A Fan Video, "Coke Fuck You"

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It's always fun when you experience a creative "first". We've had a few here. First episodes are great. I like it when the first hardcore fan comes through. Your first piece of fan mail. The first dollar you make... on down the line.

A show here on the network, The Pitch, just got a fan video. That's a first for all of us... and it helps that it's really really funny.

It's a video that acts as a proof of concept for the product philosophies espoused in episode 9 of Gary and Brayon's program, entitled "Pepsi Excuse Me", which asks how much different the world would be if our beverages could talk.

This video was masterfully created by Mike Taylor, of Silo and Sky Radio, which is an internet radio station (something that is near and dear ot my heart). I ask that you check them out, it's worth it.

Announcing "Bonfireside Chat"

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It's my pleasure to announce Bonfireside Chat: An Undead Favourite. In what may be the most predictable move in podcasting history, this new Duckfeed.tv show will focus entirely around Dark Souls and related games.

It will be hosted by myself (Kole Ross) and Gary Butterfield, along with a series of guest hosts, each of them a friend of the network who shares our enthusiasm for the game. It will be released on the 2nd and 4th Sunday of every month, and the first episode will debut on January 13.

Dark Souls is a game that has captured our fascination. Its excellent combat, oppressive atmosphere, and intricate world demand close scrutiny. This show gives us an opportunity to dig in deep on one of the most remarkable games of this generation.

Much like Watch Out for Fireballs each episode will be a dive into a particular area of the game, with the intention being to provide a complete picture of Lordran, from start to finish. Episodes will touch on lore, history, bosses, enemies, architecture, areas of interest, moment-to-moment gameplace, and other stuff like that... in no particular order.

Below you will find the tentative schedule for how we plan to attack the game, so you can plan to play along. This is subject to change as we get into the thick of talking about this stuff.

  1. Intro / Asylum / Undead Burg
  2. Undead Parish / Lower Burg
  3. Return to Asylum / Darkroot
  4. The Depths / Blighttown
  5. Sen's Fortress
  6. Anor Londo
  7. Painted World of Ariamis
  8. New Londo Ruins
  9. Duke's Archives / Crystal Caves
  10. Demon's Ruins / Lost Izalith
  11. Catacombs / Tomb of the Giants
  12. Artorias of the Abyss / Wrap Up

After we finish Dark Souls, we will proceed to Demon's Souls. And after that? Yep, Dark Souls 2. After that? Maybe King's Field. We don't know.

We really encourage you to play along. If you don't own a copy yet, you can grab it at the usual places. We've also created a Facebook group where you can talk about your playthroughs.

If you are interested in guesting on an episode, please use the contact sheet to inquire about it.

Once again, we're really excited about this, and we hope you are too. Be careful out there. Don't go dyin', neither of us wants to see you go Hollow.

 

Watch Out for Fireballs! App and "Abject Suffering"

UPDATE: We love you so much that we've decided to up the game, and bring out TWO episodes of Abject Suffering per month. So, you'll really really want to buy this app.

You're a big fan of Watch Out for Fireballs!. You subscribe in your podcast app of choice, or download directly from the site, or compel a friend to summarize every episode for you. However, you wish there was more. We get it.

Which is why we have introduced the Watch Out for Fireballs! App, which is distributed in a partnership with the company that hosts our show. It's available for iOS right now, and will be available for Android soon.

For a scant $1.99, you get access to every episode of our show, anytime, anywhere. It does all that streaming jazz you want, you can favorite episodes, email us or call the voicemail... everything. (See the bottom of this post for info on how to get access to this app)

Now, you may be thinking "Wait, I can get your show for free! Why would I pay $2, you dingus?"

Well, we anticipated that.

Instead of making the Extrasodes paid bonus content, we've decided to start a WHOLE NEW SHOW that will be exclusive to the app for some time.

We call it Abject Suffering with Gary and Kole.

