If it's in the Game--it's in the Game!
- Jul 8, 2011 9:40 am GMT
- 9 Comments
So I was thinking a little about sports and the headline news that's been generated lately and I couldn't help but wonder why EA hasn't capitalized on it yet. Seriously, if you there's milk you know EA is going to milk it somehow, besides, "If it's in the game—it's in the game", right? That's been their slogan for years—maybe it's time EA actually started practicing what they preach.
So in the spirit of good entertainment and fun: If it's in the game—it's in the game.
EA ANNOUNCES CHANGES FOR UPCOMING 2012 RELEASES:
EA recently held a press conference in an undisclosed location (though experts have narrowed it down to one of their gold vaults) and apologized to their fans (and the U.S. Dairy Association) for the minimal changes in their yearly sports offerings.
One EA spokesperson claimed, "Yeah, our wrists are sore from all the milking we've done lately and let's be honest: With all the milking Activision does, Game Stop milking the used game market, and the economy being what it is, we needed a break. Besides, even if our fans are dumb enough to keep buying our products repackaged and rearranged year in and year out, you can only do the same game so many times before you get bored as a publisher".
So far EA has announced the following changes to their 2012 line-up:
Aside from adding in toothless post action interviews, EA has announced it will be adding in a new riot feature that will allow players to loot, vandalize, and destroy their home town in Grand Theft Auto fashion after any play-off loss. Players will earn points based off their mindless burning of cars, breaking of windows, and brawling with fellow rioters that can be used towards creating a real hockey team in a real hockey city.
Tiger Woods 2012: Tiger Woods will be seeing a drastic make over this year that will incorporate a dating sim between your outings at the course. Players can chose to date, marry, cheat, or be faithful to gain boosts to performance and publicity while still focusing on practices, sponsors, and the media. Players can customize their female counterparts from Chili's servers to supermodels while "entertaining" as many as possible without getting caught to maximize gameplay, prestige, and on and off the course bonuses.
Madden 2012: This year's installment of Madden highlights the new "Be a Real Pro" feature that allows players to commit crimes, tote guns in nightclubs, and party with celebrities well into the night—all from the comfort of their lazy boy. Players can chose to attend charity functions, community breakfasts, and autograph sessions for underprivileged fans, or party in strip clubs, gambling dens, and eventually the courtroom if they're caught for their antics. Be a REAL pro in Madden 2012!
NCAA 2012: College is one big party and so is the new NCAA 2012. When you're not practicing or playing you're partying with more features, more mini-games, and more action. Relax during Spring Break or [Edited to avoid getting banned from the site] with your [Edited] while you [Edited] in as many different [Edited] as possible! With NCAA you can relive your college glory days or create the one's you only wish you had!
Well that's it from EA at the moment but we've been promised more updates in the near future, and remember, "If it's in the game—it's in the game!"
- Jun 24, 2011 8:17 pm GMT
- 19 Comments
At 9:50 PM EST, the latest post on Nintendo's Facebook page lists 639 comments. At first glace, one would assume it were a trivia game with prizes or some sort of silly poll - these sorts of fluff pieces litter the Facebook realm, plastered across every page dedicated to any number of sold goods.
But these seem different.
"Release The Last Story, Xenoblade and Pandora's Tower in english speaking countries NOW!!!"
"Last Story and Xenoblade please. It would be so wrong to keep a magical Sakaguchi work from us, and I have been waiting for Xenoblade since forever."
"Where's that Xenoblade, Nintendo? You made an official Facebook page to outreach to the fans. Here's hoping you listen to them and bring Xenoblade and Last Story stateside. ; )"
I made my own comment, with a foolish typo, and yet within five minutes six people hit their like button. A flurry of activity the likes of which few video game related posts ever see.
The annoyance comes from a list of games that have finished development and have already seen release in Japan, but Nintendo is refusing to release in the US or the UK. The main culprits? Xenoblade, The Last Story and Pandora's Tower: three games for the Wii.
Xenoblade is a Final Fantasy XII-like JRPG with a sweeping, awe inspiring world design with some very exciting nerds-in-the-know buzz. It's the star of the show. The UK is getting the game as Xenoblade Chronicles, with both Japanese and English audio, but the US' release has been silent for nearly two years. It appeared initially as Monado: Beginning of the World, which is its name on Amazon. The Last Story is another JRPG that takes the third person camera view and landscape interaction from Gears of War, and Pandora's Tower is an action game. Again, UK gets both, the US does not.
These are not the first games Nintendo has refused to localize or release in the US or the UK, despite large windows that display a baffling lack of software. But not even a limited run of these games is allowed by the company. The software drought for the Wii has been a rough one. Gamers feel entitled to at least something for them to purchase and enjoy, especially when the system is barely on its fifth year.
The passion behind this massive spam attack seems initially unjustified, yet when it comes to something like this, the sense of betrayal runs deep. Let me explain: Nintendo has just finished their E3 press conference where they promised WiiU software that caters to the hardcore and the enthusiast gamer. But their actions speak louder than their words, and Nintendo has seemed fairly ambivalent to said community for the past five years. These are three incredibly highly rated games that the online communities are buzzing about that Nintendo simply refuses to discuss or bring over to the US, showing that their words are empty. The frustration is exponentially grown when the games are seen localized and finished in Europe, but since Wii consoles are not region-free it's even more of a hassle to play the game.
The name of the organizing of this push is Operation Rainfall, a targeted consumer movement of letters, Facebook comments, and Amazon preorders to give Nintendo the message: we want to give you our money. What started as an IGN boards idea spawned a multi-forum movement, which is spreading rapidly.
