We're a geek culture podcast and blog covering video games, music, food and more. We are the kinds of people who evangelize whatever we are into - it could be anything - but it's usually pretty geeky. We're casual, conversational, NSFW and hopefully interesting. We hope you enjoy it.
It's not quite there, but the various apps and the sheer ubiquity of the iPhone makes it an interesting musical tool. Here's a video of a band called The Mentalists performing MGMT's Kids on their various devices. Clever little proof-of-concept, if you ask me.
Another week, another crazy slew of search terms. Whenever I talk to someone who listens to the podcast, I always ask them "how did you find it?" A surprising amount of people say they just did a random web search. Completely un-targeted, independent discovery. Crazy! Here's a list of some of the weirdest search terms people actually used in order to eventually end up at The Weekly Geek. I have also provided subsequent Google Image Search results for extra crazy.
Hey there, denizen of the Internet! Are you interested in what many people (read: zero people) have described as "The View" for the gamer set? Aren't you in luck! Join me, Jinny, Ross and Ryan as we round up the week's news. We talk about why none of us has bought Street Fighter IV yet, GTA's Lost and Damned DLC, how Noby Noby Boy is not a game and actually not very fun at all anyway, Destructoid being one of the most valuable blogs on the Internet (really!), and how Call of Duty can't *really* make you honor or dishonor the Geneva Convention, no matter what Cory Doctorow says. In addition, thanks for all the mailbag letters this week! We try to answer them all. Enjoy!
posted by Chris on February 20, 2009 10:01 AM in Games
I love these photos from the Puzzle Quest: Galactrix launch party at Meltdown Comics in LA. My friend Pinguino was there and captured the pure essence of these events; lots of booze, half-naked girls, loud music, and scores of nerds in t-shirts trying to avoid each other. Even in such dense fog they cannot be swayed from staring intently at their DSes. Truly these are gamer's gamers.
Seen above: an awesome Galactrix mural done by artist Jim Mahfood. See the rest of the set at Pinguino's Flickr.
Every once in a while I like to look at the raw server stats for the site. Sure, I use Google Analytics to see pageviews and Feedburner to check podcast downloads but the raw server logs - that's where all the meat is at. I can see everything: the VW Golf forum members (and the Pokemon forum members and the members of that one Invader Zim forum) stealing my bandwidth by hotlinking images, the weird directories and random urls that generate 404 errors... but the best part? Search terms. These are what really make running a website worth it. Seeing what people type into Google in order to get to your website is like staring into the face of God and for the first time ever I am going to share this transcendent experience with you. Here are some actual search terms people have typed that brought The Weekly Geek to their attention.
And for kicks I am also going to show the subsequent Google Image Search generated by the term because I am a sadist. Let's begin!
It was a great week for gaming and geekdom in general with downloadable content and new releases galore. Join me, Jinny, Ross and Ryan as we fill your ears with insane babbling for a full hour. This is the future of media, people. We talk about a variety of subjects from Flower on the PSN to the Grand Theft Auto IV DLC to downloadable vibrator programs. Popping open the mailbag leads to a discussion about movies and we find that we actually have a lot to look forward to in 2009. We also continue Ryan and Jinny's Gamerscore battle saga. Epic. It's a good show, won't you join us? Won't you?
As promised (threatened?) I recorded my most recent custom Mini Munny project so you can see the process of making one of these little guys. Since I've been pretty obsessed with Fallout 3 I thought a Vault Boy would be perfect to show the ins and outs of how something like this comes together. In it I discuss tools and procedure and show you what to do and what not to do. Custom toy creation is actually pretty easy, and hopefully this video answers some of your questions!
posted by Chris on February 12, 2009 10:07 PM in Games
Art evokes, inspires, makes you feel. No matter what anyone says video games are art as long as someone asserts they are art. If a piece ignites you, sets the gears of your mind working and gives you that little jolt of inspiration or awareness, that's art. Flower is art. Flower is essentially a short, compartmentalized platform game with incredibly forgiving controls. But that's just the construction of the piece. That is the medium. That is the wood framework and linen canvas and gesso. Flower is the piece and Flower is awesome by the very definition of the word.
During the dusk sequences I can literally feel the cool summer evening breeze sweeping over me, in the sunlight I can smell the grass and the crickets chirping and wind rushing past my ears literally made me tear up. One button to go fast. The motion controls move you around, and the whole package is one of the smoothest, most satisfying play control schemes I have ever played with.
Like tasting all the individual ingredients in a dish, I can see all the different individual game influences in Flower. Katamari Damacy, Sonic the Hedgehog, Braid, Okami, Yoshi's Island...
I am so gay for this game. Buy it with your ten dollars on the Playstation Network now, please. Flower is beautiful and great and everything I love about video games and the hobby surrounding playing them. I have no complaints.
posted by Chris on February 11, 2009 10:09 AM in Food
The fois gras debate has ramped up in Seattle recently as local fundamentalist crazies who won't listen to reason NARN began protesting Lark, a restaurant in my neighborhood that serves fois. It's been discussed ad nauseum on the Slog, but Kate from Accidental Hedonist provides the most level-headed voice in the crowd. Fois isn't as cruel to geese as NARN or other animal rights activists may lead you to believe, despite the kneejerk reaction you may have to the term "force-feeding".
