Saturday, December 27, 2008

2008 - year-end wrap-up

And so, my little blog finds it's way to the end of another year, and I suppose it's my duty (absolutely!) to do a little summation of what 2008 had in store for the world of gaming.

Unlike the previous year, 2008 seemed relatively quieter/less disruptive overall. A lot of money was made, lots of big sweeping changed occurred, but overall the year seemed kind of grey in it's tone. I would say in the bigger scheme of things, it was a somewhat forgettable year overall... not a bad one, though.

Lots and lots of big releases for a year I hadn't expected much fanfare from. We saw the PS3 hitting it's stride quite a bit, after kind of a dull 1st year in existence. Xbox 360 of course had a great year, well at least consistent if not... noteworthy. Wii is continuing to be a mammoth money-making machine, and it saw some decent releases as well, but again nothing like it's previous year (though it saw a few very solid titles). DS and PSP sort of went on doing their thing, with expected efforts.

Economically, I can't say I know how much moolah the games industry raked in, but you can bet it was something hefty. I believe March alone saw something in the neighborhood of a BILLION dollars (a sum that previous entire years could not match!) and that was before some of the year's bigger releases had even come out. Despite the wild profits, game development has become exponentially more expensive, so in spite of wonderful sales, it's costing much more to get to those profits - we saw a lot of layoffs and studio closures this year, as the typical cycle of change continued in the industry. It really hit in earnest toward the end of the year (not unusual for such things) but what a bummer..!

Games releases - as noted, I was a little clueless about what was due to come down the pipe this year, but as it unfolded I wised up. We saw heavy hitters Metal Gear Solid 4 and GTA 4 of course, with much buildup and fanfare proclaiming these games to be the Second Coming for some time now. Ultimately, they may have failed to live up to that hype, and regardless of what their ultimate effects were on their audiences, they did deliver - and they DID sell loads of copies. Of course all eyes were on the Wii this year, as it's been building up quite a head of steam since release - for a variety of reasons, not least of which is it's remarkably well built-up userbase (hey, it is still challenging to find a wii system available for purchase on a store shelf! It has been TWO YEARS!) Wii did well with titles such as Smash Bros. Brawl, Mario Kart, and of course Wii Fit - regardless of how these titles rated, or their staying power, they were standout during the year for various reasons. Wii Music released for the holidays, a game which I am sure will always be remembered as one that never-quite-fit, though it does seem to have it's fans (though perhaps not the intended sales). Personally, the Wii surpised me with the "EA/Steven Spielberg Collaboration" Boom Blox, which looks horribly childish (and low-tech) but is just incredibly fun, particularly at parties. No one wanted to like this game, but after playing it I don't think anyone could argue that it's one of the most enjoyable videogames ever produced, in many ways..

PS3 games.. ummm.. it's escaping me right now, WHAT came out for this system - was lair this year? Sigh. PS3 is stuttering along, they aren't exactly falling apart at the seams but certainly failing to impress when it really counts. I guess we saw Ninja Gaiden 2 on PS3 - or was it Xbox? (Exactly! Well, it was only on Xbox actually) Devil May Cry released for both systems this year as well, a former PS3 exclusive that wanted to "make money" and I cannot blame them. So they got their MGS4
anyway, and the (who noticed?) Metal gear Online as well. I couldn't even tell you if there was a SOCOM. Gran Turismo Prologue I think (enough with this...!) Ratchet and Clank got a very tiny side-story (better than nothing, but commendable nonetheless). No Jak and Daxter, no Spyro, okay that stuff is a generation or two old but still we should have seen something by SOMEone. There's big holes in their release schedule, and not much excuse for it. I mean, money is waiting to be spent! At the end of the year we got another Motorstorm (who asked for it?) and Resistance 2 (should have waited another year, or "who asked for this either?") Sony is a smart and powerful company, who seem to be making some extremely predictable missteps. Yea, they are making money. Yeah, their system is "formidable." But they are losing a lot of ground for some pretty simple reasons. I guess this is what happens when you start getting top-heavy (and invested a bit much in the longevity of the PS2). I predict a better 09 for PS3, but still sluggish and stale. Lest I forget, at least we got LittleBigPlanet out of the deal, one of the coolest games I have EVER seen. Truly a game which maybe didn't "deserve" to exist (2D? DIY? on PLAYSTATION?) but it gives me hope and pride to see a game this gorgeous, brilliant, and full of pep and character come out with this kind of backing. It won't make them tons of money, but at least it shows some willingness to do something weird and different.

XBox has gone on as planned - business as usual. What the hell big-name titles did they release this year, I can't even get anything out of my head? Who cares. Xbox is to hardcore gamers as Wii is to everyone else. They are truly the PS2 of this generation, in that they have games for all walks of life. Unlike PS2, they are powerful enough (technically) to stand head-to-head with the competition (PS2 always looked weak next to Xbox and Gamecube, though it had many more "fun games" that everybody wanted). Okay, this is bothering me, WHAT DID COME OUT for Xbox this year? Mass Effect was the end of 2007 - fallout was mutli-SKU. yeah I know Gears 2. Um... Viva Pinata 2? Banjo-Kazooie? Fable 2? Shoot I am drawing a blank, what a cheesy way to wrap up my year-end of blogging then. I guess they kinda lay back and let the multi-platform stuff run the show on autopilot then.. which I guess you an do when a billion people have already purchased your platform, and keep doing so. Notably, 360 is extremely progressive in Japan, where once upon a time (forever!) any game system not produced by Nintendo or Sony or the like was instantly DOA. Same for 360 for a time. Anyway I have to hand it to them for turning things around. I am still waiting to see if my system dies... sigh. Online, nothing spectacular. Geo Wars II, but everyone's forgotten already. I was excited - to a degree - for Galaga Legions, but the demo left me uninterested (this, after all the enjoyment I got out of Pacman CE). As noted in an earlier entry, I am waiting to see Space Invaders Extreme over here, I think that'll be a blast...!

What did the PC guys get - well, other than the usual Multi-SKU stuff, EA/Mythic got Warhammer out the door hoping to steal a little WOW thunder - no clue how that's going, though I am sure it's only a matter of time until another one bites the dust (you can't stop those guys.. behemoth!) Of course the new WOW expansion released recently as well, and it moved record units, though again.. it's an expansion. WOW's gotta get old sooner or later, but it's got some crazy-remarkable staying power. EA Maxis' Spore finally saw light, after umpteen years of development and redevelopment - again, to no great fanfare. It sounds interesting, but another halfhearted effort at the end of the day, no doubt throttled by politics and economics. But hey, I am not gonna be one to kick EA when they are down, they have definitely been trying to do right by the critics as of late (much to their stockholders' chagrin).


PS3 finally got their "online experience" Home up and running, after much lead-up. I don't think many people like this thing, personally I see it as a warm pile, but I stand by my conviction that it still holds enormous potential - if exploited properly, it could become a really unique, enjoyable experience. It needs the right people in charge of it, someone with a combination of technical knowhow and imagination and enthusiasm to make it their baby, who won't cave into the suits so much - I think it could take off (I'd love to give it a shot!) That'll never happen, but as far as where it does go, time will only tell.

Xbox has their "NXE New Xbox Experience" as well, which I think is kinda gross as well, but at least they are trying to change with the times - even if it doesn't fit my taste (and I'd never promote "changing for the sake of changing," at least not in such a fashion). Still it's noticeably more accessible than Wii's 24Connect service - yuck - but hey at least Nintendo has done SOMETHING. Pathetic that it must be so championed -- Again, I'd love to be the person in charge of designing such things, as there's a lot they could learn from M$ Live and the PSN.

Soooo, yeah! Another year, all wrapped up all pretty with a big ol' BOW on it. And me, what did I play? Ah heck, I am no gamer. I just read GAF a lot, boy. I got a vectrex! That's fun! I got a TG-16 and CDRom and Japanese card to play JPN discs! I guess my most enjoyment was a few notable sessions of Boom Blox on Wii with friends, plus back to it with more Rock Band (though that's pretty stale by now. Still fun, but old!) Honestly we pulled Bomberman 2 out for SNES at a few parties this year and that got a lot of play, that was probably the most enjoyable gaming for me. I played a bit of Wii Fit, it's not "fun!" but it does feel useful and gets me more interested in going to the gym and stuff. I would love to see a tweaked-out version of this, or something.. I still have to charge up my gameboy micro with some other games... As for PSP and DS, lest I forget, nooooot much to sayyyyyyy. PSP is yawny, DS is always eh-to-really good, and iPhone/Google-thing are the ones to keep an eye on.

Am I excited for the coming year in games? Not really. It's just kind of grinding away at this point. Wii's the one to watch, always, it gets the "weird games" which I find enjoyable. Uncharted 2 will likely be fun, colorful, and more-of-the-same... God of War 2 will of course look excellent and be fun. Xbox will keep coasting. No one will care about PSP, and more weird little games will come out for DS. Everyone and their mother will keep wringing their hairs over WOW. Bleah.

