Wednesday, December 22, 2010

Revelation Revealed

Hooray! I was getting worried there for a moment, but at long last, the DS remake of Dragon Quest VI gets a release date: February 14, 2011. Officially titled Dragon Quest VI: Realms of Revelation, I stumbled on the Amazon page earlier today and my heart almost skipped a beat. So corny. But honestly, it's been forever since we've heard a peep about this game, and I figured that North America would never see it released. Glad to be wrong! I mean, even the official site hasn't been updated in years. So psyched!

I am still playing Dragon Quest IX. I am stuck on the "Dreadmaster" boss battle. Even though I have slowly warmed up to the graphics, I honestly enjoyed the DQ IV and DQ V remakes SO MUCH MORE than Dragon Quest IX. It's a disappointment. I mean, all the DQ ingredients are there, but it feels so by-the-numbers. Town, talk to NPCs, dungeon, level up, boss battle, new town, repeat. It is missing whatever that special "DQ magic" is. Perhaps the characters just aren't as charming as in previous iterations? Or maybe it is more fun as a multiplayer game? Dunno. But I am super excited for the final chapter in the Zenithia saga, and I would really like to finish Dragon Quest IX before it comes out.

Tuesday, December 21, 2010

Tell Me Another Story

Earlier this month, Nexon launched a huge update to their massively popular free-to-play massively multiplayer game, MapleStory. Entitled "The Big Bang", this is not merely a content update, but a total redesign of many of the game's core systems, including class/skill balancing, removal of underused features, and -- WAIT FOR IT -- a totally new experience curve. From a developer standpoint, that is a TON of work.

Well, let me tell you, I was hooked on MapleStory a few years ago. I know a lot of people over the age of 16 don't get it, but man, the game just GOT ME. That is, until about level 20-something, when THE GRIND set in. Talk about "grind" -- the entire game basically ground to a halt. Not to mention the fact that I had not specced my Warrior correctly (his DEX was too low), making the solo game very frustrating. And running through the same areas over and over and OVER again fighting the same mobs over and over and OVER again...seriously, what's the point? And so, goodbye, MapleStory.

But I am intrigued by this "reboot" if you will, and so I am downloading the new client as I type. Since DCUO has been given a release date and I cannot justify actually paying for it once the beta is over (no time), trying out this new version of MapleStory with a new character might be just the ticket for scratching the MMO itch.

Thursday, December 9, 2010

Another Look at Uwe Boll

Look, I never said that Uwe Boll is a genius or anything, but I feel that he too quickly became an Internet punchline before all of the supporting evidence was considered. (And, yes, I did watch Far Cry.) To call him the "worst director of all time" is, frankly, giving him too much credit. He just makes B-pictures.

I'm not going to say "I told you so," but at least someone at Kotaku has finally realized that Boll is not JUST a bad filmmaker. He's a bad filmmaker that GETS SHIT DONE.

Tuesday, December 7, 2010

Okabu

Cute Japanese* game alert! I have my sights set on Okabu, an upcoming PS3 game from the makers of Rolando. Maybe this one (along with 3D Dot Game Heroes and Ni No Kuni) will FINALLY get me to put a PS3 on my shelf?

Check out a trailer on developer Hand Circus' official site, which has a little more info on the game. It looks gorgeous!

*The developers are based in London. Who knew?

Thursday, December 2, 2010

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Tuesday, November 2, 2010

DirecTV Drops G4

This is a toughie. As of November 1, DirecTV is no longer carrying G4. Citing the need to preserve "programming that is more relevant to our larger customer base" (ouch), DirecTV decided to pull the plug, leaving its ~18M subscribers without "Attack of the Show" and "X-Play" and..."Campus Cops". That's gotta hurt, considering how much that network has struggled since its inception. As a G4 viewer (and DirecTV subscriber), I'm disappointed, but honestly, ever since I picked up an iPod Touch, I've mostly watched X-Play via the clips on their mobile app. You can read G4's response to DirecTV's decision here.

It's a shame, but ultimately, G4 has had plenty of time to make a case for its existence. The mostly-male, mostly-young game-buying public has LOTS of disposable income to spread around, so it is really astonishing that G4 could never seem to get traction with its target audience. I guess G4 is still available with plenty of other carriers (how many?), but DirecTV's actions clearly doesn't bode well for the longevity of the network. If only they were listening back in January of 2008, they might have avoided this mess.

Thursday, October 28, 2010

DCUOh My!



So I got into the DC Universe Online beta, and while I cannot technically comment on the game itself, I suppose I can reference stuff that is already publicly available. The cinematic opening, which debuted earlier this year at San Diego Comic-Con, was brand-new to me. Let's just say it was a lot more...intense...than I was expecting. I mean, it was GREAT. Better than I had been led to believe. But, man oh man, when Lex Luthor impales Superman with a kryponite-tipped spear, I could just hear all the parents ushering their preteens out of the room. This game is clearly trying to crib from the WoW crowd. Obviously, the opening cinematic does not reflect actual gameplay but rather attempts to set a tone, as all good opening cinemas should. SoE has achieved this goal, no question.

However, the game was a 15.5G download. Are they KIDDING?!?

Wednesday, October 27, 2010

Blue Screen?

You know, I'm not a Microsoft hater...I've been a Windows user pretty much my whole life. (My first Apple IIe and my brief affair with a Mac Classic notwithstanding. Hey, it was college...I was experimenting.) Sure, I like Apple products just fine and there are many things about Microsoft applications that I dislike. But overall, I am an equal opportunity technophile with not much allegiance to one platform over the other. And I love my Xbox 360, red ring and all.

