Wednesday, April 1, 2009

Husband-Wife Murder Over Game Addiction

The title is somewhat misleading. A 62-year-old man supposedly killed his wife and mother of three children after he became fed up with her addiction to one of the Grand Theft Auto games. The game addiction angle is the main thrust of the story, but it's mentioned as a side note that the husband also suspected an affair, and the game was likely just the straw that broke the camel's back rather than the actual motive for the murder.


Gamertags People are Sick of Seeing

They left out the hordes of Naruto and Final Fantasy names, although I suppose that would fall under character tags.


Pokemon on Twitter

Utterly pointless but interesting. For those voyeurs who'd rather stalk pokemon than pretty girls.


Tuesday, March 31, 2009

The Defense of OnLive

More fuel to the OnLive fire. This article ignores just about all the technical limitations to making the service work and actually comes across as pretty ignorant for doing so, frankly. It's basically praising the premise without giving any actual reasoning for why it might live up to the hype.


Sunday, March 29, 2009

A New Hero in Town

Seems Marvel is cooking up their own MMORPG. With City of Heroes dying down in its subscription numbers, and the onslaught of comic-book-based movies cooling somewhat, I'm not sure 2012 is the optimum time to release something like this, but hey, maybe the Wolverine and Magneto movies will be huge box office sensations for Marvel again, and I'll end up looking stupid for saying this.


10 Reasons to Hate Every Console

Here's an entertaining list rooted firmly in the bitterness that can only come from listening to countless fanboys prattle on about the merits of their own individual investments. The red ring of death still ranks high on the first page.

Wednesday, March 25, 2009

OnLive - The Next Wave?

A couple of former heads from Eidos, Atari, Apple and WebTV have collaborated to create a new games streaming service called OnLive. Supposedly, it allows you to stream games directly to your PC from the OnLive servers, using their hardware. This sounds fantastic since it would eliminate the need for PC upgrades and would make PC gaming a lot more accessible to the budget gamer, but honestly, it all seems too good to be true.

What about things like bandwidth limits, and limits of net technology in general right now. Even streaming high definition video is taxing, let alone an entire game. The service also claims near-lagless multiplayer, which is somewhat suspect as well.

Click here to see it in action.


Tuesday, March 24, 2009

Sony's Blunder is Your Bounty

Seems like Sony goofed and let slip some of their new IPs for the updated Phyre engine.


Monday, March 23, 2009

Supercomputers Eye the Consumer Market

Seems we all might be running super computers sooner than we think. I can't comment much on the technobabble, but to summarize briefly, Intel seems to be the one leading the development of these machines, and Nvidia apparently stands to lose the most in the shift away from current gaming PCs.


Saturday, March 21, 2009

Best Graphics - The Redux

Last week, I linked you to IGN's best and worst graphics list, and this time, I thought I'd give you my own take on the subject. Mine won't be quite as elaborately categorized, sad to say.


Okami -
Probably one of the most experimental art styles ever used in a game. The asian scroll-art inspired presentation was truly a sight to behold.

Donkey Kong Country
- Released at the height of the bit wars, it looked better than a lot of the games being released on so-called 32 and 64-bit consoles. This is also the game that really made Rareware into a big time developer

Resident Evil REmake - At the time that this was released, there wasn't a single game that looked better. Sure, everything was pre-rendered and thus non-interactive, but it was just so damned good in combination with the horror atmosphere that you really didn't care. Even going back now and playing it years later, the visuals still hold up incredibly well.


Air Cars -
I always thought early polygonal games were ugly from the start, but this game made no real effort to turn them into recognizable objects. Instead you controlled a non-descript cube hoveirng around shooting at other dully colored geometric shapes.

Red Alarm -
Untextured wireframe models and a bright red color scheme made sure you'd have a headache about 5 minutes into playing.

Feel free to give me your own little lists or even individual games that you think are deserving of either title.

Thursday, March 19, 2009

Games and the Law

Found an interesting blog (and a Canadian one at that) that covers legal matters related to the game industry.

