A Return To Roots; NBA JAM: On Fire Edition

NBA JAM: On Fire Edition, is a return to the video game franchise’s roots. Drawing from the things that made the original games so great and what EA should have done from the start with last years release.

I was so excited last year when EA released an updated version of one of my favorite games of all time. NBA JAM was released for the current generation on consoles about this time last year. Like an eager gamer, I rushed out to the store to pick up my own copy on release day and jammed it into my Playstation 3 (PS3) so fast that I barely realized that I was missing work to play it.

As you can tell I was pretty excited to play this game. I have owned a PS3 for some time and have a dozen or so games, but there are only two I play on a regular basis. ‘Top Gun‘, and the latest ‘Mortal Kombat‘, which is a remake of the same game with the same title from the 90s, that focused a lot of bringing back all the elements of the original ‘Mortal Komabat’ game that fans like. So, you might say I am picky about the games I play.

I played NBA JAM for all of two hours after I got it. Since than it has sat quietly in the plastic box I bought in on the shelf next to my TV with my other video games. This new NBA JAM wonderfully maintained the arcade look the game has always had since it was released in the 90s, but that is the only good thing I can say about that game. The rest of my hopes and dreams for this game came crashing down like a bricked shot at the NBA finals.

NBA JAM lacked just about everything that made the original games so much fun to play. Things like the ability to control whoever on your team has the ball, fouling people in mid air just so you can steal the ball from them and an ‘On Fire’ mode that made you next to invincible on the court.

The programmers at EA made the mistake of spending their time creating “Half Court” games. Building an A.I. to play against that would leave Deep Blue scratching his brain, and mother fucking boss battles.

Really? Boss Battles, EA? What the hell are you thinking? This is a basketball game you morons, not fucking ‘Super Mario Brothers’. And to think I played fifty bucks for this damn “game”.

For the next few weeks while the game sat back on my shelf I was checking the message boards of EA, filing my complaints along with those others who also were outraged that the game missed its mark by so damn much. I found myself hoping that EA would provide a beacon of hope to all the thousands of fans by releasing an apology. Then release updates to the game so that it would be playable. But soon those weeks turned into months, which turned into, well fuck, this thing is never going to get played again.

Than this year while I was at PAX Prime, hope shined down on me when I saw the smallest booth on the show floor displaying ‘NBA JAM On Fire Edition’. It would be released on October 4th 2011. I eagerly went up to the kid manning the booth and asked “So did EA fix all the fuck ups of last years release”. The kid, having memorized the appropriate response to this question earlier in the day, responded with “I was not aware of any things needed to be fixed from last year’s game sir, but this on fire edition coming out in October will have over one thousand gameplay improvements.

I didn’t get a chance to grill the kid manning the booth any longer because PAX being what PAX is, I was late for a PAX talk. I had to hurry away and did not get a chance to revisit the booth before PAX ended. I did find myself thinking a lot about if I should get this updated NBA JAM game or not.

Well like a gullible child taking free candy from a guy in a windowless van, I picked up NBA JAM On Fire Edition as a digital download for fifteen bucks. So, this time if I get screwed over by the same gaming company it wont hurt as much. I hope.

NBA JAM On Fire Edition clames among its one thousand game play improvements:

  • Stripped out all boss battles
  • Removed Half-court games
  • Swap or tag play that allows the player to swap control of who they are controlling on their team during game play

To me, all of these “gameplay improvements” could have been addressed with a simple update to the original game of last year. Then at least I would not have felt like I just handed fifty bucks to EA supporting a shitty game. But no. This whole video and AE’s stance has been ‘implementing game improvements” and not “oh we fucked up, we are so sorry. We are going to make this better, we promise”. I don’t know why they have such a hard time admitting they screwed this up. There is nothing wrong with admitting you screwed up. It shows the fans that you care and that you can learn from your mistakes. But no. That is not what is happening here. They are playing it off like the game was perfect and now they are making it better.

Well, I have now had some time to actually play NBA JAM: On Fire Edition and here is what I think.

This game is pretty damn good. Once you get used to the controls the game play feels a lot like how it used to be back when I had it on the SNES. Complete with full control of both players (albeit, it can be sluggish switching players on defense), fouling people in mid air, and a strong ‘On Fire’ mode.