Which is why it didn't even really occur to me that Microsoft might be in real trouble. The Microsoft brand has pretty much been synonymous with computers for the last quarter century, but Google (not to mention Apple) is trying really hard to change that. (Did I mention that I like Google, too?) The CNN piece linked here put a new perspective on the whole thing for me, and shines a pretty harsh light on Microsoft's prospects. From where I am sitting, I think the next 5 years or so will bring a dramatic shift in the technology landscape...not to mention changes to traditional linear platforms like television and publishing, changes that are happening pretty much on a weekly basis now. Should be fun to watch!

EDIT: Do you think the folks at CNN were TRYING to find an unflattering picture of Steve Ballmer? Maybe he just looks like a mummy in honor of Halloween.

Tuesday, October 26, 2010

Multi-User Lecture

Richard Bartle, the guy who quite literally wrote the book on MMO game design, provided one of the most memorable lectures at the recent GDC Online conference in Austin. Unfortunately, Bartle was scheduled to speak at 9:30 am on a Friday, coincidentally the morning after a party that featured Playboy bunnies. Needless to say, he did not get the crowd he deserved, although the room was pretty full by the end. If you have any interest at all whatsoever in game design or MMO design, you NEED to watch Bartle's presentation, which is thankfully available to watch for free at the GDC Vault right now. Hopefully, they won't put it behind a subscription wall, because it deserves to be seen by as many people as possible.

My favorite anecdote was when Bartle, who teaches at Essex University, discussed talking to students who want to be game designers. "Why do you want to be a game designer?" he would ask them. The answer, quite naturally, was because they love games. "Well, you love beer, don't you?" he would reply. "Do you also want to be a brewer?" Bartle's point: design games because you like DESIGNING games...in addition to playing them!

Thursday, October 21, 2010

Gamma World?!?

Out of nowhere, TSR -- I mean, Wizards of the Coast -- does something ZANY and releases a new edition of Gamma World for a bunch of really happy D&D nerds who prefer rayguns to Vorpal blades. I have fond, fond memories of Gamma World, a game that had captivating game materials inside its weird box (pictured), entertaining me for hours as a pre-teen. I think I only played the game but once, and it involved a memorable scenario in which our party entered a very small room barely larger than a closet, only to find ourselves trapped. Once we managed to extract ourselves from the room, we exited to discover that we were in an entirely new location. "What manner of magic or technology is this?!?" we asked ourselves. "Could it be a teleporter? A small spacecraft? WHAT?!?"

It was an elevator. And that's why Gamma World was awesome.

Tuesday, September 21, 2010

A Disturbance in the Force

Really, guys? I just went to check out the new Clone Wars Adventures F2P MMO from Sony Online, and the screenshot that you see here is the one that I got when I went to create a new account. Granted, the site said that my current browser was not optimal for the Clone Wars Adventures experience, and suggested that I upgrade to Internet Explorer 8. Thing is, I am ALREADY RUNNING IE 8. This does not bode well.

UPDATE: Had similar breakage when I tried logging in from Chrome, but on a different step. Ultimately, I went back to IE and got it to work. Then I remembered that I have a Station ID (Sony global login), so I started over. I have to say, the experience so far screams either RUSHED or LOW-RENT. (Just check out the image here. Would it have killed you guys to do some copyediting??? Pet peeve.) I know that this product has not been in development nearly as long as something like, say, Free Realms, but the slapdash approach is really inexcusable for a marquee property like Clone Wars. I know, I know, I know...kids don't give a shit. But their parents do! (And industry people do.) Also: though it is obvious that Sony wants players to upgrade to a premium version of the game, the character creation choices are kinda underwhelming. There are about three character models with maybe three palette choices for each. Not very most impressive, young Skywalker.

Well, on to the game...

Tuesday, September 7, 2010

The Room: The Game

Oh hi, Newgrounds! Someone made an old-school adventure game based on the hilarious-horrible movie, The Room! And who says games based on movies are terrible? This one is inspired. Thanks to Joystiq for blogging this.

How is your sex life?

EDIT: I played through the whole thing. Not only is the game surprisingly long, incorporating the entire plot of the film, but the ending is incredible and a MUST SEE!

Wednesday, September 1, 2010

Borderlands GOTY Announced

Finally! I read on Joystiq that Gearbox has announced the Borderlands Game of the Year Edition, which will include all three DLC packs and a code for the upcoming one. I loved playing this one on PC, and I am actually excited to play through it again on console and try out the DLC. Great game! Amazon has not yet posted the item, but my wish list is at the ready. Comes out October 12.

Monday, August 23, 2010

Iron Maiden Game

Nothing says "METAL" quite like a dinky Flash game in which you fly a spaceship around shooting guys and picking up cargo. Yes, Iron Maiden has released a Flash game to support their (quite excellent) new album, The Final Frontier. If you want to play the second level of the game, you will have to purchase the "Mission Edition" CD.

Awesome comic book cut-scenes aside, this game makes their 1999 Doom clone shooter Ed Hunter look like a certified masterpiece. I need to dig that thing up...

Monday, August 16, 2010

Talking Heads

GDC Online (formerly the Austin GDC) is just around the corner, and I'm getting stoked. I really, really like this conference. Small enough that the sessions remain intimate (and most of the mainstream press pretty much stays away), large enough to make for excellent networking and (gasp) valuable learning. I have attended for many years, and I ALWAYS walk away with choice nuggets of worthwhile information. At the very least, I walk away with a mild hangover and the lingering disappointment of the Congress Ave Bridge. Austin rocks!



Go for the bats, stay for the Game Narrative Summit. They let just about anyone through the door.

Buyer Beware

Those of you with Blizzard/Battle.net accounts, beware: you may be targeted for this phishing scam, which looks surprisingly believable. (The scammers even include Blizzard's legit customer service number.) I got the email today, but it has apparently been circulating for about a week or so. The tipoff? I apparently purchased Starcraft II using my "Vista" card.

