Tuesday, July 15, 2008

E308 presser gut reactions

All I've seen of E3 are Kotaku's liveblogs of Microsoft, Nintendo and Sony's press conferences; there's been little time to actually see any video. That said, here's my ranking:

1. Sony
2. Microsoft
3. Nintendo

I could have gone either way between 1 and 2, but it was a new and exciting feeling to have a rooting interest in Sony for once, and even in spite of losing FFXIII exclusivity to Microsoft they still had a solid showing, and - most importantly - they clearly get it now, they were aggressive and focused on the most important stuff - the software. Until I see the footage myself I can't really comment on quality. I think Microsoft gets the edge in software to come out in 2008, but Sony's future looks very, very bright.

That said, it's not even close, as far as 3rd place is concerned - Nintendo's presser today was depressing, almost completely devoid of exciting news ( GTA:DS notwithstanding) and, ultimately, it made me wonder why I tried so hard to acquire a Wii in the first place. It's as if they're not even trying anymore. They're selling millions of consoles to people who don't necessarily need a big new title every week - and that's great, for those people - but I'm a hard core gamer, and they've done pretty much everything they can to alienate me and my demographic.

Now that the press conferences are done, we can get on to the real meat of the show. Here's hoping I have enough time this week to pay attention.

Thursday, July 10, 2008

E308 speculation

In years past, it was pretty easy for me to get excited about an upcoming E3. Being a one-console owner, my focus could be honed to a razor-sharp edge, and my primary source of information at the time had the best E3 coverage in the business.

Ah, how times have changed. In the past 6 months, I've acquired a PS3, a Wii and a PSP, so my focus now has to encompass a lot more information; and at the same time, the Gamespot controversy got me off my ass and got me motivated to switch to an RSS-feed state of constant information from multiple sources. Which is to say, I have too much info coming in and I have no idea what is going on.

That said, this year's E3 looks to be a little more subdued than, for example, last year. 2007 was one of the best years in terms of quality software ever, and it's practically impossible to expect that 2008 could compare. Not to mention the fact that a number of companies aren't even attending E3 this year, but instead are staging their own events nearby.

Anyway, this is a long way of saying that I'm not really sure what to expect next week, either in terms of what will be announced or what information I'll be able to retain. But here's a short list of titles I hope to see, and news I hope to be announced.

Multi-Platform Releases
  • Fallout 3
  • Mercenaries 2
  • Tomb Raider: Underworld
  • Saints Row 2
  • Force Unleashed
  • Resident Evil 5
  • Mirror's Edge
  • Fable 2
  • Gears of War 2
  • Viva Pinata 2
  • Banjo-Kazooie
  • Fez (XBLA title that was at the Indie Developers Conference last summer)
  • LittleBigPlanet
  • Resistance 2
  • Killzone 2
  • God of War 3
  • Home
  • Animal Crossing
  • whatever the StrongBad game is called
Handheld / Other
  • Chrono Trigger (DS)
So, OK. Certainly not the killer lineup of 2007, but not too shabby either. At this point, the biggest disappointment is easily Nintendo, who is taking the hardcore demographic completely for granted. If a Wii version of Animal Crossing is seriously the best they have to offer in terms of hot announcements, I'm going to be pretty pissed off. And no, Super Mario Sluggers isn't going to cut it.

As for the PS3, I'm mostly curious about Home. My understanding is that the upcoming release is essentially still only a beta, but on a larger scale. There are basically 2 ways that Home can go, from what I gather:
  1. A Second Life type of world, where you're inundated with marketing as you roam around virtual neighborhoods. As unappealing as that is, it still could be kinda cool, if they do interesting things with Trophies and in-game stats and leaderboards. It could also serve as a general lobby for online play, although the logistics of that are probably impossible. I was going to suggest that Sony could also do some interesting things in Home in terms of digital distribution of movies, similar to what Microsoft does with XBL Marketplace, but then it occurred to me that a push towards digital distribution is a pull against Blu-Ray sales, which would be bad.
  2. A buggy, visually uninteresting series of marketing displays, draped over an unpopulated virtual town, that serves no purpose whatsoever. This is, sadly, a pretty close description of what I've seen of Home thus far.
The biggest thing about Home, the way I see it, is how it's incorporated into the PS3 experience. If it's there when you turn on your PS3 - if it basically serves as your XMB - then that's one thing - a little cumbersome, perhaps, and more than likely a resource hog, but it would at least give the PS3 some identity. But if it's something you have to turn on from the launch screen, then one has to wonder what purpose it serves. Let's also keep in mind that Home will probably be a large download, and not everyone will have the hard drive space to use it. Let's also consider that Home will be free of charge, which means that Sony will be pulling revenue from other sources in order to maintain it. Microsoft has been the leader in online console technology for quite some time now, and XBL is a paid service, and even THEY get fucked up sometimes; one has to wonder how Home can sustain itself - if, indeed, it's something worth sustaining.

Microsoft's list of exclusives is pretty good - Gears and Fable are obviously going to be huge, and there are also rumors of some Halo-related announcements. That said, Microsoft is in somewhat of a strange position this year. Nintendo is selling Wiis and DSs faster than they can make them, and nobody seems to care that there aren't any games to go along with them. Sony has won the format war, so more and more people are going to be buying PS3s if only for the BluRay availability. The 360 needs killer apps in order to stay relevant, and while Gears and a Halo title are sure bets, Rare remains an unknown quantity. They need a really big show this year, and right now I'm not quite sure I see it.

I'm holding off on news predictions; other sites are doing much better jobs of that, and in any event I'm not really sure I'd know what to hope for. (Besides LucasArts releasing their classic adventure games as a downloadable package for the Wii, which, in light of recent LucasArts news, seems less and less likely with every passing day, even if it's a stupidly obvious thing to do.)


In totally unrelated news, I announced the other day that a podcast was going to be coming shortly. Unfortunately, the technical troubles continue. I'm having a really tough time getting Skype calls to record properly (or at all) on my PC, which means that I'm basically shit out of luck. If anybody has any suggestions, I'd love to hear 'em.

Monday, July 7, 2008


Someone pointed out to me that my current Gamerscore is a pretty nifty 33333. Hadn't even noticed, to be honest - I've not really turned on my 360 recently.

Finished Uncharted - I liked it and look forward to a sequel where the enemies aren't so (a) bulletproof and (b) plentiful.

Traded in GRiD - it just wasn't doing anything for me, the way DiRT did. DiRT sucked me in from the moment I got started, whereas GRiD remained inaccessible and a little too unfocused. Also, the driving just wasn't as much fun - it's as if the game couldn't tell whether it wanted to be Burnout, PGR or DiRT on asphalt. DiRT, on the other hand, had an incredibly clear focus and you immediately knew what you wanted to do. Also also - and this is inexplicable - the instant replays, which were arguably the best feature in DiRT, had no option for slo-mo!

Also traded in MLB08, but not because it's a bad game - indeed, it's probably the best baseball game I've ever seen. It's just that, well, I totally suck at it. Even on the lowest difficulty, and with the pitch speed set to the minimum, I almost never made contact with the ball, and I never scored a single run.

Finally: some big news. There is supposedly a podcast in the works - I don't know if it'll be here, or somewhere else, but we're trying to get our shit together and as soon as we get our technology in place we're going to start pumping out a weekly show. If you have Skype, you are more than welcome to be a guest (once we figure out how to get you recorded).