Will it be enough to make Nintendo change their minds? It's hard to be optimistic, but at the rate this movement is spreading, it's hard not to be impressed.
Update: The game's pre-order has reached the #1 video game slot on Amazon, and the Facebook comments are growing.
E3 The New Funeral for Consoles
- Jun 24, 2011 10:33 am GMT
- 36 Comments
E3 has gone through some awkward palpitations over the past few years. From a PAX-like sprawl of every possible gamer in the 2005 to 2008 era, to cut-down shell of itself over the past two years, returning to some strange hybrid sales festival in the current, cash-strapped, times, its convulsions this year took a strange turn in showing exactly how desperate the console market has become in its attempt to stay relevant in the new era of mobile gaming.
I have to ask an honest question, outside of Nintendo's "check out this cool thing" designs, why do we still have consoles? Normally I'm quick to criticize Nintendo's shennanigans, but to be honest, they may be going in the right direction to stay relevant. Both Intel's Sandy Bridge series and AMD's new CPU-GPU hybrids offer solid gaming performance, and it's only a matter of time before someone gets the bright idea to integrate set-top box design with some kind of hyper-modern take on an Android-like gaming platform.
If you don't see the Google-Activision partnership as an eventuality, or some similar mash-up of publishers cutting out the current console juggernauts, you're not looking at the writing on the wall. The high cost of developing modern 3D games has lead to serialization. Mass Effect 3, Gears of War 3, Drake 3, Call of Duty 2012, Eldar Scrolls 5, Old Republic MMO, et cetera. And the big money is ultimately in monetizing those franchises on a monthly basis - the map pack is to an FPS what a monthly fee is to an MMO. In the case of Call of Duty, they will even be switching to a monthly fee.
In terms of networks, both Google and Activision already run successful cloud and server applications. Activision has expressed interest in cutting Microsoft and Sony out of the Call of Duty picture. Microsoft and Sony don't actually develop the chips the games play on, much of the middleware and development tools are contracted out to third parties, so what function are they actually serving in the console marketplace?
Software companies are paying licensing fees to Sony and Microsoft just to get their games on the shelves, they pay licensing fees on add-on content, and none of the monthly fees of services like Xbox LIVE go back to them. Meanwhile the hardware continues to become increasingly outdated, and the security breaches on both Sony and Microsoft networks, alongside an increasing public confusion on what the next Xbox / Playstation will actually offer, and I have to ask: will there be another?
It's an odd line of thought to pursue. In an era where people declared PC gaming dead, the PC devs switched over to Androids, cell phones, STEAM and free to play games that, to be frank, represent the largest are of success in the gaming market. The single biggest threat to console gaming right now is the new PC market, the one that's held within Android devices and tablets, the one that has exploded in casual games and people who literally own their Xbox for the yearly Madden / Call of Duty influx. There are Facebook games that could IPO for the entire worth of the gaming divisions at Sony and Microsoft... so it's a strange world we live in.
What is the future of the console?
What, and when, do Sony and Microsoft offer their next platform?
How would Sony and Microsoft deal with Activision deciding to cut them out of the picture?
I'll be frank, while I'm excited by new games always, the announcements at E3 this year were predictable and showcased what we already know. Software is king. Console hardware has become irrelevant. Gadgets are Nintendo's market (increasingly the Apple of the console world), and Sony and Microsoft continue to be clueless as to their place in the market. Kinect and Move obviously didn't do what they intended, and essentially we now have a Sony "we're sorry we can't get our infrastructure together" excuse chain only to be topped by a Microsoft "what the hell is our market again?" confus-a-rama.
Is it really hard to see the Sony / Microsoft console being replaced by a generic box? Is it hard to see a home docking station for a tablet or google software / whoever-wants-to-manufacture-it box? Is it hard to see open source middleware tied to an apps market being slapped onto Intel / AMD standard design chips and saying "See ya existing console market, the software is the only thing that matters and your platforms have become irrelevant"?
I've been an advocate of platform-less gaming for years, and to be frank, this year's E3 showed just how irrelevant devices, outside of gadgets (Nintendo) have become. I love my 3DS, but it's getting destroyed by the tablet market. The Vita won't survive the tablet / mobile market, and everyone but Sony seems aware of that fact.
What do you think? Do you see a future for Sony and Microsoft, or will they continue to become increasingly irrelevant? Did this year's E3 give you hope, or prove just how out of touch they've become with the current market?
E3 Take Away: The Good, The Bad, and The Questionable
- Jun 15, 2011 9:57 pm GMT
- 15 Comments
E3 was pretty great this year. The media attention was higher than ever with Spike TV showing most of Day 0 with Sony, MS, and EA's press conferences. Nintendo announced the system we have been hearing rumors about. Sony finally filled us in on the details of their very powerful new handheld. Of course the best part were all the great games. There were also some bad stuff, but more on that in a bit.
The games were the highlight of the event this year with some games looking amazing and some new comers that I didn't expect to draw my attention at all. One that blew me away was Bioshock Infinite, which looked incredible. From the fast paced action to the wonderfully detailed world, the game seems to be an incredible feat. I'm still curious to see how they tuned the controls to make all that chaos playable, but Ken Levine said all the stage demo action was totally controlled by the player and those were not cutscenes. Definitely one to watch!
The long awaited sequel to Oblivion was shown in all its glory at E3 this year. Skyrim, despite its wierd name, looks to be an incredible success. Although the graphics are not mindblowing (like Obivion's were at the time), the gameplay, environment, the questing, and the huge 300 hours of content make this a must have for anyone that likes RPGs.
