Gamer’s Hangover News Report — 03.15.04

Not-at-all-Random-Thoughts

This is going to be late, but once you hear about the week and weekend that I’ve had I think you’ll forgive me.

(Note: This is way later than it was meant to be. This was all ready to go first thing this morning, but thanks to a chain of events, including the frying of my hard drive at work last week that had the bookmarks for the posting page, this has been in limbo all day. I humbly give my apologies for the lack of foresight on this issue.)

You see, I’ve been just a little bit deceitful to all of you, and to the people I work with in my straight job, although more so to them than to you. Remember in December, when I had my big Master’s project presentation? Well, I told you 95% of the truth; that my presentation had sucked and that I had to take another hour of class anyway to graduate. Well, these two things were completely independent of each other. I *was* an idiot and didn’t fill out a degree card at the end of last semester, and my presentation did suck, but because of the combination of those things, my committee thought it would be best if I did the presentation over before they signed off on my Master’s. They liked the work that I did, and they told me that they didn’t want me to do any more work on the project itself; but, in essence, I failed my first presentation. Had I filled out my degree card they might have let it slide, but since I had to stick around for another semester anyway, they made me do it over.

I was so embarrassed by this that I told those few people that I work with that asked that I “didn’t have to do any more work on my Master’s” and that I’d be “graduating in May as scheduled.” I didn’t tell them that I had to do the presentation over again.

The presentation (part deux) was Friday. I even had to cook up an “exit interview” type story to get off a half-hour early to do it. To say I was nervous about it all week would be an understatement. That was probably an underlying reason for my rather LiquidCross-esque tone last week (sorry again to anyone I offended “¦ save for the one, and I’m sure he doesn’t care about anything this morning anyway) and it certainly colored a few conversations between me and Veronica. I buried it as far as I could. I wanted to make this as much of a non-event as humanly possible. I did zero work to the report itself. In fact, when I gave my first presentation, I already had a Powerpig presentation made up, I just didn’t have the presence of mind to ask for a computer to hook up to the room projector to use it. The only work I did on that was changing the date on the first slide from December 2003 to March 2004.

I got over to campus and, as is my tradition for big engineering school events, I parked on the opposite side of campus so I could walk across and burn off some nervous energy in the process. The tone of my thoughts at that point were that I was either going to walk out of Wallace Hall a Master or a felon. I was unbelievably pissed off that I had to do this again. Mind you, this wasn’t a full-blown thesis. This was a 3 credit hour project. A three-hour project I was on my fifth hour trying to complete. I was embarrassed and angry and my confidence was teetering. As I plodded across campus, I passed two of my favorite buildings; Duerksen Fine Arts Center and Wiedeman Concert Hall. Something pulled at my psyche as I passed them and I veered down the sidewalk that runs between them. Tucked away between the two buildings is a sculpture. Now this isn’t anything new on the WSU campus; there’s art everywhere, but this was my favorite sculpture on campus, and might be my single favorite piece of sculpture ever.

The sculpture is called “Accord Final” and was done by Arman Fernandez in 1981. You can find a picture of it here, thanks to the WSU web site. For those of you who’d rather not look, I’ll just tell you: it’s a bronze sculpture of a smashed baby grand piano. The sculpture actually has a subtitle: “They Wouldn’t Let Me Play Carnegie Hall.”

The sculpture itself has an interesting history, at least within the last 15 years of its existence at Wichita State. I remembered seeing it for the first time back when my brother was an undergrad student in the late 80’s. It was right out in front of Duerksen then. When I arrived for my first semester in ’92, it was gone. I casually searched the University over the next couple of years trying to find where it had been moved. I started to think that it had been just a temporary display and had moved on somewhere else. Then one day, the groundspeople are working on the sidewalk path between Duerksen and Wiedeman. I was in Concert Band at the time and me and my friends were leaving a rehearsal in Duerksen and lo and behold there it was, on a fresh new pedestal along the path. I asked the man working on it where it had been. He told me that there was a lady who was a huge contributor to the University who absolutely hated that sculpture (he didn’t give names). One day she told the University that she was going to stop giving if that sculpture wasn’t removed. It was removed, and put into storage. The woman died, and the sculpture was swiftly returned to the campus grounds.

