Tuesday, December 20, 2005

More work stuff

It's been a while since I've updated everyone on what I've been working on. Well, I haven't exactly been sitting around with my thumb up my ass. I've actually been getting some work done. Need proof?

Over at GameSpy you can check out my work on these:

While over at the Electric Playground, you can read these:

And finally, in this month's Play Magazine is the following piece:

Zero Hour article (Play Magazine, January 2006) Posted by Picasa

Some of this stuff is older, and only just getting around to being published. Other stuff has been written within the past week. Either way, there's a lot of my stuff out there right now (woo hoo!!). And things are only going to be getting more busy with the coming year. I'll keep all of you posted as usual. In the meantime, check out the stuff that's out there and let me know what you think.


Thursday, December 15, 2005

Getting Desensetized

There's a new study forthcoming in the Journal of Experimental Social Psychology, which supposedly finds that people who play violent video games experience an increase in aggressive behavior and a decreased reaction to violent imagery.

"It's already well known that playing violent video games increases aggressive behavior and decreases helping behavior," said Brad Bushman, a researcher at the University of Michigan. "But this study is the first to link exposure to violent video games with a diminished reaction to violent images."

The research was conducted by Bushman, a U-M professor of psychology and communications studies and a faculty associate at the U-M Institute for Social Research (ISR), along with fellow researchers Bruce Bartholow, an assistant professor of psychology at the University of Missouri-Columbia, and Marc Sestir at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill.

"Most of us naturally have a strong aversion to the sight of blood and gore," Bartholow said. "Surgeons and soldiers may need to overcome these reactions in order to perform their duties. But for most people, a diminished reaction to the effects of violence is not adaptive. It can reduce inhibitions against aggressive behavior and increase the possibility of inflicting violence on others."

On the surface, this study looks potentially damning for the video game industry. However, after a closer look at the details of the study, one can't help but question the results. Take a look at some of the research techinques used to come up with these findings:
For the study, the researchers asked 39 male undergraduates how often they played their five favorite video games, and how violent the games were. The researchers also assessed participants' irritability and aggressiveness, asking them how much they identified with statements like the following: "I easily fly off the handle with those who don't listen or understand" and "If somebody hits me, I hit back."

Next, the researchers outfitted participants with electrode caps to obtain EEG data, including the average amplitude of a particular type of brainwave, known as P300, which is believed to be an indicator of how people evaluate a stimulus, such as a photograph. After doing so, the researchers showed participants a series of images. The content of the images was emotionally neutral (a mushroom, a man riding a bicycle), violent (a man holding a gun to another man's head) or negative but nonviolent (a dead dog). While participants viewed the images, their brain waves were recorded.

After viewing the images, participants were told they were competing in a reaction time task with another person to see who could press a button faster following a tone. The slower person would supposedly receive a blast of noise through a pair of headphones, with the intensity and duration of the blast determined before each round by the previous round's winner. Actually there was no partner, but participants' tendency to administer long, loud blasts of noise is a widely used, reliable measure of aggression.

What the researchers found was that participants who routinely played violent video games responded less to violent images, as measured by a diminished amplitude of their P300 brainwaves. But this was not true of their response to other, equally negative, nonviolent images. The researchers also found that the smaller the brainwave reaction to violent images, the more likely participants were to behave aggressively in the reaction time task by blasting their "partner" with loud, unpleasant noise.

Read at face value, the research seems a bit flawed to me. The noise test is a key example. Basically, each of the 39 male participants were told to hit a button as fast as possible. The loser would get a blast of loud noise ... with the volume and length of the noise determined by the winner of the previous round. If the blast is detemined over a period of sequential rounds, then each "winner" knows that he's subject to losing the round and getting hit with the consequence he set. On the other hand, if the participant thinks that he's setting the level for the next set of competitors, he's still likely to set the bar at the same level he would expect to be given to himself. Truthfully? That's not violence ... that's competition at best, and pissing contest between guys at worst.

As far as the image test goes, these participants were college students ... not teenagers. Before I graduated high school, I was already reading pulp fiction stories by the likes of Raymond Chandler (a great author) and Dashiel Hammett. I also had seen much worse than a picture of a man with a gun to his head in my history classes. Would a picture like that get much of a stimulus reaction from me? Probably not ... though not because of anything like video games. And to be perfectly honest, I've been around guns before and even had them pointed at me. And yeah, I'm sure THAT caused a peak in my P300 brainwaves at the time. By their own admission, there was no change in how participants were affected by the "negative but nonviolent" imagery.

I'm more than a little curious to take a look at the full study once it's published. Unfortunately, with all of these studies trying to prove one thing or another, I've become more than a little desensetized ... not to violence, but to these damned studies. Here's the frightening thing about studies, with a little time, money, and ingenuity, and with the right test group, I could put together a study showing that cute and fuzzy bunnies can drive people to acts of road rage.

Too often, researchers go into a study looking for a particular answer. Many times that expectation of a predetermined outcome causes those responsible to skew things in their favor, intentionally or not. The scientific method is supposed to begin with the question, not the hypothesis:
  • Define the question
  • Gather information and resources
  • Form hypothesis
  • Plan experiment
  • Do experiment and collect data
  • Analyze data
  • Interpret data and draw conclusions that serve as a starting point for new hypotheses
  • Communicate results

This method is generally meant to be cyclic in nature. Once the data is interpreted, new hypothesis can be formed an tested as well. I've seen far too many cases though in which researchers spend too much time trying to prove their hypothesis, instead of letting the raw data lead them to new ideas and interpretations.

Anyway, that's enough of a soapbox moment for the moment. What are your thoughts?

Wednesday, December 07, 2005

Don't call it a comeback!!

Yeah yeah, so it's a cheesy subject, but it's also oddly fitting. I know I've been out of touch for bit (well, publicly at least). I know I'm always saying how swamped I am with wirk (and I am), but things are really nuts at the moment for a lot of reasons.

First, let's tackle the big personal issues:

I found out recently that my dad is going to have to go in for some neck/spine surgery. He went in for an MRI last week and, based on how the results go, he'll need to have some work done to fix some compression in the spine that's causing pressure on some nerves. I've been checking in with him to see how things are developing. He's up in VA, and there's really no one there to be with him. So, whenever the surgery is scheduled, I'll be taking off out of town for a bit to be there for him during the surgery and afterwards to help him out. Growing up, my dad and I weren't necessarily close, but as we've both gotten older, our relationship has grown. Nowadays, even if he wasn't my dad, he'd be a damned good friend ... one of the best in fact. And as you guys know, I'm always there for my friends.

Also on the personal side, I've been trying to take some time to unwind a bit ... basically taking some time for myself. I've been running around like a chicken with his head chopped off for a while now, so I needed to take a bit of a breather to collect myself. All work and no play makes Jack (or in this case, David) a dull boy. So I've been trying to do a little more to get away from the ball and chain that is my PC. Been trying to catch up with a few old friends, as well as making some new ones. Hey, what can I say? Even *I* deserve a break from time to time.

Of course there were a couple of other things that kept me from updating a little more on the blog here. First off was the trip to Vegas. I posted earlier about how that trip went. Admittedly, I've been having a lot of fun with my Xbox 360 since I got back. Of course, I think it's hilarious that the 360 is capable of so much, and yet the game I'm most addicted to is the cheap $5 arcade-style game, Geometry Wars Evolved. It's like Smash TV meets Asteroids. Playing that has got me itching to bring the classic systems out of mothballs to play some of my old favorites. Speaking of favorite games ... if ANYONE out there has never experienced the classic game Zombies Ate My Neighbors ... GO FIND IT!! I'm playing it almost as much as my 360, and it's probably the one game they'll have to pry from my cold dead hands.

Back to the 360, I wrote up a review for the 360 version of Need for Speed: Most Wanted for GameSpy. The game is a lot of fun, but the real story is in how great the game looks ... especially with the environmental effects like lighting and reflections. It looks amazing, especially in hi-def. I've also had a buch of reviews go up over at the Electric Playground website. I'll try to get around to posting links later, but in the meantime, go check out the site.

And since we're on the subject of Electric Playground (and by association, Greedy Productions), there's a lot going on over there. Things are finally cranking again on the EP website. I'll be posting a lot more material over there now that things are working, and everyone is working to really push the site to a new level. You'll be seeing a lot more in the way of updates, more interesting articles, and even a few surprises down the road. There's even some work being done to redesign the site to reflect the changes in the show as well. I'll also be working a lot more closely with Greedy Productions on a couple of other projects they're working on. I'll even be contributing some script writing series of video packages. Basically, it all adds up to equal more work for me (WOO HOO!!).

And speaking of more work, I wrote up a piece on Zero Hour for Play Magazine. When it hits the stands, I'll let all of you know. In the meantime, I'll let everyone know to keep their eyes peeled for news coming out of Play. I'll be working with Dave and the guys more, providing material and such, and helping out with a few cool new plans that they have in store for the near future.

