My GTA 4 Stunt and Glitch Run In GTA 4 with X-Play’s Gamer Challenge

15 09 2008

Glitchin' and Griefin' in GTA 4 with the X-Play Stunt Crew

Earlier tonight MediaSapien was one of about 14 people who participated in a multiplayer stunt challenge in Grand Theft Auto 4, hosted by Mr. Sark of the show X-Play and slated to air on G4TV this Wednesday or Thursday. Let me say right off the bat, I admire Mr. Sark’s cool and steady leadership under conditions that can only be described as unnerving. It takes a lot of patience to direct actors. It takes even more to direct non-actors. Now imagine trying to wrangle a dozen hyped-up non-actors, all chattering on headset, and many of who are holding rocket launchers and AK47’s.

Hmm, Focus! GTA 4 needs me!

The group assembled was a varied lot – a few kids who seemed up past bedtime, a couple of rambunctious 20 something’s who were willing to focus, there were one or two quiet players who were very good at the game and focused to boot, and naturally there were a few griefers. Mr. Sark managed to be diplomatic – answering everyone’s questions about the stunts, when the video would air, thoughts on Morgan Webb’s relative hotness – all while coordinating players and recording videos of each stunt.

We tried at least 4 or 5 different stunts, with varying degrees of success. First up was a glitch involving a city bus and a swing set. The goal was to have players stand on top of the bus as it hit the swing set and hopefully fling the players clear across liberty city. Unfortunately, it didn’t seem to work too effectively. A few avatars did get oddly crushed to death, and some were tossed around a little, but nothing from my vantage point looked particularly thrilling. Next it was on to the airport for some runway bowling and coordinated stunt jumps. Both of these were fun and seemed to work out pretty well, in spite of the griefing from the circling helicopters. From there we all piled into helicopters to try another type of “flinging” stunt. By jumping off a roof and onto a hovering helicopter, one can sometimes be chopped and flung in dramatic fashion. Again it didn’t seem too effective. One issue was the sheer number of players, which kinda overwhelmed the Xbox whenever it had to draw them all at once. Clearly the physics of the game was affected as well. Lastly we took a chopper ride out to the Statue of Happiness to get a group shot of all the players leaping off the scaffolding under the secret beating heart of Liberty City’s iconic statue.

Just a few of the the GTA 4 Heroes

We worked at it for about 4 hours, really rallying together as a group in the last hour or so, and ultimately we got the footage Mr. Sark needed. It was fun to be a part of a directed and coordinated project in a multiplayer game. Usually these environments are anarchy, with games descending into pointless team-killing and juvenile name calling. It was refreshing to feel like part of a team – a thing that is so easy in RL, so taken for granted – a dozen or so people following instructions and working together to achieve a common goal. But in the facelessness of VR, it can be nearly impossible to accomplish such coordination.

But this was no ordinary multiplayer game, and no random group of players. We were assembled with a mission. – to create some of the biggest and most elaborate stunts ever performed in GTA 4. And under the leadership of Mr. Sark we accomplished our goal. Are we heroes? Yes, I think we are. We are among the pioneers and patriots – those willing to jump into a chopper blade or take a rocket to the face – if it makes a kick-ass stunt clip.

Check back later this week. I’ll try to post the video here when it becomes available.

Here’s the video.  If you look closely, you can see me (Gamertag: Spark415) during the bowling sequence (00:52)…

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more about “G4 – X-Play – Features“, posted with vodpod

 





Wii Fit Exercise and Workout Review – Final Verdict

29 08 2008

”Digg”

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Ron Jeremy - Fitness Motivator?

Ron Jeremy - Fitness Motivator?

Although the full 30-day test had to cut short due to stress injuries, Mediasapien was still able to put the Wii Fit through its paces, as well as a few other exercise-based game titles.

The validity of videogame-based workouts has been a heated debate since they first emerged as a serious offering a few years back.  To many they represent little more than a silly diversion, while to others the usefulness and potential benefits seem like an obvious step in the continuing development of virtuality as an analogue to reality.  In truth, the current state of the art lies somewhere in between.

For experienced athletes, yoga buffs, and other highly active people, using a videogame to exercise would seem like a step backwards – if you already run 10k marathons, then jogging alongside Mii Ron Jeremy and Homer Simpson would offer little added incentive.  Likewise for a regular gym rat or yoga student – the game may offer a portal into a remarkable simulation, but for those with experience, the analogue wears thins fast.  Add to that Wii Fit’s tendency towards gentleness and safety  (understandable), and the usefulness for pros drops significantly.

