Gamer’s Hangover – 03.01.04

“You Don’t Suck.”: Another Collection of Reader Mail

So the tide has turned back towards, “Tell us! Tell us more pointless non-game-related stuff, Cory!” Don’t worry gentle reader. I never said I was going to remove my off-topic stuff. I meant I’m going to have more actual game-related stuff. More! More content to stuff your eyeballs with!

But, since I led with the anti-QRT crowd last week, it’s only fair to let the pro-QRT fans go first this week:

“You don’t suck”: Me trying to counter those other mails you got.

Hi, I’m Serge Levesque. You may remember me from such e-mails as “disgruntled Expos’ fan”, and… well that’s the only one I ever wrote to you actually. And that last world series, choosing between the destroyers of the game (Yankees) and the destroyers of the Expos (the Loria clan in charge of the Marlins), can I just shoot myself instead… But that’s nowhere near why I’m writing to you today.

(Update: now this is much longer than I thought it would be. Sorry about that.)

First off, yeah you can talk about whatever you want, and the diet piece was a very good read. And this week’s rant was an even BETTER read. Again (as in the last time I wrote to you), it hit very close to home.

It is amazing to look back to when I was a teen, wondering what it would be like when I get my own place and yearning to find a girlfriend while having enough time to kill to find all endings to Chrono Trigger, memorizing in every details the map of Super Metroid, playing a complete 162 game of Ken Griffey’s, and more stuff that I’m sure I have forgotten about. In fact, just how damn many times have I played through Super Mario World?

Today, at 26, I can only dream of such feats. I should bless the day I read Lucard’s top 10 rpgs column, for ever since this day his contagious enthusiasm has leered me to many GREAT games of my favorite genre, but this day has been a curse as well. Curses me for being a fan of the most unforgiving genre to the time-hungry gamer. As I write this I have unfinished games of Phantasy Star, Persona 2, Harvest Moon, Ogre Battle and Clock Tower lying around, and I have yet to start some others I couldn’t help but acquire: Lunar 2 (and I’ve just recently completed Lunar 1 so it barely didn’t make the other list), Grandia 1, the Arc the Lad collection (that’s THREE games, $/@$%*!), Phantasy Star 2-4 (as soon as I finish 1, so I’m kind of intentionally holding it up since I know it’s way easier to let 1 sit than it is 2), Black & White and Civilization 3 (are you kidding me? 2 was like crack on disc, I KNOW I’m f*cked if I install this one).

And despise all that, I still have it easy. Living in an apartment and seeing the girlfriend only on weekends. I look at my future and see only more responsibilities. You’ve actually named them: a house, kids, more frequent laundries, bigger groceries, taxes, bills, loans, payments, more taxes, and caring for the then wife more than just on weekends…

This can’t be happening? How could I go from wanting a girlfriend more than anything else to wishing now that she’ll let me spend a weekend by myself so I can get more gaming done. And I love her, I really do, she’s the sweetest thing in the world.

You might think that I’d like to go back and tackle those Phantasy Stars when I had the time, instead of using that time to play through Bart’s Nightmare for the Xth time. But come to think of it, was I unhappy back then because I didn’t play Phantasy Star? Certainly not. I was actually enjoying playing Bart’s Nightmare for the Xth time. And every game of Ken Griffey’s. I was happy with my small collection of games, considering what I could afford back then. So of course when the time came where I could afford more, I found out that the choice of good games I hadn’t play yet was overwhelming. Well, I should be happy that I have so many good games left to discover. That probably means I’ll never run out of them, no matter the quality of the next generation of games.

To steal your idea to compare this to music: It is down right impossible to keep up with everything that is released in music. But when I stumble on a good album that was released 10 or 15 years ago, I’m not pissed because I didn’t hear it back then, I’m thrilled to have something this good to listen to today.

But, opposed to what you said, that makes me “behind the times”, seeing as I’m always catching up on these things. I may one day think I’m a cool dad because I play games, but when I suggest my kids a game of Crystal Chronicles I’ll be frowned at and told to get lost with my old lousy games. “Silly dad, yo today Grand Theft Auto X-2 is the shizzle!”

