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Malik (7/14/08)

I took a long weekend. I had some things to do (like going to and recovering from a concert) and some things I had to not do (anything constructive). It basically led to a slow and relaxation filled weekend.

There is the fact that the 20GB HDD for the 360 is going away. This is all part of Microsoft bringing the expectations for 360 owners to 60GB. After all the DLC I've gotten for Rock Band, I can understand this change. However, I don't understand the elimination of the 20 GB model. Yes, 20 is not a good size for anyone who likes a lot of DLC, but it's also a really nice solution for those who want a HDD and just don't plan to use it that much.

I mean I did survive for nearly three years on a 20 GB HDD (it will probably end up being more than three years...but the console hasn't been out that long yet), and it should be sold at a discount to help bring all 360s into the realm of having HDDs. Afterall, if the HDD is as affordable as the memory unit, then Microsoft would have a good reason to finally drop their lame expectations on game designers and publishers. That lame expectation would be how developers are expected to make no HDD required games (and thus no streamlining of data access to lower load times).

My only question in this change in HDD sizes is if the previous rumors come out to be true; the rumor of no transfer cable being included in separately sold 60GB HDDs. If this is the case, Microsoft will be limiting the number of happy consumers they could win over with a new HDD.

Anyway, the only real take away message this generation of gaming is really instilling within this geek is simple; there are too many versions of the same damned consoles. Personally, I'm hoping that next generation will see a reversion to the good old days of basically every previous console generation. In other words, a revisiting of the current Nintendo strategy; one console. I've grown tired of constant changes in configurations and removal of hardware from the retail sector as Microsoft and Sony keep trying for some half-assed attempt to one up the other. I think this is a small, but important and ignored, factor in why Nintendo is doing so well with the Wii this generation. Most consumers don't want to worry about their console being obsolete in one form or another before the console is actually obsolete.

To round out things for today, there's some awesome news from E3 from Harmonix. If the link is 100% spot on, then the final RB2 track list is final (and in that link). A lot of awesome songs, even if the 1950's are still unrepresented...sigh...Chuck Berry is still awesome in my books. Also, where's a better assortment of the 1960's? In fact, I'm also confused by the lack of Freeze Pop...but then again it might be included in the future...

Ok...the lack of 1950's and the limit of 1960's is probably due to a lack of usable master tapes.  However, I still wouldn't be opposed to some "As Made Famous By" action when it comes to the true classics.  I mean Fortunate Son is awesome by CCR, but even the cover on RB is better than no cover or master.

On top of the tracks listed, Harmonix wanted to go triple digit for the RB2 launch but didn't have the time. So, about 20 master tracks will be a free download in the future to make up for this time constraint. Now this is nothing short of showing dedication as a good game designer. While this may be a way to convince people to take on RB over Rock Revolution or GH:WT, I think it goes beyond a marketing ploy. I think this just shows, deep down, what I've always felt; Harmonix is one of those rare groups that seems to make games more out of a love for the game than a love of the money. They just happen to score a double whammy (also getting the money) by the brilliance of their moves.

To go one more step, on day one, the tracks from RB1 are supposedly going to be exportable to be added to RB2. I still want to know how this will be worked around in the DRM world, but I think the how is not nearly as important as the what. The what in this case being awesomeness.

I just hope the song selection screen is really as streamlined and fine tuned as humanly possible. Afterall, it's bad enough thinking of sorting through the list with the current list of around 200 songs. Add in the potential of around 400-500 songs by the end of 2008 and there's a lot of room for a nightmare labyrinth of song titles.


Malik (7/15/08)

Some cool things are coming from Microsoft. At least they claim so in their E3 presentation. There are some real things that are good to know. For example, Fable 2 is going to come out when it was being expected; in October.

As for what Microsoft thinks is cool, I'm not too convinced. I watched their E3 press conference or presentation thing last night on G4 (it's good background while I was playing guitar). I have to say I'm far from impressed.

Final Fantasy XIII coming to the 360 is not too big of a jump in what should be expected. The PS3 is not the console to use as your main vehicle if you want to impress anyone outside of Japan. Therefore, knowing Square Enix wants to sell a good amount of units in the US, Canada, and Europe, it only makes sense to support their most anticipated game on the most important console of this generation for "teh hardcore" gamers.

