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RESURRECTION!

Gill

So after 2 years, like everyone’s favourite boss Gill, I’m resurrecting (!) this here blog because what a waste it would be to let it continue to wilt in the darkness.

That’s all, really. As ever it’s an ongoing experiment so let’s just wait and see how it turns out.

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The Right To Say Who’s Wrong

Against all better judgement I’m choosing to venture into the bleak world of politics again today after a long hiatus. Heaven help me.

Everywhere I’ve looked over the last little while there has been someone claiming such and such caused the London riots and another someone claiming they’re wrong because no one knows what caused the London riots. It’s unknowable, apparently. At least for the moment. Except, they’re over-intellectualising it.

A lack of individual discipline caused the London riots, nothing more and nothing less. Teenagers from whatever background committed cowardly crimes because they didn’t know, or didn’t care, that what they were doing was wrong. When causation is discussed I think this part is taken for granted, smoothed over and a greater societal reasoning is sought out instead.

But why is anyone doing that? Hold these individuals accountable for their own actions, and throw the book at them. Most of the punks involved probably thought they were safe from consequence, insulated by their numbers. Prove that assumption false by not handling them with kid gloves. If they choose to re-offend in the future after a brief stint in jail or juvey or whatever, lock them up again.

General commentary seems like it is finding someone else to blame for what were individuals’ actions. Or wants to find someone else to blame for it. This writ large lawlessness is currently being scapegoated to support all-and-sundry of causes from the break down of traditional families, the failures of multiculturalism to the perils of the welfare state. Let people champion whatever they like if they see merit in the argument. I’ll abstain from those debates, but hey, live and let live, right? But there is something that upsets me about it all.

Despite the fact that we don’t know, or cannot know, what caused this wave of looting and violence, some people are condemning views as flat out wrong. To take the first cause I mentioned, the degeneration of the traditional family, as an example (since race and class discussions are only going to be worse flamebait) , people seem bent on the idea suggesting fatherlessness is bad amounts to heresy.  Miranda Devine at the Daily Telegraph and Kevin Andrews at The Punch have both touched on connections between a fatherly influence, family stability, disenfranchisement, detachment from society and thus a lack of consideration for said society. And they’ve been savaged for their opinions.

How can people simultaneously argue that something is wrong when they don’t know what’s right? Specifically how can someone claim a presented hypothesis is not responsible for the unrest if they cannot say what is? Admittedly Devine was courting trouble linking lesbian couple child adoption with modern family issues, but did that warrant such barbarism in the comments on her article, most of which were personal slurs lacking any coherent rebutalls? Since when is it ok to so cruelly and so self-righteously attack someone, especially if you have no valid counterpoint to the debate?

It seems to me that a lot of the zeal those on the PC-side of discussion consider their ideas somehow more legitimate than others, as though the proof of their views is self-evident. I find it more than little ironic that words like ‘bigot’ are constantly bandied by this group who seem, moreso than any other, ignorant and dismissive of opposing opinion. Especially on issues of race and gender, the views of the left are elevated above others and dignified with words like ‘progressiveness’ while others are demonised as being ‘outdated’. And why? Because of the perception that everyone or most everyone feels the same way? That has got to be a contentious claim if ever I heard one.

This is a case of vocal minorities causing a fuss and ad populum nonsense at its worst. The constant vilification of those on the right by those on the left only serves to stymie productive discussion. If someone is too fearful of hate-filled condemnation and social ostracism to say what they really feel, then how is anything that happens in society properly representative of the population? It’s a destructive sensibility being perpetuated at the moment by smug people more hateful than those accuse of as much. People who, so high on their own sense of moral superiority, grant themselves the right to say who’s wrong.

So it’s ok to have an equal society, so long as some views are more equal than others? I have to disagree with that one.


Is ‘Mists of Pandaria’ World of Warcraft’s 4th Expansion?

Since the beginning of time we knew World of Warcraft would get heaps of expansions. A leaked blue post a while back, before Cataclysm leaked a ‘Maelstrom Set’ and a ‘Legion Set’ and in December a Blizzard roadmap all but confirmed XP4 and XP5.

So now is ‘Mists of Pandaria’ that new expansion? Blizzard has made a copyright application reportedly similar to those of previous XPs according to MMO-Champion who felt confident enough to plaster it across their front page. The image above was taken of a piece of concept art at Blizz HQ back in April- could it give us an idea of what to expect with Pandaria? Asian scenery and Chinese dragons?

