Wednesday, January 30, 2008

Ice Age MMO

The WarCry network recently reported that Fox is working on an Ice Age MMO with a Korean developer. Sound familiar? Gravity, the makers of Ragnarok, are developing the title. Thanks to Rich for the head's up on this one!

What will the game be? Rich and I were joking: mammoths are the tanks, sloths are your healers, skrats are the rogues and sabretooths are the damage-dealers. But will there be cool snow effects? And Ray Romano? Time will tell.

Tuesday, January 29, 2008

Second Skin

Kotaku pings an interesting documentary today called Second Skin, and it actually looks pretty good. The film follows seven MMO players, from their real to virtual experiences and back again. I'll be keeping an eye on this! Link to the film's site above or watch the trailer here.

Friday, January 25, 2008

Amazon Games

So I'm too tragically unhip to know who the Mars Volta is (although I've heard of them), but what's really interesting is that they have an impressive Flash adventure game on Amazon to promote their upcoming album. (It's probably hosted on other sites, but whatever.) I don't have time to play through it b/c I have so much ding-dong diddly work to do, but I can tell just from touching it that the production value is way above average for this kind of thing. Seriously, do people buy CDs anymore? Why make a game to promote one?

Oh, right. Maybe they just made a Mars Volta fan out of me...

The backstory is interesting. One of the band members bought some kind of Ouija board curio thing in Jerusalem and then all these terrible things started happening to him. Then he fed his dog after midnight, and he turned into a gremlin and destroyed the whole town!!

Tuesday, January 22, 2008

MMO Funnies

I know I'm on the outside scoop here, but here's two really clever takes on the MMO/adventure genre. The first is Progress Quest, which is the game that plays itself. It's a massively-single player MMO that runs in the background while you work. You don't have to do anything at all! Your character kills monsters, levels up, collects items until its inventory is full, then goes back to town and sells those items for better items. Repeat ad nauseum! It's a loving send-up of the very grindy game mechanic that MMO players find so charmingly addictive -- bless their hearts.

Currently, my chracater Beebooba has just collected a Benevolent Spangle of Domination from a mind flayer. (I also collected a mind flayer tentacle.) The items and monster body parts are truly inspired. As of this writing, my Panda Man (race) Puma Burglar (Class) is at level 42. I have some great spells as well, such as the Cone of Annoyance and Rabbit Punch.

Meanwhile, there is an HTML adventure game called The Kingdom of Loathing (pictured above) that also contains loving parodies of everything tried-and-true in the fantasy game genre. For example, begin your game by speaking to the wise NPC on the mountaintop (Mt. Noob), and collect dumb items for him while killing bunnies. Don't forget to visit the Hall of the Legends of the Times of Old! This game is funny, and the browser-based presentation is primitive but very clever. My character is a level 1 polka criminal.

Thursday, January 17, 2008

X-Play Reboot

In case you weren't watching G4 this week (likely), you may not be aware that their flagship game review show "X-Play" got a complete reboot, with a new format, new set, new packaging, etc. In general, it seems that the show has improved a great deal. After watching the first three "new" episodes, I wanted to get some thoughts down about it.

But first, let me just say that the general opinion that "G4 SUX" is way too simple-minded. In theory, an entire network devoted to games, girls, gadgets and geeks (are those the four Gs?) sounds like a great idea to me. (Not to mention something pretty attractive to advertisers.) And yet, G4 fails on so many levels, with only two programs -- "X-Play" and "Attack of the Show!" -- having any merit whatsoever. It's terribly disappointing, especially when you consider X-Play's first home was on TechTV, a far superior channel with a lot less pandering going on. (RIP, TechTV.) Now, I started watching "X-Play" when the sun was setting on TechTV, and I've watched it ever since. I like the show. I like Adam. I like Morgan. I think their writers are smart, and I like their turns into sketch comedy and bizarro stories. Truly, when "X-Play" was firing on all cylinders, there was nothing else like it on TV. I had to endure ridicule from fellow gamers when I asserted that "X-Play" was actually pretty good; these arguments generally devolved into the "G4 SUX!" category fairly quickly. Yes, the majority of G4's programming sucks, but like I said, this is a simple-minded opinion. The network's real problem is that it doesn't have an identity. From strange stunt programming like "Star Trek 2.0" to "real" network throwaways like that terrible street racing show -- not to mention the abysmal "Code Monkeys" -- G4 has a long history of throwing shit at the wall, with very little in the way of stickage.

