Tuesday, October 30, 2007

bees aight

hello bloggerlads and bloggina lasses. yes i have been neglectful of my game-industry-blogging duties, lately. again. This is what happens when real life (well, real work life) breathes down one's neck.. still i had ought to make a more dedicated effort to maintain this thing in a better fashion than merely once a week! Well, keep checking back to see whether or not i am a liar..

lots of news in the games industry lately, if also sort of quiet. As the xmas season dutifully approaches, the giants descend with their high-profile software releases continuously, and uncle sam (and auntie japan) continue to reap the rewards. So then, Super Mario Galaxy is less than a world away (I've seen the demo at EB) just in time to celebrate the Wii's one-year anniversary party. Ratchet and Clank do the same likewise for Playstation, finally giving a good reason (although a familiar one) to actually want to own one over a 360. Of course, Guitar Hero III finally rears it's ugly metal head, merely weeks after it's brother title Tony Hawk Ninety-Three (yeah, say what you want, but cheers to those guys for getting such major releases out the door nearly simultaneously!) Rock Band, on the other hand, I am not sure of it's date but it'll likely be soon.. Surprisingly, I have just learned that Wii Fit is not releasing on these shores in time for Xmas, and I sense many fat gamers are (not really) groaning, though the game's publisher will have a little to be sorry for as a result (yes.. just a little. Don't feel too bad for them). I am a little out of the loop - what the heck is out for DS, besides Zelda Phantom Hourglass? And what, pray tell, for the shiny new PSP 2000 or whatever they are calling that thing? (I want to get my hands on one and see if it's as gross-feeling to hold as it's predecessor) Yeah I am a little guilty for not paying attention, but is it my fault or is it because there's just actually not much to DEMAND my attention, rather..

The Simpsons game has released from EA. Say what you will, and I am sure you will, but I like the directions being put forth by "the New EA." No, I still don't wanna work there, but you have to hand it to them, they have been putting out some noteworthy quality titles of late. Skate, of course, comes to mind.. and I've already mentioned Rock Band.. never mind their always-competent sports lineup/onslaught. They get a lot of gripes but EA is making some good moves. Now I wanna see them release a console (3DEA0!) and truly disturb the crap outta the industry. Oh, and while I am on topic, I heard they laid off after their shareholders weren't too brilliantly happy with the mega-expensive buyout of Pandemic/Bioware. boo. I take back all the nice things I said.

Not much to report on my own game front. I am still waiting to reflash my Game Boy card.. it never feels too imperative, though I should get to it shortly. I think there's a decent colecovision emulator I could put on there too, that would be fun. Hrmph, I need to make a list of things to squeeze in there.. Anyway I sat down on the couch and played some games last night. Latest acquisition is Burnout #2, I think it's about 4 years old - xbox title. It's not aged too terribly well, but I remember my friends being into it a few years ago and it caught my eye so I snagged it. yeah, kinda renderware ugly, but a nice groovy little game.. I am no stranger to what it's story is, but getting my hands on it I can appreciate what it's worth. This is what I am usually preaching, makes games that don't necessarily emulate what you do in real life! Driving is certainly enjoyale in the day-to-day, and racing games with tricked-out wheels are always fun (well.. fun-ish) but these days they're really a dime a dozen. But now who DOESN'T fantasize about car accidents? Okay well, maybe most folks don't but honestly I do. And a game about setting up huge destructive car accidents is just what the doctor ordered, I gotta say. Now, this title doesn't really do muchmore than hint at the possibilities, as it is.. and I suspect the new generation of Burnout titles is still gonna remain pretty tame as compared to what it could ultimately transmogrify into - but that's a game I would line up to buy, if and when they unlock it's potential. That's genius.

I plugged in Strider 2 for PSX, I mention it now and again in this blog - I still hae yet to play through it, as it's a clumsy and somewhat boring game. But oh, the style.. talk about your potential! Why Capcom sits on properties like this, I will never know. It's dripping with love and excitement, and I am sure it's sitting there waiting to get picked up down the road. Screw Bionic Commando, we need more Strider! I play this game, and I know it's something of the sort I would love to be a part of, development-wise. Ah well, stranger things have happened I suppose.

