Wednesday, April 30, 2008

Auto Theft Of The Grandest Nature

Niko Bellic: Life is complicated; I killed people, smuggled people, sold people. Perhaps here, things will be different.
”Grand Theft Auto IV”

There has been talks of Grand Theft Auto IV doing some crazy numbers, like $400M in the first week. I’ve made no secret of my devotion to this series, and after reading a few websites on GTA4 and the rest of the GTA games, I’ve decided to put in 10 best gameplay moments from the GTA franchise for me. So, in no particular order:

1 – GTA1 – Rocketing Multiplayer
The original top-down GTA had the ability for multiplayer that GTA3 – onwards lacked, at least on the PC version it did. The very first time I ever played GTA was at a friends house that was tec-savvy back in the day and had a game going over the internet with another friend from our high school. After getting killed dozen’s of times, right towards the end I managed to fire off a rocket that was timed perfectly to hit a speeding car carrying my opponent, thus scoring the best kill of the night. It’s a very specific memory, and one that really got me hooked on the games. I bought it on PS1 about a week later.

2 – GTA3 – It exists?
After the London games and the expansion, I thought GTA was dead and buried. I didn’t keep up with gamer news or anything, and the first thing I ever knew about GTA3 was when I saw it on the shelf at the video store I worked at. Without knowing anything else besides the name of the game, I knew it would be awesome. I had my first all-night GTA3 session that night, and when the censors yanked it from Australian shelves a few months later, a copy via New Zealand was on it’s way. I’ve since bought all my GTA games from NZ, which proved to be somewhat unnecessary this time around.

For whatever reason, the censored version of the game that the backwards censors in Australia require has infected New Zealand, so they have to get the same version as us. This means all the pre-orders made to New Zealand stores to get the uncensored version are useless. So what does the NZ stores do – or at least the one I bought it from? Well, how’s about the day after Rockstar announced they were sending the censored version to NZ, the NZ store sent an email to all Australian customers who pre-ordered the game through them to let them know of this fact, and offer to cancel the order if they wanted to. It’s basic customer service, but I was impressed and since the censored bits seem very minor, I’ll keep my order with the NZ company because of this.

3 – GTA3 – Cheatah Flips
On the third Island, near the safe house there was a ramp leading down to the ghetto where you would lay your head. The street that went around this block went back around to the hill that formed the side of the ramp. The incline was just perfect for running your sports car full tilt to it and then being able to perform a double-back flip and land rubber side down for a perfect landing. That was just good fun.

4 – GTA SA – World’s Worse Base Jump
Using a chopper in Las Venturas (or whatever the Vegas part of SA was called), I climbed the top of the tallest building to do a massive base jump and see how close to the bottom I could get before pulling the parachute. I had a buddy in the room watching, and after finally figuring out that you needed a chopper to get that high, I was poised for the big jump. I ran to the edge and began falling…about 30 feet to the next level of the skyscraper when the impact killed me. It lasted only a few seconds, but for some reason we couldn’t stop laughing as the anticipation of this jump lead to a veritable dead slinky drop.

5 – GTA VC – Listening to the Radio
The soundtrack’s for these games are second to none in the gaming world. All genres, wide selection, hilarious talk back – Lazlo is always where I start. All the games in the series had it, but VC was the best one for me. I drove around for hours just listening to the talk back to get the entire script. I think I was head banging to Twister Sister for the rest of the time.

6 – GTA VC – Say ‘Ello To My Little Friend
Scarface finish to Vice City – loved it. Vice City was the only one in the series where I feel like I finished the core storyline too quickly. There was so much else to do and I try to keep myself from rushing through the central story line until everything else is done – that way, I feel like the end has a real sense of completion when it is the main story line and not something else minor, like finding the last rampage or winning the last race.

7 – GTA VC – Hidden Things
While GTA SA had more hidden objects to find, it was in VC that The Distraction got hooked on finding these little gems. She loves that part of the game and this is when she gets involved in GTA.

8 - GTA3 – Sniper Time
One of my favourite missions in GTA history for some reason – down by the docks, a friendly NPC would storm a boat that was swarmed with thugs and other such body guard types that drug boats are filled with in the movies. You would have to snipe them away so he could plant a bomb – and it was damn hard, he always ran too quickly and would get capped before I could snipe the baddies. That was until I found the power up under the stairs that slowed everything down – all of a sudden, we’re a better shot that Marky Mark in “Shooter”. That mission really stayed with me for some reason.

