Thursday, December 27, 2007

year 2007 almost all done!

so of course.. what did 2007 bring, to the world of videogames? Certainly.. wayyy too much for a gent like me to recall. So here, then, is a smattering of what comes readily to mind. Then, as now..

-This marks the First year I've heavily become a NeoGAF-Addict. So help me. I guess I started last year, but the past 12 are where the addiction really took hold. Mind you.. I registered this past April, STILL waiting to get Jr Member status ('til then. I still can not even make a single reply, let alone a post!)

-I interviewed for a few jobs (Technicolor, Kaos, Obsidian) - also completed a 2nd round of an Art Test for Naughty Dog (Uncharted) - which obviously didn't get me in over there, but I still think it came off rather well.

-Started working for Obsidian this past March, "Project Georgia" --> 'nuff said. Still employed there as of this writing.

-Console Acquisitions - I got a Wii (for my girlfriend - another for my parents, as well!). Personally I acquired a 360 Refurbished, and got into Xbox Live of course. I am a week into ownership of a PS3.. also recently acquired an aged Turbografx-16, and I am still hunting down a CD-Rom that WORKS! Also I finally landed a Test PS2 (plays burns, JPN titles)

-Games - picked up a lot of games this year. What was the most memorable? Uhm.. geez.. A lot of good ones came out, but nothing that really blew me away personally (sigh, I probably had the most fun with "new games" that were in Wii Sports... well that and I guess Rock Band, but does that technically count? I just sing Karaoke on it..) Memorable moments were Hulk 2, Skate, Flipnic Ultimate Pinball, Psychonauts.. umm. I will add to the list when I get home and look at the actual shelf, haha.

-Games I actually enjoyed (oldies as usual) - SMS Choplifter, PCE Columns (oh God it was bad for awhile. I mean GOOD bad). Those were emulated on GBA of course.

-Haha, I picked up the Tabletop Coleco Games from Ebay - Pacman, Galaxian, Frogger. Zaxxon also but rerturned it (the guy sold me a busted one!)

-Sony's PS3 suffered. BADLY. No release yet for Home.. no LittleBigPlanet.. No MGS.. No exclusive for GTA VI, lost it for Devil May Cry 4. It's coming along, but it's limping. Ummm.. Kutaragi gets kicked to the curb (he essentially INVENTED Playstation, PS2, PSP also I guess, and yes the PS3 was his freakiest Frankenstein yet) but I guess someone had to "get to retire" for this Top-Heavy Tragedy.

-Sony did get a release for Ratchet and Clank, likewise Uncharted. Also squeezed out Unreal Tournament 3, or so they say (I've yet to see it). I heard the 1st two didn't sell wonderfully though.. dunno about UT3. The games were cool but not system-buy-worthy (like, say.. Mario Galaxy).

-Sony got a little hurt with Heavenly Sword (not bad), bludgeoned with Lair (what.. what happened?), surprised with a good show for Warhawk (whew!) On that note..

-Warhawk becomes 1st Playstation network full-downloadable game (as opposed to a "Jr level game"). Which it still sort-of is, but it sounds like it's pretty much there. Releases in-store as well with a headset. Gets the Walmart's of the world a little pissed off - sign of things to come, for sure. Um.. watch this space! (Shudder)

-God of War II release party, with dead animals. The press goes mad. Wow.

-Sellouts galore! I mean -- Sony buys Evolution (Motorstorm). Activision Buys Bizarre Creations (Project Gotham Racing). EA buys Bioware and Pandemic (for nearly a BILLION $$$). Activision and Vivendi combine to form Devastator. Meanwhile Halo dev bungie slinks away from Microsoft, strangely (but honorably) - immediately after releasing their latest system-seller.

-E3 comes back as a boring Marketing and Business-event only that no one attends. As gaming gets more and more exciting, buzz falls flat into the middle of the netherword. Thousands mourn. E for All rises to take the place of E3 as a "spiritual successor," but of course no one cares as it's not quite-so-special anymore. Besides, you have to pay. Whatever.

-Neversoft inherits Guitar Hero from previous dev Harmonix and churn out installation number Three. Harmonix powers up with EA and spits out the logical evolution, Rock Band. Both are great, all things considered - I will just say I think Rock Band changed the world a little more and Guitar Hero better pull something fancy out of it's next iteration to continue to be relevant. Or at least, do something dirty and downright mean. Sigh - Clash of the Titans, at this point.

-Madden released again. But it sold poorly, considering that this is one of the most profitable institutions in the history of anything, ever..

-Generally, EA is cleaning up it's rep as a horrible place with horrible games, in it's post EA_Spouse model, by being slightly less horrible to work at with decent (I mean, actually GOOD) games releasing. The Simpsons Game, while not wonderful, is good for what it is (all things considered). I was a naysayer of skate and now I complain it absolutely worthy of purchase, talk about loving your game. MySims, or whatever they call it, for Wii - not for most, but for who it is for, they know what they are doing (if you can make heads or tails of that sentance, I commend you!) I still don't like the Evil Empire, but EA is making some overall elegant moves as the business industry fluctuates drastically around them. At least they look a little less sloppy than Activision. In some ways, sigh, it's all so blurry and pointless now isn't it.

-Jeff Gertsmann (name probably misspelled, my apologies) fired from gamespot after like 11 years 'cause of Kane and Lynch. Yeah, maybe the nail in the coffin, but still that was weird and ugly. Yeah stuff goes on behind the scenes that none of us know about. Hopefully, if the guy isn't a huge jerk or something, this is actually a huge boost in his career in the end. I know so little about this stuff (other than what everyone else can also see) so I will refrain from hypothosizing - all I know is that sometimes, life is not fair and good people get robbed. Here is hoping that the wide audience of this story is useful more than useless - though it can always go either way, I suppose.

-360's red ringing (that is, fatal error) all across Mother Nature. Come ON. I am tired of putting up with horroriffic technology that people tolerate to such a degree. It's only the beginning (but man, this stuff is EXPENSIVE.)

-the Wii. 2 gamecubes duct-taped together, to be sure. With a waggle-wand to boot. And yet - SO HARD TO ACTUALLY BUY, even one year hence. Nintendo, my friends, you have changed the world so many times I have lost count. Who knows what weirdness you will cook up next. So long as it keeps being weird in a cool way, then I say, have at you.

-delays: Spore (um.. it looks gross now? Well, it's been a few years, but it's Will Wright, so who knows) MGS 4 (that panther has a Hot Ass. Oh my!) Devil May Cry 4 (not really exclusive anymore I guess - PS3 coughs a little). GTA IV gets setback (at least) a season. Also M$ pays megabucks for exclusive GTA IV DLC. Does this matter? Sure, in some ways.. I guess. Too Human also fails to appear, with a bit of weird rambling by Silicon Knights (the game's dev) president Denis Dyack popping around here and there to spout off of love of the game and hate of the games press.. or love of the press but hate of the way the press works.. or.. something. oh it was confusing, but at least it was interesting to follow. Anyway the guy has heart, which is encouraging. Oh yeah, don't forget the delay for Wii Smash Bros Brawl!

-Also Dyack started a big crazy lawsuit against Unreal Editor (this gen's industry-wise answer to Renderware - that is, the Next Gen Engine of Choice by most folks, as it made history with Gears of War last year!) developer Epic MegaGames, who have their hands full with tons of craziness all across the world all the time anyway, for reasons you can expect (mostly). Anyway suits and countersuits followed, some people whined, now it's sitting in a big legal mess somewhere up on a big mountain of money and no one really wants to pay attention to it at the moment. Don't worry, it will come back.

-A Shadowrun update came out, I think it was by FASA (who shortly closed thereafter). Shadowrun - big cyberpunky-sorta PG back in 16bit days, though it was sorta low-profile. Anyway some people loved it, some hated it. I couldn't tell ya.

