Wednesday, October 27, 2004

I'd buy that for a dollar (or 186 dollars)

Hitting the news wires today is the latest round of info from Sony regarding its PSP gaming device. Sony has announced that the device will launch in Japan on December 12th at a price of 19,800 yen ... or roughly $186.00 US. This launch is only one week after Nintendo is set to launch the Nintendo DS in Japan. There are also plans to release a value pack that will include an things like a Memory Stick, case, headphone set, and more for 24,800 yen ($233.00 US). The device is also reported to have a 4-6 hour battery life when gaming, and 4-5 hour battery life when watching movies. Of course other options could change that (such as screen brightness, wireless LAN, volume, etc.). More than 20 games are also scheduled to be released when the system debuts in Japan. As far as the US goes, no firm launch details have been announced.

And in other news, my review for Robotech Invasion (PS2) went up at GameSpy today. Oddly enough, the Xbox review hasn't posted yet. Strange. Also, I'm looking forward to seeing the reviews I wrote up for Scaler this week.. Anyway, I hate to cut this short, but I've got some cars to jack in San Andreas. Later.

EDIT: The Xbox review of Robotech Invasion did get put over at GameSpy ... it was just late getting posted.

Tuesday, October 26, 2004

Another day, another round of headlines

Here's what's happening in the world of gaming today:

  • "I'm Batman." In a joint press release that hit the wire today from Electronic Arts, Warner Bros., and DC Comics, it was announced that EA is going to be publishing games based on the upcoming Batman Begins film. The game will be released "date and day with the film", and will be released on the PS2, Xbox, GameCube, PSP, and Game Boy Advance. No mention of a Nintendo DS version, but one can assume that's coming as well. What makes this announcement even more interesting is the fact tha EA is ALSO developing a new line of fighting games featuring characters from the Marvel Universe. Hmmm ...

  • Laying the Smackdown. THQ and Jakks Pacific have announced that their eagerly awaited SmackDown vs Raw has gone gold. What this means for gamers is that the game, which features online play for the first time, is on track for its scheduled November 2 release date, despite the lingering lawsuit filed last week by the WWE.

  • Okay, no big surprise here, but today is the launch date for Grand Theft Auto: San Andreas. The game actually appears to be living up to the hype. I've got my copy here now. As soon as I spend some time getting into it, I'll post my thoughts here.

  • This has got to be the funniest press release I've seen in a LONG time. With all of the video game leaks that have sprung up recently, inXile Entertainment has decided to use these problems to help promote their upcoming title, The Bard's Tale. Read for yourself:
    Developer/Publisher of Hotly Anticipated Game Evaluating Following In the Footsteps of Other Triple A Titles By Implementing An Official, Unauthorized Leak

    NEWPORT BEACH, CA (October 22, 2004) - Interactive entertainment developer and publisher inXile entertainment today announced that it is considering some form of leak of The Bard's Tale, its eagerly anticipated action-role playing game (RPG), as a strategic plan to follow a growing trend among Triple A games.

    "The Bard's Tale is a highly original game in the same category as a Grand Theft Auto: San Andreas, Half-Life 2 and Halo 2 so we feel some sort of leak that sounds similar to what they have experienced may be the next logical step in our launch plans," said Brian Fargo, founder and CEO of inXile entertainment. "Of course we would immediately condemn the leak and make every effort to stop it if we proceed with it."

    "In The Bard's Tale, our main character, The Bard, is an opportunist always interested in getting goods at a discounted rate so we feel he would applaud some sort of leak," said Matt Findley, president of inXile entertainment.

    It's unclear how the leak will be handled, if implemented. Pirated or unauthorized playable game code would not actually be made available over the internet or otherwise but the full version of the game could be attained by game enthusiasts at major retail outlets as early as October 26th 2004.

    For those wishing to help track down any potential thieves of The Bard's Tale, inXile is proactively offering the following advice: If anyone finds information on websites with links to unauthorized downloads, information, scans or videos, please contact us at

As always, I'll post more as I hear it.

Monday, October 25, 2004

New game stuff

It's that time again. Time for another round of news and the like from the gaming community. Buckle your seatbelts boys and girls, 'cause here we go:

  • Impending Doom. Activision and id Software have announced the development of Doom 3: Resurrection of Evil, the first official expansion pack to Doom 3. It's time to return to Hell once again with new weapons (including the return of the double barreled shotgun), new location, and new characters. Even more importantly, the expansion will expand the the weak multiplayer aspect, doubling the number of possible players to eight.

