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Malik (6/11/07)  

I hate to see video games going to the silver screen. When most games come to the theaters at major motion pictures, it leads to disaster. Blood Rayne, Silent Hill, Resident Evil, Mario, Double Dragon, Mortal Kombat, Street Fighter (horrible way to end the career of one of the best actors of our time...Raul Julia...sigh), and many others. It always leads to a vague set of content that can either be held faithful (Silent Hill) or completely changed (RE2)...but it always fails to deliver for both fans of the series in question and general fans of movies.

Now the rights of City of Heroes have been granted for turning into a movie and maybe even a show on TV. In the end, this will equal the same disasterous results as other game movies. However, the difference is this time it's based off of an MMORPG, which means there are less rules and less plot for the faithful and a lot of extra room to butcher some celluloid.

How are they even going to make this content (and lack of content) into a two hour chunk of "entertainment"? It just doesn't seem possible to handle without completely wasting the $10 of anyone stupid enough to contribute to this film's creators' coffers. At least it should provide a good drunken movie, when it quickly comes to DVD (under the cover of night, so as to not alarm real movie buffs) a couple months after it flops in theaters. At least this way it will only cost a group of people a few dollars to rent it and it won't add that much to the coffers or notoriety of the idiots behind it's conception to film.

On a different note, I went out and bought Shivering Isles yesterday. I figure that I'm playing enough Oblivion to merrit the purchase of the expansion. I have yet to go to the new lands offered by this expansion, since OOO and MMM add enough content to keep me nicely entertained (and I had the Dark Brotherhood quest line to play through). However, it's nice to see the extra content being added into parts of the standard Oblivion, as well.

I have yet to see all of the new stuff added by MMM (monster mod to end all monster mods, in my opinion). I thought I was only running across some new MMM monsters when I saw what looked a lot like a dark seducer from Morrowind. Little did I know that this was in actuality a dark seducer that was added by Shivering Isles. That was in addition to a hunger (another new creature of the expansion). All while I was clearing out the mage's tower at the end of the Arrow of Extrication quest for the thieves guild.

I will probably go to the new areas soon, but I'm taking the advice of one Shivering Isles walkthrough I found (I wanted to see how to open the new areas); to raise my armorer score to 50 so I can have a far easier time restoring my magical equipment to full without relying on merchants, who are apparently few, expensive, and far between on the Shivering Isles.

On a final note before I ride off to damage some swords and armor to raise my armorer score, I just want to say good game to my D&D crew.


Malik (6/12/07)  

I hate to say it...ok...I like saying it. I really like to say something that only helps to boost my credibility in saying I am someone who can understand the game industry better than a supposed analyst who is paid to understand these things.

Anyway...I told you so! GTA4 will not be delayed. It will come out on October 16th, 2007, just like it was originally called by Rockstar. How did I know this? A few simple facts. For one, Rockstar is not known for delays. They may have some issues with promises and content, but release dates are never on the side that fails...mainly just their business operations are the untrustworthy part of their affairs.

Another reason I knew this would be the case is the reason for the rumored delay. It was being supposed that GTA4 would be delayed due to the release of Halo 3 being announced to happen just a couple weeks before GTA4 was announced to come along. Well, for one thing, I know if I was Rockstar, and I held a game that was guaranteed to make some major money and to make some massive sales, I would not change my plans because some younger superstar (Halo 3)decided to release itself so close to my already planned date, after I had announced my plans. Bungee was the company that trespassed on Rockstar's territory, not the other way around.

Additionally, GTA4 is scheduled for a multiplatform release. In other words, it will come to both the PS3 and the 360. Why would Rockstar delay the game across the board, when the PS3 is not looking at an abundance of major hits in this time frame? It would only serve to be a slap in the face of Rockstar's longest lasting fans; the Sony console owners. If they delayed GTA4 because of another 360 game, this would only punish the PS3 fans, and that would not help Rockstar in the long run as they keep trying to make more fans with each new game release.