Think of it like our YouTube channel, where we do let's plays of old games, good and bad. Except this time, it's a comedic audio program where we sit down each month, and play as much as we can possibly bear... then drain the bile in a ~30 minute-long therapy session.

Most importantly, we want YOU to suggest the games that we play. Think of it as your way to get your revenge on us... for... something. To do this, go to the Watch Out for Fireballs! page, and you'll find a module that lets you suggest your games there. Hit us with your best (or worst) shot.

This will be available to those who have purchased the app, released on the occasion of any given WOFF! episode release. It will remain exclusive to the app for a good long while, with the possibility of being released to the public at large much later.

So, incentive! It's an exciting time for the show, and we really hope that you love the app (and Abject Suffering). Please contact us if you can think of any way to improve the app, and we will be receptive to your cries.

How to Download the App on iOS

  1. Download The Podcast Box.
  2. Search for "Watch Out for Fireballs!"
  3. Purchase the App.
  4. Enjoy!

Watch Out for Fireballs! Magnets!

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Look WOFFLE in the Eyes

Who is WOFFLE? WOFFLE is the mascot of Watch Out for Fireballs! You know, the little fire ball that looks into your soul every week with his dead, dark eyes.

Why wouldn't you want him to stare you down every time you reach for your milk, pasta sauce, or beverages?

That's right, there's no reason.

That's why we're offering you the chance to buy a WOFFLE MAGNET, hand-made out of Perler beads.

Money

Here's the breakdown: Use the form below to order your magnet. It's roughly 4" x 5", and will adhere to your fridge nicely.

The base price is $5 USD, plus $2.50 USD for shipping. If you want international shipping, it'll be $4.50 USD. If you're bad at math, that's $7.50 USD for those in the US, and $9.50 USD for those in other (equally great) places.

Regardless of your locality, you'll get a couple limited edition WOFF! post cards, which you can pin up around your office or send to friends.

(PayPal is the only way we can accept money at this point. I'm really sorry if you oppose the PP Empire. Trust us, we do too. Email me at kole@duckfeed.tv if you want a way around it, and I'll see what I can do).

Support

Watch Out for Fireballs! has been growing very rapidly recently. This our first forray into A). offering merchandise, and B). finding a way for fans to directly support the show.

Both Gary and I tremendously appreciate the outpouring of support for our insane venture so far. We have tremendous plans for the future fo this show, and others, and throwing in for a magnet will help us in very material ways.

Thanks for reading this whole thing. We love you.

 
Shipping

Resident Evil.Net designed to urge players to finish 'Resident Evil 6' | The Verge

"The impetus for Resident Evil.Net is that we realized a lot of people purchase games and never complete them," Eiichiro Sasaki, director of Resident Evil 6 told Polygon. "We were trying to figure out how we could get people to enjoy the game from start to finish.

Seems to me like the best way to get people to finish your game is to make your game good the whole way through.

The New Site!

You may have noticed a slight difference in the Duckfeed.tv site and branding recently. Without boring you on technical details, the old way of managing things with Wordpress and a perpetually accruing wad of plugins and themes wasn’t tenable. So I decided to move everything to the greener pastures of Squarespace.

What this means for you is that the site will be more intuitive and responsive, with design elements that are unique to each show. What this means for me is that putting content up in a timely and sensible manner will be easier.

So, feel free to poke around and discover new and wondrous ways to hear my voice. And, if you get the time, mosey over to the donate page.

Review: Mass Effect 2 - Lair of the Shadow Broker

You should be well-aware of my boundless enthusiasm for Mass Effect 2. Fans of the podcast will know about the drinking game that has sprung up around the title: Every time I effusively praise Mass Effect 2, shots are to be taken.

Bioware really saved the best for last with  Lair of the Shadow Broker. Previous DLC outings were great, especially Overlord, but Shadow Broker really delivers on the core promise of the series.