Also sitting in my shelf is Gunner's Heaven, as mentioned previously likewise - and also likewise, not much playtime had been given to it yet. I guess I made it a level or two in last night, and I have to say that even i am astonished to the degree in which they directly ripped off Gunstar Heroes.. bu, that's cool! RIP OFF GUNSTAR HEROES!! If there's a freakin' game which needs to be shamelessly, brutally ripped off. Yeah, they lose points for originality, but they show that thy have good taste.. I hae some problems with the title, even so.. some charaters (namely the player sprites) are bland/boring/dullsville, and a lot of the general design is uninspired and blase'. Not that it's bad, by a long shot, but considering the hardware (and what's been done with less) it's just kind of a waste of time in the aesthetic department. Likewise the soundtrack
, from what I have heard, is essentially turn-off-able. Again, not quite offensive, but such a letdown when you consider what could (should) be there in it's place. But that stuff is forgivable - the cardinal sin here is the omission of a 2-player simultaneous mode. Come on! How much harder is it to implement? Even if it would cheese the design a little, games like this (Contra-style) are made for two people to enjoy together. Sigh. Maybe there's a hidden mode buried in there somewhere.. who knows. Ah well, it sucks but not enough to take away from the coolness that is this game's very existence, at all. I don't regret picking it up.

I have laid off on my other two planned PSX acquisitions, maybe when the prices fall some more..

Monday, October 22, 2007

shutdown the reuptake inhibitor

what's up videogame industry insider need-to-know-er's, what is shakin' in all y'all boots. God, I hate typing stuff like that. Neglect abounds in this section of the blogosphere lately, but it's alright because I am getting slammed with work lately. Wish I could write about the details, I will have to save it for my futuristic memoirs. I will just write about things that happened in previous jobs that I have held in years past. To my imaginary alter-ego. There, have I covered enough bases yet?

Our studio released a new NWN expansion recently, it is getting reviewed well - that's good news! My old studio released their new skateboarding game last week, it's getting crummy reviews from the big sites (err the jaded sites) but overall on gamerankings they're staying formidable. That, my friends, is the difference between the whiny few and the wallets of the hungry. I wonder how they will sell this season, anyway.. "it's up to the gods of merchandising, really.."

Quiet news in gameland recently, overall. Nothing terribly hectic, just a little fallout here and there as the industry gears up to dump loads of big-deal software out the door for the fierce wave of seasonal releases. We got the primers out the door already (Metroid 3, Halo 3, ahem) and the Wii barrage is under way shortly (though, no smash bros' brawl... boo!). Sony's kinda blown thier load a little early, though they needed to pump something out to the hungry masses (and nothing that's worth mentioning anymore than has been said). Ratchet and Clank is out the door I guess, which should make people happy enough - I believe Uncharted is due to hit the shelves shortly as well. But, yeah, short of Wii, nothing seems to be too spectacular on the fronts. Maybe I have let my attentions wander, though.

Bionic Commando announcement, hmm? Something of the sort has been on a lot of people's minds, and it's interesting to see this title pop up outta nowhere. I give them the benefit of the doubt, it could be a cool little "freak game" from some up and coming devs - we'll see. Most are skeptical about this, though I maintain that the style is growing on me. Honestly, more than anything else it REALLY makes me wanna head home and plug in the old NES adventure for a rush of nostalgia. I never beat that thing (halfway I guess), and that was actually the original GB version. Yeah, for shame, I know... So what's next, Section Z?

Not much else to report. Everyone is loving Portal. Maybe even I should look at the thing. I am waiting anxiously to see how Wii holds up (hardware-wise) for Xmas, supposedly sales are slowing down in Japan at last. We'll see. Nintendo's still dominating across their two platforms, fiercely - I see some interesting stuff going over on their Virtual Console service as well. Interesting, interesting times..

Sunday, October 14, 2007

sell out!