  • THQ Keeps Nickelodeon. THQ and Viacom have announced that their license agreement has been extended through 2010. This gives THQ the publishing right to video games based on all existing and future Nickelodeon properties, including all TV and movie projects. At least this is one license THQ can count on keeping for a while, unlike their other major license ... the WWE.

  • 'BC' is DOA. BC, Lionhead Studios' highly anticipated prehistoric action/RPG, has officially been put on hiatus. What makes the announcement even more surprising is that it looked like the game was near completion. No reason was given for the hiatus, but according to Peter Molyneux, Lionhead hopes to revive the project at a later date.

  • Make a Date with Everquest II. Sony Online Entertainment announced tha Everquest II finally has a ship date. The game will be released in North America and Europe on November 8 ... putting the game at odds with the Microsoft juggernaut, Halo 2. EQ2 will ship with 3 different versions: CD, DVD, and limited edition DVD. The limited edition will also include bonus in-game items, an art book, CD soundtrack, cloth map, and more.

So there ya go. The latest news that's fit to print. Oh ... in what has to be the fastest turnaround ever on one of my reviews, I turned in a review for Outlaw Golf 2 to GameSpy last nigh, and tonight it's gone live. It's a great golf game, and I think you should definitately give it a shot ... especially for the $20 price tag.

Friday, October 22, 2004

Attack of the dopplegangers!!

This is something that has to rank up there with funny events. Everyone knows that I do work with Electric Playground, right? Well, recently G4 re-aired the 100th episode of EP ... one of many episode featuring the infamous EP Elf. For those of you who don't know, the EP Elf is actually producer Rob Koval in ... well ... an elf costume (hey, I don't make this stuff up). So, while filming in San Diego this year, the comment was made that I apparently resemble Rob quite a bit. In fact, jokes were made about the guys firing Rob and having me become the new EP Elf ... or even the Elf stunt double.

So where am I going with this? Apparently, a longtime friend of mine caught the 100th episode of EP. He called me up afterwards to tell me he thought I was hilarious on the show, but he wondered how in the hell they convinced me to wear the elf costume. This friend of mine who has known me for years thought it was ME in the Elf suit!!

Anyway, I decided to have some fun and post a side-by-side comparison. Decide for yourself how much I resemble the EP Elf. Oh yeah ... I'm the one on the left.

"Call in the stunt double!!" Posted by Hello

Thursday, October 21, 2004

Deja vu all over again (and other news)

Okay boys and girls, it's time for another round of the latest videogame news.

  • Coming as no surprise to anyone (especially those of you who beat the game), Activision and Raven Software have announced today that they are developing a sequel to their hit game X-Men Legends (sorry Shane).

    According to Ron Doornink, CEO of Activision Publishing:
    "For 40 years Marvel's X-Men have captivated consumers worldwide and today the brand is stronger than ever," "X-Men Legends is already on track to be the best selling game in the franchise's history."
    And from Ames Kirshen, director of video game development at Marvel:
    "We are thrilled with the critical and consumer response to X-Men Legends. Marvel and Activision are committed to ensuring that the X-Men Legends series will continue to be a top notch game franchise for years to come."

  • In an unusual twist of irony, the latest video game to find itself stolen and pirated online is none other than Grand Theft Auto: San Andreas. Apparently, there are illegal copies of the game, as well as images from the manual, popping up all around the net. Rockstar has released a statement similar to Bungie's statement after the leak of Halo 2, explaining that investigations are ongoing and asking the gaming community to report any information on websites with links to unauthorized downloads, scans, or video to

  • The WWE has decided to lay the Smackdown onto Jakks Pacific and THQ. On Tuesday, the WWE filed a fourteen count lawsuit against Jakks, THQ, Stanley Shenker & Associates, Inc., and Bell Licensing, LLC. The lawsuit claims that when James Bell was the WWE’s Senior Vice President of Licensing and Merchandising, he arranged for Jakks to receive the WWE videogame license, ignoring better offers from both Activision and THQ. In return, Bell allegedly received over $100,000 in bribes. Now before anyone thinks I made a typo by saying a deal from THQ was overlooked, it should be noted that THQ did not partner up with Jakks until AFTER Jakks was awarded the license. In the WWE's lawsuit, there are no claims of direct wrongdoing by THQ, however the WWE is looking to terminate their existing license agreement.

