Archive for the Videogames Category

Last weekend, the day before I hopped into Susan’s car and drove 15 hours from Oklahoma City to Tempe, Arizona for a training class, I bought the new PS3/GTAV bundle. For $260, you can get Grand Theft Auto V (which retails for $60) and a new, 500gb PlayStation 3. I still have my 60gb launch PlayStation 3 in the den, but Mason has had it tied up with Call of Duty for months. I brought the new PS3 with me to Tempe (along with a spare HDMI cable) and hooked the console up in my hotel room. Mason (who is 11) told me that some of his friends are already playing GTAV and wanted to know if he could play my copy while I was out of town. After all, “it’s just a game, Dad!”

In the game’s opening training sequence, you will learn how to control your character by participating in a bank robbery. Your first job will be to point your gun at hostages to get them to move into the bank’s vault. You point your gun by holding down L2 on the controller. If you accidentally hit R2 you will shoot the hostage, at which point one of your accomplices will shoot you and you will fail the mission. I did that. After restarting, I retaliated by shooting my partner first. Again, I failed the mission. On my third attempt, I took cover behind a desk and opened fire on everyone in the room. 45 seconds into Grand Theft Auto V and I had already gone on my first murderous rampage.

Also within the first 45 seconds you’ll hear your first f-bomb, and your second, and your tenth, along with a few mother f’ers thrown in for good measure. Unlike some movies where they don’t introduce nudity until the second or third act, less than a minute into the game it has been made painfully obvious that this is not intended for kids.

Eventually I did rob the bank as I was supposed to, which led me to a shootout with cops. During this phase I learned that shooting cops in the leg or torso isn’t very effective because they can still shoot back at you while lying on the ground, bleeding. Head shots are key here. After shooting those copes, more cops showed up. I shot them too. I should note that to walk, sprint, take cover, aim, and shoot requires more buttons than all video games previously released combined. My gangster name is Fumble Fingers. Whenever I meant to take cover, I jumped around like the time Curly got ants in his pants. Whenever I tried to shoot I somehow put away my gun and began punching at air. It’s a wonder I was every able to shoot all the cops in the head, but eventually I did.

Then I hopped in a getaway car, got hit by a train and died. Mission complete.

In the next mission I played as Franklin, a street-wise thug. My first mission as Franklin was to repossess a car and follow his friend Lamar through city streets.

I have spent years erasing the n-word from my vocabulary. I don’t like hearing it, and I would never say it (unless I was in my car alone listening to old gangster rap). Franklin and Lamar however looooovet the n-word. This is what the next five minutes of the game sounds like:


The next mission teaches you how to drive. It also taught me how to hit pedestrians, sideswipe cars, and ploy into motorcyclists.

With that mission out of the way it was time for my next awesome mission, which was to change Franklin’s clothes and go get a haircut.

I must admit, after having already acquired a taste for blood, playing dress up with Franklin seemed a bit lame. Instead of taking Franklin to the barber shop as instructed, we stole a city bus, rammed police cars until the cops shot out my tires, abandoned the bus for a cement truck, and caused mayhem until I was forced off the road into the ocean. I was able to make it back to the shore, where a police officer promptly shot me in the head. Good night, Franklin.

From a technological standpoint, Grand Theft Auto V is simply amazing. I read somewhere that the city in GTAV is bigger than all the other games combined. It is truly wonderful technology; I’m just not so sure we’re using it in the name of good at this point. I’ll write more as I work through through the game.

I had heard of the website Bundle-in-a-Box before, but never really looked into it until one of my friends Robb Sherwin had one of his games added to a bundle. What Bundle-in-a-Box does is group several games together and allow their customers to pay whatever price they think the bundle is worth. The games are downloadable and DRM-free so you can install them wherever and to whatever you want.

This week’s bundle contains five games and the minimum price you can pay is $2, which works out to be 40 cents per game. If you go crazy and pay more than the average price (which is currently $5.85), you get four additional games for a total of nine in all. $5.85 for 9 games is 65 cents per game, big spender.

This is the part where I talk about what you else in this world you could get for 40 cents instead of a game. McDonald’s now charges 25 cents for additional tiny plastic cups of McNugget dipping sauce, so with 40 cents in your pocket, you could buy one additional container of sweet and sour sauce there. For 40 cents you couldn’t afford the cheapest item on Taco Bell’s menu, a “cheesy roll-up,” which is a tortilla with some melted cheese inside it that costs 79 cents. At the mall, a single gumball from the gumball machine costs fifty cents, so you couldn’t buy one of those either. The cost of a single stamp is 46 cents now, so with only 40 cents to your name you couldn’t buy enough postage to mail a latter to your next door neighbor. I suppose on iTunes you could buy 40% of a single song. I’m not sure they pro-rate them that way, but you get the idea.

