Saturday, December 13, 2008

Metal Gear Solist

We recently learned that the reason why the famous main theme of the MGS series, officially composed by Tappi Iwase, was left out of the fourth instalment because of musical plagiarism, notably similarities with Russian composer Georgy Vasilyevich Sviridov’s Pushkin’s Garland, part of his Snowstorm soundtrack wrote in the 70s.

If you want to understand what the controversy is about, listen to the following sections.
Note: Just listen to the 5~6 seconds from the moment you click on the play button.

My advice: click on the links (the titles), you’ll be directed to a player that automatically cuts the sections, which makes it easier to listen to what’s relevant.

First, compare this section of the MGS theme to Sviridov’s creation:

Metal Gear Solid 2 - MGS2 Theme

Sviridov - The Snowstorm - Troika

Pretty close, eh?

And now this:

Metal Gear Solid 2 - MGS2 Theme

Sviridov - The Snowstorm - Winter Road

It sounds like in some cases, the MGS theme is Pushkin’s Garland, with a few notes left out. Other times, it’s just the same. Besides, the way the main sections of both tunes sound so similar, and even more, the way they are positioned, really explains why Konami didn’t insist.

Apparently, in this version of the game, the Soviet guy wins, don't you think? :)

This, of course, changes nothing to the quality of the series.

Thursday, November 20, 2008

Hugo Awards clickable

I missed that news. The Hugo Awards (SF literature) have their own website, apparently since August. Good thing.

Wednesday, November 19, 2008

Day of Lolz

  • We once again get a nice look at the nurtured corporate mentality that permeates through the layers of a giant labour lobster like Ubisoft (assuming it's true, I wouldn't be surprised much and I doubt miss Tremblay would have the company take such risks if she didn't have some kind of backup in a way or another).

  • We have EA, on the same topic, claiming that such methods are not part of their "core values" (understand: their new shiny rules, because don't even pretend that this idea never crossed their mind even once).

  • Reggie boy laments that third party devs are just too thick to understand the Wii and its deeper philosophical meaning (it's not just about shaking a plastic wang in front of the telly apparently).

  • And finally, Eric Lindstrom tells us that what kept Lara Croft afloat for years was not her inflated rack, a massive marketing campaign and the fact that she's a ripoff of Indiana Jones with guns, but instead such mysterious things as "strength of character, fearlessness, and an independent spirit." What's that? I didn't notice any of this in the ads.

Have a nice day. ;)

  • PS: I'll add a picture on top of this post some time later. Just to know...

  • PS2: If we follow what Gamasutra is saying, it's rather curious how Eidos and Tremblay somehow confirmed that the letter was written as per the lady's own initiative (in private in other words), prior to the establishment of Eidos's studio in Montréal, yet the subject of the mail was "Eidos Montréal", and she introduced herself as being Eidos Montréal's human resources director, and was sent on Tuesday, the 26th of June, 2007. Maybe, but the Montréal subsidiary was announced the 15th of February of the same year. Wether or not the studio was already there, it was crystal clear and official that Eidos would also drop a business anchor in Montréal before F. Tremblay sent her mail.
    Tremblay was dismissed several months following the email, of course. Something tells me she didn't struggle to find another job.

  • PS3: (to PSone) I finally got that image thing done. Nothing too fancy, just a smiley, still plain enough for what it's supposed to do (bring colours to the world!!!).

  • PS4: This PS list is a tad too long methinks...

Tuesday, November 04, 2008

Tron's second life in video games

Now I think it's pretty much a futility in secrecy to pretend there's no sequel to Tron coming your way. I posted a video of the trailer there, along several remarks.

Now is just a good opportunity to link to this nice "sum up" article from Gameroom magazine, titled TRON: Coin-op Classic ... Box-office Bomb!

A small extract:

[Many] people are not aware that this colorful film was mostly shot in black & white. The 53 minutes of effects footage was filmed with a rarely used high-quality 65mm black & white film format. Each frame was then enlarged and printed on 16" x 20" Kodaliths. To understand the enormity and scope of this, each of these 76,320 frames had to then be re-photographed under a traditional back-lit animation process. This technique required each Kodalith to be lit from behind and photographed with colored lenses/filters, producing the spectacular 'glowing' effect. Most frames passed in front of the camera 12-15 times, with complicated shots 40-50 times! The estimated $4-5 million production figure was quickly bumped up to $10-12 million by Disney execs, finally costing the studio $20 million to produce.


TRON fell face first at the box office bringing in around $30 million by summer's end. In retrospect, the hype may have actually worked against the movie, for how often can a film live up to such unrealistic expectations? Some filmgoers (mostly kids) found it eternally magical, while others utterly forgettable. What remains irrefutable is the fact that TRON was indeed a visual masterpiece, forever changing the face of the film industry with its groundbreaking use of computer generated imagery.

Regardless of the film's performance, TRON was a success in the arcades.

Go read the rest at the other end of the link, User.

Sunday, October 26, 2008

What makes a great FPS ? Cool weapons !

As Larry Garrmond once said, "you ain't gettin' a good shooter 'til you get the righ' gun, son."

Well, sort of...

So, here we go, let's try to find "the right gun".

One of the best candidates would surely be the fruit of years of dedication and labour which would have resulted into the creation of a most advanced design, a perfect balance of power and finesse. Developed in Japan by a talented engineer, Mr. Nobumichi Tosa, this weapon is called the Newton Gun (presented at 2:23). Forget about the Microwave Gun, the Directed Sound Gun or the Gravity Gun, they don't stand a chance.

An other claimant should surely find a place in any self respected soldier's arsenal: the Image Fulgurator, an intricate device which uses concentrated beams of coherent light in combination with a series of sensors and an embedded monitoring console, in order to instill pre-programmed feelings, or even thoughts, into the minds of people affected by its area effect, with the neat bonus ability of bouncing off walls and almost invisible until it hits you.
It does require some degree of mastery to exploit its full potential, but once there, you got a hell of a weapon of mass mass destruction, yep.

A documentary about the 8-bit stuff

Something's down the pipe, almost cooked apparently, and that thing is a documentary which deals with 8-bit material: sounds, games, art culture, pizzas, skydiving and shibari.
Well, I can't tell if it's going to be good or just surfing on what's actually stylish, or even worth any skittles, but here's the link anyway, and a trailer... that left me rather unimpressed.

Wait & See.

Saturday, October 11, 2008

Drink Letsu Tapu! (of course)

A bit late on this.
Go to the official website, click on the second tab, then on the first bar which opens a small window with the typical Japanese family trailer.

Thank you. I'm sure your flat's neighbours are going to love that.
They say it works very well when you put the control device on the Wii and smash it very hard.
Do we need to need to pay a fortune for that piece of junk really?

Oh, in case Umbr... Nintendo didn't manage to turn you into a casual zombie yet, be sure to "watch" this:

Feel the power of the R&D. Arguably, it looks nice on my page once you play it. Now it's not like I urge you to play this, really.

Monday, October 06, 2008

What the hell Google??

Thank you Google. Really.
As I remembered that I bothered including a traffic counter to this blog, I dug the password , and went on to verify the entries. At the top of the list, I noticed that my blog was referenced for the following research.

Obviously, our Japanese fellow was looking for a combat game's torrent. Most amusing being how Google bolded the game's name, which it usually does when at least one of the words in your query is found on the site in question (but it also fails a lot). OK, I did type the word torrent (OMG), and it was put in bold as well, but never the name of that frakin' game. I didn't even know it existed.
Same nonsense with this game. From Malaysia this time.

I don't know what's Google's magic super algorithm that makes them print money, but it's obviously broken.