Check it out if you're interested at:

Wednesday, March 18, 2009

The Greatest Graphics of All Time

IGN's put out a list of games with the supposed best and worst graphics of all time. Games were
picked based on 4 categories:

-Biggest graphical jump
-Technical excellence
-Serving a creative vision
-Worst Visuals

Some of the obvious entries are on there like Shenmue (the game whose budget probably helped to put Sega out of the console race) and Jet Grind Radio, but it's really the "worst visuals" ones that are the most entertaining.


Afro Samurai Demo Impressions

This would probably be the other big release online right now besides Chronicles of Riddick and Wanted, which I haven't really got to playing yet. This one's different in that the game's actually been out for a quite a while now, which makes the release of this demo a little strange.

Honestly, not too much to say about this one other than a comment about the awesome Rza-inspired soundtrack that the game features. It's your basic beat-em-up with a really terrible camera and some good presentation thanks to the cell-shading, muted color scheme and thatched textures. There's a slow motion Max Payne-style feature that lets you slice enemies apart instantly, and it's cool the first few times, but you quickly grow tired of having to keep charging your sword up to finish enemies off.

Give it a shot if you're a fan of the show or of eastern-inspired hip hip beats. Otherwise, it's probably not worth your time. The highlight is probably Samuel L. Jackson's humorous take on otherwise mundane tutorial segments.

Ninja Blade Demo Impressions

This thing is probably the biggest demo release on Live and PSN right now, but I can't say I'm particularly impressed. The visuals are solid, and the controls are tight, but it's a blatant copy of Ninja Gaiden. That isn't bad in and of itself, but it feels like it copied its fighting system and visual presentation, but then didn't really know what to do with it. Enemy encounters have a sort of dull, endless feel to them -- probably because they have way too much health, and the gameplay relies way too much on QTE events, which outside of God of War, really just feel like a bad holdover from the FMV gaming era.

I'd skip it unless you're really hurting for a new Japanese-style action-game.

Tuesday, March 17, 2009

Starcraft 2 May Ship Without LAN

Strictly a rumour, but Blizzard representatives are being strangely dodgy about the inclusion of LAN. Incgamers speculates that it might be related to Blizzard's desire to maintain ad revenues on battlenet, and this wouldn't be unheard of given that Microsoft has taken similar measures to cut down on LAN gaming by forcing them to get on Live instead.

This is really a terrible idea if it's true. Starcraft was always one of the biggest games at just about any LAN party, so to get rid of such an integral feature is going to alienate a lot of people. Especially in asian countries where most people play at internet cafes. Sure, battlenet will still work, but it's not nearly as smooth lag-wise.


Monday, March 16, 2009

Late to the party.

The Wall Street Journal's published an article about racist overtones in Resident Evil 5. They're about a year late for this kind of commentary, but it's interesting to see the mainstream's take on it.

If you haven't been keeping up, the Resident Evil series has traditionally featured zombies and their derivatives in North American settings, but with 5, they're going to Africa where the "zombies" will be predominantly black. Apparently, depicting an American killing hordes of crazed, bloodthirsty Africans didn't sit too well with a lot of activist groups.

The whole thing is kind of ridiculous considering that RE4 was chock full of almost nothing but spanish speaking zombies, and nobody was up in arms then.


Wednesday, March 11, 2009

Starcraft Fans Up in Arms Over Voice Changes

If you've been following the progress of the sequel, you might know that the original voice actors for Jim Raynor and Sarah Kerrigan will not be making a return due to unconfirmed rumors that there were personal issues between them and the development staff at Blizzard. Well, given that they were probaby the two most iconic characters in the series, fans are not taking this change lightly, and there have been hundreds of angry posts, petitions, and video requests pouring in to protest the change.

Personally, I'd really rather see the original voice actors return, and it's a downer, but not a deal breaker for me.

How do you all feel about it? Will it affect your purchase of the game? Or at the very least, will it affect whether you buy more than one copy to follow the whole campaign?


