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Wednesday, July 27, 2005

This is Getting Ridiculous!

GTAOkay. I'll start by saying that I've been trying not to post anything about Grand Theft Auto. Since I posted the previous post, I've resisted and controlled my frustration for almost a week. But the situation is getting ridiculous!

For starters, I would like to point your attention to three letters that I absolutely agree with. Here's one:
Dear Mrs. Clinton, Mr. Yee, and Mr. Thompson

In recent statements by the ESRB, they have accused the mod community of undermining their ratings by putting sexually explicit material into PC games, namely San Andreas, which was already rated "M". However, if you look into a game by the name of "Singles - Flirt up your Life", it becomes quite clear they are doing a good job of that all by themselves. This "M" rated game features full frontal nudity (and not androgynous "barbies" like The Sims) and characters engaging in interactive sexual scenes. Screenshots of this game can be seen over at IGN: http://media.pc.ign.com/media/667/667197/imgs_1.html

And for that matter, what of the game "Playboy: The Mansion", which is based on the skin magazine, and is also rated "M"?!

Seeing as these game contains *far* more graphic depictions of sex than anything found in San Andreas, including the scenes involving nudity which we modded into the game (by default, "Hot Coffee" did contain fully clothed actors...), how exactly have we undermined their rating? If anything, what was left on the disc by Rockstar and modded into the game by us doesn't even come close to what the ESRB itself considers "M" material, let alone rising to their very own standards of "AO". To blame the mod community for this is not only hypocritical, but quite deceptive as well. Not to mention the fact that they've essentially had one title banned for containing "pornography", while they let more explicit games get by them.

For the record, we feel that "M" is an appropriate rating for these games, as their contents are no worse than R-rated films which have long been considered "okay" for ages 17 and up. However, we do agree with you all that that the ESRB is a big joke. Especially now that they're attacking their own customers for content which they obviously don't seem to have a problem with. Why should we the consumers be persecuted for adding something to a game which the ESRB has already demonstrated as perfectly acceptable for titles in the "M" range? San Andreas originally carried a warning for "strong sexual content", and judging by their previous ratings, we would insist that we released the "Hot Coffee" mod well within the ESRB's (apparently broken) guidelines.

Best Regards,
the administration of gtagarage.com


I completely agree with everything in this letter. Why the heck are they targeting GTA when there are far more "dangerous" games out there that have gotten M. Also, an excellent letter can be here. That one is loaded with sarcasm. Funny!

But what pissed me off enough to write this was the story of a grandmother who is suing Rockstar for sneaking sex scenes to her 14-year-old grandson. I don't know what the heck she was thinking when she bought an M rated game for a 14-year old, but apparently it was perfectly acceptable. However, since the ESRB changed it to AO, it is now immoral to give it to a 14-year-old. Apparently, "no parent would knowingly buy an adult-only video game for their children."

What the heck? If you're willing to buy an M-rated game about pimping, murdering, drug-dealing and gang wars, I'm sure that you have just blatantly impressed upon your child that you don't care what they play. What the heck is a crappy, poorly-textured, (and very difficult to unlock) sex scene going to do? What parental mindset says, "Well, its okay that they are learning to kill cops, but a split second of crappy sex is going to scar them forever!" Sheesh!

And the government has decided that debating the future of our country is too dull. The House of Congress has ordered a federal investigation into the game! What the heck! Pick on Playboy: the Mansion! GTA has nothing on that!

People should stop trying to control what parents can buy for their children. Let the parents decide! If you want to focus on children, focus on their crappy, dull history classes (brought to you by Lies My Teacher Told Me)! Stop twisting the truth to our youth and telling them that everything is going to be alright! Choose textbooks based on how well it invokes critical thinking, not on politics or what overtly conservative parent will say. The same goes for GTA - let the parents decide if it is appropriate for their child.

This country is based on capitalism! Our government loves laissez-faire! They'll let the oil industry do whatever it wants, but the gaming industry? Of course not, it might damage children into becoming violent. Meanwhile, the government's own Bureau of Statistics says that crime rates for children have dropped excessively since video games really picked up. What? Stop being so hypocritical!! And STAY OUT OF THE GAMING INDUSTRY!!

Whew.... that was a nice rant.

Letters #1 and #2
Again, letter #3
Grandma Sues Rockstar
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posted by Tyrantmizar at 8:43 PM | TrackBack | 3 comments

Tuesday, July 26, 2005

It's Off-Topic, Charlie Brown!

nxI'm not up to rambling about the current state of affairs right now. Maybe later.