As for my thoughts...I have not given FF games one bit of attention since FFX started the downward spin of what was once FF games. The games used to be about fun RPG glory, but FFX started the turn towards thinking visuals and emo characters could replace classic styled adventuring. It was also when the idea of complex dungeons were replaced with tiny temples and MMO-style environments. SE has a lot to do to make me even give their games any attention, outside of any of their remakes and ports.

Microsoft also has new deals with NetFlix and NBC/Universal. Once again, I'm not impressed. NetFlix could be fun, as long as it's done correctly (like their current streaming boxes). Otherwise, I'll be fine with Velveta (who has our home's account with the big red envelopes) ordering regular DVDs through the mail and streaming via my PC (which is fully integrated to my TV without any extra boxes). The NBC/Universal stuff doesn't sit at all with me, since I've dealt with enough of their stupidity in the form of shows that I can DVR for free but have to pay to watch On Demand on Comcrap cable. I can watch CSI for free (if I liked CSI) from the CBS tab, but I have to pay $1-$2 per each episode of Heroes depending on if it's HD or standard definition. I could not care less about NBC/Universal trying to make another dollar on the cheap. Plus, most of their shows are either only really good for one viewing (DVR to the rescue) or can be found in syndication (like My Name is Earl and The Office)...for free.

The big change to Microsoft's offering this year is one I wish I could not take part in. The next 360 Dashboard update is looking rather familiar. Maybe it's because it is a blend of the Sony style of menus (found at least on the PSP) with Media Center. In other words, it's a perfect menu for people who are too damned stupid to navigate a simple 360 Dashboard style menu. It looks, in it's entirety, like change for the sake of change.

Then there's also Miis. Sorry...they're called avatars (speaking of which, new Avatar episodes on airing this week with the finale coming in a 2 hour movie on there's some bitter sweet, but good, news). Just because the Wii can use Miis to help make the experience more user friendly and fun for casual gamers, it seems Sony and Microsoft both have to hope on the "cute" train. This is something I wish I could just throw under a train and not have to deal with.

It's one thing if they had minor uses outside of some games, like how the Miis are. It's another thing when my friend list is now going to be some overly expanded crap so I can see their damned avatars. I don't care about making my profile into some simple and uncreative stick figure. At least a gamer pic shows a little bit about who you are, if you care about it (I don't, so I have the free monkey picture for mine). You can buy the cheap pack of Penny-Arcade gamer pics and show you love PA. You can get some free gamer pics from certain games and show your fanboy-ism with them. As for these avatars; they are paper dolls that have the same set clothing in the end. Also, when avatars rule the 360 world, what does this mean for people who bought gamer pics. Are they double screwed (screwed in their stupidity for buying them and screwed when they no longer mean anything important)?

I just one change on the update for the 360. One minor change. Let me have a way to set when I am alerted to friends coming online. I am sick of playing a game and watching one of my friends who has severe internet issues blinking on my screen over and over again as they repeatedly sign in and disconnect. Is that really asking too much?

The only true change that I am happy to see is the ability to play games off of the 360 HDD. I figured this would be a logical addition after the removal of 20GB HDDs and the addition of 60 GB drives. It's only natural. Especially when you look at how much the 360 is imitating other companies this year (Miis, PSP menu system). It's about right for the only truly important feature of the PS3 to now be taken on by Microsoft.

Unfortunately, this is going to allow HDDs to be used for installation of games, but it doesn't answer the lingering question; is this opening the door for Microsoft to encourage developers to require the HDD? That's more important than the installation on it's own. It's one thing to install a game that requires the DVD, but it's another to have the ability to buy a game that cannot handle the 360 without the HDD. If this question is answered with a resounding "yes", then it may be a big blow for their console in the battle with Sony. If it's a "no", then we're more or less still where we are right now, but with a little less wear and tear on our DVD drives...and a quicker and quieter load time for games.

