Busy, busy, busy… And what else happened this week?

November 12, 2010 § Leave a comment

Oh, hedgehog, you silly sausage!

I’ve been busy job hunting over the last few days, so I haven’t had much time to write anything. However, there has been some interesting stuff going on that I haven’t covered, which I thought would be cool to highlight here.

  1. XBox LIVE Indie Games developers saw their titles moved back to the Games & Demos section of the 360 dashboard, as they rightly should have stayed in the first place. Great news for those devs that reportedly saw their sales halve overnight, and it puts Microsoft in a pretty good light, too – listening to the little guy, and responding. (Via Eurogamer.net.)
  2. A bunch of Black Ops stuff: strong review scores all-roundrecord-breaking salesproblems with the PC version of the game; and patches and promises from Treyarch. Pretty bummed out to see the PC version released in a state that left the multiplayer unplayable for a lot of people, and in the end it convinced me to buy the cheaper 360 version instead. I just can’t be arsed with the hassle of broken games any more, and then waiting for a patch to come out. Too little, too late, for me. (Multiple sources.)
  3. This slideshow presentation on “Gamification” and how marketers misunderstand the concept, where they go wrong with it, and what makes games actually “fun” to play. These are essential, fundamental ideas that marketers – both social media and digital – need to get their heads around for their efforts to succeed in this space. Badges aren’t enough, people! (Authored by Sebastian Deterding.)
  4. Trouble for Windows Phone 7: after initially optimistic reports of high demand around the world, it appears that handsets featuring the new OS have only sold 40,000 units in the US so far, while in Europe the numbers stand at around 250,000, faring slightly better. I suggested it could be a supply problem holding back demand. Nevertheless, it’s not auspicious news, but the expectations for the phones have been remarkably, somewhat unfairly, high. The word “flop” has been thrown around too quickly, in my opinion, and in others’. It’s certainly possible that the phone will indeed flop, but it’s still too early to tell, and I think it’s a mistake to count Microsoft out just like that. I hope the platform achieves some sort of success, as competition breeds innovation and, generally, lower-priced deals for consumers. (Multiple sources.)
  5. More phones news, but this time it’s Android: alleged photos on the Nexus S, the heir apparent to the much beloved Nexus One, from Engadget; and TNW has some very limited information on what kind of carrier availability to expect. Not a whole lot of substantiated facts, to be honest, but at this point I think it’s plausible that there will be a Nexus-branded phone coming out at some point, if it wasn’t already in the making. Too many people want it to happen. (Multiple sources.)
  6. In a pretty clever PR stunt, Sega set up a road crossing in London for one day to raise awareness around hedgehog-related road fatalities – and also to promote their new game, Sonic Colours! It got coverage across gaming sites and in at least one broadsheet. (Hey! The Daily Mail counts, right?) Worth it if only for the above featured super-cute picture of an actual hedgehog wearing teeny-tiny Sonic boots. Priceless. (Via Eurogamer.net, again.)
  7. Giant Bomb published a Quick Look on Tron: Evolution (thankfully, someone came to their senses and got rid of the additional sub-title, “The Video Game”). Having not really followed Tron’s progress, I was totally surprised by what I saw: it actually looked good – like, really, really good; like a game you’d want to play for more than five minutes, as opposed to the usual film-licensed shovelware. I don’t know why I should be so surprised, though. Disney Interactive has really started to take gaming seriously: they released Split/Second: Velocity earlier this year, which I derived immense enjoyment from, out of both its innovative concept and slick execution; they’ve got Epic Mickey on the Wii coming out, also looking like a quality product, from Warren Spector, one of the industry’s greats; and they’ve got this, Tron, too – also looking phenomenal. (Via Giant Bomb.)
  8. Rockstar has announced a new trailer and release date for L.A. Noire, which seems styled like a Chinatown-esque, third-person action game. It looks stunning, really; I’m at a loss for words. I’m a big fan of film noir, and it’s hokey, pulpy, melodramtic elements often can play out very well in a video game setting. (Via Joystiq.)
  9. Finally, we get to me shamelessly self-promoting my new article featured on Resolution-Magazine, entitled “The Miser’s Guide to Gaming On A Budget“. Hopefully it will serve some use for people who, like me, don’t have all the money in the world to spend on games – but wish they did. (Via Resolution-Magazine.)

And that’s all, folks! Tune in next time for… something else, I suspect.

Kinect is released in the US; world sighs relief; I just sigh

November 4, 2010 § Leave a comment

I’ve been thinking about what to write about today, and truthfully I haven’t seen anything that interesting other than this wacky shit.

Oh, and Kinect came out in the US. And despite a bunch of gaming websites plastered with coverage on the device and its associated games, I really haven’t been paying that much attention to it. From a sales standpoint, and in relation to how well Sony’s Move does, I’m curious, but purely as someone who plays video games, it’s not something I’m at all interested in.

Daaaaaaisy, Daaaaaaaaaaaisy, give me your answer do...

Now, I was blown away when I first saw it at E3 in 2009, because it just seemed so crazy then. I was intrigued by the possibilities around voice recognition and motion-controlled UI navigation, the latter in regards to how it could be utilized in RTS games and on the 360 dashboard. The voice recognition apparently works but the UI navigation appears lacking from what I’ve seen and heard so far. There are also limitations, such as the distance you need to be for Kinect to pick you up properly, the notable latency issue and the lack of fidelity in the way that it can’t, as far as I know, pick up more precise movements. Can’t say I’m blown over by the current software line-up it has either, they being the usual proof of concept demos all gussied up. Regardless of all these misgivings, however, is a larger, more fundamental issue I have with Kinect: I don’t want to be jumping around my living space when playing a game for long periods of time; I want to slouch all the way back in my comfy chair, joypad in hand, and chill the eff out.

