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PLEASE: Stop Putting Coffee Tables in Your Living Rooms, Gamers Need The Space February 4, 2023

Posted by Maniac in Editorials.
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I grew up at a time when a furnished family room would include several essential components. This was typically the room which included the largest television in the house so everything in it revolved around the TV. Because of that, it would be typical to find a big couch (or sectional) and several bookshelves for print, music or movie storage flanking the opposite walls. Most people take for granted that while the TV would be the focus of the room, it would not be the center of it. If you look at the majority of home photos of people in their living rooms over the past fifty years, you’ll likely find a giant unused table somewhere between their couch and their television. This giant object was the coffee table, and I honestly can’t remember living in a home that didn’t have one.

For a while, things were good, as the coffee table could provide benefits for a home television room. The coffee table allowed a communal location for people to leave their beverages while sitting on their couches, as well as a communal resting place for things like the remote control or a magazine. In the days before on screen guides, television viewers relied on the weekly newspaper or TV Guide magazine to get the times for upcoming programming, so having a place to put that information was useful. Later on as this became less essential, it became trendy for people to decorate their coffee tables with interesting hardcover art books, which created the sub genre of art book many to this day call the Coffee Table Book.

However, things were not always good with the coffee table. Having an enormous THING in the middle of open space can cut down on the amount of useable space in the room, preventing more people from sitting or standing in it. It could also be a trip hazard, as most coffee tables are only knee-high and someone with low visibility could easily walk into it and injure themselves. In a time when remote controls required a point-to-point IR beam to function, the coffee table would be a common barrier between the television and the couch. Also, the vast majority of them were made of substandard material, as no matter how expensive it was, or how beautiful it looked in the showroom floor, there was no way of knowing if doing something as simple as putting a wet drink on it would destroy it. It is also too low to sit around comfortably, making it pointless to sit around to eat or play games at.

While it had its issues, for the longest time, they were considered minor and the coffee table continued on. In 2007, the Nintendo Wii was released, which was the first mass market gaming console that primarily used a motion-based controller. That meant the Wii required an unobstructed view between the player and the television sensor just to function. Previously, the coffee table’s worst transgression was the remote blocking. Since a Wiimote used very similar technology to what was found in a standard remote, unlike a remote it required precise pointing and direction to work correctly, having an obstruction between the couch and television started to become less practical. Also, games were no longer becoming passive experiences people could play from their couches. The Wiimote was just the first in what became a massive motion control arms race, with some requiring controllers, like the PlayStation Move or Joy-Con, and others like the Kinect, simply requiring unobstructed views between the sensor and the player.

What were the consequences of this motion control arms race? It meant a fundamental change in the structure of how gamers organized their gaming rooms. In the days of wired gaming controllers, it was common for players to sit close to the tv to play their games, as they could only sit as far back as their cables would extend. When wireless game controllers became standard for the PS3 and Xbox 360’s controllers, range was expanded and games could be played anywhere in a room, and obstructions were now meaningless. Following the mass adoption of motion controls came the creation of virtual sport and exercise games, which absolutely necessitated an open space to play. This continues on, as even my Apple Watch and Meta Quest Pro have the ability to track physical activities and can get you to use your body for everything from yoga to dance. Now, with motion games, you not only HAD to sit at a further distance from your television, any physical obstruction between you and the television could prevent your gestures from registering with the game. In the gaming space, this can be the difference between win or lose.

In the past two years we’ve seen a wide adoption of home Virtual Reality (VR) platforms. The first generations of these headsets required a wired connection to your PC or game console, as well as an external sensor for head and controller tracking. I can tell you from experience, playing a game in these conditions required not just a lot more open space around the player, but for the user to be a further than normal distance away from the screen. Otherwise, the tracking sensors would have trouble capturing player movement accurately. Having a VR headset on is tantamount to essentially playing a game blindfolded, and it is very easy for a user to lose track of their real-world position while in an active game. Nowadays, stand-alone VR headsets do exist, and many of them will allow you to set external boundaries upon startup, but you MUST have a reasonable amount of open space around you while you play to have a comfortable gaming experience.