Friday, October 03, 2008

Have some more piracy until you vomit

Since I'm not original and piracy is the big topic these days, I just decided to copy/paste myself here (first step towards madness), so I'll just have to drop a link to this post instead of bothering repeating myself ad vitam aeternam. It's about DRMs. This bit, I originally typed it after reading more of respected Mr. Molyneux about his view on the PC gamer market, right or wrong, that he believes is in tatters (whole interview at VideoGamer).
Escapist expanded on this, by looking at a former report from TorrentFreak, about how Spore had already been downloaded 500,000 times via BitTorrent. Spore was released between the 4th and 7th of september. TorrentFreak posted their article the 13th.

Politician: I'm a gamer at heart too, but you should accept DRMs, it's meant to protect you, to honour those who are honest with themselves, who play it fair. If Spore has it, I suppose it's a good thing.

Journo: But Spore has the highest pirated download rate ever recorded on a torrent site.

Politician: My numbers don't agree, Spore is certainly not the most pirated game you can find on torrent.

Journo: That's not what I said.

Politician: Look. People are misled by false numbers and don't realize how DRMs would help the PC market, which is in turmoil and despair. People loose their jobs, families break, suicide rates explode and kittens die day after day. Anyone who doesn't approve DRMs is pro-piracy and has a responsibility in this societal and economical disaster. They should be ashamed.

Sarcasm aside, I share his view on how people cite the flood of obscure casual games or the sovereignty of MMOs such as World of Warcraft to show how the PC is a healthy gaming platform, often neglecting to think about the games which typically thrived on this same market some years ago, notably its most renowned genre, the First Person Shooter.

Thursday, October 02, 2008

Without an i ... you die !!

Joystiq's staff has been very quick to put out a comparison of all three latest portable machines to play games on:

DSi Vs. PSP-3000 Vs. iPhone.

So we sort of salute Nintendo's newest variant of their eponymous handheld console, now sporting the most trendy i like some sexy tail.

I couldn't care less about slightly bigger screens, which, amusingly, GamesIndustry reported that they would be slightly larger, at 3.25 inch, which is the size of the DS tank's screens.
I couldn't care less about those screens since the dual screen is the most retarded thing this console boasts.
I couldn't salivate to the addition of two cameras (3 and 0.3 MegaPX, this will be as useful as the microphone!).

But there's that online store system coming in, the DSi Shop, which is an obvious reply to Apple's App Store and Sony's PS Store.

I'm still waiting for Sony to add something meaningful to their handheld.

All it can do for the moment is bring a couple of exclusives, which will artificially keep the PSP alive.
Artificially because it doesn't offer anything that different from other consoles, aside from games. That's kinda poor when the console was supposed to be much more.

Besides, opponents have superior complete formulas to offer now.

Sony's attempt at boosting PSP sales is the PSP-3000, which only raised eyebrows a few weeks ago when it was presented, with its new TV output, Spyke friendly microphone and two new exciting colours, Pearl White and Mystic Silver (too bad, I craved a Bloody Red).
Again, what about a touchscreen? Nothing.
There's support for the GPS.
Huh, it's not like there are a thousand exciting games to make using the GPS.

- Where are you?
- I'm here, two stations away from the café!
- Hey! It's true, I can stalk y... I can see you! That's such immense fuuun!!1!

In Japan, kids gather and sit, playing Monster Hunter 2 (a repetitive boring game about mob slashing). They don't walk separate ways with their PSPs and play online. That's precisely why it didn't keep people's attention when the new console was presented. They're not so hot on the online thing that lets thousands of cunts badmouth other players on servers.

Most amusing with the DSi is the addition of the new memory stick slot. Surely, Nintendo must have also put a hardware slot-protection against the R4 in the process... never mind, it won't stand long enough, and people will start to crack the firmware to launch games from the sticks, like it's done on the PSP.
Say goodbye to the GBA slot. An issue if you planned playing GBA games legally... unless, he he he, you're going to pay for them again on the DSi Shop. Beware the price.

I'm seriously thinking about adding an i particle to my name.

Tuesday, September 30, 2008

Sony will share many secrets at the TGS 2008

From VG Chartz, here's the list of games presented by Sony:

  • Guitar Hero III (PS3) : playable
  • FIFA 09 (PS3) : playable
  • Street Fighter IV (PS3) : playable
  • Resident Evil 5 (PS3) : playable
  • Lumines Super Nova (PS3) : playable
  • Metal Gear Solid Online (PS3) : playable
  • Way of the Samurai 3 (PS3) : playable
  • Sonic Unleashed (PS3) : playable
  • Socom : Confrontation (PS3) : playable
  • PlayStation Home (PS3) : playable
  • Dokodemo Issho (PS3) : playable
  • MotorStorm Pacific Rift (PS3) : playable
  • LittleBigPlanet (PS3) : playable
  • Resistance 2 (PS3) : playable
  • WWE SmackDown vs. Raw 2009 (PS3) : playable
  • Dynasty Warriors : Gun dam 2 (PS3) : playable
  • Naruto Ultimate Ninja Storm (PS3) : playable
  • Devil Kings : Battle Heroes (PSP) : playable
  • Dynasty Warriors Multi Raid (PSP) : playable
  • Warriors Orochi 2 (PSP) : playable
  • Kingdom Hearts : Birth by Sleep (PSP) : playable
  • Dissidia : Final Fantasy (PSP) : playable
  • Secret Agent Clank (PSP) : playable
  • Ape Quest (PSP) : playable
  • Patapon 2 (PSP) : playable
  • Bleach : Soul Carnival (PSP) : playable
  • Dokodemo Issho (PSP) : playable
  • Yusha no Kuse ni Namaikida 2 (PSP) : playable
  • LocoRoco 2 (PSP) : playable
  • The Idolmaster SP (PSP) : playable
  • Mobile Suit Gun dam : Gun dam Vs. Gun dam (PSP) : playable
  • Tales of the World : Radiant Mythology 2 (PSP) : playable
  • 1 unannounced PS3 game from IREM
  • 1 unannounced PS3 game from Konami
  • 9 unannounced PS3 games + 3 unannounced PSP games from Sony Computer Entertainment

First of all, there's a good amount of playable games. In fact, all identified games will be playable. That's a good thing.
Secondly, there's that IREM game which I can't remember if it's that other R-Type game, not necessarily a pure shooter, or an adventure game. Well, it's not really the same IREM anymore, but hope doesn't hurt, right? Maybe it's that Hototogisu tactical card game.
Thirdly, and probably the most important part of all, Sony will present 9 first party games for the PS3, and 3 for the PSP, all kept secret for the moment.
It's only after most of this batch of new games will have been released that Sony will know how to proceed with the PS3's price.

Sunday, September 28, 2008

6 Pirates caught: CoD 3 sales rise by 8.4%

Let me see.

We have roughly several hundred millions consoles and PCs combined sold worldwide, all capable of playing current games. If we include the 95% piracy figures from Yerli, plus the 90% of piracy in China and think about averages, I suppose that there's around several hundred millions pirates left out there, waiting for a sentence.

Come on, I'm sure you can do better than catching six folks the hand in the jar, right?

How did this end?

  • a Washington man, apparently unrepresented by counsel, agreed to pay Activision $100,000 (CoD 3 Wii, CoD 3 Xbox 360) to settle the case.
  • a South Carolina man, also apparently unrepresented, agreed to pay Activision $25,000 to settle the case. (CoD3 Wii, Tony Hawk's Project 8, Xbox 360).
  • a New Jersey man, apparently the only defendant who had an attorney, agreed to pay Activision $100,000 (CoD 3 Xbox 360).
  • a Minnesota woman, apparently with no attorney, agreed to pay Activision $1,000.
  • a second South Carolina man agreed to pay Activision $100,000 (CoD 3 Wii, Cod 2 The Big Red One PS2, Tony Hawk's Project 8, Xbox 360). He too was apparently unrepresented.
  • a New York man's case is still active (CoD 3 Xbox 360).