---SCRREEEEECH! I almost forgot! Can't have a year-end wrap-up without some mention of the weirdness in the industry! Aside from all the upset (layoffs times a million), the usual hubbub- 19 new guitar hero games announced, activision/Blizzard merger and all of that fallout, death knells of giants like Midway and THQ, etc... we saw a lot of change in the gaming press. A lot of big names who were active in the press retired, or went over to dev, or what-have-you. Also my favorite podcasty-thing Retrogaming radio pretty much ran outta steam after a decade. Over all it was a lot of changing of the guard, across a LOT of sources that I followed, and I am not too pleased about all of that - a new day is dawning, and it's with a lot of the old guard being absent. And so it goes. Happy new year.

Monday, December 22, 2008

so WHAT in the HELL??

Okay, so it is the time of the year - the end - when I would usually take the opportunity to sum up my thoughts on the whole past year of gaming. What's good, what's bad, what was a surprise, and what was -- the best, and worst! WELL - gonna save that for next time. This post will deal with the horrible state of the game industry, lately...

So, no one is a stranger to the notion that the entire country is in some economic turmoil right now, that's rather well-known. Plenty of people are out of work, there's no money ANYWHERE, we're all just freakin' miserable. Save for a new administration shortly to be inaugurated into the White House, it's pretty bleak bleak across the board, and that sucks. Two things - 1. Gasoline is about as cheap as it was like 10 yrs ago (how did that happen?) And 2. Videogaming, as a business, is doing better than ever in history.

So what's to complain about - well, for starters, a lot of the old guard is eating it hard. Typically (and ironically), right before the holidays is when the layoffs generally kick in. That sucks, but that is how it goes - therefore it is no surprise that some studious would downsize at this time of year. However I have never seen it happen at such record numbers. Like TEN studios have been suffering dire economic catastrophe and resorted to laying off staff this season! Maybe not ten, but certainly getting up there. I can't name them all - Aspyr, Midway (yeah, the long-standing old-timers!), Sony (not the games division yet, but even so) - Turbine, EA (record numbers of layoffs). Factor 5, Free Radical. That's off the top of my head, surely there have been a couple more. I know some Activision Blizzard studios got shuttered too (Mass Media, either laid off or closed completely, I don't recall). So what's this all about then? Games are making record money, to a ridiculous degree - where is it all going?

The development model is in need of a change. What worked with small teams on smaller-scale productions can't hold in this multi-million dollar climate. Studios NEED to churn out blockbuster titles to make money, since they are pouring so much dough into development. And now we have a peculiar phenomenon - even if a studio produces a quality title, will it even sell? It used to be the case where the worst thing one could imagine was that the market would be flooded with crap. Now, strangely, the market is flooded with good damned games! You look at the release schedule for the holiday season and what do you see - Tomb Raider. Resistance 2. Gears of War 2. Left for Dead. Dead Space. Mirror's Edge. Call of Duty 5. Rock band 2. Guitar Hero 4. LittleBigPlanet. Fable Fallout 3. WOW Lich King. This is the tip of the iceberg - thank GOD our game didn't ship this season..! Who has the time to play half this stuff? I guess it is actually GOOD people are losing their jobs, so they can manage to sit home and have time to play all these games!

So what is next? You make a bunch of decent selling games, then one bomb and you're toast - is that how this plays out? Suddenly making DS and PSP titles is sounding way more attractive. Is there money to be made there by anyone besides Nintendo? Man are those guys having the last laugh (and look at their Xmas release schedule, it's dead - they didn't even NEED to release anything! Mario Kart and Wii Fit are still doing well enough..). Then there's iPhone development, and beyond that things like Steam, Xbox Live, PSN, Wiiware.. all new models, all waiting for their time to hit, and in what fashion I cannot quite say. Well, it will be big, whatever form it takes, no one can deny that online deployment is the way of the future, and it is only a matter of time.

So, to my fallen comrades, I salute you. I have been laid off before, and it truly sucks. This is exacerbated if you have a family and all of that, especially now with the crushed economy and hell - it IS the holidays. I can't say what's to come, all I know is that it was a banner year for games (some of the best releases ever, and some of the worst layoffs and closures by a wide margin). Hopefully onto better times, though I suspect rocky roads lie ahead. We'll see how it goes. In the meantime, if you are reading this and you are on the other side, I wish you much luck and hope you can get crackin' on your demo reel... there's a damned lot of competition out there, that's for sure.

Sunday, December 14, 2008

No Place like Home - thankfully...

so, PS3's Home (beta) finally released for the general public's consumption a couple of days ago, how did it's much-anticipated release fare? Well, not so hot. The thing has been in the cooker for a good couple of years now, and as noted there's been a lot of anticipation of the thing - though I wouldn't say it was of the "hot" variety. Xbox live has been getting long in the tooth, the WiiConnect24 is just kinda.. sloppy, and now PS3 has their service to compete.

In their defense, the overall PSN looks good to an "average user like me." It's ripped-off the Xbox live service appropriately enough (which basically is what we'd had wanted them to do) and it's easily and cleanly accessible. It always seemed a fair question "why do we need a 3D version of this to walk around in?" Home tries to show us why this is cool. The graphics in Home are slick and clean, as expected of a system of this generation - but man! As soon as you touch down, and start wandering the landscape, you realize that there's just nothing to do in here. There's a bunch of 14-yr-olds spouting their shitty gang-speak about noting in particular, and a couple of sad-looking cases trying to explain that they think MGS4 is kewl. Of course, that's what you're probably supposed to WANT to do in an app like home, but something is just getting lost in the process.

I don't want to condemn Home. I still think it is a genius idea, it's very viable, if handled properly. At this point they've shot it out there just so they could at least say "it's out" and feel like they didn't completely waste their development time and budget - and now they can get honest-to-goodness feedback and supposedly concentrate on constructing a workable 2.0. As it is now, Home is empty and depressing, barely a hint at what could have been if it obviously hadn't misfired due to some (well-intentioned?) politics. No one will argue that the model is full of potential - one need only look at things like Facebook/Myspace, and of course WOW and Second Life. Sony can't expect to just put out "a product" with their label on it, and expect it to sing 'cause it's free. They need to put some minds behind this.

Walking around in the game it immediately becomes frustrating "oh I can.. I can walk. And what's this? I can sit as well. Oh! I can dance!" That's fine for starters. You know what I want? I want to skateboard! Rollerblade. SOMETHING. Rip off the whole Tony Hawk series, I don't care (it's been done). If ATVI had their heads on straight they'd just make a free online THPS world like this, it would get lots of flack but people would definitely live in it! I would! It's hard to look at a project like this when there's tings like GTA and Saints Row out there, online-ish communities where you can at least... do things. Okay maybe it's not cool to be able ot kill people in Home, but at least put a paintball (or lazer tag) arena in there. A climbing wall/jungle gym. Parkour. Something involving physics. A moonwalk. A weird carnival - something!

I can't let them get away with their bowling alley either. I didn't bother to try bowling - of course I wanted to see how the arcade looked. Man, it was sad. There were like 7 machines (3 different varieties?) and you had to wait in line to play. You watched someone else's avatar stand in front of a machine while they "played." Not moving, just.. standing there. Then you roll up, if you can get on.. and then wait a few minutes for the freakin' thing to load and play... echochrome? Would anyone "play" echochrome in an arcade? I played about 15 seconds and then quit the arcade. Please, Sony.. license like 500 old-ass arcade games from the early 80s (at least) and stick them in beautifully decked-out retro arcades. The newbs will hate it but us old-timers will love it - besides those old games are tiny (less than half a meg for the oldy-old ones, a couple megs after that) it would be no problem to stream that stuff over. Sounds like Namco is on the ball with getting this started, wisely...

So, basically the most entertaining part of Home was when I walked into a movie theater. A bunch of bored people were arguing over their headsets, yelling about how fat and stupid each other were. It was all very strange, but.. it was something to watch, and hey it was unique. People got bored and felt like they were wasting their time, so i guess they had to find some way to entertain themselves.

In closing, Home = not a colossal failure, but for what it is it doesn't measure up. Bring someone new in there and give them some power, for they definitely have some good foundation to build on - the enthusiasm just needs to come in.

Monday, December 8, 2008

some kid blogs, the internet looks at him, companies get mad

and hilarity ensues. money is spent (pageviews) and lost (game developer, floundering, takes another groin-hit). So this dude at Factor 5 in northern cali writes in his blog about how the company is suffering some fiscal difficulties. Dunno how or why, the guy is all of a year in the industry but somehow some non-spider gloms onto it and the beans spill across 1UP.Com about the troubles - projects getting cut, money getting lost, people not getting paid, yadda yadda. The guy (he is 24) is using the internet for therapy (hey.. it happens) and now I am sure he is looking at no more work in the games industry for a little while, doing what little he can to save face (I'd do the same, deleting the offending blogpost and putting up a sloppy retraction). Hell I gotta give him credit, he probably cleaned up a little better than I would have, but that's just my insecurity.

Anyway good luck to him. I have heard of people getting blackballed in this industry, it was a mistake of youth and of course let's not yet forget that the Internet is truly Pandora's Box - we do not yet know what we wreak -

Having a blog is a difficult thing for me, I have a game blog and a personal blog. I keep this game industry blog not because I just LooOOooOOoove to do noting but write and write ad write about games all day and night, in fact it can be something of a drag sometimes - but the industry is quite fascinating, no matter what, and I do have a somewhat unique view from my perspective. I like to think that, whether or not I get many readers in here, I do hold some responsibility in some fashion to document my work, at the very least for myself - my work, and that of those around me, this industry around me, these times.

