Wednesday, April 23, 2008

couple days, couple days

hello RABID FANBASE, what is up with you all? Friday night (not really - i just honestly wish it was!!) Busy times at the office, some press has been about, games radar put up a new look at our game, a little yammering on the forums about the studio.. all good things. A bad thing is that a fellow got let go yesterday, which makes me sad. Hopefully he will be back on his feet ASAP, I will do all that I can to try and see if I can be of any service. Getting fired, well, that's a long blog post which I haven't written on in awhile (though there's a lot to say on the matter, to be sure).

Lots on my mind, business-wise. A bunch of fools are playing Smash in the other room - my buddy expressed his undying love for Call of Duty 4 the other day, I keep keep keep hearing how awesome awesome awesome this game is (hell I have wanted to work for that studio in the past, my friend Todd is there). I guess I will have to give in and PLAY AN FPS (shudder). Must be like everyone else. Must! The world waits with baited breath as GTA 4 ekes ever closer to it's ship date.. it's like.. a few days? A week? Something? I remember seeing ads for that thing like.. years ago, in the sides of fences, then they pulled them and cooled off as the release date got delayed. Another game I'm indifferent about, but of course I cannot deny it's significance.

Bad news in Activision-land, I dunno how many folks remember the dev house Z-Axis - they were an indie studio of no small degree of significance back in the day. ROckstar published their Thrasher for PS1 (either right before or immediately after Tony Hawk 1, either way being eclipsed by that title - but being just as good/noteworthy of a game, in many ways. At least critically!) When the Tony Hawk clones hit, they put out some good ones (Acclaim's Dave Mirra BMX, PS2 versions I am aware of - I would suspect PS1 as well). Their crowning achievement would likely have been Aggresive Inline, a game which very obviously copped BLATANTLY from the Tony Hawk mode and method, but in a very complementary/quality way (for a change!).The game scored excellently, I doubt it sold too too well (inline skates vs skateboards, that's a little rough) but yeah the thing was not bad. Anyway thy followed that up with the notoriously--- NOTORIOUS title BMX XXX, best remembered for it's topless chicks on BMX bikes and videos of strippers. Oh, Zed Axis. Sigh. The thing plunked (I think PS2 censored it, ruining the point) as Walmart or whoever (at LEAST) wasn't too psyched. Xbox and Gamecube versions were released as planned, but no matter. Anyway, after that travesty they were strangely picked up by Acti (I guess, hoping to elminate their competition by consuming them.. or putting them to work doing THPS ports.. or they recognized a capable dev when they saw them). Anyway something happened after the acquisition (something always happens folks!) and they kinda dropped off the map. A couple years passed and we heard of "the Iron Man game," I think they did one of the Xmen games as well.. not sure about that. Iron Man never materialized (there's one coming out shortly to tie in with the movie, but it's by Secret Level/Sega, so that would be unrelated). Then, they popped up barely a couple of months ago "Z-Axis being renamed to Underground" and now, a couple minutes later, "Underground studio will be closed in May.. after they finish up their Quake Wars port to 360 (or Ps3, forget which.. either way, they were only handling one). Supposedly they were gonna do one of the next Call of Duty's, obviously that's not happening as they'll not ever be doing anything again. Weird! Sad when things go down that way, especially with a place that actualy made some decent products. Hard to feel "totally bad" when any number of things could have transpired over the course of years, though. After the heads sold out, they could have took their fat paychecks and split.. hated working for their new bosses (hey Activision was certainly a rival of Rockstar and Acclaim, no doubt), maybe they got the boot.. The studio moved and hired a TON of people, a little mismanagement could go a long long way. Hard to tell, one can only speculate. Anyway, the saddest part is that Underground is closing and no one knows or cares what that means, everyone just says "good, so some shitty other ACTI house won't be tarnishing the COD name, and maybe Infinity Ward can stick with it instead." Sad, but also I guess, somewhat irrelevant at this point. Hopefully the HR folks will help place the to-be-unemployed with some new digs.

Also of note, 3 studio high-up guys from Retro Studios (the guy who rebuilt the classic Metroid franchise for the current generation) have reportedly left the studio and were "escorted from the grounds," take that as you will. Retro, not many know, had a little of a weirdo history as well (sigh, who doesn't, dammit?) and I am sure there's a little bit of that lingering. Good luck to all involved over there, anyway! Having worked at Left Field, and knowing folks from SIlicon Knights (previously, they did a lot of high-level Nintendo Exclusives several years ago) I can appreciate the especial difficulty therein.

Alright. My lights are baked. I am hitting the road. The night awaits.

Sunday, April 20, 2008

this is vegas

what did i say last time? "got back from las vegas, that place remins me of a videogame..."
yeah so midway are putting out "this is vegas" GTA-style game. Here's the first I've seen of it beyond a couple of GTA-inspired screens. This one (and it's ilk) have folks skeptical, and not needlessly so - but I think someone is on the ball with this style of game. As is obvious, one would hope there's "more to it than this" but honestly, take a everyman character and stick him in an unusual and colorful setting, and you do have the possibility of making a very cool game out of it. For instance, using this as a springboard I could think of TONS of ways to make an amazing RPG... I will keep it to myself for the time being.. Let's just say it doesn't necessarily involve running around and kicking guy's asses (well.. not without realistic consequences!) and not just shooting people either, stealing cars, all that tired stuff..

