Saturday, October 31, 2009

Commentary: When does art become dangerous? An introspect into the Modern Warfare 2 airport massacre

Violence and video games go hand in hand. There's no denying the fact that the two have had a romantic relationship since the hobby's earliest days. But how far is too far? When does art become destructive?

Infinity Ward's Call of Duty: Modern Warfare 2, which is soon to be published by Activision, begins the highly-anticipated title by having a scene where the player — through the guise of an undercover agent, can opt to participate with a group of Russian terrorists as they walk into a busy airport and begin shooting everyone in sight.

The information was leaked from a French video.



Needless to say, it may not be for the faint of heart. Here was what Infinity Ward had to say about the topic:

"The scene establishes the depth of evil and the cold bloodiness of a rogue Russian villain and his unit. By establishing that evil, it adds to the urgency of the player's mission to stop them.

Players have the option of skipping over the scene. At the beginning of the game, there are two 'checkpoints' where the player is advised that some people may find an upcoming segment disturbing. These checkpoints can't be disabled."


An option to skip the segment seems appropriate enough. However, the scene's inclusion is backed by this statement by the developers:

"Modern Warfare 2 is a fantasy action game designed for intense, realistic game play that mirrors real life conflicts, much like epic, action movies. It is appropriately rated 18 for violent scenes, which means it is intended for those who are 18 and older."

Now, we get to the place where subtleties do not become us. The devs are clearly stating that this is for a mature audience who can, logically and morally, interactively choose to either pass or take part in a realistic scene that many of us can envision seeing on national news outlets.


But have they gone too far?

Activision responds:

"Infinity Ward's Modern Warfare 2 features a deep and gripping storyline in which players face off against a terrorist threat dedicated to bringing the world to the brink of collapse. The game includes a plot involving a mission carried out by a Russian villain who wants to trigger a global war. In order to defeat him, the player infiltrates his inner circle. The scene is designed to evoke the atrocities of terrorism."

"To evoke the atrocities of terrorism," Activision said.

The company continues:

"At the beginning of the game, players encounter a mandatory "checkpoint" in which they are warned that an upcoming segment may contain disturbing elements and they can choose not to engage in the gameplay that involves this scene. Consistent with its content, the game has been given an “M” for Mature by the Entertainment Software Ratings Board."

Is this too violent, too artistic for something to be in a video game?

Personally, while I find the contents of the video to be hard to watch, I also understand the importance of limiting censorship. What we perceive as something dangerous to our psyche, may not be the case at all. Is this the quintessential mindset of the naive? Perhaps, but art — and video games are as much a piece of art as any creation — has a history of challenging us, of making us uncomfortable.

And isn't it when we are the most uncomfortable, the most at unease when we truly learn? Can these images, instead of damaging us, strengthen our resolve as a culture? Will we learn from the images or continue on a path of desensitization?

This is the hardest part for me. I fight for free speech, such as I should have considering I have been taught and programmed as part of the Fourth Estate. But it's times like these that test my resolve.

You see, it's easy to defend the things that support your values, that mirror your moral compass. It's much harder to defend something that is vile and abhorrent to your beliefs.

But resolve we must keep. Just as I have defended the Japanese RapeLay, so will I defend Infinity Ward's decision to give gamers the opportunity to kill innocent American civilians. It's not a subject matter that I'm comfortable with, but it is a subject matter that I am comfortable in defending.

Read more!

Friday, October 30, 2009

Feature: The road not traveled — Wing Commander

The Wing Commander series had a much longer life than Homeword. Starting out as a PC game back when those games had floppy disks, Wing Commander was released in 1990. Chris Roberts, who later founded Digital Anvil, also created Times of Lore and the non-science fiction Strike Commander. Wing Commander will always have a very special place in my heart in terms of games.

Not only was this the first game I ever played that really sucked me into the world of a space flight simulation, it later went over the top by having top notch actors for the live-action for the cut scenes. Here is a short list of actors that were in Wing Commander 4:

• Mark Hamill
• Malcome McDowell
• John Rhys-Davies
• Jason Bernard
• Tom Wilson
• Mark Decascos
• Francois Chau

I hope your mind isn’t blown yet because that’s quite the impressive list, but back to the subject at hand. From the very first game, the Wing Commander series did something that, to my knowledge, no one had ever done before. The story continued regardless if you passed the mission or not. That’s right; you could fail a mission and move the story forward. The story tree had many branches, which usually ended with one of four final endings. Within the story, succeeding missions usually got you better weapons and ships.

When you think about it, that was kind of a bold move. When was the last time any game didn’t care if you succeeded in a mission or not. Much like life, you had to get from point A to point B and if you effed up along the way, you had to live with it. It’s such an interesting concept, but I don’t think it would work today. The concept of NOT succeeding in a mission is something that would fly like a lead brick. Still, you have to give them props for taking such a gameplay risk. However, they can never be forgiven for that god awful movie.

Read more!

Thursday, October 29, 2009

Preview: Castlevania: The Adventure ReBirth coming on WiiWare

If there's anything that makes owning a Wii worth it, it's the company's nod towards nostalgia. First, we got revisits to Final Fantasy IV, then A Boy and His Blob through WiiWare. Now, Nintendo is going a step farther with its next DLC.



Castlevania: The Adventure ReBirth is Konami's DLC to hit Nintendo's WiiWare. Providing a fresh, new look, ReBirth appears to continue the same platforming that fans of the Castlevania series have grown to love over the years.

And from the video below, it looks like Konami has thrown fans of the NES title some much deserved love.



Castlevania: The Adventure ReBirth is slated to launch this year.

Read more!

Wednesday, October 28, 2009

Radio: ICP Live! Episode 23: "Are You Afraid Of The Dark" Edition

Nothing gets me more amped to do a radio show than having it focused around my favorite holiday, Halloween. Creepy kids, Dystopian nightmares, vampires, repeated dismemberment and Pyramid Head, we've got it all on tonight's edition of Incoming Pull Live! You can listen to ICP Live! tonight at our new time at 9 p.m. EST on UltraWorld Radio. On tonight's show:



• We get in the Halloween spirit by playing some haunting video game music.

• Funcom thinks they know what will fix Age of Conan. Bet you didn't guess this one.

• We explore all of this past week's hottest gaming headlines and game releases, as well as this week's worst power-up.

• We talk about our favorite survival horror games.


If you have any questions or comments, post them on this story and we will try to get to them when we are on-air. You can also reach us on Yahoo instant messenger @ incomingpull or hit us up on any of the numerous ways to contact us (hint: you can see the list in the sidebar on the right).