Wednesday, August 11, 2010

Halo 2600

Holy crap. Run, don't walk, to Atari Age right now to download the Atari 2600 version of Halo! Yes, this is real, and no, Microsoft didn't make it. But it is surprisingly fun, and you can actually tell the difference between a Brute and an Elite. Big ups to the guys who made this one.

PS - It has 64 SCREENS!

The New Yorker on Videogames

Man, I wish more mainstream magazines wrote shit like this. Leave it to the New Yorker to offer a thoughtful and entertaining piece on modern games from a writer who, admittedly, has barely picked up a controller in his adult life. What's great about this article is that it offers a very honest perspective on gaming from an adult, intelligent male who can actually form sentences without typos and leetspeak. (Granted, the NYer has a legendary editorial staff.) This is a rare opportunity to read about games from the point-of-view of someone who does not eat/sleep/breathe games, or, quite possibly, does not even know what the acronyms FPS or FTW stand for.

Point is, if you are a gamer like me, and you immerse yourself in "enthusiast" publications and the blogosphere, you tend to forget that the majority of the audience probably only buys a handful of games a year, and they are usually the blockbusters like the ones discussed in this article: Halo ODST, Uncharted 2, Modern Warfare 2, Assassin's Creed 2, Bayonetta, Heavy Rain, Red Dead Redemption, God of War III. And, irony of ironies, I have not played ANY OF THOSE GAMES. And I only WISH TO PLAY about half of them. Which says a lot about how I choose to consume this medium and how the majority of players choose to consume it.

Anyway, it was a great read, and offers plenty of tidbits that many gamers take for granted. For example, the writer (Nicholson Baker) dwells on the death sequence of a character in Call of Duty...how the player-character begins to gasp as his health dwindles, then louder, with blood spots appearing on the screen...these are tropes that ardent players frequently take as a given. We forget how disturbing these small details seem to the uninitiated.

On a related note, I am listening to the audio edition of Tom Bissell's "Extra Lives" -- the NY Times review of which can be found here. One of the chapters, "The Grammar of Fun", sounded quite familiar to me, and then I realized I head read it previously in the New Yorker. Mr. Bissell is clearly more of a gamer than Mr. Baker, but nevertheless, "Extra Lives" also offers some excellent commentary from the layman about videogames. (Especially when Bissell goes to the DICE Summit and starts talking with developers.) Book get!

Now we just need a point-counterpoint piece from Calvin Trillin and Joyce Carol Oates about the existential themes of Bulletstorm.

A Couple of Thoughts on a Couple of Games

In preparation for my recent summer vacation, I was super-duper excited to pick up Dragon Quest IX: Sentinel of the Starry Skies for the DS. After Dragon Quest VIII sparked my interest in the series (and also became one of my favorite games of all-time), the idea of the next "proper" entry in the franchise had me salivating. Of course, the game came out in Japan almost a year ago, and Square Enix took their time giving the title a proper localization for the Western hemisphere. To tide us over, we had the DS remakes of DQ IV and DQ V, both of which were awesome and enthusiastically consumed by Yours Truly. (I even wrote about them here.) I am really hoping Dragon Quest VI: Realms of Reverie gets a North American release; if not, it will be the first game I import from Japan since that Shonen Jump DS fighting game.

Interestingly, DQ IX has been published in the States by Nintendo, not Square-Enix. As a result, the game has received the assistance of Nintendo's marketing machine, and I really hope it pays off. (For selfish reasons, of course: if kids buy this game, maybe we'll see more like them in the future!) Having spent 6-8 hours with the game, I can happily report that it is very Dragon Quest, and very, VERY fun. There have been some nice additions to the formula, including a deeper skill system and a more robust character creator. (Although, the level of customization that is promised in the unfunny Seth Green commercial oversells it a bit.) However, I have to level a significant critcism about the game, and that is related to its graphics.

They are shitty.

I'm sorry; I don't know another way to say it. Normally I do not get too preoccupied with a game's graphics, however, previous Dragon Quest games have set the bar pretty high. In DQ IX, The 3D character models look okay when zoomed in up close in the character creator, but when moving around the game proper, they look grainy and compressed. When running through a town with a full party, the game often chugs. And in battle, the animations are awesome, but the characters look blurry. Toriyama's monsters, which often sport the best character designs in a DQ game, sometimes look like messy blobs of color. When I play the game, I squint my eyes, hoping it isn't true. But it is. Even the world environments are drab and mushy. Two final things to say on this matter: 1. I have skimmed the reviews, and no one seems to mention this complaint, which I find surprising in this world of graphics whores. 2. The game would have looked better in the 2.5D of the DS remakes. Just sayin'.

Nevertheless, my enjoyment of the game is not really diminished overall because of the graphics. There is so much to do, and the level of challenge makes exploring a pleasure. However, don't be fooled by the "no random encounters" claim...monsters will descend upon you even if you try to run around them, so it's not like exploring dungeons becomes trouble-free. With my limited time with the game, I feel like I have barely scratched the surface. (Hell, it took me 2 or 3 sittings to get through the INTRO of the game.) I've got alchemy pots, monster collecting, and who-knows-what-else to look forward to! Let's hope for an equally amazing DQ X on the Wii.

In related news, I picked up Henry Hatsworth in the Puzzling Adventure on Amazon for $10. As you may have heard, this game ROCKS. I love it for many reasons:

1. Genre mash-up. (Platformer plus puzzler.) Great idea and makes for a frantic pace.
2. Platform-specific. The game was designed for the DS. I suppose you could switch between the platforming and the puzzling on a single screen...but it wouldn't be the same. iPhone remake?
3. Polish. EA poured a lot of love into this game. The graphics, the menus, the sound, music and overall presentation are all fantastic. And funny! (Well, maybe more "clever" than "funny".) You can even get the entire soundtrack on the official site. Seriously, "hats off" (pun intended) to the team that developed this gem!

