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Saturday, September 22, 2007

Capcom TGS rumors

In an earlier Tokyo Game Show post, I said, "I'm hoping for some good stuff from Capcom".

While some good stuff did come out from them this week (moving Capcom franchises to mobile handsets, Omega Five for XBLA, three new PS2/PSP games), I should clarify what I want:

Dead Rising 2. And more original IP (a la Dead Rising and Lost Planet).
Fortunately, Kotaku's Brian Ashcraft caught up with former Dead Rising creator/producer (and now Capcom exec) Keiji Inafune, who provided more info (if not short-term hope on DR2).

While Inafune said he does "really want to do Dead Rising 2. It's just still hard to get games for the Western market approved." and unfortunately, the "original team has been split up and is working on different projects".

More encouraging on the new IP side, though, there's this brief exchange between Ashcraft and Inafune:

Ashcraft: Capcom has been cranking about a lot new IPs like Dead Rising, though — not just relying on sequels.
Inafune: And there are a lot more new titles coming. A lot more.

Awesome. More new ideas, please. You guys tend to rock at those.

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Thursday, September 20, 2007

TGS coolidge so far

UPDATED: Added Soul Calibur IV video, link to's "Bringing it Home", and more info on Lost Odyssey.

OK, I'm not really able to stay away from game happenings, even while I'm trying to avoid Halo 3 spoilers.

Cool / interesting stuff is coming out of the Tokyo Game Show (TGS), and I'm pretty stoked.

  • PS3 gets rumble -- I feel bad Sony's thunder was stolen by a third-party partner, but they did get to announce the DualShock3 at TGS -- so Sony now has Sixaxis (yawn) and rumble. Sweetness. (List of supported current and upcoming games is here.)

  • Seaman 2 -- Stop giggling. Turns out they're making a Seaman 2 that is weirder than the first game, so it'll probably never see US (or maybe even EU) shores (how did the first game ever make it stateside?).

  • MetaPlace announcement -- Wunderkind Raph Koster's MetaPlace "open MMO platform" made its official debut at TGS. Official after winning in the TechCrunch40 conference and being chatted up at the Austin Game Developers Conference. But official. Again. (This is part of what motivated me to share about my AnthropoMMO(TM) idea.)

  • Soul Calibur IV -- One of my favorite franchises has a new, less-jiggly trailer (thank goodness)! The trailer has cutscene and gameplay footage, and shows tastes of the melodramatic (but for me, fun), mythos, and the WTF one-liners (love those). The video's also downloadable via Xbox Live as part of Microsoft's "Bringing it Home" effort.

  • Metal Gear Solid 4 -- Gameplay videos have finally shown up, and I'm hoping the bandwidth hogging lets up so I can watch the officially released vids to get a sense of the non-cut-scene quality. I am hearing that even folks who hate MGS (probably the same folks who dislike Splinter Cell) are loving it.

  • Lost Odyssey -- A playable version of the game is being shown at TGS. I really hope gameplay vids come out this week. Its from Hironobu Sakaguchi, fer crying out loud. Another nugget on the game? It'll be on four discs. Yeah, first Blue Dragon on two DVDs, and now L.O. on four. I wish Microsoft would rethink the non - high - capacity format thing, and the "don't - require - the - hard - drive" thing (but not in the "memory - management - poor - 5GB - per - PS3 - game" way). But, streaming is allegedly better off of the DVD-9 format compared to first- and second-gen Blu-ray streaming, so there is that.
  • 2007 Game Awards -- Part of TGS are the Japan Game Awards. What's interesting is that the 360, despite sucking hardcore in the Land of the Rising Sun, picked up the "Global Award: Japanese Product" for Dead Rising and the "Global Award: Foreign Product" for Gears of War.
  • PSP/PS3 neatness --Looks like updates to your PSP and PS3 are going to lead to some coolness. Things like turning your PS3 on or off when you're somewhere else with your PSP, using your PSP as a rear-view mirror for Formula 1 Racing, using your PSPs as PS3 controllers (Why? If you feel that extra analog stick is annoying?), and (eventually) you'll be able to play the PSPs and one PS3. That's all pretty cool.
  • Folding @ home -- With the addition of the PS3 in the network, the project recently achieved the "petraflop" -- a quadrillion floating point operations per second. That's the equivalent of every person in the world (at the same time) doing 75,000 calculations in a second. That's cool because of its gaming connection, but it's cooler to me for the bigger application of successful (and useful) grid computing (whatever happened to Butterfly after the IBM acquisition).

