Tuesday, July 31, 2007

..and nothing but.

I was just walking down to my local Subway for some 'nutritious' dinner, when I was stopped in my visual tracks by this woman walking in the other direction with some guy.

It was a sight to behold. She was a sight to behold.

She was a 'chubby' Asian, short and stocky. She was wearing bright lemon-yellow pants with buckles all over them, and they were spray-on-super-tight.
Accompanying this ocular delight was the exact same coloured jacket, also replete with buckles, only about 2 sizes too small.
Top this off with (yes, you guessed it) exactly the same coloured calf-high boots, buckles galore.

Seriously, I choked as I struggled to withhold a laugh.

What made it all the more hilarious, was that she was totally uncomfortable. It was utterly obvious that she was a sum of parts. It wasn't her - it was her fantasy prescription.
Hell, she couldn't even walk properly. Whether that be from her ridiculously inappropriate (for the terrain) high heels, or because her leg movement was being utterly constricted by the tensile pressure of her pants, or because each and every step was an exercise in genital pain, I will never know.
Oh and adding to the comic relief were her oversized and dorky horn-rimmed glasses bestowed smack in the middle of her huge moon-shaped face.

It's truly hard to put into words.

Anyhow, point being that right there and then I was faced with a dilemma:
Do I say something, out of kindness for her fashion affiliation?
Or do I walk on by, it being none of my business after all.

And besides, who am I to judge 'fashion'? Or does this transcend hawt and become nothing about fashion and everything about being just 'wrong'?
Is there such a thing as a golden baseline that transcends the sublimely ridiculous?

It got me thinking about The Truth vs Being Nice.

Where do you draw the line? Are you being more 'honest' and helpful by saying what everybody else is thinking, or is their pride worth more than the silent ridicule of others?

You know exactly what I'm talking about - all those times you've ever been placed in a position whereby your social training overrides the truthful answer:

"Does my ass look big in these?"

Oh dear. I mean, the only reason anyone asks this question is because they look at their rear in the mirror and see a postcode-sized mass forcibly squeezed into a tailored piece of cloth that has every stitch hanging on for dear life.
They know it, and you know it. The question only exists because everyone involved knows it.

Yet, you're damned if you do and you're damned if you don't - right?
"Yeh you're right! Those pants look like they're about to explode!" would go down like a fart in an astronaut suit. Yet, the atypical answer of "No no no. They look - great! *gulp" is about as mean and horrid as you can get, on many levels:-
  • it's just plain untrue (liar - lying to your partner for instance)
  • it's totally unfair (each and every person to come across said 'ass' that night in public will be thinking exactly the same thing - ridicule in other words)
  • you're setting an emotional benchmark in the mind of the Large Ass Bearer that they will reference forever and a day ("hmm - that's good - these don't look bad, so I can take it a little further even..")
It's just.. wrong.

What's the value of short-term pain over long-term gain (reality) in this case?

Same goes for 'large' folk. You know, those of us who are blessed with the body mass of three. Or more.
What on earth are the rest of us supposed to do - pretend that what we're looking at isn't really there??

I've had a couple of memorable encounters with this one over the course of my years.
The first was with a friend. She was an absolute classic. Being Dutch, she was no stranger to the term 'brutal honesty'. In fact to this day, I tip my hat in her general direction for that alone.

Imagine this:
My mother is a little large. She's a very pretty woman, and in her youth she was dainty and porcelain-like. The march of time has ravaged her to within a few inches of her life on many occasions, and as such she is no longer the slight of a woman she once was.

I brought my new friend to the family home to meet the parents. Anyone who has been through this will relate to how nerve wracking the situation is.

We walked into the lounge to be greeted by my mother and father standing there. My first words were: "Mum, Dad; this is Jane Doe, my friend." "Jane Doe, meet Jack and Jill, my parents."

first words were: "Hello Jill. Wow, you're really pretty in the face. You could stand to lose a couple of pounds though?"


