Friday, December 28, 2007

"Professional" Video Game Reviews

I just read a post by Dean Takahashi on his blog about his take on Bioware's Mass Effect.

I don't have a problem with his point of view. I have a problem with how he expresses it.

Takahashi, in his review, goes on to state how certain design decisions were stupid or ridiculous. He also states that he didn't bother to finish the game before writing his review.

First, in my eyes, any reviewer should speak about the work being reviewed as objectively as possible. Obviously you're not going to like everything but as a professional you should be able to avoid using words like stupid when you describe things you didn't like. Secondly, a reviewer should finish reading/watching/listening to the work in its entirety before expressing an opinion on it. When I was in elementary school, I had to read the whole book before writing a report on it. Professional reviewers should not get a pass.

When reviewers don't take the time to write a proper review it shortchanges gamers and developers. If someone is on the fence about a particular title and they look to that review for feedback it's only fair that the gamer gets a complete review of the developers' work. FYI, when I say proper I don't mean positive; if something is poor say so but be prepared to back it up.

Edit Jan 02 2008: Takahashi took a step back and admits in his blog he didn't do his best work in the original review.

Monday, December 17, 2007

Halo 3 Marble Maze



A soccer ball rolls its way around a forged foundry. The video is also available on Mus65tang file share.

read more | digg story

Friday, December 7, 2007

Happy Holidays!

Thursday, December 6, 2007

Influence vs. Integrity - Game Publishers vs. Game Reviewers


'Those who cannot remember the past are condemned to repeat it.' - George Santayana

"I guess U know me well, I don't like winter But I seem 2 get a kick out of doing U cold Oh, what the hell, U always surrender What's this strange relationship that we hold on 2?"

Lyric from Strange Relationship - Prince

Stop me if you have heard this one before. Video game publisher takes prominent game magazine senior editor to task for a thoroughly unfavorable review of a high profile release. If you're thinking, "Duh you have been blogging about that Gertsmann thing all week"...you'd be sort of right.

Take this example from 2001 recounted in 2005 for a site once known as Gamedrool. (Links courtesy of The Wayback Machine). Gamepro publishes a negative review of a highly touted release from 3DO called Portal Runner, a spin off of the successful Army Men series, for the PS2. Ironically the game was featured on the cover of the same issue. Trip Hawkins, President of 3DO at the time, sent a scathing letter to Gamepro expressing his dissatisfaction with the review, the reviewer and the magazine and promises to pull his company's advertising. Gamepro stood behind the review and the reviewer and made it clear in no uncertain terms that they were not changing the review.

Based on this bit of history, Gertsmann's sacking for his review does not seem so far fetched. While Hawkins' letter was not the most coherent he did make a very good point. The nature of the relationship between game publishers and magazine publishers is symbiotic. It may have been Hawkins' belief that the relationship should provide for favorable reviews of 3DO games. Because of the weight placed on game reviews I would not be surprised if more publishers felt that way. Ultimately, game reviewers are bound to presenting an opinion of a game solely on its strengths or weaknesses not because the publisher's PR people showed them a really good time the other night.

Does this history mean that Gertsmann was fired for his review?
No. And per human resources and privacy laws we will never know why Gertsmann was fired.

Did CNET/Gamespot handle this appropriately? I don't think so. The actions of management leading up to the exit of Gertsmann made it look like he was being let go for the review. To their credit, they are stepping up and trying to shed some light on the activity this past week. In my opinion, had they taken this action at the time of Gertsmann's exit this wouldn't have blown up as it has.

What's the big deal over this guy anyway?
The big deal is this: Jeff Gertsmann was a senior editor for Gamespot and an 11 year employee before being sent packing last week. Internally at Gamespot, there were many comments about how this was not communicated to the staff. Based on how this was handled, there are folks that are very uncomfortable about who they are working for. And I am not talking about CNET. This controversy has made news in the mainstream press as well and could potentially impact the company financially. Here's how. Publishers pony up ad money to get their titles seen by as many eyeballs as possible. More eyeballs = higher premiums. If people decide to move on to other sites because they feel Gamespot reviews are biased in favor of the game publishers, that means fewer eyeballs. This could also impact Eidos and IO Interactive because this controversy combined with the manufactured quotes blunder will keep people from purchasing Kane and Lynch.

So what does this mean for us as gamers? We need to take reviews from sources of so-so reliability with a grain of salt. If you have a favorite place to read reviews that you trust then by all means continue to support that magazine/site. Especially now. We can be fairly confident that sites that do not rely on game publisher ad support are above the influence of game publishers. We can rely on sites like 2old2play for reviews because they are generally written by our peers, but even then one should be wary because PR people have been known to hire shills to generate positive press about titles either in blogs or forums.

Wednesday, December 5, 2007

The Contempt of Gaming (news)

The Gerstmann issue is simply a symptom of a pervasive malaise: the uneven relationship between the gaming press and game publishers. Simply put: unless the gaming community as a whole takes mass and decisive action, this problem will arise again and again. Trouble is: are we willing to sacrifice our shiny previews and features?

read more | digg story

Tuesday, December 4, 2007

Game reviewer axed for the love of money?


If you're a videogame review geek like me, you may have already heard of the messy separation of Gamespot's Former Editorial Director Jeff Gertsmann after 11 years at the company. For the uninitiated, Gerstmann was fired from Gamespot at the end of last week for undisclosed reasons. Because of a lack of information provided by CNET, Gamespot's parent company, and some kind of gag order on Gerstmann preventing him from discussing the reasons for his termination the rumor mill ran overtime this past weekend.

In what may be more than coincidence, Gerstmann's termination comes on the heels of a fairly harsh review of Eidos' Kane and Lynch:Dead Men. On the surface that's not a big deal, however shortly before the game's release all sorts of Kane and Lynch advertising appeared on banners throughout Gamespot. Eidos had made quite the investment in terms of ad dollars hyping the game. Reportedly, clicking through one of the ads brought you to Gerstmann's unfavorable review.