The quiet, contemplative Dan Barber gave a highly informative and compelling lecture at TED concerning the issue of fois gras and sustainability. If there's one ingredient that seems completely contradictory to the concept of sustainable food, it's fois gras. Dan tells us about a farmer in Spain he met who is doing everything so right, even nature itself seems to agree with him. His geese are so well-treated that the wild geese in the area actually come to stay, mate and feed. There's no force-feeding going on, it's just happy geese gladly getting fat.
I absolutely adore fois gras and while it is a bit too expensive for me to order on a regular basis, I'll still treat myself every now and again. There's so much wrong with the way we produce our food these days, but I think attacking fois gras is misguided at best. Dan shows us that with a bit of thoughtfulness and conscience, we can overcome these moral issues while producing the best quality product possible.
More than you've ever wanted to be revealed on a Weekly Geek podcast is revealed in this week's episode. We've got Jinny, Ryan and Ross warming up their action figures and doing questionable things to books. In this episode we talk about Dead Rising 2, the old Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles action figure molds being brought back into service, Fallout 3's DLC being delayed, the new Kindle and how it may be the bane of book fetishists everywhere, Coraline and how you should definitely see it in 3d (while you can!), our survey results, and my borderline offensive dislike of Anime and the brand of storytelling it promotes. We run a bit long this week and Ross starts to get really quiet around the 15 minute mark, so adjust your expectations accordingly. THANKS.
A few weeks ago I purchased this sweet Little Sister porcelain figurine from the Take 2 website but had no Big Daddy to go with her. I avoided the limited edition Bioshock package that came with the golden Big Daddy, mainly because I thought the figure looked like crap. The official figure is standing up too tall, not hulking and slouched over like the Big Daddy Bouncers in Rapture proper. What is a Bioshock fan to do besides make their own?
Made from a Mini Munny, Sculpey and some wire I made a sort of chibi-Bouncer to go with the little Adam-sucker.
I'm ready for dreamtime, Mr. Bubbles
I took a few photos of the process to show you guys but they didn't turn out very well. The lighting was way off and I didn't document the painting process. So! To make up for it, I'll be posting a video of me making a Vault Boy Mini Munny shortly. Hopefully that will suffice!
Scoundrels win me over every time. It's the charisma, the disarming smile. The inherent honesty in their actions. Characters in TV and movies like Don Draper (Mad Men), Al Swearengen and Seth Bullock (Deadwood), Malcom Reynolds (Firefly), Starbuck (Battlestar Galactica) and Han Solo (Battlefield Earth). These guys, and they tend to primarily be men, all march to the beat of their own drum and make a ton of mistakes along the way. They are self-centered bastards with hearts of gold. I love them. I am instantly drawn to any character with moral gray area. I find that gray area adds a refreshing sense of realism to the typical hero story we're familiar with, and any time you can show that your hero is real, it endears them to the viewer. In a video game they would be considered neutral characters, neither good nor evil. It's my favorite alignment. Why is it then that I can't manage to remain neutral in games that give me that choice?
Scoundrel! Scruffy-lookin nerf-herder!
Perhaps it's the definition of neutral that is the issue. Take Fallout 3 as an example. In the game your actions have a direct scoring system called Karma. If you do something good, you get "good" Karma points. Do something bad or socially unacceptable and you get "bad" Karma points. As your points add up they begin to shape your character and the way the world reacts to them. The amount of variation and choice in how you complete a quest or a speech challenge in Fallout is impressive and one of the most engaging elements of the game. Too bad I have a problem being anything but the pinnacle of All That Is Good when I'm playing a game.
RPGs such as Fallout 3 or even Fable II are escapism for me. I tend to gravitate toward what I feel is my ideal self (consciously or sub-consciously, I'm not sure.) I'll display a sense of self-sacrifice and a paladin-ish level of honor. I selected "The Sacrifice" in Fable II because I felt guilty choosing my own needs over the needs of others. I actually felt guilt! Same with doing anything morally gray in Fallout 3. I literally feel guilty.
I started a new game in Fallout 3 trying to remain neutral. I suppose I could just avoid anything that would give me Karma at all, be it positive or negative. But since I like to consider myself a neutral person in real life (always fair, logical, level-headed and Zen-like) I figured I'd just comport myself in the manner I would in meatspace.
It's difficult to be yourself when faced with the option to be a better person.
You gonna get in trouble...
I enjoy watching these characters on TV because they feel real. They are flawed and charming and endearing. They are a reflection of humanity. Fallout 3 is one of the few video games I've played that feels the same.
There are people who play games that take great pleasure in burning down villages, gleefully tormenting innocents and generally making a mess of things, and then there are people like me. Ross had mentioned in a podcast that he has a hard time playing anything but a perfectly good character, and I was wondering who else out there feels the same? What alignment do you naturally gravitate toward when you pick up the controller?