A most interesting aspect of this affair has been the claimed use of scare tactics by Activision (acting like a RIAA of video games), pressuring defendants to reject representation by attorneys, otherwise facing massive judicial costs.
A practice which is unacceptable, especially if less or not even guilty people get sued and were to be threatened the same way.

Really, the more Activision tightens its grip, the more sales will slip through its fingers. If anything, they're not spending their resources in the right direction, and overly disproportionate sanctions will only encourage crackers to pursue their activities, and they'll surely take the piss even more, no doubt about that, while the message sent to the average Joe (steal one game and we destroy your life) will get a lukewarm welcome, considering those dark times of relentless inflation and looming worldwide economical crisis.

So what's next?
Again, without condoning piracy, there are degrees of justice to apply, and those examples will remain utterly futile if the sanction doesn't even look fair to begin with.

It's as ridiculous as thinking that it's the securities embedded within the Blu-ray technology that prevent piracy on the PS3.
What prevents piracy is that no one burns Blu-ray discs because burners and discs are damn expensive, notably because it's a new technology, which half the planet doesn't care about, while many industrials deem the format already dead. Which is a good thing in fact, since it won't get popular, so the situation won't change and logically keep the "household" piracy low. Actually, developers certainly DON'T want the format becoming too popular.
Finally, and thus far, it seems that launching pirated games from the HDD is still a good challenge, even when running Linux on the console.

Meanwhile, I continue to buy my used games at incredibly low prices for an overall great quality.

Amazing: Nintendo's latest Wario Trailer

Back in July I was drooling over the first trailer for Wario Land Shake Ur Butt Baby, but if you still have doubts about the quality of the game, then do not miss this fantastic trailer for Wario!
At least you will realize that Nintendo has not lost it.

Friday, September 26, 2008

Pipes, Demons and Mustaches

In may 2008, Youtube member Ultimortal unleashed the fruit of a most unholy fusion upon us:

5 stars stuff there.

Thursday, September 25, 2008

The Good, the Bad, and the Weird ...

Man, that's some crazy shit I tell you. We got western stuff, we got guns and smoken we got shades of Mad Max, we got some HK fu, plenty of bangs and booms, we got chicks, we got white pussy, black pussy, Spanish puss... err... shit, wait, no. We got a big black steamy train, we got plenty of sand and dust, and it's all in Korean, loud and dirty.
It just seems too cool to be true. I can't believe I missed that!

Wednesday, September 24, 2008

DICE created a whole new genre!

So says Martin Frain, marketing director for DICE, as per a campaign to revolutionize video gaming with incoming Mirror's Edge.

As per his words, they have created the "first-person action-adventure".


Funny thing, I played that game called Cybercon III four hours on my STE. What I think could be called a FPAD.

Mirror's Edge, can't wait to play this new set of textures. Err... I mean this new game.

Zero Punctuation: Retro stuff sucks =] power'd

I said to myself, no, I'll never put a diveo of ZP on my blog.
That was before I attempted to put a diveo of ZP on my blog.
Before I'd fail to do so since all I could post was a link to the diveo of ZP on Escapist.

So there.

Now, if I get this right, by his own last comment, all the review has to be understood as an antiphrasis of some sort.
It's all about Stan's evil twin (Jsus).

Still, it reminded me of stuff I'd occasionally read on Internet, or what I could hear many years ago, and is quite a well condensed version of some of the most retarded garbage.

One is particularly interesting.
Talking about XBLA's Bionic Commando Rearmed, he said:

Strangely for a 2D platformer you can't jump (following a rant about how you cannot maneuver)... blah blah.

For any kiddo who has no idea about what the gameplay is, that's the point.
I truly hope no one above 12 would be stupid enough to bash a game just because you cannot jump.

Which brings me to the other point: double jumps.

2D, 3D, it doesn't care. The double jump propaganda is spreading. It's getting so furiously invasive that you wonder why we're still sticking with double jumps when we could have already moved to the even more exciting...

*drum roll*

triple jumps !!

I suppose they're keeping that for the Paystation 4 and Xbox Double Spin.

A nice other point comes earlier in the diveo when we're shown four tombstones, the first two sporting the following words:

RIP TWO BUTTON CONTROLLERS (note: that's not counting the stick or D-pad)

Miyamoto has not made a secret that he and Nintendo would gladly aim at games played with the less buttons possible. Good or bad, I think we need both.
Metal Gear Solid with two buttons would be a joke (unless we have access to some fantastic peripheral, but the functions would just be binded to other forms of input devices).
Pacman on an XBox 360 pad is an oxymoron.
The likes of Time Crisis and House of the Dead, for example, are enjoyable games which could be finished with essentially just one button.

Most puzzling is what follows though, as two new tombstones appear on the screen:

RIP QUICK TIME EVENTS (note: this one is in the background, with a hole being dug.)

This, amusingly, had me reconsider expanding a former big phat post of mine (one no one will read) which I put on hold some time ago.

No matter how you look at them, either taking them at face value, or believing that he actually meant the contrary of this, it's flawed.

Quick Time Events are indeed a design problem. But it does not mean they need to disappear as a whole, nor remain as they are today.
It's a false dilemma. They're just in need of an evolution.
Even as a gamer who enjoys his fair load of oldies (?), the whole QTE issue is a question of context. In modern games, the learning curve does not exist.

It's a freaking learning wall.

It's outdated if it pretends to find its path in games with a broadband and modern appeal.

As for Lives, see you later. ;)

Wednesday, September 17, 2008

Google Games?

The Google Empire might have plans to spread its influence across new uncharted territories, and as such, these lads could be thinking about game publishing, as per Forbes' Morris ponderings.

Can't wait for Google Soup and Google Toilet Roll.

Tuesday, September 16, 2008

Team Ico's blog: Kaido & Ueda speak

Despite the trail of sugary and brainwashed idolisation I'm leaving behind me, I still managed to forget pointing out the interview of Fumito Ueda and Kenji Kaido available at Team Ico's blog, a translation of an article published in French magazine Chronic'Art.

My Goodness, there's such a pressure put upon the shoulders of these people.

My favorite song or book writers and film makers can also create work which I may not fully enjoy, or first find hard to assimilate. Such work will still and certainly remain above a good chunk of most of the junk found around, but I may not find it equal to the most revered craft they've been known for. Like anyone, they have their ups and their downs.

Moreover, fans often scream in agony when their faves have the audacity of escaping the paths of inspiration which auteurs identified themselves with in their first years, and therefore produce a new form of content which would not be understood nor properly appreciated by all, still too obscure in a certain degree to strike a new audience, and yet too different to what the legions were used to.

All this to say that whatever they come with may be totally different. In a way, I hope it is.

Don't be afraid, and keep an open mind.

EDIT: One more thing. Ueda would have been glad if other games used the grip game mechanic put in place in Shadow. It's a fantastic function, properly balanced. This is what Assassin's Creed lacked. Climbing on walls was just too easy, without much risks at all.

Sunday, September 14, 2008

The delayed fate of retail stores

In that vast topic of what retailers are supposed to do to survive against the ever growing online distribution model, we first had Bob McKenzie, SVP of merchandising at Grapevine, Tex.-based GameStop, defending his business model over Edge Online.
Then David Perry reacted at Game Daily.

Perry makes good points, but we need to understand that people think of digital distribution here. Sometimes falsely named online distribution model, it deals with the system wherein you actually download the game you buy.
To this day, many transactions made online still end with physical supports being shipped to your mailbox.
It still works a lot for the moment.
That said, the attachment to physical supports, or more precisely, one independent physical support unit per purchased copy of a product (pff!) is probably just a hard habit to shake off.

Perry cites the numbers iTunes and App store, but that's rather absurd. We're speaking of small packages here, a few megabytes at best. Not multiGb heavy applications, and as long as peer bandwidth doesn't catch up with increasing application sizes, it's still going to be a problem for most people, especially in countries where internet is not so well accessible (yes, try to think globally for once).

