Archive for September, 2003

Hard Games Part 2

Tuesday, September 30th, 2003

1. Lucasarts. Lucasarts makes some of the finest games for any platform (at least the ones that I’ve played were really good), but they also make some of the most difficult games on the planet. I suppose that it could be just me, but out of all the Lucasarts games that I’ve played, I have only finished one of them (Shadows of the Empire). On ‘easy.’ For all I know, there is a secret club of gaming elite that you can only join if you finish a Lucasarts game, and you learn the secret handshake shown in the endings of the games.

2. Ghouls’n Ghosts. Anyone who tells you that this isn’t a hard game is insane. This is, quite possibly, the hardest game on the planet. I can’t think of a game that’s harder to finish that’s come out since it did… in 1988. This game requires precise timing to pull off anything. Unless you are a robot made specifically to play Ghouls’n Ghosts, you will spend a lot of quarters on this game.

3. Gradius. I never realized how incredibly hard this game is until I played it. Sure, it’s standard ‘spaceship goes up against 1 godzillion enemy ships to save the universe’ kind of game. The whole ‘you can only get hit once’ kind of thing really ramps up the difficulty of this game, and others like it. I’m really familiar with the opening part of level 1, but after that, my game just falls apart.

4. Text adventure games. You don’t really see these any more. People, I assume, get turned off by the absence of ‘graphics’ and the amount of ‘reading’ that they have to do in these games. I don’t mind the reading so much, especially if the game’s written well, but the puzzles in those kinds of games are truly mind-bending. I was walking through a walkthrough of one of my favorite DOS games, Skullduggery and the solutions to some of the puzzles were so far out in left field that I’m not sure they were in the same ball game. There is virtually no way I would have ever solved them.

5. Gauntlet. Gauntlet is one of my favorite NES games. I still suck at it horribly, though. Maybe I’m so bad at the game because I don’t have the instruction manual. It’s got the same thing going for it that the space shooters do: one (or two) warrior (space ship) going against half a billion monsters (aliens). In Gauntlet, you play until you run out of HP. There is almost nothing you can do that doesn’t make your HP drop. Just standing there lowers your HP. A monster beating you in the head with a club lowers your HP. Stepping on a monster to kill it lowers your HP. Eating poison lowers your HP. You can eat the (non poison) food sitting around the dungeon to gain back some HP, but it keeps on dropping. You need to keep plowing forward. To what end? I have no idea. I can’t figure that part out.

I could probably go on all day about how Castlevania III or Ninja Gaiden 3 or Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles or your favorite super-hard game is nigh impossible, but I’ll stop here. Mega tough games are a fine thing to have, if the game steadily increases to maximum frustration level. Starting out at full-blown insanity just, well, it isn’t nice.

The Prices are Falling!

Friday, September 26th, 2003

Sure, a price drop in a console is usually a nice thing. It makes the console more affordable to the masses. However, dropping the price when you are already the price leader is a bad sign.

I’ve made it no secret that I am a Nintendo fan boy. They just made the games that I wanted to play over the other systems. Slowly, though, over the last several years, Nintendo has, I’m afraid, chased off too much of it’s own audience.

Nintendo has the handheld market locked up pretty tightly. They’re keeping the Pok


Tuesday, September 23rd, 2003

For no real reason, I added forums to the site.

Unfortunately, that means no ‘real’ update today.

How to make a website for almost free (legally!)

Monday, September 22nd, 2003

Domain Name: $8/year
Running total: $8

One of the first things that I realized that I needed was DNS (Here is a nice little rundown on what that means). I could pay for such a service, but that didn’t fit in with my budget. I searched around and eventually found out that such places do exist where they provide such services for free. The only problem was that I would have to know a lot about how DNS actually worked. I didn’t really want to invest in a large amount of learning exactly how DNS worked, I just wanted to get something that would work with as little work as possible. I eventually settled on DNS2GO (once they started to charge for their service, I went to the marginally more complicated but still completely free

DNS: $0/year
Running total: $8

Now that I had a catchy and trendy name that people could type in and get to my site, I needed someplace to put it. I looked around at some hosting plans and thought to myself, “I have a cable connection to the internet, why don’t I just use that?” This is essentially free, since I’d have a connection to the Internet
anyway, so it doesn’t count. Hooray!

