Wednesday, July 1, 2009

Time-Dilation and Other Relativistic Catastrophes

First things first: let's get rid of the overwhelming subliminal assumption beneath this fascination for the game industry, i.e., that making games and playing games are mere variations on the same theme. Believe me, they have nothing in common. Thank God for that, too. Think about it for a minute. These days, the typical game is considered a success if it provides the player with about 40 hours of enjoyment. Forty hours. About a week. Now, developing that very same game will take, on average, two years. Please reflect on the staggering implications of what you just read. Unless you are a tester, or you happen to be designing chess or Civilization III, you will work on your game one hundred times longer than your customer will play it. one hundred Please imagine how much fun it would be to play the same game, and only that game, every single day, eight twelve hours a day, for two years. Yep, that's right, wouldn't be any fun at all. After a month, you'd be hopelessly bored. Two months, and you'd grow warts at the mere mention of it. By the time you'd be ready to ship the sucker, you. Well, you would have killed everyone else on the team long before, so you never would ship. Developing games has its own rewards, of course; otherwise, no one would bother. But it is hard work, and nothing, nothing like playing games all the time. Get that through your thick skulls!

Should working in games be more fun?

Yeah, we've all seen 'em. The bright-eyed, eager kids who, upon learning that we work in the interactive entertainment industry, drop to their hands and knees and beg us for our secret. How did we do it? How did we manage to get someone to pay us for this? There are millions of them. Mostly guys, but the number of girls is getting surprisingly high. They're kind of naive, and maybe a little annoying, but in a charming kind of way, since they worship the week-old leftover pizza crusts we reluctantly throw out. They'd do anything to be like us, up to and including pledging their souls to the denizen of the fuming tar pits of Hades of our choice. Sure, they feign to listen when we warn them about the crazy hours or the lousy pay. But nothing registers. To their untrained eyes, making games seems to be somewhat akin to a mild all-day orgasm. And then, something terrible happens to them. They finally get a job in the industry.

Movie Games Earning Back Consumer Respect

It's the summer blockbuster movie season, and the high buzz around popular action flicks is having a positive effect on their tie-in games.Nielsen finds that movie license games are topping the list in terms of both "online buzz" and player intent to purchase, and concludes that maybe movie license games are finally getting some respect from gamers.At the top of Nielsen's purchase intent list is Activision's X-Men Origins: Wolverine for the week of its release, and it's joined by other games tied into big box office properties: Transformers: Revenge of the Fallen, also an Activision release, and the GRIN and Halcyon-developed Terminator: Salvation game. It's not just that the current film season is driving proxy enthusiasm for the associated games. Nielsen says that a few months ago, Electronic Arts' Godfather II scored well on the purchase intent list even though the movie came out in 1974.Two months away from its release, Eidos' Batman: Arkham Asylum is tied for second fifth place, and Nielsen expects it to hit number one by summer's end, while the Terminal Reality-developed Ghostbusters video game, released last week, topped the online buzz list and ranked fourth in terms of purchase interest.

Microsoft Adding Silverlight-Based Rich Media To Xbox Live

Microsoft plans to bring its Silverlight graphical framework to Xbox 360, enabling portability of online advertising campaigns between the console and other Silverlight-supporting platforms.According to a MediaPost report, Microsoft will open up space for advertising, presumably on the Xbox Live Dashboard, that will be identical to what is available for web ads, and will conform to Interactive Advertising Bureau guidelines.Silverlight as a technology is similar in intent to, and a competitor of, Adobe Flash. It is used for advertising as well as other purposes, such as browser-based games and video streaming. The article specifically indicates that "Silverlight-powered media on Xbox will have the same appearance as ads seen on a Web browser."Video rental service Netflix recently began using Silverlight for web-based streaming, and MediaPost says Microsoft will also use the technology to add more and better-quality video streaming options to Xbox 360.With the move, Microsoft is aiming to make advertising available across personal computers, consoles, mobile phones, and even devices based on Microsoft Surface, with a minimum of redevelopment necessary between platforms.

