Sunday, February 29, 2004

MX Unleashed

MX Unleashed for Playstation 2 is the best off-road motorcycle racing game yet. The physics model seems convincing, if somewhat exaggerated to let you pull off huge jumps with ease. It may be the first game to realistically capture the strategy of block-passing -- cornering in a path that is (usually) worse in overall speed, but that blocks the rider on the "better" line and forces him to slow down. I noticed that the crowd sometimes boos when you block-pass, which I found amusing.

Like most motorcycle games, MX Unleashed misses a few real world details. It has only one brake button, not the separate front and rear brakes found on real motorcycles. Oddly, one of the only games that gets this right is Grand Theft Auto: Vice City. And though you can wheelie, the only way to do it seems to be by revving up while holding the clutch in and then popping the clutch. This method is realistic, but in real life you can also wheelie by using the rebound of the front fork. You can suddenly decelerate to compress the front suspension, then snap on full throttle right as the suspension is pushing back up. The game does not allow this, which is a very minor flaw and certainly does not impact gameplay. The fact that I expected this to work only shows how convincing the game is most of the time.

On certain Nationals tracks you can "cheat" by riding on the very edge of the track where there are no jumps instead of going over the jumps. Usually this is much faster. It is difficult to do, though, because if you stray too far off the track for too long you get penalized and lose a huge amount of time.

I wish the game had an "advanced simulation" mode where it is much easier to crash. As it is, the only way to crash is to hit something or land a jump very badly. You never seem to crash by losing traction in a corner, or losing balance on a bumpy section. I guess this gives me something to look forward to in MX Unleashed 2. I highly recommend MX Unleashed for dirtbike fans.

Iron Monkey's Law of Business Meetings

Nobody will fly all the way across the country just to agree with you.

Friday, February 27, 2004

If the price were right

With most products, quality comes at a price. A better restaurant, hotel room, or car costs more than a terrible one. But I'm fascinated by cases where quality has no relationship to price.

Movie theaters charge the same ticket price for a great movie as for an awful one. Why? What if movie prices reflected quality? Faced with a choice of watching Return of the King for $25 or Glitter for 25 cents, what would you do? You pay the same price to watch a movie whether it cost the studio $100 million to make or $1 million. Why?

A great video game and a terrible one usually have the same price tag. A poorly-written novel costs about the same as a great one. A CD of some kid screaming into a microphone, accompanied by somebody strumming the electric guitar with a cheese grater, costs about as much as a CD of Beethoven -- probably more. Why?

Monday, February 23, 2004

Open letter to Playstation 2 developers

Dear Playstation 2 developers,

The Playstation 2 has slots for two memory cards. Just to be clear, I'll say it again. The Playstation 2 has slots for two memory cards. That means that if your game can only load and save to a memory card in slot 1, then your game sucks. Does your favorite bicycle have only one foot pedal? Do you like to eat with only one chopstick? Do you wear one earmuff and one glove in the winter while skating on a single ice skate, on your way to the hair salon where the stylist cuts half of your hair with one scissor? No? Then why can't you support both memory card slots? It's not as if the second memory card slot is some exotic third-party add-on that costs 95,000 Yen and only sold 39 units in some remote town in Kyushu -- it's on every single Playstation 2 in the world! Figure this out, ok? If you can devise new dynamic lighting effects and artificial intelligences, surely you can figure out how to support memory card slot 2.

Here's another thing that should be obvious. The player should be able to pause the game at any time. And by "at any time" I mean, even in the middle of cinematic cut-scenes! What, you think the phone doesn't ring during cinematic cut-scenes? You think somehow the whole world knows to come to a halt, with no possible interruptions, just because I finished a level and got to the next pre-rendered story section?

Jak II gets both of these points right. It supports both memory card slots, and can pause in the middle of cut scenes. If Jak II can do it, any game can do it. Your game should, too.

Sunday, February 15, 2004

If you find out the meaning of life, don't tell me!

If you find out the meaning of life, don't tell me! Keep it to yourself. I've Tivoed my life but haven't watched it yet, so don't give anything away. Thank you.

Sunday, February 08, 2004

Saturday, February 07, 2004

The flight vest

I was out shopping with my brother today, and he happened to spot the Ogio Flight Vest. We joked about it at first, imagining wearing it for travel and how it would look suspiciously military for going through airport security. But then I tried it on and realized I had to have it. I am a packrat and love to carry lots of gear. This will come in handy for snowboarding, camping, etc. It also looks cool/funny.

Sunday, February 01, 2004

Things I want football announcers to say

  • The further into this game we get, the less time is left on the clock
  • When you pick up more yards on first down, you don't have as many left to gain later
  • What they should do here is purposely jump offsides a few times in a row, just to break the other team's rhythm


Spammers seem to have started using some kind of random name generator to create the name in the "From" address. This morning I got a spam email from a "Rambucheau F. Vishnu." I don't know any Rambucheau F. Vishnu, but with a name like that I kind of wish I did. Sounds like he could be an interesting character: the Cajun Hindu. I picture him preparing crawfish vindaloo.