One of the downfalls of digital distribution, be it games or music or movies or books, is that many consumers think digital goods should cost less than their physical counterparts. And I agree, to an extent. When I first added my book Commodork (which retails for $15 in paperback) to the Amazon digital bookstore, the initial price Amazon suggested was $9.99 which I was told by potential consumers was too high. I almost immediately lowered the price to $4.99, which I was also told was too high. Currently you can buy DRM-free PDF copies of my books Commodork and Invading Spaces for $2.99 each from my website. Each of those books represents a year’s worth of work. I wrote Commodork by waking up early and writing, staying up late and writing, and writing on weekends. For a year. If you figure I worked on Commodork 10 hours a week for an entire year, at $2.99 that means I earned a whopping .006 (six one-thousandths) cents per hour. Robb Sherwin told me last night he spent 2 1/2 years working on Necrotic Drift, his game in this week’s Bundle in a Box. A game which, again, you can own for 40 cents.

For Christmas, my son and I each got a new game for the PlayStation 3 (Call of Duty and Need for Speed). The total price of these two games combined with tax was $130. The cost for 5 games here is a minimum of $2. I won’t lie; I paid the whopping $6 to get 9 games. That’s more than “cheesy roll-up” money, but it barely covers the price of a combo meal.

Bundle-in-a-Box takes PayPal, Google Checkout, and credit cards. When I bought my Bundle it took about 8 seconds to pay and then I received the e-mail containing the download information about 4 seconds later. It will take you much less time to buy these games than it will take you to read anything I’ve ever written. Ever.

This week’s bundle contains an RPG, puzzle games, a couple of graphical adventure games, and of course my friend Robb’s text adventure. Won’t you consider buying a bundle of 40 cent games this week?

Link: Bundle-in-a-Box

Finally, we’re back on track with this week’s podcast.

This week’s show is all about the Nintendo Entertainment System — the NES, for short. In this episode you’ll get to hear about how and when I got my first NES and what games I used to play. You’ll also learn about the horrible television I used to own, how I built up my collection of 300+ cartridges, and the exact moment I realized my girlfriend was also my soul mate. I also answer questions from callers about Commodore RAM Expansion Units and the best retro computer to bludgeon someone to death with.

Link: YDKF Episode 123: The CFFA 3000
Facebook: You Don’t Know Flack

Here’s the second post that got gummed up in the system.

Episode 125 of You Don’t Know Flack is all about the video game crash of 1983. “It was a dark and stormy night…” or was it really? In this episode I talk all about the causes of the video game crash of 1983, and why I missed it. From the voice mail box I answer the question, “what’s the worst arcade conversion I’ve ever seen?”

Link: YDKF Episode 125: The Video Game Crash of 1983
You Don’t Know Flack

(Video Game Crash. Get it?)

This podcast is actually two weeks old, but for some reason this announcement didn’t go through.

So, here it is.

Episode 124 of You Don’t Know Flack is a recap of my visit to the new Arkansas retro arcade, Arkadia Retrocade. Our visit to the arcade sure helped cure my case of Pac-Man Fever!

Link: YDKF Episode 124: The Arkadia Retrocade
Facebook: You Don’t Know Flack

(I have no idea why he is pretending to play guitar in this clip.)

Over the years I have set up and broken down my old gaming systems and computers many, many times. Sometimes — often times, actually — it seems like I spend more time connecting and configuring and reconnecting and reconfiguring them than I do actually playing games on them. When it comes to old hardware I have a softer spot in my heart for old computers than old console gaming systems, but the biggest problem with them is that they take up so much space. At one time in our old house I had over 20 video game consoles sitting on a relatively small set of shelves all hooked up to one single television. In that same room I had my three favorite old computers (a C64, an Amiga, and an Apple II) hooked up to three separate monitors tying up an entire 8′ table.

The other day I decided, why can’t I do that with my computers as well? Almost every flat screen television on the market now has multiple connections that would support these old computers. Last night while shopping at Sam’s Club I decided to pull the trigger and do something I’ve been thinking about doing for a while now.

For just under $350 I purchased a Sanyo 40″ flatscreen LCD television. They had bigger and smaller models with more and fewer features (actually there were few there with fewer features than this one), but it had all the right inputs for the job and the price was right.

