Thursday, January 14, 2010

Conan out

The Daily Beast

Appears to have confirmed that Conan O'Brien has negotiated an exit from NBC and he will be free to appear on other networks without restriction.

I guess this means Leno/Fallon for NBC's late night.
Conan Exit Confirmed

Made of WIN: Vol 1!

Something you should definitely check out!
First Person Tetris

An R18+ Rating for Video Games

I’m sending my submission today – apart from the questionnaire you can put a statement in there of 250 words or less, here’s what I wrote

I contend, as a parent of young children and someone who has played video games for many years. We need an R18+ rating in Australia.

Adults should be allowed to read, see and hear what they wish.

The argument that R18+ games would somehow end up in the hands of children is completely facile, no matter how hard you try, you cannot regulate against bad parenting and you shouldn’t be penalising the majority of good, responsible parents.

I have several MA15+ games in my collection and there is no way that my kids would ever get to play them, let alone see them in action, just the same as they wouldn’t be allowed to watch adult television or an M rated DVD.

Current consoles also have parental lock-outs on the system, giving you an extra layer of protection when kids get older and craftier.
Finally I wish to address the fact that any change to the classification system requires the agreement of all the attorney-generals in Australia, might I point out that individual states have the ability to further regulate these classifications and they already do.

If you wish to purchase an X18+ rated movie, you can only do so from the ACT or NT, the classification itself is legal, but individual states have barred it from sale.

Individual states that have misgivings about R18+ games could restrict their sale in their own state whilst leaving the other states to decide for themselves.

You might think I’m a bit keen to be going to the trouble to actually put something in writing to the government but currently the wowsers in this country have the censors by the short and curlies (not just in games either but TV has gone backwards from when I was a kid) and they’ll keep making things in this country worse unless the silent majority actually stand up and make their opinions known.

You can download the submission template in PDF or Word format at the following website:

Tuesday, January 12, 2010

The Death of Exclusives

There's an interesting editorial today in IGN from Ryan Geddes who ruminates over the announcement that Final Fantasy XIII would be going multiplatform and how it actually stirred him to purchase a PS3

Editorial: Why I Purchased a PS3

"something about a proper new Final Fantasy game appearing on the Xbox 360 felt horribly wrong, like dropping a Ferrari engine into a Buick body. Sure, she'll run, but the soul of the machine would just be off somehow."

This statement in particular got me thinking, especially being a Nintendo fanboy of old, In the older generations especially the 16 and 32/64bit generations console exclusives pretty much defined your choice of system, you weren't going to play Mario anywhere but on a Nintendo machine, you couldn't play the latest Sonic game unless you had the Saturn (BTW did anyone in Australia own a Saturn? I saw one in a shop one time, but it was really invisible throughout the 90s)

Final Fantasy is a game which lived out its formative years (the first 6 games) on Nintendo consoles but when Nintendo locked in a cartridge format for the N64, Square (the makers of Final Fantasy) jumped to Sony to continue their series. I remember this was hhugely controversial at the time and a rift between Nintendo and Square carried on and wouldn't be smoothed over until the GameCube.

Square's issue with the N64 was with the cartridge format, which turned out to be the system's achillies heel, the cartridges had a capacity up to 64MB, by contrast a Compact Disc can hold about 700MB, even DS games can carry about 128MB of information, so the N64 was running new technology on yesterdays medium, Square couldn't make the game they wanted with the memory available.

The recent controversy is over the fact that both Final Fantasy XIII and the latest Metal Gear Solid game will no longer be Playstation Exclusives. Both games are by third party publishers but both have also become synonymous with the Playstation brand (despite the fact that both got their start in the 8-Bit era on the Famicom and MSX respectively)

I can understand why people are annoyed by these storied franchises making appearances on the XBox 360 but this is an irrational feeling, the publishers are only going multiplatform because they want to make money.

The truth is publishers will go where the sales are and any casual reading of sales figures in the past two years will show you that the XBox 360 has a much higher turnout than the PS3 for Multiplatform releases. It's not just the fact that there are slightly more XBox 360's than PS3's in the world (a lot of those could be RRoD replacements!) but the XBox 360 has a phenomenal attach rate (meaning the number of games purchased per system)

I'll be interested to see the sales figures for Final Fantasy XIII in March to see if this trend continues or if the Sony fanboys have got it right with this one!

Monday, January 11, 2010

TOP SEVEN Metro Trains Excuses

It's fucking hot here in Melbourne and it only gets worse if you have to take the train because those fuckers keep breaking, meaning cancellations and warped tracks and all manner of bad shit going down

You can read more about this city's woes at The Age:

Commuters face more peak-hour delays

Metro chief executive Andrew Lezala today apologised to commuters but said peak-hour users would again face delays due to faulty air conditioners and sagging overhead wires.

Although today's cooler temperature will reduce the number of mechanical problems, 12 trains remain out of action this afternoon, which means more disruptions across the network.

‘‘We’ll do the best we can to get those (faulty trains) ready for the evening peak. Some of them will be, other won’t because they have more difficult problems with the air conditioners," Mr
Lezala told radio station 3AW.