When my game blog was new, I discussed it with a fellow dev over dinner one fateful night, she being a writer as well, no doubt more capable than myself (well, technically, anyway) - she expressed interest in starting an industry blog of her own, but shunned the idea as it was "a conflict of interest." Well the Factor 5 fellow proved her right I suppose, but I maintain that it can be done, if properly, without threatening one's livelihood - and without sacrificing the dignity of the writing, as well.

Is this a perfect experiment? Far from it. I have learned from it, I have a lot to learn yet - perhaps someone will stumble on my own blog some day and hold me up to some scrutiny as well (be gentle!) Perhaps a current or future boss will happen upon it, and it may negatively affect my career - or, perhaps the result will be positive.

One thing is for sure, when dealing with business, one must take their world seriously, they mustn't act impetuous (even if our world is stifling-suffocating with manchildren, I mean hell we make videogames - about robots and boobies and tentacles and spaceships and crap) - but we must be responsible as well, across the board. Sigh - I could write a book, EASILY, I have worked 11 years in this field now. I have seen and heard (and been part of) all manner of crazy stories. I could make some money, probably, and get out of my grunt position. But you know what, that isn't what I want. I like sitting there, at my desk. I like building and lighting levels, hanging out with my buddies, figuring this stuff out. I love the insane politics and the crazy hours. Well, it's what I do.

Robot Rondo

2:21am, monday morning. I am sitting here in my blue and yellow "police" shirt, eating birthday cake and drinking coke. i need to be awake in some hours to go to work. instead i am sitting here eating this crap and typing in my game-blog - oh well, i suppose i could be doing worse things at this hour, eh?

news, Space Invaders Extreme is coming to XBLA, which is a definite-buy for me. I don't know wen it's out (shortly I hope!) but this game received lots of critical acclaim in the portable incarnations, so I think I can see myself parting with a few bucks for some good timey-ness. I am a fellow who still actually (very much) enjoys a good game of classic space invaders, even all these years later. it's a hard game, but it rewards patience with addiction. On a side note, while i loved the Pacman:CE update, I wasn't so taken with the demo for Galaga Legions.. hey well, that is why they have demos. Right?

More news, one of my very favorite things in all of videogames, a podcast called "retrogaming radio," has finally been officially retired. This guy Shane Monroe, who I affectionately would refer to in the past as "the Michael Moore of Videogames," decided after 10+ years of consistent output to hang up his mike. This was the longest-running podcast i have been into, since the dawn of my own career in the filed actually - and I am quite sad to see it go. Knowing him, the show will not die a true death - I hope! - at the same time, I know that life goes on and at some point one must move on and say "enough is enough." I encourage any who read this to seek out the website, if you are at all passionate about the world of retrogaming there is a goldmine out there waiting for you to plunder (hey the show is about retrogames, so it's all currently as relevant as it'd ever be, really!)

More news also, I got my hands on a divx of a documentary called "chasing ghosts:beyond the arcade" - seek out the trailer on youtube. in this post-"king of kong" world, it's interesting to have a different, more documentary look at the world of early-80s competitive videogaming, the world and the people who lived in it, and what it was all about - see the other movie for what little was left in it's wake. Fascinating movie, I was interested to see it for a couple of years now, though not quite was I was expecting - rather dark, upsetting, I am a child of that era, and it all seems so distant and irrelevant now. Of course all of videogaming is so different now from those pre-crash days, no doubt, but it does seem sad how such a colorful and interesting time mutated into something completely and utterly different. A good lesson to learn from...

Work is alright, i have been busy. I had a long weekend, our office moved into swankier digs, tomorrow's the first day over there so it will be interesting to see how high-class it will be (I have expectations!) Though I must say, a part of me will always prefer the more humble locales of some videogame development studios. I remember when I was with Neversoft, and we moved from one office building into a larger, more dedicated facility - Yes it was fancy, but of course it was like leaving a somewhat exciting, touching piece of history behind. And so it goes, and of course they found even greater success since relocating. Hey here's to that, you know?

Early December, all the big releases for the year have come and gone. It's all quiet as we gear up for a little mellow time across the industry, and then of course the next phalanx of releases will be out for early-early spring. What's next on the radar, my head is a little low. Killzone of course - that's the biggest thing I can think of. I guess Infamous and Bionic Commando are due in some coming months as well, but really everyone is just quiet as heck these days. No surprise coming off of such a busy season, but.. hey, what the devil is up nintendo's sleeve, anyway? I guess they are just at the phase right now where they can truly kick back, take a breather, and let the money keep-a-rollin' on in.

Monday, December 1, 2008

nice and rotten

the thanksgiving holiday is behind us, and now we can all get on with our lives.
Thanksgiving, as a yout', was traditionally the point of departure for me between my whole previous year of gaming and the beginning of the whole COMING year, the things i had been salivating over in gaming magazines for the past several months were finally seeing the light of day at Toys R Us, EBX and Child World, or the like. It was pretty much a high point of the year for me (well, of course I generally didn't like being in school very much, and I wasn't into sports and stuff like that, I suppose my parents were too lazy to kick my ass and make me go outside.. sigh) Anyway, now as an adult I view it from the flip side, seeing all these games trickling out just past halloween and the media barrage that accompanies them, of course driven in that particular way that only the internet can do -- yeah, if we had this stuff when I was a kid, I suppose I would have ended up being even more antisocial then I was already..

Thanksgiving was alright, we got a bunch of time in with Rockband 2, though I must admit that after a year, I have had enough. I have a long way to go with the drums, and I have barely touched the guitar - more than any of that I've not ever really touched the progression modes, in my househould RB usually serves as party entertainment. It's been fun while it lasted and it will be awhile yet, but the novelty has definitely passed (and I can't say I am too terribly looking forward to download many more tunes). I suppose if the selection blew wide open and there was a lot more to chose from - the selection, while decent, has always felt painfully limited to me, though I can not blame them for putting out a decent effort - then I would get a fair bit more enjoyment out of it for some months to come. I suppose that's up to the future of rhythm games, a genre which is still relatively early along in it's stride. The problem with the whole "yearly update agenda" they push with these things, is that it kills the potential and enthusiasm. Either that, or sink a shit-ton of R+D into the thing and blow a fat wad of cash to absolutely annihilate the competition. They don't need to, so they won't - the short term answer is it's a pretty powerful juggernaut, though the potential for better games inthe long term gets kind of diminished as a result. No matter really, since I suppose no one ever really knows what they are missing - though they do realize when they are bored...

Bookending the sessions of Rockband, we pulled out the SNES and played some Bomberman 2. I have had it sitting in my closet for a good year and a half or so, with little more than a session here and there in the past with the game. Truth be told, I never really caught the train on the whole Bomberman trend, not that I didn't dig it, the game just fell through the cracks with me. I did finally get wind of it several years later, and plunked down for a set, and glad to say I did, the game is a lot of fun! I realize there's like EIGHTY variations of Bman out there, and I can't really say I know where to go next (or that I really need to). Four-player local is enough for me, I guess I will see if I can hunt down the first SNES iteration as well as the game gets some praise. Really, games like that still hold up very well, they remind me that we don't need to churn out crazy tech to have extremely fun gaming. Honestly, they still look and feel more than satisfying enough.. I like when this happens, pulling up a rock and finding a whole cool branch of gaming that one was kind of oblivious to in the past, that can still be enjoyed.

Wednesday, November 26, 2008

your penguin has slowed you down

Thunderforce VI is a shooter (R-Type type of shooter, not Quake style of shooter!!) has released for PS2 in Japan, it's been nearly 1 month. This was one of my favorite series of games in one of my favorite genres of games, and it's been.. about 10 years since the last iteration released. I guess I only was a big fan of the first two, but I still enjoy the music and aesthetics of those series to this day. that might sound weird, a little, but if you know the games, you know what I mean. I am tempted to plunk down the dough for an import, or an ebay, but i might wait till i can find it sub-$50 - especially since it doesn't sound like the perfect "return to form" that some might have hoped, or expected it would be. I guess I have to be supportive either way, and it does sound fun, but honestly I have a billion gazillion other games i can keep busy with any event. If they touted it truly as a must-have then that would be one thing, anyway I know better than to expect to see high-tech shooters from anywhere in the world these days that are any kind of SERIOUSLY competent.. that's okay, they're a pretty forgotten game, and at least i will have the oldies always kicking around. Anyway, makes me feel old, sigh.

Though if Compile spat out something like a decent followup back from the grave, I would have to pay attention I suppose...

I downloaded the demo for the new Tomb Raider Underworld 360 - gorgeous game, in this post-Uncharted world I guess it would pretty much HAVE to be. Not as charismatic as that title from hat i could see, but geez - breathtakingly gorgeous. These games have raised the bar, this is history right here. We won't see too much able to measure up to game like this, at least aesthetically, not much more this generation I am sure (just because - is it truly worth the dev time/cost yet?) I am not saying I wouldn't love to see more beautiful games of this nature, I am just saying it's not what you could consider cost-effective, ad if someday we reach the point where that's the rule rather than the exception to maintain such a level of quality, then the industry will be run markedly different, I will say that.