So, does that cover everything? Not even close ... but if I threw everything out here at once, what motivation would you have to keep coming back, eh?

Oh yeah ... one last thing. I haven't forgotten about you guys who have actually asked about the fan club plans. Heh. Y'know, I keep commenting on how I want my groupies, and having a groupie recruitment drive (HA!), but someone pointed out one thing ... what about the guys? One suggestion that's been made (which I think I'll run with) was keep going w/ the whole "rock star" mentality, and have both "Groupies" and "Roadies". I'm also trying to come up with some cool and unique merchandise for people to have fun with. Thanks to a bunch of my friends in the comic industry, you can expect to see some REALLY cool visuals in the near future. Posters, t-shirts, teddy bears, and yes ... due to popular demand ... the infamous fan club thong will all still be available, though with some fun new designs. I want to set up some other things for people who are genuinely interested in the fan club idea too. So throw out some suggestions. I'm even chipping in a lot of goodies from the "swag bag".

BTW ... those of you with particularly sharp eyes may notice some minor tweaks I did to my profile picture. Bonus points to those of you who recognize the signature on the handheld's new skin.


Tweaked avatar

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Tuesday, November 22, 2005

Zero Hour, work, and the fact there's no "i" in WldCard

Well, I'm back from the 360 Zero hour Launch event. It was an adventure, to say the least. By all rights, I should be curled up in a bed still, catching up on some sorely lacking sleep ... but I'm an insomniac by nature. So, how did things go? Here are some highlights:
  • The Road Trip to Zero Hour
    Pete and I took off from Vegas about 2:00p (Note: All times are in PST for this, even though I'm an East Coast boy). We figured that would put us getting into Palmdale before 6:00p, and since the event didn't open til 7:00p, we'd be set. Of course, the gods of traffic had other ideas. At two different points on I-15 South, we hit some major traffic due to accidents. Oddly enough, both were cleared away by the time we got to them. In fact, the only proof we had that there WAS an accident was the ambulance that sped down the emergency lane, and the small scattering of glass and such. Once we finally got close to Palmdale (the location of Zero Hour), we were trying to figure out if we were still heading the right direction, when like a sign from above, a bright green beacon shot off in the distance. Zero Hour had just started, and the hangar was lit up in a mass of neon green light. So, like sailors chasing the North Star, we plotted our course and made landfall around 7:15 or so ...

  • Tagged and Released ... Over and Over Again
    One tip for the minds behind Zero Hour ... plan out your access just a little better. I checked into Zero Hour at the Media Check-In area, and was surprised to find out that just fifteen minutes into the show, they had completely run out of Media badges. As a backup plan, they started giving out Crew badges instead. For the most part, this worked out fine ... but there were snags. Mainly, every time there was something set up for attendees, I had to keep explaining that I was press and not part of the event crew. Plus, people kept stopping me to ask where things were taking place and such.

    Then there was the problem with occasional security guard who was trying to deny access to the VIP/Press lounge to those of us with Crew badges (after the first night of getting in w/ no problems). I'd even brought one of the guys from Edleman (the PR firm coordinating the event) with me to verify me as press, and they STILL wouldn't let me in. So, Charlie decided to fix that problem real quick by slapping a green VIP wristband on me, giving me full access again. I saw some of the other press guys got fixed up as well, so things seemed to work out and the issues with passes seemed over, right? Not so fast.

    Apparently, the standard issue white wristband (general entry), was the key factor in identifying who was eligible to buy a 360 at Zero Hour. VIP's were assumed to have already won one of the consoles. Now, I'd already registered to attend Zero Hour prior to getting on the Press list, so I was still reserved a time to buy a 360 system ... but without that white wristband, I couldn't get to the registers to pay for it. So, it was time for another walk ... talked with Charlie again, and ended up taking off the VIP wristband, checking in outside like I just showed up at the event, got my white wristband, and then had to get ANOTHER writband (orange this time) to allow access to the lounge again.

    In an ironic twist, at about 5:00p on Monday, Microsoft announce that it was going to allow EVERYONE to hit the registers and buy a system ... whether you had a white wristband or not. So, I ended up jumping through a lot of unneccessary hoops ... though as they say, it's better to be safe than sorry. Besides, it wasn't just me I was looking out for. Pete had cancelled his 360 pre-order at EBGames because we were supposed to be able to buy the 360 at the show. So if he couldn't get HIS system, he'd have been screwed royally.

  • "Sleep"? What is this "sleep" of which you speak?
    By about 3:00a or so, some areas of Zero Hour looked a lot like Jonestown. Bodies were lying all over the place, as people started to feel the effects of a 29+ hour event. Bean bags were strewn about all as people trying to create makeshift beds. Still, some gamers were toughing it out, as the various gaming stations were generally full throughout the event. The early morning hours weren't quite so crowded, as some of the attendees had obviously decided to bail out to nearby hotels in exchage for a comfortable bed. Me? I toughed it out witha quick 30 minute nap in the lounge. Meanwhile, Pete found himself a couch and crashed for about 3 hours or so. This sleep schedule would come back to haunt us later.

  • The Presentations
    All throughout the event, publishers had presentations going on at the main stage area. For the most part, these were demos of games due out at launch, along with some footage of a few new games. Tecmo ran some DOA 4 tournaments, Activision had some Call of Duty 2 multiplayer action going on, and Rare gave players a chance to win a copy of Perfect Dark Zero by battling it out in Deathmatch.

    Microsoft ran some demos showing the advantages of the Xbox Live Gold memberships, and what the 360 can do online, not only as a gaming system, but also as an entertainment device. Microsoft even incorporated some of the new multimedia features into the games. One key feature for those of you out there that like your custom Xbox soundtracks (Shane), the 360 can stream music from your portable audio player or PC straight into the game you're playing. The 360 uses a seperate audio channel for this as well, meaning that your soundtrack doesn't impact the sound effects and voiceovers in the games you're playing. Instead, it simply replaces the music of the game you're playing. So, there's no need to turn down the TV and listen to your tunes ... you can have the best of both worlds. There were also demos run on how to use a Media Center equipped PC, the 360, and your home entertainment center to create a pretty amazing entertainment package.

    The biggest highlight of the show had to be the Gears of War demo. I swear that the more and more I see of this game, the more amazed I am. Gears of War is shaping up to be for the 360 what Halo was for the original Xbox. There are really no words that can describe just how damned good this game looks, sounds, and plays ... that's right ... plays. Everything that Epic showed off at Zero Hour for Gears of War was realtime. As Cliffy B said, "No prerendered bullshit." I'm really looking forward to getting my hannds on this one.

  • The Goodies
    What show would be complete without some exclusive goodies for people in attendance. There were Zero Hour hoodies from Adiddas, T-shirts for just about every game at the show, hats, keychains, wristbands, calendars, and more. For Live subscribers, there were exclusive Gamer Profile pictures to use on your account (as you can see here, I'm using one now on my Gamercard), as well as an exclusive Zero Hour Achievement to show off to friends. Also, attendees got to sign up for an exclusive Zero Hour faceplate, which will be sent out to everyone who signed up. As we all know by now, I love the little goodies like this. I even grabbed some stuff to give away as part of the swag bag.

  • The Games
    You didn't think I'd skip THIS part, did you? Besides the demos put on by publishers, Zero Hour had a huge number of gaming stations set up running all of the 360's launch titles, as well as preview builds of some games coming down the pipe. I got to play some Final Fantasy XII on the 360, and it looks like its shaping up nicely. According to the Square-Enix rep at the show, the game still has a few minor bugs to workout, but should be hitting shelves early next year (hopefully by Spring). There was Ninety-Nine Nights. This game plays a lot like Kingdom Under Fire or Dynasty Warriors, with the player taking part in an epic fight on a hugely populated battlefield. On the 360 though, huge batles take on a hole new meaning. Hundreds of characters swarm you on the screen simultaneously as you cut a path through them all. The visuals are quite impressive so far, but even more impressive is that even in this early build, the framerate never once drops. And if killing trolls and such isn't to your liking, how about killing hordes of zombies? Capcom's upcoming 360 title puts the player in the role of a journalist trapped in a town infected by the undead. There's not a lot of thought in this game ... simply you, a weapon, and hundreds upon hundreds of undead to pound into oblivion before they turn you into lunchmeat. It's brutal, it's gory, it's mindless, and it's a hell of a lot of fun. I'm constantly impressed by not only the technical capabilites of the 360, but also in how publishers use it.