All of these qualities are a benefit to most potential users however, who are likely not highly active people.  Whether targeting hardcore gamers, or the emerging casual gamer market, the gentle and easy nature of Wii Fit definitely finds its demographic.  The slow and calm pace, with lots of click-confirms between each move, insure that few people will get too aggressive while playing.  Little surprise that Wii Fit has been such a huge success in physical therapy and retirement communities. 

The decision to mix traditional exercise with a variety fitness-based games insures that people who don’t particularly like exercise, but who do like games will get up and give some of it a try, and maybe encourage them to move more.  This occurred in Mediasapien’s case.  While following the boxing-step class exercise in Wii Fit, I remembered that the original Wii Sports title included a previously untried boxing game.  After playing that game through to it’s limit, I was hooked on the game of boxing 3 round fights against increasingly harder opponents.  I still wanted more – although not particularly interested in hitting people (and more importantly, getting hit), I realize that I may need to find a gym with boxing facilities anyway – or at least a heavy bag, if only to keep the best part of the game-based workout in my routine.

It’s a bit ironic that the best workout, both for strength and cardio, wasn’t technically part of Wii Fit at all, but a forgotten part of the original Wii Sports disc.  And others agree.  A quick Google search confirmed that scientists and fitness experts have tested the Wii boxing game with real scientific rigor, and found it to be nearly as good as a real boxing workout regime.  The calories burned were marginally lower playing the Wii than in RL, but just barely, and the strengthening benefits were the same.  Maybe even better overall, if you consider not getting hit repeatedly in the face as a kind of side bonus.  Unfortunately, the technical shortcomings of the hardware prohibited Mediasapien from Boxing beyond a certain skill level – the Wiimote sensor was simply not up to the task of tracking the boxing motions beyond a certain speed.  The frustration of playing with a non-responsive game was enough to inspire me to start pricing punching bags and stands online.

Recent Nintendo announcements promise a new, highly sensitive Wiimote add-on that will increase the overall accuracy of the sensors by several orders or magnitude.  Hopefully this hardware upgrade, along with upcoming fitness software that has more committed users in mind, will allow the next generation of workout games to fulfill the promise of usefulness that Wii Fit has only hinted at.

To answer the ultimate question – Yes, Wii Fit and its ilk are indeed valid methods to sweat, gain flexibility and increase cardio strength (Sorry Morgan Webb).  The Wii Fit’s variety of games and unique sensor tech gives the game a certain edge over some other titles, but the lackluster customizing options severely limit it’s value as a long-term workout tool.  Its a fun way to get the blood flowing, and may very well inspire you to go out and exercise beyond the screen (a weird idea I know), but ultimately Wii Fit has to be viewed as a kind of gateway drug to a real workout.

If this were X-Play, I’d give it 4 out of 5 stars.  Hey look at that, they did. 

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Wii Fit Workout 30 Day Exercise Challenge – Week 1

8 08 2008
Attica!  Attica!    Attica! Attica!

After months of fruitless efforts, MediaSapien finally got a Wii Fit.  I think the clerk at my local Game Stop was impressed by my impression of Al Pacino in Dog Day Afternoon.  After getting everyone on Mission St. to chant “Attica! Attica!”, they knew I wasn’t leaving without the game in my (apparently) chubby hands.

Turns out Wii Fit is an exercise and fitness game, and not, as I previously thought, a nose simulator (I was pronoucing” Wii Fit” as “Whiff It”, so I was WAY off base).  That’s ok.   I could use some exercise.  Even MediaSapiens have to manage the meat. 

According to the game’s initial evaluation, I was not in the best shape in RL.  It pegged me as overweight and scored my fitness age at 50!  That’s a five, followed by a zero.  Oy!  Not good.  As a former full-time ballet student and NYC bike messenger, I was expecting the game to recognise my potential.  Instead it painted me as a fat Cryptkeeper.  Time to put the avatar to work.

I decided to give myself a one month challenge.  Lose the spare tire (about 9 lbs.), and regain my former strength and flexibility.  Now I know that this can be accomplished with traditional diet and exercise, but I really want to see for myself if the Wii Fit can be a part of a fitness plan.  So I’ve decided not to change anything else about my lifestyle – just the Wii Fit, used every day.  I will log my progress here, so check this post regularly.