Anyway, The Who Pack is out today and it looks like a good variety of tiers. The one main constant is that it looks like easy to medium on guitar and bass, easy to hard on vocals (wide variety), and a good workout on drums (all tiered 6-9 except for a single tier 1 in Eminence Front). Plus, of course, these are awesome songs. This is one pack I will not even look up on youtube prior to purchasing. It shall be mine after posting this.

Also, on a final note; to repeat what I said earlier, there is new Avatar on Nickelodeon this week. I'm a huge fan of the show, and it's sad to see it wrapping up, but it's good that it will get a conclusion that many other American animated shows never got to realize. It's on each night around 5-ish (Pacific/PST) and Saturday is a 2 hour finale/movie at 5 PM PST.


Malik (7/16/08)

After trying each of the new The Who tracks on expert guitar, I have to say that the vast majority of the songs are beyond worth the price. As for the ones not in this category, they would fit into my view of worth the price. In other words, these are all definite buy songs. With the price discount of buying the 12 song pack for the price of 10 individual tracks, there is no reason to not buy the whole package.

There were also some nice (and a couple not-so-nice) surprises. Since it's The Who, it is only natural to expect some good charts. However, the charts go beyond being faithful to the songs. They are damned fun to play. There's even some definite surprises in challenge (Young Man Blues comes to mind).

Best of all, these are songs that feel like Harmonix gave them the entire treatment. I've noticed a good amount of DLC tracks seem to lack much in the way of audience participation when you hit a nice groove (read: full rock meter). These songs all have some great sounding and enthusiastic pseudo-audiences.

On a different note, it looks like the 40GB version of the PS3 is on it's way out. In it's place, Sony is now bringing in an 80GB version for $400...but without any backwards compatibility.

First off, I think it's rather weak to see so little love given to BC on this console. Let's face the truth; the PS3 library is still less than amazing, but the PS2 still has a lot of fun games to play. Hell, even the PSX has some great games worth revisiting (I'm currently in something like my 7th or 8th play through of Xenogears...on the BC friendly PS2). Until Sony can offer a great line up of games to make the purchase worthwhile, they need to at least include BC on the PS3.

This also goes back to what I said yesterday. If the technological console makers (Microsoft and Sony) want to break into some amazing sale numbers, they should look at what the Wii is doing. Yes, the 360 has a large audience, and Sony keeps claiming that the PS3 is doing great (I still don't quite see it that way), but why not try to win over some casual gamers to make an even larger profit?

The best way to get these potential customers is to not offer so many choices that would make the console look like a risky investment. "I could buy an 80GB PS3, but if it goes away in a year, would I be better waiting for the next version?" These types of doubts can be rectified with one solid platform release. Either that, or make one obviously casual gamer friendly model that is never altered. As long as the cheapest console in a console family is expensive and looks like it's a half assed version that will not have a long life span, the casual gamers will not want to get involved. That's the beautify of the Wii; one version for a good low (in comparison to the competition) price. No doubt and no uncertainty.

At the same time, I can tell you my small want to a PS3 (I am a collector of consoles) is now running thinner with this announcement. If I was to get a PS3, I wouldn't care one damned bit if it's 40GB or 80GB. In my eyes, 20GB has done me quite well on the 360, so 40GB would suit me for all time. However, when you offer me twice the space for the same price, but then remove my ability to play any of my vast collection of PSX and PS2 games on the system, then the console looks pretty damned lame to me. Especially when I know that the previous version would have allowed this functionality. 40GB is not worth the price of BC, unless there was previously 0GB out of the box...and then it's still a toss up.

At least Nintendo is offering something that will win over a lot of people; Wii Speak and Animal Crossing: City Folk. On November 16th, Nintendo is bringing back the one game guaranteed to outsell nearly anything else in the works for the holiday season from any developer. Animal Crossing is a phenomena that cannot be calculated with logic or common sense. It's an addiction that captures both casual and less-than-casual players. Adding in the long overdue voice chat (even if it's of a speaker phone style) for $30 more will only make this look better to the casual gamers and hardcore alike.