The central character in this mission is Liara T’Soni, the Asari researcher from the first game. Liara was something of a bit player in the main events of ME2, consumed with her hunt for the feared information mogul, the Shadow Broker. My Shepard was in a relationship with Liara in the first game, and I was frustrated to find that I couldn’t pursue her in the second. Shadow Broker fixes that, in one of many gracious nods towards fans as enthusiastic as myself.

Sexytime aside, Shadow Broker brings the ruckus as you engage in a firefight that stretches from one side of Illium to another. Illium felt underutilized in the main game. Billed as a futuristic Dubai where hedonism and capitalism go hand-in-hand, everything seemed a little too clean. Being that a large portion of the mission takes place in a brothel, while asari prostitutes dodge fire from a rogue Spectre, I think we can say “Underbelly Achieved.”

Speaking of that Spectre, it was nice to see Bioware acknowledge the continued existence of the Council’s secret agents. She proves to be a capable and interesting one-off antagonist for the first portion of the mission, and is one of the best boss fights in the series.

The final leg of the mission takes place in the Shadow Broker’s lair itself, which provides an interesting callback to the final dungeon of the first game, and has one of the most stunning views in the series. I won’t spoil what happens beyond that.

All of this happens at a very fast pace, with brief breaks for investigation and conversation. Keeping with the set precedent, the writing is phenomenal. When you finally get Liara in your party, it’s like reuniting with an old friend. If you choose to re-kindle the romance with her, it’s tastefully done and is surprisingly heartfelt. It was nice to get closure on her story, which is central to the events in Mass Effect 2, but was frustratingly obscured before. The biggest bummer is that Liara doesn’t join your squad, opting instead to pursue new obligations.

I have to question Bioware’s wisdom in putting this essential bit of lore inside of a $10 piece of DLC that released 8 months after the game itself. Some important stuff happens here, and I think that some of it would have fit in better with Mass Effect 3. As it stands, the DLC is pure fan service, and the devoted few will certainly pay the price of admission. The experience runs about 2 hours, if that matters to you, but it’s densely packed and worth the space-bucks.

After you finish the main story, definitely read the text logs about the members of the Normandy team. I don’t want to give away specifics, but the information contained therein ranges from gut-bustingly funny to kind of heartbreaking. The episodic nature of the Mass Effect 2 experience allows you to get to know these characters very well, and if you’ve been paying attention, you’ll get some hints about where everything is headed.

Should you buy Lair of the Shadow Broker? Definitely. Especially if you’re the kind of person who would laugh at jokes about asari and salarian anatomy. The worst part about the whole thing is that Mass Effect 3 seems to be nowhere on the horizon. Rather than quenching my thirst, Lair has made it that much worse.

7 Songs I'd Kill to Play in Rock Band 3

I was at work the other day, managing some recordings, and I had a very potent thought. “I have really good taste in music,” I said with satisfaction, to myself. I also quite enjoy music games, and my anticipation for Rock Band 3 is palpable.

Ten more tracks were announced for the game yesterday, leaving just about half of the tracks unannounced. Ever since the lead-up to Guitar Hero II, I’ve formulated a list of songs I’d like to play in music games. With Rock Band 3 adding keys and vocal harmonies, there are even greater possibilities for the songs on my list to get their due.

What follows is a list of seven songs I’d like to see in the game. Will they make it in? Maybe not, but I will provide a brief justification for each. Most of the videos will be from live versions of the songs, because those work really well.

“For Real” by Okkervil River

This is the big daddy of them all. Okkervil River is an indie band from Austin, TX, which you probably don’t know about. “For Real” is the single from their seminal album Black Sheep Boy, and its explosive energy can hardly be contained. There’s plenty here for everyone, with huge guitars, keys, drums, and passionate vocals. It plays with dynamics, and ends with a batshit insane breakdown. Will Sheff, the lead singer for the band, throws everything he has into the track, making it one of my favorite songs of all time, and a killer prospect for Rock Band inclusion.

“The Snow Leopard” by Shearwater

Shearwater is another Austin indie band, and an offshoot from Okkervil River itself. “The Snow Leopard” is the haunting single from the album Rook, and everyone I show this song to says it’s like if Radiohead grew a spine. The keys are featured here, along with Jon Meiburg’s chilling falsetto. Like “For Real,” it builds to an explosive conclusion.

