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Thursday, April 15, 2010

Halo 2: Not a bang, but a whimper

Anyone else play Halo 2 last night, during its supposed swan song on its last eve before being shut down for online play?

Did it suck as much for you as it did for me?

I've admittedly got a bit of a Halo fixation. Partly because I write about games, and it's a juggernaut in the market; partly because I genuinely enjoy the franchise. Enjoyed.

Last night, as Microsoft prepared to kill the game that is allegedly holding the Xbox Live service back (I'm sure it's not because it's potentially eating into other game sales and online play), I tried to get a bunch of long-standing Halo friends together to play.

In the end, there was only me.

See, you had to update Xbox Live to play the game. Then update the title (with artificially downrez'ed retro original XBL update screen, but points for trying). Then update all 4 map packs.

That was too much for people, and they fell away, went back to Modern Warfare 2, and it was just me.

Playing game after game that was only team slayer, and only ever on two maps. Glad I took the time to re-download all of the others.

And, like I posted last night, I was reminded why I don't like playing with those cartoons that make up online anonymous idiocy. I am frightened by how many dysfunctional people don't seem to realize they're racist social troglodytes.

And, Halo 2 evidently isn't dead, yet, as people have been playing it today, well after the midnight (PST) cutoff. Mistake? Mea culpa for a sucky last night? Unholy tryst?

Dunno. Stopped caring. Last night was aw bit of a stake in the heart of my sentimentality. Maybe I'll refresh it offline for my friend's once-a-year offline Halo / Halo 2 weekend, but probably not much beyond that.

Should have gone out with a bang, but it's just kind of fizzling out.

At least people who played last night will supposedly be getting free stuff.

Oh, wait; I haven't seen that, either.


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Friday, February 05, 2010

Microsoft Drops Xbox Live Support for Original Xbox Games


In mid-April, Microsoft's pulling the online rug out from under original Xbox consoles and games, including Xbox games playable on a Xbox 360, and the Xbox Originals they sell in the Xbox Live Games Marketplace.

While it sucks that they're going back on Xbox Live support for the awesome that was the backwards compatible games list [sic], it's surprising they're also yanking network support for their Xbox Originals, which are Xbox v1 games downloadable and playable on 360, that they sell on Xbox Live Marketplace (granted, only like 4 of them support mutliplayer, but hey -- it's the principle).

Bigger, though, is Microsoft calling out that this will also include Halo 2. Now, the cynical savvy side of me says H2 (and maybe other Xbox 1 games) are waaay to popular on Xbox Live, and cannabilizing sales on online play of other 360 (and maybe even, specifically, Halo titles).

This is far from conspiracy theory. Back when Microsoft's resident mouthpiece, Larry "Major Nelson" Hryb (, was actually reporting breakout of Xbox Live activity, Halo 2 was far and away more played than 360 titles. He at one point even briefly removed original Xbox games from his list, until people cried foul, and it went back on the report -- but without the unique user data that was pretty damning for Xbox 360 online titles.

Admittedly, holding on to and supporting older tech can slow down forward movement quite a bit (look at Sony's waffling about PS2 support, first supported with what was basically a physical PS2 inside the PS3, and then later removed from post-launch versions of the console).

Worst case, this reduces cost for Microsoft (which is balls as far as benefits for gamers, since it's not like cost savings will be passed on).

Part of me is hopeful that the upcoming breaking changes that are "incompatible with" original Xbox games will be so compelling that folks don't even miss the dropped support for original Xbox titles.

And honestly, as a guy working in games, I find myself playing fewer and fewer older titles on a recreational basis, since it's kind of like designing the next version of an operating system and using Windows ME as my reference materials.

But, I am concerned Microsoft is making this change "because they can" -- what are gamers going to do?

Anyway, here's the official announcement from Xbox LIVE GM Marc Whitten (Notwen):

A Letter from Marc Whitten: Discontinuation of Xbox LIVE for Original Xbox Games

Dear Xbox LIVE Members,

On April 15 we will discontinue the Xbox LIVE service for original Xbox consoles and games, including Xbox v1 games playable on Xbox 360 and Xbox Originals. I want to start by saying this isn't a decision we made lightly, but after careful consideration, it is clear this will provide the greatest benefit to the Xbox LIVE community.

Seven years ago we laid out our vision for the connected console when we launched Xbox LIVE. We believed then that the power of the Internet to connect people would revolutionize living room entertainment. It started with amazing multiplayer games, and we've since seen that bet pay off again and again with the launches of Xbox 360, Marketplace, Netflix and powerful social features like Facebook, Twitter and None of this would have been possible without the success of LIVE as a multiplayer gaming network.

There’s no greater example of the power of the Xbox LIVE community than the “Halo” franchise. “Halo 2” has had an amazing run on LIVE, with a dedicated community more than five years after launch and well into the next generation of consoles. It has fundamentally changed the way we play video games. And while it’s difficult to see that run come to an end, the “Halo” franchise continues to act as the benchmark for multiplayer gaming in this generation, with “Halo 3,” “Halo 3: ODST” and soon “Halo: Reach” on Xbox 360.

Your Xbox LIVE community has grown to 23 million strong. And as we look down the road, we’ll continue to evolve the service with features and experiences that harness the full power of Xbox 360. To reach our aspiration, we need to make changes to the service that are incompatible with our original Xbox v1 games. We will contact the Xbox LIVE members directly impacted by this change and if this includes you, I encourage you to check your LIVE messages and associated e-mail account over the coming weeks for more details and opportunities. We view you as a partner in this process.

We’ll share more details soon, but in the meantime I want to assure you that the best is yet to come for Xbox LIVE. I believe we’ll look back on 2010 as a landmark year in gaming and home entertainment, and I couldn't be more excited about what we have in store with “Project Natal” and LIVE. The LIVE community is the driving force behind everything we do, and it’s because of the community that ground-breaking experiences on Xbox continue to be possible.

See you on LIVE,

Marc Whitten
Gamertag - Notwen

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Monday, July 07, 2008

Bungie Day 2008

(Forgot to post this this morning.)

