Somewhere in the Carribean...

Friday, April 24, 2009
"Turn around," she said, into my earpiece.

We had been out for a few days, tediously but not unenjoyably cataloging for hours at a time. She had been out more than I had, exploring on her own, and she had excitedly forced me to join her this time.

There were rumors floating around about this find, which I had dismissed. I didn't believe a creature so rare to begin with would be in this part of the world.

I was wrong. I awkwardly turned around and widened my eyes. She had even seen it before, the reason for her excitement, and was still silent as it swam slowly by. Which took some time for a sperm whale.

Taking out my new underwater camera, I took a few shots, but without a wide angle lens, it was somewhat pointless. It wasn't close enough to touch, but it was close enough that I was completely unaware of its scale. I felt overwhelming gratitude to her for showing me this amazing creature.

We got back to the boat, and I wrote the sighting down in my journal, and said goodbye as she jetted off on her ski-doo. Nighttime had forced us to stop diving, as we had no lamp, but it was just as well. Hard to top her find.

I sat down on my deck chair and watched the sun retire behind the low mountains to the west.

Then I shut off my Wii.

Endless Ocean isn't really a game, as such. But to call it an "ocean simulator" robs it of a lot of its playability. It implies that there's no point as you can't affect nearly anything in the game world. No, there's no boss, to fight to save the world, no conflict. No, there's no levelling up, no points, no frustrating throwing of controllers against the wall. There's even less plot than you get in Super Mario Bros. But as you progress through the game, taking would be Cousteaus out on tours, stocking aquariums, and other seemingly mundane "missions", you'll notice less and less.

I enjoyed this title quite a lot. Developed by Akira, the same team at Capcom responsible for the Street Fighter series (really), it is a spiritual successor to their "Everblue" series, available in Japan and Europe. Though somewhat less focused on intrigue as Everblue, Endless Ocean is perfect for diving into (ha?) and relaxing with.

You start off with a pretty feeble character-creation tool, which is ok, because like most everything else in Endless Ocean, it doesn't matter. You'll meet your research partner, who gives you an obligatory tutorial. There's no rush to learn everything; there's no rush to even do anything. The game is just above a screensaver in terms of excitement. Once in the water, you'll be delighted with a variety of sea life, beautifully animated. Your main "task" is to catalog, similar to catching all the pokemons, but you don't really have to if you don't want to. You won't be punished for just swimming about, enjoying the scenery. (And I'm not just talking about my diving partner).

Through the course of the game, you'll eventually get a lantern, the aforementioned camera, some fish food and a neato pen which is somehow able to allow you to draw shapes in the water. Whether you use this for communication, for helping yourself map (I used it more than once to find my way back out of a tricky underground cavern maze), or for drawing crude drawings is up to you.

You'll meet various non-fish sea life too, like penguins, seals and dolphins. The latter can be befriended and trained, and can accompany you on dives your partner can't be there for.

Let's talk about partners for a second. The game is primarily single player. Even with a partner, you'll often be off on your own, doing your own thing, but having a diving partner makes the experience much more connected, more safe (though the game does shield you from death, it's a good reminder for the kids: Always dive in pairs!), and just more enjoyable. Parners are invited onto your boat over the Nintendo Wi-Fi connection through an innovative in-context ladder. When you want them to show up, you lower your ladder into the water. When they want to show up, they arrive on their jet-ski and come up the ladder. Fourth wall saved.

The game isn't perfect. The first and most common criticism is that there's no end. If you're positive this game isn't for you, that'll be enough. But that sort of thing might be good for casual gamers just looking for a relaxing time. The second is the music - though the tracks are pleasant to swim to, they tend to get repetitive if you're in the water for very long, as the song you choose to dive to is the only one that will play while you're down there. And don't think you'll have a hard time making a choice. The game has two songs to choose from. It does however, have the option of awkwardly pulling MP3s off the Wii's SD card slot, so you can jazz up your dives with "Hot for Teacher" or whatever. The title Endless Ocean refers to the game's lack of endgame, not the ocean's breadth. You can't swim forever; you're restricted to your set of archipelagos, but it's large enough not to be boring. Finally, despite the amazing animation underwater, upstairs is a different matter. You lurch around on your boat with animations that are literally laughable. I found this charming, you may not.