Seriously, it's a LIVE show. Why not IM us and join in the conversation?

"I am error."

As always, you can stream the entire show in the player below, or you can click the download link under the player to save it to your hard drive for eternity. You can also subscribe to the ICP Live! podcast and be alerted when a new show is posted or even listen in on your iPod.





alt: Incoming Pull Live: Episode 23

[Download The Podcast]

Make sure you check out DJ Kestral every Tuesday night at 9PM EST on UltraWorld Radio.

Read more!

Tuesday, October 27, 2009

News: Don't forget our new time

Just a reminder, Incoming Pull Live! will begin its new time this week. Catch all of the latest video game news, music and opinions every Wednesday, starting at 9 p.m. EST. It's a live show, so tune in and join the conversation. You don't want to miss this week's Halloween edition.
Read more!

Review: Gtron SNES to USB Adapter

I've been interested in retro gaming for a while now. It's generally less expensive than Next-Gen gaming, and can be just as much or even more fun, in my opinion.

As I've mentioned on the live radio show before, I put together a retro gaming station that houses my original 8-bit NES, SNES, N64, and GameCube all connected to an RCA A/V switch box and a spare 19" TV that was sitting around. However, I noticed when I was getting things organized, that a few of my games were nowhere to be found. I'm going to have to purchase them again. Wouldn't it be great if I could take a test drive to see what my interest level still is before I spend the money? I think it would.

Enter the Gtron SNES to USB controller adapter. I knew these existed, but had never really shopped for one. I checked out some of the popular sites like Amazon, ThinkGeek, and NewEgg and found them at a reasonable $18-ish price tag. It's not a bad price, but was enough to make me stop and think about the purchase. After some further searching, I stumbled on to stootsi.com and found the Gtron adapter there for only $7.97 + $3 Shipping & Handling. At almost half the price of the others that I had found, it was a no-brainer to place the order. I did only buy a single adapter just in case I was throwing my money at a site that wouldn't ship me an item or the item was poorly manufactured.

After 6 business days of anxious waiting, I returned home from work yesterday to find the package waiting for me on the kitchen counter. Obviously placed there so that it would catch my eye as I walked in the door. I smiled. I got settled in from just getting home and then cracked open the package. I expected the adapter to have more weight to it, but I guess I really shouldn't have. It weights about half of what one of my SNES controllers weight, but it has a lot less cable.


To my surprise, there was no driver disc in the package. No big deal there, as finding drivers for things online is quite simple after dealing with computers as long as I have. I plugged it in and waited for it to be detected. Interestingly enough, there were no issues with it being recognized by my Windows XP Professional installation. I plugged in an SNES controller and fired up my ZSNES emulator. This is where the try-before-you-buy part comes in. I looked up a few games that I thought I might be interested in purchasing, but using the mouse and keyboard to play SNES games is not as easy as it might first sound. Plus, the retro experience is very lackluster. But not anymore! I configured the keymappings within ZSNES and pulled up F-Zero. w00t! It felt great. Next I tried Blackthorne (another innovative game by Blizzard, which I might suggest for a bestest power-up in the near future). It also felt really good. I was surprised that there was absolutely no lag from the controller to the game, and the response felt as if I was actually plugged right in to my SNES console.

Bottom line... the Gtron SNES to USB adapter purchased through stootsi.com was a great purchase and thus far has proven to be a quality product. I would highly recommend it to anyone looking for a more authentic retro gaming experience via console emulator.

Read more!

Monday, October 26, 2009

News: Back to the grind

Well, the new baby is happy and my wife is doing great. I guess that means that it's time for me to get back to the grind on reporting video game insights. Thanks, Bunkai, for holding down the fort while I was away. Now, go play some FPS. Really, it will be good for you.
Read more!

Friday, October 23, 2009

News: Name your price for World of Goo

No, Priceline.com isn't moving in to the video game retail market. The developers of the popular puzzle game, World of Goo, are implementing a special birthday experiment for their game.

Have you played it? Did you like it as much as I did? What do you think it's really worth?

According to the 2D Boy website, they've been having great success with this experimental campaign of choose-your-own pricing.
Last week, to celebrate the one year anniversary of World of Goo’s release, we decided to run a little experiment and for one week, offer World of Goo to the world for whatever price people want to pay for it. The birthday sale has been a huge success so far, and because of that, we are extending our little experiment/celebration until sunday, October 25.
You can check out the results on their site, but here's a peek at what they've been getting as average payment amounts. There have also been people paying the regular retail price and more. They've even posted the results of a survey that they crafted to find out why people were choosing the amounts that they were choosing, which if by far the most interesting piece of the experiment to me.


The sale is all done through PayPal or via Credit Card and is termed as a donation rather than a retail purchase price. World of Goo is available for Windows, Mac and Linux operating systems, so there's no excuse not to pick up this little gem and help out with a very cool pricing experiment.

Happy Birthday, World of Goo!

Read more!

Review: Windows 7 Tech for Gamers

If you haven't heard that Micro$oft has released their newest operating system, Windows 7, I should probably go ahead and inform you that Michael Jackson and Patrick Swazey have both died, and some 6-year old kid's parents pulled a prank on Colorado and Federal law enforcement regarding a weather balloon. I'd also suggest that you crawl out from under your rock every once in a while to make sure the Sun still rises in the East.

Now that you know, and we're all aware that knowing is only half of the battle, let's take a look at the other half of the story.

Although they'd have you believe that Windows 7 is a brand new operating system; the latest and greatest. If you take the time to review the list of new features available, you will see that it's little more than Windows Vista SP3. It, in my opinion, is absolutely NOT worth an additional $200 price tag to upgrade from your $200 version of Vista that is less than 3 years old. The new gaming features are even worse than the other new features that M$ is promoting to the blind masses. DirectX 11, which is supported by less than a handful of games on the shelf right now; enhanced home networking, which requires all networked computers to be Windows 7; and the new games menu that is basically the same as in Vista but with functionality improvements... are all things that none of us gamers really need or will even care about in all reality.

But don't take my word for it. There's a great 2-page article over at Desktop Preview titled Gaming: Vista vs 7 that you should really take a look at. Page 2 even has some performance comparisons between the two, and I hope that you're not surprised when you even see better performance from Vista in some cases and just about equal performance in others. I know I wasn't. I'd really like to see that same comparison done between Windows 7 and Windows XP, and I hope you would too, because I also found a performance chart that makes such comparisons for a number of games.

If you ask me, it still looks like Windows XP is the clear winner here.

Read more!