There's more coming (in particular, I'm hoping for good some stuff from Capcom), but this stuff rose to the top for me so far.

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Wednesday, September 19, 2007

Tokyo Game Show coverage

I normally go dark before some game or movie releases, as I try to avoid spoilers. When Spider-Man or Transformers movies or the like come out, I'll even avoid toy stores, so I don't get spoilers from the merchandizing.

Halo 3 is coming out, and I'm trying to not have the game ruined by idiots.

This is bad timing, because the Toky Game Show is this week.

I may or may not check out various coverage of the event in my attempt to avoid Halo 3 spoilers.

If I don't write about TGS stuff, here are some other sources where you can grab the TGS-specific info:


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Playing Halo 3 early? U R NOT banned.

UPDATED: According to Pro-G, who earlier said "a Microsoft rep confirmed rumours", :
"We can confirm that Microsoft is not taking any action (such as banning Xbox Live accounts) against gamers who are playing Halo 3 before the official street date. Any rumours or speculation to the contrary are false," reads the statement issued by Microsoft this evening.
I'm not on the "official" distribution, so I'm waiting to see what pops up on places like Also waiting for a mea culpa from Pro-G, but that doesn't look forthcoming.

This in from Pro-G (with Microsoft "preparing an official statement on the Halo 3 banning scandal"):
"... a Microsoft rep confirmed rumours that gamers who play Halo 3 early will have their LIVE accounts banned. Simply not connecting to the internet [sic] doesn't appear to be a solution either. The rep also confirmed that Microsoft is able to ban accounts based on information collected by the console which shows when the game was played."
So, if you play Halo 3 before midnight(ish) next Tuesday, you could be banned (unless you never, ever connect to the internet).

I actually applaud Microsoft for doing this. No, I don't care whether I'm liked.

People work really hard to create product, and your thoughts about hype machines aside, a company has the right to do a launch event in keeping with the timing and desired return on investment for what they've already poured into the product. We're getting Halo 3 because Microsoft poured a lot of money and planning into it.

More important to me, people, individuals -- designers, developers, animators, producers, QA folks, writers, audio people, community managers, network gurus, operational mavens, breakfast taco delivery drivers, and the like -- put in time, effort, and creativity, and gave up a lot on the personal front to make Halo 3 something special. They should get to see the fruit of their sacrifice maximized next week. My thoughts.

And for those of us who detest spoilers, I really appreciate their being a penalty for inconsiderate folks who think it's funny to ruin the endings of movies, games, or comic books for other people.


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Intel buys Havok

AMD bought ATI.

Intel did not buy Nvidia, but for some reason, many folks think they did (it was just a cross-licensing partnership, kids).

Then *BAM!* Intel buys Havok, makers of the gold-standard for physics engines (hard to argue), character behavior (maybe arguable), and animation (arguable).

AMD? Your turn.

What does this mean?

For Intel, it represents a significant additional revenue stream, as Havok's technology is used in top-tier games (BioShock, Stranglehold, Halo 2, Half Life 2, The Elder Scrolls IV: Oblivion, Crackdown, Lost Planet: Extreme Condition, MotorStorm, etc.) and movies (Poseidon, The Matrix, Troy, Kingdom of Heaven, Charlie and the Chocolate Factory, etc.).

Practically, for gamers, the purchase may not much. I mean, Intel says "Havok will operate its business as usual", but there is the upside that they will be able to "take advantage of Intel's innovation and technology leadership".

To be honest, despite the happy happy press intonations, I think Intel does do a better job than a lot of folks with their driver releases and robustness, so the Havok acquisition may additionally benefit gamers on that front as well.

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Monday, September 17, 2007

Serious games I'd like to see: Anthropological MMO

"Serious games" are a genre of interactive entertainment designed to not "just" entertain. They should provide instructional or simulation benefits, often beyond just "edutainment" -- more along the lines of equipping users with skills they need before they actually need them in the real world.

Companies like Maryland-based BreakAway Games and Austin-based Online Alchemy provide serious games (or AI for serious games) for clients such as first responders and the Armed Forces.