I see myself playing this game solid for a few months and inviting friends over to play it with me even though there is an online component to the game. I am not disappointed in this release, but if EA ever wants to apologies for the last one I bought, I will be waiting.

I Am Quitting The Facebook

I will be removing myself from Facebook at the start of November. You can still follow me on Google+, Twitter, and of course, I can always be contacted via E-Mail.

Facebook is an evil company and that is something I hate to say about a service that has put me in touch with so many friends from my past. But it is time for me to say good bye to Facebook. I have finally gotten annoyed with their horrible user interface and the fact they sell everyone’s privet information off to other companies

I have been seeing this quote more and more on-line.

If you’re not paying for it, you’re not the customer, you’re the product being sold.

Facebook sells our personal information to ads companies so they can place more targeted ads directed to you on internet webpages. This is how Facebook makes it’s money. Did Facebook ask me if it was ok to sell my Location, Hobbies, browsing habits, phone numbers, or addresses to a third-party advertiser? I don’t recall ever being asked by them, but that is what they are doing and that is why I am quitting Facebook.

Twitter, and to a lesser extent Google+ do sell ads. This is how they make money. What they are not doing is selling my personal information to ad companies. Not yet anyway. So since they are not doing that, I will continue to use their services.

Another thing with Facebook is that even after you have logoff of Facebook’s website, the cookies that your browser has downloaded from visiting the site remain active. This allows Facebook and their advertisers to continue to post ads targeted directly at you based on your online activity.

One thing I find scary is that the popular online music service Spotify, which a few friends have been trying to get me to join ever since it became available in this country, now requires new members to have Facebook account to sign up. I have never been a fan of streaming music services, but since my friends where so insistent that I give this a shot I was going to sign up. Now that I have learned that a Facebook account is required, I will never be trying this service. This is a deal breaker for me.

I hope that my friends and family who have been following me on facebook will now follow me on Google+ and Twitter. Two services that are just as feature rich and easier to use than Facebook.

Reviewing the Canon G12

For my recent Hawaiian vacation I wanted to get a new camera to replace my aging Canon PowerShot S3. Hawaii was going to be a long and fun trip and I wanted to be able to take great photos of my adventures. After doing all my research and talking to a couple of friends, I wound up picking out the Canon G12, 10 Megapixel Camera.

The main selling points for me was the size, it’s ability to shoot both RAW and JEPG at the same time, and its ability to shoot high-resolution video. I would love to have a big DLSR camera with super large lenses, but honestly I would never use them to their full potential. The idea of lugging around all that camera gear on my vacation did not sound like fun to me either.

For the couple of months that I have had the Canon G12 I have been very happy with its performance. It takes clear photos and shoots fast. The only negative thing I have to say about this camera is the optical finder is all but worthless. No digital information is displayed at all through it. I find myself using the LCD screen almost exclusively which didn’t bother me much at all once i got used to it. Now it feels pretty natural.

I also picked up an Eynpire Camera Leather Case which I love. The camera and the case both received their own compliments from several strangers on my trip.

I also want to make a book recommendation to anyone who wants to take their photo shooting skills to the next level. Understanding Exposure by Bryan Peterson is a great book that will have you shooting wonderful photos in no time.

PAX Prime 2011

August 26th through the 28th Hannah, Lyle, and myself where at the Penny Arcade Expo (PAX) in Seattle. We all had a really great time and are already talking about going again next year.

Some of the highlights of our trip for us where:

  • Keynote
  • The Penny Arcade Q&A session
  • The Wil Wheaton Awesome Hour
  • Draw A Comic Panel
  • Dungeon Master Panel
  • The Acquisitions Inc Dungeon & Dragons Game
  • Star Wars Old Republic Panel
  • Omegathon
On the show floor some of the highlights for me where:

Why Write An eBook?

All That Matters Kindle Cover
All That Matters Kindle Cover

Why write an ebook? Why not? We live in a wonderful time where we as individuals can self publish our own work and make money at it. It’s never been easier or more cost affective to take something you have created and put it out their for the masses.

At the very least writing an ebook is going to require time. Time for you to write your ebook, edit it, and format it for an ebook reader. Things like cover art can be done through an ebook sell, such as Amazon.com, for free.  A lot of the effort of creating an ebook has been made easy for you, the writer, by removing a lot of the stress, time, and waiting that one would normally experience going through a traditional publisher.

