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Malik (8/14/06)  

It's like I was saying last week; When one of the big boys downsizes, in this case E3, there will be plenty more to fill the void. First it was Gen Con and the Austin Game Conference. Now, the grand-daddy of them all is coming out swinging...yup...the CEA is looking to expand something from the CES line of conferences to fill in on the West coast.

In the end, while I can understand that the ESA wants to get away from it's circus like environment that the recent E3 shows made famous, it still leaves a huge void. Namely, there is no show which will have that big time feel once E3 is downsized. E3 may have gotten out of hand, but maybe the real solution was to impose some logical rules, as opposed to imposing the recent illogical moves (like covering up booth babes and then shrinking the whole thing).

I imagine that the CES-spawned show from the CEA will fill the void nicely. Even if a good number of publishers are in favor of the smaller E3, there are just too many indy developers out there that need all the room and attention they can get...and a small show will only stifle that. Even if EA and Ubisoft support a smaller E3, there will be more than enough additional support from the little guys to make the new CES show a probable success...and then the big boys will naturally follow. In fact, if anything the smaller E3 will only result in more money being spent by publishers to be in all of the shows that this absence has been overfilled with.

I spent much of my weekend playing more on FF4 Advance. I really hate to say it, but this game is complete crap. The dialogue has been improved, the dummy items have been restored, and the ability to swap out party members is now here...but in the end the controls are just too frustrating for anyone but the most die hard of FF4 fans to tolerate. Considering how controls are the easiest element of an RPG to master, there is simply no excuse for this. At least I am almost done, so I'll soon be able to put this train wreck behind me.

I also spent some time watching a friend play through a good portion of Dead Rising. After seeing the real game in action, I think my initial impressions of the demo were confirmed; the game is really repetitive and really offers little to make up for it. However, like a Will Farrell movie, I don't have to enjoy it...I can just walk away and let others go crazy over it.

From the parts I saw of Dead Rising, the game seems to primarily consist of massive levels of escort missions with some of the most idiotic AI to ever grace an escort-based game. I saw the escorted NCP do everything from running into a pack of zombies to blasting Frank (the hero) in the face with a shotgun at point blank range because a zombie was on the other side of said face. When that stuff is coupled with a game timer (what...are we back in the 80's or 90's?), I am beyond deterred from playing this game.

The timer of the game makes me think about Pikmin. I really enjoyed almost everything that game had to offer. However, the timer ruined the experience for me. There's enough time, in both Pikmin and DR, to get through the game with few issues...unless you play like me. If a game has a big world to explore, I will do so. I love the exploration aspects of these style of games (those with big and interesting it a mall or a forest) and will waste dozens of hours lost in exploration. However, there isn't enough room in the timer for all of the exploring I want. Quite frankly, if I wanted a timer, I'd play Mario or Sonic...if I want to explore free of this pest, nothing will change my mind.

I just laugh when people will say that the worst issue with modern games is the random battles of RPGs. Whenever a timer remains, I will always take a random battle and smile with delight...since I usually know it's not a timed random battle.

Before I bolt for the day, there's one last bit of interesting news. Microsoft will be bringing out a XNA development beta toolset on August 30th. This will be a free set of tools to develop games for the PC (?) and the 360. Basically, these tools will serve as a simplified and cheaper alternative to buying a full Microsoft developmental toolset (for tens of thousands of dollars). Also, this service will be free to use, but it will require about $100 in annual license fees if you wish to share your homebrew games on the Live Marketplace.

On one hand, this seems unusual. This will no doubt make the job easier for any 360 potential hackers. It will, after all, give them some easy to use tools that could be a potential door opening device. On the other hand, this is just what the game industry needs. For those who remember, great games have come from this type of free thinking in the past...remember Devil Dice for the Playstation? Yup.

Now the real questions still remain;

How easy will these tools be to use? I know Microsoft has said that some basic programming aptitude will be needed, but of what basic level do we speak? Is this basic like needed to use RPG Maker or is this level more like basic use of C++? I know this could mean a lot of difference to people like me (who kick ass at basic programming in many languages, but could never grasp Java or C++).

Is Microsoft doing this because their expected level of Marketplace games is practically nil? If so, this is just Microsoft taking an easy way out, but in all the right ways. I just hope this doesn't mean Microsoft will use this as an excuse to cut production of Live Arcade titles.

Last of all, when will we start seeing some games that will blow us away? True, this question will remain unanswered until the service is fully up and running, but this is something to get excited about. We once saw simple games like Devil Dice come out from such services, but could we see things go further? Will we see more than just simple puzzle and adventure titles? Could the tools be enough to allow a person to make an SNES quality (or higher) RPG? If that last one is a yes, and if the programming system is less intrusive and annoying than Java/C++ or RPG Maker, I can guarantee that I will be all over this shit.

...just a couple of weeks until all becomes clear...hehehe...


Malik (8/16/06)  

Last night I didn't post for a couple of reasons. On one hand, I got denied for another job I'm applying to (my favorite of the jobs I've applied for...but the same company just contacted me about win some, you lose some). On the other hand, and more importantly, I had CPR classes. Considering that I work on the emergency response team at my current job, and considering it's better safe than sorry, this type of thing far outweighs, for a day, posting.

Well, there are some interesting rumors with the 360. Namely, the old rumor mill is saying that we'll soon see a price of about $200 for the HD-DVD add-on, a new FPS designed controller, support (via a new cable) for 1080p, and a "media jukebox".

As for the $200 price of the HD-DVD add-on drive; this is probably about right. It's been stated by many people that a $100-$200 price tag for this would make the most sense. It also would still fit Microsoft's claims that the 360 will be the cheapest HD-DVD player on the market...but only barely if the drive is $200. However, the real question, in the end, is why we should give a f#@$. In reality, the next-gen DVD wars are going to be silly, futile, and annoying to get into until a couple years from now. We will see them rise, and we will see them either both fall, both stagnate, or one fall with authority.

