The only drawback: Takers must shell out 50 bones up front, but the added bonus is that you not only get access to XSN, but all Xbox Live-enabled titles& anyone up for a quick game of Ghost Recon?

Cory: *Alyson Hannigan* “It’s “¦ like “¦ you know all of our stories?”
Cris: *Jason Biggs* “Was that a question?”
Cory: *Alyson* “I dunno. You wanna answer it?”

Winner: 989 — Duh … it’s free.

Cris: And I’m sure the Pulitzer committee will recognize the deftness of his use of the word, “duh.”
Cory: Careful. WE’RE the ones ripping off our format here.
Cris: At least we HAVE one.

Signing up for both options is simple, but entering credit card numbers on an Xbox controller can be such a pain in the ass.

Cory: Boo-frickin’-Hoo, Mr. Expense Account.
Cris: I still get nervous entering my credit card number in Windows.
Cory: As well you should.

Getting Connected

Cris: *Ray Liotta* I always wanted to be a gangster”¦.
Cory: Swerved me. I was expecting something from “The Godfather.”
Cris: SHOT! Film major cliché!

989 Sports Online: One advantage of being on the world’s most popular platform: there’s no shortage of competition.

Cory: One disadvantage of playing 989 games: They suck beyond belief.
Cris: Are you ever going to forgive them for “Final Four 2002″?
Cory: No. Who puts a shot strength gauge on anything but a free throw anymore?

Unfortunately, not everyone has high-speed Internet access. While support for broadband is a given, 989 also caters to the lowest common denominator … you know, the ones with 56K modems.

Cory: Heretofore to be known as, “The Unwashed Heathen.”
Cris: Hey!
Cory: Oh, NOW you’re sensitive about it, Mr. “You Need To Get Cable Like I Did Before I Got A New Car And Couldn’t Afford It.” Goose. Gander. Deal.
Cris: *grumbles*

XSN: Tough crap, dial-up users … Microsoft cares less about you than Boston does the Yankees.

Cris: CHUG!!
Cory: Actually, Boston cares quite a bit about the Yankees. If you consider burning, festering hate to be caring.
Cris: I do.

The service exists solely for those who boast cable or DSL connections. Presuming you can get past that hurdle though, it’s nothing but smooth sailing — the Xbox hits the ‘net automatically when you turn it on.

Cris: And the eight year-old lurking in the NFL Fever room is just waiting to hit you for 55 points.

Winner: 989 — While we’re not huge fans of playing on the slow side, at least everyone can show up for the game. It shouldn’t be considered a knock against Xbox Live, however; for both contenders, network stability is steady across the board. Even so, rumor has it the technologically impaired need love too.

Cory: I’m just a simple caveman. Your Internet is frightening to me “¦.
Cris: I see it and I think, “Oh no! The flashing! It must be the voice of God!”¦.”
Cory: “”¦ It’s like the monolith all over again.” It makes me want to grab a bone and smash!
Cris: *HAL* You must take a shot for that cliché, Dave.
Cory: Damn. Thought I could slip that one by.

Performance

Cory: Currently at 1.63 Wongs.
Cris: Is that better or worse?
Cory: I haven’t decided yet.

989 Sports Online: Pretty it isn’t, but once you log in, you’ll find a serviceable little sports community at 989sportsonline.com. Our favorite feature: message boards for smack-talking opponents behind their back. Let’s not discount the ability to mail and issue challenges to other players on the network and set up custom-configured tournaments as well.

Cris: No, lets not discount BASIC FUNCTIONS of online play.

XSN: Size matters, and this community’s huge. Website xsnsports.com also boasts more features than its rival. Tie-ins with MSN passport let you receive cell phone challenges from a buddy on the bus home. Turn on your Xbox and a hotlist also tells you which friends are online.

Cory: Cue Da Vinci’s Notebook.
Cris: Which song: “Enormous Penis,” or “Internet Porn”?
Cory: “The Gates.” Obvious.

Winner: XSN — Microsoft wins this round, hands down. Tracking friends is a cinch, which makes collecting on multiplayer games of NBA Inside Drive that much easier.

Cris: Of course tracking is a cinch. It’s Microsoft. THEY KNOW WHERE YOU LIVE.

Features

Cory: I hate to admit this, but this is actually not a bad comparison piece. Sure, the jokes are bad, and it’s painfully short and vague, but compared to the average Wong piece, this is the Encyclopedia Brittanica.
Cris: Wong’s probably off playing March Madness with Carmelo Anthony.
Cory: Thanks. Ruin the mood.

989 Sports Online: Want up-to-the-minute updates, weather conditions, and advanced user stat-tracking? Chin up, scrappy& you got ’em.

Cory: Weather conditions?
Cris: I can only assume they mean “internet weather.” Connection speeds, dropouts, outages, things like that.
Cory: I don’t know. Knowing 989, they probably mean the weather outside their offices.
Cris: By the way “¦. Scrappy?

Also new to this year’s playbook: voice support for Internet-based trash talking.