-Oblivion mega-dev's say that they're making the next Fallout. Some people are pissed, but most folks seem to think it's in good hands. Meanwhile Interplay exists somewhere in between this existence and the next, SOMEHOW, and say that there's a Fallout MMO.. or something.. in development. But not really. But they are employing people, technically. Sort of. It's sketchy, right?

-Meanwhile, WOW continues to own people's souls. Yes - their SOULS, man. I mean, Blizzard finally moves into a new campus and hires more crazy people and announces more craziness (a new Starcraft 2 game, shows it off- apparently, very similar to the already-works formula but in THREE DEE). also another non-WOW MMO is coming (Diablo?) Starcraft Ghost still seems dead, but there's another WOW expansion coming (Lich King I think). But whatever. WOW is amazing for what they've done (it's bigger than ANYTHING - and besides, it owns all those souls!) And I still don't care personally, but hey. You've got to recognize.

-Assassin's Creed. Another victim of good pedigree and hot producer, failing to live up to the hype. is this really anyone's fault? It looked good enough to me, but seemed to be the victim of "too little too late." Gorgeous game and interesting ideas, might've stayed in the oven another 6 months. Maybe the sequel will do better.

-Transformers Movie Game. yeah, who cares, but with one of the best possible licenses around, it could have been sooo good. I know, history proves time and again there'll never actually be a REALLY COOL Transformers game, but man.. what a waste. Damn, let ME make the game. I promise it will be fun.

-Rockstar makes headlines with controversy. What a surprise! How unusual, right? Biggest shocker was the Manhunt 2 debacle "tooo violent, we want to label it adults only!" Bah... they crank it down and some kids crack the code for the PSP version anyway, but it's too muddled to deserve any actual Hot Coffee-style lawsuits/hurtful media at that point. Further salt is poured on the wounds when original dev Rockstar Vienna receives NO CREDIT for their work on the game, though the studio's been closed for some time (supposedly it's "an embarrasment") and Rockstar Toronto (I guess) gets all the credit. Though still kinda who cares/whatever, as the game rates miserably. Just another day in the life, I guess. Um.. geez, these guys are attention whores. At least they still manage to get industry-changing games out in spite of this weird confused drivel.

-Huge historic releases across the board, all things considered. Current-gen consoles begin swinging with their first-wave of post-launch titles, in the case of Wii and PS3. Xbox 360 gets it's second-wave of releases (it's got a year on the other two systems). Wii counts sort of half-way between the two, as it is honestly older-hardware coupled with newer design philosophy (motion control, accessibility to nongamers). Generalizing, we have;
Wii: Super Mario Galaxy - huge setup for what many expected to possibly fall flat (following the not-stellar Super Mario Sunshine of Gamecube). Apparently the most-loved-game by everyone in recent memory. Though I have not played it, everywhere it's name is spoken you hear LOVE, LOVE, LOVE. For some reasons, this MIGHT be GOTY, all across the board. Like in a Scorcese kind of way.
Metroid 3 - Motion controlled, I hear lots good about it, expect it to fade with the rest but sounds like "if you liked before, you will still like now" - they keep their franchises well-stocked, what can I say.
Wii Play - I think that released 2007. Not sure! A huge seller, since it packs in a 2nd Wiimote (no nunchuk though). By itself kinda meh, but definitely worth it for obvious reasons and still stupid-fun enough to warrant being mentioned here. I mean, anyway, EVERYONE owns it at this point..
Mario Party 8 - why do I mention this here? Actually it's probably BS, but something about a game with the moniker "Mario Party" showing up within the fist year of the Wii's existence just seems telling. I haven't touched it yet, but I am glad it's there (and what I have seen of it, looked noteworthy). Probably useless if you played the other, um SEVEN MP's, but if you're a Wii newcomer (as many are) this is probably deserving of a spot on your shelf.
Super Mario RPG - I mean.. Super Paper Mario - Uh, hell this game looked cool, and it had a good gimmick, and everyone was clamoring for it. So why did it fall apart? The shots and lead-in still look right-on. Too bad they blew it. Worth a mention as a disappointment, in a big way. Maybe not a bad game, but certainly a waste of a golden opportunity from a place you might not expect. Then again..
XBox 360: Halo - release of the year, whether or not you care (I don't). Years in the making, and it sounds like they fulfilled expectations. Built to last for fun, though I am sure at this point "the party is over."
Bioshock - Destined to become Sleeper of the year, it surprised everyone by being a good time with a cool aesthetic, rating REALLY well, and selling wonderfully to boot. Possibly a bit overrated (I think it won't last, for some reasons) but it did a great job of making a standout name for itself during a ridiculously crowded year, sounds like it was substantial enough to boot. Though, ultimately forgettable, alongside everything else - what can be considered classic, these days? Time (and use/abuse of a franchise) will tell.
Crackdown - low expectations, seemed like a cheesy cop-out "buy this to get Halo 3 beta!"and it actually had some staying power as a fun game, to boot! I expect more good things from these devs. Of course, by the end of the year, it is pretty forgotten as well.
The Darkness - Starbreeze made a huge splash last gen with Xbox Riddick - apparently they suffered the usual sophomore syndrome with this title, then. Not bad, but again, so what? We can't help but expect games like these at this stage, good-but-ultimately-filler.. it's hard to say they are BAD, per se, since they are not, but in the company of the other releases of the days (and with such a powerful pedigree) one would hope for something stronger. We'll see what follows, eh.
Orange Box - yeah, the name, the name. Who cares, sometimes weird stuff works, so dig it! Anyway, no matter how you look at it, if you are a gamer this is the deal of the year for several reasons! Just another excuse to cement valve as one of the most important devs of the day, and with expectations through the roof for their future. Well.. probably. Meanwhile, I am anxious to play Portal at some point.
Mass Effect - Oh. you know. Bioware. Go, Doctors!
Pac-Man Championship Edition: The joke release that had the last laugh on everyone, in reverse (meaning.. it was actually really a good game!) Downloadable of the year, I'd say so.
PS3: Lair - Should have been good. What a mess. The game reviewers guide. julian Egglebrecht, or whatever his name is, with horrible damage control. What should have been at least competent ended up being "a big waste of everyone's time." I haven't played it, strangely I am tempted to rent it - except I know I'd regret it in like 15 seconds after booting. How do people let those things happen in this day and age of multi-million dollar game project investments?
Uncharted and Ratchet and Clank - mentioned above by loved veteran Sony dev's, "it's up to them to save the day!" Well, consider this your next iteration. But so what - it's just another brick in the wall. These games are good, but are they really half a bill good, even together? I won't knock them 'cause they are capable, reviewed well, and people say they are fun and good-looking. But still game like UR MR GAY (super mario galaxy) and UR MR GAY HALO will sweep them, at the end of the day. I am being unfairly harsh, but come on, it's Playstation THREE, it's the Second Coming of the Second Coming. If anything, they can be considered good harbingers of what is to come, but a solid note that things must be stepped up. We will see in 08 if there's the needed follow-up, eh?
God of War II - another amazing game into this kinda late-debuting franchise, but wait - this is a PS2 title, wrong list huh? Okay, well, it's forgotten this late in the year, and bitched about by some, but the fact stands that Sony can blast an unforgettable and powerful franchise out of literally nowhere, just by blasting enough time/money/capable manpower when it wants to. If this released on PS3 this Xmas, with appropriate visuals, no doubt it would have swept Game of the Year for the system and got a lot more resoect for all parties considering. Instead it makes Sony look kind of headstrong and stubborn, while sort of noble in trying to support their gazillion install base. But - blah to nobility, at least this way. We want our next gen sequel - it will come, and it will come properly!
Warhawk - mentioned earlier, for obvious reasons.
Nintendo DS: Okay, it's not Next-gen per se, but it's next-gen handheld (close enough) and honestly the best system if you're a gamer these days so definitely belongs here with it's bretheren. What have we got for the old boy?
Pokemon DS - a summer 2007 release, already completely forgotten by EVERYONE. But it came out at a time when there was nothing to play anywhere, and it was a freakin' Pokemon Baby-game, and all the RPGheads who gave it the time of day made much love to it. And apparently it deserved it. Nintendo could poop these out with relative frequency at this point, and in some ways it does - but they do it in a way that's to their credit, and they make incredible money off it respectfully. Pokemon = not for me, but could have been beyond-shriveled up by now, it's served it's purpose - and still they build it with quality.
Puzzle Quest - I think it started on DS. this particular craze. I am all good for promoting decent Puzzle games in this day and age, it may well be my favorite genre. This sounds like a strange mix of ideas, but kudos for being relevant. Maybe a little sloppy, but all things considered, it's heartening to hear things like this.
Drawn to Life - another "weird" game, definitely a "baby game," like they say, but still honest and interesting in concept. As long as they keep making weird-idea DS games coming that aren't just shoveled out completely, it retains it's pertinence - make the games really good with follow-through, and then it becomes valuable. This might lack in that department, but for noob studios to do stuff like this, they get credit these days, from me.
Contra 4 - Okay, Ping Pals made this. It's CONTRA. Too many frames of animation for me, but this was made by contra lovers FOR contra lovers (esp. after too many years of franchise defecation). Cheers to see that they still have people who care enough to do the RIGHT thing. If it was more eight-bitty then I might go out and actually buy a DS for this, as it is I still kinda should.
Planet Puzzle League - which I think is the name - Tetris Attack remains one of the best, BEST BEST BEST, most-fun games I have ever played in all my years of living, and sad to see I discovered it way too much later than the rest of the world. that they can get a game like this out makes me retardedly happy, even if I am still playing the fossilized version. Hell I logged in too many hours of the B/W Gameboy version recently. This game deserves acclaim - DO it.
Zelda:Phantom Hourglass - they did not need to release another quality Zelda title this year, and time will likely not be too kind to it, (or.. will it?) But that's fine, because no matter what - if you like good games, then it is at your service.
PSP - might as well, right?
Crush - The coolest game no one played. It's a lot of people's fault, and it's a shame.
Ultimate Ghosts and Goblins - not sure but I think was actually a 2006 release. Still I will throw it in 'cause The franchise needs some notice, it used to be alongside Mario for crying out loud. I don't think I heard this game was even too great, but still I want it to be remembered. But man.. fix the name!
Dracula X: Rondo of Blood.. err. Chronicles.. um. I don't know the official name of this game, and I don't care I guess. I would have picked it up had I owned a PSP. I still don't own (or want) a PSP for a variety of reasons. This game is very noteworthy as it's an (admittedly ugly) remake of one of the hardest-to-locate games in the history of popular franchises, somewhere up there with the JPN Super Mario 2 (though in a completely different way). This game gets bonus points for value, with a (gross-looking) 3D remake of the original game, plus the original 2D version in there with the first Metroidvania thrown in for good measure. You can't argue with that logic.
that's my list for now (of noteworthy titles of 2007). Likely to add to it in the future. Anyway I think I have typed enough for one session, pardon the notable absences..