Forgive the video and audio quality of this video. Very few live recordings of Shearwater exist.

“Tangled Up in Plaid” by Queens of the Stone Age

The Queens of the Stone Age are no strangers to Rock Band, but that doesn’t mean there’s nearly enough of their songs in the game. Lullabies to Paralyze is an underrated album, and “Tangled Up in Plaid” is its standout track. Josh Homme is the king of sleazy weirdness, and “Tangled” stomps around the city like a perverted robot that runs on synth and dirty guitar.

“Hey Hey, My My”  by Neil Young and Crazy Horse

The team at Harmonix loves to put classic rock in their games, treating Rock Band as a music history lesson for younger generations. Given this fact, it’s inexplicable that we don’t have ANY Neil Young to play. Young was the original everything-man, creating genres every time he picked up his old black Les Paul. “Hey Hey, My My,” from Rust Never Sleeps, is one of the most influential tracks of all time, with loud guitars and Neil Young’s distinctive voice singing about how it’s better to burn out than fade away.

“Doin’ the Cockroach”  by Modest Mouse

Modest Mouse has achieved a great deal of commercial success, but forgive my snobbiness in saying that they did their best work when nobody knew about them. There’s some disagreement, but The Lonesome Crowded West stands as their magnum opus, and “Doin’ the Cockroach” is still a favorite at live shows today. Isaac Brock’s lyrics about the alienation of modern life are set to a creeping, skittering background of guitars that shift from lull to frenzy with abandon. With all of the time signature changes, this would be a killer song on drums as well.

“Jesus, Etc.” by Wilco

Let’s turn the volume down for a little bit, and get to know a little song by Chicago band Wilco. Yankee Hotel Foxtrot should be required listening. Blast it from speakers on street corners, play it every morning at high schools around the nation. “Jesus, Etc.” won’t blow anyone’s mind with its loudness, but when you dig into its intricacies, you’ll find a chill, enjoyable song for everyone involved.

“Novocaine for the Soul” by Eels

This isn’t the best Eels song, but the best Eels songs wouldn’t work in a Rock Band game. This track from Beautiful Freak, however, would be a great time on keys with its toy piano part, and the guitar isn’t half bad as well. The song may cause you to float around, so exercise caution if your ceiling is decorated with especially sharp chandeliers.

That concludes our tour of my iTunes library. Do you think my songs suck? Then suggest your own in the comments!

Review: The Eels "End Times"

This is a re-post from the Bearcast Music blog. Head over there to check out reviews of current albums, which can be heard on Bearcast. I wrote this review on Sunday, February 21, 2010.

Eels frontman Mark Oliver Everett, better known as “E,” has made a cottage industry out of his personal pain and suffering.

His body of work, from the seminal Electro-Shock Blues to his sprawling magnum opus Blinking Lights, has drawn heavily from an autobiography laced with cancer, suicide, and insanity. As his family dies off and his lovers leave him, E industriously sets these tragic tales to catchy melodies.

The most recent Eels album, End Times, makes me want to hurt myself.

But in a good way.

End Times comes hot on the heels of Hombre Lobo, with only six months separating the two albums, and they couldn’t be any more different. Conceived as a pair, Hombre Lobo is about the blossoming of love between E and his wife, while End Times is about their bitter divorce.

The album shuffles off the glossy production values of earlier Eels albums, and favors a “Band in a Box” sound. Glimpses of the old Eels occasionally shine through, thanks to the return of drummer Butch (Jonathan Norton) after seven long years of estrangement.

It’s easy to call E’s lyrics self-absorbed, if you’re not willing to go along for the ride. He captures the essence of depression, singing “I take small comfort in a dying world, I’m not the only one who’s feeling this pain” in “Gone Man Gone.” Such negativity doesn’t have universal appeal, but it’s perfectly at home on a breakup album for grownups.

