July 4, 2014

Happy Fourth of July, Everyone! (Yes - EVERYONE - not just Americans)

I made an infographic.  I hope you enjoy.
Even if you aren’t American (which must suck) you should still celebrate The Fourth of July here’s why...  If you like having electricity in your house... You can thank America. If you like listening to the radio... You can thank America. If you like watching movies... You can thank America. If you like watching TV... You can thank America. If you like the fact that Human Beings have been to other celestial bodies (IE - THE MOON)... You can thank America. If you like surfing the Internet... You can thank America. If you like Hamburgers - you can thank Germany....  BUT if you like BACON CHEESEBURGERS... You can thank America. If you like Pizza, don’t thank Italy... You can thank America. If you like listening to Rock-n-Roll, Jazz, or Rap... You can thank America. And if you like NOT BEING A FREAKING NAZI... You know what to do....

Some have questioned this...  So I'll explain.

Electricity - Thomas Edison & Nikola Tesla - Americans
Radio - Nikola Tesla - American
Movies - the Kinetograph  by Thomas Edison - American
Television - Philo Farnsworth - American
The Moon - NASA, Neil Armstrong, Buzz Aldrin - Americans
The Internet - originally ARPANET - Created by the US Department of Defense - AMERICANS
Bacon Cheeseburger - the "Teen Burger" introduced in 1963 by A&W's - Americans
Pizza - Italian-Americans in New York - AMERICANS
Rock-n-Roll - Trixie Smith, Sam Phillips, Alan Freed,  Fats Domino, Bo Diddley, James Brown, Elvis Presley - AMERICANS
Jazz -  Buddy Bolden, Freddie Keppard, Joe Oliver, Louis Armstrong, Original Dixieland Jass Band  - AMERICANS
Rap - James Brown, Bob Dylan, Sugarhill Gang, Gil Scott-Heron, Coco La Rock, Rudy Ray Moore - AMERICANS

And the last one... come'on....

Didn't even mention: 

the Telephone - Alexander Graham Bell - American
or the Celephone - Martin Cooper - American
or the VCR - Charles Paulson Ginsberg - American
or the Optical Disc (which lead to the CD/DVD/LaserDisc/BluRay) - David Paul Gregg & James T. Russell - Americans
or the Personal Computer - Henry Edward Roberts - American
or the Video Game - Ralph H. Baer - American
or the Graphical User Interface - Xerox, Apple, Windows - all American Companies
or the Computer Mouse - Douglas Engelbart - American
or the Laptop - Adam Osborne - American

Add to any service

June 11, 2014

Super Nostalgia Bros.

People in your 30s(ish), please look at this.  Please stare into your own childhood imagination.  I give you - that which could never be, yet is.


That, dear reader, is the impossible made real.

For those who don't know what you are looking at - that is a press release image from the makers of Super Smash Bros. - a video game that will be released later this year for the Nintendo Wii U and the Nintendo 3DS/2DS.

In it, we see four characters, (from left to right):  Sonic the Hedgehog, Mega Man, Pac-Man, and Super Mario.  Those four characters are owned by four different companies:  Sonic = Sega, Mega Man = Capcom, Pac-Man = Namco, and Mario = Nintendo.

Sega and Nintendo were rival companies who both produced video game consoles.  They were like the Microsoft and Sony (Xbox / Playstation) of today - only the rivalry wasn't just confined to boardrooms, fanboys, and the occasional soft-jab at tech conferences... "Sony's optional camera..."  it was straight-up, in-your-face, called-out-by-name marketing campaigns.... Namely "[Sega] Genesis does what Nintendon't."


(Or for the video impaired...)


Namco and Capcom never made consoles - that I am aware of anyway, excluding tabletop arcade cabinets and plug-in-play controller type things - but both made, and make, video games.  The Manly Men Pac and Mega might not have ever been rivals in the same vein as Mario and Sonic - but it is still nearly unthinkable to the 1980s / 90s childhood mind that you would ever see them in the same game.

Imagine an Angry Bird in Farmville, or Vault Boy giving advice to Nathan Drake, or Cortana and Kratos playing cards...  It's just madness.

But really, this is part of trend.

Before I expound on that, I want to take a step back.  No matter what your age, think back to your childhood.  Walk into your 8 year-old self's bedroom and get out your toys.  Like at least 10 different toys.  Now start playing with them.

Maybe He-Man is fighting Shredder... or a Transformer is battling Cobra Commander...  or Luke Skywalker is riding Twilight Sparkle to Mount Doom to battle Ken and his army of Hot Wheel Trucks...