The news cycle starts to spool up as Ross, Ryan , Jinny and I tackle this week's big gaming news. E3 registration is open and we contemplate what makes it different from other trade shows, and how it's the same. Starcraft classes are being taught at UC Berkeley and we discuss the academic merits of this. We look at some nifty Left 4 Dead valentines and download the Resident Evil 5 demo. After a bit of insight into why the Resident Evil 5 demo makes us not want to purchase the game, we talk R-Type and dip into the mailbag to discuss more quirks and iPhone apps. There's also a survey going on if you're interested in helping us out.
Hi guys, I regret to inform you that I am going to be shutting down the Weekly Geek forums as they exist today. The site has been the victim of repeat attacks over the last few months and I suspect it is because of our outdated forum software. While all your accounts and forum posts are going to be gone, I have implemented *new* forum software which is a completely integrated community solution. That means your commenter account for the blog will be tied to your new forum account, and you can upload avatars and reply to people's comments in fancy threaded fashion. It will be glorious.
Thanks for always being awesome and supportive of the site. I know there were a lot of awesome forum threads in the last incarnation and it was a really difficult decision to lose all that great content. I hope you'll participate just as much as you did before with this new system.
posted by Chris on February 2, 2009 10:53 AM in Music
We've already recorded the top albums of 2008 podcast, but I've been neglecting my editing duties as of late. It will be available soonish. I only say this because I think you guys are really going to like this one. 2008 was an incredible year for great music, and during the podcast Mike turned me on to MGMT and their debut album Oracular Spectacular. Lately it's taken repeat listens for me to really dig an album, the ones that grow on me have a special place in my heart. But every so often an album comes along that just clicks on first listen, and knocks me flat on my ass. That's Oracular Spectacular. MGMT has opened for Of Montreal, Radiohead and MIA... and if that's not a ringing endorsement, I don't know what is.
"A bloated, uncomfortable, saturated throwback to no genre, time period, or movement in particular." - Dom Sinacola, Cokemachineglow
I love the bloat. I love the uncomfortableness and the saturation. It's dismantled and dissected music. Oracular Spectacular is music created by an alternative future Rolling Stones who reveal themselves to have been robots all along and are now malfunctioning as their drug-addled systems create a soundtrack for the post-apocalypse.
This is my favorite track, Kids. Something about it just sends chills up my spine on every listen. I enjoy the meta-strangeness of a YouTube video made out of a... YouTube video, as well.
The lady and I went on a bit of an Alan Moore kick last summer, having drained every little rectanglular panel of epic goodness from Watchmen, we instantly gravitated to The League of Extraordinary Gentlemen. I hadn't seen the supposed crapfest that was the film adaptation, but Jinny had. She assures me that the book is vastly superior, and I can assure you she is considerably bright and astute in these matters. If you've never read the series, I can't recommend it highly enough. Alan Moore takes lesser-known (and a few better-known) literary characters and creates a nerdy, turn-of-the-century version of the Justice League set in an alternative past where magic meets science, steam powers everything, Captain Nemo is a badass with a squid-submarine and Martians plot to take over the Earth. It's a hazy, dream-like opium den of a book and it's wonderful.
A new three part series is set to begin at the end of April titled The League of Extraordinary Gentlemen Vol. 3 Century: 1910. Here's the upshot:
Alan Moore's familiar cast of Victorian literary characters enters the brave new world of the 20th century, set against a backdrop of London, 1910, twelve years after the failed Martian invasion. In the bowels of the British Museum, Carnacki the ghost-finder is plagued by visions of a shadowy occult order who are attempting to create something called a Moonchild, while on London's dockside the most notorious serial murderer of the previous century has returned to carry on his grisly trade. Working for Mycroft Holmes' British Intelligence alongside a rejuvenated Allan Quartermain, the reformed thief Anthony Raffles, and the eternal warrior Orlando, Miss Murray is drawn into a brutal opera acted out upon the waterfront by players that include the furiously angry Pirate Jenny and the charismatic butcher known as Mac the Knife. This book is the first of three deluxe, 80-page, full-color, perfect-bound graphic novellas, written by Alan Moore and illustrated by Kevin O'Neill, each a self-contained narrative that takes place in three distinct eras, building to an apocalyptic conclusion occurring in our own twenty-first century. The return of the League is not to be missed!
Alan Moore has the ability to take seemingly mundane characters from humanity's literary collective consciousness and sculpt them into remarkably engaging figures. It's no surprise he's releasing something new around the time the Watchmen movie is set to hit theaters, as I am sure his name is bound to come up at a junket or two.
You can pre-order the new book now at your local comic book shop, or online.
I hope you like the crappy piece of clip art I chose for this survey. I know normally surveys are dumb and boring but I hope that those of you who stumble upon this site take a few moments to fill out this (incredibly short, 8 question) survey about the blog and the podcast. It will help us to improve things and maybe make the world a more entertaining place.