All in all, it's a great way to spend the evening hours, and I heartily recommend picking it up, especially if you have someone to play with. Let her find all the goodies first, so you don't have to.

Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles (and Other Strangeness)

In light of the twenty-fifth anniversary of the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles (TMNT), I thought it fitting to pay tribute to one of the best and more obscure offshoots of those comic book turtles: the TMNT role-playing game.

When you mention Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles, most people immediately think of the clownish children's cartoon, with its infectious theme song and villainous buffoons. The original incarnation of the TMNT franchise was a dark, gritty, violent black-and-white comic book, and that version of the turtles was the inspiration for the classic Palladium Books RPG Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles and Other Strangeness.

Full of illustrations by Kevin Eastman and Peter Laird, the original creators of the TMNT, Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles and Other Strangeness was much more than a slapdash licensed RPG, like so many spin-offs from other intellectual properties. Instead, Palladium Books created a RPG system for creating a multitude of mutant animals (samurai aardvark? raccoon assassin? no problem), from a variety of backgrounds.

Players could take the role of any kind of mutant animal they could imagine. From zoo animals like tigers or baboons, to pets like parakeets or housecats, TMNT & Other Strangeness allowed players to slip into the role of a ninja, super-spy, assassin, other any of a multitude of backgrounds, all wrapped up in the form of a mutant animal.

The setting was gritty and urban, just like the original comic books. Palladium Books created not just a extension of the TMNT's adventures, but a whole world of mutant animals and villainous scientists, evil psychics and ninja assassins.

While most people just remember 'heroes in a half-shell', when I think of TMNT, I will always remember TMNT & Other Strangeness.

(Bonus content! Check out the TMNT rpg character I created just for this tribute!)

We may have days....

Thursday, April 23, 2009
George Lucas figured out a long time ago that the key to profitization wasn't to make a good movie and reap the rewards and cash that that honor bestowed. You could make a LOT more money on merchandising. And so, instead of movies that lent themselves to humor and style and depth, you had movies that led themselves to cool action figure playsets. This removed a lot of the charm of the movies - to make room for more opportunities to sell toys, so we got dead Ewoks (though oddly never an action figure of him) and the greatest killer in the universe (aside from Vader himself) being killed accidentally by a blind man with a stick.

So Lucas is a lost cause. But LucasArts oddly isn't. Which SUCKS, because I'd really love some Grim Fandango action figures.

Tim Schaefer, now at his own DoubleFine productions, never got the recognition he deserved outside a core group of adventure gamers. Even his later platformer Psychonauts, rightly hailed as a masterpiece of the genre, had sales not even approaching its greatness. But at least DoubleFine has the right to do as it pleases with its properties.

Tim. Make action figures. Make a small run, if you have to. Your fans will buy them. As long as you can make even a little profit, it's worth it. Use the money to market your games. Repeat.

I won't consider you a sellout, I promise. Just don't take it too far, and release a Grim Fandango prequel: The Death of Manuel Calavera.

Wow me.

Wednesday, April 22, 2009
Given the competition in the video game industry, what can you do to make your game stand out on store shelves?

Well, you can try copying another game, that's coming out and hope that the non-serious gamer (or mother) won't be able to tell the difference. This happens all the time with poorly-made rushed movies that coincide with upcoming blockbusters, so why not make it work for you?

You can go with the old standbys, Tits and Gore. Also popular are big burly men, and dusty, grainy action images of soldiers. But of course this relies on you making the sort of game that needs those things on the cover, pandering to the widest possible audience. (obligatory call to stop making WWII games)

Why not try some subtlety? You could make your cover look like a book from the 1960's. Gamers seem to respond well enough to that to make their own, even. How about classing it up? Make your cover show that you are the Criterion Collection of games. Show that you love the product as much as you hope a potential buyer will. Or have some fun.

This approach is somewhat backwards. Gamers have to like the game to make to make alternate or fake covers, and that means you have to sell it first. All the games in the posts above were bought and loved with whatever cover they originally shipped with. I know that the quality of a game has nothing to do with its cover. And plenty of terrible games have decent covers, too. If that helps them sell, so be it. But your game is good, and so you're back to the original problem.

Well, I'm inclined to think that for every person who buys a game based on cover and back cover description alone, there's at least one who buys a game they heard was good, or read a review of and has already decided to purchase when they walk into the store. This wasn't always the case, but with the internet and all, fewer and fewer people are dropping $60 to find out if the game matches the cover quality. People buy used games on impulse but you don't make any money off that, do you?

