Saturday, January 30, 2016

Lost in Localization: Nexo Knights

Yes, people. Another new feature. I'm on a rampage.

There are a wealth of anecdotes waiting to be told about the decisions to change various products for the Japan market, and that's what I intend to address with Lost in Localization. The first entry in this catalog is about Lego Nexo Knights. Or, as they are known in Japan, absolutely not Nexo Knights.

Just Cause 3 e01: Just like riding a bike

Your favorite criminally negligent action hero, Rico Rodriguez, is back with double the grappling hooks...double the weaponry...and double the lack of accountability.

Tuesday, January 26, 2016

Rise of the Tomb Raider e02: Get out da cave

Lara travels the world making a mess. And she fights a bear!

Sunday, January 24, 2016

It's good to be the king

The greatest benefit to be had from completing the Bubblegum Hill event in Candy Crush Soda isn't a package of lollipop hammers or an hour of unlimited continues. It's a rare reminder of the player name you chose upon starting the game and then promptly forgot about.

Welcome to Castle Diabetes!

Friday, January 22, 2016

Rise of the Tomb Raider e01: Croft's Anatomy

It's hard to believe we once forgave – let alone admired – the moon-faced, sharp-cornered mess that was Lara Croft's character model back in 1996.

Twenty years later, damn. She looks gooood.

Thursday, January 21, 2016

Taiyō no Tomato

I don't always eat ramen, but when I do, I eat tomato ramen.

To be perfectly clear, I almost never eat ramen. It's heavy, salty and oily, and I'm still detoxing from eight years of living in Setagaya near a particularly ramen-heavy stretch of Kannana Street. I make an exception, however, for the ramen at Taiyō no Tomato. 

Pictured here: Tomato cheese ramen set "A"
Taiyō no Tomato (meaning "Tomato of the Sun") is a Kanto-area chain of restaurants specializing in ramen that ditches the typical Japanese soup (salt, miso, soy sauce, pork bone, etc.) and throws in Western elements like tomato soup, eggplant, cheese and basil. As East-meets-West fusions go, it's pretty good. Recently the chain has grown overseas to include locations in Taipei and Hong Kong.

Let me tell you a few things about eating at Taiyō no Tomato:
  1. It's kind of like the print-club section of the game center: Be ready to feel weird if you go stag. The Shinjuku MyLord location is pretty much always populated with 90% women and 10% couples. Every time I visit on my own, I'm the only man seated alone. Apparently tomato ramen isn't a very macho food.
  2. You will, with absolute certainty, burn your mouth on the stuff. Hot ramen plus molten cheese equals delicious nerve damage to the inside of your mouth.
  3. Get the cheese gyoza (pictured at right in the photo above). Your heart will frown in disapproval at all the cholesterol, but your stomach will look up at you as if in a trance and say, "thank you sir may I have another."
  4. As dictated by Taiyō no Tomato's cultural norms, save the rice that comes with your ramen. After you've eaten the noodles, spoon the remaining soup onto the rice to form a hidden dish: risotto.

Sunday, January 17, 2016

Tech support

I'm in the process of redesigning this blog's color scheme, as you will have noticed from the sudden photo-negative effect that has taken hold around here. Unfortunately, what should have been a relatively easy conversion has been stalled by an apparent change to's image uploading protocols. When I upload my new white version of the titlebar, which is quite dapper if I do say so myself, it gets compressed very badly.

Does anyone know how to correct this? I've tried uploading the image at smaller sizes, in different formats, and even with a simplified color pallet. Nothing works. Every time I end up with an ugly, fuzzy JPEG.

If you can help me with this, I'd be so very appreciative.


I seem to have it under control. But what a pain in the face.

Please let me know what you think about the new style. I'm told that dark text on light background is easier on the eyes than the white-on-black theme I was using before, but I have to balance that advice against the fact that the person who gave it to me may have had no idea what he was talking about.

FIGHT MEEE! Killer Instinct e06: Cougar

My Killer Instinct adventures are back from hiatus, with this episode focusing on insectine alterna-mom Sadira.

Friday, January 15, 2016

Rocket League: That's my jam

Rocket League is one of the easiest games to jump into and play for a few minutes with minimum commitment. It's also one of the easiest games to have fun with despite being awful at it.

Wednesday, January 13, 2016

Watch Dogs e09: Trial and error and error and error

Risk tainting a game with a trope that players won't like? Hell, let's put all the least popular gameplay mechanics into one mission and see what happens.

Sunday, January 10, 2016

Friday, January 08, 2016

The time I made a hit video game

In 1996, I was finishing high school. As was typical of high school seniors at the time, my schedule had a lot of room for elective courses. One of the electives I took was Computer Math, a semester of learning basic programming principles. For the most part it wasn't thrilling (I had already taught myself the fundamentals of BASIC on the family Texas Instruments 99/4A as a younger boy, and this class didn't get into anything more advanced than subroutines and "if-then" statements), but the class's final project was the most engaging final project I would ever complete in my student life: a HyperCard dungeon.