So now we have what appears to be sour grapes on Eidos' part. They gave Gamespot a bunch of ad money and their senior editor craps on their highly touted release. The rumor mill goes on to speculate that Gamespot in an effort to appease Eidos (as well as pocket future ad dollars from them) tried to get Gertsmann to re-evaluate his review. After correcting it for factual errors alone, he was let go because he would not change the content of his review.

After an insane amount of speculation from bloggers and former reviewers at Gamespot, a CNET press release was issued acknowledging that Jeff Gertsmann was let go and that his last review had no impact at all on his separation. That may be well and good but the original video review of Kane and Lynch:Dead Men by Gertsmann was taken down and has yet to be restored.

To add further fuel to this controversy, it appears that Eidos has been misquoting review sites when it comes to scores for this game. Quotes taken from a preview showing of the title at E3 were used to address the final product.

There are only three people that know the story to this and none of them are talking; Gertsmann, CNET and Eidos representatives. If it ever comes to light that Eidos had a hand in "massaging" the Gamespot review, it would not be looked upon favorably especially since their marketing uses quotes out of context. If it comes to pass that Gamespot terminated Gertsmann for his review, it would be most unfortunate not just for Jeff but game-related journalism as a whole. Most reviewers go out of their way to be impartial when it comes to reviews; Dean Takahashi sent back a duffel bag full of about $800 worth of Halo 3 swag to Microsoft because he didn't want to appear to be swayed by such an extravagant gift.

Here's to hoping that this remains an isolated incident and not a sign of things to come for video game journalism. What's your take?

Wednesday, November 28, 2007

Major Nelson: November 2007 Xbox Backward Compat Update

Microsoft is distributing the latest backwards compatibility update bringing the number of backwards compatible titles to just over 450. Of note there are quite a few of the Sega 2K sports titles new to the list, particularly ESPN NFL 2k5 what some gamers feel to be the best football game ever. Click the read more link for the complete list posted on Major Nelson's blog.

read more | digg story

Monday, November 26, 2007

A Little Conversation - Junkie XL and Making Music for Games

Tom Holkenborg, aka Junkie XL, received a lot of attention as a result of his remix of Elvis' "A Little Less Conversation" a few years ago. He has licensed music and written original scores for multiple videogames, including Forza, SSX Blur, Quantum Redshift, Test Drive 5, Burnout 2, and the Need for Speed series (Underground, Carbon, Pro Street). Read on for this thoughts about making music for games, artists using games as a promotional tool and how his involvement with games provides him with continued success.

Thursday, November 22, 2007

Monday, November 19, 2007

Jade Raymond: Caught In The Crossfire


From Angry Pixel:
After a tasteless comic of Jade Raymond surfaced online, it looks like the person who delivered one of this year's best games is caught in a controversy that has most gamers pointing their fingers at perverted gamers and UbiSoft. The Angry Pixel looks at the issue from Jade's perspective and how people can make stuff up just because they can.

My two cents: I'm not going to comment on the comic. Haven't seen it. Don't care to. I am going to comment on the idea that Jade Raymond is where she is because she's pretty not because she has talent. While I am sure that it doesn't hurt to have someone attractive representing your game to the media, Jade has a proven track record in game development. It bothers me because if she were a guy, gender wouldn't be an issue. It bothers me because from my own experience people tend to make assumptions based on appearances and because of that I feel like I have to work harder than anyone else. If I am the best at what I do, then no one can say that I am where I am because I am this that or the other thing. Everyone should say that I earned it.

Will There Ever Be One Console To Rule Them All?

From Gamasutra:

Recently, there has been talk about the idea of a standardized game console platform -- whether this would be unified hardware specifications or development tools. The article is a discussion of the following questions:
  • Do you think it's possible that the video games industry will create a standardized (development or hardware) platform in the future?
  • How would independent developers not benefit in a market with a single gaming platform?
  • Isn't PC gaming already the "one gaming platform" standard? Or is this analogy not quite right?

Thursday, November 15, 2007

The Cal Marching Band's Amazing 16-bit Video Game Halftime Show



They run through a number of classic game songs, all while forming scenes from the games out of the band itself. It's got everything from Pong and Tetris to Zelda and Mario...

read more | digg story

Found: Three handled moss covered family gredunza


My son Tim is an awesome sport. Even when he's sick. Can't wait to show this pic to his prom date!

Tuesday, November 13, 2007

Study: 43 percent of parents don't play games with kids

Results from a survey by AOL and AP has found that over four in 10 parents simply leave kids to play games alone. Furthermore, 30 percent only play games with their kids for less than an hour a week, suggesting that 73 percent of parents take little or no active interest in their children's hobby.

read more | digg story

Saturday, November 10, 2007

The Closing of EA Chicago: One Employee Speaks Out

Earlier this week, Electronic Arts announced the closing of their EA Chicago studio. EA Games President Frank Gibeau sent a memo to employees stating EA Chicago was unable to meet the company's standard for "staying on a reasonable path to profitability," so the decision came to axe the studio. EA Chicago was best known for developing the Fight Night and Def Jam IPs, which have since moved to other EA studios.
On Tuesday, a former EA Chicago employee who wished to be kept anonymous contacted 1UP about the closing and explain his heartbreak.

read more | digg story

Friday, November 9, 2007

Halo 3 hosts marriage proposal

Gamers have been meeting each other, dating, and popping the question in massively multiplayer online role-playing games for years now. Given how much that genre relies upon regular social interaction with a steady group of friends, it's natural for such bonds to form. Such anecdotes are less common in the world of first-person shooters...

read more | digg story

ABC News: Subway Romeo Meets Mystery Girl

Boy finds girl. Boy tries to muster courage to meet girl. Girl disappears into crowd. Boy posts webpage in hopes of finding her. And he actually finds her! And they go on a date!! You can't make this stuff up.

read more | digg story

Love on the 5 train

For Web designer Patrick Moberg, 21, from Brooklyn, it was love at first sight when he locked eyes with a rosy-cheeked woman while riding in Manhattan on Sunday night. She was writing in her journal.The train was so full that he lost her in the crowd when they both got off, so he set up a website dedicated to finding the mystery woman

read more | digg story

Thursday, November 8, 2007

Which Would You Rather Lose, a $60 Videogame Or a Save File?