    According to Linda McMahon, CEO of the WWE:
    “We very much regret having to take this action today, but regret even more the facts and circumstances which have compelled us to do so. WWE’s intellectual property is a valuable asset of the Company, and we believe the actions taken today are necessary to preserve the integrity of our licensing process and essential to ensure that WWE receives appropriate and fair compensation for the grant of a license to use our intellectual property.”
    For its part, THQ released a statement saying in part:
    THQ is committed to preserving its rights under the videogame license with the WWE. THQ believes the WWE is pleased with the manner in which THQ has managed their brand in the video game category. As THQ is not directly accused of any wrongdoing in the complaint -- rather the complaint alleges wrongdoing on the part of JAKKS Pacific and others of which THQ was and is unaware -- THQ is not in a position to comment on these allegations. In any event, either there is no basis for terminating the video game license, or THQ expects to be made whole by those whose conduct is eventually found to be unlawful. THQ intends to vigorously protect and pursue its rights, if necessary.

    The lawsuit has no effect on games currently scheduled for release, including WWE SmackDown!(TM) vs. Raw(TM), which is scheduled to ship on November 2.
    You can check out the full 73-page court filing here.

  • Following in the footsteps of Halo 2's marketing, Nintendo has launched 2 fake websites, Channel 51 and Orbis Labs, to promote its upcoming Metroid Prime 2: Echoes. The sites will be updated regularly, leading up to the ultimate release of the game on November 15th. The sites are actually pretty cool. Check 'em out.

As always, keep checking back for more news.

Tuesday, October 19, 2004

A riddle to ponder ...

What's small, round, and expected to bring in more revenue in 24 hours than any single motion picture's opening day box office? Think it over, the answer comes later ... but first:

Well, my reviews of Conflict: Vietnam for the Xbox and PS2 went live on GameSpy last night. Man, I've got to take a minute to thank Ben, my editor on that, for helping to pull it together for me. I reread my initial draft that I had written while going though this bug I had ... and it really needed work. I said what I wanted well enough, but repeated myself in a few places and made more than a couple of spelling errors. Here's my free tip for writers: DON'T try to write with a fever!! It just doesn't work very well. Anyway, Ben helped pull everything together and get the reviews up to snuff.

Now, moving on to my riddle. The answer is Halo 2. That's right. Microsoft has just announced that pre-orders for the game have exceeded 1.5 million units. According to Peter Moore, VP of worldwide publishing and marketing for Xbox:
"'Halo 2' is expected to be the biggest 24 hours for a video game title in retail history and is projected to bring in more revenue than any day one box office blockbuster movie in the United States. We call it the Halo 2 effect. We've even heard rumors of fan anticipation of the 'Halo 2 flu' on November 9."
Many stores will be opening at 12:01a on Tuesday, November 9th to give customers their first opportunity to pick up the long awaited game. For the record, I'll be picking up my copy from EB Games #3067 at Westridge Square in Greensboro, NC. Why should that matter to you? Well, I'm going to be covering the event for the Electric Playground website, as well as writing their first review of the game.

Okay, that's all for now.

Monday, October 18, 2004

News around the 'net

First off, my second review of Rocky Legends went live over the weekend. This one was for the Electric Playground website.

Moving on to the latest news:

  • The Consumer Electronics Show has confirmed that Bill Gates will be giving a pre-show keynote address. The speech is scheduled for Wednesday, January 5th at 6:30p at the Las Vegas Hilton. The rumblings from the rumor mill is that Gates is going to use the CES speech to officially announce the Xbox 2 system. This time frame would coincide with rumored plans to actually unveil a playable build of the system at E3 2005.

  • Unless you've been living under a rock the past few days, you've probably heard that Halo 2 was leaked to the public last week. It looks like a disc was swiped during manufaturing in Europe. The pirated copy has French speech and English subtitles, and (being unsigned code) will not run on a standard retail Xbox. Obviously, this also means that the game will not run on Xbox Live. Microsoft and Bungie are investigating the theft, and both say that the theft will not affect Halo 2's November 9th release date.

  • Game developer Clover Studios has announced that it is currently working on a new version of Viewtiful Joe for the upcoming Nintendo DS system. The game will not take place in "Movie Land" and will introduce "an important new character". There's also interest building in how the game will make use of the DS touch screen. I'll be curious to check this out when it's released.