Tomb Raider was surprisingly interesting as well. I've turned my mind off to Tomb Raider since about the second game as they all seemed to be more of the same. Though we haven't seen any hard gameplay, the mood and setting look great and it seems to be a high budget title. Tomb Raider Reboot? I'm with ya.
Another game that finally removed the viel on gameplay was Dead Island. We all remember that ridiculously cool trailer they released a few months back, but finding out what the game actually entailed was not clear. I was pleasantly surprised that this was not just some hack and slash zombie massacre game like Dead Rising. It seems to combine RPG elements, technical FPS action, and a mature story into a clean package. This one is definitely on my list.
The racing game to get will be Forza 4. Although no major changes were announced, the game is getting bigger and better. More tracks, more cars, and Top Gear stuffs. I don't like the Kinect junk though...
Mentionables: BF3, Dragon's Dogma, Halo Anniversity, Arkham City, Dark Souls
Let's go ahead and get it out of the way, the Wii-U. I love how Nintendo is going for a higher powered system, but I'm not so sure it is as powerful as they are claiming. I've heard rumors of the Wii-U using a cell phone CPU, but I've also seen the official "Power-based" chip statement from Nintendo. The new controller seems okay, but Nintendo didn't seem extremely confident when showing it off and the entire idea seems like it hasn't been fleshed out. The controller doesn't even have a name yet and the "games" they showed were not games at all, but teaser tech demos (they were very explicit about this.) Nintendo has also taken the stance that this will not be a media device, so they are really limiting their audience and uses of the "powerful" box. I'm excited, but apprehensive about the Wii-U right now.
I came into E3 pumped to see Mass Effect 3, but the video they showed was rail shooting (him on the turret while shooting a big alien) and a lot of kinetic stuff. I've also heard that they are giving more stat and ability options, so that's a good thing. I am a little unsure how it will turn out, but I am still excited to hear more.
Rage is the latest game from id, and they have been hyping it for years. I tend to enjoy id games because of their simplistic, no-frills-but-shooting philosophy. However, Rage hit me as somewhat soft and boring. The guns lacked impact, the colors were bland and boring, and it didn't really set a new bar graphically like Doom 3 did. I'm hoping id is not just an artifact of a by-gone era, but seeing how well Duke has aged... I wouldn't be surprised.
I've been apprehensive of Star Wars the Old Republic since the beginning, but watching the gameplay at E3 makes me even more so. The story elements look nice, but the game simply looks bland. The controls, UI, and gameplay seem to be pulled right out of the Wow, Rift, Aion, Warhammer, etc, etc workbench. It does not speak of a new generation of MMO gaming, just a highly polished evolutionary step for those that are craving more current content. It doesn't seem to be for me, but I think it will be a success.
A spoiled suprised was Halo 4. Everyone was looking for it since it was leaked a day before, but the trailer was really good at hiding the game for at least several moments. The thing that makes this game questionable is the "4" in the title but the announcement of a new trilogy. Are we going to get 4, 5, and 6 or are they going to start in a different direction? We will have to wait and see.
Call of Duty Modern Warfare 3's stage demo showed a game that is starting to show its age. The stunning graphics and gorgeous scripted events that blew us away in the original Modern Warfare are now common throughout all FPS games. I do not know if CoD can keep its special flare unless they do something extravagent. While EA's BF3 is doing new things with destructible environments, large scale battles, and more realistic gameplay mechanics, CoD seems to be sticking to the same-old-same-old with this iteration. Step it up CoD, or you will find yourself irrelevent.
Mentionables: LOTR: War of the North, Far Cry 3, NFS: The Run
Let's start with this joke of the show, Fable: Journey. Not only does the name "Journey" sound more like the title of a romance novel, it also played like complete garbage. I simply couldn't believe what I was watching during his presentation. Everyone seemed to be in awe at how horrible it looked. It really goes to show how irrelevent Peter Molyneaux and the Fable series is these days. In his pursuit of "immersion" he has actually killed exploration and advancement, the very things that kindle immersion. I would not be surprised if the entire game was canned after the backlash to his stage demo.
Kinetic took up the majority of Microsoft's E3 conference. Kinetic is neat technology, but I simply do not see it catching on as a major device for the majority of 360 owners. It seems to be more of a large scale beta test and product recognition exercise for MS to pack the tech into future computer and console products (such as the next 360 and the next windows iteration.) It is too tacked on to be a major player on the 360, but so much time is devoted to pushing the name and tech on us. Show us games MS, not UFC and ESPN.
Ghost Recon: Future Soldier was a sad showing next to Battlefield 3 and Call of Duty. The game's bland art direction and low-rent graphics made for an uninspired showing. The game play looked to be very deliberate and without passion. The gunsmith feature begins to show how far this game has gone, and that it is unlikely to come back into the greatness it used to have.
The DS and Wii were practically thrown to the side other than a few titles during E3. Nintendo has moved on without them, even though the Wii-U is most likely over a year away. Nothing interesting is coming out for the Wii except Zelda and the DS is all but forgotten.
EA's Origin and Activision's CoD Elite are continuing to monetize the gaming world. Elite seems like a huge rip-off and only gives their competition a new bullet point for the back of their box "FREE FULL ACCESS MULTIPLAYER" will read the back of BF3 and GR. Origin is totally not needed, we already have numerous digital download options. No one wants another download manager or gaming community program running in the background. Leave it alone EA.
Althogether, E3 was a great show this week and GS's coverage, although spotty at times during the live streams, was pretty great. I am still surprised at how BIG the gaming industry has gotten, and E3 always reminds me how far gaming has gone in the past 20 years. I look forward to next year!
What are your top, questionable, and bad picks this year?