This post is about related (*hacking cough*) stuff. Such as Internet Explorer. I realized less than an hour ago that this blog looks really off if you view it with IE. I don't blame myself for not realizing this because Firefox is way better. Apparently the arrows that indicate an external link don't show up in IE. Why? Because IE sucks. The main problem is that IE leaves the space after each link and makes it look horrible. So, for now, I'm just going to remove that feature entirely until I take the time to find a work-around.

Second, is an announcement of self-glory. I've been selected as a moderator on the PasswordMaker forums! If you don't know what PasswordMaker is, then check out this site. It is a very useful extension for Firefox, Mozilla, and Netscape that allows you to create high quality, practically uncrackable passwords with a minimum amount of fuss. I highly recommend that anyone who surfs the web get both Firefox and PasswordMaker. It will give you an extremely secure surfing experience.
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Friday, July 22, 2005

How Rare can you get?

Current Rareware logoRareware is one of my favorite gaming companies. They have produced some of the best classics that I have ever played. I consistently return to such wonderful games as Goldeneye 007, Jet Force Gemini, and Banjo-Kazooie. However, ever since being bought by Microsoft they have floundered (with the exception of Conker: Live and Reloaded, which was just released).

I suppose I should start with one of their practically-trademarked, er... qualities. Rare is very well known for having no guilt or shame about pushing back the release date. Case in point: Conker: Live and Reloaded came out within the last few weeks, but it was originally an N64 game. That's, what, 5 years ago? The only thing that you can know for sure about Rare's release dates is, well, nothing.
Continue Reading "How Rare can you get?"
Another thing to note: when, I say "Rare" (or "Rareware"), I am referring to the company after it created Donkey Kong Country for SNES. Everything before that is insignificant.

Rareware began as a third-party videogame developer. Eventually, they become devoted to Nintendo. Their main games are for SNES and N64. But sometime in 2002, Nintendo sold the rights to Rareware to Microsoft. About 80 people quit from Rareware at the news, and went to various other companies. Many went to Free Radical Design and created the hit Timesplitters series. For the Xbox, Rare has created a whopping 2 games! Grabbed by Goulies, you can ignore, but Conker is already forming a cult (just check out Old Grandma (warning: language) and see her love of the game).

One thing that has always fascinated me about Rareware is their ability to create some of the most awesome in-game music that I have ever heard. Also amazing is their ability to fit the music perfectly to the surroundings. If you're underwater in Banjo-Kazooie, the music adjusts to a subdued, well... underwater-type music. If you're storming a base in Jet Force Gemini, there will be a dramatic tune going along in the background that you will find yourself humming years later, even though you haven't played in 4 years. The music in the jungles of Donkey Kong Country 3 sounds like a stereotypical Aztec/Mayan music. Etc.

Let's start with the Donkey Kong games Rare created. Nintendo gave them the rights to the monkey in the original classic Donkey Kong. You know, the one that threw barrels at Mario. Rare turned around and made a sweet sidescroller that everyone I know have fallen in love with withing 5 minutes. The well-hidden secrets, the excellent level design, the dynamics involved in killing "baddies," all of these combined to create one heck of an experience. Especially the level design. Nearly every level has something weird about it, be it the rising and lowering water levels, low gravity, or having to escape the saw as it moves up the tree. It was pure gameplay, and still has a cult following.

On the N64, Rare created Banjo-Kazooie (and later, Banjo-Tooie). At first one would think it's just a Super Mario 64 knock-off. And, indeed, it has many of the same elements and movesets that Super Mario 64 has. But the gameplay and humor was equal to (I would say, better than) Super Mario 64's. Banjo, the bear, and Kazooie, the cheeky bird in Banjo's backpack, wander around Grunty's Lair to save Banjo's sister. Their shoddy progress is frequently commented on (in rhyme) by the witch, Gruntilda. Mumbo, a shaman, will change you into various creatures/objects, such as a walrus, a bumblebee, or even a pumpkin. Rareware even works its British humor into the game quite well (though not to the degree of Conker). Characters in the game (especially in Banjo-Tooie) will comment on the fact that it is, indeed, a video game. Also, seeing Kazooie fart an egg out of her butt is always good for a laugh. While these games are sligtly (extreme emphasis) kiddy, the games certainly bring a unique flair to the video gaming world.

Another hit game by Rare is Goldeneye. This game is much like the Halo of the N64 games (to make a bad analogy). It revolutionized how we play shooting games, and was unusually enjoyable. There were 40+ weapons that you could choose from, each with varying power and attributes. You'll probably never hear me say this about any other game, but what I liked most were the cheats. You could activate unlimited ammo, all weapons, and invincibility and then just slaughter hoards of rather dim enemies. It is a shame that Goldeneye: Rogue Agent disgraced the Goldeneye name.

