Posted on February 5, 2015
I enjoy kicking back, popping some corn and watching a great flick from time to time. My DVD collection is extensive enough that I never get tired of the old favourites, but there’s still a pretty big list of popular movies that I have yet to see for one reason or another. The Godfather, Scarface, 2001: A Space Odyssey, the list goes on… even with Back to the Future and Indiana Jones, I enjoyed the first ones, but haven’t taken the time to watch their sequels.
Now, I wouldn’t exactly consider the Addams Family movies as being on my “must see” list, but I do remember them being incredibly popular. They really seemed to be everywhere for a while in the early-to-mid 90’s; McDonalds Happy Meals and collectible cups, lunch boxes, cartoons, toys, and of course, video game tie-ins.
While there were two games based on the Addams Family movies, Pugsley’s Scavenger Hunt was based on the Saturday morning cartoon. I didn’t watch that either, and the only reason I actually had any interest in giving the game a try was due to the incredible power of marketing…
This issue of Nintendo Power was – to say the least – pretty underwhelming. There weren’t any mind-blowing game announcements in the Pak Watch section, no fun tips or tricks in Classified Information, and the contest that month was also pretty lackluster… surprisingly, the only interesting part was a walkthrough of the game on the cover. I enjoyed the colorful screenshots on display, so I decided to give the game a shot.
Pugsley’s Scavenger Hunt plays a bit like Mega Man in that you can tackle the levels in any order you want. The idea is to collect an item from each room in the household, each of which having a specific theme – in looking at a playthrough just now, the only level I actually remember playing through was the bathroom one… go figure.
In retrospect, I think I just enjoyed the graphics and art style from this stage more than any other. Check out the detail on that soap scum!!
Anyway, it’s a pretty straightforward platformer, and there certainly isn’t anything revolutionary about it… it was your typical TV show cash-in. Plain and simple!
There are two things I vividly remember doing the weekend I rented this game. That actually explains why I don’t remember the game all that well – I was too busy doing other things that were obviously much more fun!
The first memory is about going to my friend Mike’s birthday party. It was hockey-themed, and pretty much just consisted of playing table hockey inside and having a street hockey tournament outside. I also remember us going down the street and around the corner, out of our parents’ line of sight, just so we could light a firecracker or two.
The part I was most excited about was the party favours we got just for showing up.
There was something like 15 kids at the party, so the names of 15 NHL teams were written down on pieces of paper and put in a hat. One by one, we drew from the hat, and whatever team name we had drawn, we’d get an official cap with that team’s logo on it.
These hats were really awesome and top-of-the-line, too – I remember some of them being close to $100 or so… that made these party favours pretty damn cool.
For some reason, I was among the last to draw. I didn’t exactly have a favourite NHL team at the time, but I did have a favourite color – green. While the other kids hoped to get a Montreal Canadiens, Toronto Maple Leafs or Calgary Flames hat, I was hoping for a Minnesota North Stars or Hartford Whalers one.
As I reached into the hat for the draw, I closed my eyes and hoped for something cool… I ended up getting an even better one than I expected.
The Sharks were still a new team, and I wasn’t all that familiar with them. Once I had a spiffy new aqua-colored baseball cap with their logo on it, I became a bit of a fan. I ended up adopting the Detroit Red Wings as my favourite NHL team since my dad had been a fan since the Gordie Howe days, but I have a handful of teams I always root for on the side. The Sharks have consistently had great teams through the years, but have yet to win the Stanley Cup… maybe soon!
The second thing I remember doing that weekend was going to a maple syrup shack with my dad.
The day after the party, we hopped into our 1990 Nissan Sentra and headed out to Keswick Ridge, NB. Dad listened to his Merle Haggard cassette on the car stereo, and although I didn’t enjoy the music all that much, there was something pretty damn infectious about “Okie from Muskogee”.
Apparently, Muskogee is a place where even squares could have a ball… I didn’t quite understand why they “waived old flooring down at the courthouse”, however.
Anyway, Dad knew the older gentleman who ran the sugar shack and thought it would be a good idea for us to pay him a visit. I wasn’t really into maple syrup that much at the time, but I really was quite impressed with how far out in the woods his cabin was. It was so quiet, and the most peaceful spot I’ve ever been in.
I remember how muddy the dirt road was getting there, and how the sun was shining through the trees as we walked through the woods. It wasn’t quite spring, and although there was still a fair amount of snow on the ground, it had morphed into that “crystallized ice” stuff it turns into when the warmer weather rolls around.
We found the little shack, walked in, and there was this older fellow in overalls on the other side spreading something really nasty-looking on a piece of bread. Sure, there were giant boiling vats of sap (or whatever it is that makes maple syrup), and the place smelled great, but all I could focus on was whatever the hell he had started putting on that slice of bread just as we walked in.
Was it pate? Was it some sort of Spam-like ham spread? I really had no idea, and as he walked over to shake our hands, I swore I could still smell it on him… it was kinda like cat food.
We talked for a little while, and since there wasn’t anything ready for us to sample (unless we waited a few hours), we ended up leaving after about 15 minutes.
It was a memorable trip deep into the woods, and I had a fantastic time seeing a bit of the maple syrup-making process, but I was gagging on the car ride back home just thinking about the smell of whatever he was eating. I’m kinda gagging now just thinking about it, actually.
Whatever the old man was spreading on that slice of bread had more of an effect than anything else that weekend. It’s pretty sad that I remember that more than Pugsley’s Scavenger Hunt…
That Merle Haggard though, man. Great voice.
