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  • My Top Obsessions of 2009

    Posted on January 6th, 2010 Shawn No comments

    Wow, we are already a week into 2010 and I have yet to post My Top Obsessions of 2009. Shame on me, and sorry for the delay. You may remember what my top 7 obsessions from 2008 were.

    As we wind up 2010, let me recap on the obsessions that have kept me coming back to the blog. In looking over the past 12 months, I’ll highlight the top ten obsessions that have swallowed up all my free time this past year. I’ll also take a look at what obsessions might be cropping up for 2010.

    Here are the obsessions in order of importance to me.

    Picture the ball dropping, and countdown on…
    10. Rock Band Network.
    You may be wondering, why is this at #10 and not higher on the list.  For me, I looked at RBN as a way to get my old bands music (and possible new bands music) into Rock Band. It’s kind of a dream of mine. Then when I got into the RBN beta, I realized (1) I don’t have the free time to do this, (2) I don’t want to free up time to do this. So, RBN, as exciting as it seems to me…has been a pipe dream to me, and my exploration of the tools has been short lived. In 2010, I do expect to take advantage of the grabbing songs from the RBN store, and possibly getting back in the development ring…but, neither is happening yet.

    9. New Site Name.
    This isn’t exactly a highlight, but it is something that took up part of early 2009.I moved my web site to a new host, and changed the URL. It once was at, which was just a spinoff blog of another site. As this site was growing in popularity, I decided to rename it to, short for My Gadget, Game & Gizmo Obsession. It looks to have been a poor decision, since the site statistics showed my daily visitors went form about 300 to about 30. Ouch, that hurt!  Well, you live and you learn.  I’ve decided to stick with the new name and rebuild. Some of you have stuck around, and I greatly appreciate it. I hope to get the site (now going on its 4th year) back up in readership and commenters throughout 2010.

    8. BlackBerry Bold.
    It’s funny to see that last year, the BlackBerry Storm made it to my #3 spot, and truly should continue into 2009. Though, in the wee months of 2009 (Fabruary to be exact) the Storm was replaced by the BlackBerry Bold 9000. It wasn’t replaced because I didn’t like it. It was due to the fact that my company was willing to supply me with a BlackBerry and the Storm wasn’t on the “accepted devices” list. With that, I jumped from the Verizon ship onto AT&T and picked up the Bold. It’s really a great phone, though I wish it had a larger touchscreen. It’s got high-resolution, good call quality, and decent email (funny that BlackBerry does not have the best email client of all). It’s even a good media device, which has allowed me to continue my life of mobile convergence (cell phone, calendar, email, music player, GPS, and web all-in-one). The Bold remains my current device, and I am eyeing an upgrade to the Bold 9700 in the coming months. Although, this blog was founded on gadget obsessions,  formerly known as “My Treo Obsession”, I didn’t spend as much time on BlackBerry posts throughout the year.  An interesting statistic, my readership has suffered for that too.  Looks like I need to get back to my gadget roots here.

    7. New Music Games
    Why do I keep this so general? Well, there were a few music games I picked up this year, and each had something I loved. First, I have to say, I’m disappointed that no Rock Band 3 came out in 2009, but I’m sure it will be stellar when it does. Guitar Hero 5: This is possibly the best party music game of the year. With drop in/drop out play, it’s great for parties. Also, the ability to have 4 players on any instrument is great. Especially at my house right now, where if one person sings, everyone wants to sing; or if one person plays guitar, everyone wants to play guitar. Though the soundtrack didn’t grab me, and all my DLC is on Rock Band, so the game didn’t get much rotation. The Beatles Rock Band: This showed us what Rock Band 3 might be like, with 3 part harmonies. This game is beautiful, we all know enough about it. Guitar Hero Van Halen: This is my favorite music game to play this year. You say. “WHAT?!?!” I love classic Van Halen. Activision, screwed the pooch in it’s implementation of the story and the band, but the songs and charting are fantastic. What’s missing? The same thing as all GH games, DLC. Finally, Lego Rock Band: It’s so much fun to watch the cut scenes, and play Super Easy mode with the little kids. Plus, the import/export of your existing Rock Band library makes this a fun game.  Though, I would have rather seen Rock Band 3 over all of these, it was a decent year of flooded music games.