So now that you have a better understanding of the current state of what is required to be a modern day gamer, you can see that space is important, and obstructions can be disastrous. So I ask again, why would someone want to limit both of these options just to have an obsolete piece of furniture, offering functions that can be replicated far more conveniently with other objects, in their way? What purpose do coffee tables honestly serve in the year 2023 other than to fill space? Even their original purposes, a communal space to keep your beverage, are no longer practical, as liquid easily damages most of them, and a simple end table next to the couch can hold your drink and your remote control just as conveniently. Heck, most couches made in the last fifty years have cup holders built in them! (ED NOTE: There are a lot of traditionalists who refuse to buy couches with cup holders out of some obsolete sense of aesthetic. Their opinions on the matter are wrong). Heck, due to its low height, the coffee table is useless for even non-electronic gaming, as most pen and paper or board gamers (who may prefer the name tabletop gamers) I’m aware of prefer to play on kitchen or dining room tables.

In the year 2023 VR and Motion controls are mainstream, and while it may no longer be essential for external sensors to be placed in your gaming space, having a wide open space to play games is now the required standard. This should be the beginning of the end of the coffee table, which only exists in the modern day to take up that essential gaming space. The books and magazines that they were meant to hold can be better stored in bookshelves. The remotes or drinks they were meant to hold can be better placed and more accessible on an end table or built-in armrest. So can we all agree the coffee table needs to go? I promise I won’t come for your floor lamps next.

THEATRHYTHEM: Final Bar Line Demo Released February 1, 2023

Posted by Maniac in Game News.
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After that disappointing last piece of news, I wanted to share some good news with all of you. I’ve been a huge fan of the THEATRHYTHEM games since they launched on the 3DS so many years ago, and was awash with glee to discover that a new game would be coming to the Nintendo Switch and PlayStation platforms. Today, they’ve confirmed a demo of the game is now available as a free download on your platform of choice.

I was able to snag the demo off the Nintendo eShop and I can confirm its a ton of fun! It includes thirty songs including tracks from Final Fantasy II and Final Fantasy VII. Square Enix does promise that progress from the demo will carry over the full version of the game.

THEATRHYTHEM: Final Bar Line is coming to the PS4 and Nintendo Switch February 16th, 2023.

Star Wars Jedi: Survivor Delayed February 1, 2023

Posted by Maniac in Game News.
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Just wanted to give you guys the bad news personally. Respawn Entertainment has confirmed there will be a delay of Star Wars Jedi: Survivor, the highly-anticipated sequel to Star Wars Jedi: Fallen Order.

Star Wars Jedi: Survivor is coming April 28th, 2023 to Xbox Series X/S, PS5 and PC.

Console War VII (Part 2) January 31, 2023

Posted by Maniac in Console War, Histories.
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Welcome back to the Console War where we are quickly headed into the present. As we start this story, Microsoft had announced their next console and Google’s Stadia was essentially dead on arrival. Pokemania’s second wave had started to cool, but the Switch platform was still going strong. Even the Switch Lite had fantastic ongoing sales, as the lower price point was a big incentive for players who had no interest in owning a modern HDTV. What was going to happen next? Sony was about to announce their next console, the PlayStation 5.

In due time, Sony announced their next console would be the PlayStation 5. The first talk about it was mostly technical details, and some of it focused on 3D special audio capabilities. Eventually, two PS5 consoles were revealed, and the only difference between them was that one would include a disc drive and the other would not. Otherwise they’d still be able to play the same games at exactly the same visual standard and performance.

Like the Xbox Series could support Xbox One titles, Sony announced users would be able to play PS4 games on the PS5 through backwards compatibility. Unfortunately, unless the user was engaging in backwards compatibility, PS4 accessories would not work on the PS5 with the exception of the PlayStation VR. However, the PS5’s camera was incompatible with the PSVR, so VR owners would need to obtain an adapter to get their old PS4’s camera working on the PS5. This adapter could be gotten for free on Sony’s website and would be sent out if a user provided Sony Support their PSVR’s serial number.