I'm trying to figure out exactly what's up but a few readers have pointed out to me that they are getting virus alerts when visiting the website. It's probably a bit of malicious IP sniffing code (which has happened before), but you shouldn't be in any immediate digital danger. I am investigating and will most likely be able to fix it. Carry on!
Fallout 3 is not a first person shooter. Fallout 3 is a first person RPG, a FPRPG if you will. In a recent interview with MTV Multiplayer, Executive Producer Todd Howard confirmed that Fallout 3 is at best mediocre when you judge it as a first person shooter. Why, then, did Bethesda feel the need to create the largely FPS-focused Operation Anchorage DLC? This add-on creates a new side quest in the ruins of DC, and puts you into a simulation of one of the great battles of the big war constantly referenced in Fallout lore. The issue is that Operation Anchorage strips out what makes Fallout 3 exceptional. It removes all of that pesky moral choice and becomes an exercise in "go from point A to point B."
Maybe the way I play Fallout is different. I am not especially interested in the combat aspects of the game. I like exploring the various environments and scrounging whatever is lying around. See, I'm a crafter. In MMOs it's the same way. I enjoy deviating from the main quests and crafting items to prepare for the journey ahead. Operation Anchorage strips you of your items and gives you a whole set of new objectives. You can no longer scour your environment for items to collect, you can only interact with whatever is blinky and orange. Here's a BIG FLASHING BRIEFCASE, maybe you should pick it up! The objectives here are akin to a series of quick time events. Effortless and ultimately unrewarding. The levels are designed to be linear and come off feeling like a level from the N64 classic Goldeneye. Unfortunately, Goldeneye was made to be a first person shooter. Fallout 3 just plain fails at it. That is not to say that Fallout 3 is a bad game. As a matter of fact, it's my favorite game in recent memory. It's just that this DLC focuses on the wrong elements and becomes an exercise in un-fun.
You know how Dreamworks animated movies tend to rip off Pixar movies? They take what they think makes Pixar movies work: madcap characters, semi-adult humor and state of the art graphics and animation. What they don't steal is what actually makes Pixar movies work: engaging, classic stories and themes, memorable and endearing characters and stunning artistic composition. Operation Anchorage is Dreamworks to the boxed content Fallout 3's Pixar. It's just taking the wrong elements. It is literally giving you a different game to play.
Remember the snowboard mini game in Final Fantasy VII? Imagine if that was stripped out of FF7 and offered to players later, as DLC. In a magical world where Playstation 1 DLC existed. Imagining the crapfest? That's Operation Anchorage.
Why? Why was this a good idea?
Now usually I'd say "Hey! More Fallout is more Fallout, right?" Being that I am so engrossed in Fallout lore at this point I obsessively read every dialog option and every single menu in computer terminals while looking at the Fallout wiki to piece every bit of lore together. Operation Anchorage's lore consists primarily of throwaway techno-babble, and after completing Operation Anchorage you really don't feel like the story has been expanded in any way. Add this to the fact that the end sequence is so glitchy once you exit the simulation chamber that I had absolutely no idea what was going on. There was some sort of mutiny and no one told me about it until it was over.
The ending does allow you to obtain a few choice items, however. The Chinese Stealth Suit is exceptionally useful, allowing you to have a bit of Metal Gear or Bioshock-esque active camouflage when crouching. The gauss rifle has a nice bit of knockback, and the Winterized Power Armor certainly is... winterized.
This should have been free DLC. The first DLC pack for Crackdown was more fun and added more to the game than this did, and it was offered gratis. Operation Anchorage is more Fallout, yes. But is it fun? No. No it is not. For completionists I highly recommend setting the difficulty down to "very easy" and ripping through it, nabbing the extra achievement points, the fancy new armor and continuing with your obsessive exploration of every nook and cranny of the DC ruins. Hopefully the final DLC offers more, as it raises the level cap and all... but I have my reservations about the DLC to come before that. If it's anything like Operation Anchorage... no thanks.
posted by Chris on January 27, 2009 8:48 AM in Games
Imagine one day Shigeru Miyamoto, exhausted from years of creating standing simulators and games that aren't games decided to enlist the help of someone such as pixel god Paul Robertson to create a brand-new Zelda title to reinvigorate the franchise -- taking classic Zelda tropes and translating them into elements of an engaging arcade platformer. You'd have The Legend of Princess, seen above and created by someone named Konjak. The amount of detail and love that went into this short game (PC download only at the moment) is stunning. The sprites are instantly recognizable both as elements of Zelda games and as Konjak's unique art style. A difficult thing to pull off with such precision. Every frame of animation is optimized to provide you with the utmost satisfaction in viewing it.
It goes to show that the Legend of Zelda formula can be translated into different genres quite well. Legend of Princess has all the essentials: secret treasure chests, rupee collecting, lamp-lighting to open doors... just distilled into pure arcade-style short attention span joy. It's unfortunate that the majority of Zelda games that break the mold do so poorly at retail. I'd love a stab at something like Legend of Princess on a console.