    6. Slacker Radio.
    The streaming music service available via web browser, stand alone desktop client, iPhone, BlackBerry, and some select Sony TV’s, has been a staple of mine since I learned of the service in late 2007. With the Slacker Radio application for BlackBerry release on February 2009, it truly became my de facto music source for the entire year.  I use it via my web browser at work. I use it in the car via my BlackBerry plugged into my stereo AUX jack, I use it at home via Berry or computer, and when I travel. I’ve made several custom stations including a Rock Band station that I update regularly with all the songs available for the game. 2010 definitely looks to be a year where Slacker continues to be part of my daily obsessions.

    5. Rock Band DLC.
    Rock Band 2 came in at #2 on my 2008 list, and I had anticipated that Rock Band 3 would have come out in 2009.  Well it didn’t but guess what did? Over 370 songs available for download into Rock Band. I didn’t play as much as I would have wanted (due to moving and life), but the abundance of weekly DLC from Harmonix has kept this game (Rock Band 2), although now getting a little long in the tooth, from passing away.

    4. Drumming Stuff.
    This is a continuation from 2008, where drumming made my top list.  This year I successfully built (though not yet completed) a custom electronic drum kit. It’s custom because, I purchased it piece mail via auctions on eBay. A stand here, a pad there, etc. I’ve also used an old “brain” or module (the Yamaha TMX) to connect the kit via MIDI to the Guitar Hero World Tour drum kit.  Now, all my video game drumming takes place on a professional electronic drum kit, instead of the cheap’ish plastic kits that are available for the game.  Due to moving for much of the year, I haven’t used the kit since May, but am in the processes of setting it back up in the new place.  In 2010, I plan to buy some more components to round out the complete pro kit, and write some posts (with photos) on how to build the DIY pro kit.

    3. New Music.
    Last year, GNR with the release of Chinese Democracy made my top list.  This year, I could put in a single album in the list, though I will span this to cover the few albums that got me a bit obsessed this year. At the top, is Green Day’s 21st Century Breakdown. Sure, it got trashed by the GD purists, but I love it. It’s a great listen, easily digestible, well told story, and similar to their American Idiot album. Next is Dream Theater’s Black Clouds & Silver Linings album. I was hooked pre-release due to my resurgence of interest in the band, thanks to Panic Attack and Constant Motion in Rock Band. The new album is 6 songs, but more than 70 minutes. The songs are extremely long, you do the math.  I mostly appreciate the fact that the album was released with a 3-disc set, containing instrumentals and a bonus disc of covers. We also got 311’s Uplifter this year. It was more of a downer than an uplifting experience, as it was just bland.  But, I did obsess over it, so it makes the list.  Finally, Dave Matthews Band release of The GrooGrux King.  Good old DMB. Nothing exciting, just a good listen. The album came out shortly after the death of saxophonist LeRoi Moore.

    2. Prototype.
    This game (for PS3 and Xbox 360) got trashed by just about everyone. Worse, it’s near clone, inFamous (for PS3) made it into many pro game journalists top 10 of the year. For me, Prototype was the most played game (excluding rhythm games) for me in 2009. I bought it in July when Amazon had a one-day sale, for $40. It was during a time where I was “without home” and no place to setup my Rock Band lair, so needed something else to pass the gaming time. This game is a sandbox (New York City), much like GTA IV, where you are basically evil and trash anything and everything in your way.  There’s a ridiculous amount of multi button combos, which does take some getting used to. But for me, this 3rd person game has taken more than 40 hours of my year, and I still haven’t finished it or reached 50% of the achievements. It’s not without its issues. (1) There is no Xbox Live component. Which is ok for me, but now that I have played much of the story and some of my friends have picked up the game, we’d really like to play online together. (2) You can’t leave NYC. If you try to cross a bridge or swim away from the island, God sends in an immediate missile strike and you are killed. Towards the end of the game, there is a hint that you get get to a ship, but I haven’t made it yet. (2) There is no DLC. This is a real drag, since the game could really leverage a new downloadable map, possibly some new combos, or something. I would likely pick up DLC if it were ever released. I stand by my words that this is a fun game to play. Find it in the bargain bins and enjoy.

