Impeccable timing


Monday, January 30, 2006 | 01:59 AM | by
So Vericon this past weekend was pretty great. It was a small convention, but I met a bunch of great people, and hand a good time.

Nothing was going on Friday, but Saturday afternoon I got to hang out with Randy Milholland, Jeph Jacques, and my longtime friend Mookie. We did a panel that ran for a couple of hours, and then we were brought over to a local comic book shop called The Million Year Picnic where we did all our signings and stuff. I hadn't brought any merchandise, but I did free quickie sketches for anyone that wanted one. It was a lot of fun, and we stayed late because there were still people standing in line. Thanks to everyone who came out to say hello!

On Sunday I got to hang out with George R. R. Martin and do an interview with him. He's been my favorite author for the last five years, and he's a really great guy in person. All in all a fun weekend, but surprisingly tiring.

I'm back home now, and it's back to the grindstone. This is a really huge week for me, because the Ctrl+Alt+Del Animated series debutes soon as a part of CAD Premium. It's also the last chance for you to get a subscription to CAD Premium for a discounted price! A subscription to CAD Premium gets you 12 months of exclusive animations, wallpapers, comic strips and artwork.

Winter-een-mas 2006 Video Game Tribute: Day Four

Monday, January 30, 2006 | 02:22 AM | by
It took nearly three years of my life, and to this day still hasn't given them back. Every time I thought I was out, it dragged me back in again. I fed it my money, blood, sweat, tears, sleep and social life, and I have nothing to show for it. Except fond memories and a spot on my 2006 Winter-een-mas Video Game Tribute list.

The original Everquest was my introduction to MMORPG's. I caught wind of its development a few months before release, and the concept absolutely blew me away.

When the game came out, I was all over it. I prepared a sympathetic and yet rational, intelligent begging speech to coerce my parents into allowing me use of their credit card to pay the monthly subscription fee. They agreed and the world of Norrath opened up before me.

My very first character was a Barbarian warrior named Judan. Everfrost, with it's winding canyons and frosty tundras was my home. I won't get into details, but the launch of Everquest was a magical time, one that we'll never again experience in MMO's.

Everything was new. To all of us. It took me weeks to reach level nine, and I was one of the highest levels in the area. I even had a store-bought chainmail helmet, while everyone else was still in their polar bear caps. Because back then we didn't know about "powerleveling" or the mechanics of class balance or experience or any of that. Nowadays, getting to level 9 in the original EQ could take you a couple of hours. Tops. Things have changed.

Remember the clunky user interface the game started with? "Hell" levels? "Train to zone!"? How Wizards and Druids used to run taxi services for plat? When a Short Sword of the Ykesha sold for 1500plat? Times have changed.

But I can look back at my MMO roots with great fondness. In comparison to today's games, Everquest was bare. Hardly anything more than a leveling treadmill with a pretty cover. But it was addictive. It was fun, and we were right there every day, in our non-instanced dungeons shouting "LFG" or hoping some group wiped so we could move into their camp.

Eventually the innocence, that "new car smell" would wear off. The forums, once full of wonderment and excitment at discovering new things would soon degenerate into whining and bickering about class balance, and downtime, and every other grip under the sun.

The game is what drew you in, the friends you made was what kept you there. I played Everquest for three years, four servers,half a dozen accounts and nearly ten main characters, and as flawed as the game may have been, I wouldn't trade any of those memories for anything.

Winter-een-mas 2006 Video Game Tribute: Day Five

Tuesday, January 31, 2006 | 12:02 PM | by
The Nintendo 64 was an awesome system. It was one of those systems we pre-ordered way in advance with all the money we had to our name, and begged our parents to pick up for us the day it was released, while we were in school. It had a handful of games that stand out for me during that time period, but one of them above the rest was the king of the N64 for me.

Rare at the time was known for some of the best games around, and GoldenEye 007 was no exception. This was more than a game for me, this was a religion.

As much as I play video games, and despite the public assumption that because I do a video game comic, that I must be a super-gaming-god, I assure you that I am not. As many of you will find out at Digital Overload, I die just as often, if not more often then the average gamer. But sometimes a game will come along that I do click with, and I become nigh unstoppable. 007 was just such a game.

To say I played this game all the time would be a falsehood. There were, in fact, times I had to stop to sleep or go to school. But the rest of the time it was me and some friends huddled around my little 27" tv up in my room screaming over the Goldeneye multiplayer.