  • There's STILL no "i" in WldCard
    It seems like no matter how often people see my nickname, or how many times I tell people, or how many emails or IM's we send back and forth, I'll never make anyone remember that WldCard is spelled with no "i" in my nickname. Hey, it's what sets me apart. For Zero Hour, MS took down the Gamertags of a bunch of gamers and added them to a massive mural it's putting together. I ended up finding my tag written (fairly large as well) on the mural ... but with the damned "i" in the name. What makes it even funnier is that you can see the person who painted it added the "i" after the fact, apparently thinking she had misspelled it the first time ... even though *I* am the one who worte it ... in print. And for those of you who have seen my handwriting, you know that it's easily read and recognized. Oh well, I guess on the upside, that will cut back on the number of unsolicited Friend Requests on Xbox Live.

  • The Units Arrive!!
    After a quick concert by Louis XIV,a clock started counting down from 360 seconds. As soon as the ticker hit Zero, out rolled a motorcade of Best Buys trucks, packed to the brim with 360 units. Pete and I were already in line to pick ours up with Scot Rubin (of All Games Network and formerly of G4). Scot and I were discussing some work stuff during the concert. Once those trucks opened up though, it was all about getting the 360 and getting the hell out of Dodge. I'll give security a lot of credit. They managed to keep everyone from rushing the line and jumping ahead of others (though a few managed to squeak by). The line moved fairly quickly as we all picked up our systems. Pete and I were out the door less than 15 minutes after the line started moving at 9:00p. Technically the even was going to continue on until 12:01a ... but after all we'd already done, we were ready to get out, get back to Pete's place in Vegas, and get some well-earned sleep. So, w/ 360s in hand, we made a beeline for the car, hopped in, and hit the road. Which leads us to ...

  • The Trip FROM Zero Hour
    As happy as we were to see that green hanger lit up in front of us on the way TO zero Hour, Pete and I were at least as happy to see that same building in the rear view mirror leaving FROM Zero Hour. The lack of sleep was racking our bodies. My muscles ached, my eyes burned, and my knee was killing me. I'd already been dealing with jetlag from the flight out, but I'd also done the entirety of the event (the flight out on Saturday, the five hour drive on Sunday, and the 29 hour Zero hour event itself) on a total of five hours' sleep (four on Satuday night and one during Zero Hour). Pete wasn't doing much better either. The directions out of the Palmdale were screwed up, we were tired, and with a four hour trip ahead of us (assuming we didn't run into traffic again) we knew there was no way in hell we'd make it back to Vegas in a straight shot. We alternated driving and made it to the first available rest area, where we crashed for about an hour and a half. Fat lot of good that did ... it only made us more tired. Still Pete tried to tough it out a little further until finally we got to the next rest area and switched off. I managed to take us the rest of the way into Vegas, and gave Pete the wheel to get back to his place.
So today? Today is all about recovery. Once everything settles in, I'll have more to post.

Sunday, November 20, 2005

Road trippin'

Well, I'm on my way out to Palmdale as we speak. Out on I-15 South, in the middle of nowhere, and we (Pete and myself) are stuck in traffic. Go figure. Heh.

More to come.

Wednesday, November 16, 2005

Up for a race?

So I picked up Mario Kart DS today, and I'm itching to put the pedal to the metal. If any of you have the game and feel up to some online action, drop me a line and we'll get the "Friend Roster" thing set up.


Saturday, November 12, 2005

News, news, everywhere ...

... and no time to stop and think. Okay, so I brutally paraphrased the old saying, but only because that's the sentiment of the moment. Things are bonkers this week. Why? Stay tuned to find out. But first, let's hit the news from the industry. Ready? Here we go:
  • 2K Games Deciphers The Da Vinci Code
    2K Games, a division of Take Two Interactive, announced today that it has signed an exclusive worldwide deal with Sony Pictures to publish and distribute video games based on Sony's upcoming big screen adaptation of The Da Vinci Code. The games are currently in production at the development studio, The Collective.

  • BioWare and Pandemic Join Creative Forces
    There's a new powerhouse in the gaming industry today as the announcement came down that development houses BioWare and Pandemic Studios have merged as part of a financial deal with private equity firm Elevation Partners. The deal, valued at more than $300 million, will make the new studio one of the largest and best-funded video-game development studios in the world.

  • ESA Wins Against Michigan Law
    The Entertainment Software Association announced yesterday that U.S. District Court Judge George Steeh has granted a preliminary injunction to prevent the implementation of Michigan's Public Act 107, a law designed to make it a criminal offense to sell or rent violent video games to anyone under the age of 17. Under the proposed law, originally set to go into effect on Dec. 1, anyone who knowing sells or rents an "ultra-violent explicit video game harmful to minors" could face fines of $5,000-$40,000 and up to 93 days in prison.

  • Mega Man Set To Blast Onto PSP
    Capcom jumped onto the remake bandwagon a couple of months ago when it announced that it was bringing the first Resident Evil game to DS owners in the form of Resident Evil: Deadly Silence. Now Capcom is giving PSP owners a chance to relive some classic memories with the upcoming release of two "new" Mega Man titles, Mega Man Powered Up and Mega Man Maverick Hunter X.

So, now that we've got that out of the way, I guess it's time to update you guys on everything going on with me.

First off, expect some interesting news, photots, and remote posts starting next Sunday. It's official. I'm heading out to cover the Xbox 360 Zero Hour event out in the Mohave. Yeah, I do know the exact location, and no I can't say where just yet. Anyway, the event is a 29-hour party, starting at 7:00p PST on the 20th and ends at 12:01a on the 22nd ... right when the Xbox 360 goes on sale officially around the country.

Also in the world of Dave, I've got a lot more work coming down the pipe. For starters, the Electric Playground website has finally gotten fixed up, making it possible to post articles again. Things have been slow going over there as of late, and my involvement as a result had dropped quite a bit. However, now that the technical issues have been fixed up, my goal is to turn the site around. I've already talked with "TV's Vince Lucas" (sorry Vic ... that one's for Ray), Rob, and the other guys at the EP crew, and as soon as the new permissions are set, I'll be handling a lot of the editorial and posting responsibilities for the site. That means more reviews, more previews, and even a return to the days of full feature articles on the site (oooo ... ahhhh).

So what else is going on? Well, I've been in talks with Dave over at Play Magazine about doing some new stuff for the magazine. If everything comes together, it's not going to be the usual freelance fare either. Until things get set up, I can't say too much, but suffice to say it's one of those things that's been keeping me busy.

Earlier this week, I found a surprise in my normal mix of mail. The folks at Gizmondo sent me one of their new Gizmondo handheld devices. The system has been out in the UK for a few months, and only recently hit US shores in 14 select cities. The full scale release is coming in January. The Gizmondo is a Swiss Army knife of techincal gadgetry. It's a movie player, music player, digital camera, SMS and MMS messenger, GPRS browser (similar to web-capable cell phones), and GPS. There are also plans to include Email capabilites shortly. Oh yeah ... did I mention it plays games too? Look for a full review of the hardware on the EP site soon. I will say though that I've been surprised at how much I actually like the device. You just have to look at it with an open mind, and not immediately compare it to other gaming devices.

There's a lot more going on, but it'll have to wait for a later update.

Friday, November 04, 2005

City of Heroes/Villains Recruitment

Monday marked the official, long awaited release of City of Villains, the sequel/expansion to the popular superhero MMO game City of Heroes. Besides the fun new twist of playing the bad guys, the game also expands on what Supergroups (the guilds of the game) are capable of. So, what does that mean here? It's recruitment time!!

So here's the deal ... I have two Supergroups forming, The Stacked Deck for City of Heroes and Legacy of Evil for City of Villains. If you're interested in signing up for either of these official Stacking the Deck groups, you'll need to create a character on the Freedom server. Once you're there, send an in-game email or tell to either of my main characters, Crimson Thunder (for CoH) and Crimson Plague (for CoV). I'm already in the process of earning Prestige to expand the bases of both groups. Plus, I'm working on a way to incorporate some fun events into both groups, both online and offline.

Drop me a line and let me know if you're interested.

Wednesday, November 02, 2005

Cracking The (Da Vinci) Code

Courtesy of a press release from Take Two Interactive:
New York, NY – November 2, 2005

2K Games, a publishing label of Take-Two Interactive Software, Inc. (NASDAQ: TTWO), announced today an exclusive worldwide agreement with Sony Pictures Consumer Products to publish and distribute current generation console video games based on the highly-anticipated The Da Vinci Code film by Oscar™ winning director Ron Howard, which is based on Dan Brown’s best-selling novel. The games are being developed by The Collective, a division of Foundation 9 Entertainment and a top developer of action titles. Timed to coincide with the film release date, The Da Vinci Code games are expected to be available in May 2006.

"We are thrilled to work with Sony Pictures on one of its most anticipated film properties," said Christoph Hartmann, Managing Director at 2K Games. "The Da Vinci Code is exactly the type of high-caliber licensed property 2K Games looks for when developing movie-based games."

Charles Cecil, designer of the critically acclaimed title Broken Sword, has joined the development team at The Collective to aid in the game’s design. Revolving around secret societies, ancient cover-ups and calculated vengeance, the gameplay in The Da Vinci Code will feature action-oriented suspense for seasoned gamers and The Da Vinci Code fans alike.