Unfortunately, I don't think the game performed very well despite the positive reviews, so a sequel may not happen. And another note: I am only about 25-30% through the game, but from what I understand (from reviews like this one), the game becomes miserably difficult later on. This is unfortunate. I hope I don't have to put down an otherwise fantastic game because it becomes too frustrating to play.

Jolly good show, Nintendo DS!

Friday, July 23, 2010

New 3D Pac-Man Cartoon

Well, this looks really terrible.

Wednesday, July 21, 2010

Guitar Hero: Warriors of Rush



In my humble opinion, this awesome new trailer/sizzle piece captures EXACTLY why I like the Guitar Hero franchise 100 times more than the Rock Band franchise. Even though I think the new "pro" Rock Band instruments are totally neat-o and impressive, I don't want to play them. And I don't want to play Elton John and Foreigner. I want to play Warriors of Rock. And so does the 14-year-old inside me. Very excited by the GH creative approach here.

Monday, July 19, 2010

Mega Man Universe



As far as trailers go, this one doesn't tell you much about the upcoming MMO (really?) Mega Man Universe. However, as far as two minutes of moving pictures and sounds go, it's pretty ding-dong amazing. I wonder if that's authentic nerdy-rockers doing the soundtrack? The Minibosses? And how about the stop-motion animation? This whole thing just rocks. Too bad we have no idea what the game is like.

Thursday, June 24, 2010

Ni no Kuni ("The Another World") Trailer



Okay, I might buy a PS3 for this.

Tuesday, June 22, 2010

Great Deal: Blur for $10!

Everyone loves a good deal, and this one put me in a fine mood. Big ups to CAG for posting this! Blur is on sale at Best Buy this week for $39.99. Use this manufacturer's coupon to knock another $20 off the price, and combine it with a Best Buy Reward Zone coupon for another $10 savings. Fantastico! Note that this deal is only good in-store. And you might want to hurry, because I bought the next-to-last copy in the store that I visited.

Speaking of, wanted to grab Alan Wake as well, which is also on sale this week, but they were sold out. ("Sold out" -- what a 20th Century term!) Fortunately, the $39.99 price is also available online. Vrooom!

Thursday, June 17, 2010

Kriby's Epic Yarn

Among the many cool things Nintendo revealed at E3, Kirby's Epic Yarn is one of my favorites. I am not the biggest Kirby fan in the world, but the game's incredible art direction nearly demands a purchase on looks alone. Nintendo gets mad props for their E3 presentation, which treaded familiar ground (as usual) but also offered some neat surprises. And not a space marine in sight.

On the other hand, Microsoft had a strong showing but spent way too much time on their extremely underwhelming (and derivative) Kinect software. The only thing that really has me interested is the "Your Shape" fitness game from Ubisoft, which seems to do some very cool things with the skeletal/body recognition capabilities of the Kinect device. Sony sort of landed between the two, in my opinion, with an entertaining (but way too long) presentation that focused heavily on 3D gaming. Seriously, Killzone 3 looks (graphically) fucking unbelievable. And the Move stuff appears to be a lot more creative and interesting that the Kinect games. Though Kinect seems to be more of a technical marvel than Move, Sony's conference proves that it's really all about the software.

So if I had to rank the "big three" presentations at E3, I would give the crown to Nintendo, followed by Sony and then by Microsoft.

Wednesday, June 16, 2010

The REAL Kinect Premiere

Writer John Young from Entertainment Weekly writes an engaging piece about Microsoft's "coming out" party for the Kinect motion device, held earlier this week at the Electronics Entertainment Expo in Los Angeles. I don't know what party Mr. Young attended, but I was there and my experience was completely different. Here are the highlights:

- Upon arrival outside the Galen Center, I couldn't help but notice the long line of attendees stretching around the venue. Fortunately, Microsoft had their guests' comfort in mind. Spokesmodels clothed in metallic bikinis were zipping back-and-forth on Segways, providing each guest with a miniature green beanbag chair in the shape of the Xbox 360 logo.

- Nestled just a few hundred yards from the front doors, I found myself seated between two professional bloggers from Ohio. We chatted casually about journalistic integrity and whether or not games are truly "art". Before I could make an auteur argument, my beanbag chair began to flash like a beacon and a seven-foot Samoan dragging a rickshaw suddenly appeared at my side.

- Apparently, it was my turn to enter the venue. The Samoan gestured to the rickshaw, and I happily climbed aboard. Inside the cabin, there was a beveled cavity on the floor in which I was directed to place the beanbag. Hanging from the ceiling of the cabin, I found a pair of Bluetooth-enabled wireless headphones. As I settled into my beanbag and slipped the headset on my head, the rickshaw lurched forward at a surprising clip.

- There was a personalized message from Sting playing on a loop in the headphones. He invited me to "prepare for the next step in human transcendence."

- The rickshaw deposited me in a large vestibule outside the arena proper. The floor was dotted with small inflatable pools, all glowing green, which were filled with bioluminescent plankton, also glowing green. I stepped out of the rickshaw. My driver removed the beanbag from the cabin and quietly deposited it into one of the bioluminescent pools. The beanbag, either water-soluble or appetizing to plankton, immediately began to dissolve.

- As the rickshaw retreated from view, a woman in a kimono appeared. She silently handed me a glass of green tea and gestured that I remove my shoes. She placed my shoes in a Lucite cube and gave me a pair of sunglasses, which I had to awkwardly place over my regular glasses. She also handed me an inflatable guitar, like the ones we handed out at my Bar Mitzvah. Fortunately, it had a strap, because I almost spilled my tea! That would have been embarrassing.