"There will be some disruption (this afternoon) but we are doing everything possible to give as good a service as we can.’’

Anyway - here my first Top Seven (yes like the Letterman Top Ten only with way less baseball references)

TOP 7 Metro Excuses
(for late/cancelled trains)

7. 90% of drivers sick with Monkey Pox
6. Had a flat wheel
5. Driver got held up in the Laverton - if you know what I mean
4. Something, Something... Jeff Kennett
3. Union held rolling stoppages over dangerous overhead wires
2. Had to give Mx something to b*tch about
1. We're not late, you're early!

Television Rant: Australian Idle and the US Late Night Paradox

Lots of big upheaval in television this week from both here and in America.

With both these stories it's almost a case of - duh!

Here in Australia, the long running and once unassailable Idol franchise has gasped its last, after suffering several years of middling ratings (hovering under the 1 million mark for most of last season which is painfully low compared to the 3 million viewer highs of its first two seasons) and a public indifferent to the "talent" (singles from the last few idol winners have been fizzers on the ARIA charts) the show was producing.

Officially the show is on hiatus and will not be making an appearance in 2010, unnofficially Ten would be unhappy with being Seven and Nine's bitch and would want to use their Commonwealth Games launch pad late in the year to launch something good with half a chance of success.

I could say something nice about Idol - but I won't because its been obvious since the end of the second season - when the winner was the unremarkable Casey Donovan and "Dicko" (who's real name incredibly escapes me) prepared to jump ship for the millions that Seven was offering - that the show's mechanism for discovering talent was faulty (thousands of teenage girls with mobile phones are not the best judge of bankable pop talent) and the judges don't care all that much so why should the rest of us!

The addition the following season of the polarising Kyle Sandilands only served to further alienate people over the age of 25 and the long trudge downhill began.

Really I'm not sure why Ten didn't realise this years ago - I only hope they saw the writing on the year last year and starting coming up with some sort of alternative that might actually draw some viewers.

In the US the NBC network is crumbling under the weight of bad, bad decisions. Back in 2004 (correct me if I'm wrong) the network struck a deal to have Jay Leno "retire" from the Tonight Show so the up and coming Conan O'Brien could take over the show in 2009. This was done to Conan at NBC stopping him from jumping ship to either ABC or Fox who were (at the time) looking to get into the late night Television war.

Cut to 2009 and indeed Leno did "retire" from the Tonight Show, only to return in a new primetime clone of his Late Night show. The thing about US television is - they have very clear demarcation for different types of shows - and the idea of a Celebrity Talk Show in primetime is very wrong to the yanks, as is the idea of a Prime Time network show taking up 5 nights a week.

Leno debuted in the 10pm slot in NBC back in September (and has been airing 7.30pm weeknights on the Comedy Channel and various times on 7TWO since his debut) the show is mostly the same as the Tonight Show and there in lies the problem, the show, not bringing anything new to the table, pulled late night audience figures in a 10pm slot

BTW 10pm may sound pretty late in the context of Australian TV but this late hour has been the home to a lot of mega-hits over the years from Hill Street Blues, LA Law, ER, Law & Order, SVU, CSI Miami, The Practice, Northern Exposure to name a few.

The lower audiences not only meant a lower lead in for local newscasts at 11pm (the networks don't program the 11 - 11.35 time period handing this time over to local stations whose late night news casts are traditionally big money spinners) but because viewers have already watched Leno's monologue, they didn't feel the need to stick around for Conan's - leading to Conan taking a beating in the ratings from the philandering David Letterman!

Now only 4 months into this experiment, NBC has waived the white flag and is moving the "retired" Leno back to 11.35pm with Conan starting after Midnight (making him head to head with Jimmy Fallon (whose very funny ABC show can also be seen on the Comedy Channel) and the second half of Letterman.

This is a total embarrasment for everyone involved. NBC had the stones to force Leno's retirement - they should've stood by their original decision instead of creating the farce that has ensued - if Leno had jumped to ABC or Fox (very likely) he may have succeeded or flopped, but it would have been a better situation than what we've witnessed.

Now in all likelyhood NBC could lose Conan (who Fox has expressed interest in) which would be an even bigger disaster than losing Leno.

As for Leno - a lot of this came about because he agreed to "retire" in the first place (when he certainly didn't need to) partly because he wanted to avoid the acrimonius situation that played out between he, Letterman and Carson in 1992, ironically in trying to avoid that situation he has unwittingly created a situation that is much worse because its threatening to bring down the NBC network. It's like some weird time travel paradox!

Friday, January 8, 2010

The Nintendo Fanboy who grew up...

I gotta hand it to Microsoft, when they first vaulted into the Video Game Market (back here in 2002) I wrote them off as a trojan horse for PC Gaming, at the time nothing annoyed me more than the self-righteous computer gaming evangelists who would spit on your copy of Goldeneye 64 and sing the praises of keyboard controls, it nauseated me every time.