This week's podcast sees the intense Gamerscore competition between Jinny and Ryan finally coming to a head with Jinny sporting a five point lead. How long will this last?! Join Ross and I as we taunt the contestants, stirring them into a blood frenzy! It marks Jinny's first time completing Bioshock, and we look back at how influential that game has been in the short time since it's been released. A mailbag question then spurs a conversation about quirks and how people who tend to be geeky also tend to be... weird. A magazine we've never heard of gets sold on eBay, and then the robots finally take over. I for one welcome... you to download this week's podcast! Haha! *cough*
Instead of just forgoing the podcast this week because of lack of news, Jinny, Qais and I attempt to get Ross and Ryan on the air, but something went horribly wrong with our Internet connection. So instead of depressing news of video game industry layoffs, you get us discussing mailbag questions, Fallout 3's depth and Fable 2's sex-change potion. Remember to fill up our mailbag, and subscribe to the podcast if you haven't already!
This week's podcast reveals that Ross Rosenberg is, in fact, the final cylon. You read it here first, people. Join me, Jinny and Ryan in exposing him. In addition to the excitement leading up to the premiere of the new Battlestar Galactica season, we geek out about other shows coming back on the air. TV! Where did you go?! We talk Fable II DLC, briefly mention CES and wonder who gives a crap (maybe you give a crap?) and Fallout 3. We then clean out the mailbag, so be sure to send your questions to fill it back up again.
On this first podcast of the new year, Jinny, Ross, Ryan and I contemplate the existence of top of the year lists. Are they actually useful, or are they just masturbatory? We also talk about what we're looking forward to in 2009, and some new technologies we've adopted in 08 in order to make our lives better. There is also a lengthy discussion about headphones. You've been warned. Download it now or subscribe to the feed! Or both!
This week's episode we spend some time cleaning out the mailbag and talking about what games we played over the break. It was a lot of games and this bears discussion. *Is* Left 4 Dead the best game evar? *Is* the new Prince of Persia too easy? *Is* Fable 2 just an early beta and the real game's going to be released Christmas 2009? It's like you're sitting here with me, Ross, Qais and Jinny with a cup of hot cocoa, warming your toes by the fire. Maybe your cup of cocoa has been spiked with Bailey's or peppermint Schnapps's and you're getting shitfaced. Shitfaced with The Weekly Geek. Happy New Year.
I broke down in tears crying the morning of December 25th, 1989. It was a stressful year. My parents had just got divorced and I had to move school districts. I went from being fairly popular (as popular as an 8 year old can be) to constantly tormented for being the new kid. Even without the ability to comprehend our financial situation, I knew we weren't well off. My Dad was working a lot of overtime trimming trees and doing random handyman work and my Mom was working long hours at the hospital.
I was already into video games. I would be over at my friend's house almost on a daily basis fighting my way through the Mushroom Kingdom to save the princess, or fighting through Hyrule to save the princess, and other variations on that theme. The Nintendo Entertainment System was an object of almost mythical proportions. The worlds in these games seemed more real than reality to me. I took to them completely. This Christmas though. This one started it all.
I broke down crying once I opened the gift my Dad and Mom gave to me. It was just one that year, a large rectangular box a little over two feet across. I still remember the weight of it, how it felt in my hands. I tore off the first leaf of brightly colored paper and saw the iconic black star field and red racetrack logo. My parents had bought me an NES. I'm not entirely sure why I wept, but I was happy.
Since then, Christmas has been all about the games. We complain about games being expensive now, but back in the late 80's and early 90's they were just about the same price. Sixty dollars or so could get you a copy of Boy and His Blob, or Legend of Zelda, or Super Mario Bros. 2. I'd get maybe one game for Christmas from my parents and that game was savored. The year I got Super Mario Bros. 3 was especially memorable. I got it on Christmas day and didn't stop playing it until I beat it on New Year's Day.
Eventually when the SNES came out, my Dad bought it for my sister and I for Christmas. Of course, he put that it was from Santa on the tag, and that it was for me, my sister AND my Dad, slyly linking the SNES to his apartment. That meant we had to keep it there and only play it every other weekend, which made me even more obsessed. Later I'd learn that he did that so we would have something to do at his place, as if I wouldn't carry it along with me wherever I went like I did the NES anyway. That Christmas was Mario Paint, Pilotwings, and Super Mario World. All of these memories are stuck in my mind as really happy times despite whatever hardships or stress came from being a child of divorce and being one of the poor kids in a decent middle-class neighborhood.
After all the gifts were unwrapped and the adults retreated to the kitchen to cook Christmas dinner and talk about adult things, my little sister and I would always turn to our consoles. Now that I think about it, the term "console" is pretty appropriate. It is kind of sad to think that my whole obsession with video games comes from wanting to escape and feel comforted, but as I sit here on Christmas day watching Jinny chop wood and fighting highwaymen in Fable II I can't think of anything more comforting to do. Or more in the spirit of Christmas.