Clicking the read more link will take you to an interesting editorial on the idea of backing up game save data and the value of said data when compared to the price paid for a videogame.

My take: This seems like a non-issue to me. I don't value game saves as much value as wedding pictures, pictures of my kids and digital video of family get togethers. When my original Xbox hard drive died I was infinitely more upset that I couldn't just replace the drive than I was that I lost my 85% complete NFL2k5 VIP save. If my 360 hard drive fails, I'll get upset for a minute and then go out and get a new drive. The idea of having my game saves stored on a server would be sweet; I wouldn't have the clutter of drives and memory cards. However I wouldn't pay for that privilege. If I had 8GB of game save data, then charging me would make sense. Most game saves I think are less than 1MB, smaller than the videos on YouTube. For something that small, the service should be free.

read more | digg story

Tuesday, November 6, 2007

Penny Arcade goes live with Child's Play Charity 2007

Penny Arcade has officially kicked off their annual Child's Play charity to support Children's Hospitals all around the globe. Donate and help prove that gamers are only homicidal maniacs 10 months out of the year.

read more | digg story

Friday, November 2, 2007

Q&A: Tetris creator Alexey Pajitnov



The father of one of the most popular games of all time talks about his inspiration, his latest project, and how he feels about the fact that the game was originally property of the Russian state.

read more | digg story

Thursday, November 1, 2007

Join the Video Game Voters Network Wall of Protest, Share a Photo

The Wall of Protest represents opposition to the government regulation of video games, and is composed of citizens who are standing up to the government's infringement upon this burgeoning form of interactive entertainment. Visit the site and add your own photo.

Video Game Voters Network

read more | digg story

Tuesday, October 23, 2007

Library of Congress to begin cataloging video games

The Library of Congress is teaming up with major universities across the country to begin a 2-year initiative with the sole intent of figuring out just how institutions can preserve video games for years to come, while making the content accessible for use and study.

read more | digg story

Monday, October 15, 2007

Ten features should be embraced by game designers

A really great list of features that game designers shouldn't take for granted.

From Business Week:

Steve Krug argues in his book Don't Make Me Think! that a good program or product should let users accomplish their intended tasks as easily and directly as possible. The less time it takes a person to complete a desired task (even if only by a few seconds), the more satisfying it becomes. When that happens, people are more likely to use a product in greater frequency and return for more. So in the spirit of improved usability, here are ten standard features every videogame designer should embrace.

The Endgame Syndrome: Why do we abandon games?

In the current state of gaming, releases come out so frequently that we constantly have new "stories" to choose from. The biggest catalyst of "Endgame Syndrome" is definitely this factor. Since production values and budgets have risen to new heights, most games are gorgeous to look at.....

read more | digg story

Friday, October 12, 2007

Virtua Fighter 5 Demo available on Xbox Live

Virtua Fighter 5, the world-renowned fighting game, now features online gameplay. VF5 also lets you download replay data of top players from its online leaderboards, and includes the latest updates to game balance, in-game items, and CPU rival character AI. Experience the fun now in this downloadable demo.

read more | digg story

Overwhelmed by Email? One Firm Goes Email-Free on Fridays

The idea isn't just to get people away from Outlook for the day, but to get them interacting more in person or even over the phone, hopefully to encourage better idea generation and more effective problem solving than the coldness of email can offer.

read more | digg story

Thursday, October 11, 2007

Y: The Last Man


In the course of my surfing the web while watching the triplets, I found an interesting article about Brian Vaughan, a graphic artist whose work was up for a Wired RAVE award earlier this year.

One of the books he publishes is called Y: The Last Man. It's a graphic novel about the last man on earth after a mysterious virus kills every other mammal on the the planet with a Y chromosome. Which means that the he is literally the last man on earth; only females survived the plague.

I haven't picked up a comic since Frank Miller's The Dark Knight Returns and Alan Moore's Watchmen, but I am going to head to my favorite comic shop and see if I can get caught up on this series.

Have you read this? What did you think of it?

Valve co-founder Gabe Newell gives his opinion on PS3

"I think [PS3 is] a waste of everybody’s time. Investing in the Cell, investing in the SPE gives you no long-term benefits. There’s nothing there that you’re going to apply to anything else. You’re not going to gain anything except a hatred of the architecture they’ve created. I don’t think they’re going to make money off their box."

read more | digg story

EA Acquires BioWare, Pandemic

The opposite direction of Bungie Studios. Just as Bungie steps towards independence, BioWare and Pandemic Studios walk away from it, as Electronic Arts announced an agreement with investment firm Elevation Partners to acquire VG Holdings Corp., the parent company of the two studios.

read more | digg story

Thursday, October 4, 2007

Why it makes sense for Bungie to break away from Microsoft

There has been a whole lot of discussion about the possibility of Bungie leaving Microsoft. Some of the feedback from the community has been "they can't leave Microsoft owns them" or "why would Microsoft let them leave".

This is only my opinion and not based on any knowledge specific situation.

The idea of Bungie breaking away is plausible because Microsoft owns Halo, not Bungie. The company was acquired in 2000 by Microsoft to ensure the development of quality games to launch a little system called the Xbox.

If, and this is a big if, the developers at Bungie could buy their way out of their agreement with Microsoft then they would be free to develop games for other consoles.

I am sure they would come back to do Halo 4 , but I would bet that Sony would love to have them develop an A-list exclusive for them as well. Looking at the success of companies like UbiSoft and Epic has to have the folks at Bungie wondering what are they leaving on the table as far as dollars go being tied to Microsoft. This could also be a win in the short term for Microsoft because they may retain the distribution and publishing rights to select future titles for a timed period after the split.

Wednesday, October 3, 2007

Bungie Actually Leaving Microsoft?

