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Wednesday, July 29, 2009

What's Midway doing next

So, Warner Bros. has bought the once-great Midway.

Which begs the question -- what will Midway do next?

Part of me hopes they'll be working on "The Bachelor" and "The Bachelorette" games. Only because I think it would be funny if the house that built Mortal Kombat built "The Bachelorette".

With Fatalities.

(Funny ha ha.)


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Wednesday, July 22, 2009

Comic-Con 2009 (the games)

Comic-Con is arguably the meca of all things pop-culture (far more than "just" comics), and just like the last few years running, video games will be huge this year.

Links to the Comic-Con goodness from at least a few sites are to the left (including the listing of games-related panels and happenings), and below are some of the things I care in particular about.

Stan Lee is going to be in Marvel Ultimate Alliance 2 ("MUA2", which, to review, I'm phoneticizing as "m-oo-ah-tu"; Marvelites get the gag). It's about time Mr. Lee was in a game. Dude rocks. 86, and far more interesting than Hugh Hefner. I'm a big fan of the first game, too. There's a panel. Mr. Lee will now be on said panel.

The Iron Man 2 game will have an original script from Matt Fraction, current Invincible Iron Man scribe (and a writer I like), so it's not going to be locked into the movie. And it sounds like they've learned from some of the gaffs in the first game. SEGA will be showing other stuff, with only Bayonetta currently getting me excited (review: hair suit, not hirsute).

As far as more Marvel, be sure to check out the panel on Sunday: "Marvel: The Next Generation of Marvel Video Games: Ultimate Alliance 2, Super Hero Squad, and Iron Man 2". Nice guy Chris Baker will be moderating, and cool producer dude Todd "TQ" Jefferson will be on the panel. Super Hero Squad is a brilliant expression of the Marvel U., this upcoming Wii game looks to be an accessible brawler blast, and I'm working through my anger issues of not having been auditioned for the project. I'm just saying ...

I'm curious about Capcom's Spyborgs game. Sounds like they did a re-tooling, and it sounds compelling.

Electronic Arts is bringing a boatload o' titles to the con. I'm particularly interested in whether they can pull of Dante's Inferno (next up, The Ten Commandments the Movie the Game), and there's a panel. I think Dead Space Extraction (Zorsis's baby) may be a fantastic example of how to take a next-gen title onto the Wii (oh, and there's panel).

Astro Boy is a licensed game based on the movie that I hope does justice to the franchise, but it's being done by High Voltage Software, who -- since they did Hunter: The Reckoning on the original Xbox for me (yes, I'm saying it was for me) -- will always get my vote of confidence.

LucasArts will be making a number of "World Exclusive Announcements" (thank goodness, because the "Local Exclusive Announcements" are lame) at the convention, and while some people already know what they are, let's wait for the announcements, shall we? PR people gotta eat, folks.

Microsoft will be making an waves with an unannounced project at the (for them) atypical venue. I have hopes. I have wishes. I have knowledge. And, dammit, I have to sit on my lips.

Left 4 Dead 2 (L4D2) -- I'm sure -- will not disappoint. I'm hoping Valve shows something that shuts up the "this game is coming out too soon after L4D1 so why can't it be DLC" whiners. Oh no, quick follow-ups to time-sucking great games! Whatever shall I do?

There's a "What's next" session for the Halo franchise, and it'd be refreshing if there was some genuine information, but I'm thinking this may feel like a sponsored session talking about how much money they're making from current franchise milking.

There's a "Writing for the Computer Gaming Industry" panel, but Susan O'Connor's not on it, so I bite my thumb at them.

Capcom has a panel about their games, and they have another panel -- "Capcom: Fighting Games". They have two panels. There is a panel just about Capcom's particular fighting games. We've reached that level of granularity at the cons. Discuss. (Oh, and there's a third panel, just for Lost Planet 2, which I would attend if I could, to see what they say / show for the Multi-Target 2 engine. Oh, and another another Capcom panel about how to break into the game industry. Sheesh, who's Capcom snuggling up to?)

I want the game industry to get out of its bubble and learn more from other industries. The "State of the Animation Industry" session is one such area of discussion from which we could benefit.

