Plop Plop, Fizz Fizz


5bbc952a01a7760eb04b8b4bc31da025There are some things in life for which you have no real explanation.

Like getting your leg caught in a ceiling fan, for instance. And on Saturday, I had an odd thing happen to me. Perhaps not as odd as the ceiling fan thing but odd enough.

I dropped my Xbox One controller – yes, an expensive wireless one – in a bowl of water.

I know it sounds silly but it almost makes sense once I explain. Besides, it’s not like I have a houseful of water-filled bowls just sitting around. I only have two: one for the cats and one for the dog.

In this case, it involves the one belonging to Arliss which is in the den or, as Anthony calls it, the man-cave.

I despise that term, by the way.

Anyway, the water bowl in question sits beside to Arliss’ bowl of dry food in the man-ca…den. Both bowls are situated next to a small table that has my nightly essentials strewn upon it: audio/video remotes, a notebook filled with notes pertaining to my ongoing Japanese studies and, of course, my Xbox controllers.

On Saturday morning, I went into the den to grab something off of the table. I don’t remember what it was but at any rate, while I was reaching for it, my Xbox One controller scrambled off the edge of the table and directly into the bowl of water.

*plop*

Oh shit. Really, oh shit. It was submerged for maybe one whole second at the most which is certainly enough time for water to make its presence known on the innards of any electronic device.

I figured it was goner but retrieved it from the bottom of the bowl anyway. I shook it vigorously, hoping to get all of the water out of it. And in my attempt to shake it dry, I slung water all over the den floor and patio doors. I continued to do so until I thought I had it all out.

Then I ran into the bathroom and turned on the hairdryer – trust me, it’s Ann’s not mine – to finish the job at Max Power. If there was anything that would dry it out, this would be it.

This was about all I could do for the time being. I inspected it and it seemed fairly dry on the inside (at least as far as I could see once removing the battery cover). I then tried it out – and there were problems.

When pressing the Xbox button, the system would power-on but the controller wouldn’t stay on. The light on the Xbox button would flash a few times and turn off. Nothing after that.

Then I put some of my reliable rechargeable batteries in the controller since they seem to be much more powerful that the standard alkaline batteries I use. No dice – the controller was doing the same thing.

In the grand scheme of things, it’s not like I use the system very much. I seem to use it more for streaming baseball games online since I can’t watch them otherwise due to the greed of my home team and a certain cable provider watching YouTube videos via Chromecast from either my phone, tablet, or PC in the living room. So if I had to buy a new controller, I could go cheap and just get another wired one.

And that’s what it was looking like at this point.

Hours later, I tried it again. The controller literally looked like it was breathing its last breath with the light slowly fading like it hadn’t done before, almost as if it were saying goodbye.

I could almost hear a little voice crying, “Help meeeeeeeeeeeeee…”

Well, crap.

I had already planned on putting it back in the bowl of water and taking a picture of it to share on social media if it had died. If there was nothing else to be done then I might as well have some fun with it, right?

Then Sunday comes along. After a morning of mishaps (that’s another blog post), I thought I’d give it one more try. So I held the Xbox button down and the system powered up. The good thing was that the controller stayed on.

Resurrected. A true Sunday miracle. Or was it?

I thought I’d give it a try by playing Forza Motorsport 6 and everything seemed to be functioning just fine. Then Anthony wanted to play so I handed it over to him.

He discovered that Change View button wasn’t working. He came across this because he wanted to change the POV in FM6 since he doesn’t like my POV: either the hood or bumper views. I would have never found it myself unless I played another game.

I was now going to have to shell out x-dollars because one stinking button wasn’t working. Isn’t that a pip?

So tonight about an hour ago I gave it one more shot and, using some critical thinking (yes, I’m capable of such things), I found the cause of the problem.

In FM6, you can apply Mods to your car with varying degrees of difficulty to earn more points, XP, etc. Some are one-time use and others will remain until you decide to deactivate them.

So I started my Career, got to the track, and reviewed my Mods. One of the active ones was Hood View, a mod which gives you extra points for only using the hood POV; you cannot changed it once the game starts. I went into the Settings and removed the mod, then started the race.

As soon as it started I hit the Change View button and, lo and behold, it worked.

Resurrection, again.

So even after being submerged in dog-water for about a second, I managed to bring the controller back to life with only a hairdryer and the brute gorilla force used when shaking it dry.

Then again, we managed to wash and dry Anthony’s old iPod twice and while the screen had some water damage, it still worked.

I guess we have that kind of strange luck.

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Wii U Experience in Los Angeles


Saturday was a busy day for us.