The support for 1080p is only natural considering how 1080p has become the latest buzz word/term in entertainment. If you don't have 1080p, you apparently are pathetic. Well, I don't have 1080p, and I don't plan to replace my 7 month old 52" anytime soon. I, despite what many people (who mostly don't own 1080i devices) seem to think, actually enjoy 1080i. Maybe 1080p will look better (yes it will), but how much better? Enough to justify a $3000 investment? For me the answer is a clear and precise no.

However, the rumor that has me the most intrigued is the media jukebox. I really want to know more. Since most references deal with how it's borrowed technology from Windows MCE, I would not know. I don't buy PCs...I build PCs from bought components, so MCE has never been in my life. I really want to know if this means videos have to be stored on the 360, or if this will finally allow streaming of video from a non-MCE version of Windows. In fact, the only thing I really want from the 360 right now is the ability to stream videos from my PC, since my make-shift way to play PC videos on my big screen involves not getting the best sound quality possible. I have one surround system for the TV (with speakers aligned for proper listening while watching TV), and another for the PC (with a 2.1 setup for best PC sound). However, when I watch a video from the PC on the TV, I want the correct sound setup...and streaming to the 360 is the most likely solution in my land of cable jungles.

To shift gears, I was in an unusual mood last night and played something that has been neglected a bit too much in the last 3 years; the Virtual Boy! Yes, I own one. Yes, I play it from time to time. Yes, the world looks funny after I play for more than a minute or two at a time. Most importantly, however; yes, there are good games. Well, not awesome games, but they are fun none-the-less.

In particular, I started to think that maybe Nintendo should consider making a new version of Mario Clash. While many VB games did indeed suck, this one has some potential for a return...especially with the Wii. It doesn't have to be a full $50 game. In reality, it should be a great mini-game within a larger game. For example, it could be a new Mario mini-game in the same way that there are mini-games on Super Mario 64 DS and New Super Mario Bros.

The game may look simply and a second failed coming of Mario Bros. However, those who've played the game know it's so much more. It's a game of skill and dexterity...just suffering from being in a color-blind world of "all red, all the time".

In fact, with the new online services planned for the Wii, I would like to think that Nintendo would consider porting some VB titles to it. Mario Clash, Wario Land, Jack Bros., and maybe the sports titles (which were pretty bad...but entertaining because of how much they sucked). Since we'll be seeing Bonk and Sonic, why not fill out all ends (including the VB end) of the Nintendo catalogue? Just a thought.

Anyway, I'm in an old-school kick right now. So, I'm off to either try out Chrono Trigger (SNES...I'm a purist) on my 52" with surround sound, or to play some Wario Land on the VB. Either way, it's nostalgia time!


Malik (8/18/06)  

Well, I was out yesterday with my eyes being dilated to an anime inspired size. There's nothing like the feeling of seeing the world in about 5 times the visual "volume" that one should be used to. However, what kept me from posting was that I couldn't focus on anything less than three feet from my face, so I was completely blind when it came to using a computer. Wow...that was fun (/sarcasm).

Worst of all, the visual problems kept me from continuing my newfound appreciation for the cheese that is the Virtualboy. I don't care what may have been said in the past, this is a fun (although useless) little toy. I mean it's good that this technology died, but it still is a blast to play from time to long as you don't mind a headache or two. Especially, Wario Land and Mario Clash are two games that were at their peak on this little system that couldn't.

Well, some details have come out about what games will be in the new Genesis Collection from Sega. In particular, if you follow that link, you'll see how many of the games are some of Sega's worst. Who needs Sonic 3 or Sonics and Knuckles (or the holy combination of the two) when you can have Vectorman and Vectorman 2...? The only parts of this that would really make the bundle worth the price of admission are the Phantasy Star games (2-4), which you probably already have on the GBA if you really wanted them so badly. Most of all, when so many classic series are being touched upon, where the f#@& is Revenge of Shinobi?

Also, there are now rumors of a potential four new Guitar Hero games in the works. Who knows if this is true (Activision/Red Octane...they know), but it sounds quite plausible. After all, what's more American than finding a hit and then cranking out new titles to make some quick money? Nothing.

I just hope this means the games will keep coming in a somewhat quick succession. After all, there is nothing like having such a potentially large library of music to thrash to than what a total of five Guitar Hero games will offer us. Imagine being able to rock out for a weekend and never having to play the same song twice, and still not having to touch any songs you may not enjoy. Now that's a nice visual image to me.

Lastly for this week, Mad Catz is releasing some sort of retro influenced arcade stick for the 360. I just have to wonder a great big "WTF". This thing, from the small picture Gamespot has (also, the link they have on their site for this doesn't work as I currently write, I can't really trace the source to well), looks like it was designed by some brain-dead monkeys. Between the hassles of using it, and the simply layout that prompts one to wonder how to even hold it, I think this is the wrong approach to a simple problem.

That problem would be how to enjoy a game like Street Fighter II or some of the other Arcade titles that need either a good stick or a good d-pad. The real answer would be for a retro SNES inspired controller for these hard to handle games. Hell, the SNES controller was probably the best 2D fighter gamepad ever designed. If you want to go retro and find something that works, why not

look at what really did work instead of just making some random as hell Atari 2600 rip-off with almost no usability? It boggles the mind...

Well, I'm out of here. Between typing this and posting it, I went through an interview, so that's why this is short and being posted later than usual. Anyway, I'm off to see Snakes on a (mother-f#@*ing) Plane and to get some good food and cheap beer! Viva America!


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