Strange times indeed. This console generation is a constant flow of "what the hell, where did THAT come from?" madness left and right out of the great blue yonder. At this point, what the future holds in anyone's guess. I feel bad for those whose jobs it is to survey the landscape of this business, and try to make bold predictions of what the holiday seasons will be like. In recent weeks, we've seen Activision buy up PGR developer Bizarre Creations from under Microsoft's "nose," for an undisclosed sum - though I am sure it was a bit expensive. Note that they have JUST released the 4th iteration of that series. Likewise, the mammoth Halo 3 has just been out (it's been not even a month, I believe!) and the cement's not even set when it's announced that their developer (Bungie), a studio whose name is more-or-less synonomous with "Xbox First Party," is going back to independant (again, for who knows how much money). Between those two annoncements, it's been so dusty I can't recall which was first! The other week, Sony snatched up UK-based developer Evolution Studios, who produced their Motorstorm game for PS3 (and regardless of what the critics say, remains one of the most popular titles for the suffering console, sales and otherwise). 32 Million. That's a lot of moolah... though when you realize it costs around half of that to develop a title anyway, then it doesn't sound so ridiculous. Also considering that Sony gets the tech and all of that with the deal, it beings to make a bit more sense. Sure, not as crazy and groundbreaking as either of the two preceding news items, but certainly eyebrow-raising.

And then the big double-whammy of this all went down a couple of days ago, mega-congolomerate EA added several more heads to it's Game Development Hydra with the Elevation purchase (Noted/Successful developer-partners, Bioware and Pandemic). 860 million clams. That's so much money that I can't even fathom what that means. How many Aircraft Carriers is that worth? How many Third World Countries could it feed? None, 'cause it's all getting shuttled back into making more FPS and Sims titles, apparently. I am not sure how many teams of development that adds up to (just the ones being absorbed, never mind how large the EA ranks were to begin with). Good? Bad? I say bad - though I wouldn't be saying that if I were working for one of those studios, not this moment. Actually I would likely be strolling across the street to check out which Lamborghini I would like to pick up.

Anyway you hear about stuff like this, and you consider what companies have "sold out" and which haven't, and why. You take a place like Insomniac - technically, an indie studio, but for all intents and purposes they are Sony 1st party at this point. Heh - do they NEED to get beneath that umbrella? They've got their name solid, they can make "games they want to make," pretty much (or, can they? I notice they've churned out plenty of sequels, regularly). I am curious if Naughty Dog has got the same situation (and also, what that matters). I have worked at several studios, all with their own unique relationships with their respective publishers. I have had the "if we work hard, we could get bought" carrot dangled in front of my face before. Likewise I have had the "we have a publisher who owns us, and so we are stable enough to last through the 'hard times...'" Both circumstances have worked out unfavorably for me, if you get what I am saying. Does it matter? Should I be happy or sad that I've no stake in anything, that no matter where I am employed, I am only tied to the whim of Fate?

Well.. it has been several years now. My judgement's a little skewed, and I can say this much, it's not "just about the money.." it's about the stability, the environment, the project. Getting along with your team, working with an engine that you can co-exist with. Loving the minute details of everything your hand touches. But, it's also about balance. Business savvy.. getting along politically, and having some foresight when weird times like this happen, and being able to look down the road to see what's next and where you will be when the dust settles..

Anyway, I can speak in vagueries about this all day, but those like me know my point. We look at these mega-sales where retarded amounts of money are thrown around with seemingly incredible disregard, and we nuts and bolts of these machines look up and cry out "mine, mine!" And we wonder when we'll be able to understand the perspective of those money-tossers. Or, if we would really want to.

Alright. It's Sunday afternoon, I have work to do. I work for an independant.

Tuesday, October 9, 2007

clearly, i have a distaste for typing titles.

all is quiet on the front. busy with work and feeling a bit rusty with regard to my muse, so i think i will rifle out a few pieces of my own during the mellower period. i am happy withthe latest level i have spat out at work, anyway.

not much game news, i am still wanting to pick up a next-gen system, (does 360 count as that anymore, given that it's going on a couple years of age at this point?) PS3 is always (slowwwwly) looking more desirable, though obviously it's got a year or so before it can genuinely ratchet up a full notch.. 360 still looks appropriate enough, but yes, I need to sit on my bills for the time being, so no new toys for me. Which is fine, since all the titles I REALLY want are from PS1 period anyway.