Wednesday, October 21, 2009

Radio: ICP Live! Episode 22: "Autopilot" Edition

In the absence of the normal Incoming Pull Live! format this week, we've decided to include a more robust post this week that includes a few of the topics that we normally cover during our normal show. But due to Youngblood's new mini-me, the radio crew, also known as the four-horsemen of the Zombie Appocolypse (Youngblood, Bunkai, Nate, and Jowls,) will not be on air this evening.

Congratulations to Youngblood on the new baby girl... Nate!

This week's headlines:


This week's video game releases:

  • Squeeballs Party for Wii

  • The Dracula Files for PC

  • Wedding Dash: Ready, Aim, Love for PC

  • Space Invaders Extreme 2 for Nintendo DS

  • WWE Smackdown vs. Raw 2010 for everything

  • Marvel Super Hero Squad for everything

  • Bakugan: Battle Brawlers for everything

  • Astro Boy for Wii, PS2, DS and PSP

  • Backyard Football '10 for everything

  • GTA: Chinatown Wars for PSP

  • FIFA '10 for everything

  • Borderlands for XBOX 306 and PS3


This week's discussion topic (discuss in the comments):


Make sure that you check out DJ Kestral at his new day and time, now on Tuesday night's at 9PM EST... you might have missed out on a great show this week, already.

Read more!

News: Life is a funny thing

Life has a funny way of reminding us what is important. Normally, I would be going over tonight's program notes for Incoming Pull Live, our Internet radio show that airs over at UltraWorld Radio, but things are a little different this week.

You may have noticed that the posts here on Incoming Pull have been pretty slow the past week. The reason is simple: last Friday my wife gave birth to our second daughter.

She's healthy, which is all that matters. It doesn't hurt that she's beautiful, too.

As a result, I have let my duties as editor here at Incoming Pull, as well as Koku Gamer, fall to the wayside. This doesn't just include writing and editing. We, being the guys who bring you fresh talk radio goodness every week, are also not going on air tonight.

Don't worry, though, Incoming Pull will be back next week. News and opinions will flood the front page, while the gang at ICP Live are prepping for next Wednesday's Halloween special. It will be a show that you will definitely want to participate in.

Just a reminder, ICP Live will now be starting an hour earlier (9 p.m. EST) beginning next Wednesday.

Until then, game on and don't forget to reflect on the things that mean the most in your life.

Read more!

Saturday, October 17, 2009

News: Fallen Earth offers zombies and free trials

Zombies, shotguns and the American southwest, oh my! Fallen Earth is getting into the Halloween season with an upcoming zombie invasion, coupled with free trials for those willing to finally brave the unforgiving Wasteland.

Check out my full story, here, over at Koku Gamer. While you're there, why not take a minute and look around at all of the quality news and editorials.

Source: http://kokugamer.com/2009/10/16/zombies-and-free-trials-storm-fallen-earth/

Read more!

Wednesday, October 14, 2009

News: Hello Kitty Online

Nope... no joke here... this time, it's for real.

Sanrio Digital (a division of Sanrio, creator of Hello Kitty) have partnered with C2 Vision to develop Hello Kitty Online (HKO). You heard me... HELLO KITTY ONLINE!

It seems that all the joking and April fools day releases over the past few years about Hello Kitty Adventure Island have come to fruition in the form of this upcoming MMORPG title that is scheduled to debut in Thailand during the first half of 2010.

According to the official website, Hello Kitty Online is "a new Massively Multiplayer Online Game set in a magical world featuring Hello Kitty." and you can go to the site to register for free beta play, now. The game is said to include hundreds of Hello Kitty characters and will attempt to marry the mechanics of other modern MMORPGs with a strong helping of Social Networking features such as personalized blogs and video sharing websites so that players can keep their friends up-to-date on the exciting adventures while they're in game.

Check out the official Press Release for more information.

"SEE YOU THERE!"

Read more!

Radio: ICP Live! Episode 21: "One is the Loneliest Number" Edition

With the countdown to 2012 going strong, the guys at Incoming Pull Live are working hard to get as many shows in as possible before the apocalypse happens. Of course, we're hoping this show isn't helping to bring about said apocalypse. You can listen to ICP Live tonight at 10 p.m. EST on UltraWorld Radio. On tonight's show:



• Left 4 Dead blows the hell out of the Mushroom Kingdom.

• Bioware plans on raping your wallets. And that's a good thing.

• We explore all of this past week's hottest gaming headlines and game releases, as well as this week's worst power-up.

• We talk about solo play in massively multiplayer online games.

• More of the best video game music.


If you have any questions or comments, post them on this story and we will try to get to them when we are on-air. You can also reach us on Yahoo instant messenger @ incomingpull or hit us up on any of the numerous ways to contact us (hint: you can see the list in the sidebar on the right).

Seriously, it's a LIVE show. Why not IM us and join in the conversation?

"Get the heck out of here, you nerd!"

As always, you can stream the entire show in the player below, or you can click the download link under the player to save it to your hard drive for eternity. You can also subscribe to the ICP Live! podcast and be alerted when a new show is posted or even listen in on your iPod.





alt: Incoming Pull Live: Episode 21

[Download The Podcast]

Tune in next week for a full 90 minutes of great Video Game Music (VGM). We will not be following our normal talk-radio format on air due to Youngblood's new family addition arriving this coming Friday, but he's promised to provide some great content for the time slot in our place. You might even decide that you prefer not hearing us talk. Let us know after you listen, live, on UltraWorldRadio.com.

Read more!

Tuesday, October 13, 2009

Series: "The Traveler's Song," part 2

Editor's Note: This is an ongoing series detailing the travels of Gabriel Grimm in the Wasteland that is Fallen Earth.

Mumford proved nothing but a stopping ground to obtain some radiation from the downed satellite. I'd be damned if it was going to turn me into one of those mutated freaks. Before it fully ate away at me, I made the decision to head northwest, towards the crater town of Boneclaw.

The interstate was tiresome and lonely. A companion would be nice right about now. It wasn't long before I rode up to a tunnel. Probably no more than 200 feet in length, the tunnel cut right through the middle of a desert hill. I could see from afar that members of the Blade Dancer tribe had taken up residence in the tunnel's darkness. Burning barrels, trash and broken down automobiles littered the thoroughfare.

It would have been easy to just ride around the tunnel, but I was up for some practice. It was time to test my "new" make-shift sabre to see if it was worth the effort.

I jumped off my horse and ran head-on into the mouth of the tunnel. Two Blade Dancers gave an alarming yell and charged forward. One and one, I quickly dispatched them with my sword. As I watched the life leave their bodies, I noticed more Dancers approaching. I thought about using my guns, but I was in the mood to get up close and personal, to feel my enemy's last breath.