Recently Morgan Webb of X-Play chimed in with her thoughts on the Wii Fit, and decided it was NOT exercise, although she admitted it may be a useful tool for the elderly or sick.  After one day with the game, I can say unequivocally that she is wrong.  While it may lack some of the accuracy and in-your-face motivation that a personal trainer, or even the peer pressure at the gym provides, it does offer some remarkable data that helps the MediaSapien exercise better.  It can also be weirdly inaccurate too, so it’s not perfect.

Not MediaSapien

NOT MediaSapien

DAY 1

I let the game evaluate me before I began working out.  It took a few moments to get the hang of using the wireless balance board, but after a few missteps, it calculated my current weight and fitness age.  It  suggested that I was old and overweight, but once I began the exercises, it seemed to be convinced that I was in great shape depending on the current activity.  My balance wasn’t so great, but my strength was at the top of the scale (Personally I would have guessed the reverse ).  

I was then asked to choose my workout goals. Basically I want to lose the extra weight ( about 9 lbs.), figuring the rest will sort itself out if I am successful.  Since it was the first day, the options were limited, as regular workouts are needed to unlock more challenging exercises and games.  There seems to be a lot to do, with over 40 activities, but for now I stuck with some basic yoga and strength routines.  I will continue to expand the daily workout, and explore some of the games along the way.

Evaluation:  Too soon to say about my progress, but the game rates about a B- so far.  I was impressed by the style and approach, but other times it’s accuracy was way off.  Also, it had a tendency to contradict itself a lot.  In one breath, it chides me for being weak, and within the same activity suggests that I am in great shape.  Maybe it just needs to get to know me better.
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DAY 2

Not surprisingly, MediaSapien woke up a little sore this morning.  The relatively easy start yesterday must have had some impact on the meat.  Luckily, Wii Fit has another easy workout for me today, although the unlocking of new exercises and higher rep counts means that tomorrow some real work begins.  I continue to follow the game’s lead, as many of the exercises are still locked up, but it would be nice if it allowed me to customize a little more.  I can’t argue with Nintendo’s logic of keeping it safe and slow off the bat, but for those who have experience with Yoga and strength routines, adding a few more reps or sun salutations would provide a better, more complete workout in these early stages.

If Morgan Webb played with the game this much and then wrote her review, I can understand her suggestion that Wii Fit isn’t exercise.  But clearly a dedicated workout regimen with Wii Fit will have the same potential as other exercise programs.  While it can only guess about some aspects of your exercise, it’s visual feedback regarding balance is nothing short of amazing.  It has been 100% accurate when identifying the differences in strength and balance between my right and left sides.

Evaluation: The first day was a short and sweet introduction to the game, less than 20 minutes of exercise.  Day 2 is a little more serious, peaking at just under 30 minutes.  With the inclusion of a few more exercises and more reps tomorrow, expect the time to extent another 5-10 minutes.  So far, it is not as challenging as a RL Yoga class, but it seems to be heading towards a fuller, more robust workout.

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DAY 3

The meat bites back.  Due to a flair up of lower back pain and stiffness, it’s been recommended to MediaSapien to skip the Wii Fit today.  So instead I’ll be taking a moderate hike and stretching a bit. Back to it tomorrow.

Evaluation:  It hurts like I’ve been exercising.  Does that mean I have been?

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DAY 4

Today the workout kicks in a little more.  With the lower back pain still there, but less pronounced, Mediasapien gets right back in the saddle and pushes through the pain.  Avoiding the strain of strength training, today I took a look at the Wii Fit cardio activities and exercises.  I stated with a little hula hoop action, a very basic hip-swinging activity designed to do little more than increase the blood flow.  You also get to score the number of times the hoop goes around.  I killed it.

Next I tried some simple running in place.  With the Wiimote in pocket, the game adjusts the pace to keep a healthy stride.  Since this was my first run, the game limits the distance to a short (about 4 minutes) jaunt around a cute island.  It’s hardly enough to burn any serious calories, but the most I’ve burned in a while.  Normally Mediasapien avoids jogging due to knee strain, but the Wii Fit jogging game has a few things going for it.  Most notably, all the Mii’s on your system appear as other joggers or spectators.  I’m not sure what to think about getting pwned by Ice Cube, the Burger King, and Zoidberg on the track, but I was encouraged by the sideline cheering of Obama, Chuck Norris, and one Mii called simply “assface”.

