Posts filed under ‘Video Games’

A (final?) 1UP Memory with the 1UP Crew

There came a moment last night at Steff’s Sports Bar in San Francisco when former 1UP/MyCheats/GameSpy guru Mike Nelson put his drink down and said to me, “I was walking here and looking at all these people passing by, and I was thinking, ‘They don’t even know. People got laid off today and it was an end of an era. And they don’t even know.'”

I still don’t consider myself part of the “videogame industry,” but for a brief moment of my life, I worked in it. I lived and breathed it. And while I was in this bubble, I had kind of lost sight of what it is I was doing, what we all were doing. I was writing strategy guides and making silly videos for a website about videogames. Seriously, who the hell cares about that stuff? Apparently, a lot of people do.

When the news broke yesterday about the closing of 1UP, UGO, and GameSpy and the laying off of staff from those sites and their parent site, IGN, my Twitter feed was immediately flooded with tweets featuring the #1upMemories hashtag. At first it was from people I knew – old co-workers, friends I met while working there, etc. Then it came from random people I didn’t know – the “community.” And it was an amazing thing to behold.

I was waiting at the bar counter for some fruity coconut drink I ordered for Matt Leone (whose features can be read at Polygon) and I kept thinking about how 1UP meant a lot to a lot of people, and their outpouring of support over the past day was really touching. I haven’t worked at 1UP for more than a year, but at that moment I never felt closer to the 1UP community. Later in the evening, when more 1UP alumni and friends showed up to the bar, Mike’s words came back to me. It was an end of an era.

It really was. A lot of things in videogame media that we take for granted, like podcasting, really got its start at 1UP. Name any gaming podcast and I could tell you that it wouldn’t exist without 1UP Yours and EGM Live and Retronauts, and many more paving the way. And who could forget The 1UP Show? Groundbreaking, to say the least. And don’t get me started on this whole notion of “journalistic integrity.” The 1UP Network and its sister magazines was one of the few places that had that. Not that there aren’t sites now that won’t stick up for old-fashioned journalism ethics, but there aren’t that many in this age of ad sales and influential marketing teams.

This gathering at Steff’s wasn’t my first with the 1UP crew, and it probably won’t be the last, but it definitely felt like it. There was something in the air last night that signalled the finality of it all. I’ll admit I was getting a little misty-eyed. When 1UP and Gamepro alum Justin Haywald walked into the bar, late as usual, to the cheers and applause of many, everything suddenly felt very warm. We were all gathered near the counter (and taking up way too much space for this establishment), and I stood on a chair and tried to take a picture of everyone.

I realized that this wasn’t even close to everyone. But all the people at the bar – at that moment – carried with them the same memories as those that couldn’t make it out last night. They shared the same ups and downs, victories and defeats. These people had seen it all. System launches, studio closures, game announcements. E3’s, GDC’s, PAX’s, TGS’s, Gamescom’s. Lay offs, mergers, and site closures. To the world at large, none of this matters. But to a community of enthusiasts and players both pro and casual, those things mean everything. And 1UP was there for all of it over the past ten years. These people, just a sampling of a lucky few, had been through it. Most people don’t care, but many do.

“…it was an end of an era. And they don’t even know.”

There was plenty of reminiscing done last night. Countless exclamations of “remember whens,” usually followed by some embarrassing story. Jose Otero, who started as an intern the same time I started on the cheats section, pointed out the door of the bar to a building across the street. It was one of the old 1UP offices. We were there for only a few months before moving into IGN’s building. “A lot of memories in there for such a short amount of time,” he said. I nodded in reply.

I finally got that group picture. Again, it wasn’t everyone. Jeremy Parish, who is the last editor-in-chief of the site, was on a plane coming from Sony’s PS4 event in New York. Dan Hsu, former Electronic Gaming Monthly editor-in-chief, had gone off to create his own respectable gaming website years ago. Tina Palacios moved to Los Angeles. Alice Liang took a job a whole continent and ocean away in England. Garnett Lee went to GameFly. Jane Pinckard, who helped craft the memorable 1UP Show theme song, now works at a university. The 1UP Show creators set up their own production company, Area 5 Media, a few years ago. Former CGW/GFW editor-in-chief Jeff Green, who made an appearance at the bar earlier in the evening, had moved to game development.

Many, many more 1UP staffers of old had gone off to do other things, some in the games industry, some in entirely different fields. But the people in these snapshots were still connected to them through 1UP. Former 1UP video guy Richard Li once said over Twitter that he was “…deeply touched by the bonds established during our short time at 1UP, a period of unbridled creativity and kick ass friendships.” People came and went, but 1UP was the constant variable. The site was what connected us to each other even if we had never met in person, and is what connects us to our wonderful community of readers, listeners, and viewers.

On the train ride home with Mike Nelson, he said to me, “It’ll probably hit me in like a month. 1UP’s gone. Okay, maybe a week. It’ll be real in a week.”