The last classic that I will ramble about is Jet Force Gemini. This was a critically acclaimed game, but it didn't sell as well as it could have. The reason? Crappy controls. This game has one of the worst implemented control scheme I've ever seen. But despite that, it was (and is) still one of my favorites. The music was excellent, the weapons were well-varied, and there were many types of enemies to fight. The other thing about this game is it is long. You will learn to hate tribals, and might find yourself slaughtering the cute, innocent bears by the dozen. Just look at any review on GameFAQs to find out why. You can start here

Rare has created some of my favorite classics to date. The gameplay, the humor, the level design, and the music are the highlights of Rareware. I will be an eternal fan of these games, and am proud to own them. From Donkey Kong Country to the day that Microsoft bought them, Rareware has produce outstanding games. Nintendo (and soon Microsoft) owes a lot to Rare for being, possibly, the best third-party video game developer for so long. If you have an SNES or an N64, and you haven't played any of these games yet, then you should be shamed and banished by people everywhere!

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Thursday, July 21, 2005

GTA Gets AO Rating (Prepare for a rant)

Grand Theft Auto: San AndreasGrand Theft Auto: San Andreas has been re-rated by the ESRB to a Adults Only rating. This is a horrible situation for the ESRB to be in, and they chose was an easy way out.

Let us rephrase the previous two sentences: The ESRB bowed to government pressure and changed the rating in order to get good ol' Hilary Clinton (as well as numerous others) to shut up. Of course, those people were calling for censureship, and I'm unsure how they got away with it. What the *@#! happened to democracy?!?! to laissez faire? to capitalism? to it being up to the parents? This is America, home of the most anti-communist people ever to grace the earth! It is practically written into the Constitution that the government won't censure stuff (unless it's for "National Security" or some bullcrap like that).
Continue Reading "GTA Gets AO Rating"
Giving GTA an AO rating is just going to keep it out of Wal-Mart, not the internet. If a kid could get their parents/older sibling to buy GTA when it was rated M, what is going to stop the same kid from getting it if it's AO? AO is one year different from M! This will not keep many people from it because of their age. It will just keep it out of the retail stores. Rockstar fears it will loose a crapload of money (Take-Two has had a 6% drop is stock prices already), but I don't think it will be much. All this controversy has likely perked up at least a few curious ears, and people will be buying the game to see what the big deal is.

Rockstar is also planning to re-release GTA "with enhanced security to prevent the 'hot coffee' modifications." Nothing about removing it (but there might be something I'm missing here). This will bump it back into an M rating.

On a related note, Microsoft has announced that the Xbox 360 will come with parental controls/child block. Huh? This is in the same boat!! Chances are very good that parents will not be aware of this feature, and what good will it do? If the parent buys an M rated video game for little Billy, than the feature is pointless! It is simply Microsoft going "Hey look! We're doing something!"

GameSpot.com: GTA gets AO [Read]
The Inquirer: Xbox with Parental Controls [Read]

Via Joystiq, and numerous others.

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Monday, July 18, 2005

Well, Duh.

Nintendo DSA recent report showed that video games "can distract the player from the sensation of pain," leading to faster healing and far less discomfort in the long run.

Well, I could've told you that. In fact, just about any active video gamer could have told you that.

However, I appreciate that time taken to make the use of video games a viable option to pain management. But you didn't have to do this study! The article alone links to several different studies of cases where almost the same thing was proven. Heck, if anyone wanted a list of all of the good news about video games, they should just follow all of the links in the first 3 paragraphs.

And look at the rest of the article! Many of the people that cite this article go 'Oh, joy!! Good News!' without reading it the whole way through. Much of the second part of the article talks about the negative affects, such as increased aggressiveness and the like. It lists off 11 problems that have come up when playing video games. But its not the worst and most aggressive article that I've seen, so I'm not complaining too much.

But luckily, it concludes on a relatively high note (read: neutral) and says basically more long term studies are needed.

British Medical Journal [Read]
Via Eurogamer.
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Wednesday, July 13, 2005

Awesome Mario Speed Run

Freefall off Princess Peach's slide.The following speed run of Super Mario 64 is simply awesome. Using glitches, shortcuts, and major sequence breaking, the person who did this beats the entire game in just barely over 20 minutes. Grated, they skipped literally 7/8ths of the game, but who cares?!

I've watched many speed runs (you can find many of them at the Internet Archives) and I can honestly say that I have not yet seen one that so quickly and so casually dismisses nearly all of the arbitrary barriers that the designers put in. When I saw the freefall off of Princess Peach's slide (see picture) I would have bet that there is no way to make that. But the person made it, and smoothly too.

If you have 20 minutes of spare time (and factor in some extra if your internet connection sucks), then you should sit down and watch this simply awesome video.

SpikedHumor.com (Windows Media Player) [Watch]
Via 4 color rebellion
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Tuesday, July 12, 2005

Summer

K.K. Slider (a.k.a. Totakeke)Summer's here, and what does that mean to gamers? No new games.