I may be an atheist and we may not have a tree or a nativity scene in our apartment, but this is still a pretty special day and every time I sit down to play a game on Christmas morning I remember being 8 years old, brought to my knees with joy over the gift of an NES. Hope your Christmas (or generic winter holiday celebration) is full of comfort as well. And most of all - great video games.
It's the snowpocalypse in Seattle, and it seems like the rest of the world is taking a break this week as well. There's absolutely nothing going on, which is completely awesome. We're gonna spend some time bundled up with some fun games and get back to you in the new year. Enjoy the holidays n stuff!
Despite how much we whine on the show about the glut of game sequels and the overabundance of shovelware, this year was definitely the best year for video games in recent memory. We saw giant sequel-mills who typically churn out crud actually make decent new IPs, co-op and online multiplayer really hit its stride, music games lived up to their promises as expandable platforms with DLC. Handhelds and downloadable titles kept in step with bigger boxed releases, and indie gaming finally got the attention it deserved. So what does everyone from The Weekly Geek feel was the best of the best? I asked everyone on staff to select five of their favorite releases from 2008 and while a few titles persist, some choices surprise. This week's podcast is all about our individual top five lists, and be sure to check out all The Weekly Geek writers lists as well after the jump.
User-generated racism, existential crises and Xbox Live shenanigans await you in this installment of The Weekly Geek. Qais, Ross, Jinny and I participate in a discussion most interesting regarding topics you may be interested in. In addition to the aforementioned items, we also discuss Time magazine's top 10 games of 2008, the new Mirror's Edge DLC, how Left 4 Dead is not Halo, and how Banjo-Kazooie makes me sad. Also we announce a contest and open the mailbag! Enjoy it, please.
Back from break with lots of gaming under our collective belts, this week's show features me, Jinny, Ross and Ryan talking about the latest Street Fighter 2 iteration, whether or not the new Prince of Persia is going to sell any copies being released so late in the season, Left 4 Dead being completely awesome (well, almost completely), Nintendo game counselors, Chrono Trigger... it's just the usual assortment of random tangents and geeky discussion you've come to know and tolerate. Plus, there's mailbag. So that's a bonus.
posted by Chris on December 1, 2008 8:12 AM in Games
Like all good kids of the 80's and 90's, one of my favorite things to do was to stay indoors on sunny days, avoid mowing the lawn, and play Street Fighter II on the SNES against my little sister. I was horrible at the game, but not quite as horrible as her, so I got a pretty good self esteem boost out of beating her senseless. We always stuck with Street Fighter II instead of Mortal Kombat (the two natural competitors at the time) because of its less realistic nature. It was a cartoon, an over-exaggerated spectacle of super powered fighters allowing me to dominate my little sister in a wholesome, non-violent way.
One of the most anticipated Xbox Live Arcade releases this year for me is also one of the most disappointing. As it sometimes happens, the hype for a game builds and builds until release, ultimately letting you down. I've been watching the screenshots and new art come out of Capcom for Super Street Fighter II HD Remix (SSFIIHDR, unless you're not a fan of the whole brevity thing). The game is essentially a carbon copy of the original Super Street Fighter II we remember from the 16 bit days, but with hand drawn sprites displayed in high definition. As screenshots emerged, fans drooled at the gorgeous new art depicting their favorite characters. But it always struck me as a little off, something just wasn't right about it. When the game was finally released last week it hit me: there is a massive disconnect between the way I remember the characters and the way they have been redrawn.
The game was pitched as redrawn. That is to say, the sprite scaling was matched by the artists, essentially traced to give more definition. The playable character sprites and the character portraits (along with all of the level backgrounds, etc) were redrawn completely to scale. The problem with this is that when the art was made for the 16 bit version, they were attempting to create the look and feel of each individual character based on the portrait using the limited pixel definition of the 16 bit era. Lots of visual shorthand was used, and characters were simplified. This wouldn't usually be an issue if the artist were skilled and knew the characters well, they would just add more detail, right? Look at a character like Dhalsim in-game. His portrait (and what we know of his character design from later games in the series) portrays him as a sickly-thin yogi. His playable character art, being based off of the 16 bit version, looks way too beefy in the chest. All of the characters just look vastly different than their portraits, making it obvious that different artists worked on these portions of the game without really communicating with each other.
But the biggest disconnect for me was the fact that the framerate is completely the same as the 16 bit version. Sure, the sprites have been redrawn, but every single character animation is the same 4 frame animation as it was before. This has a surprising effect on the newly redrawn sprites. Instead of looking shiny and fresh in HD the low framerate actually breaks the experience and makes it look completely dated. I almost think that it makes it look more dated than if they went the completely opposite route and inserted more frames of animation into the game and used the original 16 bit sprites.
It feels a little lackluster to me. At the very least it feels more like cheap nostalgia pandering, a way to get me to buy yet another version of Street Fighter. With at least 500 different versions out there (give or take 400) I am not sure if this is the definitive one. Anyone else notice the disconnect?
This black Friday show your family you care by purchasing one of these fine Weekly Geek t-shirts from SplitReason.com at the generous discount of 20% off! Just do your shopping and then enter the code blackfriday at checkout.
