I smell movie potential in this one..

I took your purse and felt a connection – m4w
Date: 2009-05-14, 3:06AM EDT

Tuesday night around 11:30. On 53rd btw 1st and 2nd. You came out of the subway and I followed you. You looked over your shoulder, saw me and started walking faster. I ran up, grabbed your arm, took your purse and ran away. I heard you yelling for help but let’s be honest, this is New York. The only way people would come running is if you yelled “Free Weed!”

I’ve done many a snatch-and-grab but no one has ever stuck in my mind like you. There was a quick moment when our eyes met that I felt something strong. I think you felt it too. If I wasn’t so shy (or so committing a crime) I would have asked your name. I, of course, later got your name from your drivers license. So Jennifer if you’d like to get together for a drink sometime get back to me.

Oh, and I can give you back your purse. Your credit cards are still there but I spent the cash (sorry). And my room mate took your tampons. I don’t know what he does with them but he always takes the tampons. If it works out between us I’ll totally buy you some new ones 😉

  • it’s NOT ok to contact this poster with services or other commercial interests

Seriously, this is movie-pitch material if I ever saw it. The built-in Seth Rogen room-mate character looks like it’ll practically script itself!

Gridrunning

Oh happy day!

I’d practically forgotten that the sublime Jeff Minter and his Llamasoft troops had been toiling away at what was once called Gridrunner+++. Gridrunner Revolution appears to be done and heading out to reviewers. I’m expecting the same reception that Space Giraffe got – those that refuse to take the time to learn how to play a game that does things its own way will hate it whilst those of a more open minded and receptive nature will find merit in its approach to the time-tested delights of blowing up bunches of spangly pixels into much smaller groups of spangly pixels. Based on people’s levels of anticipation for Modern Warfare 2 I can’t really see anyone justifying a complaint of “oh, haven’t we done enough of that sort of thing by now?” with much credibility.

Without further ado, let’s have a shufty at some extended gameplay. First, the easy grade:

And now for the higher difficulty grade:

Now, by this point you’re either intrigued or disgusted. There’s a few things worth noting. Firstly, if you’ve watched those videos with the sound off, you’re missing half the game. Audio, besides from being characteristically idiosyncratic is crucial signposting in these games. Half the joy of Space Giraffe and Gridrunner++ was becoming fluent in the game’s audio language. This is what the “Wahh, my eyes!!” brigade couldn’t bring themselves to understand. Or perhaps they could, but it was simply more fun to cry on the internet than dare to go against the flow of the almighty Popular Opinion.

What else? Well, there’s going to be little treasures throughout this chappy. If the names for the different difficulty grades, the “ALERT!” sound effect and the sprite for the player’s satellite didn’t show you that this game has some appealing cheek then you’re just an old fuddy-duddy.

Watching the first video it seems that the game makes more of a concerted effort to spell things out to the player. I’m not sure how I feel about that really. Whilst I believe Space Giraffe‘s tutorial could have been clearer, I loved working out the nuances of the game, the enemy types and effective strategies for progression and scoring. This looks like a step too far in the opposite direction with, I fear, little left for the player to discover for themselves. I don’t blame Minter for this, I blame a culture that’s so A.D.D. afflicted that they resent having to read anything and hold a personal vendetta against developers who don’t spoon-feed them information and congratulatory rewards for being spoiled, stroppy brats.

Space Giraffe was originally a 360 exclusive. Which goes to show you what happens when you got about presenting a non-conformist game to an audience bred on a totally conformist diet of digital drudge. For the most part, an audience with such a narrow view simply couldn’t think in unconventional terms and were offended that they should be expected to and were equally offended by anyone in their ranks who managed such an incomprehensible feat. Then they went back to doing headshots and teabagging space marines. You know, real gaming.

Sweeping generalisations? Absolutely – but given the outpouring of slanderous venom that was issued from the community at large I’d say it’s well deserved.

Minter’s excessive tool-tips aside, this looks to be another brilliantly realised title from a master of his trade.

Dreamcast: Get over it

DeadcastThe sheer inanity of melodrama the game culture applies to things never ceases to amaze and irk me. Take, for example, the Sega Dreamcast.

A console that was launched ten years ago to this day and failed to achieve significant market penetration to such a degree that it was discontinued by its manufacturers only a couple of years later (in North America).

Yet, like the Norwegian Blue, many refuse to regard it as an entity that has shuffled off its mortal coil and insist on celebrating its birthday as though it still has a presence in the current marketplace. There is, of course, an inconsistency here because if such practice were to be regarded as remotely normal then every console that was ever made would be given annual recognition regardless of whether its manufacturers buried it or not.

Given the current climate in today’s gaming culture, its fondness for urban myth and melodrama and its selective amnesia, many are fond of ‘blaming’ the death of the console on the PlayStation 2. Suggesting that some sort of console-cide has occurred and, far worse, gone unpunished.