On the one hand I think that an Asian influence is one of the few currently absent in WoW. So I’m all for that. On the other hand, I sure as hell hope they include some of the missing old world areas, like Kul Tiras and the Broken Isles along with this new continent. And I hope that recent events haven’t ruled out future includions of Azshara and the Emerald Dream either. Who knows though- Karazhan, a Burning Crusade feature, was located in the old world so there’s hope yet.

I always thought of pandas as the perennial Warcraft April Fools’ joke, but I’ve missed those kung fu panda antics since The Frozen Throne and will look forward to saying hi to Chen Stormstout in any case. Let’s see how this all pans out at Blizzcon.


The King of Fighters i Impressions… wait, what?

Maybe it was only my radar that this curveball flew under but either way the late SNK Playmore has graced us with an unexpected but totally appreciated version of its famed fighting franchise in The King of Fighters i. That’s i for iPhone and it’s up on the App Store today.

The fact that it’s for iOS isn’t the only odd thing about this KOFXIII port- it includes Billy Kane, who will be a console exclusive character come the game’s October release. Currently, he isn’t in the arcade version or anywhere else for that matter. The game is also strangely-fully-featured. It has wireless multiplayer, unlockable galleries and social network integration all for less than $10. Oh and it beat Street Fighter III: 3rd Strike Online Edition to the punch with on-screen mini challenges (perform 3 3-hit combos, etc.). Granted they were in the arcade version of The King of Fighters XIII first, but who here has actually had a chance to play that?

As for the game itself, it’s better than Street Fighter IV Volt, its only real iOS competition. I’m an SF4-devout so I think that says it all. The controls are better, the graphics are better and the framerate is smoother. This is the only iPhone fighter you need to play. If I had to find something odd about it it would be that Iori Yagami isn’t part of the game’s 14-character lineup. But if I had to guess, I’d say that he, along with Vice and Mature, and Kyo, Robert and Takuma will likely be the 6 free DLC characters promised us between now and October.

I’m scratching my head as to why The King of Fighters i wasn’t better publicised. Sure a game so adept deserved more press pre-release. Or, if treated solely as a marketing experiment, why wasn’t it released closer to the console release of KOFXIII later this year? I’m not complaining, however. If nothing else, this will be most folks’ foray into the world of KOFXIII, failing a nearby arcade with it or less reputable means. And before you mention that The King of Fighters XII has been widely available for a couple of years already, don’t go there. You don’t want to make me cry over how that game turned out all over again, do you?

To close, go and get The King of Fighters i- I couldn’t recommend it more.


The Corpse-grinder that is Team Bondi

Here’s a funny story: when I was fresh out of university wondering what the hell I was going to do with my life oh, maybe 5 years ago, I happened upon a game developer in Sydney. It was Team Bondi and they were making, as they described it, ‘GTA set in the middle of last century’. I can’t remember who I saw or even exactly what the role was (no doubt ‘Junior-[insert alternative for shitkicker]‘) but the fact is I didn’t get the job. Thank heavens I didn’t.

Now that L.A. Noire has shipped, and is in fact nothing at all like GTA, IGN Australia has published a riveting expose on what is quit possibly the most exploitative studio in the world. If they’re to be believed, the man above is not only a collosally poor manager, but also a colosal prick. To summarise the article, 100 hour weeks were common throughout the troubled 7-year cycle, the boss was dictatorial despite lacking a clear vision or good management at any level and now 100s of people who worked on the game have not been credited anywhere for the project.

Brendan McNamara takes the cake though when he comments that his only regret is doing it in Sydney. I find it funny that some cocky Brit with one hit under his belt can relocate here, act an atrocious boss, devoid of any talent if the accounts are true, and then claim that the real problem is the Sydneysider work ethic. Fuck him. He rode Sony’s cock to success with The Getaway and even they dumped him for failing to deliver with L.A. Noire. No surprise- between platform shifts, rapid technology changes and the gall for someone in HR to tell me the game was effectively a GTA out of time it’s apparent that vision was clearly lacking throughout.

I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again: L.A. Noire is a bloated, overstuffed monstrosity that wouldn’t have received half its notice had it not coasted on Rockstar’s coattails. Despite that I feel sympathy for the 100s of artists, coders and designers who were mercilessly burnt through by the travesty of management at Team Bondi. According to IGN, many of them will never work in games again solely because of how they badly were ill-treated on this project. McNamara thinks he’d have had it easier had he opened up shop in Canada or the US. Go ahead and do so you talentless tyrant and leave what’s left of Australia’s already-struggling game industry alone.


DLC it is for SSF4AE

Was there any doubt? I posted a while back that leaked shots of achievements for a supposed Super Street Fighter IV: Arcade Edition on the 360 suggested the update was coming. The only questions at that time were 1) will it be a disc or DLC update and 2) were any features outside of 4 new characters coming? Captivate has brought about answers to both those questions.