Time only moves forward, even though I may not feel ready for what comes ahead, and I’d sometimes wish I could go back. Hell, everyone goes through this, right? I guess the best thing we both could do is save up the systems and good games that come along the years for our retirement. THIS is where we’ll have all the time we need…

See you at the home, I’ll take you on Gotham Racing 2 BY THEN! ;)

Serge Levesque
La Pocatiere, Canada

I have some more to talk about gamers entering adulthood later on, so I’ll defer my response until then. Suffice it to say that Serge’s e-mail made my day, and not just for the Ken Griffey reference.

So, if you’re anti-QRT, please skip forward to the News. For the pro-QRT fans, please read on.

Quasi-random thoughts:

Why was the column so late last week? I’m a moron. Let’s just leave it at that.

So I’ve spent the last couple of weeks playing ESPN College Hoops, readying my review. I’ve started a rather unprecedented Legacy mode with Dartmouth. Basically, I’ve turned them into a run-and-gun team. Cris: “Congratulations. You’re the Paul Westphal of the Ivy League.”

According to ESPN’s Joe Lunardi, Alabama should be seeded 10th in the upcoming NCAA Men’s Basketball Tournament. Mind you, it is mathematically impossible for them to get as many wins as Wichita State has. Argue me RPI, Strength of Schedule, whatever. The fact is that Alabama is barely over the Mendoza line and is a “virtual lock” for the Big Dance just because they’ve gotten a couple of wins on ranked opponents and are in a major conference. They even have a LOSING record in their conference! If they get over 20 wins, they’ll have to win out their remaining schedule and win a few in the SEC tournament, neither of which is even close to being likely.

As I pick up a new whip for the dead horse, I’m looking at ESPN’s Mid-Major Top Ten. Out of the ten teams currently listed, Wichita State has played four of them this season. They’ve beaten three.

I don’t want to go on too much of a rant here, but ESPN seems to have gotten a case of too-big-for-their-britches all of the sudden, haven’t they? Hey, don’t get me wrong. I still love to watch SportsCenter, but throughout the organization it seems to be like they’re starting to “¦ to believe their own press. “Playmakers”? ESPN Gamer? “Page 3″? Did ESPN hire Vince Russo while I wasn’t looking or something? Then there was this whole shouting match with Cox Communications (which I got full bore, because Cox runs things in Wichita). I’ve heard about the rate hikes ESPN was charging; I would have understood completely if Cox had put them on a special tier. I probably would have even bought the tier, but as it is, it seems like ESPN has almost single-handedly caused basic cable rates to go up across the nation. This for a network that carries ONE NFL game a week during that season and has never even competed for the opportunity to show a title game in any of the major sports. I could ditch ESPN, and still get all of the Wichita State games, all but one or maybe two of the Chiefs games, and most of the KU games, as well as watch every major pro sport title game out there right now. And I need to pay an extra 5-10 bucks a month per year for what? SportsCenter. That’s what.

They start out the season with Wichita State #2 in their Mid-Major Top Ten, only behind Gonzaga. The Shox stumbled early, with a couple of stupid losses to Drake and Indiana State, both of which they’ve rectified in the respective rematches. Since the Creighton game (which I was at), they’ve been on an absolute tear. They dropped both games (so far) to Southern Illinois, but lost the second one by only 5. They beat Creighton when Creighton was ranked. They destroyed Austin Peay in the ESPN Bracketbusters series (after the yahoo who writes the Mid-Major Top Ten predicted that Austin Peay would win that game). If they keep playing like they have been in the MVC tournament they will beat Southern Illinois. Not may’ beat them. They WILL’ beat them. Of course, if they do, then all of my ranting will probably be moot, since they’d get the automatic NCAA bid by winning the MVC tournament.

