Tag Archives: Entertainment

AGFV: The Best and Worst “Forward Thinking” Game Companies

For this month’s installment of AGFV I thought we’d cover the five best and five worst game companies for getting their older games working. Some games have life even after twenty years, and some won’t work on the next or even their own OS.

I considered a lot of factors when compiling this list; continued support, ease of installation, whether emulation is required, 16-bit installers, broadness of graphics cards/methods supported.

The Best:

5: Valve – Say what you will about Steam, Valves’s game distribution platform, it’s a great service for games like Half Life and its ilk. While games on Steam are not gaurunteed to continue running on all new OS’s, the support structure seems to be there for you to invest with confidence. I also have the stand-alone GOTY edition of Half-Life which installs without problems.

4: Interplay – It’s worth noting that Win 95 games are the kiss of death in forward compatibility and Interplay has several that install in compatibility mode WITHOUT patches (Fallout and Freespace). It’s DOS back catalog installs well in DOSBox, and they have many of the best known series (Freespace, Descent, Fallout, The Bard’s Tale). (Notable exceptions: Giants: Citizen Kabuto was buggy to begin with and remains so, and the floppy edition of Star Trek: Judgment Rites will not install without replacing the extracting program)

3: iD/Raven Software – Doom, Quake and Commander Keen are all emulatable in DOSBox or other third-party enhancement projects (Doomsday, Dark Places). The Win95 distro of Doom still installs and runs well on new systems. Most games that are Quake 3 powered run on Win 7 without modification (Elite Force Series for instance).

2: Sierra (DOS-era) – Also known as the “Quest” Era, Sierra’s adventure games work both in DOSBox and ScummVM. Many have been repackaged and sold with automatic DOSBox compatibility so they install and run on Win XP/7 without modification. Some copy protection in their games requires you to download copies of the original manuals, but these are widely available.

1: Blizzard (pre-2003) – It’s worth noting that Starcraft (the original) is still one of the most widely played games in some circles. Warcraft 3 which came out 9 years ago still sells in stores (as does Starcraft). Even older titles like the original Warcraft or Diablo can be installed as is or emulated in DOSBox. Newer tactics toward online registration have changed how their newer games will move forward, but their back catalog is among the easiest to install and get playing.

The Worst:

5: Nintendo – Yeah okay, I know I’m not a console gamer to begin with, but it’s worth noting that you can’t play a Nintendo game from 20 years ago without repurchasing it. All the games listed in the best category can be installed or emulated using original media.

4: Cyan – MYST and Riven specifically. Some editions of MYST were designed for Win 3.1 only and can’t be run even in Win 95. Those that were designed for 95 use old editions of QuickTime. Riven’s five disc edition can be recombined into one (though I haven’t tried it), but even a conventional installation from the 10th anniversary set on Win 7 does not work. CYAN’s secret, new editions. You can buy MYST and Riven on GOG and they install and run just fine. You can even buy MYST on the iPad (but again repurchasing is not the same).

3: Remedy – The sound libraries for Max Payne have to be recompiled to get them to run in Vista/Win7. Even my XP installation did not work quite correctly (I had to hit the Windows button and click back in to get the menu). Maybe a victim of focusing on console versions first.

2: LucasArts – Where do I begin? Maybe with all the crappy Win 9.x Star Wars games. LucasArts installers from this period are 16-bit and have never been updated for 64-bit systems. The graphics cards supported are very narrow and its a crapshoot as to whether a newer system can interpret them (interestingly had a lot better luck with integrated graphics cards than real ones). The GrimE engine has only recently been emulated sufficiently to be playable and even some Scumm titles (Enhanced Monkey Island 1) require more than a basic level of skill to get running.

1: Simon and Schuster Interactive – They make games? Yeah, a lot of crappy Star Trek titles mostly. What’s unfortunate about Simon and Schuster is that many of these products are interesting (the TNG Technical Manual is one of my favorites but can only be run in emulated Win 3.1!). Again these suffer from using strange 3D techniques tested on only a few graphics cards, or using old versions of QuickTime. Even DOS era games have weird copy protection that requires a very specific configuration (otherwise Spock yells at you for piracy). (Notable Exception: DS9 The Fallen based on the Unreal 1.5 engine. Great game even today)

Tried to get any of these games running yourself? Like to see a game guide on some of the tougher ones?