You could slice the air with a knife.

Hell, I could've sliced my wrists with a knife at that point.

I looked at my father, who was always meek and obtusely self-fladulating around my mother for various reasons (if not simply to provide entertainment for the rest of us), and he kinda gave me a look in reply that said "Ok - for once I'm stumped.. umm, pass?"

Whilst we all stood there for what seemed like an eternity, all eyes fell to my mother who was quite obviously processing the words of my wife-to-be from all possible angles. Likely, in that short time frame, my Mother had already visualised my entire friendship to this new Dutch person from go to whoa, and it most probably wasn't a pretty picture.

The next thing we know, it's us standing around with our jaws on the floor, looking in disbelief at my Mother who had just said:
"Oh you're quite right. You know I used to be quite the pretty thing when I was your age. Now there's more of me for Jack to get his hands on - at least it keeps them busy! Sit down, sit down and I'll go make us all a cup of coffee."

The look that passed between my Father and I that day will never ever be topped.

Looking back on it now, it's quite amazing. My Mother and my ex got along famously from that point onwards (to this very day in fact) and more than that, my Mother will only ever open up to my ex. If there's something deep and meaningful, or personal, that my Mother wishes to discuss, it's my ex that will get the phone call. There's a special place in mum's heart for her.
Interesting, huh.

There was another, more recent, incident whereby I was forced into the dilemma of truth vs pleasantry. (I've mentioned this elsewhere, on another blog, but it bears repeating here..)

Not so far back I was required to go to London for work. Which, as you know, means enduring a painfully long flight.

As luck would have it, I got seated next to one of the largest women I'd ever laid eyes upon.
Knowing that doing nothing would result in 24 hours of total hell, I broke the ice up front and said:
"Hi, I'm Steve." (extend hand)
"This may come across as rude, but it's not intended to be. We've gotta be as comfortable as possible for the next day.."

and she interrupted me at that point, over talking me with:

"I'm Sara." (she smiled)
It's ok - I'm not the smallest person I know, but I'm the nicest."

I really didn't know what to say, so I just smiled.

"Just be honest with me if I leak into your seat ok?"

..and with that we both cracked up laughing.

It was one of the best flights I've ever had. Not because I had space (as I most certainly did not) but because we were both relaxed the entire way.
No unspoken crap, no uncomfortable silences, and believe it or not I even asked her to move a little at one point when I was trying to catch some sleep mid-flight.

It was great. Hell, she was great.

It's always an interesting dilemma, and I'm sure you must've come across it before. Maybe next time it comes up, you'll think twice about how you're going to reply, or even more-so, whether or not you're honest enough to say what it is that everyone else on the planet will be thinking.

The truth, the whole truth, and..

..well, that's up to you. =)

Labels: ,

Saturday, July 21, 2007


Yes it's true.
I recently got accepted into the Warhammer Online: Age of Reckoning beta.

Yes, I'm very grateful, and yes I know that I'm extremely lucky and that there are 100's of 1000's of devoted Warhammer fans out there that haven't got in (yet).

But with at least 9 months until release, I'm sure there will be plenty more opportunities for you to do so.

The only downside is that sadly I will not be able to say a single word about it. The NDA is very specific in this regard, as are Mythic's warnings to those who breach it (legal action).

To be specific:
You are allowed to discuss the parts that are specifically mentioned in Addendum A of the NDA.


1. The fact that there is an Official Warhammer Online: Age of Reckoning Beta Program.

2. The fact that you are a member of the Official Warhammer Online: Age of Reckoning Beta Program.

So, unfortunately, I will not be able to report on anything WAR beta-related here.

What I can do instead, is point you to a couple of recent items that are available to the public.

This is a fantastic video showing in-game footage and developer commentary. The first thing you will notice is that it's about as far from LOTRO as you can get, and that the devs are primarily concerned with addressing the usual pitfalls of most MMORPG's (great stuff!).