Tuesday, December 25, 2007


Whoa, whoa. So much info to dump, so little time. The truth is, between work and life, I have not found time to blog much - and so again we have an apologetically-beginning blog. Such is life, friends. Anyway, there's much to say, and I don't want to spend to much time beating around the bush, so I will try to be clear and concise when possible. Here goes!

Things are alright at work - it's wound pretty far down, as one would imagine, given the time of year. I have been out since last Thursday night (it's Tuesday now) and another week to go until I return, I suppose... Anyway, things over there are moving along at an appreciable pace. It will be interesting to see what is the lay of the land once we get back to business as usual - but in the meantime, it's nice to be out of that element for a breather.

So the fine bosses over at the Big O hooked us up with our choice on next-gen (new-gen? current gen.. um.. y'know) at work for the holiday. Um.. excluding El Senor Wii for obvious reasons. Anyway as I've recently acquired a 360 by my own hand, I signed on for a PS3 - it arrived last Thursday. I got the 80GB system, extra controller (no rumble yet), and a Media Remote - um - whatever you wanna call it. It also comes with Motorstorm (motocross racing game) and of course the free online service. I brought the sucker home and squeezed it into my Uber-Massively Overbloated Media Congolomeration Entertainment Extravaganza Super-Deluxx Especiale System Grapevine Cheeseburger with Extra Cheese and Pickles. For those curious, here's how my home theater debacle looks at the moment (with Pickles):

Test PS2 (plays Japan/Burned games)
Sega Dreamcast
Sega Saturn
Modded Xbox (mame)
Xbox 360
Turbografx-16 (with busted CD-Rom - cards work though)
and my girlfriend's Wii is hooked up there as well. "What no NES?" I am pretty satisfied how the DC handles NES actually. Also I have a Sega Genesis boxed up in the closet as well, I suppose it will come out at some point. Not that there's really any room left for it.. So, yeah, it's a pretty crowded, potential firehazard I have set up there. What else is new.

Anyway, back to PS3. Since I am a relative n00b to the whole online console experience, and having recently got my feet wet with Xbox Live, it's very interesting to see what they've cooked up over at the PS3 camp - and granted it's a year in for them as well, so I know it must be hugely improved over the likely-lacking experience that must have previously been the case. Anyway, all tings considered, Playstation Network looks and runs fairly well. It's going for a more straightforward, adult look (that is, neutral colors, less "friendly") than Live. Also a litle less "user friendly," as Live will always prompt you to "go there" when you need to go to a different area to install something, run a completed download, perform a test, etc. It's a little niggling, but certainly things like that are the grease that makes the whole thing less of a pain to navigate. You can hop online fairly easily, and though it's a little clunky (for a moment), the browser-on-TV actually does work fairly well. I am sure you can plug a standard issue keyboard/mouse into the USB ports of the system and go right to town with it - I don't think I will get much use of it in the long run (why would I, when a PC is right beside it?) but it's nice to have.. also if you are gonna watch something on Youtube or whatever, I suppose.

As for online content, it looks fairly similar to how Live is setup, what with the demos and downloadable games and all of that. Live still kills it all over the place in this regard, between how it's setup, navigability, and just overall legibility.. but it's usable, and it is getting there. Just very sloppy still. You can tell they want to ripoff Live without being terribly direct about it, anyway. It's nice to think that they have downloadable PS1 titles on there (not that I have yet perused, really) and it's worth mentioning that I have not seen any "movie download service" akin to Live's, yet. Whichever of the two consoles figures that out, for REAL, will be a big contender for me. Also worth mentioning, is the Playstation "Wallet" system - you link up your credit card, etc. to deal with downloading non-demo titles at the store. I like this over anyting else (N or M$) in that instead of the Points BS, you're dealing with everything as actual for-real US Dollars, up front. No confusion or "perceived value.." that certainly endears me to them quite a bit. For whatever that is worth.

What have I downloaded? As usual, I try to load up my HD with demos of anything remotely interesting. DLing on my DSL account is slow as hell (???) but I set it up to go all night, then head out for the evening, so no matter (hey I have got other stuff to do, alright!) Here's a quick rundown, just to cover the bases:


Uncharted:Drake's Fortune (demo) - big xmas Naughty Dog exclusive for the system, and one of the most anticipated. I was trying to get a position working on this, actually - Anyway, we got the disc in at the office a few weeks ago, watching them play the early parts left me kind of uninterested. Regardless I DL'd the demo (I knew it was showing off a different section of the game) and liked it much, much better (to the point where I'd like to bring it home and give it a few spins). Very lush, very gorgeous - fun to tool around with, and the shooting action (for what it is worth) was enjoyable enough. Raised my interest quite a bit. Beautiful graphics - shows of PS3's power!