Other companies, like Total Immersion Software (also based in Austin), provide game engines for creating serious games in addition to mass-consumption games.

Sites like Ian Bogost's Persuasive Games create games that "influence players to take action through gameplay", because games "communicate differently than other media; they not only deliver messages, but also simulate experiences. While often thought to be just a leisure activity, games can also become rhetorical tools."

So, here's a game I'd like to see -- an anthropological Massively Multiplayer Online game.

I'm calling it AnthopoMMO(TM) (partially because it's apropos; partially because it makes me grin).

Below is basically a formal concept document for the title:


PC (at least)

Target Demographic:
Male/Female 14-55
Students and Academics

High Concept:
World of Warcraft meets the Mayans. And the Aztecs. And the Inuits. And the Aka. And ...

The game will leverage research and assets from partner universities and secondary education sites around the world to create a free-roaming massively multiplayer online (MMO) game. Rather than just traditional MMO fighting (or "grinding"), the game will let you pick a member of included tribes, peoples, and cultures to grow within your culture. You also be able to explore other cultures -- including your impact on those other cultures. In this sense, the game would be more of a "World" MMO, as opposed to a "Quest" or "Player-versus-Player" (PvP) MMO. However, it would have elements of all of those types of MMOs.

Where you start out in the game depends on what people you choose, and your purpose in the game.

The game will have three avenues for exploration:
  1. Leveling up within your chosen people (leveling and interaction is restricted to those within your chosen cultural and geographical restrictions).
  2. Interacting with other groups, peoples, or tribes (creating a powerful "what if" simulator) for academic research and exploration.
  3. Spectator mode for "untouched" peoples (largely for research and observation).
The goal is to work your way through the "ranks" of your chosen society, but that may include testing interactions in a simulation manner to model possible inter- or extra-societal impacts.

Every group, tribe, people group would have two versions. The first is a "Control Group" that would be untouched by MMO players, but can be visited in a non-impacting way in a "spectator" mode (popularized by some shooter-style video games). The second group would be an "open" group that could be used for likely interactions (say, the Aka hunter-gatherers visiting Ngandu farmers), and unlikely interactions (the an Aka tribes member mixing with the Inuits).

Each playable character will have personality and attributes of its own, attributable to the chosen people group. Models will be "balanced" based on anthropological input to take advantage of their culture and physicality, while constrained by real-world physics, weather, climate, terrain, and the like.

Play modes are to be determined, but may include versus AI (NPC), online adversarial, online co-operative, and "online exploratory" (for joint research of "Control Groups"). Player models are marginally customizable, depending on the chosen people. Customization may be randomized to a simplified subset of inputs.

Art style is in keeping with 3D simulation MMOs, and more realistic, as opposed to cartoony or characterized.

Input can be provided and updated by top-tier anthropological and related disciplinary programs (archeology, etc.) throughout the world. These organizations would be recognized through formal partnerships, to constrain input and development.

I'm pretty intrigued by this idea, and if anyone else out there is, too, let me know. We can address a quick non-disclosure agreement, and I can share a somewhat lengthier formal Proposal Document.

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Saturday, September 15, 2007

Halo 3 diorama -- Believe

If you're a breathing human being, like it or hate it, you're probably not going to be able to get away from Halo 3 over the next couple of weeks.

Microsoft's new "Believe" advertising campaign presents a sober take on the Halo mythos that's vaguely World War II retrospective-ish. I'm liking the campaign, because it's trying something new and gutsy, and hooking into the mythos and heroes that could make the Halo franchise more than it is currently (and hopefully, not just in a marketing capacity).

Featured in the first video, "Museum", the Halo 3 diorama (the "John-117 Monument") will be touring the country soon.

The diorama was put together by the incomparable Stan Winston (Aliens, Jurassic Park, Spider-Man 3, 300, Superman Returns) and is more than 1200 square feet (30'x40') and 12 feet tall. Each figure is handcrafted (eight to twelve inches high). Honestly, it's a beautiful piece of art.

Online, you can tour the whole diorama in an amazing camera fly-through that includes 180- and 360-degree views, enemy and participant pop-ups, and first-person accounts. The fly-through shows some stubs where more videos will be available on September 25 (the date the game launches) and (interestingly) October 1.