GTA has always faced some form of competition in the market, and this is nothing new to them. Halo 3? Big deal. There is always competition, and unless they aim to delay/release the game next June, they will still have competition in one form or another.

However, most of all, to delay would make Rockstar look like a pushover as they cave in to Bungee. With Halo 3 being the second game to come along with a similar release window, this, on the other hand, will make Bungee look more like the bad guy than Rockstar (afterall, who was in the October window first? GTA4!). If you cannot afford all of the games that come out at this window, then it's not Rockstar's fault.

Also, Rockstar does a good job of lasting sales. GTA games have always continued to sell long after the release of the game. The game may get the largest single push in sales at it's release, but it will still get a lot more, especially with Christmas right around the corner, with time. The game may lose a few sales in the short run, but it will still come out well on top of what is being estimated by Rockstar's marketing team (whatever they thing the final numbers will be).

Anyway, Halo 3 and GTA4 are not even necessarily tied in to the same audience. FPS fans may also enjoy GTA4, and vice versa. However, the people who will obsess over Halo 3 and live it's online games for months to come are not going to purchase GTA4 if the release is delayed a couple of weeks anymore than they would delay buying it if it was released two weeks before Halo 3. Gamers do have priorities, and these priorities will be met, regardless of timing. I, for example, want GTA4 and could not give a shit about Halo 3 if I tried. I will buy GTA4 and I would buy it no matter what. However, if I was a Halo 3 fan, I would still buy GTA4 first, no matter the timing, and would only get Halo 3 if I had the extra money, since one game has been planned for my game playing in October since 2006, while the other (Halo 3) is fresh to the October scene.

Sometimes I swear that if an industry analyst firm wants to understand how these things work, it might be time to skip hiring people with fancy business degrees, and to maybe get a real gamer. I don't mean some fanatical fanboy type. I mean a level headed gamer who still plays games for the fun and not for the achievements or bragging rights.

Just remember, like GTA3 said on the K-JAH radio station; "if you want knowledge, get yourself a scientist". Well, I have a degree in biology and am more than ready to share my knowledge.

On that final note...a simple question, more for myself to ponder than for a serious answer.  Around 1PM today, I found myself just wondering...When the f#@$ did I become a geneticist, and how can I undo this shit?


Malik (6/13/07)

Guitar Hero Encore is a game that I had little interest in. Well, little interest when compared to GH3 or Rock Band. It just wasn't interesting me as much as I thought it could have.

I am a fan of the rock (spelled: R-A-W-K). However, the 1980's butt rock and hair rock was never something that really got my mental motor running. Afterall, it's the music that's played to death on every lame car commercial or other ad aimed at aging yuppies who want to reclaim their youth.

However, Dio was making my mouth water. He was cheesy, but he was also about the harder sounds of rock. I was pushed over the edge and now interested seeing more of Iron Maiden. Wrath Child is in GH Encore and I now have an official need for this game. I hope more real metal comes along and less of the new wave (sorry, but Flock of Seagulls does not do it for me and it shouldn't do it for anyone) starts to surface before this game finally is released. As it stands, I feel the need for one more major song, and if not...then it will be another case of a game I want for limited content that I will be happy to skip and wait for the real encore...GH3.

On a different note, I normally don't agree with Square Enix (afterall, they are the people who have shit upon all that I once held to be dear...including the Mana and FF franchises), but I have to agree with some words laid down by Yoichi Wada, the president of SE.

While I cannot agree with his ascertain that one needs to factor in the broadband connection of the PS3 or 360 in order to fully utilize the systems (it's easy enough to ignore broadband...look at Oblivion...PC, PS3, and 360 all have internet access, but the game doesn't use it for a very good final effect), the rest does make sense to me.