I’ve been watching Shocker basketball for damn near 20 years. I’ve seen them fade down the stretch “¦ hell, I’ve seen them not even show up for seasons. I’ve also seen them beat KU (1987, and that was Danny Manning and company getting beat by a team led by Henry don’t call me Antoine’ Carr and Sasha Radunavich) and seen them have a couple of really good seasons. Historically, they’ve had some REALLY good seasons. Sweet Sixteen-and-better type seasons.

The point is that I’ve seen a lot of WSU basketball, and I don’t think I’m straying too much into hyperbole when I say this: When this team, the 2003-2004 WSU Men’s basketball team is on their game, they can take down any other team in the nation. I don’t mean any other team in the Missouri Valley or in the state of Kansas, I mean UConn or Duke could roll into Levitt “¦ excuse me “¦ Charles Koch Arena and leave with their asses in a yellow-and-black tote bag. Jamal Howard is going to have an NBA career. It may be an off-the-bench, defensive roleplayer, sparkplug kind of career but he’s going to have one. Paul Miller is playing like an All-Valley center, and he’s a SOPHOMORE. If these guys make it into the Dance I’m seriously considering finding a couple of days of vacation and buying a plane ticket and some nosebleed seats. It’d be worth staying at Motel 6 to see the Shox tear up some poseur from a Major┞¢ conference. Preferably some team from the ACC.

So Sunday I was at the mall to get my hair cut. Yes. I get my hair cut at Mastercuts at the mall. It’s cheap, my hair is short and doesn’t require extensive work, and they have a good crew where I go. Anyway, as I was there already I decided to stop by the arcade and, out of respect to A-Will, give a go of Dance Dance Revolution Extreme.

Now, I’ve never played any of the DDR games before. Ever. With the strongest possible apologies to Alex Williams I had always thought of DDR as “¦ well “¦ kind of a girls’ game. I can say that honestly because I’ve since been shown the error of my ways. I had to wait a little bit before I could play. A couple of high school kids were on, tearing up what looked to be a veritable reverse snowstorm of arrow combinations flying up the screen. It’s really a strange feeling to simultaneously look down upon something and be intimidated by it. Anyway, the couple finished and nobody else was playing and the arcade was fairly empty so I decided to give it a shot. What the hell?

As I walked up to the machine, one of the kids working there, a high school boy manning the prize counter nearby, was staring at me. I looked straight at him and told him flat-out, “I know. I’m about to embarrass myself horribly. I’m okay with that.” He knowingly shook his head and simply replied, “You’ll do fine.” That wasn’t exactly the reaction I expected.

I put in my tokens and started through the directions, which were written in Japanese. Before I knew it, another guy working there came up and talked me through the start-up process. “Center button “¦ I’m guessing you’ll want beginner “¦”

“Yes. Definitely beginner.”
“Okay “¦ now, instead of only having a set group of songs to choose from, what you can do is hit both arrow buttons and you can get an alphabetical list of all of the available tracks.”
“Cool! Thanks.”
“Good luck, dude.”

And so there I was, sifting through the tracks, letter by letter. I quickly came across a song I thought I could get into, “Cartoon Heroes,” and my Dance Dance Revolution career began. It took me a little bit to sync everything up; DDR isn’t eye-hand coordination like most video gamers know, it’s eye-ear-foot coordination; but by halfway through the first song, I had it pretty much figured out. I successfully finished, I got a D rating, but I did finish. Next I scanned through some more tunes and settled on “Heaven is a ’57 Metallic Grey “¦” (I don’t know if that’s the whole title or not. That’s all that it was listed as.) which was more of a swing-type song that I could get into. Somewhere in that second song a smallish Asian man, probably college age, came up and put his token up on the console in the international arcade gamer sign for “Next.” I got a D on that one too, but I felt like I was getting the groove and I tried the same song again for round 3. Got a B that time. For the 4th and final round, I chose “Little Bitch”, which was kind of a punk-ska type song that bounced well.