HyperCard was a Mac-based programming tool that could best be described as an intranet of "cards," which could be hyperlinked and made interactive using buttons. A collection of cards that worked together for a purpose were called a "stack." Using a uniquely accessible and English-like scripting protocol called HyperTalk, users could create databases, presentation visuals and point-and-click adventures.

"Dungeons," my teacher called those.

This assignment had a checklist of things that needed to be present in a student's dungeon in order to earn points toward a grade for the project. Game elements like locked doors with keys, pitfalls, sound effects, animation and Easter eggs were all assigned point values and made part of the grading criteria. If memory serves, 50 of these points constituted a passing grade.

I went all out, creating the very best dungeon I could with the resources at my disposal. As a result, my dungeon scored 150 points, the maximum score my teacher was willing to award. It also became popular among students in other classes who found my dungeon on the Macs in the computer lab and started playing it when they were supposed to be typing essays about Lord of the Flies.

Today I used an OS9 emulator to open my old HyperCard dungeon (titled, The House of Death, Darkness, Decay and Doom) for the first time in close to twenty years. Unfortunately, the animations and sounds don't work well on a modern computer, and the text fields are all kinds of broken. It's also full of stuff that, even twenty years ago, was only funny to me and the stoner kid who sat next to me in Computer Math class. Stuff like a .WAV file of David Letterman saying "bubble wrap":

In the basement, there's a laundry room with a port in the wall that looks like a laundry chute...

...but when you inspect the laundry chute, it turns out to be a window to Team Behm Auto Mall (an eastern-Wisconsin used car dealership). After hearing my voice doing an unflattering impersonation of Mark Behm's nasal TV ad salutation ("Hi folks, Mark Behm, Team Behm!"), poor Mark and his dog are crushed by a dump truck that falls from the sky.

Whether or not you witness the death of Mark Behm has no bearing on your ability to reach the end of the dungeon. It's just something to do.

As you'd expect, it's rather cruel for a point-and-click adventure. Lots of doors and clickable objects lead to instant death, regardless of the logic involved:

The game's "climax" comes when the player uses a computer terminal to "decrease the power" of the dungeon's evil proprietor.

Better than Metal Gear, anyway.
For all its limitations, HyperCard was one of my favorite things about the Mac OS Classic environment. I continued using it, mostly to make random text generators for my own amusement, all the way up until the advent of OS X. This one created fictional pro-wrestling match summaries:

And this one was called Insult Me:

But don't just take my word for it. Check out this video of the Fashionable Eyewear Brothers showing off HyperCard's raw computing power. Personally I think the whole thing would feel a little more authentic with a musical underpinning of Tiffany's "I Think We're Alone Now."

Thursday, January 07, 2016

Watch Dogs e08: I am a camera

In this episode, the whole "hack everything" concept really starts to wear thin as Aiden spends the better part of an hour navigating between security camera feeds.

Wednesday, January 06, 2016

YouTomb: Young Turks vs. boh3m3

On January 14, this blog will celebrate the 11th anniversary of its first post. Exactly one month later, YouTube will celebrate the 11th anniversary of its establishment (and it will be still two more months before the anniversary of its first video post).

Yes. Chorus, Isolate, Confirm is older than YouTube.

This gives me an idea for a new feature: a fond look back at YouTube videos and personalities of yore that stand the test of time (or don't). And I'm calling it YouTomb.

Way back in 2006, in a post called "Nobody cares why you tube," I gave my evaluation of an irritating video from an irritating user with the irritating handle "boh3m3." The video, now long gone, was a call to action inviting other YouTubers to prop a camera in front of their face and expound on their YouTubular motivations (I mean, other than the white-hot, blinding narcissism). One could argue that such a rallying cry constitutes terrorism.

Luckily I wasn't the only person who felt boh3m3's (god, it hurts just to type that bullshit) post warranted a swift tearing down, because along came Ben, Cenk and Jill, also known as the Young Turks.

I was a big Young Turks fan at the time. I even had a t-shirt. And I swear I didn't just follow them because Jill was a smirking goddess of political talk radio, although that helped.

Damn, girl, you got like DAAAAMN
The Turks' reaction to "Why do you tube" is still online, and still a source of that unique blend of anger and joy that only something fantastically awful can deliver.

Sunday, January 03, 2016

Watch Dogs e07: Vin Diesel

In this episode, which I uploaded weeks ago but forgot to announce here (blogging is hard, OK?), Aiden walks through a fast food drive-through. You ever done that? I did one time. I went to Burger King at around 10pm after work and they were like, "We're cleaning the dining room now so can you just walk up to the drive-through window?" So I did. With a car behind me and a car in front of me.

Friday, January 01, 2016

Happy new year! Here's my Makoto cover.

Status update on Space Pirate Collection II:

It's totally happening. But slowly.

I've finished three tracks, with several more under way (and a goal of at least ten for the album). To tide you over until I reach that goal and release the album, get this in your ear holes!