Posted on December 31, 2014
I started the last post by saying I was a lucky kid, and I’m more or less starting this one with the same sentiment. There were two pieces of technology I was lucky enough to use on a semi-regular basis, and I didn’t know many others who had the opportunity to do so.
The first one is a VHS camera that my dad would borrow from his workplace from time to time. We were able to capture moments as early as when I was four months old, and as I got older, various moments of our lives were recorded on tape for us to cherish forever. I recently converted these tapes digitally, and I realized then just how lucky I am to have so much to look back on.
On a few of the occasions the camera was in our house, I would use it for my own purposes!
The other device I am incredibly thankful to have used from time to time is a laptop computer.
My sister had an electric typewriter for when she was in college, and I would often turn it on to type random things onto a sheet of paper. They were usually just lists of random stuff I was interested in – Ninja Turtles characters, video games I wanted, video games I owned, Toronto Blue Jays players, whatever came to mind. I don’t know why I had fun putting these things on paper, I just did!
The typewriter was quite loud – especially when hitting backspace, which I did a fair amount. My sister didn’t want to risk having me break it, and everyone around the house was probably sick and tired of hearing the grinding parts each time I hit a letter, so I wasn’t always allowed to use it.
I eventually lost interest in typing random stuff, but the day my dad brought a laptop home from work re-kindled that hobby. It was obviously for him to work on some sort of document, but I saw it as a flashy new toy.
One I was extra careful with, but still a toy nonetheless.
I can’t remember any brand names the laptops had, but I do know the first ones he brought home ran on DOS. Before too long, I was accustomed to all the commands you normally used. “cd a:”, “cd wordperfect” and “wp” were the only ones I really needed at the time, however.
I typed so much random stuff on the screen and played around with the keyboard’s functionality. I even remember watching the Super Mario World cartoon and trying to type the words to the theme song as it played. I couldn’t quite keep up, but I at least got the first part typed-out…
Superrr Maaaa-rio, Super Mario, Superrr Maaaa-rio! (Wooorld!)
I changed fonts (even though there weren’t that many), wrote in bold, italics and underlined, and just marveled at how easy all of it was. Everything was in black and white, but that was fine. I wasn’t in a position to be picky.
Eventually, Dad brought home a laptop that ran on Windows. I’m not entirely sure which version it would have been, but it was also the first time I ever saw a trackball mouse. If this was the direction computer mice were taking, I wasn’t very happy about it – the old computers we had at school had mice that were clunky squares with three big buttons, but at least they were intuitive to use.
The mouse Dad brought home was quite messed up. Your thumb moved the trackball, your index finger rested on a curved arch where the *tip* of your index finger pressed the left-click button, and the joint of your index finger rested on the right-click button. It made for a lot of accidental right-clicking, so I didn’t play much Solitaire before moving onto something else.
That “something else” I usually ended up playing was the edutainment classic, Cross Country Canada.
CCC was a text-driven transport truck “simulator” set in Canada. The goal was to teach not only our great country’s geography, but also the commodity each city and town was known for.
For example, you’d have to make a trip to Charlottetown, PEI or Edmundston, NB to pick up a load of potatoes, while Fort McMurray, AB was the place to go if you needed oil. Having to pick up stuff like Zinc, Sulfur or Nickel was a bit challenging to me at first, but the game taught me that I had to travel to Yellowknife, Grand Prairie and Sudbury (respectively).
The animations you’d see when you actually picked up the commodity varied from city to city, which was a nice touch.
As you traveled the Trans-Canada highway, you’d have to stop for food, sleep, gas, and whatever else you needed to survive the trip. You could risk an accident or a speeding ticket by typing “SPEED”, or even pick up a hitch-hiker if you were feeling generous enough… you could never be sure if they’d leave peacefully or steal your commodity at knife-point, so I rarely stopped for them!
The game’s presentation is imprinted on my memory, and it’s undoubtedly my favourite edutainment title of all time. Watching footage of it brings me right back to sitting on the living room floor, playing on that black and white laptop… simpler times, man.
*Note – there is sound in this video.*
Posted on December 5, 2014
I was a pretty damn lucky kid.
From the day I was born, my parents paid into a trust fund for my post-secondary education. Whenever the time came for me to choose a college or university, my only worry was making sure I chose a field I would actually enjoy studying. There was a bit of paperwork to fill out and faxes to be sent to and from the Registrar’s Office at STU, but when I eventually chose Journalism as a major, everything was pretty much paid for.
Because of this, I didn’t feel pressure from my folks to get a job while I was still in high school. I had friends working at restaurants and big box retail stores, and although they were making good money, they’d sometimes show up to class absolutely exhausted. My grades were only decent as it was, and I didn’t need anything to hinder them any further.
In the spring of ’02 after writing my last exam of the year (at university – I graduated high school in ’01), I decided that being 18 without anything noteworthy on my resume was not good at all. I applied at a few different places and landed a couple interviews, but being new to that process, I was nervous and stutter-ey enough that I didn’t get a call back from any of them.
I started my second year that fall, and it wasn’t long afterwards that I managed to snag a job at the liquor store in uptown Fredericton. I learned pretty quickly that having a job is a lot of work (duh), and that working 8:30AM to 10PM shifts was as hard on the head as it was on my feet and back.
Working on a regular basis was quite the wake-up call. I went from being a lazy kid who lived at home to being a young adult who had responsibilities. Crazy!