Rumors are floating abound that Halo masterminds Bungie will be leaving Microsoft. The source being a reader blog from Seattlepi.com stating that in fact, as of yesterday, Bungie is no longer part of Microsoft. While the majority of Internet denizens are stating that this could never happen and that it’s not true, we’ve heard the opposite...

read more | digg story

Retail reveals new Xbox 360 Arcade package


A new version of the 360 is due out later this year; it's the core version repackaged with 5 Xbox Live Arcade Titles and a memory card.

read more | digg story

Thursday, September 27, 2007

MIT hacks John Harvard for Halo 3 release


Early on the morning before the Halo 3 release, John Harvard donned a Mjolnir helmet and a beaver emblem, and carried an assault rifle on his left shoulder, apparently acquired from the UNSC Engineering Division.

read more | digg story

Wednesday, September 26, 2007

Master Chief Targets Charity With EBay Bundle


Microsoft is taking advantage of all the Halo 3 hoopla and hoping to raise a little money for charity. The company has put a special Halo 3 bundle on eBay, worth about $2,000, with proceeds going to the Boys & Girls Club of King County. The package includes more Halo 3 stuff than you can shake a Needler at...

read more | digg story

Friday, September 14, 2007

Texas GameStop Manager Only Sells to Good Students

A GameStop manager in southern Dallas, Texas is requiring children who come to the store to purchase games to have their parents confirm that they are getting good grades. And not only that, but the kids have to mind their manners, too.

read more | digg story

Friday, August 31, 2007

An Uphill Battle: Chris Ferriera On Army Of Two's Gameplay and Philosophy


An excellent interview with lead designer Chris Ferriera about the themes and gameplay of EA's original IP, Army of Two.

read more | digg story

Special super-sized deluxe limited edition


I went to Gamestop the other day to pick up a copy of All Pro Football 2k8 and figured I'd browse and see what else was there before making that purchase.

On the shelf of Xbox games I found a Limited Edition copy of Getting Up:Contents Under Pressure for $20. It's a game I already own, but I made the snap decision to pick this up anyway.

I am a sucker for special features and limited editions. If a DVD has only the movie on it, I'm not interested. I'll wait and pay for the 4 disc special edition with a gazillion hours of extras. If a super duper special edition comes out. I will get rid of my special edition and pick up the super duper one. If a game is coming out in a limited edition, I'm going to grab that instead of the game only release.

Since games are much more expensive than DVDs, I don't have very many special editions of games. I have the special editions of Splinter Cell, Doom 3 and Jade Empire, but I am skipping the Halo 3 and Bioshock special editions. I won't have the money.

So do you have a weakness for special editions? Or could you care less?

Thursday, August 30, 2007

The Original Gaming Bug: Centipede Creator Dona Bailey

In 1980, Atari had one single software engineer who was female. That woman, Dona Bailey -- whose only prior programming experience was assembly displays at General Motors -- created the classic arcade title Centipede, against enormous odds in a high-stakes environment in the infancy of the gaming industry. . . .

read more | digg story

Wednesday, August 29, 2007

Halo 3 golden

Two weeks after the game was "99.9 percent complete," the Master Chief is now on a direct course for a September 25 launch.

read more | digg story

ESRB Responds To Manhunt 2 Ratings Criticism

Following yesterday's criticism from California State Senator Leland Yee calling for transparency and an investigation into Manhunt 2's new M rating, ESRB president Patricia Vance has said simply that context and depiction changes in the game were enough to warrant the rating.

read more | digg story

Monday, August 27, 2007

Entitled?

It amazes me that people feel so entitled to things that they have not paid for or earned.

Specifically, I am talking about the Call of Duty 4 Beta. Actually, not even the beta but the forums at the Call of Duty website.

After the great success of the Halo 3 beta, Inifinity Ward thought it would be a great idea to provide a similar multiplayer beta of its latest release. However the response to the beta was so great it crippled the website where people could log on.

I can understand being disappointed. I'd like a chance to play the beta too. However, if I don't get the chance, I would not flame the company with all sorts of colorful language.

Why is it that people feel like Infinity Ward owes them something? The beta wasn't pre-packaged with a title a la Crackdown. They are trying their best to give folks a chance at a gaining entry.

Thursday, August 23, 2007

Microsoft's Falcon Project

Dean Takahashi talks about Microsoft's plan to update the inner workings of Xbox 360 and what these changes mean for gamers.

read more | digg story

Should Microsoft be in the hardware business?

Historically, Microsoft has been very very successful at developing software. It's track record with Windows and Microsoft Office in particular is unmatched. Even before they took the leap into gaming consoles like the Xbox, they had some success with entertainment software as well such Age of Empires, Flight Simulator, Links and Mechwarrior for the PC.

Lately though, hardware produced by Microsoft has taken a pounding in the press. The warranty for Xbox 360s has been extended to three years to address flaws in the console that were apparent to everyone else but Microsoft. As a precautionary measure, Microsoft is offering a free refit of its wireless steering wheel to address a possible overheating issue. Even the original Xbox had an issue with its power supplies, requiring replacement power cords.

These events aren't the result of a string of bad luck, they are the result of a lack of experience in the design of hardware and devices. While they can compete with Sony and Nintendo in the marketplace, both Sony and Nintendo have dozens of years of experience combined in creating devices and have not had any issues similar to what Microsoft has experienced recently.

Should Microsoft be in the hardware business? While the company has deep pockets, it can't afford any more issues with its future systems. Yes, the company needs to grow its product line but hardware may not be the best way for this company to go. We could see the Xbox division go the same direction as Sega in 2000, software developers and not console makers. Can you imagine how many units of Hal0 would be sold if it were to be made available on the PS3?