It's Bungie Day 2008 ("the seventh day of the seventh month ..."), and there are some online and Xbox Live goodies for download -- with the Xbox Live goodies mostly available for today only (gamerpics and theme).

On Xbox Live Marketplace:
Get 'em while they're hot:

7.7.08 (

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Sunday, January 27, 2008

Halo 3 on the cheap

Check your local Best Buy, but I'm seeing a Sunday circular price of $37.99 for Halo 3 ($22 off list).

Of less interest to many (but perhaps more interest to a very select, demographically complex few), Naruto: Rise of the Ninja is also $38. Oh, and Transformers: The Game is $30.

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Sunday, January 06, 2008

The Games of 2008: Q3, Q4, and TBD

See also:

Lotta good games coming in 2008. Quarter three's typically the slow one of the year as publisher's lose their audience to summer, and feel out where they fall in the holiday onslaught.

Quarter four is tough to predict with any accuracy, and a lot of the "to be scheduled" games get shunted into the last two quarters as placeholders for fiscal forecasting.

So I'm lumping the two quarters and uncommitted titles together.

Happy Tree Friends False Alarm -- Cutesy crude IP, of which I'm already a fan. I'm in.

Battlefield: Bad Company -- Interest in the Battlefield franchise for a lot of folks is like interest in the Victoria's Secret network fashion show -- it's their if you happen to stumble upon it. This iteration will add a single-player campaign and deepens the online component, and hopefully removes some of the concessions they've made to enable massive online play in the FPS space.

Ninja Gaiden II -- Itagaki-san has a rock star mentality, and that entertains me. Ninja Gaiden made me curse. I play it to make me think I can handle "games made for gamers".

Fable 2 -- Action RPG from the master of video game visionary promises. As long as the dog makes it in, I'm playing.

Halo Wars -- The CGI trailer has nothing to do with the gameplay, and I don't like RTS games. But the gameplay footage (available via Xbox Live) does look compelling, and may get me into the genre. Plus, it's Halo, so it'll print money.

Too Human -- I can't wait for this thing to get out of the fog of game engine heartburn. I think this has the potential to be a brilliant take on my Norse mythology love.

Fallout 3 -- I'm Fallout fiend (maybe just a Fallout fan; or just an alliteration amateur). I suspect this'll be a fun, immersive, time-suck of an RPG.

Brutal Legend -- Jack Black marries Tim Schafer and they birth a spiritual success to KISS's under-rated Psycho Circus. Tell me why you won't be playing this gem.

Alan Wake -- I'm trying to stay interested in this survival horror title. Knock off the delays and keep this thing funded on the publisher front.

Saboteur -- I think this stealth game with an innovative colorization game mechanic looks amazing. Can't wait, though I'm torn that I may be rescuing France.

LEGO Batman -- Have you played LEGO Star Wars? Have you seen the LEGO Batman toys? I am going to own this game, and my be-otches will play LEGO Robin online by my side.

LEGO Indiana Jones: The Videogame -- See above. Minus Robin.

LEGO Universe -- A LEGO MMO. A. LEGO. MMO.

Borderlands -- Hundreds of gun combos. Everything else is gravy, but I'm expecting a lot of gravy.

Fracture -- Real-time terrain deformation as a gameplay (and multi-play) mechanic. From LucasArts.

Mushroom Men -- I miss the Oddworld franchise. Mushroom Men looks to be that foot that bill. Again, from publisher Gamecock.

Dead Space -- Electronic Arts bucks behind a team that wants to create a survival horror title, inspired by the likes of Alien. A potential brown trouser excursion.

Ghostbusters The Video Game -- This game wants to be Ghosbusters 3. If they pull it off, it should rock. I hate Slimer.

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Monday, October 22, 2007

Contradicting fall game sales predictions debunked

OK, it's not that I don't like the guy, but I when he does video gaming analysis, this guy at CNet falls flatter than me.

Below is a version of the comments I left on his blog. Last time I did this, he wrote a defensive response post, aimed at "people", and never referencing my comments. Let's see if we get a repeat infraction.

Like I said, I don't have an issue with him. He's got a good gig (more power to him). But folks like him (and I) need to recognize (and acknowledge) where we're stepping out of "analysis" and into "opinion".

Anyway, read his whole post for context, but he basically says this is his projection for each of the consoles this holiday:
  • Overall Xbox 360 outlook for the holiday season: mediocre.
  • Overall Nintendo Wii outlook for the holiday season: strong
  • Overall Sony Playstation 3 outlook: moderate to strong

And he says parents not able to find a $250 Wii will buy a $400 Ps3. Why they would do that rather than a $280 or $350 Xbox 360 feels a bit off to me. Maybe he's thinking parents will recognize the Sony brand over the Microsoft brand?

It's an interesting analysis, but it is lacking (and not accurate) in so many areas.

Many of the comments in response to his post point out the major misses in the article.

In addition, I'd say his analysis neglects basic market factors, and doesn't even address things like the recently released NPD numbers, which paint a very different picture than he does. And while every company is going to have their spin on these numbers, Sony's "forward-looking" take is pretty telling.

He's also inconsistent in pointing to bundles as being factors (or non-factors) in holiday sales, but doesn't mention things like the recently released Xbox 360 bundles (the Arcade bundle and the Forza 2 / Marvel Ultimate Alliance bundle).

On the PS3 side, you doesn't go into any detail about the brief history of (and differences between) the price-dropped 80GB, 20 GB, phased-out 60 GB, and recently-released (but feature reduced) 40 GB models.

And he says with Halo 3 out and Mass Effect the only exclusive this holiday, the 360 won't see enough of an upswing from those titles.

Seriously? Does he think the Halo 3 tailing occurred that fast?

I would argue that console exclusives (like Halo 3 or Gears of War) are console sellers, Mass Effect will likely do far better than for which he credits it (the Electronic Arts acquisition by itself is arguably indicative of this market confidence). And I don't think the "BioShock boost" is over yet, either.

And I would argue the non-exclusives are huge console draws (they are for me; I'm looking for a console's total gaming portfolio which is why Microsoft is first for me for its retail offerings; Nintendo is second because of its great Virtual Console offerings, and Sony is last).

