Monday, January 6, 2014

A 5-Year-Old, Her Father, and a 45-Hour RPG

 My daughter and I are huge fans of the studio Ghibli movies (Ponyo, Howl's Moving Castle, My Neighbor Totoro, etc), so when I discovered Ni-No Kuni, a PS3 game created by Level-5 and Studio Ghibli, I thought it might interest her. It's a beautifully-animated RPG that flows effortlessly between their movie-quality, 2-D animation and the 3-D, in-game engine. The story is nothing short of what you would expect out of a studio Ghibli movie. It's a rich adventure about a young boy, Oliver, who loses his mother, but discovers a parallel universe through which he may be able to bring her back to life with the help of some magical friends. Of course his journey quickly becomes much more than a quest to save his mother, ultimately finding himself to be the only one with the power to save the parallel world and its people from the evils within it. And like any Studio Ghibli story, it is packed with layers of life messages and meanings.
 We started the very long journey through this story many months ago, always playing together so that neither of us would miss a second of the story. An hour here, 2 hours there... slowly progressing and soaking up every bit of the storyline possible, including every single line of text and unspoken dialogue which I read aloud to her without fail. We have faced hundreds (thousands?) of enemies, made countless friends and allies, and fought close to 30 monstrous bosses, whose dramatic fights can take anywhere from 15 minutes to a full hour depending on your level. This game has made my daughter gasp, scream, and jump for joy many times over. If you ask her how we became allies with Kublai, captain of the Sky Pirates, or ask her when we first faced the evil and powerful Shadar, or where we can find the lost city of Nazcaa... she'll tell you. She was wholeheartedly passionate about this game, its story, and its characters, as if she were Oliver himself. It has been quite the adventure for both of us.
 Well today, 45 hours into the game, having learned the ancient magic named "Astra" and with a stockpile of  health-replenishing items in-hand, my daughter cast the last spell, "Arrow of Light," defeating the White Witch and the Zodiarch, saving Princess Cassiopeia and the world, and filling my daughter's heart with so much joy and accomplishment that she was literally in tears, unable to explain why.

When the credits came to a stop, she turned to me still wiping the tears from her face and asked, "Dad, can we start all over?"... "Absolutely."

Saturday, December 21, 2013

GTA V vs GTA IV ICEnhancer vs the NSA

OK, so I finally got my gaming PC setup, and while its not a state-of-the-art system (Im using DDR2 for christsake), the final upgrades got me to the point where I was brave enough to try out the infamous ICEnhancer mod for GTA IV. This mod has been around for quite sometime, and the reason its not more popular is that you need a supercomputer from the future to play it at any reasonable FPS. The ICEnhancer mod is poorly optimized, buggy, and will sometimes crash or freeze for no reason, in addition to being an absolute system hog. I have a Q9550 clocked @ 3.6ghz, 8GB DDR2, and an ATI 7970 with a healthy overclock, and even with what is a fairly powerful system, Im still only managing 20-30 FPS in most outdoor areas - and thats with some config tweaks to the mod and optimizations to GTA IV like reducing the traffic and draw distance.

Why you might ask, would anyone go thru such trouble? Take a look at the video above if you havent already. This mod, and Metro Last Light, which Im currently playing through, are what the real next generation of gaming are like. You all can have your PSONE and XBOX5 callofdutycallofdutycallofduty motion control consoles. Im sure that they are great products to sell and watching The Today Show *Now With Achievements is a truly scintillating experience. Yeah, while Im pretty sure that eventually the NSA will be scanning the contents of my apartment via Kinect sometime in the future, right now, if those people "watching the watchers" want to watch my cat lick the area where they cut off his balls (those spooks are creeps man), if they want to case the place to see if Im harboring "terrorists" (lol) to attempt a possible drone strike (yes we kill people now without due process, The Constitution is like soooooo 18th century man), they are going to have to do so in person (I have a futon).

Or... via my cellphone. Or laptop. Telescope. Periscope. Nanodrones. Whatever. Cause my gaming rig doesnt have camera, only a mic for me to scream obscenities laced tirades into about my opponents playing wrong and winning, and a new mechanical keyboard for insta-ragequitting Starcraft 2. Listen, just because Im paranoid, doesnt mean they arent watching, right?

Thursday, November 21, 2013

Burning Lap

This is the video that a few people have been talking about of a "lap record" for Manhattan. If you havent seen the video, you arent missing much, because this isnt even close to the real record. For starters, the driver is not what you would call a racing class driver and takes bizarre, amateurish lines. Probably more importantly, it looks like it was done around 10-11pm at night, not 4:30am which is the only suitable, safe time for such a stunt. There were way too many cars on the road to do anything approaching a burning lap. The guy got arrested after the video made the news, and now cops want to try to confiscate his car to try to discourage anyone from trying to "beat his time" (lol).