Hey dudes! Because it's turkey week here in the states and we're in the process of unpacking the new Weekly Geek headquarters, we're delaying the podcast until next week. Many apologies! Perhaps you would like to check out our full podcast RSS feed, where we have a ton (literally over a hundred) back podcasts to sift through. You could pretend you are traveling back in time! Woo!
We're giving away a pair of 4-day passes to Blip Festival, and all you had to do was comment on this post to win. Easy, right? It was! That is how INTERNET won a pair of tickets. Congratulations, we will be contacting you via email. Yes, that was the name they used. INTERNET.
If you're a fan of 8-bit and chiptune music, have we got a giveaway for you. We've got a pair of 4-day festival passes for Blip Festival in New York from December 4-7th valued at $120. Who all is playing at the Blip Festival? Well I'm glad you asked.
Personally, I'd be excited just to see Unicorn Dream Attack based on their name alone. Since this is a giveaway for something location-specific, we're lowering the threshold of entry on this one. In fact, all you have to do to win these tickets is post a comment on this entry stating why you deserve them. Then, on Friday, November 21st we'll choose a winner at random. It's that easy.
I apologize in advance for any aneurysms you may have from the mispronunciation of words in this week's podcast, but hopefully Jinny, Qais, Ross and John Forster will be entertaining enough to outweigh any vocab vitriol. This week we discuss what games are more worth your money than others, and we dabble in the philosophy behind their very existence, and the greater good of gaming as a whole. Mirror's Edge is also discussed, and we try to pronounce big words. We make fun of a poor child who collapsed from exhaustion after playing World of Warcraft, and then we drool a bit over Left 4 Dead. The mailbag is also splayed open for your sick pleasure. Enjoy!
If you're reading this and you are an artist, please look away. Watching this video will only make you feel bad about your own ability and possibly cause you to cast your artistic implements aside in favor of more practical pursuits. Gabe of Penny Arcade fame has become a truly impressive artist in recent years, and this time elapsed video of the process of painting a page for their new Prince of Persia comic is a stunning testament to that ability.
If only there were a way to show a live feed of what is going on in his mind while we watch the outward effects of his expression. I'd love to know how exactly he plans these pictures in his head before it hits the (virtual) page. His various design decisions, how he comes up with the colors he feels he needs to use to achieve the effect he desires. He has managed to exert an unexplainable level of precision that all of us artists strive for. Mesmerizing.
posted by Chris on November 14, 2008 10:44 AM in Music
Yep. An actual music video for the 15 minute long masterpiece that is The Decemberists' The Tain, via Pitchfork TV. I've seen The Decemberists in concert numerous times and they've never played this song live. Every time I sit in the theater, looking up at the stage while waiting for them to come on I hope for The Tain. Maybe one day.
As a kid I had a few career aspirations. I knew I wanted to work in an artistic field, and I wanted to work for a supremely creative company who inspired me. As a lover of all things Henson, my attention gravitated toward the Creature Shop. I dreamt of sculpting Froud-ian goblin puppets for pay and possibly getting to meet David Bowie. In my Labyrinth-addled child-mind this was a logical connection.
Muppets are easy to make. They consist of carved styrofoam covered in fabric with additional eyes, feathers, buttons and so forth. For the lazy, you could always go to FAO Schwartz's Muppet Whatnot Workshop, a sort of Build-a-Bear Workshop for your own Henson inspired creation. This seems rife with possibility - ideally a Mii or Avatar-style process where you could create whatever character you want in Muppet form. An ideal holiday gift, even! That is until you realize the wasted potential of this tool. Whatnots are the Henson company's building blocks for creating new Muppets. Their offices have drawers and drawers filled with Muppet bits like eyes, fur, noses and the like. Going through the abysmal customization options on the site, you'd think that they just ran out of supplies. You see three body types of set color. 12 sets of eyes, 12 sets of noses, 13 hair styles (with no bald option) and 14 outfits (with no nude option). Your resulting Muppet comes out looking like a clumsy Chinese knockoff brand and here's the kicker: they cost $90 and delivery time is 3-4 weeks.
My 10 year self would be incredibly disappointed to receive one of these soulless creations as a gift. The wasted potential here is staggering to me. Imagine a Muppet creation shop with a library of parts pulled from the entire Muppet line. You could mash up Bert's uni brow with Ernie's football-shaped head and Cookie Monster's fur. You could give Kermit the Frog Miss Piggy's nose and pretend it's a freak frog-pig baby.
Wait, I have a better idea! Go to a fabric store. Buy the materials you need and make a Muppet yourself. Not only will you save money, but you'll be able to achieve something way more creative than FAO Schwartz's sorry tool could ever dream of putting together.
Things get a wee bit political this week as Jinny, Ross, Ryan and I discuss last week's events through the geek lens. We discuss Obama's wired presidency and the brilliance of Change.gov, the release of Gears of War 2 and the games' resemblance to a The Legend of Zelda and the true meaning of game industry secrets. We then discuss Wii Music from an educator's perspective, Dance Dance Revolution The Musical, a Watchmen video game and we dip into the mailbag. Show notes after the jump!
