Get Equipped With Mighty No. 9

When I was a kid, I played a lot of Mega Man. I had a dark blue winter jacket with ribbed sleeves, and sometimes at recess I would subtly tuck my left hand in the sleeve and that would be my Mega Buster, and I'd play Mega Man on the school playground. With everything else on Nintendo, I think I connected with Mega Man the most. Something about the character designs throughout the series immediately grabbed me.

Today at PAX Prime, Mega Man's creator, Keiji Inafune, announced a new game, funded through Kickstarter, that carries his classic game's legacy: Mighty No. 9. I could barely contain my excitement at the announcement; that's not true, I screamed and flailed my arms like an idiot. It was as if this project was not being presented to me, but to my inner child directly.

The project promotion video begins clearly intended to touch on nostalgia, opening with an upward pan of a glossy skyscraper. The camera finds Mr. Inafune, dressed in blue, ready to make his pitch. Continue with a discussion over classic Famicom games in a Super Potato game store; fans voicing their desire for a game that feels like what they know, but still offers something new and fresh. It is the tender/flaky pie crust of the video game culture. The video continues with images of a girl in a red dress walking a fluffy pink poodle, a visual study of humanity's relation to machines, metal, concrete, and electricity. Finally, a reveal of the main character, Beck, going from clay sculpture and pencil sketch to full-color digital art.

Mega Man fans have endured hard times, their old favorite getting watered down by bland annualized sequels and spin offs. Mr. Inafune knows this, and he knows that he carries the fans' passion and goodwill. By letting Mega Man go and presenting a new, very similar character, I hope this represents him retaking control of the vision. Mighty No. 9, as a fan-focused outreach, carries the hallmark of a passion project. I believe in Keiji Inafune when he has a passion project. I believe he can be Mighty.

What I'm playing:

-Main Campaign: Mega Man 2, Divekick!

-Side Quest: Don't Starve, Secret Ponchos, Incognita


Billy Kane progress photos

I've been working on a Billy Kane costume for a while. I was going to wear it last year at San Diego Comic Con but didn't get around to it. Now I plan to wear it at LA Anime Expo. I've been trying to bulk up a bit for the part. Here are a few progress shots. I know I forgot to put on the belt. Special thanks to my stepmother Tina for sewing the headband.

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What I'm Playing:

  • Main Campaign: Bioshock Infinite
  • Side Quest: Super Mario 3D Land, Fez
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3A Toys MGS Rex

He's here! This is the 3A Toys MGS Rex, special edition with scale Old Snake pilot. Observe...

Thank you 3A Toys and Konami, he's a beaut!

What I'm Playing:

  • Main Campaign: Saint's Row The Third, The Witcher
  • Side Quest: Spaceteam

Ümloud 2010

Ümloud! One of my favorite events from 2009 returned for 2010 and it was better than ever. I'm confident in saying "better" because this year my friends and I took the stage as Supercollider. The experience was well worth it. We all had a blast, and the event raised more than $11,000 for the Child's Play Charity. Supercollider is myself, JamesRickMario, and Alice. Bask for a moment in our awsomeness. Big thanks to Tyler Winegarner photography for the images.

A couple of my favorite other bands were Are You There God It's Me Zilla performing Godzilla by Blue Öyster Cult, and Backbone performing Kings and Queens by 30 Seconds To guy alone...on pro drums...having never played the game before. Fucking madness!

Everybody who take the stage was into it deep, just as it should be.

But was there gamer shit? Hell yeah, niño! I swagged a TurboGrafx joystick and some Final Fantasy 13 art, while my man James won a Puzzle Agent-themed iPod Touch not ten minutes after walking through the door! Those things only went out to game journalists. I very much pined for the cosplay-grade replica of Scarborough Fair, but it just wasn't my night.

It's just amazing what Ümloud as an organization is bringing to the gaming table. It keeps getting better and more beneficial every year, and I can't wait for the next one. This is solidly one of my favorite gaming events on the calendar. Rock on, guys!

 Hey, it's almost 2011! I sure have done a lot of stuff in 2010. I have a lot of swag from WonderCon, PAX, BlizzCon, and Ümloud. I think it would be cool to give some of it away! Not tonight, but very soon, after I get it all together. I'm thinking of something special for Child's Play, too. Watch this blog, and soon I'll have some details on how you can get a box of cool crap from the gaming events of 2010!

