Archives for August 2006

“Max”imum blood

Max Payne GBAA while back, during one of my CAG-fueled shopping sprees, I picked up a copy of Max Payne for the Game Boy Advance. I had never played Max Payne on the PC (which, by all accounts, was a great game) or the sequel. In fact, my copy of Max Payne sat on my shelf, untouched and unopened, for months while I wasted time on losers like Tiger Woods PGA Tour for the DS. It’s a shame too, because Max Payne is the most of fun I’ve had with a GBA game in a long time. (Even though I’m playing it on my DS Lite)

Max Payne is an undercover cop who’s life is torn apart after his wife and child are brutally murdered, killed by a couple junkies high on a new designer drug called “V.” Max quits the police force, joins the DEA and goes undercover to infiltrate the drug rings pushing V on the street. He’s framed for a murder he actually witnessed and is now on the run. He’s basically got nothing to lose. The story is told from Max’s point of view, and is a spiral into the depths of organized crime, government conspiracies, and Norse mythology. If that alone is not enough to convince to pick this game up, hopefully the rest of the review will.

The hallmark of the Max Payne series has been “bullet-time,” the time-bending film technique used by John Woo and over-popularized in the Matrix Trilogy. It’s basically slowing down time, except for your trigger finger, so you can manuever, mid-flight, to send bullets flying in all directions. From what I’ve read, it works great in the PC version of the game. I wasn’t sure how it’d translate to the GBA version, but it works excellent. Jumping into a room, a 9mm in each hand and dispatching all the bad guys in a matter of seconds while your jump for cover is pure fun.

Max Payne

Dodge this.

The game is played from the isometric, 3rd-person view. On the pixelated GBA screen, 3D games often suffer from slowdown and flicker but this isn’t been the case with Max Payne. The controls take a while to get used to, seeing how the movement is at an angle and the directional pad isn’t, but once you’re used to it, it’s not a big problem. Visually, they’ve somehow fit everything from the big screen onto the little GBA screen, which is quite a feat.

As far as sound is concerned, I don’t think this much mileage has been squeezed out of the Game Boy Advance. The story is delivered in stylized cut-scenes, each narrated by Max himself, and they sound suprisingly good. There’s only a few musical themes, but they create a gritty and dark atmosphere.

But the most striking aspect of the game has been the amount of blood! Every gunshot, every explosion, ever swing of the lead pipe solicits a spray of blood. With the lack of gory detail, those little red pixels splattered on the wall are still able to invoke quite a visceral experience. Couple that with the blast of a shotgun and the grunt of a man injured and you’ve captured the essence that is Max Payne. A man after revenge, with nothing to lose. It’s fierce.

So fierce that I’m surprised it’s a GBA game. On the system where Pokemon and Sponge Bob rules, it was interesting that Rockstar would port such a violent game over to the kid-friendly GBA. Max Payne is anything but kid-friendly. But it is rated M, so any parent would be wise to avoid it.

And any “mature” gamer would be wise to pick it up.

Geoffrey Chaucer is a gamer

This is a bit old, but if you happen to be a gamer and an English major (or enjoyed the Cantebury Tales in high school) you’ll get a kick out of Chaucer’s blog entry on his experience with the ‘Exboxe CCCLX.’ (via kottke)

In my hands

Age of Empires DSButtonmashing.com friend Bobster lent me his copy of Age of Empires: The Age of Kings for the DS. Another turn-based strategy game for the DS, this one set in the Age of Empires “world.” I’m quite excited to see how the real-time-strategy gameplay translates to the Dual Screen beauty. Impressions to follow.

Wii news and links

Sometimes I forget that buttonmashing.com is one of the only sites people (read: my friends) visit for gaming news. Often forget to post links to exciting news I find, especially when it comes to the Nintendo Wii, because I figure most of you have already seen it somewhere else. But for those of you that don’t scour over 100+ video game blog feeds, allow me to enlighten you. I’ll be linking to a lot of cool Wii news, now that the launch is hopefully only months away. The excitement is building up fast. On to the links:

USA Today had an interview with Reginald Fils-Aime, Nintendo of America’s new president and chief operating officer, where they discussed all-things-Wii. Most important was the topic of the online system that the Wii will sport. From the article:

Q: You’re not pursuing a subscription model?

A: We view online gaming as essentially an enhanced way to enjoy the gaming experience and drive more sales of hardware and software.

Q: How do you extend your online strategy to Wii?

A: It’s the same premise. We will offer online-enabled games that the consumers will not have to pay a subscription fee for. They’ll be able to enjoy that right out of the box. The Wii console is going to be Wi-Fi enabled, so essentially, you’ll be able to plug it in and go. It won’t have hidden fees or costs.