Six months into it, I was getting into a pretty good rhythm. I was well-trained, did a good job (I thought, anyway), got along well with my co-workers, and even decided to take a year off from STU to save money before going back a year later.
On one Saturday morning, I went to work feeling particularly good. It was nice and sunny, and my shift was only from 11AM to 7PM. This allowed me to sleep in in the morning then get home in plenty of time for that night’s NASCAR race in Charlotte, NC.
Almost immediately as I walked into the store, one of the assistant managers called me into the office with a serious look on his face… I was going to be asked to work an extra three hours until 10PM. I just knew it.
I had to put my foot down, though; I had some serious plans!
I took a seat and was promptly told that a fellow employee’s father had unexpectedly passed away, and that she was out for the day. I’m not sure how, but I was the only guy available to cover the time she was out.
Now, if you were to put me in this situation at 31, I would have said “yes” in a heartbeat. At 19, however, I had to “think about it”.
I went to the lunch room for a bit and mulled over missing at least the first part of the race, the very thought of which made me grumpy. I then thought about what the other person must be going through with the loss of her father, which made me feel awful about playing hardball at a time like this… I then walked back to the office and agreed to work until closing time.
It was a decision I wasn’t happy about, but at the same time, I knew deep down it was the only sensible decision for me to make. Having the job was evidently changing me more than I thought it would.
Back in the office, the “atta boy’s” and “thank you’s” I got from my superiors only made me feel marginally better. I decided to treat myself to a bit of retail therapy on my supper break, so I went to Zellers next door and bought myself a frickin’ Xbox.
I picked up Enter the Matrix and Star Wars: Obi Wan to go along with the pack-in duo of Jet Set Radio Future and Sega GT 2002. When I got home that night, I was torn between unpacking my new toy and watching the race… then this happened.
My favourite driver making enemies by spinning them out made my decision to stop watching the race a whole lot easier. I hooked up the Xbox and games well into Sunday morning, and I kept playing it the rest of the week as well… I could get used to this “making mature, adult decisions” thing.
Posted on November 18, 2014
As I drive home from work and listen to any old song my iPod shuffles to, I can pretty easily think back to the first time I heard it. At the very least, it’ll bring back a memory or two, much like playing games often does.
Not that I’d start another blog based on music memories, but I certainly could do that if I wanted to.
In the spring of 2000 I found out my friend Tom played guitar. I messed around with that red Fender of his as we listened to bands of the day, but I found that chords were not my forte… one string and note at a time was pretty much all I could handle.
Tom mentioned that that was basically (bass-ically) what playing bass was like, so I took the plunge and bought one used with a small amp so we could jam.
Playing music with other people proved to be way more rewarding than I could ever have dreamed. The simple notion that I could play along – not to mention keep up – with songs I was just discovering and finding a whole new appreciation for was a high I can’t even put into words. It was so damn satisfying.
Most of that summer was spent indoors playing Green Day, Metallica and Offspring tunes, or anything else I challenged myself to learn. I call it the “summer of the Mission: Impossible 2 Soundtrack”, due to me listening to it (pretty much) non-stop.
Tom and his family ended up moving out of his house and into an apartment that fall, so jamming together loudly and to our satisfaction was no longer in the cards. The idea of recording ourselves somehow – like we had planned to do while he still lived nearby – also went out the window.
By the next year, my skills had improved a fair amount. My friends Justin and Max played guitar and drums (respectively), and we would practice almost every lunch hour in one of the school’s music rooms. One of the teachers approached us and said a few students complained about the noise and asked us to turn our amps down, which we were less than thrilled about.
This prompted us to name our band “Quityerbitchin’” after a sticker on Justin’s guitar case… when it came time to perform at our high school’s Battle of the Bands in May of ’01 – the ESApalooza – that name seemed a bit harsh, and we were asked to change it.
“No Complaints” was the next name that came to mind, so we went with that.
In the fall of 2001, Justin and I got together just for a quick jam session at his house. It was a rainy and depressing Sunday afternoon, and I had nothing better to do. It was also raining at the site of that weekend’s NASCAR race in Martinsville (Virginia), and it didn’t look like they’d be racing that day. With no race on TV, I might as well go jam!
He and I had a list of songs we’d jammed with Max, but we also had a bunch of tunes Max didn’t like… we would jump at the opportunity to play those whenever we could, and on this day, Justin had another idea to make things even more fun;
“I have a mic hooked up to my PC – let’s bring our amps up to my computer room, record it, and see what happens.”
New songs we both knew but had never played together, songs we had already covered with Max, songs he had never heard, songs I had never heard, songs we taught each other on the spot… we recorded something like 25 tracks, and it was a blast. I even sang on some of them – not well, mind you, but it was all in good fun.
It was quite warm in the room, so we took a break at one point and opened the window. Instead of playing loud and annoying the neighbors, we stopped and played some PC games.
The first game he showed me was a one I had heard about, but never had any interest in seeing in action.
I just looked up footage of this game, and I remember even less about it than I originally thought.
It’s a third-person action game that combines hand-to-hand combat and gunplay. It was developed by pre-Halo Bungie and pre-GTA3 Rockstar Games. That’s pretty much the only noteworthy thing I know about Oni.
It wasn’t long before Justin switched over to a game I was much more interested in seeing in action…
At its core, Max Payne is a dark and gritty third-person shooter that feels like a playable graphic novel. Comic book pages replace cutscenes as a method of storytelling, and there are great voiceovers and sound effects to keep them interesting. It’s pretty unique, and it adds a bit of intensity to the whole thing.