So let's do this. Make your game good. That way word of mouth and reviews will do the majority of your marketing for you. Make your covers compelling. Not tits-in-your-face, balls-to-the-wall, hoo-rah exciting. And I, for one, will promise to at least look at your game in the store, which is more than I can say for the cookie cutter covers I see in there all the time. (See how nicely I avoided even mentioning the better-than-average cover of Rock Band?)

Or don't. Covers might not even be around in a year or three, thanks to digital distribution. But please, do find some other way to show you've put care and love into your game. We'll say thanks with money.

Thanks to Mike Mayday, who can be reached via for the drawing I used in my Neverhood box art.

Eldritch: Way back in the day, Mac games had some truly amazing box design. Forget the plain old rectangle, games like Marathon 2: Durandal were triangular, with a flat back and a raised front, and the recessed Marathon logo in the middle. Then there was Spectre Supreme and Spectre VR, which had boxes that were angular representations of the tanks from the game. Beautiful to behold, but such a pain to open.

Fun fact: Spectre VR was packaged with a free copy of Neil Stephenson's Snow Crash way back when. How's that for cross-promotion?

Pseudonym:MMMMMM, like the old Sierra games. Square, yes, but consistent, lavishly-painted covers, beautiful context-providing instruction manuals, maps... those were the days. Nowadays you get a DVD case with a PDF manual. Better for the environment, more expensive, and not as good.

Overheard in a Small Town

Presented without comment:

(In a chain bookstore's fiction section)
Woman: "Oh! The books are arranged by last name!
Man, annoyed: What? No they aren't.

Seen on the bumper of a car less than 24 hours after the 2008 presidential election:
(Crude bumper sticker) Don't Blame Me, I Voted For McCain!
(Second crude bumper sticker) Palin-Rumsfeld 2012!

Pseudonym: Since there was a disagreement, how were the books arranged? I've seen many different arrangements in bookstores, including last name, subject and even... date?

Obviously the best method is by color, but it'd still be interesting to know which of these individuals was correct (my money's on the chick).

Eldritch: You are too optimistic. This was the plain old fiction section. Alphabetical by last name. You should have heard the confused disdain that was dripping from this guy's voice. By last name? Preposterous!

This is what you get, Larry, when you find a stranger in the alps.

Tuesday, April 21, 2009

I remember watching an army movie on a local channel one sunday afternoon as a kid. Apparently "ass" was on the list back then (though it's all over ass the place now). I remember thinking how odd it was that a solidier would cry in anguish after being shot in the "buttocks".

Yippie Kay Yay, Mr. Falcon.

Please leave a comment to post any you've seen or heard.

The Right to Choose

No, it's not a post about pro-choice vs. "pro-life". We've made an explicit decision to avoid politics. This is a (-nother) post about the software industry.

In the beginning there was Silicon Graphics. This was the first real commercially-available package designed to produce 3d computer graphics and animation. The package typically consisted of a powerhouse computer (Motorola 680x0) and custom software designed by Silicon Graphics. This was the mid-80s, and the sort of things it was used for were flying logos for network news stations, extraordinarily-expensive commercials, and the like. Prior to this, most 3d computer graphics (Think "Tron" or the video for "Money For Nothing") was done with proprietary software, and rendered on mainframe supercomputers like the Cray.

Silicon was the right product at the right time. 3d Graphics exploded in the late 80s, early 90s era, producing the sort of awe and inspiration that George Reeves did as Superman in the 50s, flying via the aid of what was then pretty impressive technology, rear-projection.

As an interesting aside, Christopher Reeve as Superman was filmed in the late 70s using front-projection, producing a clearer, more vibrant effect, and allowed the camera to move much more convincingly. Though the effect looks nearly as cheesy as George lying on a table with a fan on him (14:30 - keep watching to hear the wonderful line "no, i don't believe it", delivered with the acting ability of a packet of soy sauce), it was amazing at the time, and still ingeneous to this day. The front projection worked via a system of one-way mirrors that allowed the projection to come from the exact direction of the camera. What is precisely behind Christopher is actually his shadow, cast on the reflective backdrop. You never see this because he's always in the way.