Consoles are going one of two ways. On one hand, there's what Sony and Microsoft have been up to. Their systems as of late have all relied too much on technology to improve the gaming experience, while this technology has only left developers making half-assed games in an attempt to please tech starved gamers. Broadband is nice, but it should until be utilized in games that call for it. Single player and single system multiplayer should still be an important priority for developers, as it is a priority for many gamers.

High definition visuals are also nice...very nice. However, when the visuals are still the same, but with slightly improved textures, they don't serve any real purpose. It's nice to see some more refined visuals on a lot of games, but if a game doesn't call for this technology (like RPGs, in particular), then it's only serving to push up the bottom line as the development cost and time soars to new heights.

The other end of the spectrum has Nintendo...and no one else. Nintendo has kept their technology relatively simple by comparison. The Wii is not the GCN 1.5 that many haters seem to imply, but it's still not the same revolutionary leap in technology that the PS3 and 360 had over their older counterparts. On top of that, the DS is not the same leap in handhelds as the PSP. The visuals are low key, the internet connection is more of an after thought, and the games tend to focus on something different (game play, not tech whoring).

However, while Nintendo seems to look like the worse option on paper, who is winning at the end of the day. Ultimately, it is gamers...but barely. However, of the console makers, Nintendo is pulling out on top due to the mass appeal and ease of use. While PS3 and 360 have only pushed the limits, Nintendo keeps altering the limits of what should and could be expected.

It makes me thing of the PS2. Two of my favorite lines of games were Katamari and the NIS games (Disgaea, Lap Pucelle Tactics, Phantom Brave, etc). Both of these games failed to utilize the technology on hand. Instead, they went more of the Wii direction...that is to say that they are focused on giving a fun and simple environment to do some amazing final things.

Sadly, beyond Katamari and NIS games, too many developers are focused too strongly on giving gamers the biggest bang for their buck...even if the bang is hollow and, at the end of the day, a let down when compared to what could have been done with a different focus (a lot of small quality bangs over one big empty one).

I'm glad to see that Square Enix is making Dragon Quest 9 for the DS, and that they show no remorse in this decision. As it was said, more people could be reached on the Nintendo platforms. On top of that, RPGs, in particular, do better when technology is not forced. I look at my FF collection and I have the best memories from the older ones (pre-FFX). Why? Because the games focused on fun over trying to make a heavy dose of eye-candy. When you consider how DQ games are usually very limited on technology and high on story telling and game mechanics, I'm glad to see that the best system (the DS) is going to get the job done.

I just hope more developers start to see this type of logic and I hope they start to understand the perspective of gamers, not the console makers. We want fun games. At the end of the day, nice visuals are a good touch, but some quality is needed in the area of the actual game. There may be a lot of technology to utilize on the PS3 and 360, but it's time to stop looking at this situation with a sense of intimidation. You (game developers) don't need to use everything. There is a lot to utilize, but there is a lot you can also ignore in your quest to make a good product that sells and not just a line of products that boast of high technological achievement while offering nothing of substance.


Malik (6/14/07)

I love to hear when a good company that offers reliably fun games is making a new title. For example, if I hear that Namco's Tales team is making something new, I will jump on it. If there's a new Katamari game, or most things Konami (read: not a 3D Castlevania game), then it'll be good. If I hear about Bioware making something new, then I aim to get it.

...or I would if I wasn't hearing about yet another MMORPG filling an oversaturated market that needs almost anything besides more MMORPGs. In particular, RPGs are needed right now for the PC. The PC has been neglected by RPGs, as of late, and besides Oblivion and the thoughts of a potentially fun (or potentially crap-tastic) Fallout 3, it seems that no one is looking at good old RPGs for the PC. In fact, it looks like it's all falling now onto Bethesda's shoulders to keep the PC RPG fans going.

So, to hear that Bioware is investing time and resources into an overly saturated market of a less than compelling genre, I can't help but feel a little sad and disappointed. Bioware has made too many solid RPGs to make a move to making anything other than standard RPG games. If it wasn't for Bioware and Bethesda, I think the PC RPG market would be in too far of a decline.