- The Samoan returned, and a bewildered Geoff Kieghley (Spike TV) descended from the rickshaw behind me. Time to get moving, I guess. Two members of the Blue Man Group emerged from the shadows. One hoisted me onto his shoulders while the other took my green tea and handed me a cocktail. We proceeded to enter the arena.

- Throbbing techno beats immediately assaulted my ears. The music appeared to be coming from all around me. I could feel the bass pulsating against my torso. Then I realized that the music was actually coming from lightweight speakers embedded inside the inflatable guitars that each guest was carrying! (On the topic of guests, there were probably a couple of thousand people at the event.) I noticed that everyone's sunglasses were glowing a different color.

- Not sure what the cocktail was that I was drinking, but I was definitely getting a nice little buzz.

- The Blue Man put me down in a small crowd of guys, all wearing sunglasses that were glowing violet. (I suppose I was a member of the violet group.) Now, I say "guys" because nearly everyone in attendance was male. Some of them, by the way, were very sweaty and possibly on their third cocktail. I would have introduced myself, but the inflatable-guitar music was simply too loud.

- The center of the arena was outfitted with a huge stage that was slowly rotating a full 360 degrees. It was fashioned to look like a giant Merry-Go-Round, but I noticed that the carousel animals were actually alive! I identified elephants, camels, rhinos and narwhals, each emblazoned with a different color of phosphorescent paint. The sides of the animals were decorated with Egyptian hieroglyphics. I only found out later that the symbols spelled out, "Get ready for breathlessness."

- Actors and actresses dressed like members of the typical American family were riding the animals. The carousel began to speed up. The actors began to look concerned. The music from the inflatable guitars was getting louder, more chaotic. Faster and faster. Everyone's sunglasses were flashing in time to the beat. The music reached a crescendo. I started to wonder when they were going to serve food, because I had skipped lunch.

- Suddenly, a huge pyrotechnic explosion in the center of the arena! The inflatable guitars burst in unison. The people riding the Merry-Go-Round suddenly flew up into the rafters -- they were wearing harnesses! I hadn't even noticed. The animals descended beneath the arena and a huge four-story ice sculpture in the shape of a human hand rose up from below the stage. Smoke was everywhere. I needed a bathroom.

- A booming voice declared, "Man's most important resource. His hands. Forging everything from the earliest tools to the tallest skyscrapers. But in the future, even this most versatile instrument will be unnecessary."

- Dozens of half-naked children, dressed like angels, descended from the ceiling holding an enormous LCD screen. A knight on horseback dashed toward the stage, holding a lance that was on fire. He struck the screen, and the word "KINECT" appeared, spelled out in flames! It was truly amazing. The ice sculpture of the hand began to melt as a result of the heat, which I could feel against my face. The knight galloped out of sight.

- Microsoft had delivered their message with pinpoint accuracy. Clearly, this new Kinect device was going to revolutionize gaming. And it would not require a controller. Or hands.

- As the fires were extinguished, the LCD (which must have been fire-resistant) displayed an image of the crowd. Our sunglasses were flashing like mad. And then, the sunglasses lit up in a pattern, spelling out Kinect's launch date and price point -- which unfortunately, I cannot publish here due to embargo.

- With that, Microsoft SVP Don Mattrick (awkward as ever) took the stage to introduce Sting, who immediately launched into "Walking on the Moon" while the angel children, now dressed as astronauts, floated above.

- I found out later that Sting played two 45-minute sets. But I went back to the hotel to take a dump. I discovered my shoes waiting for me on the bed. The Lucite cube was mine to keep.

Thursday, June 10, 2010

Cool Game Alert: Eversion

Just picked up indie game Eversion on Steam for $4.49, pretty much on sight alone. I mean, look at those funky-fresh retro graphics! The trailer describes the game as "a razor in an apple" -- a lovely description that seems to be apt. The summery, happy designs mask a darker side lurking below the surface. The basic mechanic appears to be that you can flip-flop the 2D world to make certain impassable objects passable, bring platforms from the background to the foreground, etc. However, by level 2 there appears something more sinister going on...details forthcoming!

Terrible title, by the way. But totally fun so far.

Friday, June 4, 2010

Great Blur Ad



I have passing interest in both Blur and Split/Second, but then I saw this ad. And then I put Blur on my Amazon wish list.

Wednesday, May 26, 2010

The Human Atari Centipede

If you don't have the nerve (or the stomach) to see The Human Centipede, you are in luck! In a brilliant example of I-can't-believe-I-didn't-think-of-this-first, someone on Newgrounds has posted Human Centipede, the Game. As you might expect, the game is a reskin of the classic Atari Centipede arcade game, but the titular bug has been replaced with human beings sewn together ass-to-mouth. The spider is a cop. Not sure what the flea is. Maybe a bucket of vomit? Well done, guy who did this!

Wednesday, May 19, 2010

A Game Appears!

Cool! Dragon Quest IX gets a North American release date: July 11, 2010. No word on the DQ VI DS remake, though.

Monday, May 17, 2010

Touch Me

Hooray! I have emerged in the year 2007 with a brand-new iPod Touch. And my wife got one, too! Excited to see what all the fuss is about. So far, I really dig the platform. Apple might be onto something here.

Tuesday, May 4, 2010

Thank You, Sir, May I Have Another?

Jinkies, but am I getting pumped for Fallout: New Vegas. Details have been slowly revealing themselves over the last week or so, and Kotaku has a pretty in-depth preview that makes the game sound solid. In other words, New Vegas will keep what was awesome about Fallout 3 and add refinements and slight improvements to the formula. Sounds good to me, wastelander!

EDIT: Joystiq posted their impressions, too!

