Friday, June 24, 2005

Let the probing commence

My review of Destroy All Humans! went up at GameSpy today. Lots of fun, even if it is a bit repetitive. Check out the review, and more importantly, check out the game.

Thursday, June 23, 2005

Posting for the sake of posting ... oh, and XM Radio too

First off, I want to say I'm bored and antsy right now. Why? No idea ... but regardless that's the state of things at the moment. There's not much going on for me to get out and do at the moment ... or anyone around to do anything with right now. And since idle hands do the devil's work, I suppose it's time for me to get into a little bedevilment.

Right now I'm sitting here listening to XM Radio. I broke down and did a little something for myself, picking up a Delphi MyFi at Best Buy. I've been listening to it for a couple of days and I've gotta say I'm hooked. I haven't really done a lot of digging into all of the available stations just yet, but so far I'm finding a lot of good stuff to listen too. "So" you ask inquisitively, "what possesed you to get an XM radio? How into music are you after all?" Well, the answer might surprise you. The truth of the matter is that music of all (okay MOST) kinds helps get me through a lot of my writing. I just suck remembering who plays what at any given time. Also, I don't have as extensive a CD library as some people .. simply because I'm usually hip deep in gaming stuff for work. Compounding the problem is the fact that my regular radio was a casualty of war in the previous move to VA, and I never got around to picking up a new one. You know how it is ... there's always something you MEAN to get when you're out, but ALWAYS forget until you get back home. Well, that was me in terms of replacing my radio.

Anyway, last week my dad was talking to me about satellite radios. He's thinking about picking one up, and he called me up for information and advice (since I'm ALWAYS handy with an opinion). Anyway, the more research I did for him, the more I thought it would be perfect for me. I can store up to five hours of programming, have the receiver let me know when an artist/song/program I like is playing on any of the stations. I can take the MyFi with me in the car, on my hip like a Walkman, and (most importantly) I can plug it into a spare set of PC speakers and have myself a radio by the PC when I'm working. And since I AM so bad about remembering who plays what, the info display is a HUGE help. Plus, I can add in stock symbols for regularly updated quotes. Naturally, MY stock quotes are of the geeky variety ... actually I'm setting it up to track a bunch of video game publishers, including the home of my favorite NASDAQ ticker of all time, Majesco Entertainment (listed on NASDAQ as "COOL").

Anyway, I'll be keeping myself busy this weekend with a bunch of writing. Besides a few reviews, I'm also going to be contributing to GameSpy's week-long feature next week on the Top 25 Xbox Games of All Time. I'd tell you which ones I'm writing ... but where's the fun in that? Read it for yourself next week. I will say one thing though ... I didn't CHOOSE any of the games on the list, so don't come bitching to me if you don't agree with the list. Deal?

And speaking of the Xbox, I've been playing Conker: Live and Reloaded lately and I'm impressed overall. However, as a proud owner of the original Conker's Bad Fur Day, I was shocked to discover today that the Xbox version actually has a bit more censoring (in the form of bleeps and the like) than the N64 version did ... particularly during the battle against the Great Mighty Poo. Also, I think Rare tried too hard to improve on the original scene. The singing of everyone's favorite pile o' crap is a little too "echoed" for my tastes. Even so, it's been fun playing both the Xbox and N64 games again ... and the new multiplayer side of things is a blast. If any of you try it out, let me know what you think.

Okay ... I'm out for now. I need to get outta the house before the walls of the padded cell here start closing in. Keep the peace, all ... and have fun.


Historic SAG vote nixes gaming deal

Like the old adage says, "It ain't over 'til the fat lady sings". Well, if that fat lady is a member of the Screen Actors Guild (SAG), she won't be singing in any video games any time soon.

For the first time in history, a deal agreed negotiated and agreed upon by SAG representatives was formally rejected by SAG's executive committee. The results of the usually routine approval process have now caused a major stir in Hollywood. Apparently the executive committee's vote was split, with a majority voting in favor of the new deal. Unfortunately, SAG rules requires a 60 percent vote from the executive committee to pass, and the vote on the game contract fell just short of 60 percent. Making matters more complicated is the fact that the executive committee for the American Federation of Television and Radio Artists (AFTRA) voted in favor of the deal last week, locking them into the 3 1/2 contract when the deal goes into effect on July 1.

The deal negotiated between games publishers, SAG, and AFTRA called for a 36 percent total increase in pay over the course of the contract, with a 25 percent pay hike taking place immediately. The deal did not include any sort of agreement for residuals based on the sales of a game. Residuals were a particular sticking point during negotiations, as the unions feel the work of members on video games is a key selling point, entitling members to a percentage of the profits from a game's sales.

