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Welcome Back to the West
By oneshotstop
Posted on 08/01/16
The only thing that stops the dust is the rain. It’s a sweet reprieve, but there is no middle ground. The land is either as dry as the Betty Ford clinic, or as wet as the ocean floor. Everything can be seen from the ridge overlooking Armadillo as John Marston gently bounces along atop...


tom- tom-'s Blog
Blast (Processing) From the Past
Posted on Monday, February 16 2009 @ 19:42:52 PST

If you've been reading my blogs much in recent history, you're probably aware of my affection for the Sonic games of yore. That spiky haired blue hedgehog defined a lot of my childhood; from the plush Sonic I slept with, to the cartoon I'd watch every morning before school, to the video game I'd fire up as soon as I got home. While I do enjoy revisiting those days every now and then with my trusty version 2 Genesis and Sonic the Hedgehog 2, the obvious pinnacle, recent events have had me considering these aged gems in a more contemporary light.

Whether its invaders descending from space, a yellow rotund fellow with noisy eating habits, or just a bunch of freaks beating each others' faces in on the streets of the world, developers are cashing in on classic franchises. The great thing about the examples I alluded to is that they're ****ing awesome. Space Invaders Extreme, Pacman: World Championship Edition and Super Street Fighter 2 Turbo: HD Remix are all prime examples of developers taking dusty properties, cleaning them off and making them appeal to a modern market. What sets them apart from my inspiration for this blog, Sega's Sonic's Ultimate Genesis Collection, is that they're all completely aware of what is still fun about these games. Rather than repackaging legal emulations of the originals and calling it a day, they took the time to update them, giving them a legitimate second life instead a few minutes of nostalgic attention.

Tossing aside the gradual pacing instilled in your father's Pacman and Space Invaders, which made enough sense when game length was determined by pocket depth, these new incarnations embrace the idea of playing for brief stints. In accepting what Roy Batty couldn't, that the candle which burns twice as bright dies twice as fast, they offer more varied and complex gameplay in a shorter period. You do own the game, after all. Why should it take a half hour of faux credit insertions to get to the exciting part?

SF2THDR, conversely, wasn't constricted by the same issues. Its characters weren't cute little iconic pixel clusters. They were valiant attempts at making characters of anime quality with 16bits of processing to work with. To this day, the gameplay of Street Fighter 2 Turbo is completely fulfilling. The combat is fluid and complex, but all that complex fluidity is still hidden under appears to be crumbling fossils. Having Udon draw HD quality sprites and backgrounds for Street Fighter 2 has slathered pounds upon pounds of dino-meat back on those fossils. Breaking both first-day and first-week downloadable game sales records, SF2THDR made it clear to all that classic gameplay can't be tarnished by age, even if graphics can.

What of the classic gameplay that isn't receiving its due in modern times? With all these developers looking to the past for future success, where is my once beloved Sega? Where has that spiky haired hedgehog gone off to? Moronic marketing and branding aside, Sonic's Ultimate Genesis Collection is a grand value. Despite the name, there's more than sonic games in there- a lot more. Unfortunately, the biggest advancement they've made is in offering creative achievements. Sure, you could play emulated Genesis games just about anywhere, but now you get meaningless points! This is the kind of technological advancement that would cause our cave dwelling ancestors' heads to explode were they to ponder it.

Seriously, Sega, what the ****? They've delivered 4 fantastic Virtua Figher games, only missing the ball on refining the famous gameplay without changing it too drastically. Every time they roll a new Sonic game out, every PR person in screaming distance informs the world that they're, "finally getting back to classic Sonic gameplay." Despite their success in other areas and promises in this one, they just can't seem to deliver. Not a single sonic game since Sonic 2 has shown any evidence that the developers understand that intricate, variable and occasionally high-speed levels are what made the first two Sonic titles amazing. It wasn't just running fast, or collecting golden rings, or saving animals from robots, or any of the interspecies nonsense beloved only by furry folk. The joy of Sonic was blasting through a level at high speed, miraculously bouncing off an enemy, hitting a ramp and, as you're careening aimlessly through the air, noticing a platform with a bunch of rings or an extra life way up where you'd never imagine it. Contemplating, "how the **** do I get up there?" and either figuring it out, or giving up and bouncing off some springs to the end of the level, that was the basic beauty of Sonic. The music, graphics and furry nonsense were just layers of icing, ever sweetening the deal.