This next one talks about the Warzone mechanic in the game, RVR gameplay, Tiered Zones and Battlefronts.

This one shows off some of the fantastic environments within the game.

Here's everybody's favourite: Exploding barrels! ;p

And finally another great developer session. Lots of in-game footage, RVR explained, Personal/Public Quests explained, and details about the centric Tome of Knowledge principle.

Hope that was enough to whet your appetite for now. Wherever possible I'll post publicly available information and links as they come in.

Be sure to check out the Armies of WAR (especially the awesome Chaos pics), the Zone Overviews, and the latest screenshots, on the offical WAR site.

Meantime - only one more thing to say:



Tuesday, July 17, 2007


To quote 'Team America': Fuck yeah!!

My eyes are bleeding. My thumbs are blistered. My brain is tuckered.
And it's only been one hour.

No, I haven't been on a date with Mrs Palmer and her 5 daughters.
Nor have I been on an extended trip to drop the kids off at the pool.

Today, my copy of Ikaruga arrived in the post from Sweden.
I am now Hard Core.

"What's Ikaruga?", I hear you ask. Well, let me show you first:

And another level:

See, Ikaruga is a shoot 'em up. More importantly, it's globally recognised as the shmup.

Released in Japanese arcades back in 2001, then on the Dreamcast in 2002, and finally making it's way to the Gamecube in 2003 before disappearing from production forever, it's become somewhat of a rare collectible nowadays.

Nothing has since come close to the brain-meltingly difficult optical assault of gameplay that this title exhibits. There's not much available these days also has the same sense of "must.. try... again..!" addictive replayability.

Like most 'brilliant' things, the concept is extremely simple:
  • The ship you pilot can change polarity (from black to white) at your command.
  • The rules dictate that, whilst you are (say) white, you will be damaged by the black bullets coming from the enemies, but you can absorb the white bullets and store them as 'energy'. (A bar up the left side displays the amount of energy collected.)
  • The same applies in reverse; whilst you are 'black', white bullets will harm you, but black ones can be absorbed.
PS: When I say 'harm', I mean kill. Yup - one hit and you're D.E.D.

To add further to this, the amount of damage you cause to an enemy varies. Hit a black enemy while you are white, and you will do double damage. And vice-versa.

Next, you can release the stored energy (the bar up the left side) in the form of homing missiles. The more energy, the more missiles at your disposal, up to 12 of them max.

Finally, you can score 'chains' by consecutively eliminating three enemies of the same polarity. The more times you do this, the more 'chains' you achieve, ultimately leading to a bonus extra life.

Knowing all this now, watch the videos closely to see how it affects the gameplay.

What's incredible is that the team responsible for this classic game was made up of only four people.
Nerds. :D

So yes - I'm thoroughly chuffed to be able to own a piece of gaming history in my hot little hands. Even more-so that I can simply throw the (Gamecube) disc into my new Wii and play it in backward-compatibility mode without fuss, on the big screen.

And to give you an idea of the sort of money people are wiling to throw into the ring to acquire this title: eBay
And in case it disappears - thats USD$199.00

There's just one more thing to show you..

..hard enough as it is, the game can be played by two players (which ramps things up significantly). Imagine if you were freak enough to be able to play it 2 player, by yourself??

Imagine no more:

Okay - so maybe I'm just 'soft-to-medium-core'.. *gulp

Labels: , ,

Saturday, July 14, 2007

Number Two's

I think I've mentioned it before here somewhere; I need to stop going shopping on my own.
Not because I don't enjoy the fine company of myself, but because perhaps whoever is with me can drag me out of the damn stores.

And so, I arrive home once again with a bundle of gaming goodness under my arm, and a Fast Slimmed wallet to match.

It's this blooming Nintendo kick that I'm on.