Insomniac's Ratchet and Clank Future : Tools of Destruction (demo). I've never been an RC player (I do have the 1st one, of which I have played maybe 10 minutes' worth) but I can appreciate what they have done with this title. It's looking GOOOOood. They are really pushing some geo and textures here, and it all flows smoothly, perfectly - it's not quite a real "living city" for real quite yet, but you get the feeling that there's always a lot of hectic excitement going on all over the place - it feels pretty intense. Play-wise, this thing is stuck in the dark ages, though. I don't need to jump and hack pointlessly anymore. Platformers can be fun, but this play style does not suit me, it feels so tired and done-over-and-over that I don't care HOW good it looks, it I doesn't inspire me to invest time or money. But I know this is a very successful franchise, it would be sort of risky to change all of that just for my sake. Well, maybe I will take home the office copy if I get bored.

Heavenly Sword (demo) - another anticipated title, I am not too terribly sure how well it was received - lukewarm perhaps, certainly not bad. I was expecting God of War smoothness, not that I am too adept with that game, this one just felt a little clunkier. It gave you some very satisfying action-killing-closeups, maybe if there was a little less constant-bombardment from the same enemies coming from everywhere to vary things up a bit, it would be more enticing. Just a demo of course - as usual, lush/perfect graphics, though a little chuttery on the framerate (and a little of the nonsense Quicktime events which I strongly detest). This game looks nice, the hero and action "feel right," and I am inclined to investigate more - could be some satisfying hack-n-slash. Nothing I would investigate if there was more on the shelf though.

Everyday Shooter - the first thing I loaded up on my PS3, before ANYTHING else (including the pack-in). I have been rather interested in this title, after hearing a bit about it's genesis. Yeah, a stylish (in a way) one-man-show, and for all intents and purposes it's just a freakin' Flash game, but it is fun and I like that they are promoting stuff like this. This is where gaming needs to go, in my opinion. I love REZ, and I want to see more like-minded stuff (ripoffs not so much, but inspired-by is certainly the way to go). For crying out loud, tis makes me want to buy Fantavision, there I said it...! Anyway I had to straight-up buy this thing right away.

Ridge Racer (yawn!), Formula One something-or-other (yuck.. yuck!), a couple of other games that I don't recall. I haven't played them all yet. The Rub-a-Dub game (Flicky crossed with controller gimmick) felt thin at first but has grown on me, I might throw 10 bones at it. Toy Home is a Toy-Story feeling racer, it's got motion-controlled steering. VERY Japanese-kiddy, my girlfriend likes it so we scooped it up. I was unhappy to learn that there's not a straight "race battle" mode in there, but for what it is, it's not bad for $10. Pixeljunk racers sounded cool, but felt uckkk awful (this is a game.. really?)

Otherwise, I played with Motorstorm a little bit. After working on a similar-styled game some years back, I can appreciate the fun in such a game. It's not drawing me back too terribly, but as it's the only on-disc PS3 title I have got currently, I want to spend a few minutes with it. It DOES LOOK nice, I will say, and the prospect of eventually running a big rig through the bud sounds fun. I was a fan of the early ATV PS2 games back in the day (long on looks, but they sufficed - and the handling was so perfectly satisfying!) Honestly if they made a proper, arcadey-follow up to those games, I'd sign right up. I investigated MTX vs ATV on 360 (recent demo) and though it had some relation (also, it looked pretty nice), that spot-on feeling was just ripped away. You've lost that lovin' feelin'.

I guess that nearly wraps up my original PS3 impressions. The interface is not too bad, just keep ripping off Live and it'll be better I say. The system runs relatively quiet as HELL, which I love. I have yet to investigate Blu-ray (don't really care, and as I have a CRT, does it matter so much?) Someday perhaps I will upgrade to HDTV but that's a ways off, and not something that's a priority for me. I have yet to try the backwards compatibility, but I would happily remove my PS2 from my game shelf in order to clear up some clutter/danger. I will check that out later (in my mind I will still say PS2 is the most comprehensive system to beat, out there.. for the time being). So in essence - PS3 - nice to have, future games will be interesting, glad I got it as a gift. Would not buy, for now or for a lonnng time.

Over in Other-video-game-system land, I have been neglecting my recently-re-acquired 360 what with the new gadgets to play with. I intend to get through Bioshock however, and I would like to pick up Orange Box (I wanna play Portal). And just generally mess around with demos as I see fit. As for games I would actually buy, skate seems fun (I will wait till it goes down in price!) and maybe Amped 3 if I can find it cheap. As mentioned earlier, I DL'd the Frontlines demo (THQ/Kaos) and did manage to play through it. It is getting some scratchy reception on the message boards, I must say it's a nice experience though. Looks and plays well - I hope it does well for them! I can see why people complain, they want it to be exactly like the other games they love - which it isn't. There's a lot of love in there, I hope they fleshed it out properly. We'll see soon enough. Otherwise, Rock Band dominates - still! You can't touch this game, man. I know it sounds cheesy and cliche, but these guys really rule the world. It's the perfect mesh of man, music, and game, party game at that. I hope to see them take it further and make it more fun - hell! I wanna play this game at bars with strangers, I know it would just be a blast! Even my non-gamer girlfriend is getting into it. Who would have thunk - someone out there can make games with the priority of just causing people to feel good, and have a good time. I have half a mind to pick it up myself, but geez - I think I have spent enough $$$ this season.

In Wii-ville, it's business as usual. Pretty much all that gets played around here is Wii Play and Wii Sports - and they are still fun! We've had it set up nearly a month, mind you - and not all the game hold up - but tennis, bowling -- great for unwinding. I got into boxing as well. It's just fun with a bunch of people, again "great for nongamers" of course. The ultimate test will be in a couple of days, to see if my parents can actually get into it (I got them one for the holidays, I may have mentioned it in here - they haven't played any games since, oh, pacman and centipede...haha). I got some games for my girlfriend for the holidays as well, Wario Ware Smooth Moves and Cooking Mama Cookoff (you would not believe how difficult it was to find a game called Cooking Mama!) We only checked out the former so far, but I must say it's done as well as I could have hoped - those guys are nuts! Intelligent Systems has to be one of the better devs out there, for real - I love wacky, weird, abstract stuff that makes you scratch your head and say "wha?" If the game doesn't fall short then I will say it's worth the money. Check back with that in a few days - anyway it's nice to see someone take the Wiimote at face value and make stupid simple little minigames out of it. I hope the multiplayer translates properly, it could be another rocking party game.

Whew! So there's what has got to be one of my longer entries, in a while - I had a lot of lost time to make up for, so slobby pseudo-journalism is what will result. I haven't really even touched on politics this time, or end-of-year wrap-up stuff.. maybe later.

Monday, December 17, 2007

party on, wayne!

So, last Thursday evening was the Pandemic Holiday party at the Natural History Museum in LA. Like so many other hangers-on in the gaming industry, I crashed it once again (actually I legitamitely got my name on the guest list this time, which was not too hard to do as they'd opened the party up to the industry at large.. to a point, anyway). Exhausted from an already wild night the preceding Tuesday, I wentured out into the chill of the evening and dragged myself out to enjoy some free drinks and catch up with my ol' pals. I have to say, the night started off kind of rough but a few drinks in (and a few hours to dilute the crowd, some) and my mood lightened considerably - it was a fun time! Not quite the "blast" their last party (that I'd attended anyway, in 2005) was - still it was very satisfying and I was sad it wrapped up so quickly. Here's some random bald guy dancing while I am merrily stomping away in the background:

(too bad I didn't get more appropriate pictures - what'd'ya want)

Our own Xmas party looms this Wednesday night, I suspect it will not be quite so ridiculous.. but that's fine (I have partied a bit lately, I can take a breather).