Wednesday, April 28, 2010

Stolen iPhone Thoughts

I just have to make a quick comment on this whole Gizmodo/iPhone thing, because it has been bugging me. First of all, I don't own an iPhone, and I really don't give a shit about the new iPhone, other than I like to know what is going on with technology. In fact, even though I love my iPod, I find "Apple-mania" to be rather sickening and the gushing over the iPad to be borderline stupid. (Even though I think the iPad is pretty neat.) So I just want to frame these comments properly. Forget the "found or stolen" debate and the "attempts" to return the device, and ignore Gizmodo's seemingly obnoxious and rather flip attitude about the whole thing. Consider their "supreme dick move" for a moment, which was to publish the name of the guy who allegedly lost the prototype phone in the bar.

For the record, I purposefully did not seek out this guy's name or follow any of the blog posts about his identity. However, I have to disagree with the people who find this person to be tangential -- or irrelevant -- to the main story. Sure, his "name, photographs, and personal information" are irrelevant, as the Daring Fireball blogger (above) points out. However, his role is most certainly NOT irrelevant, considering it was his act of "losing" the phone that created the story in the first place. I mean, we can ASSUME that leaving the phone in the bar was a mistake, but in this day and age, isn't it plausible that the whole thing was a marketing set up? I mean, here I am, a guy who doesn't really care about the next iPhone, blogging about the next iPhone.

Okay, the "marketing ploy" suggestion is far-fetched. But back to the guy who lost the phone. I don't want to know his name, or his address, or what he looks like. But I certainly would like to know what his role is at Apple. This is RELEVANT. Is he a junior staffer? Is he a director or senior engineer? A consultant or vendor? Is he a CTO? For that matter, was he a CTO's kid who pilfered the phone from daddy's briefcase to show his frat buddies? I guess he wasn't, but it is certainly possible, and knowing more about the guy will shed light on the story. Was he well-respected in his department? Was he a problem employee? Did he sneak the phone out of the office? All interesting things to consider.

And point of fact: Gizmodo clearly doesn't give a shit about any of those questions. That's the kind of thing they teach you in journalism school, right? Work that requires actual effort! Gizmodo wants to get page views, plain and simple, and they will open their checkbook to do so. And like the majority of douchebags and "journalists" on the Internet, they want to start little fires and get as many people as they can to show up, scruples be damned. I think it's offensive and lame, and I hope Apple's army of lawyers descend upon Gawker Media while "Ride of the Valkyries" plays from on high.

Friday, April 16, 2010

FusionFall Goes F2P

Oh, and in case you missed it, FusionFall goes free-to-play next week! Get yourself a character and work your way to level 4 this weekend!

Madballs in Babo: Invasion Goes on Sale

One of the weirder licensed titles to show up in recent memory is the XBLA/downloadable game, Madballs in Babo: Invasion. I played the demo of this pretty fun arcade shooter on XBLA, but never did get the full version. Well, this weekend it should be on Steam for $2.50, so there's no excuse not to pick it up. It looks like there are a whole bunch of add-ons for it, as well, and I think they are on sale, too.

The Madballs license is an especially random feature of this game. I have a sneaking suspicion that the developers were sitting around going, "Gee, what kind of license can we slap on our sphere-shooting game? One that we can afford, of course? Orange Growers of America? Hamster Ball Manufacturers, Inc.? MacManus Globe Company?" (Sound of gears turning in the conf. room.) "Oh, how about that crappy Madballs license from the 80s? I hear they are putting those out again!"

It's a bingo.

Tuesday, April 13, 2010

Claptrap Action Figures OTW

I am seriously having a love affair with Borderlands right now. I don't consider myself the biggest FPS fan, but on the other hand, I really love fast, run-and-gun type shooters. (No tactics for me, thanks.) I also prefer shooting aliens/monsters/goons with lightning/plasma/ray guns (as opposed to actual human beings with M-16s), and Borderlands has everything I love. In spades. Not to mention the fantastic visuals. Seriously, I don't think the reviews even did it justice. I also love me some good old-fashioned loot porn, and B-Lands has that, too. If Borderlands 2 introduces some kind of enchanting system, it will be AMAZING.

The story of the game, paper-thin as it is, is actually pretty well-written. The dialogue is also sharp. (Pay attention to the chatter from the enemies during a firefight.) Some truly clever stuff is often heard from Claptrap, the cute little robotic mascot dudes. And later this year, you will be able to buy your very own Claptrap action figure! How exciting is that? Figures.com has the scoop.

Now if you will excuse me, I have to go shoot a midget psycho in the face with a flaming shotgun.

Wednesday, March 31, 2010

Peter Parker, the WTF Spider-Man

Seriously, Activision? This is the new trailer for the upcoming Spider-Man game, Shattered Dimensions, and it looks truly awful.



As if "parallel dimension" Spider-Men isn't bad enough, one of them is basically Batman. Hey, there was already a very successful Batman game, maybe you heard about it? Sheesh! Tip for creatives: try to leverage the things that make your STARRING CHARACTER popular, not what makes other characters popular. Infuriating.

Whatever happened to Spider-Man webbing-up crooks and busting bank robbers? On a positive note, Kraven the Hunter shows up.

Thursday, March 25, 2010

Hilarious Tidbit

I was accepeted into the LEGO Universe closed beta, but as of this writing I have been unable to log into the game. Still having problems. Scanning the beta tester message boards, I found a thread in which someone was complaining about the chat dictionary. And a request from one user was as follows:
BTW do you think you could add "qapla" to the dictionary? Yes, it's isn't a real English word, it's Klingon for success.
Amazing.

Thursday, March 18, 2010

Robot Unicorn Attack T

Robot Unicorn Attack is a hit, and now it has the T-shirt to prove it. What will they think of next?