Videos like Michael Jackson's ground-breaking, 1991 famously expensive "Black or White" were hallmarks of the new technology (later, facial morphing technology became commonplace and required no more than a 486 computer, due to the stunning originality seen in Jackson's video). Later, the cost had come down enough, though not by any means cheap, to use 3d graphics in feature films, most famously in Jurassic Park. (Steven Spielburg, so smitten with Industrial Light and Magic's Silicon Graphics workstation, even gave it a role in the movie, being the computer on which the unix our intrepid young hero knows is running.)
Silicon's industry clout and power was almost complete. It had become a defacto standard, and the company itself was able to acquire several competing properties, such as Wavefront, Alias and even the old horse itself, Cray Supercomputers.

All this time, the charge of the Computer-Aided Design (CAD) industry had been led by its own champion, Autodesk.
The history of Autodesk itself is fascinating, though by no means unique. The part that is unique is the fact that you can get access to it via one of the company's original founders, John Walker. Download it (zipped PDF, ~5.5MB), it's worth your time if you're intersted in computer history.

Autodesk was becoming its own standard, and its flagship product AutoCAD was used by architects all over the world to design most modern buildings. Autodesk had several other products, each sort of tuned to specific architectural challenges, like electrical wiring, landscape design, etc. Computers were getting more powerful, and cheaper, though, and desktop computers were able to do some pretty amazing things. Autodesk had a team develop a 3d design and animation package that could run lower-end non-proprietary workstations called 3d Studio.

The first shot had been fired.

The spinoff company was eventually renamed Kinetix, and after several changes in the naming of their core product (3d Studio MAX could run on Windows, instead of DOS), and in 1999, Autodesk bought Canadian company Discreet Logic, and merged it with Kinetix, keeping the Discreet moniker.

Meanwhile, other packages had sprung into existence, most without the power and influence of these industry titans, but with some surprising abilities. Softimage|3D, produced by Avid (makers of desktop video editing software) was a surprisingly effective and popular product, as was Silicon's own subsidiary's return volley at Discreet, Alias Maya.

Stay with me. I know it's complicated.

Maya was eventually ported to run on Linux, and Macintosh workstations as well as Windows, giving it a cross-platform ability that Discreet's heavily Windows-oriented 3d Studio MAX could never match. But at the time, Mac and Linux user share was even more dismal than it is now, so the overall benefit of this was somewhat questionable. Still, these packages did pretty well and the competition was fierce, resulting in yearly releases (unheard of for programs of this kind of complexity, and, to be honest, nearly identical feature sets. I happened to be a 3d Studio MAX person, since version 2.5, but had I learned Maya (which was originally more common in design schools), I imagine there would be no real discernable difference.

All these packages decimated Silicon's own market share. Now Maya was an Alias product, but its parent company had never had competition of this magnitude before. The bottom dropped out of the highend unix-based mainframe rendering market (due in part to advances in 3d graphics technologies available on consumer desktops, thanks to nvidia and ATI), and Silicon was just barely hanging on, with Maya its only lifeline. Autodesk, however, was doing really well, with 3d Studio MAX competing well against Maya, but with the company's other products, many purchased properties, such as the rest of Discreet Logic's video-production line, it was only a matter of time before Maya gave up the ghost.

In 2005, the struggling subsidiary Alias sold Maya off to the highest bidder, after its parent company Silicon Graphics got delisted from the NYSE for having too low a price per share. The highest bidder? Autodesk.

Similar circumstances caused Softimage|3D's successor Softimage|XSI to be sold to the highest bidder in 2008. Again, Autodesk.

Mudbox, the 3d sculpting software developed by the ex-members of Weta Digital? Sold to Autodesk in 2007.

Revit, the parametric 3d CAD program (competing with and better than in certain circumstances AutoCAD). Bought in 2002.

Look out, Lightwave. Look out, modo. Your founders might benefit from a big buyout, but your customers may not.

One might say that the aquisition of all this software by one single company helps the integration between the software and allows for smoother workflow for projects large and small. One might also say that this idealism is somewhat short-lived (see Adobe's purchase and awkward merging of Macromedia's assets). I would suggest though that, as with Adobe, it's only a matter of time before one of Autodesk's internally competing products is killed off, no doubt with some marketing speak about how you don't even have to integrate them any more being the rationale. (Freehand forever!)