In addition to attending an L.A. Galaxy soccer game, the family went to the invitation-only Wii U Experience in Los Angeles (or more precisely, Hollywood) to experience firsthand what Nintendo’s latest system has to offer.

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The event was held at Siren Studios on Sunset Boulevard and was scheduled to last two hours. There was a pretty big crowd waiting to get in when we got there at around 11 am, our scheduled time. Once we were checked in, we were issued our snazzy IDs with lanyard.

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Anthony was more than happy to put his on and get to gaming.

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After we were issued our IDs, we made our way into the studio to a small holding area where we waited until the previous group was cleared out and the studio cleaned. I’ll explain why in a bit.

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Now this was cool. These kiosks were located at various locations in the studio, each with an event attendant. What they would do was tap your ID on the plus symbol, have you strike a pose, then look at the camera (see the small black dot below the Nintendo logo) for a photo and you were done. If you previously linked your Facebook account to your ID, the images were immediately posted to your page. Here are our pictures taken in the holding area and then with Mario.

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I couldn’t get Mario to throw a peace sign. Oh well.

Once inside we were allowed to wander as we pleased.

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Music was pumping and all of the event workers were very enthusiastic; it made for a great vibe. (Hall and Oates’ “You Make My Dreams” was first on the playlist and seemed to fit perfectly.) Here’s Anthony giving Scribblenauts Unlimited a try with a little assistance.

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Many of the games were still in the development phase and had working titles like The Wonderful 101 and Game & Wario.

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One of the more fun games we tried was Wii Fit U, the third entry in the Wii Fit series. Like the other games, it was a demo version and could vary greatly by the system’s  launch. I tried the trampoline minigame and racked a score that the attendant told me was one of the highest she’d seen to date. That or she was just being nice.

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I was happy to learn that my current Wii Fit Balance Board is compatible with Wii U but disappointed that like the last generation Wii, it will not support Gamecube games. I guess I’ll just have to hold onto my old Wii system if that’s the case. Aside from that, Wii Fit U looks to be a must-have for anybody who enjoyed the previous incarnations.

Of course with all of this gaming going on, you need some refreshments. There were plenty.

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This is what I meant about cleaning the place up since there were plastic bottles everywhere when we left.

One of the other games we tried was Nintendo Land which consists of a bunch of minigames like Mario Party.

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The image above shows a hide-and-seek type of game in which the person holding the main controller is Mario and is given a 10-second head start to run and hide. Mario’s exact location is only visible on the control’s display to the player controlling Mario while the other players (up to four) must rely on a hot-cold bar at the bottom of their screen. Overall, I was a bit disappointed at how slow Mario moved and as a result, I was found in no time flat.

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New Super Mario Bros. U looks to be everything Mario fans might be expecting: multiplayer, new moves, new powers. It was the most popular game there and while we only tried it once, it was definitely fun.

And if you wanted to try a 3DS system, there were a few of those around as well. Both Ann and Anthony loved it.

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The place was riddled with white leather couches and these cubes that changed color. I wanted to take one home.

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There were also contests on some of the games with the winners getting small prizes. I almost won the Wii Fit U competition but was edged out. Anthony was near the host as he awarded the winner her prize then looked at Anthony, reached into his goodie bag, and game him a small tin of mushroom candies. Very cool!

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Not to be outdone, I also won a prize at the end of the event when the host was asking trivia questions. The question I answered was simple enough if you know Nintendo’s history:

“Which was the first game Nintendo ever made?”

The answer: playing (or hanafuda) cards. Nobody else was even close! I won a little Koopa figurine that I immediately handed over to Anthony.

After the trivia questions, we escorted out and got yet another treat: mushroom cake pops! Could this day get any better?

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Here’s a close-up. I ate it and didn’t grow as I had hoped but it was delicious.

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And I saw these on the way out which I thought were great. You know, in case you had to go Wii before you went home.

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We entered this event knowing very little about the Wii U and left it wanting to put my name on the waiting list. While the chances of that happening are pretty slim at the moment because of the Wii U’s price point of $349.99 for the 32GB system with one game, it’s definitely on my list down the road. It’s taken the Wii concept to a new level that won’t appeal to all gamers but it still a whole lot of fun. Keep in mind that we only played games at this event and did not see all that the Wii U is capable of doing: video chat (controller has a front-facing camera), TV remote control, DVR capabilities, etc.

The Wii U Experience was indeed memorable. Thanks to all involved for being great hosts and for answering all questions we had regarding the system. I’d better start saving my spare change for this one.