For example, "Oh, I can also play Call of Duty 4 on Xbox 360, which is a better FPS platform? Oh, Madden '08 looks and plays ridiculously better on the 360 than the PS3? I don't need to buy a PS3 to get Devil May Cry 4? I can play Orange Box (definitely) and Assassin's Creed (probably) earlier on the 360 than the PS3? Etc.

Again, the guy has some interesting commentary, but it's super lightweight, and way behind (both in terms of time and depth) industry analyst professionals like Michael Pachter or Colin Sebastian.

He also trumpets a previous forward-looking post he did as pseudo credentials for his analysis. Avoiding a rebuttal to the idea of "Why 'Halo 3' will decide the Xbox 360's fate", I'm not sure I'd recommend trumpeting a September Halo 3 post written the day before the game was released -- when industry analysts like Pachter and Sebastian had posted deeper, more accurate predictions weeks (in some cases, months) before. And those guys, as storied as they are in their dedicated vertical market, are only "right" around 60% of the time (in a non-representative, but random, and repeated, an non-overlapping personal sampling).

Anyway, those are my thoughts. Looking at comments written in response to his post while I was writing this one, though, looks like I'm not alone in my grousing.

Hey, for those of you who have been writing to complain about me not having done a "Crotchety Gamer" post in a while ... you're welcome.

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Wednesday, October 10, 2007

Halo 3 and BioShock Reviews

I've posted reviews of BioShock and Halo 3 on that side of my Website, and included links to those (hopefully balanced) reviews and balanced them with the ultimate in snarky reviewing -- the Zero Punctuation embedded video reviews from The Escapist.

Halo 3:

Adam's thoughts:
Zero Punctionation review of Halo 3:


Adam's thoughts:

Zero Punctionation review of BioShock:

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Wednesday, September 19, 2007

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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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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Friday, August 31, 2007

Nerves ... nerves ...

I am a wee bit nervous.


Halo 3 went Gold this week, on its way to into my hot little hands on Sept. 24th, midnight (note to my new employer: I will likely be "ill" Sept. 25th).

So, why the nervous?

My replacement Xbox made horrible sounds last night. Like clicking, whirring, sparking, snapping sounds inside is plastic chassis. And I was playing the Call of Duty 4 multiplayer beta, so there was no disc involved.

I'm hoping this "new" 'box doesn't brick before Halo 3 arrives. "Hoping", but not "praying", mind you. I do save that for genuinely important stuff.

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Thursday, August 23, 2007

More gaming Web 2.0 ...

Folks have been hitting me up over the whole "Web 2.0 / video game intersection" mini-post I did.

(Oh, and I'm not the 'techno-geek screaming, "F***ing get with the times, game industry!"' He probably wouldn't appreciate me giving out his contact info; he actually works in the games industry.)

Anyway, some folks wanted some more concrete examples of Web 2.0 and video game intersection.

First, a review:

Web 2.0, to oversimplify, is that intersection of getting desktop-application-quality ("rich") functionality from your browser, and user-generated content that draws people in droves.
And since I used a Halo example last, I'll use another one.

First, as an additional caveat, consoles have a ways to go to catch up to PC gaming in user-generated content. So to get to this Web 2.0 intersection about which I'm talking, they need to leapfrog the stuff they're currently not doing that well, and get with the Web 2.0 times. Recent changes from Microsoft with regards to (for example) allowing Xbox Live user-generated content means this may actually happen sooner than later. If someone capitalizes on it.

Back to the example.

At its simplest, think about being able to create player customizations, user skins, game types, and map changes, and share them -- from your browser -- with your Xbox Live friends list.

(Here's where I tick off game devs again.)

This is easy.

(What? It is. You know how stuff like this gets done? A development manager says, "We need to do X." And, hopefully he's got a management style that's built a dev team that want to work to make that happen for him, rather than being made up diva devs that will spend the week explaining why it can't happen. Because, conceptually, everything's doable. We get to shop online with credit cards, for crying out loud. You're welcome, by the way.)

So, think about how Halo 3 is going to support multiple player models and more variation in armor customization than the previous 2 Halo games.

There are a definable set of fields for customization. That's begging for a data-driven web page that takes your little radio and checkbox selections for armor types, colors (probably via a slick picker widget), symbols, and so on, and sticks them in your table in the user database. Then, Bungie gives me the field names and technical specs for each (type, length, key, allowable values, binding, etc.) and the output configuration file (or segment of a file it belongs to a larger config file), and I can convert that to a Halo 3-consumable input.

And it's not just colors and armor types. I should be able to upload symbols and skins (in pre-defined templates), and those should likewise be able to be batch converted to consumable input (Hey, it worked for Rune 8 years ago; they just didn't have the batch process).

Game types are even "easier" -- given the process for customization of game types is already defined for Halo 3, the high-level context and user flow has already been defined -- it's just about adapting it to the Web medium (and the creation of the additional conversion conduit).

And if you're concerned about being invaded with obscene or otherwise undesirable symbols, skins, and the like (and you should be), this whole functionality can be constrained to your friends list -- just like the personal gamer pictures or the Xbox LIVE Vision camera's output. Mostly.

But think about it. Think about a friend of yours creating an amazing Star Wars Stormtrooper skin, and 16 of you showing up in a Big Team Battle variant. Halo has red and blue armor (and for that we're grateful). Halo 3 has more colors, and multi-team battle. Halo 3 would rock with uniform-motiff team armor. Stormtroopers (but not clone troopers). Cobra troopers. Hydra or A.I.M. troopers. My Little Ponies (What? Girls gotta represent!).

Have you seen the Forza 2 paint community? Think of that applied to Spartan models (or the Puma, but that's probably asking too much).

Anyway, yet another example of Web 2.0 servicing our gaming. And to be honest, these are pretty tame examples. I have bigger stuff about which I'm thinking ...

UPDATED: Again, if you're a professional in the industry and in Austin for the Austin Game Developers Conference, there may be some off-schedule discussions of Web 2.0 and video game intersection. Let me know if you're interested in that, and I'll try to connect you with like-minded folks.