All this is just the way of the world in software-land. I suppose it's only a matter of time before Autodesk, or some other large company snatches up the remains of DAZ 3d (nee eovia, nee MetaCreations), SmithMicro (nee efrontier, nee also MetaCreations). The big daddy of them all, Microsoft Corporation has purchased the company responsible for the first 3d modeller I ever used, trueSpace, no doubt to compete with Google's aquisition of SketchUp, in an effort to improve their 3d mapping feature.

It's a melancholy and somewhat funny future to muse on - Adobe buys Autodesk, and is then purchased by Microsoft, or Google or who cares. In the land of software, there's always the danger of monopolies, the lack of choice, same as any other industry.

But look at how we're combating the industries we see as monopolistic. Software has open-source, music has Creative Commons, even telephony, the poster child for monopolies, is being subverted by jailbreaking and VoIP. Even while the Baby Bells are reforming into their version of Voltron, the industry is moving past them.

I used to be worried about all this Mergering and Acquisitioning. It bothered me that every time I looked into a new package, it turned out to now have "Autodesk" at the front of its name. Now I feel somewhat sorry for the folks at Autodesk who have the task of trying to make their software look and feel similar to the product line (something which Adobe is still trying to do, even with software it created 20 years ago). Microsoft and Google aren't going anywhere anytime soon, so if you're a fan of the product, maybe it's a good thing that it might be bought up by a company that has more than a piddly $1.7B in sales per year. More secure.

I wouldn't say no to a little choice though.

Nowadays, I use Blender. No, it's not as good as 3DS MAX. I'm not nearly as fast in it. Yeah, the interface is weird (but then again, so is MAX's). But I don't have to worry about whether I'm going to be able to afford it, which platform I can run it on, whether I have a beefy enough computer to run it. It does the job I want it to do, and I don't have to boot into Windows to use it. I can run it on all my computers, and the files are interoperable. Not to mention that the last several years have seen some impressive improvements.

This isn't a post about how Open Source will change the software world forever. To begin with, I don't even believe that. But it works for me and if it works for you, too, then great! I look forward to seeing your work, no matter what platform or program you made it in. Let the big software companies worry about how they're going to get your $1800 (only $1200 if you upgrade every year!), adding the thinnest of features, and questionable UI paradigms. We'll worry about actually making content. It's better that way.

Eldritch: Wow, Silicon Graphics. That really takes me back. I'm reminded of our High School's annual pilgrimage to the local university's computer fair, where the few hundred or so computer enthusiasts from around the region could gather and bathe in the heady atmosphere of bits and bytes. Of course, the vendors came, too, dutifully trotting out their wares. None were more despised than the narcs from the Business Software Alliance (Don't Copy That Disk!), but the nirvana of geekdom was the SGI workstation that Silicon Graphics trotted out (well, that and the Cray. Oh, the Cray).

One year, one of our more precocious (and foolish) classmates walked right up to the Cray salespeople and began asking about the workstation. Much like any one of us pale, emaciated geeks and a member of the fairer sex, this fellow just wouldn't have known what to do with a Cray if he ever got his hands on one. But the salespeople indulged him, answering his questions dutifully. Then, nodding along, the nerdy fellow finally dropped the bomb: "So how much would one of these cost me?" The salesperson (somehow) kept his calm, and just said "Well, they start at around a million dollars." The nerd's face went pale, and he stumbled away.

I wanna rock!

Monday, April 20, 2009

This was going to be a post about the crazy confusion a new Guitar Hero convert would have to face in order to figure out how to get what songs onto whatever console(s) she might have. The questionable practice of putting maybe 13 good songs, 10 decent songs, and a whole lotta crap in each game in order to stretch the licenses out over games and into downloadable content is very annoying and has led to a lot of confusion.

As a Wii owner, I'm in the worst position one can be in with regards Guitar Hero/Rock Band, as a lot of songs never made or will make it to my console, which is odd considering how well it sells. Still, I can consider myself fortunate that I also own a PS2, which means I can play the best Guitar Hero game, Guitar Hero, and the worst (rocks the 80s, which was shamelessness taken to a new extreme). But it saddens me that those Guitar Hero 1 songs can't be played in multiplayer mode and I have to hook up my PS2 to play them.