I'm thoroughly enjoying my taste of Wii so far, and have managed to download a number of Virtual Console titles that have delightfully tickled my sense of good old-fashion fun over the past week as a result:

The Legend of Zelda: The Ocarina Of Time (N64)
The Legend of Zelda: A Link To The Past (SNES)
Donkey Kong Country (SNES)
and the incredible Paper Mario RPG (N64) that just got released yesterday for download..

All of which have been worthy of the admission price alone.
Plus I'm still ploughing through my library of GameCube titles that have all received a new lease of life as a result of the Wii's arrival.

But oddly, I have only had one actual native Wii title (The Legend of Zelda: Twilight Princess) to play so far - having said that, as the review over at Gametrailers.com put it: "..it may well be the greatest videogame ever created", so I'm hardly complaining.
But great things come in pairs, and so today I picked up another Wii-specific title that has got reviewers the world over dribbling with excitement: Resident Evil 4 Wii Edition. Can't wait to turn off the lights and crank this one up.

However, as my passion for all things Nintendo builds to a crescendo, I naturally couldn't let the Wii be the only recent console from them that I own. So in order to bring the number of items in that category to a nice round '2', I caved and purchased a Nintendo DS Lite today. I managed to find a black one (which is incredibly shiny!) along with a couple of classic Nintendo portable gaming titles to keep me more than occupied on the train in the mornings:
Next on the 'must have' list will be:

I also popped by EB Games and saw they had the excellent Avatar: The Legend of Aang on super-special for the PSP. (Factoid: This game was developed by THQ Studio Australia)
The only 'singular' aspect of my day ;p

As my newest little travel companion charges up in the other room, I should also add to the day of 'twos' by mentioning I finally got around to picking up Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire and Reign of Fire DVD's from JB's today, as they both were down to the $12.00 mark
Having watched Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban just yesterday, I figured I might as well bring my Potter DVD collection up to (you guessed it) 2.

I've not heard much about Reign of Fire, but in a few moments I guess I'll know whether or not it is in fact a pile of.. well.. number two's.

Labels: , ,

Saturday, July 07, 2007

A Little Bit Of Wii

I know; I said I'd never buy a Nintendo Wii.

And for all intents and purposes, I never would have.. had I not stopped past the Prahran EB Games store on the way home from work last night.

It's funny really, in that I normally don't have much of anything 'good' to say about the employees behind the counters of EB Games stores throughout the city. And in fact if one were to look up such a topic on the internet, one would find that my fairly negative viewpoint holds up under a microscope.

Generally speaking, EB staff are akin to supermarket staff. To the vast majority of them (it would seem), the boxes on the shelf in their store are.. well.. boxes on a shelf.

To be sold.

A small percentage of these individuals are actually games affectionados, and are seemingly quite at ease telling you exactly what you want to hear in the most ill-informed manner possible:
"So I can burn my own DVD's on the Sony 360 then?"
"Yeah for sure! Put down a preorder now and we can guarantee it for you when they come in!"

"So the PS3 will be able to read my old Viewmaster discs?"
"Yeah for sure! Put down a preorder now and we can guarantee it for you when they come in!"

"So this copy of Halo2 will run on my Sinclair ZX80?"
"Yeah for sure! Put down a preorder now and we can guarantee it for you when it comes in!"

"Oh shit - have you got the time dude?"
"No, but if you put down a preorder now I can guarantee it for you when it comes in!"

"Have you ever, like, played a game?"
"Yeah for sure! I put down a preorder and I was guaranteed it when it came in!"
Thank you Eurogamer and gametrailers.com for existing.

So, as I wandered past the EB on Chapel St last night in the freezing cold and pouring rain, I figured a couple of minutes inside a nice and cosy EB Store might be nice, as long as none of the 15 year old staff members wandered up to me and asked if I'd like to preorder whatever happened to be in my hands at the time.

After selecting a few Xbox 360 titles to aid in whiling away the Melbourne winter, I passed by the Nintendo Wii section out of curiosity, to see what games were being released post the '06 Xmas hype.
And as expected, there wasn't much there by way of anything 'next gen'.