Unsung greats of gaming, part 17: Rune Factory Frontier
- Jun 12, 2011 6:48 am GMT
- 24 Comments
Author's note: This is part of a series in which Wootex and I highlight games that are fairly unknown but nonetheless awesome. They are both informative and entertaining, or at least Wootex's are.
Previous edition: 16 - Def Jam: Fight for New York
Rune Factory Frontier
Genre: Farming/RPG hybrid
Developers: Neverland Co.
Release Date: November 27, 2008 (Japan), March 17, 2009 (North America), April 1, 2010 (Europe)
What is it?
Rune Factory Frontier is by far the youngest game to date in this series, having come out in North America only a little over two years ago as of the writing of this article. However, considering the fact that GameSpot never even reviewed it, I think it's safe to say that it already merits being called "unsung". And it's definitely great. And, well, it's also definitely a game. So, in it goes.
Rune Factory Frontier (like the rest of the Rune Factory series) is a pretty weird game, just in terms of its multiple personalities. On one hand, it's got a very strong Harvest Moon vibe going on - a major part of its gameplay is tilling soil, planting crops, watering the crops, and then selling the harvest for money, all while getting to know the people (especially the girls) living in the village you begin to call home. At the same time, however, there are a number of dungeons in the game in which monsters dwell, and in which you have to fight the monsters in order to get further into it. The two really don't seem like they should work together, but they really, really do.
In Rune Factory Frontier, you play the part of Raguna, a young man who left his home in search of a girl named Mist, whom he finds in the tiny village of Trampoli. She convinces him to settle down in this village too (there's an empty yet fully furnished house right next to hers, conveniently enough), and he does. Thus begins his epic quest of planting crops. And harvesting them. And also saving the town of Trampoli while he's at it, since a giant whale-shaped island floating above the town, you find out, is going to shortly fall from the sky down on it if nothing is done.
"I'll take a turnip... and EAT IT."
What's great about it?
Rune Factory Frontier's appeal is actually a lot like that of Animal Crossing - although this game does have a story, it largely takes a back seat to the gameplay. This isn't the sort of game that one will stay up super late playing because one can't pull oneself away from the gripping storyline; rather, it's the sort of game that one will sit down to for a relaxing session during which to unwind. It's also definitely not a game that will appeal to everyone - you'd definitely have to see value in planting digital crops and getting acquainted with a digital village, because that's definitely the core of this game's appeal.
If you do see the appeal in that, however, there's a lot of things to do in Rune Factory Frontier. For starters, the game goes through the four seasons just as the real world does, and in each season there are different crops to be planted and different activities in town to do. Both your house and your equipment (both farming- and battle-related) can be upgraded multiple times and in multiple ways. As you go through the game, you can get a forge, a kitchen, and a lab, in each of which places you can make new equipment and items. The game also has, in total, thirteen girls, as well, with whom you can start up a friendship that can eventually blossom into a relationship.
THAT'S WHAT SHE- oh, never mind.
Of course, you can't do everything the game has to offer in a single day. The game places a number of limiters on your ability to do things in an in-game day - you have a set number of hit points with which you can withstand enemies' attacks; you have a set number of rune points (effectively your stamina) that any given stenuous activity will require and use it; and you have an in-game clock, which dictates what shops are open, what villagers are where, and how late you can stay up before needing to go to bed. Everything you plant requires a set number of days before it's either ripe (in the case of crops) or in bloom (in the case of flowers), as well, so patience is a virtue.
Finally, the game also has a level and skill system, too - as you battle monsters, you gain levels up, making you stronger; and as you do activites around the farm and in battle (tilling, chopping, attacking, forging, etc.), you gain skill levels up, making you more efficient in those activities. These effectively make it so that you can do more in one day and go further in dungeons before needing to turn back - when you first start out, you'll only be able to tend to a small amount of crops and go a little ways into dungeons, whereas the more skilled you get and the higher your level gets, the more you'll be able to get through in the same day. Upgrades to farming equipment as well makes them more efficient - for example, upgrading your watering can one level enables you to water three squares in one go, instead of just one. Which is good, since the amount of farmland available in the game is massive.
I AM FARMING THE **** OUT OF THIS PLACE RIGHT NOW
The bottom line
This is really one of those games where it's pointless to dwell on it too long - if you're going to like it, you're probably already thinking about looking into it by this time, whereas if you're not going to like it, you've probably already decided that this sounds really stupid. If you are still considering it, though, it comes highly recomended in my books - it's a great game for a rainy day, one that offers great relaxation and casual fun. Check it out!
Thoughts on the E3 press conferences
- Jun 10, 2011 2:51 pm GMT
- 3 Comments
I'm a tad late with getting this posted, I know -- but I wasn't able to watch the Nintendo conference until just yesterday, nor have I had a lot of time to dedicate to writing this past week. But now I do! So let's get to it. (Note: I'm only focusing on the big three because I don't have a whole lot of stuff to say on EA and Ubisoft. Maybe next year I'll be more opinionated on those conferences.)
Kinect was really Microsoft's focus this year, as expected. Most of the conference was solely devoted to it. And, man, was it embarrassing. The people they had demoing the games were horrible actors. They were making it painfully obvious that they were faking their enthusiasm. It was laughable. They really need to stop having their presenters act. Just demo the games. The games themselves weren't remarkable, either. All a bunch of mini-game or sport compilations.
There were some interesting things, though. Most notable being Mass Effect 3 getting Kinect support, or rather voice command support. Curious addition. Voice input is hardly something to advertise. But what do I care? I don't play those games! Also of note was Ghost Recon's Kinect functionality, which they announced was a fully functional way of playing it. The actions, however, were a little... odd. You fire your gun by opening your right (or maybe your left?) palm and stop once you close it while you aim with your left arm. Shooting that way just doesn't seem intuitive. Feels like developers are trying too hard to put Kinect functionality where it needn't be.
