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Zoinks! Magazine | Nerdflood

Friday, July 29, 2005

Webcomics Nation launch

Posted by Nathaniel at 1:51 PM
ComicsJoey Manley, the webcomics guru who brought us the subscription site Modern Tales back in 2002, has finally set aloft his baby in a basket: Webcomics Nation.
WCN takes all the daily hassle of running a successful webcomics service and automates it completely, so that any individual cartoonist can easily and quickly run a top-of-the-line commercial webcomics site.
Basically Webcomics Nation is the pay-for-play version of KeenSpa...uh, I mean..Comic Genesis. You pay a very slight $10 monthly fee and get access to an astounding set of content administration tools for managing your online comic. While free always sounds so much better than NOT free, the fact that this minimal subscription cost nets you such a robust web management toolset, it's definitely worth investigating for the online cartoonist looking for a web publishing home.

Wednesday, July 27, 2005

Open Letter to Hillary Clinton

Posted by Nathaniel at 1:32 PM
GamingSteve Johnson, author of Everything Bad Is Good For You: How Today's Popular Culture Is Actually Making Us Smarter, wrote a fascinating, pointed essay for the LA Times on the Grand Theft Auto: San Andreas 'Hot Coffee' mod controversy, making some excellent points that altogther blow away my meager offering in every aspect. Definitely required reading. His article, not mine.

Online Comic Spotlight

Posted by Nathaniel at 11:10 AM
ComicsWe haven't done an Online Comic Spotlight in quite a while, so I thought I'd put together an over-sized edition that pays tribute to major recent events.

First off, I somehow overlooked the announcement of the winners of the 2005 Cartoonist Choice Awards. No fault on my part, I assure you. It was mainly due to the fact that the awards just aren't that big of a show anymore ever since the major online comic creators decided to shrug them off as quaint and charming little awards and basically completely ignored them. But I digress. I've added the following winners of various categories to the listing. I haven't added everything, mind you, just some of my hand-picked favorites. Winners already on the list have been, for obvious reasons, left out.

Copper Kazu Kibuishi (Outstanding Art)
Digger Ursula Vernon (Outstanding Black and White Art)
PowerPuff Girls Doujinshi Bleedman (Outstanding Character: Visual)
The Discovery of Spoons Alexander Danner & John Barber (Outstanding Use of Flash)
Something Positive R.K. Milholland Outstanding Character: Writing)
The Perry Bible Fellowship Nicholas Gurewitch (Outstanding Comedic Comic)
Dicebox Jenn Manley Lee (Outstanding Science Fiction Comic)

These comics are excellent pieces of work, and definitely deserve their honors. Congratulations, winners!

In addition, in honor of our upcoming preliminary issue of Zoinks!, and our interview with Blank Label Comics, I've added the ranks of BLC to the listing, as well.

Greystone Inn Brad Guigar
Melonpool Steve Troop
Real Life Greg Dean (already on the list, but deserves more recognition)
Sheldon Dave Kellett
Shortpacked! David Willis
StarShift Crisis Kris Straub
Ugly Hill Paul Southworth
Wapsi Square Paul Taylor

And, finally, with Dacquin's upcoming Zoinks! interview with the creators of Pet Professional, Jason Salsbury & Matt Kaufenberg, that comic has also been thrown onto the list.

Quite a hefty Online Comic Spotlight today, so dig in! There's plenty to explore!

Tuesday, July 26, 2005

First impressions - R-Type Final

Posted by Dacquin at 12:59 PM
Ok, I have a review for YS 6 and Killer 7 to do and I'm going on vacation on Friday, so maybe I'll try and get those done before I leave, but I'm playing R-Type Final right now, so I could be distracted. While I'm at it, I have some questions for the developers of R-Type.

1st question: 97 ships to unlock? Are you nuts? Yes, there are 100 ships in this game. Surprisingly, each ship has their own special shooting style, making each game with a different ship a unique experience. So far, 2 out of 5 unique experiences has been painful.

2nd question: Battle mode is for strategic R-type fighting and you can't control your ship? That is not acceptable. You don't play R-type for strategy. You play to blow stuff up.

3rd question: Why can't I change the way my ship faces? You let it move all around the place in your movie sequences, but it can't change for shooting backwards? Yes, you have your pod that can fire behind you, but one of those 2 out of 4 experiences revolved around a pod shot that shoots about 2 centimeters towards your enemy and doesn't do much damage. It's situations like this that make the Reset button a nice alternative that to keep on playing.