As I said last night on Facebook, “the milk crate is temporary.” The television’s stand isn’t tall enough by itself so I needed to lift it up a bit. I’ll replace the milk crate this weekend with something else, but in the meantime it’ll do. My old trusty Commodore 64 plugged right into the television’s composite input and looks great. I did have to figure out how to set the default picture size on the television to 4:3 instead of 16:9 letterbox to keep the picture from being stretched out.

With the C64 up and running, the Amiga was next. The Amiga looks particularly crappy when connected via the composite cable. I found a couple of “VGA Flicker Fixers” in the ~$100 range that I will research and look into purchasing. So it’s not a great picture at the moment, but it’s working.

With the two Commodore products out of the way it was time to hook up the old Apple II. In a recent episode of You Don’t Know Flack I talked about the CFFA 3000, a compact flash/USB card reader for the Apple II. After reconnecting the composite cable from the Apple into the television and selecting a disk image, I was immediately greeted by the familiar sounds of Karateka. I don’t mind saying, the project took a back seat for a few minutes as I kicked and punched my way through a few enemy combatants.

That’s what they all look like now, sans any real cable management and with a milk crate in the picture. This weekend I’ll re-run all the cords and replace the milk crate with a proper stand.

Leaping from moderately mainstream to moderately obscure, Episode 123 of You Don’t Know Flack is dedicated to the CFFA 3000, a relatively new card that plugs into vintage Apple II computers and allows retro hobbyists to load virtual disk images and convert physical disks to virtual disk images (and back). I also coin the word “floppycentric” in this episode.

Link: YDKF Episode 123: The CFFA 3000
Facebook: You Don’t Know Flack

What on Earth would anyone use an Apple II for?

And the winner of the Cyberganked contest is…

…announced in the following video!

Here are the Twitter accounts mentioned at the end of the video:

@Commodork (Mine)
@icecreamjonsey (Robb Sherwin’s)
@Cyberganked (Updates about the game)

Here is a link to Robb’s online photo gallery, where he is posting some of the pictures as he prepares them for the game:

Again, thanks to everyone who mailed in pictures and entered the contest. Although the contest is over, if you would still like to submit pictures for Robb’s game, you can continue to e-mail them to me and I will make sure he gets them.

On Monday of this week I announced a contest in which all you had to do to enter was take a picture of yourself from either the waist up or the shoulders up and mail it to me for a chance to win fifty bucks. On Monday I had six people enter. On Tuesday I had three people enter. On Wednesday and Thursday I had 0 people enter. Ah, the short attention spans we have all SQUIRREL!

Seriously though, today is the last day to submit your photo to me. Your photo will be used as a character’s photo in Robb Sherwin’s upcoming work of Interactive Fiction, Cyberganked. Your name will also be entered into a random drawing to win a $50 gift card. If you need more specifics about the type of pictures or characters you can re-read my original announcement.

I can’t imagine why more people haven’t sent in a photo. Here are the reasons why (in my head), and my answers to them.

“I am not very photogenic.”

Some of the characters in Robb’s new game include “man on street corner” and “girl in restaurant.” Surely you fit the bill for those. No costumes necessary for those!

“I feel stupid having my picture taken.”

I did too. It lasts about 30 seconds. And, unless you show them, nobody in real life who knows you will ever see your picture in this game. Your real name will not appear in the game next to your picture.

“I hate gift cards and money. I have no use for $50.”

Throw the gift card into the drawer under your microwave and re-gift it.

“Robb probably already has all the pictures he needs.”

Robb most definitely does not already have all the pictures he needs, otherwise I wouldn’t have launched this contest. Robb has dozens of characters he wants to implement and dozens more he would like to. He is even creating new characters based on some of the photos that have been received so far.

“I don’t want to be a bad guy in Robb’s game.”

Not all the photos will be used for enemies. Some will be used for good guys. Some will be used for neutral characters. Some will be used for background characters.

Those are all the excuses I can think of. What are you waiting for?



My very good friend Robb Sherwin is working on a new computer game, titled Cyberganked. It’s a text adventure (er, Interactive Fiction) game that takes place a few years in the future. In his game, Robb wants to include pictures of random people, and that’s where we come in. Anyone who e-mails me a usable picture by midnight this coming Friday will be entered into a drawing to win a $50 Amazon Gift Card. Are you interested in having your picture appear in a computer game and possibly winning $50? If so, keep reading for details!