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Wednesday, August 22, 2007

Web 2.0 and gaming

You hear that? It's the sound of opportunity.

Or it may be some techno-geek screaming, "F***ing get with the times, game industry!"

Web 2.0, to oversimplify, is that intersection of getting desktop-application-quality ("rich") functionality from your browser, and user-generated content that draws people in droves.

Tastes are out there. YouTube, FaceBook, and other specters of new-technology past that are, frankly, "so 2005".

Twittervision is probably a better, simple, recent example. Or SplashCast.

But what about gaming? Where's that perfect storm of Web 2.0 mashables (which, I think, are required to include at least one of Google's forever-in-"beta" products) and gaming?

Some stuff is already out there. Maybe Habbo Hotel is an example.

But what about mainstream game intersection with a Triple-A title?

Maybe this nugget missed by most folks (from GameTap's quietly launched news/feature Website) speaks to the future:

"As development on Halo 3 reaches a climax in preparation for the game's September 25 release date, developer Bungie has revealed details of an expanded file-sharing system for players with Microsoft Points to burn. Halo 3 features an innovative in-game system of file sharing, whereby custom map configurations, "game variations, screenshots, and game movies can be uploaded to Xbox Live's central servers. Every player with a copy of the game and a Live Gold subscription can upload six different pieces of content that cannot exceed 25MB in total. Bungie Pro raises the stakes, opening up a total of 24 slots and a 240MB storage total. The price of this expanded file-sharing option is 750 Microsoft Points for a year's subscription, or "around 78 cents per month," as Bungie puts it. Sophisticated integration with is also promised, allowing gamers to quickly navigate other users' shared content on your computer, and even queue it up for download when you next load Halo 3 on your Xbox 360. "

That last part is pretty key from a Web 2.0 / video game integration perspective. The stats for Halo 2 are already teasing at some cool stuff, with being able to look at in-game activity from different angles, Email it to a friend, and so on. I've got to think this is just a hint of the hidden rich-statistical goodness that is going to be in Halo 3. I claim dibbs on the phrase "rich-statistical goodness".

snapshot of a Halo 2 game played by player Hitachi Wasabe.
And I want a lot. I want to be able to set up in-console on on-Web the folks whose content I want to watch. I want to get notices when new stuff from them comes out. I want to look at the Game Viewer, and zoom in to that moment, and watch that movie, from every angle. I want to watch when I earned that 12th beat-down that also won the game, and I want to Email that to my buddy. I want to get his response in-game on the Web or on my phone. I want to be able to look at who's watching my movies and playing my maps.

And so does Bungie. You think they won't be watching the variations to which their customer base is gravitating?

I also want little things, like my Xbox Live Friends list to be accessible with my non-Xbox Live (Windows Live) Friends list from my Xbox and my computer, and I want to be be able to do the same stuff on both platforms, and have it enhanced beyond what it is -- with Xbox 360 content. Things like that.

Good times ahead for Web 2.0 and video game integration. I just hope the games industry is quick to get on the bandwagon. Or quicker, since folks have been rolling on it for a while.

And if you're a professional in the industry and in Austin for the Austin Game Developers Conference, there will be some off-schedule discussions of Web 2.0 and video game intersection. Let me know if you're interested in that, and I'll connect you with like-minded folks.

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Wednesday, August 08, 2007

Halo 3 contests

There are three rounds of contests giving you chances to earn cool Halo 3 swag.

The best is the third contest, but if you wait until then, you miss out on two prior contests (and other still-cool stuff).

Contest entry dates:
  • Sweepstakes Round 1 (Jul 26-Aug 28)
  • Sweepstakes Round 2 (Aug 30-Sep 25)
  • Sweepstakes Round 3 (Sep 27-Oct 25)
Check out the Website for all three contests, prizes, and rules, but here's what you'd get from the one granddaddy grand prize in "Sweepstakes Round 3":
  • Halo 3 Legendary Edition game
  • Halo 3 Special Edition Xbox 360 console
  • Halo 3 Limited Edition Wireless Controller (Spartan)
  • Halo 3 Limited Edition Wireless Headset
  • Halo 3 Wireless Headset
  • Zune™ – Halo 3 Edition
  • Xbox 360 Halo 3 X-shaped Ibanez Xiphos Guitar with Case
  • Xbox LIVE 12-Month Gold Subscription
  • 1600 Microsoft Points
  • Halo 3 Messenger Bag
  • Halo Graphic Novel Autographed by Bungie

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Thursday, August 02, 2007

Halo / 300 video

You've probably seen this video, but the simple intersection of "Spartans" both in the Halo game and in the film 300 make it work pretty well.

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Monday, July 30, 2007

Comic-Con summary (UPDATED)

I've got an initial summary of Comic-Con over on my Acting / Ramblings blog, with more daily summaries to follow.

Those will be soup-to-nuts kind of things, covering acting, comic books, film, cartoons, toys, and video games.

A lot of stuff happened on that last front, and I had some great conversations with everyone from NCsoft to SEGA, and played stuff from the Cartoon Network MMO to TimeShift, and saw hands-off demos for things like Iron Man.

I'll post summaries as it makes sense, but you can also get a ton of Comic-Con content downloaded from Xbox Live (for a limited time), and hit up the following sites / posts for more Comic-Con video game goodness:

UPDATED: Added links for (Final Comic-Con content), IGN, and Newsarama.

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Wednesday, July 18, 2007

No Halo 3 Live co-op ...

So, I'm pretty miffed. Commence pissy post.

In an interview with Electronic Gaming Monthly (EGM), Bungie's Frank O'Conner said online co-op (via Xbox Live) isn't likely to make it into the shipped Halo 3 in September:
"We know that people want it and we're trying to make it happen. I think the biggest problem for us for online co-op is that we have a situation where you can be in a Warthog with five troops, almost a mile away from the other player. That's a significant challenge. And there's lots of design things you could do to prevent that from happening, but they would make it not feel like Halo anymore. If we can make it happen in a way that works well, we will - and if it works badly, we won't."
So, I'm not working on the game, but brass tacks is it sounds like they didn't design this from the get-go, and they're making the decision now to short the feature.