I have no idea why that lady hated that sculpture. She probably thought it was an affront to the musical arts and horribly disrespectful to musicians. The irony of that is that every single musician that I talked to about that sculpture loved it. That sculpture embodies the frustration, anger, and disappointment that every musician; every artist; hell, every professional anything has felt at some time or another.

I was drawn to that sculpture, as I headed across campus to face my failures once again. No one was near, so I left the path and walked up and touched the bronze keys; felt the relief of the modeled wood grain of the smashed top. It sounds corny, but my fear and doubt waned. They didn’t go away, but they subsided enough to make me want to go and do this thing. It was a comfort to know “¦ to see that I wasn’t the only person in the history of the world to be that pissed off about something.

So I strode into Wallace Hall. I checked in with the Engineering office and asked for the laptop so I could give my Powerpoint presentation. All I got were blank stares. But of course there was no dedicated laptop for that sort of thing. That would be too convenient and logical. So, after five minutes of deliberation, we went into the Dean’s office to ask if we could use his. That should have been intimidating, but since the Dean was the head of the Aero department when I was an undergrad (and one of my favorite teachers as well), it was anything but. “Always causing trouble,” he told me with a grin. “I’d have thought that marriage and fatherhood and working out of the country would have made you grow up a little.”

“I’m trying to get out of here,” I told him, shrugging my shoulders.

And here’s the funny part. I get this laptop, a brand-new Gateway, hooked up to the projector “¦ and it DOESN’T HAVE POWERPOINT. I’m looking all over the place, I’m looking through the removable hard drives and nothing. Meanwhile, my committee comes sauntering in and I have to tell them that the laptop I had procured from Dr. Horn didn’t have Powerpoint. They were astonished that there was a single computer on campus that wasn’t weighed down with every Microsoft software package possible. I went back down the hall to ask Dr. Horn about it, but they had already locked the doors to the main office. Instead of beating down the door and yelling at the Dean over something that he probably had no clue about, I went back to the room to figure out what to do. I walked in the door, and there they were, all three of my committee members, all three of them PhDs in electrical engineering, all three of them huddled over this Gateway laptop trying to find Powerpoint like a postmodern Larry, Moe, and Curly.

At that moment, I knew that I was going to pass.

One of them went up to his office and got his laptop, and I did the presentation. I stumbled a bit, but I pressed on, and I got the whole thing done in under half an hour. I asked them if they had any questions. Not a one. One of the most embarrassing events of my professional life, plus three months of fretting, and they didn’t have a single damn question to ask. I was ready to throw down for anything they could throw at me. Fuck flight, let’s fight. Nothing. Fine. I retired to the hall so they could discuss my fate. Five minutes later my advisor came out, they congratulated me, and that was that. I passed.

I headed back across campus with the copy of my report, which I have to get bound and turn back in to the Electrical department before May 7. I purposely walked down between Duerksen and Wiedeman. I stopped at the sculpture. Once again, no one was around. I set the report down in the middle of the broken keys and I stepped back to look.

When I get the report bound, I’m going to stop by the sculpture again with it and my digital camera on my way to Wallace Hall. I’m going to blow that picture up and frame it. And every time I think about giving up the time that I’m getting with my wife and my son so I can get another piece of paper saying that I apparently know something, I’m going to look at that picture. If I still want to go back to school after that, I’ll know that I’m ready.

Valley Center chess update: V.C. is, once again, 3rd place among 5A-sized schools in the state. It was pretty much an all-around disappointing day for the team. Nobody medaled, I was hoping we’d get first in 5A and maybe top 5 overall, and everybody was a bit “¦ touchy during that trip. However, hope spring eternal, and I have two students who will try and qualify in two weeks for the Polgar tournament, and five students who will be making the trek to Dallas for nationals in five weeks. Hey, I might be a bad coach, but I’m a great motivator, apparently.

And it looks like the NCAA scheduling gods have smiled on the state of Kansas. KU gets to play their first two games (assuming they win) about five feet away from campus at Kemper, then they have to travel all the way to St. Louis for the next two.