No review for R-Type Final will come soon due to vacation, but it will come.

'GTA:SA' down, next up -- 'Sims 2'

Posted by Nathaniel at 10:00 AM
GamingThere is a natural animosity that exists under the surface of every facet of civilization as we know it today. Every possible element of life has its yin and yang, its good versus evil, its heroes and its villains. The gaming world is governed by these same principles, and its arena has more than its share of bloodshed from battles fought and won, and other battles fought and lost.

In the gaming world, our villain is Jack Thompson. Jack's archrival: everyone else. Evidently condemning and vilifying the ESA, Rockstar, Take-Two Interactive, and the ESRB for their inability to protect our innocent children from the horrors of Grand Theft Auto: San Andreas is not enough for this man. Now he's after Electronic Arts for allowing the public to glimpse the atrocities of Sims 2. From the article:
Although there is no sex in the game, characters appear nude when carrying out activities such as taking a shower. Their breasts and genitals are blurred out to avoid offence - but Thompson claimed hackers could get around this by using a cheat code.

"The nudity placed there by the publisher/maker, Electronic Arts, is accessed by the use of a simple code that removes what is called 'the blur' which obscures genital areas," he said.

"In other words, the game was released to the public by the manufacturer knowing that the full frontal nudity was resident on the game and would be accessed by use of a simple code widely provided on the Internet."
The inherent problem with Thompson's logic is the same inherent problem that is being debated all across the internets with regards not just to gaming software, but rather all software in general. In order to see this offending material, the game has to be "modified". Can publishers be held responsible for modified software, regardless of the content that lies beneath?

Now, Rockstar and Take-Two got themselves into trouble with the "Hot Coffee" controversy. They lied, and as we well know with all things politikalistic, it's never the wrongdoing that's the true problem, it's when you lie about it that you actually draw blood with the political machinery.

But EA might still have a leg upon which to stand. This code essentially changes their game, allowing users to view the game in a way in which it was not originally intended. There are many arguments that can be made for idea, none of which are any good. If I use a match to set fire to a house, is the matchmaker responsible; if I use a hammer to kill someone, is the hammer manufacturer responsible? Yeah, like I said, they're not any good. But they represent the core problem of defending software in courts: there is no legal precedent.

There needs to be a fundamental set of rules established that govern the extent to which publishers and developers are responsible for maintaining a clear control over their content before it becomes, in essence, "public domain" (the open-sourcers are going to string me up for saying that). But it's true. I say this not to damage the innovation of software development, but in an effort to protect it. If this doesn't happen, Thompson will continue to tread his bootprints over the good name of video games everywhere, sullying its fantastic entertainment value in the eyes of the mainstream public who have yet to discover gaming's true appeal. We'll have court battles over the "chameleon content" of a game, and finally, the Supreme Court will decide that publishers and developers are evil for making games in the first place, and we'll be stuck with Mario and Yoshi for the rest of our lives.

My two cents, which is more like twenty-five dollars. You can owe me.

Hiatus again?!

Posted by Nathaniel at 9:11 AM
ComicsJust when it gets interesting. It makes me want to cry.

Monday, July 25, 2005

ZOINKS! Magazine returns!

Posted by Nathaniel at 8:21 AM
ComicsI've been waiting for the official website to go live before announcing this, but it appears as if Evil Network friend and colleague Bill Charbonneau of Voices in my Hand has finally resurrected ZOINKS! Magazine from the infernal pits of eternal damnation.

If you remember, ZOINKS! is a newspaper-style magazine that actually started--and, unfortunately, finished--in the fall of 2001. Bill has brought the beast back to life, and the Evil Network is once again involved in the ensuing debacle. Maybe we're to blame for the original ZOINKS! attempt not working out quite as planned. We may never really know the truth. However, this time, both yours truly and Evil Network cohort Dacquin will be supplying ZOINKS! with quality, slightly evil, content *. I'll be interviewing Blank Label Comics and I believe that Dac is working on gaining entrance to Jason Salsbury and Matt Kaufenberg of Pet Professional, but please do not quote me on that, as he could just as easily be interviewing a hermit crab for the upcoming issue of Crabs & Weasels Quarterly. There are people who are into that sort of thing, you know.

So we impore you to subscribe to ZOINKS! Magazine and support an endeavor that shall be yet another step towards lifting webcomics up to the mainstream spotlight. And because if you don't, well, we don't get paid. And that's sad. Because I have eight children at home that haven't eaten since March.