They surrounded me and it took everything that I could to parry their attacks. Their shivs and pipes clanged against my steel, echoing sounds of battle throughout the tunnel. At the end, I stood amongst the dead, a few cuts and bruises to call my own.

Only one more Dancer remained. I ran towards him, growling and shouting as a means to shake his concentration and confidence. As I ran, I lifted my sword above my head, as to show that I aimed to come straight down on the ruffian's head. I could see him preparing his defense for the attack. Such a fool.

Right before I got in range, I dropped the sword behind me, swung my arms forward and grabbed my twin lawnmower blades from my belt. Allowing for full motion, I swept the blades into the air, slicing the Dancer's arms off. He died shortly after, screaming in pain. The tunnel is now quiet.

I walked back to my horse, remembering to pick up my sword on the way. I cleaned the blood off my blades on a ripped jacket of one of the Dancers. They had a few poker chips and some food that I made sure to snatch up before I left.

As my horse and I cleared the other side of the tunnel, the sun felt good. The tunnel was dark and loud, but the sun was comforting. A nice reward for a careless risk in the Wasteland. So why did I do it? Practice with my new blade? Heh, maybe I just wanted human interaction.

As I stepped up onto my horse, I noticed blood on my boots. Do you have any idea how hard it is to find soap in the Wasteland?

Read more!

Monday, October 12, 2009

Series: "The Traveler's Song," part 1

Editor's Note: This is an ongoing series detailing the travels of Gabriel Grimm in the Wasteland that is Fallen Earth.

Live off the land. That is the motto that I have embraced in Icarus Studios' Fallen Earth. It's a concept that up until now, I have avoided in video games like the plague. So, what makes Fallen Earth different?

Living off the land is a fancy way of saying crafting and I believe that the main reason I have taken up crafting in FE is because of the world that I am playing in. Now, instead of some pretty fantasy world that is shrouded in magic and fairies, I find myself in a wasteland of post-apocalyptic destitution. For me, the Wasteland is more real, more immersive. Because of this tie to reality, I actually feel like I am trying to, not only live in a wasteland, but survive.

Ideally, one could deduce that this is all mental and that I could easily match this thinking in other games within the genre. However, I can't. Maybe it's because fantasy titles always give the impression that everyone is fed with a silver spoon, that you are a hero bound for greatness, no matter the odds. Maybe it's because movies such as Mad Max have imprinted an idea of living off the land in me, an idea that I now carry into my travels in Fallen Earth. No matter the reason, all I know is that I am living off the land.


I began my travels in the town of Midway, a crafting town. I wanted to make sure I began in a crafting town because I wanted knowledge and recipe books as quest rewards, instead of ammo and weapons. For me, ammo and weapons can wait until I have a good foundation of survivability. Knowledge dictates survival in the Wasteland. What good is vegetation if you can't cook it properly? What good is scrap iron if you can't shape it into a weapon?

However, Midway left me feeling uncomfortable and uneasy due to its unfamiliarity. I decided to hop onto my ATV and head over to South Burb, another crafting town that I was more familiar with from my time in beta. I quickly began scavenging the land for resources. Scrap metal and wood, vegetation, old vehicles and even graves and corpses, I refused to scavenge from nothing. All is fair game in the Wasteland.

Eventually, I had enough supplies to begin crafting for a few of the townspeople. My reward was the knowledge that I would carry with me on the rest of my travels.

The local wildlife and ruffians were proving to be difficult in combat, though. I decided to part ways with my lead pipe and shiv, trading them in for two lawnmower blades. That's right, I dual-wield twin lawnmower blades. That's why Fallen Earth equals win. To help even further, I scrapped my two-handed 2x4 for a golf club.

Now, not only was I armed with great knowledge, but nice weapons as well.

My focus in the game will eventually come to me having a very close relationship with a hunting rifle. As far as PvP is concerned, I prefer to have all the action be seen through my scope. However, ammunition is expensive, so melee proficiency is the art of today. The rifle will come, but not today.

I also decided to purchase an untrained horse while in South Burb. It didn't take long for me to craft a riding bridle for my new horse. I threw a few packs of feed in the horse's satchel and began to decide where I would head to next.


Before wrapping up my final duties in South Burb, though, I decided to build myself a sword. While the golf club was nice, I wanted something that would put fear into my enemy's hearts. So I gathered up some scrap iron and fasteners and made a make-shift sabre. She may not look nice, but she's got it where it counts.

The extensive crafting had taken a toll on my resources. Looking down, I only had a few poker chips to my name. I saddled up and decided to head to Mumford. I hear there's a crashed satellite there. You never know what kind of "trash" something like that can bring to a town. If there's one thing I've learned so far it's that bottom-feeders serve one and only one purpose, a destination for stained poker chips.

My name is Gabriel Grimm. This is my song.

Read more!

Sunday, October 11, 2009

Feature: What worked in Homeworld

The road not traveled is an idea that I have been thinking about for quite a while now. While I love games, some genres of games tend to fall into what is called the “safe box.” While the setting, location, and flavor of the game may change from genre to genre, its presentation doesn’t change much. And to a point, I don’t have a problem with that. If something works, don’t break it. But it’s always hard when a good idea works, and it doesn’t get used again in the genre.

Homeworld is the story of the people of the planet Kharak, who discovered during a scientific revolution that they were not native to the planet that they lived on. After discovering a galactic map carved into a stone marker, a massive undertaking began to return to their planet of origin. So the people of Kharak decide they want to build a huge spaceship they call the “Mothership” to take them back to the Homeworld. It’s during the testing phase of the mothership when the game’s tutorial begins.

Home World was a game that got great praise when it first released. In 1999, it was Game of the Year for E3, IGN, and PC Gamer. Graphically it was very good. The controls were functional, but took a little getting used to. All of your units were space ships, of which there was a vast number of. Each ship had a general class based on its weapon load out. And unlike most real-time strategy games, it was very important to have a mix of ships, instead of just sitting at the starting point waiting for the queue of the biggest and baddest thing to build, but more on that later. While the ships all looked the same, there was a full color editor that let you customize the detail of your ship.

Each class had definitive strengths and weaknesses. Ion Frigates, for example, did massive damage, but had a forward only firing weapon. Since the ship had a slow turn radius and was weaker than the Assault Frigate, if you didn’t protect with a Corvette or Fighter class, the Ion Frigate could get blasted quite easily from a flank. The smaller class of ships was useful for harassing other ships, most notably the ion destroyers. There was quite a lot of strategy in this RTS, which is another point of difference in between most single player games, where you just start at point A and blow up point B.