Dan Brown’s critically-acclaimed book “The Da Vinci Code” is the best-selling novel of all time and has spent more than two years on the New York Times best-seller list. It has also been translated into 42 languages. To date, there are more than 38.6 million copies of the novel in print, averaging more than two million copies sold each month.
Wow ... a video game based on The Da Vinci Code. And it's being developed by The Collective? Why does that all seem familiar to me?

Tuesday, November 01, 2005

A couple of new reviews

Lately I've been waiting until I have a handful of reviews up before I post links, but I decided to make an exception today. Why? Because for all of you who seem to love it when I trash a bad game, then one of these reviews is for you ... and here's a hint, it's NOT the Disney game.

Friday, October 28, 2005

New little addition to the blog template

So ... did you happen to notice the new little addition to the site? Yeah, that little card underneath my profile. That's my Xbox Live card, a new feature of the upgraded Xbox Live. Now you can broadcast your info for the world to see. "So David", you ask inquisitively, "why is your info pretty threadbare right now?" Well, that's because the Gamerscore, Reputation, etc. don't officially make their debut until the release of the Xbox 360 next month. So just consider this as me getting a little bit of a head start on things to come.

The latest round of gaming news

Here we go again, courtesy of my work for the folks over at GameSpy. Just click on a headline to read the full news article:
  • Microsoft Unveils the Mystery of Hex 168
    No, this isn't the plot of a new X-Files motion picture, nor is it the mad ramblings of a crackpot. Actually, it's the latest viral marketing campaign coming out of Microsoft. So what exactly does "Hex 168" mean? For you uber-geeks out there, the hexadecimal code 1-6-8 translates to the binary code of 0001 0110 1000, which (besides being an interesting palindrome) translates from binary code into decimal code as "360". That's right folks. If you haven't guessed it already, the mystery of Hex 168 is all about the Xbox 360. And now that the secret has been exposed, the real fun begins.

  • Dead Or Alive 4 Calls In for Some Halo Support
    For weeks now, the rumor mill has been buzzing over the word that Tecmo's upcoming Dead or Alive 4 would be featuring a special guest star added to the fighting fray along with the regular cast of characters. Well, the official word came down on Wednesday as it was announced that the game would be featuring special material straight from Microsoft's best-selling Halo franchise.

  • GameStop and Nintendo Give Dog Owners A Halloween Treat (DS)
    Owners of Nintendo's hugely successful pet simulator, Nintendogs, are in for an added treat this Halloween weekend, courtesy of Nintendo and GameStop. Nintendo has announced that it is teaming with the video game retailer to host its Nintendogs Tricks and Treats Weekend, running from Friday, October 28th through Sunday, October 30th. During this time, virtual dog owners will be able to visit their local GameStop store, and walk away with an exclusive in-game item.

  • Electroplankton Gets Exclusive U.S. Debut (DS)
    Electroplankton, Nintendo's curiously unique experience for the DS, has been entertaining Japanese gamers for months. Now the company has announced that the game will make its U.S. debut on January 9th. However, if you're a DS owner looking to get your plankton groove on, don't go looking on store shelves for a copy of the game.
As always, comment on what you see and let me know your opinions.

Wednesday, October 26, 2005

More reviews

Here you go ... more work to look over. Lots of sports this time around.

News updates

Hmm ... so you've probably noticed I haven't done many news updates here lately. Wondering why? Well, I'll tell ya. Things have been nuts. More importantly, I've started writing news for GameSpy lately. So what does that mean for the news here? There's a couple of minor tweaks coming.

Here's the deal ... I'll still be posting various news stories here in the normal format. But, since I'm writing news for GameSpy as well, I'm going to also be linking some news articles over to their site. Why? Because I really don't feel like trying to write the same news articles up twice, once for GameSpy and once for here. So, I've gotten the okay from GameSpy to quote snippets of my articles here and link to the full articles over there. I'm going to try this out for a little bit and see how it works out for everyone. And like I said, I'll still include full news articles here as well, just not duplicates of what I'm already writing for GameSpy.

And just so you know what to expect, here's the first round of GameSpy news.
  • Nintendo and Waypoint Go Online With McD(S)
    It looks like DS owners will soon be getting some Mario Kart or Metroid Prime: Hunters game time with their Happy Meals. According to a statement released Tuesday, Nintendo has partnered up with Internet provider Wayport to bring its Nintendo WiFi Connection service to DS users at more than 6,000 McDonald's restaurants throughout the United States.

  • Game Companies Get Into The Holiday Spirit
    The Christmas shopping season is fast approaching, and with it comes the usual round of special deals from meant to entice consumers to choose one product over another. For gamers, that means being on the lookout for a host of new and sometimes fashionable console deals as well.
Let me know your thoughts.

Sunday, October 16, 2005

Another round of news ...

It's long past due, but yet again here I am with some recent happening in the video game industry. Check it all out and let me know your thoughts.
  • EA & Spielberg Phone Home

    Electronic Arts announced on Friday that it has signed a new long term development deal with Hollywood mastermind Steven Spielberg. According to EA, the deal calls for Spielberg to collaborate on site with EA's Los Angeles Studio (EALA) to develop three new original franchise properties. Spielberg will work directly with EA's development teams on the concepts, designs, stories, and artistic visions of the new games. Meanwhile, EA will own the intellectual properties, as well as handle the publishing and distribution of the new titles.

    For his part, Spielberg stated:
    "I have been playing EA games for years and have watched them master the interactive format. Having watched the game industry grow from a niche into a major creative force in entertainment, I have a great deal of respect for EA's understanding of the interactive format. I'm looking forward to working closely with the team in Los Angeles."
    The financial details of the deal weren't disclosed, but it's a safe bet that EA shelled out more than a couple of bucks for Spielberg's expertise.

  • Video Killied the iPod Star

    Last week, the Apple sent the press a cryptic email stating "Just one more thing." Well, Steve Jobs finally officially announced one of his company's worst kept secrets, the new iPod Video. The new iPod boasts a 2.5-inch, 320 x 240 pixel TFT display, 20 hour battery life, and up to 150 hours of video storage capability. Apple also took the opportunity to announce a new deal with ABC which will allow iTunes users to buy episodes of hit ABC television series Lost and Desperate Housewives the day after they initially air on the network.

    Now, the announcement of the iPod's new video capability is interesting for a couple of reasons. First off, Apple seems to be shooting itself in the foot by bringing this new iPod to the market hot on the heels of its iPod Nano. The new iPod could seriously cut into the iPod Nano's sales. Of course, it may also help to alleviate some retailer frustration, as the Nano's demand seemed to be severely outweighing its supply.

    Another gaming related spin on the iPod announcement relates to Sony's PSP. iTunes has already established itself as the jukebox software of choice for many MP3 owners, and now Apple will be releasing videos through the service. Meanwhile, over at Sony, the PSP has been seeing more and more success based on its multimedia capabilities. Though the PSP's library of games has been light until recently, sales of UMD movies have been through the roof. In Japan, Sony has started up an online service which allows PSP owners to download videos straight to their PSPs via an online WiFi connection. The service has seen a pretty favorable public response, and is now in the early stages of development here in the States.

    Can Sony's service carve out a niche for itself out of the large iTunes consumer base? Will consumers be content to watch video on the iPod's 2.5-inch, 320 x 240 display? Or would they rather go the route of the PSP's 4.3 inch (16:9 ratio) 480 x 272 display? These questions, and many more, will be answered in the next installment of "As The Video Turns".

  • And Speaking of the PSP

    Sony quietly released the latest firmware update for the PSP this week, bringing the system up to version 2.50. The new update adds a few new features, including the ability to update the time and date via the internet, support for playback of copy-protected video, the ability to save information entered into online forms, and other minor tweaks to the interface. One potentially sizeable update is the addition of Sony's LocationFree Player software to the PSP. This mean that if you own a LocationFree base station, you can use the PSP as a wireless television. Okay, so many of us may not yet own the $200+ base station required to actually USE this feature, it still shows that Sony is really pushing the PSP as true portable entertainment device.

  • "The Beginning Is Nigh"

    Oh look ... yet another cryptic "viral marketing" campaign. *sigh*

    Earlier this week, unusual photos began appearing in various Xbox themed online forums from a mysterious poster under the name "Lutz". These pictures, supposedly taken in various location around the United States, feature a circular design containing the Roman Numerals 1, 6, and 8. Immediately, fans began to wonder if this might mark the first rumblings of Halo 3 for the Xbox 360 ... with some even assuming that the numbers represented a release date of 8/1/06.