Mario this, Mario that, a bizarre Japanese cooking game, and some poorly translated attempts at larger popular titles such as FarCry or Call of Duty 3.

I had a quiet chuckle, as clearly the poor old Wii isn't up to snuff in technical terms and has no hope of ever competing via hardware processing power with the PS3 or Xbox 360. (In fact, the Wii is essentially a slightly refined Gamecube so far as raw horsepower is concerned.)
Hell, the thing doesn't even play CDs or DVDs in it's drive.."HI THERE - HOW'S THINGS?"


They got me, sarge. There I was, on my way to the counter even, and they got me with a sneak attack:
"Oh I'm good thanks - I'm just after these three Xbox360 games.."
*waves them around and turns towards the counter*

"You're wondering how the Wii fits into the picture at the moment, aren't you?"


"Well, yeh to be honest I don't quite get what Nintendo are up to - I guess in Japan it's a big deal?"

"For sure, but what the massive marketing campaign here in Australia didn't touch on, is that it's a Nintendo Fanboy's console."

*pause again*
"Oh.. er.. what?"
I'll save you the gory details of the 45 minute discussion that ensued thereafter, but I can easily summarise by saying this:

I never thought it would happen, but in that EB Games store in Prahran, on Chapel St, I found possibly the only EB employee (in Melbourne at least) that actually knew his stuff, was completely honest, and was into games more than me.

Actually, 'into' is an understatement - this guy was insanely passionate about games, and clearly had a lot of love for Nintendo. Not in a biased way, but in a way that pitched the console to me in an entirely new light.
(Nintendo Australia - if you're reading this - you need to employ this guy!)

Long story short, I happily walked out of that store with a considerably lighter wallet, and a huge bundle of Nintendo swag.

Now, as I write this, there is a little white box sitting upon my TV cabinet (warmly nestled vertically between my PS2 and my Xbox360), glowing a faint shade of neon blue from it's optical drive slot (telling me it acquired data of some kind over the internet while I was away).
I will likely walk into the lounge after typing this and wave the wiimote at the screen, to be greeted with the daily local news and weather, and perhaps some messages from other Wii owners.

I'll be sure to be sipping a nice strong flat white as I do this, due to having a late night and feeling just a little on the sluggish side. After all, what can one expect, getting to bed at 7am due to:

  • Plugging in the Wii and having it automatically find my wireless access point
  • Realising that all of my GameCube classics will run natively in full 16:9 on my LCD TV
  • Cranking up Metroid Prime, Rogue Squadron 2, Wave Race: Blue Storm, & Legend of Zelda:The Wind Waker and realising that 4 hours had slipped by in the blink of an eye
  • Deciding to take a look at the Virtual Console online store (realising that titles from NES, SNES, Megadrive, Nintendo64 and TurboGrafx16 are available for purchase) and downloading Super Mario 64 thus allowing another 90 minutes to pass unknowingly whilst reveling in the fond memories of this timeless classic
  • Noticing that one of my all-time favourite SNES games Donkey Kong Country was available, and playing the first 3 perfectly accurate levels of that
  • Deciding to pull myself away from the thing, despite noticing that the other N64 classic The Legend of Zelda: Ocarina of Time is also available to download
  • Slightly peeved at not seeing Yoshi's Island in the list of available SNES games to download, but somewhat relieved to read that it's on it's way to Australia due to it being made available in the Japanese virtual console store, along with The Legend of Zelda: Link to the Past and Super Mario World for the SNES, and Goldeneye for the N64
All of this, and I haven't even got around to inserting the disc for Legend of Zelda: Twilight Princess yet.
**note: watch this video review to really get a feel for how incredible this 50-60 hour gaming triumph truly is..

Ahh yes, I get it now, Nintendo.
Thank you, Mr EB Person. You'll be seeing me again soon..