Picking up with LittleBig here and there, a remarkable game - NOT without it's issues for certain, but a fine entry nonetheless and I don't think you could find anybody, really, who hasn't been piqued by it. Yeah, it's definitely NOT for everyone, and in fact I think it's one of those titles which both alienates it's target audience (cumbersome community system, heavy difficulty, tricky play controls) while those who would truly enjoy such a thing are probably turned off by it's cutesy aesthetic. Also the editor (for the meat of the game - the designing aspect), while powerful and capable, is kind of wasted somewhat due to the fact that most people just DON'T WANT POWERFUL EDITORS WITH WHICH TO DESIGN STUFF. They really just want to be spoon-fed things that are fun off the bat and play them right then and there. I guess it is one thing if there's not a ton of other worthy titles demanding the average gamer's attentions at the moment. Personally, I am excited to play with the editor some more, I have a few ideas I would love to play with, but at this point my time is kind of precious and limited for such things, but hey - i am in no hurry, it's not going anywhere.

It boils down to the notion that i would love to design some 3D platforming of my own, but as mentioned above "i am always too busy" - still considering my career choices, i think this would only do me a good service, and I intend to get on with it. At some point!

I picked up a Wii game, Shawn White Snowboarding - unusual for me in many regards, but we have a balance board here and interesting Wii games (especially of this nature) are certainly few and far between. Still this one got a good bit of press, and it sounded like it might be worth a look for a few reasons. Like anybody with half a brain I enjoyed SSX back in the day (though A. never got terribly far with it and B. never really moved on from there so much) but after skiing in Wii Fit, I was interested in going a little further via the motion-control setup for such a sport-game.. Wort picking up, though I must say after being Tony Hawkified those aesthetics and "story" trappings are kind of a drag for me - it's pretty downplayed so I can't really complain. I just miss when the Japanese games did this stuff all weird and differently styled (jet grind radioooooo) and Nickelodean style just doesn't measure up the same.

Things are alright up Obsidian - always a few things to say about that place! They got out a genuinely cool trailer for Alpha Protocol about a week ago, I believe it's at Gamespot or somewhere. Also we got a cover story with PSM that is currently on the stands. Nice to see it getting a little bit of press here and there, the things not been announced a whole year yet - I look forward to when they start letting the substantial stuff release a little more and how that all gels.

Aliens is going along, we are pretty quiet across the board and I am gonna keep mum as well. Suffice it to say I am happy on this project, one thing that must be mentioned is that I really like my team here as well. The people are really nice, friendly, patient.. it feels good to get good feedback as well, and I feel my work/capabilities mesh well with the rest of the folks over there...

Lots more to say as usual, I hope to update this thing much more often in the coming year. Stay tuned.

Wednesday, November 12, 2008

no, no, no.. november...

hullo, and welcome to the column. It's a busy busy season, so let us jump right in. The irony is that I perceived this fall as being a pretty dull season, last spring (and even into summer) - I guess I was being a bit clueless then, as it is one of the absolutely fullest schedules on record! I thought last year could not be beaten, between Halo and Mario and Ratchet and Clank and Crysis, Portal, COD, a bunch of other things - man was I wrong! Right now we are looking at Rock Band 2, Guitar Hero IV, Resistance 2, Gears of War 2, Left for Dead, Saints Row 2 (to a lesser extent, but still!, Mirror's Edge, LittleBigPlanet, of course the new WOW expansion is out in a couple of days, I believe a new C+C just released. The new Tomb Raider game is looking fine as well. Motorstorm if you like that genre.. Whew. If you are a gamer, you are a busy guy right now. It sorta sucks that all this stuff releases at the same time, in some ways..

Surely there's a couple more I missed in there, but ya get the drift..

As for what I have been up to, well I did manage to get my hands on LittleBigPlanet, honestly the only game I have really had my eye on for some time. It's a hot little game, a very powerful engine in there and I think we are going to see some wonderful product from the fan community. So far much of the user-created stuff I have looked at has been pure drivel, but I can suspect that some amazing stuff is coming down the tubes. Myself, I have not made it terribly far through the tutorials, but what I have messed with has piqued my interest - when I get some time to do so, I will put it trough the motions. I will tell ya, as my job already is somewhat close to design, it is a bit hard to wanna come home and start cracking the book with this thin, though - but geez. What a canvas. My mind keeps racing, how I would have loved this toy when I was a kid, that would have been IT for me. Every aspiring game-maker owes it to him or herself to pick up this masterpiece! I mean, it's definitely limited, but they could certainly use this for college courses at the high-end, and prototyping at the low end...

I downloaded the mirror's edge demo on PS3, a gorgeous game - some things are off about it, but I appreciate the balls to put out a game like that. Hopefully it will fare well in it's reception. As with most things of it's ilk, I had enough from merely putting in some time with the demo, but I would say it's worth looking at, some very very good looking shots in that game. I'd like ot see them use it as a springboard, use that tech and those ideas to get away from this clean sterile city, make it alive and rich. Kind of swing halfway between this and a tony hawk game, or something - just a playground that you can pull amazing, adrenaline-dripping stunts out of, get that wonderful rhythm going.

Work is going alright, as usual there's a billion things going through my mind about Obsidian these days. I am on the Aliens project about 6 weeks now, I have learned so much in the brief period - getting chances here and there to express that, it's coming faster now. I have said it before, it is truly like working at a completely different company since I've migrated from the previous title, in some ways..

That should do for now, lots on my mind gaming-wise but as is often the case, I will have to get into it later...

Sunday, October 26, 2008

you're ON!!

hello, texturizers, nothing to see hare. Mauve along.

I have been silent in my game blog for awhile now, maybe a bit longer than I'd like - I would think it'd be prudent to post in here maybe once or twice a week, at best, if I ever want it to be taken any-kind of seriously. But as usual, I have life and work and such to think about, and I do have my "real blog" to pour into when the writing bug strikes. Still, I have much to say on the world of gaming (and my work), so it'll come when it does. And it does, now..

At Oblivion, I mean Obsidian (was that a slip?) I have finally moved over to the Aliens team. Not sure how much I am allowed to talk on this stuff, so I must keep it pretty brief. After spending the last year and a half of my life living in Alpha Protocol, and all that entails, it is bittersweet to move on - I'll just say that the last work I was doing on that project looked like my best so far. Aliens-wise, well - I took the job with this studio specifically because I wanted to work on this title. So there! I am gonna miss working with Unreal Editor, though. I whined about it a good bit at first, but I feel pretty capable with it these days. So gratifying!

Nothing is spinning in my disc tray lately. AT ALL. The only modern-ish game-ish thing i have spent any time with was the Pixeljunk Eden demo on PS3. I seriously logged a good 10 hours in there - I didn't even feel the need to buy the full game, it was one of those where you can totally just cruise with the demo as it is. Fun though, nice little game to chill out and kick back with and while away some hours. Also downloaded the Mega Man 9 demo, expecting to make short work of it. holy CRAP tough. I am ashamed to say I could not pass the halfway mark of the stupid demo level - it only succeeded in pissing me off. Mind you I am a longtime lover of Mega Man TWO specifically - but geez. Anyway I think I am a huge loser if I don't shell out for Mega 9 sometime soon. 10 bucks, geez. Why the hell not.

LittleBigPlanet is the game I have got my eye on. I am going to see if I can snatch this business up this week - I sense this game might be something else. I haven't actually shelled out an honest $60 for a PS3 title yet, in the nearly one year I have owned the device - and the title that packed-in with it, Motorstorm, never got more than maybe 5 minutes of playtime from me (for shame! I know) so it is high-time to pick up something worthwhile, and this game looks like it's gonna be at least that. In this day and age of franchised IPs up the wazoo, it's no small feat when a game comes out with backing like this and interesting possibilities this intriguing. I expect it might end up boring, but I suppose that's only if I don't give it a chance...

Reading online about Wii Music, this is a title which most are scoffing at - and deservedly so? Maybe not - it looks deep, for whataver "it is," though I am not sure how one classifies this exactly. It looks like something I'd've had great fun with as a kid, and also looks like it is something I could enjoy playing with my girlfriend (and so, that is why I am eyeing it..) Weird looking title, but again, it's so refreshing to see Nintendo always going their own way with everything and sticking to their guns, their philosophy. It's nice to see this rubbing off a little on the competition as well (reference LittleBigPlanet, above) - trying weird things and just seeing it through to the end. This is what makes things interesting in the world, as opposed to the "static media" as I'll call it..