Ironically, the SAG vote seems to have less to do with the actual video game deal itself than it does with politcal in-fighting within SAG ranks, with members of the group Restore Respect in favor of the deal and members of the opposing Membership First faction opposing the deal. Now, due to the failure of the vote, SAG members are left in a rough bargaining position. A previous strike vote by SAG fell far short of the 75 percent majority vote required by SAG members (as opposed to the 60 perecent majority required in committee votes). And since the AFTRA has officially accepted the new contract, it's highly unlikely that game companies would be willing to make additional concessions to appease SAG members.

Wednesday, June 22, 2005

Buffy goes through the looking glass

Now here's a story near and dear to me. I've always been a HUGE fan of American McGee, and especially the Alice game he designed for Electronic Arts. About four years ago, it was announced that a movie adaptation of American McGee's Alice was in development. After all this time, Variety has reported that Alice is FINALLY on the development fast track at Universal Pictures. According to the article, Sarah Michelle Gellar has signed on for the title role, and the film will be directed by Marcus Nispel, whose probably best known for his 2003 remake of the Texas Chainsaw Massacre.

For those of you unfamiliar with the game, the story is set after the events in the original Lewis Carroll tale. Alice has lost her parents in a tragic house fire, and has slipped into a catatonic state. Sent away to an asylum for treatment, Alice is once again visited by the White Rabbit. Returning to Wonderland, Alice discovers that the fantasy world of before has been replaced by a darker and more twisted version ... shaped in part by her own fragile state of mind. Once again, Alice must face off against the evil Queen of Hearts to restore Wonderland to its former glory, perhaps saving her sanity as well.

Saturday, June 18, 2005

Some insight into me

Okay, for some of you out there who are trying to gauge my mindset and overall personality, someone beat you to it ... back in 1944.

This excerpt is from Raymond Chandler's essay, "The Simple Art of Murder". Just substitue the word "writer" for "detective":

"In everything that can be called art there is a quality of redemption. It may be pure tragedy, if it is high tragedy, and it may be pity and irony, and it may be the raucous laughter of the strong man. But down these mean streets a man must go who is not himself mean, who is neither tarnished nor afraid. The detective in this kind of story must be such a man. He is the hero, he is everything. He must be a complete man and a common man and yet an unusual man. He must be, to use a rather weathered phrase, a man of honor, by instinct, by inevitability, without thought of it, and certainly without saying it. He must be the best man in his world and a good enough man for any world. I do not care much about his private life; he is neither a eunuch nor a satyr; I think he might seduce a duchess and I am quite sure he would not spoil a virgin; if he is a man of honor in one thing, he is that in all things. He is a relatively poor man, or he would not be a detective at all. He is a common man or he could not go among common people. He has a sense of character, or he would not know his job. He will take no man’s money dishonestly and no man’s insolence without a due and dispassionate revenge. He is a lonely man and his pride is that you will treat him as a proud man or be very sorry you ever saw him. He talks as the man of his age talks, that is, with rude wit, a lively sense of the grotesque, a disgust for sham, and a contempt for pettiness. The story is his adventure in search of a hidden truth, and it would be no adventure if it did not happen to a man fit for adventure. He has a range of awareness that startles you, but it belongs to him by right, because it belongs to the world he lives in.

If there were enough like him, I think the world would be a very safe place to live in, and yet not too dull to be worth living in."

Since the first time I read that however many years ago, it's always struck a chord with me. It's something I've always carried with me, related to, and even tried to live up to. Am I EXACTLY like that ... nope. But it's still pretty damned close.

Friday, June 17, 2005

Quick update

Okay ... I'm having an irritating day so far today, so I'm keeping this short for now. Anyway, my preview of Splinter Cell: Chaos Theory (DS) is up and running on GameSpy as we speak. I've got the review done as well, but unfortunately it's embargoed until the game is released on June 28th.

So you wanna be a (DC) superhero?

Well folks, it was only a matter of time. The enormous popularity of the MMORPG City of Heroes has proven that gamers everywhere are itching to be superheroes. We're still waiting for more news about the previously announced Marvel MMO game from Vivendi Universal which was originally announced back in 2002 as having a 2005 release date. Now, comic and video game fans have a brand new project to salivate over.

Sony Online Entertainment and Warner Bros. have put out a joint press release today announcing the development of massively muliplayer online game set squarely within the expansive universe of DC Comics. Little information was released about the pending title, though SOE did set a schedule release for Winter 2007.