  • After all of the drama, lawsuits, code theft, etc., Vivendi Universal has at last announced that the long awaited Half-Life 2 will be released on November 16th. Now we'll finally get to see whether or not the game proves to be worth the wait.

Sorry it's taken a couple of days to get this started up with news updates. Truth be told, I'm running behind schedule on a few things. Apparently I came down with something over the weekend and it has had me laid up with a high fever. I'm working to get over it, and hopefully I'll be back up to par in a couple of days. I'll be trying to play catch up in the meantime.

Sunday, October 17, 2004

Artpunks Weenie Roast

Yesterday I was lucky enough to be invited to the First Annual Artpunks Weenie Roast. This is a a private gathering of comic talent from around the area. The whole shindig was held at Randy Green's house, and included Mike Wieringo, Val Staples, Rick Ketchum, John Wycough, and a whole lot more. Everyone played horseshoes, ate some hot dogs and hamburgers, sat around the fire, and swapped stories. Then everyone moved inside for a few hours of video games. All in all, it was just agood time to be had.

First Annual Artpunks Weeine Roast;Posted by Hello

Friday, October 15, 2004

A slight change of direction

I've been giving some thought to how this blog has been progressing since I started it almost six months ago. Since it was started, Stacking the Deck has been a tool of blatent self-promotion. Hey, what can I say? I'm a media whore. So anyway, after giving it some thought, I've decided to ... expand ... things in the blog. In the coming days, you're going to start seeing a lot more material around here. "Like what?" you ask yourself. Okay, maybe you don't ask yourself that, but I'm going to tell you anyway.

Besides continuing to keep everyone posted on what work I'm doing, I'm also going to be adding a few new things. For one, I think its about time I do something a little extra for those of you who frequent the blog. Besides linking to articles I've written elsewhere around the net, I'm going to start writing some articles exclusive to Stacking the Deck. I'm going to start adding more news and information from the video game industry to the blog. And hey, if some other news grabs my interest, it may just pop up here as well.

Some of this is a precursor to the launch of something bigger I have planned, but mostly it's a way for me to cut loose with some more writing while also giving all of you something new to look forward to. Keep checking back and let me know what you think of the progress.

Thursday, October 14, 2004

Once more around the track

Another day, another review. This time around GameSpy's got my take on Colin McRae Rally 2005 for the Xbox. Keep in mind, I'm not the biggest racing fan in the world, but I always try to judge games on more on their merits than my personal tastes ... most of the time. Anyway, I was surprised at how good this budget title really was.

I'm still waiting for the Robotech Invasion reviews to go live. As soon as they do, I'll post the links. I'm also trying to wrap up the Conflict Vietnam reviews for GameSpy tonight. If I don't wrap it tonight as planned, I'll get an early start tomorrow morning. I've been so busy with these reviews, I have yet to even take my new copy of BloodRayne 2 out of the plastic wrap. I did get a chance to play the game last night while over at Randy's though. It's a HUGE improvement over the original. I'm really liking the game so far. And for once, its a game I got for myself that has nothing at all to do with work.

Moving right along, looks like some bad news for Microsoft today. If you haven't heard the word, it seems that Halo 2 got leaked to the public. Floating around in the underground internet channels is a French PAL version of the game. According to Microsoft, an investigation is currently underway to find out how the game got leaked, and anyone distributing or downloading the game will be considered guilty of theft.

It's alive!! IT'S ALIVE!!!!

Woo hoo!! Hot damn!! And any other exclamation you want to throw in there for good measure. The Xbox "tweak" is operational. I got everything installed and running ... and surprisingly quick too. What's that mean for you? More reviews ... and FINALLY my thoughts on preview builds as well. Stay tuned for more on that front.

Also, it looks like I'll be doing a piece covering the release of Halo 2. Some EBGames stores are having a midnight sales event for the game. One store I'll be going to try and go all out w/ catering, radio remotes, prizes, and even special guests. I'll let you know more as things develop.

And finally, I always try to give credit to Shane over at Near Mint Heroes every time he promotes my stuff. (Thanks again, Shane) This time around I want to say thanks to Chris Brown over at Chris "Lefty" Brown's Corner. Apparently, he's been keeping up with what I'm up to as well, and he had a few questions to throw my way. I've always said that you guys are more than welcome to drop a line and I'll do my best to get back to you ASAP. Anyway, thanks for the mention on your site, Chris.