The trailer below leaked out ahead of Captivate’s media embargo until the 12th. Basically, yes, we are getting Oni, Evil Ryu, Yun and Yang and yes there will be new features in terms of online and replays.

What we’re not getting is any further addition to the roster (Alex and Urien fans, like myself, are crying their eyes out now) and there are strangely enough no new stages. To top off the oddity, SSF4AE players will be able to match up against regular SSF4 players so no idea how they’ll manage the rebalancing issues there. 2 versions of the game coexisting perhaps?

My gut feeling is just that this is too little too late. Simply because, like with the original release of Super Street Fighter IV, the community has been aware of these additions for way, way too long. Even now we still don’t know when this will actually hit the XBLA or PSN. I’d written about Capcom’s PR strategy on this topic before. I didn’t agree with the approach then and I don’t now. This had obviously been in the works since at least November. Stringing us along all this time comes off seeming callous at best, downright malicious at worst.

It’s a shame since a release which would have wildly excited me not too long ago has instead left me a tad too indifferent for my liking.

Anyway, check out the SSF4AE DLC Trailer at Metacafe. Most other media outlets seem to have pulled it already, probably at the Capcops’ behest.


Mortal Kombat OFLC submission confirms Quan Chi, Kabal and Baraka?

So surprise, surprise, Mortal Kombat just got banned by the Australian Office of Film and Literature classification. However, based on the below except from the submission’s comments, doesn’t it seem like Quan Chi, Kabal and Baraka are now all confirmed as playable characters? Double-edged win if you ask me.

  • Kung Lao throws his metal hat into the ground and it spins like a buzz saw. He grabs his prone opponent by the ankles and drags their body through the saw, explicitly slicing them vertically in half. Copious bloodspray is noted. Kung Lao then holds up both halves of the corpse as blood pours out.
  • Jade explicitly kicks an opponent into the air and plants her fighting stick into the ground. The opponent falls backwards onto the stick and is explicitly impaled, with the stick protruding from their chest. Jade then explicitly tears her opponent’s head off, with bloodspray noted, and explicitly plants it on the stick.
  • Stryker tasers his opponent and then explicitly shoots their head off with his gun. Blood and gore is noted.
  • Quan Chi explicitly rips his opponent’s leg off, accompanied by copious bloodspray. As they lie on the ground, he explicitly beats them with the severed leg for a prolonged period of time.
  • Scorpion explicitly slashes an opponent horizontally in two at the waist, with blood and wound detail noted. He then explicitly decapitates them and kicks their body over. As the severed head falls through the air, he explicitly slices it vertically in two.
  • Mileena throws two blades at an opponent, which explicitly lodge in their chest. She slowly approaches and explicitly rips their head off, causing their severed neck to spray blood as their body topples. She then explicitly bites into the severed head before throwing it to the ground.
  • Kabal uses long hooks to explicitly pull out an opponent’s Intestines before explicitly impaling the opponent on two spikes.
  • Shao Kahn uses his hands to explicitly rip an opponent’s body vertically in two.
  • Baraka explicitly lodges a blade (attached to his wrist) in an opponent’s stomach and hoists them above his head. He spins them round and explicitly decapitates and dismembers them, accompanied by copious bloodspray.
  • Kitana uses her ‘folding fan’ weapon to explicitly dismember then decapitate her opponent, with copious blood flow noted.

Emphasis mine. Thanks to Ausgamers for the info and wiigotaproblem for the mad fanart.


Evil Ryu & Oni: Capcom’s PR Fail

Anyone who gives half a damn about Street Fighter will probably have heard of the revelations this last week. Evil Ryu and Oni were confirmed in the arcade version of Super Street Fighter IV after a code got out that enabled them for play. The news made the rounds and even found itself on the front page of Destructoid. Then Capcom stepped in.

The Capcoms had Youtube accounts – all of them – laden with copyright strikes. Those strikes are permanent and in cases where multiple videos were posted, each was counted as a separate infringment. According to Youtube’s 3-strikes policy, many accounts with months and months of legit videos were taken down with little chance of appeal. Then, adding insult to this grievous community blow, Capcom started requesting that arcades involved disabled use of these two characters.

You can see why they might be pissed off about this. These two characters are not really that fresh – although I maintain Oni may as well be a new character – but they do resonate with fans. When, not if, the long rumoured console DLC for SSF4: Arcade Edition comes along, two overpowered semi-bosses will be a big draw with marketing. And I’m pretty sure marketing was the department most upset.