I bought an X-Arcade stick off a guy at work for 60 clams. This is basically a big chunk of wood with pro-grade joysticks and buttons sticking out of it, professionally manufacture of course. I have had a Hotrod for years, which is the same thing, but Hotrod's only good on PC - I feel a little out of place with that huge behemoth butted up against my workstation. The X-Arcade hooks up to my Xbox 1 as well, that being a modded Xbox with about a bazillion Mame (arcade) roms stored on it's HD. I love having that console but I hate playing arcade games with an XBox controller - the X-Arcade feels wonderful! Sucks that it took me so long to get this all figured out, but the price worked out at the end of the day. I'd still love to get a dedicated Mame Cab set up somewhere down the line, but this is a WAY more than satisfying substitute, perhaps superior in several regards. Playing Ms Pacman is STILL loads of fun, even all these years later.

Nintendo DSi, this cracks me up. What the hell is this? DSlite looks great as it is, a wonderful library, everyone loves it, etc. etc. This is kinda pushing it a little. Two cameras? No more GBA slot? Bah. It's interesting, and they will get some cool gear out for it I am sure. But let's just say I still have yet to buy any DS models at this point. I wonder how the new PSP is faring. Is there yet ANY halfway compelling reason to buy a PSP, for real? Hello? Echo-o-o-o-o-o...

Saturday, September 20, 2008

everything in paradise is wonnnnderful

greetings from the front gate! What's up, I do believe it's been a good month or so, at least, since I have last paid any manner of visit to this little hellhole i call "my gameblog." I guess a lot has happened, or not..

Right up a the first, what have I been playing? Answer, nooooot much. Nothing at all really. Just killing myself at the office as usual, I am lucky if i take 20 minutes out of my day while I am on the can to get in a little GBA action. Replace PER DAY with PER WEEK, per-haps, and then it's a little more accurate.

Anticipating the mega man 9 throwback release, not so much for the game itself (no way it can even be anywhere near as perfect as good ol' number two) but I am pretty interested to see what type of reception it gets from the community at large, this is a weird move to say the least. I will probably grab it as well, though to be honest all the MM's past three were getting kinda grating. Not that they were bad games, they weren't bad at all.. it was just "enough already!"

Our game is going along well enough, as usual there's a billion things I'd love to say as far as positives and negatives go, but that's what post-mortems are for. Meanwhile, I am supposed to be moving to the "dream project" as I like to call it, this coming week - it was supposed to happen (rather suddenly) last week, but got held over for various reasons. So I am a little suspicious of what is next, but I am sure it will outline shortly. Anyway, mixed feelings about all of that - I am used to working on a game until it is out the door, not working feverishly on one and then getting plucked and dropped right into a whole different universe. Hey, I can deal with it, that's my job! It's a little odd though, and kind of a new thing for me. Not a big deal though, but worth noting. I guess my beef is that with my current project, I've got a few loose ends I was planning on wrapping up, and suddenly I find myself having my hands washed of that, mostly - to what degree I am unsure, but I would expect it is pretty absolute (especially since the project I am moving to will likely not leave much headspace for external goings-on). Anyway, suffice it to say that's why I have been pulling madman-style hours at the office lately, to the displeasure of those involved in my social life...

Monday, August 18, 2008

you love blizzard right?

i don't. i want my tree test again.
short news for a moment, in my nerdierier blog - i downloaded Bionic Commando Rearmed, the graphic/gameplay update of the ol' Capcom game from the days of yore. I played with it for a few minutes, after drooling at the trailers back when they were released. game's gorgeous, and it "feels" right - and sounds very cool - but you know what, setting back into those boots made me wish I was just playing the old original version! Kinda the same feeling i got after playing Contra:Shattered Soldier back on PS2 some several years ago, "this is nice and all, but I don't NEED it" - especially not when it was so perfectly nailed back in it's original incarnation. Still, it is a budget release (10 bucks!) and for the money you pay for it, it is more than worth it. Obviously the thing's an overblown promo piece for the real-deal update coming out later, and I hope it does well. Sounds like it is, already! Capcom is making some crazy waves these days, i gotta hand it to 'em. The 1942 upgrade was also fun to play, that might be worth picking up as well - nice retro feeling, cool FX. Commando upgrade is by far my least favorite, it -does- feel like Mercs, kinda, but it also feels a little less loved than these other titles. I played the demo and had enough..

I downloaded braid, after hearing much hemming ad hawing over the thing on podcasts. Initially, as I wasn;t so much in the mood, "this feels kinda draggy..." and if I'd not heard so much word-of-mouth over it, I would've never even checked it out at all (come on, "braid?") The game is cool, and the few minutes I spent with the demo have got me thinking "this is actually a pretty cool little puzzle game," if my time lightens up soon I will possibly just get the whole thing. Nice job!

I know, I am supposed to be talking about game and watch.. maybe later. I am just sad for the forgotten/never-minded fathers of videogames...

Thursday, August 14, 2008

i hate this industry!

yeah, i am referring to the latest Activision Blizzard news. Does anyone else feel a chill go down their spine when they hear that name? I am not disrespecting either company, or the new combined entity, mind you - obviously, very successful, hugely hugely popular companies with remarkable earnings between all of their properties. Yet it is unfortunate to hear of what happens post-merger, specifically with a lot of the relative second and third rate companies under their collective umbrella, their future plans, their staffing situations - none of this was unprecedented of course, though it seems kind of harsh how surgically and coldly it is being carried out. It's one thing to kick out the cobwebs when you're dealing with bottom-feeder appendages of a larger company, but when you are dealing with interesting properties (ghostbusters, tim schafer's brutal legend) and pretty well-established dev's (radical entertainment) it feels a little like a slap in the face. It's really true, you are only as good as your last hit. It makes me think with a chill about some things from my own past, and again a little more nervously about the potential of the future.

I have gone on about these things before, either in blog form or merely conversationally, at length - we all want to get "bought out," we want to be at the studio when they get picked up for real by a publisher. It's only win-win for everyone - well, it was, not so much anymore. Now it seems rather than getting that cash windfall, you might get squat - and more than that, your job is now under a much
pickier microscope, there's more suits concerned with "eliminating redundancies." Truly, to reap the benefits of selling out, YOU had better be doing the actual selling firsthand, if you wanna make out - and let your subordinates hope for the best as they scramble for the crumbs.

As usual, the model is all over the place, and it's hard to say who wins or loses in all of this, in the big picture - what lessons can be learned and "what is the battle plan" to survive as a grunt-level employee as the giant metamorphosis continues to take place in the bizarre and fascinating creature known as the game industry. Every day I hear more and more news which startles and tantalizes me, also which makes me wanna kick myself "ooops DAMN i have missed my chance!" There's always chance, infinite chance - but one must be able to balance their own business, whatever form it may be in, on top of an already-demanding day job, and whatever other social life and obligations there are as well.

Work is progressing on the project. I am putting in a lot of heavy hours these days, a lot of late nights, a lot of weekends. I am sad to say my productivity is a little draggy as I am feeling the burn - it's been a long project and I am feeling the wear and tear of next-generation asset production (it's still "next generation" until a few solid seasons of working to this specification have passed, alright!) Everything looks so much nicer and tighter than ever before, our engine is quite capable and powerful, but damn if only we had.. like.. 5 years!! Whew. I do look forward to wrappin gthis game up and giving my portfolio a much-needed overhaul, i will certainly have a higher grade of stuff to flaunt, for the first time in too long!

Not much gaming lately. I downloaded the Too Human demo, haven't touched it yet. Last night I downloaded a demo of a game called Braid as well, I plan to fire it up after i finish typing this - also picked up Outrun 2 for Xbox, and NO haven't touched that business either. Man - I just wish I had a solid day, errr entire weekend, left completely by myself with nothing to do, just sit back and drink some beers and play some games. That actually sounds rater nice.

Okay my girlfriend is making annoying noises to let me know she is hungry, so no Braid for me right now - but never fear, I will be back shortly to discuss a little thing they call Game & Watch.

Sunday, August 10, 2008

ignore yourselves!!

Greetings from the front lines!!! It is Sunday evening, just about 7pm, and I am watching the last vestiges of the weekend wither away and give into the harkenings of, yes, another week upon us. This weekend I spent much time here in the office - playing some catch-up still,due to my vacation (yeah, it's been a month now) and my tempo has been somewhat reduced which doesn't help things, but ohhhh, ohhh, what are you gonna do. Anyway I need to save off some files for my fellow level artist who shares this particular level with me,and I wouldn't wanna disappoint - further hindering things is the fact that I have to show up for jury duty tomorrow and fulfill a civic responsibility, oh golly gee, oh greatest day! Well, I don' look on such things as much more than a drag, really, as there's work to do and I don't much fancy propping up in a stifling courtroom full of hooligans downtown during the heat of the day - so hopefully I will be able to get in and out in a jif. Sigh, if the gods should be so merciful.

Working on the weekend is nonetheless a drag as well, as it should be the "me time," instead of "their my time" - but again, a necessary evil. I am getting quite burned out on the concept as I have been sacrificing for I-don't-know-how-many-years, as of yet, and that's not too good- but I have my eyes steadfast on the prize, and keen that someday, the payoff will be there. It's been 11 years nearly, and I am still scrapin' on by - things aren't bad, but life and all it's trimmings are certainly expensive, so a little compensation would be a nice thing. It's not too much to ask, is it? Well, no expectations ever, really, but I will see what pans out - someday, somewhere. It's up to me ultimately, I suppose.