To Boldly Go Where No Man Has Gone Before

J.J. Abrams' new entry in the Star Trek franchise will be receiving a game tie-in courtesy of Naked Sky Entertainment who brought us the charming, if not really mindblowing, Roboblitz some years ago. As much as I like the series, they tend not to translate all that well to videogames. Combat scenes in Star Trek are notoriously comical and even the ship-to-ship battles are rather static in terms of CG. Not to mention just about every Star Trek game has been god awful unlike the Star Wars franchise, which has had more than its fair share of entertaining games.


Nintendo Jacks Up the Price of Wiis in the UK

Normally, as time passes, consoles tend to drop in price, but due to the current economic crisis, the British division of Nintendo is actually raising the price of the Wii in retailers across the country.


Tuesday, March 10, 2009

Timbaland Gets his own Game

Seems like the success of one Timbaland has come at the cost of another, as the iconic shoe franchise has been snuffed out. Suppose it's really not all that strange after seeing everything from Shaq Fu to a Spice Girls-themed rhythm game, but Timbaland's coming out with his own game called Beaterator courtesy of Rockstar (sounds like some bad Kindergarten slang or a new flavor of gaterade). It's really more of a beat creation tool with a lot of amusing little side games. Sort of like Mario Paint with gold plated rims. Wonder if it'll be anything like that where most people spent all their time playing that fly-swatting mini-game anyway.

50 Cent's latest game is reportedly pretty good, so hopefully this'll follow the suit of good artist-based games.


DirectX 10 Coming to Mac and Linux

Good news for the poor souls trying to game on these platforms.


Monday, March 2, 2009

Real Life Bioshock Syringe

Prop designer, Harrison Krix is turning heads again after creating his model of Portal's portal gun by creating an accurate, albeit, non functional replica of the syringes featured in the game Bioshock, which were used by the little sisters to extract ADAM from unlucky individuals.

It's a pretty good imitation right down to the red fluid inside, which is apparently a dye and not actually a genetic substance that will give you the power to set people on fire.


Nvidia's New Supercomputer

The last time I remember hearing the word supercomputer in gaming was when Sony used the term to describe their playstation 2 during the early hype campaign. Well, Nvidia has created a new computer that legitimately fits that description, although it isn't anywhere near as affordable at $10, 000. It's strictly a gimmick item for the most part at the moment unless you're an exceedingly wealthy PC gamer who absolutely needs to have the best technology possible, but it's still interesting if only because you can compare it to your own PC and see how unnecessarily powerful it is in comparison.

You can check out the system's ridiculous specifications here.

A Tarnished Legend for Chun-Li

Unsurprisingly, the new Street Fight movie, The Legend of Chun-li, is a critical flop so far, receiving almost unanimously terrible reviews from just about everyone but Variety who gave it a very generous 60% rating. You could talk about the stilted acting or the film's complete lack of resemblance to the game series itself, but movie's biggest flop is the god awful fight scenes. You haven't seen fight choreography this base and awkward since old '80s American action movies. Most of the fights rely heavily on wires, and they aren't covered up very well, as the actors spend most of their time flipping around slowly while larger than life sound effects try to make up for the complete lack of action.

If you're planning to see it for whatever ungodly reason, you're better off just skipping it. At least the original movie dared to be bad; this is just too boring to be amusing in any way. Kreuk's acting is about the only thing anyone's named as being even remotely admirable, and that's only in the face of the wooden dialogue she's been given to work with.

Girls and Gaming in MMORPGs

This is probably not particularly shocking news to anyone experienced with the MMORPG genre, but a recent study has shown that of the hundreds of thousands of people who play Everquest 2, around 40% are women with part of the reason being that they're playing with their husbands or partners.

Guys have been trying to introduce their girlfriends to games for ages now though, so why the sudden success with the MMORPG genre? I'm going to make a couple of bold pronouncements here: first off, they require very little twitch gaming skill -- the kind of fast reaction-based gameplay that you see in games like shooters. This makes it very welcoming to people who don't usually play games and might otherwise be intimidated.