Bought some new doorknobs for my apartment this weekend, which meant that I stopped by my friendly neighborhood Orchard Supply Hardware, conveniently located right next to Gamestop. Not a regular haunt of mine, but I'll poke around if I am actually hoofin' around the neighborhood and see what goodies I can pick up on the cheap. Yesterday's score was PS2 Gungrave, a title I recall seeing years ago at E3 (alongside Shinobi and.. Jet Set Radio? Was it that long ago??? Well maybe it was the following year...) Regardless, I remembered hearing less-than-impressive reviews of the game, if only in passing, but it's certainly stylish enough to warrant a look when it pops up in the bargain bin. I forked over my eight bucks and took it home, and tonight put in a session with it. Good game! I can see why it would't go over well with the mainstream, as it is kind of the videogame equivalent of a migraine in some ways.. conctant blaring gunfire, constant slow trudging gameplay, and not really a game where you can stop and smell the roses, so much. Still, it bleeds with loving style, a possibly cool blueprint for more inspired things to come - and on it's own merit, not a bad diversion. It belongs on my shelf beside Godhand (which is far superior, if uglier). I'd consider picking up the sequel if it was about the same price, I suppose.

I received a couple JPN Saturn games in the mail recently, finally loaded them up this weekend as well. GunGriffon and Baku Baku Animal. Let's see.. GunGriffon came vaguely recommended from a web-board Saurn Reminiscience post, I am not sure if there was a domestic release but i saw the JPN version on ebay for like.. a cent, so what the hell. I loaded it up and it has that feeling "ohhh!! We can do 3D now, how cool are we!" It's short sighted and gnarly, and definitely dated and "me-too". Fun to tool around with for a few minutes, I may mess with it some more (doubtful!) Some games obviously do not age well.

Baku Baku Animal, on the other hand - this title DID recieve a domestic release, I believe, but again I found the JPN version on EBay for next to nuthin' and so I snapped it up. Those who know me, know I can have a fondness for good puzzle games, so after doing some Saturn research I had seen this name dropped a couple of times as a "must-have." I already have Magical Drop 3 (supposedly, another one of "the best..") so this seemed interesting to me - mind you, I could sit for a session of Puzzloop or Tetris Attack for hours.. Anyway this game was nearly worth it for the case art alone. My GOD. So ugly. It's like they gave an 11 year old a 3D program for the first time ("here make a cover for us!") It's ridiculously ugly... but somehow, disgustingly endearing. Almost. Anyway, as for the game itself - it's not bad! It made me laugh. Usual Tetris-inspired drivel, stuff drops and you've gotta match it up to clear lines before your screen fills up with blocks. The catch here is that the blocks are made up of two different things.. different types of food, or animal heads. Naturally, you must put the food next to the head of the animal which would eat that to clear lines. Monkey eats banana, dog eats bone, panda eats bamboo, that sort of thing. Yes it's goofy as hell, but it is kinda funny and one wonders how exactly someone was inspired to make this leap in concept. I will mess with it some more, it seems like there's some cool possibility for chain mechanic in there.

For the hell of it I threw in Radiant Silvergun for the first time since trying it out after I'd first got my JPN adaptor. Whew! That's a hell of a game, and I do mean.. HELL. It's a top-down shooter, much like the other bullet hell shooters, where you get tons of all manner of firepower with which to demolish your enemies. This game is unique in that you never need to power-up, you possess your weapons 100% of the time - but each weapon is fired by a different button on the game controller. And of course the game is designed around the player properly strategizing when to fire which weapon. So yeah, unlike many games of this sort, it's not "plow-ahead fun," but rather more of a thinkin' mans game in that vein. It's a little crude looking as well - but certainly deserving of it's place in history (though it's not gonna make any top-ten shooter lists for me, who knows maybe one day I will become "enlightened")

Anyway, so yeah, old games rock.

Wednesday, October 3, 2007


another late night at Obsidian. I am sitting here at my desk, listening to the janitor vacuum in the hallway, patiently waiting for my girlfriend to swing by and pick me up so i can go home and sleep (and return the next day). 9:43PM. I think it will be awhile 'till she gets here..

I finished up my latest level today. It took me no time to light, actually it was enjoyable to do that. I am getting pretty good with that (not great, but alright). Lighting was always something that I'd kind of did as an afterthought, and with good reason (the tech's not typically rewarded high-quality lighting in video games!) Not that it is quite there, yet, but it's improving. Anyway I consider myself fairly handy with the modeling and texturing end of things, I'd enjoy spending more time on making things light pretty as well. For this reason I intend to spend more of my own time building and lighting high-quality still imagery, go a few rounds with that and I should feel pretty competent. Mind you, I've spent more than my share of time figuring out how to make things look interesting, anyway..