Now, in an age where Sega offers more and more icing to sate the sweet teeth of the buying masses, they should take some time and gaze in to a mirror. Look at what you are, Sega. Then, consider what you were. Finally, look in roughly eight other directions. Your old games were fantastic, Sega. Call me crazy, but there are plenty of cues you should be taking from your competition. With a little elbow grease and genuine care, Sonic could be launched back in to the land of relevance and, maybe, Sega would get to come with him.

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A Whole New World
Posted on Thursday, January 22 2009 @ 14:38:27 PST

War still rages in Northrend, Arthas still sits on the Frozen Throne unchallenged and yet, lately, I've been having immense trouble feigning interest. The explanations for this are numerous, but there is a tinge of fear underlying it all; fear of never returning to that world. Could I really have fallen out of love with World of Warcraft?

After a solid year of turning to WoW as the main course every time I sat down to ingest some video game entertainment, I finally can't think of anything I wish to do in Azeroth. Yes, there are a great many tasks I'd once thought of completing but never did- raiding Naxxramas, catching a giant sewer rat, getting a sweet dragon mount, taming some strange new Northrend beasts, picking some strange new Northrend pockets- and now I lack even the aspiration to reach these goals.

Looking at what I've spent my time on now that WoW has left me with so much to spend, the nutritional value my all-WoW diet was missing has become obvious. While years spent learning the ins and outs of most of the races, classes, professions and zones in WoW was a kingly task at the start, great progress in exploring all areas has left me wanting. With the geographical limitations of Northrend and the stylistic similarities between it's content and that of original WoW, the gasps of seeing something truly new never came to me. There were a couple brought on by doing something new, say, riding a giant, but there are only so many times you're allowed to do that. The grand achievements of Wrath of the Lich King are either brief in experience or unseen and technical in nature. For an explorer such as myself, these changes don't sate my need to see and find things that feel as if they haven't been seen or found by many others.

In search of the search, I have turned to the Elder Scrolls 4: Oblivion. Cyrodil may largely lack the charms, referential humor and overall enticing vibe of Azeroth, but it's still fresh. Sure, I played a bit of Oblivion back when it came out, but my PC at the time was hardly up to the task and I was far too easily turned off by the gameplay to see what the real heart of the game was; exploring. Whether its exploring towns, dungeons, paintings, relationships, secret societies or even my own vicious and primal heart as an anthropomorphic-cat-vampire, I've seen so many things I hadn't seen before. Thankfully, I've also managed to accomplish things while seeing other things.

I accomplished things in WoW, too, though. After all, I got my two favorite characters to 80 and had a grand time doing so. Maybe I was just hoping for a bit more splendor in Northrend. Seeing a Mana Forge or the Fel Reaver for the first time in Outland was literally breathtaking. There aren't really awe inspiring environments in Northrend. Geographically, the snow, mountains and jungle are all familiar. Flying around on an epic mount is old hat. The Storm Giants are neat, but without the ability to catch you off guard with a roar, they'll never match the Fel Reavers. I guess fighting on an overblown asteroid in the vastness of space with all its glory laid out in the sky was just a much grander experience for me. Sure, the Burning Legion's efforts didn't morph based on my quest progress, but they didn't really have to. It would have been a nice feature, of course, but hardly a replacement for seeing and doing the unexpected.

Yes, Blizzard will probably pull me back in. Right now, there doesn't appear to be enough in Northrend to convince me that pushing another character to 80 is a wise decision, but my gut tells me that will change. After all, those intrepid Bronzebeards seem to have stumbled upon an Iron Dwarf fort in the Titan ruins of Ulduar. Might there be something sinister at work behind the scenes?

Until I've found that out, I guess I'll stick to fleecing the unsuspecting aristocracy of Cyrodil.

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Yule Time Reflections
Posted on Sunday, December 28 2008 @ 03:30:49 PST

'Tis the season to be jolly, or so the saying goes. I think it's a bit silly to give any one season special privilege over jolliness. What about Summer and Fall? Between lazing the days away at the pool and watching the leaves turn, there's plenty to be jolly about year 'round. Winter does have a distinct advantage in the game of merrymaking, though; presents. The Easter Bunny may raid chicken coops in some confused attempt at pleasing you and it's hard to say “no” to the mountains of free candy offered on Halloween, but neither compare to the giftsplosion that is the “holiday season.”

No, everyone doesn't get to share the joy of having their consumerist wishes granted each December, but they'll always have rebroadcasts of It's A Wonderful Life to keep them off that bridge railing. For the luckier ones, like myself, there's there are the joys of giving and receiving. Some folks surely find the most pleasure in taking advantage of this yearly opportunity to feel selflessness like only a missionary or genie would usually know. Giving isn't really my bag, though. Rather than reveling in fulfilling the desires of another, I'm prone to fretting their reaction. I'm not afraid to say that receiving is the end of the bargain I look forward to. The anticipation of seeing what lies under that tree has always been worth more to me than any gift, though unwrapping something totally badass doesn't hurt.