One other feature in particular helped add to the game’s appeal; the ability to trigger slow-motion at the touch of a button.
Having been popularized in The Matrix a couple years beforehand, it was just a matter of time before games hopped on the “bullet-time” bandwagon. It’s not infinite, but everything goes into slow-mo whenever you need it to; it helps you dodge bullets, allows you dive through the air, and helps you take out hordes of enemies in one fell swoop.
Justin was in some sort of boiler room area and was busy dealing with enemies up above. As a nice cinematic touch, the camera shifted to follow the last bullet he fired as it went from the barrel of his gun to its intended target…
From that point on, I knew I had to own this game. I only picked it up about a year later once I got a job, but it was that day in Justin’s computer room that sealed the deal.
After playing Max Payne for a while, we shut the window and got back to playing and recording tunes. We ended up burning a CD with all the best stuff we didn’t mind sharing with friends, and deleted whatever we thought was garbage. We titled the album “2/3 of No Complaints” – not really all that inventive, but that’s exactly what it was!
I brought my portable CD player to campus that week and showed off our work to a few close friends. My friend Mike made a little drawing as he listened to it in the George Martin Hall cafeteria, so I decided to make it my album art.
Whenever I think of Max Payne, I can’t help but think of that recording session in Justin’s tiny computer room. It was an absolute thrill to be able to hear the “other side” of us playing music together.
That being said, here’s a world premiere 13 years in the making! Enjoy!
Posted on November 3, 2014
So after completing every mission on Portland, then Staunton Island, it was time for a quick trip over to Shoreside Vale to see if the old Purple Nines Glitch was still intact. Going through and deleting everything my Xbox had in its memory was a bit tough to do, but in the end… was it worth it?
YES! Finally! I can complete this silly little cutscene movie of mine without worrying about any skipped missions.
As much as I love this game, this is the third time in a few years that I’ve played through GTA3, and I think I’m done for a while. Much like Ocarina of Time, even the best games get tiresome after a while.
Playing through it again wasn’t all for naught, however. In capturing all the cutscenes, I also let the recording continue through gameplay. There were several things that happened that reminded me just why I love video games so much. It’s those moments that leave you genuinely laughing out loud, screaming at the screen in disbelief, or moments where you barely make it through alive.
I’ve decided that on top of my cutscene movies (mostly made for my own enjoyment, by the way), I’ll be putting together a variety of gameplay snippets from the games I play through. Nothing too complicated, and nothing that will blow your mind… just random moments that help remind me that playing games is fun, and that’s what it’s really all about.
Posted on October 22, 2014
I’ve mentioned it a time or two already, but editing video game cutscenes together has been a hobby of mine for a long time now. Not only does it give me an opportunity to unwind after a long week at work (I don’t know why it does, it just does), but it also gives me a chance to go through certain games as thoroughly as I possibly could.
The completionist in me would never allow myself to make a video knowing there was some kind of hidden cutscene I missed along the way!
With that in mind, I turned to one of my favourite games of all time – Grand Theft Auto III.
I’ve attempted to capture all the cutscenes from this game once already, but it didn’t pan out. The reason?
A bloody unfortunate glitch.
GTA3 takes place over three islands and has you associating with plenty of shady characters throughout the course of the story. On the island of Shoreside Vale, a gang war is brewing between the Red Jacks and Purple Nines. D-Ice, leader of the Red Jacks, contacts Claude via payphone and gets him to run all sorts of fun little errands to eliminate every member of the Purple Nines.
Here’s where the glitch comes in; once you complete the D-Ice missions on the PlayStation 2 or Xbox versions of the game, the Purple Nines are permanently wiped off the face of Liberty City. If you start a new game, complete all the missions through to Shoreside Vale and finally attempt D-Ice’s first mission (which has you doing drive-by shootings on dudes in purple), you will notice that there are only dudes in red that show up on the streets – the Red Jacks.
You can drive around all you want, but the gang members you’re looking to eliminate won’t show up. Even if you delete your saved game file, there’s enough data on your PS2 Memory Card\Xbox Hard Drive to “remember” that time you completely wiped the other gang off the map.
Thankfully, this glitch is a relatively minor inconvenience. The game’s main story missions will be intact, and you’ll still be able to finish the game’s main story.
Still, since I’m trying to achieve 100% completion, this glitch is tearing at the OCD part of my brain. I’d love to be able to re-play those missions, and not just because they’re among the best in the entire game.
Because I couldn’t get all the cutscenes I wanted, that last playthrough I did went unfinished. I deleted everything I had recorded and put the game aside for another day.
That’s when I got to tinkering… ugh, why do I always have to tinker?
Y’see, here’s something the true gamer in me has a rough time admitting now. These days, I’m a bona-fide collector of NES, Super NES, Genesis and Game Boy games. About 10 years ago, even though I was deep into all kinds of retro gaming, I was not big into spending money to pad my game collection.
Oddly enough, I had more money to spend on that sort of thing then than I do now, living at home rent-free and all.
In any case, the idea of doing a soft-mod to my original Xbox to load a bunch of roms and emulators on it wasn’t a big deal. I loaded a disc with hundreds of NES, Super NES and Game Boy roms and got my console loaded with 8-and-16-bit goodness.
It’s truly an amazing feeling to have all these games at my fingertips, ready to play at any moment. It changed my Xbox’s dashboard completely, and it allowed me to access components of my console that I’d never even seen before. It’s basically a PC that also happens to play Xbox games!