However the fact remains that everyone knows about this. Hell, everyone knew when those achievements shots leaked out months ago and had their suspicions solidified by an official trailer a few weeks after that. Capcom’s attempts to silence the news, entitled as they are to do so, are misguided. You can’t put a lid on this now and essentially all the strong-arm tactics are doing is dirtying the brand. Capcom itself is coming off as a bit of a jerk and the reaction to these two characters hasn’t even been universally positive. They’d be better off scrapping their roadmap now and just releasing the DLC. As much as I’d like to think so, I don’t think they have anything left up their sleeve after E.Ryu and Oni. Bring on MvC3.


Final Fantasy XIII-2? Square-Enix is a bunch of morons

Their heyday long past, you can see barely anything of the once venerable Squaresoft in today’s overstuffed, overindulgent mess of a company that is Square-Enix. Not content to simply make and release good games, they made the egocentric play of announcing three separate and oddly titled games in 2006; Final Fantasy XIII, Final Fantasy Versus XIII and Final Fantasy Agito XIII under the unnecessary banner of ‘Fabula Nova Chrystallis’. While not the start of the company’s decline, this bold announcement did mark the studio’s pretentious obsession with Latin, and, in any case time has proved it was a dick move.

Final Fantasy XIII, the only one released to date, was met with critical and popular malign. It was shit. Technically, artistically and from a game design perspective. Most importantly for an RPG though, it’s storytelling was apalling. And I hated it. Versus XIII still has no direction, no released gameplay footage and no release window, despite being announced way back in 2006, and this being 2011. At least we know it’s still a PS3 exclusive.

Agito XIII, on the other hand, has been refocused and is set to release this year. Thank fuck for that. Only now instead of being part of one silly series, it’s part of another. The number ‘XIII’ has been dropped and the game is now called Final Fantasy Type-0, part of the Type-X series. Hooray. If this doesn’t confirm what we already knew – that the games in the ‘Latin series’ have nothing to do with eachother – it says that the new Square is still preoccupied with over-promising more titles than it can deliver, let alone deliver well.

Perhaps the most gobsmacking news of the day is that FFXIII, the game every PS3 owner probably wishes didn’t exist, is getting a sequel. I don’t think you could even ask for Final Fantasy XIII-2 at a K-mart counter without sounding like a moron, but that aside, who thought this would be a good idea? The game, not the title, that is. I’m sure we’re all in agreement on the latter. So who’s signing up for another romp though I-can’t-remember-where with that bunch of whiny pricks for hours and hours on end with nothing interesting happening? I didn’t think so. As blatant a cash grab as this is, I gotta hand it to the guys from the quadrilateral company; they sure know how to take fans for a ride.

One would hope that this whole experience would instill some humility in Square. First off, if I were them, it’d teach me that I can’t make a good game while juggling a million projects at once. That’s even if I can make a good game at all- they need to realise these aren’t the glory days of FFVII and VIII. Secondly, it’d tell me to lay off the pretentious foreign namedropping and loosely connected titles. Who do they really think they are? When I heard that, on top of these travesties, there’s one called Final Fantasy: Dissidia – Duodecim, I felt like killing someone.

Franchises get run into the ground and developers get cocky off the back of a single success all the time. But none have been as lucky or ridden out a bad streak of releases as long as Square-Enix has. I think that if the company cannot turn around a few back to back blockbusters soon, and I don’t think they have a prayer, then their time might just be up. Those years-in-development projects don’t pay for themselves.

Then again, who am I kidding. For any of that to happen we’d have to assume being good had anything to do with how games from Square end up selling.


Chinese Factory Loses a Nintendo 3DS

Stolen Nintendo 3DS?

Forums over at TGBus.com are chattering about a supposed Nintendo 3DS production model that has reportedly been smuggled out by a factory employee somewhere in China.

From the look of these photos, the device could be more of a fingerprint magnet than we might have suspected. Further, wasn’t it supposed to be bigger than the current DS Lite?

Nintendo, as you’d expect, isn’t confirming or denying the legitimacy of the device. Suppose the only confirmation we’re likely to get is news of this enterprising employee jumping off the roof.

Source: [TGBus.com]


Shao Karnage: Ultimate Mortal Kombat 3 for iOS

Following on from my last post about the Ultimate Mortal Kombat 3 port for iOS that was only revealed at the last minute before its actual release, I thought I’d put up some impressions.

Content-wise, the game is scant. You get the above characters, which is fine for a downloadable game, along with Ermac and Jade as unlockables. A good mix of MK3 stages are included and on top of the standard arcade mode, there’s ‘Shao Karnage’ which is basically a deal-the-most-damage-for-points stage against series boss Shao Kahn. I found the name a clever pun as well.