Uncharted Drake's Fortune Getting Film Adaptation

Uncharted: Drake's Fortune, has been discovered by Columbia studios, and now a movie adaptation has been confirmed by The Hollywood Reporter.
Kyle Ward, the same man responsible for writing the screenplay for the Kane & Lynch and upcoming Hitman 2 adaptions, is set to do the same for Uncharted. The movie will be produced by Avi Arad, Charles Roven, Ari Arad, and Alex Gartner.
Uncharted: Drake's Fortune was one Sony's first exclusive titles to be met with critical acclaim, selling 1 million copies in its first 10 weeks back in 2007. The game unfolds like any blockbuster action adventure movie should, complete with cheesy dialogue, explosive firefights, and a plot that keeps things entertaining.
As a game, Uncharted's scope and intense action was a formidable undertaking that fit the video game medium perfectly. To see a movie studio planning to translate the huge, lush, green jungles and ancient ruins of the game onto the big screen is truly ambitious. However, if done correctly Uncharted: Drake's Fortune has potential to be as entertaining as similar adventure films such as King Kong or Indiana Jones.
Here's to hoping the movie adaptation of Uncharted takes shape into a film that is not only good for being based on a video game, but good on its own merit. However, Columbia has an uphill battle. As Nathan Drake would say, finding a good video game movie "is like trying to find a bride in a brothel."

'Daring Book For Girls' Coming Soon

We’ve seen games based on books before, but Majesco’s newest adventure title takes inspiration from an unlikely source and applies it to one of gaming’s fastest growing markets. The Daring Book for Girls series is sort of a how to instruction manual for adventurous young girls, covering everything from secret note-passing skills, to how perform the cats cradle string trick, to tips on perfecting the cartwheel. Due out this October, Majesco’s digital take on the HarperCollin’s series will let players virtually experience activities straight from the books. (We wonder if this includes the eternal mystery of what boys are thinking.)
After creating their own character, players will take part in a variety of different challenges including managing a corner stand, playing freeze tag, and adventuring through an African Safari. Scattered throughout these various minigames will be an assortment of educational facts about famous women throughout history. We just hope the game provides some kind of insight into what girls talk about during sleepovers.

Mass Effect 2 Will Not Feature ‘New Game Plus’

The first Mass Effect is one of the most replayable games in recent memory. A variety of choices, from moral dilemmas to romantic interests, ensure that every time through the game players are provided with something new. In addition to seeing how different situations resolve depending on your decisions, Mass Effect also has another powerful incentive to entice gamers into replaying the adventure: New Game Plus.
The term popularized by Chrono Trigger on SNES refers to beginning a new playthrough after beating the game. However, instead of starting at square one, the players begin with the stats, abilities, and equipment their characters had at the end of the previous playthrough. In other words, you start over with an end-game character, complete with all of the powers and advantages that affords.
New Game Plus is the perfect option for players who want to re-experience the story without being robbed of the effort they invested into maxing out their characters. Unfortunately, according to a post on BioWare’s Mass Effect 2 forums, the second entry in the series will no longer support this feature. Responding to post asking whether New Game Plus will be in Mass Effect 2, lead designer Preston Watamaniuk responded:
“The short answer is no.
“The reason is progression. We have been working very hard to make sure we design the abilities system to offer smooth progression into ME3 from ME2. Allowing double progression on characters makes that almost impossible. We have to have reasonable knowledge about where a character could end up finishing all content on a playthrough. We also want to offer choice of character build within specific classes.
“We replaced that feature with playing after you were done because it preserves progression and allows for smoother downloading of PRC post-release content.”

The NFL, the Supreme Court,&Video Games?