Thursday, June 16, 2005

Random thoughts and such

Stacking the Deck, as a whole, is a peek into the world in which I live as a video game journalist. Sometimes I'll discuss the latest gaming news. Sometimes, it may involve business trips to cover gaming events. Sometimes it may involve particular articles I'm working on. Sometimes it may involve me simply taking some down time at the beach with a friend or ice cream with my nephews. More often than not, it also includes my ongoing recruitment drive of both fans and groupies ... after all, I've got a growing ego to feed and I could use all the help I can get. Egos tend to be hungry little buggers, and in need of the occasional extra attention. My point is, Stacking the Deck is a place to get a glimpse into what I do for a living ... as well as the type of person I am. Raymond Chandler once said in his essay The Simple Art of Murder, "The story is his adventure in search of a hidden truth, and it would be no adventure if it did not happen to a man fit for adventure." Well folks, Stacking the Deck IS my adventure ... or at least a part of it. You guys and gals are always welcome to pop in for a visit. Just make sure to tip your waiters and waitresses before you go. In this case? Leaving your two cents worth behind is preferable to the standard fifteen percent.

Moving right along, there's a lot happening in the gaming world lately. First off, for those of you out there planning to pick up an Xbox 360, don't worry about having to save space for your old Xbox system. Ever since the first talks came up about whether or not the new Xbox would be backwards compatible, people have been saying how difficult the process would be. See ... the original Xbox used Nvidia graphics processors, while the 360 uses processors developed by ATI. The two use different proprietary instruction codes. It's a lot like trying to run PC software on a Mac. Techincally it CAN be done, but more often than not it's a pain in the ass to get working, and it never runs smoothly. Well, fret not Xbox-ers ... Microsoft and Nvidia have apparently come to an agreement which will allow MS to license the proprietary Xbox technology from Nvidia so that the 360 will be able to run all of the games from the original system without having to force the issue.

We all know by now that Vin Diesel is a HUGE video game fan. Diesel even went so far as to start up his own video game development house, Tigon Studios. Now Vin Diesel is bringing his love of games to the big screen, as the actor has signed on to star in a feature film based on the Eidos video game Hitman. Diesel will also serve as executive producer for the upcoming flick. Diesel is also set to hold talks between Tigon, Eidos, and Io (the original developers of the Hitman franchise) to discuss his involvement in future Hitman games.

Speaking of video game movies, Microsoft shocked Hollywood recently when it delivered copies of a script for a Halo feature film to various film studios ... along with a strict set of demands, including full creative control, $10 million up front commitment, 15 percent of the profits, and a speedy filming schedule. The latest news is that Twentieth Century Fox and Universal have teamed up with an offer which will give Microsoft $5 million upfront, 10 percent of the gross profits, and a speedy filming schedule (though not as fast as Microsoft intially asked for), and will see the two studios split the distribution rights ... with Universal handling the domestic distribution and Fox taking care of the international rights.

Finally, before I wrap up this blog entry, I am working on a few things. I wrapped up a preview of Mega Man Battle Network 5 for GameSpy the other day. I've also written up a review of Disney's Magical Quest 3 for the GBA, which should go up live later today. I'm also working on a preview of Splinter Cell Chaos Theory for the NDS and a review of Bomberman DS. I'll post links to all of the articles as they go live. And yes, I AM still working out the details for my first contest here at Stacking the Deck. Keep checking back for more details.

Monday, June 13, 2005

Crazy weekend stuff

It's been a hectic weekend for me. First and foremost, my friend Jade came down for a visit from North Carolina this weekend. She had an impulse to come to Florida and hit the beach, so she hopped in her car and drove around eight hours to spend the weekend with me. The weather didn't particularly agree with her beach plans at first (thunderstorms and the like but as usual down here, things can change in an instant, and before long the sun broke through and we were at the beach. Even I managed to get some sun, though the sunscreen didn't work quite so well on me in a couple of places. I ended up getting a nice toasty burn in a couple of places. Ahh well. Anyway, here are a couple of pics of Jade enjoying the sunshine.

Jade @ the beach Posted by Hello

Smile for the camera Posted by Hello

I also spent some time with my nephew Blaise this weekend. We went out to Bennigan's for lunch, and later took a trip to Toys R Us. Like many others, I'm still a Toys R Us kid at heart, so it was a blast to go rummaging around the toy store for a while. Other odds and ends popped up to keep me busy all weekend, but things have finally settled down enough for me to return to my "normal" schedule. Currently, I'm writing up a couple of reviews and previews for GameSpy, plus I got an email from the guys at Electric Playground asking me to write up some stuff for them as well. I've got a few other projects in the works also.