Roughing It — Kind Of


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Here’s Anthony sitting in the tent in the backyard where I promised him we’d camp over the holiday weekend. We’re doing Night 2 as I post this. Perfect night for it, too.

Device: LG Optimus V

Apps: PicSay Pro for color manipulation; lightning provided by Nintendo DSi XL screens

There Are No Words…


Just watch the video.

Not On My Wish List


When I was working at Kmart for those few wonderful weeks, there was this co-worker that also happened to be a guitar player and as such, never passed up an opportunity to talk garbage about the whole Rock Band/Guitar Hero genre of video games. As a matter of fact, I recall us getting into a heated debate with me defending the games as a means for those of us without the talent or wherewithal to “play a guitar.”

Look, you can play a guitar. I’m happy for you. But there are tons of people out there that, for whatever reason, just can’t grasp the concept. These games are for them, not people like you. It’s not for real–it’s a game. Do you think NASCAR drivers are as pissed as you are about driving games? Or [insert your favorite professional sport] players despise the fact that gamers are living vicariously though these games? Hell no. So let us at least have that and if I can say so, you must not be a very good guitar player if you’re working at Kmart.

The guy shut up and quite honestly, I think I broke his brain because he was quite silent after this little incident and remained so until my last day of work. I didn’t regret telling him these things because I felt he had it coming. He seemed to be quite arrogant (imagine that: an arrogant musician!) about the whole thing and he just needed to be set in place–by a guy about 20 years his senior.

But upon seeing the latest addition to the Rock Band franchise, I’m beginning to see his point.

As you might recall on this April Fool’s post from 2008, I accurately predicted the eventual materialization of the Rock Band keytar:

Rock Band’s mature fans will appreciate the Rock Band Wireless Keytar, an exciting addition that will introduce the synth-pop and electronic genres to the game, with music from bands such as Depeche Mode and Devo planned for downloadable content.

I also mention my plans to sue Harmonix and Microsoft (for entirely different reasons) in this post but that’s neither here nor there…for now.

So let’s get into my reasons as to why I won’t be buying Rock Band 3. When I first saw the gameplay with the keytar I thought it was pretty cool and was a must-have. Then as I watched more and more videos for the thing, I realized that I have a Casio keyboard sitting in my bedroom which never gets used. But when I do bring it out, I’m the kind of person that can listen to a song a few times and easily play it back after a few tries. No, it won’t be as complex as the original version but the melody will be there and you’ll know what it is. Sheet music? What’s that? Yes, I’m “one of those people” as my wife says.

Did I mention any song, not a limited list of songs offered in the game or ones that may or may not be available for download? It’s doubtful that the Marketplace will ever produce anything that I would want to see and honestly, I would rather sit in a quiet room with a regular keyboard and figure out how to play the synths from this song* rather than clack on a goofy 24-key keytar and pretend to be Ray Manzarek or some lame/forgotten group.

And let’s face it: Manzarek played keys and bass at the same time.

That’s one aspect of it. Then there’s the cost of the thing which, at the time of this post, is a ridiculous $129 for the (required) keytar bundle.

As if I wasn’t already turned off by the concept, they have to offer it a price point that is a little over the top. Hell, my full Rock Band 2 bundle was only $20 more than that when it came out and when you consider that a decent, starter stand-alone keyboard can be had for the same price as the RB3 bundle, I’d go with the option that might just spawn a little more creativity, has 88 keys and won’t be collecting dust a month down the road because of its limited use.

No, Rock Band 3, you won’t be part of my collection any time soon. Sorry.

But while I’m here I want to mention one more thing that I’m sure Harmonix will rip off from me and run with. Now that the franchise has a practical full set of instruments offering a “complete band” experience, where do they go from here?

Add a new drum set but not just any drum set: a replica Simmons SDS-8 drum set. They were all the rage back in the ’80s and were played by Phil Collins, Prince drummer Bobby Rivkin, and whoever the fuck played drums for Spandau Ballet.

Then, as if that’s not enough, make an entire game dedicated to ’80s music: A Flock of Seagulls, the aforementioned Spandau Ballet and Prince, and even throw in some Morris Day and The Time for good measure (Jerome not included). It’ll be fun on a bun!

Come on, Harmonix, it’s the only natural progression you’ve got left. You’ve pushed the genre about as far as you can possibly could and very little will make it much better than this.

So to my former co-worker I’m pleased to say that I know where you’re coming from. As for Harmonix, just remember: I accept PayPal.

UPDATE: Wow, I mention suing Harmonix and all of a sudden they are up for sale. So much for my big payday…

*I say this song because I did do that one night