This is a cool mix of high-tech and traditional modeling, and is a lot of fun to spin through. More about the filming and diorama can be found at Static Multimedia. And this whole thing is "media intersection" in the coolest sense of the term.

My only gripe is I wish the first-person accounts had voice over, since this would have been a powerful addition to the piano-overlaid experience, and the text is too small to read comfortably on high-res monitors.

And there are spoilers in the fly through, so be careful. I generally "protect" myself from these kinds of things, but I'm such a Stan Winston / old-school set modeling fan, that it's worth the hit to me.

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Wednesday, September 12, 2007

Halo 3 toys give me hope, confirm fears

So, picts of the fully painted sculpts are out for the new Halo 3 toys at McFarlane Toys. I'm not posting the picts, because I haven't receive permission yet -- but here's my deconstruction of them (and a major pro is they're based on a 6-inch scale).

To review:

  1. I'm a toy fan.
  2. I'm a fan of Todd McFarlane.
  3. I like McFarlane's toys for their sculpts, and dislike them as action figures (as a generality, they're not pose-able).
  4. I said I'm nervous about the articulation for the Halo 3 toys.
  5. I call Todd McFarlane "Toddy", because no one else seems to. No word yet on whether he's OK with that, but I'm told someone is checking this out for me.

Anyway, as far as point #4 (from a prior post): least Master Chief will have "more than 18 points of articulation" (would that be "19"?), which ups the Joyride Series One's 15 points. No articulation notes are given for the other figures, which makes me nervous.

Master Chief:

Master Chief does, indeed, look decent. The photos, unfortunately, are not good at showing how much range of articulation the figure has. A little of critical analysis yields encouraging stuff, though:

  • Photo 1: Looks like the shoulder joint is pretty versatile
  • Photo 2: (with Photo 1) showcase a range of motion for the knee joint, and similar jointing for the ankle (which would be good news)
  • Photo 3: Looks like the elbow has great range of motion

What I can't tell from the photos is what the hip joints are like (Photo 2 is closest to giving a view, but it's too dark to see). To be fair, hip joints are hard -- you have to avoid the whole "adult diaper" look (epitomized by Hasbro's Marvel Legends White Queen). But I can't tell if the Chief can stand straight, or he's eternally ready to crap Brute spike grenades.

The deco looks spot-on, though, and I'm curious about the tenuously attached frag grenade -- Clever magnet gimmick? Pin and socket? Breakable and child snortable in waiting?


Cortana is a non-articulated statuette with a light up base. And honestly, Scott Fischer set the sexy bar for our favorite semi-corporeal Femme AI in The Halo Graphic Novel. That's the new Femme AI Sexy Bar, or FAISB(TM). And "Mother" from Alien is our favorite non-corporeal Femme AI. So I'm mheh on this sculpt until I see it in person.

Brute Chieftain:

The Brute Chieftain has probably the coolest deco scheme of the lot. The picts are also better about showing a range of motion the other product photos don't. The gravity hammer accessory is almost a character in itself (hmm, new weapon for the game?). My only concern is whether his "I'm compensating" loin cloth thingy gets in the way of posing the figure. I dig the sculpt, though.

Jackal Sniper:

Imagine if there was unholy wedlock between Pan (the goat dude, not the cross-dressing broadway dude/tte) and Skeksis (from The Dark Crystal). This would be their baby.

The sculpt and deco are complex and detailed, the picts again show a more varied range of motion, and I'm curious what the spiky things on the head and forearms are made of. I'm more curious as to the balance of the figure, given the goatish legs. This will either be amazingly done, or amazingly frustrating.

Grunt Two-Pack:

Speaking of balance, that could be the bugaboo with these cooly crafted little ... buggers. The Grunt Two-Pack has one each teal and burnt orange armoured Grunts (What? Specificity is good.) that look great, down to the nubby little feet that could make their back-heavy Notre Dame(ish) humpbacks a problem. But if the weighting is good (and the rock-like feet are cleverly sculpted to compensate for character tilt), these could be a couple of little winners.

I do hope the guns are removable. And I wonder if it's too late to have Jason Staten voice clips emanate randomly from the figure as they sit otherwise quietly on the shelf?

So, there's my unsolicited (but stunningly brilliant) deconstruction of the toys. If I get permission to post picks from McFarlane Toys, I'll update this post with those.