When Microsoft announced they would be releasing games for both the Xbox One and Xbox Series moving forward, Sony did as well. Major titles including Spider-Man: Miles Morales would get released on both the PS4 and PS5. When Microsoft announced any Xbox cross platform game would only need to ship on a single game package, Sony refused to go this route. Instead of releasing multiplatform games in a single package or offering one-purchase-both-platform digital sales for PS4 and PS5 games, Sony would continue to publish separate PS4 and PS5 disc packages to retail and charge a premium upgrade fee for several titles that shipped on both consoles. PS4 games would typically play on a PS5 using backwards compatibility, but PS5 discs would not work on the PS4. Some PS4 games (such as Control: Ultimate Edition) would offer the ability to play the PS5 native version of the game natively, but it wasn’t always certain if your game would actually launch as a PS4 or PS5 game even if you inserted a PS5 disc into your PS5. Also, saves from PS4 games would not be compatible with their PS5 version, and developers would need to create a conversion tool inside their PS4 games if they wished their users to carry over their progress to the PS5.

Despite these issues, expectations were high for the PS5. As the PS4 was declared the winner of the previous generation of the console war, Sony was walking into the PS5’s generation as the clear frontrunner. Both the PS5 and Xbox Series consoles launched in Fall 2020, but even if you were a hardcore gamer it would be difficult for you to even know it. As I mentioned before, most major titles for the new consoles would have previous generation releases. Unlike the PS4/Xbox One generation that completely cut new releases for the PS3 and Xbox 360 on day one of the PS4/Xbox One launches, games are still coming to the older Sony and MS platforms to this day. Sadly, multi-generational releases weren’t the only reason most people didn’t realize the new consoles were out and I think now is the time for us to address the elephant in the room.

Most people didn’t realize the Xbox Series X or the PS5 released was because you couldn’t find any of them in any store for years after they officially released. In 2020, one of the worst pandemics humanity had ever seen was running wild, forcing most people to stay home. Since the most common activity for people to do while staying home was to play video games, for several months most people did exactly that. Knowing this, several “opportunistic” individuals focused on buying up as much of the stock of game consoles as they could. I believe their intention was to hoard their purchases with the intention to resell at exorbitant price increases. Since there was no difference in the minds of most people, ALL game consoles, be it a Nintendo Switch, a PlayStation or an Xbox, would be bought up almost as soon as they made it to retail for the purpose of a quick resell.

For two years, new consoles were nearly impossible to find at retail. This was a major problem for gamers interested in upgrading their equipment, or people with existing consoles that failed on them and needed to be replaced. This also makes it difficult to keep track of the console war’s pacing, as due to the resale market, it was literally meaningless to track sales during this time. Since none could be found on shelves, all a sales figure would tell you was how many consoles were MADE as of the time it was recorded.

At the height of this demand for new consoles, Nintendo made the announcement they would release a new Switch revision, a Switch with an OLED screen. This new Switch was capable of playing all existing Switch games on a beautiful OLED screen. However, other than including a built-in Ethernet port, everything else about the OLED Switch was the same as the original model and it still output in a 1080p while docked. Gamers everywhere had been clamoring for Nintendo to launch a Nintendo Switch capable of outputting in native 4K resolution and the Switch OLED just could not do that. However, the new screen was absolutely beautiful and the influx of new stock of consoles helped Nintendo have product on retail shelves in time for the Holidays.

Two years into the console war, the resale market would start to crater, and the new generation of consoles could finally be found on retail shelves for people to purchase. Not including Nintendo Switch, the first console to eventually be able to be found on the shelves of normal retailers was the Xbox Series X, several months later gamers could find PS5s. At the same time PS5s began showing up on retail shelves, Sony released several incredible PS5 exclusives, including God of War: Ragnarok and a remaster of the PS3 masterpiece The Last of Us. Sales for the PS5 and the new games coming for the platform pushed it ahead for this generation.

So why was the PS5 outselling the Xbox once again? It came down to the games. Most of the major games coming to the Xbox platform haven’t generated much interest, especially with Microsoft’s major focus on microtransaction-filled multiplayer arena titles. Halo: Infinite, a major poster child for the Xbox Series launch, was delayed several months past the console’s launch. When it eventually did release, it was a disappointment. Sony, on the other hand has been continuing their tradition of producing epic single-player adventures with a major focus on plot and story.