    So far, there's no word on what the symbols actually mean, but the website HEX 168 purports to be a tabloid-like "Lutz World Report" written by the mysterious Jason Q. Lutz. In it, Lutz maintains that he "cannot track down and document the mounting evidence of the power of Hex 168" and that soon he "will enlist the help of the truly committed, bring them together to witness the New Beginning before the rest of the world, and reward them with a physical manifistation of the power of Hex 168." The site also features a countdown clock which will run out on Tuesday, November 18th at 3pm EST (12pm Noon PST).

    On an interesting uber-geek note, the hexadecimal code 1-6-8 translates to the binary code of 0001 0110 1000, which (besides being an interesting palindrome) translates from binary code into decimal code as "360". A couple of math savvy posters threw this info out there, and yes ... I DID take the time to double check behind them before reporting it. So, is this a hint at something big coming for the Xbox 360? Who knows? I guess we'll all find out more on Tuesday.

    Here are copies of some of the pictures showing up online:

And on a final note (for now), I usually don't simply post press releases when I get them sent to me, but this is one time I'll make an exception because I think it's a good cause:


Games Needed For Kids Wish Network's Hospital Programs

Donations of Teen Titles Make Big Difference for Kids Suffering from Chronic Illness

OLDSMAR, FL – October 14, 2005 - Kids Wish Network, a nationally recognized charity dedicated to infusing hope, creating happy memories, and improving the quality of life for children suffering with life-threatening illnesses, needs video game donations for their in-hospital support programs for kids with chronic illnesses. The charity is currently experiencing a critical shortage of much needed items for their hospital gift-giving programs and is hoping that you can assist them in continuing their mission of bringing joy to children in need.

At this time, Kids Wish Network is seeking games and entertainment items for children ages 3-18, but particularly for those in their teens, more specifically ages 13-18. Unfortunately the needs of older children are often overlooked, and the hospital can be just as frightening and stressful at 18 as it can be at eight! Items for this age group are difficult to secure, and Kids Wish Network's Distribution Center is running seriously low on their teen-oriented inventory. Your generous contribution is desperately needed to help fill our giving event teen gift bags!

In addition to granting the wishes of children suffering with life-threatening illnesses, Kids Wish Network brings gifts, entertainment, special guests, and a much-needed break from medical treatment to hospitalized children all across the country through its Holiday of HopeTM gift-giving program. During these events, Kids Wish Network staff and volunteers also distribute age appropriate gift bags full of toys and other treasures to the young patients and their often-forgotten siblings.

A new toy or game can quickly dry the eyes of a frightened child and distract them from stinging needles, scary machines and the loneliness of being in a strange place. Pediatric doctors and nurses all agree that sometimes a smile can be the very best medicine.

"Most of our patients are medically indigent, with very limited resources," said Martha Benzor, Volunteer Coordinator at LAC+USC Women's & Children's Hospital in Los Angeles of the Kids Wish Network Holiday of HopeTM held at their hospital. "The wonderful toys they received helped enlighten their lives!"

The entertainment items and toys that we receive are never sold or distributed to other organizations. There is no middleman; they are given directly to the children.

Your donation is tax deductible to the fullest extent allowed by law, and WE PAY THE FREIGHT in the continental U.S. If you would like more information on Kids Wish Network, please visit our website at www.kidswishnetwork.org, or call toll free at (888) 918-9004.

If your company is able to assist Kids Wish Network with any of these items, please contact Barbara Askin at 813-814-0788 or by email at Barbara@kidswishnetwork.org.

Thursday, October 06, 2005

Spoilers and such

Remember how you felt when someone ruined the ending of a really cool (or even not so cool) movie? Like when your friends blabbed that Darth Vader was Luke's father? Or that Bruce Willis was really dead in The Sixth Sense? Or that the boat in Titanic actually sinks? (Okay, so the last one was a gimme). Well now, thanks to entertainment trade magazine Variety and the Sci-Fi Channel's website, you can relive that feeling in the world of video games.

As everyone should know, I cruise all sorts of places to get my information on video games. That includes press releases, news sources, interviews, etc. And then there are those times I just stumble across stuff. This is one of those "stumbling" moments.

There ... with that out of the way, here's what happened. I was checking out some interesting news bits on the Sci-Fi. One of these mentioned (by way of an article in Variety) that Warner Bros. is developing a film titled Species X. This movie centers around a detective investigating a series of murders. Over the course of the investigation, he is thrown into the middle of a battle between good and evil alien forces, and that in fact, he may not be a human himself. So far, it sounds like your standard scifi fare, right? Nothing to get gamers cranky just yet, right?

Okay folks, it's time for the obligatory:


Tha article went on to mention that Warner Bros. "will simultaneously develop videogame 'The Condemned: Criminal Origins' based on the concept". The thing is, promotions for the game itself (a launch title for the Xbox 360) have not given this key little plot twist away. In fact, every piece of info about the game has alluded to this being a "normal" story, with an FBI agent facing off against a collection of serial killers in a race to clear his name. In fact, even when devloping promo materials for the game, artists were emphatically told that the game had no ghost, no supernatural elements, etc., and that the hero was fighting off just a bunch of deranged humans. Now, thanks to the movie announcement, the cat is out of the bag And apparently serial killers will no longer cry out "The Devil made me do it" ... instead it'll be those damned little green men.

I'm curious to see how long it takes for other gaming sites to pick up on this little tidbit of info.

Sunday, October 02, 2005

Big things in small packages

Let me start off by saying that I have a Nintendo DS, which has slowly become the handheld of choice for me. When the DS first came out, nobody seemed to be doing anything impressive with the dual screened system. But now, games like Jump Super Stars, Mario Kart DS, Kirby: Canvas Curse, and Meteos are proving that Nintendo is still the reigning king of the handheld industry. Another key selling point for the DS has been its ability to play Game Boy Advance games. Having said that, you'd think that there's really no reason for me to pick up Nintendo's new Game Boy Micro system. What can I say? I'm a slave to marketing.

So yeah, I picked up a Game Boy Micro today. I could try to justify it to everyone by saying things like "The DS can't use a Link Cable", or "I need to be able to review the new system." ... but that would just be me making excuses. The truth of the matter is, I just think it's pretty damned cool. It's like the iPod Nano ... if you HAVE an iPod already, what purpose does the Nano serve for you? Even so, it's just something really frikkin' cool and you just wanna have it. Well, the Game Boy Micro was MY iPod Nano. Oh, and the Micro DOES do more for GBA games than the DS can. Specifically, the system supports multiplayer games via a Link Cable or Wireless Adapter. Also, I do like the idea of the interchangable faceplates. I'd be willing to bet that it's only a matter of time before companies start offering up promotional collectors edition faceplates marketing their hottest games.

The early buzz about the Micro seems to indicate it's going to be yet another success for Nintendo. Truth be told, so long as companies continue to support Nintendo and the little system that could, the Game Boy line will likely continue to thrive for the foreseeable future. And in the meantime? I'll be kicking back with my cool new fashion accessory ... umm .. for work pruposes of course.


Friday, September 30, 2005

Reviews for the week

I'd have had these up earlier, but Blogger was down for a while last night and today. So, without further ado ... here's what I wrote up this week so far over at GameSpy:
Okay ... y'know, I had a lot more to say. Really I did. But since Blogger went down, I couldn't put it all up when it was fresh in my mind. Anyway, I'll come back it it later.

Until then ... ciao all.

Thursday, September 29, 2005

The greatest DS game you'll never play

Tokyo Game Show has come and gone, but the meories will last forever ... or at least until next year's show. That having been said, I got a nice little care package from Phil Theobald over at GameSpy. It had all sorts of fun little goodies he picked up while in Japan. And in buried amongst the mix of other fun stuff, Phil had managed to find me a copy of the Nintendo DS game Jump Super Stars. And now I'm hooked ...

If you've never heard of Jump Super Stars, it's basically a Super Smash Bros. styled fighting game designed specifically for the DS. Instead of having a bunch of Nintendo characters battling it out though, Nintendo picked up the rights to use the huge library of characters from the popular manga magazine Shonen Jump. This includes characters from Yu-Gi-Oh!, One Piece, Naruto, Dragon Ball Z, Shaman King, and many other popular manga titles. Players pit their own custom team of characters characters against opposing teams in wild survival of the fittest matches. It successfully combines the most addictive qualities of fighting games and collectible card games. The game even supports Wi-Fi play for 2-4 players off of a single card.

Jump Super Stars is an amazing game ... easily one of, if not THE best game to ever hit Nintendo's dual screened handheld. The controls are easy to pick up, the game has a huge amount of depth, and it's simply a hell of a lot of fun to play. These's just one hitch ... the game will likely never see the light of day stateside. Due to licensing issues for all of the different characters (Atari has the rights to DBZ, Bandai controls One Piece, Konami has Yu-Gi-Oh! ... etc.), there's just no feesible way for Nintendo to get the rights to publish the game over here.