Second, there's a large focus on creating a character and an identity rather than just accomplishing a goal like destroying a tank. This ties into the other large factor, which is the fact that these games are inherently social. They require players to cooperate with one another in order to accomplish objectives, and very large social networks spring up that can eventually encompass dozens or hundreds of people who then often form guilds.

All these things allow for an environment where new gamers (of which many are women) can ease into an environment that isn't immediately overwhelming and also feels lively and social, whereas many might normally feel kind of isolated playing a game alone.


Wednesday, February 18, 2009

Digital Print

Print may be dying in the gaming world, but that hasn't stopped Gamerzines from publishing several of their own free magazines that mimic the style of a print mag' in an easily digestable PDF format and use professional games writers to boot. Each magazine specializes in one particular area, whether it's PC games, handhelds or the now giant MMO genre. Give them a try if you long for the days of GameFan and EGM and are interested in reading something other than IGN or Gamespot.

I gotta say, though, they have one of the ugliest websites I've seen in recent memory. Looks a lot like one of those spam websites you get when you mistype a URL.


But for Me... It was Tuesday

1up has compiled a list of the greatest moments from the infamous live action Street Fighter movie. If you haven't seen the movie before, then these scenes, which stand out as its best parts, should give you a good indication of how disappointed just about everyone was when it came out. At this point, though, most people remember it fondly for its memorable quotes (mostly delivered intentionally by Raul Julia and unintentionally by Jean Claude Van Damme) and its overall cheesiness.

This was also Raul Julia's final performance, which is either the best or worst way to go out depending on your tastes. He accepted the role of Bison mainly for his son, who was a huge fan of the games at the time.


A Familiar Face in Unknown Territory

Game designer, Masahiro Sakurai, famous for his Super Smash Bros. and Kirby games will be beginning work on an experimental title under a new studio of his called Project Sora. Nothing is known of the game for now except that it came as a special order from the top brass at Nintendo, and it will supposedly be nothing like any of Sakurai's previous works.


Tuesday, February 17, 2009

When Worlds Collide

In one of the more bizarre moves of the past few years, huge RPG zenith, Square Enix, has bought out British game developer/publisher Eidos Interactive. Eidos is best known for their Tomb Raider series as well as several PC ports of Square's popular Final Fantasy series.

This won't be the first time Square works closely with (or in this case owns) a prominent western developer. Back in the late '90s, they put out several titles with the help of Electronic Arts who had become a juggernaut of its own by then.

It'll be interesting to see what comes out of this partnership, assuming Square doesn't just leave Eidos to their own devices.


Sunday, February 15, 2009

...Or Die Trying

Everyone dies at some point or another no matter what game they're playing, so it's only natural that game developers would try to find increasingly more interesting ways to deal with the phenomenon of, well, not living. Over the years, we've seen death animations come a long way from Mario's stilted descent into a pit, and we all have a few that we remember better than most. Gameplayer has compiled a list of their own, which range from comical to gory.


Wednesday, February 11, 2009

Like Whispers in the Wind

TWG News has put together a list of their top 10 favorite canceled Nintendo games. The list covers everything from canceled big name sequels that many already mourn to more obscure, experimental games that received less or even very little media attention.


Tuesday, February 10, 2009

The Fall of a Founding Father

In one of the more striking testaments to the changing times, Nintendo Power, the first print gaming magazine to ever appear has officially been abandoned by Nintendo. It was sold off last year to a 3rd party, and now president, Satoru Iwata has given their rationale for making the sale in a recent interview. Apparently, print is no longer considered the optimal medium for reaching gamers and as such, they're switching most of their focus to their website.