Now, I think I need to mention that I’m a pretty big guy. I’m 6’2″ and 205-ish and have a red beard going on and I can look pretty tough if I may say so myself. As I was playing the 4th round, this cat comes up and lays his token on the machine. He’s easily 6’5″ and built and puts me to shame in terms of looking tough. It was that moment that I realized that DDR was certainly NOT a “girls’ game.” I got a C for that last round and I exited the machine and the two men who had queued up took to it.

I haven’t had that much fun playing an arcade game since the original arcade version of Crazy Taxi, and longtime readers will know how much of a compliment that is. The only problem I had was keeping my big feet on the center pad; the four misses I had during my B round were because my feet would spill out from the center and trip the square I was wanting to bounce on way before it was time. Otherwise, I did pretty well. Alex can tell me how good those ratings are for a newbie, but I was definitely feeling the groove.

And, even on beginner, the game is a great aerobic workout. Not a Final Furlong, Body-for-Life type sprinting workout, but a nice steady Fat-burning-zone type workout. I played for somewhere between 10 and 15 minutes for 75 cents and had a nice thin layer of perspiration built up by the time I stepped off. I’ll even admit this, after the mall, I went over to Best Buy and, among other things, priced the Xbox version of DDR Extreme (I wanted to make sure to get the same songs) and a dance pad.

Of course, Veronica wasn’t completely behind the idea of buying yet another space-consuming peripheral so I had to back off; but she did promise to come play with me once she shakes off this chest cold she’s had for the last few days.

This ties in with the ongoing talk we’ve been having here at 411Games about the role of the aging gamer. Look, I know that the game has been around for a while, but just because I’ve gotten a little behind the knowledge curve doesn’t mean I should just let the curve run away from me. I may be a late convert to the genius that is Dance Dance Revolution but I’m still a convert. Now the trick is to get Veronica to get on the bandwagon with me so that I go from being the spooky old guy who plays DDR to being part of that cool couple that plays DDR.

Notice that spooky old guys become cool when occupied by age-appropriate women?

NEWS

Don’t You Believe It
credit: Spong.com
There’s a release date for PC version of Doom 3. It’s supposedly April 15 (why not April 1?) in the U.S., the next day in Europe. Reports are that this is from Activision’s sales department in the U.S.

There have also been some details leaking about the Xbox port of the alleged “game.” No release date for it, other than the wait for it will not be “significantly long.” What they have said is that the console version will have content that the PC version doesn’t, and that the game will be one of the first to “make serious use of the game’s hard drive,” whatever that means. Frankly, I’m scared “¦ that is if the game actually comes out, which is a dubious idea at best.

Volvo Features Videogame In Car Commercial, Cars Still Boxy And Uncool
credit: Gamedaily.com
Volvo, in a bid to try and fool the youth of America into thinking that their cars are anything other than examples of rectangular prisms, is going to feature screenshots of the game Rallisport Challenge 2 (Microsoft Game Studios pour le Xbox) in its upcoming ad campaign for the new Volvo S40.

Volvo’s executive vice president of marketing, Thomas Andersson calls the campaign, “Surprising, refreshing and cool, yet reassuringly Volvo at the same time. The tone we are using is youthful and confident, but not arrogant. With this campaign we will show that Volvo can be sexy and fun.”

Fun? ANY car can be fun when there aren’t any cops around. Sexy? The only way Volvos can be sexy is if you can convince whoever you want to get it on with that it was expensive. Otherwise it’s primary claim to fame is that it will get you the best car insurance rates in the known universe. Of course, being old, I have to say that that’s not such a bad thing.

Something Else My Boss Won’t Send Me To
credit: Gamedaily.com

Scores of software developers will be descending on Las Vegas this week for the 2004 D.I.C.E. Summit, being held at the Palms casino and resort on March 3rd, 4th, and 5th. The summit is organized by the Acadamy of Interactive Arts and Sciences, and is a two day seminar featuring up-close discussions with some of the “¦

I’m sorry. I have the Oscars on and Annie Lennox is singing the song from “Lord of the Rings” right now, and it’s getting a little smoky in here. Just a minute.

