Personally Training Myself: Cooking

January 31, 2009

About a month ago, I read Kyle Orland’s superb Games for Lunch column entry for Nintendo’s Personal Trainer: Cooking. He seemed pretty satisfied wtih the overall experience so when I was thinking of ideas for my birthday (Jan. 19), I figured it was an easy choice to add it to my list. I end up with far more games than I can play to completion throughout a year, so I’m always looking for things that are either a.) different enough that I don’t mind if it sits there for a bit before I get to it or b.) game related books or other junk.

Tonight was the first test of Cooking, with a US recipe for Fried Chicken. The software allows you to pick your recipes by pretty much any way you can think to categorize food, but probably the most fun way to choose is to pick a country and go from there. To make it easy on myself, I chose the US since I’d probably have most of the ingredients on hand already and would have a good idea how it should taste.

I made a huge mess, but ended up with some pretty great tasting fried chicken! The relatively simple recipe called for Cayenne Pepper as one of its spices, and that added some nice heat underneath the batter. My first go at the batter was a disaster and I think either the recipe was a little off or I simply put too much flour in there. It was nowhere near “smooth” and I had to chuck it. Some really cool features of the software are video clips for various cooking techniques and hands off control for moving through the steps. Unfortunately as Kyle noted in his column,  the DS “hears” you making all sorts of noise in the kitchen so you have to turn off the voice recognition or the cooking steps will be over before you start!

Now that I’m finished everything (shopping, prep, cooking, eating, cleanup), I think I’ll be happy to try it all again sometime soon. There’s an abundance of good looking recipes to choose from and having those videos really came in handy to see how to chop parsley properly and cut the chicken for cooking. I took the DS shopping today and the built-in shopping list for my recipe was very handy. Plus I could check to see if I had all the cooking utensils I’d need right there in the recipe.

The whole experience was a little more satisfying as a learning tool than using a book, and even though my DS needed to be cleaned up afterward, it was all worth the effort. If you’re looking for something a little different that’s videogame related but not just another game to throw on the pile, check it out.

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Frustration and Pain

January 30, 2009

The title of this post can refer to two things… game-related, it’s all about Warhammer 40,000: Dawn of War II and more specifically Games for Windows Live.  Personally, it’s about the gaping hole I have in one of my teeth; large enough to park a bus inside it.

Fortunately, the pain hasn’t arrived with the tooth yet. One of my fillings fell out last night and I’ve had all kinds of frustration with this particular molar and fillings just not sticking. At some point it’s likely to require a root canal, but I won’t find out until Thursday if that’s the case this time as that’s the first I could get in. Soft foods and lots of mouthwashing for me until then.

As for Warhammer and Games for Windows Live: it’s Universe At War all over again. Just as in that RTS, I simply cannot get GFWLive to work on my machine with Dawn of War II. I have tried everything. I’ve opened every port they require for GFWLive and gone as far as I’m willing to go. It’s just plain nuts that it won’t work!

What’s even more frustrating is that it’s an entirely unnecessary layer between myself and playing the game. For years and years PC gaming has gotten along just fine without additional services that want massive amounts of open ports on your router, sign-on names and achievements. The games were fun to play all on their own, and finding other players was as easy as clicking on “Multiplayer” and seeing a list of servers. GFWLive throws a whole other layer in the way of me playing and because it’s not transparent, it makes me fume.

I can separate the problems of GFWLive (Microsoft) from those of Relic (the game’s developer) or THQ (the game’s publisher), but how many others who encounter the same problems as me are going to do the same? What completely boggles my mind is why a developer and publisher would want their cart tied to this particular horse. It just seems like a complete waste of time, resources, and consumer good will.

Nothing good has come out of the Games for Windows initiative that Microsoft started and seems happy to mostly ignore in development, technical support and marketing. Just like nothing good has come of this damn tooth and its fillings that keep falling out. It’s probably time for both of them to go away for good.

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On a completely unrelated note, Jackyl is coming to Allentown, and I’ll be there even if I have to go myself!