    1. You, the readers, and authors.
    Thanks for those readers who have stuck around during some transitions of 2009.  Thanks to some of my part-time (and near full-time) authors that write posts.  It’s been another fun year of obsessions, and more to come in 2010. I hope to grow the site in different ways this year. Not yet sure how, since It’s a kinda “fly by the seat of my pants” blog.  I’m happy to see some people taking advantage of the Store offerings we add to various posts (sponsored by Amazon and Google), and just glad to see that people enjoy reading and discussing the same things that I obsess about. Thank you!

    With that, we’ve come to the end…

    Happy New Year!

    Please share your top obsessions in comments below.

  • Guitar Hero Van Halen Demo now on Xbox Live

    Posted on December 9th, 2009 Shawn No comments

    So, do we file this under the category of “who cares?” or “sweet, old Van Halen!”? I don’t know. I can say that I have owned GH:VH since it’s pre-release as a free game with the purchase of Guitar Hero 5. I love old Van Halen with David Lee Roth, and I love playing these songs in the game. There are 25 VH songs, and then 19 random songs from random bands. I don’t understand why the GH franchise must throw random songs into a single band game. I got the game because I love VH, not because I want to play Eve 6.

    As far as a the game goes, well it’s based on the same game engine as Guitar Hero Metallica. That’s a step better than Guitar Hero World Tour, and step worse than Guitar Hero 5. Overall, the game play and set list is great if you are an old Van Halen fan (i.e. DLR fan, not Sammy Hagar fan).

    The story mode is pitiful in comparison to The Beatles Rock Band. First of all, there is no Michael Anthony avatar in the game. If you aren’t aware, he is the bass player for the entire bands career, and you hear his bass notes on every single song in the game. He’s not in the game due to an internal band spat a couple years ago, he left the group. So, in his place in the game, is Eddie Van Halen’s son, Wolfgang. So, you see an avatar of a high-school looking Wolfgang the entire game (never ages, never changes), but you hear Michael Anthony playing every bass note. Pretty sh!tty, if you ask me.

    As for Sammy Hagar, it’s as if the man was never part of the band. There are no songs, descriptions, or details of the largest part of VH’s history with Sammy. It’s as if they played in the 70’s and early 80’s with DLR, then broke up until 2008 and reunited. Bizarre, and not cool. Although, I prefer DLR, I’d like to see more realism and factual history in the story.

    One odd thing I have noticed (so far), all the characters look as if it’s 2009, aged (excluding Wolfgang) with short hair. I know the trailers for the game, show the band in its cool 70’s and 80’s duds/hair. Though, I’ve played through a good portion of the game, and have yet to see them revert back to the look of their hay-day. I’m hoping the old looks get unlocked at some point.

    Also, there is yet to be any announcement of DLC. Please, please, please, if anyone at Neversoft or Activision is reading this, release DLC for this game. Every single VH song that get’s release as DLC, I will buy. BTW, I have never bought any Guitar Hero DLC before, since I generally just buy it for Rock Band. I love old VH that much, that I’d pick up DLC just for this game.

    Overall, if you love the music of VH from the 70’s and 80’s, you will like playing this game. If you like the true history of the band, you will be sorely disappointed. It does feel like the game was “phoned in”, but as a VH fan, I love it. For 25 Van Halen songs, I would say the game is worth $30-$40. I recommend, if you didn’t get in on the free pre-release promotion, waiting until the price drops to sub-$40, and pick it up.

    Now, with all the said, get yourself over to Xbox Marketplace and pick up the FREE demo.

  • GH5 Loses September, Van Halen in Jeopardy

    Posted on October 26th, 2009 Simon 2 comments

    guitar-hero-van-halen[1] September’s launch of Guitar Hero 5 was bungled, and sales figures have recently shown that overwhelmingly, music game fans chose The Beatles: Rock Band in September.  Has Activision also ruined any chance of success for their upcoming Guitar Hero: Van Halen game?

    Activision is a company that is well known for their public relations antics, and their CEO is one of the more controversial personalities in the game industry.  Shortly after Guitar Hero 5’s launch in September, the public relations arm of the company quite firmly proclaimed their product launch was the top, and even exclaimed that they had outsold their competitor by a 4 to 1 margin.  Unfortunately the final number from the month do not support any of those claims, and worse yet, are exactly the opposite.