Wednesday, August 22, 2007

Mom that's selling Pokemon Cards on E-Bay because her Kids snuck the cards

I'm selling a bunch of Pokemon cards. Why? Because my kids sneaked them into my shopping cart while at the grocery store and I ended up buying them because I didn't notice they were there until we got home. How could I have possibly not noticed they were in my cart, you ask? Let me explain.

read more | digg story

Tuesday, August 21, 2007

Halo: Past, Present and Future: Gamespot Featurette




Seven minute video history of the Halo franchise.

read more | digg story

Halo 3 IMAX Preview Event

For the first time ever, Halo 3 will be unveiled to the public, in dramatic big-screen fashion at the Seattle Pacific Science Center, on an IMAX screen.

read more | digg story

Halo 3: How Microsoft Labs Invented a New Science of Play

Sitting in an office chair and frowning slightly, Randy Pagulayan peers through a one-way mirror. The scene on the other side looks like the game room in a typical suburban house: There's a large flat-panel TV hooked up to an Xbox 360, and a 34-year-old woman is sprawled in a comfy chair, blasting away at huge Sasquatchian aliens.

read more | digg story

Unreal Engine 3 games do not all look the same

According to developer Mark Rein, if all Unreal Engine 3 games look the same it is because art directors are sharing ideas across projects and not the engine

read more | digg story

Monday, August 20, 2007

Developer claims ESRB does not take games seriously

In his keynote address to the attendees at the Games Convention Developer's Conference in Germany, Julian Eggebrecht expressed concern that the US Entertainment Software Ratings Board (ESRB) does not consider video games as an art form.

read more | digg story

Friday, August 17, 2007

A Murderer Has Your Email Address

"Breaking down the fourth wall can be a tricky way to tell a story, however, as developers have to maintain that delicate balance between being a welcome invader of privacy and an uninvited guest. Players provide email addresses and cell phone numbers with a certain unspoken expectation of respect and consideration...."

read more | digg story

Food for thought

"...what makes this life truly worth living are those short moments where you can truly admit you're happy. Find them and cherish them."

ekattan, 20ld2play blog


New id Game Engine levels playing field for multi-platform game development

With all the talk about inconsistent frame rates between consoles for games such as Madden 08 and All Pro Football, id has developed a solution that will make a game perform consistently between the Mac, PC, Xbox 360 and PS3.

read more | digg story

Wednesday, August 15, 2007

Splitting hairs at 30 frames a second - revisited

Last month I blogged about the frame rate difference between the Xbox 360 and PS3 versions of Madden 08. I still think it is much ado without nothing.

Apparently though, it makes a difference. In a Gamespot review and a USA Today review of the game, mention was made of the frame rate. The Gamespot review did briefly touch on the frame rate saying that it was noticeable but the game was still playable. USA Today wasn't as kind calling the PS3 gameplay sluggish compared to the Xbox 360 version.

EA Sports went on the defensive in direct response to the USA Today review, saying that development time was the difference maker for the title.

If development time was the dealbreaker, should EA have held off Madden 08 for the PS3 until the same standards were met as the Xbox 360?

Show of hands...PS3?

I'm not in the market for a PS3 because I have to use the money for diapers and formula for the three amigos. Recently though I realized that not many people I have come into contact with have one either. I have come across a lot of folks with a Wii, a 360 or both.

Show of hands....do you have a PS3?

Sunday, August 12, 2007

Friday, August 10, 2007

Friend or Foe? EA and Ubisoft

In late 2004/early 2005, Electronic Arts(EA) made a bid to buy an almost 20% stake in publisher UbiSoft. Understandably, UbiSoft feared a hostile takeover by one of its biggest rivals. A move to merge the two companies together would greatly benefit EA who hasn't had great success developing anything other than sports games. Initially Ubisoft expressed great concern about a potential takeover, especially since that stock purchase gave EA considerable voting rights, approximately 18% voting interest.

While it isn't abnormal for companies to invest in other companies via stock purchases, it raises a lot of eyebrows when a company buys stock in a competitor. When Microsoft made an investment in Apple in the late 90's, there were lots of questions to be answered and that was for a purchase of non-voting stock.

In the last few days, it has been reported that EA now has voting rights even greater than the founders of the company. This essentially means that EA has greater influence on the activities of UbiSoft's board. Of course, they have gone on record as saying that they had no intention of nominating anyone to the board, but reserved the right to do so.

It is going to be very interesting to see how these events play out in this generation of games. If EA continues to be weak at developing its own intellectual property (IP), they have enough cash and influence on UbiSoft's board to take over.

Should UbiSoft be concerned with these developments? Analysts are saying not to worry, but if I were one of the original founders, I would start looking for a big dog to get the fox out the henhouse.

Friday, August 3, 2007

Are you ready for some football?





Patriots v. Steelers in Madden 08 for Xbox 360. This clip is a full game, running about 42 minutes long.

Thursday, August 2, 2007

ICE ICE baby

Customs officials in a coordinated raid of 30 separate locations in 16 states searched for modchips and other piracy related devices in an attempt to hold off rampant software piracy.

I am all for going after criminals and software pirates deserve what they get. But I have to question how much of a priority is this? How much taxpayer money are we throwing at it? Wouldn't that money be better spent on preventing identity theft or more serious computer crimes?

And by the way, if you sell modified video games systems pre-loaded with games, you don't only deserve to be caught, you deserve a dope slap because you make it more difficult for people who are not trying to take advantage of someone.

Tuesday, July 31, 2007

Games on Demand?

In an interview with gamesindustry.biz, the CEO of Eidos US made an interesting point about digital distribution of today's games. The take home message was that in the US it would take as long as 9 hours to download titles available at retail. The infrastructure just isn't there to support those downloads.

On a related note, another blogger detailed her frustration with downloading movies via Xbox Live Marketplace. Instead of waiting six hours for the film to completely download before viewing, she decide to order it from her cable provider instead.

What would it take for you to make the leap to downloading movies and games to your system of choice? Would it be price, download speed, convenience? Would you miss having the packaging for a retail release?

I'm all set for downloading games from Xbox Live Arcade. My network connection would have to be reset constantly if I were to download movies or games that are gigabytes in size. I think when the day comes where I have download speeds on the order of gigabytes then I'll look at downloading as an alternative to retail.

Friday, July 27, 2007

Healthy Competition

During a shareholder's conference call, Electronic Arts CEO John Riccitiello briefly commented on Take Two's football title All Pro Football 2k8. While he did not mention any strategic action to compete with Take Two, he did mention that EA would continue to defend its franchise (Madden) and wants to make sure that Take Two's success is short lived and not something that is long term.