Tuesday, October 12, 2004

One more sign of the apocalypse

So I wrote a review of Robotech Invasion today, for both the Xbox and the PS2. As is usually the case, one version was hands down better than the other. It had sharper more colorful graphics, richer sound, and a solid multiplayer inetrface. Here's where things get all "Twlight Zone"-ish. The better version was the one on the PS2 ... NOT the Xbox!! Just to make sure I wasn't losing my mind, I had Randy and Will (another comic artist up here) watch both versions of the game. Using a system selector, I swapped back and forth between the games. Both of them mistook the PS2 version for the Xbox, with Randy going so far as to say that Microsoft should be pissed at how much better the PS2 version of the game is.

In other news, BloodRayne 2 comes out tomorrow. I played a demo today and while there are still a couple of rough spots, it's a hell of a lot better than the original. I'll be picking it up later and I'll try to post my impressions of the final version here.

And finally, it looks like tomorrow's the day I'll be working on my Xbox. Cross your fingers for me.

Monday, October 11, 2004

More material from yours truly

More reviews went up tonight over at GameSpy. Head on over there to check out my reviews of The Dukes of Hazzard (Xbox) and Rocky Legends (PS2). I've also submitted my review of Colin McRae Rally 2005, so it should be up within the next couple of days. I will go ahead and say that if you're a fan of rally racing, CMR 2005 is definitely the game to pick up.

Also, as a side note, I am still working on some ideas for the eventual debut of my web site. I did some tinkering around with a couple of programs today, and as a result I have a few fun extras I think I'll be throwing in. Stay tuned for more information.

Saturday, October 09, 2004

May the Force be with you

First things first. Over at the Electric Playground website, my review of Star Wars Battlefront went live today. I liked the game quite a bit, and I think it's something that Star Wars fans are sure to get a kick out of.

Now, if you check out the EP front page, you'll see that the blub for the review mentions me by name. No, I haven't lost my mind and started referring to myself in the third person. Instead, Vic has brought a former staff member back into the fold as the Online Editor. From now on, he'll be the one responsible for posting the reviews I write. Also, I'm not the only one who will be posting reviews any more. You can look forward to a diversity of opinions there now, as well as (hopefully) a LOT more content.

In other writing news, I wrapped up my reviews of Rocky Legends and The Dukes of Hazzard for GameSpy. As soon as these go live, I'll have the links posted here.

And finally, I want to know ... what you all of YOU like to see on the blog? More reviews? More artwork? More BS-ing around? Give me some feedback in the comments.

More work for the coming week

It's funny how things happen sometimes. Earlier this week, I was getting more than a little frustrated by what felt like a lack of forward progress w/ my writing. Things seemed to dry up all at once. For a little while, I was even beginning to feel like it might not be worth doing the writing thing much longer. But anyone who knows me also knows I'm WAY too stubborn to just stop. Well, lo and behold, today I get a FedEx package from GameSpy with FIVE games to get reviewed this week ... plus I have three reviews I'm working on for EP. Technically, the GameSpy reviews are for three titles (Robotech Invasion, Conflict Vietnam, and Colin McRae Rally 2005), but two of those need reviews for both the Xbox and PS2 versions. And if you're following the titles I'm writing about, the games I'm reviewing for EP are Mortal Kombat: Deception, Leisure Suit Larry: Magna Cum Laude, and Rocky Legends.

Anyway, I'll keep you all posted on new developments as things progress.

Tuesday, October 05, 2004

More coloring fun

Well, I decided to take some time tonight and color one of the other penciled pieces I got from Randy. I had to clean up the original pencils just a bit, but only because some shading he put into the cheeks was interfereing w/ the coloring. Of course, everything I've been working with was originally sketched without the intention of being colored. Also, I intentionally went light on the shading and lighting effects, as I really liked the cleaner look this piece had. I still added some effects on the clothes and some color to the cheeks though. Personally, I really like the way this ended up ... and it's a great companion piece to the last sketch I posted. Let me know what you guys think.

Original pencils Posted by Hello

Color image Posted by Hello

Saturday, October 02, 2004

Relaxing with a digital canvas.

I decided I needed to unwind some today, so I did a little bit of digital painting. I've got some design artwork that Randy did, and found a couple of them I thought I'd take a stab at. This is the first piece ... done in about an hour and a half. Let me know what you guys think.

Original pencils Posted by Hello

Color image Posted by Hello