On the subject of things that sound stupid but will probably end up awesome: Dance Dance Revolution The Musical was announced today. Put on by theater company Les Freres Corbusier, this is so bad the laws of space and time demand it to be inversely incredible. Plus it has a character named Moonbeam Funk. To directly quote the SLOG's direct quote:
Les Freres transforms the Ohio Theater into a fully immersive, bombed-out discothèque as it fuses unmerciful Japanese rave music with deeply regrettable sophomoric comedy in the futuristic dance spectacular, Dance Dance Revolution.
Riffing on fizzy dance musicals like Flashdance and death sport movies such as Rollerball, Dance Dance Revolution is set in an Orwellian society where dance is illegal. A group of local street toughs harbor no hope of overthrowing the fascistic no-fun government--until a mysterious dance prophet named Moonbeam Funk arrives.
I never thought I'd live to see the day. The day when that dude who is always dancing in place while waiting in line to play DDR at the mall finally gets his own musical. Yes we can, indeed.
Everybody's waiting for you! Dance Dance Revolution the Musical opens December 3rd at the Ohio Theater in New York.
On this week's podcast Jinny and Ross join me to discuss the Sci-Fi channel's new video game reality show, Square Enix's new Japanese iPhone game, The Beatles' music game announcement, a computer program that is pure evil, Mushroom Men's fantastic music, the open-ended glory of Fallout 3 and Little Big Planet's ups and downs. This is all washed down with a frothy mug of mailbag.
Chris, Jinny and Ross are back this week to help you weather the storm of... whatever storm you're weathering. Be it a respite from work or a break from the ridiculous amount of new games being hurled at us this season, let the soothing sounds of The Weekly Geek act like an insert metaphor here. Topics this week include the new Xbox Experience, Fable II and whether or not its flaws affect the overall game, the new Star Wars MMO announcement, what happens when you turn off notifications on your 360 and you think you stop getting achievements (omg), the "missing gamer" demographic aaaaaaaand then we piss off Fallout fans. Not on purpose! Then - a special food section where Jinny and Chris talk about how they tried out for a reality show and tripped on some Miracle Fruit. Also your mailbag questions are answered. It's a lot of stuff! A random assortment of topics pertinent to your interests as a geek. Enjoy.
We've got a brand new shirt in the Split Reason Weekly Geek store this week! Tell your friends you prefer an old-school style of jubilation with a classy exclamation of "Huzzah!" proudly emblazoned on your chest. This is my favorite design I've done so far, I hope you like it too!
It's an action packed show this week with a full cast as Ryan joins me, Qais, Jinny and Ross for the very first time. This week we're discussing E3 opening its doors to the public again, Little Big Planet being delayed for offending people, whether or not you should feel guilty for pirating games, Mother 3, Bioshock 2 and co-op split screen gaming. We also dip into the mailbag and discuss the scariest games we've ever played, and Qais whips out the most epic mailbag reading of all time. It's a full cast and a full 20 minutes longer than usual. It's like its your birthday or something!
posted by Chris on October 17, 2008 8:14 AM in Games
The story of Starmen.net is a perfect example of Nintendo's complete lack of regard for their "hardcore" fanbase. For the past decade, this site has been dedicated to bringing the Mother series to American shores. Mother 3 was released in Japan and Starmen.net printed glorious fan art books. These devotional tomes were shipped to various people in the games industry (including yours truly) and apparently didn't make an impact. Nintendo ignored the fans yet again. So what does an obsessed game community do? Make their own damn translation.
The Mother 3 fan translation hit the web today, and from what I hear it's quite remarkable. A crazy amount of work has gone into keeping all the quirk and humor of the original Japanese translation, while still feeling familiar to Western audiences. If you've never experienced the beauty of the Mother series, now's a fine time to start. Perhaps once more people discover how stunningly brilliant Mother is Nintendo will finally take notice and start releasing games their most vocal and devoted fans actually want. Perhaps.
posted by Chris on October 14, 2008 8:49 AM in Food
I've been fascinated by something called Miracle Fruit for a few years. It's a small berry that is supposed to enhance and change your taste buds for a short period of time. Containing the dubiously named active glycoprotein molecule "miraculin", Miracle Fruit makes acidic foods taste sweet, and Guinness taste like ice cream. There's some controversy surrounding this amazing berry, as it could be one of the few sweetening alternatives to sugar that doesn't cause cancer in lab rats. Supposedly the sugar industry kept the fruit from becoming commercialized for fears that it would put them out of business. Whether or not that is true, the Miracle Fruit has long been a nifty centerpiece for tasting parties and now ThinkGeek is carrying this craziness in tablet form.
Previously, in order to obtain some Miracle Fruit you'd have to go through some dude on the internet with a plant. Now you can have crazy food tripping Miracle Fruit parties with reckless abandon! I've ordered a pack, who's coming over for dinner?
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