With the awesomeness, however, comes a slight pang of guilt. Guilt from playing roms instead of the real deal. Guilt that my Xbox is a mere shell of its old, original self. Guilt about the fact that even though it’s fun to play these old games, I can’t do it with the controllers they were meant to be played with.
And then… I encountered the Purple Nines glitch.
The collector in me isn’t exactly proud of having done the mod all those years ago, and I fully intend to either un-mod my current Xbox or buy another used console for cheap. However, being able to fiddle around with the memory on the system is a benefit when dealing with a glitch like the one I’m dealing with.
It took some digging, but I managed to find where the save files were located so I could delete them. Doing so came at a cost, though.
The save files that had been on my Xbox for more than a decade were all labeled as jumbled letters and numbers. I wanted to go in there and specifically delete the GTA3 save file on my hard drive and nothing else, but there was nothing to differentiate the GTA3 file from the ones for Halo 2, NASCAR Thunder 2004, Knights of the Old Republic, and other games I’ve played through the years.
Because I wanted to overcome the Purple Nines glitch in my own way, I went ahead and deleted them all.
Career Mode progress in all my NASCAR games? Gone.
Unlocked levels and ships in various Star Wars games? Buh-bye.
Progress in “Legendary” mode in both Halo and Halo 2? See ya!
That last one was very much a work in progress having not touched either game in about 9 years, but still… it was hard for me to just delete everything and start from scratch.
So with all that in mind, I’m not quite done the Portland missions in Grand Theft Auto III. I still have a while to go before finding out if deleting everything off my Xbox actually fixed the dreaded Purple Nines glitch, and the suspense is killing me.
If it ended up not fixing the glitch, my cutscene movie will just have to go on without that whole batch of clips, and my mass file-deletion will be all for naught.
I’ll be sure to post an update to this story once I get there…
Posted on October 9, 2014
From the age of 8 until I was about 15, driving around town with my sister was a fun way to get out of the house. Whether it was in her red ’91 Pontiac Sunbird or her black ’94 Honda Accord, we’d wander around anywhere between Oromocto and Keswick Ridge, usually stopping for a bite to eat somewhere along the way.
We’d sometimes end up at one of her friends’ places, or even more interestingly, she’d want to stop in and see people at work. Not necessarily *her* place of work, however.
My sister is in the RCMP, and much like myself at my current tech support job, she gets to associate with many people around the province. Dropping in to say “hi” to people you talk to every day is nice, and it helps give you that extra connection with the person on the other end.
I was always “Michelle’s little brother” whenever we stopped at a detachment somewhere, but I didn’t mind – these were all top-notch folks that were very kind to me, and I actually hoped to be a policeman myself, someday.
Even now when I stop at routine police checkpoints, they look at my license and say “Hey, you’re Michelle’s brother!”
There were so many people I met in those years that some of their faces are only brief, fleeting images in my mind. I remember the names and nicknames, but what they looked like is somewhat blurry in retrospect. For one person, however, the memory is quite clear.
Probably only because it pertains to video games, but it’s quite clear nonetheless!
On one of the last nights I can remember driving around with her in early ’99, we ended up visiting one of her longtime friends and her husband in Oromocto. They lived in a PMQ, and although I just had to Google what it stood for (Personnel\Private Married Quarters), it’s basically where members of the Armed Forces or Mounted Police and their spouses can call home. They aren’t big, but they’re cheap and comfy.
In any case, the guy had rented a Nintendo 64 along with a couple games, and Michelle brought me along to give him a few pointers. He was considering buying one himself, so I brought a couple games of my own to try and convince him the N64 was worth it.
The idea was that my sister and her friend would catch up and talk about whatever while he and I played games. That worked for me!
He had also rented Star Wars: Shadows of the Empire and Top Gear Rally. I thought (and still think) SOTE was an absolutely fantastic game. Exploring each level thoroughly yielded some cool secrets, and getting every Challenge Point in the game became an obsession of mine.
We played it quite a bit that night, but he didn’t seem to be sold on it. He listened intently when I talked about what the game was like in the later levels, but even though he dug the atmosphere and the flying stages, I don’t think he was particularly fond of the controls.
We moved on to Top Gear Rally for a little while, which was the first (and so far only) time I played that game. There were some unique vehicles and the controls were pretty good, and we had some pretty fun two-player races… still, it wasn’t long before we swapped it out and played some Mario Kart 64.
Michelle and her friend watched us play and laughed as we kept taking each other out with shells and trails of banana peels. I really thought that this was the game that would sell him on the console!
We had a blast, and I recall he was leaning towards buying one as we were leaving. “Don’t give up on Shadows of the Empire!” I shouted from the door. “Keep playing it, it gets better and better!”
He smiled and laughed and said “Yep, I will! I promise!”
I really don’t know if he ended up buying a Nintendo 64 or not, but playing SOTE that night re-invigorated my love for that game. I went to Wal-Mart with Michelle a few days later and bought it, and even though she said “Wasn’t that game not fun?”, I knew that wasn’t the case. There’s a reason it’s number #33 on my Top 100 list!
Being a police officer brings with it a different kind of danger than being in the Armed Forces does. Although the amount of craziness in this region pales in comparison to what happens in foreign countries, officers here still go to work every morning with the distinct possibility that they might not make it back home.
Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder is an issue commonly associated with being in the Army, but it affects more than just soldiers; officers, paramedics, nurses, firefighters… even if you don’t have a job where lives are on the line, you could very easily suffer from it after a traumatic event. Unfortunately, it’s a very common thing in today’s messed up world.