That’s just me, though, and I’m well aware of that. I’m well aware of the fact that Kinect wasn’t made for my benefit, wasn’t being targeted towards my gaming demographic, and is trying desperately hard to convert the Xbox 360 into a family-oriented product, directly against the Wii. From a business point of view it makes sense; it’s just that as player who enjoys teh Haloz [sic], Mass Effects and Mortal Kombats of this world, I don’t really care. Although, I do think that if Kinect picks up and becomes a Wii-like phenomenon – and early reports of stock shortages are somewhat encouraging – you can absolutely bet your car, mortgage and significant other that the next console iteration will include all, if not most, of Kinect’s features built-in.

XBox 'Live Your Moment' TV Advert

July 11, 2009 § Leave a comment

While playing 1 vs. 100 you will often be bombarded with the same couple of placeholder Microsoft Xbox ads that are currently doing the rounds. Now, ever since I’ve seen these ads on television, I’ve found them creepy and generally uncomfortable to watch. I never really pinned it down before, but now I know why I find the adverts so distasteful: they remind me of this and this (skip to 3:31 to see what I mean).

So, when watching these ads I am either reminded of someone have a stroke or being brainwashed by Jim Carrey; neither of those two associations are that positive, in my eyes. But, as I’m sure it will be for everyone else, it’s a subjective reaction, based on my own set of recollections and experiences. Personally, I think those ads are damn freaky, but I’d be interested to know what other people think.

Oh, and also: I’d forgotten how many great lines there are in Batman Forever. The film is kind of a joke and can now be seen to mark the beginning of the end for the franchise (until Christian Bale and Christopher Nolan managed to revive it, that is) but Jim Carrey is just awesome in the film, as is Tommy Lee Jones. It’s so goddamn hammy but I love it. And Nicole Kidman is so hot in it. And Drew Barrymore plays one of Two-Face’s groupies.

Fan-tastic. 😀

‘1 vs. 100’ Xbox LIVE Impressions

July 11, 2009 § Leave a comment

Yesterday evening I had the good fortune of being able to try out Microsoft’s latest experiment in the form of 1 vs. 100: a (massively?) multiplayer quiz game, free-to-play (for the time being, anyway) and available only to Xbox LIVE Gold members. And what did I discover?

That it’s really not bad at all.

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Gaikai: YouTube Gaming for the Masses?

July 7, 2009 § 1 Comment

What did I say?

Dave Perry confused me recently with his low-key demonstration of Gaikai. When the news broke on Kotaku, he was quoted as saying that “our positioning allows us to help Nintendo / Sony / Microsoft reach out and draw in new audiences, where OnLive will never get 1st Party titles.” Sure, OnLive probably won’t get the next Metal Gear Solid or Gears of War – they are, after all, directly competing with Sony and Microsoft – but why should Gaikai be any different?

In a recent Digital Foundry article on Eurogamer, Perry explained all. Perry’s not offering an alternative to the next PlayStation or Xbox console; he’s doing what YouTube and MySpace does with music: he’s introducing a way for people to sample the medium with the hope being that they will go on to purchase the full product. I’ve got to hand it to Perry, this is a fantastic idea – one which will potentially open up gaming to an even larger audience than ever before. All you need is a PC and a broadband internet connection, and certainly in this country, with the Government’s plans to open up high-speed access for all by 2012, almost everybody will have a chance to try out Gaikai in the near future.

But will the publishers go for? Well, yes, I think so. Certainly from a DRM point-of-view their content is protected because no files are being sent to the client’s computer. I think it’s a case of whether publishers will recognise the potential of Gaikai as a conduit to advertise their products – and I’ve very little doubt that they will.

Will the big three platform holders see this is a threat? Again, I don’t think so. What they should be seeing it as – and what I hope they see it as – is an opportunity. Perry recognises the limitations of his service and has brilliantly turned it into an advantage for him. He knows Gaikai can’t guarantee hi-def visuals at 60 FPS streaming over the internet. “For the full experience”, he’ll say, “the consumer will have to look towards buying the games on the appropriate console.” And in this way he’s not offering an alternative, competing product; he’s providing a valuable marketing tool.

Bravo, Perry. I think you’ve really cracked something here.

It’s About No Wheel At All

June 19, 2009 § 2 Comments

Multiplatform releases have drawn the ire of many PS3 owners this generation – and understandably so, too. Time and time again, we have seen PS3 versions of multiplatform releases look and play worse than their Xbox 360 counterparts. Usually it’s not by a huge margin, granted, but it is significant. It can only leave PS3 owners disappointed, wondering why they paid more for a console which, theoretically, is supposed to be more powerful than Microsoft’s offering.

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Sony's Hard Place and Digital Download NPD Figures

June 17, 2009 § Leave a comment

Sigh, just when Sony were making some smart moves with the PSPgo, I hear this. While they are putting in some nifty new features into the PSPgo, when combined they don’t overrule the fact that the PSP’s battery life is relatively poor. When they announced that this new model wouldn’t have a UMD drive, one of the key positives people imagined would come out would be an increased battery life. So, what are they now saying?

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