Hosting: $0/year
Running total: $8

Now that I had a connection to the Internet, I needed something to put the site on. I looked around the house and managed to scrounge up enough parts for an almost fully functional computer. I had RAM, a CPU, a video care, a network card, a case, a floppy drive, a keyboard, a crappy monitor, and a keyboard (if you had to go out and buy all the parts that I had just laying around, you would have spent about $40-$50, or you could have called up your computer geek friend and ask him to make something for you). I just needed a motherboard. A Super 7 motherboard (to put it mildly, a good one at a good price is next to impossible to find any more). I lucked out and a computer store locally had a decent one in stock, but he wanted something like $80 for it. I really wanted to get my site off the ground, but that was way more than I wanted to spend.

I caved.

I asked them to get it for me, and the proprietor told me that since it was the last one that I could have it for $60. Yeah, it was cheaper, but my wallet still stings.

Misc. Parts: $0
Motherboard: $60! (Ouch!)
Running total: $68

Okay. Now that we have an assembled computer, what do we do with it? This computer wasn’t nearly the class to run something like IIS (not like I could afford something like that anyway), so I turned to the Free Software solution. I decided to install Linux on the machine (if you’re following along at home, you can use Xitami or something similar on your main machine if you don’t want to bother with learning how to install/maintain a new operating system). After looking through the alternatives, I decided on Debian Linux with Apache. Mostly because it was a distribution that I could install from floppy disks (no CD-ROM, remember?).

Operating System Software: $0
Web Server Software: $0
Running Total: $68

That total doesn’t include all the time I put into learning how to administer my new system. I had never taken on a project like this before, so I was pretty new at everything. Thankfully, everything I wanted to do was documented well enough so that I could get everything going like I wanted it to.

[Fast forward a couple of weeks]

Okay, the system is up and running, Apache is serving up pages properly, and I’m ready to go! Well, sort of. In doing all of this setting up, I didn’t have time to create any kind of site. I really wanted to get something going, and I even spent a couple of days working on what kind of site that I wanted to build. It was then that I realized that it would take too long. I wanted a site and I wanted a site now, so I decided to look at the prepackaged solutions.

I looked around and (after trying and failing at installing Slash, among other things) decided to install PHP-Nuke. PHP-Nuke is an OK solution for a story-telling home page, but it isn’t really customizable if you don’t know your way around PHP and MySQL really well. I managed to learn enough PHP to add a box or two, and found a theme from one of the theme sites out on the Internet, and was moderately satisfied for quite a while.

Publication Suite: $0
Final Total: $68

Cool. We’re in business. I started the site and started promoting it everywhere I could. Since I wanted to keep it as cheap as possible, I relied primarily on word of mouth. I also submitted my site to as many search engines as I could find, and in a month’s time, I was averaging around 100 hits a day.

Since then, a lot has happened. I got an advertiser, I have migrated from PHP-Nuke to Movable Type, I have set up my own email service, my site was defaced once, and my traffic is up to about 400 hits a day. I’ve spent a bit more on promotion since the first couple of months (mostly tee shirts and sponsoring tournaments at AsylumLAN). All in all, I haven’t put too much more money into this site. I’m still under the $100 range, and I’m mostly happy with it now. This site has generated less than $20 in revenue, but that’s not what it’s all about. If you want to make money off of a website, that’s fantastic and I hope it works for you, but I’m not doing this to make money. I’m doing it to have fun. That’s what this project is all about.

Good luck and have fun with it!

Old Content

Sunday, September 21st, 2003

There we go. I managed to take all the best articles from the Old Site and migrate them here. If I missed your favorite one, the Old Site will be available here for a while at least.

Time for a break!

What’s your gaming level?

Friday, September 19th, 2003

1. Collectors. These gamers like to amass stuff. If it’s game-related, they probably have it, or are working on getting it. If you meet one of these people, they are likely going to have some of the most bizarre game-related things that you will ever see. They are good at identifying odd pieces of hardware should you bring them somthing. They keep their stuff in great shape and occasionally play a game or two. Some of them have definate themes to their collections from ‘Everything ever made’ to ‘Nintendo Nintendo Nintendo’ to whatever. They sometimes will go to odd lengths to add to their collection. They frequent yard sales, flea markets and eBay.