But where this game took a turn 90 degree for the better is the idea of a persistent army. Basically any resource you recovered at any point in the 16 missions (there was only one resource to collect) you kept until you used it. Any ship you built that didn’t get destroyed, or that you captured for your own use, you kept from mission to mission. Why this idea never caught on is beyond me? One of the reasons I quit playing RTS games is because I got tired of building the same troops over and over and over and over again, researching the same tech over and over and over and over and over again. The sheer monotony of having to redo the same tasks for the sake of longer game play got on my nerves and after a while. I just never saw the point of playing those types of games.

Homeworld got an expansion, and a full sequel a couple of years after that, but the game franchise ended after 2003. It’s a shame that the idea of a persistent army never caught on. While it’s an idea for the single player side only, it really makes the most sense in most of the story arch in RTS games.

Read more!

Friday, October 9, 2009

Feature: The man behind Team Ico

Gametrailers recently got a chance to talk with Fumito Ueda, director of The Last Guardian, about the newest game from Team Ico, his philosophies on game design and where he thinks the future of storytelling is headed.





Read more!

Thursday, October 8, 2009

Review: Silent Hill: Homecoming

Halloween is just around the corner, which means it is time to revisit — arguably — the scariest video game series to ever grace home consoles, Konami's Silent Hill.

Incoming Pull's Roslyn recently had a chance to reflect on her experiences with Silent Hill: Homecoming. Hit the jump for her spooky review.




Silent Hill: Homecoming utilizes many conventions of the series and also breaks the mold in some areas. It’s an interesting blend of old and new, even in the basic plot: Alex Sheppard has come home to Shepherd’s Glen, a town with a mysterious connection to Silent Hill, and is looking for his missing brother (sound familiar?). Despite the cliché plot, expect some new monsters, new puzzles, and plenty of scares to keep you on the edge of your seat.

Pros:
- Cool monsters
- Lots of scares
- New environments and old favorites
- Tie-ins to previous Silent Hill storylines
- Improved combat controls, including all-new strafing!

Cons:
- Lack of monster variety
- Weak, irregular storyline
- Typical bad ending on 1st playthrough
- Tie-ins to the movie version
- Battle system still has some kinks


The graphics on the Xbox360 version are great, once you turn up the brightness, allowing you to immerse yourself in the detailed environments, which feature redone versions or different locations of traditional locales like the prison and hospital, plus an all-new haunted town. Akira Yamaoko’s music is still excellent, with another killer intro song by Mary Elizabeth McGlynn, but the atmospheric music is a bit sparse.

The plot is intriguing but nothing terribly new, and not much is revealed until very late in the game, though I’ll reserve all judgments until I’ve gotten the good/UFO ending(s).

A larger variety of monsters would have been nice, but that’s always been an issue with the series. They went with a nice mix of old favorites like the dog and nurse and newer enemies like Schism and the Needler. The boss fights are seriously freaky, though I think you fight the same boss three different times.

Homecoming’s battle system is generally an improvement, incorporating more interactions with the environment in and out of battle, but still uses the traditional elements of Silent Hill battle like auto-target and combos. There is now an auto-strafe function, which makes movement a bit easier, and finishing moves are more automatic for many regular enemy fights. The only problem is that enemies are smarter and the controls aren’t terribly responsive, which means battle is still difficult until you figure out the new controls.

One of the things that bothered me was how they tried to incorporate elements from the Silent Hill movie into Homecoming. In general, movie canon and game canon are completely separated in many fans’ eyes. And considering the mixed reception of the movie, I don’t think this should be an exception. Some of the things they used were cool, like the barbed wire around the church, but some just seemed like arbitrary movie references, like the Cult members.


Overall: it's a step in the right direction. It takes what Silent Hill is bad at and tries to revamp it. It takes what the series is liked for and continues the survival horror tradition. My personal ratings for the entire series so far would be: 3, Homecoming, 4, 2, Origins, 1. Being a die-hard Silent Hill fan, I’d definitely say this game is a good addition to the series, and something worth picking up. Hopefully Shattered Memories, slated for release on Wii, PS2, and PSP later this year, will go even further with the improvements Homecoming has made to the series.

Roslyn also writes regularly for her blog located here.

Read more!

Wednesday, October 7, 2009

Radio: ICP Live! Episode 20: "Save the Republic" Edition

Politics and video games are becoming nothing more than two adolescent children fostering a destructive relationship. If you are a gamer and still believe that politics doesn't affect that rock that you live under, then prepared to be schooled.
You can listen to ICP Live tonight at 10 p.m. EST on UltraWorld Radio. On tonight's show:


• In celebration of our 20th episode, we play some of my favorite pieces by Nobuo Uematsu.

• We take a trip back in time in this week's best power-up.

• We explore all of this past week's hottest gaming headlines and game releases, as well as this week's worst power-up.

• We discuss the Federal Trade Commission's latest ruling to police bloggers.

• We also take a look at the indie MMO, Fallen Earth.


If you have any questions or comments, post them on this story and we will try to get to them when we are on-air. You can also reach us on Yahoo instant messenger @ incomingpull or hit us up on any of the numerous ways to contact us (hint: you can see the list in the sidebar on the right).

Seriously, it's a LIVE show. Why not IM us and join in the conversation?

"....TCELES B HSUP"

As always, you can stream the entire show in the player below, or you can click the download link under the player to save it to your hard drive for eternity. You can also subscribe to the ICP Live! podcast and be alerted when a new show is posted or even listen in on your iPod.





alt: Incoming Pull Live: Episode 20

[Download The Podcast]

Tune in next week. Same Time. Same Channel. On UltraWorldRadio.com.

Read more!

UPDATE: Epic Mickey Details Revealed

Some of the mysteries surrounding Warren Spector's Epic Mickey have finally come to light. The title has been the basis of many Internet rumors throughout the past several months, but it now appears that gamers can finally start to get an image of what this new title will be all about.

Hinting at being a Wii exclusive title, Epic Mickey will feature a post-apocalyptic world where Mikey will have to paint his way through his next platforming adventure. Using the Wii Remote, players will be able to draw and erase parts of the levels to progress. Much like Okami's use of the paint brush, Epic Mickey looks to expand on that notion.


Rumors abound regarding the story with some saying that the game will revolve around other older and forgotten Disney characters — such as Oswald the Lucky Rabbit — taking revenge on Mickey because of his fame.

A press conference on Oct. 28 that is set to be in London by Disney Interactive Studios will feature more details regarding the next "iconic" Disney title.

The game is being developed by Junction Point Studios and is due to hit store shelves in the fall of 2010.