"Beyond the Gaming Medium" shows what the more creative folks can do to create new opportunities inspired by or spun off from games.

The "Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles" panel is going cover the franchise spectrum, including games. They should so show the Vanilla Ice clip, and say absolutely nothing about it. Eastman (but not Laird) will be there.

Dynamite is doing a panel, and I suspect BOOM! Studios will be lighting it up, too. I'm a big fan of scrappy little comic publishing studios made big, and I'm watching these two guys to see when they move their licensed and original IP into games. It's happening.

Will there be a new Darkness video game? The Top Cow panel makes it sounds like there will be, but let's wait and see if they're just lumping in past and future projects in the abstract.

Gears of War is a franchise, and between panels and announcements, we'll likely hear more on the great game, jury's-out movie, and "ok" comic book.

Other things?

Oh, there will be slave Leias at the con. Dozens of them. Money on it.

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Tuesday, July 21, 2009

Upcoming games (now through September)

People ask me for advice on buying games. Sounds like a dicey prospect, because game taste is like music taste -- mine isn't yours.

That said, I am excited for a number of upcoming titles on multiple platforms, for a bunch of different reasons. Maybe some of those reasons match yours.

I'm just going to list through September, because there are a bunch of titles, and I want to do a follow-on holiday buying guide later.

Below are my brief lenses for my games excitement.

Professional: From the toy job perspective (game engine and tools product manager), I'm looking forward to a number of titles from my licensees on the PC, Xbox 360, PS3, and Wii. Many of those I can't yet talk about (bummer), but I'm looking forward to a big ol' "boo-yah!" when I can.

Armchair analyst: As an armchair analyst, I think there are some games that will make some commercial or artistic waves, and hopefully push the market forward a bit.

Gamer: And as a gamer (and personally playing on the 360, Wii, and NDS), I've got a bunch of titles competing for my ill-managed discretionary cash.

Check out the list below. They're roughly in chronological release order, but dates may change, I'm not the publisher driving the title's release, I'm probably missing some big ones, blah blah blah.

And be sure to use the comments section to tell me titles to which you're looking forward.

Monkey Island: Special Edition
-- Have you not played this classic? Well, LucasArts is milking its back catalog, and its back-catalog rocks. Pick up this re-imagined gem on XBLA, and fall in love with the adventure genre all over again.

Tales of Monkey Island Chapter 1: Launch of the Screaming Narwhal (PC, Wii) -- I sooo hope this comes to XBLA (rumblings say yes), but a new episodic franchise based on the famed original? Done.

BioShock & The Elder Scrolls IV: Oblivion Bundle (360, PC) -- Do you not own these two great titles? Stop reading, go out and pick up this $30 two-fer pack (wait for it ...) right now. Why are you still here?

Bust-A-Move Plus! (Wii) -- Make fun of me if you want, but Bust-A-Move is an IP favorite of mine. I'm looking forward to this title for mindless, frustrating, puzzling.

Holy Invasion of Privacy, Badman! What Did I Do to Deserve This? (PSP) --Letting handheld players build their own levels is a dicey prospect, but if it's pulled off right, the mechanic and the art and humor style of this could be a platform-seller.

Marvel VS Capcom 2 (360, PS3) --OK, so it's not so much a re-imagining as a re-release, but this 2D fighting XBLA release brings one of my favorite Xbox titles back, and I'm looking forward to getting my tail kicked by twelve-year-olds while I dutifully espouse the merits of Captain America and patriotism.

Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles: Turtles in Time Re-Shelled (360) -- This re-imagining of the TMNT arcade cabinet (not the SNES version with the additional content) looks wicked slick. If you picked up the previous XBLA release for peanuts on Amazon recently, you shouldn't feel too angry about paying for this new, slickly skinned version. This is part of Microsoft's "Summer of Arcade", which could be subtitled, "The Summer of Wicked Expensive XBLA Titles", but at least they're quality wicked expensive XBLA titles.

The King of Fighters XII (PS3, 360) -- Fanboy franchise power in another high-caliber fighter; I'm curious to see the final units numbers.