As it stands, just from what I've read so far, the three major consoles are Wii dominated at this years E3. While Microsoft is throwing around recycled crap (Media Center and Miis), and Sony is causing more pointless changes (20GB, 40GB, 80GB...who even cares anymore) and elimination of quality (BC going away for the $400 console), Nintendo has to only say Animal Crossing to look damned good. Add in voice chat (even if it's long overdue) and there's only one more thing I would ask for from my Wii...the ability to use SD cards in a worthwhile way (like for DLC).


Malik (7/17/08)

I can't say I'm all that surprised. Beyond the new HDD changes to the PS3 and 360, there is almost nothing newsworthy at E3 this year. Yes, there's a date for Animal Crossing on the Wii, and a set date for Fable 2. Beyond those two tiny details, the only other product to get any real attention worth mentioning is the obvious awesomeness of Rock Band 2 (it's track list, RB1 songs coming to RB2, the 20 free songs for DLC in the future, and the rest of the cool stuff).

There's a reason I'm not surprised that I can summarize anything I feel is important (or is being made to sound important) in one paragraph. It's because of how the ESA and E3 are on their way out. I am expressing my opinion, not a fact. However, with many companies leaving the ESA and with how the ESA neutered E3 a couple years ago, it's obvious that this is no longer the big time of year to get hyped. This is now just another show. The GDC, PAX, GenCon, CES, the Tokyo Game Show, and so many other events, including privately orchestrated ones are just laying E3 into a space that doesn't fill any needed void. In fact, E3 is redundant and just feels forced.

The one sad part of this, beyond seeing what was once beyond the ultimate in awesome times for the game community being laid to sleep, is that news is not available on anything worthwhile this week. All of the media seems to still be stuck on showcasing E3, despite how it's just not all that important anymore.

Well, to continue a trend I've done in the past, it's Thursday. That means I will wager a guess on some DLC thoughts for Rock Band. Personally, I think this week will probably see something more subdued and modern being announced (to counter balance The Who). However, I also am guessing between now and September that we will get some more large packs. Not necessarily this week, since The Who was in a 12 song pack. However, large numbers of songs will probably rain down as we see things that either weren't ready in time for the final RB2 set list get finished as well as songs that couldn't fit into the final list of RB2 but would still be worthwhile DLC.

More than that, I see large sets coming out for one key reason; backwards compatibility. This means if about 6-9 songs are released per week for RB1, then the library of songs available for RB2 at launch will be even larger. This would be a great thing to show off to help with RB2 sales numbers. Imagine the game saying something like, "84 songs on the game and a possibility of 350 songs from day one!" It just makes a great selling point for the new game, and as competition heats up from Activision and Konami, selling points are great things for all companies to be looking at.

I was ready to call it quits for E3 stuff until one of my friends sent me a link to how there is now officially a KOTOR MMO (or KOTOR Online...or whatever you want to call it) in the works. This is the type of news that makes me very happy...and then incredibly sad. Happy? I loved KOTOR and KOTOR2 and would go ape shit to play another game in that timeline. It was some of the best Star Wars and RPGs I've seen. To put those two awesomenesses together is just icing on the cake. To make a third game is like super icing on an awesome cake (ok, my metaphor got away from me).

As I put in an email to my friend...actually, here is that email since it summarizes it all quite nicely.

I would OMG KOTOR...except there was one main thing that drew me to that game, and it's the one part I don't see coming with any MMO; a solid plot that you can play out from start to finish. I don't just mean the overall plot, but also plot that unfolds as you develop, and even manipulate/influence, you allies. If they announced a KOTOR3 (read: non-MMO), I would have some confused coworkers as I sat at my PC and giggled uncontrollably for the next hour. An MMO just misses out on too many things that mattered (at least to me) with the original two KOTOR games.

-The complete plot (ok...KOTOR 2 had issues there, but it was close to complete and was pretty cool if you read the hacked script for the real ending). Star Wars, except when Lucas went insane, always was focused around some fun plot concepts. Sometimes they were shallow, but they were still pretty awesome. Sadly, no MMO can fully handle a plot with all that much depth since there's no structure to it within the confines of having different PCs at different points in advancement.

-The influence on others (the persuasion/mind-trick/intimidate abilities just will not make a good transition to MMO and that was an awesome part of KOTOR). Maybe the MMO will use it to make item prices change or some lame thing like that, but it's not the same.