Think of the original Halo, where you can co-op, and if you get behind, the lagging player is teleported to the same location as the lead player. Not ideal, but it is pretty smooth.

Now think of games like Doom 3 (also on the old Xbox) and Gears of War (on the Xbox 360) that do support online co-op. So, Halo 3, coming out a year (or years) after these other titles, not supporting the feature, is a bit of a setback, and arguably provides a stumbling block for the "king of the now-gen shooters" for which I'm sure Bungie is angling.

O'Conner does say the feature could show up later as a downloadable update, and that they know people want it ("We're not dumb").

I'm a manager and lead for development, projects, teams, and services, so I understand the prioritization of features, and some things need to get dropped to make dates.

Halo 3 has a high bar, though. Three years in development, and the stigma of a roughly ended Halo 2 and the missing (and badly stubbed out ) online co-op that seriously irked fans in that title. And they have new high bars to reach in the form of Epic's Gears of War, and their upcoming Unreal Tournament 3. Not to mention Ubisoft's upcoming Haze, which (according to their Website) will feature 4-player online co-op.

So, for a lot of gamers, September and Halo 3 isn't just about "finishing the fight"; as a trilogy ender, it's the expectation that Bungie "finishes the game."

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Tuesday, July 10, 2007

Halo ActionClix update ...

I'm a big fan of toys, video games, and gaming, and I've even mentioned the Halo ActionClix announcement, but somehow missed this interview between Bungie and Senior Game Designer Mike Elliott from Wizkids a few days ago.

Very cool how they updated the Clix gameplay to address dual wielding (which as a side benefit, makes all of your pieces available), and respawning.

Best part?

"At this year’s San Diego Comic Con, Wizkids will be unveiling something pretty incredible for Halo fans and ActionClix players alike. We’re not telling you what it is, though; you’ll just have to wait until the Comic Con which runs from July 26-29 this summer."
I am going to be there this year! Whoot!

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Sunday, July 08, 2007

Things I'd like to see in "Halo 3" ...

The Halo 3 beta has come and gone, and it was a blast.

There are a lot of folks complaining the graphics and gameplay weren't "revolutionary", but keep in mind, this was a "beta".

The purpose of a software beta is to kick the tires and shake out the bugs, usually on a scale and load that internal QA is able to approximate, but not replicate.

Bungie, I'm sure, is making good use of the multiplayer data they received. Network (packet, lag, etc.) and other technical data, to be sure, but I'm guessing they also listen to folks' feedback on gametypes (seriously, "shotty snipers" sucks; and it wasn't just me saying it each night).

Also, it's a beta -- and this is Halo 3. I'm thinking there's a bunch more for us to get excited about come September. Some of this has already been revealed, like the Brute Chopper, flyable Pelican, and customizable armor.

All that said, for me the beta was a ton of fun. If that was the sum of the multiplayer component for the game, plus the reveals above, plus the additional "X button equipment" that's been promised, plus more maps? I'd be happy. But I expect there will be more.

Not that there aren't other things I want in the game. Here's my short list (I haven't checked online to see if any of these have been confirmed / nixed as of yet):


First and foremost, give me 4 player split screen same box. This is a staple for Monday nights on Halo 2, and I'm a bit concerned at the trend among 360 games to -- by design -- nix the in-room social appeal of gaming. I like to get four folks together and play in the same room on a projector. Good times. I will be angry if you take my good times away.

As far as co-op, I want online (not removed and badly stubbed, a la Halo 2), offline (same box), System Link (LAN), and drop-in / drop-out (the new hotness). The rumored 4-way co-op through campaign mode is appealing, and would be above and beyond. But give me two player co-op in all of the above flavors, por favor.

Movie replay:

This is a cool feature. For those not familiar with it, it saves a data file of what happened from the host machine's perspective, so you can replay the greatness (or embarrassment). The beta version was bare bones (yet solid), but we're promised more feature richness in September.

And since this is a data file, and given some of the ways the Xbox 360 works (in theory, for all games), I think there ways to expand the functionality in cool directions.

For example, how about an option to view the film from a "My Kills", "My Deaths", "My Medals", etc. perspective? I think this would be a great way to meet the sadists, masochists, and egomaniacs where they're at. (And let's not forget the sado-masochist egomaniacs.)

Also, given the 360's custom soundtrack option, it seems like you could play a "My Kills" montage with your track of choice, with auto fade in/out (not customizable audio, as that's probably too onerous and not really needed).

Licensing aside, it seems like a chance for some Bungie staff fun, too (say, Vivian Green's "Just One Of Those Days" or Limp Bizkit's "Break Stuff", or other Bungie-selected tracks).

Or licensing not aside: What if the Microsoft "Xbox Live Artist of the Month" is the auto track for recorded films? There's a cross-promotional opportunity some portfolio manager should be investigating (or did that go away?).

Regardless, it's a great feature as-is, and I'm grateful for it.


Shotty Snipers -- I hate it. It needs to be said again. And again.

Gameplay mechanics:

Crouching should be toggle-able. That would be nice. A lot of games let you set whether it's toggle-able or not. They have for a long time.

I'd like to be able to hand weapons and objects to teammates (the flag, the skull, "X button equipment", etc.). In the beta, one screenshot seemed to indicate you can pass the oddball to each other in Team Oddball. That would rock. I want to play team rocketball and try handing off the ball. Or I want someone else to ("Double Kill" + "Carrier Kill" + "Stick-It" = hilarity.)

These are all wish list kinds of items. But I think all doable in the remaining time frame, or already done. We'll check back on these things in September, and expect a rant if my four-way splitscreen needs aren't met.

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Saturday, July 07, 2007

Get yer free Halo stuff today only!

(Oh, this beyond sucks for those of us with our 360s locked in "Red-Ring-of-Death Repair Land".)

For the rest of you lucky S.O.B.s, log onto Xbox Live and tool around to find free new Halo / Bungie Gamer Pics and a Dashboard theme.