Monday, April 14, 2008


..i probably just read that somewhere. what's up, User created Community, another week of work has passed and i am checking in. no big big news out of me for the moment - just doing a bit of research with the 2D sprite related genre, trying to pick up old sidescroller NES titles, there's a lot of underappreciated oldies that never got a real shot - for various reasons, in some cases you can see that there was some heart in their creation but they never really had it together in the vein of, say, a mega man or something. too bad for them. it's hard to pick up a game like the Krion Conquest and NOT ogle the graphics, in spite of the ugly-ass main character and not-so-fun design. These games were being pooped out relatively regularly, at some point, and a few of them may've been worthy... lost to the ages, by now. Some titles i intend to unearth, shortly.. 8 Eyes, Monster Party, Dr Chaos (whyyy?), Goonies II (ohh.. so brown!), Holy Diver (pretty weird pedigree on that one!), of course the Power Blade and Shatter Fists.. Kick Master (that prospect always kinda made me laugh). If you look back, there's alot more love lavished towards the 16-bit titles than these eight-bitters, but honestly, when the time and effort (and love) was put into the eight-bit games, you'd see a lot more delicate pixel work, attention to milking all that an artist could out of those severe palette restrictions. It makes the 16bit style seem a bit exhorbitant and lazy by comparison (a trend that continues to this very day, honestly!) This is how some PSOne games can still look well-put together (in spite of their criplling ugliness, relatively) compared to the onslaught of Gunmetal Unreal Engine titles which are flooding the landscape.

In the news, Dan Hsu has stepped down as the head of EGM/1Up/etc (I guess that's all-encompassing, anyway). This might seem useless to many on the actual dev side of things, but to someone like me it's notable - I grew up a huge EGM fanboy (it sure helped get me feeling "connected to games" in a lot of ways when i was a kid) and though he was not ed-in-chief in those days, he's since kept Electronic Gaming Monthly ina lofty status since. I have listened to the guy speak in many podcasts, heard him break down many thins during interviews, and so forth. Definitely one of the most influential people on the media side of things. It is so weird, lately, how game journalism is sort of suffering in many ways due to the nature of things (print is wrapping up, as online takes over in a big way.. witness the demise of games for Widnows mag, almost as recently)

It's 2am, my foot is asleep, perhaps time for the rest of me to follow suit then.

Sunday, April 6, 2008

unvirtual nonreality

Greetings from Videogameland! Lots going on lately. As mentioned in my "real life blog" some screenshots from Alpha Protocol got posted to the internet, one of them was a shot of a level of mine. It's been a little while..

I have been enjoying my GP32 lately, eveyr so often I will dig it out of the depth of my backpack "oh yeah, i have this thing still" and get sucked in to like 45 games on it. It is front lit (like the old Gameboy SP) so in my memory it is barely legible - obviously that isn't the case! The screen has an annoying smudge under the surface, but if i open it up i will likely mess it up worse in trying to clean it, so.. c'est la vie. Anyway it's not perfect but it is really nice, smudges and all, and the nice big screen kills the crap out of my otherwise singularly-used Gameboy Micro (still the champ, since it's so small and nigh-invulnerable). Oh well, they can coexist. The GP32 plays WAY more games, overall (excepting, of course, actual GBA ones) and I can fit more games on the switchable card than the single GBA flashcart. But like I said, I am able to enjoy them both. On a related note, I saw my friend's new PSP 2000 or Slimline or whatever the hell it is called - the Mark II - first time a week ago. I haven't touched a PSP in ages, one forgets how gorgeous the screen is! Anyway it's (slightly) more compacts, and way lighter. Still not for me, but impressive regardless. Anyway, I'd still more likely buy a DS Lite at this point if I was in the market for a portable, but PSP obviously isn't like.. TERRIBLE. Just kind of useless. haha.

Went to Vegas over the weekend. Vegas is like... a big videogame, in so many ways. It's such a weird, unruly place. It's just not like anywhere else in the world (and I say this, living as i do smack-dab in Hollywood!) All the different locales, the casinos - each one like a different themed level, different background graphics (haha), all of them representative metaphors of real places, ideas, portrayed in gimmick, cheap, cartoon form, all bunched up agaist each other. Treasure Island next to Eiffel Tower beside Miniature New York City, and so on and so forth.. the contents of each properly espousing each theme. Ad never mind the whole actual gaming aspect contained within - well, there are games, contests of skill (to a degree), winning and losing, extra chances, bonus levels, stages of advancement. In videogames, there is a defined path, to whatever degree, an outline, a beginning and end. In vegas games, they are a cheat really, a trick - they operate on a twisted system of greed, of lies (thinly-veiled, but even so). Repetitious in nature (well.. that's similar to videogames, i will give them that.. but in a different manner). Yeah it's interesting to draw some parallels.