This isn't the first instance of a prominent print gaming mag' going through hard times. EGM, another survivor from the early '90s era of magazines, has also shut down its print division in favor of its online counterpart, In an era of instant information and cost-free news, it's getting harder and harder for magazines to get gamers to shell out the $6 per issue that it takes to help keep advertisers interested. A big scoop can end up scanned on the internet the second the issue comes out, and games you try to introduce to readers can be well established in the gaming psyche by the time it goes to print.

Times are tough for a lot of print publications, but especially so for games and technology magazines with their tech-savvy reader-base and a larger focus on straight news and reviews that are easily provided by bloggers and their ilk, whereas fashion magazines and more general interest publications tend to feature more editorials.


Monday, February 9, 2009

A Broken Record

The US Government-made America's Army game has stormed its way into the Guinness World Record books for a total of 5 new records, including:

- Largest Virtual Army
- Most Downloaded War Video Game
- Most Hours Spent Playing a Free Online Shooter
- Earliest Military Website to Support a Video Game
- Largest Traveling Game Simulator

The game was conceived of as a recruiting tool based on the kinds of realistic training games that they previously used for training troops -- albeit with a lot of tweaks to make it more fun for the average consumer. Released for free, it quickly became one of the most played multiplayer games of that year and still maintains a strong fan base today with numerous sequels having been spawned, some even as retail products.

Sunday, February 8, 2009

5 Reasons to Use a Stick Over a Pad

In preparation for the much-anticipated release of Street Fighter IV, I figured I'd outline some reasons why you should be using a joystick instead of a game pad when you're playing it.

1) Speed

I don't care how fast your thumbs are; you're never gonna be able to do a full 360 degree motion as fast as you can swiveling a joystick. Also makes the dreaded tiger knee motion much easier to do consistently.

2) Multiple button presses

The buttons on most game pads leave a lot to be desired. They're too stiff, and they take too much time to fully compress and register inputs. This isn't so much of a problem when it's just one press, but when you need to press 3 at the same time, it can become a giant pain trying to make sure they all go down at the same time -- especially if your game pad isn't a 6-button one. Good joysticks will have buttons that register instantly with even the slightest compression. Piano/drum, kara and negative-edge techniques are also much easier to do.

3) Partitioning

Ever tried to dash forward while holding down on a pad? Not the easiest thing to do unless you have some kind of alien thumb.

4) Precision

A good Japanese-style stick will only require small circular motions for inputting moves and is much more precise than a pad can be, since there's a larger range of motion available.

5) You'll be ready for the Arcade

Arcades are a dying breed outside of Japan, and most North American tournaments are held on consoles these days, but it's still nice to be able to walk into a game center and actually be able to play properly. It's not like you can lug your pad around with you and hook it up to the machines. It's also handy if you ever get good enough that somebody wants to fly you to Japan to compete.

Saturday, February 7, 2009

Joystick Buying 101

There are a lot of joysticks being advertised with all the Street Fighter IV hype around right now, and a lot of people are considering buying for the first time given the renewed interest in the franchise with its leap to the online 3D environment, but most people outside of the fighting game scene don't know too much about how one stick differs from another, so I thought I'd try to make some distinctions.

If you own an Xbox 360 or a PS3, your best options consist of the:

Madcatz FightStick Tournament Edition (FSTE)
Madcatz FightStick Standard Edition (FSSE)
Hori Real Arcade Pro EX (HRAP EX)
Hori Real Arcade Pro 2/3 (HRAP 2/3)
Hori EX2

Anything else is a waste of time for the most part. The FightStick TE is by far the highest end joystick available right now, and it should be for the $150 price point. Most people dismiss it immediately because of this fact alone, but the difference goes far beyond simple cosmetics and a compartment for the controller wire. The stick uses authentic Sanwa Japanese arcade parts that are of the highest quality with some of the best responsiveness around (Sanwa and Seimetsu make up the top two arcade parts manufacturers in Japan). If you're strictly a casual player, this won't make a huge difference, but if you play seriously in any capacity, it can have a huge impact on your consistency and the fluidity of your movement. The buttons also have quick disconnects for easy replacement in case they break down.