This brings me to today's topic, camraderie in the games industry. I suspect I have written about it before here, if not certainly elsewhere - yes, though there is (of course) much competition between companies in the game industry, and I guess between job applicants, it's generally a very friendly place. Especially on my end (artists and designers), we typically seem to get along quite well with one another, and respect one another's positions. Sure, there's times when you might wanna wring a particular co-worker's neck (we're only human, right?) but generally I get the sense that in many studios there's a strong notion of team and togetherness, overall - we are working together on this production, and the majority of us strive to put our best efforts (and sometimes, our latest nights) to task in order to make one another proud - to keep up our ends and match the work of those toiling alongside us.

Likewise, when we pick up a competing studio's game, we look at it as something deserving of respect (when that is the case) - as opposed to just "we must crush them, all comers, for all that they are worth.. we will hear the lamentations of their women," and so forth. Generally, game developers are honestly the biggest game-fan geeks you're likely to meet, I would say. And I would say this is the case even in the situation of a competing title in the same genre, usually. The bosses may not be so likely to second that, but as far as we grunts go --grunt--. At any rate we can pick up a title and appreciate it from a particular point of view, as far as what kind of work has gone into it, the little bells and whistles, etc.

Thursday, December 13, 2007

Frontlines Demo is out

So yesterday Frontlines (demo) was released on Xbox live. Eager to see this as I nearly took a job working for these guys, last March (decided to stay in LA instead). It' s been downloading all evening to my machine (yup, I got my Xbox replaced - FINALLY!) but I guess I'll have to wait until tomorow to finally check it out, it's going s-l-o-w. Also in the queue is Burnout Paradise, which will be interesting to see..

Tonight will be the Pandemic company Xmas party in Los Angeles, this should be a night of madness to be (somewhat) remembered. I went two years ago to their house of blues party, which was rather crazy - this one should top it, easily! The Crystal Method will be performing, and I suspect the booze will be free once again - Supposedly they are anticipating over 2000 guests - I have an RSVP, but geez...

I received Donkey Kong:Jungle Beat in the mail the other day, cool game! This is the one you operate with bongos - man, my hands HURT after playing that thing! Cool idea though! I need ot get a memory card, and then I will play thru it some more. Wario Ware twisted also arrived, I put it in for a moment - weird as ever, but that's good. Also, I am sad, the TurboGrafx CD Player I bought seems irrepairably busted - what a waste! Time to scour eBay some more, then (probably better to wait after Xmas, though). I plugged the unit into my TV and at least got the HuCards to run, it looked GOOD to see that running on the big screen once again - properly - after all these years!

Monday, December 10, 2007

wii did it

Yup, so last weekend was my girlfriend's birthday, she was asking me endlessly for Wii "I want wii, i want wii!!" -- of course, I broke down and succumbed, sigh. I got her the system with an extra controller (with wii play) and the extra nunchuk controller as well (as most know, it comes with a single remote and nunchuk - but this system is designed to be enjoyed by two, at least). I must admit i have not previously played wii at all, except for perhaps an evening about year ago at a friend's place. Not too terribly impressed with it at the time, but i could appreciate what it was good for either way. Anyway, we opened it up last night and played thru the two game collections - I have to say, it is definitely impressive! Long on looks, but satisfying enough for what they are trying to do, this is definitely a system that is friendly to non-gamers. My girlfriend has little to no interest in games, but she definitely has been getting addicted to the wii ones. She begrudgingly picked up golf and couldn't put it down, for a couple of hours! She and her friends were yelling and screaming as they were competing with one another - I guess it was a good idea, eh? I guess i will pick up a party game like Mario Party or Smooth Moves or something for her, next..

Weirder, I bought the same setup for my PARENTS for te holiday. My parents who've not played any kind of video games since the early 80s, they would play pac-man and centipede with me when I was a little kid. They have NO interest in videogames, whatsoever (well, my dad will try to pick up Pac-man now and again, my mother bought him a little TV Plug-in unit a year ago). So this will be the ultimate test to see if all the wii marketing is for real! Actually, I wouldn't have laid out the money if i thought it would be a waste of time, i do think they'd get a kick out of it (at least the bowling and stuff like that). I'll have to twist their arms to get started with it - we'll see how it goes.

Not much game news on my end, I guess. Another week of working hard, and waiting for my 360 to get replaced. The store I bought it from has a replacement policy, but at this rate I should probably send it to M$ and deal with them. Sigh.. pain in the ass!! At the end of the week, I may be the owner of a PS3, if not the week afterwards.. Otherwise, not playing much - just Gameboy B/W version of Tetris Attack, the puzzle mode. Thinking man's game.. "clear the level in 2 or 3 moves," sounds boring but it's well-put together and endlessly captivating. I have stared at it for a long time.. it makes me feel really stupid though. If I don't get on too late with writing this blog, I will likely refresh my Micro with some new games (at last!) It's been like 2 years since I have done that, and I still don't "need" to.. I stand by what I have said before, if all my other systems had to go, so long as I could hold onto my Micro then it would not be awful (I will be sad the day the special battery dies, though!!!)

Ebay-wise, I ordered Donkey Kong:Jungle beat for Gamecube (play it on the wii), it is a platformer that you control with bongos (!). I guess it was made by the same team that made Super Mario Galaxy (though, a couple of years earlier). It's got a lot of praise, and with the bongos it was pretty cheap - I look forward to firing up this particularly weird sounding game! I also ordered a copy of Wario Ware twsited for GBA (the one you have to twist the GBA around with - obviously). I enjoyed the very first Wario Ware GBA game, and this one is supposed to be the "best" one. Note that I borrowed the same from a friend, about a year ago - I had it for maybe six months, never even touched it even one time! But hey. I love weird, off-the-path games like that, and I was able to find it for about 10 bones.. why not.

I have Space Raiders and Mega Man:Network Transmission sitting in my cabinet, I was hoping to finally get some mileage out of them on the wii - no such luck, i need a non-wii-remote to play them apparently! I will have to dig one up, somewhere.. No hurry.

Recently I mentioned that I have acquired a TG-16, I brought it home but as it's lacking a proper controller, it sits waitin in abox. I found a direct-sales company that will let some new controllers go relatively cheap (cheaper than used versions on ebay!) so i will get one shortly. I have a CD unit with it as well, which I still have to check to see if it works !! I have been leeching old PCE ISOs off the net in anticipation, and found a guy who is selling a system upgrade card (to play Dracula X). Yeah, so nerdy, but it's cool - I always wanted one of these! I will be sort of surprised if it all loads, of course.

Work-wise, not much I can say (as usual). Lots of interesting times going on over at Obsidian, our Xmas party is a week away. Late this week will be the Pandemic party, which I'll likely show up at (along with abut a trillion other drunken marauding folks). Yeah, good to schmooze, esp. since no E3 this year, boo! I went to a Pandemic party 2 years ago, it was a wild mess - I expect this one will be along those lines, we will see. A bunch of late nights behind me from last week, hopefully the load will be a little easier in this coming one. Technical times too, might I add.

Alright! It is late. i wanna mess with GBA before passing out. Until next time..

Sunday, December 2, 2007

for crying out loud

yeah, well, isn't htis technically one of the Four Signs of the Apocalypse? Wait, I forgot.. the world actually ended sometime in the mid-eighties. I think when Knight Rider got signed for a fourth season or something. Most would say it was the seventies, but in all honesty I do believe it coasting on fumes for a good several years. Good for them!

No, but really, this is madness. Well, not really. This is just.. self-fulfillment of prophecies, really. The entire industry is slowly turning into a High School Statistics class equation, from here on out. Put all the big (and mid-) leaguers into an array and squish them through the sausage machine. If P then Q, if not P then not Q. If A and B buy C then D will merge with E while F gets extremely white-trash rich. And that, my friends, is why I work in the videogame industry, as well. Usually when I wanna write a reactionary post to something as bamboozling as this, I get all rambly and postulate-y. But at this point I am getting tired, as the fantastic becomes normal - I will wait and read about it on the forums along with everybody else.