What I'm Playing:

  • Main Campaign: World Of Warcraft, Bayonetta
  • Side Quest: Rock Band 3, Need For Speed: Hot Pursuit, Hydro Thunder: Hurricane    

Xbox Live Price Hikes/Is Live The New Cable?

Yesterday came the announcement that the price of an Xbox Live Gold membership is going up. The new pricing schedule takes effect November 1st, with a 1-year membership growing from $50 to $60. Nerd rage was quick to bubble up across the net, some of which I believe is justified.

Major Nelson justified the price hike today stating that since 2002 "... we have continually added more content and entertainment experiences for our members, while keeping the price the same." This is all true; when I first started on Xbox Live in 2005 it was specifically because I wanted to play games online. Since then the advantages of Gold have grown: early access to game demos, Netflix instant queue,, Facebook, Twitter, and weekly discounts on downloadable content have all been added. An ESPN channel, Hulu Plus, and AT&T Uverse content have all been announced and are in the pipe for Live Gold.

All of this content is supposedly inflating the price of Live Gold. This is a service whose core functionality is online gaming, which Microsoft's competitors and many gamers agree ought to be free. This is a service which has opened up more opportunities than ever for advertisers while still charging a premium to its members. This is a service that takes a cut from every peice of content sold in its online market. To me, the Xbox Live Gold service is starting to look a lot like cable TV.

If you're subscribing for cable or satellite TV, you probably don't watch all the channels you get in your plan. You can choose how much to get for what price you want to pay, but there's always going to be some amount of bloat in the package that doesn't interest you. Xbox Live is starting down this path, broadening their stable of services to a point where everyone in the audience is going to find something they like and something they don't. When these new services were included in the original price, I have little to complain about. Now the price is going up but consumer choices are not.

As long as Live Gold remains the only avenue to play games online on Xbox, Microsoft will have an audience for their premium subscription, myself included. With all of these new services, Gold subscribers deserve more choices as to what services they can receive through Live. "Take it or leave it" is no longer sufficient. I've occasionally used, I watch Netflix almost every day, and I've been salivating over Hulu Plus. But I have zero interest in ESPN, and I'd argue that the Xbox 360 (or PS3 for that matter) is the worst platform ever for using Facebook and Twitter. I should have the option to opt out of some of these "channels" that I don't need, and to have the price of my subscription adjusted for that.

Xbox Live brings a lot to the table, but it's starting to put things on the plate that not everyone ordered. Give your consumers better choices, and we'll keep coming back for more of what's best for us.

What I'm Playing:

  • Main Campaign: Shank, Scott Pilgrim Vs. The World
  • Side Quest: Rock Band 2

Road Guards, POST!

Wanna see how I spent my day today? Here ya go:

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An honorable Guardian in Coast Guard MSST 91103, serving in Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, contacted me a week ago. He asked me to make him a truck themed after his unit that he could drive in Forza Motorsport 3, and I obliged. I made all of the logos from scratch, as well as the desert camo paint job. His unit patch alone contains 325 shapes, and I think I reproduced it pretty darn well. Here's the original for reference:
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I am a paint editor god. In all, the theme took around 8 hours of work, including my own fretting over what shape to use, at what angle to set it, and making sure it all looked straight. Semper Paratus.

What I'm Playing:
  • Main Campaign: Final Fantasy 13
  • Side Quest: Forza Motorsport 3

Furniture Hack: AK Rock Box/USB Hub

Finally! I've finally gotten around to a little project that I'd been wanting to do since I moved to my new house. Since I love Rock Band, I knew I wanted to add the superb AK Rock Box to my living room. It's a great piece of gamer-centric furniture, and now I've done a mod that makes it even more useful. I bought the big-box version of the original Rock Band when it came out, and it came with a pretty disappointing 4-port USB hub to support all the instruments. I never liked having to set up that hub with its 6-inch cord and 3-foot power cord behind my TV setup, adding to the wire spaghetti in the back. Now with a little work to the Rock Box, I don't have to. Neat, huh? The mod is very simple. I figured out where I wanted the wires to go and slit a hole in the fabric lining above and below the ottoman's floor. I drilled a hole in the wooden floor and threaded the USB hub's power cord and a 10-foot USB extension cable through it. Then I slit the fabric again on the high part of the wall and stuck the hub to the wooden wall with Scotch recloseable fasteners. 
The USB extension easily reaches my systems and lets me plug in four devices without getting up from the couch. For those like me who are still using corded Rock Band controllers, this cuts living room tripping hazards by up to 75%, and makes it so I can still play with a Dual Shock 3 while it's plugged and charging off its laughably short cord. The ottoman's lid can even close when devices are plugged in. 
Ah, domestic gaming bliss. 
  What I'm Playing:
  • Main Campaign: Batman: Arkham Asylum, Modern Warfare 2
  • Side Quest: Soul Calibur 4, Rock Band 2