As a videogame fan, I am thrilled to have Take Two back in the game, even though there is no NFL license. If people feel that All Pro Football is a better game despite its lack of a NFL license, then maybe EA Sports would be forced to innovate between iterations of Madden and not basically charge $60 for a roster update.

Thursday, July 26, 2007

Hey WiiJ, won't you play that song?

I'm not sure if he is the first one to do this, but he is the first that I found.

Mashup DJ ! (pronounced Shift-1) learned about Wiimote hacking and figured he would experiment with the Wiimote and his DJ setup. Here are a couple of videos from his website djWiij.

Beatmatching Demo


Scratching Demo

Get Up and Boogie

I haven't really wanted a Nintendo Wii because there weren't any games that interested me. I liked what EA Sports did with the Wii version of Madden, but that wasn't enough to move me.

This little video clip swayed me, big time.



Developed by EA Montreal, Boogie is a rhythm game in the same mode as Dance Dance Revolution and Bust a Groove. It doesn't seem to be as difficult to jump in and play either. Using the WiiMote, the player can make their avatar dance to the beat and switch styles to earn tokens. It looks like a lot of fun to play and engaging to watch.

Tuesday, July 24, 2007

Xbox Mod Misadventure

Now that the big black box is no longer available, I thought it would be safe to share a story about my attempt to modify a busted Xbox. What I won't do is provide links to the usual places where one could gain specific information on how to mod an Xbox. Even though Microsoft no longer manufactures the hardware, the hardware itself is protected by copyright and modifying that hardware may be a violation of the DMCA, Digital Millennium Copyright Act. Proceed at your own risk.

A couple of years ago, my hard drive failed on my Xbox. Since it was one of the first off the line, manufactured in Nov. 2001, the warranty had long since expired.

Instead of paying to have my Xbox serviced, I wanted to try to fix it myself. I had read that you could replace the hard drive if you modified your Xbox. I figured that for the cost of the chip and hard drive, I could have an Xbox that had a bigger harddrive and did more than play games. So I ordered a chip which was easy enough and set aside a weekend to install it. I ordered a solderless modchip because I thought it would be the easiest way to go.

I thought wrong. Taking apart the Xbox was easy enough, but installing the chip was a disaster. I couldn't get the system to boot up with chip because I had it sitting on the solderless adapter incorrectly. Then I learned that if the adapter doesn't fit just so, the chip won't boot your system either. Then I figured out it didn't matter because I jacked up the motherboard and it wouldn't boot up at all.

So after some swearing at myself for being so klutzy, I broke down and bought a premodded Xbox from the same folks I bought the chip from and I bought a used one on Ebay to play on Xbox Live. It was highly recommended that I did not use a modded Xbox on Xbox Live even if the modchip was inactive. Then I learned that I didn't need a chip to begin with because there are improved softmods for Xboxes. So I paid extra for a premod for nothing.

All in all, I was happy with my premod and glad to get back on Xbox Live again. However all things being equal, I probably should have sucked it up and sent my broken box in for service to begin with.

The moral of my story, think very carefully about modding your box otherwise you could end up with a $150 paperweight. In my case I spent a couple of hundred dollars above the $100 it would have cost to have it repaired by Microsoft. If you're considering it, do lots and lots of reading. You can google a ton of information about mods.

Friday, July 20, 2007

What is a supergg2k?

GG2k is short for Giant Gram 2000, a japanese wrestling game for the Dreamcast. I am shocked that no one has turned to this game's engine for another product. The graphics were pretty good, but the presentation was off the hook, the crowd responded to action in the ring, the announcer would get more and more excited as the match went on. Check out the attached video.

Peter Moore's Last Interview as Xbox head

Gamasutra has an excellent interview with Peter Moore shortly before his announcement that he was leaving Microsoft to join EA.

Of interest, to me anyway, was his response to Sony VP Peter Dille's opinions on the 360 and HD-DVD:

Based on your last console, some people feel that Microsoft isn't in things for the long haul, because the Xbox stopped after about five years. I'm sure you feel differently.

PM: I think those were Peter Dille's comments. They're welcome to their opinions, and having an opinion about something that is still years away is fine and makes good PR fodder, but we're very committed to this platform. I'll just let the numbers speak for themselves so far. I don't have to get into a swinging match with them.

The same gentleman says that HD-DVD will be dead within months. How do you feel about that?

PM: On that one, I look forward to speaking with you at CES next year. I was just looking at HD-DVD numbers over the weekend, and I think Toshiba may have an opinion about that. Of course, the fact that Sony has an economic interest in making sure that it's dead is interesting. I think his comments will be read with interest from the folks at the European Union, who will be looking at the tactics that they've been using to ensure that retailers do things their way. Again, I'll defer comment and look at what happens. I think that's kind of a preposterous statement.

Thursday, July 19, 2007

Moore's Law

I was as shocked as the next guy to learn that Peter Moore was moving on to EA.

Obviously, EA made him an offer he couldn't refuse. Plus he's getting back into the business of making the blades instead of selling the razors. Prior to Microsoft, Moore supported Sega through its transition from console manufacturer to third party developer.

Clearly Moore's passion was a great benefit for Microsoft, but I believe that his strengths are toward leading software developers. Moore was first to admit that he didn't have a great understanding of the hardware and perhaps that gap may have been what inspired this move.

Check out this interview with Dan Hsu of Electronic Gaming Monthly, for a look back at Xbox 360's former champion.

Lost: One Hard Drive

On Monday, the hard drive on my work laptop crapped out on me. This was after swearing up and down the weekend before that I would back up my files since it had been so long.

It's funny how attached we are to technology. I have a loaner laptop that I have been using but it doesn't have the software I need to continue to work while my other laptop is in the shop. I'm in my cube trying to find things to do that don't involve going online, when I realize that everything on my to do list requires my laptop. People were able to make a living before computers weren't they?

Friday, July 13, 2007

With all due respect...

Isn't it funny how people try to be polite before insulting you?

In an interview with Gamasutra, senior VP of Marketing for Sony Playstation Peter Dille was less than professional when offering his take on Microsoft's profitability with the Xbox 360.

