Blog Archive for July 2008
Strong Bad's Quest for the Ultimate Game
Most of my readers are aware of my love for the website HomeStarRunner.com, which is an animated internet cartoon. Over eight years ago, two brothers started posting their animations online, and now they work full-time creating new content based on their own world of characters. These cartoons are not always safe for the kids, in my opinion, but then again, they're probably better than most of what's on TV for kids these days. Feel free to head over to their website to get an idea of the days of fun that await you, and one of my favorites is the "First Time Here?" link in the top right of the main menu. But this post isn't really about that, it's about games.
Strong Bad, one of the main characters on the site, is an avid fan of games. Like, old school. The cartoons are filled with old game references, from the floppy disk labels on Strong Bad's desk to this whole e-mail episode about how he'd make a game. Of course, it's even more apparent that the creators of the site are fans of old games, from silly arcade games like Trogdor to adventure games such as Thy Dungeonman and Peasant's Quest. But it isn't about these old games that run via Flash and look like you could run them on your 386, this is about the new hotness coming later this summer!
I'll be honest. I've played very few computer games in the last couple years, partly because I haven't had time to do so, and partly because not many games have stood out to me as worth my time. I have kept up a bit with franchises I've frequented over the years, looking at if Roller Coaster Tycoon 2 or 3 was worth buying and continuing to get games in the Myst series. I got SimCity 3000 a while back, but why get SimCity 4 if I can't even get anywhere in SimCity 3000? A friend got me a couple Grand Theft Auto games a year or two ago. I've only played them for a couple hours because I really don't have the time, but just driving around and exploring can keep me entertained for hours in those games, which is why I like them. Also, because I play games very little (mostly when I'm not connected to the Internet), there's little incentive to pay for a game that costs more than $10, or at least that's the price I hold myself to. (The other benefit is that $10 games usually work on your not-so-new computer.)
The other reason I've not played games is that they rarely make games of of the kind they used to these days. (Or, at least, I don't hear about them.) Another set of games I loved to play back in the day were kinda like Myst games, except generally more silly and more interaction with other characters. I enjoyed playing through King's Quest 7, the demo of Space Quest 6 numerous times, as well as even an old text adventure game called Humbug. Joe Bowar also got me into some LucasArts games like Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade and from there I got Indiana Jones and the Fate of Atlantis, another point-and-click game where Indy asks the right questions and pick up random items to get him out of scrapes and solve the ancient mysteries. During college, I got into the Monkey Island series, where wannabe-pirate Guybrush Threepwood goes on cartoonish, blundering voyages through the Carribean. Somewhat sadly, these games are no longer made anymore, or I might be playing them.
This brings me to this summer's excitement. The folks at independent game developer Telltale Games, which is founded by a number of ex-LucasArts employees, have teamed with Strong Bad and all the folks at HomeStarRunner.com to release a game based on the online cartoon. It's called Strong Bad's Cool Game for Attractive People and it's fully 3-D, but it retains a simple point-and-click system. Throughout the gameplay previews that I've seen, Strong Bad and characters, all voiced by the characters in the cartoon, continue to make hilarious little quips. In most cases, it seems you control Strong Bad, who gets "missions" to do via e-mails, just like the cartoon. The game looks amazing and brings the 2-D animation to life in beautiful 3-D. I'm sure it's tons of silly shenanigans - for proof, just look at this infomercial-style teaser:
Another great deal is the price. I don't know exactly how long these games really are, but the game is distributed in "episodes" that take at least a couple hours to play through each. Each episode goes for about $9, and the entire 5-episode series will most likely go for only $30 or $35, if not less. In this day and age where game content is a bit slim and prices are high, I think these prices are aggressive and benefit from being a small, independent company who distributes primarily via the Internet, while still keeping the gaming experience exciting.
And, finally, I have to hand it to The Brothers Chaps, who created the Homestar Runner cartoons, for keeping true to their roots and staying independent. I've heard they've been offered the ability to be on Cartoon Network or get sweet placement elsewhere, but they did not want to change their style and compromise their product just to make a buck. In the same way, I'm glad they chose the able hands at Telltale Games to make their game instead of going for the big money by licensing an arcade game for EA. Also, it's great to have them so involved that they're doing all the voices and most likely contributing ideas for the game.
In conclusion, mostly because I've been a fan of Strong Bad, Homestar, and even Homsar for years, I'll probably get into SBCG4AP. I'm also going to have to check out more Telltale Games products, too, because I see they just announced some episodic games starring Wallace & Gromit, another set of hilarious characters I love (although it looks rendered instead of claymation, which is understandable due to cost but a bit disappointing). Strong Bad's Cool Game for Attractive People's first episode will debut sometime in August, unless they push the date back even further.
Lightning, Red Bull, and Big Red
On a more personal note, we had a really fun night last night. After dinner, we wanted to head down to the Store Arch Bridge to see the Red Bull Illume exhibit. We saw a large storm coming, but we decided we'd risk it. When we got to the exhibit, we found that the photos didn't start projecting until sundown about 9:30pm, so we decided to wait it out. But there was a huge wall cloud coming from the northeast, so we decided to take shelter in the Guthrie Theater building. The new Guthrie is a spaced-aged design that is tons of fun to explore and includes many great overlooks of the Saint Anthony Falls area, so it was an ideal place to watch the store blow over.