Now, having a game on a disc means that its price will be higher than a packaging-free and shipping-free game. Perry is right on this, and there are many other aspects of this which pump prices up.

In situ retailers don't have many advantages left as far as first hand sales are concerned. A sort of "what you play is what you'll get" is achieved through demos which are easier to get on internet.
However, you have to download them.
The trouble is, there are not enough demo machines in shops. The staff in shops should be able to switch games according to the customer’s whims like it was done with arcades. There should be at least one machine for each hardware platform still scoring relevant sales, from the DS to the PS2, from the PC to the Xbox360, all mounted with the necessary peripherals.

The pseudo experience of local staff is nearly a myth. If anything, they'll only be useful to fool ignorant customers and be known to work for the good of sale numbers for many other players.
Many people think online reviews are more reliable and informative, which is not exactly true, but they still get the feeling that it’s the plebe’s voice reaching them through the web, so it’s better.

Retailers have also failed to treat games seriously, eventually shaping their stores according to genres or ratings (like the ESRB's).
I won't say it would be easier to change the way a website sells games than changing the layout of a store, since the former requires time and qualified people to achieve, and requires more database managing, while it's easier to apply on the terrain.

Retailers have both an advantage and disadvantage in terms of geography and the strategies to apply there.
If properly placed, notably next to stores where people will still go for the decades to come, people will walk before the game stores, and if the local manager isn't a twat, there will be enough teasing stuff, flashing screens and appetizing signs to have people think it's still worth getting a look inside.
Unfortunately, most stores just look like cleaned up geek hives.

The counterbalance to this being that you have to get there: if the shop is misplaced, it won't get enough notice, and people still have to know where it is and move there, while the internet doesn't care where the center of commercial activity is located, nor if customer live near it, as having a connection and a web browser is all enough to make monetary transactions.

There’s a very good reason why publishers and many studios keep advocating for the download business model, because they dislike the used game market as they still fail to exploit it in a way or another, especially when the law isn't helping them.

The absolute victory of the download business makes it conceptually useless to even attempt thinking about selling your copy.

Your copy is virtual, it doesn’t wear off. It’s just an amount of bits. A clone.

In theory, the used game market doesn’t concern the game, but all the physical elements related to it, from the support disc to the box, the guide and such other goodies (shipping and plastic wrapping are all irrelevant).
These elements become irrelevant with digital distribution.

Don’t even think about selling your downloaded copy back to Steam, because it’s a nonsense. You buy a copy, you (barely) own it. All you could hope for, eventually, is being reimbursed, by retracting within a week after buying your game.
But your game will never get used, so it won’t make sense to sell it to someone else, because it won’t be any different than the game you can get from Steam.
The only difference which could exist with your game is the content you created, from the save file to other more creatively elaborate elements, if the game permits it. But those elements have no value. How could they? Anytime a controversial content is created by an user, the studio or publisher bears the responsibility of its existence.

The digital core of a game is always pristine by definition. It’s a perfect copy of the original gold model.

So you’ll always buy them at full price, but the full price that seems right for a digital game. What should be investigated is if the purely digital copies, stripped off their physical burdens, are sold to a reasonable and right price.
Obviously, the prices found on online portals are somehow inferior, but are you sure they are that inferior according to what they could, or should be?

Don’t get your hopes too high though, because the system is not as honest as you thought it would be, and that’s quite logical, for 90% of the game remains within the publishers’ hands (this doesn’t include later sharing).
There have been unacceptable cases, notably on Steam, of software way more expensive on download than if you picked a physical copy of it at a retail store.

The thing is that the online publishers cannot lower their prices, without stirring trouble with global retailers, who could literally boycott legions of games without a second thought, or would sell them at such stupidly lower prices that they'd be beyond loss leaders, and represent no acceptable revenue for publishers. They still have that power at the moment, and we don't know how it's going to last.
Therefore, online publishers will either wait until the digital distribution model has become more important, which will take time, or eventually start to strike a deal by sharing revenues.

A most saddening aspect of this is how gullible people try to rationalize the high prices by telling those who complain that digital retail prices are still too high because the publisher frees you from the hassle of moving your butt to said stores to buy a disc.

  1. This "hand" publishers supposedly give you has a name, and it’s called shipping, and you know what? Shipping a game box to your home hardly costs the ludicrous price differences (or lack of thereof) reported across the internet.

  2. It’s a digital copy, son. There’s no more shipping going on, so there are even less excuses to warrant such high prices for downloading games. Oh but what about maintaining servers and getting the appropriate bandwidth? Not much of a problem, as you can see in the following point.

  3. The publisher is not doing you a favour as much as YOU are doing the publisher one. Actually two: First by preventing the retailers from gaining money from used games, which means that in a way or another, players will buy more full price games, and therefore, as a chain reaction, lead more players towards downloading portals, notably because they’ll believe that you get cheaper games on internet, and secondly because publishers gain faaaar more money on $30 spent to buy a game from their portal, than on the same game bought at the stores for the same price. You're saving some joules and publishers are saving a lot of money.

Yes, your gain weighs very little in comparison to their gain, and all it contributes to is keeping you isolated at home, fragmenting the society even more.

There’s also the problem of currency exchange rates playing us games there, making the system even more absurd and unstable at the moment.

The only response to this, as far as consumers who wish to sell their digital limited licenses are concerned, is selling out accounts, generally as a whole (would you make one account per game?), independently of the digital portals, via shitty systems like Paypal. A business practice which Steam does not tolerate.
From their point of view, forbidding account sales means players need to buy games at prices defined by Steam. But while doing so, they clearly loose money on the deals made in the backyard (account sales). The only thing they could do is allow these sales and tax them. However, the question is about balance. Do they make more money only selling games at full price, while knowing there are accounts sold outside of their sphere of influence… or would they get bigger revenues by allowing such transfers between customers, taxing them, and hoping to recover as many “used accounts” as possible, knowing that this means these customers won’t buy the games full price anyway. The question would be: would have they bought the game from Steam at all?
Which option is better?

That’s reminiscent of mechanic driving one of the aspects of piracy.

What we can safely guess is that in the end, it would seriously weaken the retailers who so rely on used game profitability.

I'm quite afraid that if anything remains of retail shops, they’ll be reduced to machines not bigger than dusty coin-ups, where you'll (re)charge your memory card with new games, which will also host videos, e-books and music.

Truth is, they are very well aware of this, and have already moved on to the digital distribution front, as shown with GameStop's downloadable Spore. (Viral marketing ahoy!)

The real debate is not if this is going to happen, because it has already started, but when the digital distribution model will outweigh the classical one. GameStop’s McKenzie doesn’t see downloadable games becoming a threat until 2020, as revealed here.

Somehow, I actually don’t find that figure over the top. For example, the digital music market was estimated to catch up the physical market by 2011-2012, and that’s for rather small packets of data (iSuppli, September 2006).

Making the decision to download a game a thousand times heavier requires more patience, and would logically work against compulsive behaviours. So the situation should evolve at a slower pace.

Saturday, September 13, 2008

@s#%§loz say Darkworks' Gouraud & Villette

I've been reading, or more precisely trying to read this article at GI, but geez, the pain. Say hello to the fantastic piece of eloquent Frenglish we have before our eyes.
Hey James, don't you check your interviews at least once before putting them online or what? :)

Thursday, September 11, 2008

Japan's CEDEC Awards

It may have been a long wait, but here it comes.
After ten years of meetings, the laurels have found their respective heads, as peers at the CEDEC development conference put out the final verdict, by going through three decades of gaming up to these days.