It’s odd to hear E speak so personally about his relationship with his ex wife, which was kept almost entirely under wraps until the publishing of his autobiography Things the Grandchildren Should Know in 2008. Prior love songs from the group were written in the third person, and E’s discomfort with the subject reveals itself in some kind-of clunky lyrics.

End Times is varied in its sounds, drifting from frail electric ballads like “End Times” to the raucous rockabilly of “Gone Man Gone” and “Paradise Blues.”

The album has three must-listen tracks, each demonstrating E’s mastery of simple melodies and heartbreaking lyrics.

“A Line in the Dirt” is a piano ballad whose chord structure lifted almost exactly from E’s song “Manchester Girl,” a B-side from 20 years ago. It sets a simple scene of a man making appeals to his wife through a locked bathroom door, as she makes him realize that, in reality, he wants to be alone. A subtle orchestral arrangement of strings and horns swells as he accepts this, and drives off into the dark.

“Mansions of Los Feliz” is the acoustic confessional of a shut-in who’s trying to ignore the outside world and forget his past. The song stumbles when E breaks into a falsetto “la-la” chorus over the bridge, but the rest is A-grade classic Eels.

“Little Bird” is an astoundingly beautiful and frail song. E sings to a bird on his porch, his only friend, about how much he misses his wife. This is accompanied by a soft, clean electric guitar arpeggiating over a nearly-inaudible orchestra. The song hearkens back to the title track of Daisies of the Galaxy, another underrated gem from the band’s library.

End Times isn’t for everyone. It’s more melancholy than prior Eels albums, which is saying quite a bit. It’s easy to miss the beauty of the arrangements, in the face of the ugly words laid over top of them. It’s also easy to miss the arc of the story. Like all Eels albums, it spends a great deal of time wallowing in despair, but eventually it gets a grip and realizes that things might just be okay after all. Hardly triumphant, but it counts for something.

Score: 8 out of 10

Review: Shearwater's "The Golden Archipelago"

This is a re-post from the Bearcast Music blog. Head over there to check out reviews of current albums, which can be heard on Bearcast. I wrote this review on Sunday, February 21, 2010.

Shearwater’s latest outing, The Golden Archipelago, fits nicely alongside the band’s previous albums Palo Santo and Rook. Whereas Palo Santo was about the horrors of war, and Rook was about the splendor of nature, The Golden Archipelago marries the two concepts and explores how man’s brutality affects the natural world.

“This is how I learned the lie that power breeds regeneration.”

Shearwater has come into its own, and can no longer be considered a side-project of fellow Austin, TX band Okkervil River. Shearwater Mk. II’s output has been consistently haunting, atmospheric, and environmentalist. Their lyrics and melodies paint an impressionistic landscape, with images that jab out with stark vividness before fading back into the ether.

The Golden Archipelago is a narrative album, based on frontman Jon Meiburg’s travels to islands in the Pacific. This trip followed the footsteps of his grandfather, who was a radio operator in World War II. His grandfather’s story frames the album, contrasting his military life with the islands that were being destroyed in the fight.

“His eyes on the waves, and a god below the waterline.”

Meiburg’s vocals remain his best strength, as he sings with tremendous clarity and range. In a single song, he will transition from a falsetto whisper into a bellowing wail, as in the album’s first single “Castaways.” What’s remarkable is that he’s often kept low in the mix, obscured by the wall of sound that’s built around him. When his voice pierces through, it leaves an indelible mark on the song.

The cerebral nature of the lyrics and softness of the melodies makes the band difficult to classify… Until you hear the drums. Percussionist Thor Harris ushers the compositions along with driving, often tribal beats on tracks like “Corridors” and “Landscape at Speed.” Where drums are inappropriate, Harris mans the vibraphone, contributing to the complexity of the melodies. A drummer named Thor hammering on the skins? That sounds like a rock band to me.

“Where the hull scrapes the silent eyes and the gulls on the frozen ropes.”