So when XBox debuted in 2002 I took a pass and opted instead for a Nintendo Gamecube, a compact little box of a machine with very few bells and whistles but with the guarantee of Mario, Zelda and even now Sonic!

I had a great time with it - for two years until new releases seemed to dry up, the PS2 started eating into its space on the rental shelves and big chains like Kmart and BigW started dropping it altogether.

Eventually I had kids and a lot less time for games, eventually my children started taking notice of the games machines and wanted to see them in action, so began my refamiliarisation with the consoles, while I enjoyed playing through some of those N64 classics again, something was missing when it came to the Cube, I have some great titles for that machine, Wind Waker, Super Mario Sunshine, Metroid Prime, Smash Bros, Soul Calibur II but when I played them again it was like I'd lost the passion for it.

My actual GameCube game collection

My wife, who never understood my Nintendo obsession, one afternoon in 2008 mused that we should get a PlayStation 2. I had been steadfastly against it in the past, I remember arguing that they only ever have a handful of quality games.

I was speaking from experience, during the 5th generation I bought a chipped PlayStation for the sole purpose of playing Tekken 3 imported straight from Japan (it was either than or sink even more money into that blasted machine at the arcade!) I played some nice games, PS had the best fighters, SoulBlade was sublime, Metal Gear Solid was an incredible game, and Driver was the start of something special but ultimately (in my view) the N64 had much more going for it, in hindsight mostly due to the greatness of Rare, a developer whose absence was keenly felt on the GameCube.

My wife wanted the PS2 to play Singstar, a non-game video game, Singstar, Buzz, Eyetoy all probably contributed more to the PS2's sales numbers than anybody acknowledges. To be sure - the singing games were fun and my snap decision to purchase the PS2 turned out to be a good one.

I got only one actual hardcore game for the system

Tekken 5! Still stuck in the past I guess, but that was all about to change...

That December, December 2008, I bought my wife a new Singstar title, to reciprocate she insisted on getting me a game, not knowing what the hell was good on PS2 (yes I was that out of touch with the games industry) I randomly picked a game thinking alound "I think I've heard of this, not sure, but I think it's supposed to be good!

That game, incase you were wondering, was Grand Theft Auto San Andreas!!

For a random, uninformed punt - it was about as good a one as I could've ever made!

Beleive the hype...

GTA was a phenomenon that had completely passed me by, I'd obviously heard enough about it to recognise it as a quality game, but I had no idea what kind of game, with the attention to detail and the realism, that I was getting myself into.

Cut to a year later and I still haven't finished San Andreas (it's a big game, and I can only play these MA15 games at night when the kids are in bed!) I have every GTA PS2 release bar GTAIII and GTA Chinatown Wars for the DS, along with a slew of other games for the PS2. The machine singlehandedly revived my interest in gaming, where the GameCube almost killed it.

But something was still missing. By this point I was well aware that the console arms race had moved on and the PS2 was increasingly becoming a haven for shovelware and kids titles, but the new generation of systems is an even harder choice than the last one.

Although most great games in the sixth generation saw a release across all platforms and all three systems (PS2, GCN, XBox) were very comparable in their processing power, the new generation presents 3 very different systems with very different strengths and weaknesses. If I wanted to move onto the next gen, I had to make some hard choices.

I'd read countless blogs in the past year about the XBox 360 being a precarious device prone to hardware failure on the scale of a second hand PC, frankly it put me off the machine for quite a time, that and Microsoft's reputation, until I actually got to play one, it was a much more impressive console than I imagined.

The PS3 is a technical marvel but with it's reputation for being difficult to program and having a poor online function I wasn't sure it was the way to go - and not being compatible with the PS2 is a big black mark in my opinion.

The Wii seems to be pitched at the same people who buy a leapster, all simple games, kids games and worse - mini-games, after I learned the hard way with the GameCube - Mario and Zelda alone - aren't enough to carry a system.

So the choice for me was between the 360 and the PS3 and then Microsoft went and made my decision for me, with the Arcade SKU dropping to a low $A198 in several major chains across the country during the boxing day sales, I gotta take back my original assessment of Microsoft, I now don't think they were looking to replicate the PC experience so much as supplant it by delivering a machine that takes all of the PC's advantages (online play, Hard Drive, Hi Res Graphics, more FPS than you can poke a stick at) and trump it by putting it on your TV for an affordable price with good controls (sorry dudes keyboards are for typing!).

Kudos XBox and for that matter Sony, you got this fanboy to finally grow up :D

Seven Seconds...

Welcome to a new blog, my name is Jason Oliver, aka H.E.PennyPacker, aka Jimmy James, aka Dr Noonien Van Fok.

You may know me as the dude that ran Television Rant for a good year and a bit before I finally judged it was eating up too much of my time.

I loved the rant, I loved doing the charts, but they were becoming a chore and keeping me away from all the other distrations that I found interesting.

I guess this is what this blog will be about - all the cool thing each day which divert me from the important business of work and family, the bizarre distractions and random thoughts that stem from my Seven Second Attention Span!