Okay. Now then “¦

“¦ “most celebrated minds in the gaming industry.” Over 400 industry professionals are expected to attend. In fact, I so much don’t want to type them all that I’m going to mail this bit in.

Other featured speakers at DICE include, Peter Molyneux, Managing Director, Lionhead Studios, Kathy Vrabeck, President, Activision, Bill Roper, CEO, Flagship Games, Jason Rubin, President and Co-founder, Naughty Dog, Jordan Weisman, CEO and Founder, WizKids Games, Chris Anderson, Editor in Chief, Wired Magazine, Jordan Mechner, Creator and Designer, original “Prince of Persia” and Patrice Desilets, Creative Director, “Prince of Persia.”

And as if we haven’t already had enough awards this week, the seminar will also feature the 7th annual Interactive Achievement Awards on March 4th. I believe that these are the same awards I tried to predict a couple of weeks ago and got tired of because the same five games were nominated for everything. At any rate, I’m pulling for Viewtiful Joe to win for the ONE award it’s nominated for.

Microsoft Discovers Money Making Scheme Of Selling Required Memory Cards Separately.
credit: Spong.com
Proving that they may just be figuring out this whole console marketing thing, Microsoft has hired flash memory manufacturer M-Systems to develop a flash memory storage device for the upcoming Xbox 2. No specs of the proposed storage card were given, but it lends even more credibility to the stories that Microsoft is considering scrapping the internal hard drive for the Xbox 2. Of course, since the Xbox hard drive is 8 MB and existing M-Systems flash memory devices are about half a Gig, I can see where there may be an improvement in storage space, but then again this IS Microsoft. That means that ditching the internal hard drive will NOT cause the Xbox 2 to be priced any less, nor does it mean that the new Xbox memory card will hold data from more games than its predecessors. Thus is the entropy-like nature of bloatware.

You know, Berg covered that story on Thursday. Hell, it’s a slow news day. So sue me. Good thing I already had this lined up.

If It’s Wong, I Don’t Wanna Be (Paul) Wight

Street cred
By Matt Wong
ESPN.com

Tom: Didn’t you forgive Matt for his trangressions?
Cory: Yes, but he keeps coming up with new ones.

Before the dreads, before the rushing records, before his biceps were massive and full of ink, Ricky Williams was playing football like any other kid — whenever and wherever.

Crow: You know “¦ school “¦ church “¦ prison “¦ the DMV “¦

He’d line up wide, like most everybody else back when football was one quarterback and 10 receivers, “¦

Cory: Boy, they played with some honest defense, didn’t they? If you tried that back in Clay Center all you’d hear is, “One Mi — si — THREE!!”

“¦ and eventually snagged the nickname Little Tim Brown, back when Tim Brown was Tim Brown and had a whole lotta game.

Crow: About 300 years ago.

Street ball was a proving ground for Ricky.

Tom: *documentary narrator* It’s where he learned the obsessive-compulsive behavior that would serve him so well in his professional life.

“When I was young, we moved around a lot to different neighborhoods in San Diego,” he says. “Whenever we went to a new place that’s how I earned my respect, that’s how I got in, by playing street ball.”

Crow: Until we moved up to Van Nuys, and I had to learn street FOOTball, like street soccer. Man, who can run around for 90 minutes? I heaved french fries after my first game.
Cory: I wonder if they called him little Kobi Jones?
Crow: Naw. He probably didn’t have the dreadlocks then. They probably called him Little Agoos.
BOTH: *snicker*

And that’s how — and why — Ricky Williams fits perfectly on the cover of EA’s new hyperactive arcade-style football game, NFL Street, right between Shannon Sharpe and Barry Sanders.

Cory: So it goes: Equine, crossdresser, Hall-of-Famer. Yeah, I can see how he fit in.

Because Williams is style and substance and street in his own right.

Crow: Maybe they called him little Maradonna.
Cory: Nah.
Crow: Why not?
Cory: Ricky’s got no hands.
Tom: ZING!! Maybe the first football/American football crossover joke ever.

No, he’s not the stereotypical loud star with the rap album and entourage that some may believe go hand-and-hand with street culture.