The standout track of the album is “God Made Me,” which brings the family aspect of the story to the forefront. It starts out with timid strings mimicking a chorus of insects, coalescing into a simple melody alongside Meiburg singing about witnessing some horrible catastrophe. The song builds to a tremendous crescendo of exploding electric guitar chords… Suddenly halting, giving way to a short denouement of strings and guitars, like fading air-raid sirens, as if nothing had happened at all.

The Golden Archipelago is not a perfect album, but it’s pretty damn close. It’s solid gold from start to finish. It has a story to tell, and a bitter message to deliver about the wholesale destruction of natural beauty in this world. The album drifts in and out of focus, like a waking dream, pulling you in with its atmosphere and subtle complexity.

Score: 10 out of 10

DJ Hero Review

I’m no stranger to music games. I purchased PaRappa the Rapper day one. I went to Best Buy daily to play their pre-release demos of Guitar Hero. I can beat “Painkiller” on expert drums in Rock Band 2.

Due to my storied career with the genre, it takes a lot for a music game to impress me.

Thankfully, DJ Hero lives up to my expectations, despite its flaws.

Developed by FreeStyleGames and published by Activision, DJ Hero is to turntablism what Guitar Hero is to rock music. With the turntable controller in-hand, you tap, scratch, and crossfade notes as they move toward the screen. The songs you play are mash-ups of two different tracks, and the game tasks you with “mixing” them together on the fly.

It’s an immensely satisfying experience when you do it right.

A music game lives and dies by its track list, and DJ Hero contains more hits than misses. FreeStyle managed to jam a lot of genres into the game, more often than not pitting widely disparate musical styles against each other.

This pays off most when the guest DJs are behind the mix. The entire Daft Punk set list could justify a purchase, if you’re of the right persuasion. Other standout contributors are DJ Shadow and the Scratch Perverts.

These tracks work because you can tell what’s happening with the mix, which can be difficult sometimes since DJ Hero’s concept is more abstract than Guitar Hero’s. The interface is incredibly complicated, since the game is asking you to perform a wide variety of actions.

There’s no jarring “thunk” if you miss a note: the track just doesn’t play. This lack of feedback makes it difficult to improve at the game, as does the inability to fail out of a song.

The music falls flat whenever guitar based rock songs are featured. Those mixes are absolute trainwrecks. The guitar set list, in which one person mans the turntables while another plays on a guitar controller, can be safely ignored.

The music genre thrives in a social setting, but DJ Hero’s biggest flaw is that it’s an incredibly solitary experience. I imagine you could pull it out at a party, play it, and expect people to dance. But I can also imagine being beaten up at said party, because that’s really lame.

A word about the turntable controller. It’s a solid piece of work, and it only takes about 30 minutes to get used to it. There is a very comprehensive tutorial, but unfortunately it can’t be skipped. I recognize that it’s necessary, and quite helpful, but non-skippable tutorials are never excusable.

Eventually you get lost in the music and forget that the controller is even there, but some glaring flaws keep it from being a great device.

My biggest issue is with the crossfader. There’s a “click” when it’s in the middle, neutral position, but it’s not sticky enough. Too often, I’d overshoot my mark while fading back to the middle, and break my combo. Forget about nailing the faster sections. Perhaps some more practice will negate this, but probably not as quickly as a redesigned crossfader.

It sounds like I’m down on this game, but I nitpick because I see potential. Don’t be misled for a second, the game drew me in. I started playing DJ Hero immediately after it was delivered to me. Four hours later, I realized I’d forgotten to eat dinner. It offers a new challenge for music game veterans, something that hasn’t happened for a few years.

DJ Hero feels like the original Guitar Hero. The “one more song” compulsion is overpowering, it forces you to develop new hand-eye coordination, and offers fun insight into the music being presented.

It also seems a little unpolished, and will certainly benefit from another iteration before it truly hits its stride.

I will award extra points if the sequel contains tracks from LCD Soundsystem.

Score: 7.0