2. Enthusiasts. Enthusiasts want to learn, and consequently do learn, quite a bit about games. They read, they play, they probably have several old systems right alongside their new systems. They are knowledgeable and enjoy gaming for the sake of gaming. They may not have the biggest collection you’ll ever see, but they do have some nice games.

3. Players. Players usually aren’t too interested in collecting, per se, but they do have a nice library of games for whatever systems they do have. They might have a system or two from ‘one generation ago’ for one reason or another, but as a rule, they don’t go out seeking anything that isn’t manufactured any more. If they can’t go buy it at Wal-Mart, then it really wasn’t worth getting anyway.

4. Pseudo-players. Pseudo-players want to be enthusiasts, or even collectors, but don’t know how to do it (think of a poseur). This person probably has an enormous archive of ROMs and emulators on their computer for the ‘older’ systems, but none of the actual hardware. He really wants you to know that he’s an ‘old-school’ gamer because he has access to all of these games, but he’s probably only played a tenth of what he has stored away on his computer somewhere. He won’t go and hunt for the old stuff because it ‘takes too much time’ or he ‘doesn’t have any money.’ They might be great people. Who knows?

5. Latest-Gamers. LGs are the ones that always have to have the newest stuff. When the PS2 came out, he sold his PS1 and all his games to finance his purchase. He always has the latest and greatest at the expense of the earlier and not-as-greatest (sorry, I couldn’t think of anything clever to put there). This guy is likely to have Madden 200X and none of the other ones. He likes the trendy, mainstream games. Pretty boring.

6. Casual-Gamers. CGs are the ones that may not even own a system at all. They like to play some games once in a while when they are around their friends, but that’s it. They might have accidentally bought something game related at some point in their life, and maybe even have kept it. They’re usually up for a quick game of whatever’s easy to pick up and play (usually Tetris), but don’t expect a challenge.

7. Anti-Gamers. I don’t like these guys. They hate games and anyone that plays them more than an hour a year. They are usually associated with body builders and sports figures, but those barriers are breaking down, an AG could be anybody.

I think that about covers it. I think I am somewhere between 1 and 2 on that list.

It’d make more sense if you toured my house.

Game Soundtracks

Thursday, September 18th, 2003

Over the last few years, I’ve done what I can to get my hands on just about every kind of game music soundtrack that I could get my hands on (well, only getting the ‘good’ ones), and I have a smallish collection going (about 15 titles spanning multiple systems). Some of them came free with some promotion or other, some were imports, and some were special orders that I almost had to have inside contacts to get. I’ve even gone through the trouble of making my own CDs by recording and editing the output of my consoles.

Why is it this hard? I have game upon game that have wonderful soundtracks that I would absolutely love to hear outside of the normal game environment. Some of the newer games even have orchestrated soundtracks. It should be relatively easy to throw those on a CD and sell them for however much they think that they’re worth.

Maybe no one buys them. As much as I hate to admit it, I might be in the minority. I’ll go out and get the Final Fantasy IV Soundtrack and play it loudly and proudly in my car all over town, but I don’t know anyone else who does. Of all the stores that I’ve been to, I only know of one store (outside of the Internet) that sells game music soundtracks and that’s Electronics Boutique (well, local to me, anyway). Trying to find them anywhere else without paying a fortune for import fees is next to impossible. Although, importing is certainly a good way to get the music from elsewhere, I hate spending $25 or so on one disc, regardless of how good it is.

Time for me to head out. I need my Final Fantasy VII music fix.

The Nintendo Gaming Network

Wednesday, September 17th, 2003

Picture this: You decide you want to fire up your game of choice… let’s say F-Zero GX. Put in your official boot disc in the drive, let it go through it’s thing, select what game you want to play, throw it in, and start looking for an opponent. This can be done in one of two ways:

1. Automatic. The server searches for other people looking for a game that are on about the same skill level as you (more on that later) and you get down to business.

2. Directed. Of course you will have a Friends list that you can put your buddies, favorite opponents, famous people in, etc, and see your win/loss record with them, and maybe even some personal notes about them. You can both set up a time when you agree to meet online to throw down the virtual gauntlets.