Cory: *NPR Host* His is more of a New Age sound. Consider his work with John Tesh “¦

Instead, he’s soft-spoken, a man who chooses to let his game and sometimes his dreadlocks talk loudest.

Crow: The dreadlocks that practically scream, “Grab me while I’m running full speed and give me a major neck injury.”

“I take pride in that I bring a different flavor to the NFL,” the Dolphins running back says. “Everyone has a different style. It’s about not being afraid to express yourself. “¦

Tom: “¦not being afraid to wear white “¦

“¦ And I’m not afraid to express myself, to be myself.”

Cory: Such as in this ballet I’ve choreographed “¦

The same goes for NFL Street, which follows in the line of EA’s NBA Street, expressing itself by incorporating urban themes from art to music to fashion.

Crow: So when did wearing football shoulder pads outside of your clothes become street fashion?
Cory: On the west coast, after the Rodney King riots.

But this time EA’s vision was to get the art and the music and all the street culture to the forefront of the game.

Cory: Everybody ready?
Tom: Ready.
Crow: Willing.
Cory: Okay “¦. Go.
ALL: “¦ INSTEAD OF THE GAMEPLAY.
Cory: Good job, guys.
Crow: Our pleasure.

So to get the flavor right, EA relied heavily on a few New York products, namely Justin Bua and the X-Ecutioners, who represent today’s urban landscape and have connections to street football.

Tom: And how exactly does someone have “connections to street football?”
Crow: Maybe they dealt speed to the players on the corner before games.
Cory: Crow “¦
Crow: Yeah, that was probably it. “Psst! Hey, wanna outrun the other kids?”

Pop in the game and the intro video sequence immediately introduces you to Bua, one of today’s most popular urban artists who grew up in Harlem back in the thick of hip-hop’s renaissance.

Cory: Why do I want to start into a song from “West Side Story” here?

He’s standing in front of a clean grafitti wall, seemingly in need of inspiration.

Crow: What is the sight of a clean grafitti wall?’
Cory: It’s probably like the sound of one hand clapping.

So he checks out the scene around him, a scene he’s very familiar with, a scene he’s still immersed in — the breakdancer, the street baller, the poet, all in action.

Tom: Would it be totally callous of me to suggest that maybe he should get a job?

And by the end of the video, the wall is full of color and life as Bua brings urban art and football together for the game’s lead mural. This isn’t Terrell Owens with a Sharpie.

Crow: Yeah, you’ve HEARD about Owens and his Sharpie.

His artwork is all about characters and expressions and that’s what he loves about the NFL right now, right down to Johnnie Morton doing the Worm in the end zone.

Cory: *mumbles* How about Johnnie Morton dropping easy passes in a playoff game “¦
Tom: Ah, months pass but the wound is still fresh.
Crow: *Minnesotan* Ya know, if ya keep pickin’ that scab it’ll never heal.
Tom: *fellow Minnesotan* Oh, ya.
Crow: *Minn.* Ya, you betcha.

He believes today’s players all have been affected by hip-hop in some way.

Cory: Apparently he’s never seen Kurt Warner.
Tom: Or his wife.
Crow: Or their hair.

That’s why Bua was so excited to help out with the project, especially since EA wanted art to be an integral part of the game.

Cory: I’ll take this one. Ahem “¦ instead of gameplay.

“My goal is to put art on the map again,” Bua says.

Crow: “Here be monsters.” Arrrrrr.

“There’s a misconception of what true hip-hop culture is — that it’s about money, bling-bling, fame, girls. But, ultimately it’s about freedom of expression, rhythm of the street.”

Cory: Ah, I remember it well. The pointillist scattering of litter; the sweet, pungent smell of backed up sewers, the staccato notes of gunshots “¦
Tom: Uh, Cory, you’re being a little hard on them here.
Cory: What, I was talking about my years living on the WSU campus.