Why did Sony have the best exclusives? After getting burned badly in the initial launch period of the Xbox One, most third-party publishers ceased doing exclusive games for Microsoft. They knew Microsoft’s market share would not allow them to generate enough sales to warrant an exclusive game, regardless of how much Microsoft offered them up front. Microsoft’s only answer to solve the problem of all these companies refusing to produce exclusive games for them was to just outright buy their companies. Microsoft has purchased not just several independent game developers like Double Fine, they also bought several major publishers including Bethesda and as of this writing they’re trying to get approval to purchase Activision. However, while that may be a winning strategy for them in the long term, in the short term it hasn’t been working out.

Microsoft also devoted itself to making all of its major first-party releases multiplaform. That meant you didn’t need to play Halo: Infinite on the Xbox Series X or S, you could play it on the Xbox One or PC. While this was very consumer-friendly, it meant major titles were left unoptimized for the individual platforms. People who did play the game on the Series X, myself included, were disappointed with its graphics and performance on what was supposedly Microsoft’s high-end console. Meanwhile, Sony’s games took full advantage of the hardware capabilities of the PS5.

At the end of 2022, Google announced they would be shutting down the Stadia service. It turned out the expectations of literally every gamer aware of their history had come to pass, and Google realized they weren’t generating enough income with their individual game sales to justify continuing to operate the expensive service. With the shutdown, gamers who made Stadia purchases would be completely locked out of their games. To relieve the concerns (or possibly to avoid lawsuits) Google announced they would refund ALL Stadia hardware and software purchases made during the platform’s lifespan. They would not, however, refund gamers who paid for the monthly premium Stadia service. Gamers with existing Stadia hardware could continue to use their Chromecast Ultras without Stadia functionality (something I can attest most people were doing already) and Stadia Controllers worked fine on conventional PC games. As a last gesture to generate goodwill, Google released a hardware update for the controllers to enable wireless Bluetooth capabilities, but they also worked fine with their provided USB cable.

As we move into 2023, both Sony and Nintendo could argue their way into the frontrunner positions, and Microsoft was not counting themselves out of the game just yet. Stadia is dead, and will live on as a memory of failure in nearly every way conceivable. Sony has recently revealed their next generation PSVR, that they’re calling the PSVR2. Who’s to say what will happen next?

Dragon’s Lair iiRcade Gold Close Up January 30, 2023

Posted by Maniac in Site Videos.
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We’ve been interested in the game Dragon’s Lair for at least a decade. It featured graphics by the legendary animator Don Bluth and gameplay that was revolutionary for its time. In fact, long time fans of the site might remember Maniac promised a few years ago to produce a video where he attempted to beat the original arcade game on just one credit. Due to unfortunate technical issues, that could not happen. That’s when we picked up this, the iiRcade Gold, and it is loaded up with a bunch of classic arcade titles including Dragon’s Lair. Let’s take a closer look under the hood.

Gaming History You Should Know – Do Amiibo Work at Super Nintendo World January 29, 2023

Posted by Maniac in Gaming History You Should Know, Uncategorized.
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Super Nintendo World is about to open at Universal Studios Hollywood and people are already coming back with videos about their experiences. It looks absolutely incredible.

As we saw with Universal Studios Japan, the new Hollywood Super Nintendo World will feature interactive components for guests to manipulate based upon an exclusive piece of merchandise called a Power Up Band. This Band, when linked with the Universal Studios Hollywood App, will allow you to keep track of your in-park activities. The Band even includes Amiibo functionality that can even work with the Nintendo Switch (depending on what character band you purchase).

So if the Power Up Band is an Amiibo, does that mean that Amiibos could work in Super Nintendo World? A freaking genius, who I’ve known better by his internet title of Spazz Master of the YouTube Channel Theme Snark, decided to conduct an experiment while visiting Super Nintendo World at Universal Studios Hollywood.

Console War VII (Part 1) January 27, 2023

Posted by Maniac in Console War, Histories.
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It sure has been a while hasn’t it? Welcome back to our ongoing history series on the Console Wars, where we tell the story of our time! When we last left off, the Nintendo Switch, and its spin-off the Switch Lite, had seen tremendous success as a console with the capability to take anywhere. Nintendo wasn’t going anywhere. However, Microsoft and Sony were gearing up to replace their PS4 and Xbox One platforms with entirely new consoles, and a new Console War was about to Dawn. Let’s get started, shall we?