Street racing is pretty much dead here in NYC, and although I do appreciate the effort and tribute to those who made previous videos, lets just say the real Manhattan lap record probably wont ever be published in a video or talked about on the evening news. The real record is well under 20 minutes, and I think if you had a true supercar with a pro level driver, and it could easily be done in under 15 minutes. I cant even imagine what sort of time a lunatic on a superbike like GhostRider could do.

353kmh is well over 200mph. Hey, you only live once :-)

Monday, November 11, 2013

GTAV Invisibilty Glitch

Bond, I dont know how you did it. But what... the... fuck! LOL Rockstar QA Testing!

Sunday, October 27, 2013

Hotline Miami and Dinosaur Jr

So I finally got Hotline Miami. Despite months of urging from friends and everyone I know proclaiming it one of the best indie games in years, I kind of resisted. Despite the fact that the game has my name written on the box - twitchy retro styled arcadey twin stick shooter/melee stealth action game with some sort of post-modern story and a truly epic soundtrack of electronic music, I didnt buy it. I probably played the demo 4-5 times. Finally, the game became free on PS Plus this month so with nothing to lose but time, I downloaded it, and oh man has it clicked. And yes, I agree with you Ubercrunch, the soundtrack is indeed 5 stars.

I recall the time I first heard Dinosaur Jr. It was at a friends house in high school and we had been drinking a lot. "What is this shit? It sounds fucking horrible..." Yet my friend Alex kept playing it, and after a great deal of struggling and resistance, I finally came around to Dino and eventually they became one of my favorite bands of all time. Sometimes, repetition is necessary, even if its against your own will. Sometimes, even despite all the evidence telling you that you should like something, some part of you resists it with all of your being. Sometimes, you are just wrong - it just takes time to figure these things out.

Friday, October 18, 2013

Starring Chuck Norris...


As a couple of you may have noticed, I rarely get on Xbox Live anymore. I miss the hell out of spending time online with you guys, but, unfortunately, this is how it's going to be from here on out.

I love gaming and that's not going to change. Last week I played the Battefield 4 beta on PC, Ni No Kuni on PS3, and even broke out some retro PS1 games on an emulator (Jumping Flash!). But one of my problems is that my time for gaming is usually very sporadic and happens in very short intervals because of work, family (kid #3 on the way - holy crap!), friends, other hobbies, etc. Another is that by the time most of you are online, I'm usually exhausted and ready to get horizontal. Even if I have the juice to stay up, I know that my kids will be up at 7am ready to conquer the universe. I used to push myself to stay up and deal with the repercussions, but it makes for a terrible next day and isn't fair to my kids to have to deal with grumpy zombie-dad.

The last year of my life has also seen a dramatic change to a different lifestyle altogether that has made significant improvements to my outlook on absolutely everything, which in turn has made me a better father/husband/friend/human and it's not something I want to lose. Instead of feeling like crap on Saturday morning, I'm usually up at 6:30am negotiating rough trails through a forest preserve on my Kona, running a few miles through downtown Chicago, or pushing through dead-lifts and power-cleans at the gym. In many ways, this new lifestyle is my new obsession; it's my new videogames. I know this sounds cheesy and I promise I'm not turning into a meat-headed douche-bag, but it's something that keeps me interested, motivated, and excited about life.

I may jump on LIVE occasionally and be lucky enough to see you guys online for a game or two, but more often than not you will not hear from me for weeks or months at a time. To most of you this probably doesn't matter considering that this is already the case, but I just wanted the few of you to know that it mattered to ME to acknowledge it and tell you that although I may be missing in action, I still love games, miss all of you, and haven't forgotten our golden years of Xbox Live glory.

Mike / MDSFX / MD Galaxy

Sunday, October 6, 2013

Two Great Writers Reflect on GTA V

Ubercrunch (aka Chris Byrd) has been working on a piece about GTA V and Thomas Pynchon for Al Jazeera for a while and today it was published on their website. If you dont know who Thomas Pynchon is, he is one of the most important American writers of the last 50 years and he just released his new book, Bleeding Edge, on the same day that GTA V came out. Uber found this coincidence fascinating and decided to write a piece about the two works. Highly recommended, you can read it right here:

Should Thomas Pynchon Play GTA V? - Al

Another friend and fellow New Yorker, who you might remember from his days as an IGN writer, Michael Thomsen, also recently wrote a piece about GTA V and our modern Surveillance State for the New Republic, which is very insightful and also highly recommended:

Videogames Are Making Us Too Comfortable With The Modern Surveillance State - New