MEANWHILE, the NIT gods have also smiled on Wichita State, who get to host their first NIT game since 1989 Wednesday night against Florida State. Oh yes, my dream of seeing an ACC team have to come into The Roundhouse is coming true. I have never been more pumped up for an NIT game. Excuse me while I call to see if I can get tickets “¦

Re: Wrestlemania XX. The first PPV I’ve seen in a good long while where I felt like I got my money’s worth. Just an exquisitely booked event. John Cena as the lead-off was perfect. A couple of the matches were a little shorter than I’d have liked, but the others definitely picked up the slack. Worst match had to be the Lesnar/Goldberg fight. Slower than Grandma’s lift chair. Best match was the triple threat, and my mark-out moment of the night was when Benoit tried to put the Sharpshooter on Michaels. I was literally bouncing out of my chair. And who knew that the stable that would clean up Wrestlemania XX wouldn’t be Evolution, but The Radicalz?

Trish Stratus is sexier as a heel. There. I said it.

News

Warming Up For Spring Break
credit: Gamedaily.com
Home Video Essentials, a product of Rentrak Corporation, has released a preliminary list of the top renting videogames for the week ending March 7, 2004.
Here are the top 10:
1. James Bond 007: Everything or Nothing—PS2
– I’m still skeptical about the 3rd person viewpoint, but then again I’m a huge mark for Goldeneye.
2. Mafia—PS2 – You never hear about Germans in organized crime (well, outside of the “Die Hard” series), which is strange because who would be more organized than us?
3. Need for Speed: Underground—PS2 – The Bill Romanowski Story!
4. NFL Street—PS2 – Remember, “it’s about making plays, not picking the right play.”
5. Ninja Gaiden—Xbox – I was lucky and actually found a copy “¦ now if only Veronica would get off of the damn game long enough to let ME play it “¦.
6. True Crime: Streets of L.A.—PS2 – Better than “Starsky and Hizzutch” I suppose.
7. James Bond 007: Everything or Nothing—Xbox – Why does this sound like a Skinemax flick to me?
8. Tony Hawk’s Underground—PS2 – Can’t “¦ finish “¦ last “¦ goal “¦ must “¦ finish “¦.
9. Medal of Honor: Rising Sun—PS2 – For some reason, I’m always surprised when I see this game on this list.
10. Manhunt—PS2 – Ditto, but for completely different reasons; namely I have yet to see it at the Buster.

Uncle Sam Wants Your Thumbs
credit: Gamedaily.com

I’m not mailing anything in; it’s just that I can’t possibly top this description.

Rival Interactive has teamed up with the Army National Guard to create a pair of videogames based on National Guard Homeland Defense and Counter Terrorism initiatives.
One title, PRISM: Black Shield, will be developed for the PC specifically to aid the Army National Guard in training purposes, while a second, PRISM: Threat Level Red, will be commercially released for consumers for the PC and next-generation consoles.
PRISM, which stands for Preemptive Reconnaissance and Identification Security Mainframe, is described as a “new computer system that the government is using to wirelessly hack into video surveillance equipment across America,” and is billed as the “backbone of the game that drives both the story and the player.”
The single-player element of the consumer title will feature scenarios with attacks targeted towards key U.S. infrastructures, such as Baltimore’s Inner Harbor, the Hoover Dam and the Pentagon, which players will attempt to prevent. Real-life weapons will be included, as will a multiplayer element that promises to “build on the popularity of cooperative team-based objective play along with new team-based modes.”
Such a project is nothing new to Rival, who previously created Real War and Real War: Rogue States for consumer consumption and Joint Force Employment for use by the U.S. Joint Chiefs of Staff.

Two words: BitTorrent. I want to see these games, unless it’s going to get you an espionage charge or a Foreign Combatant classification. I’d hate for you to have to be anally raped by John Ashcroft for the rest of your life just so I can have a chuckle.

“Wirelessly hack into video surveillance equipment across America?” Cripes, I’d make a rhetorical question about this and the Bill of Rights, but it’d just be cliché at this point. Cue Eric S.