Ideally, you could buy the instruments you want, and a DVD with no content on it, and then download only the songs you want from the downloading services. They'd have the entire catalog of all the songs that were done (by that company, Rock Band and Guitar Hero are two separate properties, so I can't be totally unrealistic) and you could just make your own custom game. I personally could care less about the rockers, the customizable guitars, extra characters, venues, etc. They make the game a bit more interesting for people watching, but meh, I could do without.

I'm aware that playing Guitar Hero 1 made me actually like some of the songs I had never heard enough to include them on my "custom" set list, but there's no reason a song couldn't play, say, twice before you had to buy it, or you might listen to the song itself and not get to play it until you bought it. All of this is moot anyway, since you can't do what I'm imagining. The real problem is this: by having so many customers interested in the game, it's become necessary to make the songs available in each game extremely varied, from 80s pop ballads to country to death metal to whiny, annoying modern "rock". Games based in certain genres seem to be the key here, but instead, out comes "Guitar Hero: Metallica" and "Guitar Hero: Aerosmith" each of which include no more than 5 songs I'd like to play on them. Big names sell. Licenses sell. But not to me. Not unless "Guitar Hero: Alice in Chains" shows up in the future.

I don't want this post to turn (any more) into a rant about certain types of music and how terrible some of the songs on the games are, but for the sake of potential curiosity, click the link to see the songs I'd put on my customized Guitar Hero game, (not that I can actually get many of these songs on my console or play them with my controllers). And before you mention it, yes, "Godzilla" is on there twice. It's that good.


GH1: 22/47
"Ace of Spades"
"Bark at the Moon"
"Fat Lip"
"Heart Full of Black"
"Hey You"
"Higher Ground"
"Killer Queen"
"More Than A Feeling"
"No One Knows"
"Sharp Dressed Man"
"Spanish Castle Magic"
"Symphony of Destruction"
"Take It Off"
"Take Me Out"
"Texas Flood"
"Thunder Kiss '65"
"You Got Another Thing Comin'"
"Ziggy Stardust"

GH1-Bonus Songs
"All of This"
"Behind the Mask"
"Caveman Rejoice"
"Eureka, I've Found Love"
"Even Rats"
"Fire It Up"
"Get Ready 2 Rokk"
"Sail Your Ship By"

GH2: 27/40
"Beast and the Harlot"
"Can't You Hear Me Knockin'"
"Carry On Wayward Son"
"Cherry Pie"
"Crazy on You"
"Free Bird"
"Heart-Shaped Box"
"John the Fisherman"
"Killing in the Name"
"Last Child"
"Monkey Wrench"
"Rock This Town"
"Search and Destroy"
"Shout at the Devil"
"Sweet Child O' Mine"
"Them Bones"
"Tonight I'm Gonna Rock You Tonight"
"Trippin' on a Hole in a Paper Heart"
"You Really Got Me"

"Less Talk More Rokk"
"Soy Bomb"

GH:80s 12/30
"Because, It's Midnite"
"Heat of the Moment"
"Hold on Loosely"
"Holy Diver"
"I Ran (So Far Away)"
"I Wanna Rock"
"No One Like You"
"Synchronicity II"
"Turning Japanese"
"The Warrior"
"We Got the Beat"
"What I Like About You"

GH3: 15/73
"Bulls on Parade"
"Black Magic Woman"
"Cherub Rock"
"Cult of Personality"
"Even Flow"
"La Grange"
"My Name Is Jonas"
"Paint It Black"
"Pride and Joy"
"Rock and Roll All Nite"
"Rock You Like a Hurricane"
"Same Old Song and Dance"
"The Seeker"
"Story of My Life"
"Sunshine of Your Love"

"This Is a Call"
"The Devil Went Down to Georgia"
"Any Way You Want It"
"Don't Speak"

GH WT: 24/86
"About a Girl" (Unplugged)
"American Woman"
"Band on the Run"
"Beat It"
"Do It Again"
"Eye of the Tiger"
"Float On"
"Go Your Own Way"
"Hey Man, Nice Shot"
"Hotel California"
"The Joker"
"Livin' on a Prayer"
"No Sleep Till Brooklyn"
"On the Road Again" (Live)
"The One I Love"
"One Way or Another"
"Ramblin' Man"
"Rebel Yell"
"Some Might Say"
"Sweet Home Alabama" (Live)
"Up Around the Bend"