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New Halo 3 ad; no Master Chief

This ad for Halo 3 caught my attention.

Simple. Emotional. Creates a universe through a voice over interview and straightforward visuals.

It really feels like a Neill Blomkamp piece; I wouldn't be surprised.

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Tokyo Game Show (Microsoft)

I'll have to post more about this tomorrow, but here are some of the highlights from the Microsoft's Tokyo Game Show press conference (mostly lifted from
  • Lost Odyssey will be out December 6 (in Japan; probably)
  • Ace Combat 6 from Bandai Namco is exclusive to the Xbox 360
  • Gundam Operation Troy will be out in 2007, as will Katamari, and Gundam Musou International (that last one is a maybe)
  • Dynasty Warriors 6 will be out in November
  • Ninja Gaiden 2 was announced, and looks to be an Xbox 360 exclusive
  • Age of Empires, Crysis, World in Conflict, the new Viva Pinata party game will all be out for Japan's Games for Windows Live
  • New controller colors have been announced (possibly just for Japan): green, black, pink, and white
  • New XBLA titles include Rez HD, Every Extend Extra Extreme, Ikaruga, Trigger Heart, Exit, and Omega Five
  • New RPG Infinite Discovery was announced, a joint project between Square Enix, Microsoft, and developer is Tri-Ace
  • Square Enix's other project, The Last Remant, will be playable at TGS this week

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Tuesday, September 11, 2007

Disney on the move?

Hmm, Disney may be up to something -- on the video game and downloadable content (DLC) front. I mentioned my thoughts suggesting Disney buy SCi / Eidos, but I am seeing an amazing amount of Disney activity among my video game industry contacts, their blogs, and micro updates.

I wouldn't mention it as a rumor except I have never seen this much concerted traffic among all the gaming people and updates I follow, all pointing back to a single company. We're talking touchpoints to a couple of dozen (otherwise) unrelated publishing and developer entities, all within a few days.

We'll see.

Could be nothing. Could there's just one active Disney networking beaver, and he's playing "Corporate Partner Pokémon".

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Sunday, September 09, 2007

The importance of corporate solidarity

As a enterprise technical director, I recognize the importance -- and challenge -- of keeping everyone on the same page. Some recent video game happenings have prompted me to write about it.

So, I'm gonna talk about my version of what I call "corporate solidarity", why it's important, why it's hard, and why it sucks (and what costs) when it's broken. And I'm going to use two recent examples that aren't big by themselves, but give me a launch pad for discussing this in a games industry context -- BioShock and Crackdown.

"Corporate Solidarity":

From a functional perspective, if the various development, QA, project management, support, operations, and other parties are not marching to the beat of (largely) the same drum, I can't get the products and services for which I'm responsible out the door. And once I get them out the door, if people don't have a "one team, one brand" perspective, a lot of folks' ridiculously hard work can be thrown out the window in a heartbeat.

Maintaining this is hard for a bunch of reasons. Actually, we could say, "The reasons corporate solidarity falls apart is Legion" (both due to the connotative sense of the word, and because when all of these things stack up against you, they can feel vaguely demonic; I kid; maybe).

I manage international, multi-million dollar projects and services. People fall off the same page because of time zone and cultural differences, varying departmental goals, the "silo effect" of different internal functional groups prioritizing their goals over the success of projects or services they're supporting, Customers' (or developers') changing needs being put ahead of agreed-upon schedules, miss-prioritization of cost / scope / schedule to the negative detriment of the other factors, personality conflicts, greed, hubris, embarrassment about admitting a technical or business mistake or lack of skills or experience, the planets not being aligned, tectonic shifts, and Web 2.0. To name a few.

And managing these stumbling blocks is hard. Wicked hard. And it requires just that -- management. Project management, financial management, people management, risk management, relationship management (in addition to people management), expectation management (separate from people and relationship management), communication management, and on and on.

Personal case study:

Let's take a small example of internal corporate solidarity falling apart, and the damage it does.

I managed a part of a service / product offering I'd actually brought into the company. A year-plus later, it'd become a decent revenue stream, had transitioned to another group, and was growing. I was brought in to shepherd some next steps for the service, and had been asked to attend a call with the current owners (within my company and division) and the Customer.