Listen up sports fans: we’ve got a story for you straight out of left field. And we promise the sports metaphors will end right here. Now.
As Mike Florio reported in an article on, the Supreme Court announced today that it will listen to arguments as to whether the NFL’s 32 teams count as separate or a single entity with regards to marketing deals. To simplify, the question the Supreme Court will try to answer is whether the NFL has the right to make blanket decisions for all of the league’s teams, or whether the owners of individual teams should be able to work out deals themselves. Wait, was that any simpler to understand?
Let’s just get right to the point that interests us: video games. For years now, EA Sports have enjoyed an exclusive deal with the NFL that gives them sole rights to portraying players, team names, and logos in video-game form, making the Madden series the only place for NFL fans to turn to for a realistic and up-to-date football video game. If the Supreme Court rules that each team has the right to negotiate their own terms for how their team is marketed, however, it would not only destroy that agreement, but possibly the entire Madden series.
What happens if some teams sign an agreement for a game and others don’t, or sign instead with another competing franchise (*cough* NFL2K *cough*)? Or what if a team just demands more money than the developer is willing to pay? Would you have real teams playing against imaginary ones? How would it affect the rosters, if developers couldn’t include the real names and stats of players? When Sega lost the right to use NFL teams in the 2K series, it killed the franchise – despite having always received great reviews. What would happen if no company could secure a full roster of teams?
And the ruling could affect not just the NFL; no doubt owners in the NBA, NHL, MLB, and pretty much any other team-based sport are waiting to see the precedent that this case will set. And as far as we can tell, no other industry could be affected by the outcome more than the video game industry: people who buy Nike or Gatorade aren’t going to care if only some sports teams endorse their product ­­– but no gamer is going to want to buy a game that’s missing half of the league.
However, the case hasn’t even started yet, and the Supreme Court’s ruling will probably go in favor of the NFL, so there’s no reason to jump the gun. Wait, that’s a track and field metaphor; looks like our use of sports metaphors went just into overtime – we’re calling a flagrant foul on this article and sending it to the locker room… metaphorically speaking.
Be sure to check out Florio’s article for a more in-depth look at the issue, and a history lesson in previous NFL court cases.

Three DLC Packs Coming To Red Faction Guerrilla.....

Have you already ravaged and razed every bit of geometry on Mars? Have you been wading around in waist high piles of rubble, searching desperately for a defiant building to demolish? THQ understands, and three individual DLC packs are on their way that will get your hammer swingin’ again in no time.
Destructoid reports on the first of the DLC packs, ‘Demons of the Badlands.’ The pack is to be released August 13 for $9.99 on PSN, or for 800 Microsoft Points on XBLA. The additional content fleshes out the single player campaign with a new “mission arc” that sends the player “outside of the game’s expansive world.”
With this first pack exclusively expanding the single player experience, it's likely that at least one of the future DLC packs will add to the game's multiplayer component. Cross your fingers for something that involves an Earth setting being terrorized by a Godzilla-esque monster.

Sony To Extend Brand Association

Tired of that flat, stubborn price of $54.99 attached to a new PS3 Dualshock 3 controller? Want more options? Sony has an idea. They're set to augment the pool of available accessories by branding top quality products with the Sony logo.
Third party manufacturers deemed worthy will be granted access to Sony's top secret technical documents. The specs are to be used for the creation of peripherals for PS3, PS2, PSP, and the upcoming PSPgo.
Hopefully this will push more manufacturers to meet Sony's high standards for peripherals, and effectively guide consumers away from shoddy, second rate PlayStation accessories. Nintendo has been using the “seal of quality” to distinguish premium products since 1985, so it's surprising Sony would mimic motion control before this.

Robot Entertainment Becomes Self Aware

new game-development company has risen out of the ashes of Ensemble Studios makers of Halo Wars; recently canned by Microsoft, and it threatens the fate of all humanity. Its name is Robot Entertainment, and we’re not sure if that means it’s entertainment made by or for robots. If it’s entertainment for robots, it will no doubt involve the killing of the puny meatbags collectively known as the human race. If it's entertainment by robots, then we guess it’s all good…
Regardless of the company’s possible plans for humanity, we received news today that Robot Entertainment’s Web site is now up and running, including “robot blogs!”
To put your machine-mistrusting minds at ease, we’re going to let you in on a little secret: the guys at Robot Entertainment aren’t actually robots. They’re humans – and judging from their blogs and studio information, they are an extremely enthusiastic bunch of people who are eager to share what they’re trying to accomplish in the video-game industry, and the fun that they’re already having; their first posts discuss art, families, and an unsettling love of Lego.
So if you’re interested in following the trials and tribulations of an independent game studio – or if you just want to keep tabs on what may still turn out to be the cause of the inevitable human/robot war that we all have looming in our future – be sure to check out their site.