July 7th has been "Bungie Day" for a while, so these goodies are available today only. -- so get them before midnight. Otherwise, they're gone forever, Brigadoon style. (Don't make me start singing.)

You can also head over to to get a wallpaper of the full painting partially shown in Gamepro magazine, and some Quicktime 3D shots of the Brute Chopper and a Spartan variant or two.

Enjoy, and think of your 360-less brethren whose 'boxes have fallen in the field ...

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Thursday, July 05, 2007

Pre-E3 coverage ...

Next week is E3, and even though it's a scaled-down, arguably insiders affair, the pre-coverage is pretty hefty, and pretty exciting. now has their E3 microsite up, and is tracking a wealth of E3, and tertiarilly E3 happenings, as is

Also, Eurogamer has (an at least current for now) list of the games of E3.

Not everything at E3 will be playable, but I'm looking forward to the playable, new announcements (a la Electronic Arts), and if anything anecdotally interesting comes out of the parties (mostly because I like the slant alliteration of the phrase "anecdotally interesting").

So what am I excited about? (List scalped from, who scalped it from Eurogamer, who really should have just pointed to
  • Call of Duty 4: Modern Warfare (PS3, Xbox 360) -- CoD is a stellar franchise, and I want to see what they do to the modern world.
  • Enemy Territory: Quake Wars (PC, PS3, Xbox 360) -- Battlefield, but with a cooler mythos. Hope it runs better than Quake IV.
  • Spiderman: Friend or Foe -- Anything comic book related for me. Anything.
  • The Witcher (PC) -- Dark, twisted, adult-themed RPG with moral ambiguity? Sounds like my toy job!
  • Fallout 3 -- Middlingly. I'm a big Fallout franchise fan, but this one's a ways out.
  • Devil May Cry 4 (PC, PS3, Xbox 360) -- You seriously don't need me to explain, do you?
  • Rocketmen: Axis of Evil (PC, PS3, Xbox 360) -- "The game is a top-down action title that is something of a mix of an old-school stage crawler with Robotron controls.... you advance through levels while plowing through countless numbers of unnamed soldiers."
  • Talisman (PC, PS3, Xbox 360) -- I think online board games are the New Hotness. Or the new flash-in-the-pan. Which still makes them hot. And this one is a fantasy-themed boardgame with 4-way play.
  • Cliver Barker's Jericho (PC, PS3, Xbox 360) -- Cliver Barker's Undying has some of the best audio on a game to date. And it had good gameplay. And Clive Barker's a talented storyteller. Twisted, but talented.
  • Rise of the Argonauts (PC, PS3, Xbox 360) -- Like comic books, anything mythology related. Please don't suck.
  • Turning Point: Fall of Liberty (PC, PS3, Xbox 360) -- In this alternate history FPS, the cab that hit Winston Churchill kills him, and the Nazis take over Europe. Now, it's 1952, and they're invading America.
  • Age of Conan (PC, Xbox 360) -- Bloody good fun.
  • Hellgate: London (PC) -- Just because I still like the premise, have been rooting for it for a long time, and want to see how the free-versus-subscribtion thing works out for them (and us).
  • Medal of Honor Airborne (PC, PS3, Xbox 360) -- Gameplay videos have been me excited about the franchise again.
  • The Simpsons (PS3, Xbox 360, Wii, PS2, PSP, DS) -- Hey, Matt Groening is the final boss!
  • Dungeon Hero (PC, Xbox 360) -- I have this unnatural attachment to all things GameCock (even if they don't return my Emails). But this is a dungeon crawler without the boredom. Sign me up!
  • Fury (PC) -- MMO without the grinding? PvP? Maybe I'll see you in the demo this weekend.
  • Hail to the Chimp (PS3, Xbox 360) -- Love this game. Man crush on Wideload and Alexander Seropian. 'Nuff said.
  • Mushroom Men (Wii, DS) -- Oddworld aesthetic. 'Shrooms. Need I go on?
  • Two unannounced titles from GameCock (One's probably Section 8)
  • Metal Gear Solid 4 -- I'd love an Xbox 360 announcement on this next week, but the game alone, with its hopefully challenging moral mechanics and deep storytelling, has got my attention.
  • Fracture -- This "terra-deforming-as-weapon" from LucasArts has be sweaty palmed. No new news on The Force Unleashed, though?
  • Kengo: Legend of the 9 (Xbox 360) -- I think this is Majesco's first next-gen game (it's at least their first 360 game). Looking for more info, but looks like a Dynasty Warriors-esque take with 9 historical Japanese figures.
  • Blue Dragon (Xbox 360) -- Really want to play this bad boy ...
  • Fable 2 (xbox 360) -- The single-player RPG to beat on the original Xbox, let's see what the former Lionheads do under Microsoft's watch.
  • Halo 3 (Xbox 360) -- You think this wouldn't make the list?
  • Halo Wars (Xbox 360) -- Just for the trailer. Fortunately, leaks about the RTS gameplay have been positive. But they have to go up against Tom Clancy's Endwar.
  • Lost Odyssey (Xbox 360) -- Gorgeous. Just brutal and gorgeous. "We are the Knights Who Say Ne -- Oh SWEET MOTHER! MY EYES! MY EYES!" [*gushing blood*]
  • Mass Effect (Xbox 360) -- RPG of the century? Mayhap.
  • Unannounced XBLA titles (Xbox 360) -- Knock my socks off. You keep dissing my proposals, but you keep giving me stuff I like. So we're good.
  • John Woo's Stranglehold (PC, PS3, Xbox 360) -- I'm excited about this. More I see, I'm excited.
  • Unreal Tournament 3 (PC, PS3, Xbox 360) -- Unreal Championship II was under-appreciated, maybe because it was a gamers game. This looks to be that and more.
  • Beautiful Katamari (Xbox 360) -- We've suffered long enough without beauty, thank you very much.
  • Dynasty Warriors: GUNDAM (PS3) -- Honestly, I just want to see if they can take this Artichoke and jelly mix and make it work.
  • AION (PC) -- An MMO without grinding, and a leveling system "not like you'd expect"? Demons versus angels (ish)? Wings for both factions (no @#$%^&! earning mounts crap)?
  • Dungeon Runners (PC) -- I'm playing the free version of this MMO from NCsoft, and really enjoying it.
  • Richard Garriott's Tabula Rasa (PC) -- He gets to put his name on it. I want to support that.
  • Condemned 2 (PS3, Xbox 360) -- Sequel to the early Xbox 360 sleeper hit, now bloodier, with a revamped combat system and (wait for it!) multiplayer!
  • Gas Powered Games' RPG (PC) -- I respect GPG, so I'm waiting to see this.
  • Iron Man -- Anything. Comic book. Related. (Anything.)
  • TimeShift (PC, PS3, Xbox 360) -- Rescued from the steaming pile of crap not being all it could be, the revamp looks to wow.
  • Heavenly Sword (PS3) -- This could be a console seller for Sony. Hey, it got teased on Heroes.
  • Killzone 2 (PS3) -- C'mon, show me something to wash the tast of the lied about "not-prerendered" debacle.
  • LittleBigPlanet (PS3) -- Have you seen the videos? How fun is this?
  • The Agency -- An MMO from Sony that's not fantasy-themed, and not half-baked sci-fi license. Just don't be stealing from the DC MMO talent pool, kids.
  • BioShock (PC, Xbox 360) -- I want to play this game. And struggle with the choices I've made.
  • De Blob -- THQ is a savvy publisher. And I really like the art aesthetic.
  • Assassin's Creed (PC, PS3, Xbox 360) -- I think they're hiding the full awesomeness that is this game.
  • FEAR sequel (PC, PS3, Xbox 360) -- The first made me almost soil myself. Raise the bar, Warner.