Prizes in respective categories were attributed thusly:

  • Programming award: Capcom, for its MT Framework engine.
  • Visual Arts award: Team ICO.
  • Game Design award: Nintendo, for the Super Mario Brothers series.
  • Sound Design award: Nintendo, for the Zelda series.
  • Special award: Shigeru Miyamoto, for the excellence of his work and vision.

Since this was the first time such an event took place, the must-be-awarded people got their well deserved prizes, therefore leaving more room for new nominees to get on the ring and pick up the challenge for the next years. Good stuff.

From such events may even rise a form of competition and emulation, which will only be good to fend off what some people identify as the Japanese industry going down, free fall style, which is nothing more than over the top exaggeration.


Wednesday, September 10, 2008

iGame - New iPod Touch

Apple has unveiled a new website for the iPod Touch.
Steve Jobs said, during Apple's latest Let's Rock event at San Francisco, the following amusing bit:

It's the best portable device for playing games...

We're speaking of the same Jobs who never got into games, neither made a proper move to support them on Apple machines?

So what happened? Is it the real Jobs speaking there? Could there be a hint of genuine gaming interest behind this massive wall of glamorous PR?

On another note, check out Real Soccer 2009 and the transparent D-pad.
That's it. My main beef against touchscreens is that, in fact, I hate obscuring fractions of my screen with pens and fingers.
That's quite an irritating dilemma I'm into, there, because it's rather obvious that the touch interfaces also allow for new ways of play which aren't all about gimmicks.
I usually prefer keep my screen clear.

Other than that, we're really getting impressive games. There's no doubt that Apple is seriously tackling a relatively new market, and the opportunities for developers appear to be immense.

Sunday, September 07, 2008

I like green and hate 800 x 600

Just in case you hate green and didn't make the jump to better screen resolutions yet... this blog is meant to be read with a resolution of 1024 x 768 at the very least. I regularly check the stats about the systems, and there are not many people still using a low resolution of 800 x 600.

Only 2% do, in fact.

The most succesful resolution is 1280 x 1024. As far as I'm concerned, I was used to 1024 x 768 on a quality CRT screen, until I bought a flat one and directly moved to a default desktop resolution of 1600 x 1200.

Just get a flat screen. They're ridiculously cheap now.

Saturday, August 30, 2008

Brain Training: 80 weeks in UK top ten

According to, the video game Brain Training, on the DS, has been present for a total of 80 weeks in the UK top ten.


I suppose it confirms that many people are idiots, right?


So am I for this free advertising. X[

Friday, August 29, 2008

The Path of Least Resistance

I can’t help smiling at the idea of wealthy leaders sitting at the top of their towers of glass, having the resources to buy your house ten times a week, and being convinced that only enough blunt force will curb the modest into behaving like a nice little sheep.

In a way, they are not imaginative. They’re lazy people, as they go for the easy route. They use hamfisted reprehension and are not short of applying the most absurd and over the top penalties to silence the guilty:

The game makers have appointed the law firm Davenport Lyons. This week Isabela Barwinska, an unemployed mother of two, became the first person in the UK to be ordered to pay damages to a manufacturer. She must pay more than £16,000 to Topware after downloading Dream Pinball through a file-sharing site.

I am in no way trying to condone piracy, but there are extremes at work there, and neither are correct.
I merely want to add more to my initial rant. I said I’d try to tackle some solutions. Surprisingly coming to their senses, EA heads now think in such ways as well (a rather dissenting song from what Peter Moore was trying to say in May, although we could sense a level of *cough* crypticism *cough*).

The point is that no matter our monetary resources, as a whole, we are like electricity: we always aim for the path of least resistance.
In this case, we should say we generally follow the principle of least effort.

People don’t want to bother with complicated verification systems. They don’t want to bother with drivers, guides, cables and what have you. They don’t want to have to subscribe and fiddle with internet formulas.

The trouble is that piracy makes acquiring illegal copies for nothing very easy (following a modicum of patience and efforts), and no one will ever beat that with the most restrictive Big Brotherish security system.
Even if your system is not of that vein, people see it as such.
Wasting millions in DRMs when most of them fail in the following week is equally absurd.

If you still wonder why DRMs suck, then pay a visit to Defective by Design. It is a down to earth documented and active community opposing the nonsense of DRMs, and they have a point.

So what do we do then? Well, we try to understand what the solutions against piracy could be.
Obviously, you have to make legally acquiring games an easy process, reassuring people by letting them acquire a legal copy without choosing between the last Rock Band and buying nice lumps of red meat, as it’s been two weeks since you’ve been able to afford more than pathetic sausages and water to your kids.

As such, I believe in lower prices. Entertainment for the masses? Oh… well… a double edged sword we have here.
But let’s be frank, shit has hit the planet worldwide, and I’m speaking about the rich countries here, not those where buying a game is not even present at the bottom of a tertiary list of low priorities for the next two decades.
That said, some people do their best to feed the idea that lower prices wouldn’t help. It’s rubbish. Although relative, they clearly would, but if only supported by other measures.
These same people are often heard saying that pirates (a broad term) wouldn’t buy your game no matter what. In other words, they never were customers, and never will.
That’s disputable. I think that if that lady, sentenced to pay £16,000 for downloading that extremely innovative pinball game, could have easily reached and bought it for a very few pennies, she’d have probably done so.

It should be as easy as making a phone call. You know that when you pick up your phone, in 99.99% of cases, you’ll be loosing money. Why not use that system to buy games? See a game you like in a catalog? Send a SMS or give a call, give your address, no useless talking, and voila, you receive your game in two days, on a small disc wrapped in cheap plastic. You don’t pay more, just the communication, which a percentage is distributed to the publisher and the developer. You may want to add a password at best, but that’s about how far it gets. Your phone number is, by default, made public and attached to your address. Therefore the operation to obtain a copy of a game should be devoid of any trouble.

It should be as simple as saying WANT on the phone.

On the other end of the stick, just keep that call short but make it a bit more expensive than usual for the customer, according to the price of the game (be sure to make it clear on the catalog) and that’s it. It works in very similar ways for mobile phones after all. Why not for households?

But maybe such an intuitive system already exists?

One of the issues these days is that to fight piracy, many are thinking that gaming, PC or not, should be dependent upon an Internet connection.
I totally reject this option (as per Stardock’s ninth rule --which itself is full of irony, considering the deal signed with Steam and its internet-dependent verification system). It is not a solution. You should be able to buy a game, then trek the mountains you and your laptop, sit somewhere in the wild and install the game.
It is rather obvious that such an idea has only gained popularity because of the thriving MMO business model (booby trapped games). It certainly does not mean it’s intelligent.

Ads and downloadable content have been mentioned as other solutions.

Advertising, either in game or orbiting the game’s core in a way or another, is a solution. Simply put, the powers that be keep telling us they have solid numbers about piracy. Therefore, they can obviously estimate how many people they can potentially reach with ads placed in all copies, including illegal ones.
A new aspect of the war would probably be making it sure that even an illegal copy comes with ads, but we never said it would be easy!
Of course, the idea of putting ads in games is also to reduce the price of them, even maybe make them almost free, but that’s stretching it quite a lot here. A reduction in prices would be a good thing, assuming sales would follow.

Downloadable content is also another solution, but we already were having glimpses of studios (Sony and their racing games) providing light weight versions which would only be completed with a proper amount of money.
In a way, it would be acceptable if the vanilla version of the game was cheap, and the price of extra content, from useful to mere goodies, was not abusive.

Of course, piracy wouldn’t be such a problem if production budgets were not so ridiculously high and if more people could buy the games. PGC may partially solve the former, while I foresee any daylight to cast upon the later.

We really need to sell more games and content, having as many games as possible reaching an equally vast amount of people. This is where smarter and more generous bundles would help.

Finally, here’s an interesting list of articles to read at Ars Technica:

You want to know why? Pirates give indie game dev an earful

PC game developer has radical message: ignore the pirates

Game developer wants to learn from pirates, asks them "why"

The Showdown: is SecuROM a deal-breaker for Mass Effect?