In 2019, the Switch platform was selling very well, and plenty of developers were still producing games for it. When it was first announced, I theorized that the Switch could have been the most ideal platform for a Pokémon game to ever be released on. The original strength of Pokémon was its ability to take it anywhere. For the Game Boy, it was common to play in one on one situations before the mass adoption of online gaming for consoles. With the Switch, a user could play their game while on the go, and when the player brought their games home, they could dock their Switches and continue their solo progress on their big-screen HDTVs. Pokémon Let’s Go Pikachu and Eevee proved that method could work in 2018, and those were just remakes of the original Pokémon Yellow. The time was right for an all-new Pokémon title created for the Switch from the ground up. Nintendo announced Pokémon Sword and Pokémon Shield.

At the reveal, the Pokémon Company offered a glimpse of an entirely new region that offered the ability to interact with Pokémon that was actually visible in the game world. There would even be open “wild areas” where trainers would need to avoid high level Pokemon they would not be able to capture. It looked fantastic. Sadly, before Pokémon Sword and Shield released, it found itself in a controversy. Unlike what was possible with previous games, The Pokémon Company admitted they weren’t able to allow the ability for play and trade every Pokémon that had ever existed, including many popular and fan favorites. With the previous generation’s announcement for cloud platforms for storing Pokémon like Pokémon Bank pushing the idea players would be able to keep their Pokémon forever, this news they would not be able to bring older Pokémon into their newest games set off a slew of negative publicity from the gamers who had literally completed their Pokédexes. They were also concerned it would set a dangerous precedent for future titles. However, in November 2019 the negative reviews of the old guard of players were absolutely eclipsed by the sheer volume of copies Sword and Shield ended up selling. That said, the fans were now split on their previously unified enjoyment of the franchise. It seemed the second wave of Pokemania was starting to wane.

There’s another contender I’d like to briefly touch upon in this article, and that was Google’s Stadia. While not technically a console, in a lot of ways it might as well have been. In 2019, Google came forward to announce they had created a game streaming service of their own. It was capable of hosting most of the major games of the time including upcoming titles like Marvel’s Avengers, but unlike other successful streaming services that charged per month for access to a library of titles, Stadia required users to pay full price for each individual game they wanted to stream. Unlike other consoles, despite ones that failed badly, gamers knew immediately if Stadia did indeed fail, their full priced games would become completely unplayable the second support for it ceased.

Google offered Stadia bundles which included a special 4K Chromecast Ultra and a Stadia controller that directly connected to your Wi-Fi hotspot. At launch, next to nobody bought a Stadia bundle. and those who did complained of latency and overpriced games on sale. To compensate, Google attempted to literally give Stadias bundles away, first to the Gaming Press and then to gamers at events like the 2019 Game Awards.

During the same event I received a free Stadia, Game Awards 2019, Microsoft revealed their next console, the Xbox Series X. It was absolutely massive, capable of delivering 4K HDR games at 120hz (depending on your display). While Microsoft did not have a large amount of exclusive games to show for it, they promised it would also be capable of playing Xbox One games, on top of original Xbox and Xbox 360 games that had previously been made backwards compatible on the Xbox One. They followed up the news later on by announcing a second slimmer, cheaper console, called the Xbox Series S. They promised it would be able to play digital versions of the same games made for the Xbox One and Xbox Series X, but the catch was it had no disc drive and could only display at 1080p resolution.

As information about the Xbox Series launch ramped up, Microsoft made an incredible stand for their retail game strategy. They would release any game that supported Xbox One and Xbox Series a single disc. Some existing Xbox One games could even be ported to become native Xbox Series games with a free patch. They assured customers the console would know what version of the game to install, and since Microsoft automatically cloud-synced save files since the days of the Xbox One, they promised save files from one platform would be able to seamlessly transfer to another. This was probably the most consumer-friendly decision Microsoft ever made.