I am sitting here at my desk, managing the meshes, cranking the fan, listening to whatever I can stomach on the winamp. I like to listen to repeats of Loveline while I work, surely I have mentioned this before. During the week I will pipe it through my headphones, but as the office is nearly empty on the late hours and weekends, I like to give my aural canals a little relief and just plug into the little tinny-ass speaker on my desk instead. This isn't bad, but I get a little redfaced when people start walking by as the speaker s going on about "I have trouble getting an orgasm while my boyfriend sloppily goes down on me!" So I will close the door or switch the channel. No joke, some poor schlub walked through the office with his goddamned extended family today as the speaker was booming "do some fishing, beat off, go dockside to watchthe sunset, have at myself vigorously, etc etc" I guess if you don't know the show than I sound like some sort of reprobate - well you can think of me as you like, faceless reader, that stuff helps me get through the hours alright? And there's many of them.

I hate closing the door in this room, it's quite poorly ventilated and already hot and uncomfortable in here, which is almost a nice change from my opposing usual set-up (wearing winter jacket no matter what time of the year it is, as game companies LoooOOoove to blast the AC all hours of the day and I feel like a popsicle!) The latest thing which makes me insane is the designer who works in the room next to mine, he likewise has taken to coming into the office during the less-populated hours to do - well, whatever it is in god's name he does in there (working? world of warcraft? far be it from me to satisfy that curiosity). The dude sits in there and (kindly) plugs in his headphones, for which I am grateful enough, but as his officemates are nowhere to be found in the weekend hours, the guy LOVES ot hum along to his music. He hums damned loud, I tell you. It's annoying - and I do seem to be developing my nice share of neuroloigical disorders at this point in the game, it makes my crotch tighten up and my brow get all furrowed. I wanna yell to the hapless guy SHUTTTT UPPPP DAMMMMN YOU but of course he is minding his own business, who am I to ruin the party...

anyway that's what runs through a guy's head over the weekend in the office. If you'll pardon me, I have some bits of work to wrap up so I can get myself 45 miles outta here and back to my sweet, sweet bed for some precious shuteye, at some point. Mercy!

Saturday, July 26, 2008

apparently, this videogame will help me to lose weight

yeah, i finally found a wii fit in stock at Best Buy a few weeks ago. I picked one up since my girlfriend'd been hounding me about it for ages - I wanted to buy one for my folks as well, but I think I will do that on Amazon rather than ship the damned heavy thing myself. Anyway I picked her up from her return flight from China a week ago, she'd been awake nearly the whole flight - when we got to the apartment, she immediately set it up and began jumping around and playing with the thing (I was amazed, I thought she would be completely destroyed from the traveling!) Sure enough, she bonked out after that - it was a funny scene though. I have yet to try the thing, I did the "ball dropping game" for one moment. I wanna get in the habit of using it though, my girth could stand it. Urp.

So not much else to say about games right now. I am playing Mass Effect and Gears of War, but I haven't touched either in over a month (nor have I got very far with either). I just haven't time to cool out in front of the tube right now! More than that, I am just not feeling the need right now either. If anything, playing a bit on my GP32 during the trip - I got sucked up into Rolling Thunder 2 (Sega Genesis) during the flight over there. Good way to kill time, started sort of clumsy and dull (and such had my memory of it always been) but playing through it got enjoyable. I might pick it back up - I believe there's a third as well, eh? Also I played the old Mario Tennis GBC game for a little while. Well-fleshed-out, but man - sports as RPG is sort of hilarious in a uniquely boring way. Make it more risque. Something (it's a kiddie game, I know).

E3 just came and went. Yawn! I don't remember the last time I cared so little. I have barely scratched the surface of going over the show coverage, but really it sounds like there really wasn't much to get excited about across the board. Yeah, of course there was a lot of good looking things to show off, but nothing that smacked people across the face. I guess that's a side-effect of removing the grandeur from gaming's biggest party. E3 now is more like a sad fart. Tough times. At least they brought it back to the LACC. Whatever, I am getting too old for that outright madness when it's on full-tilt-assault mode anyway, or something. To make up (well, more like "coincidentally") I found my way to Vegas last weekend, once again. There's enough madness out there instead, anyway.

Game's going alright. I am working pretty hard, late late nights. Sigh, it's nearly 11PM and I am at the office and it is SATURDAY NIGHT!! I can't wait to get home and collapse on the couch - make that the bed, really. It's a full weekend of crunching for me, and a long week ahead to boot. I need a drink....

..too bad..

Tuesday, July 1, 2008


what's up, game fiends. I am still on vacation, carousing through the weird bizarre land of China, but thought I would take a few minutes and draft an update to my game-design blog, or whatever one would call this trainwreck, really.

So of course I am quite out of touch with the world of game news these days - hell, out of touch with much WORLD news for that matter - but i do dip in here and there when I can get a moment, just to make sure it's not all gone the way of the dodo. You know, just in case. It sounds like things have been extremely busy in my absence - what's this, talk on an Xbox 360 price cut? Mega Man 9 is a throwback/retro-looking title? Castlevania fighter, and of course the announcement of Diablo 3 for next March (sigh, wish they could push that business back a little further, oh well hmm we will see, won't we. Go Fall!!!) And lots of news regarding all the millions of rock n roll games that seem to be all the rage with the kids these days. Lucasarts layoffs (yeah, more). I am sure there's a bunch of other stuff going on, as the typical summer malaise kicks into videogameland (with no big releases planned for some time). Otherwise, the pre-E3 hysteria sort of generally takes hold and everyone gets ready to be wowed and confused and all fo that, really.

So, Mega Man 9. This certainly looks interesting - can I say that "I called it?" Well maybe I didn't mention it, or figure on this particular instance, but it certainly was the type of very-specific idea I have had going on in myhead for some time, to be honest. I am just a little surprised Capcom was the one to go ahead and bite this time, though I can't say it should come as the hugest of shocks - that would be reserved for a follow-up 8-Bit Castlevania or Ninja Gaiden. Anyway I haven't seen more than the most momentary of screenshots of this thing, but the mind races with possibility. It should be interesting to see how it turns out and all of that, and what the fallout is that ensues. Anyway, lest the world should forget how well New Super Mario Bros. performed on the DS..

In honor of this, I booted up a couple of older MM games. Back in the day, I played (a LOT) through the first 4, by that point I had pretty much had enough. So the last couple of days I checked out 5 and 6 (NES) for the first time in ages and started trying to play through them in earnest, a little. Man. Those games are hard. Not super-duper hard, but they are a bit punishing compared to the ease with which I remember having swept through the earlier ones. Nice looking, each one gets progressively more technically inspiring - though honestly, I will always maintain that Mega Man peaked, for me, with Number Two. It was one of those cases where the game truly oozed with love and devotion, and all the parts gelled. The later ones were certainly cool but it was really getting to feel like a paint-by-the-numbers affair and "enough already," and just not anywhere near as captivating. I mean, if nothing else, none of them just sounded as AWESOME as Two...

Friday, June 27, 2008

-- on vacation in China! --

yeah. the past week i have been touring through china with my girlfriend (and a tour group). I have been keeping a journal on my personal blog:

I'l be back early July, when we get thru with this i will return to business and put my microscope back on the gaming world - i have been out of touch, but so much can happen in a short amount of time!

Monday, June 16, 2008

in the belfry

yeah, as usual, "no time to type," and that is officially my calling card for how I'll start ALL blogs. About EVERYTHING, mateys.

Lots going on in the game world, of course Metal Gear Pizza released some days ago, and it's captivating the scene right now. I've not yet played it, of course, and in fact I have barely made much headway thru even the first MGS on PSone.. but I have respect for a venerated franchise. Anyway it's cleaning up in the ratings dep't, looking at it real quick it doesn't really excite me but it looks all well and good. I am interested in messing around with the last-gen versions at some point (perhaps that should've been in quotes). Something about the slow sneakiness of it all has never been too endearing for me. I did mess around with the old GBC reissue of it years ago, never got too far into that either but I had fun for what it was worth. That's worth throwing on a flashcart, I'll admit..

I did finally pick up a couple of other titles which need examination, considering what i am up to these days - Mass Effect (the Force, indeed) and yes, Gears of War. Neither have I gt thru very far at all (under an hour with each - it's been busy times!) but I intend to at least get some notable headway long enough to see what the fuss was about. In GOW's case, well, as we are using the Unreal engine, I would say it's fairly necessary to see how it performs in the hands of it's creators..

We had a party this weekend at the ol' homestead, busted out the Rock Band for the usual goodtimes - I am quite sick of the setlist, singing-wise, it would be nice to see a good 80 or so new tracks dumped en masse. I can wait! I still am a novice (to put it lightly) on the drums, and haven't even touched the axe, so no hurry, really. I did shell out for a second guitar, perhaps foolishly i stuck with the RB model rather then pick up Guitar Hero 3, my girlfriend would probably have preferred that. But all the compatibility notes have left my head spinning of late, so whatever! Anyway, at least we hve the full setup accessible at this point, so no more asking the buddies 'could ya please bring your guitar over tonight!" Also on deck was Boom Blox, my new favorite game on Wii, maybe new favorite game on anything for a few minutes, actually - I might've mentioned it in passing recently, I heard about it and tracked it slightly as it neared release, but upon hearing much praise for the thing I decided to shell out and see for myself. QUITE WORTH the 50 clams. I would recommend this title to anyone who actually owns a Wii, and has friends. So worth the money! In fact, just due to this game, I coughed up an extra $90 for two more Wiimotes to make sure the game could go as smooth as possible. Ough, my ass, but worth it. Very very fun. Sad to hear it's not selling well at all, this thing deserves praise in heaps.