The young man who I tried hard as hell to convince to buy an N64 would one day come to suffer from PTSD. His struggle was very public, and although he brought a massive amount of attention to people dealing with the disorder (and just how little help is available to those suffering from it), the court of public opinion painted him in a negative light. He had made some radical and controversial decisions, but at the end of the day, it was all just to bring attention to his cause.
All of what I was seeing about this person on the news such a far cry from the young policeman I played video games with, and “just one of the guys” I’d hear reference to from time to time in conversation.
He was a good man, and he went through something a lot of people go through. He did it in his own way, but in the end, it was all just too much for him.
I sincerely hope you’ve found the solace you’ve been looking for, Ron. Rest in peace.
Posted on October 5, 2014
I’ve already written a fairly lengthy love letter to racing games, so I’ll spare you the details about why I enjoy them so much. My current video project involves old Formula One games, and I’m so deep into it that my “video game brain” can barely process anything else.
That’s a poor excuse for the lack of posts this week and last, but hear me out!
There are a bunch of F1 racing games dating back to the 70’s, but I wanted to look at games from the 3D era. I’d try to look up YouTube videos of what certain tracks looked like in some of the older games, and instead of crystal clear onboard shots, I’d always get either unnaturally smooth-looking emulator versions or a handycam-recorded eyesore.
I have capturing equipment and almost all the official F1 games dating back to 1996, so why not just make the videos I wanted to watch?
“Be the change you want to see in the world.” Isn’t that a saying? I think it is. Pretty deep for what I’m talking about, though. haha
I also wanted to focus on console games, mostly because PC games have had countless mods and custom tracks created for them over the years. I’ve played some great PC racing sims and mods, so it’s not to say I don’t appreciate them… it’s just that there are TONS of those videos online already.
I find real-life onboard videos from any racing series to be fascinating to watch. Seeing masters like Senna, Schumacher, Hakkinen and Prost handle these finely tuned machines with such finesse is like watching Les Claypool effortlessly play the bass riff to Tommy the Cat, or Bob Ross hypnotically hiding his happy trees on that blank canvas of his.
Pretty intense, right? Video game onboards don’t really compare, but at the end of the day, I still find them quite entertaining.
Console-based F1 games have indeed come a long way. Formula 1 on PlayStation was actually a game I played just as I was developing an interest in all forms of motorsport, so the timing was impeccable. I’ve tried to keep up on “official” F1 games through the years, but since a fair amount of them weren’t released outside of Europe, my “retrospective” can only feature so many games.
I also wanted to explore as wide a variety as I could of games from different publishers without delving into the poorly-made ones. Games like F1 Pole Position 64 and Monaco Grand Prix might have featured F1 racing, but were really not up to par with others that have been released over the years.
That being said, here are the games I focused on;
Formula 1 – PlayStation (1996 – Psygnosis)
F1 World Grand Prix – Nintendo 64 (1998 – Video System)
Formula 1 ’98 – PlayStation (1998 – Psygnosis)
F1 Racing Championship – PlayStation (2000 – UbiSoft)
F1 Championship Season 2000 – PlayStation 2 (2000 – EA Sports)
Formula One 2001 – PlayStation 2 (2001 – SCEE)
F1 2002 – PlayStation 2 (2002 – EA Sports)
Formula 1 Championship Edition – PlayStation 3 (2007 – SCEA)
F1 2009 – Wii (2009 – Codemasters)
F1 2013 – Xbox 360 (2013 – Codemasters)
I basically wanted a representation from each season I could. For example, even though it was released in ’96, Formula 1 showcases the drivers, teams and tracks from the 1995 season. There was no game based on the ’96 season, but the ’97-2002 seasons are all represented before F1 games took a small break in North America.
Formula 1 Championship Edition was fairly hyped at Sony’s E3 conference in 2006, but after its release in 2007, no official F1 game was released until 2009 when Codemasters took control of the license. The last few years have seen a rise in popularity in the genre, and next month will see the release of F1 2014 on last-gen systems only (weird, I know). I decided not to include F1 2010, 2011 and 2012 because I found they all pretty much looked the same; if a track had a slightly different layout in those games, however, I went ahead and recorded a lap.
I’ve been playing all these games quite extensively over the past couple months to get my videos captured, trying my best to get clean laps on every track. Jumping from one game to the next – each of them having unique handling characteristics – has proven to be quite mentally taxing, and I’ve fallen asleep several times with laps playing through my brain over and over again.
Almost like Senna in the video above, I’m thinking about pushing that limit, even when I’m not playing the game.
Either way, I’m finally done with getting everything I wanted recorded, and I couldn’t be happier to be moving on to other games. That being said, here’s the “world premiere” of The Onboard Retrospective of the Hungaroring circuit in Hungary!
For comparison, here is a real life onboard from that track…
Also, in order to tie some kind of memory into this post, I feel obliged to bring up one of the more fantastic puns I’ve ever made – and it was related to the Hungaroring.
One morning before work last year, I was checking my Twitter, Facebook and Instagram feeds as I usually do. When the Red Bull Racing team’s Twitter account posted about the upcoming Hungarian Grand Prix, I couldn’t help myself. I saw a window of opportunity to crack a silly joke, and I took it.
The racing team retweeted it and it got seen by thousands of people around the globe. It might’ve only gotten 4 Favourites and 5 Retweets, but that right there is one of the proudest moments I’ve ever had on Twitter.