The FightStick SE is very different in that it uses stock MadCatz parts that have a reputation for being rather low quality, although it is designed for easy moddability if you have that sort of knowledge.

The HRAP EX features the same high quality joystick as the FSTE, but it has lower quality buttons that, fortunately, can be swapped out, as it also features quick disconnects. The overall build is very similar in quality, and it's about $30 less, so if you don't need your buttons to be absolutely perfect, and you don't mind your stick moving around a little while you play, this is a great alternative.

The HRAP 2 and 3 are similar to the EX, but they're less easily modded and generally inferior in every way besides pricing.

The EX2 is the cheapest of all these options at $50, but it's notorious for having its buttons die suddenly 3-6 months after purchase, and the stick itself is not made up of official sanwa parts.

Anything else is really not worth a mention. These are all Japanese-style sticks, so if you prefer an American-style one with the bat top and the ocatogonal gate, you'll probably have to either mod one of these sticks or look for a custom stick maker to make you one. American-style sticks are out of fashion for being generally stiffer and less precise and, but for those who are used to them, change can be an unpleasant prospect.

EDIT: The first batch of FSTEs has been reported to have a lot of defects with people receiving joysticks that had non-functional diagonals or buttons or badly scratched frames. It may be wise to hold off on ordering one until this mess gets cleared up a bit. If you absolutely can't wait and don't want to take the chance, grab the HRAP EX instead.

Tuesday, February 3, 2009

The Invisible Helping Hand

As kids, we all tended to romanticize the video game industry. Nintendo wasn't a business to us, they bringers of all things good and fun. Fast forward a decade, and we're all more or less pass that kind of naive idealism, but every now and then we play or hear about something
that almost makes us believe again.

In a recent GoNintendo podcast, a reader shared his story of a fire that devastated his game collection and a routine call to Nintendo's customer service line that ended with some charity very unbecoming of a large corporation. Check out the full story here.

Monday, February 2, 2009

From the Ashes

Some of you might know Ensemble Studios from their work on the Age of Empires series, while others know them as the developers for the upcoming Halo Wars strategy game. What you might not know is that they're officially being closed by Microsoft this week.

In his blog, studio co-founder, Bruce Shelley says that at least some of the company staff will be banding together to create a new development studio with, presumably, a similar focus on good games and a good work environment.

In the meantime, the Halo Wars game will, apparently, be handed over to another studio, which is somewhat worrying. I don't doubt the capability of this new studio, since Halo is probably Microsoft's premiere gaming franchise, but handing one man's work over to another is always an iffy prospect.

Sunday, February 1, 2009

Characters Designing Characters

Games Radar has put out a list of the top 30 craziest game industry quotes ever recorded. It covers everything from the worst of PR talk and executive excuses to the bizarre and vaguely philosophical.

Saturday, January 31, 2009

Resident Evil 5 Demo Impressions

So the demo's been released to a fairly mixed but for the most part positive reception from the masses. For all the hype they generated and the appearance of the early trailers, I think a lot of us expected a little more than Resident Evil 4.5; more sprinting Left 4 Dead-style zombies and fewer lumbering villagers along with slightly more evolved controls. That being said, the addition of co-op has a done a lot to ease that initial sense of deja vu. Having a quick and easy way to locate your partner at any time does a great job of easing what might have otherwise been an impossible task of staying together. Friendly fire isn't an issue and ammo trading is a great addition if one that's somewhat clumsily implemented. Obviously, the game really shines most when you've got a human partner; the AI's functional, but not particularly useful. It seems to spend most of time it's time standing blowing bullets on enemies you would've downed in one more shot anyway. Its response time generally just seems to be too slow, but that's probably a purposeful flaw given that a really efficient AI would make the game far too easy.

At this point, it's clear the game's not going to be the revolution some thought it might, and a lot of people are jaded about the almost complete lack of change to the game's core mechanics, but at the very least, it seems like it'll be a fun multiplayer romp.