I was keeping an eye on Zanac X Zanac on eBay but that thing went out today. $200+ !! Man. I want the game but.. not THAT bad. That's crappy when it's a game which is obviously only selling for it's rarity/collectibility. I just want to play the actual GAME. I might see if I can dig up an ISO somewhere. If my pocketbook was a little easier I wouldn't sweat the cash so much. Pretty hard to justify spending such money on a freakin' single game right now (ANY single game!) I was also watching Thunder Force Special Pack for Saturn. I am a HUGE Thunder Force fan, but again I don't wanna shell out upwards of $100 for a port of a game I already have (and beat dozens of times!) Whatever, watching eBay is fun.. just so long as you don't get too carried away spending money on crap you don't really need.

I stumbled across the webiite of this dude YOSHIKI OKAMOTO. He is one of the unsung old-timer heroes of videogames. He created Time Pilot at Konami, 1942 and the original Street FIghter while at Capcom.. among plenty of other things. He seems like a happy guy, one who's name most people won't recall (though I do remember seeing his "trademark" in many Capcom games, as a kid). He's since started his own company, Game Republic (not the magazine). I have no idea what they are up to or what they have released- he's got a pretty intensively detailed blog, i haven't really perused it too much yet but I want to dig in a bit w/ the Google Translator - this stuff kinda fascinates me (though as any blog-ready can tell you, that stuff can be sort of top-heavy at times).

Headache, just popped a couple Advil - it's been a long day and a long week. I look forward to getting home and being AFK for a couple of days.. rest my neurons.

Monday, October 1, 2007

straaaaange days not like before....

Man, you sleep on the news for one fing day and the world changes again, such is the beauty of the videogame industry. So the latest buzz is that the boom is off the rose (or whatever the saying is) between the love affair of M$ and Bungie. It's fun to watch the forum freak out between (lies lies lies) and rationalizing how it could be, well, true true true. Anyway the way things go these days, I would have to say this sounds weird enough to possibly have some truth to it. I guess we'll know more in coming days - it's made the rounds to IGN news. I see no mention yet on gama. So, we will see, folks.

I haven't been a good faux-journalist (when have I EVER?) and done my homework about the ins and outs of what, why and how. Honestly i don't need to, if there's any veracity to this story it will be spelled out in short order (hell even just the possibility is enough to get several notable people to put their two cents in on the hows and ways). As usual I sit back and watch, and note how it is funny how everyone is quick to spell out "it's gloom and doom for MS!" just as "it's gloom and doom for SONY" (the other day) and everyone else says "yeah but don't forget, it's still gloom and doom for Ninty." So uh, basically - nothing much has changed, really. Nothing of heavy note to mention. Except what I think because I'm always right.. right?

Had the day off today. It was a bad car day to the point where I couldn't get my ass forty miles down the road to my office, so I stayed in and hung out and did.. no work. And it was NICE! I think today = first time I have relaxed, a bit, in like 6 months. There's something to that. And that was on top of being stressed about the car problems. And cracking the crud out of my side view mirror this morning on the way to the mechanic. Go figure. Anyway I walked to Tommyburger to celebrate. I may continue the tradition with a pizza. Screw you, health!

Tonight I want to flash my GBA cartridge. I finally started compiling a list of crap to put into it, its taken me long enough. The games are generally flowing thru my head, but there's so may odds and ends that it's tough to remember over the course of several months which ones I want to actually commit to leaving on there for the yeat or two it takes me to do something as simple as re-flash. And of course just when I decide to get a move on with the thing, I realize maybe I wanna start with Advance Wars 2 which has been sitting there already on the damned card, untouched, all this while. Oh well, what're you gonna do. I don't recall anyone ever trying ot say that this life was EASY.

For a time I was entertaining the possibility of investing in a GP2x. It's still in myhead, slightly.. it looks nice enough, minus a few warts. Biggest problem I've got is the same reason I've not bought a DS yet either, I just.. don't NEED more stuff! I have a GP32 which I seldom touch these days and a Gameboy Micro which I refer to wayyy too much on these boards as it is, never mind the little collection of consoles I have goin' here at home to begin with. If GP2x was a similar enogh deal to micro I would have snapped it up already - they were hinting at something along those lines but it seems never to have seen the light of day. Fair enough.. I have so much to say about these korean handhelds but that's a whole 'nother post, suffice it to say i've been a big fan and certainly got my money's worth. Thank you Gamepark.