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.

Tuesday, August 09, 2005

Taking a breather

this is an audio post - click to play

New reviews up @ GameSpy

It's Two 4 Tuesday over at GameSpy. Two of my reviews went up today - Outlaw Tennis (Xbox)and Shaman King: Master of Spirits 2 (GBA). Head on over there and tell me what you think. Oh, and as far as Atari U goes, I'll be writing up a few previews for some upcoming Atari games after getting some good hands-on time this afternoon. And tonight, we're all hitting downtown Austin for some fun. I'll report on it as I can.

Oh, and I did try to make a return to some Audioblogging, only to discover the phone number wasn't working (damnit). If I can get it up and running again, you can expect to HEAR more from me later.

** EDIT **
I just found that the number for the Audioblog WAS actually changed. I fixed up my information, so I should be doing some voice entries later.

Atari U Day One

Okay, so these pictures aren't the greatest, but most of the day was pretty frustrating to begin with and at least this shows that the day ended on a high note.

So, why was the big portion of the day so frustrating? I was rushing to get ready for the flight out to TX for Atari U. Then I got wrapped up in a phone call with an editor over at Sound & Vision Magazine trying to work out a deal for me to do some freelance work for him. I got delayed in Atlanta for over an hour and a half. Then when I got in, the hotel said the last shuttle had already run and that I would need to take a cab (which would run about $70). I got it all straightened out though, and we're all good now.

Met up with Sterling, the new PS2 editor at GameSpy, and a bunch of other gaming collegues. Ray tried to sneak up on me w/ his camcorder. And then the drinking started. We were all drinking and talking shop (and talking a lot of BS that had NOTHING to do with gaming) until the bar closed up.

So what did we do then? Naturally, we piled into a couple of taxis and went to a local bar (Mulligan's) for more drinks and some rounds of pool. There were a couple of girls playing pool a few tables down which got everyone's attention. Think about it ... you throw two women into the mix with about ten video game journalists who've been drinking for a few hours and funny times are sure to happen.

So, the guys were talking about how they'd try to get the girls' attention, when I decided if they were going to have any chance ... I had to step in. So I went up to the table, struck up a conversation, and then handed the ball off to Ray so he could try to hook up his buddy. Eventually most of the guys split their attention between the two tables. Anyway, the night went on, we all played pool, had drinks, and just had fun for the rest of the night.

And tonight? We're going adventuring again.

Monday, August 08, 2005

Attending "Atari U"

Atari is having its annual press event this week in the Lone Star State, meaning that tomorrow I will be airborne once again on a trip to Texas. I'm covering the event for GameSpy, and I'll be posting anything new I find out while I'm there. In the meantime, I'll be out of town until Thursday ... so if you need me, call, IM or email me.

Friday, August 05, 2005

Video games and stereotypes

Over at, I've got a personal profile, as well as a club I just set up for Video Game Industry Professionals. Over at the club, someone posted a journal entry discussing the need for video games to "go mainstream" and break stereotypes.

Here's what I said on the matter:

"Video games going mainstream? Perish the thought!!

Actually, the reality is that the video game industry IS slowly gaining "mainstream acceptance", but I think that people are missing the point as to WHY it's happening. The video game industry is only now starting to break out of the stereotype that it never deserved to begin with.

Contrary to popular belief, the video game market consists of a much broader spectrum of people than teenage boys with a penchant for violence, or little kids looking for a new cartoon. Gamers include everyone from men to women, little kids to senior citizens, Fortune 500 CEOs to the bagger at your local grocer, and everybody in between. Take a look at actress Vanessa Marcil. In a recent Maxim interview, she discussed a $10,000 bet she had going with a friend of hers to see who would go further in an online tourney for Halo 2. She's 35 years old, a woman, a mother, and a popular actress. Does she fit the mold of the "typical gamer"? I say she does. Why? Because THERE'S NO SUCH THING AS A TYPICAL GAMER!!!

Webster's defines a stereotype as "a standardized mental picture that is held in common by members of a group and that represents an oversimplified opinion, prejudiced attitude, or uncritical judgment". It's something that, by definition, is unfounded.

The problem is, society as a whole has let itself become brainwashed into thinking that everything with any semblance of a "fanbase", MUST be represented by the most extreme examples of said fanbase. For every one Trekkie that dresses up as Spock and takes courses in "Advanced Conversational Klingon", there are twenty who are content to sit back, enjoy the show, and simply feel guilty at being compared to the extremists.

Take a look at the comic book industry ... an industry I was involved in for about a decade. When I ran a shop, my customers covered the entire scope of humanity. Television reporters and city officials came in to pick up their monthly subscriptions right along with the high school kids with money to burn. And yeah, I had my share of "fruit loops" too ... but they were few and far between. Then, when I left the shop to work behind-the-scenes in the industry, I discovered that this wasn't an isolated occurance, but rather a worldwide phenomenon. Why do you think movies like Spider-Man, Batman, and even Hellboy and Fantastic Four have done so well? It's because people are starting to "come out" so to speak, and admit that they are comic fans ... thereby breaking the stereotype that had no business existing to begin with.

Unfortunately, the video game industry is currently under attack by overzealous politicians looking for a new hook, sue-happy lawyers, poor parents, and special interest groups all looking for a sacrifical lamb to blame for the ills of society. Think McCarthyism on a smaller and more modern scale. It seems like Washington just isn't content unless it has a soapbox to stand on and some "evil" to protect "our children" from. Even the aforementioned comic industry suffered through these witch hunt tactics in the late 60's.

Of course, the problem is that once a stereotype sets in, too often those that are affected most by it tend to accept it and even perpetuate it. If a company BELIEVES its market is teenage boys, who will it skew its product towards? Meanwhile, those companies who design for a different market are viewed as either ignorant or visionary ... depending on the way the wind is blowing.

The key is to realize that in EVERY fanbase, there are representative from almost all classes, genres, and sexes. You can't pigeonhole yourself into thinking that there's only one singular market. And if you ARE a gamer who breaks the perceived stereotype, you need to embrace your interest and not be ashamed of it. Because until more of you come out of the gaming closet, the myth of the "typical gamer" will continue to grow.

Okay, I'm stepping down from MY soapbox now."

So what are YOUR thoughts?

Wednesday, August 03, 2005