Though I must admit, it does hit rather close to home in some ways. Consider this - I used to work at Swingin' Ape, when it was a tiny dev (@15 people?) which was down-the-road acquired by Blizzard and turned into Blizzard Console (Starcraft Ghost, version 2.0.. roughly). After my departure from SA (a brief tenure, mind-you) I got an art test from Tha Blizz while WOW was in production - they sent me a Tree to make ("oh whee, here's a tree"). I had just departed from OC, having sworn never to set foot on it's wretched soil again, and as I'd just settled on trying for work with either Treyarch or Left Field, the Blizzard tree was left out.. in the cold (you see what I did there?) A couple years down the road, I had left Left (working for Activision, Actually) and another year later I was makin' skatey games at Neversoft. Gun was wrapping up, and Tony Hawk 7 was in full swing - Neversoft's glory days as "Activision's Golden Dev" were pretty done, but they were still pretty popular as those things go. A couple of years at NS and then outta there too, and six months hence - guess what? I am working at Obsidian in OC, just a couple miles up the street from Nobody Beats the Blizz (clearly.) In fact my girlfriend, last year, lived on the same camps in which they were stationed (I heard they just moved this weekend). Point being, I work in OC, which is videogame-wise steeped in Blizzard's shadow. Everybody here plays that game. Dudes here have worked there, some have left this place for that one. Why haven't I tried to get back there? Oh. I have my reasons. More than ever, I resist the great conglomeration, but I know that my days, too, are numbered, the way things are going. Not necessarily working at the newly-crowned AB, but at some place which'll get snapped up again by some big-ass megacorporation. Anyway, best not to think about how much money my alternate-universe doppelganger is belly-flopping into, because it's no all about the money anyway (though stability and respect, those are other issues altogether). I guess many people are excited about these things, well.. so many are nervous and anxious about what it all means. Me, I get a chilly feeling "it is all too soon, it goes too fast.." I try to keep tabs on as much as I can, in my tiny speck-like state in this all - as ever, I wonder where I will end up and if when the time comes (if I've not fallen overboard) whether I will be happy or unhappy to get sucked up by whatever overbloated monolith. Yeah don't forget, I have had checks signed by Activision before. Hell even Vivendi, a couple of times.. right now, technically, it's Sega.. but it's always a different degree, what is all means.

Tuesday, November 27, 2007


yeah so some dude at work put his Turbografx-16 console and collection up on the for sale spam-list. I shelled out $75 and got a console, CDrom, (broken-ended) joystick, and @40 games. FORTY GAMES! Only like 3 or 4 CDroms but hell, 40 game cards!! That's rad.. he threw in a sega 32X (with Star Wars) to even it out. But.. hell!! I always have wanted to get my hands on a genuine Turbografx-16.. I know, the emulation is pretty well covered at this stage (and of course they support a lot of the good games on the Wii Virtual Console) but there's always something about getting your hands on "the real deal" that's just a little more special. I have always admired the system, I borrowed one from a friend sooo many years ago (sigh.. like.. 20 years ago. You do not know how much it pains me to type things like that...) and would have bought one if the Sega Genesis didn't edge it out in the Race of Awesome Things, at the time. Hey, the Genesis was TRUE 16-Bit, what's a kid to do? I remember those days, the early 16-Bit wars.. the TG-16 (PC-Engine in Jamaica, errr, Japan) was actually 8-Bit with a custom 16-Bit processor. Sega's device was actual full-on 16-Bit hardware, with the promise of games "direct from the arcade to your living room," and they had the machines out at the arcade (and translations coming home) to prove it. Obviously Turbo was no slouch either, with some very nice-looking titles to pick up - though they were more colorful, they still lacked that certain je' ne' se quois that Sega had. It was a tough choice but one that I never regretted.

This stack is worth it for the $$$ alone. Blazing Lazers. R-Type. Star Soldier. Legendary Axe. Galaga '90. Ninja Spirit. Fantasy Zone. Klax. Splatterhouse. Sinistron. DUngeon Explorer. Neutopia. Victory Run. Bonk. Drgaon's Curse. Where the hell is Devil's Crush? Oh well, can't have them all. There's a bunch of other 2nd and third rate crap in there also... but hey. Close enough. Xmas came early! To top it off I scored a NES Bubble Bobble (though I will rather prefer to play Parasol Stars on the TG-16.. I am covered!) Man, old games rock. Now I need to find a dude who will sell me a Turbopad for under $25.. (and yet.. I would still prefer that my $X*@ 360 would just get freakin' fixed.. maybe next week!) I take it back, these games are still more fun!

I have a little list going of retro stuff I'd love to get my hands on.. a Turboduo (still, though not for what they ask for it.. bah!) A Colecovision would be rad, with a load of games.. I would never say no to a 2600 (though honestly, the whole setup would be quite an eyesore and surely end up in the back of my closet).. A Virtual Boy would still be cool (though i DO have a busted on in the back of my closet!) And I guess above all else, I'd like a Vectrex setup. Most coveted, however, would be a Mame Cab.. done right. One day I will shell out the necessary cash, but I can wait 'till I am able to afford such things. Mame's not going anywhere.. right?

Sunday, November 25, 2007

party on!!

whew, yah, time to fill into my neglectef video-gameo-lame-o blog once again. man. i just don't have TIIIIIME to write in this thing anymore. which is a shame since there's lots and lots to say, especially lately.

anyway, first order of business:

My officemates picked this $170 monstrosity up early last week and I would hear them wailing it down the hall while i was trying to work (hence why I have come in to put in some weekend hours, since it's nice and calm and peacefully quite at the moment). But yeah we all knew this would be interesting, for sure. My buddy in Hollywood picked it up as well and we gave it the once-over on Friday night - this game is fun! Not much for Guitar Heroics, I screamed and shrieked into the microphone till my voice was getting hoarse. Our band "Slutty Balls" kicked all kinds of ass. I can't wait to play some more! Drums looks fun also, I tried for a moment but thrown in mid-game with no warm-up and I completely fell apart. I can think fo some design choices (Simon Says-inspired) which might make that a little easier to swallow. Rock Band - party game of the year!

We went to some Neversoft friends' place for Turkey Day and powered up with the Wii. I have to say I have not really touched/seen a Wii (hold those jokes please.. aww) for just about a year. We were messing around with Mario Galaxy, a good looking, likeable-seeming game. It struck me how simple, easy the graphics are. They come across as solid, but that stuff is like .. BABY solid. I could whip out some levels for a product like that in no time flat. They are pretty long on details. It works though. I will always speak in favor of style. Also played some Wario's Woods (NES Flavor) on the Virtual Console. Never played it before, though the game (SNES version) has sat on my shelf for at least a year and change. Weird game.. it's got much praise. I can't say I enjoy it yet, but I will give it some time to grow on me (it's got a notable pedigree).