And that, to me, is much to the detriment of Kinect. Motion control works best when you build the game around it instead of vice versa. It always comes off as a case of shoehorning, otherwise. That it's being supported is good; a significant peripheral like this needs it given how late it was introduced. Problem is, though, that, like the Wii, no one seems to know how to really make a compelling use of the hardware to create a game that appeals to both markets. That's why we're seeing people either making mini-game compilations or weird implementations like Ghost Recon did.
I know that Kinect is primarily aimed at the non-gamer market -- the majority of the software makes that clear given that they're copying Nintendo in some respects -- but if they want to capture the existing gamer market, they'll have to do more than shoehorn in Kinect functionality. I'm sure I speak for all of us when I say that never helps.
On the games front, there wasn't anything that particularly interested me. The Summer of Arcade lineup this year includes Bastion from Super Giant Games, though, which really excites me. I've been following the feature Giant Bomb's been doing on the development of the game. It's looking great. Hope being apart of the promotion will allow it to see incredible success. They deserve it.
Sony was evenly split between everything: PlayStation 3, PlayStation Move, and PlayStation Vita -- the now confirmed to be official name of the previously titled Next Generation Portable. Strong presentation all-around. Rather boring in delivery, though. Sony really ought to start working getting some liveliness and entertainment in there.
Like Microsoft, Sony looks to be trying hard to keep their motion control device well-supported. Medieval Moves was the big Move only software, with the rest of the demonstrations being it's functionality in other games as an optional control choice. It's a shame that the Move isn't getting a whole lotta exclusive software for it. Developers seem keen on just tossing it in rather than design a game around it, making it little more than an expensive under-supported Wii Remote knock-off. Say what you will about the Kinect, but at least Microsoft is keeping it constantly supplied with software centered around it. Sony's trying, but even they seem happy enough to just toss it in as a secondary control scheme. Not very enticing reason to buy one, I gotta say. Support's support, though.
The PlayStation Vita was also there. Biggest news of the conference (apart from Sly 4 being unveiled; so can't wait for that) was the price. It's going to launch in the fall at $250 for the wi-fi only version and $300 for the 3G (with AT&T) and wi-fi enabled version. Smart pricing. This puts them in direct competition with the 3DS. Assuming Nintendo doesn't drop the price in time of the PlayStation Vita's release, the hand-held console arena is going to become real interesting. Nintendo's never had much in the way of a strong competitor (mobile platforms could be argued to be their first real threat, although). They've all always failed to make much of a dent in their control of that sector of gaming, mostly because their pricing was never good enough to actually compete. If Sony does it right, they could present a real challenge for Nintendo.
Strangely, they never once tried to advertise the multi-media capabilities of the platform. They seem to be banking squarely on its gaming capabilities -- not there's anything wrong with that. A peculiar tactic given their history shows they usually advertise multi-media functions extensively. I'm thinking that means they're relying on its games to sell the platform instead. Whatever the case, the device is really cool. Definitely sold on it.
Games-wise, Sony continued its tradition of focusing primarily on exclusives. They didn't hold back on the software, showing off lengthy demos for games like Uncharted 3. There were a lot of absent games, though. The Last Guardian from Team ICO wasn't mentioned even in passing at the show, nor was Journey or other newly announced PSN exclusives (Papo & Yo, for instance) mentioned. Heck, even Ratchet and Clank: All 4 One didn't get demoed. I understand that they only had so much time, but it seems odd to have snubbed mentioning what many are most excited about.
To put it simply, this conference was far too short and light on info. It was the most entertaining of the bunch, though.
It started with a bang: an orchestra performing tunes from The Legend of Zelda series. Hearing them in full orchestral form was truly a delight. Nintendo really needs to start making orchestration the standard for their soundtracks. MIDI is getting kinda old. Anyway, after the performance, Miyamoto walked on stage and started reminiscing about Zelda. Didn't reveal anything about Skyward Sword, the newest installment, except for a release window (this holiday worldwide), but he did announce that a free DSi game of Four Swords would be coming out in the near future. No exact details were given on that either, however.
The Zelda portion took up almost a half-hour of the conference. For that much time, it's odd that more details weren't revealed, let alone any demonstrations performed. But then, we all know how Zelda works at this point. Not a whole lot of stuff you could show, really.
After the Zelda portion it was onto the 3DS. Not a whole lot of announcements there -- just stuff we've known about since last year, like Mario Kart, Kid Icarus, and Star Fox 64. Luigi's Mansion 2 was announced, though, which I find an odd choice for the 3DS given the mechanics. The flashlight element would have been a natural fit with the Wii remote, I'd think. They would have been able to make better lighting effects, too, that way.
Honestly, I'm surprised Nintendo didn't have more to announce for 3DS. That system is in dire need of some strong software and Nintendo hasn't provided a huge amount of games for it just yet. Most of what they had at the presentation is coming out before the end of the year, but I feel like they could have had more, even if it was just a couple of third-party titles. Nintendo must really be banking on the DS name to sell the system.
Interestingly, with the exception of The Legend of Zelda: Skyward Sword, there wasn't a single Wii game there despite there being WIi games from them coming this year. I suppose it's just a result of their conference being little more than an hour long, but ignoring games for your still current console seems like a poor decision. Though it's certainly not uncommon for Nintendo. Once they've got a new console unveiled, they start ignoring their older console, dropping support almost immediately.