    Even some of the highlights of the game, the ‘celebrity’ renderings, were not without fault.  Immediately after launch reports surfaced that one of the celebrity avatars could be fully unlocked from their own music tracks, and made to sing any song in the catalog.  The Kurt Cobain debacle, to which Activision was equally quick to assert their innocence, that they in fact had signed contracts that stated his likeness was to be a ‘fully playable character’.   The surviving members of Nirvana are currently pleading with the publisher to lock the feature in a future update, but Activision has made no indication that they are going to make that happen.   Admittedly, I was entertained by the “Bon Jovi” stylings of Kurt Cobain’s avatar, but ultimately disgusted that they would take a beloved rock icon like Cobain and completely trash him like that.

    The disappointing (or predictable, if you’re Harmonix) sales performance and cold reception of Guitar Hero 5  have put further doubt on the commercial success of their next title, Guitar Hero: Van Halen.  The title so far has only been available for free, for those customers in the USA who purchased GH5 and the title has already been delivered to them.  For anyone who did not purchase Guitar Hero 5, the game is promised to be in stores in December at full price.

    Well Activision, here is the elephant in the room:  nobody is going to buy Guitar Hero: Van Halen.  Here’s why.  The band Van Halen, although certainly very famous worldwide, has almost all of their game-playing fan base in the USA (in my opinion).  Activision must have realized early on that people in Asia are not going to get excited about playing the music of Eddie Van Halen and company.   One could also argue that anyone who purchased GH5 would probably also purchase GH: VH, and also that if you didn’t buy GH5, you probably aren’t going to be excited about GH: VH.   Simply put, Guitar-Hero-Van-Halen fans all got in at the right time, and got the free copy when they bought GH5.

    With the December retail launch of Van Halen coming up, its not clear who they expect to buy this game.   Given Shawn’s first impressions, as an international customer who did not get it for free, I will not be buying it.  I am sure that if you listen to the PR team at Activision, it will probably outsell every game ever created to date.

  • Guitar Hero: Van Halen – Initial Reaction

    Posted on October 9th, 2009 Shawn 4 comments

    guitar-hero-van-halen[1]This is called “Initial Reaction” versus “First Impression” because I have only had the game in my possession for a total of 2 hours, and have given it about 25 minutes of play time. With that, let’s jump in.

    I am a HUGE Van Halen fan, the David Lee Roth years. Some of my favorite albums growing up are Fair Warning and Women and Children First. I appreciate the Sammy years, but it took a lot of counseling before I’d admit that in public. The keyboards just never felt right to me. Then Gary Cherone…well, loved him in Extreme, but didn’t belong in VH.

    Enter Activisions attempt to keep the band games coming, with GH: Van Halen. Even I said, “Really, they are making a full game about Van Halen? Who knew they were popular enough for it?”  I know they are (were) huge, but they aren’t The Beatles. 

    In typical Guitar Hero fashion, there is a quick play mode and a career mode.  Chose career mode and jump right in.  But wait…WTF is on my screen.  It starts with Eddie Van Halen center stage in an arena playing Eruption.  That’s awesome!!  But he has short hair, so it’s Eddie today, not 1974.  So, I’m guessing it’s not in chronological order. Then the rest of the band appears to finish our the instrumental, and you dive right into Panama.  It’s a pretty kick-ass start of a concert, but somethings not right.

    Where’s the intro video of the history of the band?  Where’s a little personality, versus dive right in? Who the hell is the little kid on bass? Wait, what….it’s Eddie’s son Wolfgang.  Ok, that makes sense since the reunited Van Halen does not include 30+ year band bassist Michael Anthony.  He chose (supposedly) not to join the VH reunion tour to boycott DLR rejoining the band.  As far as chronology goes, I’m ok with the short hair Eddie & Dave, with teenager on bass. Back to the story in a minute.

    Game play, for me a drummer, is as fun as it gets. At least for Panama and Ain’t Talking Bout Love (the only two I tried). There’s Expert+ (which typically requires a 2nd bass drum pedal). I don’t have that set up right now, so stayed with Expert. Out of the gate, calibration was off.  I was actually able to get the drums calibrated within a few seconds (unlike the awful calibration system on GH5).

    Vocals are fun to play too.  As far as playability, I’m pretty certain it’s exactly the same game engine as GH: Metallica. I haven’t tried guitar and don’t plan too.