The point is - when you play with toys, the vast majority of kids don't keep different "worlds" separate.  Star Wars and Star Trek and Lord of the Rings and Chronicles of Narnia and Muppet Babies....  They were all the same thing.  They were all toys.  And in our imaginations, there were no barriers, no reasons to keep them apart.  We didn't care about which toy company made the toys, which stores sold them, which content creator owned the intellectual property....  If we wanted our Super Mario figure to race our Sonic plushie...  then - by gum - they freaking raced!

Now, we who were children in the 80s or 90s or 70s.... we're all adults now.  To some extent, according to our driver's license anyway.  Our generation is in a place to make decisions regarding what entertainment we produce for ourselves, and for the generations after us.

And we want them to play with all the toys.  Not just the ones from this "walled garden" or another.

I mentioned this was a trend.  Wreck-it-Ralph is a good illustration.  In fact, it pretty well foreshadowed this game.


It's hard to tell because most of them have their back to the camera - but here we see the villains from Mario (King Bowser), Sonic (Dr. Robotnik... I will never call him "Eggman"... seriously, why did they do that?), and Pac-Man (Clyde the ghost).  The only one missing is Mega Man.  (Although it is possible that Dr. Wily was actually intended to be in that very scene.)

Other movies - like the Toy Story franchise, for example - do similar things. Like putting Barbie and Mr. Potato Head and a Speak-and-Spell in the same universe, one character just as real and alive and relevant as the next.

Actually, fighting games have long been the one place that fictional universes collide on a regular basis.  Virtually any time a fighting game has the word "Versus" in the title - it's smashing (puns!) two or more worlds together. Capcom did a lot of this (SNK, Namco actually, Mavel, just to name a few).  Street Fighter, Mortal Kombat, Tekken... they've all had multiple "Versus" fighting games against each other, or other fictional universes.  And even if a fighting game isn't a versus style game, they will often include cross-over characters.  Yoda, Darth Vader, Freddy Krueger, Kratos.... they've all made fighting game cameos over the years.

In fact, the entire Smash Bros. series of games is based on this concept of cross-overs.  Mario and Link and Samus...  they may all be owned by Nintendo, but they are still different franchises.  (Even if the argument can be made that they exist in the same "universe".)  It was very much a cross-over game.

To bring it all home, the ending of the very first Super Smash Bros. on the Nintendo 64 (SPOILERS for a 15 year old game!) revealed that the entire "game" took place in a child's bedroom.  (Edit:  It's actually "revealed" in the intro as well.) The characters were merely toys and the kid was just making them fight for fun.  The Boss character of "Master Hand" was the kid's own hand fighting the toys directly.

In the end - fictional characters are toys - and being able to play with them the way we want - regardless of copyrights, trademarks, and patents - is what makes the characters truly "ours".  And I am very happy to see that reality being reflected in this game.

How cool is it - Pac-Man, Mario, Mega Man, and Sonic... side by side - in a real legit game.  Not some fan-fiction, homebrew mashup, but a real Nintendo-Seal-of-Quality game.

Keep dreaming, kids.  Crazy things happen everyday.



Add to any service

May 20, 2014

All my PS Vita Games

I've been a Playstation Plus user for a while now.  The main reason is the included games.  That's really about the only reason.

To illustrate, I just counted over 30 games in my available downloads for the PS Vita - everything from PS1 classics to current AAA titles like Uncharted.

I do not own a Vita.

But thanks to my continued PS+ membership, if I ever do get one, I'll instantly have dozens of games to play for it out of the box.  (And that's not counting any bundled games that may come with it - or any additional games I'll get thanks to PS+ between now and then.)

There is a reason Microsoft had to change Live Gold.  It just wasn't in any way competitive.

Add to any service

April 4, 2014

The Rise and Fall and Rise of the Microconsole

Back in 2009, a little start-up company called OnLive introduced their vision of a "MicroConsole".  This new type of device was a dedicated gaming machine that plugged into a TV, very much like traditional gaming consoles like those made my Sony, Microsoft, Nintendo, Sega, Atari, and others in the past.  Like those consoles, the MicroConsole had a controller designed specifically for gaming.

However, unlike traditional gaming consoles, it did not have any means of using disc or cartridge based games, it was all done through the cloud.  In fact, the games didn't actually run on the device itself, instead the device was merely a way to connect your television to the Internet so you could play the games that were stored on OnLive's servers. The games offered by OnLive ran the gamut from casual games to AAA titles.

Also, the device was small - hence the name.  Gaming consoles have been as big as VCRs, desktop computers, and sometimes bigger.  Many times throughout the lifespan of a gaming console, new iterations of the hardware will come out as technology progresses, and the newer versions having nicknames like "Slim" and "Thin" and "Lite".  But the MicroConsole started out small.  Smaller than a pocket novel.  In fact, the controller was bigger than the MicroConsole itself.