Friday, March 12, 2010

Development Quest

I am replaying Titan Quest, an excellent Diabloesque dungeon crawl, and I'm still amazed by its high level of quality. Even though it came out four years ago, the game still looks great (creature designs, water effects) and plays great (despite some performance hiccups). Seriously, it's an awesome game. And I was reminded of the fact that Iron Lore, the developer that made Titan Quest, shut down a couple of years ago. I find this simply baffling. Apparently, I'm not the only one, because after a quick search I found some background info on the ol' Internet.

The Escapist posted a short blurb about the studio closure after it happened, and also links to an enlightening post on the Quarter to Three forums from one of the Iron Lore leads. It sounds like piracy, among other contributing causes, was a key factor in the studio's demise. (And I have some thoughts on that issue, you know.) It's absolutely frustrating, not to mention a little sad, that talented devs like Iron Lore cannot succeed in today's marketplace. On the other hand, who knows what really went down? Perhaps gross mismanagement was to blame, or some random circumstances, or just bad luck. Regardless, it sucks. Because Titan Quest is a really fun game. The End.

Wednesday, March 3, 2010

New Metroid Trailer!

Samus Aran now has a voice! Can Link be far behind?



Sidebar: seriously? This is supposed to make we want to play a new METROID game? To clarify: this is a Metroid game, we're talking about, right? The ones with all the "shooty, shooty" and action-packed puzzle stuff? And the aliens? And space pirates? Not a sci-fi teen drama or something? Oh dear me...

Tuesday, March 2, 2010

War? What's It Good For?

I'm not interested in military shooters. I'm just not. Especially realistic ones. (Shooting aliens and monsters is fine by me.) That's why I'm kind of shocked that I'm totally intrigued by Spec Ops: The Line from Take-Two/2K. It appears to be a pretty standard third-person affair -- I mean, even the title is as generic as it comes. But the story is pulled straight from fantasyland, in which Dubai has been rocked by a series of devastating sandstorms. As a result, the city is flooded with sand, and apparently it directly affects gameplay. The sand reacts to the game physics, enabling you to bury your enemies or create cover. I think it's quite creative and interesting!

Which is why I am so shocked that the marketing seems to completely ignore this very cool feature. As I mentioned already, let's start with the title of the game: Spec Ops. This was really the best they could come up with? "Spec Ops: The Line" sounds like a budget military shooter. What about "Spec Ops: Sandstorm" or "Spec Ops: Trial By Sand" or SOMETHING evocactive? A missed opportunity. Not to mention the trailer, which depicts the bizarre Dubai setting with no further explanation. It really boggles the mind. This game obviously has a nice differentiator to help make it pop in a very crowded marketplace, or I wouldn't even be writing this. Why isn't the publisher taking advantage? I'll be interested to see how the game performs when it is released.

Thursday, February 25, 2010

No, No...I Meant the Other M

Wow. Joystiq has posted its impressions of a 45-minute (hands-on) demo of Other M, and I have to say...I AM PSYCHED! Sounds like the game is going to be a good one, though I am a bit surprised that it only uses the Wiimote for control. Is this an attempt to be more "accessible"? Haven't a clue, but the guy who wrote the blog entry clearly walked away impressed.

Speaking of impressed, a lot of news has come out of Nintendo's recent media summit this week, including release dates. Other M comes out June 27, but Cave Story comes out on WiiWare on March 22! Hooray! We also have Dragon Quest IX finally getting a "summer" release window...which is better than nothing.

Now don't hate me, but can I just remain completely indifferent about Super Mario Galaxy 2, which comes out on May 23? I know the first one was awesome. I know, I know, I know. But I never finished it. I got bored. Nintendo has a habit of doing this to me. Phantom Hourglass? Bored. Spirit Tracks? Bored. They keep putting out the same games, and there are simply TOO MANY TO PLAY. So I probably won't get SMG2. But Joystiq has their impressions here. Sure looks purty.

Thursday, February 18, 2010

Bum Fights, the Game

So I am all for entertainment that walks the line between "good" and "bad" taste, but Bumrise ("Europe's most popular onlinegame [sic]") kinda makes my stomach turn. In this browser MMO, you play as a homeless person, collecting bottles and getting into fights. It's actually kind of clever when you think about it, but the game's worst offense appears to be that it isn't very clever at all. Or, more to the point, isn't very smart. From the site description: "In contrast to other on line games, Bumrise takes an actual social them [sic] as the foundation of the game, combining it with satirical content and humor." Yeah, hilarious. Can you sleep in graveyards to regain health? Or dig through the dumpster behind Dunkin Donuts? Because that might actually be funny. This, on the other hand, is just...I don't know...sad.

(Kind of like the feeling I get when I watch the parade of retards on Tim and Eric's otherwise pretty hilarious Adult Swim show.)

And if video games often provide some form of wish fulfillment, who really wants to play as a bum? The whole thing just feels busted and crappy to me. Or maybe I'm just getting old.

Tuesday, February 16, 2010

Game Sales Down - So What?

The only Hollywood blog that I follow, The Wrap, posted an interesting story yesterday about the troubled game industry. First off, it is always interesting to me when "secular" (i.e. not game-related) blogs post about the gaming business. On the one hand, it generally means that a story has real teeth when the non-gamers take notice. (Probably true here.) And also, it often reflects the somewhat out-of-touch perceptions of the mainstram press...which can generally be interpereted as a more realistic Joe Consumer point-of-view. (Definitely true here.) As usual, it would be wise for the myopic "enthusiast media" to take a look at what people are really thinking about games.