I don't have a problem with dissenting opinions. I have a huge problem where people in leadership positions go on the record and bash their competition instead of speaking to their own strengths.

All Pro 2k8 Football

On Monday, 2k Sports will be shipping what may be the best alternative to EA Sports' Madden franchise.

All Pro 2k8 Football lets you build your own team made up of some of the greatest players to play the game. Coming out for the PS3 and the 360, the game features online play, league support and a stat tracking for players.

I have been a fan of the 2k series going back to the Sega Dreamcast. I was devastated when EA snatched up the rights to use NFL players and properties exclusively for their products. If I wanted to play NFL football I would have to pay EA for what I thought was an inferior game.

There were rumors that 2k sports was going to try to get back in the game with another license, but EA had snatched up the Arena Football license and already had the exclusive NCAA football license.

Then there were rumors that a Legends-type game was in the works. Three years pass and then there is the announcement 2k fans were waiting for. All Pro 2k8 will be out Summer 2008.

If you're interested in more details about the game, check out this excellent piece on ESPN's Page 2 about the new game.

Thursday, July 12, 2007

And the next generation console war winner is....Epic Games?

Two very interesting announcements were made this week at the new-and-improved E3.

Microsoft announced that its Games for Windows Live technology is being included in the Unreal 3 Game Engine.

Sony announced a partnership with Epic where the Unreal 3 Game Engine will be optimized for the Playstation 3.

What does this mean? The wikipedia has an excellent explanation of what a game engine is.

These developments basically mean that game developers will have an easier time developing for the 360, PC and PS3 because the Unreal 3 engine will be optimized for all three environments. This may level the playing field for those that feel one system is more difficult to develop for than another.

This also means lots and lots of cash in Epic's pockets. I would love to be at their post E3 party!

Is the Playstation 3 a victim of the Playstation 2?

I ask the question because while everyone is looking at Sony's competition to understand why it is "struggling" in the next gen console race, I think Sony can look in the mirror to find their answer.

Microsoft took a lot of heat for quietly discontinuing its support of the original Xbox. They seemed to think that supporting two consoles was not beneficial to their business, even though the black box had a lot of life left in it. Looking at the success of the 360 since that decision it is easier to say that they were right.

Nintendo made a similar decision with the Gamecube. Although I think that the overwhelming demand for the Wii, made discontinuing the Gamecube a no-brainer.

Sony is trying to support two systems, the Playstation 2(PS2) and the Playstation 3(PS3). Take a look at these numbers from 2003 taken from a Gamespy report on the gaming market in Japan. Sony has a huge install base for PS2 owners. It is very lucrative for them in the short term to continue support for PS2. Sony is also still strongly supporting the PS2 with titles like God of War 2.

Short term support is where Sony is short sighted. After launching the PS3, the system is still lacking killer software that make the system a must have, Resistance: Fall of Man being the exception. The recent price drop is making the console more attractive to consumers. At this point though, people are basically buying an entry-level blu-ray player and not a game system.

Should Sony have halted the support of the PS2? On one hand, if Sony had titles like God of War for the PS3 at launch people would be more excited about the system. On the other hand, they would be leaving tens of millions of dollars on the table if they completely walked away from supporting the system. If ten percent of their user base purchase a new game at $50, that is roughly 300 million dollars for the company.

What do you think? Is the Playstation 3 a victim of the Playstation 2?

Trips Ahoy



My wife and I decided in 2006 to try for a sister for my oldest daughter. Even though it was just over a year since we our first child, we went for another round of IVF because we're in our mid 30's and didn't want to wait much longer to try again.

We were not shooting for triplets. We implanted two eggs and wound up with our daughter. We figured that we were older and we wanted to improve our chances for another child, so we had the doctor implant three. And they all took.

My wife held up like a champ during the pregnancy. Between taking care of the house and a toddler while carrying three babies, I am sure she was perpetually exhausted. Eventually she was admitted to the hospital for bedrest and about a week or so after that, the triplets were born. They were premature, I think about 10 or 12 weeks, but they didn't have any serious issues. All they needed to do was eat and grow. They were about 3 pounds each at birth;at almost five months old they are probably 15 pounds each.

Please meet Aidan, Nia and Tim. You'll see them occasionally here on my blog.

Wednesday, July 11, 2007

Live Action Halo - from Bungie.net





Whoa!

Xbox 360 Recall?

N'Gai Croal, gaming journalist for Newsweek, makes an awful good case that Microsoft should pony up and recall Xbox 360s currently in the field.

Microsoft has taken steps to address hardware failures that seem to be happening at a rate higher than 3 to 5% of the customer base, extending the warranty of any Xbox 360 to three years from date of purchase and refunding monies paid for repairs of machines serviced.

I have had my Xbox 360 since launch. I won it in the "Every 10 Minutes" promotion sponsored by PepsiCo. I haven't had any issues with my machine, but I don't put a lot of hours into gaming on the box either.

What do you think would be appropriate for Microsoft? Go with their current plan or initiate an all out recall?

Marathon on XBox Live!

I stayed up way past my bedtime to peek at Microsoft's E3 press conference. Just wanted to post this tidbit before bed.

In between all the marketing speak I learned that game I loved on the Mac will be coming to Xbox Live.

Marathon was a first person shooter on the Macintosh. While game developers shunned the Mac in the 1990s, a startup called Bungie Software created several games for the computer.

In many ways Marathon was a precursor to Halo, the killer app for Microsoft's console. In fact, quite a few features to be released in Halo 3 have their origins in Marathon. Saving game recordings, for example, was great in Marathon but in Halo 3 it looks phenomenal.

I had better start saving up Microsoft Points!

Tuesday, July 10, 2007

Dad Hair Day

Since my wife has her hands full with the triplets, it's my job to get my daughter ready to go to daycare.

I do a pretty good job getting her dressed. Doing her hair is the challenging part. I don't know anything about making her hair pretty. I can't braid hair or part hair or straighten it.

I do an OK job, but it is obvious to any woman, moms especially, that daddy did her hair today.