Game developers hesitate to release games in the summer, as the holidays are 'just around the corner.' Never mind that millions of kids just got out of school, and that this would be a great opportunity to release something for them to do. After all, they've just shown us all of it at E3, so why don't we just wait until winter? >:( However, they are starting to get a bit better at releasing summer games. After all, Kirby: Canvus Curve was just released. And look at how popular it has become.

But this does create a wonderful opportunity to go back and revisit lost games. Beat Super Metroid again, Halo, Halo 2, Star Wars: KotOR, Zelda 64 (as well as all of the other Zeldas), and on and on and on. I, however, sat down and got re-addicted to Animal Crossing!!
Continue Reading "GTA Gets AO Rating"
Animal Crossing, for those of you who have never stepped outside in 5 years, is a wonderful game for the Nintendo Gamecube (and soon for the Nintendo DS, too). You move to a small village, are given a pat on the back, and then set loose. It is surprisingly flexible in how you play it (I was going to say open-ended, but that's not quite the right word). You can spend your time fishing, catching bugs, decorating your room, doing chores and favors for the villagers, chatting with the villagers, and quite a bit more. Other than the joy gotten from doing those tasks, there is no real point to this game - you can never die, and there is no end.

Also, Animal Crossing implements a real-time clock, so the village will continue onward whether you're playing or not. It's not uncommon, after not playing it for a while, to pick up the game again and find your town full of weeds and a few people short. This system means that this game must become integrated with your life!!

But it's not like there's no point. The main point is to make money (Bells). Much of the game is paying off your debt, and then buying a bigger house so that you have a new debt to pay off. You can now add more stuff to your house, such as that samurai suit display you always wanted. There is so much furniture in this game that you could play the game for a year and not find everything. That goes for clothing, too. To make even more sure that you'll play, much of the stuff is only available during certain times of the year, or during a special holiday.

And that concludes today's post. Remember: play Animal Crossing, and your life will be fulfilled (as long as you keep playing).

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Monday, July 11, 2005

Fun with Physics!

Glass shatters so wonderfullyMegon has a tech demonstration of the next generation's physics system. It most certainly is not graphically advanced, but the physics are smooth, and it gets the point across.

Strangely, I had a lot of fun in this tech demonstration. You start off in a single room full of various objects (such as glass, panels on the wall, or a balcony). You can walk around in it, and shoot everything with the big red balls, and each object responds beautifully. Glass shatters nicely, the panels fall accordingly, the solid balls fly around.

I think I had more fun in this 5 minute tech demonstration than in many (a scary amount) recent video games.

Megon Future Technologies (Look for the GDC 2005 techdemo, just after the movies) [Read]
Via Joystiq
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Wednesday, July 06, 2005

Violence in Video Games

The Godfather: The GameViolence in video games and how they affect people has been a major discussion recently. Many politicians, including good ol' Hillary Clinton, have been trying to outlaw the sale of 'M' rated games, specifically Grand Theft Auto, to minors. This seems to be causing tension throughout the media, as some of them are starting to include what video games people have recently bought whenever a murder happens.

I will tell you right now and upfront. I have always been an anti-mass-media type of person (which is why I'm running a one-man blog). I think that if you are a major media source with hundreds of employees, journalists will twist the information and over-dramatize the news so that their story goes first. It all comes down to who can make the biggest scandal/ story/ article/ 5-minute-clip-of-a-building-blowing-up.

People have lamented on how the situation seems oddly specific to Grand Theft Auto (and even more specific to San Andreas). I agree with Conrad in that it seems to be more of a PR thing than keeping 'M' rated out of the hands of minors. This too comes back to the fear of a bad media coverage (which, I'll will bet, will happen soon).

Recent events and studies aren't helping the average gamer's image, either. A couple in South Korea recently left their 4-month-old to die while they played World of Warcraft [Read]. A 15-year-old boy in Japan beat up his parents and blew up their apartment, and they are connecting it to his love of Grand Theft Auto [Read]. A 4-year-old died of heat stroke in the car because he wanted to stay and play video games [Read].

This is a very disturbing trend, and it is getting worse. The recent study that showed that your brain becomes dramatically more cognitive and less emotional when you play violent video games is an extremely one-sided study. That is the only thing they looked at. No puzzle games, no RPGs, no strategy games, not even games like Myst. If they looked at those, too, then it would be much less bias. [Read]

But, of course, the media exists to sell itself. No one wants to hear that video games improve your logic skills. But parents will pay attention when they learn that the video game that their child is playing might turn their son into a mass murderer who will blow up their apartment.

Via Joystiq, Kotaku, and Press The Buttons.

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