So Bua, whose artwork is all over college campuses and dorm walls, enlisted a team of young, up-and-coming artists to help with the game’s artwork. He went from Brooklyn to Compton to Chicago to Minnesota until he got the right mix, then let them do their thing.

Crow: “¦and got a fantastic mess in his living room.

What they came up with was a wide variety of interpretations of steet football “¦

Tom: Steet?

“¦ that EA features on the game’s loading pages. And since museums aren’t a big part of today’s youth, Bua believes that, at the moment, this is the perfect venue to get the art out there and encourage kids to become artists.

Cory: Because kids always pay rapt attention to the loading screens.
Crow: I do “¦ while I’m cussing at them.

To show them the relationship between art and sports. And music.

Cory: See kids, if the art and the music is really good, nobody will notice that the game is basically a re-hashed version of NFL Blitz.
Tom: Cory, I have to call foul here. You LOVED NBA Street Vol. 2, and it’s just as much a rip-off of NBA Jam as NFL Street is of NFL Blitz.
Cory: But you see, there’s an important difference. I’m GOOD at NBA Street 2.
Tom: Gotcha.

That’s where the turntable group, the X-Ecutioners, made up of Rob Swift, Total Eclipse and Roc Raida, “¦

Cory: Featuring Ben Dover “¦
Crow: “¦ Jacque Strapp “¦
Tom: “¦ Amanda Huginkiss “¦
Cory: “¦ Oliver Klothzoff “¦
Crow: “¦ I.P. Freely “¦
Tom: “¦ and Deez Nuts “¦

“¦ came in. They’ve done tracks for video games before, but NFL Street was the first time they scored an actual game.

Crow: Cory, when was the first time you scored an actual game?
Cory: When Pankonin sent me Project Gotham Racing 2 last November.

“We were so excited about the chance to do this that we took a break from our album,” says Swift.

Tom: We rushed over to do it “¦
Cory and Crow: “¦said Tom swiftly.

The project took them six months. Besides dropping down a few tracks, along with various artists, the X-Ecutioners focused on creating music for different locations in the game, making sure each venue had distinctive music and rhythms. Because, obviously, playing on the roof and on the beach aren’t all that similar.

Crow: Well, in both cases, diving out of bounds would get you all messy.

Even more difficult was making music that reflected what was going on during the game. They had to figure out what an interception sounded like and create scratches that indicated that the ball was turned over. Or when somebody scored, they made sure the music and scratches got more energetic.

Tom: That would get really distracting on dates.
Crow: I don’t know. Maybe if they put an Isaac Hayes vibe to it “¦
Cory: Guys “¦

“It was challenging,” says Swift. “You’re working within certain restrictions. You have to coordinate what you do with different things happening throughout the game. When you’re doing a record, you’re not thinking about those things.

Crow: You’re thinking, “Can we make a clean version of this for radio.”

“But the game is so full of energy and what we do is so full of energy. It was a perfect blend.”

Cory: The combination of a vocal caress and lungs that gasp for breath from emotional stress and special effects in a distorted collage, carefully lodged between beats of the rhythmic barrage.
Tom: Please stop.
Crow: And change the CDs in your car once in a while, will ya?

But you won’t realize that until you play the game, until your head starts bobbing to the music and your eyes become fixed on the art.

Tom: And some sixth grader with ADHD destroys you online while you’re gawking at the pretty lights.
Cory: Maybe HE’S not the one with ADHD.

So Ricky and I put the game to the test.

Cory: Cripes. Here we go again.
Crow: *Bugs Bunny* Oh Gwenavire. This is where I came in.

Williams is a big-time gamer, dating back to using his favorite player, Bo Jackson, and on occasion the Chicago Bears for their defense, in Tecmo Bowl.

Cory: Well, there’s his gamer cred, Matt. Where’s yours?

These days he says his heart and soul is Madden, challenging anyone and everyone.

Tom: What a pitiable soul.

“I play online a lot,” he says. “To me, that’s the best invention ever.”

Crow: Yeah, he and Julia Roberts meet up for Halo tournaments on the weekends.
Cory: And how surreal would THAT be?