Wednesday, June 4, 2008

the hell with this.

what's up, dramamine drinkers? taking a break from your favorite drug to read my writings on 'em? pull up a chair and chug-a-lug!

things are oh-so-busy in gamerland. work has been continuing to pound the crap out of me lately. i have been putting in some extra late hours lately, got lucky to actually be working on some stuff thematically that's a little nearer and dearer to my heart than usual, so when those moments arrive one does his best to take advantage of them.. anyway i am happy with the stuff i have been working on, of course i can't really post it right now but when the dust clears, i'd sure love to..!

Speaking of, there went up a new batch of Alpha Protocol pics up the other day, slowly they are disseminating. I look forward to see what gets released next. I wish I was in charge of helping to choose what was shown, eh?

A bunch of shots of the Gearbox Alien title got published as well, recently - our studio hasn't got anything to do with that of course (Gearbox is doing the FPS, whereas we are doing the RPG = 2 separate games). Their game wasn't looking too stellar when I'd first seen the images, but the new batch has me thinking strongly otherwise - it looks great! I grabbed a bunch of the images for my personal reference, actually - I am not on Obsidian's version that project, but I'd sure like to be at some point!

A lot of things have happened since I wrote the above paragraphs, but as usual I have been too busy with work and life (but mostly work) to pay much attention to my own blog. A few interesting games have passed my hands lately (boom blox), I have much to say about a few key things going on right now. I will get to it shortly!

Thursday, May 29, 2008

damn you, rotten blog! Out! Out I say!

Phewwwww, but it has certainly been a long long time since I have written in this thing, wouldn't you say? As usual, the culprit is honestly just OT - lots and lots of OT. I have been banging the crap out of the neurons and dodecahedrons in the back part of my brain, as I have been overloaded with orders to "produce -- produce -- produce." I am really well exhausted these days, staying late at work night after night after night (weekends too). Ah, but so it goes, such is the lamentable life of the exhausted level artist. Hey, someone's got to build the world! Anyway, this is not new, it just ebbs and flows. Hopefully it will cool off sometime soon (in a postive way!) It's a double-edged sword - working like crazy gets some of the best work out of me, especially when I get into that groove - but it also makes me sort of miserable since I devolve into a kind of subhuman, incapable of complete thoughts, and regularly entertain fantasies of tossing myself over a bridge or something, ah well.

Anyway, in spite of my whining I am proud of the caliber of work I have been putting out lately, I sort of wish I could post it in here. It'll have to wait, though I hope we will have some more screenshots to show in the near future..

Other than work draining my vitals, absolutely, things are alright. Kind of a quiet pre-summer for games, in a way. GTA has been out for a bit now, and really dominating of course, but -- maybe it's just me, it feels like people aren't quite so sucked up into the whole hype megamachine for it like they were the last few go-rounds. Sure, it's making uber-bucketfuls of cash the world over, but it's sort of.. calm, for lack of a better descriptor. It landed and that's that, people are playing it but that's just it, they are playing "another sequel to a game that changed everything, some years ago." And the media is taking it easy on them, all we hear about is how the voice actor for the lead is pissed about lack of royalties (it's going to be hard for guys like him to get sympathy from dudes like ME, alright?) but that seems to be the worst of it. No hot coffee, no sexytime minigames, what-have-you. Put it out to pasture already. Actually, the game seems to be frying several people's consoles, that's SOMETHING, right?

Haze came out, plopped out rather, yeah this from the Goldeneye boys.. well, a lot of time has passed! I watched the dudes at work demoing it, it looked all well and good.. a little silly.. but competent. Not my thing, but then, WHAT IS, har har har? Seriously, the game is getting a lot of flack, and looking at the thing (from my admittedly limited P.O.V.) it's hard to wanna come down on those guys. In thiese post-Halo3, post-Gears days, it's just damned hard to put out an FPS by honesstly ANY company and not feel like sort of a weiner compared to the mega-powerhouses. I mean, you've got games like Unreal III, Crysis, things with serious 'recent' pedigree (not to take away from the Haze guys) and even THEY'RE sort of coming out with little more than a wink and a nod to show for it. Well, competition is good of course, and it's good to see standards are high - but at the same time, games are still early enough that it makes sense to expect these relatively B and C level contenders will have their place in the world as well. Do I encourage their persistence? Well, they need to make money if they wanna try to do different projects, I understand the business end of it. Anyway, if you can't really get something released that's at least feeling on a level of competency with Resistance, then you are probably bound for the bargin bin..

A strange season this time, the doldrums of summer usually but there's a little product this time, Coming of a ridiculously busy holiday season and a quite crowded spring, there seems to be a bit of hubbub to go on about in the coming schedule. Wii fit has just launched, of course, and true to it's heritage the thing is already sold out everywhere, and likely the case to be for sometime. I wanna buy one for my girl, also my parents.. looks like everyone's gonna be having to wait for a tad.

Of course the gorilla in the room is MGS4, which is out in.. what, 2 weeks, is it even that far off? That thing's been years in the making, I am sure it will make for some interesting times. Unlike the review bloats of GTA, I predict mid-to-high 8s. I think the thing will be fine, but it's getting old. We'll see.

Wow. Tired.. I must wrap this up, I have lots more to sya but it'll have to wait till next time. I need to talk about Boom Blox (which I picked up, haven't played yet - but looking forward tt it, sounds pretty fun!

Tuesday, May 6, 2008

buzz binz

sigh, so much to say, so little time. as usual right now, i whine "sorrrry guys i haven't been keeping up with my game blog!" What can I say. It's 10:42 on tuesday evening and I am still at the office, that should give one an idea of the shape of things. So I am a workaholic, what else is new, so long as i apparently have picked the right career, eh?

Well, as noted, a lot is going on. All over the place, really. Rahter than try to sum it up and extrapolate it all down, I'll just binge and purge, so to speak. Work is very busy, our project is moving forward as usual. I have my hands in several things right now, with more coming. As usual, trying my damnedest to do a good job while still applying the L-O-V-E wherever and whenever possible. Next gen is gorgeous but such a pain in the ass, this spells so much headache for the future! In some ways, I miss the low-tech days, damn it..

A friend of mine got fired recently, I am sad to see him go. While I don't completely agree with the circumstances of his termination, I can't say I don't see where his superiors are coming from. Like they always say "it takes two to tango," and they are often right. So that sucks, but then, this is not the most unusual thing in this industry (take it from a fella who's been fired a good few times his own damned self..!)

On the other side of that, the bosses at this place are generally being pretty cool lately, as I have stated before (trying to not sound like a suck-up, but then, I am sure NONE of them read this blog - trust me, I watch the numbers, I know of what I speak!). Yeah, this place has it's issues and problems, like ANY company in this wretched godforsaken industry, but I still hold it to be true that the people in charge of this place, they are actually nice people, they make you feel like you are appreciated, if you are workin' hard for them.. that's more than I can say for some other places I have been at.

Listening to gaming industry podcasts all day long (surely it has contributed to my general floaty headache I have got goin' on!), I try to use those things to keep up with the trends, and generally very helpful (and entertaining) - though too much of it can be overstimulating/bulldozing, certainly. Listening to them talk about an online mod for the PC version of GTA San Andreas, very interesting - sort of a hint at what the coming future would be like when we finally are graced with a full on GTA-style MMO. As I write this, it makes me consider "I should drop what I am doing and get myself hired at Rockstar!!!" if for no other reason than to get myself in on the NEXT BIG THING. Yeah, we all want to get in there, don't we. Anyway, the point of bringing this up, it highlights my general disdain/disinterest in such things, that being MMOs, or honestly online co-op play in general (call it what you want). I enjoy playing videogames with other people, but I feel like I don't care if they are not actually in the same room, physically, with me. Something about chemistry, or something.. I just enjoy that social aspect of it. Yeah, I am a dinosaur.. Anyway, in spite of my lack of interest in that arena, I maintain that it's deserving of (a great deal of) attention as it is obviously quite a powerhouse force in gaming - and it makes me realize, actually, how out of touch I am with my fellow man. I mean this - people are BORED!!! I tend to forget this, as I have an extremely active and busy life, (though not necessarily of the sort that "most would be envious of,") but i mean - I have my career, I have my social life, I have my relationship, and to whatever other extent I have my hobbies (such as they are). All these things eat up so much time, that there's not a lot of time for me to really sit around and ponder how "tiiiiime is a-waaaaaastin'" But, yeah, the more I talk to people/pay attention to the world around me, I get the sense that so many people are just honest-to-goodness freakin' bored a good deal of the time. They have hours and hours of their lives that they just need to kill. Now it makes a little more sense to me how people can get so fixated on BS like World of Warcraft.. it's insta-gratifying substitute social life that leads you by the hand, plug-in-and-play, that doesn't require more than sitting down at one's desk, tokin' up or what have you, and just turning down the lights and clickety clackety the keyboard for a bunch of hours. Yeah. This stuff is just getting started, folks.. yeeeesshhh..