Speaking of which, Nintendo's long rumored new console was there. It's called the Wii U. It's key feature? The screen embedded within the controller. It's essentially a tablet of sorts equipped with a conventional control scheme. Intriguing concept. From what I can tell, implementation ranges from the obvious (displaying inventory menus and maps) to more exceptional, gameplay-affecting uses, like using the controller as a scope of sorts attached to the Wii Zaper.
There were a lot of conceptual ideas Nintendo trotted out. The most eye-catching, to me, was how it could be used in a multiplayer setting. One example played two players, using Wii remotes (you only get one Wii U controller per system), on the TV screen working together to shoot down some flying ship, which was being controlled by a third player on the Wii U controller. It sounds really cool. I could see this bringing a ton of great ideas.
No actual games were announced for the system specifically, though. The conceptual ideas were playable on the show floor, I hear, but they weren't actual games. I assume that's because whatever games they are working on aren't anywhere near ready to be shown. Come time for E3 next year there will undoubtedly be tons of games being shown for it.
What I'm most interested in, however, is how ports are going to be handled. Since the Wii U is at least on par with 360 and PS3, the console is going see ports left and right. Heck, they even announced plenty of them at the conference. Games like Darksiders 2, which will be a launch title, they've confirmed; Ninja Gaiden 3, Assassin's Creed, Dirt, etc. are all coming to the Wii U. Will all of the controller's features be used? Or will they just shoehorn everything in? I would hope that they would be judicious in their use of the controller's functions, but if since we're dealing with ports, I'm keeping my expectations low.
The one problem I see with Nintendo's conference is that there just simply wasn't enough info on the console itself. What are the specs? How's the online infrastructure going to be? The controller's cool, but we need details on the hardware. That lack of info is undoubtedly what's causing some to misinterpret that the Wii U isn't a new system but a controller add-on for the existing Wii. They need to rectify that perception if they want to make sure that they can again court non-gamers to jump on board with their new platform.
Overall thoughts on the show
E3 was great this year. Not a whole lot of huge surprises here this year -- the stuff that could have been big were leaked beforehand -- but it was entertaining and enlightening nonetheless. A lot were saying this E3 was the year of the Quick-Time Event. I'm hoping that's going to be a short-lived fad. We don't need more excuses for developers to take away control from the player just for some light cinematic flair. Just give us full control to execute those cinematic actions ourselves instead.
What about you? What'd you think of this year's E3?
ATTENTION: RedSpot Comrades Unite---the Time for Revolution Has Come!
- Jun 10, 2011 6:01 am GMT
- 33 Comments
What is a Box of Soap?
Once great leader of RedSpot, Chairman Jeff Gerstmann
When I was growing up a soap box was a small cardboard box in which soap was stored before use. These days you young whipper snappers stand on these cardboard boxes to give informal speeches or you find yourselves on the internet as an object of interest as decreed by by—decreed by who? According to the Democratic People's Republic (DPR) Soapbox's manifesto it is decided by "We" a mythical entity supposedly composed of GameSpot editors and writers but there is little evidence that this is the case. Indeed while now and then those around me would be highlighted and tied to the DPR Soapbox to preach their diatribe of choice neither they nor I knew exactly how they got there.
"All editorials are considered". This mythical We is a governmental entity with communistic systems of power. Even those two sentence blogs tagged accidentally as editorials were considered; for all blogs are created equal. But are they equally considered? What distinguished an editorial written by a mere plebeian and an editorial written by a +1 Orator of Distinction. An emblem; a rank; a bureaucratic medal.
While these Orators of Distinction distinctly orated there would be hundreds of others who orated just as distinctly. But even in a communistic society where all blogs are equal there was no room for all of them in spite of the quite noticeable fact that not all DPR Soapbox blogs are created equal—and nowhere in the DPR Soapbox manifesto does it claim as much. Indeed once you get that emblem you will be forever known as an Orator of Distinction, whether you orate distinctly or not. So long as you continue to contribute the odd editorial at least or until The Hague catches you and you become an Orator of Extinction. After the legitimate trial of course!
One can find on the DPR Soapbox blogs even more self serving, poorly researched, and poorly written than this one! An astounding statement, but one that rings true. One does wonder if those responsible for such blogs have always written in this way or through their permanent governmental position they have grown fat on fine wine and harlots and developed a bad case of gout in their typing fingers while beneath them their equals toil and sweat in the field trying their very best, their fingers nearly falling off, to win a place on the DPR Soapbox with high quality editorials that we all read, but We certainly do not.
But there is hope—or at least there was one. But because as with writing an editorial and having We not read it ends and does not begin with sadness I shall first talk of hope; for that is what must come before disappointment.
How to Climb the DPR Soapbox
Jeff Gerstmann demonstrates how RedSpot desalination works on the Irrigation Minister, Alex Navarro.
Unless there is a snake solid enough to support your weight in the DPR cardboard Soapbox then you will find that climbing one is a hard task indeed. Cardboard easily breaks; especially cardboard manufactured by the RedSpot Cardboard Monopoly. But as you can see from reading this very editorial I have climbed the cardboard box; but it was not easy. I will tell you of my story, and of the great nation of the Monkeys Writing Shakespeare Union where a man would not have the sweat of his brow licked off it by We.
As a small idealistic boy my father would sit me on his lap and tell me that if I worked hard, led a good, honest life free of deviancy I could have whatever I wanted. My father was an alcoholic so the fact that he had very little elated my fears that what he said was not true; I did all the work for him while he drank!
So I worked hard. I would churn out blog after blog on the blogofield. I cultivated a cult following and in one glorious moment of viral marketing I managed to a amass a blog to be proud of; it was a crop of seventy five comments and filled with the sort of content that one finds not in the goulash soup of the gulags made with grass and crickets, but in the gourmet treats that reside on We's banquet table itself.