This is just the stuff we know about. I'm hoping we get some surprises from folks not yet announced. Certain Affinity. Junction Point. More GameCock than you can shake a stick at. And so on.

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Tuesday, June 19, 2007

Halo merchandise monstro-morphs...

Dang, I'm good.

From an earlier post of mine:
"(I wonder if JoyRide Studios lost the Halo franchise to McFarlane Toys? That would be sad.)"
Turns out McFarlane Toys is now doing the Halo 3 toys, with five figures (Master Chief, Brute Chieftain, Jackal Sniper, a two-pack of Grunts, and light-up action Cortana) and three mini (3-inch plastic and die-castmetal) vehicles (Warthog, Ghost, and Brute Chopper). The Brute Chopper is new for Halo 3, and this may be the first place it's been officially confirmed.

It's nice to see the figures will maintain a sense of relative scale (5", 6", 5", 3.5"and 4.5", respectively), and despite my previous rantings (across a few blogs) about the lack of articulation in McFarlane's toys, the press release says at 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.

But wait, there's more!

Fox, having co-stalled the film that was to be co-produced by them and Universal Pictures, have now signed on to be the primary licensor for Halo, and will provide "a broad array of products, from books to apparel to collectible merchandise."

I've got mixed feelings on all of this licensing. As pro-game as I am, it's a game, not a blockbuster movie. Now, 14.5 million units on a franchise is inarguably market penetration, but is it enough? Also, even executive VP of domestic licensing for Fox Elie Dekel acknowledges, "Fox's licensing division focuses primarily on teens and young adults instead of kids". That makes Halo a great fit for Fox, but does it make for mass-consumerism for a mature-rated game (17 or older) demographic?

Also, the McFarlane toys, oddly, are due "by spring 2008" -- putting them 6 months (or more) after the release of Halo 3.

But the franchise undoubtedly has legs, so I'm curious to watch how all this licensing plays out.

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Thursday, June 14, 2007

Back in the saddle ... (Updated)

I haven't written in a week. Fine. I've been on vacation.

Apologies to those of you who hang on my constant industry updates and insights, and ...

Y'know what, screw it. People who need daily updates probably stopped reading this thing a week ago.

For those sentimentalists among you, I'm going getting into the WayBack Machine and doing a post similar to the original "Xbox Buddies Newsflash" of years ago -- lotta brief summaries.

In brief:
  • Video game comics
  • Tenchu Z
  • Castlevania film update
  • Gamecock's EIEIO
  • Halo 3 "goodies"
  • Soul Calibur IV (video)
  • Xbox 360 changes
  • David Jaffe
  • Gears of War DLC
  • 3D Realms announces announcements
  • BioWare's 2009 MMO
  • Carmack's game engine (video)
  • Junction Point updates
  • Steamed Capcom?
  • Sony launches blog
  • Dark Sector due 2008
  • Episodic content expands
  • Usability and Human Factors
  • Peter Cullen (video)
Here we go ...

Video game comics:

It's not just Halo and Marvel -- now Gearbox Software and Dynamite Entertainment are going make a comic book series based off upcoming Brothers in Arms: Hell's Highway. Relative newcomer Dynamite is pretty amazing to me (check out their titles), and I'm looking forward to more comic book goodness from them.

Tenchu Z:

Tenchu Z finally hits the Xbox 360 stateside. The Japanese demo I played way back when left me underwhelmed, but I'm sure this thing has gotten at least two coats of polish since then. And there's the overwhelmingly redeeming facet of getting to fight pirates -- as a ninja. Seriously.

Castlevania film update:

Paul W.S. Anderson (Mortal Kombat, AVP: Alien vs. Predator) is out. Sylvain White (Stomp the Yard, Ronin) is the new Castlevania hotness. To quote Kotaku's Michael Fahey, "So we have a relatively untested director with one major sleeper hit under his belt, but White is also slated to direct Frank Miller's Ronin, and Miller's properties aren't exactly fluff that studios hand out to just anyone."

Gamecock's EIEIO:

This is mainly for its local Austin connection (and my respect for these particular industry folks). but indie-publisher-looking-to-break-the-deep-pockets-mold Gamecock Media is throwing a party at the same time as this year's greatly reduced Electronic Entertainment Expo (E3). Gamecock's shindig is called the "Expo for Interactive Entertainment: Independent and Original" ("EIEIO"; those guys are nothing, if not punsters).

