Quote of the Moment

"Beep Industries currently has no openings. This is a good thing. Any number of career paths are better than game development. Lots of jobs are more lucrative and far less work. We hear marketing and animal husbandry are filled with potential."

Monday, September 24, 2007

Driving Addiction: The Lure of Racing Games

I'm not much of a sports gamer. If you were to search through my decent sized game collection, you'd find precisely two sports games: old copies of NBA Jam and '94 Winter Olympics, both for the original Gameboy brick, and acquired back in the days when Ahab and I had far more time than money to buy new games. In short, I've neither bought nor had bought for me, a new sports game in some thirteen years and haven't played one outside of LAN parties or work during my QA days.

So why am I so addicted to Forza and Gran Turismo that my WoW and EVE time had dropped to almost zero? I think the key elements are that for me, racing games don't feel like sports games, and also that these types of racing games, in particular, integrate some of the character improvement aspects I enjoy in RPG (role-playing game) products.

Feel. When I say racing games don't feel like sports games to me, I'm referring to team sports games, such as the Madden franchise. These games are an exercise in frustration for me, where the lack of total control over all the players on my team makes me reliant on the sometimes flaky AI systems for my own success. In a racing game, it's all about my own skill. I may be racing against AI opponents, but my own skills, my knowledge of the track I'm driving, and the car I'm using, are the determining factors in victory, not whether the AI can properly navigate through a chicane.

Character Improvement. Gran Turismo probably started this trend in racing games, the idea that as you win more races you receive new cars, new upgrades for your cars, and races with tougher competition. In many ways, it's little different from the RPG systems of characters improving their skills, getting better gear, and going off to slay tougher monsters. It works well there, it stands to reason it should work well here too.

The real enjoyment for me, though, comes from success. While it's true that until cars come equipped with Xbox or Playstation controllers for steering, my success has no real world application, but there's a bit of pleasant satisfaction gained from turning a near perfect lap in a 650hp Corvette on a virtual representation of Laguna Seca or the Nuerburgring. Considering it's also a world where hitting a wall in said 'vette at 175mph only results in a bit of bother and a reset, there is something to be said for it.

Tuesday, September 18, 2007

Gamer's Corner: Fall Games

Here in Seattle, Fall has arrived, bringing with it cooler weather, overcast skies, and lots of rain. In short, perfect weather to stay inside and play video games without feelings of guilt at wasting a lovely day.

So, without further ado, here are the games I'll be purchasing this fall.

1. Guitar Hero III. No, I don't own any of the previous Guitar Hero games. However, I have played them enough to find them fun. Plus, with a wireless guitar, it's a great party game.

2. Half-Life 2 Orange Box. I own, and have played through, Half-Life 2 and Episode 1. The Orange Box is a no brainer. Half-Life Episode 2, Portal, and the sequel to the first online shooter I ever tried? Sign me up. Plus, I know that the engine will run on my four year-old computer.

3. Sam & Max Season 2. I loved Sam & Max's return to PC adventures in Season 1. No question at all, I'll be ordering another full season.

4. Condemned 2: Bloodshot. The first game really, really messed with my head. If I can finish this one and not end up sleeping in the living room with the lights on and clutching a baseball bat, I'll count it an accomplishment.

There are a lot of other games coming out. Halo 3, Tabula Rasa, Haze, Area 51: Blacksite, Rock Band, and another Age of Empires III expansion pack just to name a few. And honestly, I could triple or quadruple the list of games I'm going to buy just based on what I'd like to play. Rock Band in particular, I'd like to play, but really, who would I play it with? Maybe in a few years, when The Boy and The Girl are older, I'll pick up Rock Band 3 and we can have jam sessions. For now, though, if I can get through the four games mentioned above sometime before April 2008, I'll count myself blessed.

If you're looking forward to any particular games this fall, feel free to leave a comment, and, provided it's not Halo 3, I won't mock you mercilessly.

