Archives for October 2004

Linkage!

I’ve been fascinated by the blogging phenomenon. It has definitely garnered a lot of attention with all the political blogging going on. I’ve been doing it for a while with my personal blog but that became more of a place to post pictures of my daughter for our extended family to see. I don’t update there as much as I used to. On the otherhand, I’m committed to updating here as often as I can. I’m also keenly aware of the value of getting links to your blog. When someone links to your blog it’s like blogger crack. It’s the life-blood that keeps bloggers blogging. It gives a huge ego boost (I believe the correct term is ego-boo). So when I noticed I’ve been mentioned in a blog post at Gamer’s Adventure and I’ve been added to the links over at SmashBot.net I was pretty pumped. I appreciate the props. Makes me feel good.

Update 11/2 – render has also linked me up. Thanks for the link, 4tomsm4sher!

Blogs Recap

Here we are for another installment of the round up (shall I call it a carnival? Not yet). Anyway, aside from the legal Nintendo gaffe (no need to link that here) and the fact that many people seem to like some game called GTA, there were some other noteworthy items this week:

There was an interesting (albeit brief) review of censorship in games. Whether the blood is red or green never bothered me, but censorship (or lack thereof) still dogs video games. This article talks about Nintendo censorhip in particular.

Here’s the post I was looking for.

Here’s a game expected to sell 15 million copies and is expected to gross over $200 million in revenues over the first week, and Microplay has the brilliant foresight to get just enough copies to sell to the people that already paid for a part of it.

It caught my attention because it touches on the ridiculous nature of selling “pre-orders” for video games. My example is always Halo 2. I did preorder the game so I could get it at midnight at my local Game Crazy, but I still told the kid behind the counter that it’s ridiculous to think that Bungie is not going to press enough discs to satiate the masses. The fact that I have a little slip of paper proving I paid five dollars means nothing more than I am a moron who has bought into the pre-release hype and hoopla. There’s not going to be a shortage of copies of Halo 2. Each time the press a Halo 2 disc it’s like they’re printing two twenty dollar bills. There not going to press a million discs and then decide that’s enough. You didn’t pre-order? Sorry, we just ran out of copies and they’re never going to make another one for you. You should have pre-ordered. Sorry, but this presell crap just doesn’t float my boat.

That’s about it for now, not too much that stood out for me this week.

Guild Wars and the MMORPG

Well, as I said earlier, I was done with MMOGs for a while. I enjoy them but I just can’t justify the time I would want to put into them. But I saw a post on Tales of a Scorched Earth (great name for a gaming site, by the way) about Guild Wars, another fantasy entry into the MMORPG world. I had heard mention of GW among the EQ2 and WoW chatter but never paid much attention to it. But, since they are talking about zero subscription fees, I was interested. I downloaded the free client last night and gave it a test drive.

I took on the role of a ranger (character generation wasn’t very customizable, hopefully they’ll add more content there with the full game) and gave the game a go. I will say right off the graphics look fabuolous, run smoothly on my PC and everything looks great. It’s been compared to a Diablo 2 MMORPG. That’s a fair comparison, but a D2 MMORPG would have been a killer app. We played too much D2. I made money selling D2 items. We were D2 addicts. I would have paid for an MMORPG version, no questions asked. Building a house on the Outer Steppes for my Necromancer would have been sweet. Anyway, back to Guild Wars. It played okay, your basic point and click, but it wasn’t doing it for me. I was having conflicting responses. Part of me felt like it was a chore to click on yet another monster. The other part of me couldn’t stop thinking about the lure and curse of MMOGs – just one more level and I can do/use/be X. It’s video game smack. You think you can stop cold turkey, but you’re just deluding yourself. You’ll be back. So I decided to stop after an hour or so, preventing the needle from getting too close to the vein.

So I may not be the most reliable source for impressions of the game, but I’m not going back to have a second look. I’ll be content knowing I may be missing gaming excellence but I’ve staved off addiction for the time being.

Don’t Believe the Hype!!

When Gabe (I say that like I know him. I don’t, but he seems like a pretty cool guy) from Penny-Arcade was talking about the hype surrounding Fable, he said:

I realized a long time ago that the hype machine was ruining video games for me. I wanted to go back to the days when I was actually surprised by a game. I made a decision to stop reading previews and Iíve stuck with it.

I am following suit. I fell for all the Peter Molyneux hype about Fable. It was going to be the greatest RPG ever. It was going to make you cry for mommy. It was going to make your fricking bed. Right. To be honest, I was so sold on Fable that I bought an Xbox for the express purpose of playing Fable. Me, as Nintendo-Fan-Boy as they come, bought an Xbox. I awaited Fable with the anticipation of a eight-year-old on Christmas Eve. When it arrived, I watched with awe at the opening sequences (they were very nicely done) and I dove right in. I knew the game had potential. I had no idea how sorely disappointed I would be.