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J-Pop America Fun Time Now

I was among those who saw PSY for the first time on SNL, though I’ve been a fan of J\K Pop for many years. Seeing the ridiculousness of both the sketch, and the music video that inspired it, I thought it might be fun to share a few of my favorite artists/music videos in this genre for those who saw PSY and thought “I gotta get me some more of that”.

M-Flo loves Emyli & YOSHIKA – Loop In My Heart: If you like Asian Dudes wrapping, then you really can’t miss one of the J-Pop Masters, M-Flo. His album “BEAT SPACE NINE” pairs him a number of other Japanese artists for what is actually a fairly consistent and enjoyable albums. Here’s one of the first tracks:

Monkey Majik – Picture Perfect: Disembodied heads singing on a table your thing? Well then you can’t miss this. Check out the facial expressions (since there’s little else to watch.

SOUL’d Out – To All The Dreamers: If it was the awesome dancing that attracted you to PSY, then you gotta check out the CG disco dancing antics of the second ending of Yakitate Japan.

SuperCar – White Surf Style 5: Moving on to the more conventional weird, why not try this alternative to the typical abusive relationship. Warning contains breasts being used as missiles. Trust me, bizarre enough to grow on you.

Ayumi Hamasaki – Ladies Night: The household name of J-Pop female singers. Unfortunately most of her vids are not full length on YouTube, but here’s a taste of some of her weirder material.

BoA – Valenti: A more conventional J-Pop artists, this track feels like something you might turn on Telemundo or some such. An upbeat break from the last couple of wierds I just played for you.

YUI – Rolling Star: For some decent Rock or Folk you can’t go wrong with YUI, whose music has been used many times in my favorite anime Bleach.

HIGH and MIGHTY Color: Keeping the Bleach love going, this band is a little uneven, but their best tracks feel like new Evanescence singles.

Rip Slyme – Super Shooter: Another anime theme, this one from Gantz, this is probably some of the craziest Jap-Rap you’ll hear. I’m not sure if this is the official video or not.

L’Arc~en~ciel – Link: The most ubiquitous band on this list, you’ve heard their music and probably not realized it. Their lead singer HYDE is kind of amusingly bad, but the music itself is very enjoyable.

Find anything you like?

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First Impressions

“The book was better than the movie.”

“You have to watch it in the original language. The english dub is painful.”

“The original version is by far the best.”

My wife and I saw The Hunger Games yesterday after she plowed through the book the day before. While we disagreed on some of the finer points, we generally agreed that the movie fell short of the book, that key moments, details and events were left out. While movies are oftened accused of not being as good as their source material, watching this particular movie brought up two points that I thought were worth sharing.

1) You’ll always think the first thing you saw/read/heard is the best version

For me this comes up all the time in Anime. While generally speaking I try to watch all anime shows in their original language, there are a number that for one reason or another I saw in English first. For me Hellsing sounds terrible in Japanese, as do Akira, Steamboy (I mean who’s better than Patrick Stewrat) and Metropolis. Conversely, the english adaptions of Neon Genesis Evangelion, Bleach and Trigun are painful to listen to (particularly Trigun). I think one of the main reasons for this is that moment when we form our impression of the character, what they look like and how they sound.

In The Hunger Games I listened to the audio book rather than reading which gave me some very set preceptions of how names were pronounced and how certain characters sounded. In particularly Effie (played by Elizabeth Banks in the movie) has a much more exaggerated affectation in the audiobook, and I found Banks to be too subdued (though kudos to her for sitting through makeup that would make Mrs. Slocomb faint).

A kind of exception to this rule for me was Watchmen. Though I find the graphic novel to have a much richer amount of background material, due to the way it was published, I liked the movie ending better, despite having read the graphic novel months before. The movie ending pins the destruction of the world on one the main characters and not on some manufactured evil brought in from seemingly nowhere. The graphic novel is like a mystery where the murderer is introduced only in the last few pages, rather than in the first 20% of the book. In the movie we meet our murderer up front, have time to suspect them and others.

But I digress.