On the call, the point person from the new owning group within our company proceeded to insult the Customers and my team as not knowing anything about the service (I had actually been responsible for helping define the original business, user, and context flows the service). He was unresponsive to Customer questions and requirements statements and dismissive of my bringing up any history and lessons learned.

His content was worse due to his delivery, which was very aggressive, snippish, and what you could call "steamrolling".

The call went as well as it could, and I spent the time constantly navigating conversation back to the Customer to get what I could as far as enhancement requirements, desired time lines, service level expectations, concerns, and the like, not responding to our own company's barbs, and heading off my team members' and the Customers' responses to those barbs.

Immediately after the call ended, the Customer (who was also the business owner of the service, and who had a positive history with me), called me to ask what just happened, who this [unmentionable] person was, proceeded to tell me they may have made a mistake moving the service with this group, said he was thinking of stopping the enhancement project all together, and hinted that the mistake might impact our entire division.

That's a whole lotta cost for an employee forgetting he worked for the same company as folks on the phone, and forgot his Customer on the phone was providing his current position. The real-world cost in addition to that was the expense and time-cost of stopping and restarting the enhancement effort a number of times, weeks work of damage control, and the relationship building of re-establishing credibility for the entire division. The eventual solution is too long for (and outside) the scope of this post, but involved several of us outside of what I'll call that problem area of the company doing the work to keep the business, and being mature enough to swallow our own pride to keep the business, despite having to do it along with less mature people. Not fun, that.

Game Case Study 1 -- BioShock:

OK, biases out in the open first: I'm playing BioShock, and it's an amazingly well-done and entertaining game. On top of that, Ken Levine seems like a genuinely nice, hard-working and helpful guy.

But BioShock's had its share of PR bumps.

First, there was the hiccup around widescreen HDTV presentation. Which, arguably came down to an internal development miscommunication as to how 4:3 and 16:9 presentation is handled, versus ... what the rest of the HDTV world expects. But Levine was quick to offer (while on vacation) a mea culpa, explanation, and promise of further exploration to address it for gamers. (This is a actually a pro-solidarity example, sometimes called "constituent solidarity".)

But then there have been all sorts of problems with the PC version of the game -- largely around copy protection, and getting "charged" for multiple installations of the game, even if you're the only one playing it.

That's frustrating by itself, but exacerbated recently (and publicly) by a statement from a 2K Games forum moderator (who is not a a 2K Games employee; most news outlets have not updated with this critical bit of info).

Here's the thread from the forum (stereotypical crudishness included):

Nemesisdesignz wrote:
I installed Bioshock on my laptop under one admin user, Everything works fine, but I then tried to switch users on my computer and whenever I launch Bioshock it is asking me to enter my serial again for the game.... IS THIS GONNA CHARGE ME TWO OF MY 5 Activations???? IF SO THAT IS GAY.... I need to know this ASAP before I attempt to play this on my pc under the other user... THis is a bug if the case get yo stuff fixed!

Here's the response from moderator 2k Tech JT:

2k Tech JT writes:
The other way to view this, is one USER has purchased the game. Not the whole family. So why should your brother play for free?

Obviously, the logic is a bit off (if you buy a movie, and the hero doth bleed, can not your family watch the hero bleed with you?). It's not like games follow a per-seat licensing structure akin to big-gun ETL or development software.

Since this is allegedly not a 2k employee, why do I include it?

Because this is still another extended example of a lack of corporate solidarity costing a good product that's already in the marketplace. The problem person in question "works for an outside tech support group" -- a vendor who is part of the larger matrixed BioShock team -- and who (obviously) impacts the positive and negative success of the product. You better believe if I was at 2K, I'd be factoring this instance into contract renegotiations with that vendor company. Of course, maybe this forum moderator is just effected by the penumbra of parent company Take-Two Interactive (what, you don't think there's something endemically wrong with that outfit?)

Game Case Study 2 -- Crackdown:

This one makes my heart hurt a little. Hang on ... OK.

Crackdown is a great little sandbox game from the original creator of Grand Theft Auto (before it got caliente café). It came bundled with a beta key for Halo 3. The game stands on its own without the Halo 3 beta. It sold 1.5 million copies in six months. It was published by Microsoft.

Realtime Worlds producer producer Phil Wilson said in a developer interview (among other things), despite the critical and popular success of Crackdown, there isn't going to be a sequel.