Fallout 3: Mothership Zeta (360, PC) -- I've resigned myself to the fact I'll be playing Fallout 3 forever. More content equals more playing. Anytime I don't know what to play, I put in Fallout. And now I'm going to go off-world. Suh-weet.

Wolfenstein (PC, 360, PS3) -- I *heart* the classic forebearer of the FPS, and now that BJ's back, I'm going to be blasting. Not just for the name of the hero, but because the shroud mechanic sounds cool.

Phantom Brave: We Meet Again (Wii) -- The title that arguably busted open the strategy RPG is finally coming to the Wii, enhanced and expanded (more story, different UI, updated graphics, and new characters/ inventory swag / skills).

Batman: Arkham Asylum (X360, PS3, PC) -- I am a comic book fan; one hoping for the first Batman game that doesn't make me angry. This combo stealth actioner may finally be it. I'm worried its "Teen" rating my undercut the edge, but we'll see.

Professor Layton and the Diabolical Box (DS) -- A co-worker got me into Curious Village recently, and now I can't wait for all of the titles in the franchise. Think beautiful, (non-stereotyped) Japanese animation puzzler on the DS, and you're part way to the awesome.

Metroid Prime Trilogy (Wii) -- All three Wii Metroid titles in one place, with the excellent control scheme from the third game brought back to the first two. It's in my Amazon wish list, so buy it for me.

Bayonetta (PS3, 360) -- Here's an over-the-top third-person actioner that has a new level of WTF written all over it. It's stylistic, seems to make no sense, vids make it look buttery polished already, and I dig that heroine's hair suit is not because she's hirsute (the first is kind of sexy; the second most definitely would not be).

Mini Ninjas (360, PS3, Wii, DS) -- Awe, cute mini ninjas, anthropomorphism, a Samurai Jack vibe, and the fact that ninjas are cooler than pirates? Arr, that's gold, that is.

NHL 10 (PS3, 360) -- I'm a hockey fan. It's off-season. So, normally I'm sad, but Electronic Arts and 2K Sports are duking it out for the most fantastic hockey treatment, and I win.

NHL 2K10 (360, PS3, Wii, PS2) -- I'm a hockey fan. It's off-season. So, normally I'm sad, but 2K Sports and Electronic Arts are duking it out for the most fantastic hockey treatment, and I win. I think 2K will win on the Wii and PS2 fronts.

Marvel: Ultimate Alliance 2 (360, PS3, PS2, Wii, PSP, DS) -- Loved the first game, and the second will hopefully be even more polished. I am nervous Raven's not at the helm, but Vicarious Visions did a ton on the first game, so the second is probably in great hands (looks like the CGI cut-scene budget is smaller, this time around, though). Plus some folks at Marvel have promised me this game is going to rock. They promised.

Scribblenauts (DS) -- Hrm. "Puzzle platformer game with 200 levels" doesn't quite do this justice. You write words. The words become objects. You use the objects to move around the levels and solve puzzles. Oh, yes you do.

The Witcher: Rise of the White Wolf (360 PS3) -- I hear bad rumblings this has been canceled. I hope not. A grown-up RPG on the consoles? Freaking finally.

Halo 3: ODST (360) -- Yeah, I can not get away from how much I am a Halo fan. While my clans have sickened me on Halo 2 (I bought a 360 for a reason), Forge and 4-player co-op keep me coming back to Halo 3, and ODST looks to have a fun game mechanic (innovative flashbacks), great story, more maps for Halo 3, a cool firefight game mode, and a beta key for Bungie's mysterious Reach project. And Peter David is writing the ODST comic book commercial suck tie-in, so I'm set.

Kingdom Hearts 358/2 Days (DS) -- Single and multiplayer franchise expansion to the DS. Sqeenix plus Disney. Roxas and Axel as playable. Yippee.

Borderlands (360, PC, PS3) -- Teased for so long, with a recent shiny new coat of paint, I have worked hard not to lose interest in this one. Gearbox has earned their place in the industry, so I'll likely pick up this game just to vote with my dollars as to how to do it right, and I'm guessing the game will live up to the studio that made it.

Alright -- that's the list for now. Now comment, dammit!

Hey, I just realized no one ever sends me review titles anymore -- What up with that?

Maybe it's because I moved, and they don't have my new address ...


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