UPDATE via Destructoid:

• The game's plot revolves around "forgotten" Disney characters. Obscure characters from long-forgotten cartoons and rides have been cast into a dark world of broken-down machinery and very bitter attitudes.

• The main villain is Disney's first ever cartoon hero, Oswald the Lucky Rabbit. Now a nobody, he has rallied the residents of the dark world and is out for revenge against the mouse that took his place as Disney's spokesman.

• Oswald unleashes the Phantom Blot, a monster that invades the Disney universe and begins to disassemble it by using black ink and making the colors of the world run together (this explains the "melting" imagery used in concept art). It's all very meta, this.

• Mickey Mouse will save the Disney world by fixing the Blot's undoings, using a set of tools like paintbrushes, thinner, erasers and pencils to restore the artwork of his universe.

• Each of the tools are mapped to various Wiimote gestures.

• The game is all about artwork and exploring. Also, Mickey will be getting a radical makeover, which is why nobody's seen his face yet. A source tells Eurogamer that "he's far more retro than you've seen him for years."

• There are also rumors surfacing that Epic Mickey will not be exclusive to the Wii, based on Game Informer removing the Wii exclusivity claim from its teaser page. Might mean nothing, but we'll have to see.

Click the video below to see an interview with Spector by Game Informer.



Read more!

News: Government to police and prosecute blogs

Ok, I have to admit this one, while I didn’t see coming, I can’t say I am overly shocked about. A couple of podcasts ago, Tim had a soapbox about government policing free speech. While I don’t want to get into politics, because I am fed up with all politicians in general, I did think that Tim had a very valid point. And while this particular instance does have a small grain of merit, the implications are shocking and beyond the scope of the powers of the Federal Trade Commission.

From the Associated Press:
AP: The Federal Trade Commission will try to regulate blogging for the first time, requiring writers on the Web to clearly disclose any freebies or payments they get from companies for reviewing their products.

The FTC said Monday its commissioners voted 4-0 to approve the final Web guidelines, which had been expected. Violating the rules, which take effect Dec. 1, could bring fines up to $11,000 per violation. Bloggers or advertisers also could face injunctions and be ordered to reimburse consumers for financial losses stemming from inappropriate product reviews.

The commission stopped short of specifying how bloggers must disclose conflicts of interest. Rich Cleland, assistant director of the FTC's advertising practices division, said the disclosure must be "clear and conspicuous," no matter what form it will take.


Now this is just ridiculous.

I can maybe, sort of, accept the concept that someone who does reviews of products should disclose if they received any payments from the companies that make the product that is getting reviewed. To make criminal penalties for failing to do so is beyond intrusive.

Plus, how much weight do you put into a review? Outside of the web sites that are professional video game arenas, a blog review is just someone’s opinion. I review games for Incoming Pull because I enjoy saying what I think about a game. My opinion is just that, my expressing my freedom of speech. I really doubt I will get to the point where my opinion carries any weight.

And when the deception does come out, and sooner or later it usually does, does anyone take the reviewer seriously anymore? Remember back when Sony Studios created a fake movie critic to review stink-bomb movies as “great” and “excellent.” People found out and Sony took a big hit, got sued, and made restitution for it. We didn’t need government intervention for it. Having this fine acts as a disincentive to people for expressing their opinion.

The 81 page PDF is here, if you want to read the full details (and are nuts or just have THAT much time on your hands), but it’s not the easiest of reads.

Read more!

Tuesday, October 6, 2009

Review: Wet

If there has ever been a video game heroine that enjoyed being on her knees more than Wet's Rubi Malone, then she must have been too much of a push-over to be noticed.

Wet, which is developed by Artificial Mind and Movement and published by Bethesda Softworks, is the story of a bad-ass fixer (hired gun) who is not someone you would want to cross. Stylish and sexy, Wet brings the neo-grindhouse feel that has been popularized in movies such as Kill Bill and games such as House of the Dead: Overkill. This becomes emphasized through the re-creation of old drive-in movie theater ads, the upbeat grindhouse music and a red, black and white noir-style murderous rage sequence that happens a few times throughout the game. And because of this, Wet never tries to be something more than what is intended to be: pure unadulterated fun.



For a grindhouse game, the language in Wet isn't all that bad. Sure, there's plenty of cursing, but it's no where near the obscene amount heard in Overkill. It's almost as if Artificial Mind and Movement actually wanted to make a halfway serious title for the Xbox 360 and Playstation 3. Of course, that notion is quickly erased when the player begins controlling Rubi.


In pure over-the-top action, Rubi can slide across the ground on her knees, she can run along walls and ledges and slide down ladders upside down, all the while firing her dual-wielded guns in beautiful John Woo-style slow motion. The game has a built-in auto-targeting system for one of Rubi's weapons, while allowing the player to manually aim her second weapon. Aside from the guns, Rubi also has a Chinese sword to quickly dispatch enemies.

And while the slow-motion killing is fine for a little bit, gamers will quickly learn that "style" isn't all it's cracked up to be.

At the end of each level, the player is graded on how stylish they were in combat, thus earning them money to spend to upgrade weapons or unlock new moves. However, I could never really gauge what the game wanted as far as style was concerned. Devil May Cry had a visual representation of a player's stylish progress through combat, but Wet only shows a number for killing spree. And due to the fact that Rubi's knee-slipping, powerslide allows for full 360 degree aiming, players will quickly learn that it's the easiest and most beneficial move to use to take out multiple foes, thus eliminating the urgency to be stylish. Even without earning high style marks, the game is fairly generous at rewarding money for power-ups, another knock against a game that wants to be stylish, yet doesn't fully recognize it.

Aside from the gun and sword play, Rubi is also very acrobatic when it comes to exploration. Just like in Mirror's Edge, Rubi is able to do incredible feats of acrobatics to get her from point A to point B. And just like Mirror's Edge, players will find themselves repeating sections over and over again because they either keep barely missing a jump or are trying to reach a section that looks attainable, but in reality, isn't.

Another aspect of Wet is the overuse of quicktime events. Take warning players, don't rest after a fight to sit back and watch the cut-scene. Be assured, there will be annoying quicktime events to keep you on your toes.

However, despite the game's frustrations, it shines at being a simple run and gun-type of game. It never tries to dwell on the story or characters, instead letting players focus on what is intended, which is allowing Rubi to shoot and slice her way through an army of nameless foes.

The game has a few sections that were directed extremely well, such as two car chases and a free fall through burning airplane debris. The airplane scene seemed like a nice homage to Micheal Davis' 2007 movie, Shoot 'em Up. And just Like Davis' movie, Wet follows suit by being quickly ignored for its ability to be implausible.