According to the Realtime Worlds (and pay attention to the language):
"Microsoft were a little late in stepping up to the plate to ask for Crackdown 2, and by then we had already started working on bigger, better things."
Ouch. So, "Our publisher who effectively banked us on that and our two next projects? That hand? This is me biting it."

Not good. So with this publisher / developer solidarity breakdown, Shane Kim over at Microsoft Games is probably going to be thinking about that if Realtime Worlds comes and asks them to publish their "undisclosed project due in 2009."

Oh, and as a little freebie, notice how bad decisions beget bad decisions and impact tertiary groups. has changed the story (there was some other unflattering stuff in the original article), adding this disclaimer:
"NOTE: Details/facts in this story have been adjusted at the request of Realtime
I used to be a journalist (formally, not just this current labor-of-love column stuff), and there are things you want to do. Stuff like stand by your story, not blame your source, not be obligated to get your story approved -- or edited -- by your source, and so on.

The solidarity breakdown has hurt many.

Anyway, that's my little (little?) blurb about corporate solidarity, corporate partnerships,

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Disney should buy SCi/Eidos

SCi / Eidos, the publisher behind Tomb Raider, Deus Ex, Hitman, and the upcoming Kane and Lynch and Age of Conan (among others), is up for sale.

They're in "extremely preliminary discussions" with an unknown party or parties.

Ubisoft may or may not be interested, and Robert Tchenguiz (an "Iranian billionaire who bought a 20% stake in SCi last year") allegedly isn't interested.

Front runner in the speculation is Time Warner, who is getting back into the interactive game (how many restarts is this?), building up its Seattle presence, and definitely has the facilities to maximize licenses on the film, home entertainment, merchandising, and comic book fronts.

Trying to determine other potentially interested licensing parties is tough, since SCi's / Eidos's properties are licensed out pretty broadly -- Hitman (Fox); Kane & Lynch and Reservoir Dogs (Lionsgate); and Tomb Raider (Paramount).

You know who should buy them?


Disney's on a bit of a controlled buying tear lately, though mostly on the development studios front (their most recent acquisition being Austin house Junction Point Studios). Disney acquiring Eidos would be a mini, interactive library equivalent of Sony buying MGM's library. It's a good way to bolster their catalogue, and grow their publishing and distribution services with any pieces of Eidos they want to keep.

Other possible interested parties (spurred by the Robert Tchenguiz private equity idea)?

Elevation Partners. They've been quiet of late. Too quite ...


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Saturday, September 08, 2007

Shadow Monsters amazement

I'm grateful to Kotaku for pointing out Philip Worthington's Shadow Monsters project.

You basically need to go look at it to get how amazing it is, but here's a motivator tease from Kotaku's Mark Wilson:
"Game devs, take note please. There is more innovation in this one product
than the entirety of next gen motion control—by a long shot."
Oh, and check out Worthington's whole Website -- I really like the design and implementation (and he's the same dude behind the Lineriders phenomenon).


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Thursday, September 06, 2007

EA's Marvel Fighting Game

To summarize (again):
Adam Creighton. Video Game Nut. Comic Book fanboy. Actor. Biz and Tech Dev Wunderkind.
So of course I was stoked about EA's Comic-Con announcement of their upcoming fighting game, currently referred to as just "EA's Marvel Fighting Game."

Sure, folks may be a bit put off by EA's previous comic book brawler, Marvel Nemesis: Rise of the Imperfects, for its lopsided execution and poorly-done, non-transparent marketing tie-in, but nay-sayers should consider three things:
  1. That game had potential.
  2. It gave superstar artist Jae Lee a platform to showcase his awesome work.
  3. The new game is being done by EA Chicago, and spearheaded by Kudo Tsunoda, the wunderkind behind Fight Night Round 3 and Def Jam Icon.

There was a preview of the game when it first aired on SpikeTV's Game Head, but I noticed clips showed up online today. They're not the whole picture that was in the full episode, but they do give you gameplay, CGI cinematics, and behind-the-scenes insight. Besides Tsunoda (who continues to look like he's channeling his inner Tomonobu Itagaki), there are sound bites from Liam Miller (Line Producer), Darren Bennett (Senior Produce), Josh Tsui (Art Director), Dave Pasciuto (Lead Environment Artist), and Nathan Turner (Lead Environment Artist).