Lots of other stuff to say, Played the Bourne and Iron Man demos. One good, one bad, I will let you figure out which is which. Right now, I gotta get back to work. Also I would like to bang the chick in the new Mirror's Edge game. See you on the flip side...

Wednesday, April 23, 2008

couple days, couple days

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

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

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

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

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

Sunday, April 20, 2008

this is vegas

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

Monday, April 14, 2008


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

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

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

Sunday, April 6, 2008

unvirtual nonreality

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

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

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

Tuesday, March 25, 2008

oh dear

man, it is a slow day. Perforce is crawwwwwwling since I have walked in (hours ago!) and until it finishes updating, I can't really get much done. This is unusual, but after last week's crunch, it fuels my lethargy..

Things are alright, our game has been on the public's tongue for a bit over a week (and change?) now, since there's not been quite so much of a media blitz it is sort of quiet mostly - I would imagine that will be different down the road, as usual. Anyway it is certainly interesting (in both good and bad ways) to watch the public reception to the announcement, and the initial articles.. too bad no one leaked any information about the PIRATE NINJA SPACE VIXEN levels in our game yet, oh well.

In the meantime, as usual I have loads and loads of things to say about game development (specifically, about finagling management of the unreal engine) but of course I will keep my cards close to my chest. Needless to say, I am sure I am thinking many of the same things that my counterparts in other companies would. It's very interesting, this development cycle, to see how things are handled "for next gen" (i know, can't really call it that anymore!) compared to the PS2 days. So much more overhead, to say the least. Sigh, I remember the times when I'd be meticulously cutting out shadow geometry all over the terrain "oh my GOD when will these times be past us! All will be valhalla!" Oh but y'know. It's always something, it really is.

I have had a slow trickle of game purchases lately, actually picked up a couple of Sega 32X games if you can believe that (hey, I acquired a unit for free, alright?) There were literally like 2 games for it that I was somewhat interested in looking at, I found them for a song so why not (no haven't even hooked the thing up yet anyway). I still have Bioshock sitting in my bag, as it's been for.. a long time, I really need to play through some more of it but in these times of wayyyyy too many good games, it's hard ot keep one's momentum with nearly anything, at times.

I got a couple big scores, relatively - mentioned previously, of course. First up at bat would be the Vectrex, old console (with built-in monitor) circa 1983, came out juuuust before the Video Game Crash. An impressive little device, I picked up a multicart for it as well (hey man, I just wanna play the games!) It's pretty sweet! I guess I did not know totally what to expect - I do remember the Atari 2600 era fairly well, and what kinds of games it inspired, so with that all in mind the uniqueness of the Vectrex is quite a treat. Disappointed not to see a straight-up Tempest clone amongst the titles there, but what's included is certainly worth the cash I spent on the whole kit (not too much, anyway...) Yeah, the thing looks neat. The controls feel a little touchy, you can tell this controller was designed in the days before hardcore ergonomic testing - as a result there's certainly a much more raw and pure feeling about the whole ordeal. When I ran it the first time, hearning the strange old-fashioned calliope/carnival music sort of made my heart warm a little (as dorky as that sounds!) The games look cool! They look weird, abstract, Janky. The pacman clone makes you laugh. The.. character game makes you.. scratch your head (game design was just in different places in those days). Scramble is as cool as ever. The little space invaders, Asteroids, and Missile Command knockoffs all look, sound, and play great. The pole position game is just like too cute for words, I guess. (trust me, it's cute with the little powerlines and trees and crape). Okay maybe that was Hyper Chase. You get the picture.

The Vector display is something else - you turn the thing on (it's a circular knob, how is that for quaint?)and the thing hums at you. The tube glows strangely, like a great-grandparents' TV would.. it looks odd, but still very neat. A lot of games use these small tiny specks (for stars, bullets, whatever) that just look like glowing bits of too-bright magnesium. It really looks unlike anything else you see in gaming, that's for sure...

Overall the thing is supercool. I wouldn't say I was "glued to it," it's nice to have it here (though it is really just more clutter) but the design and aesthetic from the top-down just makes me feel at home with my roots (my roots-roots!) you know? If anything, it frustrates me because now I want someone to make a similar little desktop MAME cabinet, or something, so I can go even further with it. Wait don't I have a GP32 alrready?

Friday, March 14, 2008

the news is what's news

Lots going on in the world right now.

1. Alpha Protocol, Obsidian's latest project, was announced in the current Game Informer Issue. I guess I can finally update my resume. That's what I have been working on for awhile..

2. Frontlines: Fuel of War released (at last!), the game I turned down for AP. Watching it like a hawk, and I replayed the SP demo, it's fun!

3. Ebay has been xmas for me lately. I have got a lot of goods out of there lately - a couple of Sega 32X games (yeah, really!), a Vectrex circa 1983, a Turbografx-16 CDRom unit (one that works, actually) and an upgraded system card for the unit ("to play Dracula-X"). I will write about these things in short order, haven't spent much (or any) time with any of this stuff since work's been rather hectic. In light of the vectrex, I'll say this - it's weird, which is cool! I set it up next to my monitor at the office, so I get a lot of confused stares these days (more so than usual). Anyway, all I need otherwise is a Gamecube Pad and then I am done shopping online for awhile, I believe.. something tells me that those cannot be too hard to find..

Short entry, but things are quiet right now. More to come soon - I am anxious for the weekend!

Sunday, March 9, 2008

games are boring

.. just like the title says. Post-Holiday season means cooling down, and overall I gotta say it feels pretty "blah" overall in videogameland. Smash Bros is just out, and yeah there's the usual expectations of good times from the new Metal Gear and GTA installments due soon.. but man, if you're me, not any of those does much to tickle the pickle. Where's the new, unheard-of experiences in gaming which are alas being heralded about, then? Trapped in a time capsule or wha? Well, far be it from me to dip into that well, so I might as well tread laterally..

I have a nice backlog of games to work through, though by my mood you can tell I am not too terribly psyched to work my way through them. I think it's time for a vacation from videogaming, or something. On the other end of the world, I booted up RC Pro-Am for the NES in what must have been the first time in at least half-a-decade, memories of struggle rushed forward but that game is still a pleasure, I got to say. I am turning into my Dad "everything from the past is better than anything made since!" Ok it isn't that bad (feels like it sometimes!) I am just a fuddy-duddy I guess.

I am waiting for my vectrex to show up in the mail still, likewise Turbografx CD Rom (man, can you believe I actually write about this stuff AND have a girlfriend.. and she isn't even fat or gross? Well maybe as she gets older, I suppose.) I feel like I have been on an ebay shopping spree lately, as one gets older and has slightly more disposable income, online auctions are definitely a dangerous place to hang out. Anyway that's pretty much all that's got my eye right now. I've a mind to throw some roms on the GP32 and give them a spin, but that thing's aged and it's experience sits not too wonderfully in my memory (this is a very spoiled brat gamer typing here, damn you gameboy micro). They were on route to put out a very gameboy-micro-looking device, those GP32 people, but as with many of their projects it seems to have got sucked up into a fuselage somewhere along the line. This is the part where I waste 20 minutes and look around, fruitlessly, for any more info on the thing (I would still buy one of those in a heartbeat, mind you!) My gameboy micro is easily the most used/most enjoyed gaming platform I own, for a few obvious reasons - most people would like to slap me upside the head and tell me to get a goddamned DS, I am sure. Buy me one if you like, I still won't play it that much I am sure (though I can't argue there's tons of great games on it).

Anyway, enough about my nerdish habits, it's time to rant about my nerdish job. Things are going along alright at work, at this point I am a year in with comfortably intimatizing myself with the unreal 3 editor. It's got some awful sticking points that, I guess, I have gotten pretty used to by now (but why, oh WHY?) - though so long as one is coordinated/thoughtful enough, it's more than useful and powerful. I think I would enjoy taking some downtime to mess with it, at this stage - and likewise, to get way familiar with a lot of other apps/tools that I "should" be more proficient with, 'cause sometimes I just feel like a damned dinosaur. I watch my coworkers bat stuff out, and the way the work - it makes me scratch my head a little "why don't I use those methods?" At this point it's easier to work in my old-fashoned ways to properly get things done, than to try and learn all these weird different abstract approaches to get to the same place (although, they seem much more efficient and faster). At least I don't feel like my eye has suffered much (well.. except perhaps becoming a bit too exacting for my own good).

I am coming up quickly on my one-year anniversary of employment with the curret studio. One year already! Doens't sound like much, but if one looks at my resume, they'll see that one year is by no means not a SHORT duration for me, historically and relatively, to be with a single company. I guess, roughly, the average length of time I've got by now, overall, is something like 1.35 yrs/job. Something like that - doesn't sound too good. But again, considering this industry, and the track record of so many of my peers, I would venture to guess that it's not too far away from the normal. Ah well, so long as I kkeep doing something, then c'est la vie.