Gameplay is very similar to Street Fighter 4 for iOS in terms of controls. You get onscreen buttons for Punches and Kicks, as well as Run and Block and a dedicated Special Move button. Things get a bit cluttered there. AI is nothing to write home about; you can Ice Ball and uppercut as Sub-Zero all day long. Well timed uppercuts from a crouching position are all that’s needed to take down Motaro and Kahn too- they’re both in but unplayable as best I can tell.

What puzzles me is the 3D modelling here. You would think that a port of a 2D arcade game would involve the original spites and any recent iPhone is at least capable of that. Instead we get everything remade in 3D. Characters are redone, perfect in terms of frames and hitboxes as best I can tell and stages too are completely recreated with polygons too. The question is, why would anyone go to the trouble of what could easily have been a copy and paste emulation port? 

I’m enjoying this mobile release as much as I can, but it’s really served to pique my curiosity as to why so much time and effort was needlessly invested in it. It’s only a hunch, but could it be the promised Mortal Kombat HD Arcade Kollection is not, in fact going to be re-shooting real actors for 2D sprites, as is currently thought, but rather going for an all out 3D approach? There is a 3D sticker on the leaked PS3 box shot so who knows…


Quake in 60 Minutes

This one has been doing the blog rounds over the last few days and I thought ‘me too’. I’m actually one of id Software’s biggest fans. I love Doom and Quake to pieces, and am beside myself with anticipation for Rage. That said, I have a confession that may shock you; I have never completed Quake. That is, the first Quake- I’ve finished the others.

So for the first time, thanks to wusseh on YouTube, I’ve finally seen the last boss, Shub-Niggurath, in the flesh. This frentic shootathon has also served to remind me just how much I loved these old FPS’s and how much I hope Bulletstorm or Rage or even Serious Sam 3 can measure up in some small way. Can we all cross our fingers now, please?


Ultimate Mortal Kombat 3 for iPhone?

So in my last piece of Mortal Kombat news for the minute, apparently Ultimate Mortal Kombat 3 is coming to iOS with Street Fighter IV-esque controls, 11 fighters and the rumour of Goro and Shao Kahn as bosses. Sounds good, but if they DLC-ed it up to the Mortal Kombat Trilogy character count that’d be even better.

Let’s hope it plays half-decently when it comes out, apparently before Christmas.

UPDATE: Here are some screenshots and, correct me if I’m wrong, but don’t those look like 3D models and not the digital still sprites used in the original UMK3? Why would they bother going and remodelling everything instead of just using the original graphics? Surely modern iOS devices could handle it…


Evil Ryu, Oni Akuma and 6 for Arcade Edition?

Oni Akuma?

The last time we heard from Ono-san was that Yun & Yang were set to appear in Super Street Fighter IV: Arcade Edition and it was set to come out December 16 in Japanese arcades. The last we heard about DLC options for consoles was that they had been denied by Capcom HQ. This new news throws that into disarray.

Birth of the Oni.  The Awakening.

Eventhubs has now published screenshots of alleged new achievements for the Xbox 360 version of SSF4. Not only do they show Yun & Yang on consoles, apparently confirming that DLC, but also reveal what appear to be boss challenges in the single player mode. One appears to be series veteran Evil Ryu, while the other a new version of Akuma. We already have Shin Akuma in the standard SSF4, so, based on the name of the achievement, people have taken to calling him ‘Oni Akuma’.

Further it has been suggested that the achievements indicate they are playable as below; Achievements

achievement 1: defeat evil ryu on hardest
achievement 2: defeat oni on hardest
achievement 3: beat arcade mode with yun
achievement 4: beat arcade mode with yang
achievement 5: beat arcade mode with evil ryu
achievement 6: beat arcade mode with oni

All Ono has to say about all this is ‘Yipe! What the hell was that? ;O’.

This is all interesting news, especially since with these Yun & Yang, Evil Ryu & Oni Akuma, the often rumoured Alex and Urien would bring the total new characters up to 6, a number heavily bandied around in the past.

December 16 is looking very, very interesting about now.

Artwork of Shin Akuma by Calvin Clyke.


Google, Facebook & Apple; Tech Giant News Roundup

Good news, everyone.

The last 48 or so hours in the tech world have been pretty interesting- 3 of the biggest companies have had pretty significant public showings of new products and services. While I pre-emptively wrote about Facebook’s mail announcements yesterday, here’s what Google and Apple had to reveal as well;

 

Facebook – A Modern Mail Service

Zuckerberg talking about Facebook, little else.