This is how I imagined Fable would be: A huge, expansive world populated with interactive NPCs, eager to task me with quests of the utmost importance, all the while an overarching story-line was taking place. What I got was three or four cities that were peopled by NPCs that were semi interactive and occasionaly impressed by my bony chest. Quests (outside of the main story line) are few and far-between and are not fun anyway. I envisioned a MMORPG like environment in a single player game. Not even close.

I thought there would be interactive environments, teeming with wildlife and monsters, where I could go anywhere and do anything. If I wanted to kill some Bambis and deforest acres of woods with my axe, I could. What I got was small, fragmented areas that were on rails, allowing for no exploration or interaction. Loading times were unacceptable.

I was expecting to flirt with girls and entice them with my handsome charms and quick wit. What I got was a lame, super chunky interface that pretty much renders the interaction with NPCs to button-mashing (hey, that’s an interesting concept. Actually, it should be D-pad mashing.)

I imagined fighting and magic controls that would make Diablo’s point and click look like checkers in comparison. In actuality, there is a mediocre fighting control scheme that was fun for a little bit but is just a console version of point and click. Almost no skill is required (or acquired). If you have enough health potions you can easily beat the game having never tested death. The magic system is okay but my character concentrated on melee, so I can’t comment too much on that.

In fine: Fable was built on a shaky foundation of hype and hyperbole (is that redundant?). It promised filet mignon and delivered cube steak. I enjoyed the game, but it pains me that I paid fifty smackers for this one. I definitely will be trading this one in soon.

I am disappointed and hesistate now to read previews again. It serves two purposes – it shields me from disappointment and it allows me to be pleasantly surprised. Oh, and I’m still getting Halo 2.

Update: After writing this post, I came across this apology(?) from Peter Molyneux (not confirmed as him, but they seem to think so, I didn’t troll through the 37 pages of posts):

All I can say is that Fable is the best game we could possibly make, and that people really seem to love it.

Right.

Acclaim just ran out of hits.

Here’s a good read about the downfall of Acclaim, who recently field for Chapter 7 bankruptcy.:

“Acclaim’s obituary will show the cause of death as running out of money. But of the factors that may have led to Acclaim’s Chapter 7 bankruptcy filing Sept. 1 – wary lenders, litigious shareholders, questionable management – one cause stands out most: It ran out of hits.”

I’ve played a lot of Acclaim games. Most recently has been Turok: Evolution. Before anyone owned Halo we played Turok. We played the heck out of Turok: Evolution multiplayer. We recognized the game’s graphics looked dated, the models were laughable and the attention to detail was sparse, but we couldn’t get enough of the axe battles in Regnereb’s Arena. We couldn’t get enough of the head bashing. But Turok wasn’t enough. It was probably the first step onto the slippery slope. This article is a look into how the trip to that slope accelerated to breakneck speed. It seems like what went wrong at Acclaim could happen anywhere. (link via RedAssedBaboon)

GameSpy’s 25 Most Memorable Games of the Past 5 Years

GameSpy: GameSpy’s 25 Most Memorable Games of the Past 5 Years – A retrospective of “Memorable” games from the past five years. You can tell GameSpy’s roots are deeply rooted in PC (FPS) games, but it’s a good read nonetheless.

Sounds like these guys have fun at work! But I’m not jealous! As a graduate student, I played an occasional game of Age of Empires 2 when I was supposed to be working! I know, I’m crazy!

Japan retailers report big DS preorders

Neowin.net – Where unprofessional journalism looks better – Japan retailers report big DS preorders – Got this link from RAB, looks like the Nintendo DS will be a competitor for the GBA SP but it still did well. Note – this is on pre-orders, not actual sales. Nevertheless, Nintendo owns three of the top five slots for sales in Japan.

Gaming Blogs for you

As I peruse the gaming blogs out there, I just want to highlight some of the stuff I’ve read that I thought was cool that week. This is my first attempt at this, so bear with me, this week might be kind of short. So without further ado:

Anyone who plays video games and surf the web knows about Penny Arcade. Last year, in an effort to show the public that gamers aren’t anti-social wierdos whose actions are driven by violent video games set up a charity to help their local hospitals. Response was tremendous, and they’re doing it again

As a shameless plug, I’ll direct you to my review of NCAA 2005 for the Gamecube. I don’t know if posting reviews here will become common, but I used to write reviews for the website epinions.com and enjoyed it, so we’ll see.

Metroid Prime 2 Gone Gold

Metroid Prime 2 Gone Gold – Just saw this over at Evil Avatar. This will probably be one that goes on the Christmas List. Metroid Prime is one of my favorite games, I’m definitely looking forward to this one. Should be great!