Ümloud '09 \m/

Excuse me, I'm a bit groggy today. It's for a good cause. Last night I went to Ümloud, a late-night Rock Band party to benefit Child's Play. It was awesome! The crowd had a good-spirited vibe, and Chris Kohler was the perfect MC. Check out some of these performers:
Costumes, tunes, and other Rock Band 2 goodness wasn't all. There were gaming treasures to be coveted and won in the silent auctions, raffle, and swag giveaways.
All of those piles of donated awesomeness were given away to the crowd by the end of the night. Darn my luck, my tickets came up too early to be allowed to claim this vicious piece of signed Bioshock 2 art: I watched it move around the club through the night, and as jealous as I was, I'm glad it went to a good home. That Final Fantasy Distant Worlds CD signed by Nobuo Uematsu? It looks pretty good on my shelf... Look at all this craziness on the swag table!
Game Boy Advance games! T-shirts! Art books! A Blitz '99 arcade board with cabinet livery! A Kane & Lynch press kit! Goddamn Phillips CD-i games! It's like the nerdiest yard sale ever. The whole night was a blast, and I can't wait until they do it again. Child's Play is constantly raising money to donate to children's hospitals across the country, and a night like this is a thoroughly enjoyable way to do it. I promised I would shout out to the Fire And Sonic blog, who are donating a buck to Child's Play for the first 100 people who comment on their own Ümloud post. Ladies, my swanky jacket and I like your style! What I'm Playing:
  • Main Campaign: Muramasa: The Demon Blade
  • Side Quest: Soul Calibur 4, Rock Band 2


A year ago I was playing Aurora Feint, Rolando, and Word Jong, and the iPhone was starting to show what it could and couldn't do for games. I think I care more about the games now, but not a lot more. Like any other platform, iPhone has its strengths and weaknesses, and smart developers and publishers are learning how to take advantage of those to make games that are at least entertaining and easy to play. Big-name publishers however are still falling into a trap of trying to leverage the name-recognition of some of their big properties on other platforms and shove them into clumsy, lazily-designed games.


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  ***WARNING: Major Modern Warfare 2 Spoilers***

Starting up the Modern Warfare 2 campaign, I was confronted with the warning that parts of the game might offend me. I think I'm a pretty level-headed guy, so I pressed forward unafraid. I was just too interested to to find out what could happen in the game that I might find unbearable.

As the lights came up on the No Russian scene, I admit I was a bit slow on the uptake. By that point in the game I was already accustomed to shooting people, so I was ready for more, especially if I got to use a really big gun. After realizing that I was gunning down unarmed civilians, I played the rest of the scene just going through the motions: shooting at the floor or stone columns, trying not to clue in the terrorists that I didn't want to participate anymore.

No Russian is unquestionably one of the major setpieces of Modern Warfare 2, but I'm still not quite sure what the scene ultimately accomplishes. It's emotional, but I don't think that it changes anyone's mind as to how they feel about terrorism and mass murder. The scene's flaw is that it's wide open to metagaming: when the player knows he can get through the airport terminal regardless of their actions (as long as they don't shoot their comrades) then those actions become trivial. Some people do like I did and avoid shooting, and I've heard that some of the game testers shot everybody in sight because at the core it's just a game. In the end, how you play No Russian says more about how you feel about video games than how you feel about war.

No Russian didn't even come close to what I had predicted would be worthy of a precautionary opt-out message. When I tried to think of what was the most distasteful thing I might be asked to do in MW2, something that I might feel strongly about and would be relevant to current world conflicts, I was sure that it would be a scene about torture. When moral choices are a hot topic for game designers, the choice whether or not to torture a prisoner would have fit perfectly within the fiction of Modern Warfare 2, and would have truly pushed gamers to show where they stand. Instead, the game takes an all-too-brief glance at torture as Soap closes a door just as one of your teammates is brandishing a set of hot jumper cables in front of a prisoner. There's already plenty of shocking imagery in MW2, but I wonder where Infinity Ward could have gone if they had chosen to present something truly controversial.

What I'm Playing:

  • Main Campaign: Modern Warfare 2 (online), Valkyria Chronicles
  • Side Quest: Forza Motorsport 3
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