Besides EA’s notable lack of interest in the platform, the more likely culprit to the machine’s death in the marketplace (other than there being a host of more capable, more aggressively marketed products out there) was the crippling piracy issue it suffered from. Whilst piracy afflicts many consoles there is still a barrier to entry – that of needing to modify the console in some way in order to allow unsigned executables to run. The was overcome on the Dreamcast and it was possible to obtain pirate software that would run on unmodified machines. Anyone who knew how to write data to a CD could now get free Dreamcast games. GAME OVER.

With that in mind, it’s interesting to note that software exploits exist on the original Xbox and also on the Nintendo Wii that allow them to be ‘soft modded’ – effectively unlocked to run unlicenced software including pirated games. Microsoft dropped the Xbox like a brick the instant they launched the 360 and, given what happened following the piracy on the Dreamcast, it’s easy to understand some of their motivation. These days, new firmware (the operating system for a console) is distributed online and on game discs. This can often overwrite unlocked systems or render them completely useless – leaving the console owner with a lump of useless silicon.

Hindsight, being the bitch that it is, shows us that just because you seem to be on the up at the start of something doesn’t mean your position is secure by any stretch of the imagination. It’s a lesson many would do well to remember.

I had a Dreamcast, I enjoyed it up to the point where it became fond of  suddenly resetting itself after 30 minutes of gaming (apparently quite a common complaint). Its online was vastly overhyped  (“6 Billion players”) and under-delivered – however much credit Peter Moore attempts to retroactively claim for it. I’ve nothing against the machine or Sega. In fact, I think Sega were very smart in going down the software-publisher route. Instead of competing with Sony, Microsoft and Nintendo they were able to profit from them and they showed chutzpah by putting franchise titles like Jet Set Radio Future, Outrun and Panzer Dragoon on Xbox whilst giving PS2 the underrated Shinobi update along with Rez and Space Channel 5. In the meantime Gamecube got Ikaruga, a regionally crippled Phantasy Star Online and.. er.. Billy Hatcher.

Is this a hate piece? Not at all. It’s a rational piece. One that’s free of emotion or melodrama. If any of this candid perspective is ruffling your feathers then ask yourself how absurd it is to have some sort of emotional connection to a collection of circuits and silicon.

Get over it. It’s dead.

District 9 asks..

Amongst other movies, I saw District 9 recently and really really enjoyed it. It was nice to see this sort of movie not be centered around America or Americans for a change and it added an air of legitimacy to the documentary style delivery at the start of the film. It’s an interesting film that, rather obviously, serves as an allegory for racism and apartheid. What I particularly liked about the film was the way it had you change your feelings about the characters in it. Wikus, the central character, is initially presented as a bit of a nerdy scapegoat, later on he’s an uncaring jobsworth. Fate intervenes and we see compassionate and courageous sides of his personality come to the fore. Similiarly, the audience’s feelings towards the alien race are also likely to change over the film’s running time.

And, for those of us not wanting to get too cerebral, District 9 most certainly delivers some thumping good action and spectacle with an identity all of its own.

So, there’s questions being fired across the internet regarding its portrayal of race and even if the film itself is racist. To the latter, I’d side with those saying that depictions of racism are not the same as acts of racism.

A blog post on movie-site Empire poses a rather different question:

With low budget, highly acclaimed sci-fi movies such as 2009’s Moon and District 9 ($8m and $30m respectively) making such a resounding impact are massive-budgets really necessary for a solid sci-fi flick?

It’s a good question – particularly if you’ve seen both those sci-fi movies and enjoyed them.

Do you have a receipt for all those mp3s on your iPod, sir?

Do you have a receipt for all those mp3s on your iPod, sir?

For me, 2009’s summer blockbusters were all quite unsatisfying. My most anticipated movie was Watchmen and that was released in March and I’d like to think I had realistic expectations of it. Since then, the big names haven’t really entertained as much as they promised. I came away from District 9 and Moon feeling great. By contrast, Terminator Salvation and Transformers 2 were very ho-hum affairs. I’m very wary of my own sense of expectation when seeing (or playing) something as this has such an important bearing on how satisfying I find the item in question to be. I kept expectation levels for Watchmen reigned in (not for lack of faith in the movie, but because I enjoy the original material so much and have heard how impossible it was meant to be to consider taking it to the big screen). With that said, I wasn’t particularly hyped about Terminator or Transformers so the feeling of being let down can’t be attribtuted to  my own expectations.

Moon isn’t presented as a sci-fi spectacle so a huge effects budget is understandably absent (though there’s some deft work in there and what’s on screen works as intended). District 9 on the other hand boldy has CG aliens throughout and a considerable amount of bombastic action to be witnessed and enjoyed.

Mega-budgets don’t necessarily equate to an entertaining film. Some huge budget movies are notorious flops whilst others are record-breaking successes. I’m thinking of Waterworld and Titanic here.

The latter is now Hollywood legend and has earned its maker, James Cameron, a licence to do his opus project. A dream, mega-budget, sci-fi, effects-laden spectacular. Whether it’s more Terminator (oh, the irony) or District 9 is something we’ll find out when it opens at the end of the year.