However, the Xbox Series X was at least a year away from release and in the meantime, Microsoft wasn’t planning to release any exclusive games at launch. Even the next Halo game, known as Halo: Infinite, would also be released on PC and Xbox One. To bide time for launch, gamers were encouraged to either buy Xbox One games for it, or prepare to buy access to Microsoft’s new Xbox Live Ultimate service, which bundled Xbox Live Gold support with monthly access to the full version of many great Xbox titles. Essentially, Microsoft was employing the paid business model Stadia should have used!

2019 was a big year for gaming. While Microsoft was considered to have finished last in their generation, they were still in the fight. However, Sony, the winner of the last generation, was waiting in the wings to make their next console’s announcement. What happened? That’s a story for part 2!

Bitmap Books Delivery Unboxing January 26, 2023

Posted by Maniac in Site Videos.
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Everyone who games probably has their own personal collection of gaming related goodies. We’ve always been fans of coffee table art books that celebrate the art or history of games and gaming. They can often include exclusive information behind the scenes of the making of their subjects, and I would argue several books about gaming deserve major awards, including features in major publications. Recently, we found out about an independent publisher called Bitmap Books, where gaming art and history seems to be their specialty.

I first became aware of Bitmap Books when I was researching the history of SNK for my Week of Neo-Geo. The book I wanted to pick up on the subject was being reprinted at the time, but once it became made available for purchase again I was able to get a copy.

As someone who is absolutely fanatical about the condition of whatever they purchase, I loved the condition of the first book I bought from them when it arrived. Now that my second order arrived I did this unboxing to show it to all of you.

Unboxing was recorded in 4K HDR.

Lost Media – Avengers: Damage Control VR January 25, 2023

Posted by Maniac in Lost Media, Site Videos.
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You didn’t think we were going to feature just one piece of Lost Media this week did you? Today, we’ll be going back to gaming and talking about a VR game nobody will ever be able to play, Avengers: Damage Control. No, this is not the Avengers game that recently announced it would be ending support. Damage Control was actually based in the MCU and featured actors from the films. Here’s the official trailer for it.

Looks awesome doesn’t it? With VR headsets out there and plenty of systems capable of replicating this software, how did this game become lost media? Well, Damage Control wasn’t a game that you could just purchase, download and play at home. It was developed in conjunction with a company known as The VOID, which operated what I can only describe as a chain of Virtual Reality businesses across the US. To play Damage Control, you had to visit a specially designated VOID facility (but only one that announced they would be offering the game), and buy a ticket to play at a scheduled time. If you didn’t live anywhere near a VOID facility (there were only a few in the world) you would never be able to play Damage Control. In a time where literally any game can be obtained and played from home, this is about as ridiculous as it sounds.

When the world lockdown went into effect, facilities such as the VOID had to cease operations. Since you could only play their games at VOID locations, the VOID has no alternate methods of income. Shortly after operations paused, the company no longer had the ability to produce income to cover expenses and their facilities began to close worldwide, preventing people from playing many of their exclusive games, including Avengers: Damage Control.

We never got to play the original game before the facilities ceased operations. So here’s our take on the game, and our plea for it to be released on the Meta Quest platform.

There have been musings the VOID does plan to return but no word has been given as of the time of writing if they plan to resurrect their existing titles or where they will open their new facilities. If there is an update we will write about it.

Lost Media – Geeks in Love January 24, 2023

Posted by Maniac in Lost Media, Site Videos.
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Welcome back to Lost Media where I talk about the Lost Media I’ve come across that nobody else remembers. In the glory days of Flash, a website called Ubergeek.tv produced some unique animations about Linux and Penguins. It shut down years ago, although some of that site’s content has been reuploaded to YouTube.

Sadly, the site’s final film, a ten-minute animation called “Geeks in Love” has not been preserved. It told the story of two young people who fell in love during computings earliest days, and the trials and tribulations of their life together. It was a beautiful short film which seemed like it was based on a true story told years later. I was lucky enough to watch the entire short when it first released, as shortly after its launch the creator put a premium fee to watch the film’s last five minutes. Since the site closed, it has been completely unavailable to rewatch.

Here’s what I remember about it, and my plea to anyone who may have a copy to archive it.