Posted on September 14, 2014
Every gamer has a list of “hidden gem” games they played growing up. For me, titles like Felix the Cat, M.C. Kids, Totally Rad, and Power Blade were the third-party games I’d show my “Sega friends” to prove the NES had what it took to compete with the Genesis’ ever expanding lineup.
Oddly enough, these were all games that not even my “Nintendo friends” had heard of.
After getting my Super NES, I was really looking forward to playing not only the mega hits like the Zelda and Contra sequels, but also those sleeper hits that would validate me wanting the console so badly.
As it turned out, I didn’t have to wait long before I played one.
Joe and Mac was the first game we rented after buying the Super NES. In fact, Mom rented it the same day she bought me my brand new console soon after I started the second half of Grade 3. I didn’t know all that much about the game, mostly because I hadn’t really paid attention to Nintendo Power’s Pak Watch section in the months leading up to the console’s release.
Owning a new console seemed like a bit of a pipe dream during those days. I had wanted a Sega Genesis, a TurboGrafx-16 and whatever else was on the market, but I always got the impression that my parents had better things to spend money on.
For my part, I could understand that.
When the Super NES was announced, I knew I’d probably have to ask for it for years before actually getting one. Whenever I’d flip through the pages of EGM or NP and see the great-looking new games coming from Nintendo, I’d try to avoid getting too hyped up. It’d be a long time before I’d ever get to experience these for myself, so I’d often just look at screenshots without reading articles.
To my great surprise, my mom bought me the spiffy new 16 bit console not long at all after it first came out. The pack-in game of Super Mario World was obviously incredible, but Mom’s seemingly random choice to rent Joe and Mac was also a fantastic way for me to ring in the new era.
I loved that it was a simple arcade beat ‘em up where cave dudes beat up on sasquatches and other cavemen. The bosses were huge prehistoric creatures, and my fascination with dinosaurs at the time didn’t hurt things. I enjoyed it quite a bit, and I played the heck out of it that night.
The next day, my parents had plans for supper with family friends of ours, so I brought my Super NES and hooked it up to the TV in their basement. I had plans on staying down there most of the day, mostly because they’d be busy cooking that evening’s meal…
It didn’t smell all that appetizing, but I felt adventurous enough to go upstairs at one point to see what a cabbage roll looked like. I was a pretty finicky eater, but if the smell alone was enough to churn my stomach, maybe if I saw them being made I wouldn’t be so grossed out.
Now, when cabbage rolls are cooked, they get this greenish-beige and translucent look to them. The sight of a cooked leaf of cabbage sitting in a sea of marinara sauce was a bit off-putting. I didn’t care that it was filled with meat and seasoning… it looked kinda gross.
Eating leaves raw in a salad was one thing; eating them cooked sounded like a soggy mess, and I wanted nothing of it. I headed back downstairs to play more Joe and Mac, and didn’t surface for a few hours at least. I remember getting to the final level, which if I remember correctly takes place in the inside of a dinosaur’s digestive system. Unfortunately, we had to leave before I had a chance to beat the game.
Whenever we went to their house afterwards, I could still smell the cabbage rolls. It was probably all in my head of course, but I could swear the smell had permeated the walls, carpet, and even the futon I was playing on.
These days, my wife is an amazing cook, and she’s opened my mind up to enjoy many things I didn’t eat as a kid – namely certain kinds of seafood – so I was more than willing to give cabbage rolls another shot when she had a craving for them a year or so ago.
As it turns out, they’re pretty damn good! The crunchiness of the cabbage, and the way the spices and the rice and the ground meats work with the tomato sauce, and beef broth… it’s one of my favourite meals now!
Not long after she made them, I purchased both Joe and Mac for Super NES and Data East Arcade Classics for Wii, which has the Arcade version on it. It’s called Caveman Ninja and feels a tad different, but it’s more or less the same.
Two big games purchased, all because of a smell that brought me right back to that day of playing brand new games in the Shannahans’ basement.
Posted on September 2, 2014
I can think of a few game-related birthday memories, but the one that sticks out the most is my 13th, which was in 1996.
Hitting my teen years was quite the milestone for me. Being a “teenager” was so much cooler than “just being a kid”, so I wanted to do something memorable. I hadn’t had a birthday party in a few years, but a bunch of friends and I got together and went to see the Kevin Costner movie Tin Cup.
I’m not sure why we chose to see that movie, but there were only four theatres at this particular cinema at the time – the only thing I can guess is that the other three movies being shown weren’t all that much more interesting.
In any case, it was just a typical romantic comedy with some golf action thrown in for good measure. Unfortunately, it wasn’t the awesome golf movie that Happy Gilmore was (which is what I was hoping for), but there was a scene in a strip club that had me thinking seeing this movie was a good choice.
C’mon. I was 13. Gimme a break.
Anyway, after the movie, we headed down to the same Greco restaurant I drive by each night when I come home from work. Although my taste in pizza has become more refined as of late, it was a damn good greasy slice at the time. I remember thinking it was a bit dreary weather-wise, but I ended up having quite the memorable day.
There were two games I got as a present that day, and both were for PC.
I had seen this game in the bargain bin at Zellers here in Fredericton, which was quite odd – not only were Street Fighter II games still coming out at that point (which made it feel like the game was still “current”), but the fact that there was a PC port blew my mind! A Super Nintendo or Genesis version of an Arcade game made sense to me, but a PC version of a fighting game did not.