Cory: I think it would be easier to keep my cool if I was actually voice connected to whomever I was playing.
Cris: *sarcastically* Uh-huh. You’d launch more expletives than a Warren Ellis comic.
Cory: I still have a score to settle with those Ellis Forum jerks “¦ I mean *EX*-Ellis Forum jerks.
Cris: Internet communities are cruel, cliquish places. And you KNOW this.
Cory: I went in there with a legitimate appreciation of the guy’s work, and because I didn’t agree with their political canon or couldn’t spend eight hours a night lurking online, I was belittled; and when I wasn’t belittled I was just ignored. I had a different political viewpoint and I STILL enjoyed the hell out of “Transmetropolitan” and wanted to talk about it. Isn’t that a Good Thing?
Cris: Dude”¦.
Cory: And the man himself. What a pompous ass. Claims to be a space program freak and he can’t drag his ass over to Hutchinson, Kansas to see the finest space museum in the frickin’ WORLD. A museum that went out, found, and restored the frickin’ Liberty Bell. Nope. Not good enough for WARREN ELLIS. He’ll just sit at home and write tripe about how Britain would have been to the moon before 1960. Poseur.
Cris: Whoa. He dissed the Cosmosphere?“¦.
Cory: I went to that forum as a fan, and I got made fun of because I was Kansan. I got shouted and spitted at because I wouldn’t follow the mindless liberal bullshit spewed by that crew. And I got ignored because I didn’t spend all of my money on Warren Ellis shit or all of my time fellating him online. I got treated like shit on that board, and I don’t feel bad about saying so.
Cris: “¦My UNCLE started the Cosmosphere”¦.
Cory: In fact, I’m issuing an open challenge to ANY of the “intelligentsia” from the old Warren Ellis Forum: Xbox Live or PS2 online. Sports game. Pick one. I took my licks in your world for a while, now you can take your licks in mine “¦ that is, if you’ve got the balls. Sports games. You know, sports? Those things you SUCKED AT in high school?
Cris: “¦.you done?
Cory: “¦.Yeah.
Cris: Feel better?
Cory: Yeah “¦ yeah, I do. Let’s move on.

Added bonuses further include user polls posted online and real-time score updates so you don’t have to flip over to ESPN every five minutes.

Cris: PLUG!!
Cory: Of course they’d want to avoid flipping over to ESPN. It would just remind them that they’re not ON ESPN.
Cris: Ouch. Someone needs to calm down from his rant. Have a cookie.

XSN: While 989 is relying upon gimmicks like polls and real-world score updates, the big brother factor comes into play here — getting a text message offer to trade away Steve Yzerman is a trip. Like 989, you’ve got downloadable rosters and team updates. But the voice chat support and in-depth leader boards also have us hot and bothered.

Both: EWWWW!!
Cris: God, I didn’t want to know that!
Cory: NOW cue up “Internet Porn.”

Winner: XSN — Technology wins again: the ability to constantly be in contact seriously fosters community spirit … we love checking our cellie for scores.

Cris: SHOT!
Cory: Huh?
Cris: Cellie.’ Cute names for cell phones went out when everybody and their dog got one.
Cory: Okay. I’ll take your word for it.

Games

Cory: Electronic Arts? Who’s Electronic Arts?
Cris: The company that’s sponsoring half of ESPN’s shows right now.

989 Sports Online: Label these guys tenacious … despite taking annual lumps, 989 keeps coming back for more.

Cory: In the biz, we call this “cannon fodder.”

While its games aren’t the best, the firm gets props for trying something different. Case in point: NFL GameDay 2004 allows you to call the audible through a headset.

Cory: BLUE THIRTY-TWO!! BLUE THIRTY-TWO!!
Cris: *internet gamer* Dude! Ow! I’m right here! Just tell me to run deep post left! Jeez!

That said, their lineup’s starting to rebound more than NBA ShootOut 2004.

Cris: CHUG!!

XSN: Microsoft is putting a lot into fostering its own sports brand. Will XSN hit it big? As it stands right now, major titles in the series — NFL Fever, NHL Rivals, and NBA Inside Drive — are all just okay. While better than 989’s offerings, such titles can’t yet stack up to the big boys.

Cory: Cripes, just say “Electronic Arts.” Can you just say it, please?
Cris: Well at least they agree with you on 989.

Winner: XSN — Score one for better graphics and some seriously cool contenders& we can’t stop playing Links 2004 and the highly-addictive Top Spin.

Cris: Tennis?!
Cory: The Williams sisters, Anna Kournikova, Martina Hingis “¦
Cris: Ah. Right. Got it.

Lowdown: It was a tight race, but Xbox Sports Network wasn’t giving up the high ground thanks to its well-designed feature set.

Cory: But don’t count out 989 due to its Basic Functionality!

Hey, you spend 50 large on an online service for a year’s subscription and you’d better get your money’s worth.

Cris: Somebody needs to say this to AOL.
Cory: Right. Like they’d ever DROP their rates.

More important, though, are the games themselves. Microsoft definitely has a leg up on the competition in this department, albeit one that’s still a season or so away from winning the big game.

Cris: SHOT!!

********

How do I get started on these rants?