Anyway, all in all, the weekend was fun. I think a nice little "mini vacation" may have been exactly what I needed to recharge. Now it's back to the usual routine of writing, gaming, and recruiting more groupies.

Friday, June 10, 2005

A new marketing campaign

By now at least one or two of you regular readers have made your way over to the newly stocked Stacking the Deck: The Shop and seen some of the oddball merchandise I've got up. Well, with every great product there must be a great marketing campaign, and BOY have I got a doozy lined up ... and it all centers around my growing legions of groupies.Expect some new images, photos, and designs to start popping up at the shop in the coming weeks and months. The stuff up now is all first run merchandise. Other new things coming up include new t-shirt designs, posters, mousepads, and SOO much more ... not only with the existing "WldCard" images, but with new custom artwork, photos, and yes ... even models. Heheheh. Get ready folks, it's going to be one HELL of a ride. And just remember one thing for the moment ... "Not all groupies are created equal".

Oh yeah ... I've also been working on building more for the infamous "swag bag". Contests are looming on the horizon. You guys interested?

Wednesday, June 08, 2005

I warned you

Slowly but surely, merchandise is coming to Stacking the Deck: The Shop. And as promised, the first items posted were the thong and a camisole ... just for the groupies. I also threw up a wall clock because the image worked well for it. I'm currently designing a logo that will incorporate "Stacking the Deck" into it too, as well as other "WldCard"-brands to slap on some cool stuff. So tell me what you guys would want to see in the shop.

Tuesday, June 07, 2005

Measuring success

I know it's been a few days since I've posted anything here. Sorry about that, but things have been more than a little hectic lately, personally and professionally. Life as a whole has been keeping me on my toes lately, and I was just short on time. Anyway, I'm back and I'm pushing forward with things again with a whole new vigor. Besides, I've got a fan base to build (Heh).

I've already mentioned that I've been writing for a few years now, but it's only been the last year or so that I've been pushing full steam ahead with it as my main career. I remember back when I first started working in the comic industry (about ten years ago), I started at the low end of the totem pole. Eventually got tired of the view down there and busted my ass to get more involved in the industry as a whole. Over the years, I developed working relationships with a lot of people in the industry, as well as some damned good friendships I've kept to this day.

After switching gears to cover the video game industry, I felt like I'd probably be starting all over from scratch. Oddly enough, that wasn't really the case. I had learned a lot from my comic days, and had learned a lot more about the best ways to network. Also, a lot of my contacts from the comic industry had also apparently jumped ship from comics to games ... or at least did some moonlighting there from time to time. The truth of the matter is, once you get involved in some aspect of the entertainment industry, you're in. Comics, video games, movies, music ... they're all related in some way. Someone in one category has a connection to someone else in another. Think of it like a warped version of the Kevin Bacon game.

So I was surprised at how quickly I started to establish myself in gaming. But how would I know that I'd really started to "make it"? I've actually started to see some signs already. I've been asked to be a professional reference for some people in the industry. I've had other company reps comment on specific articles I've written. I've been asked for my opinion on the development of specific games. Hell, I've even got a fan club filled with groupies ... okay, so I'm working on that last one, but you get the idea. However, despite all of that, I think the moment I felt proudest of my job came up yesterday. And it didn't involve editors, publishers, developers, or even groupies ... it involved my 11 year-old nephew, Blaise.

I was talking to my sister yesterday when she told me a story. It seems my nephew has decided what he wants to be when he grows up. A lot of kids want to be astronauts, superheroes, firemen, etc. ... but not Blaise. Blaise want to grow up to be like me. Apparently he's been following my work more than I thought, and he loves what I do for a living. He'll call me up at odd times to ask me about different video games. He'll look online to see what's new in the video game industry and he'll call me up to ask what I know about it. And he constantly wants to hear stories about my trips, my work, and everything else. He loves the fact that I get to play all sorts of games, good and bad, and let people know what I think of them. And now, he's decided that he wants to work on his writing and do what he can to be like me.

So, I can honestly say that no matter what comes my way, whether my name becomes synonymous with gaming or not ... my biggest success came the moment I learned that someone was looking up to me.

Wednesday, June 01, 2005

Next on Fox: When Boredom Attacks

I've wrapped up my recent assignments, so I was bored out of my mind yesterday and I decided to get out of the house. Luck being what it is for me, I happened to run into Cari-Dawn. We shot the breeze for a while and grabbed some coffee at Starbucks. in another strange bit of luck, it was there I ran into Todd & Amy. They happened to be driving by and saw my car. So all of us had some fun together, and it ended up being just what the doctor ordered for me.