For comic book fanboys, yeah, that looks like Ultimate Captain America in the gameplay, and possibly a variation of Ultimate (shirtless) Juggernaut, but (thankfully) with the traditional helmet.

The game's still a year out, but already looks great, and I can totally see EA Chicago rising to the high bar set by Raven Software and Activision with their Marvel Ultimate Alliance game. There better be customizations and unlockables out the wazoo.

And on the sour grapes side, I'm irked host Geoff Keighley got placed into the game, when I as a trained and skilled voice and on-camera actor can't get EA to give me the time of day. And Chicago is a union town; but maybe Canuck Geoff's SAG. Dunno. End Gripe.

Anyway, the vids:

World’s First Look at the Marvel Fighting Game:

The Hulk’s Destructive Gameplay:

Level Design on the Marvel Fighting Game:

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Austin GDC

Every year I try to go to the Austin Game Developers Conference.

And every year, the universe conspires to keep me from going.

Not little stuff -- it's stuff like my dog dying on the first day, or working a 120-hour work week dev death march for the weeks leading up to the conference, or getting bronchitis / sinus impaction / the flu (yes, all at once).

This year, the universe may have won. We'll see what tomorrow brings, but in case I'm not able to make it to the Austin Convention Center at all this year, check out these other sources for Austin GDC coverage:

As an aside, one of my pet peeves is people with no sense of history. Or can't remember where they parked their car. The game industry seems to be particularly full of both. Anyway, a lot of the online sites are talking AGDC's "new theme" of being MMO-centric this year.

This year? That's exactly what it was last year, before the CMP Game Group bought them. Stay awake, kids.

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Monday, September 03, 2007

The games of September

September is a good month for gamers. It's not like BioShock and the Call of Duty 4 online beta aren't already sucking up my time.

Anyway, here are some of the games to which I'm looking forward (for a more complete list, check out or, and remember release dates are subject to change):

Stranglehold -- The premise of "playing a John Woo game" just really appeals to me. That excitement is curbed by this thing being in development for a looong time, and (at least in the demo) the cool "John Woo moments" grabbed at inopportune times -- kind of like how Gears of War used to (they bettered it in a patch). And that's tempered by initial reviews of the game, which seem pretty upbeat. (Xbox 360 version this week, and who knows when for the PC and PS3 versions, which keep getting pushed back).

Sherlock Holmes: The Awakened -- Traditional PC adventure gaming? Sherlock Holmes? Disciples of Cthulhu? Sign me up -- I'm downloading the demo now! (PC)

Fatal Fury Special -- What's not to like about "remixed Fatal Fury 2"? (XBLA)

Heavenly Sword -- This action brawler beaut of a game has so much potential. I want the PS3 to have a console-selling title -- wonder if this is it? (PS3)

The Elder Scrolls IV: Oblivion - Game of the Year Edition -- Missed the defining RPG of the Xbox 360 (at least)? Get it with the Knights of the Nine and Shivering Isles expansions -- for at least the same price as the base original ($60, though I predict some $40-$50 price points). (Xbox 360; PC)

Kengo: Legend of the 9 -- I like the premise of this one. Hack-n-slash, but playing historical Japanese heroes, switching between them, and co-op. I haven't seen anything about it other than repackaged press releases from Majesco, and a supposed showing at Leipzig, so I don't know if it's coming out this month, or whether this is "good Majesco" or "budget Majesco". (Xbox 360)

NHL 2K8 -- I miss hockey. (X360, PS2, PS3)

World in Conflict -- Because Red Dawn should have gotten an Oscar(TM). And I'm trying to find an RTS I like. (PC)

Eternal Sonata -- A gorgeous, charming RPG with a good mix of real-time and turn-based play. (Xbox 360)

Syphon Filter: Dark Mirror -- I like the franchise, and this iteration looks to be a step up. (PS2)

Halo 3 -- It's freaking Halo 3. This thing is a fascinating marketing juggernaut to watch, even if it wasn't also quality product. I am a bit irked that I'm paying for at least part of the campaign left out in Halo 2. I'm buying it not just to "finish the fight", but to "finish the game". Oh, and for the sweet, sweet multiplayer. Comes out September 25th, and I'll see you in November(ish) -- for Mass Effect. (Xbox 360)


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