At most an ebook is going to cost you time and money. The time to write your ebook, the money it costs to have it edited by a professional editor, the money it costs to have someone professionally design your own cover art. It all depends on how far you want to take it.

I have been documenting my experiences of writing and self publishing. I hope to share my experiences with you in this and future blog posts. Hopefully answering any questions you might have about the process so you do not have to hunt around digging for answers much like I have had to do.

When I say self publish an eBook I am also talking about self publishing a physical book. Companies like Amazon.com offer people a way to sell their self published books on the Kindle eBook reader. They also offer people a Pint On Demand (POD) option which means when someone buys a physical copy of your book, one is created as needed to complete the sale. In almost the same way you can upload your book so it can be sold for eBook readers, you can also upload your book so a physical copy can be sold and not cost you a dime.

In both the eBook and POD options you have the choice to set the price of your book which allows you to determine how much commission you will make for each book’s sale. Wether it be an ebook or a POD book. Isn’t living in the future cool?

Recently sales figures show that eBook copies have been out selling physical copies of the same books. This means that people who are buying books are choosing to buy electronic versions. This could be for any number of reasons. Perhaps its because they don’t have to carry around heavy books anymore. Maybe its because of the ease in which you can purchase an eBook. Or still it could be because eBooks tend to cost less than physical books. Whatever the reason may be, its clear that people are making the shift from paper books to eInk eBooks.

Amazon.com is now selling more Kindle books than paperback books. Since the beginning of the year, for every 100 paperback books Amazon has sold, the company has sold 115 Kindle books. Additionally, during this same time period the company has sold three times as many Kindle books as hardcover books.”This is across Amazon.com’s entire US book business and includes sales of books where there is no Kindle edition. Free Kindle books are excluded and if included would make the numbers even higher.

For anyone who has not yet read on an eBook device like the Amazon Kindle, I can honestly say from my own experience that reading on such a device has been a great experience. Its like staring at a piece of paper. I have never once experience eye strain from reading on an eBook device. The technology is sound and proven.

Creating something and getting paid for it has never been easier. In fact I think the hardest part is just creating. Give yourself some time each day. Even if it is just a couple of minutes and write, photograph, or create. Whatever it is. Just create!

License Plate Punch

My wife and I play this little game whenever we go out called the ‘License Plate Punch’ game. I am sure this game goes by other names through out the verse, but this is what we call it here. I think I started playing it with her shortly after moving to Alaska. I remember seeing a Hawaiian license plate in town and thinking to myself that getting a car from Hawaii to Juneau can’t be the easiest thing in the world to do. I was reminded of playing the ‘License Plate Punch’ game with my friends back in Washington state so when I saw it I reached over and punched my wife on the shoulder. It was not a hard punch mind you. Not the kind that Ralph Kramden would threaten Alice with that would send her to the moon. No, this was more of a tap on the shoulder than punch.

My wife quickly picked up on the simple rules. You see an out of state license plate while driving around and you gently punch the person next to you.

That was all fine and good, but now the problem is my wife keeps making additions to the rules without telling me. Its become a game for me just to figure out what these new rules are since the only way I find out about them is by getting punched. Just recently I learned that I can get punched via cell phone text message. Who knew?

I have figured out some of these new rules. They are:

  • You can get punched if the other person sees an instate plate, but only once a day.
  • You no longer need to be in the car to get punched.
  • If the car just happens to be really cool you will get punched.
  • You can now get punch via cell phone.

Simon & Schuster, John Locke, and eBooks

Simon & Schuster just signed a deal with John Locke, the first self published author to ever sell a million eBooks. I have been reading more and more about self published authors who are being signed to publishing houses. What makes the deal with John Locke so unique is that he gets to retain all of his eRights. That is unheard of. Simon & Schuster wont get one cent for any sale of his eBooks. John Locke gets to keep it all for himself.

When an author publishes an eBook and sells it through and online service like Amazon.com they normally get to keep 70% of each sale. When an author sells an eBook through a normal publishing house like Simon & Schuster it is considerably less. I am just floored that any publishing house would sign and author and not retain the eRights like that.

I can’t help but wonder what these means to the Publishing industry. Is this the first nail in the coffin for publishing houses? Will big name authors start demanding eRights to their own content? It is going to be really interesting to watch what unfolds.