The gig looks to be shaping up to be less inclusive and more Gamecock-y, but they've got 6 titles for which I'm already stoked, and promise two "major unannounced next-gen titles" (does anyone ever promise two minor titles?). I'm guessing at least one of those two will be from Big Rooster.

Gamecock has not knocked down my door and invited me to their party. I'll let you know if that changes.

Halo 3 "goodies":

Can't get enough Halo 3, now that the beta is over?

Get ready for two, limited-edition wireless controllers (one Spartan, one Covenant), and a limited-edition wireless headset. The controllers will set you back an extra $10 (at $59.99 MSP) over the non-LE wireless controllers, but you get a free Halo 3 figurine. Given the art and figurine are designed by Todd McFarlane (an amazing business and licensing creative), I'm looking for pretty-to-look-at, non-functioning tchotkies. One would hope this applies just to the figurine (Toddy, I like your stuff, but if they aren't fully articulated, it's just your take on the Precious Moments concept).

Better picts of the accessories are available at

(I wonder if JoyRide Studios lost the Halo franchise to McFarlane Toys? That would be sad.)

Soul Calibur IV:

I'm sorry, but weapons-gimmicky button-mashing franchise Soul Calibur is my favorite fighting game. I'm so happy Soul Calibur II now plays on the Xbox 360. And I don't feel like I missed out on the PS2-only Soul Calibur III, given critical and popular reception. But Soul Calibur IV looks to add beautiful interlocking fiber armor and more ... Ivy (fans of the franchise know what I mean). And, so far they're guaranteeing 60fps and 1080p when the game hits sometime in 2008. Buttery ...

UPDATED: I like this open letter to Namco posted on

Xbox 360 changes:

Picts of cracked open repaired Xbox 360s reveal something interesting. A new (additional) heat sink / pipe combo.

So, if we tally up the following:
  • Heat sink / pipe combo (now)
  • Quieter DVD drives (now; in new units and some repaired units)
  • Smaller, cooler, cheaper CPUs (July-ish)
  • Smaller, Cooler GPU (Fall 2007)

By this Christmas, we should see a quieter, more robust 360 -- a scant three years after the console's release.

UPDATED: From Microsoft (a la

"Regularly updating console components is commonplace within the industry
and is a standard aspect of the business for a variety of reasons including cost
reduction, improved manufacturability and improved performance."

David Jaffe:

The dude behind God of War and Calling All Cars might be making good on his "going independent" mutterings. Cell phone picts have surfaced on Jaffe's site, indicating an in-process build out, possibly of a development studio. Will he become a Sony "Second-party" Dev (playing it safe), or will he branch out and show some Wii, 360, PC, and other love? We'll see ...

Gears of War DLC:

A Gears of War free title update (with new achievements) hits late tonight (June 14th) / tomorrow. It'll add eight new achievements for the "Annex" game-play type and Hidden Front Maps. It also includes an improved version of the "Roadie Run" controls.

Also, according to Major Nelson:

'The "Annex" gametype is now available for free and the "Hidden Fronts" Multiplayer Map Pack is available on Xbox LIVE Marketplace for 800 Microsoft Points. All four multiplayer maps will be available for free after Sept. 3, 2007.'

3D Realms announces announcements:

3D Realms, the developers of the forever-in-development Duke Nukem Forever, have two upcoming non-DNF announcements. Says creative director Raphael Van Lierop:

"I can say that we have a big announcement coming in the next four weeks, and I'm not sure, but I believe we have another major announcement coming in the next four to six months... while I can't say exactly what these are, are they about Duke Nukem Forever? No."

BioWare's 2009 MMO:

BioWare Austin's (Star Wars-themed?) MMO opus won't be hitting until 2009. Yes, "9". Last I heard, they were using a middleware solution so they wouldn't have to build their own engine, so maybe all the extra time is for incredible MMO add-ons and deepenings. PvP newness. Branching paths to the nth power. Cross-platform play. Voice acting for every NPC organism (call me). Important stuff like that.

Carmack's game engine:

Demoing during a Steve Job's keynote address, id Software's John Carmack showed off the new "id Tech 5" game engine -- designed for Xbox 360, PS3, PC, and ... Macintosh. Looks slick, promises to make amazing development easy, blah blah blah.

It is cool that it seems to decouple the game play from the asset reworking, so, after finalizing game play, you can still "put artists on it to go ahead and make it look as good as we have time and resources to do."

Junction Point updates:

Another on the Austin gaming connection, over at the recently reworked, new concept art for unnamed game(s) is showing up throughout the pages. And there's a new, bare-bones WordPress blog for Warren Spector and other Junction Point devs to use as a pipe through which to share their brilliance with the rest of us.

Steamed Capcom?:

Capcom's jumping on Valve's Steam distribution / download service, which is huge. Microsoft, Sony, GameTap, RealNetworks, Valve -- there are a ton big (and a plethora of small) players in this space. As broadband speeds increase, ultra-wideband wireless becomes a reality, and fiber becomes the norm, the winners are going to win big.

Sony launches blog:

Joining the now-gen, Sony has launched an official Playstation blog, with the inaugural post by none other than President & CEO Jack Tretton. Some good, reasonably transparent stuff here.

Dark Sector due 2008:

For gamers, this holiday is going to rock. For those (like me) waiting for Digital Extremes' Dark Sector, you're going to need to wait until after the holiday. According to D3Publishing:

"We've decided to pull Dark Sector out of a very crowded holiday season and it is now slated for release in Q1 2008."

Episodic content expands:

Telltale Games got a $6 million influx. What they're using it for is more of their successful multi-platform episodic content.

Honestly, "Episodic Content" and "Digital Distribution" are two of the two New Hotnesses of gaming, so Telltale is on the forefront, and playing this wicked smart.

Usability and Human Factors:

Usability is not a choice. Good usability is. So I like this apropos Penny Arcade strip. Devs, take note.

Peter Cullen:

Peter Cullen, the voice of Optimus Prime in the 80s cartoon, upcoming Michael Bay Movie, and video game tie-in, gives a brief video explanation of his role and the voice of Optimus. As a voice actor, I'm inspired. As a fanboy, I have goosebumps.

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