But now it’s face-to-face, or well, shoulder-to-shoulder and he’s whooping me from the get-go, scoring two quick touchdowns with T.J. Duckett and the Falcons.

Tom: At least he’s cutting to the chase now.

“He’s a beast,” he says of Atlanta’s RB.

Crow: *Austin Powers* He’s a SEXY BEAST!!

Williams doesn’t like to use himself, hasn’t really since firing up NCAA Football when he was a fullback his freshman year at Texas, when he needed more carries.

Cory: *Ricky* Priest “¦ lousy “¦ touchdown record “¦
Tom: Some people just can’t let go.

Instead he opts for running QB’s, in this case Michael Vick, so he can take full advantage of the option.

Cory: Option A: Throw for 30 yards.
Tom: Option B: Run for 20 yards.
Crow: Option C: Get leveled trying Options A or B because your tailback dogged the block.

“NFL Street’s about making plays, not picking the right play,” he explains.

Cory: Ah, the mantra of the poorly coached.
Tom: *Coach* Line up for a field goal.
Crow: *Player* But coach, we’re on our own 20 “¦
Tom: *Coach* DO AS I SAY!!

Well, either way, I was just getting played.

Cory: I think that was assumed.

I was the Dolphins in tribute to the man to my left, and Duckett was plowing over cyber Ricky, who on defense was my linebacker.

Crow: And was obviously trying out for the Chiefs’ “¦
Cory: *interrupting* Thank you, Crow.

“You’re letting me down man,” I said to him.

Tom: *Ricky* Huh. Everyone else blames Wannstedt.

“My bad.”

Crow: *Matt* Huh. I figured you’d blame Wannstedt.

Maybe he really felt sorry because soon after my team styled its way to a 27-25 lead. Unfortunately, after that, the Falcons scored on the next two possessions to win 41-27.

Cory: What’s the over/under on how many games Jim Mora Jr. will coach before he uses “diddly poo” in a press conference?
Crow: Coaching the Falcons? Five.

“You gave me a run for my money,” Williams said. “You almost came back.”

Cory: *Matt* Yeah, and you were almost the best running back to come out of Texas in the last ten years.

Easy for him to say, he was the reason I almost came back, as his virtual double was my Player of the Game in the losing effort. Though his tackling skills were poor in the game (and I let him know it), he did end up with a defensive TD and two fumble recoveries.

Crow: Raising his giveaway/takeaway ratio to a career-high —5.

But don’t expect him to quit his job at running back. “It pays the bills,” he jokes. Although he’s quick to add that, if given the same chance to play any position in the NFL — offense or defense, like Street allows — there’s no doubt in his mind he’d be successful wherever he lined up.

Crow: see also: Kordell Stewart.

“I’m not afraid of anybody,” he says. “For football, street or wherever you play, that’s how it’s gotta be.”

Matt Wong is a writer for ESPN Gamer.

Cory: Excuse me? Gameplay?
Tom: How good was the animation, anyway?
Crow: Oh, you two, give it up.

PIMP-LICIOUS

Let’s see “¦ what do I do for Pimps this week “¦ what’s going on of note this week “¦ or “¦ tonight “¦

Best Supporting Actor: Misha Sumra for his role in the independent smash “Sheffield U. versus Shang Tzu” (directed by John Woo).

Best Editing: Alex Lucard for “RPG Countdown, Chapter 35.”

Best Original Score: Alex Williams for his tireless work on “Dance Dance Revolution 2: Electric Boogaloo.”

Best Art Direction: Lee Baxley for the Award Winning Animated Movie “Lucard vs. Godzilla.”

Best Actor: LiquidCross for his stirring work in “Mario Must Die.”

Best Director: Bryan Berg for the Award Winning Documentary “It’s Only Fun Until “¦: Inside the Video Game Industry.”

Best Picture: Total Extreme Warfare Developer Interview, Part One, directed by Jeremy Botter, produced by 411Games Productions.

Next week, hopefully more news.

Until then, get some sleep.

-Cory