So what does this mean for DS owners anxious to experience the game? Well, you'll have to check with a video game importer or talk to someone in Japan to try and get yourself a copy. The game runs fine on a DS system from the US, but keep in mind that the game IS a Japanese title. This means that all of the menus, instructions, and other text from the game is all in Japanese. And unlike some Japanese games, there is no option to change the language to English. The gameplay is simple enough to overcome any sort of language barrier you come up against in battles, and the only real problem will come in figuring out what the goals are for each of the stages in the Adventure mode. Luckily, there are plenty of resources online that provide English language guides for Jump Super Stars.

If it ends up that Nintendo can't wrangle up some sort of agreement to bring Jump Super Stars to the US, it's definitely a game you might want to think about importing. Also, I'd hope that Nintendo doesn't just abandon the great engine that it developed for Jump Super Stars. There's no reason that the company couldn't take the same mechanics presented here, and incorporate them into a new Super Smash Bros. game for the DS.

I guess we'll all just have to wait and see.

Monday, September 26, 2005

Word Verification

Just a quick note. I turned on the Blogger Word Verification feature for Comments today. All it means is you guys will have to type in a fun little jibberish code when you post a comment. I didn't want to do it, but there's a ridiculous number of bots adding comments as soon as I put up a new post.

A soapbox moment on "Respect"

It's been a hell of a weekend for me. I've learned a few things and am re-evaluating a couple of them. Generally speaking though, for all my talk of not being jaded about people as a whole ... I've realized that over time things can wear down even the best of us.

I've always considered all of you friends ... it's just the type of person I am. Yes, I'm a smart ass. Yes, I've got my geeky quirks ... hell, I write about video games for a living and I'm close friends with a lot of people in the comic industry. I epitomize the term "fanboy" in a lot of way ways. And most importantly, I'm a pretty damned good guy ta boot.

Here's the rub ... I know I'm not perfect. Far from it. I don't expect everyone to like me. There are plenty of people who don't (though I'm so damned adorable it's hard to figure out why they don't). What I DO expect from people, however, it some modicum of respect. I am honest and upfront with people ... and whether I like you or not, I have enough respect for you to treat you as a person regardless of my personal feelings ... though I will still be honest with you about those feelings.

Oddly enough, it's like when I review a video game. I don't expect everyone to agree or disagree with me, to like or hate my review ... but I simply expect people to have enough respect for me as a person to read it thoroughly, think it over, and eventually accept it as my opinion on the matter. In return, I always give the utmost respect to my readers as a whole, will always explain my reasoning in a review in an honest and forthright manner, and continue to give the best I can. And if you do agree or disagree, I'm always available to discuss things. For me, what most people consider a "common courtesy" is not only becoming less than common, but is more about a sense of genuine respect for a fellow person than a real "courtesy".

Okay ... I'm stepping off my soapbox now.

Wednesday, September 21, 2005

"Evil fears the badge"

So, how many of you out there have checked out Darkwatch for either the Xbox or PS2? If you missed it the first time around, you can check out my GameSpy review of the game over here.

As you can tell from my review, I've become a HUGE fan of the game. And not just for the game itself, but for the rich universe that High Moon Studios has developed. So I've got a couple of questions for you guys. First off, how important do you guys think the story is to a game? And second, for those of you familiar with Darkwatch, what do you think of the game? Tell me your thoughts ...

Comic game stuff

I had a couple of new reviews go up yesterday at GameSpy:
The Marvel Nemesis review was a difficult one for me. I really liked the game, and think it was a great start. The comic fanboy in me wanted to give it a 4 or 4 1/2 star rating, but the realist in me ... the actual gamer in me ... realized that the game still had some areas to polish up just a bit. Don't get me wrong though. The game is fun, and it's a solid debut for EA's new franchise. Keep in mind, a 3 1/2 out of 5 for GameSpy is still a good score. I sent a copy of the review to EA, and one of the PR reps did get back to me and said, "It’s a fair review. Thanks for the heads-up and the good coverage."

Speaking of comic-based video games, next week marks the release of Ultimate Spider-Man. I've been real curious about how this game is going to turn out. I should be getting my review copy next week as well, and I'll be writing up a review for the Electric Playground website. I'll let you know my thoughts when I get it in.

Friday, September 16, 2005

Say you want a Revolution?

I mentioned the Tokyo Game Show unveiling of the Nintendo Revolution and its super secret controller in my last post, so I figured I'd update all of you with some news and pictures straight from the desk of Nintendo. First, from the official press release:
Nintendo Reveals 'Revolution'-ary Controller In Keynote Speech

TOKYO, Sept. 16, 2005 – Every gamer who plays. Every one who used to play. Even those who have yet to play, Nintendo is your bet.

As the cornerstone of his speech today at the Tokyo Game Show's annual event, Nintendo President Satoru Iwata elaborated on the theme of the company's aim and proven ability to broaden the population of video game players. Two shining examples highlighted in his keynote include the smash-hit sales of the highly innovative Nintendogs game for the portable Nintendo DS system, and the new controller that will be central to the company's upcoming console system, code-named Revolution.

Nintendo breaks with more than 20 years of video game history by abandoning the traditional controller held with two hands and introducing an all-new freehand-style unit held with one hand.

The intuitive, pioneering interface allows players to run, jump, spin, slide, shoot, steer, accelerate, bank, dive, kick, throw and score in a way never experienced in the history of gaming.

"The feeling is so natural and real, as soon as players use the controller, their minds will spin with the possibilities of how this will change gaming as we know it today," explains Satoru Iwata, Nintendo president. "This is an extremely exciting innovation – one that will thrill current players and entice new ones."

When picked up and pointed at the screen, the controller gives a lightning-quick element of interaction, sensing motion, depth, positioning and targeting dictated by movement of the controller itself.

The controller also allows for a variety of expansions, including a "nunchuk" style analog unit offering the enhanced game-play control hard-core gamers demand.

The response from all major publishers worldwide has been extremely positive. Beyond its other innovations, the new controller gives third parties flexibility, allowing them the option to use as many or as few of the controller features as they desire. In addition, incorporated technology will easily allow games from the NES, SNES, N64, and Nintendo GameCube generations to be controlled in familiar fashion.
And now, for all of you wondering just what in the hell this little piece of gaming technology will look like, it's time to toss out all those oddball Photoshop fakes and take a gander at the real deal. Here it is ... the "Revolution" in video game control:

So ... what are your thoughts on all of this?

An update and a couple of reviews

Hey everyone. I know I'm late doing any sort of update, but your friendly neighborhood journalist has been a busy busy bee as of late. First off, I had a couple of new reviews go up this week at GameSpy:
One interesting note about Urban Reign. Doing a quick search of a few other review sites shows that some people didn't really like the game as much as I have. Now, I've always said that as a reviewer, all I'm doing is giving my personal opinion of a game, and the reasons I feel that way. It's just funny to see other people have so many different opinions. One person (besides me) says this game has excellent graphics, while another says those same graphics are barely up to standards. One place says the combat has a surprising number of options, and another complains that the controls are weak. Regardless, the one thing we ALL seem to agree on with Urban Reign is that the AI is brutal and unforgiving. But here's where I think things get really odd. I personally didn't take off TOO much for the AI being such a pain because I remember the old school arcade fighters that sucked the quarters out of my pockets because they were just so damned hard. The thing was (and still is in Urban Reign) eventually I got better than the CPU. Sure, it was frustrating as hell, but I did make progress none the less. What I think is so funny is that some places took a sizeable chunk out of the game's score based mostly on the difficulty of the AI. So, my question to all of you is simply, "At what point do YOU think a game should be considered TOO difficult?" For me, I can deal with a little frustration from time to time, as long as I see progress. What about all of you?

Moving right along ...

*SIGH* ... This week marks the beginning of the Tokyo Game Show (TGS) in Japan. The damned thing just started and already news is making waves in the gaming community. Everything from the official Xbox 360 release date (Nov. 22 in the US), to Nintendo's official unveiling of the elusive Revolution controller. And lets not forget about the games ... from Metal Gear Solid 4 to the new Xbox 360 RPG (eM)-eNCHANT-arM, things are starting to look really interesting for the industry right now. Sadly, I didn't make it to Tokyo this year, but I've got some people out there keeping an eye on things for me. Plus, I've got all my standard press contacts, so I'll be bringing you news and info updated ASAP.

Speaking of news and info, a couple of interesting projects are in the works for me here. First, I'm in talks with GameSpy about helping to provide them with regular news updates for their site. Things are hectic at the moment due to TGS, but it still looks like I'll be helping out with the news over there soon. Also, I'm still writing regularly for Electric Playground, however the writing I'm doing is not up at this time. Apparently ever since Greedy moved into its new offices and updated the servers, they've been having problems accessing the database to add new articles. Tavis is working on the problem as we speak, and as soon as it's sorted out, my latest batch of reviews for them should be the first things going up.