So Facebook didn’t quite announce a rival to Gmail and Hotmail as everyone predicted… or did they? You can now still register for a ‘@facebook.com’ address once your account receives an opt-in invitation, but this new service will focus on convergence of SMS, Email, IM and other current messaging platforms rather than going head to head with existing providers. The existing concerns remain about Facebook, privacy and email, but guess we know what FB poached that Google Wave dev for now, huh?

 

Google – The Nexus S, Gingerbread, NFC and Chrome OS

The Nexus S?

Although Facebook’s revelations largely overshadowed what was going on at the Web 2.0 summit, Google’s CEO had a few almost-groundbreaking things to share with the community. Firstly, he demonstrated Android 2.3 AKA Gingerbread on an unannounced phone many summise to be the elusive ‘Nexus S’ from Samsung. We can’t confirm either way since branding was concealed although a special hardware component was explicitly mentioned – a Near Field Communication (NFC) chip. This lead in to what will no doubt be a key feature of the new OS, set to release in the next few weeks, as it enables ‘bump-to-pay’ transactions. Seems like this will be another area where Google and Apple are racing to get a cutting edge technology into consumers’ hands first.

Chrome OS, that bastard topic largely relegated to the background by Google’s more prominent Android, was also given a clear purpose by an offhand comment by Eric Schmidt- it is for low cost keyboard devices. Which rules phones and tablets out.

 

Apple – iTunes News…?

Trendy old shit that no one cares about anymore... just what iTunes needs more of.

Apple threw its hat in the ring this week as well teasing an unforgettable iTunes-related reveal on Tuesday. However this hype sizzled out as soon as it was revealed that the Beatles catalogue would be coming to the popular e-store. The Beatles? Who cares. Everyone who gives a damn will have ripped their CDs, bought their audacious USB collection or pirated the stuff by now.

Luckily this was dispelled with the also predicted and highly anticipated iTunes Cloud, Streaming, iTunes Pass, 90sec previews and a redesigned client.

 

The war for the internet, ad revenue, market share, hearts and minds is very much underway and at this very exciting time in history I dare not call a winner. Especially since likelihood suggests that even if there is one, there won’t be for long. Microsoft is notably absent from this week’s festivities- no doubt working on getting all those missing features into Windows Phone 7.


The Tragedy of Zahra Baker

Murdered: Zahra Baker

I’m not often moved by other peoples’ misfortunes, nor do I intend to make a habit of non-tech-related posts, but it’s hard not to feel something for Zahra Baker. The Sydney Morning Herald chronicled her life by saying;

Rejected at birth by her mother, she battled bone cancer as a toddler, had a leg amputated aged five, lost her hearing during chemotherapy and at eight was uprooted from her home in Queensland to North Carolina so her father could be with a woman he met on the internet.

As if that wasn’t tragic enough, she was then murdered, dismembered and buried in early October (although in what order we don’t yet know) most likely by her mentally-unstable stepmother. Elisa Baker’s currently the police’s prime suspect due to a bogus ransom she penned allegedly to throw off the investigation.

The general concensus over at Websleuths is that she was murdered probably to cover up neglect, which in her case could easily have developed into something life-threating, and to avoid conviction for it. If so I’d like to personally spit on her despicable parents before they get the chair. Have a read of their observational investigation here- we won’t know for sure what happened until detectives release a formal statement.

To top it off, today would have been her eleventh birthday. Celebrations were still held, planned before the grisly discovery of her remains a few days ago.


Facebook Mail: Get Your Social Out of My Inbox

Facebook Mail

Internet giant Facebook seems set to unveil it’s own email service to essentially compete with Google’s Gmail and Microsoft’s Hotmail in the next 24 hours. However, given the ubiquity of those established services, and Facebook’s poor track record with privacy, would you sign up for a @facebook.com?

This discussion reminds me of my switch to Gmail from Hotmail a few years ago. Gmail at that time fofered a better service- more storage space, a better web client, free POP access – and the fact that it never deaciivated your account, deleting your mail in the process, as Hotmail was known to do. Service-wise, Google’s offering was compelling enough for me to up and transfer over, migrate what mail I could and tell everyone my new address.

I faced a similar conundrum at that time- do I trust Google with my mail? Their privacy policy was notoriously sketchy but eventually I caved with the mentality of ‘what’s the worst they can do’ with all my private data. That said, I shouldn’t be criticising Facebook’s potential mail service on the grounds of privacy, should I? Both Google and FB have a vested interest in personal data that drives their respective targeted advertising businesses. Neither in that way is more ‘evil’ that the other.