My Xbox 360 is sitting boxed up in a pile beside me. This sucks!! I had the thing running for barely 3 weeks with nearly no play on it.. all demos, really. I have to say, the demos have been great, for the most part - completely worth the investment. I could just kick back and play Geometry Wars, Lumines, Pacman CE, etc. At least! Hell the Skate demo was terrific, even the new Tony Hawk demo (in spite of popular opinion) is well worth it, I would say. Now.. ASIDE from demos.. I took home the office copy of the much-lauded Bioshock, and checked that thing out for a couple of hours. 1st time since I have had a 360 that I have truly played a game from a disc that wasn't a demo or a.. Yaris (don't get me started. GOTYaris!). But yeah. I got a little ways in. I was looking for Telekenesis.. however you spell it. Then BLAM the thing just froze up.. what.. whatever. Reboot. Play again and five minutes in FREEZE-UP AGAIN!!! This is bullshit now. Okay, reboot. Uhm. Reboot? Please? Where is the picture? Is my switchbox f'd? I plug directly into the side of the TV. I am hearing the normal boot audio for the system.. but no video. NO SIGNAL. NO SIGNAL. You wasted your money, lame-ass. Screw you, TV, I say. I pakced up the system and brought to the office with me on Monday. Tried different cables. Nothing. So it's dead. I got a 1-year warranty through the reseller. I come in and wait in line "we ain't got any replacements, too bad it's almost XMastime! Come back tomorrow" Yeah so I come back tomorrow "Come back next week, we got nuthin' for ya" So I come back (well, call) "We got nuthin' till middle of NEXT WEEK." Screw you guys. No, really.. Actually, screw me. I should have known better. You get what you pay for, and M$ already has their reputation stable-360-wise. That was ridiculous. Anyway, hopefully I will have a new working one beofre the New Year. Hopefully they will let me transfer over my Live account without any more migraines. Yes, now I am just bitching endlessly, but why shouldn't I? They charge hundreds of dollars for this stuff, and then I gotta run all over the place for it to just do what it is supposed to anyway? Well. like I said.. not a huge surprise. Yeah, well, I look forward to someday seeing more of Bioshock, that much I will say. For now.

Sunday, November 4, 2007

return to the garden of your nightmares

well, got my xbox live account activated, the router didn't die (am-aaaaa-zing) and better yet, as of this writing, my apartment hasn't caught fire due to the hazardous layout of cables smershed behind my television (could have happened, since I am not home yet I don't know about it). Seriously. I have my doubts about this whole "power brick" thing, and to say it was perniciously placed would be putting it♦ modestly. I am having flashbacks to being 10 years old and watching that episode of "Webster" where their apartment burns down. That one did a number on my soft innocent little mind..

but i digress..

anyway if you want to add me, or some such, to your (appropriately-named) "friend list" for Xbox live, go for it, my handle is ralp99. I can't say that i expect to be a good videogame-friend, since i will likely only pick up cheap/obscure/older games (as is my wont), but hey, maybe we can chat or cyber or something. that'd be hot.

Knowing the potential of Xbox live, and then seeing it with one's own eyes, it is something to behold. Sure I have seen the layout of all that crap before, and I am no stranger to the internet of course (da-da-DUMMMmmm) but knowing it and actually HAVING IT hooked up to your own television where the business takes place is a little bit of a jolt. I must say it's a kick to look at all the insta-available movie titles I could oh-so-readily download at a button's press to view on my Deluxe Entertainment Home Media Centre Theater, mind you DLing and watching crap is nothing new to me (hey i ain't no noob) but with the PS2 Media Thingie it's usually a bit of a song and dance involved, and it is all oh-so-dubious to say the least - that is if the damned DIVX file is encoded properly and doesn't skip all over the place (or just crash out). I am being a little heavy handed, the PS2 solution was super rad for the years I have had it (and yes, it's fun to nerd-out with that stuff) but i will happily move into the future with the rest of you for a less accident-prone solution. In the meantime, I haven't exactly unhooked the PS2 device from my setup ('cause we all know that it's a matter of time until the damned 360 RROD's anyway. So much for accident-proofing). Yeah I am not kidding. I have no faith in that piece 'a crap. It's nice and I hope it lasts me (at least) a year, if I am lucky. But damn those things get hot, as mentioned in the previous entry. I fully expect it nothing short of China Syndrome with this baby. You'll see. You'll ALL SEE.

Xbox demos, the reason I bought this damn thing really, this is definitely sizing up to feeling worth my investment. I don't have time/inclination/attention span to play through whole games as it is, and shelling out a paltry couple bucks for live to get virtually unlimited access to 2 zillion demos is a Hog's Dream Come True. I knew it would be pretty good but this is even more impressive than I would've expected (pessimist that I am). Most likely all who read this are jaded, by now, but I for one am very appreciative of this service they've provided. Free shit. FREE. Did you hear that? It's FREE. Yeah "late to the party" and all of that, but the fact is it's remarkable how (relatively) well-organized all the game demos are, and the fact that they all stay up there! It's like this crazy virtual library, and all you have to do is shuffle some space, and be patient for stuff to come down the pipe. Suddenly I am realizing that 20 GB is just not enough space.. but then, they have it all up on their servers permanently (-enough) that it's inconvenient but not anywhere near awful. That's great. I'll probably tool around with most of these demos the same amount as I have with whole games I have actually bought in the past few years.

Mind you, I am definitely far from "the typical player" for a good few reasons.. but this all fits the bill rather nicely. So long as my house doesn't burn down.

Anyway I DLd about 7-10 demos today and fooled around with a couple so far (Superman Returns, Stranglehold). When work lays off a little I'll put in a little time for some lovin'. More ot come...

Saturday, November 3, 2007

so.. i have Jumped In

sigh, that's right, i finally sold out and bought a &*^#@*(&$^ 360. it only took me two years to catch up with the rest of the Modern World of Gaming. I picked it up last night at the Microcenter up the street from my office, forked over my $230 (it's a refurbished unit) and they handed me a deck with 20GB HD, headset (won't be using that one too much), wireless controller (nice touch) and all the necessary cables and doodads to plug the thing into the Internowhere. All wrapped up nice and tight in a mostly-unmarked, unassuming brown box-shaped box. Fresh from a coffin, I am sure. I fought (valiantly) with the jungle of wires and dead crickets behind my Low Defiition Television and Entertainment Unit to hook the thing into the tangly nightmare, turned it on and stuck in a copy of Tony Hawk 2007 Ex-travaganza to make sure it ran. Sure enough, she lit up and ran like a charm, and sure enough there was a problem (the "wireless connect" button on the faceplate was busted). I got in there with a pen and finagled it. Haven't got on Live yet (I won an auction for a membership, waiting patiently for them to email it over to me.. tap, tap, tap) so until then I will leave the thing resting idly in the "off" position 'neath my TV. Sadly, I tried to put the unit into one of the close-able areas of the cabinet, though I noted that the thing gets HOTTTTT when it's on for more than 14 seconds... and so it must sit out front, proudly displaying it's ugly, ugly design for all who enter my living room to gawk at in disgust. Have I mentioned how unattractive I think the unit is?

Anyway, it detected the network connection through my router (and my internet connection from my PC seems to be working at the moment, obviously) so I am happy to report that stuff is all set up. I am sure the unit will fail (crappy odds) sometime in the next 3-6 months.. hopefully before my 1-Yr warranty expires. Let's see.

After I get on Live I will start plodding through to see what demos I can get my hands on.. the main point of my purchasing this thing. Stay tuned.

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.

Sunday, September 30, 2007

--super mario bros 2 tune--

how the hell would they get such addictive music out of crappy 8bit sound chip?

so last night i had a game dev dream. this actually doesn't happen very much (well, unless it's welding vertices, or being fired). I was playing God of War mixed with Tony Hawk and Mototrax. I am not sure if they were always the same game.. anyway it wet from alternately awesome to completely unfinished and terrible. I'd be vrooming around in a sloppy dirtbike or jeep and there would be lowpoly cabins without backsides ad flipped normals. everything was blurry, unlit,
and crappy looking.. lots of bright reds and yellows. then another level would load up and just be fun. Then my dream ceased to be about videogames, and I was just able to get up a good deal of speed running on my own two feet and take enormous, superhero-sized leaps into the sky. I would jump around inside Hangers and slap the ceiling every time, amazed that I would plummet back to earth everytime and NEVER hurt my feet. It was weird. Felt very cool though.