Watchmen

January 25, 2009

Never read the comics when they were being released, though it was during a time I was collecting. For years I’ve heard how great the limited series was and to pick up the graphic novel. Now with the film headed our way in March, I finally went out and bought it.

It’s every bit as good as I was told it was. Makes me excited about comics again, to be honest. The days of me collecting are long gone so this won’t get me back on the bandwagon, but it’s definitely a great primer for the film.

I read that there are plans for a videogame adaptation of some sort and I wonder why? This isn’t something that translates in any way to videogames. Why shoehorn it in? It’s also rated R and should be a pretty cold-hearted R at that. No need to go pushing these “heroes” that way.

Just hearing that there is or was a videogame in the works reminds me that videogames always seem to be this secondary thing to all other forms of entertainment. It’s almost like they’re always a promotional tool instead of the prime entertainment form itself. Developers and publishers have to cut that out. It makes the hobby always seem second rate.

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Rocking – Sort of…

January 22, 2009

Got free tickets to 3 Doors Down, Hinder and Hoobastank tonight. I’ve seen 3DD and Hoobastank before at different shows. Both put on a decent concert. Never saw Hinder, but I suspect they’ll be watchable at the least.

Not something I would’ve gone to see otherwise, but a fine night out thanks to free tix.

EDIT! – OK, so I was wrong about Hoobastank. I swear I got an e-mail claiming they were also on the bill as a late addition. Hmmmm…

The show was pretty good regardless. 3 Doors Down really have their thing nailed down and Hinder were kind of schlocky and perfectly suited to arena rock. SafetySuit were kind of… there.


Xbox 360: The Pinto of Videogames

January 20, 2009

Once you’ve chosen the exploding car, it’s comforting to go around picking up your friends. When everyone risks being burned, your own risk seems diminished.” – Gray “The Shape” Nicholson in games™ #77.

Yes, that’s a direct quote from his editorial. It’s an article about how the Xbox 360 matches nicely with Ford’s legendary Pinto. Did you know they sold the Pinto (quite well) for ten years even though it was known to explode upon rear impact? The 360 isn’t likely to end your life, but the comparison sure does ring true. Here we are three years plus from the system’s initial release date and pretty much everyone has had to replace at least one console. Some, like writer Tom Chick, have a red batphone in their house for the almost monthly system swap.

Yet people continue to recommend the system to friends, including Mr. Nicholson, who arrives at the above conclusion after convincing someone that you can get it fixed, and you should just expect to be without it for a week or two every year. It’s insane. He claims the cost is the key, as it was with the Pinto… $200 for an Arcade system that will let you play Grand Theft Auto IV compared to $400 for a low end PS3. Even crazier, his friend buys it despite being someone who lives on a farm and was raised with practicality at her core.

I guess that’s how far we’ve come with electronics. We just don’t care anymore when they fail on us. We simply bend over and take our whipping, then move on to the next box. There’s something really rotten at the core of it all, but I guess people are totally immune to it anymore?

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Just a little bit older

January 19, 2009

I’m 37 years old today. I was thinking that makes me a pretty old dude, especially by gaming standards. Then I saw the ESPN ticker noting that Kurt Warner is 37 and like 277 days and he’s playing in the Super Bowl, so it’s really just a number, isn’t it?

It felt pretty good until it got to the end of the blurb and it noted he’s the third oldest Super Bowl quarterback in history…

Ah well. I can’t exactly get younger, can I?


I’m about to play Quake III in my web browser

January 18, 2009

Chew on that one for awhile. It’s 2009, and a game that we all thought was just flat out technically brilliant ten years ago when it shipped for the first time is now playable inside the very web browser I’m posting this blog update from.

There are times in this hobby when I think we all really take for granted just how far we’ve come from the days of two paddles batting a ball back and forth across a black and white TV screen. This is one of those times I had to stop for a second and smell the roses. Quake III Arena, for free, in my web browser.

Where will we be in another ten years? Amazing.

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