I played some more balance games, like ski jumping and tightrope walking.  I also took a shot at a step class.  Again, too basic but clearly there is some potential there as well.  I wrapped up with some yoga, including a few new unlocked poses, and then I took another jog around the island.  This time I was beaten by Bono, Ron Jeremy, and Napoleon Dynamite.

Evaluation: Although I still want more freedom to customize the interface and routines, the workout is getting more satisfying.  With 32 minutes total time spent exercising today, the game finally feel like it is having an affect.  The fear of boredom is mitigated by the fast switch-up of activities, and the diverse selection is enough to cover a wide range of exercise needs while keeping it fresh.

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DAY 5

Wii Fit continues to impress the MediaSapien.  Today’s workout introduced a few new items, as well as increased the challenge presented by some of the other activities.  Yesterday I commented that the hula hoop exercise was a bit light.  It does seem help with the stiff hip and thigh quite a bit so today I hula’ed for both the warm up and cool down period.  Then I was off to jog again – this time for a slightly longer time period.  This time I was bested by Snoop Dog, Oprah, and Homer Simpson.  If MediaSapien ever needed an incentive to sweat, it’s watching as those big butts leave me in their dust.  Incidentally, today was the first in which I actually broke into a real sweat – not just a glistening, but actual drops rolling down my chest and flinging across my room.

Another new activity available today is boxing.  It uses the nunchuck attached to the Wiimote and functions a lot like the boxing game in the original Wii Sports disc. The big difference is that you follow a set pattern much like a step class with punching.  SInce it was the first time, the game was detuned as usual, but it was a fun whole-body activity that I look forward to playing again tomorrow.

Evaluation:  The game keeps getting better and better. The length and challenge of the workout keeps increasing, with lots of fun activities to augment the less interesting exercises.  The biggest complain is the constant need to hit the “A” button on the Wiimote 2 or 3 times between each activity to acknowledge the trainer’s pointers and tips. I would like the option to segue seamlessly between yoga poses without all the commentary and interruptions.

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DAY 6

Wow.  Feel the burn.  Today, MediaSapien pushed through the pain and went for the gold.  After starting with a 6 minute run and a record shattering hula hoop session, it was on to boxing, which as I noted earlier, is more like a step class with punches.  Tomorrow I am going to box for real (!) with the original Wii Sports disc instead.  Then it was on to a round of yoga, which now includes 8 out of 15 exercises unlocked.  Since Wii Fit doesn’t allow for a custom routine to be programmed in, I make sure to go through each exercise at least once, sometimes twice.  

Yoga is becoming a favorite activity of mine in Wii Fit, but it definitely helps to have some yoga experience going into the game.  Even though the game keeps track of your balance, knowing subtle things about posture and breathing help make the poses more useful.

One funny note, the game will often ask you, in a childlike voice that only Mario could love, to step on the balance board before an exercise begins.  As soon as you do, it lets out a little “Ohh…!” as if it immediately regretted the suggestion and it’s having trouble breathing.  It’s just a little thing, really.  But it is a constant low-level underminer of MediaSapien’s self confidence.

Today wrapped up with a big run, about 19 minutes long.

Evaluation:  With the duration of the workout exceeding 45 minutes (almost 1/2 of that running), and a wider range of activities opening up every day, MediaSapien is unlikely to get bored before the 30 day test runs out – maybe.

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DAY 7  

HedgeHog, not Mediasapien

HedgeHog, not Mediasapien

It’s official.  Mediasapien has been working out for a whole week.  Just a few quick notes here, as I am preparing a “first week” summary which I will post later today.  In the RL where meatsapien lives, it’s hot outside for the first time in weeks.  I was pleasently surprised when the Wii Fit trainer avatar commented on the heat.  It’s shouldn’t be a shock, really.  The Wii is always connected via WiFi and has a dedicated weather channel already, so porting that data into the game is no biggie.  But still, a nice touch.

 

One other quick note:  The jogging activity is oddly compelling.  To someone who hates jogging and frequently suffers knee pain, avoiding it altogether in Wii Fit should be easy.  But the inventive use of the Mii’s, especially the imported ones, makes jogging in the game surprisingly fun and challenging.  It’s one thing to be passed on the running trail by Chuck Norris or Darth Vader in Mii form.  But it is entirely unacceptable to be beaten by Ron “The Hedgehog” Jeremy.  After all, to anyone who’s seen him naked (and lets face it, who hasn’t), the idea that he could run AT ALL, let alone run faster than me just doesn’t jive.  It definitely inspires me to run faster.

See week #1 summary HERE.
See week #2 HERE.