Can anyone recommend a site for dads to help them learn how to do their daughter's hair?

Don't let the door hit you on the way out.

Gamasutra is reporting that Timothy Roberts, the former founder and CEO of Infinium Labs now Phantom Entertainment has resigned.

I can hear you asking "Who?". Let me explain.

In 2002, there was a lot of hype regarding a system that would allow PC games to be played on your TV via a broadband connected online service. The system was dubbed the Phantom. The system would basically be a computer configured to play popular PC titles by automatically installing and configuring them.

This sounded like a good idea. There are hundreds of PC games available versus the few hundred available console games across the several systems available at the time.

But there was a small problem. All they had was an idea. And promises were being made left and right surrounding that idea.

In fact it took two years to get a prototype built. And even then they didn't have the licenses for the games or the technology built to deliver them.

In 2004, the former head of the Xbox team Kevin Bachus joined the company. While this provided some hope that the system would finally see the light of day, he left the company in November 2005 unable to deliver the system.

In August 2006 the company pulled the plug on the system. Although the system is no more, the lapboard (a keyboard and mouse that sits in your lap) that was introduced was manufactured and is available for order from their site.

Gamers and reporters had a field day with these events. It turns out that the CEO had a history of building companies that were unbelievably unsuccessful. Several times the system won awards for best vaporware. Across the board the company was ridiculed and derided.

Timothy Roberts resigned his post to pursue other opportunities. I can hardly wait to see what vaporware he comes out with next.

Sunday, July 8, 2007

Gamer Dad

As a father of four children under 3 I don't have a lot of spare time. You can see this in the frequency that I post.

I do manage to spend a little time everyday playing a game of some kind. I have been tinkering with Xbox Live Arcade games lately now that I have earned almost all the offline achievements for Smackdown v. Raw 2007.

I'd like to think I would be able to introduce my kids to video games at some point, but if my oldest is any indication they will be more likely into offline activities. Which is great, I am looking forward to not having to pry them away from the TV to get them to go out and play.

Question to you dads out there; how do you maintain your video game involvement while being a dad at the same time?

Wednesday, July 4, 2007

Tuesday, July 3, 2007

On board

If you're looking for something different to play, try Catan or Carcassonne. These Xbox Live Arcade titles are based on popular board games. They have similar goals, controlling land or resources to win, but the gameplay is different.

The Xbox Live Arcade title Catan is based on a board game Settlers of Catan. The object of the game is be the first player to collect 10 Victory Points earned by building roads, settlements and cities. Resource cards are used for building those objects and are gained either through a dice roll, trading with other players or stealing.

Carcassonne is based on a board game of the same name. According to the Wikipedia, it is named after the town of Carcassonne in southern France. The object of this game is to place tiles representing roads, fields and city walls together to form cities where residents called followers are then placed. Once all the tiles are used the game ends. Points are tallied based on where followers are located. The person with the most points wins.

If you're looking for something family friendly (neither of these games are violent) and a change of pace from frantic action like Geometry Wars, you should give these games a look.

Sunday, July 1, 2007

Splitting hairs at 30 frames a second

Several video game outlets are reporting that this year's football games, All Pro Football from 2k Sports and the usual offerings from EA Sports (Madden and NCAA Football) will run at a higher frame rate on the Xbox 360 than the PS3 versions of those games. The Xbox 360 version will run at 60 frames a second versus 30 frames a second on the PS3.

What does this mean to you and I? Not a whole heck of a lot. The animations in the game may be smoother on the 360, but that's about it.

However, rabid Xbox 360 fanboys will probably use this bit of trivia to taunt their PS3 counterparts. There may be some serious discussion amongst developers because this may serve as evidence that while the PS3 is a more powerful machine, the Xbox 360 is easier to develop on.

Saturday, June 23, 2007

Well, duh!

Take Two software indefinitely postponed the release of the controversial Manhunt 2.

After reading a preview of the game at Gamespot, I am beginning to understand why the game received an Adults Only rating.

The control scheme for the Wii controller basically has the user emulate the actions on screen; move the controller in a stabbing motion to stab someone for example. While I think as adults one should be allowed to play whatever games they choose, the reality is some un-educated parent is going to pick up this game, ignore the rating and walk in on their kids decapitating someone with a virtual garrote.

Thursday, June 21, 2007

Uh-oh, AO!

The ESRB (Entertainment Software Rating Board) has given the upcoming Manhunt 2 from Take Two software an Adults-Only (AO) rating. The AO rating is the "kiss of death" for software titles because most retailers will not stock the titles and the major console makers (Nintendo, Sony and Microsoft) will not allow AO rated software on their machine.

Is anyone really surprised? After the Hot Coffee debacle, Doug Lowenstein and the ESA (Entertainment Software Association) took a huge amount of heat for a problem that was not their responsibility. Take Two did everything but the right thing when the code was uncovered letting the ESA take the heat.

I don't think this is a case of sour grapes. However, they did rate the original Manhunt M.

Take Two has 30 days to address the initial ranking from the ESRB. Manhunt 2 has already been banned in the UK. The company has yet to comment on its next steps.

It will very interesting to see how the company handles this issue considering the title was scheduled to be on store shelves in three weeks.

Tuesday, January 2, 2007

About Me

Thanks for stopping by.

I started this site as a way of talking about the videogames I like to play. There are many many many other sites for reading reviews of games. What I hope makes mine stand out is that:
  1. These are games that I own and enjoy. Meaning that if I am taking the time to write about it, it is worth playing.
  2. These are games that are off the beaten path. Meaning that they aren't popular, or weren't popular in their initial release. For example, I don't expect to write about Gears of War because everyone and their grandmother has written about it. I am planning to write about Ico, a game that was very popular with people who make games but not gamers in general.

I won't commit to a schedule, mainly because my schedule offline is tied up with work and getting ready for triplets to enter my household. :) But I promise to keep writing things that will make it worth the wait.

See you soon!


Update: Yes, it's been a while. The triplets are home and healthy. Mom and Dad are appropriately sleep deprived. I am finding time to blog and play games.