Thursday, August 28, 2008

Video games lookalikes

There are some funny comparisons over there. I love the Austin Powers / Miyamoto one. :D

DS games: The mandatory (cutesy) narrative

Short: There are many (Nintendo) DS games coming with absolutely childish, abysmal, forced and most unexpected backstories.

I had fond memories of Bubble Bobble, so I picked Double Shot. Bang! Stupid story. Who cares if Flip Flap and Flop come from soap land and have lost something I can't even bother to remember?

I tried Kirby and Mice thing, and dang, they did it. I loved the art and gameplay in Kirby games since day one. That said it's also obviously geared at kids, and the scenario is adequately retarded... since kids are retards. You didn't know that I bet... the evil penguin has robbed Kirby's piece of cake! So Kirby goes to Mr. Penguin's castle, kills a million creatures on his way to vengeance, just to get back his well deserved (?) dessert. The irony of this is that your enemies will often drop cakes, fruits and other candies as you bash them to sparkly death, but I suppose the cake which Kirby was about to dissect had something special. Vindicative? Well, Kirby's an adventure game, so the presence of a plot is acceptable here. It's just that it's downright retarded. But there's not much to take seriously here. It is, after all, a game for kids in all possible aspects. The trouble here is that it seems to permeate to games which are the less likely candidates you would have thought of for such narrative styles and the even more forced presence of (mediocre) storylines.

Where it gets really bad, it's for puzzle games.

A (not so) better example: Prism, way of the light, or light your way... pff.
Again, some retarded scenario for such a game: the biiiig evil monster eats the light falling into a black hole or some similar nonsense, so you must help the gobots or whatever, who also live in that hole, to survive by feeding them light generated by other fuzzy creatures. Oh my.
The "plot" itself wouldn't have been worth a thousand gallons of vomit if it didn't treat you like a two neurons twat chained down in your parents' basement and still wearing diapers.

Or should I cite Meteos Disney Magic? ... -_-'

There's like a good many of such games with just pointless and embarrassing stories I gladly skip.
The question is why? The colours, the tone, all is there to make you feel you're part of a Teletubbies machiavelic spin-off.

Well, no surprise, it's the DS. Good games on it, but there's a price to pay.

Tuesday, August 26, 2008

Guillermo del Toro talks about gaming

You can read it at Edge. Del Toro talks about his upcoming Hellboy movie and what he thinks of video games.
Did I say that design of Edge's website was nice by the way? OK, white is pretty much de rigueur these days, but it's pure and that makes a nice place to go to.

I wasn't much aware of the director's view on video games, so what he said surprised me.
It's the open identification of games which goes beyond basic quotations of Pacman, Galaga and Pong that is knee-jerking, refreshing, and he's very current on this stuff. Oh yes, he did cite them, but this was just the beginning. The old memories you know.
He looks like a sentimental geek in many aspects, which doesn't preclude him from having a tooth for vision and beauty.

Best bits, for sure:

There was a Japanese game called Gadget that was very influential on movies like Dark City and The Matrix.

Well, if that's one of the reasons I love Dark City, maybe I should try that Gadget game, even if nostalgia could have an influence on his actual appreciation of the decades old design. However, who said this was bad? It's not like he said he was about to make a Galaga movie.

How far have games really come since then?

They’re an incredible storytelling tool, one that filmmakers should embrace instead of reject. In the next ten years, they’ll yield a couple of narrative masterpieces.

Which allows me to jump onto a parallel topic. There are good essences about the film industry which should serve as inspiration for ours, notably the way projects and teams are managed until a product is finished and people, resources and funds are moved onto the next one, but there are aspects of it which we should stop trying to mimic. Yet many times, you'll hear figures from the video game industry pointing to the film one for the wrong reasons.

There are only two games I consider masterpieces: Ico and Shadow of the Colossus.

Probably easy games to cite as you don't get much points anymore for doing so among gaming circles, but that's a whole different story for people not traditionally associated to gaming.
Now, sure, it's still a matter of opinions in the end, and some people may find those games boring and tepid.
My own list would clearly include many others, even stuff like R-Type Final, but that may just be me.
Anyway, I think it's still something incredible having such a famous director being capable of naming games such as GTA IV, Sonic, Kirby, Bioshock, Resident Evil, Silent Hill, Devil May Cry, etc. When said person even adds Ico and Shadow of the Colossus, it's all the more baffling.

How much influence do you think your gaming has had on your movies?

A lot. Videogames use art direction, colour and storytelling in a very pure way that a lot of movies have forgotten.

Just think of the implications of having del Toro uttering such words.
Video games shape his style to a considerable degree.
Now think of the delicious irony of movie critics and newspapers praising del Toro's works, while selling their drivel as part of their war on video games.

EDIT: Edge's recent extra on this article made me realize that I skipped one of the most quotable lines of all:

The first Silent Hill was so beautiful, almost like a Lynch, Polanski or Romero type of horror experience.

Tomorrow I'll start building the man a statue. Ivory, gold and all that.

Sunday, August 24, 2008

Stanley's Invaders! and collateral damage

I don't need to tell you the whole story about the recent uproar, notably at Kotaku (and more here), that's rocked our little world, following Douglas Edric Stanley's Invaders! showing at Leipzig this year.
All the (American) gaming world is ablaze and largely obfuscated.

Since there are rumours about Gamasutra deleting comments, I feel entitled to quote myself here, just in case, after dropping a stone over here...

There is a message to read through this. As I have understood and as it's been repeated all over the Internet, in a period when there's not much to say about video games, we can read the following:

"The more you shoot them, the more they keep coming. It is not productive. You still loose, in the end."

This, of course, hardly applies to any complete war strategy, if you think about it, only because there always are basic limiting factors to any conflict. Morale, pride, survival and mere numbers. Once you destroy them, the war is over.
Yes, you can win, in a certain way, by annihilating all of your enemies, right down to the point where you need to make the boldest moves and bomb houses, destroying the civilians before they can turn into soldiers.
There's been that short game on this theme, as you had to fire rockets on some random Middle East city and see the population keep turning into "terrorists" as you kept filling the screen with death and more craters.

There is one thing sure here; the game Invaders is certainly not the best to pick for this kind of message, notably because the whole and correct message itself, once all parts have been considered, reads thusly: "don't bother".
Yes, don't bother against the invaders, and you can see how this is terribly wrong on all possible fronts. There’s little surprise, then, that this attempt at criticism is a failure.
It only helps to fuel antagonism and false ideas.
The sarcastic Game Over message punctuated by “Support Our Troops” has to be read “send more”, like handkerchiefs. More people to the grinder!

But the execution is downright horrible, since the final message can be read the following way:

Don't bother picking arms as your rights are being scoffed at, don’t bother fighting back as your beloved ones' bones and blood are turned into mortar, part of a sinister and cynical construct.

This does not apply to 9/11 only.
In fact, 9/11 is probably the less relevant event to pick if you wanted to forward such a message.
Much better examples are to be found across this lovely planet, during the recent years.
Countries in Africa... East Europe... or even Lebanon... you name it.

This man didn’t properly appreciate the game’s entire mechanic, as it’s about resistance.
A fundamental rule that drives the play is “resistance is futile.”

He awkwardly uses it for his political message, which I think is close to what I highlighted at the top of my post.

The game’s message has never been “stop bombing aliens because they’ll come to haunt you and level your cities, as retribution.”

Unless I missed an obscure official backstory about the origin of the Invaders conflict, courtesy of Taito, maybe?

Ah, artists... tss tss.

EDIT: Wait, can you feel the hypocrisy? It's called World Trade Center, by Oliver Stone and featuring good looking ladies (yeah, because fat chicks would have just made the towers collapse sooner).
I bet your bank account is the ultimate frontier.