So I am thinking about PS3 Home lately. I read a little update on the thing in a recent EGM rag and it got my brain turning on it some more. It was due this fall (which is NOW) and got postponed till sometime in 08, Spring I guess? Anyway.. man. Dullsville. Since I had first lain eyes on the thing, it's not impressed me. I can appreciate what they are doing, and competing with things like Second Life, WOW, and the Mii's all rolled into one.. never mind Xbox Live. But this looks kind of pathetic by comparison. I can completely understand what thy are going for here and why they are doing this, in this fashion, but it's just pointed totally down the wrong path. Take it from a guy who's not actually really laid eyes on Xbox Live himself (and so not qualified to speak on the matter, but "I get the gist...") If it ain't broke, don't fix it! Sometimes a direct interface without an avatar is honestly a better way to approach things. in the matter of setting up live games online, an all of that, it does' "need" this kind of virtual representation. Much less for playing online minigames and crap like that. I mean, so long as they support a more traditional "browser formula" as well and make this stuff optional, then it can't hurt, I suppose. Honestly, there are things they could do to make a prospect like home very cool, but they don't seem like they have their S together enough to do this (well, at least the politics-that-be would prevent it from getting there). You can sort of tell what kind of people are in charge of this project just by looking at the media presented thus far. They want it to be al classy, IKEA, Metrosexual.. Sims. Man. Boring. I guess I am the same kind of guy who would poo-poo the idea of Sims in the first place (though at the time when it was fresh, i appreciated it's relative "originality"). Seriously the biggest problem with Home is this: what is the point, what do you DO? It's not a game, it's just... hanging out. Eh, I guess the no-lifer's will dig on it. If they get some kind of ingame achievements going, goals and tasks ad crap, then it could work. Make it a little wackier and Animal Crossing-y instead of Glorious Ugly Realism Boringness, it might get something. Half-assed pool and bowling don't seem too exiting. get some Poker and Mahjong and stuff in there. Hell, make a Magic the Gathering ripoff... things like Uno wet over well, get a whole card-playing community going, make it free, and make it a little atmospheric (dark and dank and sketchy, "underground feeling." Make old-fashioned 80s arcades with relevant emulated games instead of "insta copter" or whatever. Make people feel like they have to earn this stuff, discover it, instead of laying it all out there.

Whatever. I have tons of ideas, I am sure many do. Ultimately it wall be another gaffe that they throw tons of money at to result in another overbudget half-assed project that makes them look kind of clueless and lame. It will possibly get refined into something cooler in some time. Hey if they could make 8bit skins for everything, that would be sweet. Tron skins.. even WOW sins for those who like that sort of thing. Overall I just prefer my real life as my REAL life and hanging out online to be something that remains a novelty, not the point of my life. Ohhh I should watch my tone. Anyway like everyone else, I watch this with interest to see what shape it takes. Gross or not, it's still pretty important and weighty.

Thursday, September 27, 2007


Well, let's see how well I can do typing in this thing will my girlfriend is watching sex and the city on the other side of the room..

another day in the trenches, the past couple of weeks have been all about "repair the bugs, fix the errors..." y'know how it goes. It's not the most glamorous part of the job, surely, but hey, someone's gotta do the dirty work. Today was skybox repair... I'll say this much, you work in a business with certain tools for an amount of time, and you get used to doing things a certain way. You pick up after and some years settle down with a different toolset, then you have to re-apply all the techniques that worked in one way and turn them on their ear "let's see.. how do they handle it in here?" It's not bad, and it's satisfying to figure out how to do the, erm, translation - but yeah, at the 11th hour it's nice to have the fallback of "I know how to do this simple basic thing" and have it work like you usually expect. Well, when that doesn't quite happen, it's at least satisfying to discover a new way of doing things..

I was listening to the latest Games for Windows podcast today (well okay it was day old, but they released two this week, apparently) and it got me thinking. They were going off about how excited they were to be wrapped up with the new Team Fortress 2 (and associated titles), and remarking about how it really is such a great time in history to be a gamer, right now. So many big titles are being released during this period, in the wake of a pretty solid couple of years of steady releases (I think I was mentioning lately about the relative quality of "the big franchises"). It's true! Look at any release list between now and the coming holiday season and thing is just packed. Metroid just released recently, we got Halo 3, a new Madden just came out, Skate is reviewing well, the anticipated PS3 titles are on the horizon (Uncharted, Ratchet and Clank), I believe Ninja Gaiden just released on PS3 (yeah another rehash, but it's got it's fans) - Mario Galaxy and Smash Bros. are due shortly for Wii (as is wii fit.. hahahaha). Zelda Phantom Hourglass.. Bioshock, of course.. You already forgot but a new Pokemon swept the world a few months back, as did a Final Fantasy. Okay there were like 10 other big titles on my mind but I am having trouble dredging them up at the minute, but you get the point. Barely a year ago a new Zelda was released, and after the new year (spring?) it's expected we'll see the new installments in the GTA and Metal gear series. So, yeah, there's a lot going on, no surprise there. "It's a good time to be a gamer.." indeed.

But you know what? Listening to the enthusiasm of the crew of that podcast, it made me sort of sad. I used to be a huge fan of games... when I was a kid, that's what my life revolved around! I couldn't get my hands on enough gaming literature, never mind the actual games themselves! But things are different now. I am on the other end of things, and due to that, I see how it's all put together, bit by bit, byte by byte. I have seen countless games in various states of development, to the level now that when I look at any game, it is often the case that I see it as the sum of it's parts. The interface, the animation system, the recycled textures.. the tacked-on tutorials. The knocked-off features. The half-assed added on "bonus materials.." The road to hell is paved with the best of intentions, eh? Alright, I sound a little jaded, I have just seen a little too many projects for my years (yeah 'cause I am so OLD!) but more than that, I guess as games got more advanced, and numerous ---- it's been easier for them to fall into their cliche's. Which is fine, as I've noted above they are usually satisfying affairs for their audiences. I can't honestly look back at the games of years ago and say "oh yeah the games where you flew from the left side of the screen to the right side, and pressed a fire button? THOSE were so distinctive from one another!" It's true, there's leagues more depth now (though I will still argue, "not necessarily better..") But anyway, that's how it is - I am not easily swayed by games anymore. I used to race to the store to get my hands on the latest Sega Genesis title, I would stalk the SNES release lists.. I would nag the crap outta my folks for the newest SMB or Castlevania or ghouls n Ghosts or Thunder Force for whatever holiday was coming up. I NEEDED that stuff! But I guess I have played "enough" games, I have jumped through "enough hoops." Recently I have picked up some of the titles that I never got around to playing during my childhood, out of curiousity.. yeah, some were fun, but my burning desire to wrap my hands around that controller is long gone, man. I won't lie, there's still games I have my eye on and stuff I want to pick up, but that "life or death" feeling has long since passed. If i had to give up my inventory tomorrow, I don't think I'd shed a tear (but to be honest, I think I would miss my gameboy Micro, a liiiiiiitle)

So then.. is that it? I am dedicated to my profession, my career.. and working in games still excites me, makes me happy. But are my days as a modern gaming consumer gone for good, for the most part? Yeah, possibly.. probably. Who knows, things could swing around and go in a different direction, but I think they've already started to in some ways (casual gaming, Nintendo DS, the surge in retro-gaming interest in the mainstream) and though it's all novel and interesting to me, I seem to notice I am still not spending any money on this kind of entertainment (and no, not pirating, either!) Nah, I think it's me.. my passion for that stuff has given way to my passion for the business end of it, the bigger picture.. the actual production end of things. Keeping tabs on the scene, the industry, the politics of it. I am not a suit or a BS'r, as those things go, but the real world weirdness of it all, the nuts-and-bolts seem so much more enthralling to me, so much more enticing.

Anyway, I guess we'll see. In the meantime I have the spirit of the previous age to keep me going, and plenty of backlog to enjoy in the meantime.. in my way. If Blaster Master 2 was properly produced, I'd be singing a COMPLETELY different tune, I am sure of it.