However as Google learned earlier this year with the failed ‘Buzz’ experiment, people don’t want social in their inbox, especially if they have little control over it. And what is Facebook all about if not the removal of individuals’ control over their information? The only obvious trump card FB has over other webmail services is potentially tight integration with it’s main social network; one that 500 million people are already tied up in. As to whether that’s something people actually want, I’m not so sure.

Given its massive user base, any Facebook Mail project has its foot in peoples’ doors already. If it wants a whole bunch of people to switch from their existing mail providers, it will have to offer something those competitors do not while also dodging the backlash that’s sure to arise from any privacy-related missteps. Whatever Mark Z and friends reveal today, it looks set to upset the existing webmail equilibrium but to what extent remains to be seen.


Urien in SSF4AE?

Urien circa Street Fighter III.

Urien defined the whole Street Fighter III era for me.  Realise that’s pretty sad given he’s a practically naked buff man in a thong whose name both is an anagram of ‘urine’ and probably intended to Romanise into ‘Julian’. Regardless, I’ve always wanted him to transition into Street Fighter IV, even though his broken Aegis tricks will probably be gone and even though he’s already present in spirit in the form of Seth.

Anyway, Mr. Yoshinori Ono tweeted the cryptic image below. He likes to do this kind of thing quite a lot. In fact he indirectly announced M. Bison, Seth, T.Hawk, most recently Yun & Yang as well as a bunch of others with this mostly-obscured teasing iPhone shots. The Blanka toy’s always there, in case you were wondering.

Ono's Tweet image.

Question is, is this Urien? Could also be Alex- the two of them have both been rumoured for ages and are long overdue. I’d much prefer the former and however this turns out it only makes me clamour more for that Super Street Fighter IV: Arcade Edition DLC that Capcom is so reluctant to greenlit. I don’t have an arcade near my work anymore so I’m in a kind of bind if they decide to keep it coin op.


Diablo III @ Blizzcon 2010 – Crafting Sanctuary Panel

Diablo III Logo

Today’s panel, ‘Crafting Sanctuary’ continued Diablo III’s coverage at Blizzcon 2010. Design issues such as visual design, level layout, loot, AI, UI and the Artisans were all covered in some depth. Here are the videos;

 

 

 

 

For those who don’t recall, Artisans were revealed as travelling craftsmen earlier this year at GamesCon. Here’s Jay Wilson’s walkthrough from that event;


Diablo III @ Blizzcon 2010 – The Battle Arena

The Battle Arena 

Diablo III’s first form of Player-Vs-Player competition was revealed today in the form of ‘Battle Arenas’. Described as small scale team PvP, Battle Arenas are progression- and rewards-based with a focus on teamwork overcoming individual class imbalances. It was also suggested that PvP would utilised the same gear as PvE, but different skill specialisations via Skill Runes would define specs differently. An Obsidian rune might add a stun effect to a skill that would be more useful in PvP than outside of it, for example. Also matches would be in rounds, so that players have time to understand the enemy team composition and formulate strategies.

Here’s a sample of a Battle Arena team deathmatch;

 

 

Visit the PvP section of the official Diablo III site for more information.


Diablo III @ Blizzcon 2010 – The Demon Hunter

The Demon Hunter

Blizzcon 2010 is underway at the moment and for Diablo III fans the first day of panels has been quite rewarding. The game’s fifth and final class has been revealed as the ‘Demon Hunter’, a ranged archetype. Here’s the class’ cinematic trailer;

 

 

The lore supporting Demon Hunters suggests they are a loose-knit, nomadic organisation bonded through a hatred of Demons. Most members, in fact, begin as victims of demonic attacks in search of vengeance. To this end they employ limited amounts of shadow magic, and wear cowls to hide their dark tendency and the glowing eyes that result.

Putting an edge on the Demon Hunter while not straying too far from its readability as a ranged class was the chief design problem. At various points in development, things like katar-based weapon combat, demon limbs and shapeshifting were all considered, but ultimately thrown out since they deviated too much from the core class identity. What are left with is a class that focuses on ranged weapons – specifically dual-wielded crossbows – traps and basic shadow magic.

As you can see in the below gameplay video, the key skills used by the Demon Hunter are Multishot, returning from D2’s Amazon, and Bolo, an attack with a delayed damage-dealing effect. Spike Trap emphasises the class’ focus on preparation and allows fights to be setup tactically. Finally Vault is the ‘shadow dash’ move that enable’s mobility, although designed mentioned all classes would receive similar attention.

 

 

For more info on the Demon Hunter, see its page on the official Diablo III site.