Wednesday, August 20, 2008

Boosting Wi-Fi: Linksys’ Range Expander

The broken network

For years I’ve been yelling like crazy anytime my ethereal connection would suddenly (and rather frequently) loose gallons of information across the volume of my house, lost in a limbo, surrounding us and penetrating us (eek!).
I’ve been eyeing those signal boosters for quite some time, and back then, they were damn expensive. But better times have come, and I made the decision to acquire one of those boosters, which act as relays.

I’ve noticed that all other laptops, all using a combination of B and G protocols, had no issue to receive and send data no matter where, regardless of the unfavourable location of the router. However, my own PC and its Asus Wi-Fi card (WL-138G V2), always lagged behind. The black sheep of the lot if you want. I’m no expert in networks, and I though the card would solve all problems after trying several and truly mediocre Wi-Fi USB keys.

That along the fact that the provider’s box was particularly erratic in its automatic IP addressing, so I had to pass everything on manual, giving a specific IP to each machine and playing around protections.

It was time to change the situation.
So, I cracked the purse, and went for one of those magic relays. I bought the following model, the Wireless-G Range Expander (WRE54G), but only after reading a lot of stuff on internet. Anytime it gets technical, I always spend hours being sure that I’m not going to flush my hard earned money down the toilet. As usual, you get mixed feelings. Some people it’s mediocre but you don’t know if they’re idiots who couldn’t tell a mouse from a shaver, others say it’s fantastic but you don’t know if they are network übergeeks either.

You finally go by instincts and consider that most of the reviews are positive, and that Linksys is a division of the renowned Cisco.

Fast forward to the day I decide to open the box. The manual is rather enigmatic. Shit. The reviews said it was extremely simple to install, but sorry, things seem just too easy to make sense.
I started reading the sort of folded flyer which serves as a manual.

They tell you to plug the RE (Range Expander) to the router with the Ethernet cable. However, the line that follows says that if you want to use the Auto config function, just place the RE next to the router.
Huh, OK. My network is set manually. I just have no idea how bad it’s going to go if I let a machine do stuff on its own, so I pick the first solution.
So I give it some juice.

Then comes the absolutely stellar paragraph:

If your existing wireless network has security disabled, proceed to Step 2: Using the Auto Configuration Button.
If your existing wireless network has security enabled, proceed to Step 3: Using the Setup Wizard.

Wait. Of course I have a security on my network for crissake! The router alone is supposed to be a protection. I use encryption keys. The whole network is set up manually, and the hotspot is invisible.
How the hell couldn’t there by any security?
Obviously, we need Step 3.

Enter dozens and dozens of minutes of fiddling with the laptop (how fortunate that I had one), plugging the damn RE, using the damn CD, trying various combinations to finally have the relay pick the IP of my laptop (it would have been wiser if that thing had not attempted to do that), therefore kicking the laptop out of the network. Of course I also forgot that poor old computer needed to be restarted once the connection was lost (activating, repairing and tweaking connections from windows doesn’t work, no matter the tool or the panel). Meanwhile, although having borrowed a perfectly valid IP, the Magic Wizard couldn’t connect to the network, probably because it was just too dumb to use the manual parameters it robbed from my laptop. Cheeky thing.
I ran ipconfigs a million, but the damn piece of plastic drove me mad. There, I pulled everything off the wall and plugs and stuff and ended resetting the RE to its factory settings.

So I had to go back to the other solution, and here’s how it worked for me and my manually set IP network. Much easier, may I say.

How I did it right

Put that RE next to your laptop, preferably sitting next to your Wi-Fi spot, then press that Auto Configuration button on the RE for six seconds (to be sure), and then open your internet browser on the computer.
Type the RE’s by default IP, (logically, enter the password provided in your manual, and then, from that first page panel, enter the other parameters manually (SSID, bridge, provided network address, etc.) and save that freaking stuff altogether.

You have the option to set the broadcast protocol on “B”, “G” or “mixed”.
“G” should work with most computers, it’s the superior protocol, and going for a pure option gives better results on all points.
I tried “mixed”, but it was rather terrible, laptops didn’t gain anything, nor did my own computer, and the RE’s option flickered on its own between “B” and “mixed” when I came back to the setting panel. So I put it on pure “G”, which corresponded to what my Wi-Fi card was meant for anyway.

I moved the RE next to my computer, and now, I enjoy a 100%, five bars perfect flux, either way.
Aside from the difficulty to refresh the setting panel after I saved it, the stuff now works perfectly, and comes with all the tools required to set it anywhere in your house. Walls, tables, anything.

Monday, August 18, 2008

Shigeru Miyamoto and RPGs

I'm still hesitating to order Power Up: How Japanese Video Games Gave the World an Extra Life.
I went around for reviews which would help me, and found a couple of informative ones, notably at Gameology. Unfortunately, it's been confirming some of my fears, and will certainly not help me make the jump.

In the advent that I may buy it someday, I'll borrow that quote from Shigeru Miyamoto, apparently found on page 88, about his view of the RPG genre (initially duplicated at Gameology):

I personally have a fundamental dislike of the RPG system," says Shigeru Miyamato. "I think that in RPGs, you are completely bound hand and foot and can't move. Only gradually, as your character gains powers, do you become able to move your hands, your feet…you come untied slowly. And in the end, you feel powerful. So what you can get out of an RPG is a feeling of happiness, but I don't think that is a game that is fundamentally fun to play.

Somehow, it's very understandable, in light of what he's been doing for all of his years, about how games have to be fun and simple, and easy to pick for immediate playful experiences.
The book seems to have its load of other crunchy details, so the final decision is still up in the air...

Friday, August 15, 2008

OMGZ Carrier Command 2!!

Sequels are not bad.
Sequels are not bad.
Sequels are not bad.

*opens an eye, glances at the shelves*

My god! Sequels are not bad sequels are not bad sequels are not bad sequels are not bad sequels are not bad sequels are not bad sequels are not bad...

A sequel to Carrier Command has been announced.
It is THE (t3H) game I'd have loved to work on for an update to the current generation. It was a fantastic game. I played it on both the Amstrad and Atari for hours.
The idea of cruising between islands with a nuclear warship at full throttle, only to arrive to destination and see that your colony had been devastated was paradoxically fun. Meeting the enemy cruiser was even better. You knew that with a good strategy, certain islands would be targets of choice, depending on the way your opponent grew his domination, so with a bit of luck and good timing, you could come in time and try to take it down.
It took so much time to rotate the ship and sail away that you could eventually deal sufficient damage to push it back before it could fully complete its manoeuvre, and eventually destroy it, but that was hard.

I really hope Bohemia Interactive Studio won’t screw up. There’s a lot of potential for multiplayer here. Wait for 2010.

EDIT: A rather spot on review of the game. It was just so complex and good, you have to consider the context.

Thursday, August 14, 2008

Fad boss says the Sega is not a Wii

In preparation to the arrival of MadWorld on the Wii, Simon Jeffery (SoA boss) decided to go shake some coconut tree at Edge (ex Next Generation), with the following trumpeting announcement (which we all knew about):

The Wii is a very cost effective platform to experiment with. There is a lot of crap coming out for the Wii in general.
If it’s not a good game, it doesn’t sell. That flood of crap will die down as publishers become more coherent.

Hey! Nice PR Simon.
I still find a lot of irony in that, considering the junk Sega has released over the last years.
I’m still not sold on the new Sonic Unleashed, called Sonic World Adventure in Japan. Huh, the more distant from the USA, the more sissy the name.

The Wii is a great opportunity for hitting hardcore gamers. No one is doing that.
With MadWorld from Platinum Games, we are trying to show that millions of Wii gamers want to move on to mature games.
They don’t have to have an Xbox 360 to do that.