Friday, September 14, 2007

Four Favorite Fast-Food Burgers

Ahab decided to tag the entire interweb tube system with his fave burgers meme, so since it's Friday and I'm feeling silly, here goes with my five favorites, in order.

1. Double Western Bacon Cheeseburger, Carl's Jr. Yes, there are better quality burgers around, but this combination of beef, cheese, bacon, BBQ sauce, and onion rings is my absolute favorite. No trip passing through Oregon or Spokane (Eastern Washington) is complete without stopping at the first Carl's Jr. I see to get one.

2. Double-Double, In-n-Out. Of course this is on the list, and second only to CJ's as my favorite burger. For the money, I think it's the best pure hamburger you can get at a fast food joint. On Washington to California road trips, I'll have been hitting Carl's Jr's since Portland, so I'm ready for pure burger goodness once I start seeing those In-n-Out arrows.

3. Kingburger, Fatburger. I basically consider Fatburger to be an In-n-Out imitator, with the chief differences being that you can get a fried egg, bacon, and chili on top of your Fatburger patty, and Fatburger has locations within 20 minutes of my house, compared to 20 hours to the nearest In-n-Out. It's a decent, if somewhat expensive burger. My recommendation is to get it with everything: bacon, fried egg, cheese, and chili. It's why quadruple-bypass surgery was invented.

4. Sirloin Cheese Burger, Jack In The Box. I can here Ahab's laughter across eight state lines on this one, but seriously, it's a good burger. Probably the best I've had from a national fast-food chain with branches in Western Washington. Unlike most fast burgers, this one actually has a well seasoned and flavorful patty, and they know enough to let the meat's flavor speak for itself rather than load it down with a lot of unnecessary extras. A piece of Swiss cheese, some grilled onions, a crunchy pickle spear (not the usual awful pickle chips) and some good tomatoes make for an excellent flavor.

Honorable Mentions. My fifth pick was going to be the Jalapeno Melt from Wendy's, but it appears they don't offer it anymore. Sad. It was a pretty average burger overall, but the jalapenos gave it a nice kick. Also officially discontinued, but available at some locations where it's popular enough, would be the Rodeo Cheeseburger from Burger King. Basically a poorer imitation of my Carl's Jr. favorite, the Rodeo Cheeseburger was a beef patty, BBQ sauce, and an onion ring. On the plus side, it's cheap, and available in more locations. Still, I can't peg it as an official #5 due to its random availability, and the fact that it's just a weak imitation of a superior product. Oh well.

Sorry, Ahab, I couldn't quite come up with a full top 5 list. Such is the nature of being a picky burger eater.

Thursday, September 13, 2007

I Have a New Favorite TV Show...

And it's Top Gear, which has finally come to the USA courtesy of BBC America. In my case, I'm watching it through Comcast's On Demand service, which BBC America seems quite willing to put most of their best shows on within a couple days of the episode's first showing.

Some of my readers may remember the Reliant Robin Rocket videos I linked to. Top Gear is the show that did that. For those who haven't seen the show, it can be best described as the unholy union of a Car & Driver road test show and Monster Garage, with a large dose of very British humor. Even my Lovely and Gracious Wife, who normally avoids car shows like the plague, enjoyed it.

Seriously, how many shows can you watch that feature a guy driving a pink convertible with a paper grocery sack over his head to hide his identity, compares minivans to STDs shortly before attempting to turn one into a convertible, crashes a Koenigsegg CCR, and sets fire to a car wash after attempting to drive the convertible minivan through it. And that just in the first hour-long episode shown in America.

If PBS had any brains at all, they'd import this and put it on some evening. It's probably quintuple their viewership during that hour.

If you have cable or satellite with BBC America, or can get it on demand, and you enjoy fast cars and/or Monster Garage, you've got to watch this. Like I said, my new favorite.

Tuesday, September 11, 2007



Never Forget.