I'm in the early EARLY stages of finally producing something I've been interested in for some time. I'm pulling triple and quadruple duty these days, as I'm not only continuing to focus on my freelance writing, but I've also started development of my own small magazine as well. The idea is for me to put together a new mag focusing on the worlds of video games, comic, and other various "pop culture" interests. Once I get things set up and plotted out, the magazine will be distributed online in what will most likely be a PDF format. Also, I'm working on a treatment/pitch for the comic news show (similar to what Electric PLayground is for gaming). AND I'm working with some guys I know from the comic and game industries to try and put together some interesting and entertaining intellectual properties to be used in both comic book and video game formats. I'm not sure where any of these projects will take me, but you're all welcome to join me on the ride.

I guess that'll wrap things up for now. Drop a line and let me know your thoughts, and also what you'd like to talk about next. C'mon guys (and gals), give me a little feedback.

Thursday, September 08, 2005

Fox goes gaming

Now here's a little tidbit of information that's sure to make waves at the GameSpy water cooler. After a lot of speculation, rumour, and smokescreens, the word came down today that Rupert Murdoch's News Corp. (home of all things Fox) has officially announced that it will be aquiring IGN Entertainment for a price of around $650 million. IGN Entertainment is the home of IGN (naturally), GameSpy, and Rotten Tomatoes.

The move comes hot on the heels of News Corp.'s recent aquisition of Intermix, the owner of social networking site MySpace. Back in July, IGN had filed with the SEC to offer up shares of stock in an initial public offering. Obviously, that IPO is no longer an issue, as the deal with News Corp. is projected to be finalized before the end of the fourth financial quarter.

Wednesday, September 07, 2005

Recruitment drive

It's long past time for me to return to a subject that is sorely in need of some new focus. Simply put ... where in the hell are my groupies?

Okay people, this is a call to arms. I'm going to put together some kind of unofficial Groupie Recruitment Drive. I need some ideas. Membership cards? Random swag? Other oddball perks? Give me your thoughts and suggestions.

And as for why I'm doing this? It's some lighthearted fun, which is something we all need these days. And like I said before ... you don't think I got into this field for the money, do you? Fanclubs and groupies ... THAT'S the real reason I started writing.

A slightly delayed update

Well, I've been planning to update all weekend and list out the games I reviewed last week. Then I found out one of the reviews got misplaced and was going to be delayed until Tuesday. The review was for NASCAR 06: Total Team Control from Electronic Arts. I was reviewing the PS2 and Xbox versions. I reviewed last year's NASCAR game for GameSpy, and was impressed by how well the game was put together. This year though ... let's just say I was less than impressed. Anyway, it would seem that EA has been itching for a decent review of the game, and was riding GameSpy about seeing the review. There was some concern that my less than stellar view of this year's game versus my positive impressions of last year's game might be viewed with some skeptecism. So, my review got killed and the game is being reassigned. So, I guess I'll see whether or not someone else is just as unimpressed as I was. Either way, I've always said that reviews are simply one person's opinion. You can take it or leave it.

Anyway, I've retooled the NASCAR review and sent it off to Electric Playground, along with a handful of other new reviews. So, nce the EP site gets updated, you should see a host of new content from me. As for the other work I did last week at GameSpy, here's what went up:
I'll try to put together a longer update soon, including news from the industry, current projects, and other tidbits of info.

Monday, August 29, 2005

I've been "Reset"

So I'm taking a break from the usual grind when an IM pops up from my buddy, Raymond Padilla. Ray, for those of you who don't know, used to be the Senior Console Editor at GameSpy, before heading out to check out some other pastures, including co-hosting Yahoo Games' video game web show Reset. Ray tells me I need to check out the latest episode, which features his trip to Austin for Atari U. Well, I do pop up in the episode a short bit, and apparently with a new moniker ...

Look, it's "Freelance Chapman"!!

The morning after

Friday, August 26, 2005

News from the gaming world

Another day and another round of video game news. I know it's been a while since I put some info up, but hopefully this will satisfy your appetite for a while. Here we go:

  • Halo Goes Hollywood
    After a bunch of wheeling and dealing (as well as some huffing, puffing, and theratening to blow some houses down) is looks like Master Chief is finally on the fast track to hit the silver screen. According to Variety, the Microsoft has reached an agreement with Universal and 20th Century Fox to bring the popular video game to theaters worldwide. In to the agreement between the three companies, Universal will handle the production of the movie as well as domestic distribution. Meanwhile Fox will handle the overseas distribution of the flick. The two film studios will split the revenues equally, while paying Microsoft $5 million and 10 per cent of the film's gross. According to the Variety report, Microsoft will be granted extensive consultation rights on the project, but no approval over any of the film elements. Also, several members from Bungie will serve as creative consultants.

  • Halo Gets a Boxed Set
    Speaking of Halo ... Microsoft has officially announced the pending release of the Halo Triple Pack, just in case you're one of the small number of Xbox owners who has yet to experience the popular first person shooter. The pack will include Halo, Halo 2, and the Halo 2 Multiplayer Map Pack. The pack will come in at a price of $59.99 MSRP.

  • Metroid DS Detailed
    It's so hard to be right so often. A few months back, Nintendo and GameSpy announced that they were teaming up to develop Wi-Fi matchmacking services for the Nintendo DS. The first games announced utilizing the new feature were Mario Kart DS and Animal Crossing DS. Coincidentally, Nintendo also announced that the long awaited Metroid Prime Hunters game for the DS would be inexplicably delays. I'd mentioned at the time hearing that the delay was partially due to Nintendo's desire to incorporate online play into the game's multiplayer. Well, I was right.

    According to Nintendo, Metroid Prime Hunters will launch in the first quarter of 2006, complete with access to Nintendo Wi-Fi Connection, Nintendo's upcoming online gaming service which will let players connect wirelessly with one another as easily as if they were sitting in the same room. Nintendo also has released images and video of three previously unreleased bounty hunter characters in the game. These include:

    Sylux, mysterious bounty hunter who harbors an intense hatred for the Federation and for Metroid heroine Samus Aran.

    Weavel, former Space Pirate Captain who has been fused to a new robotic body after being critically injured during an altercation with Samus.

    Trace, a young member of the feared Kriken race on a rite of passage to seek out a planet to for his race to invade.

    As I hear more on the new game, I'll be sure to pass the word along.

  • Bandai and Namco team up
    Two of the big guns in media development, Namco Hometek and Bandai Entertainment, have announced plans to merge into a singular entity, Bandai Namco. According to reports on the deal, Bandai would own about 57 percent of the merged company, with Namco retaining the remaining 43 percent. More news about this should be coming out of Japan sometime next month.

  • Auto Assault Hits A Traffic Jam
    If you're one of the many whose been itching to go all "Mad Max" and roam the wasteland in massive automotive combat ... well, it looks like you'll be waiting just a little bit longer. NCsoft and developer NetDevil have announced that their highly anticipated MMO Auto Assault will be debuting a little later than initially planned. Citing ideas spawned from the latest round of beta testing, as well as the need for more fine tuning and "tweaking", the game's beta test period has been extended through Sring 2006. Unfortunately, that means gamers won't be able to satisfy their road rage until after the holiday season.

  • Breaking the Code
    Have any of you out there NOT read The Da Vinci Code? The first posters and trailers to the movie have been showing up in theaters lately. I can't help but wonder what would happen if someone were to do a video game about it. I mean, take a look at all of the collective parts of the story ... the interesting characters, the engaging drama, the intrigue and mystery. It could be a great adventure game, if it was done right. Ah well, it's all nothing more than wishful thinking on my part ... or is it?
I'll post more news a lot more frequently now as time permits. Keep checking in to see what I know. And don't forget about the Hulk giveaway I'm doing. It ends on Sunday night.

Throwing DS owners a bone

I've had my Nintendo DS since the day the system was released last November. In the nine months since, I've not found too many titles that really impress me. Super Mario 64 DS was pretty good, but that was the only "must have" title until recently. Now, it seems like developers (and Nintendo in particular) have finally started to realize what the portable system can accomplish. Games like Meteos and Kirby have come along to prove that Nintendo still has what it takes to dominate the handheld industry. Then Nintendo went to the dogs ... and it's probably the best thing that could have happened.

Nintendogs was one of the biggest things to hit the DS when it was released in Japan a couple of months ago. Now, the game has made its way stateside and it looks to be almost as popular here as it is abroad. In case you've been living under a rock for a while, Nintendogs is a pet simulator that uses all of the DS technology to recreate the experience of raising a puppy. Your Nintendog will never age, die, need a trip to the vet, etc. It's reminiscent of the Tamagotchi or Neopet virtual pets ... but amped up to a whole new level.

I'm not going to go in depth with a review of the game here. There are plenty of solid reviews around the net. In fact, I wrote one of 'em myself for Electric Playground, which should go up any day now. The game is highly addicting. Once you get started, you just can't put it down. Nintendogs is also the type of game that will get people playing the DS that normally wouldn't have an interest in gaming.