Thanks, 1UP.

February 23, 2013 at 8:16 am 2 comments

Androids Need Love HD

Yesterday I put up a video shot using the stop-motion feature on my Nintendo 3DS. Titled, Androids Need Love, it got a little bit of love from popular gaming blog Kotaku. I mentioned that I shot it with my Canon 7D as well, and I finally got around to processing all those RAW images.

But the results are less than spectacular.

The video is jerky as a result of the camera being shifted incorrectly between shots. My focus was on my 3DS, so I had my 7D positioned next to it at an angle. Because of the way the shutter button is positioned, and the amount of force needed to press down on it, this caused my camera to shift slightly at an angle on quite a few of the frames. Also, because the 7D was kind of at an OTS (over the shoulder) angle, and not in a wide shot like the 3DS was, panning with the camera was a little more difficult.

I’d like to try again sometime, maybe using the 7D exclusively. And maybe shooting JPEG instead of RAW because I’m not really concerned about editing the images in post and it will take considerably less time processing hundreds of JPEGs than it wold RAW images.

Anyway, you can see the video below.

The framing is kind of tight because I was on a 50mm f1.8 lens. Because the 3DS version (when viewed on a 3DS) is in 3D, I needed to do something with the 7D to help make the figures pop a little more. This particular lens has a very shallow depth-of-field; it’s not the same as 3D, but I wanted more separation between foreground and background.

If I ever shoot another one of these, I’ll make sure to choose a better angle, or at least plan out exactly how the camera is going to move. With the 3DS, it wasn’t too much of a concern because the system was parallel to the “actors.” And the lo-fi quality of the 3DS kind of lets it get away with some mistakes.

December 9, 2011 at 8:17 am Leave a comment

Androids Need Love

http://youtu.be/Yy4FnEwxj-o

Yesterday I shot a stop-motion short using some toys and figures I had lying around. This was actually something I’ve wanted to do for a while but I decided to wait until Nintendo released the update to their 3DS that allowed for 3D video recording. Although the 3DS could do 3D image capture out-of-the-box, one of the many features in the update was a ‘stop-motion’ mode, which allowed for easier stop-motion photography.

The dual-lens 3D camera on the system actually sucks, with quality being equivalent to a cell phone from six years ago, but whatever. It actually looks good in 3D, though no one will be able to see it that way unless you viewed it on a 3DS screen.

I also shot this simultaneously with my Canon 7D, so I’ll cut together an HD version at some point. There were over 200 RAW files taken with my 7D, so going through all those is going to be a pain.

Continue Reading December 8, 2011 at 10:09 am 1 comment

Movie Review Catch-Up 2010, Part 1

Been away from this blog for some time due to work (I stare at a computer all day at work, so the last thing I want to do when I go home is to stare at one some more). So since I’ve been remiss at updating this blog with movie stuff, I decided to do a recap of all the movies I’ve seen and a brief blurb about what I thought of each of them.

Scott Pilgrim vs. The World

Loud, flashy, witty, and oftentimes very funny, Edgar Wright’s film adaptation of the popular graphic novels comes to vivid life. While it’s not the perfect comic book movie adaptation, it’s still a damn good one. Each of the characters is well written and the actors all do a fine job making their respective parts stand out. My only real complaint is that the film is a little too long. Yes, I know they’re condensing a bunch of different graphic novels into one movie, but it could’ve used a little more trimming. Maybe have Scott Pilgrim face off against Five Evil Ex’s instead of Seven.

8/10

Lottery Ticket

Every once in a while, you need a silly movie to watch. This was my silly movie. There’s not really much to say about this movie, except that the cast work rather well with each other. Bow Wow seems, to me, a capable actor as long as he isn’t given a whole lot (“capable” meaning it’s not as painful to watch him act as it is watching an amateur high school play). The script loses steam pretty early on, though, and there’s one scene that is excruciating to watch. It involves Bow Wow and his best friend played by Brandon T. Jackson, and they’re arguing over something on a rooftop. It sounded so bad, like watching improv where both actors didn’t know what to say, but they know they should be angry. At one point, Jackson says something about worrying about the government. What? Anyway, a slightly below average flick.

4.5/10

Machete

Hot on the heels of Stallone’s The Expendables is Robert Rodriguez and Ethan Maniquis’ Machete, another tongue-in-cheek action flick that favors ridiculous violence over anything resembling a good story. The difference here is that this isn’t so much an homage to action films as Expendables was, as it is a satirical look at the U.S.’s current immigration issues, more specifically the ones surrounding Hispanic Americans. It’s got that same grindhouse, B-movie style that powered Rodriguez’s Planet Terror and Tarantino’s Death Proof, and it’s probably just as fun as those. I just wished there was actually more action. The last half of this flick felt a little limp, in comparison to Stallone’s loud, noisy, over-the-top finale for Expendables.