It's not a long game, and there isn't much in terms of replay value, save for some challenge missions. This is due to the game's linearity and lack of variety in combat, which keeps it from being a title that someone can revisit multiple times.

Wet wasn't made to challenge a player's sensibilities or philosophies, nor was it made to tell a gripping tale that is filled with twists. Because of this, Wet succeeds as an entertaining game. And after all, isn't entertainment the main reason we play?

Read more!

Monday, October 5, 2009

Series: "A Fistful of Quarters," part 4

Editor's note: This is final story in a four-part series outlining the impact arcades had on my life.

Like a mid-life gaming crisis, I am bringing back retro gaming in my life with a fervor. What started off as a scavenger hunt for the original NES and SNES, has culminated into a project that has left me feeling lost in translation.

Hopefully some time next year, I will begin the construction of a free-standing arcade cabinet. Fully utilizing MAME (Multiple Arcade Machine Emulation), I will be able to relive the glory days of my gaming infancy.

Of course, there's no way I could do something like this alone, which is why the gang at the Incoming Pull Live radio show are lending their hand and expertise. After all, anyone who knows me knows I'm not anywhere close to a master when it comes to woodworking, electricity or design.

There are a ton of resources on the Web for building your own arcade cabinet and it is something that I have been researching for several months.

Ideally, this is what I would like to see:

• a four-player control panel, specifically for playing titles like X-Men, Captain America and the Avengers, Dungeons & Dragons: Tower of Doom and the Simpsons.

• a trackball for playing not only Centipede, but Golden Tee.

• additional buttons for one and two players for playing head-to-head fighting games.

• a topfire joystick for playing classic arcade games, as well as Battle Tank.

• and, finally, two light guns for playing House of the Dead, Lethal Enforcers, etc.


This is proving to be an expensive endeavor and I may have to hold off to do some of these things, but whatever I don't do initially will be set aside for future expansions.

While you can basically buy portions or even all of a custom arcade cabinet already assembled, myself and the ICP Live gang have decided to build everything from the ground-up. It should prove to be a great learning experience for whenever one of them decides to take the plunge into MAME.

As far as art work, I plan on using clean, crisp, classic artwork from the arcade's infancy. Pictures of Donkey Kong, Space Invaders, Q-Bert, Dig Dug and others will reflect my nostalgia in the cabinet's look and feel. After all, memories are why this is happening.

Making the cabinet as authentic as possible is the goal. I don't want it to feel like I am just running an emulator. I want it to feel like I am standing in an arcade. It's not the games, per se, it's the ambiance and feel of the experience. We are attempting to build more than just a large, wooden emulator.

Thankfully, I have a thoughtful wife who won't mind me having this large machine in our house. She's also cooperating in the funding of the project, so when all is said and done, I will make sure to install a special edition of Tetris just for her. Personally, I can't wait to have my two girls play some Simpsons with me.

Also, for all of our readers, I will be posting building updates with lots of pictures so that you can follow along with the cabinet's process.

It's an expensive endeavor for nostalgia's sake, but I can think of nothing more perfect for a gamer who cut his teeth in arcades. And, Beth, at least it's cheaper than a Corvette.

Read more!

Sunday, October 4, 2009

Series: "A Fistful of Quarters," part 3

Editor's note: This is the third story in a four-part series outlining the impact arcades had on my life.

While Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles kept me captivated and distracted from the constant clashing of bowling pins, nothing captured my attention like the arrival of the two-player fighting genre.

Back at Super Saturday, there they were. They sprung up like weeds, but unlike the pesky lawn imperfections, fighting arcade games became gaming's new measure of skill and endurance.

Thanks to Capcom's Street Fighter 2, Super Saturday became about honing skills in head-to-head match-ups with any new challenger.

Fatal Fury, Art of Fighting, Samurai Showdown, Pit Fighter and Virtual Fighter became the main focus. It was a perfect match for all arcade stereotypes. The lurker had plenty to watch, the strategist had plenty to study, the prima donna had the perfect stage, and the king finally had a worthy throne.

And as good as all of these games were/are, none stand out in my mind like the controversial fighter from Midway, Mortal Kombat.

I remember when it first arrived at our local arcade. As I stepped in through the doorway, no one was standing at or around any of the other games. Instead, there was a group of gamers near the back of the building. Inquisitively, I decided to see what all of the fuss was about. Oh, dear god, I was not expecting anything like this.


Two gamers were already locked into combat when I arrived. The gamer on the left controlled a yellow and black-clothed ninja who was shooting a grappling spear from his hands. The sound of "Get over here!" hypnotized me. The other gamer on the right controlled a skinny guy in biker shorts. A pushover, I thought, until he assumed the splits and punched the ninja right square in the junk. The ninja, buckled over in pain, was a humorous sight to see.

And then those eternal words, "Finish him!" sounded. Despite the efforts of the biker-short wearing punk, the ninja was victorious, and like something out of a movie, I watched as the screen darkened and the ninja tore off his hood, revealing a skull. The undead ninja then spit fire at his fallen enemy, leaving nothing but a kneeling pile of bones.

Gaming was changed forever that Saturday morning.

Visions of Kano's heart rip, Sub-Zero's spine rip, Johnny Cage's decapitation and Raiden's electric head pop danced in my head for weeks. The gamer playing the yellow ninja, Scorpion, amazed me so much that when I finally got a chance to play the game's king, I chose him. I died quickly, but I was able to accidentally get off a "Get over here!" before I was defeated.

It was exhilarating. The king never said a word.

And while the head-to-head fighting games swept the arcade into a competitive frenzy, I longed for the games that I cut my teeth on, the beat 'em ups.

Then I heard it. It was a deep and menacing voice that called to me. It said, "X-Men."

That word, spoken by Magneto, was quickly followed up by 70s disco music in a game that would take me to limits that I had only dreamed about with Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles.

Six-players (if you were lucky to have an arcade like mine), special powers and a truck-load of boss battles, X-Men the arcade game lived up to its creators name, Marvel. While I had already fallen in love with the Captain America and the Avengers arcade game, X-Men was on another level.


I couldn't wait to play as Nightcrawler, teleporting my way through enemies, or as Colossus, powering-up and sending foes flying. The game was fantastic and I am proud to say that I and a few others were able to complete this massive game, all the while lurkers, scavengers and strategists watched on. We were prima donnas that day, even kings.

The fleeting memories of Street Fighter 2, Mortal Kombat and X-Men signify the end of the arcade industry for me. Sadly, my childhood hangouts became nothing but shadows and ghosts of the past. I now only have a warm smile where they once stood.

And that is exactly what has propelled me to tackle my next project.