Another thing I was intrigued about was the sticker on the box (not seen above). Apparently, there was a Mega Man and Mega Man 3 game included on the same disc as a bonus. With the memory of the whole Mega Man 3 debacle fresh in my mind (the one where my NES copy got lost), I asked for the Street Fighter II PC game for my birthday.
Initially, I was thrilled about getting it… and then I played the games.
It was still in the early days of the Internet, and we didn’t have it at our house. If we had, I would have been able to look up the horrible reviews that both the Street Fighter II port and the completely new and original Mega Man games had been getting.
The SFII game was the exact same game I knew and loved, but had some pretty serious frame rate issues. My PC was a 486, which was a pretty solid machine that ran Doom and Commander Keen games without any problems. For it to struggle with a game that ran smoothly on a 16-bit console was perplexing.
I also had a Gravis Gamepad to play the game with, but even then, the game lagged so much that pulling off the special moves that made the game so fun was nearly impossible.
And then there were the Mega Man games… *sigh*
Not only was I disheartened to find out these weren’t PC ports of the NES games I loved so much, but they also didn’t look and play anything like them. The trademark music was replaced with the dulcet tones of your own breathing (I.E., there was none) and the three boss stages to be incredibly long and uninteresting.
The Mega Man 3 game doubled the total number of stages to six, but kept the same awkward look and feel. To say I was disappointed with it is an understatement, and I actually felt bad about asking for it for my birthday.
I must have been on a PC kick in those days, because the only other game I got that year was for PC as well – Papyrus’ NASCAR Racing.
We had gone on our first trip to Pocono Raceway earlier that year, and I was obsessed with all forms of auto racing. Not long before my birthday and the start of the school year, we made a trip to Calais, ME to do some cross-border shopping. In the electronics section at Wal-Mart that day, I saw a PC game with my favourite driver’s car on the cover.
My fascination with the sport was still relatively new, but the game intrigued me. The only NASCAR-related game I had played at that point was Kyle Petty’s No Fear Racing, which was very much an arcade-like racer with nitro boosts and offensive weapons à-la Super Mario Kart.
This game looked about as realistic as it could get in those days, and although I didn’t flat-out ask for it, I dropped some not-so-subtle hints it would make a great birthday gift!
I didn’t actually expect to get it however, so it was quite the surprise when I un-wrapped it that day at Greco. Not long after installing (and then promptly deleting) Street Fighter II and Mega Man, I popped in the NASCAR Racing CD and installed the game to see what it was like.
Right off the bat, my impressions were mixed. I had a console-like controller hooked up and ready to play these new games I had gotten, but it really didn’t feel right with NASCAR Racing.
Was it the game? Was it the controller? Whatever it was, it had me feeling like absolute crap – I had asked for TWO games, gotten them, and then didn’t particularly like either of them. It wasn’t so much that I should have asked for something else (why oh WHY didn’t I ask for Super Mario RPG instead??), but the idea that games were big purchases. To have my parents buy a game for me, then have it promptly forgotten about was something I was always mindful to avoid.
As I went to bed in preparation for the first day of Grade 8 (which was the next day), my mom asked me “Did you have a good birthday? Do you like your gifts?”
I am an awful liar, so I couldn’t help but hesitate when I answered.
“Yes… um, I think so? Yeaahhh? I mean, to tell the truth, I’m really not sure.”
I don’t remember her reacting negatively to that answer, but I remember feeling absolutely awful, almost nauseated, as I attempted to fall asleep.
In the coming weeks, I did my best to find something, ANYTHING redeemable about this game.
I discovered that the in-game “paint shop” was incredibly fun and intuitive for making my own schemes. There were a ton of pre-made decals and brush tools, and I would always try to make the coolest-looking car on the track. If that failed, I’d give up and try to make the tackiest car on the track.
I discovered that turning the damage off and going full-throttle around each corner was way easier – and way more fun – than trying to navigate the corner legitimately. To do that without slowing down or without spinning out wasn’t the “proper” way to play the game, but it was challenging nonetheless.
I discovered that turning the damage back on and going the wrong way around the track to cause a pileup was probably the most fun I had in playing a game in quite some time. How many cars could I take out in a single wreck? I’d invite Josh and Jean-Luc over to see how big the crashes could get, and we’d have competitions to see who could wreak the most havoc.
And then, just as my interest was in the game waning, I got the Christmas gift that changed everything.
It was essentially just a hunk of rubber and plastic latched onto a rotating controller (which you can kinda see in the centre of the wheel in the picture above). Paired with the shifter and foot pedals however, it was the most amazing thing I had ever experienced.
No longer was this just a game, it was a simulator, and it was the way NASCAR games were meant to be played.
Whenever I’d watch a race on TV and there would be an onboard video from one of the cars, I’d always pay close attention to how drivers were using the throttle through the corners, how they’d turn the wheel abruptly to get the car to rotate in the centre of the corner, and how a car’s rear-end sliding through the turns could be on the edge, but fast…
I would soak up all the small details from the real thing, just so I could gain that extra tenth of a second per lap on the not-so-real thing.
I ended up buying three of the game’s sequels, a few other racing simulators, as well a couple “new and improved” steering wheels for PC. I’ve participated in countless online races against people from around the world, and I’ve been a part of a league comprised of drivers from around the Maritime provinces. I’ve been lucky enough to win my fair share of those races, and to have an absolute blast in doing it – even in defeat.
The night of my 13th birthday, I fell asleep thinking I had gotten a dud for a birthday present.
In retrospect, I can’t help but think it was one of the greatest gifts I’ve ever gotten.