    Back to the story.  I still have a ways to go but, I know this…when the band goes back in time to look like their early days, DLR has long hair and wears spandex; Eddie has his long curly locks.  All as expected, except….that teenager is still on bass guitar.  So, even though Michael Anthony actually played the bass on every single VH song in the game, his mug shot got cut from the entire game.  THAT’S A FRIGGIN’ DISGRACE!  I don’t know who I’m more upset with, VH for allowing this, or Activision/Neversoft for only bringing in the bands current lineup. 

    From what I have seen so far, this game is going to be amazing to play (if you are an old, old school VH fan).  It looks like there is no story or band background (unlike the stellar history lesson you get with The Beatles: Rock Band).  Only the current lineup is visualized in the game.  What a HUGE missed opportunity to make a history lesson of the Evolution of Van Halen in this game.  It would have been incredible to talk about the early years of the band partying, playing at colleges, getting pissed about having brown M&M’s in their dressing room.  Then talk about the transition after 1984 to Sammy Hagar, and actually have Sammy in the game.  Then maybe even toss in a Cherone song for sh!t’s and giggles. It really is a fun story, and could have been captured so well, with a TON of DLC opportunities.

    So, based on my 25 minute experience with the game…..I say, if you are a VH (with DLR) fan, buy it….buy it, play it, and love it.  If you are a Sammy fan, curse it, and boycott Activision.  If you are a fan of factual depiction, place a hex on anyone involved in the creation of the game…because nothing you see on screen is factual.  Nothing!

    For me, a drummer, a singer, and a DLR fan……I love it!  Time to stop typing and play some more.

  • UPDATE2: Buy Guitar Hero 5, get GH: Van Halen for free, plus $10 in Amazon MP3s, Plus $10 off your next game

    Posted on August 20th, 2009 Shawn 4 comments

    UPDATE: If the deal wasn’t enough for you with a free copy of Guitar Hero: Van Halen and $5 of free MP3’s from Amazon, well it got better. Now, when you buy Guitar Hero 5 from Amazon, you still get everything I mentioned above, plus $10 off your next video game purchase from Amazon. Now, you can get The Beatles: Rock Band one week later ($10 off regular price or for $46.99).
    UPDATE2: Maybe I’m reading this wrong, but the Amazon listing for Guitar Hero 5 now states everything I mentioned about plus another $5 of free MP3’s from artists in the game. Check for yourself. But, if this is as it is written, you get GH5, GH:VH, $10 off your next game, and $10 in free MP3’s, plus free shipping on everything. You pay $60 (and there is an Amazon price guarantee, if the game price drops between now and when it ships, you get the lowest price). You pay $60, and get $135 of stuff, with free shipping. So, WTF are you waiting for?

    Too Good to be true?

    Buy Guitar Hero 5, get Guitar Hero: Van Halen for free, plus $5 in Amazon MP3s. That’s over 135 songs, for less than $60.

    GH5 Features:
    * In-game Avatar support
    * GH:WT / DLC & GH:Band Tour Song Import
    * Drop-in / Drop-out Party Mode
    * Mixed combination of Instruments.
    * Expert+ Mode for Drums
    * Most All GH:WT / All DLC Songs have been recharted to support Expert+ and GH5 features.

    I’m still fired up for The Beatles: Rock Band, but the deal above is pretty incredible!

    Who’s going to get this deal?

  • Guitar Hero: Van Halen is a Reality

    Posted on April 24th, 2009 Shawn No comments

    Give me a break! Another freakin’ single artist music game, likely built on the same crappy engine as Guitar Hero: World Tour.

    Based on the image below (up on GameStop for a while, then pulled), we will be getting the Van Halen installment in August.

    From what I have experienced with GHWT and GH: Metallica:
    * No song importing, so you have to swap discs to play music from other installments.
    * A single list of songs and no DLC planned (GHWT excluded).
    * Poor drum charting and rapid failures.

    I’ll tell you now, before even seeing the charts, or pricing….PASS!

    Oh, and I’m a HUGE Van Halen fan. Diver Down, Women and Children First, VH I and II, are all amazing classics.  David Lee is my singer of choice (although it’s embarrassing to watch the video above), but also liked the Sammy stuff.

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