Well, for the moment, yes, they do. That or the PS3.
What we see is, after all, Nintendo remembering that they still were there to sell the Wii and its rubbish platform balances because of legions of faithful fans.
I'd also question what's mature about slicing limbs and choppin' heads off...

“The Wii is just a fad” argument [is] very much disproven.

This only because of Nintendo’s knee jerking move which surprised everybody, although I think they were just pushing the inevitable, even after those repeated claims that the hardcore segment were to be dismissed.
Remember, the casual audience was clearly not going to support the console beyond more gimmicky additions. They’d be actually very shocked that their little posh universe would be raped by the inroad of such heretic violence on their own sacred lands:

It seems a shame that the game's manufacturer have decided to exclusively release this game on the Wii. I believe it will spoil the family fun image of the Wii.

The image indeed.

It's basically all they care about. That's the core of the buzz, it's about "mii too" demeanour.

They want to entertain that idea that they're not old but current, that they're playing video games too, they even have bet on the most successful console, which loves them (and their money) in return, a machine for a civilized age, gratifying their assumed flair and even their imagined superiority to gamers who still live in a metaphorical cave, clutched to primitive and violent steam machines, and this makes them feel warm and fuzzy inside, but it's superficial to the highest degree.

But the realities of business come. Pride is hurt.

The masquerade is over, for there will be blood on the hands of Wii owners.

Wednesday, August 13, 2008

Retailers & Bundles

A recent discussion at the Escapist’s forums drifted towards a subtopic which concerns a very old belief of mine, so I commented on it. Replying to forum member j-e-f-f-e-r-s:

If developers and publishers want people to buy their games, the simple solution is to make buying games a more preferable option to piracy. How? Well, there are a number of ways.

Firstly, game prices need to come down. A new game in HMV can go for nearly fifty quid. I could buy the Director's Cut of the Lord of the Rings trilogy, and it still wouldn't cost as much as Assassin's Creed. Ask any mother umming and aaing about getting their kid a console for their birthday, and the same answer crops up- "But the games are so expensive." It's easy to see why people resort to piracy, when going out and buying a game is such an expensive investment. I remember when Playstation games cost £25 quid. To me, that was a fortune. Now, it seems like pocket change.

Be careful through, by lowering a product's price, you also depreciate its value in the consumer's mind. They'll think of it as a cheap game. The only real good way to sell wagons of the game at a lower price is also to boost the marketing campaign to make it sure that people get that it's a good game.
In these days of poverty, you could even play it consumer friendly, with directly open messages about we sell the game at this price not because it's bad, but because we want you to have the power to purchase it for the full true experience.
Or something like that.

Secondly, why don't developers include more freebies with their games? Perhaps this may seem a little corny, but people love free stuff. The fact that piracy is a problem shows that by itself. Why not get Capcom to include a free poster, or some stickers, or some badges, or something with Devil May Cry? People love things like that, and last time I checked the Pirate Bay wasn't giving away free Glados posters with its Portal torrents. Things like this may seem inconsequential, but people love to feel like they've got a bargain, and extra goodies help this no end.

Yes, boxing has really been underappreciated. It would have been neat to buy DMC4 in a wooden dark box with metallic bolts which would have looked like it could house Ivory and Ebony.
Imagine buying Tron 2.0 in an Identity Disc, instead of some random square box?

Thirdly, why don't publishers negotiate more with retailers to make buying games a more attractive option? How about if you buy this game, you get a voucher entitling you to 10% off the next title you get in-store? Or why not use 2-for-1 deals to get rid of those surplus copies of Psychonauts you've got in the back room? Hey, here's another idea. You get bands turning up at CD stores to do signings, play gigs and promote their latest efforts right? Why not get developers to actually go out to game stores, demo their latest offerings for anyone interested, and sign any copies of their previous games that people may have brought along? People will have another reason to go to the game store, and who knows, maybe they'll pick up another game while they're there.

I'm going to tell you why.

Bundles are a secret weapon. I literally DREAM of the day you'll build your own basket at a brick & mortar retailer, have access to very low prices for hits the moment you buy more of them.
You should really get out of the shop with rich and complete packages, several games, offers, tickets for online services, significant reductions for future sales, plenty of goods, all that stuff.

Is what I believe in correct? I don’t know, I usually try to get empirical about it as much as I can. The experience here is everybody’s experience. It’s about purchase power.

My belief comes as such:

There’s a lack of faith in bundles.

Real ones. Not just mere associations of one console with some games. I’m talking of genuinely super packs, rich in games and goodies.
Let’s see, for years, I’ve been convinced that a good way to boost games sales was to pack above-average and greater products, of various flavours, into one big box, and sell it at a reasonable price.

Valve’s Orange Box is just an example of that. Oh, true, it does not contain anything really shiningly new, and the fresher element of it is Portal, but all of the stuff inside is of true quality, although a bit old to some extent.
Besides, the price is not exactly as low as I hoped it would be, but relatively speaking, it’s almost a bargain.
On a similar note, Steam’s game packs are equally good. It’s about time.
There have already been several retail packs released over the years, notably for the PC market. Lucas Arts has released a couple of good ones as well, albeit expensive.
In that, there’s only a shy beginning.

Not all is bad though. Eyeing a famous British retailer’s catalogue for a moment, I can spot an example of a good bundle for one of the next-gen consoles, with several good games plus an extra controller, and you do gain around £40.
But damn, that’s only £40 for buying so much, and the choice is, basically, buy it or don’t.

It needs to get further than those moderate attempts at teasing the consumer’s wallet.
Why not make much more of them?
Hell, why not let customers create their own bundles?

Put each game into a category, and thus let people complete their bundles as they wish. The more they buy, the more they can get as bonus content (or the less content costs).
Yes, as you noticed, you can buy a lot of stuff on the Amazons, but you’re not going to get any significant reduction of costs at all, until they decide what can be cobbled at reduced tags: it’s not always interesting, nor occurring that often, and in the end, there’s a stringent refusal to allow the consumers more liberty. In a way, there is no choice, it’s still very oppressive.

That’s not how market is supposed to work. People often forget that as long as there’s someone in front of you, no matter the importance of the store, you can always get reduced total prices, even at Wal-Mart, in theory. It’s just that a very small fraction of the population seems to dare doing it. There’s nothing wrong in that practice and it should not be limited to your small corner shop.

It’s a shame, because I don’t think people hate the brick & mortar shops that much. Internet orders are a great commodity, but there’s no that bizarre spirit which I both find absurd and yet joyful, the mere idea of being an unit of a society wandering down the streets or halls, eyeing booths and other shop windows, letting your curiosity and thirst fly around and take you by the hand towards an item you suddenly compulsively need to possess.
Being part of the flow, notably during those massive purchase weeks, you’re an ant, and you’re happy with it.

Past certain levels, even add bonuses, surprises, whatever.
Why not attach those average games to such packs, for one or two dollars, since you’re not going to sell them anyway one by one? I mean really selling them for near to nothing, instead of trying to lie to consumers and fail to sell them to people who know they’re not good enough?
Why not even make a formula where you register, so then each of the bundles you compose and present at the cashier are garmented with two surprise games for $2-3 more (quality being totally random, but being sure it fits with the ratings boards as far as audiences are concerned), just to make the packaging even more exciting?
You could either go for a total surprise (the retailer would either add games randomly or depending on stocks and how certain games sale) or ask for at least being surprise games belonging to a certain genre.

Sure, it’s going to be hard to get your consumers buying more stuff if they’re stuck to your average mindless and repetitive mob bashing item looting game…

Of course, this could be very naïve, once again (I’m really good at that sometimes). If things were so easy, so simple, and going on so kindly, we’d probably live in perfect a world in fantastic cities, without violence, degradation, nor segregation… hey, that’s why video games exist anyway, no? :)

Or maybe it’s time someone boots such a business, call it venture “Bundle it”, and see if it sticks.