I’ve talked about Interactive Fiction several times in the past — they’re the games that require players to type in commands like GO WEST and TALK TO GUY instead of using a joystick to interact with them. And yes, people still write these types of games! But not all works of interactive fiction are limited to strictly displaying text. Robb’s games also typically contain still pictures to accompany the text. In these games, a person typing ENTER CAR would then see a picture of the inside of a car displayed. If you type TALK TO JILL, you might see a picture of Jill.

Each year, interactive fiction games go head to head at the Xyzzy Awards (pronounced “zizzy”). In 2011, Robb’s most recent game (Cryptozookeeper) won Best Game, Best Writing, Best Setting, Best NPCs and Best Individual NPC. In a recent review of Cryptozookeeper, long time interactive fiction enthusiast Jacek Pudlo referred to Robb as “Shakespeare” when compared to some other contemporary authors of interactive fiction (if, one assumes, Shakespeare talked like a sailor.)

In Robb’s current game in progress, riots have broken out in the streets after everyone’s internet access has been cut off. For an early proof of concept test of Cyberganked, Robb asked me to send him a picture. In the demo I play a mercenary, so for my picture I I threw on a coat and a hat and a pair of sunglasses and sent him the following picture:

In this game, this is how I appear:

Here are a couple of other characters that appear in the game’s early demo:

Don’t worry about dressing up in a costume. According to Robb, he needs pictures for (at least) the following classes in his game: Adrenaline Junkie, Burglar, Carny, Communist, Crack Addict, Embalmer, Homewrecker, Illiterate Polish Web Forum Troll, Mall security guard, Motorcyclist, Mountain Climber, Nurse, Policeman / Policewoman, Private Detective, Programmer, Prohibition Advocate, Racecar Driver, Surfer, Swordsman/ Swordswoman, Whig, Wikipedia Admin.

So, what do you need to do to appear in Robb Sherwin’s next computer game and have a chance at winning a $50 Amazon Gift Card? It’s simple!

01. Take somewhere between 1 and 5 digital pictures of yourself. The best pictures will be of you from the waist up, although pictures from the shoulder will also be accepted. If you only take one picture, have a “neutral” look on your face. If you send in more than one, you can try a few different expressions. (Happy? Mad? Insane?) Pictures taken in front of a plain wall will make it easier to cut your picture out in Photoshop, but if that’s not possible, don’t worry about it. (Both I and Rob are pretty handy with Photoshop.) The main colors in the game will be red, blue, purple, black, and white, so if you can wear one of those colors, that’s a plus. If not, again, it may get digitally changed later.

02. E-mail the pictures to me. If you don’t know my e-mail address, click here. To be eligible for the drawing, pictures must be received by midnight on Friday, January 12, 2013.

03. In either the subject or body of your e-mail, please include the phrase, “Robb Sherwin has the right to use this picture/these pictures in in his game.” Please, only send pictures that you have the rights to.

04. Robb needs both men and women to appear in his game. If you would like, you can also send in pictures of your significant other as well. If you do, I will enter each one of your names in the drawing. What a great way to double your odds of winning!

05. Everyone who submits a photo has the option of having their name appear in the game’s credits. If you would like your name to appear in the game’s credits, let me know how you would like your name to appear. It might be your real name. It might be your online alias. You might not want your name to appear in the credit. Whatever you want is okay — just let me know.

On Saturday, January 13th, I will wake up and add everybody’s name into a big spreadsheet. Each line will have a unique number. If you sent in pictures of your significant other (or a friend, or whatever), each person will get their own line and own number. After that is done I will use an as-of-yet-undetermined random number generator to select the winner. This process will be recorded and uploaded to YouTube. After the video has been uploaded to YouTube, a link to the video will be posted on to announce the winner.

When the game is finally released, each person who mailed me a picture will receive an e-mail containing a link where the game can be downloaded for free. Additionally, I will create a photo gallery where you can go online and find the final version of your picture, in case you don’t want to play through the game just to see it. Other than that single e-mail, your e-mail address will not be used for anything else. I will not share them. I will not post them. I will not sell them. I will not spam you with e-mails. I won’t even give them to Robb. The goal of this contest is not to harvest people’s e-mail addresses; it’s to collect usable pictures for Robb’s new game. That’s it.

I think I’ve covered all the bases here. If you have any questions, feel free to e-mail me. Otherwise, I look forward to seeing your pictures. Good luck!

(EDIT: The Amazon Gift Card has not yet been purchased. If you would like a gift card to some other online store, we can discuss that as well.)