Though "X-Play" and "Attack of the Show!" are surrounded by idiots, that doesn't mean that they are geniuses. There were lots of things wrong with X-Play's old format. The lower third (and often the left and right third) were usually jam-packed with crap and useless chatter...can I please just watch the show? (Sometimes the lower third blocked the review score!) The comedy bits were sometimes self-indulgent ("X-Play Boards" anyone?) and missed just as often as they hit. The graphics packages were pretty bad, and the 22 minutes of actual show had very little in the way of pacing. Not to mention the annoying video viewer mail: "When is Halo 4 gonna come out?" But! Adam and Morgan are both quality hosts, and actually know about the games that they review. (Morgan ain't bad to look at, either.) Some of the comedy bits were incredibly inspired, with sharp writing and charming performances. It was clear thet everyone on the crew was having fun. Who wouldn't like Drunk Link, Screaming Intern, etc? Many of the recurring features were great as well: Games for Cheap Bastards, Spoiler Theater, Kratos, Crazy Adam's, etc. There was a lot to like. I still love the "Fear and Loathing" parody that sent Adam and Morgan out to the desert looking for the buried E.T. carts. Or when Adam went to interview the LARPers in the middle of the woods. And the French Guy. Not to mention the meat of the show -- the reviews -- which were pretty reliable and insightful. (Even though jokes sometimes took the place of an actual review.) On the whole, "X-Play" is a good show, and something I've watched regularly for a long time. So kudos to those guys.

Now the program has a whole new deal. It's not just about reviews. "X-Play" is trying to stay topical with daily news, a tough thing to do in this blog-happy universe. But they seem to be doing a good job, picking the important stuff. There also seems to be a bigger emphasis on previews and interviews with actual developers -- something I'm very happy to see. The graphics have improved a TON...even though the screen still gets jam-packed with junk from time to time. The set has been spruced up (again) and it looks like Adam and Morgan have new wardrobe people. Not everything is good, though. Some VP from Microsoft appeared in the first or second episode to spew a bunch of pointless PR garbage. And the reviews seem to have taken a back seat. But at least they got rid of that annoying Joel Gordine for the Gaming Update.

On the whole, "X-Play" now appears to be an actual SHOW, and not just a bunch of funny dorks having a good time. Which makes the comedy bits feel all the more out of place now. "Quentin Tarantino's Zelda" was hilarious, but it was sort of like the cast of "Whose Line Is It Anyway?" showing up on Wolf Blitzer's set to play improv games. (That "Mass Effect" parody was clever, but took all the air out the show.) Seriously, those dudes are funny and can put together some great bits. Why don't they have their own show? Why do we have to suffer through "comedy" like Code Monkeys?

(Talk about a missed opportunity. Some day I will post the pilot for "My Three Dragons" and explain how 8-bit comedy is done.)

Anyway, I'm not sure why I decided to write this!! I think it's because I feel some kind of kinship with Adam and Morgan or something. I've watched them for a long time! I appreciate what they're trying to do with "X-Play" and it must be frustrating to be part of a broken and directionless network. (Who knows if they are even profitable?) Maybe...I would relish the opportunity to try and "fix" G4? God help me!

At least "X-Play" is still the best thing G4 has got going. Adam and Morgan can get some satisfaction from the fact that they are the King and Queen of the Nerds. If they happen to be reading this, good work and good luck!

Monday, January 14, 2008

IGN Retro

Say what you will about IGN, but the fact that they are officially ten years old is an achievement in today's modern internet world. To celebrate, IGN is doing a number of things on their site, including the launch of a new IGN Retro channel, which gets huge points from gamers like me!

If you're a retro gamer, and you're reading this (cricket), I would love to know what you think of their site.

Tuesday, January 8, 2008

Ten Ton Hamster

The Ten Ton Hammer network has launched Ten Ton Hamster, a site devoted entirely to MMOs and virtual worlds for kids. Check for FusionFall updates here, or join the Webkinz forum...if that's your thing.

Monday, January 7, 2008

CES 2008

Check out the giant wraparound gaming monitor from Alienware. I like the reader comment: "Imagine porn on that beast!"

Seriously, what kind of crazy-ass WOPR computer would you need to run Crysis on that jammy? I guess Alienware makes that, too...

Best of 2008

Over in the UK, Computer and Video Games' PC Gamer lists FusionFall as one of the "Hottest Games of 2008". Sure, there's 110 games on the list, but still -- pretty cool. Blimey!

Friday, January 4, 2008

Excit

Today's featured game on Kongregate is called Excit, and it is awesome! Some very elegant design and clever levels! The early stages are easy, but later levels will really bust your brain, especially if you try to pick up all the bonus "logo" items. The greatest feeling you can get from a puzzle game like this one is the "a-ha!" moment when you realize you've solved the challenge. Excellent!

NYT on Virtual Worlds

Somehow I missed this one...a great article in the NYT about virtual playspaces for kids. I finally tried Webkinz with Aviella over the holidays. The games were still too advanced for her, but she liked all the colors. I picked up some virtual loot with a cool number-guessing game.

Kid MMOverview

Blogger Izzy Neis provides a brief snapshot of the virtual worlds planned for kids of all ages. I like being the Dark Horse.

Thursday, January 3, 2008

Today's Special

GameSetWatch pointed to a nice little blog post about the trend in MMO gaming to make the player feel "special" -- depsite the fact that there is nothing special at all about any given player in most MMOs. I'm not sure where I fall on this issue, but my instinct tells me that the player must be given some reason to feel important in the game...otherwise, why play?

There is a suspension of disbelief that one must have when dealing with current MMO design. For example: I did that quest and saved the world, you also did that quest and saved the world. It's an inconsistency that most players are willing to tolerate. But the next great MMO design will feature elements in which a single player can truly feel "special" and have a significant impact on the world.