-Having different classes (face it, 95% of the players will be jedi of one type or another) to balance out the party aspect. I don't see too many Astronavigation driods running around, but those parts of KOTOR were fun to me.

-The fun of an evil play through in which you try your hardest to kill off (in the plot) as many allies as possible...and to turn to the dark side any who will follow your corrupt lead. Or even a good play through (for those who follow that light side idea) and trying to save your friends who may have fallen from the path.

Ok, I'll stop my rant now.


Malik (7/18/08)

I'm finally happy about something with Neversoft's treatment of the Guitar Hero franchise. I could not have seen myself happy with them in the past with their overly difficult charting of songs and their strong stance on making instruments from other games (read: Rock Band) not compatible with GH3. I figured that Neversoft would never make me happy with the game franchise I once loved so much.

Don't get me wrong...even with a small change, I would still be uncertain if GH:WT belonged in my home. Afterall, I would still need to see what they would do to make the game worth my time and money.

However, now that it's been stated that Harmonix's instruments are going to work with GH:WT, I have less to worry about with Neversoft. In fact, allowing the RB drums to work on GH:WT, even with a lack of one pad, shows some major trust and respect from Neversoft. Afterall, they had/have to take extra time to program GH:WT to play the drum line with one less button/pad. So, to make this change shows one of two things.

Maybe Neversoft is just trying to make gamers happy by not forcing the purchase of yet another overly large drum kit with a higher than average controller price. This scenario would be the one where Neversoft respects the gaming audience they want.

The other scenario is what I feel is more likely; Neversoft is scared of Harmonix. RB has an established audience, they have a large library of DLC, and they have a new game coming out several months before GH:WT (at least on the 360). This would put the new GH:WT multi-instrument franchise at risk of being ignored by gamers. To allow the gamers to play with other controllers, then the price to play is only $60 instead of nearly $200...and this would help to influence gamers to give GH:WT a chance.

Of course, when you add in that GH:WT will have the great one (aka: Jimi Hendrix) on the game and more DLC promised to follow, there's another reason for me to give some more of my potential love to the GH world. That's assuming that one of two things happens; either Harmonix cannot get a license for Hendrix and/or Neversoft stops over charting songs.

I was also pretty spot on on part of my prediction yesterday...the Rock Band DLC for next week will be of the more modern variety. Also, I had a feeling that we'd see more than three songs, and I think this trend will continue up through September. It will be another three song pack from NIN and two songs from Shinedown. It will also be the usual variety of $5.50 for the three pack of NIN or $2 per song for any of the songs separately.

Anyways, the songs are Capital G, Burn, and Last from NIN and Devour and Junkies For Fame from Shinedown. The only really cool thing in this set of DLC is just like when Saints of Los Angeles premiered on RB, Junkies For Fame has never been released before in other formats.

I just have two beefs with this...

First off, I wish we'd get some more coverage of bands not so well saturated into Rock Band. I'm not talking about Shinedown, but NIN. We already have four NIN songs. Maybe some more coverage of bands that are not on DLC but are on the base game (Nirvana, Foo Fighters), ones that have only gotten a single DLC track (I don't care if it's a cover, give me some more CCR), or bands that have not been seen in RB or in a rhythm game at all (Reel Big Fish would be awesome, and maybe some...ohhh...I don't know...Social Distortion...yes Social D is on GH3 and coming to RB but I want some now).

The other thing I am sick of is less about content and more with the announcements...and prices of things in general. I don't budget gas at $4.499. I budget at $4.50. I don't see any $59.99 games. I see $60 games. Those are just annoying bits of life that are a worthless excuse to do thing like how the Wii was announced as being under $250 prior to it's release (sorry, I can't see $249.99 as less than $250 since a penny is worth just a hair more than shit to me and anyone over the age of five).

However, I am even more annoyed with Harmonix constantly stating you can get a pack for "$5.49 (440 Microsoft Points for Xbox 360)". Just raise the price for PS3 owners by one damned cent and quit this bullshit.

I don't know why this annoys me so much...but it might just be that I type this as I sit at work and really want to start my weekend and see The Dark Knight. That's probably it...


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