Archive for October, 2006

Nintendo DS is the New Viagra

DS Lite is the New ViagraMy work email account gets spammed horribly. Guess they found a way around the munging tool I used to scramble all of the clickable email addresses on our website. Fuckers.

Clearing out my junk folder this morning, I spied the subject line “Nintendo DS system” from a sender named “Hummer Lexus”.


I guess this means the DS is now in the same league as horny college sluts and the iPod: a commodity ostensibly desired by enough people that it’s now become a spam or phishing lure.

Either that or this is a highly targeted spam campaign–which would be real spooky.

I took a screenshot of the full email message. Click the thumbnail for a larger view.

Spam email using DS as lure

Thanks to Cabel for the nifty DS Lite Photoshop template.


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It’s Mii!

notawesome - MiiSee this is why I wanted to learn Flash. I can’t believe this guy was actually able to pull this off just by watching videos and stills.

Roll your own Mii, pre-Wii, via Joystiq.

It’s actually pretty accurate. Though the attire is very Star Trek: Next Generation (guess the blue would make me medical staff?). Maybe I’ll try to recreate the whole crew later.

Can’t wait to do this for reals on November 19th.

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Best Reason to Buy a Wii: Okami

Before anybody gets misled too far by this post title, Okami is not coming to the Wii. As far as I know anyway.

This post on Joystiq got me thinking however.

What does Okami mean for all the smack talk and philosophizing about graphics vs. gameply for next-gen consoles?

Okami is a title that fully embodies the pinnacle of both graphics and gameplay (OK, maybe not entirely, but damn close). And this is a title not only from the current generation, but the tail end of it. Come to Processor Hierarchy for the Wii, GameCube and PS2think of it, God of War fits this category too.

The GameCube has better graphics than the PS2. And the Wii has a slightly more powerful processor than the GameCube. Does it follow, then, that a breathtakingly beautiful game like Okami could look just as good, even slightly better on the Wii?

My point is, if hardware limitations in the PS2 are what inadvertently led to Okami’s distinctive art style, then whatever graphical limitations Wii haters are heaping on Nintendo’s next console ring much more hollow to me now. Check out this video for a comparison of the more realistic style the developers originally intended vs. what the hardware forced them to go with instead. HUGE difference in the feel of the game, not just tactile, but emotional too.

And on the other side, Nintendo’s gameplay argument doesn’t necessarily hold up as well either. Sure the Wii-mote could easily be the best thing for the Celestial Brush, but I got along just fine with the PS2’s dual shock controller.

Amaterasu's wolf buttThe vaunted promises and expected “weaknesses” of each next-gen console, i.e. Wii graphics will suck or Wii games will PWN you and the controller will change video games forever, the pissing contest between Sony and Microsoft, all of it somehow seems ridiculous when compared to the serene countenance of a white wolf shining benevolently down from the sky.

UPDATE: Clover Studio has been dissolved. RIP. After much wailing and gnashing of teeth on my part, it seems that the bulk of the talent has gone off to do their own thing, so all isn’t lost. Interesting interview on 1Up where Clover’s prez talks about their game design philosophy and how the Wii may or may not fit into it.

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Okami – Amaterasu Has a Posse

Okami coverDon’t bother reading this. Just get it.

Once I slipped the disc in, I panicked that all my expectations outstripped anything this game could possibly deliver.

As soon as I gained control of Amaterasu, something seized me, however. I yelled out, “I’m a wolf, baby!”and began tearing around the screen.

I’m more of a kitty freak than a wolf lover, so this reaction was strange. In all the games I’ve played, in the past 10 years at least, I can’t think of any where I took on the role of an actual animal.

K reminded me about Cookie & Cream, those cooperative, time-addled bunnies we played with many years ago, but this isn’t the same. Nor are the various Donkey Kong don't count eithercompanion beasts like Epona in Ocarina of Time or Arokh in Drakan. In addition to these ancillary roles, the playable animals in my gaming experience have either been cartoonish or humanoid.

There is something to be said for this. The wolf Amaterasu is the primary character in Okami. Not somebody’s pet or mode of transportation. She’s not anybody’s backup, or quarry, or cuddly respite from the rigors of adventuring. She’s entirely herself, a reincarnated goddess of the Epona and Linksun rendered and drawn exquisitely; posessessing skill, intelligence, grace, and yes, artistry. Amaterasu kicks serious ass as a game hero.