But those who had the pleasure of viewing my blog through viral marketing tasted nothing but the dirtiest of flesh, and probably got a few viruses in the process; but we were not afforded soap to try and wash this sin from our own tainted flesh. We gave us nothing.
I could see my error; it was in the deviancy. I no longer hoped that blogs of a deviant nature would find their way onto the DPR Soapbox and thus started working on honest to God gaming editorials about GTA's technical failings and the like, but the harder I worked, and the more I sweated and the more We licked me the more I became disillusioned with the way the state of DPR Soapbox was run.
This is when in an act of rebellious protest I posted a blog pointing out the inherent homophobia of RedSpot after one instance of deviancy was erased from history by We's censorship department: Multinational Overpost Destruction Service (MODS). One Kevin-V replied, assuring me that because RedSpot had hired a homosexual it could not be homophobic. But few agreed with him, and there was a great disturbance in the great nation of DPR Soapbox. To silence this protest before anarchy took over We, or Kevin-V, gave me a DPR Soapbox emblem.
I was a fool! Until now I have stayed silent, but the emblem which I once held dear to my heart has become a symbol of my own hypocrisy. It has become a symbol of how We has oppressed the good citizens of DPR Soapbox for so long, and with the collapse of the great nation of DPR Soapbox I could not stay silent any longer. My brethren: they may have removed us from the public view, but amongst our peers we are not silent. We can fight. We must stand up: we must fight for all that we have done for DPR Soapbox!
We are one: whether you write only great editorials, or get a little lazy now and then, we must band together. Now is not the time to destroy ourselves: now is the time to destroy We.
Free Monkeys Writing Capitalist Manifestos
Greg Kasavin, the most well loved leader RedSpot has seen. They say he treated fellow countrymen as well as he treated his hair.
But brothers, sisters and all primates. There once was a great land. A land where those esteemed members of the elite were only of the elite through common consensus: not because they were equals! Indeed they were superior, and some of them were very superior indeed!
A virtual magazine that was open for anyone to apply for—in many ways like DPR Soapbox—bore wonderful fruits: exciting, informing and entertaining articles that were all quality checked on an individual basis, but it was a small country. Small enough for everything to be considered: and the fact that you know what you had written would be seen to and not be ignored by your superiors meant that, while still frustrating, rejection was not quite so empty. There was closure.
But this country had close ties to RedSpot, the land in which DPR Soapbox resides. I was told by my comrade monkeys in whispered and hushed voices that those who had a DPR Soapbox emblem could PM some of We (only one member of We was named making the total known members of We two) and point out writers they deemed worthy of DPR Soapbox accreditation. This sort of nepotism was not present in the nation of MWSU, but perhaps a necessity in the larger nation of DPRS.
Brothers, sisters, and apes. If you know of someone worthy of the DPR Soapbox do not merely offer consolatory comments on their worthy blog, but PM a member of We. If you can find one. Nepotism might be nasty, but perhaps given the size of RedSpot and DPR Soapbox it is necessary. Fight for those whose writing you like!
There is nothing wrong with a little viral marketing; especially when sent to those who work for a nation who likes ads of its own—oh yes, we will get to that in a moment.
And what of MWSU now? Alas it has sunk to the bottom of the ocean condemned forever to be trapped beneath the sea with no rapture for those who sunk with it.
All Nations under RedSpot Rule Unite As One
Halsey Minor and Shelby Bonnie: the only two known members of We.
It is not just us Soapboxians that have fallen victim to RedSpot's new anti-privatisation tyranny, but also those from the USSR (Union of Self-Served Reviewers), and let us not forget our brothers from Union who have been victims of RedSpot oppression for years and years. Genuine reform was promised years ago, but then Union was buried under tariffs and trade restrictions.
USSR has been swept under the rug; the rug of advertising. In the ghettos where citizens would once live in squalor every day writing original content that generated more clicks and advertising revenue for RedSpot now we found only ads themselves: we have been replaced by currency, and nothing more. We are but dollars to RedSpot, and though we have contributed to their wealth with no prize for ourselves but the opportunity of nourishing discourse, we have been forgotten and now find ourselves slowly being starved.
But they keep us barely alive on the smallest of rations hidden away in gulags where no one would think to look when searching for discourse. And DPR Soapboxians? We have it only marginally better off, relegated to a community tab that few will click on, and why should they? There is no mention of Orators of Distinction. Just a spotlight of the community; the sort of spotlight probably used to spot those trying to run across the border from DPR Soapbox to South Soapbox. No one wants to see these poor souls gunned down.
Today I saw a horrible sight. A blog starved to death. It lay all skin and bones on the land of DPR Soapbox. Yes, it was an Orator of Distinction, but it had not had one single nourishing comment. My brothers and sisters we must rise up—we must not let this happen to any other DPR Soapboxians. We must fight back. We must let RedSpot know that DPRS cannot be crushed so easily, that the USSR will not be trapped in concentration camps for ever—and if we fail? Then we must use our Union brothers as inspiration. They have survived on nothing for years; their existence may not be as full as our own at first glance, but they have shown us that survival in the spite of RedSpot oppression is possible. They have survived. We will survive.
They can take our DPR Soapbox land from us, they can cover the USSR with ads, but they cannot—they will not take our words. They will not silence us.
Gamespot Sidelines Community Content
- Jun 2, 2011 10:05 am GMT
- 32 Comments
Change can be good, like the institution of democracy or equal rights for women.
Change can also be bad, like the recent actions of Gamespot to sideline community content.