Based on this piece, the perception is not good. Game hardware and software sales are down, down, down. But is this really a surprise? Take hardware. If we haven't reached peak penetration on this generation of consoles, we've gotta be reaching it soon. How many more people who don't have a Wii can be expected to buy one? Even if it is still a sizable number, that number has to realistically decrease every year. Same is true for the other two consoles, but perhaps not as much since their penetration numbers are smaller compared to the Wii's. As for software, well, I have my own theory. Today's games have an incredibly long shelf life compared to games of generations past. Think about it: everyone who bought "Modern Warfare 2" will be playing the multiplayer for months, if not years, after the purchase. How much time could they possibly have for a 40-hour RPG like "Dragon Age" or "Mass Effect 2"? Sure, teenagers might have the time, but they have less cash to throw around. Personally, I would love to play all these games, but as the time investment required gets higher and higher, I can't be reasonably expected to commit. And I can't be the only one. Thus: sagging sales.

The article also specifically mentions music game sales. Is it any surprise that these are down? I mean, how saturated can the market get? I love Guitar Hero, but I can't keep up with everything they put out for that franchise. And talk about shelf life...you can buy downloads for your music games to keep them fresh for a long time after you buy them. And downloadable content isn't the only stuff doing well, mobile game sales and social games are also up. Yeah, because those markets are still growing. So where is the surprise here? Couple all of the above with a shitty economy, and color me unsurprised.

The Wrap then goes on to show its true colors by mentioning Microsoft's Natal and Sony's Arc Motion Controller, as if these things are going to revitalize the industry. They might make some ripples, but there is NO WAY that these devices are going to spike hardware and software sales, unless Microsoft or Sony can come up with their own versions of Wii Sports (good fucking luck). To make matters even more silly, the Wrap comments, "each of these innovations could seem downright quaint once Brain-Computer Interface Technology goes mainstream." When? In the future with jetcars and food in pill form? Thanks, but I think controllers are going to be pretty popular for a while longer.

In summary, I think the gaming industry probably needs to come up with must-have experiences that innovate without demanding every minute of a gamer's leisure time. From the players' point of view, they are getting amazing experiences that keep going and going like the Energizer Bunny. As a result, we might see a shrinking pool of games...and maybe even higher prices? Who knows? Ironically enough, it appears that it is the companies themselves who have shot themselves in the proverbial foot.

Tuesday, February 9, 2010

Mouth, Meet Foot

Heh, so right after I mentioned in a meeting that maybe we could do a couple of AS-branded games, this gets posted to the interwebs. Whoops!

Wednesday, February 3, 2010

Back in the Swim

So, here I am at Williams Street, the same place I started almost ten (!!!) years ago when I began my employment with Cartoon Network. At the time, the longest I had ever held a job was 14 months (at MTV Networks), and I was convinced that my time with CN would last about as long as the next opportunity waited to present itself. Well, the next opportunity never really arrived...at least until I jumped ship to work on the GameTap project. But even so, I've been working for Turner Broadcasting for almost a decade, and my new desk is about ten feet from the first desk I ever had here. Shows you how far you can go!

Wednesday, January 20, 2010

Does Anyone Remember Laughter?

It appears to be just an image, but Kotaku's mere suggestion of a Led Zeppelin Rock Band gives me a rock 'n' roll boner. I can't think of too many other bands -- at least ones that don't have Stones, Guns or Roses in their names -- that could support their own entry in a music game. (And no, I'm not talking about the Stone Roses.) It saddens me to think that Guitar Hero might not nab these particular guitar heroes, but nevertheless...Stairway to Eleven!

Tuesday, January 5, 2010

Top Ten: Best of the Decade

The boys over at Player One Podcast have made their picks for the best games of the decade, and it inspired me to do the same. I've previously selected a Top Ten overall, and this list will definitely crib from that one. So without further ado, here are my Top Ten Games of the last ten years:

1. Dragon Quest VIII: Journey of the Cursed King (PS2, 2004)
2. Resident Evil 4 (Wii, 2007)
3. Metroid Prime (GC, 2002)
4. Guitar Hero (PS2, 2005)
5. Legend of Zelda: The Wind Waker (GC, 2002)
6. Fallout 3 (X360, 2008)
7. Grand Theft Auto: San Andreas (PS2, 2004)
8. Puzzle Quest: Challenge of the Warlords (DS, 2007)
9. Jedi Knight II: Jedi Outcast (PC, 2002)
10. Eternal Darkness: Sanity’s Requiem (GC, 2002)

If I could only play the above ten games for the rest of my days, I would be disappointed, but not unhappy. Those are some awesome games. A few notes on the above: I had a very difficult time choosing between Eternal Darkness and Super Smash Brothers Melee, but ultimately went with Eternal Darkness because of the clever insanity effects and the fact that I played through it multiple times. The original Guitar Hero, despite not being the best game in the series, was the one that came out of nowhere to blow us all away and inspired some truly great theme parties. Everyone has their favorite GTA game, and mine was San Andreas, simply because of the gangsta setting and awesome soundtrack. Plus, I loved the "turf war" minigame that was basically a game in itself. And finally, I know that Jedi Outcast is not the best Star Wars game ever, but it was the first Star Wars game (that I personally played) that actually made me feel like a Jedi. By the end of the game, you are picking up Stormtroopers with your Force powers, choking them, and then flinging them through the air to their doom. This was AMAZING.

The other PC game I wanted to add was Unreal Tournament, as we used to play heated matches after-hours at work...but that game actually came out in 1999. Holy crap!

Sunday, January 3, 2010

Happy New Year from Steam

Ring in 2010 with the best holiday prices that Steam has to offer! Valve did some amazing deals over the holidays, and though many were extremely tempting, I only walked away with Braid for $2.49. Yes, that's TWO DOLLARS AND FORTY-NINE CENTS. Steam has done some awesome experimentation with their pricing over the last year or so, and customers (and hopefully, developers) have really benefited.

The sale is almost over, so you only have a few more hours to grab Torchlight for $4.99. Really, there's no excuse.