During the opening movie, which takes its time with its reams of text that can’t be skipped through, I submitted willingly to the aesthetic of Japanese water color paintings that saturate the game. I felt myself being drawn in, as with Ico, to a play experience that insisted I adopt a different frame of mind.

Not rushing around from place to place, hurtling towards the next objective or fight. But taking the time to look around me, to wander. Thankfully, the camera facilitates this, though it took me a while to get used to it. You can rotate it to get a full 360 degree view of the gorgeous scenery, including when you’re in “brush mode”, which is really handy.

I am content just moving in Okami. Amaterasu’s lope that turns into a dash, with the sound of rustling leaves and green stalks sprouting in her wake is exhilirating for different reasons beyond just speed.

Amatersu smilingRestoring nature and color back into the world is a clichéd story device to be sure, but it fits so snugly into the world of Okami, executed brilliantly into the story Clover Studios has created. Tree-hugging tendencies aside, it’s one of the most gratifying play experiences I’ve ever had. This game is absolutely stunning. Even the fog looks cool.

Many of the same kinds of fetch quests, or help-the-NPC missions, are present here. But without the annoyance or resentment they typically engender in other games. One, because moving around from place to place is so enjoyable, and two, because all of these elements come together so well. You want to earn Praise from the whole wide world around you, people, animals and vegetation alike. It’s what enables you to save them all.

The quiet interludes when feeding animals are so unexpectedly gentle and sweet. Though the game lets you, I never skip them. Like so much else in Okami, they encourage you to slow down, experience the role of caretaker. These contemplative moments comprise so much of what I love about Ico.

This side quest is something K and I have taken to with great relish. Poor thing spent a really long time with a radish side quest because he thought it would help him feed some bunnies. But the little hearts the various creatures emit after you’ve successfully chosen the right type of food for them is so cute.

I’ve even figured out that like my approach to the game, my brush technique also benefits from being relaxed. Slashes and circles flow more effortlessly from my brush when I release the tension in my hands.

K’s playing it now. I’m trying to savor it. Hoard those bright moments for the rainy winter that will be here soon. But this is a game I’m just as happy to watch as play. Or wander around in, caring for the world, painting color and light slowly back into existence.

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Is Your Privacy Worth 5 bucks?

GameFly RewardsI loves me some GameFly. One of the things that made me really sit up and take notice of them, though, was receiving an email notification that some GameFly Dollars I had accumulated ($5 off a game) were about to expire.

Outside of any cynical suspicions of GameFly Dollars as a clever way to make me feel as if I was saving money when really it might be the opposite, the most immediate thing I thought to myself was, “How sweet of them to remind me.”

I quickly logged in and found a game I wanted, compared the reduced price with what the game was going for on eBay, Amazon and the usual brick and mortar shops, and used up those GameFly Dollars before their impending expiration. Woo-hoo!

But get a load of the most recent “offer”: save $5/month on your GameFly membership if you sign up to watch commercials on some website called BrightSpot.

First impulse: save more money? Hell yeah.

Second thoughts: BrightSpot would customize the commercials I see based on my unique interests. Hmmmmm.

If there were a way for me to sign up for BrightSpot anonymously, I might consider this. Though I can be extremely susceptible to advertising, I actually like watching some commercials. That “TV’s Bloopers & Practical Jokes” show that used to air, with Dick Clark and Ed McMahon, sometimes had segments on commercials from around the world. I used to love those. And there was a time when I would tune in to the SuperBowl just to see all the commercials.

But in order to collect on that juicy $5 discount, I’d need to link my GameFly and BrightSpot accounts. Which means my rental and purchase history, name, address and credit card information, systems I own and whatever else GameFly collects would be at the disposal of advertisers and marketers.

[I realize it may already be since BrightSpot and Gamefly look to be linked pretty tightly together, if not already siblings under the same parent company.]

No thanks.

It looks like they’re trying to utilize certain Web 2.0 aspects with this strategy. Get viral by recruiting “sneezers” to view your content and pass it on to their friends. Leverage the power of the network by requesting feedback on each spot. For each commercial viewed, offer credits to various online subscriptions–looks like GameFly’s the first for now.

Get consumers to do the work for you. Offer them an immediate reward that creates the perception of a hot deal. The exchange? Data mine their tastes, preferences and personal information so you can target them even more effectively for marketing.

Sneaky. Sleazy? I’m still trying to decide, but something just doesn’t feel right. Needless to say, I’m not opting into this partnership. I already feel like there’s too much to track when it comes to my privacy, and that I’ve either unwittingly given it up or found it eroded from underneath me given all the high profile privacy violations that have recently surfaced.

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