If you own a DS, you definitely need to pick up a copy of Nintendogs.

Tuesday, August 23, 2005

Hulk SMASH!!

Okay folks ... it's time for a good old fashioned recommendation. So far, I haven't had the chance to "officially" review this game, but nonetheless, I want to make sure that all of you reading this at least check it out (well, those of you with an Xbox or PS2 at least). The game is Incredible Hulk: Ultimate Destruction. Now, a lot of you know about my background in the comic industry. I even wrote up GameSpy's list of the 10 Best and 10 Worst Comic Games of All Time. So obviously, I'm a little more critical of comic based games than the average Joe. Even so, I've got to say that this new Hulk game is hands-down one of the best comic book based video games to hit home consoles.

I first got my hands on Incredible Hulk: Ultimate Destruction back at E3. I put an earlier build through its paces and nitpicked what I could with the developers from Radical Entertainment. Honestly, I was surprised at how much thought and effort these guys put into the game. It was easy to see that they really wanted to put together a solid experience for newcomers AND for longtime Hulk fans. Adding to the fanboy cred of the game, Ultimate Destruction benefitted from the input of comic writer Paul Jenkins. Paul has been busy writing some of the best comic stories on store shelves, and he's been getting a LOT more involved in the video game industry as well. If you missed it before, check out the interview I did with Paul for GameSpy while at Comic-Con this year.

Moving on to the game, Incredible Hulk: Ultimate Destruction shows just how a comic game should be done. Unlike the Hulk game based on the movie, this is pure comic greatness. Hulk can run up walls, leap over tall buildings, pound anything and everything in his path, and generally destroy anything he comes across. And if there's one thing the Hulk is known for, it's destruction. The Green Goliath can pull off some really cool tricks by interacting with his environment as well. For example, he can take a car, rip it in half, and create metal "gloves" from the two halves to increase his damage potential. Also, the Hulk can take a beat-up bus from off the street and use it to "surf" around the area, or use it as a shield to protect himself from oncoming fire. For the most part, if it's in the game, the Hulk can use it in some way.

I've been fortunate enough to have spent a lot of time with Incredible Hulk: Ultimate Destruction. If you've ever had any interest in the Hulk, you owe it to yourself to check this game out. This is one game that shouldn't slip into obscurity because of gamers still jaded from previous comic games. In fact, here's something I'll do on my end to see that the game gets the recognition it deserves ... Incredible Hulk: Ultimate Destruction will be the first of my semi-regular "Cheap Shills" Giveaways.

Here's the way this works ... I will occasionally get my hands on some interesting promo items / games / exclusives / etc. for different video game projects. Normally, I'll keep secret exactly WHAT I have, but I will say what company and/or game it's for. It may be something really cool ... or it may be something really cheesy. That's a chance you guys will have to take. But I'll always do my best to make sure things are fair. "So," you ask, "What do I have to do to get in on this?" Well, you're going to have to get a little creative. I'll try to come up with something a little unique each time, but basically it all boils down to you guys promoting the games and/or companies in some way. See where I get the name "Cheap Shills"?

So, this being the inaugural "Cheap Shills" Giveaway, I'll go ahead and let you know what's up for grabs ... this time at least. I have two copies of the Incredible Hulk: Ultimate Destruction Xbox demo signed by Paul Jenkins ... something I'm sure comic fans will be giddy for. I also have a PS2 demo disc from E3, though unfortunately it wasn't signed. One key thing about these demos ... the demo is a race against the clock meant to show off some of the coolest features in the game. The thing is, at the end of the demo, you're given a special code based on the level of destruction you managed to cause. These codes can then be entered into the retail version of the game to unlock some other really cool extras. So, even when you pick up the retail version, you'll still want to play around with these demos. And finally, I have a copy of one of the limited edition reprint of Incredible Hulk #1 with a specially comissioned cover by Amanda Connor. So now that you know WHAT you may get, now it's time to sort out HOW you may get it. This time I'm making it pretty simple for you. Just post a comment to this blog entry and come up with your own unique "tribute" to the Incredible Hulk: Ultimate Destruction. This can be a song, a short story, a poem, a game review, a picture, or anything else that comes to mind ... but be creative and have fun. The deadline is Sunday, August 28th. On Monday, I'll pick what I think are the most creative submissions, and give away the goodies accordingly.

Monday, August 15, 2005

New reviews and another rant

First off, I've got a few p/reviews up at GameSpy today. They are:

Now, having gotten that out of the way, I ORIGINALLY had a preview go up today for Driver: Parallel Lines (PS2) from Atari. It's one of the games I covered while in Austin last week. The only problem is, every preview was cleared to go up today EXCEPT the new Driver game. Apparently, Atari had granted an exclusive elsewhere, meaning no one else was supposed to put a preview until September 7th. I've ranted before about these embargoes, but I feel the urge to rant just one more time.

The thing is, we as journalists are generally all playing the same builds of a game when we write our previews. So, when we all have to wait for one place to get an exclusive, it gets a little frustrating. Think about it for a second. This preview that I wrote up last week will be a month old before it ever sees the light of day. Sometimes, I can understand waiting a few days for one reason or another. I can even reasonably see holding a review until the day the game is released ... but there's no reason why I should be writing up something today that will be obsolete by the time it hits the press.

I know that press embargoes are a necessary evil of the journalistic world ... but all I'm saying is that they need to managed a hell of a lot better than they are right now. When you force someone to write/publish a piece based on older material, it's generally not going to turn out well for those involved.

And in other news, I'm finally setting into motion for the first major swag bag giveaway. If all goes well, it will be up by the end of the week, so keep your eyes peeled.

Wednesday, August 10, 2005

More Atari U pics

I swiped these from Ray ... so sue me.

Last night in Texas and heading home (I hope)

Well, I'm sitting at the airport in Ausin, TX recovering from my time at the Atari University press junket. It was a great opportunity to check out some upcoming games, as well as shoot the breeze with some old friends and colleagues while meeting up with some new ones. Now, having said all that, on to the events of last night.

Around 7:30p, we were all rounded up, herded into two large tour buses, and shuttled into downtown Austin. We all went to a bar called Oslo for the night. More fruit, more cheeses, some fajitas, and a WHOLE lot of alcohol was there to be had by all. And who were we to turn it down? I quickly learned that my buddy, Raymond Padilla, had a new greeting for me every time we were within reach of each other. Instead of "Hey, how's it going?" I was greeting to "CHAPMAN!! You're in!!" followed up by a random shot being passed my way. Over the course of the night, my drinking broke down as follows (in no particular order):
  • Rum & Coke (x1)
  • Corona (x2)
  • Tequila shots (x3)
  • Jaegermeister shots (x2)
  • Lemon Drop shots (x2)
  • Irish Car Bomb (x1)
  • Margarita (x3)
  • Bottled Water (x6)

Needless to say, I was just a bit past even MY tolerance. And by the time things started winding down, just about everyone was three sheets to the wind or close to it. Thankfully, I've got a bit of a "killswitch" in my head which stops me from ever drinking to the point that I forget what I'm doing .. or do something I KNOW I'll regret later. The fun part was being the one person coherent enough to remind everyone else what they did that night (Heh).

So, a group of us pile in to the last bus heading back to the hotel. We stopped off for food (Taco Cabana!!), and went about our merry ways ... singing Bon Jovi, Prince, and even some Barry Manilow along the way. And just when you think the night is done, the bus dies on us. So we're stranded roughly 15 miles or so (at least) from the hotel for at least an hour. Some of the guys even took it upon themselves to try and fix the bus (which actually means no more than they pushed a bunch of buttons). We tried to encourage the bus to start with a heartfelt rendition of George Michael's "Faith", but to no avail. Eventually, we made it back to the hotel around 4:00a. I stayed up for a bit before crashing and woke up feeling fine. Unfortunately, not everyone else could say the same.

This morning I headed out of the room for the final round of demos and such, and the conference area was like a wasteland. Very few people were there for breakfast around 9:30a. Slowly everyone dragged themselves in and shared experiences from the night before. While it seemed like everyone was doing this to have fun and share with others, the truth of the matter is it was simply a way for everyone to figure out exactly what they had done. And when the cameras started getting passed around, and photographic evidence was unveiled ... then the collective "I did what?!?" set in. All in on, it was a hell of a good time.

Now I'm sitting in the airport, anxious to get back home to Jacksonville. So naturally there have to be problems. Apparently Atlanta (where my connecting flight it) has been pounded by some thunderstorms today, causing a ridiculous number of delays. My flight into Atlanta will already be running about 1 hour and 20 minutes late. Factor in the fact that my original layover had me in Atlanta for only an hour and suddenly you start to see where my snag is. Plus, I think my flight into Jax from Atlanta is the last flight heading there for the night. So I'm waiting to find out what's going to happen and when (or if) I'll be getting home tonight after all.