6/10

Devil

Say what you will about M. Night Shyamalan, but there’s no denying his ability to come up with an intriguing premise. That’s what’s apparently driving his latest endeavor, “The Night Chronicles” –  a series of films with stories conceptualized by him, but written and directed by others. This isn’t such a bad concept, especially if you’re an up-and-coming director who happens to get in good with Mr. Shyamalan or any of his producing partners. The first entry in the series, Devil, is about a group of strangers who get stuck in an elevator. The twist: one of them happens to be the devil himself. Unfortunately, you can probably guess which one’s the title character pretty early on. And, the movie seems to wrap itself up too nicely for its subject matter. If anything, this movie proves that maybe Shyamalan should let other people handle his work for a while, at least until he gets his groove back .

6/10

A new entry coming soon.

For something completely unrelated, check out what I’ve been doing for work (writing/editing video game strategy guides):

Medal of Honor

Assassin’s Creed: Brotherhood

Disney Epic Mickey

Kirby’s Epic Yarn

Halo: Reach

Call of Duty: Black Ops

World of Warcraft: Cataclysm

Dead Space 2

January 16, 2011 at 10:20 pm Leave a comment

Medal of Honor

Medal of Honor‘s been out for nearly a week, and the reviews have been fairly mixed. Some people hate it, some think it’s alright. Most see it as a step in the right direction, but “it’s no Call of Duty”. Having spent considerable time with the game, I’ve come to realize that maybe the game is being unfairly pooped on, at least from the single-player campaign perspective.

I know, it’s inevitable that any FPS set in the ‘modern era’ is going to be compared to Call of Duty. I get it. In fact, I think a game like Medal of Honor should be held up against something like Modern Warfare 2. After all, that game did a whole mess of stuff right: tightly-paced (although almost nonsensical) storyline, memorable scenes (the Moscow airport, falling from a helicopter into an inhospitable Brazilian slum, and defending a freaking Burger King from Russians), and plenty of explosions.

However, not every first-person modern combat game needs to be “Michael Bay’d”. The relatively slow pace of MoH that was dissed by some is, to me, a welcome change. If I want the Call of Duty experience, I’d go play Call of Duty. I enjoy that series (except for the third one) and I look forward to Treyarch’s CoD: Black Ops. But, for a franchise that is trying to be more ‘faithful’ to the war experience, I expect Medal of Honor to be a little more…tactical. For the most part, that’s what I got.

Sure, the single-player isn’t perfect. I’ve run into my fair share of bugs and glitches, and the first few levels are a little boring, but it does enough right that I would recommend this game to others. Starting at Mission 5, “Belly of the Beast”, the game starts to take a considerable turn from being ‘average’ to being ‘pretty good’. Right off the bat, it may seem like a level from CoD: Rangers hunkered down behind rocks, foreign-speaking enemies lighting up the landscape with gunfire, bullets smacking into the ground around your feet. But once the game separated my squad and I from the larger battle, I started to notice things the game hadn’t shown me yet: how the enviornment dictates the way you fight.

FOR THE REST OF THIS POST, AND FOR MY THOUGHTS ON THE MULTIPLAYER, CHECK OUT MY STAFF BLOG AT 1UP.

October 19, 2010 at 5:32 pm Leave a comment

The League of Coffee

Or

“The League of Extraordinary 1UP-ers”


October 12, 2010 at 2:35 pm Leave a comment

Game Review: “Super Mario Galaxy2”

More of the same isn’t a bad thing.  If you loved Super Mario Galaxy, then you’ll love the sequel.  The game does away with many of the first’s narrative moments, instead focusing on a more streamlined experience that highlights the amazing level designs.  The major addition here is Yoshi, allowing you to eat enemies, grab onto objects, and perform other tasks that Mario just can’t do by himself.

Be forewarned, however, that this game can get hard.  Really hard.  The first couple of hours will be a breeze, especially for veteran Galaxy players.  With patience, though, the game isn’t hard enough to make you want to stop playing.

The co-op from the original is back, although more refined, allowing the second player to control a Luma (and not just a cursor as in Galaxy).  The second player can attack enemies by shooting star bits, collect loose star bits, and more importantly, grab coins for Mario.  This allows a more ‘hands-on’ experience for the second player, and not just a bland ‘girlfriend mode’.

The game is about as long as the first, taking anywhere from 12-20 hours to run through the game.  That doesn’t mean it’s over, as just like in any Mario game, there are tons more levels and hidden stars to find, easily adding up to a 50+ hour experience.


One of the best games on the Wii just got better with Super Mario Galaxy 2.  Ingenious level design, colorful graphics, tight control, and a musical score so whimsical it’ll put a smile on your face all come together for possibly the best platforming game to come out this year.

(images from 1UP.com)

June 7, 2010 at 9:55 am Leave a comment

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