"Hot Blooded"
"Jessie's Girl"
"No Rain"
"Gimme All Your Lovin'"
"Fat Bottomed Girls"
"The James Bond Theme"
"Very Ape"
"Stay Away"

GH-Aerosmith: 5/31
"I Hate Myself for Loving You"
"All Day and All of the Night"
"Livin' on the Edge"
"Love in an Elevator"
"Sex Type Thing"

GH-Metallica: 3/49
"Enter Sandman"
"No Excuses"
"Stacked Actors"

RB1: 14/45
"Black Hole Sun"
"Blitzkrieg Bop"
"Cherub Rock"
"Dani California"
"(Don't Fear) The Reaper"
"Enter Sandman"
"Gimme Shelter"
"In Bloom"
"Learn to Fly"
"Orange Crush"
"The Hand That Feeds"

RB- Bonus: 2/13
"I Get By"

RB2: 29/84
"American Woman"
"Any Way You Want It"
"Bad Reputation"
"Carry On Wayward Son"
"Drain You"
"Eye of the Tiger"
"Float On"
"Give It Away"
"Go Your Own Way"
"Hungry Like the Wolf"
"Livin' on a Prayer"
"Man in the Box"
"New Kid in School"
"One Way or Another"
"Pinball Wizard"
"Pretend We're Dead"
"Psycho Killer"
"Ramblin' Man"
"Round and Round"
"Spirit in the Sky"
"We Got the Beat"
"White Wedding (Part 1)"
"You Oughta Know"

RB2- DLC: 77
"Fortunate Son"
"My Sharona"
"Queen Bitch"
"I Fought the Law"
"Buddy Holly"
"Interstate Love Song"
"Last Train to Clarksville"
"Sex Type Thing"
"March of the Pigs"
"The Collector"
"The Perfect Drug"
"Still Alive"
"Call Me"
"My Best Friend's Girl"
"Snow ((Hey Oh))"
"Capital G"
"Breaking the Girl"
"Under the Bridge"
"Gone Away"
"Lounge Act"
"On a Plain"
"Something in the Way"
"Stay Away"
"Territorial Pissings"
"Dune Buggy"
"Feather Pluck'n"
"Pretty Noose"
"This Is a Call"
"You Got It"
"Space Cowboy"
"Losing My Religion"
Ten (11)
Texas Flood (10)
Coulor and the Shape (13)

Eldritch: The song selection is one thing, but I can't help but put the songs in two very different classes: those by the original artists, and those by the unnamed Guitar Hero cover band. Honestly, I tend to skip right past the cover versions and stick with the original artist recordings. I just can't stand listening to favorite songs done in a mediocre way. Less of an issue for songs I don't like very much, but then I'd probably skip those by anyway.

I can see the appeal of an a la carte take towards Guitar Hero content. The gameplay is great, but (as with most games, really), it's all about the content. I'm a little leery of digital downloads for games, though. I think most game publishers would love to sell a game without any content and then nickel and dime the gamers for every bit of content. That makes me very nervous. It moves games (and other software) away from being a 'product' and more towards a 'service.' And whenever a company has control of your service (ISP, utilities, whatever), that generally means the same thing: higher prices and poorer service. But that's a whole different rant.

Pseudonym: Ah, I forgot to mention how terrible songs like Heart-Shaped Box and Them Bones are on Guitar Hero 3. Fans of the originals might have a hard time listening to the remakes. Fortunately the newer games are nearly all original master tracks, which is a blessing. Playing Stacked Actors is a joy that would not have been possible without the original recording.

I think it's ok to have DLC, provided it can be stored on external media. In the Wii's case, it is a necessity, but I can see your point. Is there any guarantee that the company will be around in 10 years when you want to play Guitar Hero 1 instead of the newly-released Guitar Hero: Wesley Willis. This is a common argument against DRM but it applies here. I didn't say that my idea would be good for the industry, just good for me. And while I'm dreaming, I'd like the blue shell removed from Mario Kart.

Why does the blogosphere hate newspapers?