Believe it or not, I didn’t start this meaning to tee off on the WEF. I had put in the reference because it was the first thing I thought of that had a high enough concentration of expletives to make the line work. Next thing I know, I’m a half-page down and sweating. THAT’S how pissed off I was.

Clarification time. Yes, I used to be a full-fledged fanboy on the Warren Ellis Forum. I’m ashamed to admit that I was far too willing to let people make fun of me and argue me with malformed opinions and half-assed information. I should have left that board long before I did. I even stuck around longer than the guy who introduced me to that board. He’s a writer by trade and a HUGE Ellis fan and HE couldn’t stand it around there, if that’s any indication of the state of things.

Cripes, that place was dense. They all voted for Gore and they were all pissed off when he lost in 2000. Not that they could argue intelligently about it. I would love to turn the clock back and turn Szulczewski loose on that crew. He’d eat them alive, and he’d be AGREEING with most of them in principle. I used to enjoy arguing politics. I still do when I find somebody that knows their shit. These people didn’t know shit. Period. Sports were “beneath” them. Video games — except for The Sims. Yay! — were “beneath” them. Concepts of representative government were beyond them.

I even got into a couple of arguments with the man himself. Not surprisingly, his stuff was more thought out than most others on the board, but he did rule that place with an iron ego. There were some instances where I had legitimate rebuttals to his comments and got shut down because “he” decided debate was over and locked the threads. I wish I had heard the now-standard proverb, “Arguing on the Internet is like running in the Special Olympics “¦” back then. I probably would have ditched a lot sooner than I did.

For a while the intro to the WEF — the one Ellis himself wrote — was “Welcome to the WEF. Amuse me.” Back then I let that sort of smug bullshit slide. Today, I’d be inclined to send him a photoshopped picture of him, dressed up like Mary Ann, bent over and taking it up the ass from a hog in a sty with a caption of, “Amused yet?” and never go back. Deal with THAT country grammar you pretentious prick.

I’m sure that 90+ percent of the people on that board had experiences similar to mine. There was a pretty small group of people who ran on that forum and if you weren’t in that group, you shouldn’t have expected to be taken seriously, or even just listened to. That was especially true in the chatroom there. The only times I had real conversations in that chatroom were when my real life friends — the ones who introduced me to the forum in the first place — were on. What good was that? Finally, I got the clue and split. The forum itself shut down a little while after that. Good riddance to bad rubbish, I say.

The challenge I issued above is real. If any of the Ellis Army; Linker, Joe Sizzle, The Grand DooDah himself, anybody; reads this and has the guts to throw down, my e-mail’s at the bottom of this column. Give me the game (Consoles only. I don’t have time to add PC games back into my schedule, and I don’t want to have to deal with someone’s f*cked up hardware causing them to bow out), your screen name, and when you’ll be on. Honestly, if anyone even takes up the challenge, they’ll be halfway to earning my respect back.

And, as always, there are some exceptions. I only want the hardcore 1337 from the WEF. Casual users and people in my boat don’t apply. If I don’t recognize the name, you’ll probably get turned down. Oh, and Fraction is exempt. He always treated me cool there. What else should you expect from a K.C. guy?

If there’s anybody else out there who’s had a bad experience with an online forum, write to me and vent. Get trashed in a thread? Tell me about it. Felt alone in a crowded chatroom? Talk. There are too many smart and good-hearted people out there who get run over in everyday life to have to put up with it online as well. The Hangover is your podium.

PIMP-LICIOUS

Chuck Platt takes over the Jackson/Williams Uber-Hit news hour tomorrow! I’m really excited about this, even though it marks the SECOND time the news guy following me has split. Is it my breath?

Pimp Coat:A-Will. You know, I don’t even need a reason to give him the coat anymore. If you need a reason, partially because he rocks, partially because he’s leaving Tuesday’s and he’s been good for my page views. I’ll destroy Berg and Panks on X-box Live, but I no better than to take on A-Will at DDR. I ain’t that crazy.

Pimp Stick: Lucard gets the nod for a wonderfully written column, plus he used my put-down of the weekend: “tool.” I have to agree with Alex in terms of reviews. Sometimes I even feel my reviews are a bit dry because I get too analytical. And, Bebs hates PGR2? It’s actually one of the better street racers I’ve seen in a while. (That comment will get me BANNED from the Kliq forums, I know.)

Pimp Boots: Misha gets his make-up pimp from me for a couple of weeks ago.

This Week’s Ho Train:
L.C. is Angry at Square Enix. Tag team match: L.C. and Alucard vs. Final Fantasy X and X-2 TONIGHT ON RAW!!

Berg. Hey, Bryan, if the Royals could have made a deal for Schilling I’d have soiled myself. As it is, I’m happy that they signed Benito Friggin’ Santiago.

Lee is still workin’ the streets for 411 cause he can’t find a day job. Crackah, PLEASE “¦.

YIP returns with a review of ESPN NBA Basketball. Haw haw haw hawhaw haw”¦..DAWWWG!!

Next week, something festive “¦. and I’ll leave it at that.

Until then, get some sleep.

-Cory