Whenever you win a game in this mental exercise of ours, you will win a certain amount of points. The amount of points you win will be based on a percentage of your opponent’s points (rounded up). That way it works in your favor. If you somehow challenge and beat a level 58 opponent while you’re still on level 2, you’ll get a lot more points because, one would hope, the level 58 guy is supposed to be pretty darn good, while at level 2, you either aren’t really good yet or have just started to play online. Of course, you can also lose points. If you lose a game, you lose some points. Perhaps not as many as the other person gained, and certainly not enough to go into the negative points, but this will be to ensure that there won’t be many people that would rocket up to the maximum level within the first week the service was up and stay there (although I’m sure they would be there anyway).

When you go to play an Automatic game, the system will look for someone with at least the same level as you, then it will search +5 and -5 levels, giving preference to the higher level player. If no one is found, the search will broaden to +10 and -10 levels. If no one is found by the time that the search gets to +maximum level to -minimum level then that game may be on the verge of being removed from the network, you might want to look into playing something new.

Of course there would also have to be newsletters, contests, tournaments, chat areas, perhaps message boards, exclusive game demos (hmm, it’s almost starting to sound a little like the Satellaview), there could even be some sort of ‘secret area’ for subscribers of Nintendo Power. Kind of an online supplement to the magazine. For that matter, there could be some kind of bonus service to the subscribers such as: interviews with game developers, subscriber-exclusive news, demos a week earlier than everyone else, etc. I don’t even want to think of what they could do if they managed to get this working with the GameBoy Player. The Pok


Monday, September 15th, 2003

Steam sounds like a good idea. You fire up your Valve game of choice, Steam checks for mods, updates, and etc., and you get to play with the latest version of everything. Great!

But there’s a downside. There’s always a downside.

Once you connect to Steam for the first time (whether you check for updates or play multiplayer online) you must then log on to Steam each and every time you want to play the game. If you want to play a Steam powered game at a LAN party, every computer must have a connection to the internet. Through my own LAN party experience, I’ve learned two things: Counter Strike is still one of the most popular LAN games, and not every LAN party has a connection to the internet (even some of the big ones like LanWar). So a lot of Counter Strike will not be going on at LANs. (Yeah, I know they get a lot of grief, but people play CS more than any other game at most of the LANs I’ve been to.) Why will people go to a LAN if they can’t play the game they want?

I don’t want to have to connect to the internet every time I want to play a single player version of a particular game. It just seems unnecessary, and I really don’t want to have to authenticate with the internet to play a multiplayer game if there’s no internet connection available. I just hope one of two things happen: 1. People like me abstain from purchasing Half-Life 2 in the hopes that Valve mends their software or, 2. Someone hacks together an authentication ‘workaround’ so that computers on an internet deprived LAN can actually play the games they want to play.

I’m not holding my breath for either, unfortunately.

The State of the Socks

Sunday, September 14th, 2003

I know that most people do their reflections on their respective sites on anniversary dates. Bah, that’s too far away. I don’t want to wait until January if I have no real reason to.

I alluded, in an earlier article (on a whole other website, to envisioning this site as some sort of gaming news site where I would have stories about comings and goings, new games, reviews, and the occasional whatever. Since you’re reading this now, it’s safe to assume that that didn’t happen exactly how I envisioned it, mostly because other sites do the same thing that I wanted to do, and much better.

Having spare time is definately a problem. I have a few alternatives when it comes to running a site. I can quit my ‘real’ job and try to make money at being a webmaster, which I don’t see happening in the near future, or I can just keep on having fun with it, providing content for free, which seems more likely.

It’s fairly obvious that now the site has turned into more of a blog style. It’s the wave of the present. Everyone, their cat, and their cat’s mother has a blog. Most of them, though, are just painfully boring to read. I do not want this site to turn into some kind of “I went to the mall today and got a Coke, but the guy behind the counter totally screwed up and gave me a Diet Coke instead. I smiled, walked around the corner and threw the almost full thing away. That’ll show ‘im” kind of blog. I just don’t find that reading about other people’s personal lives and experiences terribly interesting. Maybe that’s a character flaw. I don’t particularly like reality-based TV either.

So what does that mean that this site is going to be? Well, that’s something that I’m not entirely sure about. It’ll be different than what’s been here.


Someone email me a Boot to the Head if I start talking about how my shoes were knotted up this morning or how the server put mayonnaise on my sandwich instead of mustard that day or the Mountain Dew I drank tasted like Mountain Wizz or etc. etc.