There's no love lost between bloggers and newspapers. You can't swing a dead cat around the blogosphere without hearing about how newspapers are dying, or references to "dead tree media," and invariably, newspapers are lumped in with the so-called 'Mainstream Media,' or MSM (not, of course, the other, more hilarious uses of the acronym). It's hard to tell, exactly, what beef blogs might have with newspapers. The notoriously libertarian blogosphere is filled with appeals to government transparency, open-access, sunshine laws and freedom of speech, expression and the press. These are exactly the same causes that newspaper journalists have been arguing for since the dawn of the republic.

From the Reporter's Committee for Freedom of the Press, to Reporters without Borders to Sunshine Week, to any of the dozens of Supreme Court cases protecting free speech and freedom of the press (from the Alien and Sedition Acts to the Pentagon Papers and forward), newspapers have been on the side of First Amendment protections, which you'd think would endear it to the universe of blogs.

But newspapers have the bad luck to be mostly published on paper, not online. The moniker "dead tree media" has stuck, and the smug self-congratulatory nature of opinion blogs have meant that virtually any mention of newspapers should be accompanied by a sneer and a reminder that newspapers are dying anyway, and soon, citizen journalists will magically replace newspapers.

The truth of the matter is, most of the criticism of the 'Mainstream Media' is fair and true. It just doesn't apply to newspapers. Broadcast media is emblematic of the worst excesses that bloggers bring to light, and are guilty of the most shallow, cheap, profit-driven coverage possible. All the while, newspapers are toiling away, producing hundreds of thousands of words of accountability coverage, investigative reporting, and in-depth journalism. When the blogosphere deigns to mention newspapers in their media critiques, they generally focus on the editorial page, completely ignoring the firewall between editorial and news coverage at newspapers, and focusing on a tiny portion of the newspaper's total coverage.

Of course, just because bloggers aren't always right about newspapers' shortcomings, it doesn't they aren't dying. Slate's Daniel Gross summed up the situation well: newspapers may be dying, but it's greedy owners sucking value out of profitable companies that are doing the killing. Most people don't know that newspapers are by and large very profitable. The dire predictions from analysts and media critics focus on the assertion that newspapers aren't profitable enough.

So perhaps bloggers and newspapers should bury the hatchet. After all, most bloggers are commenting on newspaper's original coverage, and if newspapers continue to be mismanaged, they may find themselves joining the ranks of new bloggers.

Pseudonym: You know what's odd? This morning, before I read this post, I thought it was strange that there were two comics in the newspapers talking about this very thing. A lot of times they seem to have in-jokes, or at least some communication between authors who decide to do, say, golf jokes. And then there are gems like the Sally Forth/Pearls Before Swine crossover, which is in a league of its own. But I suspect today's Non Sequitur and (again) Pearls Before Swine being about the same subject and an esoteric one at that is an odd coincidence. Happy to be corrected...

Eldritch: The whole idea of newspapers giving away free content is a tough one. Truth be told, I don't think there was any way for the newspapers to win. When the newspapers were first moving online, all content was free. The expectation, and the demand, was that anything on the internet would be free of charge. In fact, there really wasn't even a mechanism for people to charge for content yet. So if newspapers tried charging for their stories, or just ignored the internet, I think they'd be in even worse shape than now.

Of course, the prevalence of free content has given people the expectation that they shouldn't have to pay for journalism, and that's no doubt fueling people's abandonment of the core business (printed papers). But the real lynchpin of the problem is advertising. Newspapers have tons more readership than they've ever had from mere print publishing. It's the fact the online advertising doesn't pay nearly the same as local, print advertising. So you could say newspapers are thriving, but newspaper advertising is withering.

Pseudonym: I agree 100%, but I'm still sickened by the awful weekly column in my local major paper about the authors two "hilariously" precocious kids. The byline gives the blog address her column is pulled from. It's not so bad that the content itself is bad (which it is), but the fact that papers are pulling content from online for filler. I read the newspaper for interesting news and events, things that are meaningful to me, and to other people. Not to read someone's personal anecdotes about their stupid kids that leaves me wondering "why are you telling me this?". Blogs seem to be much more to me about the "pull"; that is, the seeking out of information specific to what you're interested in, rather than newspapers, which, in my opinion, are about the "push" - editorial decisions about what affects the majority of the people. This is also what bothers me about local news, how most of it is local human-interest (re: worthless) stories and US news I read on the internet the day before. In the case of our Blogger Turned Serious Journalist, if I wanted to read her column, I'd read her blog.

Read our blog.

Edit: Seriously??