Wednesday, January 28, 2009

The Song That Never Ends

Rock Band is a big name, especially around a university campus where it's the favorite of dormitories everywhere. Downloadable content is nothing new to the series, but Harmonix is now promising over 5000 songs total by the end of this year.

On a related note, the competing Guitar Hero series of games recently announced that they'll be offering at least one new song a week for download, but with Rockstar doing many many times that now, they may have a long way to go in terms of catch-up.


Tuesday, January 27, 2009

Ninjas Infiltrate the Three Kingdoms

In probably one of the stranger mergers this year, developers Tecmo and Koei have merged with the approval of their shareholders. Tecmo's probaby best known for their Dead or Alive and Ninja Gaiden games while Koei does work on the very niche Romance of the Three Kingdoms games -- which are based on the novels that are. themselves based on Chinese history -- as well as the equally niche and somewhat well worn Dynasty Warriors games where you mindlessly hack your way through hundreds of enemy soldiers.

It'll be interesting to see what comes out of this if anything. Either Ryu Hayabusa is going to become the next Chinese warlord or all the female characters in the Romance series are suddenly going to develop double Ds.


Monday, January 26, 2009

Delicious Incentives

The good state of Oklahoma is, apparently, considering legislation to allow tax breaks for game developers that create more family friendly games meaning that, among other things, they fall into the M-rated category. So that means no blood, guts and glory as games of that rating are usually want to have. This comes in light of their previous, more direct attempt to regulate games by imposing game content legislation, which, thankfully, was deemed unconstitutional by the Supreme Court.

Oklahoma has similar incentives for films, but there's no age requirement for those. Not surprising given the huge disparity in public perceptions of both mediums. Games are still kid's stuff to a lot of people despite the main demographic being young adult males these days.


Sunday, January 25, 2009

Another One Bites the Dust

Funcom's Age of Conan is shutting down 18 of their 24 servers in light of the dwindling number of subscribers. Like all the would be World of Warcraft killers of the last few years, it didn't quite have the muscle to de-throne the reigning king of genre, and this isn't just due to the inherent futility of that task. The game shipped with a promising combat engine, but was plagued with a lot of game-breaking bugs and a severe lack of end-game content. Just about everyone I knew was bored a few weeks into playing, and the ones that did try to stick it out ended up getting frustrated by the game's constant hiccups.

Funcom put enough effort into trying to make the game unique (and creating a decent licensed title at that), so I hope they maintain enough users to keep the remaining servers running, but these kind of mass server merges are rarely a good sign.

Flagship Studios recently closed down shortly after making a similar move with their Hellgate London servers and shutting down their Mythos beta completely.

We'll see if WaR follows a similar fate in the coming months.


Friday, January 23, 2009

Artist's Interpretation

The games as art debate is getting another spin cycle as game designer Tony Huynh shares his views on the matter. Roger Ebert decided a couple years ago that games, in their current form, can not be constituted as art, and while some of the arguments he made were interesting, the fact that he used Halo 3, a game that can be best compared to a summer blockbuster in movies, put his conclusions into question, somewhat.

Huynh comes straight from the heart of industry though, and he uses some more compelling examples like Shadow of the Collosus to fuel his own analysis that sides somewhat with what Ebert was trying to say. He doesn't focus on the visuals, which I don't think anyone will deny can be artistic in themselves but rather on the experience of playing a game.

The crux of his argument is that games are inherently judged on their ability to provide "fun", whereas a serious viewing experience in film can be uncomfortable and even unpleasant. I'm not sure I necessarily agree that this bars them from qualifying as an artistic experience. For sure, it limits the number of games we see enter that category, but I don't think it disqualifies the medium as a whole.

If you're interested, read on at Hunyh's blog

Wednesday, January 21, 2009

Uncertain Times

Cost cutting is rampant in the games industry right now with major developers and publishers cutting their staff significantly, but in a surprising development, EA's also cutting people from its celebrated Tiburon studios who are responsible for the Madden and Tiger Woods series among others.