I formed a lot of my impressions of The Hunger Games from the audiobook, a form of reading that is often more practical for me since I can listen to audiobooks at work. Reading in this fashion does have some downsides however which may have colored my perception of some characters.

2) Audiobooks choose what points to emphasize rather than letting you decide where to place emphasis

More than just the affectations of Effie, the audiobook shaped my impressions of some of the main characters particularly Peeta and Katniss. I didn’t really like either of these characters at first. I found Katniss to be cold, to suspicious of people around her, and at times very flightly and indecisive. I found Peeta’s love from afar to be far from believeable, and found Katniss’ references to him as “the boy with bread” to be distracting. (I don’t want to give people the impression I didn’t like the book because I actually did overall).

Audiobooks are a performance like any other and I didn’t realize until I saw that the movie how much of my feelings about these characters was colored by that performance. Seeing the movie, even with its faults, made me much more sympathetic of Katniss and much more believing in Peeta’s love and overall charming and noble nature. Even before the movie however, I was softening on both of these characters as I read (this time on the Kindle) the second book. While we may have a preference for the first way we encounter something, this does not mean we can’t learn or change our views by seeing other versions.

I still stand by my standard axiom, read/see/hear whatever came first then see what came next, but I think it’s important to recognize how we bias our opinions of what’s to come.

What do you guys think? Is there always a “best” way to see something, or is it subjective?

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Manga Carta

I like Bleach.

No not the laundry product, but the sword wielding, evil spirit banishing, manga series. Manga, for those who are not familiar, is the Japanese equivalent of the graphic novel, or long form comic book. Manga series often come in volumes about 180 – 240 pages long and can span dozens of volumes (Bleach is in the 50s I think). The art is mostly black and white, and the size is smaller than your standard comic book we all know and love, about the size of most paperback books.

If you follow a number of series that much manga starts to take up a lot of room (I have 3 front and back shelves full with more stacked on top), so it would seem like the perfect thing to read on a tablet. And in fact you can.

On the Nook.

If you want to read manga on the Kindle you are largely out of luck. Though they have about 1000 titles listed, most are either hentai or yaoi (suffice it to say “adult” content of various varieties), or are from obscure series or authors. The reason you can read manga on the Nook is their partnership with Viz, which publishes such popular series as Fullmetal Alchemist, Rurouni Kenshin, Bleach and Naruto.

The reverse is true if you are a fan of DC graphic novels, which are only available on the Kindle. Because of this exclusive arrangement Barnes and Noble pulled those DC comics affected from their brick and mortar stores.

Both situations are victims of platform exclusivity, something that is running rampant in our emerging eBook economy. When I’m buying an eReader, I really only want to evaluate the technical specifications of the device, how big is the storage space, how long is the battery life, etc. But as anyone who has purchased one before knows, you also have to consider the store you are making a partnership with.

And even from a technical side there are some quirks. Manga is available only on the Nook Color and Nook Tablet. But it is in BLACK and WHITE! The reason is that most comic or magazine eBooks are a little more sophisticated than your standard eBook. If you click on the individual panels of the page, they zoom in closer to make them easier to read (necessitated for comic books because the screen is smaller than the original page).

But manga is different. It’s only a little bigger than readers like the Nook or the Kindle. For most people it would perfectly fine to read on an eInk reader, and again it doesn’t usually require color for anything except the cover.

There have been some attempts made at cross platform comics and manga, the android app comiXology being one of the most notable. But even this service has yet to sign a partnership with Viz or Dark Horse, two of the bigger manga publishers, both of which seem to only work with BN.

Barnes and Noble does have a good price point for manga, mostly $4.99 a volume, roughly half what a printed copy costs, but I don’t want to buy a Nook to get them.

For me the model is obvious, and one I’ve highlighted before. When you buy a book from BAEN publishing, you get it in all the popular eBook formats, DRM free. Why can’t Viz and all of these others do the same thing?

Ultimately for me the solution has been to just buy the physical books (usually used from HPB). For graphic novels, and manga too, there really isn’t anything like having the actual book in your hands. I purchased Batman: The Long Halloween from Amazon a while back, and ended up returning it because it didn’t seem to consistently work (a whole other technical discussion for another time). Practically the same day I found a print copy at HPB for the same money, as well as the other successive volumes. Physical books are still the best cross platform solution.

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