Most of all, too many MMORPGs now are just falling into a state of oblivion upon their release. WoW has claimed dominance, and new MMORPGs, like the D&D one, Star Wars Galaxies, and whatever else is forced on the market are pretty much doomed to obscurity. It's time for game makers to push forward with the more content heavy of titles and less on the games that are an easy paycheck (if they succeed) due to the low price of server maintenance when compared to the high price of $10-$15 per month access fees.

Plus, Bioware has usually done a good job with the multiplayer aspects of their RPGs. Neverwinter Nights, Baldur's Gate, and Icewind Dale have all granted the same fun feeling of forming a team of about six or more players at a time and having, at the same time, a game that offered content worthy of playing (read: a plot) with both a group of friends and by oneself.


At least I have Oblivion to keep me happy for a long time. Hopefully, by the time I'm in need for another game, besides the fall offerings for the Wii and GTA 4, some new RPG will rise from the PC ashes.


Malik (6/15/07)

Gamespot has an interesting article about Sir Howard Stringer (Sony CEO). It makes me think of how much I'd like to live in a state of oblivious fanboyism. Not to talk too much crap of Sony (since I do that too much and really find it wearing thin), but I have a few things I need to say.

For one, Stringer lives in a fantasy world if he believes what he said. Ok. The PS3 does indeed need a price cut to boost sales. That much is obvious, and it's good to see that Sony's higher ups are now looking at that option. However, that's not the full story. While the Wii has sold more, it's price was only part of the equation. The larger factor is that Nintendo made a system that's intuitive, easy to get into, and has some entertaining games (Wii Sports, Zelda, and Wario...well, Wario is more from month one...) from day 1. Also, it's easy enough and fun enough to draw in non-gamers, which is basically the holy grail for console makers. While gamers are loyal customers, it's the non-gamers who make up the majority of the population, and they are ready to spend money, just like gamers...they just need the inspiration.

However, the talk about how the PS3 is on track to do like the Playstation and the PS2 is complete bullshit. First of all, the PSX did so well because it only had one true level of competition...Sega's Saturn. However, Sega shot themselves in the foot with their unexpected release, poor game selection, and the annoying fact that they pissed off a lot of consumers in the previous generation with two expensive and useless peripherals (Sega CD and 32X). The PSX was set for domination before it was even released. When you toss in how the N64 was already being seen as a joke before it's launch (cartridge on a modern console?), the PSX was set.

The PS2 was also in a good position to start. They had to first endure with the Dreamcast, which still suffered from third party support (no EA equals no love from many gamers) and a lack of fans (from past Sega including the failed Saturn). Then they had the remainder of Nintendo's failed N64 attacks...which by then was seeing a release of one or two games every few months, and most of the games were pretty bad. The only competition wouldn't come for an extra year from either a new Nintendo console (GCN) or from Microsoft (XBox). Nintendo had already shot themselves in the foot a few times with the Virtual Boy and N64, and the lack of games and support for either. Microsoft was unheard of, the first US console maker (which implies a lack of support from the land of video game goodness; Japan) since Atari disappeared, and they had angered enough people with Windows to have already made a few enemies from potential fans.

While the XBox did end up doing some good, the GCN only had loyal Nintendo fanboys and fangirls to keep them running. This just put the PS2 in prime position to conquer all, primarily due to an early release. This helped to win over a lot of third party support, which made victory inevitable.