Okay, I have one kid and he ate breakfast this morning, but still, the money. Come on.

Later on, my review of Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince **.

* quality not guaranteed
** despite the claim, Harry Potter is most definitely not real. Hermione, however...

Tuesday, July 19, 2005

Starshift Crisis/Checkerboard Nightmare crossover?

Posted by Nathaniel at 8:57 AM
ComicsI'll put $20 down that the homicidal robot in the past couple of Starshift Crisis strips is actually none other than CxN homeboy Vaporware.

Or is that obvious, and I simply missed it?

Thursday, July 14, 2005

Killer 7 - First thoughts

Posted by Dacquin at 8:23 AM
GamingThis is not a review, but I did want to say some things about Killer 7 before I did do a review later on. I was kinda scared because reviews haven't been great, and some of the webcomic gaming sites have said it's bad, but I just wanted to throw in my two cents for now.

This is one messed up game. And I'm really not joking. I'm on Stage 2 and there have been some things that have been strange (a real understatement), some things that have been gorey, a few tedious parts, some good bosses, and one scene that made me almost cut out my eyeballs, beacause I was so disturbed by the imagery. All I can say is that if things don't start to make sense by Stage 4, I'll want to start a psych evaluation on the makers of this game.

I, for one, love the rail system. I'm probably the only one. I always hate exploring and trying to find secrets in shooters and it bugs me to death. In this game, things are very straightforward, and I like it that way.

I'll let you know later on what I truly feel about it.

Wednesday, July 13, 2005

New Online Gaming Mag: the Escapist

Posted by Nathaniel at 1:16 PM
GamingI know, I know, we all understand that there are plenty of gaming news websites out there. Too many, I would admit. However, I'm of a firm opinion that quality gaming journalism is very hard to come by. That's why it is especially comforting to see that the Escapist's flagship issue contains a story written by the lovable lexiconnoisseur Jerry Holkins (aka "Tycho Brahe" of Penny Arcade fame, not that I really need to tell you that).

I read all the articles, and I was just about to decide that this attempt at creating yet another gaming information distribution center with an internet-based delivery system was below average and contained nothing more than the retreaded themes and discussions that I've worked hard to ignore over the past few months. Then I read the Editor's Note.

The editor of the Escapist--one Julianne Greer--spelled out the belief system behind the overall design of the online mag very succinctly:
"The Escapist is an ambitious magazine, written, edited and styled with a fresh approach to communicating with gamers. We are the complement to the current gaming journalistic efforts. While the others give you up-to-the-second news coverage, we give you broad looks at news over time, discussing trends and proffering glimpses into the future."

Julianne Greer works for the Themis Group, a company that includes several ventures, but at its core is a business that basically revolves around MMOG consulting. Themis teamed up with Nevrax to help market the Saga of Ryzom, as well as provide community support and customer service. By association, it would seem that the Themis Group is behind the publishing of this new online gaming mag.

So, can a gaming magazine that is essentially an integral cog in the gaming industry machine be an impartial journalist, as well? Only time will tell, I suppose. If they've tapped Holkins as primary talent, then they are at the very least plugged into the culture of the average hardcore gamer. But I portend: be on the lookout for that first article that speaks illuminously and reverently on the wonders of MMOG marketing campaigns, or the first poll asking for your opinions on various types of in-game advertising techniques. I see this as a potential attempt by the industry at "foot-in-the-door" market influence.

However, I'll be the first to admit I'm a horrendously cynical person.

Oh no, Maple Story

Posted by Dacquin at 6:46 AM
GamingLuckily, I have some articles to write so I've successfully uninstalled this game before I got too addicted to it. If it was on my computer, I'd be messed. Of course, Gamefly just sent me Killer 7, so I'm messed either way.

Maple Story is a 2d side scrolling MMORPG where you play in Maple World and go around completing quests for NPCs, while hacking & slashing anything that comes your way. I know, I'm a sucker for any game that has level building in it, but this game is free (I'm a sucker for free stuff)! I've tried it for one hour and I couldn't stop playing. You can build your character to be a Warrior, Magician, Bowman, or Thief. Once you've chosen your profession, you can build that character up in ranks. I wish I could tell you more, but like I said, I uninstalled it before I got too hooked.

I probably would've been hooked like Gunbound hooked. And if you haven't played that, you don't even know what the defination of hooked is until you've played it.