I’ve said it before and I’ll keep on saying it — I hope and pray that Nintendo’s online service is similar to Microsoft’s. The Gamer card, the Gamer score, the Xbox Live Arcade, all of those features would be so cool to see on Wii’s online service. This is something I would pay for! Give it to me for free, if you want, but please make it worth my while. Let me play RC Pro-Am multiplayer. Let me co-op Contra with my friends. I’d love to know how my high-score on 1942 compares with the rest of the world. There is so much untapped nostalgia and potential here that it boggles my mind. I could go on forever with possibilities.

Nintendo is also starting to announce titles that will be available for the Wii. Wikipedia actually has a list of all games that have been mentioned for the Wii. Most recently, Mario Strikers Charged and Battalion Wars 2 have been announced. There is definitely going to be a tug of war between new titles and retro downloads.

Twilight Princess, the new Zelda title will sport a totally new control scheme. Swing the Wii-mote to swing Link’s sword is going to be riot. Or tire out your wimpy-birds arms. Sissy.

There’s still a lot of speculation going on with regard to the launch price for the Wii. It hovers between 170 and 250 dollars. Does it really matter? If it stays around the 250$ mark, Nintendo is going to sell every single console they manufacture. Period.

There’s more info coming out daily about the Wii, little details, hints, and snippets. It’s all very exciting. I just hope I can keep up!

Son of a …

I knew it! Even though I professed my desire for a Black DS Lite, I couldn’t wait and went with the beautiful and pure White DSL. Four Color Rebellion is now saying the the Black and Pink (woohoo!) DS Lites are heading our way.

Son of a…

Anyone want to buy a white DS Lite?

k2 0.9

I’m finally making the transition to K2 0.9, which was released last week. Things will look hairy during the transition.

This message will self-destruct in 24 18 hours (I hope)

Update: So far things have gone pretty swimmingly. The two coolest additions that I’ve made (so far) are the Sidebar Modules (which will be mostly transparent to the reader) and the Subscribe to Comments.

The SBM plug-in makes adding, editing, and removing content on the sidebar much easier, including the ability to choose which modules show up on the main page and what modules show up on individual post pages (like this one) and static pages (like the Carnival HQ).

The Subscribe to Comments plug-in is quite nifty. After commenting on a post, you can check the little “notify me” box and you’ll get an email anytime someone else comments on a post you’ve commented on. Very cool and very handy.

I should wrap up the rest of the tweaks, time permitting, before the weekend.

So you wanna blog?

I’ve seen this in a few places (most recently at Troy’s new blog, Flash of Steel) and wanted to comment on it. There is an article at GameDailyBIZ about starting and maintaining a successful blog. It zeroes in on gaming blogs, but it’s applicable to blogs in general. As blogging is a phenomenon I’m interested in, I was interested to see what new tips I could glean. While there’s nothing really new here, it’s a decent read if you’re interested in blogging. The article lists three steps to a good blog (gaming or otherwise):

Step 1: Create a blog that’s worthy to be read

Readers already choose between a massive number of quality enthusiast press publications. As a result, a fledgling blog has virtually no chance of making it big if it doesn’t provide readers an experience that can’t be found somewhere else.

This is the real trick. This is like making a list on how to be a good golfer and starting the list with “have an excellent golf swing.” It’s the simple fact that no one will read your blog if you’re not providing them with something fresh. There are a ton of gaming blogs you can read out there, and while most are worth a read in their own right, there are a lot more blogs worth skipping. Providing an experience not found elsewhere is tough to do. Regurgitating all the news that comes across the wire won’t do it. There’s other places where people are doing for that already. Casting a wide net and trying to post about everything is also going to be hard to maintain. Find your voice and go with that.

Step 2: Get People to Read Your Blog

This can actually be the easy part of starting a blog, but go about it the wrong way and you will alienate readers much faster than you can garner them. Places like Digg and Slashdot abhor “blog-whoring” and I pretty much avoid submitting my blog to them at all costs (save for links to the monthly Carnival). I have been linked by Slashdot, which is quite a “nerd high,” but each time I’ve been linked there it has been by Zonk, not from my personal submissions. (It is a huge honor to be linked by them, but it has always been a surprise to have Slashdot show up in the referrer logs.) There are other ways to drive people to your site. Using your URL in forum sigs, your email sig, submitting to the Carnival and the Roundtable are all ways to get readers to your blog without blatantly blog whoring. Getting your site URL out there with subtlety is a talent, but persitence will be rewarded here. Make friends with other bloggers, link to their sites, use trackback judiciously and don’t appear desperate and you’ll do just fine.