Another way it was different, it was cheap.  The OnLive MicroConsole cost only $99, and it came with a wireless controller and an HDMI cable.  Later on, the company would even have special offers where they would give the console away with the purchase of certain games through their service.  (The games costing $59 or less.)  Other consoles cost many times that amount.

The games offered by OnLive ran the gamut from casual games to AAA titles.  They were all PC games (Windows games) running on OnLive's servers and streamed to the MicroConsole over the Internet.

Ultimately, the company went bankrupt, and was purchased by another company who is trying to make it work, but their focus is not on the MicroConsole (although it is still available - just no longer called a MicroConsole, but instead a "game system").  Their games have always been available to play through software on a PC or Mac, and some even through Android.  They also have other non-game related services.

Three years later, in 2012, another start up, called OUYA, threw their hat into the microconsole ring.  Instead of going for a streaming game service, they offered mobile games on the big screen.  OUYA's microconsole runs a specialized version of Android, and the games on it are, for the most part, Android games that have been adapted to play on an HDTV with a gaming controller.  (Although there are OUYA-exclusive titles.)  Again, the OUYA was smaller than most consoles, although a big bigger than the OnLive.  And again it was inexpensive - just $99, with the wireless controller included.

OUYA, however was success, due in large part to the way it was launched.  Instead of relying on venture capital from investors - OnLive went straight to the gamers through the new concept of crowd-funding.  OUYA was one of the early success stories from the website Kickstarter, raising millions of dollars, straight from gamers and developers (the OUYA microconsole doubles as both a gaming console and a developer's kit) through basically offering pre-orders.

After OUYA raising many times what it was looking for in crowd-funding capital, a slew of other microconsole start-ups soon joined the frey, although few yet having as much success as the novel OUYA.  GameStick ($79), GamePop (not yet released - $129/free with subscription), MOJO ($199), just to name a few.

What is really interesting now is, big name companies are now joining in as well.  In Japan (Japanese link), Sony released the PS Vita TV, which is a microconsole that plays PS Vita games (downloaded, not from a cartridge) on a TV with a remote.  And Google recently announced their purchase of a manufacturer of game controllers - Green Throttle Games, spurring rumors that they may be joining in as well.  Nvidia, known for their gaming-level graphics cards for computers, also entered the gaming device world with their Shield.  The Shield is more of a portable gaming console than a microconsole, but it is still an entry into the gaming system world from a new player who was already known in another field.  "Steam Machines" which are upcoming customized PCs running Valve's SteamOS, will also be an interesting addition to the space, although they seem to be far more like traditional gaming PCs than consoles.

Also, around the same time that microconsoles just started, 2009 - 2012, another trend was taking place, SmartTVs and set-top box streamers.  These are two ways to connect your television to the Internet for streaming video and audio services like Netflix, Hulu, Pandora, and YouTube.  Later on, we would see some of these boxes evolve into something like a microconsole as well, specifically the Roku, whose higher-end versions included a motion-sensing remote, somewhat akin to the Wii Remote, which allowed for owners to play some games on the device, notably, Angry Birds.

Which brings us to the most recent development - Amazon's $99 "Fire TV".  The Fire TV seems to bridge the gap between microconsoles and TV streamers.  While not primarily focused on games, with the addition of Amazon's $39 Fire Game Controller, (or possibly your own BlueTooth controller), the box will play Android games that have gamepad support, as well as Fire TV exclusive games, like (the one and only at this point) "Sev Zero" - which was developed in-house by Amazon's own Game Studios.

Something that really stood out to me about the Fire TV is how similar it is the OnLive MicroConsole. Especially the controller, it just swaps one of the analog sticks with the D-Pad.  From the flattened surface of the controller, to the inclusion and placement of the media buttons (rewind, play/pause, fast forward).  The media buttons were (and still are) largely unused on the OnLive - basically they were only used for "Brag Clips" (which predated Sony's PS4 "Share" button by half a decade).  Even though it required an Internet connect to use, the OnLive never offered any streaming video or audio services - just games. But on the Fire TV is primarily a video streamer, those buttons will be used a lot, I'm sure.

Comparison of the Amazon Fire TV Game Controller to the OnLive MicroConsole Controller


Add to any service

December 15, 2013

Review: Marvel's Iron Man & Hulk: Heroes United

Marvel is really killing it right now when it comes to movies and TV shows.  Avengers, S.H.I.E.L.D., you name it - they are bringing the fans what they want.  And it doesn't stop on the Big Screen.



