Curmudgeon Gamer
Curmudgeoning all games equally.
19 April 2006
The best video adaptation of a table game since Retroball
There's an interesting trailer for Rockstar Games Table Tennis that I've just viewed quickly.

What's going on here? This is really a game that's going to be released?!

There's the beginning of an answer in an IGN interview with Sam Houser, who is apparently "Rockstar's Executive Producer and President" from whom all quotes should be read as if they were delivered with an "intense and edgy tone" whose goal was to approach some sort of privileged "purity":

IGN: ... Why on Earth would you go and make a game based on table tennis? ...

Houser: ... Mainly because we absolutely love table tennis and wanted to try and make something that could show the audience what could be possible -- on a relatively focused level -- in the next generation of videogames.

That's kind of a neat idea. They're marketing a console demo, and likely spending some time getting their work on creating their code for human bodies funded by gamers. In other words, IGN and Rockstar believe the market is going to pay their favorite developer to develop code to make people look real on the Xbox 360 -- and to figure out Xbox Live, etc. They expect us to pay for a tech demo, folk, and pay because it's made by the people who made GTA.

So how wonderful are these pure, edgy, and passionately created new possible cyberselves? Awful. I couldn't help but think, while watching the trailer, not a game (Iverson), that I'd stumbled onto the Resident Evil analog of Dead or Alive Beach Volleyball. The players bounce from side to side like they're on crack but are trying to dance like they're in Grease. The faces have that strange synthetic skin look that reminds me most of the zombies I've been smoking in Doom 3. I've heard about the theory that there's a certain point where things meant to look human get too good, and one's mind kicks in finding the differences and produces only the adjective "creepy". We're obviously at that point. It's like the creatures in the first year or two of Madden on the PS2 with that wide-eyed, automaton stare. It's, well, not to belabor the point worse than I have already -- no, that's a lie. I will belabor the point: Rockstar Games Table Tennis is creepy.

At one point, Rockstar talks about why the game's "only" going to cost (it's not a "price point", dang it, it's the cost!) $39.99 in IGN's coverage. What a deal. Look, I'm hopeful it'll be fun to play. Even Retroball was with the right second person. It's not going to be worth $40. It's a demo. This should be an embedded minigame in Pokemon or something. Unless they've licensed Federer and Sharapova as unlockables, I'm not sure where that money's going.

There are some other parts of the IGN interview that probably deserve more "copy" than I'm going to give them that play into Curmudgeon Gamer's past rants, like this choice quote:

I got a surprise phone call Wednesday. Rockstar was ready to present, and they wanted to work with IGN on the story. Donovan and I talked about the game. With the passion and focus and [sic] that has become Rockstar's trademark, he explained to me that the new title was Table Tennis. (emph mine, of course. Mistake with extra "and" theirs, though they've got no monopoly on bad grammar.)

1.) Is this even a preview from IGN's point of view? Seems to be a pretty blatant advert campaign, with the only unconventional trait being that it's [hopefully] not a cash-based pay system.
2.) "With the passion and focus and that has become Rockstar's trademark..." ? So the game gets a free pass before you even start playing it? From a marketing standpoint, putting Rockstar in the title makes a lot of sense. As an experiment, however, I wish they'd gone with, oh, Contraband as their stated developer or called the team "MadeUpThisMorning Software". Could this game, even if made by a company with an outstanding track record in, well, at least one franchise, gain the same traction by another name?

In any event, I'll be waiting for the scores.

Labels: ,

--ruffin at 11:24
Comment [ 5 ]

Comments on this post:

A bit harsh, no? It's not like all the game is is a fancy looking pong. Career, customization, and, from what I've seen, fairly deep and strategic gameplay. I'm not GTA fan or Rockstar apologist, but this looks pretty damn cool to me. If they can simulate it right, I'm excited.

By Anonymous Alex, at 19 April, 2006 12:02  

This will surely move Xbox 360s.


By Blogger jvm, at 19 April, 2006 19:51  

(Disclaimer: I can't see the trailer -- Windows Media is my nemesis -- so I have nothing meaningful to say about it.)

With the passion and focus and [sic] that has become Rockstar's trademark, he explained to me that the new title was Table Tennis.

If this was from Curmudgeon, I'd assume it was sarcastic. The only way I can imagine this conversation is like a bad sales pitch to a movie producer:

"Listen, this _is_ the hot new thing. Follow me now -- there's this backlash against violence in games, right? But the kids want action, they want zip. A game that shows off exciting physics that they _know_ is accurate. We've got the vision, I tell ya, this is _the_ vision. The game of the new millenium. Fun for the whole family, twitchy for the teenage boy -- I'm tellin' ya, it's got everything.

Table Tennis. What'd I tell ya? Genius, right?"


In other words, IGN and Rockstar believe the market is going to pay their favorite developer to develop code to make people look real on the Xbox 360 -- and to figure out Xbox Live, etc.

Isn't this a bait-and-switch of sorts? (I don't mean of rufbo's but of Rockstar's). I believe the market would undoubtedly pay for Rockstar North to learn how to do decent hands, which is possibly the biggest failing of the GTA franchise. I could honestly care less of Rockstar San Diego does human rendering decently -- I thought their franchise (Midnight Club) was about cars.

I don't really "get" this aspect of the industry -- is it basically true that publishers are like book publishers or record companies, and the developers are like authors/musicians? Rockstar seems to buy up developers and change their names to "Rockstar X" -- is this purposeful blurring of the brand, so you think everything they publish is by the GTA people? Do their different developers actually end up sharing technology, say networking backends or rendering engines, or are they completely separate?


P.S. That's right -- a post that's shorter than the original article. Even I question whether this is by the real Bob or not.

By Blogger Bob, at 20 April, 2006 09:29  

What kind of madman are you? And what have you done with the real Bob?

By Blogger jvm, at 20 April, 2006 09:49  

From a technology showcase standpoint table tennis is super awesome, just like boxing games. You have two dudes to render, and some crowd and ring sutff that you don't really give a shit about too much. Just spend all your time on some muscle deformation systems, faked out subsurface scattering, and model each dude around 100k polys each (why not, there are only ever two on screen!).

Occlusion? Who cares, you only have TWO GUYS! Bone counts? Animation budgets?! TWO GUYS! Hahaha!



By Blogger Michael, at 20 April, 2006 12:55  

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