First we stood out on the Endless Bridge, which is a cantilever stuck 178 feet out of the side of the building and puts you right above the center of the beautiful downtown river area. We watched a huge wall cloud move across the sky and even withstood 70mph winds for a minute or two. Then, of course, the rain started pouring, so we went into the indoor part of the Endless Bridge.
After hanging out in there for a bit, we went up to the Dowling Studio space, also known as the "Yellow Box". This was an even higher overlook of the river area, but all the windows were colored a bright yellow. I'd never been in this space, but it was really fun to watch the sun set and lightning flash through the sky in this alternate yellow world. After the rain fully subsided, we went back to the Endless Bridge to see the lightining flash through the sky in its real bright purple hue. It was amazing to see because you could see lightning for miles around in all directions.
Towards the end of that, we watched the huge lit-up photos from the Red Bull Illume exhibit turn on and it looked amazing. (You can see a photo taken from the same spot on the home page of the Red Bull Illume site if you browse the photos at the bottom a bit.) We then went down there and found some amazing photos, most of extreme sports of all kinds. They were amazing, and if you have time some evening to come down in the next week, you really should do it. The exhibit seems to be open pretty late, because the photos were still lit up at midnight when Isaac and I left the theater as well.
That's right, Isaac and I actually had to hurry past the Red Bull exhibit because we wanted to catch this weekend's blockbuster film, Hellboy II: The Golden Army. In usual St. Anthony Main theater fashion, we walked in 3 or 4 minutes late for the start of the film due to 10 minutes of ticketing lines, but the rest of the experience was positive. The second installment of Guillermo Del Toro's Dark Horse Comics adaptation almost matches the first one, although most of the "character development" revolved around a romance of some sort for almost every major character. It was nice to see more of Doug Jones's Abe Sapien character, although he rarely kicks butt. Del Toro goes a bit overboard, in my opinion, with the sets and otherworldly characters, making some look too much like Pan's Labrynth, which brought me a bit out of the Dark Horse Comics characters, I think. Ron Perlman continued to do a great job as the reluctant but prideful superhero, Hellboy, while I felt Selma Blair's character continues just to be an emotional wreck. The theater was pretty packed, but who knows if the series will warrant another installment or if Guillermo Del Toro will be doing it after the next four years or so on the Hobbit projects. All in all, it was an entertaiing film, but definitely not one I'm gonna run out and buy on DVD (just like the last one).
iPhone Day at the Mall of America
Yesterday was the launch of Apple's updated iPhone 3G, and since I work just across the street from the Mal of America, one of the largest malls in the country, I had a pretty prime spot for the retail madness that was the updated iPhone. So here's what yesterday looked like for me.
First, I had a meeting before work at Starbucks, so we passed by the Mall of America Apple Store, where there was about 70 people in line at 7am. The store opened at 8am, a couple hours earlier than usual, in order to take care of the demand, so the folks in line didn't have too much longer to wait. About 5 minutes before 8am, we went by again and the amount of persons in line had actually doubled. Then I went to work.
During the morning, a couple co-workers were trying to get an iPhone. Pete took the morning off and got to a local AT&T Store at 7am, but was told that the store only had 20 iPhones and the line was already there to get those. I think he went to another AT&T store and was there for a couple more hours working to get an iPhone, but in the end, only the 8GB iPhones were still left. He was working to see if he could trade up later as he was told that some AT&T stores were getting more stock that afternoon. Josh only started looking at about 7:30am, and after seeing the line at the MOA Apple Store, he thought he'd check the AT&T store. He still had to be at work around 8am, so he decided not to wait in that shorter line either.
Sometime around 7:30am (CDT) nationwide the iPhone activation servers started to get flaky from the overwhelming traffic. Like I said, Pete got an iPhone, but the activation process was not working, so neither his old phone nor his iPhone now worked until he could get it activated. Also, because of the cheaper price being subsidized by AT&T, they were doing all the signing up and getting it activated in the stores, which made the lines long because it took 15-20 minutes or more per person to get signed up.
Over the lunch hour, Josh and I walked around the mall seeing if we could get an iPhone. We walked into an empty AT&T store and were quickly told that the had completely sold out of the 140 iPhones they had. At the Apple Store around 12:15pm, we found about 60 people in line, and we knew that it'd take an hour or two that we didn't have to get through the line, so we went back to work again.
Mid-afternoon, David came by and showed us a brand-new, working iPhone 3G that he got after over three hours at an Edina Apple Store. It was fun to play around with it a bit, but of course the best part of the new iPhone is the downloadable applications, and I was not about to fill David's phone with applications he didn't want. (I hope one of the co-workers will buy Super Monkey Ball because I really want to play it.)
After work at 5:15pm, I walked past the MOA Apple Store again and found about 50 people in the line outside the store. I asked one of the guys at the front how long he'd been in line, and he told me about an hour. I also tried to check up at a downtown Minneapolis AT&T store on my way home, but that part of downtown is a ghost town by 6pm, so I couldn't even get into the building, and the skyway store was probably closed anyways.
As far as the iPhone goes, I'm glad that the iPhone App Store is finally here so that other developers can fill in the functionality gaps for me and entertain me with innovative games. However, AT&T's updated monthly rates are, as my friends say, "hella expensive," such that whenever I get an iPhone I'd be paying $25-$30 more per month - and that's a hefty price to pay. Therefore, I'm still in no hurry to upgrade to an iPhone over the Palm Treo I currently have, but once I get an iPhone, I will enjoy the enhanced experienced delivered from my mobile phone. And, who knows, by then, they'll probably have the newer and better one out.