9 – GTA VC – Business is Business
I liked the fact that you could buy or forcibly take over businesses in this game – but it still lacked a little something. It would have been better if you had some options to manage these businesses. Even a very basic business sim would be enough – change 2-3 variables and it affects how much money the place makes. Could you imagine if you can change, say for the strip club, the amount of water in the drinks or level of plastic surgery in the dancers? It wouldn’t be anything really significant, but just enough to give the illusion that you are running the business, as apposed to purely owning it.

10 – GTA VC – Load Screen
The Commodore 64 load screen made me laugh out loud the first time I saw it, and I still got a smile from it 12 months later. It’s nothing to the game, just a nice little reminder of where we have come from (an obviously setting the tone for the game set in the 80’s).

Thursday, April 17, 2008

First Time Father

Jason Bourne: Do you even know why you're supposed to kill me? Look at us. Look at what they make you give.
”The Bourne Ultimatum”

Poker wise, I have very little to report. I have been far too busy with the Distraction and Mini-distraction to play a hand. A few dayts after the birth, I did make it to the regular home game, but I only stayed an hour just to have a beer and see everyone. I was happy to sit off to the side and just watch them play and then leave. One player even asked if I was feeling the itch to play? Not at all I said. I was very content and didn’t feel the need. I was happy to see everyone, and really just wanted some sleep before heading back to the hospital in the morning.

Mini-Distraction is now 2 weeks old, and mum and dad are learning more everyday. We’ve had a few really bad nights where we just couldn’t figure out why she was crying, but those are getting rarer each day. We almost have a schedule down, but today was my first day back at work and would be difficult for mum as her first day home alone. Thankfully, it is only for 2 days this week and next week my brother will be in town to lend a hand.

I’ve changed my fair share of nappies (diapers for my North American friends) and have been baptised by various excrements that all go with being around a baby. I’ve been woken up at 2am, 3am, 5am and 6am all on the same day, and have had more midday naps in the past 2 weeks than when I was living at college.

Was it the emotionally gripping life changing moment that everyone says it was going to be? Well, yes and no to be perfectly honest. I will explain what I mean by that.

Firstly, when the Distraction was going through the pains of contractions, it was hell. I’m not trying to take away from the pain she was in, but just being there to watch her going through it (every 2 minutes, not spaced apart anymore than that) and not being able to do a thing was hell. After a few hours of high levels of pain, a midwife came in and suggested she try the happy gas while lying on the bed. I tell you, that was the greatest decision ever made as the excruciating pain went to mild discomfort almost instantly. I had never felt so relieved in my life.

Relatively speaking, the labour was very quick. They don’t call in the doctor until very late in the process, and as our delivery was so quick it was all over before the doctor arrived. That was not a problem, as the midwife and I delivered the kid just fine. They even said to us in the months leading up that the doctor is only there if something goes wrong, and nothing did so there was nothing to worry about.

When our daughter was placed on the Distractions chest, waiting for her first breath, I didn’t feel the need to cry or an overwhelming joy. It was more pure amazement that this little human was here – and a real sense of relief for the Distraction that the pain had ended. As each moment passed, I just wanted to watch the kid to see what she would do, and was amazed at everything she did for the very first time. When she cried, opened her eyes, looked at me, yawned – it didn’t matter what she did, it was amazing to me and I couldn’t take my eyes off her. Surprising myself, no tears were shed but they were never far from the surface.

A few moments after the birth the midwife had to tell me to get the camera and then we started taking our first pictures as a family. When the distraction went for a shower, the midwife and doctor gave the kid a clean bill of health, and I held her for the first time. I just stood still staring down at her while she stared right back at me. I didn’t move an inch for what seemed like seconds but was more in the vicinity of 10 minutes.

We’ve been so lucky to have such a perfect pregnancy and birth, and the kid is very placid 99% of the time. We couldn’t have asked for me, and everyone around us is just as excited. I did have to miss a close friends wedding because of the birth, but they more than understand and I’ll be catching up with them this week as they return from their honeymoon.

So Poker? Yeah, in time I’ll get back to it in far shorter bursts than before. I just don’t really feel the need at the moment but I know that will return.

Friday, April 04, 2008

Stephanie Ava

Little Stephanie Ava came on the 3rd of April at 11.23pm. 6 pound 6, and 50cm long. The Distraction and Bub are both doing great, and I'm sure I'll have more to post later.