There was a time, and I remember it distinctly because it was one of the most intense matches I've played to this date, that I played GoldenEye for money. That's right. One on one, both having placed our precious ten-dollar bills on top of the TV, first to twenty with rockets in the complex. I doubled my money that day.

As first-person shooters go, 007 may have been a little sluggish. But it had an undeniable charm that couldn't be beat.

It was the Halo of that generation. Not as large, but then, video games weren't as large back then. It attracted people who weren't gamers by nature, with indescribably elements that added to mechanics to make it perfect in nearly every way.

The single-player mode was excellent. Good action, decent story, and well worth a play-through. I unlocked every single "achievment" in the single player mode, which would unlock various options to play with in the multiplayer. The train level, the one where you have to shoot from one end of the train to the other to rescue the girl and then use your laser wrist-watch to cut away a floor panel and escape, all within a five and a half minutes; I had that down cold. I could do it with my eyes closed. I would go around to my friends' N64's and do it for them, because they couldn't beat the clock.

Multiplayer was a beast. I'm not sure if describing it will work. If you were there, you know exactly what I'm talking about. If you weren't, I don't think playing the game now would achieve the same effect.

My multiplayer character of choice was Baron Samedi. He was a favorite of mine from the movies, and hardly anyone picked him. Everyone always rushed to select Oddjob, becauser he was such a small target. I had an advantage on certain levels with light colored walls because the Baron would just blend right in, making him hard to track.

The big scandle at the time was the rumor that the original four Bonds (Connery, Moore, Dalton and Lazenby) were supposed to be unlockable multiplayer characters. They were taken out for release, but there was always urban legend that there was a way to unlock them by doing something crazy, like beating the game in under ten seconds while feeding your neighbor to a goat.

But if Sean Connery had been in the game, I would have dropped Baron Samedi like a bad habit. Connery = Best Bond Ever.

Winter-een-mas 2006 Video Game Tribute: Day Six

Tuesday, January 31, 2006 | 07:34 PM | by
Survival horror games are practically a dime-a-dozen nowadays. There are a few franchises that have seen success, such as Silent Hill, or Fatal Frame. But there is one that was my introduction to the genre, perhaps the most well-known of them all, and some might say the one responsible for the explosion of the genre. Resident Evil.

The first Resident Evil hit the Playstation in mid 1996, sporting the box art you see to the right. That was back in the early days of the first Playstation, when the boxes were more like DVD's cases, before they switched to jewel-cases (and have since switched back to DVD cases...).

It has an M rating, 17+. I was most certainly not over 17 at the time. I shouldn't have been sold this game, but this was ten years ago, back before video games had gotten large enough for the media and politicians decided they would serve as a scapegoat for the nation's problems.

This game was an experience, to say the least. Some of it was cheesy, so bad in fact that we still remember and joke about it today. "Take this lockpick, since you are the master of unlocking". Heh. But those moments fast faded as the game progressed. Resident Evil made zombies scary again.

Like when you'd enter a room and after that creepy opening door loading screen, you'd pause and hold your breath, waiting for the tell-tale moaning and shuffling sounds of zombies turning their attention towards your live meat.

And if zombies were bad, zombie dogs were worse. Those things were fast and hard to hit.

I won't even get started on those jumping lizard things, because if you played the game you know all about them.

There are a series of memories that stand out for me. Running from the sharks in the flooded basement. That gigantic plant down there. The pool table room with the spiders. Oh god that was hard for me. Giant, gross hairy spiders. No thanks.

Sitting down with my best friend and making a list of the order in which we needed to do things so that we could beat the game in under three hours to unlock the rocket launcher. See, ten years ago the internet wasn't what it is today. If you wanted something like that, it wasn't as easy to just jump onto any of a thousand websites and print out a walkthrough. You could find stuff if you looked hard enough, but most of it we figured out ourselves, or acquired from print magazines.

I remember playing through Resident Evil as both Chris and Jill, taking the slightly different paths through the game. I remember getting Chris' second outfit, and tearing through the game with the rocket launcher in record time.

Resident Evil 4 is now my favorite of the series, but that one had ten years of technological advancement on it's birthright. For what it was, the original Resident Evil was a masterpiece of vision and execution.