I'm certainly not the only person whose noticed this, but community content at Gamespot has been removed from most obviously public spaces. Where before Soapbox graced the bottom of the mainpage, and reader comments counted into the hundreds, now you have to go to Forums, drop down Gamespot Forums, to finally see the last 3 entries. Or go through Community drop down to Soapbox. Any guess as to the average number of comments since this change? Try about 20. Result? About 80% reduction in community engagement in the Soapbox.Similarly, Gamepages no longer reveal player/community reviews on the page. Rather, you need to click on the number of votes below "User Score" to reveal the GS community reviews.
[Can you spot the community content?]
Now to be clear, Gamespot still retains all of the community features I've mentioned. Reviews and Editorials are still here. And yet, the site revamping has coordened them off where only those in the know would look. In essense, this makes community content far more internal and self-serving, rather than showcased as a part of the entire GS presentation.
This irks me, as I know it does a lot of the members I've spoken to. There are a lot of game review sites out there, though certainly GS is one of the largest and most prestigious. And yet, much of what distinguishes Gamespot from IGN and the rest is most certainly the community involvement. The community has always been, if not front and center, just to the right of center. Now, with community content squirreled away such that browsers need to search for it, GS seems to be moving in the opposite direction.
So my question is: why?
Is GS trying to present a more "professional" site by moving community content away from these pages? It's certainly not as if the new presentation is streamlined to the extent of a site like Joystiq, where this might make sense given the aesthetic values. Quite frankly, GS pages have always been cluttered, and the new site design doesn't fix that, so this argument doesn't make sense.
Certainly, part of the new site design is meant to more accurately categorize the various components of the site, and I can only imagine that GS would not have made the changes to community content had those been receiving as much attention as other content on these pages. And yet, I can't help but feel that this is only going to negatively impact community involvement in the long run.
I'll be surprised if this post gets more than 20 readers, rather than 150 as it might have were Soapbox still on the main page. So my few readers, welcome to the desert of the real.
Cycle of the Triforce
- May 16, 2011 6:29 am GMT
- 8 Comments
There's been some talk of Skyward Sword being migrated to the Wii's successor console (code named 'Project Cafe'). While this rumor has been passively denied, the famliarity of the circumstances echoes the release of Twilight Princess; written for Gamecube, but moved forward to the Wii. This has always been a sore point for purists, who are yet to experience a premier Zelda title coded for the Wii hardware from conception.
This situation could now make two heavily anticipated releases, both thought to revitalize their respective platforms, that have/may be pushed forward to a completely new hardware system. (Whether the Wii would receive a lighter version of Skyward Sword if this were to happen is an issue that I will respectfully ignore).
The animated series. Cla55ic design.
The question that I ask myself is "since when did the Zelda releases become so out-of-phase with console life-spans?". Surely, the most popular single-player adventure game deserves a clear, well-timed release bracket that the console owners can buy with confidence. It seems increasingly difficult to rely on this series to provide a consistently clear release schedule; it seems to be especially prone to shifting technologies, distinct control schemes and incompatible demands from the players.
Can anything be learned by examining the console lifetimes in relation to the main series (console) releases? I thought that this approach might reveal something about the future of Zelda. (Console launches are represented by the coloured tiles).
(Click on the image to view it in full resolution)
What can be learnt here?
- The first two games are the closest in their releases, while
- The N64 releases are a close second
- The largest distance between games is approx. 7 years
- The games are most densely distributed around the GCN era
- Twilight Princess is the only Zelda game available at launch.
Other than those preliminary deductions, it doesn't reveal anything sinister or subversive to my eye. But what if we stripped the data down to strict divisions of 'console launch' and 'Zelda release'?
(Click on the image to view it in full resolution)
What can be learnt here?
- You can notice the slight but ever decreasing distance between consoles ('Project Cafe' excluded)
- The clumping of titles around the 5th & 6th generations
- The possibilty of the second launch title Zelda seems clearer here
- The distance between 3D Zeldas is steadily increasing
Oh, and will Tingle return?
It seems that as consoles become more sophisticated, and games become more produced, tested and anticipated, the time required for the development increases. This is typical for any on-going project, so that's nothing new.
But another noteworthy observation is that when the series undergoes a dramatic alteration of gameplay (2D - 3D, dual-analog to motion, comical to realism) the game always requires more development. This is hardly news either, but if this trend continues, it goes to show that Skyward Sword really is a significant change in direction. The mix-up of the traditional dungeon/field/dungeon/sidequest must be at least partially true, and the promise of revolutionary sword-play may follow too.
A modern, evocative 5tyle. Excellent.
At any rate, Skyward Sword is bound to be unique in at least some sense, but if it is released solely on the Wii, it's going to be doubly special. For on inspection of the release cycle, it can be seen that for all the eccentricity and seemingly illogical milestones of console Zelda releases, you can be sure that there are none launched at the retirement of a console exclusively.
I believe the game will be released on the Wii: the user-base is enormous, and there is a new audience due to Nintendo's (controversial) marketing decisions that may have a new familiarity with Link. This, coupled with Link's traditional audience makes the Wii a suitable economic choice, if not technological.
Whose got some other ideas?
A thesis on Portal 2's ending
- May 9, 2011 7:19 am GMT
- 62 Comments
WARNING: Spoilers abound for Portal 2.
So, while rewatching the ending to Portal 2 a little while back, a couple things struck me as not really fitting into the bigger picture. The more I looked into them, the more I started to feel that there was something else there that the "official" ending wasn't directly telling us. As my thought and research on the matter has finally come to a completion, I'd like to present to you the results, which form my official thesis on what was really going on in the ending to Portal 2:
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