It was one such badass gift that I unwrapped at the age of seven that had more impact on my life than anything else I can recall. The precious parcel I speak of was a second generation Sega Genesis. This Genesis wasn't my family's first game console- it wasn't even our first Genesis- but, I was only then old enough to appreciate what it had to offer.

Years prior, my older brother mortally wounded our original Genesis' cartridge slot in a fit of rage. My friends and I wished to play video games; he wanted us out of his way and destroying our communal gaming system seemed like a wise decision to him. This came just a few years after my older sister had tripped over a controller cord connected to our NES, causing it to plummet from a shelf to it's death. With such destructive forces in my life, my earliest years were largely spent game free. That tide turned on Christmas day in 1994, though.

Ironically, we had a fairly vast collection of Genesis games. A friend of our first Genesis' murderer had left his library of software at our house shortly before moving out of state. These games were left to collect dust in the dark time between that console's demise and the arrival of its replacement. With a California cold front moving in outside and our heater fighting it off indoors, these games found new life. Just a couple years ago, my mind was solely focused on dinosaurs. Thanks to my parents and Sega, they were as extinct in my thoughts as in reality.

That Christmas was spent saving Iraq from tyranny like no Bush could in Desert Strike, blasting through Casino Night Zone in Sonic 2, throwing the long ball in Joe Montana Football, and taking the fight to Death Adder in Golden Axe. Sold on the hype of “Blast Processing” and truly believing that Sega does what Nintendon't, I quickly became a died in the wool Sega fanboy.

The holiday season of 1994 marked my rapid transition from a passive admirer of video games to a blue blooded console-warrior. Time has passed and my tastes matured and diversified, but even now I get a nostalgic tingle up my spine at the sound of the Green Hill Zone theme that the Mario Medley will never provide.

With that maturing, my expectations of Christmas presents concealing high-tech magic that's usually saved for my dreams have diminished. There's no fault in that, though. The more certain I am that a gift won't impact my life again as that Genesis has, the more value and joy I find in revisiting those halcyon days when an anthropomorphic blue hedgehog managed to outrun my imagination.

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Earning That 1000 Yard Stare
Posted on Wednesday, December 10 2008 @ 18:18:27 PST

Has it come this far, world? Have our lives devolved so greatly from our legacy of expansion and progress that it's come to this? Are there really so many hours in the day that actual experience isn't good enough anymore? A handful of clever game dev...   read more...

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Nostragamus the Returned
Posted on Tuesday, September 30 2008 @ 16:30:37 PST

A cold chill strolls down my spine. My mind burns with the heat of Haphaestus' furnace. The bold truth of unending vision blinds with the light of a thousand suns. From beyond all that is known, through ripples in the pool of Time, the ether speaks t...   read more...

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Nostragamus Speaks!
Posted on Sunday, September 7 2008 @ 19:27:28 PST

    Over the past year, at least, I've made a habit of shooting my mouth off about games that I not only haven't played, but my judgments are often rendered before the games are released! Now, I know a lot of people do it. Hell, it's p...   read more...

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This Is Not About Games
Posted on Wednesday, August 20 2008 @ 17:36:36 PST

I don't sleep a whole lot. Sleeping in is a nice option whenever its possible, but regardless of what time I wake up, my head rarely hits the pillow before 4am. Luckily, the cable and satellite companies have done us all a public service by creating ...   read more...

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Nope, Definitely Needs More Human
Posted on Monday, August 18 2008 @ 19:39:45 PST

As the Internet bides its time, waiting for foolish folks with fame to inspect the glowing dangling bobble tethered just in front of its gaping maw, Dennis Dyack's magnum opus hits the shelves with an unwavering will to rewrite the way we think.

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How Awesome?
Posted on Wednesday, July 9 2008 @ 16:28:48 PST

I'm not a fan of the term "double edged sword." In my eyes, it's something people say to sound poignant when they don't really don't have anything to say. There isn't a single goddamn thing that isn't a double edged sword. Everything has a ...   read more...

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Full Throttle (or How the Telecom Corporations are Shaping Your Future)
Posted on Wednesday, June 25 2008 @ 01:32:36 PST

Ah, the internet. Surely, it is one of the greatest technological achievements of all time and the only significant step Man has taken toward the future since landing on the moon. Not since the printing press has an invention expanded the access to i...   read more...

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