Step 3: Get People to Bookmark Your Blog

Post Often

If you want to become one of the big time bloggers, you’ve got to consider this a full time job hobby. The best blogs post often, post consistently, and even post on weekends. It is difficult to do this, especially since you will likely not see a sustainable income from your blog for quite some time.

While this advice is by far the most important, I’ve modified it a bit. I think the moment you treat blogging as a full-time job (unless it is your job, natch), you’ve lost sight of why you’re blogging in the first place. Your motivation for blogging should be that your topic of choice is something you’re passionate about. Nevertheless, you’ve got to provide new content on a consistent basis. I’ve found both in reading and writing a blog that consistent posting is the most important aspect of a blog. I’ve tried to get a post a day here on buttonmashing.com, but some times that just not possible. Even still, you’ve got to work hard and produce good stuff. Getting quality stuff out regularly will keep people coming back.

This will actually become easier as you develop your voice and you earn a regular readership. You’ll get feedback from your regulars and that will spur you on to create more content. Is a postive feedback loop that you’ll come to love. Nothing is more exciting than getting your first comments and first subscriptions to your feed. It’s fun and will definitely motivate you to blog even more. The hitch is to maintain that motivation over a long period of time. It’s not easy but it pays off in the long run.

So have a read, start a blog, and have fun doing it. That’s what it’s all about anyway.

Ricky Bobby and other man-crushes

(NB: This post is about a couple man-crushes of mine, Will Ferrell and Wentworth Miller. Proceed with caution.)

I had a chance to catch Talladega Nights: The Ballad of Ricky Bobby over the weekend. Wow, talk about bringing the funny! Let me start by saying I am a huge Will Ferrell fan. While his portrayals of Alex Trebek and George W. Bush are awesome, his Harry Caray skits always leave me in tears. So I may a bit biased when I say that Talladega Nights is one of the funniest movies I have seen in a long time. I have never laughed as hard as I did during the “Grace at dinner” scene. You’ve seen parts of it in the trailers and previews, but those short glimpses do no justice for the scene as a whole. Holy-crap-on-a-crutch did that scene make me laugh.

I am not what you would call a NASCAR “fan.” I’m a casual observer of the “sport”, but Mrs. Buttonmasher’s parents live down the street from a NASCAR driver and is friendly with his family, so by extension I have some connection to NASCAR, if only peripherally. But I get the NASCAR (redneck) culture and the movie skewers it pretty well. I’m sure there were some inside jokes that I missed, but most were hard miss. The product placements were a bit obvious, but I see that as just another jab at NASCAR’s rampant love with its sponsorships. On a whole, though, the movie was enjoyable, with more than one more side-splitting scene. But the prayer scene alone was worth the price of admission. If you like Will Ferrel and his shenanigans, TN:tBoRB is for you.

I can resume another man-crush of mine tonight, as Prison Break‘s second season premier is tonight. I loved the first season of PB and I’m hoping the show continues its awesomeness. I can’t help if the lead character exudes 138% more manliness than anyone else on TV (except maybe this guy). I was a little disappointed with the ending of the first season but I see no reason why the show can’t pick up the action that it did so well in the first season.


I get weak in the knees…

Finally, college football season is right around the corner. Don’t even get me started on my college football man-crush!

Carnival of Gamers #17 – Cheapskate special

CheapyD has posted the Carnival of Gamers #17, with 18 entries. A lot of new faces for this Carnival, which is great to see. I haven’t had a chance to read them all, but I’m looking forward to it. Thanks to Cheapy for hosting the Carnival.

Digg the Carnival here.

Trebuchet Challenge

Who says games can’t be educational?

trebuchet challenge

I posted a while ago about how I was introduced to the ultimate siege weapon, the trebuchet, by the most excellent Age of Empires 2, Age of Kings. So not only was AoK a blast to play, it was actually teaching me, rather subversively, the nuances of siege weaponry, with historical accuracy. So let the engineering nerd within me tray and subversively teach you the nuances of physics by presenting to you “The Treb Challenge,” from GlobalSpec.com, an engineering search engine I use quite a bit at work.

It’s nothing exciting, a simple trebuchet simulator, but it does a great job of demonstrating Newtonian Physics in a visual and easy-to-understand manner. You’re presented with a basic trebuchet with parameters like projectile mass, counterweight mass, and wind speed, which can be adjusted. With your trebuchet ready to launch, you’re presented with challenges like distance, accuracy, and power. Balancing things like mass, trajectory, and counter-weight is can be challenging but easy to get the hang of.

It’s everything a flash game should be — fun, quick, and mindless. Okay, maybe not that last part. I don’t usually link to flash-based online games because there are better sites for that, but this one piqued the engineer in me and just struck me as something that’s not only a fun little diversion, but can actually be used as a teaching tool.

Imagine that!