However, in modern times, we have the PSP and the PS3. The PSP has done a lot to hurt Sony and disillusioned fans. It has simply failed when eyed versus the DS or the GBA. The PSP showed Sony's arrogance and contempt for naysayers. This gave us a portable that was expensive, had little in the way of quality games, and also gave a portable that had it's potential stunted by Sony's refusal to allow homebrew (which could have easily changed the portable game world). Many features were wasted (WiFi for the first year) or pointless (UMD movies and music), which just bloated the price of the portable system to unrealistic levels. Then there is and was the lack of quality titles. Even GTA turned out lame (and even was ported for those who wanted it on a real system). When you toss in the dead pixels, bad square button, and lack of a second set of shoulder buttons and a second analogue stick, it just felt really tacky and like a waste of $250 (now less, but that's what I got mine for...before I sold of the few systems I ever sold and the only one I didn't need the money for when I got rid of it...this is from a person with a Jaguar, Lynx, 3DO, and Virtual Boy).

Now we have the PS3. The PS3 has the same grounds for battle as the PS2. However, Sony started things with a propaganda that resulted in many lawsuits due to deceptive practices (like when they came up with a chart of why the PS3 is "less expensive" than the Wii or 360). These lies also angered fans who kept seeing that they would get less than promised, but for the same price. Dual HDMI? WiFi in all PS3s? Large supplies at launch? Of course that last one didn't matter as much with how they turned out selling in the first few months. Also, to slap two and one whole continents in the face, Sony dropped Europe and Australia from the simultaneous worldwide launch, and then they destroyed Lik-Sang (which was one of the key motivators for European Sony fans, since importing games was one of the few ways to compliment the neglected European Sony game library).

Now we have a console that has failed to materialize any great titles, after over six months. Meanwhile, Microsoft had the 360 out for an extra year, and has hit it's stride as of last fall (or maybe late summer), when Saint's Row, Dead Rising, and Enchanted Arms (not the best game, but a Japanese RPG on the western console), and then later on Gears of War. True, the PS3 was not been out as long, and thus should be cut some least on paper. The reality is that it doesn't matter because the truth is simple; Sony and Microsoft are currently battling it out with the PS3 and 360, and one (360) has more games and more quality games. The other (PS3) is losing console exclusives (Assassin's Creed, GTA 4, and potentially more blockbuster titles), delaying games promised or expected for launch (MGS4 anyone?), and has yet to show a game worthy of selling a single PS3.

I am a fan of consoles. I could care less about what is in my living room and what it's next to. Ok. That's not quite true. I collect all consoles and I want all of them to succeed, so that I am rewarding for investing in all of them. This point in mind, I still have not bought a PS3 and don't see it happening in the near future. I will not buy a PS3 until two things happen. The price break would be important (I refuse to ever pay more than $399, and that must be justified). However, I need exclusive games that are worth my time. When the PS2 list of awesome franchises is now going to other consoles (GTA4, again) or are just feeling old and tired (Final Fantasy), it just doesn't entice this rabid gamer. If the games are essentially going to be identical across platforms, when it comes to third party developers, and when Sakaguchi is a 360 supporter, then I cannot see why I would want a PS3. It's expensive, offers nothing that the 360 doesn't, and it includes features I don't need (PSP connectivity, another system of points to buy in exchange for games instead of money, and controllers that are always wireless...sorry, but a 360 controller being PC compatible is a nice bonus on the 360) in the name of charging a higher price of admission.

If Stringer really wants to turn around the PS3, I would suggest something more important. Namely, go with the price break, but don't stop there. Also, don't be stingy with the price break. If Sony wants to do well, they should be willing to lose a bit more cash on each console. They will have the electronics division to recoup losses (like how Microsoft has the Windows team) for the first year or so. However, a console that is directly competing with the 360 cannot afford to give business to it's competition by being equivalent and more expensive.

Secondly, Sony needs to get third party love. Show, through generating sales (via the price break), that you are worthy of more exclusives. Then use the exclusives to generate more sales. It's a big circle. Win over some fans to buy the system, use the numbers to win over developers, then use those new games to win over fans, then use the console sales to win over more developers...and so on. It's a chicken/egg thing. It doesn't matter which comes first, but one is needed for the other, which is needed for the first one.


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