Diablo III @ Blizzcon 2010 – Gameplay Panel

Diablo III Logo

Here are videos from today’s Diablo III gameplay panel at Blizzcon 2010. Topics covered include the game’s fifth class – the Demon Hunter – and its creation, Skill Trees, Traits, Skill Runes, the Talisman and the PvP Battle Arena.

To summarise, the Demon Hunter is the final class in D3, filling the ranged archetype. Skill Trees have been have been simplified to show only active skills; passive skills are now ‘Traits’ and on a separate interface. Runes affect skills, adding properties like Fire Damage or control elements like stuns and snares. The Talisman now holds charms that took up main inventory space in Diablo II and the Battle Arena is the first announced implementation of PvP in the game. Have a watch for all the details.


The Cherish Ball Mew Mystery Gift

Mew, #151

Did you know it’s been 10 years since Pokemon: Gold & Silver? How time flies, and what strange things I was doing 10 years ago… Anyway, to celebrate, Mew, the most secret Pokemon of all time, is coming to owners of the remakes HeartGold and SoulSilver through that oft-maligned feature known as Mystery Gift. Make sure you WiFi-up and get yours before October 30 when it goes away. It comes with a Premiere Ribbon, is in a Cherish Ball and only knows Pound.

Back in the day I imported a Gameshark for the Gameboy Pocket just to get Mew, the 151st Pokemon to complete the Pokedex in my old Pokemon: Blue cart. So you can imagine how significant this is to me now. Also, don’t judge me.

Here are the stats for those curious;

Name: MEW
Type: PSYCHIC
OT: FAL2010
ID No.: 10160
Lv.: 5
Nature: Timid
HP: 25
Attack: 13
Defense: 15
Sp. Atk: 16
Sp. Def: 15
Speed: 15


Nulreview: Medal of Honor

Medal of Honor

Medal of Honor (2010) always had a bad ring to it. This game was so clearly a knee-jerk reaction to the snowballing success of Call of Duty that it made you wonder: how does one knock down a rival that has hit its stride with 3 consecutive super-successful titles, which commands an incredible following across all platforms and whose most recent entry is the best selling game of all time? Also, why would you even try?

EA has its own Battlefield series that fills a separate niche to CoD. A bit larger in scale and a bit more tactical, BF is about different things to the twitch shooting carnage of Activision’s series. And it is good because it is different. The real tragedy is that it seems the publisher, scrambling for the scraps of Modern Warfare 2, railroaded its otherwise respectable studio, DICE, into stalling its upcoming Battlefield 3 to match the competitor on its own terms with a pale CoD-wannabe. And it shows in Medal of Honor.

Reviews are in, and EA share price dropped 6% because of them. The single player is passable, but buggy, and its poor AI is propped up by an overuse of scripted sequences. Its multiplayer is flat in every way and fails to live up to the progression-whoring and prestige-enticing MW2. While its clear that money was sunk into this, the only take out from what I’m seeing is that it was money better spent elsewhere.

Have a gander below.

In any other genre, a stellar single player experience would be enough to garner a whole-hearted recommendation. But it’s impossible to ignore the importance of multiplayer, especially when Medal of Honor’s primary competitor tends to excel at both. Medal of Honor’s campaign is an exceptional experience, but the total package simply doesn’t beat Call of Duty. – Joystiq (4/5)

Medal of Honor has some strong moments, but overall it feels like a game that could have been a lot better. Most of the issues I experienced while playing feel like things that could have–and should have–been avoided. But all of those scripting bugs and boring unlockables quickly add up, death-of-a-thousand-cuts style. In the absolutely ruthless world of online shooters, there’s little room for weakness. Medal of Honor alternates between its derivative style and its annoying technical glitches way too frequently to rise above the crowd. – Giant Bomb (3/5)

As a game about the Afghanistan war that does its absolute utmost to avoid being about the Afghanistan war, Medal of Honor is arguably just a shooting gallery spliced with a fairground ride and a solid multiplayer accessory which owes a lot to Bad Company 2. It certainly does little to advance the theory that videogames are responsible enough to tell stories within sensitive contexts. – Eurogamer (8/10)

Medal of Honor fails in making an honourable return to the frontline. It’s an inconsistent package that doesn’t fully deliver on the single-player, nor distinguish itself enough in multiplayer to make it an Xbox Live contender. A real shame. – OXM UK (7/10)

MOH is a robust, if seldom surprising, rebuttal to MW2’s dominance, and its measured tone and diligent observation of military patter make it a marginally more meaningful representation of modern warfare itself. It’s an idealised one – going by the book, telling only part of the story. But it’s only because MOH makes a brave move away from the ludicrous extremes of other shooter fantasies that its failure to seize reality entirely becomes so palpable. – Edge Magazine (7/10)


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