NCAA 2005 Review (Gamecube)

B00020V4RG.01._AA_SCMZZZZZZZ_.jpgNCAA 2004 ruled my Gamecube for a long time last year. Sure, it came out so I could play a little Viewtiful Joe or Need For Speed, but I played NCAA 2004 almost daily. As football season came to a close, my NCAA time dwindled but was still played pretty frequently. When details of NCAA 2005 started appearing, my appetite was slowly whipped into a frenzy. Great things were promised. I’m here to report that most of the promises have been delivered, but unfortunately not everything.

I’m not going to rehash the NCAA 2005 basics. Go read my NCAA 2004 review for the lowdown. I just want to touch on whatís new and what I think about it.

The biggest addition has been home-field advantage and the effect crowds have. I am an Ohio State Buckeye fan. (It has been a painful year, but as a fan youíve got to go through the bad to savor the good.) Anyway, I’ve been to Ohio Stadium, also known as the Horseshoe. I’ve been there for Michigan games. I’ve been there when we beat Michigan. The feeling and atmosphere is indescribable Itís electric. Itís a spiritual experience. I know it affects those players. It has to! Itís affects me and I’m just a humble fan. NCAA 2005 has done a superb job recreating that feeling. College football is about emotion and NCAA 2005 conveys that emotion (to a point). When you play somewhere like the Horseshoe or the Big House or the Swamp, it is loud. You can barely here the announcers. When the crowd gets rocking, the screen shakes and the controller vibrates. It feels like a Saturday in November. I applaud EA for that; they have captured what College Football Saturday feels like. A+

The next addition is the match up stick. Using the C-stick, you can see how your team matches up against your opponent and you can see if your players (and theirs) are rattled, if the crowd is getting to them. You can see whoís good and who stinks. Another great addition, it adds a dimension of strategy. Your number one receiver is lined up against a rattled freshman? Youíve got your guy. Itís pretty nice. A

Another thing the C-stick is used for are ďBig HitsĒ. This is a pretty nifty little thing; you get close to making a tackle and wham on the C-stick. If itís timed right, youíll make a big hit and maybe even cause a fumble. Itís especially effective on kick-offs. Hard to time but rewarding. B+

Dynasty mode has been revamped, too. Thereís the added dimension of running a clean football program Ė discipline. If your players run afoul of the rules (or the law) youíll have to take appropriate actions (or you can act like Bobby Bowden and pretend they never happened). You can suspend players for a quarter, a game, a season, whatever you want. But be warned: the more you shrug it off, the more the NCAA will start breathing down your neck. Donít appease them and you might lose scholarships or TV appearances. Itís happened to me, it isnít pretty. Itís a great idea in theory, but not executed perfectly. You have plenty of ďdiscipline pointsĒ each week so this usually isnít a problem unless you want it to be. B-

Celebrations have been added, including fans with signs and fans doing dances. I hate to say it, but the fan models look bad. They look alien and all wrong. Now you can celebrate after big plays and touchdowns. I have a love-hate relationship with the celebrations. Some are sweet (hushing the away crowd after a touchdown is a personal favorite). But I tire of big celebrations in the real game. Just make the play, congratulate your teammates and get back to the huddle. No need to showboat and dance around. Just play the game and save your antics for the NFL. Ranting aside, the new celebrations are well done. B+

Those are the major additions. There have been some minor tweaks as well. Everyone who plays NCAA 2005 knows that Dynasty mode is what keeps them coming back. There are some welcome additions there, too. You can allocate resources to training, discipline and recruiting as you see fit. Recruiting (my favorite part of them game) has also been tweaked. The biggest change for my money has been the fact that there are fewer five-star (blue-chip) prospects compared to 2004. In 2004 there was too many five-star players. Now itís common to only see three or four five-star players at each position. I like that. You can also scout a player before you recruit him. That gives you a little more info than what you get to begin with. Things like his discipline, his understanding of the game, that kind of thing. Another welcome addition. B+

There are others I’m sure I’m missing, but those are the ones I felt worth mentioning. But all is not perfect. The graphics still leave a lot to be desired. Itís frustrating to see games like Madden and ESPN NFL look great while NCAA 2005 looks three years old. Some updated graphics are there, itís just not enough. There are still frustrating glitches in the sound and commentary, but itís not a deal breaker. Control is pretty much the same but I still yearn for a little more control over the passing game. Itís there but hit or miss. And the physics for the football! Good night! Itís like a balloon out there, bouncing around, unbound by any laws of gravity and momentum. This is nitpicking, to be sure, but it can go unmentioned.

Overall, itís a great update to NCAA 2004. Itís unfortunate that we still have to pay full price for what really is nothing more than an expansion pack, but so be it. Xbox and PS2 owners get online play, which would be cool if I had the time, but I donít really miss it. In the end, itís unfortunate but it isnít as great as 2004 was. It pains me not to rate this five buttons mashed, but there are some issues that bring this down. I can only go four buttons mashed on this one. If you donít have 2004, donít hesitate picking this one up. If you do, strongly consider the additions and go from there. I say go for it, but it isnít a cheap upgrade.