Marvel's Iron Man & Hulk: Heroes United is an animated movie featuring a team up between Tony Stark and Hulk (who never assumes non-Hulk Bruce Banner form in the movie).  It's not exactly a buddy movie.  Despite the "Heroes United" tag line - these guys don't really get along.  In fact, one of the best parts of the movie is a fight between the two Avengers.

Their real opponent, though, is a living energy force known as Zzzax.  Zzzax is the product of a Hydra experiment involving a combination of an Arc Reactor and Gamma radiation.  (Which, you may note are the sources of Iron Man's and Hulk's powers respectively.)  In fact, Hulk is attacked and kidnapped by Abomination who brought him to Hydra for the experiment.

It isn't exactly clear (at least to me) what Hydra was trying to do, exactly, because they were shocked by the results and ran off.

Zzzax's only desire and motivation is the consumption of energy.  He says that humans are wasting it, (a tiny bit of policizing there), and he needs to have it all.  (Which, sounds like a waste to me.)  So in order to stop a global black out, the two bickering powerhouses team up to battle this being of pure electricity.

The movie is pretty good.  Some of the jokes are cringe worthy, the art style takes a bit of getting used to, and it seems to me they drug out some of the scenes to get to the "Feature Length Presentation" 72-minute status.  But it's a fun ride overall.

It is available on Blu-Ray, DVD, and digital download and various combo packs wherever comic-book movies are sold.


Add to any service

November 19, 2013

Smart Hacked Microwave - DO WANT!!!

That is AMAZING!!!

A man took a Raspberry Pi mini PC, a barcode scanner, a speaker, some LEDs, and suck them all in a Microwave. No, not in the cooking part! The end result is outstanding.

Scan a barcode to set the timer / power level.  Voice Commands! WHY HAS NO ONE DONE THIS?

I just wanted a microwave with a SILENT mode, and maybe a custom "One Touch cooking" button.  This thing... this is incredible.  I really hope he kickstarters this or something.  He even has a danged iOS app.  Crazy.

Raspberry Pi Microwave - Made by Nathan:



Add to any service

July 15, 2013

Nintendo's 8-bit System turns 30 today - Top 30 Games of the FamiCom/NES

So it turns out today is the 30th anniversary of Nintendo releasing it's first* home video game console.  On July 15, 1983 (I was 5) Nintendo released the Family Computer, or FamiCom in Japan.  This system would later be redesigned and rebranded as the Nintendo Entertainment System in the US (and other markets) - the NES as it came to be known, or simply the "Nintendo".

* They actually released several home video game systems before the FamiCom - but they did not have interchangable games, and so they weren't really what we think of as a video game console - they were more like a plug-n-play video game system with built-in games.  They had also released several hand held LED games before this time, the "Game and Watch" series.

The FamiCom came out at a time that many thought the "Video Game Fad" was over.  Atari - who was then the leader of the home console market didn't think anyone wanted an 8-bit system.  Who would need that kind of power for a video game machine?  But Nintendo saw the future - and knew the 8-bit system was just the beginning.

The FamiCom/NES console revitalized the video game industry, perhaps even saving it altogether.  And in honor of this anniversary, I would like to list my top 30 FamiCom/NES games of all time.

[I stress - this is just my opinion - based on my personal library, and my personal play experience through the last 30 or so years - full disclosure, I did not get an NES to at least 1985, so not even 30 years.]
Without any further ado... I bring you my Top 30 FamiCom/NES Games of the last 30 years:
  1. Duck Hunt
  2. Mario Bros.
  3. Contra
  4. Dr. Mario
  5. Mega Man
  6. Lemmings
  7. Dig Dug
  8. Rampage
  9. RC Pro Am
  10. Mega Man 4
  11. Marble Madness
  12. Skate or Die
  13. Dragon Warrior III
  14. Blaster Master
  15. Spy Hunter
  16. Metroid
  17. Snake Rattle 'n' Roll
  18. Maniac Mansion
  19. Dragon Warrior IV
  20. Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles II: The Arcade Game
  21. Super Mario Bros. 2
  22. Final Fantasy
  23. Tetris
  24. Burgertime
  25. Mega Man 6
  26. Dragon Warrior
  27. Mega Man 2
  28. Super Mario Bros.
  29. Mega Man 3
  30. Super Mario Bros. 3
So, those are my favorites - what are you top NES/FamiCom games of the last 30 years?  Let me know in the comments below.  Also, if you want to tell me how dumb it was that Game X is missing from my list (like Zelda, or Kirby, or Castlevania), then feel free.

Just don't think about dissing Burgertime, or I will end you.  8^)

Add to any service