Tuesday, July 12, 2005

I still have no earthly idea what I'm doing

Posted by Nathaniel at 1:31 PM
GamingI've only surfaced long enough to let everyone know that I am, indeed, still alive. My addiction to that restless taskmaster City of Heroes has not yet subsided in the least. I now have no less than six characters on the Guardian server. My top three toons are as follows:

Doctor Setebos Lvl 9 Technology Blaster
Forcecrash Lvl 6 Mutation Tanker
Akira Matahatsu Lvl 6 Natural Scrapper

My global handle is @Doctor Setebos. Always LFT; PST.

I swear I'll come back to life eventually. I actually have some comics to post; you may already be familiar with a few of them. I also have some great webcomic news to distribute, but I'm not sure if the green light has light-ed for that announcement. I'll check and give you the good news once I have the authority, which I will never have, because I am not an authoritative figure. Not in the least.

Sunday, July 10, 2005

In The Groove review w/ side notes of Dance Dance Revolution

Posted by Dacquin at 2:26 PM
GamingI’m sure you all know about my Dance Dance Revolution addiction. I've recently rented In The Groove and, in comparing it to DDR Extreme, it won hands down, but the main reason is because ITG allows you to turn off the corners on your pad, while there’s a lengthy process to upload a save file for your PS2 to turn off the corners in DDR Extreme, and the technique isn’t foolproof. I’ve played the other DDRs, so I wanted to take some time and compare ITG to DDR.

Similarly, both games have those songs that you'll want to play over and over again, and those songs you'll never play in your life. There are plenty of unlockables in both games (although I hate having to do so). Both games features a screen that allows you to change the game with modifiers that mess with how your arrows act.

What isn't similar is what makes ITG better. In The Groove has an Expert difficulty, for those crazy people who like extreme game play (I only play on Hard, because I like to keep some feeling in my legs after playing one stage). In changing your arrow speed, you can keep the BPM of the arrows to a constant 300 or 450, which means you don't have to constantly change your arrow speed when playing songs with different BPMs on DDR (although, changing the speed is game play heresy to a few DDR players).

If you watch the arrows, you can easily tell the difference between the games. It’s hard to tell what kind of steps you’re stepping on in DDR due to the flashing colors. In ITG, each type of step has their separate colors, making them easier to hit (and I love it for that).

Now, enough about the good points, because there are some things that I don’t like about ITG. First off, there’s the occasional lag that occurs every now and then. This being a game of hitting arrows with perfect timing, this lag can really ruin a combo (so close to a 700 combo, dang it!). Also, the loading times on all the menus are much longer than DDR’s, which hacked me off because I hated waiting to play. This is problematic because both DDR and ITG feature Event mode (which allows you to keep playing after playing a number of stages), however, in DDR if you lose, you can keep playing, while in ITG, you go right back to the startup screen, meaning wasting more time getting back to the song screen due to loading times.

Battle mode and Marathon mode are wasted on me. In Battle mode, you can go up against your opponent (don’t have one of those here) or the computer (I don’t believe in battling a computer in DDR, it’d just seems like it’d get all Fantastics if it wanted to). Also, I tried Marathon mode and I got a bunch of modifiers thrown at me while trying to beat a song and lost all my life. While some courses in Marathon mode don’t have modifiers, it’s still a pain.

All in all, I really enjoyed In The Groove as an alternative to Dance Dance Revolution. If they fixed the loading time and the lag, it’d probably be better than DDR in all aspects of the game. I give it a 8.1/10.

Friday, July 01, 2005

City of Oh my God, what the Hell am I doing?

Posted by Nathaniel at 2:14 PM
GamingI haven't posted in a few days. This is a constant normality here, we all understand this. However, in this case it isn't work, or travels, or even bland, unoriginal laziness that is keeping me from the online pages of the Evil Network. No, this time, I'm saving the city.

I co-worker has suckered me into trying out that current MMORPG addiction-du-jour, City of Heroes, now much easier to access, what with the 14-day free trial.

This is dangerous. I have--by default--an addictive personality. This is part of the reason I am not by nature a PC gamer--persistent online worlds are absolutely crack to me, which is why I have worked for so long to avoid them. Once submerged into the universe, I don't know that I will be able to come back out.

Yet, here I am. I'm Doctor Setebos on the Guardian server. I'm currently a level 5 technology blaster, and I'm adorned in a regular-looking red outfit with red sunglasses and a giant robotic right arm. Look me up.

Lord help me, I'll be battling Clockwork most of this evening.

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