Coming up: In the conclusion of "A Fistful of Quarters," Youngblood writes about the expensive quest he is partaking to bring back the nostalgic glory of his childhood.

Read more!

Saturday, October 3, 2009

Series: "A Fistful of Quarters," part 2

Editor's note: This is the second story in a four-part series outlining the impact arcades had on my life.

Even before Super Saturday, there was another place where I learned what it meant to be a part of the energy that surrounded arcades.


My parents were always on bowling leagues when I was a kid. They loved it and would probably still be doing it today had league fees not gotten in the way of other responsibilities. Every Saturday night, my parents, my older brother and myself would go to a local bowling alley for the evening.


Everyone who walked through that door was prepped for a night of bowling fun. They carried their own bag, their own shoes, their own polish and their own gloves. They imagined having their custom engraved bowling ball strike the pins at the back of the alley, sounding a loud and familiar crash to the ears of competitors. Just as with arcades and the king, fellow bowlers would turn their heads to see who toppled the pin nemesis. The crash of pins was music to their ears and a sound that to this day, brings back memories for me.

And while the athletes of the slick alley prepped their minds for competition, I had only one thing on mine: the arcade.

Just as a note, this was before the fighting genre took a strangle hold over the industry.

My mom or dad would throw me a couple of dollars to keep me entertained while they took to the 10-pin alley for battle. Even if it was as little as $2, that meant eight quarters and eight chances to marvel with glee as I played games that my Nintendo Entertainment System at home could only dream about.

The arcade at this bowling alley was small, maybe only consisting of 10 games, all lined up beside each other in a row. My brother would sometimes spend a little time in the arcade, but being five years older and in his early teens, he quickly learned to find more suitable entertainment playing billiards with friends.

But I was content where I was.

I can still remember running out of money and then becoming a shameful stereotype that I purposely neglected to mention in part one of this series: the scavenger.

As a scavenger, I would scower the floors of the arcade looking for any quarters that may have dropped from the hands or pockets of other gamers. Mental note: never scower the floors of a bowling alley arcade. It can cause you to not only throw-up in your mouth, but have recurring nightmares of what people shouldn't leave behind. /shudder.

But it was in this arcade where I was introduced to industry legends, Pac Man and Galaga, Donkey Kong and Dig Dug. However, arcades had evolved past their primitive state when I started paying attention to their flashing sounds and beeps and bops. What I truly remember playing in the bowling alley were games like Magic Sword, Final Fight and Streets of Rage. It's probably why I love beat 'em up games still to this day (yeah, I know Magic Sword is an adventure game).

But before those was the game that changed everything for me. The four-player, Cowabunga-driven, Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles. This game was a marvel of excitement and technology. I drooled as I watched other lucky gamers fight the fires of the first stage to save April O'Neil from Rocksteady. This game made me into the gamer that I am today.

I had never seen anything like it before in my life. I must have sat there watching the title sequence and theme song a billion times. Eventually, it came down to me spending all of my money on TMNT. It was worth it.

But that game was nothing compared to what came next.

Coming up: In part 3 of "A Fistful of Quarters," Youngblood writes about the king of beat 'em ups, X-Men, and the ominous game of gore and violence, Mortal Kombat.

Read more!

Friday, October 2, 2009

Series: "A Fistful of Quarters," part 1

Editor's note: This is the first story in a four-part series outlining the impact arcades had on my life.

One of my most treasured childhood memories revolves around Saturday mornings. While being out of school for the weekend and the morning cartoons were nice, there was one more thing that captured the free spirit of being a kid.

Super Saturday was a program that a local mini-golf business had every Saturday morning. For $5 or $10, a kid could go and play unlimited mini-golf from around 8 a.m. to 2 p.m., receive lunch and a beverage and get a cup full of game tokens. If I remember right, they gave around 30 tokens to kids.

This soon became a ritual for me and some of my friends. It sucked missing cartoons, but that's what a VCR was for. That's right, a VCR.

While the golf and food was great, let's be honest, we went there for one thing and one thing only: the arcade games.


Arcades were still popping with excitement back in the late 80s/early 90s, thanks to the rise of the fighter genre, and as a result, I have a lot of fond gaming memories that took place in arcades.

Online gaming is great and all, but there was just something special about standing around an arcade machine, elbow to elbow with other gamers, all holding our breath to see who would win the battle between the two gamers that were playing the game.

Because of Super Saturday, I witnessed many of the arcade stereotypes.

First, there was the lurker. The lurker wouldn't play many games but would follow people around the arcade, almost as if he was playing the game through some sort of poor man's osmosis. You could never tell whether the lurker just had no money or whether he was studying your technique, which leads us to the strategist.

The strategist would take the guise of a lurker, carefully watching your every move as you played. He would study you the entire time, taking note of your victories and defeat. He was competitive and calculating and in the age of the fighter genre, a dangerous foe, indeed. I remember one lurker, in particular, who was watching me play Street Fighter 2. I was winning matches easily with Chun Li, but ran into trouble when fighting Zangief. The lurker watched as I repeatedly lost. Finally, the lurker stepped up to challenge me. And who would have guessed, the character he picked was Zangief. Calculating bastard. I knew his choice before he even pressed start announcing that a new challenger had arrived. I also knew that I had already been beaten.

Then, there's the prima donna. The prima donna was that guy who was very animated when he played a game. It didn't matter which game it was, the prima donna's loud speech and hollering, coupled with the flailing of his arms, made it even more apparent that this guy needed anyone, even a strategist, to just watch him play. Prima donna's had skills, but were generally too busy trying to draw attention to themselves to really pose any great challenge.

And then there was the king. The king was the player who seemed to spend his entire free time playing one particular game. He was a god among men. You hated and loved him and no matter who you were, you stopped to become a lurker when he sat his quarter or token on the machine. There was always a sort of energy that enveloped whatever game the king was at. It was almost like magic. The king was always reserved and quiet, the main difference between him and a prima donna. He let his skill do the speaking for him. And no matter what, there were always fools willing to throw their money away to challenge him.

That's where I come in.

While I played the role of a lurker quite frequently, I also took the guise of the hopeless challenger. The hopeless challenger didn't care who he was going up against. He just wanted to play, even if that meant waiting 20 minutes in line just to get beaten down by the king in 1:30 seconds. For me, it wasn't about winning, but just about getting the chance to play these marvels of gaming tech. Part of me felt honored to even be standing at the same arcade cabinet as the king. It didn't matter if I lost, only that I played.

Coming up: In part 2 of "A Fistful of Quarters," Youngblood writes about how arcades trumped everything in his childhood.

Read more!