As The Barriers To Free Porn Come Tumbling Down
credit: Gamedaily.com

According to a comScore (sic) Networks analysis of the U.S. broadband market in 4Q 2004:

– 36.0% of online users used broadband, a 2% gain over the same time period in 2003.
– Comcast was the highest supplier of broadband, with a 19% market share.
– SBC (DSL provider to yours truly) was 2nd with 11%.
– Among all ISP’s (including dial-up) AOL was still the biggest with a 28% market share (oh those poor, poor souls). Comcast was 2nd with 7% and SBC was tied for third with Microsoft and United Online with 6% each.
– Apparently, Sandy Eggo is the first major market where broadband users outnumber dial-up. Yay for them, go Bolts.
– 63% of broadband users use cable. 37% of us use DSL. We all get lots of free porn. Everybody wins.

Did I Mention My Boss Won’t Let Me Go To This?
credit: Gamedaily.com

So I work for an aircraft manufacturer and not a video game company. I still design simulators.

Anyway, SCEA executive VP (that’s “Sony” for the uninitiated) Andrew House will give a keynote speech at this week’s 2004 Game Developers Conference in scenic San Jose, California. House’s speech is entitled “Encouraging Innovation in Game Development,” and I’ll just let the irony hang in the air for a while. According to the show press, he will discuss “a range of topics including hardware and software innovation that continue to reinvent consumer experiences, and first party software innovations that attracts new game players and forge new game play styles,” and no, there’s no typo in that sentence. Copy editing is apparently a lost art.

I’m sure the Sega-philes on the 411 staff would like to re-title the speech “Innovation in Game Development — And How To Destroy It.”

Where’s That Yahoo From The Post On This?
credit: Gamedaily.com

Activision has apparently gotten themselves in some serious trouble, if you haven’t been paying attention. A third law firm has filed a class action lawsuit against Activision on behalf of people who purchased stock in the company between February 1, 2001 and December 17, 2002.

Without going into the names and the legalese, the upshot is that Activision did not disclose that their market share was heading south. I’m not sure that’s so much a crime as it is a case of caveat emptor, but I’m not a lawyer nor a business man. I am an ENGINEER WITH A MASTER’S DEGREE, and as you can tell, I’m excited about that.

Anyway, I’ll keep an ear on this story to see if something a bit more “¦ illegal develops.

Tekken 5: Eddy Gordo vs. Virtua Fighter
credit: Spong.com

Looks like Namco will be unveiling Tekken 5 at May’s E3 tradeshow. It’s thought that the demo will be the arcade version, with console versions due out around Christmas. The rumor mill is also saying “network play,” which is a long-awaited feature for fighters, of course.

Regular readers already know my side of the Tekken/Virtual Fighter debate. Once VF puts a capoeirista in their game, I’ll be happy to switch allegiances.

My Boss Still Won’t Let Me Go
credit: Spong.com

Oh, and something else cool that might be happening at the Games Developer’s Conference: info about Xbox 2, and I’m not talking about just numbers. Along with all the cool presentations and seminars, it’s looking like there may be some technical demonstrations of the next Xbox.

In a related note, the guys at Spong got a hold of a flyer that’s said to be an official print from Microsoft. The picture is a black-and-white-ish close up of Raven, the chick from the original Xbox demos. Unabashed speculation is that the picture may be the first ever screenshot from Xbox 2. Go to the site to check out the picture. Here’s your grain of salt.

Pimp-licious

Berg, Nobody was happier to see McSorely get effectively tossed from the NHL than me, and the bum was on my favorite team at the time. I’ve always been a bit of an apologist for hockey fights, since they’re very civil affairs when the rules are followed. The flip side of that is that I think penalties against those that go outside of the established contact, such as Bertuzzi, should be as steep as they can legally make.

A-Will, “Size of a Cow”?

Lee, I consider it a compliment.

Misha, if that game has a U.S. team on it, and it reasonably approximates the skill of that team (i.e.: Landon Donovan has better mobility than Timmy from South Park), I’ll see you online.

Szulczewski, *I* would’ve marked out for a Brian Piccolo jersey. Remember, Gale Sayers went to KU. There’s a BIG “Brian’s Song” following in the Sunflower State. If you want to move forward on that lawsuit, I’ll talk to some of my people. And the question of the night last night was, “How much do you think Helms and Rosey got paid for being dressed up for 3 seconds?”

Next week: a kinder gentler, much LESS RUSHED Cory.

Until then, get some sleep.

-Cory