If even Tiburon's being hit by cutbacks then the industry may have been hit harder by the US economic slump than many previously estimated. At the very least, it's probably safe to assume that we'll see cuts to the hockey, baseball and golf teams before we see anyone cut from the coveted Madden assembly.


Monday, January 19, 2009

Strange Winds are Blowing

flOw developer, Xinghan Chen and his team at thatgamecompany, are bringing their latest project, Flower, to the Playstation Store on February 3rd. For those who haven't kept up with it, it's like most of their games in that it features little to no graphic violence and focuses instead on simple, addictive gameplay with a unique artistic flair.

The main objective is to gather flower petals and blow them throughout the environment, which causes all manner of flora to sprout from the otherwise barren landscape. It's actually very similar in concept to, That Cloud Game, one of Chen's previous free-to-play efforts that had you creating large cloud formations and dragging them with you to create shapes or bring much needed rain to dry industrial areas.

Flower's not likely to win any game of the year awards, nor is it likely something you'll be playing every day, but it's one of those simple, relaxing games that you break out every now and then for a short 20 minute session when you don't feel like playing something more taxing.

The graphics do look a little dated for a game relying so much on the visual flair of its environment, but it's more about the visual interaction between the player and the flower petals anyway, and the animation looks appropriately restrained and airy enough to carry the presentation through to the end.

For a glimpse of the game in motion, check out the trailer from the 2007 TGS.


Saturday, January 17, 2009

Wii Lack Devotion

The lasting appeal of Wii Fit is, apparently, less than stellar, as a recent Japanese poll shows that a large number of people have stopped playing the game shortly after purchasing it. It seems that while the novelty value of using the board may have enticed some people to exercise more in the beginning, the game's entertainment value simply isn't enough to keep up with the laziness of the average person. I guess when you get past the colorful visuals, and you start to feel that lactic acid burn, people start to realize that it really is still exercise at its core.

Obviously, this poll only represents a small minority of the people who own the game, but if further research indicates similar perceptions then it's funny to think that Dance Dance Revolution may have actually been more successful as a fitness tool in the long run. That game is far past its prime at this point, but stories about the game's tendency to create calves of steel still circulate at campfires and marshmellow roasts.


A Lingering Unease

Bit late to the party on this one, but it seems I'm not the only one that wasn't entirely enthralled with the Skate 2 demo given the small but vocal minority expressing a similar displeasure on most forums. The first Skate wasn't perfect by a long shot, but it was an unpretentious effort that happened to feature a truly unique and intuitive control system along with a real simulation feel. Other than the controls, the sequel seems to retain little of that charm.

From the moment you're presented with the opening cinematic, this all becomes crystal clear as you're presented with some of the worst kind of skateboarding cliches and caricatured "personalities" this side of Tony Hawk's Proving Ground.

Immediately, the game feels a little off, and lots of people have commented on this. I couldn't quite put my finger on it until I popped in the original and noticed the lack of motion blur in the sequel. The increased frame rate was a contributor, yes, but this seems to have been the main culprit.

There are plenty of new tricks at your disposal and they're nice to have for variety's sake, but they're not explained very well, and some of them are fairly awkward to use. My biggest gripe is probably with the board physics, which unlike the first game where every trick was uniquely animated, are much more rigid and Tony Hawk-esque. It seems almost impossible to flub a trick unless you're purposely trying to land on your face, and you still get a picture perfect landing half the time anyway.

I won't go into the on-foot controls since enough people have taken the piss out of them, but needless to say, it's like controlling a robot made of wet cardboard, powered by a flashlight battery.

I'd like to say I'm hopeful that the final product clears some of these issues up, but given how fundamental most of them are to gameplay and especially since it hits in less than a week, that would be like hoping for the sky to suddenly turn green at this point. Playing Skate 2 is sort of like going to bed with your girlfriend's evil-twin. You know something's not right, but it's not immediately apparent, and things are just functional enough to make the experience enjoyable.